HL Deb 14 March 1977 vol 380 cc1260-2

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what consultations have been or are to be held with what organisations or persons, with a view to making appointments of members to the Commission for Racial Equality.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has invited names for consideration for appointment to the Commission for Racial Equality from a wide range of organisations representing the ethnic minorities. He has in addition invited the CBI, the TUC, and the National Association of Community Relations Councils to make suggestions.


My Lords, would not the Minister agree that simply to ask these organisations to submit names to him is not the same as having consultation, which implies face-to-face meetings with organisations concerned and asking for their opinions on the names which have already been submitted to him? Further-more, would the Minister agree that many of the most important decisions regarding the administration and structure of the Commission for Racial Equality are being taken before the appointment of the commissioners? In these circumstances it may well be apprehended that it is more difficult to find persons of proper calibre who will agree to serve on the new organisations.


My Lords, I do not know that I would accept the first part of the noble Lord's question. It is perfectly reasonable to consult a significant number of organisations to ask them for their views on membership of this organisation. It is the normal way in which Governments proceed and, as I indicated during the Committee stage of the Bill, we are anxious to obtain the help and assistance of these organisations. On the second point, obviously a number of preliminary decisions are being arrived at by the chairman and deputy chairman-designate of the Commission. But the Commission will not be fully constituted until its members are announced. Therefore, all the questions of major policy for the Commission will be made by the full Commission when it is eventually appointed.


My Lords, in view of the scepticism which has existed in the past, does the Minister agree that it is important to secure the co-operation of the ethnic organisations? After the invitations by letter have been sent to these various organisations, would it be possible to consult with the major ethnic organisations about the appointments which are made as a result of the replies received?


My Lords, I am not sure that I would be right today in giving any support to the proposition that we should clear with a number of listed organisations the names of the people whom the Home Secretary eventually decides to appoint. I will certainly draw that matter to my right honourable friend's attention. During the Committee stage of the Bill we made it clear that we were anxious to obtain the advice of the representatives of the ethnic minorities, and that has been done.


My Lords, may I ask whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that "the natives" should be represented on this Commission?


My Lords, when we discussed the Bill at Committee stage I think it was announced that a fairly well-known "native"—the then well-known Member for Cambridge—had been appointed chairman.


My Lords, would not the Minister agree that the long delay in making final appointments to the Commission is causing a great anxiety to the present staffs of the Community Relations Commission, the Race Relations Board and those in the field working for the CRE, whose work is at present in limbo? What assurance can the noble Lord give the House that all urgency is being attached by the Government to arriving at conclusions and setting up the organisation?


My Lords, as the noble Lord has suggested, I am well aware that there exists some perfectly natural apprehension on the part of the staffs of the organisations. My right honourable friend is anxious to deal as speedily as possible with this complex matter; he is determined to press on with it with as much despatch as possible consistent with getting the judgment right.