§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear rose to call attention to the need for effective action to combat the continuing prevalence in the United Kingdom of racial disadvantage, and discrimination on grounds of race and sex: and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Baroness said: I should like first, my Lords, to say how very glad I am that the subject of equal opportunities has—perhaps suitably—stimulated three "maidens". I look forward to their support. Since it is not customary to be controversial in a maiden speech, I am assuming that support will be forthcoming. It is now five and a half years since the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act came into force. It is nearly five years since the Race Relations Act was passed. So it seems an appropriate time to take stock of the progress made, of whether the subject is still important and, if it is, of what further action should now be taken.
§ I am glad to say that there is progress to report. If one listened to some sections of the press only, one would believe that the legislation had been a total failure. That in fact is not the case. In particular, in so far as equal opportunities for women are concerned, there has been marked progress in the professions. In the accountancy profession—a very important area for women to enter, for a variety of reasons—in 1971 only 1.6 per cent. of the Institute of Chartered Accountants was made up of women. Last year, no less than 25 per cent. of new recruits entering into that profession were women.
§ Similar spectacular progress has been made by the entry of young women into the law. No fewer than 40 per cent. of new entrants into the solicitors' profession last year were women. In 1971 women in the 218 Law Society numbered only 3.2 per cent. Progress has also been made in the medical profession and in dentistry—two areas in which in any case women had fared better even before the passing of the legislation, and in which their progress had been marked.
§ I wish, however, that I could say the same for industry and commerce. So far as general management is concerned, there has been a decline, not an improvement. In 1968 no fewer than 9 per cent. of those classified as general managers were women. The figure has fallen to a little more than only 7 per cent. For skilled manual workers there is also a decline, from over 13 per cent. to only 9 per cent. today.
§ As for progress in relation to ethnic minorities, it is far more difficult to give any report to your Lordships' House because of the determination on the part of so many authorities and employers not to collect information which can indicate whether we are making any progress. In the lamentable absence of such statistical information, one can only use the evidence of one's eyes. Where in the upper reaches of private enterprise, in the upper reaches of the nationalised industries, in the upper reaches of commerce and the great financial houses or at the Box yonder, do we see evidence of advance by the ethnic minorities in the responsible positions in this country? It is very hard to come by information either from figures or from what we are able to see around us.
§ My Lords, does it matter? Were we right to be so concerned when we passed those Acts five years ago? I believe it still matters, not less but more than when we passed that legislation. Others speaking in today's debate will speak with more authority than I on the ethical case for equal opportunities. As I see it, it stands where it always stood: inviolable. But I want to draw attention to two other practical issues which make the question of equal opportunities of very great importance. So far as we can make out, both women and ethnic minorities occupy a disproportionate number of the very skilled jobs in this country, in both clerical and manufacturing work.
§ One of the few things that we know with certainty about the future is that the future employment prospects of the unskilled are going to be very bleak indeed. That is generally agreed not only in this country but throughout the industrialised world. People who have no training have a very poor prospect of employment in the years ahead, and women overwhelmingly are among the unskilled. We still have 40 per cent. of our girl school-leavers going into clerical work of some kind or another. Where will those women be when the "chips" have begun to take over? I do not take an extremist or an alarmist view, nor do I believe that it is going to happen very speedily; but it is common sense and the forecast of the most reasonable forecasters that it is likely to take place over the next decade or so.
§ We need to get far more women trained into jobs where they have not so far been employed, because undoubtedly job segregation—women's jobs for women and men's jobs for men, which we talked about so much at the time the Sex Discrimination Act was going through—still holds over a wide field of employment in this country. If the situation stays like that we shall have a considerable number of women looking for jobs while jobs of a skilled and technical kind will be 219 calling out for people, and we shall not be able to match up the women with the jobs because they will have been confined to the traditional but dwindling area of "women's work".
§ So it is also with the ethnic minorities: they too are disproportionately employed in the lower grades of employment. That we know, despite the inadequacy of the statistics; but there is a bigger point here. I do not pretend—much as I care about the development of equal opportunities for women—that the failure to move more quickly in this direction is fraught with acute social danger. But I do believe, in relation to ethnic minorities, that if we delay much longer and if we go on ignoring the extent to which unemployment among black school-leavers is higher than it is among white school-leavers, there are areas in our country where there are concentrations of ethnic minorities in which social unrest may become more than just a glib term and in which we are threatened with really serious social upheaval if we do not take action soon, otherwise it will be too late, So I argue that it is necessary to take further action to see that we have a more effective implementation of the legislation to which we put our name in this House five years ago.
§ What sort of action should we be taking? Some would ask for far more drastic legislation. I do not myself believe that is the way ahead. I do not believe it is practicable or that there is the faintest chance, whether one wanted it or not, that this Government would bring in more drastic legislation—nor, for that matter, would any Government that we are likely to have in the foreseeable future. Nor do I believe it would be particularly successful. We need to remind ourselves that with all the strength of the American legislation (and it is far stronger than is ours in this country) so far as equal pay is concerned—and why should we not say this?—we in this country have made much better progress on bringing women's earnings nearer to men's earnings on an hourly basis than is the case in the United States. The most recent report shows that women here are still earning only about three-quarters of the average earnings of men, but in the United States, with all their powerful legislation, they have only moved as regards average hourly earnings for women from 57 per cent. to 59 per cent. of male hourly earnings. So much for the value of very strong legislation! I am not, of course, denying that there are areas in America in which far greater progress has been made than has been made in this country.
§ I understand that there are proposals abroad for modifications and amendments of the legislation we have got. I do not propose to go into that today. It has my support, but it is a matter not of drastic change but of sensible modification based on the experience we have had and also on the very valuable decisions which have been coming from the European Court. I should like to congratulate the Equal Opportunities Commission on its initiative in using the European Court to establish rights in the way that it has done. The only point I would make in passing is that it is unwise of this country, both the Government and employers, on the assumption—which is very much the assumption on these Benches—that we continue to be good members of the European Community, 220 to overlook the fact that the European Community's interpretation of "equal pay" is "equal pay for work of equal value", and not the interpretation that we have in this country. If that change is to be made it has very drastic repercussions and we would be well advised to be examining now what the full implications of a change from our existing definition from "equal work" to "work of equal value" would in fact mean, rather than take the line which has been the line up to the present, that that is not a practical way of approaching the whole issue.
§ No, I would not go for dramatic changes in the legislation. I would, however, ask for a much more vigorous implementation of the legislation we have got. It is so often said that Christianity has not failed: it has never been tried. It is equally true that our equal opportunities legislation has not failed: it has never effectively been tried. We have an Equal Opportunities Commission and a Commission for Racial Equality. They are operating under extremely difficult conditions, but it is fair to ask how many investigation procedures allowed under our legislation as part of the enforcement procedure have been undertaken, and how many non-discrimination notices have been served as a result of those investigations. If the number is very small, and I believe it to be so, is it surprising that the great mass of employers up and down the country are saying, in effect, "Among all the many problems we have to face this is not really one of the very urgent ones. Nobody is biting us very hard on the subject of equal opportunities. We have other troubles: let us wait and hope that it will all go away." And that of course, my Lords, is what is going on.
§ Then within our legislation there is the provision for reverse discrimination, positive discrimination in the area of training where a particular group is very substantially under-represented in any particular occupation. This, given the under-representation in training in the past of so many women and so many ethnic minorities, is potentially a very powerful instrument indeed. But what use has been made of it? To their credit, the Engineering Training Board has used it extremely effectively in training for women technicians, to the great benefit not only of the women—and this is a point one cannot stress too much—but also of industry, which is short of technicians. I may say that they had considerable difficulty in getting it under way. They went to the schools and careers officers, and got no response. It was only when the very enterprising director of the Engineering Training Board got himself on the local radio, and thus inside the homes of women and their parents, that he was flooded with very good applications. These courses have been a great success and they are continuing.
§ Similarly, Hatfield Polytechnic has put on a two-year training course for women accountants. I may say that not only did they have the enterprise to do that but they also had the enterprise to get some of the money that was needed out of the EEC. If Hatfield can do this, why cannot other places do it? There may be many other such schemes that I have not heard about, but I have looked and looked for them in vain.
§ Then again there are the indirect discrimination clauses in both Acts. We had the famous Linda Price case in the Civil Service. How many employers have 221 really combed through their jobs to see whether in fact they are guilty of indirect discrimination?—very, very few. Very little use has been made of that extremely powerful instrument for bringing about equal opportunity. So let us use the legislation that we have.
§ But, perhaps, most important of all, what can Government do to see that the legislation we have is put into force? It is in the power of Government to make it a condition of giving Government contracts that there should, at least, be signs of activity in the development of the implementation of an equal opportunity policy. I deliberately say "development of the implementation". Equal opportunity policies, unless they are followed by action, by plans, by some kind of target as to what is hoped to be achieved—I am not talking about quotas or anything of that kind—are little more than humbug.
§ If Government could create some link between the giving of Government contracts, as they did years ago—and still do with fair wage regulations—that would be a great stimulus. But how can Government do this, unless Government themselves are seen to be a good equal opportunities employer? What can you expect the private sector to say if Government, with a record that does not stand up very well to investigation, turn round to employers and say "We will not put our orders with you, unless you show that you are a good equal opportunities employer?"
§ What is the record of Government as regards equal opportunities? So far as women are concerned, there was a very encouraging beginning, before the legislation came into force, in the Kemp-White recommendations, but where have we got to since then? What changes have really come about, since the legislation was passed, in Government as a direct employer in the Civil Service? Then, of course, Government have influence, also, in the nationalised industries and in local authorities.
§ If we look at 1968 and 1980, and see the highest grades in the Civil Service, we find no change so far as Permanent Secretaries are concerned. The position of women is 0 per cent. in both years. So far as Deputy Secretaries are concerned, there is also no change. The figure remains at 2.5 per cent. in both years. For Under-Secretaries there has been an increase from 2.4 per cent. in 1968 to 4.4 per cent. in 1980—big deal! For Assistant Secretaries the figure has fallen from 6.1 per cent. to 5.7 per cent. Equal opportunities!
§ How about the upward flow? There we do not have the same figures, but why are women not reaching the Assistant Secretary grade? It may be said that they do not stay, that they have family commitments or that they cannot make the grade. But a good equal opportunities employer is trying to find ways to ease the problem of the able woman—indeed, of any woman—who is attempting to combine the responsibilities of family with the responsibilities of doing a job. That is why the Kemp-White Report suggested that there should be an experimental day nursery—not a very novel or very extravagent suggestion. There was one experimental day nursery opened in Wales, but it has been shut and nothing has taken its place.
§ What are the Government doing to assist the able women that they recruit into the Civil Service to be able to maintain their careers? What have Government 222 done, as an employer, in relation to the special training schemes to which I referred earlier, to bring women who have not had the same training as men, or to bring blacks who have not had the same training, up to the level of the jobs which they have to offer? Similarly, can the Government tell us what has been done since the Linda Price case, which the Civil Service Department fought, to make sure that nowhere else inside the Civil Service is indirect discrimination being practised?
§ So far as ethnic minorities are concerned, in 1973 the Civil Service Department introduced an equal opportunities policy for race. What has happened since then? In November 1978, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations—and I declare an interest because I am chairman of that institute—at the request of the Civil Service, produced a report on the possibility of effective monitoring for equal opportunities for ethnic minorities inside the Civil Service. That report, which came out in 1978, did not say—it was not asked to say—whether discrimination was going on. But it did say on a number of occasions that there were hazards to fairness; that there was evidence that you could not be sure. In fact, it was more than that you could not be sure. There was evidence which pointed in the direction of a lack of fairness, although they did not say that they had proved that it amounted to discrimination, for, indeed, it was a careful report.
§ But what has happened to that report? That was 2½ years ago. The Government as an employer, the Civil Service Department, were told that in relation to their own employees there were "hazards to fairness" in an area of the greatest importance to the reputation of the Government—in the employment of ethnic minorities. To the best of my knowledge, there has been a long wrangle ever since then about the question of monitoring, and nothing has been done. And, alas!, only very recently, it was stated that this Government do not intend to introduce monitoring.
§ An equal opportunity policy without monitoring is humbug. Unless you are going to monitor in some shape or form, how do you know what is happening to your policy? You would not introduce any other policy in any other sphere, without the accompanying monitoring. The Government have a monetarist policy. They monitor it—presumably—or, at least, they try to. But in relation to their equal opportunities policy, they openly say that they do not intend to monitor, although, at last, the trade unions are calling out for it. Mr. Campbell Christie, a leader of one of the main trade unions concerned, is urging the Government to monitor.
§ What reply do we get? We are told that it is too expensive. May I just say this: All right, it may cost a good deal of money. My argument is that it will cost a great deal of money, sooner or later, if you do not do it. But you do not have to try to do the whole Civil Service all at once. In my view, it would be very foolish to attempt to monitor something as large and cumbersome as the whole Civil Service all at once. But what is to stop the Government from making a start on a narrow front?
§ That kind of thing has been done before. They have tried in one part of the Civil Service or another, perhaps chosen for one particularly important reason. Contact with the public might be one. Begin monitoring. 223 Have a quite simple, unambitious plan. Find out what is happening. Until you monitor, you will not know what is happening. You are unable to answer the charge of "hazards to fairness", which was made two years ago. I beg the Government to do something about this, because Government influence would be stronger than anything else in affecting the private sector.
§ I know that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will be replying to this debate, but I should like to say this to the noble Lord, Lord Soames, who is the Minister responsible for the Civil Service. The noble Lord, Lord Soames, has grasped the nettle of multi-racialism in far more difficult circumstances and with great success. After what he did in Rhodesia, he can surely handle the far less stinging nettle in Whitehall. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, first may I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for giving the House today the opportunity to debate these two very important subjects. I look forward very much to hearing the maiden speeches of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney. I hope that the House and the Minister will forgive me if have to leave before the end of the debate. I took on this duty at the last moment and I have an engagement to fulfil which I cannot get out of.
I think we are all agreed that there is enough to be said about these subjects to make in fact two debates. I also think—I do not know whether this is in the mind of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—that it is quite difficult for a major debate on sex discrimination to be got off the ground by any one party on its own. There is the advantage that sometimes the discrimination is similar in the two areas which we are debating today, though at other times it is quite different. Women's subjects tend to be left to women, though I am glad that a great many men will be speaking in today's debate.
It is interesting that we should be discussing this subject in your Lordships' House. There are nearly four times as many women Peers as there are women Members of Parliament, and there is no Member of Parliament who is black, whereas I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead will be speaking in our debate.
As we all know, when a man becomes a Peer his wife takes his title. I have been asked many times since I have been in your Lordships' House whether or not I think it unfair that my husband and the husbands of other noble Baronesses do not also have a title. My answer has always been that they have got it wrong: that in fact women are still the titular appendages of men. A man does not want to feel that he belongs to a woman, even by title. What my husband enjoys most is not being able to pay for drinks at the bar, which is an entirely different form of inequality!
It is interesting to note that today we are talking of women who represent a majority of the population—52 per cent.—and of a minority ethnic group who represent something like 3.6 per cent. of the population. 224 We should remember what the United Nations report of 1980 said about women:Women constitute one-half of the world's population, perform nearly two-thirds of work hours, receive one-tenth of the world's income and own less than 100 per cent. of the world's property".I agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when she spoke of the marked progress women have made in the professions. Therefore, one must not pretend that a great deal has not been done. But in this connection we are talking more about articulate and probably more confident women than about the mass of women in this country. Although we appreciate what has been done in the past, it is true that whether we are talking about women or about ethnic minorities, things are getting worse, due to the economic and political situation. Both groups are heavily disadvantaged. The PEP report, The Facts of Racial Disadvantage, 1976 documents the race side of this problem extremely well.
There is no time to go into the details but I should like to deal with one or two areas which affect both women and blacks. The Department of Employment survey published in April 1980 showed that the black unemployment increase over the previous year was four times the rate of unemployment generally. The Commission for Racial Equality survey of young black applicants in Nottingham applying in the same year for white collar jobs showed that discrimination had increased by one-third since the PEP report of 1976.
Women form 40 per cent. of the workforce in this country. In the last two years the number of women registered as unemployed has nearly doubled; from 377,000 to 705,500. It could be argued that male unemployment has also doubled. Unemployment generally in this country is scandalously high. However, when we are talking about women we have to realise that these figures are an underestimate. Large numbers of women are not registered as unemployed. Therefore they do not show up in the official figures. Many of them are part-time workers. They do not show up in the figures, either. Promotion and job opportunities for women, a point which was dealt with so splendidly by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is a problem which I hope everyone now recognises.
So far as the black community is concerned, again their promotion and job opportunities are extremely poor. Both sections of the community are poor compared with white men. Women earn only 74 per cent. of the average man's wage. That percentage has risen in recent years from 60 per cent. Nevertheless, when we are talking about equality in terms not only of opportunity but of equal pay, which is the linchpin of my party's policy, this percentage is nothing like good enough. The tendency on the part of many people is still to think of women's wages as pin money. It has to be recognised very much more widely than it is now that without the woman's contribution to the family income, four times as many families would be living below the supplementary benefit level. Therefore, the contribution of many women to domestic finances is absolutely essential. It is a vicious circle. Since there are fewer opportunities, the jobs which the majority of women are able to take are usually at a low level, which means that they are also much lower paid.
If we turn to education, the Select Committee on Race and Immigration called in 1977 for an urgent, 225 high level and independent inquiry into the underachievement of West Indian children in schools and the remedial action required. The Rampton Committee was set up. Its recent interim report showed that the achievement of West Indian children was six times worse than that of Asian or white children at both O and A levels. It showed also that the support network which is needed for these children is not available and that the image which they have of themselves is very poor.
If I may turn to the education of girls, it is terrible that after all these years the curriculum is still largely geared to traditional roles. It still perpetuates the educational gap between boys and girls and it runs against the social and economic tide. For example, there are practically no apprenticeships for women. Only hairdressing takes in a steady number. In too many professions and occupations women still have to enter at the secretarial or clerical level, which men do not have to do. This diminishes their prospects in later life. I should like to join the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in asking the Government what they are doing about this. We have a woman Prime Minister. There is also a woman who sits in this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who is a Minister in the Department of Education. Much of this is simply a matter of education.
I should now like to say a few words about housing because housing problems apply strongly in the case of the black population. In 1978 a general housing survey showed that only 22 per cent. of black people were housed by local authorities compared with 34 per cent. of white people; 14 per cent. of black people were forced into the private rented sector compared to 2 per cent. of white people. This means that many black people are living in low-grade accommodation, as we well know from the debate we had on housing. The Government cannot afford to cut housing in the public sector because more rented housing is needed if we are to be effective in helping the black population of this country.
I believe we are all aware that the number of single parent families has increased enormously. One in eight of all families in Great Britain today are single parent families, and among West Indians there is a disproportionate number of unsupported mothers. If one is both black and unsupported then one is under twice as much pressure from society and needs twice as much social back-up. Again, it seems to me that the Government cannot afford to cut social services when they are so badly needed. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, spoke in some detail about the responsibilities of central Government, and I agree with every word she said.
Soon after entering your Lordships' House I participated in the debate on the Fulton Report on the reorganisation of the Civil Service. I made the point then that I looked forward to seeing a new set-up in which a great many more opportunities would be given to women. As we have seen, it has not yet worked out that way. In fact, in many areas an atmosphere still prevails in which women and girls are made to feel that they are something extraordinary or not quite right for the job. When I was a Minister in the Department of the Environment I had at one time a highly intelligent and attractive girl as my private 226 secretary. A number of the men who came into the office—not just men in the Civil Service and other Ministers but men from outside as well—would say to her, "What is a pretty girl like you doing in a tough job like this?" It is this sort of attitude that women are having to fight all the time.
Far be it from me to say that any Government have reached anything close to perfection in their dealings either with women or with the black community, but the last Labour Government did introduce the Equal Pay Act, legislation against sex discrimination, and also employment protection legislation. With all their imperfections, these have formed a good framework on which to build. But the framework now needs strengthening and I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Lockwood, the chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, who has done so much to put matters on the right path, will be speaking later in the debate. I hope that my noble friend will explain some of the proposals which she feels should be introduced in order to strengthen present legislation.
It should not be forgotten that the question of equal opportunity applies to men just as much as to women. We should not imagine that this is just a women's problem; it is largely a woman's problem, but the Equal Opportunities Commission have had cases brought before them by men and there are probably many more such cases which have not been brought to the commission's attention because the men concerned are too shy to do so. In respect of employment, the Employment Act 1980, which was brought in by the present Government, has attacked women's rights to paid maternity leave and has reduced the protection from dismissal due to pregnancy. Other areas which were left out altogether from the original legislation, and which are still not covered, include tax, the difference between a single and a married woman's supplementary benefit—because a woman does not receive supplementary benefit in her own right if she is married—and loss of supplementary benefit by a single woman if she co-habits. Certainly I have never heard of a case in which a man lost his supplementary benefit or any other benefit because he co-habited.
The cuts in social services due to the present economic situation mean a double blow, particularly for women. They mean that women not only lose their jobs but also have to bridge the gaps in certain instances, such as school meals, which they now have to provide at home in those areas where schools have stopped providing meals altogether. Another is nursery schools. The situation in respect of the lack of nursery schools is appalling. We have raised this matter repeatedly, and I seem to have been discussing this subject all my adult life. If men had to go out to work and care for their children as well, there would be no lack of provision for nursery schools! The noble Baroness referred to the Tavistock Report and to the wrangling which is going on. As I understand it, the Government announced in February that they were not going ahead with the monitoring. I agree with the noble Baroness and shall not go over the same ground again. I shall only say that the Government must take the lead in these matters and implement their own legislation, and must also set the tone which can be followed by others. This applies across the 227 board. It applies in many cases in respect of women and also of the black community. The Tavistock Report, of course, dealt with the subject of the employment of black men and women in the Civil Service.
We see the gaps in central Government but we also see them in local government. Section 11 of the 1966 Local Government Act makes provision for grants to be given by central Government, but 25 per cent. of the figure has to be contributed by local government if a grant is to be taken up. These grants were meant for new immigrants to this country. A number of points have arisen from this. Firstly, the take-up has been very sporadic because local authorities have not been prepared to pay 25 per cent. towards the cost of the grant. Secondly, it is now quite clear that these grants should apply not only to new immigrants but also to people born in this country. The question here is not one of newness or of a new generation, but of colour. People who have been born here—and whose parents may have been born here—are now finding that because of awful colour prejudice they are considered as though they have just arrived on a banana boat. The fact that they are being treated in that way is causing much of the resentment that we see today.
Even if I am not here to hear him, I am sure the noble Lord the Minister will say that at the present time the finance is not available to do all the things I have mentioned. It is not just a question of finance, however; it is a question of political will. Even when resources were available, the Government did not take the opportunity to apply resources in the ways I have suggested. There was no real commitment. Probably the most important motivation behind all that is going on—and not going on—is based on attitudes and prejudice. It is a question of how one continues to try to change attitudes and prejudice in this country. The noble Baroness has said what she believes the Government should do and I agree with what she has said. However, I do not believe that we want a large amount of legislation but, rather, some legislation to amend the Acts we already have, in order to give them more teeth. Increasingly, black people—particularly young black people—are beginning to feel that they do not belong and that their only outlet is direct action in the form of marches and demonstrations, which only cause more violence.
About two weeks ago New Society published a précis of a report sent to the Home Office on two groups of young unemployed, one white and one black, and the young black unemployed showed an enormous resentment and hostility towards the police which was not shown by the white group. Obviously we are awaiting the result of the inquiry at Brixton, but this seems to be something that is absolutely essential to good relations in our community. We shall have to take action on the curriculum for boys and girls and I think we should also remember that, although the Government must take action, a great deal happens in the home and in the schools and many of the young women who belong to some of the women's liberation groups —and also their husbands—are really insistent that women should be given a proper choice. That does not mean that every woman should be made to feel that although she does not need to go out to work 228 she should do so and she is not fulfilling herself if she does not, but that she should have a proper choice and that she should also have the proper training and facilities to enable her to carry out that choice. It also means a different approach to the roles of men and women, and I think that that is changing among younger couples, where they take turns at baby-sitting and both work together in the domestic area.
This whole area, in which we are talking about discrimination against women and even more so, because it is even more socially dangerous at the moment, discrimination against blacks in our community, must have the highest priority, even if it means that resources have to be spent on it, whether it be money, manpower, more research monitoring of the schemes that have been started. I am not talking about some luxurious frill on the social fabric; I am talking about the social fabric itself. If we let that tear more than it is already tearing, we shall have an explosive and even worse situation in this country.
§ 3.43 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield
My Lords, I am deeply conscious of the privilege of addressing your Lordships' House for the first time and also of the difficulty of making a non-controversial contribution to a debate on an inevitably controversial subject—a prospect which some of my friends have regarded with a combination of incredulity and merriment. I deliberately do not want to attempt to speak on the subject of discrimination on grounds of sex. I do not think that a representative of the Church of England would find that very easy just at the moment. I agree that the Church has its difficulties. I would not want to hide behind the exemptions granted in the 1975 Act to the Churches; I can only assure the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who introduced this debate and who was generous enough not to mention this particular subject, that we are persevering—some of us. I should also like to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, that bishops' wives suffer from the same disability as do the husbands of noble Baronesses.
In this field of discrimination, whether sexual or racial, it is, as the noble Baroness has just reminded us, a question of changing attitudes and it is to that that I want to devote a brief consideration now. All sorts of good excuses can be adduced for attitudes—biological, economic, cultural and even theological reasons. Perhaps I may give some examples. I happen to be the representative of the archbishops with that small body of clergy and a few laity who are working as community relations chaplains or officers for the Churches in different parts of the country. We were told recently by an interviewer from an employment agency that an Asian woman who had been in this country for a good few years and was a GPO-trained telephonist—which, as the interviewer remarked, is rather like having Pitman's shorthand for a secretary—working in the GPO in North London, moved south of the river and wanted to get a job near her home. She came into the agency and the interviewer said she was a really lovely lady, a smashing telephonist, she had a lot of experience and was really well spoken. She would have fitted the bill for this particular job, for which they asked for a GPO-trained telephonist. She had an Indian-sounding name. The firm was 229 keen to have her when it heard of her qualifications but when it asked the lady's name, immediately the response was, "Is she an Indian?" The interviewer said, "Yes. She is a very attractive lady and very nice". The voice at the other end said, "No, we cannot have them. It is a very small switchboard and the others would not put up with it". The woman was sitting next to the interviewer; she heard the word "Yes", to the question as to whether she was an Indian, and she knew why she did not get the job. She was upset and she had a little cry, and the interviewer said, "She went and I never saw her again".
That is an example of what could, I suppose, be a genuine difficulty, or it could equally well be an excuse. The law can, and should, deal with that kind of injustice but of course it does not of itself change the attitudes. It is easy to persuade oneself that these attitudes are not present. Recently I was talking to one of my own clergy, telling him that I had to take part in this debate, and he said to me, "But surely there are not really many attitudes of racial discrimination about nowadays, are there?" I told him of an example which had happened in my own experience. An ordinand from my own diocese, a man who had served in a commercial firm for some 15 years and who had decided to be ordained, wanted to sell his house. He put it up for sale and because it is not so easy to sell houses in that particular part of the Black Country at the moment, he had some difficulty. Eventually he found a buyer. The buyer was an Indian accountant, well qualified and personable. The man described to me the incredible vindictiveness of his neighbours, who persecuted him in every way that they could for even thinking of selling his house to an Indian. I told the priest, "That was in your own parish".
A few years ago in my own diocesan synod we had a debate on this subject. One of our representatives from what we tend, I am afraid perhaps unkindly, to call the "white highlands" of Shropshire, went home and said to his son, "I don't know what we were spending all that time for, discussing racial attitudes. I don't think we are at all prejudiced or have these attitudes". His teenage son laughed at him and said "Father, you don't realise". The father wrote to me and said, "You know, my son really taught me to look at myself. I had not realised".
A few weeks ago I was slightly involved with the so-called People's March for Jobs, which was in my diocese for a whole week. The thing which intrigued me most about that particular exercise, in which we took part—not without a good deal of criticism—was the almost total lack of black faces in the membership, at least in the part which came from Liverpool. Of course I did not see the full turn-out when it arrived in London. That struck me as being curious, in view of the proportion of black people who make up the numbers of the unemployed. But I had to admit that even in the Church the same is true about the proportions. I have not a single black face in my diocesan synod, which I regret deeply, and that in itself says something about attitudes, not only in the secular world but also in the Church.
Noble Lords may know that I spent eight years of my ministry in Rhodesia. It would not be possible in an uncontroversial speech to analyse one's experiences as a result of those eight years. Now I have in 230 my diocese Wolverhampton, which has been, unhappily, in the forefront of racial difficulties, but which, I am glad to say, because attitudes are being changed, not least by some excellent work by the police, is no longer coming to the attention of the media as it did at one time. But those years, and my present exprience, have taught me the part which fear plays in this whole area, how it is aroused by discrimination, how it causes distorted reactions, from the chip on the shoulder to violent resistance, and how on the other side a combination of fear and a sense of power can produce an aggressive sort of anger.
The Motion of the noble Baroness draws attention to the need for effective action, and I would wish to support that wholeheartedly. Attitude changing has to be taken firmly in hand. The law can and should provide a framework, but the great responsibility lies on those in many sections of society who are in a position of leadership, who have an opportunity to influence others. It is a need to give assurance to all sections of society, with determination to rectify discrimination and at the same time to avoid emotive words and actions on either side. There is a need—and I agree with the noble Baroness—to take positive discriminatory action to redress negative discrimination, and I would certainly support the suggestions which she made in her opening speech. Above all, we have to be prepared to persevere where it is very easy to be discouraged.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, may I first express my appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for initiating this debate, and may I also say how greatly I have looked forward to a positive covey of maiden speeches. Having listened to the right reverend Prelate's most moving and thought-provoking speech, may I venture to offer, perhaps on behalf not only of myself but of others who are not speaking this afternoon, my very warmest congratulations.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, it is now five years since the Sex Discrimination Act came into force. I intend to address my remarks to that aspect of this debate. My experience as the United Kingdom delegate to the United Nations Status of Women Committee has made me keenly aware of the fact that the United Kingdom equality legislation is regarded as being the most progressive in the world, and among the most helpful to women. We were in many ways pioneers in this field, and our legislation, particularly concerning the establishment of the EOC, has been copied by other nations.
During the past five years there have been considerable improvements. More and more women and men are moving into non-traditional areas of employment. Married women are now finding it much easier to get mortgages and credit on the same terms as married men. In education, too, we find that the number of women going into university has been rising over the last five years, so that women now account for 43.2 per cent. of all first year students on courses in higher education. It is also worth noting that women are now being offered the opportunity of second chance education.
I should like to cite the success of New Opportunities 231 for Women course at Bangor normal college, and the growth of Lucy Cavendish College at Cambridge which offers degree courses for the mature female student, as examples. There are also signs that a certain amount of desegregation is taking place with regard to the kind of subjects studied by girls at GCE O and A levels. For example, girls accounted for 23.4 per cent. of physics 0–level passes in 1978, compared with only 21.8 per cent. in 1975.
Although these trends are undoubtedly encouraging, they certainly do not permit us to be complacent or to assume that women's career patterns are now well established and unassailable by prejudice, however unintentional. For in many career areas women have still to make their mark, as it were, because the system seems to be stacked against them. The Finniston Committee on the Engineering Profession reported in 1980 thatless than one-half per cent. of the current stock of engineers are women".Figures from the Engineering Industry Training Board show that women account for only 22 per cent. of the total engineering labour force, with most of that 22 per cent. concentrated at the low-skilled operator end of the industry.
Your Lordships may remember that when we debated the Finniston Report in the House, the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, Rector of Imperial College of Science and Technology, stated quite clearly that in terms of first-class degrees and graduation prizes women students at Imperial College do twice as well as the men. The only thing stopping them is prejudice, in the home and in the schools, based upon ignorance of what modern engineering actually entails. Girls still equate these subjects with being dirty jobs. Those who have entered careers in engineering know the contrary to be true.
The same could be said of management, where women are also conspicuous by their scarcity. Only 12.6 per cent. of managers are women, despite the fact that women now make up nearly 40 per cent. of the total workforce. My recent experience in the media field made me only too well aware of the discrimination against women, really able women, in the career structure of their industry, and the resentment caused thereby. As a matter of fact, the United Nations and the Council of Europe are also sinners in this respect. The United Nations and the Council of Europe are outside my brief today, but I quote them as examples to show that this country is not alone in experiencing sex and equality difficulties, particularly in view of the noble Baroness's remarks about the career structure of our Civil Service.
The Equal Opportunities Commission has to solve a variety of problems in carrying out its statutory duties, one of which is to monitor the working of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act, and make recommendations for change. As a result of careful monitoring of both Acts during the past five years, the commission has now drawn up recommendations for 25 amendments to the two Acts and has submitted them to the Secretary of State to place before Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
The aim of the OEC in proposing these amendments is to make the legislation more effective in achieving 232 equality of opportunity between men and women, and, to this end, to make the two Acts more harmonious and more comprehensive. So we should take seriously and pay attention to the recommendations of the commission, our statutory body in the field of equality. The amendments themselves are rather complex, and we do not have time, or rather I do not have time, to discuss them in detail today, but I hope there will be another opportunity to do so in this House. So leaving aside for this reason matters of equal pay, I should just like to mention one example of the proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act.
The amendment which I refer to is the amendment to repeal Section 51 of the Sex Discrimination Act within 10 years. Section 51 effectively exempts from the Act all legislation passed before December 1975, which means that vast areas are outside the scope of the Act—areas such as social security legislation, immigration and nationality legislation; and the questions of the unequal retirement ages for men and women, and of the different treatment of men and women by our taxation system. Not only that, but Section 51 is also being used with regard to obscure statutes and local government by-laws—for example, a woman was refused a research fellowship at St. John's College, Cambridge, because of a statute dating from the 1920s which did not permit women to be admitted as members.
The basic intention of the proposed amendment is to shift the burden of responsibility for monitoring the currently exempted legislation and its continuing justifiability, if any, on to the relevant Government department. It is absolutely vital that this and the other amendments proposed by the Commission are taken on board so that the real objectives of the equality legislation can be given effect without further delay—an end to sex discrimination, and the realisation of genuine equality of opportunity between men and women.
I should like to mention one or two other points. With regard to the family income supplement, a working man and a single-parent family in low paid work, claim family income supplements as a right. At present a working woman with an out-of-work husband and with children is not entitled to claim. I know that this is to be put right in 1984, but I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister why must we wait until then? Why not now? I should be interested in his reply.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, I too would hate it to be thought that my interest in equality of opportunity is one-sided. Therefore, I should like to point out that a marked feature of recruitment complaints during the last two years has been the increasing number of inquiries from men. I understand that this year those represent approximately 32 per cent. of the total number of recruitment inquiries. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. It is interesting to note that some of the male complainants have been unemployed and have been refused interviews for jobs traditionally regarded as women's work.
I take this debate very seriously, but even the most serious subject has its lighter side. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will not think it inappropriate if I end on a somewhat frivolous and personal note in agreeing with Lady Birk's remarks about reverse 233 discrimination. Had my husband become Lord Trumpington I would automatically have become Lady Trumpington. As things stand, he remains Mr. Barker. This has led to much stimulating "pillow talk" in our household. He has so far withstood my suggestion that he should change his name by deed poll to Duke Ellington in order to outgun me! Indeed, he says that he feels like a bishop's wife. However, I think that a situation whereby my son becomes the Honourable Adam Barker, whereas my husband's name remains unchanged, smacks of the ridiculous.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, in claiming the customary indulgence to a maiden speech I hasten to begin by assuring your Lordships that my pillow companion for the last week has been the little red book from which I have learned that it is my duty to be short and unprovocative. I can give every assurance on the first point and such assurance on the second as my tender conscience will permit.
The subject of sex and race together, or separately, is an explosive one. Both are of great importance and, on the whole, I regret that we are not in a position to treat them separately. What links them seems to me to be not only the fact that they are areas in which discrimination regrettably occurs, but that they are treated by our law in a curious way. They are now two important branches of the law which we have been discussing relating to sex discrimination and racial equality, the enforcement of which is taken outside the ordinary machinery of Government—the departments of responsible Ministers—and handed over to bodies which have come to be known colloquially as Quangos. It is, I think, no disrespect to those who sit on these bodies or to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, who will be speaking to us later this afternoon, to say that there may be something in the view that the slow progress which is made in some respects is due to the fact that people say, "Well, these are, of course, laws, but they are not laws like the laws about larceny, divorce or whatever it may be: they have been taken out and put into a category of their own, they are quasi laws". That is a matter which, if we are seriously concerned to use the law in this field, we may have to consider again.
However, when we come to substance there is a great difference, as I think previous speakers have said, including the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. In the field of sex discrimination taken by and large, and taking the international comparisons which the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, offered us, there has been a considerable degree of success. But, of course, that success has been made easier in the case of sex discrimination because the objective of the legislation is so much clearer. The objective of the legislation is to say that where a woman seeks employment or engages in a profession or in any other activity, she should be treated exactly in the same way as would a man of similar attainments and standing. That is something which everyone can understand and it is, or should be, easy enough for the courts or tribunals to discuss.
The surviving disabilities of women are largely outside the field, as I think previous speakers have agreed, with which legislation can deal. Some arise from far 234 reaching economic changes in our society as well as from the particular economic difficulties that we confront today. Others arise from attitudes, particularly in the field of education which has, unfortunately, the result that some women cannot claim the full benefits of the legislation because, in fact, they do not possess the attainments which would be regarded as necessary in the case of an applicant for a particular post. In that sphere action by the law is very difficult. Action is only possible by a change in public sentiment, a change in the schools and a change in the attitudes of families towards what they hope for from their daughters.
It is my fear—and I hope that this is not controversial—that some of the changes that have been made in our educational system designed to assist the progress of women may actually have held it back. I think that there is some evidence that girls are more likely to go in for these unpopular and difficult or to them new subjects in mathematics and the sciences in single sex institutions than they are when they have immediately to come up against boys whom they assume are going to be better than they are themselves.
As regards higher education, I regret the disappearance almost completely of institutions of higher education run by women for women, if only because it has removed some of the laudable prospects of promotion which a woman entering on a professional career would have had a generation ago. But, as I say, in this field we have done well. In the field of race, as the right reverend Prelate has reminded us, we face enormous continuing difficulties and setbacks. There again, I think the reason is partly that, in our legislation and in our exhortations, we are trying to combine two objectives which are themselves much more complex. One of them is to prevent discrimination against people because they are black or brown, as we would prevent it because they are female rather than male; in other words, we are trying to remove an inequality which can be seen and which statistically can even be measured. Both these functions fall on the same Commission.
The other is to bring about a society in which these groups—for they are groups, the minority and the majority—can live side by side in harmony. To do this means a change and means bringing about changes in attitude which the law can no doubt stimulate but which the law cannot itself wholly control. I think that it is very important that one should consider historically and in relation to the experience of other countries which have faced similar problems—because in this respect our problems are by no means unique in the world—what it is we mean when we say that we accept the fact that Britain is now a multiracial or multi-cultural society. Do we mean this totally? Do we mean to say that we would be prepared to see a society develop in which particular groups in the community, perhaps because of their feeling that there is discrimination against them or perhaps for other reasons, prefer to live lives and to organise their social lives and, indeed perhaps even their professional and commercial lives in ways which minimise their contact with the rest of the community? Or, on the contrary, do we mean that we wish them to enjoy a common framework—the common law and common institutions of our common country—and only within that framework 235 bring to our common country the particular contributions of their own cultural heritage?
This may sound an academic point, but I believe that it takes us to the heart of the problem and, indeed, to some burning issues of the day. Let us suppose—and I hope that this will not happen—that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, comes to conduct his inquiry into Brixton, he is faced with an unwillingness on the part of some representatives of the communities affected to appear before him. That, in fact, would mean that there are people who already feel that our legal processes—our constitutional processes—are insufficient to give them the justice that they rightly crave.
Similarly, going outside the legal and institutional field to the field of education—which again has been touched upon, and rightly, by previous speakers—it is obviously important that the way forward for children from West Indian or Asian families—and, as we know, it affects Asian families less—is that they should get the jobs for which they naturally hope, but not because the law compels a quota system or anything of that kind, but because they are equal in their capacities and in their training. To me the most important part of the speech of the noble Baroness was when she pointed out that, although we have known that this problem was likely to arise with the new generation of children born in this country to immigrants from the Commonwealth, we have taken very little note of this in our educational policy. Again, some of the changes that we have made in our educational policy—for instance, more informal methods of teaching, a neglect of serious study of English, English grammar, English pronunciation, and English spelling—can be laughed off by children of well-placed families of native origin, but they bear with particular hardness on the children of the immigrant communities. Indeed, we know that many of the parents of these children feel the same.
Despite, as has been admitted, a gloomy outlook on this, I do not think that there is any reason why we should regard this as a field which cannot be discussed, rationally in this House and, I hope, elsewhere without provocation. For myself, on this first occasion on which I have the honour of addressing your Lordships, as the child of immigrants to this country, I feel and know what discrimination is about, and feel and know that it is something with which we can deal.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Baroness for giving us this opportunity to debate this very important subject and for the clarity of her speech in introducing the debate. It is always a great pleasure to listen to the noble Baroness, and today was no exception. I wish to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield and the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, on their maiden speeches. They both made very good and interesting speeches, touching on the subject of our debate. I am sure that your Lordships will look forward to hearing them both on many other occasions in debates in your Lordships' House.
I also want to anticipate the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney. My noble friend 236 and I were both, of course, on the London County Council together. In fact he, Barry Payton and I represented the constituency of Stoke Newington and Hackney, North on the London County Council from 1961 to 1965, during the period when each parliamentary constituency in London sent three members to the London County Council. Subsequently my noble friend left to enter the other place; Barry Payton became a town clerk, and I was left to continue to represent Stoke Newington and Hackney, North, or Hackney, North and Stoke Newington as it is now called, and that I did until 1977. Therefore I am very glad to be joined once more by my noble friend and look forward to listening to his maiden speech and to many contributions to your Lordships' debates, which I know will be very valuable. When I made my maiden speech in County Hall he was sitting beside me, so I am very glad to have the pleasure of repaying the compliment by sitting beside him when he makes his maiden speech immediately after I sit down.
If I concentrate on the question of racial discrimination and racial disadvantage, it is not because I rate the question of discrimination on the grounds of sex as being of less importance, but because I am more knowledgeable on this aspect of the subject than on the question of discrimination on grounds of sex. For many years I was deeply involved in activities to combat racial discrimination. Among other things, I was deputy chairman and, for the last period of its life, chairman, of the Community Relations Commission. For nine years, I was chairman of its fieldwork committee.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for dealing so extensively with discrimination in employment. It is the area in which discrimination is most damaging, but it is also the area in which it is easiest to deal with discrimination. It is unfortunate that this discrimination continues purely because of our failure to come to grips with it. In this respect the Government must carry the biggest blame. It is the field in which they have the most influence. As the noble Baroness said—and I do not want to repeat all she said—the Government have the weapons with which they can influence what happens in the employment field perhaps in a way they cannot do anywhere else. I am sorry that the Government have persisted in dragging their feet on this matter.
As the noble Baroness has said, the Civil Service department has refused to monitor the question of equal opportunity in that department. That is a great pity. But they have also refused even to review and monitor their race relations clause in contracts. For the last two years the Government have been besieged by the Commission for Racial Equality to review and monitor their race relations clause in contracts. As the noble Baroness pointed out, the last Government were able to use their power of contract to enforce their incomes policy, and did it until Parliament refused to allow them to continue to do so. This is a field in which the Government have the sort of weapon which they can use. It is a great pity that they continue to drag their feet on it.
The Government need to set an example to private industry. Private industry will follow, but it is pointless to go to a private employer to try to persuade him to see that there is equal opportunity in his business 237 when he can turn around and say to you, "Well, the Government do not do it". I hope that the Government will take this on board and be serious in their action in this field. I know that the Commission for Racial Equality have been trying to secure Government support for a comprehensive code of practice to ensure equal opportunity in employment. I really hope that the Government will give the necessary support and take the necessary action in this field.
The massive unemployment which exists in the community at the present time carries with it massive youth unemployment. Young blacks share with their white peers the experience of increasing unemployment, but they also suffer additional disadvantages directly related to their colour. Combating this disadvantage involves a whole range of activities, starting with the provision of more nursery places, more nursery schools, greater attention to the education of minorities with the provision of more black teachers and better motivation of young blacks, and the provision of a second chance for those who miss out during the period of their journey through the school system. It also involves a massive increase in training facilities. I must say at this point that I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has said, particularly on this question of the education of black youngsters.
All these matters call for effective action on the part of central and local Government. Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 placed on local authoritis a duty,to make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their various functions are carried out with due regard to the need—But local authorities have not been given any guidelines as to how to comply with Section 71.
- (a) to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and
- (b) to promote equality of opportunity … between persons of different racial groups".
What is worse, the previous Government had introduced a Bill which would have provided funds to enable local authorities to carry out this task. That Bill lapsed with the dissolution of Parliament. The present Government have not only refused to reintroduce that Bill but made no attempt to help local authorities to meet their obligations in this matter. I have been told that the need to make provisions to deal with racial disadvantage was taken into account in determining the rate support grant. But as the last rate support grant distribution transferred resources from the inner cities, where the problem lies, to the shire counties I find it hard to believe this.
Moreover, the boroughs which have the greatest need in terms of combating racial disadvantage are the very ones which the Secretary of State is busily penalising by withdrawing their rate support grant because of their alleged overspending. Prevention is always better than cure, and it is much cheaper to help local authorities to provide the facilities for combating racial disadvantage than to meet the cost of disturbances. I hope the Government will bear this in mind and review their policy in this field.
During my period with the Community Relations Commission much help was obtained with community projects from the urban aid programme. The Government should give high priority in the allocation of 238 resources to provision for young people, especially those in multi-racial areas, in the urban programme. Another bit of my experience with the urban programme was that local authorities were often unwilling to contribute their 25 per cent. to the cost of voluntary organisation projects. I think that this can be met by a differential grant for voluntary organisation projects. For example, if instead of the normal 75 per cent. grant the Government gave an 85 per cent. grant for voluntary organisation projects, I am sure that that would act as an incentive to encourage local authorities to propose and support voluntary organisation projects. I hope that the Government will try to take this one on board.
Another development while I was at the commission was the establishment of the self-help fund. That self-help fund proved very useful, but l gather from the Community Relations Commission that the Government have placed the commission in a position where they can only increase the self-help grant by cutting down on other activities. This is shortsighted. The sum here is not large. I gather from the CRC that they propose to allocate £700,000 to the self-help fund. In 1975, when I was still involved with it, we estimated that the fund should have been £I million. It would need to be larger than that now. But the pump priming which comes from a judicious use of this fund can be of inestimable value in providing community facilities, which will make it possible to get the youths off the streets and out of mischief. Here again I hope that the Government will give this further thought.
My period as chairman of the field work committee of the CRC was much taken up with the establishment of local community relations councils. They brought the statutory authorities of central and local government together with the local voluntary organisations to work together to break down barriers between racial groups in their areas. Central Government, through the commission, provided funds for salaries and some projects; local authorities provided the premises, back-up facilities and some funds for projects; and local volunteers brought their enthusiasm, expertise, time, energy and goodwill, and together much good work was done in many areas, and as the right reverend Prelate said, quite a lot of good work was done in Wolverhampton by the CRC.
There are now 102 CRCs and, as has always been the case, they vary in quality and value. More important from our point of view, they vary in the degree of support they receive from their local authorities. I asked the commission to give me a random sample and they have given me eight councils, which I mention simply to show the difference in support that CRCs get. Camden, a borough which the Secretary of State for the Environment is always anxious to clobber—it happens to be the borough in which I live, so whenever he clobbers it I have to pay more rates—gave its CRC £325,015 last year; Hammersmith gave £100,000; Manchester gave £36,533; Leeds gave £22,312; and, at the other end of the scale, Aylesbury gave £300 plus accommodation—I must not forget to add that because we do not know what that would bring the total up to; Redbridge gave only £1,500; Cambridge only £3,750; and Slough only £5,415.
I have given the House those examples to show the 239 difference in the attitude of local authorities towards their community relations councils. When I was responsible for this matter I tried my best to do what I am urging the Minister to do—namely, to take it up with the various local authority associations so that discussions can take place there with a view to getting them to realise the importance of making their contributions to these councils. I am sure the Minister could do that. I did a lot of that when I was deputy chairman of the CRC, sometimes with success but often without, and I believe a Government Minister could do it with much greater success.
The Manpower Services Commission has been very helpful in providing training and special programmes to help unemployed youth. As a high proportion of unemployed youths are black, the MSC programmes have been valuable in helping to combat racial discrimination and disadvantage. Rumour has it—I hope on this occasion that rumour is a lying jade—that the funds of the MSC are to be reduced. That would be a terrible mistake at this time. I hope the rumour proves to be unfounded and that when the Minister replies he will say that this time rumour is a lying jade and that, far from the MSC having its funds reduced, they are being increased, because that is what is required now.
I have spoken for long enough. I conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will concentrate their mind on the problem of disadvantage and do the things required of them in this field. The problem of how people of different races live together in equality and friendship is one of the biggest problems confronting the world today. We have an opportunity of making a contribution to the solution of that problem. For Christ's sake, let us take it.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, it is indeed a privilege for me to be able to make my maiden speech in this Chamber by the side of my noble friend Lord Pitt of Hampstead. As he said, we have been associated together for many years, in local government—if one can call the place across the way local—and in other endeavours. He speaks from an entirely unique position in this House. He is probably as sorry as I am that it is quite so unique; he would probably prefer it were less so, and I shall have something to say about that shortly. My noble friend's words carry weight not only because of that but because of his long experience of the subject, and I hope that the Government have been listening to what he said and will take account of it when they reply.
I was deeply impressed by the opening speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, not only by the great knowledge of the subject which she displayed but by the extremely impressive manner of its delivery. She abandoned altogether any notes whatever, and I was rather intimidated by that because I intended to have the life-raft of a few notes to help me along the way on this maiden occasion. But I was a little encouraged after the event to see that she was not followed by everybody in that, so consequently I feel a little more confident than I would have done otherwise. However, I shall hope to try to emulate her on some future occasion. If it were not an impertinence for me to do 240 so, I should venture to congratulate my two predecessors in making their maiden speeches, but as a maiden speaker myself it would be quite improper for me to do that, but were it proper I should do it very warmly.
Seventeen years ago I made a maiden speech in another place and I was fortunate on that occasion in that it was on the gracious Speech. That meant I was able to set the scene for my future activities in that Chamber; I could and did talk about many things. If they were in the Queen's Speech I commented on them and, if they were not, I deplored their absence, and it was all in order. This time there is no one to keep me in order, but I did not need correction on that occasion and I hope I shall not deserve it on this.
The range of subjects open to me then was much wider than it is now. I must shortly come to the matters of race and sex which the noble Baroness so cogently drew to our attention, but first I would tell the House that I approached my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, who explained to me that she would be unable to be here for reasons of a prior engagement. I mentioned to her that I intended to refer to my conversation with her and she gave me permission to do so. That noble friend, who caresses this side of the House with a silken whip, told me when I asked for her advice on my maiden speech, "Keep it short, unprovocative, and include a joke". Here conies the joke.
It is said that the celebrated American violinist Isaac Stern was once preparing for a concert when a knock came on the door. "Who's there?" asked Stern. "Yehudi," came the reply. "Yehudi who?" said Stern! Something rather similar happened to me recently when I called on—I am not sure how I should refer to him—my friend (and he is my friend) the Leader of the Opposition in another place to thank him for the recommendation which the Prime Minister was kind enough to pass on to Her Majesty which resulted in my being here. There was no one in the outer office, and so I knocked on the inner door. "Who's that?" asked Michael's voice from within. From my new-found importance as a Peer I called out, "Jenkins", and the question came, "Give or Roy?"
I must come to the Motion. On the previous occasion to which I have referred I covered the world in 14 minutes. On this occasion I shall attempt to deal with one aspect of the problem before us in a little less time than that. I want to talk about racial and sexual discrimination in politics, and in particular in your Lordships' House, but the more so in another place, since, as has already been pointed out, your Lordships' House is less vulnerable in this respect—certainly in regard to sexual discrimination. It is still vulnerable, very vulnerable, but less vulnerable than is the other place.
The situation is not getting better. The number of women in both Houses is ludicrously inadequate to represent the interests of half of our population. While the ethnic minorities are enormously represented in quality, in quantity they are hardly represented at all, as my noble friend Lord Pitt will agree. I am sure that my noble friend also agrees with me when I say that he is entirely dissatisfied with being, as it were, a token person here in our midst.
241 As for women, the fact that we have a woman Prime Minister merely shows that when women are wrong they can be as wrong as anyone else. I hope that that is an unprovocative remark. That we have a woman Prime Minister does nothing to correct the imbalance which disfigures our legislative Chambers. Furthermore, the situation is not much better in local authorities all over the country. On the contrary; women played a more significant role in the old London County Council (to which my noble friend has referred) and in the early days of the Greater London Council. My wife, whom I am happy to say is here listening to me this afternoon, was one of that group of women who played a notable part in the LCC and in the early days of the GLC.
The situation has not improved today. Some people might think that it has not improved in any way; others might have a different view about that. But certainly so far as sexual discrimination is concerned the situation across the way is worse than it was. What is to be done about it? My wife and I recently returned from a visit to the southern states of the United States of America. There are many cities where the "wasps", as they call them (the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants), are in a minority in the population. As for women, I am inclined to think that socially American women have overtaken men. Economically they are climbing the ladder more rapidly than are our women, but politically they are probably no more advanced—perhaps even less so.
But the Americans are doing something about it, which is more than can be said for us. In many cities—Winston-Salem, in North Carolina is an example—women and black people must be elected to the governing body in proportion to their numerical strength in the community. Thus we have the position, the racially and sexually balanced solution, that these cities are governed by councils which correctly represent the sexual and racial nature of the populations whom they serve. There is perhaps a lesson here for us, one which we could do well to study. In some cases in the United States the governing majority now is both black and female, and in most cases that does not appear adversely to have affected the political distributions of the area. I think it is time that we here looked at this problem in this positive way. I do not say that we should go the whole way, but I think that we could march some way in this direction.
But meanwhile the political parties should themselves do something; they should bestir themselves on this issue. How many black faces are there at party conferences? How many women are there at the conferences? Of the first category, hardly any; of the second, far too few. I am proud of the fact that the selection conference which met at Dulwich last week to choose a successor to my friend, Mr. Sam Silkin, gave itself the choice of three women and one black man. There was not a single male "wasp" among them. That seems to me to be an admirable example of how to proceed. I am not quite so proud of the fact that at the conference which met in Putney to choose my own successor as Labour candidate there was not a single black person on the committee which did the choosing, let alone among those from whom the candidate was to be chosen. I am happy about the fact that the man chosen was that notable 242 fighter against racial discrimination, Mr. Peter Hain, and I am sure that Mr. Hain would agree with me when I say that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has drawn our attention to a problem which deserves and demands a more vigorous and a more radical approach than it has received to date.
I hope on other occasions to talk about the preservation of peace and the promotion of the arts—two subjects which engage most of my time. I am chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, director of the Theatres Trust, and so on. We can be sure that the bomb will make no distinction of race or sex. Many years ago a Conservative American politician, Wendell Wilkie, drew our attention to the fact that we live in one world. Unless we begin to realise that this is a profound truth which ought to affect every action that we take, unless we begin to realise that and take it to our hearts, we shall soon not be living in any world. An important task before us is to release the latent talent and energy in women and in ethnic minorities, so that they, too, can play a fuller part, not least in the search for peace and in the cultivation of the arts. My Lords, the noble Baroness has done us all a great service in bringing the Motion before us.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, it is with particular pleasure that I congratulate the three noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches in this debate, because, despite all the years that I have sat in your Lordships' House, I do not believe that I can recall a day when we have heard three maiden speeches of such uniformly high quality, even though each speech was quite different from the others. The right reverend Prelate gave us some telling examples of the way in which discrimination works at the level of ordinary individual contacts. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, brought to bear his immense experience of the world of higher education, and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, who has just sat down, has given us some extremely valuable advice on the role of political parties, which I personally should be very delighted to see implemented. I have in fact written to every constituency Liberal Party asking them what steps they have taken to ensure that the minorities are represented when they come to select candidates for Parliament, and indeed for the local authorities as well. I feel that we need to get minorities, and indeed women, too, represented in their due and proper proportions on the local authorities as much as we do in Parliament itself. I am sure that we all very much hope that we shall hear frequently in the future from all three noble Lords.
The right reverend Prelate said that we faced a question of attitudes, and, as I say, he gave some very telling examples. I think it is correct to say that the white public is not conscious of the fact of racial inequality for very much of the time, and that there are even still some people who would deny that it exists at all, in spite of the evidence that we have staring us in the face. I have heard white people say that as a result of the legislation of the last 15 years, and in particular the Race Relations Act 1976, minorities actually have a better deal now than native whites; and the people you hear saying this are not 243 just members of the National Front or other extremist groups. It is only when there is an outbreak of disorder, such as happened last year in Bristol and this year in Brixton, that questions begin to arise in the minds of people who are not usually concerned with race relations as to the nature of the grievances which have caused hundreds of people to come out into the streets and riot, and to inflict sad wounds on their surroundings, which are generally much poorer than those enjoyed by the rest of the community.
I think it is at least partly because some of the minorities feel that their needs have been ignored that Bristol and Brixton happened. It was of course an Irishman who once said, "Violence is the only way to secure a hearing for moderation". While one may deplore the cynicism of that proposition, there is an element of truth in it. After the Bristol disorders last year enormous crowds of politicians, social scientists, planners and journalists descended on the St. Paul's area to find out exactly why people had behaved in this way; and, of course, after the Brixton disorders the Government appointed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, to inquire into the origins of the trouble, going well beyond the immediate triggers and looking at the underlying causes. I should like to ask the Government whether they do not think that we should deploy that kind of expertise, now being deployed in areas like St. Paul's in Bristol or Brixton in London, in the other similar areas that one could mention, such as Chapeltown in Leeds, Handsworth in Birmingham, Liverpool 8 and so on, now, before any violence has broken out in those areas, so that we might identify the reasons for unrest and do something about them in advance instead of after the event.
I do not think that the main headings for such an analysis would be very difficult to find. If we read the annual reports of the community relations councils, the local voluntary organisations which exist to promote racial equality and harmony, we should find them mentioned there. I think that a comprehensive policy of racial equality would have to include among its main elements the following principal matters. First, there would have to be non-discriminatory policies for immigration and nationality, including the rules for immigration and the instructions to immigration officers, which are just as important as the law itself. Second, that there must be a far more vigorous attack on discrimination by the Commission for Racial Equality. Thirdly, that there should be, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, genuine implementation by the local authorities of the provisions of Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. Then, that there should be a new strategy for eliminating racial disadvantage, particularly in employment, as has been mentioned by my noble friend; and, finally, I think, that we need stronger measures to deal with the menace of Nazism, in regard particularly to incitement, the use of public premises and the infiltration into the public service of people belonging to extremist groups, where they can apply their loathsome doctrines.
First, perhaps I may say one or two words about the subject of immigration, because I deal with this on a daily basis. I have to say that without a shadow of doubt the rules are discriminatory, and the way that 244 they are applied is discriminatory. Since the present Government came into office, I have submitted 267 cases to the Minister, Mr. Tim Raison, and out of that number only 25 persons have been of European ethnic origin. Of course, the Government's answer to that is that people who are seeking to come here for settlement purposes are not generally of European ethnic origin themselves, but when they do come here for that purpose they have a very much easier time. We have, for example, the case of Eastern European refugees, who are more or less given asylum "on the nod", whereas if somebody comes here from Pakistan or Bangladesh it takes them as long as two years.
Then, over last year, of course, we had the tightening up of the regulations against non-European immigrants. There was the change in the rules which prohibited girls who were not born in the United Kingdom from bringing in husbands from overseas—an explicitly racist provision which was directed against the girls from the Indian sub-continent. At the time, not only did we point out from these Benches but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, pointed out as well that this was going to result in the United Kingdom being found to have violated the European Convention on Human Rights, and, as we predicted, complaints have been lodged at Strasbourg, which I understand were transmitted to the Government in December. What one wonders about this is, if the Government had a good defence against the charges of racialism which are now being brought by these girls, as they said at the time they had, then why has it taken them so long to give an answer to the case which has been presented at Strasbourg?
Secondly, we had the decisions of the courts, particularly in the case of Zamir, which has led to a witch-hunt against people who entered the country many years ago, on the grounds either that they gave incorrect information to an entry certificate officer or that they failed to give an ECO information which might have persuaded him to refuse them leave to enter. As a result partly of those decisions, the police and the immigration service have been conducting massive witch-hunts to root out illegal entrants and overstayers, raiding workplaces and taking into custody United Kingdom citizens and workers with rights of abode as well as those who may have committed offences—but all of them either black or Asian, of course.
Thirdly, resulting from the notion that any method available should be used to root out people who are not entitled to be here, we find that employers and health authorities have started to check the credentials of workers and patients who are black, even if they may have been living here all their lives. We could be sliding towards a South African pass-law type of society, in which anybody with a black skin has got to produce documentation showing that he is lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on demand from a host of public servants and the police. Then, on top of all this comes the Nationality Bill, which arrives in your Lordships' House the week after next. I will not say anything about it at this stage. I would only remark that the people who will be made into second and third class citizens by that legislation are nearly all of non-European ethnic origin.
I think that there are clear implications in this for race relations within the boundaries of the United 245 Kingdom, because if you want to cultivate friendly relations with a neighbour you do not slam the door in his face every time you see him walking up the garden path. Government's cannot expect the native whites to believe their protestations of enthusiasm for racial equality when they see discrimination being practised so blatently at the ports of entry and in the matter of citizenship.
As my noble friend reminded the House at the beginning of this debate, we gave general support to the White Paper on Racial Discrimination in 1975 and to the Race Relations Act 1976. We believe that the Commission for Racial Equality then established should be the agency for social change, and that its existence has been of value as an earnest of the Government's commitment to a multi-racial society based on equality, even though there is still, as he pointed out, an enormous gap between principle and practice. We do not believe that the CRE has yet been given a fair chance, and we hope that the Select Committee in another place which is now looking at the commission will take full account of the handicaps it has suffered in the short four years of its existence. It has had to contend with Governments and local authorities which, as my noble friend has shown, have refused to set their own houses in order by applying ethnic monitoring to their own staff or by strengthening the non-discrimination clauses in their contracts. The Government have failed to tackle what the 1975 White Paper called—and I quote:The related and at least equally important problem of disadvantage";and the effectiveness of the commission has been undermined by the way in which the Secretary of State has exercised his power to appoint the commissioners.
One result has been that the CRE's use of the formal investigation procedure in Section 48 of the Act has not achieved what was expected of it. The Government themselves set a very unfortunate example, I think, when they sought to prevent the CRE from undertaking an investigation of immigration control procedures, delaying the work by several months and, if I may say so, encouraging other people to use all the legal technicalities in the Act to thwart investigations if they possibly could. Yet it has been found that it is almost impossible to prove discrimination by way of individual complaint, so that makes the general investigation, the Section 48 procedure, all the more important.
My noble friend asked the question: How many such investigations have been set in motion since the legislation came into force? The answer is that fewer than 50 of them have been started—and the noble Lord would perhaps confirm this—and only 10 have been brought all the way to completion. I do not think that one must necessarily blame the CRE for this leaden rate of progress. More resources must be put into this aspect of the Commission's work and, in particular, they should be asked to look into the employment practices of Government departments and local authorities which have been neglected so far; although, as my noble friend said, prima facie evidence exists to show that discrimination is not confined to the private sector. She was also modest in regard to the Tavistock Institute findings. Having read them carefully myself, 246 I thought that they indicated that there was a strong possibility of involuntary discrimination being practised in the recruitment policy of Government departments; although, as my noble friend said, it fell short of proof.
My Lords, moving on from that to the role of local authorities, the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, pointed out that Section 71 of the Act placed a general duty on them to see that their functions were carried out with due regard to the need to eliminate racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity. Shortly after this came into force, the Liberal Party wrote to some hundred local authorities to ask them what action they were going to take to comply with the provision, and we found that many of them took what I thought to be the smug attitude that, since they themselves never discriminated, this section could not have been intended to apply to them. Very few were prepared to monitor their functions by keeping ethnic records of the citizens who accessed the various services they provided—which is the only way to establish conclusively that equality does or does not exist. As has been said, it is humbug to pretend that you have an equal opportunities policy when you do not bother to monitor it either at Government or at local authority level. In fact, there is every reason to suppose that the minorities do receive inferior treatment from local authorities. The PEP study, Racial Minorities and Public Housing, found in 1976 that black people were kept waiting longer on the housing list than the native whites and were given lower quality dwellings when they got to the head of the queue.
Then there is the National Dwelling and Housing Survey of 1979, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, which established that minorities were worse off in terms of over-crowding, sharing the use of basic amenities and age of the housing they received. The Greater London Council undertook a survey and found that their allocation policy resulted in black applicants being nearly three times as likely as white ones to be offered accommodation in the less popular pre-war estates. The London borough of Lewisham discovered that two-thirds of its lettings to black people were in the less popular areas of Deptford and New Cross, which accounted for only half the vacancies in the borough. Wandsworth also concluded that, although their black families received an equitable proportion of the available council housing, it was of inferior quality. Those are the better authorities which have undertaken those analyses and have taken the trouble to find out what has been happening. It is not unreasonable to suppose that, where the facts are not available, the housing conditions of the minorities are likely to be even worse. The policy of the previous Government was that statistics should be compiled on an ethnic basis provided there was a sound policy reason for doing so. I think that the need has been abundantly demonstrated in the case of housing. It is a great pity that, as others have said, the Government have set an appallingly bad example in deciding that they will not monitor within their own field, thus giving local authorities and private employers the let-out of saying: "Why should we do it if the Government do not bother to do it themselves"?
The 1975 White Paper described the phenomenon of racial disadvantage in these terms: the first generation of immigrants worked in low-paid, low-status jobs 247 and tended to live in poor and over-crowded living conditions within a depressed environment. Their children suffered from that environment and from poor educational facilities which went hand in hand with the rest of that picture, thus growing up less well equipped than other children to deal with the difficulties that faced them. They tended to be trapped in the worst housing and the worst jobs, and nowadays they are lucky if they can find work at all. The White Paper concluded:It is the Government's duty to prevent these morally unacceptable and socially divisive inequalities from hardening into entrenched patterns. It is inconceivable that Britain, in the last quarter of the 20th century, should confess herself unable to secure for a small minority of around a million and a half coloured citizens their full and equal rights as individual men and women".What has happened since then? The Liberal Party made a very modest proposal in a paper entitled A Programme for Racial Equality that £50 million a year should be put into education and training courses which would be designed to bring minorities up to a common starting point in the competition for jobs. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, talked about people being equal in their capacities and training and said that we had taken very little note of the needs of the second generation minorities in regard to education and training. I agree with him. What happened during the period of the Lib/Lab pact? I went to see the previous Home Secretary with this planned programme for racial equality and I was dismissed with the parrot phrase, "Positive discrimination". That was given as a reason for not putting any money whatsoever into education and training programmes designed not to give preferential treatment to minorities but to ensure that when they came to the point of applying for jobs, they were equipped as well as the native whites would be to meet the growing competition.
Then, just over a year ago, we sought to introduce in this House the Local Government Grants (Ethnic Groups) Bill, which had foundered at the previous election, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt. That would have provided assistance for local authorities in removing disadvantages from which an ethnic group suffered and securing that the services provided by local authorities were as effective in relation to ethnic groups as they are in relation to the rest of the community. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said then that this went in a directon which many felt was ill-advised in setting up what he called a wide-ranging special fund involving significant additional resources. How else can Government tackle racial disadvantage unless they are prepared to put additional resources into that problem? It seems to me that the very nature of the problem of racial disadvantage is one of resources, since the victims are by definition under-provided and the solution must be to bring them up to the level of the rest of the community.
We already try to do that inefficiently by means of Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, which even the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, agreed focusses attention too narrowly on the problems of being new to this country. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that the review of Section 11 which had been announced by the Secretary of State shortly after the present Government took office had "reached an advanced 248 stage"; yet now, a year later on, nothing has been heard of the results.
Then there is the problem of what the Government themselves do. This was mentioned by several noble Lords. My noble friend Lady Seear mentioned the idea of putting into the contracts let by local authorities a clause prohibiting discrimination. That has been an idea which has been floating around for some time but nothing has been done about it. Then there is the code of practice which was mentioned by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt. That was published in February 1980. Nothing has yet happened. I understand that the CBI and the TUC have said that they are prepared to accept the documents but that the initiative has stuck somewhere in the Department of Employment. Perhaps the noble Lord will tell us what is the next step in getting this code of practice widely adopted.
Finally, on the question of the direct role of the Government, I should like to underline what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, said about the role of the MSC and particularly the present state of affairs where the unemployment of young blacks is so very much worse than that of young whites. The work of the MSC is absolutely vital, and it would be wrong to make any cuts in its programme—quite the reverse. If we are not going to store up very serious trouble for future generations, then that money should be increased.
Now I turn to the menace of Nazism which has to be considered by your Lordships. One aspect of racial disadvantage of particular concern—and all are agreed that it should be treated as a matter of urgency—is the ugly cancer of racial violence. When minorities are under physical attack they obviously cannot play their full part in the life of the community. The Nazis and their vicious allies have actually murdered and also brutally assaulted hundreds of individuals. They have attacked mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras. They have terrorised football crowds and intimidated defenceless women and children. The Secretary of State was absolutely right to set up an inquiry into the activities of extremists groups and the extent to which they have been encouraging attacks.
However, it was a mistake—and I tried to get this point across to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, without success—to have this inquiry conducted entirely by Home Office officials and in private. The minorities should have been given the opportunity of representation on the inquiry itself and not merely among the witnesses. Separately, there has been an inquiry into the Public Order Act. It has been a matter of great concern that although the power to stop or divert marches likely to result in serious public disorder exists, the Nazis have been allowed to parade through areas like Southall and Lewisham at enormous cost in terms of police manpower. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who said in answer to a Question that the Lewisham march alone cost the taxpaper over £100,000 in terms of overtime for the police.
Liberals by definition are particularly reluctant to put restrictions on the right of assembly, but in this instance it is justifiable on the principle enunciated by Mill, that the state may interfere with the liberty of action of an individual where harm to others is likely to arise. Harm to others has arisen from the activities of these extremist groups. Even if it was not physical 249 harm there is obviously enormous psychological damage done by Nazi thugs shouting and threatening abusive slogans outside one's front door and harm done by the revolting publications issued by the Nazis.
I hope that equal attention is being given under the Public Order Act inquiry to the law on incitement. I have sent examples of this literature to the Attorney-General and he has replied that while it is indeed most objectionable he does not take proceedings because he and the Director of Public Prosecutions have come to the conclusion on every occasion when this literature has been submitted to them that criminal proceedings stand very little chance of success. Obviously, it would be worse to bring the proceedings and fail than not to bring them at all. That indicates to me that if the Attorney-General himself and the DPP think that this literature is objectionable yet they know that the chances of success in criminal proceedings are low, there is a need for reform of the law. The noble Lord might be able to tell us what progress has been made in this review of the Public Order Act which I know has been proceeding for over a year now.
Apart from the need to stop the Nazis creating fear and insecurity by strengthening the Public Order Act, there is also a growing awareness of the danger arising from the infiltration of these people into sensitive parts of the public service. It really is intolerable that Fascists teach black children, vet black passengers at the ports of entry, or look after black inmates in prison. How can minorities ever attain equal access to public services if some of the officials who they encounter in the course of their applications are committed to frustrate that policy of equality.
Finally, there is the role of the CRE itself. The evidence given to the Select Committee in another place by the Commission demonstrates the problem very clearly; it is one of massive Government indifference. The Department of the Environment hasgiven little consideration to the implications of Section 71".When the Home Office arranged a ministerial meeting to discuss the CRE's report Youth in Multi-Racial Society, only two Ministers bothered to turn up; the DHSS showslittle evidence of any central application of the need for an ethnic dimension to policy".There was supposed to be an ethnic minority element in the new block rate support grant, but a recent answer I had from the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, indicates that, after all, this had vanished. The Commission saysIn short … the Commission's impact on central Government and on public and community service matters has not been as great as we would like".But the CRE cannot be blamed for its failure to prompt action from a Government so firmly committed to doing nothing if it can possibly help it. We believe that the Select Committee in another place would have done better to focus its attention on the policy of slashing the CRE's budget by £1 million and freezing its recruitment. On paper, the CRE may have been given the widest powers in the western world to combat discrimination; but in practice it has been prevented from exercising them by starving it of resources.
The acceptance of discrimination and disadvantage, and the unwillingness to mount an assault on them 250 by every means possible, is likely to have very serious consequences indeed. The minorities could become alienated from the rest of society, and at the extreme, violence could become endemic—not for the reason given by Mr. Powell, the mere presence of black people in this country, but because of the frustration and resentment of the victims of institutionalised racism. At best, if the tensions are contained, there will be a tragic waste of human resources, with tens of thousands of people prevented from realising their potential because of the colour of their skin.
The Liberal Party is absolutely determined as our constitution says:to create a world in which various cultures of mankind can develop freely without being warped by nationalist, racial or religious antagonism".We hope that in raising these matters in your Lordships' House we have brought that goal a little nearer.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, like many speakers, 1 am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for placing this motion on the Order Paper and enabling us to discuss the very difficult problems of racial and sexual discrimination. I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in offering congratulations to our three maiden speakers, all of whose contributions in a different way showed very real understanding of the problems with which we are dealing. The right reverend Prelate said that he did not think it was appropriate for him to deal with the subject of sex discrimination. I was sorry about that particularly when he went on to indicate his sympathy with one area of sex discrimination which is outside the province of the law. Perhaps on some future occasion, when he is not constrained by the non-controversial nature of the maiden speech, he might let us into his secret thoughts in this area.
It will be clear to your Lordships that I have a particular interest in this subject and a particular responsibility. I hope therefore I shall not be exceeding the privileges of the House if I venture to speak on the subject. Because of my responsibilities, I shall only deal with the problems of sex discrimination. That does not mean that I am not sympathetic and understanding of the problems of race discrimination. Indeed, because of my own responsibilities, I feel I understand the difficulties that the Commission for Racial Equality is encountering in its area of discrimination.
The two types of discrimination are really quite different both in nature and intensity, but that does not mean that one is any less important than the other. The problems of sex discrimination are not so immediately apparent as those of race discrimination. They manifest themselves in a more insiduous kind of way. Your Lordships might be interested to learn that on one occasion I received a communication from one of the departments of state—and I would hasten to assure the Ministers on the Front Bench this afternoon that it did not come from their particular departments. In the course of the letter was a sentence which said:After all, women have been around for a long time".Of course they have; they would not be human beings 251 if that were not so. But the whole problem is that because women have been around for a long time, and we have been used to seeing them in a particular role, we tend to expect that they will go on in that old traditional way for ever and ever. The fact is that we refuse to recognise the reality of the changes that have taken place, particularly during the last 20 years, and as with all things, whether the change is for good or not, we cannot put the clock back. The change will continue and women's role in society will continue to change.
A number of speakers—and particularly the noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady Trumpington, whose interest in this subject I much appreciate, particularly because of the noble Baroness's international experience—have referred to the anti-discriminatory legislation we have in this country. There is no doubt that basically it is good legislation. In some respects it is innovative and in others it is keeping pace with and facilitating the changes that are taking place. Perhaps change is not taking place as fast as we would like but the process can be seen, and it can be seen in the fifth annual report of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which was presented to the Home Secretary and laid before Parliament yesterday. Both the noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady Trumpington, referred to this progress in the whole area of women in the professions.
It was also said that we have not yet cracked that difficult matter of job segregation: men's jobs and women's jobs. That is absolutely true. If we look at figures for the dispersal of women in the workforce today we find that 1 per cent. of women are in management jobs, 9 per cent. are in supervisory grades and 70 per cent. are in clerical grades. It is a very difficult situation to have to cope with, and it is obviously a situation that cannot be changed overnight. Again, this is where the importance of positive provisions of both the Sex Discrimination Act and the Act for Racial Equality come in. The industrial training boards, and not just the engineering training boards—although they set the pace—have used the positive provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act, but I regret to say that with one exception this positive provision has not been taken up by private industry in its own training schemes. That is really where we need to break through.
I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is not in her place at the present time. I know she is interested in this subject and that she has listened to part of the debate today, but I am glad to say there are signs of a breakthrough in education, too. Again, references were made in the debate to the number of women now entering the universities and higher education—a greater proportion than ever before. I am also glad to say that we are beginning to see traces of segregation among children into "girls' subjects" and "boys' subjects" being broken down. Again, that is absolutely essential if we are to make progress and if we are to break down job segregation in employment. I am by no means complacent about this, but it is encouraging to see the response the commission has had from many of the educationists and the teaching profession in looking at this whole problem.
One area where we have not broken through is that 252 of policy making. One of our maiden speakers referred to the fact that we have a woman Prime Minister. That, of course, was a tremendous breakthrough, but we have a Cabinet of 22, of whom no other person than the Prime Minister is a woman. We have a House of Commons with 635 Members, of whom 19 are women. The TUC has a general council of 41, of whom two are women. I am told that the CBI has a presidents' directorate of 12, of whom none are women. In the media, the BBC's board of governors has 12 members, and three are women; the IBA has 12 members, and five are women. That shows a little progress there, but they still have only five. If we look at the press, there is no woman editor anywhere in the national dailies of Fleet Street; and in the universities there is no woman vice-chancellor. Of the 4,500 professors in the country, only 119 are women.
So women, sadly, are missing from the policy-making areas—though perhaps that is why we have some of the problems that we come across. That may be one of the reasons, for example, why when we run into economic difficulties and difficulties of unemployment, the solution being put forward in some spheres is for women to go back into the home and leave their jobs. This particular thesis has been made in this House and I think perhaps we need to look at the feasibility of that particular proposition.
There are 10 million women in the labour force, of whom 6.6 million are married. We have at the moment, unfortunately, just over 2.5 million registered unemployed, three-quarters of a million of whom are women. It is estimated that something between 250,000 and 700,000 women are unemployed in addition to the official figures, because of the fact that they do not register as unemployed. But even if we take the official figures, 2.5 million and three-quarters of a million women, and if we were to replace all the unemployed men by women—in other words if we take women out of a job so that they could go back to their families—we would still be left with something like 5 million women in the labour market.
The figures do not match up, but in any case who is to say which married women should give up her job, and would it be for a married man or a single man? And what about single-parent families? There are about a million of those in the country, of which 90 per cent. are headed by women. What about their responsibilities? What about those families whose family income would be below the poverty line of supplementary benefit were it not for the fact that the wife was going out to work as well as the husband? The number of people living below that poverty line would increase four-fold, if it were not for the fact that wives are going out to work. So that this argument on statistical and on practical grounds is just not "on". But, in any case, for questions of natural justice and questions of equity, it is not "on" either. I must say I had hoped we had got beyond the stage when equal opportunities for men and women were regarded as a luxury, to be enjoyed only in times of prosperity.
Given the legislative framework that we have, what further steps do we need to take in order to eradicate sex discrimination? First, may I comment on the legislative framework itself? I do not want to trespass on your Lordships' tolerance here. I shall not go into the whole of the 25 recommendations 253 which the Equal Opportunities Commission has made to the Home Secretary. But I would underline what the Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has said, that these amendments are based on five years' experience—five years in which we have sought to test out the law, to see just how far it could be used, where the gaps are and where the planks are. The amendments that we are recommending are intended to stop up those gaps and to make the present legislation more effective.
I was very interested when the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said that anti-discrimination laws are quasi-laws. I was not sure what he meant by that. I think that those people who have to go through our legal system, from industrial tribunals right up to your Lordships' House and, indeed, across to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, will not regard them as quasi-laws. I think they will accept that they are laws of the land which have to be obeyed. But there is a very strange feature about the laws of the land, because one of the premises on which we in the Equal Opportunities Commission have suggested amendments to the Government has been that we bring our legislation into line with European legislation.
It seems to me rather strange that a person cannot go to the courts in this country and plead English law, in order to get equal pay on the basis of the concept of equal pay for work of equal value, but that we can begin to test out this concept in t he court in Luxembourg. It would be much simpler, and certainly much less expensive for the taxpayer, if our own very simple and readily available system of industrial tribunals could be used, rather than having to go through to Europe and, step by step, begin to spell out the implications of European legislation.
In her contribution, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, very rightly said that we now need to begin to talk about what equal pay for work of equal value means. Yes, my Lords, we do need to talk about this. The Commission is under no illusion. It is not an easy concept and it is not a concept which can be easily tried. We are involved in discussions with a number of governmental institutions, as well as the two sides of industry, to try to work out the kind of criteria that would be necessary in order to operate such a concept. We are equally conscious of the fact that there had to be a five-year run-in period to the Equal Pay Act in 1970, and there may have to be a five-year run-in period to changing the concept of equal pay. It is not something which will happen overnight. It is something which, if we give careful attention to it, could be taken aboard by industry, step by step, without too much disruption, which is exactly what happened when the Equal Pay Act was first put on the statute book. So while we do not need wholesale new legislation, we need to stop up the gaps in the legislation that we already have.
We need more opportunity for equal access to subjects. We have equal access to education, but we do not yet have equal access to subjects. Some children have to opt into a particular subject. For example, it is not easy for a girl to say "I want to take metal work" and find that she is the only girl in the form among 30 boys taking that subject. She has to make a positive decision in order to do that. Likewise a boy might have to take a similar step in order to study domestic science or home-making. The fact is that 254 in some schools the curriculum is so organised that these two sets of subjects—so-called traditional girls' subjects and so-called traditional boys' subjects—do not coincide on the timetable, so that boys and girls can have a sampling of the two kinds of subjects. This is the kind of discussion that is going on now in the educational world in order to see how we can make equal access to subjects much more a reality than it is at present.
We want the opportunity to train both men and women for the new and emerging industries in an integrated labour force. We must think in terms of an integrated labour force and not in terms of a dual labour force, as we have done in the past. Again, this is where the positive provisions of the Sex Discrimation Act come into play. Then we need an opportunity for women to return to employment after they have had their families and when their children are beginning to get a little older. Alternatively, we need opportunities for families to share responsibility; for the partners in marrage to share responsibility. There is not equal opportunity. There is some discrimination in the system if women have to fit themselves into the traditional male patterns of employment. Finally, women need to be treated as individuals in their own right in respect of taxation, social security, and, above all, retirement.
We have had a Green Paper on taxation and discussions are now taking place on it. I hope that we may be able to iron out some of the present discriminations in the system. I am not so optimistic about being able to get rid of the discrimination in retirement ages, because the White Paper on questions of the elderly including the retirement age, which the Government have published, does not give a very hopeful view of the future.
The fact is that many of the discriminations suffered by both men and women arise from the fact that there is this discriminatory retirement age. There is discrimination in redundancy and discrimination in access to all kinds of facilities. As regards privilege travel for retired people, even if a man retires at 60 on an occupational pension he cannot get his special bus pass until he is 65. So it is not just the one subject of the retirement age; it is all the many facets that derive from it.
So there are a number of areas in which we could strengthen our existing legislation. There are one or two areas outside the scope of the Sex Discrimination Act where we call for positive action and new legislation from the Government, largely in the area of social security. But, above all, I stress the fact that the major source of discrimination against women arises from the fact that women have not been regarded in the past as individuals in their own right. They have always been looked upon as dependents: dependent on their fathers, their husbands or even their brothers. It is not asking very much of society to treat women as individuals in their own right. This is the fundamental, philosophical and attitudinal right which women are seeking as well as all the material things which have been mentioned in the debate this afternoon.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, may I, too. thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for initiating this debate. 255 I should also like to thank the three maiden speakers and give them our good wishes. In this debate I wish to speak on the part of and on behalf of West Indian women, particularly those with children under five and to go on to the problem of children who are under five whose parents, particularly the mothers, must work. Over the past 18 months it has been my orivilege to serve on the committee of inquiry into the education of children in the ethnic minority groups. The committee was established in March 1979 as a result of the report by the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration on the West Indian community, thus highlighting widespread concern over the under-achievement of West Indian children in our schools. This was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. The committee of inquiry decided to publish an interim report on the problems and needs of the West Indian community and at a second stage to complete the report by relating it to other ethnic groups who also have their needs and problems. May I say that I think the white indigenous population is not without its problems.
The Minister of State announced in another place the impending publication of the interim report and recommendations concerning West Indian children in our schools. Alas! I am sad and sorry that this report has not been published in time for today's debate. I gather that the printing of reports takes time. Important as this one is, it has had to take its turn in the queue. When it is published, may I commend it to your Lordships' House, and in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who initiated this debate. I do not think it will be out of order if I base my few remarks upon what I learned during these deliberations and upon my personal experience with the Oxford Community Relations Committee when I was director of social services in Oxford City. The committee consists of 20 members, men and women, under the chairmanship of Mr. Anthony Rampton. We are black and white British. Some of us have our origins in the Caribbean, some in the Indian sub-continent and some in the United Kingdom. On this committee there is therefore no discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or creed.
Any group of people settling in another country has adjustments to make, even after one or two generations, but some have greater adjustments to make than others and therefore are more vulnerable. This is no reflection on them as people. It is only that the problem is more difficult. It calls, on the one hand, for great effort on their part to adjust and to settle. It calls, on the other, for great understanding and sensitivity on the part of the host country, as well as maturity of thought and behaviour on the part of the entire population.
In order to deal with the difficulties, it is essential to appreciate the differences in culture and background. Again these differences have to be understood both by those who have come to this country and by those who were horn here. I should therefore like to confine my few remarks to the position and place of the West Indian woman.
As I understand it—I have read as much as I possibly can on the subject and I shall certainly go to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for some help on this at a later stage—the history of the West Indian woman in the 256 Caribbean was that of bringing up her children single-handed and at the same time working. Many of your Lordships will have read the book The Mother who Fathered Me. History dies hard. West Indian women came to this country without the support of grandmother, aunts, uncles, families. They brought with them their culture of working and looking after their children, many of them without a father. Therefore, there started to be this feeling towards the West Indian child that perhaps he was not so intelligent as other children.
I should perhaps mention that 68 per cent. of West Indian mothers go out to work. This has to be set against a national average of 42 per cent. Two generations ago, perhaps, the feeling solidified that because the West Indian mother went out to work she did not have time to talk to her child, to play with her child, to read to her child, to be with her child and to establish relationships with her child. By the time they went to school it was thought that West Indian children were two years behind the rest of children at the age of five. And if you start two years behind children at the age of five, you never catch up; it goes on and on. This has become a kind of norm which is quite inaccurate. I should like to pursue how best it can be dealt with.
I have talked to many West Indian women. They tell me that when their children are very young they would prefer to be at home but that either they are on their own or their husbands are earning such small wages that they must go out to work. As the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, there are not the back-up services—the day nurseries, the nursery schools—for the children. This means that as the children grow up they are always behind, which is extremely damaging to their self-image. Let us never forget that the child is father to the man.
This brings me to the question of equal opportunity: of women having a career, of women nevertheless having children, being the home-maker, establishing relationships with children and bonding with them at a very early age. About a year ago I gave away prizes at a school which has a very high academic attainment. Most of the girls to whom I presented prizes were going into medicine and the law. One was going to become an engineer. It was my old school and I was heartened by this. In my speech to the girls I said that perhaps women are extraordinarily fortunate in that we have the opportunity of two careers: the career of marriage, home and children, and the career of whatever it is that we decide to take up. The girls are taught to be quiet during a speech but when I said this I found, to my absolute astonishment, that it brought the house down. The girls clapped and clapped. In the end, the chairman had to ask them to stop.
I found that very interesting, because it seems from this that although girls want a career, they also want to be wives and mothers. I absolutely agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, when she said that the role of women has changed and cannot change back. I am not sure that I would want it to change back. Those of us who have been fortunate to have a career and to have done the work we wanted to do realise how very satisfying it is and would want every other woman, be she married or unmarried, to have a career—and rightly so. Nevertheless, in this country we have not yet resolved the problem and the difficulties 257 of the wife, mother and woman with a career. Until we have resolved this dilemma, we will continue to have problems in respect of both sex equality and racial equality.
With regard to the Rampton Committee, I was fortunate enough to be chairman of the group dealing with the under-fives and I have been very heartened by the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has been going round together with Sir George Young—no relation, but just a case of equal opportunity!—from the Department of Health and Social Security to see what should be done in this country to provide back-up services to women who want to work. However, I have to introduce a jarring note here and say that the children of this country are the citizens of tomorrow and if they do not have a bonding experience and a happy home in their early years, we will have problems all the way along the line. If women do not have children—and after all, men cannot have them yet …
§ Baroness Faithfull
Yes, but if women pursuing careers cannot also have children, the population would drop. We must face the problem of how we are going to help women who want both a career and to be a homemaker and a mother. If we talk only about women having a career, then we denigrate the institution of marriage. Marriage is a career and the art of being happily married and having a career is perhaps one of the greatest privileges that a woman can sustain. I would ask the Minister—although I do not think that he can answer this—whether it is the Government's intention really to look at this problem of supplying back-up services for women with younger children so that they do not lose their place in the career structure and can give their children the love, care, sensitivity and quietness which children require—with the result that in the future our society will be one that has grasped the changing role of women but has not deprived children of their birthright?
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those which have already been expressed to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for introducing this debate. I am sure that the noble Baroness has been particularly gratified by the spread of the arguments and the general nature of the debate itself, epitomised by three remarkable felicitous maiden speeches—and I should also like to congratulate the noble Lords who made them.
The emphasis in this debate has been on two themes. One has been the field of articulate representation; of improvement in enactments and in administrative effort. Much has been said about the improvements which need to be made to existing enactments and the more sensible application of the intentions of various proposals which have been made by Governments and which have been to some extent implemented by those who are expected to carry them out. I would invite your Lordships to return to the other aspect, which to me is more important. It is that aspect concerned with 258 changes of opinion and conviction and with alterations in the attitudes of men and women. It is surely beyond question that however admirable may be the enactments which are made, unless they carry with them the general consent of an intelligent community which at least can be persuaded to try to make them work, then it is highly unlikely that the enactments will be successful.
I speak as a churchman, and I believe that we have a very heavy load of responsibility for discrimination both in matters of race and in matters of sex. I would go so far as to say that the issue is fundamentally a religious one, but that assertion demands some kind of definition of what religion is all about. I believe there has been a recrudescence of religion as a sense of ultimate dependence, but I do not believe there has been a renaissance of faith; we have yet to wait for that, but I hope it will come quickly. The concept of religion as an attitude that is promoted first by other reasons and then becomes cemented within its own rights can be best illustrated by reference to the whole question of apartheid in South Africa. I wonder whether your Lordships know that, of the 14 members of a previous Administration in South Africa some years ago, 13 were paid-up members of the Dutch Reform Church. The satellite in this galaxy was a Plymouth Brother.
Nevertheless, here was a Government pledged to a particular attitude derived from the synods of the Dutch Reform Church itself, which until three or four years ago specified apartheid as being necessarily adduced from a proper reading of the Bible. Your Lordships will know that the Bible is a magnificent servant but an intolerable master, and in many cases one can decide what one wants the Bible to say and then look up the appropriate text.
The Bible itself is a cornucopia of such references. The fact is that the apartheid of the Dutch Reform Church was characterised by something that goes far deeper and finds its roots in the whole missionary spirit of Non-Conformism and Protestantism in the 19th century. I was brought up on certain hymns which may not be unfamiliar to your Lordships, such as "From Greenland's icy mountains"—from which your Lordships may remember the verse:What though the spicy breezesBlow soft o'er Ceylon's isle,Though every prospect pleasesAnd only man is vile.".We in the Methodist Church could not find Java on the map and so we put in Ceylon instead, but Java does appear in the original version. The fact is that, whether one thinks of Java or Ceylon, there remains an attitude of superiority on the part of those who went from Western Christendom in an endeavour to convert those who lived in total darkness in deepest Africa; I do not believe that this attitude has disappeared I find it very deep-seated in my own work. I find continuously that there are those, who whatever their protestations of ideas on equality, are nevertheless the legatees of this kind of discriminatory atitude towards those of other colours.
It is for the Church, among other institutions of persuasion, to take upon itself the very important taks of destroying the cult of missionary superiority against which many have rebelled in ways which are increasingly 259 hostile in themselves. Alongside this attempt to Westernise the rest of the world in terms of religion has come a multiplication of all kinds of queer, charismatic, peculiar and idiotic sects. They are committed to the very kind of racism which first they abominated when they found it operating upon them from the other side of the world. Here is one of the outstanding responsibilities of an intelligent and worthwhile Church today: to destroy the superiority cult which I still believe very largely prevails and has left its effects upon generations which would not recognise it as having come first of all from the tutelary attitudes of the Church of the 19th and later 18th centuries.
I believe that the same thing has to be said about sex discrimination. I do not perhaps feel myself as inhibited as my noble friend the right reverend Prelate about women in the ministry. We have solved that problem in Methodism, more or less, and I think I can speak for any bishop in saying that it is intolerable effrontery to suggest that divine grace of certain kinds can only flow through masculine viaducts. This would seem to me to be utter nonsense, and I am sure from the smile on the face of my noble friend that he would agree with this and I have great pleasure in speaking for him and for others who believe that some way and somehow this kind of sex discrimination has to be obliterated in the sense that in respect of women it is a very serious bulwork against any kind of future for a Christian Church in the vastly changed world of which we have just heard.
May I venture upon your Lordships' indulgence to remind myself of where this question of the superiority of men comes from. In the initial stages we are somewhat in difficulty in Christianity because Jesus said very little about this subject and what he said was more or less what his Jewish antecedents had said. Many people today recognise, quite properly, that it was for the Christian Church to fill the gaps that were to be found in Holy Scripture and they filled them to their own satisfaction, but I think deplorably in many respects, in as much as from a celibate ministry they conceived a concept of masculine divinity and in fact in particular matters, knowing very little about science, they believed that in the procreation of man the provider was man and the carrier was women. So that, at the best, a woman was the cradle in which love and succour and nourishment were provided for the oncoming life; at worst, woman provided the kind of carton which was required in the initial stages but at a suitable time could be discarded.
I know that there are many people who would regard this as a ridiculous kind of assumption. I would plead with your Lordships to believe that it has its residuary effect in a continuing belief that somehow man is a more important and first-rate creature than woman. I speak with due care but, at the same time, I have found in my own ministry that this pervasive idea of the inferior status of women is not only proclaimed by men; it is sustained by very many women, and it is in that regard that a great deal of understanding should be accorded to those who have not been able to break away from a fantastic concept of how life comes into this world and who is responsible for it.
It is for the Church to take its courage in both hands and to tell the truth. When it tells the truth it will 260 shed a very different light on questions such as abortion, for the relationship of abortion to the concept of who is the primary and fundamental person in the bringing into the world of new life has had a very great deal to do with the perverse attitude to this very contentious issue into which I will not go any further.
I believe that here in this religious sphere is a continuing problem, and of course in the realm of persuasion it belongs to the Church to endeavour at least to face it, if not totally to resolve it. But I believe also that it is required at this moment to do something which I think only politically can be undertaken, to provide an atmosphere of greater equality and a sense of community for those who are now separated by antagonisms, senses of discrimination and unfair treatment; and we have had an eloquent declaration from speaker after speaker of these disadvantages and discriminations.
I have a lively faith regarding such existing disadvantages set within a community which can give a sense of unity where it now gives much less—if indeed it gives anything more than a sense of separateness. I believe that there will be a very marked influence upon those who are still the residuary legatees of attitudes largely promoted by the Church but which have nothing to do with Christianity and, what I consider is even worse, nothing to do with the kind of world in which Christians and others would like to live in peace and quietness.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, my first and pleasant task is to congratulate the three maiden speakers in this debate. I see the spires of Lichfield Cathedral as I travel home to Anglesey every week. They are an expression of hope in an uncertain age and the speech of the right reverend Prelate was also a message of hope which was based on his considerable experience, not only in this country but in Africa as well. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, had a rather different perspective. He is a distinguished historian and he made a thoughtful speech. His references particularly to the laws and quasi-laws on discrimination need careful study. What is important from the point of view of the Government is, first, that the law is enforceable and, secondly, that it is carried out; and if it is not enforceable it is the duty of Government to bring it to Parliament to be repealed and replaced with a better law.
Then my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney spoke with wit and a knowledge of these problems which he has gained as a councillor and a Member of Parliament here ill London. I am sure that the Government will wish to heed what he has said. He advised us about the need to increase the representation of women in both Houses. The speeches that we have heard from noble Baronesses in this debate seem to me to prove beyond doubt that their presence here in increasing numbers is essential. The three maiden speakers have made important contributions to our debate and we shall look forward to hearing from them on future occasions.
The debate has been a wide-ranging one. This was to be expected because the noble Baroness to whom we are indebted for this important discussion, framed her 261 Motion so as to include two of the most burning issues of the day, namely, racial discrimination and sex discrimination. They are not necessarily related, as noble Lords recognise and as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, pointed out, and I think they are more easily dealt with separately.
So far as racial disadvantage is concerned, let us be clear about one thing: there is no lack of public discussion and debate about this subject. No topic has been more thoroughly investigated from every viewpoint over the last few years. In the press, the media, Parliament, the local authorities, the Churches and in other public bodies, the debate has been continuous over many years and our discussion this evening is one more contribution to it. My point is that coverage of the subject has not been neglected. The pressure of events has not allowed us to forget it, and during this debate we are conscious that the noble Lord, Lord Scarman, is at present performing a most onerous and complex task on our behalf. I think everyone on all sides of the House would agree that he deserves the utmost support especially in the area in which he is working. I hope that he will be given that support by every interested body and that there will be no obstacle of any kind to the noble and learned Lord in the performance of his duty. It is vital in the interests of racial harmony that he should be allowed to complete his task thoroughly and effectively.
Racial discrimination is no new phenomenon in these islands and this is something that coloured people might bear in mind. I started reading an article under the heading of "Problems of Racial Discrimination" in a magazine recently and discovered after a couple of sentences that it dealt with discrimination against Welshmen in Wales in the 14th and 15th centuries. I shall not go into that scholarly disquisition in any detail, save to say that discrimination at that time was authorised by the Government of the day and carried out by its servants at every level. I should not care to argue that modern Governments deliberately discriminate against any section of the community on grounds of race although I have reservations about the Nationality Bill which will come before this House shortly. But, on the whole, post-war Governments of all complexions have made strenuous efforts to understand the problems which have arisen as a result of the great immigration which has followed the dissolution of the British Empire, and to find solutions to them.
Noble Lords have referred to these problems and the difficulties, and we should remember a fairly obvious truth—this was referred to in the speech, which the House appreciated, of the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull; namely, that anyone emigrating from one country to another must face difficulties in adjusting to a new way of life. English families going to Australia today face acute problems of adjustment, as we have heard on many occasions and, indeed, many of them return to this country. The difficulties are compounded, of course, when colour and different religions and cultures are involved. They are made worse in this country first because this is a comparatively small and heavily populated island and secondly because we are going through an economic recession with higher unemployment than we have known since the pre-war period, unemployment which is still rising. Poverty, unemployment and racialism overlap. The 262 streets of London are not paved with gold. The task of helping immigrants to adjust and feel that they are part of the community is made infinitely harder when they find there is no work for them, or that they are discriminated against when looking for a job.
In a memorandum submitted to the Race Relations and Immigration Sub-Committee in another place, the Department of Employment had this to say:The majority of minority group workers were not born in the UK and received most of their education and training overseas. Many find it difficult to adjust to the unfamiliar culture and to the customs and practices of an industrial society. This problem is aggravated for those—a substantial number—who have a limited knowledge of the English language. Problems stemming from language difficulties and cultural differences make it difficult for ethnic majority workers to understand and to be understood. This hinders them in getting a job. It also puts them at a disadvantage in the workplace once they have obtained a job, in doing the job, in making use of facilities for training and promotion, and in securing acceptance by white workers. The need for an effective industrial language training service has long been recognised ".The Department of Employment went on to say that racial discrimination remains a problem, notwithstanding the 1976 Act, and expressed concern about "concealed and indirect discrimination", which is difficult to expose.
The fact remains that unemployment among ethnic minorities is substantially higher than the average and it is clearly the Government's responsibility to ascertain the reasons in detail and to take action to remedy the position. The House appreciates that the Race Relations Employment Advisory Group and the Race Relations Employment Advisory Service have been set up to help Ministers on matters relating to the employment of ethnic minorities, and it will this evening wish to know what progress these groups are making. The role of the trade unions is also crucial, and it is good to know that the TUC is represented on both these groups. It would, however, not be right for me to stand here this evening without saying that there is a need for a degree of enlightenment among many trade unionists on this subject.
The memorandum makes one further point to which I should refer:The difficulties faced by young people from minority groups are partly ones of location. They tend to live in rundown inner city areas.The difficulties are partly cultural and connected with immigrant status, and can partly be attributed to covert and unconscious discrimination, which the Department of Employment accepts remains an element in disadvantage.Some young people also experience linguistic difficulties which may be obvious or which may involve some of the more subtle aspects of English usage. Young people are commendably persistent in the face of these problems".It is good to know that these young coloured people are "commendably persistent" in their efforts to obtain employment, and they must be helped by Government and other agencies to do so. I should like to pay a tribute to the Manpower Services Commission for their efforts to help ethnic minorities. I think their work is admirable and their reports are worth reading. They experience difficulties from time to time, as some noble Lords have pointed out. Nevertheless, given the times in which they are working, I believe they have made very good progress.
Other noble Lords have referred to the Commission 263 for Racial Equality, and the recommendations which they have made to the Government are again of the first importance. I have no time to go into these in detail, but I should like to know from the noble Lord how many of these the Government are proposing to implement. For example, they ask that Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 be reviewed and that cash limits on expenditure under it are not imposed. They ask that the Manpower Services Commission be given more money to meet the demands for special training, and so on. These are all reasonable requests. The House appreciates the financial difficulties which the Government are facing at the present time, and we are not asking for large subventions of money. We are saying that small amounts of money put in the right place could be crucially helpful at the present time.
Reference was made, I think by Lady Faithfull, to the teaching of English, and I agree with her remarks. Mr. David Smith, who wrote an excellent article on "Unemployment and Racial Minorities", has this to say:Asian men who do not speak English well have a distinctly higher risk of being unemployed than those who do. Thus at least half of unemployed Asian men have a serious linguistic handicap. Forty-five per cent. of unemployed Asian women speak English only slightly or not at all".This is an extremely serious situation when you come to consider the non-availability of work in this country at the present time. The provision of jobs, of housing, of appropriate education and of training—all these are dependent in the final analysis on this country's economic performance, and it is only in the climate of economic expansion that the problems of race in Britain can really be solved. In a period of recession like this, the difficulties are compounded.
I should like to say one more thing. I have been travelling to London from North Wales on my parliamentary duties for well over 30 years, and I have seen great changes in the nature of the community here in London. I should like to pay a tribute to the tolerance of the English people. This is not often appreciated or voiced here and I may be permitted to say it. They, as well as the coloured immigrants, have had to make adjustments. If we are to resolve this problem in the spirit to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred—in the Christian spirit—then we must do all we can to help the new coloured community and the old community to live together and to understand each other. This is where the Government, the agencies they have set up and most of all the Church, have a contribution to make. The Church has lost a great deal of its influence in this country over the last 50 years. No one would be happier than I if the Church were to regain this ground, give an inspiring lead and help in the solution of this problem. In their consideration of this problem, the Government will need to consider that aspect as well.
When we come to sex discrimination—and I want to make a short speech—we discover that although the subject is a different one, the forces which militate against racial equality also affect sex equality. Female unemployment has been worse than that among men. I could quote endless figures to prove that. The Equal Opportunities Commission has told the Home Secretary that the growth of unemployment among 264 women, combined with inflation, has contributed to a growing sense of uncertainty and insecurity among women. They point out that progress towards equality in measurable requests—for example, in terms of earnings—has come to a halt. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to comment on that when he replies and give us the latest figures.
One senses that the Equal Opportunities Commission is going through a period of intense frustration and that it needs encouragement from the Government. Like other noble Lords, I have received today the Fifth Annual Report of the Equal Opportunities Commission. I have not had an opportunity to study it as I would have wished in preparation for this debate, but what I have read indicates two things to me. The first is that the commission is really doing a first-class job, and I should like to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lady Lockwood, not only for her speech today, but for the work which she has accomplished as chairman of the commission. I believe that the commission deserves all support from the Government.
I believe that the Commission for Racial Equality deserves equal support. We heard something about its work from the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, to whom one listens on this subject with very great respect indeed. We were given the flavour of the job and also an idea of the immensity of the task facing the commission.
In conclusion, I should like to say that this is a daunting task for any Government to tackle. I should not like to pretend that this Government can perform miracles overnight. What they can do is to proceed forward step by step, to show by positive action, by reasonable grants of money—for example, to the Manpower Services Commission—by accepting the recommendations made by my noble friend's commission and by accepting the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on the question of monitoring, that something can be achieved. The noble Baroness said, "I do not expect monitoring on a large scale now from the Government: I want limited monitoring in a fairly narrow field" That surely is a concession that the Government could make without embarrassment or large-scale expenditure. There are many small but significant things that the Government can do to help in both causes. It is absolutely essential in the interests of the future of this country that they should do so.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has given your Lordships' House the opportunity to debate three very important and interrelated topics: racial disadvantage, racial discrimination and discrimination on the ground of sex. Each of the speakers who has made a maiden speech today has approached those subjects from his own particular stand-point. However, each of the speakers—my noble friend Lord Beloff, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney—met eventually in their speeches on the common ground of showing concern for the subjects of disadvantage and discrimination to which their speeches were directed. I should like to make it clear that the Government share this concern 265 and have made clear before—and I make clear again now—that we are fully committed to a society where all individuals have equal rights in law and equal opportunities in practice.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield reminded us of the essential importance of our own attitudes in this matter. The desire to share together the responsibilities for making our society work is, it seems to me, the only way forward if we are to achieve the harmonious and prosperous society that we all seek. I know that there is still a long way to go, especially in the area of racial equality and also, of course, in the area of sexual discrimination. There is a lot of important information in the report of the Equal Opportunities Commission which the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, presented to your Lordships' House yesterday and which was published today.
It is a sad fact that, particularly in education, housing and employment, the ethnic minorities in general fare less well than the majority of the population. The reasons are not always clear and advances have often been slow and piecemeal. At the same time I think that it is fair to claim that probably all of your Lordships are aware, from the daily experiences which we all have, of the contribution which members of the ethnic minorities are able to make. It is nevertheless clear that they have special needs and that Government must take account of these in formulating their policies and their spending programmes.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penhros, made a very constructive speech and he specifically asked me about the Government's spending programmes. I should like to say a word or two about spending programmes in the area of racial discrimination and racial disadvantage. It is particularly important that the Government's special measures to help unemployed people have been considerably expanded and the Youth Opportunities Programme will now provide in this year 50 per cent. more opportunities for unemployed young people. The new Community Enterprise Programme which helps the adult unemployed will give priority to areas of high unemployment.
Your Lordships might be interested if I remind you that the Manpower Services Commission which administers these programmes is now setting up, in consultation with the Commission for Racial Equality, a number of experimental posts whose function will be to enable ethnic minority organisations to plan and organise suitable schemes for young and long-term unemployed.
The Industrial Language Training Service, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred, funded by the Manpower Services Commission, has also done a great deal of work in providing in-company training for many non-English speaking workers in industry. Here again, the Government are committed to encouraging improvement of language training in the workplace and, despite the general need for economies, language training facilities have been expanded.
However, arguably, I think that one could say that perhaps the first necessity when children are ready to go to school is for nursery education. I do not think from the speech which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, made that she was aware that there had been an increase of 5,600 extra nursery education 266 places since the Government came into office. It is not enough, I know, but at least it is quite a significant increase. But, of course, many children come from homes where English is seldom used. Cultural differences may also lead to their failing to benefit fully from their schooling. Therefore, again arguably, the first requirement on entering the primary school—or the secondary school, if a child has perhaps come to this country at that age—is for second language teaching. Schools and local education authorities are also increasingly realising that teaching in schools needs to reflect the diversity of cultural backgrounds which exists in today's society.
If I may say so, in all this I think that governors of schools have a part to play. Of course, I realise that boards of governors are not responsible for the curriculum; that is a professional matter. But, after all, governors represent to their school the wishes of the local community which the school serves, and when the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, pointed—quite rightly—to the relative absence of black people on elected bodies in this country, I reflected that now that last year's Education Act gives the right for parent-governors to be elected to governing bodies in schools, perhaps this will give the opportunity for more members of the ethnic minorities to serve on school governing bodies.
The Department of Education and Science has set up the Committee of Inquiry into the Education of Children from Ethnic Minority Groups, first, under the chairmanship of Mr. Anthony Rampton and now under the chairmanship of Lord Swann. I thought that my noble friend Lady Faithfull gave us in her speech an absolutely fascinating insight into the forthcoming report on the particular needs of children of West Indian origin. We shall await the almost imminent publication of that report and, of course, we shall also await the follow-up report, which I understand will be published some time later, on the educational needs and attainments of children from all ethnic minority groups.
My noble friend Lady Trumpington reminded your Lordships that the further education system also provides a second chance for people of all ages. Here again, some action has been taken. The Department of Education and Science has encouraged certain local authorities to establish special preparatory courses, aimed particularly at students from the ethnic minorities, to enable them to reach a standard necessary for entry to training courses for teaching, social work or, indeed, general higher education. Five education authorities have already set up such courses.
A particularly encouraging factor is that training courses for youth workers in the London area are attracting people from the ethnic minorities. The operation of the youth service is at present under review in the Department of Education and Science, and one area which will be looked at is how it can be better adapted and made more attractive to young black people.
A great deal has been said in this debate about the place of spending programmes in preventing disadvantage, and I still bear in mind that I am trying to answer the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, on this point. Perhaps I could remind your Lordships that the Government's urban programme is running at 267 £290 million for this year, and this money will be used to finance a wide variety of economic, environmental and social projects in the inner city areas. Of course, a number of the projects aided by this programme will have been put forward by ethnic minority groups and community relations councils. This year we expect to pay some £45 million in grant to local authorities under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, will not mind me saying that I felt he spoke a little as though Section 11 grants had ceased altogether, although I realise that he was not, in fact, saying that. £45 million is a great deal of money, and the greater part of it will be used not only for educational purposes, but also increasingly by local authorities for such purposes as ethnic language librarians, health education officers, specialist social workers and various other activities related to local needs. A number of boroughs also employ race relations advisers, who are funded under Section 11.
I know that I have said before in your Lordships' House that Section 11 is under review, and noble Lords have every right to ask what has happened to that review. I must make clear what was given in evidence by the Home Office to the Subcommittee on Racial Disadvantage of the Select Committee on Home Affairs in another place; that we must see what are the implications of the new rate support grant arrangements. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has also promised to take account of any views of that subcommittee when it reports on racial disadvantage.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, as the Minister knows, the first thing about Section 11 is that it is only for staff and, therefore, it has a very limited value. I am glad that he is touching on this question of the rate support grant complement relating to racial disadvantage. I should like to hear something about that. I should like him to dilate on that, because what has happened is that the rate support grant has been redistributed away from the inner cities to the shire counties. When that has been done, how can you say that you have taken account of racial disadvantage?
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I thought that I had made it absolutely clear to the House that what we wished to do, what we intend to do and what we said to the Subcommittee on Racial Disadvantage, which is considering that matter in another place, is that we want to consider how the new arrangements for rate support grant will, in fact, work out in practice. The noble Lord has made the suggestion that they will work out in a highly disadvantageous way. I am not so sure that the noble Lord is right, but at least in order to show that we are genuine in what we say, we are making it clear that we shall not make any changes in the Section 11 grants until it has become clear—and we said to the subcommittee in another place that this would not be until at least after the autumn—how the new arrangements are working.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, No. I think that that was a fair and reasonable answer, and I must get on. In addition to the effects of Government spending programmes and existing legislation, the Commission for Racial Equality, established under the Race Relations Act 1976, has the task of eliminating racial discrimination and promoting good race relations. However, I do not mind admitting at once that spending programmes, legislation and the work of the CRE are not enough. I accept that good race relations overwhelmingly depend on a positive effort by everyone in this country, and I accept that here the Government have their part to play.
The Government are concerned by signs that racially-motivated attacks on persons and property may be on the increase in certain parts of the country. For this reason, as your Lordships will know, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary recently set up a study into racialist activities. In his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said—and it was not for the first time—that the ethnic minorities ought to be represented on this study. But if the noble Lord will not mind my saying so, I think that he misunderstands the objective of the study. It is supposed to be a fact-finding operation to examine the activities of extremist groups which seek to stir up racial discord. Representatives of the Home Office are talking on the spot to local authorities, to the police and to ethnic minority representatives in order to discover whether additional measures are necessary to combat these attacks. I think that this is the speediest and the most thorough way of going about it. It gives everyone a chance to have their say. I am absolutely certain that the Secretary of State was right to take this initiative.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, we have been over this ground before. The noble Lord is telling the House that black people are incapable of discovering for themselves (if they were on this inquiry) the, if you like, etiology of these racist attacks, because, of course, all the Home Office officials who have been appointed to deal with the matter are white.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I must admit to the noble Lord that I do not see the matter in those terms. I see it in the terms that I have just set out. If he would like to read what I have just said, he may see it in my terms as well. I was interested to hear the tribute which was paid by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield to the work which the police have undertaken in recent years in Wolverhampton. I think that cooperation is a two-way process, and while the police constantly have to bear in mind the importance of their relations with members of the community, which they serve, so all of us must understand that only by co-operating with the police—and that means reporting crime to the police when it occurs—can we get on top of the problems of public order which from time to time beset this country.
Discrimination not only causes injustice to individuals; it can lead to a waste of talent and potential which this country can ill afford. If we are to increase the prosperity of the country, we need more than ever to harness the skills and abilities of all our citizens. The Commission for Racial Equality I know still finds disturbing evidence that applicants for work are 269 rejected not on their merits but because of their colour or because a prospective employer holds stereotyped views about black people as a whole.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, spoke particularly about the position so far as the Government are concerned. The Civil Service of course has had a formal policy of equal opportunities since 1969. Indeed, the noble Baroness referred to this. The noble Baroness referred also to the commissioning of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, of which she is the chairman, to undertake a study to establish the effectiveness of race relations policy in the Civil Service. May I repeat what was said by the noble Baroness, that the Tavistock Institute's report did not reveal any evidence of racial discrimination, but it pointed to potential hazards to fairness in employment procedures.
The noble Baroness then said, "What has happened to the Tavistock Institute's report?" Following the publication of that report a joint working party of management and trade unions, both industrial and non-industrial, was set up to follow up the report. The working party has been unable to reach agreement on the desirability of recording the ethnic origin of staff and applicants for jobs because of differing views between the unions. As a consequence, it is not certain that staff would co-operate to achieve a head count that was both comprehensive and accurate. I shall not conceal from the noble Baroness that when the Government took the view against monitoring we were also not convinced that censuses and the like are the most appropriate and effective ways of using the scarce resources which are available; I am saying this of course against this rather unpromising background of lack of agreement which I have just mentioned so far as the follow-up to the Tavistock Institute's report is concerned. But I should like to leave this by simply reminding your Lordships that the responsible Minister, my noble friend Lord Soames, was present while the noble Baroness was speaking and I know will have taken serious account of the speech that she made.
It is the truth that the procedures for recruiting and promotion in the Civil Service, which include procedures formally agreed with trade unions and subject to appeal, provide a substantial safeguard against unfair discrimination. So far as discrimination on the grounds of sex is concerned, the Civil Service has an honourable record. It introduced equal pay long before there was any statutory requirement, and was among the first employers to do so. Recently a joint review group of management and trade unions has been reviewing progress since the Kemp Jones Report, to which the noble Baroness referred, and in considering ways of further improving opportunities for women.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me about the work of the Race Relations Employment Advisory Group and the Race Relations Employment Advisory Service. I shall not go through a note I have here about the functions of both the group and the service because the noble Lord referred to both, but I should like to give an assurance that, as I understand it, the work of both the group and the service is in good heart, is continuing, and is valued by the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, made two points which I must pick up before I speak for a moment or two about the important other part of the noble Baroness's Motion. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, 270 made an assertion, as I understood him, that officers of the immigration service showed discrimination in their personal attitude, if I heard the noble Lord right.
§ Lord Belstead
Then I just have to make it clear that I reject that charge completely. So far as the Commission for Racial Equality investigation into immigration control is concerned, the Home Secretary has said that the Home Office will respond as helpfully as possible to requests for information by the commission in connection with its investigation. Some material has already been made available to the investigating team, and senior officials are discussing with the commissioners the general line to be followed in relation to the provision and protection of sensitive information.
The other important point which the noble Lord raised was that he referred to a witch hunt towards those who may be suspected of being here in employment, but illegally. I want to make it crystal clear that the Government do not accept that there is any need for members of the ethnic minority to feel that they must carry their passports with them as a matter of routine. Towards the end of last year my right honourable friend the Home Secretary reviewed the arrangements for joint police/immigration service operations against illegal entrants and overstayers. The results of the review were announced by my right honourable friend in another place on 12th December and appropriate instructions were issued then to the immigration service and a circular was sent out to the police.
Searches for illegal immigrants and overstayers take place only where there is specific information that offences are being committed. It may be that some employers ask their employees or job applicants to produce passports if they have good reason to suspect that employment restrictions are being evaded. That is a matter for them if an occasion arises when they need to be satisfied that a person is lawfully here, but the Government attach the greatest importance to any such requests being made without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, or creed.
Finally, on these first points, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, have referred to the CRE's powers to undertake formal investigations. The noble Lord asked specifically how many such investigations have been started. Of course, the choice of formal investigations and the numbers undertaken are matters entirely for the commission, but I understand that by the end of March 1981 the commission had embarked on 45 formal investigations, 23 of which related to employment and some 10 of which had been completed.
The Government are also firmly committed to a policy of equal opportunity and treatment for women in employment, and seek to encourage employers, workers and their unions to develop practical schemes to this end. I think we all are well aware of the advantages and progress as well as the disadvantages of the legislation in this particular field. We are also well aware of the value of the work of the Equal Opportunities Commission.
In recent years the rise in registered unemployment for women has, I admit, been faster than it has been for men. But this needs to be seen against a background 271 of the very large increase in the numbers of women entering or seeking employment at a time when employment opportunities in the traditional areas of work are decreasing. In case the noble Baroness may say to me that I am immediately leaping to conclusions which are stereotyped and taking views as to who should do what in the world of work, may I remind your Lordships that not very long ago the Department of Education and Science issued a booklet called The School Curriculum. In paragraph 54, this important passage was included:The Secretaries of State"—meaning the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Wales—consider it essential that career opportunities should be kept equally open to boys and to girls. The obstacles to equal employment opportunities for women are deeply rooted in attitudes in the home and in society. Schools can do much to diminish these obstacles through the content of the curriculum, the way in which the work is organised and the subjects taught, and careers guidance, as has been illustrated in Her Majesty's Inspectors' recent paper Girls and Science".I do not find that passage is in any way contradictory to the very interesting observation which was made by my noble friend Lord Beloff, when he gave the view that there is much to be said for preserving schools for girls where pupils' expectations can perhaps develop in an atmosphere which is sometimes a bit more relaxed than in the competition of mixed schools. At any rate, as I understood it, my noble friend was saying—and I support him in this—let us preserve some single sex schools.
I was also interested to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, say that the attitude to subjects in the curriculum were still guided by attitudes to what suits boys and girls, and I hope she may feel that what I read out from the booklet of the Department of Education and Science shows where the Government stand on the matter.
The Manpower Services Commission recognises that women wishing to return to work after several years out of the labour market and those wishing to enter non-traditional areas of employment may encounter special difficulties. The MSC's response to these problems has been in two broad areas; the provision of courses, often of an experimental nature, and the encouragement of initiatives by industrial training boards and other national training organisations to promote training opportunities for women. I would particularly mention that the MSC has developed a range of courses in two priority areas, electronics and computer skills, and courses open to both men and women are available at various levels within reach now of most centres of population.
I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was very fair in drawing attention to the considerable progess which has been made towards equal pay for women on international comparisons. At the same time, it is clear from the latest report of the Equal Opportunities Commission that there is still much to be done in the fields covered by the sex discrimination and equal pay acts if the move towards equal opportunities is to be maintained.
Several noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lady Trumpington and the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, referred to the Equal Opportunities Commission's 272 proposals for 25 amendments to the sex discrimination legislation. The Government recognise the importance which the commission naturally attaches to these proposals. Some of these have complex and far-reaching implications, and we are giving them the careful consideration which they clearly deserve. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has had a helpful discussion about the proposals with the commission's chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and there have also been meetings at official level with the commission. The Commission naturally recognises the importance of securing the support of the CBI and TUC for its proposals, and I understand that consultations are already in hand.
I have tried in the time to cover the ground which has been covered most interestingly by your Lordships. If there are points to which I have failed to reply, I shall write to your Lordships. I am genuinely grateful to the noble Baroness for this extremely important debate we have held today.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, it remains only for me to thank all those who have contributed to this interesting debate, and in particular to the three noble Lords who made their maiden speeches. The House will not want me at this hour to detain noble Lords for long, but there are a few points I feel I must make. First, I would assure the noble Prelate that I am well aware that it was not the fault fo the House of Bishops in the Synod that further progress was not made, nor indeed to the House of Laity; it was, I understand, the recalcitrant clergy who held up progress in this regard.
I would also tell the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull—and perhaps she will be surprised to hear this—that I have a great deal more sympathy with the point she made than she might expect. I echo what the late Dame Margery Corbett Ashby, a great feminist who died within the last month aged 99, said in 1978 at the time of the celebration of 50 years of women getting the vote; namely, that nothing was more important than to reconcile the two responsibilities and opportunities for women which Lady Faithfull highlighted today. I believe that a great deal of work still remains to be done there.
I am sorry to have to sound an unhappy note at the end of this debate. I must say that I was profoundly disappointed by the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. I could not have made myself clear. Of course, the Government have policies as an employer. What I hoped to illustrate was that nothing has come as a result of the policies of Government as an employer. For the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to say that the Civil Service has a record and reputation as an equal opportunities employer where women are concerned flies in the face of the evidence of the facts. For the noble Lord to pass off the failure to react to the Tavistock Report and to say that, if there is discrimination, there is an appeals procedure which can be used, leads one to ask what use an appeals procedure is to people who are turned down on entry; that is where the Tavistock Institute among others have pointed to the failure to introduce and operate a genuine equal opportunities policy. I am afraid the complacency reflected in the Minister's reply fills me 273 with despair. Above all, I am asking once again: Is it not possible to reconsider monitoring, on a narrow front if monitoring on a wide front is too expensive? With that, once again I thank noble Lords for their contributions, and beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.