§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, Clause 1, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "or ethnic".
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it might be convenient for the House to discuss, at the same time, Amendments Nos. 57, 60 and 63, in Clause 5, page 5, line 5 and Clause 6, page 5, line 21 and line 28 respectively, to leave out "or ethnic". These are all drafting Amendments to the same effect, and I should have thought that we could have disposed of all four together.
§ Mr. Speaker
I thought that that might be so. I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Sir D. Renton
During the Committee stage I drew the attention of the Home Secretary to the rather strange position that we have of using the word "ethnic" in the Bill at all. Of course, it is not one of the major points in the Bill, but I think that it is a point which deserves attention. I think that entirely through oversight, because he was making a long speech dealing with a number of points at the time, the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not reply to the point that I made about this in Committee.
The point is that, in the first place, the word "ethnic" is ambiguous. The dictionaries, so far as I have been able to ascertain, do not agree upon whether it 970 is derived from the Greek word ethnos, meaning "a race", or ethnikos, which means "a heathen or pagan". If it is derived from ethnos, meaning "a race", we do not need to have "ethnic" in the Bill at all, because we have already got the word "race" in the context in which "ethnic" is used in each of the four cases to which I am referring. So the use of "ethnic" if it means "race" is merely repetitive, and we should avoid using repetitive words.
If the word is derived from ethnikos and means "a pagan or heathen", then even more we should try to keep it out of the Bill because, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman was at pains to emphasise in answer to certain Amendments moved by one of his lion. Friends in Committee, the Bill has nothing at all to do with religion. I should have thought that it would avoid confusion on both of these scores if we left out the word "ethnic".
But I would make just one more point in this context, that the word is used in Clause 6, and Clause 6 will deal with indictable cases. "Ethnic" may very well have to be brought into an indictment because it is conceivable that it will be correct for the person drafting the indictment to use the whole of the expression:colour, race, or ethnic or national origins.It would be a very great pity if, in the rather few cases that come up under Clause 6, there is a dispute, which could well go to appeal, as to whether the kind of hatred that had been stirred up had been stirred up against somebody of ethnic origin. For these reasons, it would be much simpler to leave this out and avoid that possible sort of confusion.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
However opinions may differ about the Bill, it is the common purpose of everybody that, if it is to be enacted, it should not exclude anybody; that is to say, it should produce the result that any grouping of citizens would be entitled to its protection. We do not wish incitement against any groups, whoever, they may be, whether they be coloured, Jewish, Maltese, Cypriots, members of an African race, French, Germans or English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh.
It is an objective which is of prime importance in the Bill that no grouping 971 of citizens of whom one could, in ordinary English parlance, predicate that they have, or are thought to have, or are merely represented to have, some common features or characteristics or origins that, broadly speaking, one relates to the stem from which they proceed. None should be excluded.
It has been the Government's endeavour to select language that would produce, so far as language is capable of certainty, that result, and I am certain of having the assent of the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) to the proposition that that should be our purpose. I am sure that none of us would wish to leave any grouping out.
If that is the common purpose, can we choose language which is preferable to the language embodied in the Bill? The right hon. and learned Gentleman's criticism is of the word "ethnic". What is the criterion which, in the courts, we adopt in construing the language of a Statute? The courts ask, "How does an ordinary member of our community, who habitually speaks as his language the English language, construe the words? What do they mean in common parlance?"
Applying that test, one reaches the following conclusion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it is uncertain whether, in its ordinary connotation, the word "ethnic" in the English language is regarded as derived from that branch of the family, as it were, which one associates with the word ethnikos—where it means a heathen—or stems from the other branch of the family and has something to do with origin.
I would have thought it beyond controversy that it cannot, in this context, be related to the expression "heathen" because, in this context, it has to be read with the word "origin", and "ethnic origin" could not, I should have thought, in ordinary connotation be construed as implying any heathen origin. It means, surely, an origin which has something to do with one's blood or the origin from which one proceeds. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument is not substantiated. The word could not mean "heathen" in this context. It means whatever else in the English language the word "ethnic" means.
972 11.15 a.m.
The word "colour" is one which ordinarily would be understood. It is actually a quite inaccurate term, because everyone has some sort of colour. But in ordinary English connotation the word contains a fairly clear conception in the mind of the ordinary person in the light of the way the word is used in this context.
The word "race" is perhaps a little more ambiguous. The words "ethnic or national origin" are deliberately introduced into the Clause to make certain that no one is left out of the description "colour or race". We want to be certain that, because of some accident of language, some ambiguity of outline attaching to the words "colour or race", we do not fail to cover anybody who could possibly have fallen outside the ambit of these two words.
I put it to the House that the word "ethnic" is not an unsuitable term. The word "national" would bring to the mind of the ordinary person the idea of a particular country; a person, for example, who is a German is one regarded as having German as his nationality and, if he lived here he, and his grouping would have the protection of the Bill. For example, what is a Maltese? It is open to doubt as to whether he could be said in ordinary parlance to belong to a particular race. It might be said that the word "national" would embrace it but it is open to doubt.
I think, therefore, that the interposition of the word "ethnic", stemming as I hope it would be thought to stem in this context, from the Greek word ethnos—people, a group—would have the effect of removing any doubt as to whether a particular group fell outside the scope of the other words in the Clause. I mention the Maltese purely as an example.
I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman shares the purpose in this context that we all have in mind and I assure him that there is no better term that one could import into that series of words han the word "ethnic" which has been put there. We have given a great deal of thought to this since, on Second Reading, the question was specifically raised as to what was exactly meant and whether this passage is appropriate. We have thought it over very carefully and our considered conclusion is that these 973 four words get as near to certainty as, by that extraordinarily imprecise instrument, the human language, certainty can be obtained.
§ Sir D. Renton
I do not wish to press this point. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his explanation, but I am not convinced. I think that we could improve the Bill by the Amendment, but in the circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)
I beg to move Amendment No. 4, Clause 1, in page 1, line 14, to leave out paragraph (a).
Perhaps it would be convenient, Mr. Speaker, to discuss at the same time Amendment No. 5, standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths), in page 1, line 14, leave out "public house".
§ Mr. Speaker
And also Amendment No. 11 standing in the name of the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples), in page 2, line 13, leave out subsection (5).
§ Mr. Sharples
Our main purpose is to enable the Home Secretary to give certain assurances. I have notified him in advance of the points I wish to raise in seeking reassurance, in particular, for the licensed trade.
The licensed trade had considerable misgivings about the whole of the Bill and very considerable misgivings about the Bill as originally drafted when it contained the criminal sanction against discrimination. The trade still has a number of doubts about the operation of the Bill.
The first thing it would like to be reassured about is that nothing in the Bill in any way alters the common law duty of the licensee to keep order on his premises, which must be his first and most important duty, and that nothing alters the lonig-established tradition in the trade that he is able to refuse to serve anybody with a drink without giving any reason whatever at the time.
We had considerable discussion about this in Standing Committee and I do not wish to labour the point. I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate that this is a field in which the greatest difficulties about discrimination itself will probably 974 arise. It is very often when people have had a drink or two that tempers become inflamed and they say things which they afterwards regret saying. The responsibility for keeping order and maintaining the good name of his house rests fairly and squarely on the licensee, who is answerable at the brewster sessions for the way in which he has conducted his business. Had the Home Secretary maintained the criminal sanctions in the Bill, the position of a licensee would have been impossible.
Can the Home Secretary say who is to be held responsible in a case or alleged case of racial discrimination? Very often in a large public house the bars are quite separate from one another. The barman in charge of a bar has to exercise his own discretion about whom he serves and the reasons why he refuses to serve a person. If a case of alleged racial discrimination should occur in a bar, or even a number of cases, about which the licensee himself may have very little knowledge and about which he may have no reason to have any knowledge, who is to be held responsible? Is it to be the employee, the person working the bar himself, with a considerable degree of responsibility, or is the licensee himself in every case to be brought before the conciliation committee and possibly eventually threatened with legal action?
Many public houses, in fact the majority, are divided into different bars and some of these bars are regarded by regular clients almost as club rooms. One can see difficulties when someone going into a bar being used virtually as a clubroom is asked to go into one of the other bars, not on the ground of racial discrimination, but because the bar is being used by regular clients for one of their regular meetings. Will the licensee be able, without being accused of racial discrimination, to ask someone who may be coloured to go into a different bar? This is not an entirely easy matter.
In certain areas, for instance, where there are different coloured races using a public house for the purpose of maintaining law and order, the licensee may try to keep one bar for clients of one race and another for clients of a different race. Will he be accused of racial discrimination if he should try to do so in the interests of maintaining law and order?
975 Licensees who have regular clients often put a notice outside their premises saying "No coaches" or "No gypsies", because in the hop picking season there is sometimes a very large influx of additional population which can disrupt the whole of their trade and create a burden upon them which they cannot meet. Will a licensee still be able to put up notices of that kind, provided, of course, that they are not offensive? I think that everyone accepts that if he puts up a notice saying "No niggers served" that is offensive and would fall within the terms of the Bill, but the licensed trade certainly would not condone such a practice. However, if a licensee puts up a notice to say "No coaches", or "No gypsies", or "No hop pickers", will he be accused of discrimination of any kind?
We are later to discuss the composition of the conciliation committees. Will a licensee be debarred from being a member of a conciliation committee because of his interest in the Bill?
Those are the main points which I wish to raise. I have given notice to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I intended to raise them and one or two others.
§ Mr. David Ennals (Dover)
In his introductory comments the hon. Gentleman said that the purpose of moving the Amendment was to secure certain assurances from the Home Secretary. In order that there is no misunderstanding afterwards, will he indicate that his purpose is not to see that paragraph (a) is excluded? I would be grateful if he could make that clear.
§ Mr. Sharples
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I have no intention of trying to do that, but, as the hon. Gentleman will know, under our rules of procedure, on Report one has to put down an Amendment if one is to raise an issue.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) in this Amendment. Some of my hon. Friends and I suggested an Amendment which would have excluded a public house from the provisions of the Bill. Such an Amendment would suit us very much 976 better. I make no secret of the fact that I am against the Bill as a whole. I think that it is a bad Bill because it legislates for people's hatreds and feelings and removes much of the freedom which the public has enjoyed.
Licensees in this country have had a very good record in this respect. I do not think that the public generally has ever had a serious complaint against licensees as a whole for the way in which they dealt with their customers. They have very little choice about whether to serve any customer, but the customer has every choice and can use any public house or hotel he chooses. The licensees have always behaved amiably. I do not think that there are any specific cases on record of licensees discriminating against any individual, or set of individuals.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary told us during the Committee stage, the licensee has very serious duties. He is not allowed to serve people under the age of 18. Many of us know that it is very difficult to decide whether an immigrant is under the age of 18; in fact some of the immigrants do not even know their correct age. But the licensee has this responsibility. He is also responsible, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, for keeping out people likely to be offensive or dirty, or who are quarrelsome or bad tempered. I believe they exercise this duty very well indeed. There is a law by which they are subject to a review of their licence, and if the licensee has behaved badly there could be a charge of discrimination against him, and it could be brought before the licensing justices. I would have thought this in itself was sufficient, because it always has been considered to be so and has worked very well.
There are all sorts of things which are abhorrent to us and which are against our laws, such as the sale of drugs and gambling in public houses. However, to many of the immigrants these things are not always objectionable. They are accepted in their countries. The practice of taking and selling drugs is not, to them, a terrible problem. It is for the licensee to make quite sure that such things as dope peddling and gambling do not take place in his public house. The responsibility is there and he has to decide whether the people who come in to 977 buy a drink are a risk in this respect. I support my hon. Friend; I go further and would wish to press this Amendment in the hope that it will be accepted. I think it is a very bad thing to inject into our laws anything which will inhibit the licensees of public houses. The possibilities are enormous. We have already heard rumours suggesting that a number of immigrants could, after the passing of this Bill, if this Amendment is not accepted, go into a public house to test the licensee. If a man was refused a drink by the licensee on perfectly reasonable grounds, unconnected with discrimination, there could then be a test case brought before these Committees.
I think that it is a bad thing to subject licensees to this sort of risk. After the passing of this Bill before serving a drink they will have to decide whether they run the risk of arrest and whether they ought not to discriminate simply because the person is coloured or a foreigner. It is much better for the licensee to be quite uninhibited and to say "Here is a risk, this person may cause trouble, I will not serve him a drink." There is also the question of excess of drink. Here the licensees have done a magnificent job. They have prevented serious drunkenness taking place and disturbance of the peace. It is quite clear that this particular Clause, as it stands, would have the opposite effect to that which we seek in what we call a Race Relations Bill. It could cause disturbances by reason of the fact that the licensee has had to refuse drinks or to reject an immigrant.
§ Sir F. Soskice
The whole purpose of this Bill, which I profoundly hope will be achieved, is to bring harmony, harmonious relationships, into our community, and not the reverse. It would be a major failure if the reverse ensued as the result of provisions of this Bill. We have introduced it, as I have said on a number of occasions, because we are face to face with a new and major social problem—the presence with us of a very considerable number of settlers from Commonwealth countries. The primary purpose of this Bill is to enable them to be settled happily into the community as fellow citizens and to prevent the kind of action which is wounding and provokes ill-will and bad feeling. That is the object of this Bill, and it has been designed for that purpose.
978 It is obviously the responsibility of the Minister in charge to explain precisely what purposes he wishes the Bill to achieve, how he hopes and thinks the Bill will work. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), will of course, know that it is ultimately for the courts to decide exactly what the language used in the Bill means. But the Minister in charge will say what, according to his views and his own thinking, will be the effect of it. I willingly rise to do that because I recognise that up and down the country there are large numbers of licensees whose employees wish to know, so far as it can be precisely stated, exactly where they stand. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sutton and Cheam was good enough to send me, before this debate arose, a list of questions which licensees would wish to be answered and he has repeated them again today. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Selly Oak has particularly explained one of them. May I try to give the best answers which I can? They are certainly the answers which I believe to be true and which I hope will be confirmed by the courts if, unhappily—I underline that word—cases should have to be decided as matters of law in the courts.
The first question, put by both lion. Members, was this, and I summarise it: is the duty of the licensee to maintain order in his premises and the powers which he at present has to take steps for that purpose to be in any way altered or inhibited by the Bill? The answer which I give without qualification is "No". The purpose of the Bill is to prevent the refusal of facilities to sections of the public, not because they are disorderly, but because they are particular members of the public. The language which we have chosen in defining discrimination has been directed towards bringing that about.
The hon. Member for Selly Oak gave a number of very pertinent and relevant examples. He said suppose the licensee feels that he should not serve a particular would-be customer because he suspects that he is under age. Is lie to be allowed to do that? The answer is undoubtedly "Yes". The question in each case is whether he is refusing to serve him because he belongs to a particular—and 979 may I use the generic term—ethnical group, or is the reason different and not connected with the fact that he belongs to that ethnical group but, for example, because the licensee feels it his duty to take the step of refusing the custom for the purpose of preserving order or complying with the order about not serving people who are under age?
Therefore, if a coloured person comes into the bar and the licensee sees that he is behaving in a disorderly way, that he is dressed dirtily, that he is offensive to other people and that he is causing himself to become a centre of disorder—not because he is coloured but because of his behaviour—then undoubtedly he can refuse to serve him. Suppose that he has already, in the judgment of the licensee, consumed too much alcoholic refreshment so that he is becoming noisy and obstreperous. The licensee undoubtedly can refuse to serve him with any more. There is no question about that whatever.
The only prohibition is against the licensee saying to himself, "I do not like people of that colour. Because they are of that colour, I will not serve them". The Bill is aimed against the licensee saying to himself about a perfectly respectable, well behaved, quiet, orderly, decent coloured person, "I do not like people of that colour. They are not coming in to my bar to have alcoholic refreshment from me". The Bill is aimed against that, and nothing beyond that. Therefore, I say without qualification that the answer to the first question is that there is no alteration of the licensee's duty to maintain order in his premises.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
Is it not also further the case—and this assurance should be emphasised once again—that isolated incidents are not caught by the Bill? The test is whether there has been a course of conduct and whether that course of conduct is likely to continue. This is even a further assurance for the publican that no one is trying to interfere with his right in the kind of case which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) mentioned.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend says. I was coming to that point and wish emphatically to 980 reassert it. It is not the isolated act but the course of conduct which is relevant.
I want to take the questions in sequence. The next question asked by the hon. Member for Selly Oak was: has the licensee, when refusing a drink for some perfectly legitimate reason, to give that reason, or any reason, to the person to whom he refuses it? The answer is emphatically "No"; he is under no obligation. He exercises his own judgment and says privately to himself, "I think that that man is behaving in an obstreperous fashion. I refuse to serve him." He is under not the slightest obligation to say to that person, "I refuse to serve you because you are being obstreperous." He must simply exercise his judgment. He need simply refuse to serve the man without giving reason and he is in no way infringing the provisions of Clause 1.
The next question was who would be responsible? Would it be the licensee? Would it be somebody serving behind the bar? Could the licensee be held to be responsible in a case in which it was perfectly apparent that he knew nothing about the act of discrimination? To answer that, I go to the terms of the Bill. Clause 1 says that the unlawful conduct may be committed by anybodybeing the proprietor or manager of or employed for the purposes of any place of public resort …Therefore, anybody serving behind the bar who had a predilection against individual groups or coloured people could contravene the provisions of the Clause. It might be the licensee, the manager, the proprietor—whoever happened to be in charge—who could be brought to the courts. Any one of the categories to which I have referred who could be shown to have been guilty of a consistent course of conduct in breach of Clause 1 could be brought to the court.
The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam asked whether a licensee who had in no way participated in the course of conduct and who might be completely ignorant of it—indeed he might have given instructions to the contrary—could find himself the subject of an injunction. I should have thought that that was absolutely impossible. An injunction is granted only, at long last, after the conciliation 981 procedure and the rest of it has failed. If the court is satisfied under Clause 3(2) thatthe defendant"—he might be a licensee—has (by himself or by his servants or agents) engagedin a course of conduct in contravention of Clause 1, the court may grant an injunction. There must be a course of conduct. One act is nothing like enough. It might be, in a very exceptional case, such an outrageous act that the court would infer that it was part of a course of conduct, but it must be shown that the licensee engaged in a course of conduct.
More than that, it must also be shown that he is likely, unless restrained by order of the court, to persist in such conduct. It is, in the nature of things, impossible that a person would be likely to persist in a course of conduct if he knew nothing about it. Therefore, my answer to the question whether a licensee who knew nothing about it could find himself the subject of an injunction is unhesitatingly in the negative.
The next question concerned a licensee who has a particular bar or room—a lounge or something of that sort—which he wishes to confine to people of a certain race or from which we wants to exclude people of another race. The question is: is it because of their race, or is it because he is treating all members of the public alike? I can imagine a case in which a licensee might have let a particular room to a particular society or group of people. It is then a private party. The door is closed. It is not open to access by members of the public. It is let for a private purpose. There is nothing to stop the licensee doing that. What he must not do is this. When he has opened his premises—the saloon bar, the general bar or whatever it is—to members of the public at large, he must not, as a matter of consistent conduct, exclude from them certain sections of the public because of their race, colour, and so on. It does not matter for that purpose whether it is the saloon bar, the general bar, or any other bar. The test is this: is the part of the premises for which the licensee is responsible open to members of the public? If it is open to members of the public, then it must be open to all members of the public without distinction of origin.
982 The next question in the hon. Member's written draft is whether it is right that the local conciliation committee should, as Clause 2(2,a) provides, be able to consider a complaint of a single act of conduct. The answer is "Yes"—as it is bound to be. We cannot have the local conciliation committee closing its ears until someone comes to it and says, "I am not complaining only about one act of conduct. I am complaining about four such acts". In the very nature of things the complainant must be able to say, "This happened to me last night", or "This happened to me the night before last", or "I was there with friends the night before that and we were excluded". The conciliation committee must be able to listen to him.
It is for the conciliation committee to make up its mind whether the act is no more than a single, isolated act, in which case it is not enough for action to be taken, or whether it forms part of a course of conduct. I believe that the Bill is rightly drafted in enabling the conciliation committee to listen to and take into account each individual act and to see whether they add up to a course of conduct.
The next question was, would a licensee be prohibited from putting up a notice "No Coaches"? Certainly not. He can do that as he does now. Why? Because the notice "No coaches accepted" applies to all members of the public in coaches. If he puts up a notice, "No coloured coaches accepted"—[Laughter.] How right I was to put in the word "ethnic". If he were to put up a notice saying that he would not accept coaches containing coloured occupants, he would be infringing the provisions of Clause 1. But he can say "No coaches accepted" because coaches bring persons of all colours and all races.
The question about gypsies is a more difficult question. Having regard to their history and the place which they occupy in the community, are gypsies, in the ordinary connotation, as we understand it, people who can be distinguished and are distinguished and known in ordinary parlance as forming a particular group by reference to the origin from which they sprang? For centuries they have been so deeply integrated into our community that the answer to that question in 1965 might be that they are so intermingled 983 that when we speak of a gypsy it is a term of art which means very little.
I hope that the House would say that it is one of the fringe questions which it is difficult to answer. I hope that licensees would not seek to exclude gypsies because I would not say that there was not a risk of it still being held to be the case that the gypsy community of this country, for whom we all have great affection and whose literature and habits intrigue many people, still belong to an origin of their own. It may be that that is wrong. Possibly that is one of the puzzles which ultimately will come before the court. I hope that it will never come before the court, because I hope that this Act will not result in proceedings.
But I would say to a licensee, "If I were advising you and you put up a notice 'No gypsies', and if the reason for that were not that they were misbehaving but that you did not want gypsies as such in your premises, I would say that you would be at some risk. If a particular gypsy or couple of gypsies or three gypsies misbehave in your bar and you exclude them, you are absolutely dead safe, but if you put a ban against gypsies in general I think that it would be within the possibility of it being held that you were putting a ban against people who, in terms of blood, origin and history, may be regarded in this country as perhaps belonging to a common origin." I say that with great hesitation and I should not like to commit myself. It is very much a matter of opinion. I hope that no court ever has to decide it. But I should not advise a licensee to do it.
I am afraid that I can go no further in giving a more positive answer to the House.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Is it not the case that if a publican seeks to exclude gypsies, and it affects persons who are bona fide travellers seeking refreshment and who happen to be gypsies, then such an attempt at total exclusion may in itself be a breach of the licensee's obligation under the existing licensing laws?
§ Sir F. Soskice
The answer to that question may well be, "Yes".
984 I come to the last question, which concerns the composition of the conciliation committees. The question is, "Would a licensee be eligible to be appointed a member of a conciliation committee?" The answer is, "Yes". It is the Government's desire that the composition of these committees should be left to the judgment of the Board. It should be isolated from political affections or considerations and should be done by an independent board. I should have thought that the Board might well think that a particular licensee would be a valuable member of a committee.
But I hope that the Board will not think that it has to choose heads. Once we start doing that, there are so many possible heads that we might choose. We might choose a Pakistani and an Indian and a West Indian and an Irishman—and, once we start doing that, we have all kinds of groups of representatives, which will not achieve the objective which we have in mind. I hope that those who are chosen will be the best people for the job.
That is a concept which is deeply inherent in our social arrangements in many contexts. We say that we do not want to choose representatives, but that we leave it to somebody's judgment to try to get the best person for the job. I hope that that will be done. But I do not take the view that a licensee would be excluded from possible participation in the work of a committee because he was a licensee.
To avoid misconception, I hope that licensees will always have in mind how this machinery works. It is not a question of their being dragged straight off to the courts if there is an infringement. The complaint goes to the conciliation committee. The committee, on a friendly and sensible basis, tries to bring the parties together. That is not a judicial proceeding; that is as informal as it can be. We get sensible local people to try to bring the parties together. We hope that that will be an end of the matter.
Only if that fails and if the conduct is likely to be persisted in does the report go to the Board. It is then for the Board to see whether it is proper to pass the complaint to the Attorney-General. Then it is for the Attorney-General to make up his mind whether the case is one in which the public interest requires that he 985 should seek to take it to the court. All that has to be gone through before there is any question of an injunction.
The procedure is designed to promote harmony, and I feel that it adopts the machinery best calculated for that purpose.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. C. M. Woodhouse (Oxford)
The Home Secretary has made clear to the House, as he did in Standing Committee, what are the intentions of his Department in promoting the Bill. Some of us are still in some doubt about the effect, however good the intention, if only because once the law is tightly drawn in a Statute certain people will immediately start looking for loopholes in the law or ways round the law.
When the Home Secretary was talking about the question of a licensee who has two or more bars or private rooms which he can let to clubs, I was struck by the possibility of there happening in licensed premises something similar to what we all know happens in the theatre on some occasions as a way of getting round the control on certain types of production on the stage. It seems to me very easy to turn a theatre into a club—almost at the drop of a hat—in order to put on plays which cannot be put on in the public theatre.
It seems to me to be possible that licensees who wish to evade the intentions of the Bill may find ways of doing the same thing in their premises if they have rooms or bars other than the ones normally open to the general public. They could let them, as it were, permanently, to a club formed out of people who were otherwise likely to be regular customers of the premises, and through that club exercise in that part of their premises discrimination against minorities.
I fully accept the Home Secretary's statement of the intentions of the Bill and his interpretation of how it will work. I want only to ask if he would be good enough to reaffirm in this larger and more public forum what I understood to be the upshot of his replies to some of the debates in Standing Committee. What I seek to do is to generalise the questions put to the Home Secretary by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) and my hon. Friend the 986 Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) in this simple comprehensive question: am I right in understanding that Clause 1 of the Bill—and, indeed, other Clauses as well, but Clause 1 in particular, because that is what we are now on—does not in any way modify or diminish the existing law; that it does not diminish or qualify the existing rights or duties of any person; that all that it does is to add a new type of offence?
This has been my understanding of what the Home Secretary has said in Standing Committee, and I think that one might, on the face of it, infer this from the absence from the back of the Bill of any Schedules of repeals. In other words, no other Statute is affected by the Bill. However, a great deal of the law on this difficult subject does not rest on Statute; it rests on the common law. Therefore, one would not expect to see any Schedules of repeals if the Bill were merely modifying the common law.
It is for that reason that I should like to ask the Home Secretary for a categorical assurance that the Bill does not, as I say, in any way modify or diminish existing rights and duties under the existing law, whether common law or Statute law.
§ Mr. Peter Griffiths (Smethwick)
I feel that I probably echo the thoughts of many hon. Members when I say that when the Home Secretary answers questions his replies raise more questions as to the working of this Bill than existed in the first place. I do not feel that it is in the straightforward examples of the kind he gave that difficulties will arise, but rather on the fringes and at the points where the Bill is not absolutely clear.
Let me give some examples. Amendment No. 4, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples), would delete from Clause 1(2) paragraph (a) but would leave in paragraph (b), which relates to theatres, cinemas, dance halls, which are all places to which one gains entry by buying a ticket. If, as is often the case, the tickets are numbered one can see where a person is in the queue, whether he is first or not. There is thus some control of entry and that control is quite clear. I would have thought that no one could 987 possibly support any kind of discrimination in a place of that sort, nor would any discrimination be likely to occur.
Paragraph (a) relates to hotels, restaurants, cafés, public houses, which are places to which the public has entry without particular control; they have free entry. One does not there clearly know whose turn it is or how long anyone has been waiting for food or drink and no one knows whether one is in the queue first or last. In such a place one is not shown to a reserved seat, or to a seat in turn, as in a theatre or cinema, and one has to wait for service, and we all know that service in some cafés and restaurants can be slow and very often it is the public rather than the waiters who do the waiting. This sort of thing happens and it happens to everyone. It happens to hon. Members just as much as it happens to members of immigrant communities. I would have thought that it is here the difficulty would arise. Where people come in and have to wait and it is not known who was first or whose turn it is we shall get all kinds of complaints.
I feel that in some ways the Home Secretary shows some naïvety which, one feels, is rather refreshing in a Home Secretary, as in his feeling that in the working of the Bill we shall be dealing only with reasonable people. I can assure him that there are some very unreasonable people who are waiting to make use of the provisions of the Bill. In Birmingham, we have a body of people called C.A.R.D. who held a meeting as soon as this Bill was published and announced that within 24 hours of its coming into law they would be testing it.
The Bill is in this sense an agitators' charter for those bodies who want to find cases of discrimination in order to justify their existence—because if there is no racial discrimination we cannot have a committee against it. These people are going round looking for these cases, and if they look far enough, at the fringes of these places of public resort, they may find individual cases.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Is the hon. Member not aware that under the National Health Service inspectors can go into a chemist's, supply the prescription which the chemist makes up and then it is checked—there is 988 no identity given—to see whether or not the chemist is complying with the terms of the National Health Service?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am aware of that and and I am very much in favour of that testing by those inspectors. I am complaining about testing by unofficial agitators.
I will not labour the points which have already been made, but I would suggest that Amendment No. 5 would be helpful and the reason is simply this. It is a question of a course of conduct, which it would be extremely difficult to define in a number of individual incidents. The Home Secretary has said that individual incidents can be reported to the race conciliation committee. But isolated incidents can occur in so many ways.
For instance, on Saturday night at closing time the last call is made: "Time, gentlemen. Last orders, gentlemen, please." There is a general rush for drinks and some people get them and some do not. There is not time. It is not a question of anybody's turn. Some coloured man, who perhaps was not then served, goes away, without complaining to the landlord, and makes complaint to the race conciliation committee. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) said it would be turned down, and it might, but the fact is that the landlord is being pilloried—because I am quite sure that those people who make these complaints will make them publicly—as some sort of race hater and because of a supposed offence when none was intended.
A little later in the week, perhaps, someone goes into the public house early. There is not service in every bar the moment it opens. So he has to wait. There will be yet another complaint. Of course, this complaint in itself would be rejected, but it is yet another complaint against that landlord.
We are developing a course of conduct. How will a landlord ensure that this will never happen again? When he is called before the Board, will he be able to assure it that the incidence will never be repeated? Of course he will not, and if the Board receives no assurance from him on that score, it will say that the matter will have to be the subject of an injunction. Licensees will be put in an absolutely impossible position, and since 989 our discussions upstairs, when much the same questions were put to the Home Secretary and his reply was widely publicised, licensees in the Midlands, near to my constituency, have said that they are not satisfied, that they are worried about the Bill, and that they wish to see this Clause amended.
I propose to deal next with the question of the private bar. It is not a matter of a bar which has been hired by a group of people, a fishing society, or some specific club. Many public houses, particularly in large cities, keep a private bar, a "regulars only" bar, from which anyone, of whatever race or creed, would be frozen out if he attempted to enter. It is kept specially for regulars. This is traditional, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with it. It is reasonable for people to keep a "regulars only" bar.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me how the Bill in present form will affect a ban imposed by a publican on the whole of the general public, by which white, coloured, green or brown people, and even the hon. Gentleman are excluded? That sort of bar would not be caught by the Bill.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If I can be assured that that sort of bar will not be included, that will remove one of my doubts about the Bill. The system to which I am referring is understood by English people, and when one enters a pub and sees that there is a "regulars only" bar, one goes to the other bar. This will not be so well understood by coloured persons, and if they are led by people whose motives are probably suspect anyway to believe that they can use every bar in every pub, we shall have, not racial harmony, but a deterioriation of race relations, because the arrival of a large number of immigrants, led by these Left-wing type leaders who have said that they are going to test the Bill as soon as it becomes an Act, will lead to a deterioration of relations between white and coloured.
Licensees already have a very heavy burden to carry. Theirs is an extremely difficult job, and one that is made more difficult by the fact that they sell alcoholic drinks. Anything that adds an extra responsibility will, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) said, be to the disadvantage 990 of the trade, and also, I believe, to the disadvantage of good relations between white and coloured people in our large cities.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the Bill goes through unamended, it will lead to a series of nasty little agitations to produce cases of discrimination, and of course these will be publicised. The result will be a deterioration in relations between white and coloured. I therefore hope that, whether Amendment No. 4 is accepted or not, Amendment No. 5 will be, so that we can make it clear that we are not producing an agitator's charter.
§ Mr. Thorpe
If the Home Secretary is to be accused of naïvety because he takes the view that immigrants are reasonable persons, likely to abide by the law, no one would accuse the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) of being naïve. One would, of course, find that he is not particularly knowledgeable on this matter—
§ Mr. Thorpe
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to complete my sentence before he passes judgments—because, if, as he suggests, there are minorities who are anxious to cause incidents which will bring about embarrassment to publicans, perhaps I might point out that this can be done now, by a person attending the brewster sessions and opposing the grant of a licence to a publican on the basis that he has shown discrimination. To assure the hon. Gentleman that those who take this action are not all black, let me tell him that I have done so at brewster sessions and succeeded in getting undertakings from a publican as a result of which he ceased indulging in racial practices.
I think that the good point made by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) was this, that a publican wants to feel that it is no more difficult to refuse to serve a person or require a person to leave because he happens that coincidentally to be coloured than that he may be a citizen of this country That is the point, and I think that it is covered by subsection (5) which, when 991 defining the meaning of an hotel, refers to it as an establishmentoffering food, drink … without special contract, to any traveller presenting himself who appears able and willing to pay a reasonable sum for the services and facilities provided and who is in a fit state to be received …".Surely that is the clearest possible indication that the right of exclusion is maintained by the landlord where he can say that either the traveller is not in a fit state, or he does not appear to have adequate financial resources. I think that that should allay many of the fears of publicans on that matter.
I do not find the innuendo about drugs by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) particularly helpful, and, on reflection, he may think that it will be interpreted in a wider context than he intended, or perhaps he did so intend.
Surely the issue is this: a pub, if I might be allowed to make such a profound remark, is a pub. It is a public place, and if there were any attempt by a publican to segregate a bar, even as between one British subject and another, both of whom were white, surely it would be arguable whether he was committing a breach of his obligation under the licensing Acts? Therefore, any attempt to exclude persons from a "regulars only" bar would be restricted to the publican politely requesting people not to use it, and he would have no right to make that a reason for ejecting a person from the public house. If I went into a regulars only bar and preferred it to the other part of the pub, I would have no hesitation in staying there.
I hope that it will go out from this debate that the view of the Official Opposition is that expressed by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam who, quite reasonably, asked for various qualifications which will set at rest the minds of those who have public houses, and it will be made quite clear that the views expressed by the hon. Members from Birmingham command only a minority of support in this House.
§ Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)
I think that the Home Secretary has made the intention of Parliament abundantly clear, and we are all grateful to him for doing so. Unquestionably, if any case of alleged racial discrimination comes before a court 992 that court will have no difficulty whatsoever in deciding what Parliament intended at the time the Bill was passed. That is a great step forward, and a considerable protection to the licence trade.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
A court will not be able to ascertain the intention of Parliament. It will have to assume that the intention of Parliament is as laid down in the Act.
§ Mr. Wise
I shall not quarrel with my hon. Friend, who is learned in the law, and I am not, but I know of cases where courts have tried to interpret the intention of Parliament as laid down in an Act. That is what the Home Secretary has made quite clear, and I am saying that if the matter ever reaches a court, that court will be able to determine what Parliament intended. That is a good thing. But a lot may happen before a case reaches court, and it is on that aspect of the problem that I wish to dwell for a moment.
We have been told—and it has never been contradicted—that the publican holds a very special position of responsibility. He has to maintain law and order, and has a right to do so without giving any reasons. But an aggrieved customer can make a great deal of trouble for him. Even though the publican may be protected by the Bill it is a simple matter for an aggrieved customer to go to a conciliation committee and say that he has been discriminated against on the ground of race or colour.
It is easy for another aggrieved customer to do the same, and ultimately a case will be built up, which, in the end, will mean that the publican will have to attend a meeting of the conciliation committee in order to explain himself. That, in its way, is reasonable enough. The committee may then turn down the complaint entirely and say that the publican was quite right in what he did.
None the less, the complaint has cost him time and it may well have cost him money. It will undoubtedly have cost him a great deal of effort. He may have had to call several witnesses. Even before the conciliation committee his sole word will not be enough against two or three complaints. He may have to produce people who were in his public house at the time, and who can say that there was no discrimination and that the 993 man concerned should have been thrown out of the public house.
I have no doubt that the conciliation committee will then support the publican but it has cost him time, money and effort. In my view some provision should be made, somewhere, for reimbursing him. I see no provision in the Bill for his being awarded costs against unnecessary or frivolous complaints. I should like to see that. It would help the threatened publican a great deal. Presumably that would now have to be done in another place, but I hope that it can be.
§ Mr. Chapman
Is not the hon. Gentleman exaggerating a little? Does he not know that in Committee the Government gave an assurance that these conciliation committees would have officials whose job was bound up with the process of conciliation? Is it not more likely that on the sort of occasions that he is mentioning a publican would not be put to the trouble of appearing before a conciliation committee; he would simply have a visit from an official, and the matter would be settled by means of a quiet chat.
§ Mr. Wise
The hon. Member says that this is more likely. It may be more likely, but it is not certain—and in our legislation we ought to try to provide some certainty in these matters.
The publican has enough difficulty with brewster sessions as it is. Anybody who is in the least likely to be really sympathetic to him is excluded from sitting on those sessions, so he has a very difficult case to prove if anybody appeals against the renewal of his licence. Even if a conciliation committee has said that there was nothing in the complaints that had been made on one or two occasions, it can be put to the brewster sessions that the licensee has already had two complaints against him for practising racial discrimination. I see no safeguard against that, and I am not sure how we can make certain that a rejected complaint will be excluded from consideration at brewster sessions. We ought to provide in some way that it will be.
Those are very small points, but their acceptance would reassure a large body of men. It has been said that the Conservative Party lives on them, but a great many other people do, also. They 994 are a worthy body of mea, and they are genuinely apprehensive, as the Home Secretary appreciates only too well. I hope that before we end our discussion of this part of the Bill he will be able to add a little to the assurances that he has given in this matter.
§ Mr. Richard
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) made a measured contribution to the debate. I want to try to answer the point he raised about brewster sessions in the spirit in which it was raised, because it is a question which the licensing trade is entitled to have answered. I know that some apprehension is felt on this matter in the trade, because some has been expressed to me. In my view, however, in relation to brewster sessions the publican will be in a better position if the Bill is passed than if it is not, for two reasons.
At the moment, any person who wants to make a complaint against a publican can attend brewster sessions and object to the renewal of a licence. When he attends he may assemble his witnesses to help him in his opposition to renewal. But if, at the hearing before the licensing justices, complaints which have already been considered and rejected by the local conciliation committee are put forward, I cannot imagine for a moment that those licensing justices would pay a scrap of attention to them.
The licensee would have one advantage. Let us assume that a complaint of discrimination was made against him to a local conciliation committee. That complaint would be dealt with and investigated by that committee at that time. The memories of the witnesses would be fresh. With the passage of time, however, there would be opportunity for witnesses' memories to fade. We all know that, perhaps with no attempt deliberately to mislead a court, a witness may end up by giving evidence which is quite contrary to the facts of the case.
A conciliation committee can investigate a complaint when the evidence is fresh, but at brewster sessions, when perhaps two or three complaints are made against the landlord all of which have been investigated at the time they were made by the conciliation machinery, and all of which have been rejected by it, the repetition of that evidence—which 995 by then may be 10 months' old—will be very difficult for the magistrates to act upon to the extent of depriving the licensee of his licence.
It therefore seems to me that since we have this fairly informal machinery for investigation of complaints at the time they are made, and when the costs involved would be extremely small, far from being in a worse position the licensee is in an even better position.
§ Mr. Wise
The hon. Member has made a very clear point, with which I largely agree. He says that it would be very difficult for the licensing magistrate to act on that evidence. Why not let us make it impossible, by providing that a complaint of racial discrimination which has been rejected by a conciliation committee shall not be taken into consideration by brewster sessions?
§ Mr. Richard
The difficulty is that we cannot do that in a race relations Bill without taking into consideration the whole of the licensing laws. No doubt the hon. Member can put down a Motion, or even introduce a Bill to amend the licensing Act, but it cannot be done in this Bill. We are trying to establish a system of conciliation, with a residual approach to the courts if all else fails. I hope that the hon. Member will agree that the licensee will be in a better and not worse position if this machinery is established.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The Home Secretary has said that the main purpose of the Bill was to improve race relations, and that if it did not do so it would be a major failure. It is a major danger in the minds of many hon. Members on this side of the House that the Bill will do just the reverse of improving race relations. That is why we have our doubts about it. It is not a question of what is intended by the Bill but what is likely to be its effect.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that the purpose of the Bill is not to inhibit in any way a licensee in carrying out his common law duty to keep order and to protect the good name of his house. It may not be the purpose of the Bill to inhibit the licensee, but my experience convinces me that it is likely to do so. For 20 years I have 996 been a director of a company which is responsible for administering about 40 licensed premises, and so I have an intimate knowledge of the difficulties experienced by licensees.
I honestly think that there are very few members of the public who appreciate the heavy burden which falls upon a licensee in running a public house. I wonder how any hon. Member would feel if he found himself in a crowded bar on a Saturday night with 200 or 300 people in it, a number of them getting rather excited and loud in their remarks, and he was faced with ensuring throughout the evening that there was no trouble. There are many areas in which the atmosphere in a public house can be near explosion point for much of the evening because of one or two troublemakers.
For such a licensee to have to worry about whether he is wrong in refusing service to a man seems to me to be adding an extra burden on members of the community who are already heavily burdened. It is not merely that they have a licence to protect. They have to consider their livelihood as well. If they lose their licence because of this sort of difficulty they lose their livelihood because no brewer will take them as tenants or employ them as managers.
The Home Secretary said that if there were a complaint, the reaction would be to ask whether there was some reason other than ethnic grounds for refusing service. It is not merely a question whether a man had had sufficient drink to make him provocative. A man might be suspected of importuning for immoral purposes. He might be suspected of many activities which would endanger the licence of a public house. It is not just a question of taking a look at the man and deciding whether it is possible to get another witness to agree that he was being noisy and troublesome. The real point here is that at no time in the past has a licensee been required to give any such reasons.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North West)
I do not wish to intervene for too long, because, obviously, we all want to get the Bill passed. All the publican would have to do would be to give an answer and say that he thought the man was importuning or something of that nature. If so, the whole thing would be 997 finished. Is it not ridiculous to try to protect a person who wants to use the colour bar as an excuse and who seeks protection against legislation of this nature?
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Gentleman is reinforcing my point. The whole point is that in the past the licensee has not had to give reasons to anyone. Therefore, there was no risk of proceedings being taken against him—
§ Mr. Goodhew
No. I can assure hon. Members that many of these complaints which may come up in the course of a year never reach the brewster sessions at all. Under the Bill the licensee may be required to give to an official a reason for refusing service. In doing so he will be making an allegation. [HON. Members: "No"] It is all very well for hon. Members to say "No" and to shake their heads. The licensee will have to say to the official, "I refused service to this person because I thought that he was importuning," or passing betting slips or something of the sort.
§ Mr. Richard
Will the hon. Gentleman face this point? Let us assume the worst possible case against the licensee which has been put from the benches opposite. A man may have been deliberately trying to stir up this sort of trouble for, let us say, a period of six months. Whatever the hon. Member may say about this Bill, if a licensee were faced with that sort of situation, would he not be better off under this proposal than if the whole matter had to be investigated before the brewster sessions?
§ Mr. Goodhew
No. The hon. Member has not had the experience that these licensees have had of running a public house from day to day and keeping order. It is no comfort to a licensee, when he is in this difficulty, to know that when the brewster sessions are held he can defend himself and justify what he has done. The point is that in the past he has not had to give any reasons for refusing service. This is a situation which has been accepted by the courts for many years. Now it is proposed that a licensee should be forced to give a reason when an official is sent round to see him.
§ Sir B. Janner
Does the hon. Gentleman really believe that if a person entered a public house for the purpose of importuning, either directly or indirectly, he would have the folly to make a complaint?
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Gentleman is taking a lot for granted. I am not saying that it would necessarily be the case of a man who was importuning. It may be any one of many cases. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to get excited about this. The Home Secretary made it quite clear that the whole purpose of this legislation is not to inhibit in any way the actions of a licensee.
Under the Bill he must be inhibited from carrying out his duties as he has performed them in the past. He has to stop and think whether he can defend himself. For instance, if he gives his reasons to the conciliation committee, is he certain that those reasons will not be passed on to the complainant? If the complainant knows that it is suggested that he has done certain things, is the licensee certain that the complainant will not go to court and bring a civil action against him for slander?
This is the whole point of the protection in the past in not having to give reasons. There was no chance of thy complainant subsequently being able to take the licensee to court for slander, for making allegations and damaging his reputation. Now it is proposed to give the licensee this additional worry which will be at the back of his mind whenever he is concerned about the behaviour of people in his public house.
It may be that suggestions about a licensee's course of conduct are based on complaints which are basically frivolous, but if the complaints came from coloured people the inference would be that the licensee was discriminating, although this may not be true at all. It is putting him into an intolerable position and imposing an additional burden upon him to ask him to submit to this limitation upon his normal course of action.
I do not consider that Amendment No. 4, which seeks to leave out paragraph (a), is as important as Amendment No. 5 to leave out "public house", because I do not think the licensee is faced with the same problem as a person who is 999 running a licensed restaurant or other premises where drinking is merely a part of the business, as opposed to a public house where the main purpose is for people to go and drink. One is doing a very damaging thing by introducing discrimination in favour of immigrants and against the rest of the people. One is putting the immigrant into an entirely different position compared with every other person living in the country. If I am refused service, I cannot go to a conciliation committee.
§ Mr. Richard
If the hon. Member is refused service because he is Irish or red-headed he can go to the brewster sessions.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The House is not in Committee and, much like the publican, I must keep order. We will have one speech at a time.
§ Mr. Goodhew
It is absurd to suggest that there is no danger here of someone who has a grudge against the licensee—and people do have grudges when they do not have their own way—will get someone to go to the Committee and follow up the case and allege a course of conduct. I have not been reassured about the Bill by anything said in this debate and I still submit that the object of not inhibiting the action of the licensee will not be achieved. The effect of the Bill can only inhibit him. The burden will be an extra one on someone who is already carrying a heavy burden and is serving the people of the country so well.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I have some sympathy with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples)—(HON. MEMBERS: "Honourable Friend."]—that is merely an indication that he should be right honourable and doubtless will be in due course. My hon. Friend put his case against singling out the public house for special treatment in a moderate and persuasive way. My own 1000 premise, which he may or may not share, is that the Clause should apply to all public places. I am sorry that it has been selective in this way. It has been selective for reasons known to the Home Secretary; I am sure that none of us thinks that that is intended to reflect on the licensed trade as such. My hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) has been in a somewhat prophetic rôle this morning but we must stick to the facts. I am not, I must confess, a very assiduous user of public houses.
§ Dr. Miller
Did the hon. Member say that the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) was prophetic or pathetic?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I said "prophetic", and I said that I was not an assiduous user of public houses, although from time to time I repair to those establishments for the purpose of light refreshment. I have noticed that in certain bars the clientele appears to be static. This is what is called a "regulars' bar", but in my limited experience I have never been refused admission to a bar because it was confined to regulars. If that is the custom it should be brought to an end as soon as possible, and if this is the effect of the Bill it is a desirable side-effect.
The burden of the reflections of my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick on this Clause is that the Clause may be misused. That applies to any legislation. It is a consequence of original sin, and nothing that we in this House can do will alter that particular aspect of the human condition. But if it is on occasions misused this is not altogether a bad thing, because those who misuse it will be using the Act, as it will then be, purely as a safety valve, and the Act even in its misuse may serve some useful purpose.
With great respect to my hon. Friend, the Member for Smethwick, I dissent from his phraseology. He calls the Bill an "agitators' charter". It is nothing of the kind. It is a declaration of the public conscience that in practice as well as in principle we believe in the equality of the rights of all citizens of the country irrespective of the colour of their skin.
As for the position of the licensee, the Home Secretary made it quite clear that 1001 he still has the right to exclude those who are objectionable in some way. This was a point made much of by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden]—that some people are dirty, quarrelsome, or drink too much. I am sure that there are no such people in Birmingham, but if they behave in this way the licensee is able to exclude them as before. The Bill is concerned only with discrimination on the ground of colour, race and so on, and the House should realise that this must be affirmatively proved and that this is a great protection to the licensee.
It has been suggested that the refusal of a licence at brewster session is a sufficient sanction. There has been a recent case in the Midlands where undoubtedly there was discrimination practised by the licensee and he went as far as to say," might as well be frank. This is a colour bar". That brutal confession, I am glad to say, shocked many people, but his licence was renewed.
Secondly, looking at the problem from the point of view of the licensee, as the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) has said, he would be in many ways better off under the Bill, because surely it cannot be said that it would be a good thing for a licensee to risk losing his licence by people taking the case to brewster sessions. This Bill applies a sort of sieve and if he is acquitted—in the non-legal sense—by the Conciliation Committee that would be a factor which would tell in his favour should the point be raised subsequently at brewster sessions.
One final point which has not been raised so far is that the Bill in many ways strengthens the licensee. Let us suppose that we have a situation where a customer comes in and says, "I do not want to drink with niggers, wops or spades", or whatever the current phrase may be. When the Bill is passed the licensee then can reply, "I have every sympathy with you. I do not like these persons myself, but it is the law that I should serve them". The Bill would greatly strengthen the licensee's position.
§ Mr. Goodhew
My hon. Friend is suggesting that anyone who intervenes on behalf of the licensee is merely trying to create a loophole for him to carry out racial discrimination. This is not the point at all. The point is whether or 1002 no the customer is causing trouble. My hon. Friend makes it out as if licensees were wholeheartedly against serving coloured people.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
My hon. Friend has misunderstood me. If that is the impression I gave I withdraw it. I was putting an extreme case to make my point more effective. I agree that the large majority of licensees wish to serve anyone. I was making the point that even if there were a licensee who did not he would be strengthened by the law. I do not in any way wish to reflect on licensees in general. I have the greatest respect for the licensed trade.
If the Bill had contained any criminal procedure I would have been very much against it. It would have been quite intolerable to have exposed licensees to discrimination which involved the criminal law. The whole situation has been transformed by the introduction of this conciliation machinery. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) that I am well aware of the long and honourable connection between the Conservative Party and the licensed trade. This is not something one need be ashamed of in any way. After all, the essence of Toryism is enjoyment, just as the essence of Socialism is misery. What the Clause is intended to do is to provide equality of opportunity for enjoyment to all citizens of this country irrespective of the colour of their skins.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
We are all very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the careful and painstaking way in which he answered the questions put to him, but he will agree that, unfortunately, what the Home Secretary says is not evidence and the courts will not look at it, so that he was, in fact, advising us as to the way in which he thought matters would go rather than taking the opportunity to put on record something which would influence or affect the interpretation of this Measure. In this case, I almost regret that this is so because one would be happier if the matter were to go forward for judicial administration with, on the record and to be looked at, the background which the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave. The anxiety I have is that it will not turn out quite in that way because of the somewhat inflammable situation which exists.
1003 The hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) raised a point which, at first sight, has persuasive value, that the position of the licensee might actually be helped. I doubt this. It is not really accurate to speak of a complaint being rejected by a conciliation committee, as the hon. Gentleman did, or to use the expression adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and speak of a licensee having been acquitted. Clause 2 makes clear what will happen. A complaint will be made to a conciliation committee. The committee will investigate it. It will endeavour to bring the parties together, to smooth the whole episode over and prevent it becoming an issue rather than try an issue and find someone guilty or not guilty. If that is the operation—I believe we are agreed in thinking that that should be the nature of the operation—it is not accurate to say that, if, subsequently, an ill disposed person raised objection at the brewster sessions, the licensee would be in a position to say that the complaints had already been adjudicated upon by a conciliation committee and rejected, or that he had been acquitted, the committee had found in his favour, or something like that.
§ Mr. Richard
There is no acquittal in the legal sense and no rejection in the technical sense, but Clause 2(3) makes clear what will be done. The conciliation committee can, if it thinks right, send the case to the Race Relations Board. What the licensee would say at brewster sessions, therefore, would be that there had been complaints investigated by the committee and none had been referred to the Board.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I appreciate that, and I hope that I did not overstate my point. He can say that, or he can say that, although the complaints had gone to the Board, the Board had decided against referring them to the Attorney-General. But this is becoming a somewhat complicated matter. It is not like being able to say, "These complaints were rejected" or "I was acquitted". In my view, the licensee's position will not be strengthened.
It seems to me that we shall create the risk of a vendetta against a licensee, with persistent complaints. I was glad that 1004 my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) said what he did because he made a point which has not been adequately made before, that most licensees are not the owners of free houses but are managers employed by large brewing companies. If a licensee becomes a target for a lot of complaints, he will be in a very difficult position. Even if the complaints are not forwarded by the conciliation committee to the Board, if he appears to be a constant target the brewers will move him, as a matter of business administration. That will be a disagreeable thing for the licensee and may in the end be positively damaging. I am very much afraid that the way that this will work in practice is that some licensees will be very hard done by even though they do not become subject to the ultimate legal procedures envisaged under the Bill.
I am not happy on the question of vicarious liability about which the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us some assurance. Public houses are getting larger nowadays and more and more have to be operated through staff. There will come a point, if there are continual complaints—I am envisaging such a situation—when the conciliation committee itself may say, "There are so many complaints coming up about your employees that we must draw the inference that the policy guidance comes from you." This is not a novel sort of inference in the courts, nor is the doctrine of a course of conduct of much protection here. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know all about the meaning which the courts have given to persistent cruelty in matrimonial cases. It has been held to require two incidents, and cruelty in the divorce jurisdiction, without the word "persistent", has been held to mean one incident. So the courts tend to put a rather technical meaning on this sort of expression. Remembering that a course of conduct is certainly likely to be interpreted as meaning at least two complaints and, if there is a dead set on a house, there will be an inference that the licensee is responsible for the acts of his staff. I am not sure that the position is quite so happy on this point as the Home Secretary sought to assure us it was.
We know that just leaving out the word "public house" is open to certain drafting objections because of the 1005 ejusdem generis words following it. If the Home Secretary accepted the validity of the doubts and anxieties expressed in the debate today, he would wish to put forward an Amendment in slightly different form to implement them, an Amendment to take out of the effect of the Bill licensed premises as such. Bearing in mind that he must be persuaded on this if we are to get anywhere, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to remember that, if complaints go forward, proceedings are taken and an injunction is granted against a licensee, that will be something enormously more important than a criminal penalty of, say, a £50 or £100 fine. It is a perpetual injunction, and breach of it is contempt of court, involving, as we all know from wardship cases and the like which we read about nowadays, indefinite imprisonment. It is something which is often treated much too lightly, because civil penalties are so much milder than criminal penalties. However, a man convicted of a criminal offence and fined pays his fine and that is the end of it. A civil injunction, on the other hand, is a perpetual injunction, and the punishments attached to it are quite extraordinary.
I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider the difficulty of the position of the licensee, his vulnerability because of his position as an employee, his vulnerability to a campaign against him, and the extreme nature of any penalty which might be imposed in the end. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not consider whether there is not a perfectly genuine case, accepting the main theme of the Bill as we now must—I do not, but we now must—and whether he could not in another place put forward an Amendment in a different form to give some kind of protection against these anxieties.
§ Mr. Sharples
I am sure the House will appreciate that this has been a useful debate. Many of my hon. Friends have been able to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman points which have been troubling them and their constituents. I am sure he will appreciate that even after the very full explanation which he gave, many of those doubts still remain. On the other hand, the House will be grateful to him for the care which he took in answering the 1006 specific points which were put to him through me by the licensed trade. Although many doubts remain, he has gone some way at least towards giving the reassurance which the trade requires.
On that note, I would beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not want to delay proceedings, but I did put a short categorical question to the Home Secretary which, if answered, would help to clear up the doubts of hon. Members on this side. Would it not be possible to ask the Home Secretary briefly to reply to it?
§ Sir F. Soskice
If the House gives me leave, and if the Motion put by the hon. Gentleman for Sutton and Cheam can for the moment be regarded as being in suspense, may I, by that flexibility of procedure, try to deal with the question?
The Bill is specifically worded so as not to interfere with any existing right.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn,
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)
Does the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Dr. Wyndham Davies) wish to move his Amendment for a Division?
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I beg to move Amendment No. 7, Clause 1, in page 2, line 1, after "of", insert "public worship, or place of".
The Amendment will be appreciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) because it helps to remove the original sin. We pride ourselves on religious freedom. Unfortunately, I was not a member of the Committee, but I read the proceedings and I note that on 25th May in column 13 the Home Secretary said:One must try to take steps to make immigrants first-class and not second-class citizens.He went on to say:We must remove the feelings of bitterness and disgust which naturally arise when people are kept out of places of public resort open to others.I would draw to his attention the point that places of religious worship are not specifically mentioned in the Bill. I understand they can be easily defined as a place which is derated.
1007 Article 26 of the Draft Convention of the United Nations on Civil Political Rights specifically states that:Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hostility that constitutes an incitement to hatred and violence and shall be prohibited by the law of the state.As I say, we pride ourselves in this country particularly on freedom of worship, and I would like to see freedom of worship is defined in the Bill. There has been a previous attempt to bring religious beliefs into the Bill, but apparently it was not acceptable to the Home Secretary. It would show that we have freedom of worship if we were to declare that places of public worship should be open to all.
I quite realise that many people coming to this country do not want to go into places of worship. They like to bring their own places of worship with them, and certainly in the Sikh temple they make everyone welcome who wishes to go there. But there are many people who have adopted our religions when we have sent missionaries overseas. But, regrettably, I heard someone say not very long ago, "We try to go to your churches. We find we are not particularly welcome. In many cases we find they are empty, and we begin to wonder whether you still believe in the religions you brought to our country."
For that reason, I want people to be able to read the Act and know that they are welcome in any public place of worship.
§ Mr. Bernard Weatherill (Croydon, North-East)
I rise to make a short contribution to the debate. The main value of the Bill is that it gives statutory expression to the strong sense of moral disapproval of racial prejudice. It is true that Acts of Parliament do not change men's minds or hearts, and that a Bill of this kind will not in itself eradicate prejudice. But it can and I hope it will tackle some of the manifestations of prejudice and, because of the respect in which the law is held in this country, it can exercise important educational effects upon both attitudes and behaviour.
The discrimination sections of the Bill deal mainly with the questions of colour, race, and ethnic—whatever that word may mean—national origins. But there is no section dealing with religious dis- 1008 crimination. I have in my constituency sizeable Jewish and Catholic communities. The leaders of the Jewish community have been to see me because of threats to burn down their synagogue and personal threats to the minister. They want to know what sort of protection is going to be given to them by the Bill.
I appreciate that people who stoop to this kind of threat are a lunatic fringe, but one must accept that many Jews who have lived in Europe and others who have relations in Europe who have seen these threats put into action are obviously concerned.
There came into my hands last night a publication which is known as Spearhead, which is the journal of the Greater Britain Movement, a Nazi organisation. It is published on the borders of my constituency, in Norwood. It may well have a bearing on the threats which my Jewish constituents have received.
I will not waste the time of the House in making a long quotation from it, but let me just say that one of its editorials is headed "Gleanings from the Ghetto", with the sub-heading, "The Stench of Israel". It says:Most of you will have been aware, either through the medium of the Press or television-newsreel, that the Prime Minister of the bandit so-called 'State' of Israel … has recently paid an official visit to our country—one of World Jewry's more important colonies—in order to issue his orders for what I shall laughingly refer to as Her Majesty's Government.One accepts that there might be that lunatic fringe type of statement. We rightly value freedom of speech, and I hope we always shall. Indeed, it is on these very grounds that many of us have had some reservations about the Bill.
But this sort of thing is an incitement to hatred. While it is right to guard freedom of speech, it can scarcely be argued that it is important for us to be free to stir up hatred whether it be by race or religion. We rightly penalise the dissemination of pornography, and the peddling of racial or religious hatred seems to me to be at least as objectionable. I accept that the Jews are not alone in this. Strangely enough, into my hands last night also came an anti-Catholic tract. But we must not blow up all this sort of thing—
§ Dame Joan Vickers
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Does not 1009 what my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Weatherill) is saying really come under Clause 6? He is talking about incitement. I am only asking that the buildings shall be open to the general public.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)
I think that is so. The hon. Gentleman should confine himself to the Amendment which we are now discussing. I think that I ought to tell him also that, although the use of copious notes is allowed, speeches must not be read.
§ Mr. Weatherill
I accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The point that I am making is, I think, relevant. There is a lunatic fringe of people—my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) described them as unreasonable people—who wish to go into pubs in order to create trouble. There are also unreasonable people who may wish to go into churches or synagogues to create trouble. I wonder whether it is wise to accept an Amendment of this kind which will enable anybody to go into a church or a synagogue without any prevention whatsoever, irrespective of whether he may want to go there to cause trouble or not.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Surely if any person goes into a place of public worship not for the purpose of worship but to cause trouble and damage, that would be covered by the existing common law and criminal law, in which there is adequate provision.
§ Mr. Weatherill
I accept that, provided that one knows that the person is going there for this purpose. But I think it reasonable to say that the Bill as it stands provides adequate safeguards for places of public worship, and I should like to see it remain as it is.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Eton and Slough)
Although I entirely sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) in what she is trying to achieve with her Amendment, I am a little bothered about the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Weatherill).
I am sure that many of us have in our constituencies Sikh temples where the Sikhs gather together to worship in a public place. In my constituency they 1010 use a cafe. That becomes, I suppose, a place of public worship. It seems to me conceivable that one could get an organised, orderly but rather threatening body of people marching into such a service, possibly merely to hake up all the places and to make it impossible for the Sikhs to carry on their worship. I do not want to exaggerate this, but it seems to me that there is a potential danger in the Amendment in the form in which it has been moved.
§ Dame Joan Vickers
If it were a cafe, it would be rated. My Amendment refers to only derated places.
§ Sir A. Meyer
I do not wish to insist on the point. However, I can still imagine circumstances in which the effect of the Amendment might be undesirable. I think that it might achieve precisely the opposite effect to the one that my hon. Friend is seeking. I should have thought that the Bill as it stands gave a clear enough indication of the way that authority is supporting enlightened public opinion in this matter, and, on balance, I should be inclined to recommend that we do not accept the Amendment.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I intervene briefly in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) and to make two points, one of principle and the other of practice.
First, on the general point of principle I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that there is no evidence of any discrimination on racial grounds being practised in places of worship in Britain. As regards Christian places of worship, such discrimination would be quite contrary to the Christian religion, which, after all, both on theological grounds and on grounds of social philosophy, recognises the fundamental equality of all men in their civil rights. Nothing, I think, would cause greater scandal than a situation where discrimination was practised in a Christian church. Fortunately, it has not happened in this country, although it has, of course, happened in the United States. So it is not happening in principle.
Secondly, it is not happening in practice either. Unfortunately, the churches in Britain at the moment are so very badly attended that they are very often not in a position to refuse anyone. In 1011 fact, they are most anxious to add to their numbers.
Nevertheless, I would ask the Home Secretary whether he could not accept the Amendment. First, it would certainly do no harm. I think that the examples of harm that we have had are a little far-fetched. Secondly, it might well do some good. Thirdly—this is really the important point—it might be useful in preventing the sort of situation arising which has arisen in some parts of the United States.
I am in no position to make an ex-cathedra statement on the subject, but if I can make a statement, as it were, ex-banco, I can say that I do not think that the Catholic community would have any objection to this Clause, although, as the Archbishop of Westminster has made plain, the Catholic community has said that it does not wish to have special legislation protecting it on religious grounds because it is felt that there is no need for it and that it would be undesirable. However, the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport is a very different one, and I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to give it very sympathetic consideration.
§ Sir F. Soskice
The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) asks for a sympathetic reply. Obviously, anybody would detest and loathe any sort of exclusion from a place of religious worship of anybody who genuinely wished to worship, or, indeed, to be present when others were worshipping. I think that support for the Amendment would be abundant in every part of the House. The question is whether it is expedient and right to make it.
With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Weatherill), the relevant parts of the Bill, which I hope will be found to be perfectly adequate to deal with the mischief to which he called attention, are those in Clauses 6 and 7. They are specifically designed to prevent incitement. Clause 7 would, indeed, cover religious incitement as against incitement on ordinary colour or racial grounds.
Turning to the immediate point raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), 1012 whose sincerity everyone would recognise at once—we all delight and glory in it—I should have thought that the equality of man was deeply inherent in any of the great religions in which worship takes place in this country and that there really cannot be any need for an Amendment of the sort that she is proposing. I should have thought that it was almost unthinkable that any place of worship in this country could be used by those responsible for it for discrimination of the sort that we are trying to outlaw in the Bill.
This legislation is, of course, legislation to deal with a new problem—a problem perhaps still to emerge. The Government have said on more than one occasion that we want to get in first, as it were, and be ready with legislation to deal with mischief as and when it does emerge. But it is very unlikely in this country that we will ever get to the stage where we will see a place of worship closed or barred to anyone on the ground of origin—something that person cannot possibly help.
It would be a very sorry day if we were ever to come to that situation. I put it to the hon. Lady that a case has not arisen for the Amendment. As she will have noticed, we have tried to select the broad types of places of public resort, the ones in which perhaps this sort of friction, unhappily, could arise. We have simply generally included places of public resort in order to focus attention on the fact that this is where one might or perhaps does experience this type of friction.
Places of public worship simply do not qualify to be included on that ground. It would be almost unthinkable that in this country, whatever may happen elsewhere, we should, in the foreseeable future, unless there is a very serious deterioration in our relationship one with another, find places of public worship barred to anyone on ground of origin.
While I have every sympathy with the purpose and spirit of the Amendment and with the hon. Lady's deep feelings, I would simply say that there is not yet—perhaps I might withdraw the word "yet"—there is not a case for this sort of Amendment. I used the word "yet" and asked leave to withdraw it because I hope it never will be the case, and I cannot conceive that, in this great country, we should ever have to prohibit those 1013 responsible for places of public worship from barring particular groups because of racial origin.
§ Dame Joan Vickers
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that reply but I am not entirely happy about it. I wanted to give real assurance to people coming to this country. The Bill is prohibiting in many ways people doing this, that and the other and I thought that my Amendment would give them a welcome. However, in view of what the Home Secretary has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir D. Renton
I beg to move Amendment No. 8, Clause 1, in page 2, line 4, leave out "or neglects to afford".
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It would be convenient to discuss also Amendment No. 9, Clause 1, in the name of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in page 2, line 5, after first "or", insertrefuses or neglects to afford".
§ Sir D. Renton
Both Amendments go together, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Amendment No 8 is the paving Amendment and Amendment No. 9 achieves the result.
This is a drafting matter and one which was explored fairly fully in Committee. I do not want to take up a lot of time on it now. Having re-read what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in Committee, I was persuaded and convinced by the argument that he put forward in so far as it related to the expression "or neglects to afford" where facilities or services are concerned. But his argument did not appear to be related to the question of neglecting to afford access.
I find it a very difficult conception indeed that there can be such a thing as neglecting to afford access. It may be that my imagination has not worked deeply enough on the point. I do not think it is very easy to contemplate, however. Let us take the case of the café, which was the case we discussed in Standing Committee.
If the café is shut at times when the general public are to be excluded, then it is shut, and when the doors are open and the general public are let in, the café is open. But when the café is open like that, if a particular person is excluded 1014 from entering there is clearly a refusal of access to him. That is plain enough. But, in these circumstances, how can the position arise, if the doors are open and if he is not specifically excluded, that there is neglect to afford him access?
To overcome this difficulty surely the right thing to do is to accept the Amendments. In that case, the subsection would read:for the purposes of this section a person discriminates against another person if he refuses him access to the place in question or refuses or neglects to afford him any facilities or services available there.If the subsection were to read like that it would both fulfil the Government's intention and more nearly meet the actual circumstances which we ought to anticipate.
§ Mr. Peter Griffiths
I support my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) on Amendment No. 8, but for quite different reasons from those that he has expressed. He merely seeks to alter the wording of the Clause. I would like to alter its purpose and for that reason I did not add my name to Amendment No. 9.
To my mind, there is every objection in the world to refusing access or refusing facilities to people solely because of colour or national origin and I am certain that we all agree on that. Where I have had objection to the Bill throughout has not been on the matter of principle, but on the fact that it does not make clear exactly what is to happen and will cause persons who do not intend to discriminate to be publicly accused of discrimination. Experience has shown that this sort of accusation can be made very readily.
If a person seeks entry to a café or another place of public resort and is told that he cannot come in because he is coloured or because of some other reason then he has been refused entry. That is so clear and straightforward a position that whether the matter is dealt with by the Board or by the civil courts the case will be open and shut.
Equally, if a person is allowed to go into such premises and is refused facilities on those premises—for instance, a cinema or a swiming bath—again it would be absolutely straightforward and any person who refused him would be deliberately discriminating. On a number of 1015 occasions the Home Secretary made clear in Committee that these are the people he wants to catch—people who are deliberately discriminating—and I am with him in that.
The owner of such premises affords entry, though he does not go out and invite people to come in. That is normal commercial practice. It may be that a stallholder in a market will call to people and invite them to the stall or that the butcher anxious to get rid of stocks on Saturday night will stand at the door and invite people to come into the shop. This is not normal. Usually it is up to the customer to come forward and seek entry, and the onus rests on the customer and not on the manager.
Equally, when a customer has entered a shop, the onus of seeking service or facilities should rest with him. Today, many shops are self-service or invite one to come in and look round, and, particularly with people who, by their dress or colour, are apparently foreign, the shopkeeper may feel that he wants to give them the opportunity to look at his stock and to examine what he has for sale or what he is showing. For example, if they go into a cinema, they may want to go into the foyer or use the cloakrooms and not wish immediately to be shown to their seats, and if they are not English-speaking, this is something about which an usherette may feel kindly and generous.
It is up to the customer when he wishes to be afforded the facilities to be shown to his seat or served by the waiter or whatever it may be, but to seek facilities and to make it clear that he wants them. If he does seek them and is then refused those facilities, I would be strongly in favour of the person refusing the facilities finding himself in trouble.
However, interpreting "neglects to afford" may lead to great difficulty. Any person who is a little diffident about asking for service can later feel aggrieved and complain and the danger is that these numerous small complaints made against a cafe proprietor, or the owner of some place of entertainment, while in themselves unimportant would be regarded as important by the conciliation committee if made on a number of 1016 occasions and be likely to lead to a person who had no intention of discriminating being pilloried as some sort of race hater.
I hope that Amendment No. 8 will be accepted, and then we shall get the big fish, the deliberate discriminators, against whom we all want to see the Bill operate and for whom none of us has any sympathy.
§ Sir F. Soskice
The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire raised the drafting point and put his argument in the form a the question, "What do you mean by 'neglecting to afford access'?" The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Peter Griffiths) would go further, because he feels that if we include the words "neglect to afford" we will give rise to the possibility of a number of unsubstantial complaints.
I know that he thinks that I am naïve and ingenuous because, he thinks, I suppose that everybody is reasonable. I wish that I had passed through life able to harbour that belief. I would cherish it almost as something valuable beyond conception. I am afraid that I also think that people are sometimes unreasonable, but I must confess that I believe that it is almost naïve to think that members of the conciliation committees themselves will not at least include a high percentage of reasonable and sensible people able to distinguish very clearly between piffling unsubstantial complaints and complaints of substance. One must assume that they will be persons who can distinguish between what is important and what is not.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has ever noticed the sometimes apparently involuntary deafness of a waiter, or the curious odd circumstances that a waiter happens to be looking in the opposite direction when someone is seeking to attract his attention. It is that kind of thing—I do not say only waiters, who in general are most attentive and careful—when the waiter may not fancy a particular customer and that sort of thing, and not only among waiters but among those generally who have to receive the public on one footing or other, for which we want to provide. If we take out the element of neglecting to afford from this complex of words which go to make up the definition, we shall emasculate the Bill to such an extent that in 1017 many cases it will not mean anything and will have no effect.
I come from that to the more technical issue which was raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There may constantly be cases where there is neglect to afford access. With the open café, where the customer just walks in without hindrance and sits down at a table, we are not likely to get it, but the Bill deals with a whole variety of places of public resort, including theatres, cinemas, dance halls, sports grounds, swimming baths and so on. There may be all sorts of situations in which there is neglect to afford access.
There might be a queue and the commissionaire, or whoever is responsible for admitting people into the overcrowded cinema, when there are one, two, three or four places available, if he has a colour prejudice or those responsible for the cinema have, he could go to the queue and say, "You, you and you" and carefully leave out anybody who is coloured. I give that sort of situation as an example.
I believe that these things will be rare—I hope that they will be very rare—and because I believe that, I think that the Bill will rarely be put into effect in that kind of context. But if it were to be made open to persons in charge of public resorts to slight the racial groups whom they did not like, we would leave a wide loophole for those who wished to evade the law.
By looking in the opposite direction, or not being there at the required time, it is the easiest thing in the world to affect not to notice people waiting to buy a ticket, or to pass through a gate which has to be opened to them, or waiting to use any means of access open to the public in general. It is not so difficult for a malign-minded person who harbours prejudices and wishes to wreak his dislike on unfortunate individuals of a particular origin. It is not so difficult for him not to notice that they are waiting for access and in that way to prevent them from gaining access to the place of public resort.
The phrase "neglects to afford access" is not a phrase which stands by itself in isolation. The full context is:neglects to afford him access … in the like manner and on the like terms in and on which such access, facilities or services are 1018 available to other members of the public resorting thereto.In other words, the situation envisaged by the Clause is the situation in which access is available to members of the public at large and where, by neglect or inattention, it is so arranged that people of a particular racial or national or ethnic origin do not gain access.
I put it to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if the Amendment were made the definition would be considerably weakened and many cases which he and I and other hon. Members would wish to be covered would be left out, and I therefore hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that the House ought not to approve his Amendment.
§ Dame Joan Vickers
Would this cover those places which put up a sign outside as a result of which certain people do not enter? For example, if a deserted wife goes to get a passport for her child and is told that her husband's signature is necessary and she does not know where he is, she gives up the idea of getting a passport for the child. Would this provision cover the place which did not prevent people going in, but which nevertheless had a sign which prevented them from entering or which made them not try?
§ Sir F. Soskice
One of the difficulties is that we are on Report and not in Committee so that I cannot speak again except by leave of the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is mistaken. The Bill was committed to a Standing Committee and therefore the Minister in charge of the Bill and the mover of an Amendment has a right to speak a second time.
§ Sir F. Soskice
You have removed an obstacle in the way of giving the answer to the hon. Lady which I would very much like to give, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If there were a notice outside a place of public resort within the scope of Clause 2, it would be the most cogent evidence that any refusal of access or refusal of facilities was part of a course of conduct. If one has a notice "No coloureds wanted" in the window of some place of public resort, then it would be a very cogent reason to think that any case 1019 of individual refusal was not merely accidental but part of a course of conduct and therefore within the scope of the Bill.
§ Sir D. Renton
It was not my intention to narrow the scope of the Bill in moving this Amendment. My intention was to try to achieve greater clarity. However, I accept the explanation which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary has given and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.