§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Orbach (Stockport, South)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
When Sir Frank Soskice, as he then was, was moving the Third Reading of the Race Relations Bill, now the 1965 Act, he discussed the presence of immigrants in our midst and said that the primary purpose of the Act was to enable these immigrants to settle happily into the 898 community as fellow citizens and to prevent the kind of action that is wounding and provokes and bad feeling.
The Act was confined to dealing with discrimination in certain public places which, it was recognised, could be intensely cruel, assisted the bully and rendered the sensitive persons resentful. It is because the Act was, however, described by Sir Frank as an experimental Measure that I move this Second Reading today. This Bill extends the provisions of the Act in a number of directions. In so doing, it is covering those areas which Sir Frank envisaged when he made it clear that employment and housing were major factors to be considered and dealt with as early as possible as policy matters.
Before I examine the Bill, I suggest that it is accepted that the Act has, in one short year, proved the validity of legislation in this matter. It is a denial of those who, in letters to hon. Members and the Press, were sure that it would create greater difficulties and add to the existing tension. It was forgotten by those who opposed it that the purpose of legislation is not only to deal with the minority criminal element or to create new crimes, but to prevent crime, and that legislation also serves to set standards of decent human behaviour to which the citizen can conform.
This is what the barons did at Runnymede. This is what the 1965 Act was intended to do in relation to a national situation with world-wide implications. It demonstrated that right-minded men and women abhorred racial strife and that discrimination on grounds which the individual discriminated against could not overcome was out of keeping with the British character.
To that extent, the Act has succeeded in making prejudice and the resulting discrimination on this ground a hole and corner affair, an illicit and despised conception. The effect of the Act combined with the Bill will, I am sure, be to prevent habits of discrimination by actively promoting equality of treatment and will thereby prevent discrimination from spreading. This operation is part of the educational process of establishing a pattern in our society which while worthy ethically will also, I hope, prove to be just as sound economically.
899 The Bill seeks to amend the Act to enable it to define specifically places of public resort because the existing wording of the Act is so restrictive. Clause 2 of the Bill adds to the existing places of public resort… any shop, office, agency, premises or place to which the public have … access whether on payment or otherwise.The Race Relations Board has found, in practice, that the Amendment is necessary if it is to cover public places effectively. It was obvious early on that the intention of the Act called for some precision in this aspect. Clause 3 of the Bill deals with discrimination in the wider economic fields. Evidence has been accumulated of racial discriminatory practices in employment and, as my right lion. Friend the Home Secretary said last May, the employment aspect is rapidly becoming central to the whole future of our intergration policy.
The Government are already committed internationally, under Convention 122 of the I.L.O., which is concerned to ensure that there is free choice and full opportunity for workers regardless of race, religion and origin, and probably would have already accepted Convention 111 if it did not include within it the question of sex discrimination in employment.
The Race Relations Board has had 198 cases referred to it during the last few months, but was unable to deal with a considerable number, 66 of which were in employment discrimination. But whether a score, or 200, or 2,000 men and women suffered discrimination of this kind, the dignity of the individual is struck at when ability and merit are fructified and prejudice enters into the task of earning one's daily bread.
In May, my right hon. Friend referred to discrimination in employment against children of first generation immigrants. He has been followed by the recent very critical report of the Inner London Education Authority. In all these questions of employment, I make it clear that the Bill provides for exceptions. It will not cover employment in private households. Neither will it deter discrimination where this can be justified as a prerequisite for the job. I hope that it will be recognised by anyone opposing the Bill that 900 there is on this side a little greater delicacy about this matter than comes all too frequently from hon. Members opposite.
On the trade union side, I am convinced that once we have got rid of racial discrimination we shall be able to strengthen collective bargaining. We are told that one of the great difficulties is that, in stores, customers might object to being served by someone who is coloured. It is a delicate situation to be served in this way. It may be disturbing—as delicate a situation as exists in our hospitals, where not one single instance of disturbance has been reported as a result of the services given by devoted indigenous, black, and brown nurses and doctors.
I turn now to another economic aspect. The Milner Holland Report pointed to the social evils which were created like festering sores when discrimination in housing existed. Scarcity is blamed on the immigrant. The immigrant is used as a scapegoat, but also as a milch cow. He rents or is sold property at exorbitant, impossible, prices and he can secure a mortgage only at an indecent rate of interest. He is inhibited by high and unjustified insurance charges and then is condemned when he seeks to cover all his outgoings by lettings which lead to overcrowding. We must endeavour to stop the creation of ghettoes, to prevent the further extension of blighted areas where urban renewal could become impossible.
The Bill therefore makes it unlawful to discriminate in the sale or letting of land, as in Clause 5, and premises or accommodation, as in Clause 3—other than that—and again I demonstrate the delicacy of my hon. Friends—in which the landlord shares facilities with his tenants. It also makes it unlawful to discriminate in insurance, banking, hire purchase any other credit facility or service. All this is spelt out in Clause 3 and I am not anxious to delay the House by giving more details.
I now pass rapidly to the second part of the Bill. It will be recalled that during the Second Reading of the present Act there was urged on the Government the need for conciliation machinery. The whole purpose of the Bill is insistence that penalties are introduced only as a last resort, only when discussion and conciliation have failed.
901 However, the present Race Relations Board has an impossible task. It finds that most of the reasons for discrimination referred to it are outside the present Act. But where these are within the discretion of the Board, its ability to bring about conciliation is hampered by its lack of powers to obtain evidence, to summon witnesses, or to make judgments, other than a reference to the Attorney-General when the conciliation efforts have failed. Even if a person can establish, with the assistance of the Attorney-General, that he has been a victim of discrimination, there is no relief, however wounding the discrimination may have been.
For instance, a person may at common law recover damages if he is discriminated against on racial grounds in a hotel, but he cannot recover damages if he is discriminated against in a restaurant or public house. If we are sincere about this, and in earnest, it is vital that the Board, which we envisage dealing with the wider sphere of economic discrimination, should have adequate powers. The changes which I am putting forward would increase the work of the Board and it is, therefore, necessary to enlarge its membership from three to a maximum of eight and a minimum of seven, including at least one legally qualified person able to conduct the sort of examination which might be required from time to time.
The local conciliation committees would, as now, undertake the initial investigation of a complaint and attempt to secure compliance with the law. Where it was unable to resolve an issue or to get any assurance about future conduct, or where an assurance previously given was not being observed, it would, as now, report to the Board. On consideration of the report, the Board might, if it thought fit, convene a hearing of the complaint. Under the Bill, it would be given power in connection with such a hearing to subpoena witnesses, to require, if necessary, the production of the relevant documents, and it could take evidence on oath. Three members, including a legally qualified member, would constitute a quorum and legal or other representation would be permitted.
It is proposed that the hearing would normally be held in public, but it could be held in private if the Board were of 902 the opinion that that would be more appropriate. The Bill lays down the powers of the Board consequent upon an alleged discriminatory act being reported to it. It would decide whether or not there had been contravention and would give the reasons for its decision in writing. It could dismiss a complaint, or order the discriminator not to contravene the terms of the Bill, or require him to take positive measures to comply with the objectives of the Bill, including the payment of damages to the victim.
A legal critic of the 1965 Act wrote:The best way of dealing with racial discrimination is to guarantee an effective remedy to those who suffer from it".I am not sure that that is the best way, but it is one way. The Board's orders, therefore, would be registered in the county court and, in the event of any breach, the Board could bring proceedings to enforce the order as an order of the court. Appeal on a matter of law would be to the High Court.
After the receipt of a complaint by the local conciliation committee, either it or the Board would have power to take steps to prevent the alleged discriminator from frustrating any order which the Board might subsequently wish to make in the proceedings of the Board, the power to order interim steps to comply.
Within the limits of the present Act and the Long Title of the Bill I have sought to extend the law so as to contain discrimination and to provide an adequate method for conciliating the parties, or restraining the discriminator from further acts which might damage or disturb community relations. I have been concerned not with penalties, but with legal sanctions which will set a new pattern and open up new horizons.
I have not dealt with the whole problem of racism or even of religious prejudice. There is a necessity to deal with these matters which have already been shown to constitute an immediate barrier to racial harmony. Prejudice ultimately can be attacked mainly through the educational process. Discrimination manifested in actual conduct which is harmful behaviour can be dealt with by legal means, as in the Bill, always bearing in mind that the law is itself an educational measure.
903 Legislation against the evils of racism and anti-Semitism is only now becoming possible because public opinion has been influenced and motivated to the extent that the idea of legislation is acceptable. I might have dealt with teaching which, used unscrupulously, can nurture prejudice and poison the wells of objectivity, or even with private clubs practising discrimination and which, using their privacy for bigotry and fostering a false status, turn their backs on the world.
The 1965 Act has been criticised in that it does not cover religion. There is concern not only because Jews and Catholics consider themselves frequently to be the victims of discrimination, but because, as has been found, there is a possible loophole for those who claim that they are discriminating against people not because of their colour, but because they are Hindus, Muslims, or Sikhs. At the same time, it is surely quite wrong that evilly disposed person should be permitted to disseminate hate literature through the medium of a bogus book club or to circumvent the 1965 Act by resort to pseudo-genetic polemics, by the selection and distortion of facts, and so bring hatred and contempt to people of another colour, race or religion. It is wrong that these are clearly not offences under the law.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is responsible for integration, said in September:There are certain organisations and elements in the country who have found means of circumventing the Act and are sailing close to the law with their scurrilous literature".These organisations and individuals can do great harm to society and they should not be allowed to trail their ugly doctrines.
The charges against the Bill will be levelled by some, with little sense of history, on the basis that making all forms of economic discrimination an offence ought not to be accepted because it might be a denial of liberty. But surely liberty is a trust. It must be based on society and not be anti-society.
It must conform to natural law and to common law, guaranteeing a freedom to all, the freedom to develop man's potential in the interests of the community, not the freedom of the individual 904 to develop some base nihilism. The President of the United States has said:Racism, whether it comes packaged in the Nazi brown shirt or a three buttoned suit, destroys the moral fibre of the nation.When it speaks from these benches, in our free and democratic Parliament it is a poisonous growth. The 1965 Act was designed to deal with the problems created by those who refused to accept new arrivals in our midst.
The new arrivals have now settled down, their children have attended our schools and many of the latter, brought up in an integrated atmosphere where the ugliness of racialism was not apparent, now face the hideous influences with which this Bill seeks to deal. Their parents brought us their labour and their children now have skills which have been given them by the community and which should be used for the benefit of the whole community.
Within the next five years there will be many brown and black, English, Welsh and Scottish children leaving school with a valuable contribution to make to the technological age. To deny them the opportunity of working at tasks which they can perform would not only create a class of under citizen but is also treachery to our economic future. Prejudice and discrimination do not pay, either in the short or the long run. Racialism or prejudice and discrimination is not founded upon social reality. Essentially, prejudices of this nature are a political symbol. It suits the creation of the cultivation of intense group loyalties to the detriment of other groups, it may change society, as it once did, but it will do so only at the expense of democracy.
We cannot as a nation be schizophrenic and demand in Rhodesia what we have not assured at home. These prejudices and discriminations, with which the Bill seeks to deal, are illusions and snares. We have had these illusions in the past—the belief in witchcraft, human slavery, the divine right of kings, the domination of women. They all survived for a time because they gave encouragement to privilege. Political opportunism and personal inadequacy were there all the time. If the Bill is not accepted what is the alternative? The danger is that the 2 per cent. of our population of other origin, of other colour, in our midst, who 905 can make a contribution as valuable to society as ours as have immigrants in the past, will feel a special sense of isolation. The danger is that the futility which they feel will become corrosive. There will be a negation of hope, a loss of nerve and finally a descent to despair and violence.
I was privileged to lead a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation to Singapore and Hong Kong during the Recess. In both places my colleagues and I found multi-racial societies which display no tensions between the different peoples making up the three communities. All the factors for action and interaction were present but perhaps the rule of law insisted upon by successive British administrations has been responsible for a healthy and stable situation. The Governor of Hong Kong received instructions in 1865 over 100 years ago, which forbade him to agree to any ordinances… whereby persons of African or Asiatic birth may be subjected to any disabilities or restrictions to which persons of European birth or descent are not also subject.The ideal of equality for all races under the law is the guiding principle.
This Bill deals with the types of discrimination to which minority groups are at present particularly vulnerable. My hope is that this Bill will bring this ideal of equality for all peoples under the law nearer to reality in our land.
§ 1.36 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
The provisions of the Race Relations Act, 1965, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach) has said, has now been in force for just over a year. My hon. Friend quoted the words of Lord Stow Hill, then Sir Frank Soskice, the Home Secretary, in moving the Third Reading of the Bill. I would remind the House that in moving the Second Reading of the Bill he said that the Bill was directed to achieving the task of settling the new arrivals into our community as first-class citizens. He referred to overt acts of discrimination in public places, which not only wounded the feelings of the persons who suffered them, but which bred ill-will in the community.
My hon. Friend has made an excellent speech in putting forward the provisions of his Bill. He clearly recognised that the Act of 1965 has not, during the year 906 in which it has been in operation, gone any great distance towards achieving its objects. It has certainly achieved the purpose of showing the public how necessary it was to have such a Measure and it certainly showed that the ill-effects of the Bill, prophesied by critics, were not apparent in the result. The main point of the Bill is to see that more teeth are put into the 1965 Act.
My hon. Friend has first of all amended Section 1 of the Act to cover places of public resort. In particular he has added shops, agency premises and places to which the public have access. During the Committee stage of the 1965 Act my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), who I am glad to see here, sought unsuccessfully to include a somewhat similar provision. There can really be no argument against it. Discrimination should not be permitted in a shop, an off-licence or a travel agency.
I read with great interest the debate which followed the introduction of an Amendment to insert this during the Committee stage. I could not see any argument as to why this provision should not be made. My hon. Friend has dealt with employment and housing. From the very outset it was recognised that these were areas in which discrimination was practised to a considerable extent. The 1965 Act failed to deal with employment and housing and this Bill boldly attacks these matters.
It tackles the employer, the trade unions and the employment agencies. With regard to housing its provisions cover the disposal of land and the duty of estate agents. It wisely extends the application of the Act to local authorities. I am very glad to see that the obnoxious exclusions of insurance companies, banks and hire purchase companies, which discriminate in many cases, are made illegal by the provisions of the Bill. I have always been in favour of a policy of conciliation and against the increase of the list of criminal offences. Every effort must be made to deal with any complaint by conciliation but the difficulty about the provisions of the 1965 Act was that the powers of the Race Relations Board were limited to making inquiries. If it could not dispose of a grievance, all it could do was to report the matter to the Attorney-General or to 907 the Lord Advocate. Whether any proceedings—for example, by way of an injunction—followed depended entirely upon these Ministers.
Again, the provisions of the Bill put teeth into the procedure before the Board. The new Schedule 2 set out in Clause 6 gives power to require the attendance of witnesses, presumably by subpoena, and to take evidence on oath. The new subsection (3H) set out in Clause 4 provides a sanction for disobedience without reasonable excuse. I also welcome the power to be given to the Board to make an order and to register it in the county court. By this means it will be made effective as a court order, with all the consequences that follow. In my view, the provisions of the Bill are very well drawn in pursuing the civil nature of the proceedings and not embarking on criminal remedies.
I appreciate that this is a far-reaching Measure, but it deals with a far-reaching problem. My hon. Friend referred to the children. I have visited many schools in my area, and it is a delightful sight to see how the children mix—white and coloured—with no prejudice, playing together, studying together, and growing up together. It is surely wrong that when these children leave school and face the world they should be subject to prejudice and discrimination. The Bill will help to remedy this.
Like others, I have received a circular letter from what is called the Society for the Preservation of All Races. It nonsensically talks of the avowed intention of certain elements in Parliament to restrict the freedom of speech on the race issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Discrimination is the very antithesis of true freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not licence to attack others because of their colour, race, or origin. There is nothing in the Bill and there is nothing in the 1965 Act to prevent legitimate criticism and the expression of views which do not offend in this respect.
It may be that the Government cannot go the whole way with my hon. Friend, though I hope that they can. At any rate, I hope that the Bill will achieve the object of making a further real effort to deal with this problem.
§ 1.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
The Bill is merely the latest stage in what has been a protracted campaign in the matter of community and race relations. There can be no better person than my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach) to present the Bill. From my personal knowledge over a good many years, there is no Member of the House who has worked harder in the fight against discrimination, particularly in the economic field, but also elsewhere, than my hon. Friend.
Let no one be under any illusion—the sponsors of the Bill are not—that merely by getting the Bill enacted we shall achieve our entire object, which is a community free from discrimination and prejudice. It is often argued against legislative proposals, as indeed it was over the 1965 Act that prejudice and ill-feeling towards minority groups cannot be abolished by legislation. No one who has campaigned for legislation over many years has ever argued that it can be.
What we have said, and what we shall continue to say, is that legislation provides two main methods by which the campaign is continued in society: first, by laying down a nationally accepted norm of reasonable and decent conduct towards individuals; and, secondly, by so doing, contributing in major part towards the educational campaign with which all of us have been concerned.
The Bill goes well beyond this. I do not expect—I am sure that no sponsor of the Bill will expect—the Minister to jump to the Dispatch Box before the afternoon is over to say that the Government accept the Bill. We would like this to happen. We ask that within a very short space of time decisions are made at Cabinet level to introduce legislation of the type submitted to the House today. We do not even argue that every detail of the Bill must be accepted by the Government in any proposals they eventually bring forward. It may even be that there are sponsors of the Bill who would like to see certain detailed provisions. We should be glad to see these, either in any retabling by the Government or in Committee.
I repeat that what we ask is that a decision be made very soon, because, unless a decision is made very soon at higher level in the Government, it will be 909 some time before effective action can be taken legislatively. I do not have to spell that out to the Minister; he will know it better than I.
I want to concentrate for the most part, having made those general observations, on one aspect of the subject. When I have spoken on this matter in the past I have tended to speak in general terms, to deal with the social effects of discriminatory practices, and perhaps to specify in some detail my concern over the urban and housing conditions generally where-ever questions of race relations have arisen in our cities.
What we have also said, here and elsewhere, is that perhaps our greatest problem and the greatest unknown is in employment. Most of us, if we wish to study housing problems in detail, can eventually learn the states of affairs in our various cities. However, it is very difficult to get at the detailed facts of the employment situation.
There is considerable indicative, as well as some specific, evidence of a very worrying situation which is developing. It is not just worrying from the point of view of the minority. This is another point which needs to be underlined here and on other occasions. When we speak of discrimination, we are not merely standing in defence of a minority. We are standing in defence of our whole community. An insult, a degrading action, the undermining of the personality and of the capacity to be fully employed of a member of a minority group, is the undermining of our position in society, both individually and collectively.
This is so even if we do not take this any further. It is arguing the case that we need to make use to the fullest possible extent of all the abilities in society, but this cannot be done so long as people are discriminated against, whatever minority it may be, although we know that we are more concerned at this stage with the question of the coloured minorities, because it is against them that most discrimination is practised today. This has not always been so. There have been other minorities in the past, but today we must be mostly concerned with the discrimination against the coloured minority.
I understand that some employers discriminate—I have learned this from constant discussion with employers and 910 Others—because they are worried about the difficulties they might encounter from employing immigrants who come into contact with the public, although this is clearly contradicted by the experience of those employers, both public and private, who have had an open employment policy.
It is true also, as a matter of prejudice, that some employers really believe that immigrants and coloured people may be employed and should be employed only on certain types of work. They are under the impression—one can define this only as prejudice—that immigrants are suited only for certain types of unskilled or, at best, semi-skilled occupations.
One can see actual evidence of discrimination, even if one cannot spell it out statistically. For example, on the public transport services in London there is no discrimination among employees on the Underground and the buses on the servicing side, but one wonders—I put it no higher at this stage—why no inspectors are seen, in spite of the decade or more during which people from foreign and Commonwealth countries have been employed on London Transport services. There are still examples of railway depots where no coloured people are employed, and in certain instances it is believed that there are obstacles to promotion in those depots and elsewhere.
We hear much praise year after year of the part which West Indian nurses play in our hospital service, but I still find it difficult to understand why it is rare, if not impossible, to find such a nurse employed in a teaching hospital. I know that there are reasons given about educational qualifications, but I hope to see the day when there are some employed in the teaching hospitals, and I should like a check on this to be made by the Ministry of Health. It is still very rare to see coloured people employed in the police forces, the Metropolitan Police Force or elsewhere, in the ambulance service or in the fire service. Why? Specific and detailed inquiries into these questions should be made.
Employers welcome coloured workers for unskilled jobs, but it is still quite rare, outside Government Departments and local authorities, or a good many local authorities, at least, to see coloured people employed in clerical jobs.
911 There are personal prejudices, there are fears and there is caution on the part of employers in their attitudes on these matters. They say they fear what other workers would say or do. Sometimes, there may be substance in these fears, but, more often than not, the employers or their managers are just not concerned to test the situation. They merely presume, when they have little or no evidence to support their presumption. Sometimes, there is a minority voice raised in a factory or place of employment and it is assumed without investigation that the minority voice represents the majority of workers there, and again discrimination is practised because there is not the courage, or, perhaps, the managerial integrity to check the situation and test it by the employment of immigrant workers.
It is known that, in certain instances, employers have paid immigrants below the proper rate for the job. There have been occasions when trade unions have had to move in militantly and organise in a factory so that people become members of the union and are thereby able to negotiate the proper rate for their job and stand equally with their white partners.
We know—I stress this—of the excellent work done by managers of labour exchanges and their staffs in these matters, but it still remains true that many officials of the Ministry of Labour do not send coloured workers to certain firms because of discrimination by the employers, although the basic principle of submission for employment is supposed to be—I quote from the official history of the Ministry of Labour—that the best qualified persons should be submitted, without regard to irrelevant considerations such as race, colour, sex or belief".Can the Minister of Labour and his Department put their hands on their hearts and say that that principle is fully applied?
I turn now to the question of private employment agencies, which would be seriously affected, and rightly so, by the application of the Bill. Not very long ago, the leading West London employment agency in Praed Street was checked and it was found that 69 out of 70 vacancies in the sample taken were subject to discrimination against coloured people. 912 I am prepared, if necessary, to give the Minister the name of the firm concerned so that he can find out whether this practice is still operated by that private employment agency, one of the leading and most widely advertised in London. Here are examples of the jobs advertised in the sample taken: an insurance broker's office boy, a storeman, litigation clerks, book-keepers, a shipper's cable clerk, travel agency typists. By some act of God, presumably, in the eyes of that agency or the people who advertise through it, these jobs must not be filled by people of coloured skin.
Some of the major stores in both Central London and Kensington discriminate, as do some of the chain stores. From time to time they have been interviewed by reporters and others and have been quoted on the matter. Not long ago, a manageress in British Home Stores was quoted as saying, "We do not take coloured people at all". Others have said, "We employ them behind the scenes, but if we were to employ them on counters, the customers would object". Which customers would object? What inquiries have been made of customers? Harrods—there could be no more notable store—has been quoted in the past as saying, "We have many coloured workers, but we have not yet got them as sales assistants. The management's view is rather like that of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police: anyone in direct contact with all customers must be acceptable to all customers".
What about the banks? I understand that there is no colour bar in the Midland Bank, but we are not certain about the National Provincial and Lloyds. Some time ago, an official of the Westminster Bank was quoted as saying, "We have to provide the sort of service the customers want". There was a check some time ago to see what the position was in Barclays. At that time, no coloured workers were on counter duties. It may be that the situation has now changed and improved. What I am suggesting is that this is a situation which the Government should investigate, and it could be investigated with thoroughness if the Bill were to become law.
I come now to the problem of school-leavers. It is here that we must show the greatest anxiety and sense of humanity. I do not wish to be cynical, 913 and I know that my hon. Friends will accept that I am not being cynical when I say, from a background of immigrant generations in my own family, that one has, in a sense, to accept that, when a group of immigrants come into any society, there are difficulties and prejudices for the first generation and adults, so to speak, have got to put up with it. We have to harden ourselves. In the past, this has been so even in the second and third generations, wrong though it has been.
Wrong as that has been, what we must be fundamentally concerned with is the position of young people born in this country, who must come forward as free and equal citizens, not just because it is good for them as individuals and right for them, not just because it is right for us that we should do the right thing by them, but because in the broader sense, if we do not, then heaven help this society because of the seeds of bitterness and hatred which will be passed on from one generation to the next.
We have seen enough of this in Europe, particularly in recent years, and wrongs derived from racialism of another kind, which led eventually to the concentration camps—not so many years ago. We do not want to happen in this society what happened in that, and we must take action now to make sure that school leavers, when they leave school, leave as equals when they seek employment in our society.
Reference has been made to the Inner London Authority's recent report to the special committee of the Ministry of Education investigating immigration and the youth services. I would like to refer to a note which was sent on this point by the education officer of my own Borough of Brent. It is very delicately worded. It was in reply to the particular question about any difficulties which might be experienced by young immigrants leaving school and seeking employment, and it read as follows:The youth employment officer necessarily requires to deal carefully with the problems of placing immigrants in employment. If, for whatever reasons, an employer is reluctant to recruit a young immigrant, then the introduction is not made. It would not be true to say there is difficulty in finding suitable employment, but some opportunities are not open to immigrant school-leavers.It is very diplomatically worded. I may say, in passing, that I am pursuing this 914 reference in some detail with the department of my local authority to get further information about this. The youth employment officer is an excellent person, there is no question about that, who works very hard and well on behalf of the youngsters who go to her, but she is faced with this very difficult situation.
We have not in the past paid sufficient attention in depth to the task of officials in this position, and the action envisaged under the Bill, through the Race Relations Board and the conciliation committee procedure, could give immense backing to officials such as the local youth employment officers who have this difficulty and would enable them to open up, in discussion of these problems which they face, more opportunities for young people, and it would strengthen relations with employers.
I have a detailed report produced not long ago by a Dr. Barnardo's working party on the position of young people and I would quote briefly from it:Some forms of employment are understood still to have very few openings for coloured staff, for example, police, banks, insurance, accountancy, retail fashion stores, hairdressers, and some other jobs involving contact with the public. Coloured candidates are also alleged to be at a disadvantage for apprenticeships, training schemes and promotion.One cannot ignore such moderate language coming from an organisation such as this, which has had long experience with youngsters over many years.
I would remind hon. Members of the Report of the Commonwealth Immigrants Advisory Council in 1964:At present, there is full employment in the country as a whole and we have received no evidence that immigrant school leavers are unemployed. We have no reason to think that the larger numbers of immigrant pupils leaving school in a few years' time will not also find jobs, although they might find it significantly more difficult than others boys and girls to do so if there were a change in the general economic situation and more competition for jobs.That is a point we should bear very much in mind in the present economic situation.We are more apprehensive as regards both the future and the present that they may have difficulty in finding the right job for their qualifications and abilities.This is a point which came out in discussions which I had with the local youth employment officer, and this is a matter 915 we ought to discuss in detail. It is not that coloured youngsters do not get jobs, but the fact that there are factories and other places of employment which do not open their doors to them or do not open them widely enough, so that there are young people who are not being given that full choice of opportunity which all young people should have to make use of their abilities.
It has been said that we worry too much about this. Something very much like this was said a few evenings ago in this Chamber during a discussion of the problems of the immigrant school-leaver. I do not accept this. If there were evidence of only a dozen coloured youngsters in this country being discriminated against, or if there were evidence of only a dozen Irish youngsters or Jewish youngsters or Catholic youngsters, whatever the minority may be, it would be a matter for serious anxiety and concern and a matter for action.
If we cannot get action just by discussion with people then we must organise to take action, and if organisation requires legislation, then for heaven's sake let us legislate, because if the situation does continue here we might—I stress, might—get a situation parallel to the situation which has grown up in certain communities in America. Some semi-hysterical people in this country have suggested that there is in fact a parallel here now. There is nothing like a parallel here now, but there are seeds of a parallel—of a similar situation growing up.
We are in the beneficial position of taking action now, in law, in public administration, and in social administration, to prevent that situation from developing. If it does, it will be a sin not only against the individuals concerned; not just a sin against society as we know it today; but it will be a sin against all we want to see developing in this country in future. We must take action for our own sakes, as well as for the sakes of the individuals concerned.
§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
This debate today is more or less a repetition of what we have had many times before in some form or another. It is about the rights and liberties and 916 protection of certain people in our society, but not about the rights and liberties of the British born people here; it is more about the rights and liberties of the minorities and the people who choose to come and live with us. I would have thought that there would have been more said about the freedoms and rights of our own people.
This Bill, as I say, does not help them in any way, but it is certainly about the discrimination and preferences of individuals. It seeks by law to take away from the majority of our people certain rights of preference and discrimination. I do not think that it is right to legislate to the extent to which the Bill proposes.
The hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach) said that we could not hope to achieve the ideal situation which we would all like to see in a society by means of legislation. He said, quite rightly, that it can be achieved only by educational processes, and here I agree with him. This is one reason why I oppose the Bill.
Many accusations have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but precious little proof has been provided to support them. Some figures have been given which I do not dispute, but we were told that there were 66 reported cases of failure to get employment. I think that this is a very small figure indeed, something which is not to be worried about, and something about which apparently the Minister of Labour is not worried. But let us be sure about this figure of 66. These are not proved cases of discrimination. They are only reported cases. We do not know that there was discrimination because apparently no investigation was made into them.
It is quite clear that this Bill has been presented because of the dissatisfaction of a small number of Government supporters with the original Bill introduced by the Government. They tried to amend that Bill—the Act as it is now—in Committee, but apparently the Government did not think that legislation should go as far as is proposed in this Measure, otherwise they would have accepted some of the Amendments put forward in Committee and some of the arguments advanced then, and which have been advanced again today.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that we now have a Government who are prepared to learn from experience? The fact that they opposed certain Amendments on a previous occasion does not mean that they are not prepared to reconsider their position now that they know how things are moving.
I accept that the Government are now prepared to learn from experience. It has taken far too long for some of the things which the Government have experienced to sink in.
One of my objections to the Bill is that it seeks by legislation to regulate people's behaviour—behaviour which so far has been thought reasonable in the eyes of the law. It seeks to take away the right of peaceful and harmless people to choose their associates. Some people do not wish to share some of the peculiar habits of foreign people. It is not to be presumed that the habits of some of the people who live abroad are bad, but some of the people in this land—and in every land so far as I know—do not wish to share those habits and preferences. There is every reason in the world for leaving such people with the freedom of choice. They should be left to choose their associates, and the people with whom they live, work and trade. I cannot support any legislation which proposes to take away that freedom.
There are many among us, and among all communities, who indulge in such things as hatred of, and preference for, different people. I see on the benches opposite several hon. Gentlemen who show their preference for certain people. If the Bill becomes law, it will apply only to people who show those preferences against people of foreign origin, or of coloured skin. The Bill seeks to legislate on hatreds and preferences, but only if they are directed against people of foreign origin, and not against our own people.
§ Mr. Gurden
I did not interrupt when hon. Gentlemen opposite were making their speeches, and I should like to get on with mine.
918 The Bill seeks to take away the right of people to show their preferences, and to choose their associates. I do not see why there should be an Act of Parliament which creates preferences for the immigrants here, while not conferring the same right on our own people. There are hon. Gentlemen opposite who wish to show their abhorrence of, and perhaps even hatred for, white Rhodesians, but not for coloured. This Bill will not help to prevent hatred. It will help only if the Rhodesians concerned are black. I think that this Measure is extremely one-sided.
Can the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and indeed the Minister, tell me whether the trade unions have been consulted about Clause 3(1,b)? I have always understood that the party opposite disliked introducing legislation which affected trade unions without first consultating them and getting their co-operation. Nothing has been said about this, and I wonder what attitude the trade unions will take to this Clause.
Perhaps I might remind hon. Gentlemen opposite of the Rookes v. Barnard case. Mr. Rookes was the subject of a conspiracy—it was proved in law to be a conspiracy—between his trade union and his employer. He lost his job as a result of that conspiracy. What will happen in future in the sort of case which occurs every day where someone loses his job because of non co-operation with a union, or with some part of a union, or with a shop steward?
These cases are no longer brought to the courts because of the recent legislation which prevents that. Let us suppose that Mr. Rookes or a similar person in his position happened to be a coloured person. Suppose he happened to be an immigrant, or of foreign origin. What would the situation be? Would the union or the employer have the right to discriminate against him and take his job away? If such a person happened to be an Englishman, according to the present law he would lose his job.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
Is not the hon. Gentleman under a misapprehension? What happened in the case of Rookes v. Barnard was that Mr. Rookes allowed his trade union membership to lapse. It would not have made any 919 difference if he had been white, black or coloured.
§ Mr. Gurden
As I understand it, it would have made a considerable difference. According to my reading of the situation there was a conspiracy against him. If there were a conspiracy against any man it could be claimed that it was because of his origin—because of the colour of his skin. That is the point that I am making.
On 8th December a debate was initiated by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick), who discussed the question of coloured school leavers finding employment. From my reading of the report of the debate the Minister's view was that this was only a very small problem. He said that only 1.6 per cent. of all school leavers were not placed in employment. That is a very good record. The Minister said that there was no evidence that coloured children were unable to find employment. If that is the case, it shows that some of the things said about the employment of immigrants is wrong, and that there is not such a strong case to be made.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
The hon. Member has referred to an Adjournment debate which I initiated the other day. It is true that the Parliamentary Secretary gave the figure which the hon. Gentleman has quoted, but the point was made in that debate that many coloured youngsters were probably in jobs not equal to their ability, and that many of them had taken unskilled and semi-skilled jobs simply because they could not get work in the professions, owing to the colour of their skin.
§ Mr. Gurden
I accept that. I suppose that there are many people of all races and religions—including our own—who might not be able to get some job or other in this country, and of whom it could be said that they failed to do so because of their race. But we all know that in many cases these people do not have the necessary qualifications. There is no proof. It is very difficult to be convinced by what the Minister said in that debate that there is any real difficulty.
I was about to turn to Clause 3(1,f) concerning the insurance business as it affects immigrants. I would have thought 920 that in the insurance business it has always been recognised that there are high-risk categories of people. In all forms of insurance, and certainly in motor car insurance, there is difficulty in deciding whether or not an insurance company should accept a certain risk. I would have thought that it was most important to leave insurance companies absolutely free to accept whatever risk they liked. [Interruption.] Oh, yes. This is a business transaction. If hon. Members are surprised at that I ask them whether they would like to risk their own money by taking on the burden that is now taken on by the insurance people, in assessing risk. It is a purely business transaction.
The Bill says that an insurance company should have no right to refuse to accept a person as a risk, and to insure him, if he has a coloured skin or is of some other race.
§ Mr. Gurden
The hon. Member says, "So long as it is only for that reason." How is it to be shown that that is the real reason? Let us suppose that an insurance company says, "We did not take this risk because we think that people of this nationality are a higher category risk." Is not this racial discrimination? What sort of case could be made of that?
The Bill goes still further, in that it talks about loans. I suppose it really means hire-purchase loans—cases where credit is given. Where is there a person—either here or outside the House—who would say that it shall be the law that loans shall be granted to anybody, irrespective of race? Surely the same consideration applies here. A person or company loaning money should have the right to decide whether or not the risk is a good or bad one. If there is a refusal to grant a loan by a moneylender, a building society or a bank, what right have we to ask on what grounds the refusal is made? None of us would like to lend our money without having the right to decide for ourselves, according to our preference.
We all know that it is difficult to identify some immigrants who have lived with us. We know the difficulties experienced by local authorities in enforcing the multi-occupation laws in respect 921 of housing, and identifying the real landlord or owner of property. Would it not be equally difficult to identify the person who had borrowed money, and so obtain repayment?
Will the Minister tell us the exact view of the Government on the Bill? Is it to be understood that the original Measure was inefficient? Is it so deficient—such a bad Bill—that it should be amended already? It is a comparatively new Bill. I would have thought that the matter was in its experimental stage, and that the Minister was a very busy man, trying to discover the defects or inefficiencies of the present Measure. Is such a Bill as this not premature?
Does the Minister believe that the Bill is really enforceable? I would have thought, on reading its provisions, that it was quite unenforceable, and that it would encourage snoopers. Perhaps that is one of the things that hon. Members opposite want. They seem to be amused. I can assure them that any Bill which encourages snoopers among us is not a good one. I noticed that in the debate about the employment of young coloured people the Minister said that youth employment officers had to report to the Minister any cases where an employer refused to take on a coloured person. That is a form of snooping. I do not know what the Minister's opinion of that is. Apparently the result of the snooping is to be reported to higher levels. Is it true that if an employer shows preference for one type of person as against another he is reported at high levels? If so, what are those high levels, and what action is taken? My only criticism in this respect is of snooping.
By and large this Bill is quite unnecessary. I do not believe that our people have reached a dangerous point of discrimination. No complaints have been made to me or to my friends in my constituency by these immigrants. On the contrary, they say that they are being fairly treated.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
If my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach) had wanted evidence of interest in his Bill, he has it in the number of hon. Members with a relatively large number of immigrants in their constituencies who have stayed behind to contribute to this debate.
922 I shall not follow for long the remarks of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), but I want to refer to just one or two of them. He cited as an objection to the Bill that it sought to regulate people's behaviour. I thought that one of the functions of a legislative assembly and of law was to regulate people's behaviour. That is our function. Therefore, rather than have it cited as an objection it could be used as an argument in support of the Bill.
One point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) cannot be stressed enough. It is one thing to talk about immigrants having to face difficulties—difficulties that at times they may have helped to create—but it is quite another thing for the hon. Member for Selly Oak to complain that the Bill does not seek to assist British people who are born here. What my hon. Friend was trying to point out, and what I want to underline, is that, irrespective of our attitude to immigrants, we will, within the next ten or fifteen years, have a relatively large number of young people who have been born here and who are distinguishable only by their colour.
It is perfectly true that we cannot legislate against ideas—we cannot by legislation prevent people believing what they want to believe—but legislation can make it much more difficult for them to express their prejudices. There is a difference between prejudice and discrimination. Discrimination is a means by which people express their prejudices. If we make discrimination more difficult, we begin to change the pattern of society and of behaviour. Legislation is important, not because it stops people holding prejudiced ideas, but because it makes it more difficult for those ideas to be expressed by discrimination.
It has been said that one of the difficulties is that complaints received by the Race Relations Board do not come within its scope. They are complaints about employment and housing, and these are probably the matters that concern us most. If we allow a society to develop in which we do not give equal employment and housing opportunities to all, if we allow a society to develop in which certain avenues of employment are closed to one section of the community—in 923 this case, the coloured section—we shall start to create a society that is class and colour divided, and find a tendency, the seeds of which are already being sown, to bar certain status jobs that carry a high financial reward.
If that is allowed to happen, the section discriminated against in regard to employment will be forced into certain areas of housing. This is happening already. Hon. Members in whose constituencies there are large numbers of immigrants are beginning to see this pattern emerge. We are getting a division of jobs, some of which are being taken in the main by coloured immigrants because of the low reward involved, plus discrimination, and that is reflected in the housing situation, where one tends to get what are described as ghettoes—although I do not like the word, nor do I accept it.
Some areas are becoming distinguished by being mainly occupied by a large number of coloured people. If action is not taken against discrimination, the ideas that people hold about inferiority will become self-fulfilling prophecies, because it will be argued that these people are only fit to do this sort of work, and like to live in this sort of housing. That is why it is so important to legislate to make it more difficult for people's prejudices to be allowed to develop, particularly among our young people.
I can understand some resistance to legislation because some compulsion is involved, but if one does not prevent the development of the type of pattern I have described, and if one does not make it easier for certain ethnic groups to take status jobs, we shall, as years go by, have a situation with which we cannot deal. If one is to be treated or operated on by a coloured medical man, or if one is to be defended by a coloured lawyer, it is difficult to believe that he is inferior, because one is relying on him to do something for which one is not qualified. That is why, when talking of inferiority and superiority, one must see that the doors of opportunity are not closed to certain groups merely on account of colour.
The interesting thing about a debate such as that on the Adjournment debate initiated recently by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) often lies in the different im- 924 pression it has on listeners. I have looked up what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said on that occasion about the employment of coloured school leavers, and I did not get the impression spoken of by the hon. Member for Selly Oak.
My hon. Friend talked of the difficulties of placing coloured school leavers in retail distribution, office work, insurance companies, banks, and hairdressing. She said, over other aspects of employment that it was difficult to prove that colour had had an influence because there were more people after these jobs than had been applying for them before, but it follows that there might be some evidence of colour discrimination in the jobs that I have mentioned. My hon. Friend said that it was always argued that it is the customers who object and that this is why there is discrimination in these service industries.
It is true that most coloured school-leavers have been placed, but what we want to know is whether they have been placed in jobs which are inferior to the qualifications which they hold. In considering the question of customer objection, I would tell the House of a hairdresser I know very well who employs a coloured girl. I have repeatedly asked him whether he has had any objections from the customers, and the answer is, "No. Nobody has said anything at all."
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Did the hon. Lady see a recent television programme in which it was revealed that two members of the staff of the B.B.C., one coloured and one white, applied for some jobs? Almost invariably the coloured person was turned away and told that no vacancy existed, but shortly afterwards, when the white person applied, he was immediately accepted for the job. Does not this show that this discrimination exists?
§ Miss Lestor
I did not see that programme, but I remember referring to a programme which I saw previously—I think that I referred to this in May—which dealt with exactly the same point and brought out the argument which I am making.
My constituency of Eton and Slough has a large number of immigrants of various backgrounds and origins. 925 Recently we have had drawn to our attention allegations that many of the immigrants who are qualified are employed in unskilled and semi-skilled occupations. Because it is difficult to deal with allegations, the Council on Social Service has decided to conduct a survey to find out what is the truth in respect of graduates and other reasonably qualified people.
This will be useful for it will establish to what extent it is colour, to what extent it is language and to what extent it is something else which arises here, but it will be useless to have the information available if at the end of the day we can do nothing about it. This is why it is very important that the Government should support the kind of legislation that is reflected in the Bill. To know the facts, to have the information, and yet to have no means of rectifying the position is a useless situation.
Those of us who are Members of the House or members of local authorities or similar bodies, on which we represent people, should recognise that it is very important that those in authority are seen to frown on discrimination of this sort, because we set the pattern of the ideas that people hold. If we do not take action which makes it clear that we disapprove of discrimination, we shall give an excuse and a justification for those people who wish to practise this sort of behaviour, who wish to indulge in discrimination and who express their prejudices in the unattractive way that has been described.
Legislation will not solve all the problem—certainly not in the short term. It will help to solve the problem in the long term. Above all, what it will do is to limit the avenues whereby prejudice can be expressed and then, in the long run, it will alter the behaviour patterns of society, and we shall begin to build a society in which status is accorded to a person in accord not with the colour of his skin but with his ability as a human being.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene briefly in the debate and I should like to declare straight away that I do not believe that on the issue of conscience on racial discrimination there is anything 926 dividing me and a great many of my right hon. and hon. Friends from those hon. Members who have promoted and supported the Bill. To me, any idea or conception of discrimination between the Queen's subjects in this country on grounds of colour, religion or any other ground is complete anathema. I believe that there is no difference between the ultimate object which I hold and that which is held by those who have moved and supported the Bill—the object which we desire in this country of freedom from discrimination of this kind.
But a great deal separates us on the means to that end. Having made my declaration, I may seem somewhat paradoxical to those who have supported the Bill when I say that I shall come out clearly against it. The hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) said that one of the purposes of legislation is to regulate behaviour. Of course it is. But behaviour cannot be regulated by legislation beyond the field which is acceptable to the general conscience of the community. I concede at once that in Parliament we have a duty to lead in these matters, and sometimes we have failed in it, but we should be erring if we thought that we had a duty to drive.
The enormous immigration of people of a different colour from ourselves into this country has created a very difficult problem, and we must all face that fact. It is a problem which cannot be considered in the abstract and which cannot be considered apart from the education and outlook of those inhabitants of this country who come from British stock and British sources. This country has benefited enormously over the centuries from immigration. We have benefited greatly from European immigration. If we go back far enough, there is hardly anyone in this Chamber who is not of Flemish or Huguenot stock or who has not ancestors within the last 400 or 500 years who came to this country from Europe.
But their colour has been what we call white and they have been easily assimilable. What we have seen over the last 15 and 20 years, and certainly over the last 10 years, is an enormous influx of people whose colour is different and who are much less easily assimilable. It will take not one or two generations 927 —it might take hundreds of years—before, racially speaking. they are integrated into the British stock in these islands, and we shall blind ourselves to the realities of the situation if we do not face it. If we fail to tackle this problem properly and tactfully and in consonance with the feelings of the existing bulk of the citizens of the country, we shall create problems in these islands for which posterity will find it difficult to forgive US.
I appreciate and pay full regard to the feelings on this subject of those who move a Bill of this kind, but it seems to me that the population of the country cannot be driven in this matter. As the hon. Lady said, they must be educated—and education will be a long process.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that not a single social reform of importance in this country has been achieved without legislation?
§ Mr. Grieve
I certainly would not agree. A great many have been achieved without legislation. Legislation is only a part of the process of education, and it cannot run violently ahead of the feeling of the population.
I will illustrate what I mean in this context by reference to revived Section 1D in Clause 3. If I remember aright, this, or something like it, was part of the 1965 Act before it was amended by the Government in Committee and altered beyond recognition. Section 1D, according to the Bill, reads:It shall be unlawful for any person disposing whether by sale, letting, or otherwise, of any land, premises or accommodation, to discriminate by himself his servant or agent against any person in making such disposal".On the face of it, this would apply to the widow letting a room in her house to a tenant——
§ Mr. Grieve
I shall come to the exception in a moment, if the hon. Member will allow me to proceed.
Let us look at the proviso and see exactly how far it goes:Provided that this section shall not apply to the disposal of premises forming part of a dwelling-house of which the remainder or part928of the remainder is occupied as his own residence by the person who is disposing of such premises or by a person on whose behalf such premises are so disposed, if such a person is entitled in common with the person to whom the premises are disposed or to be disposed to the use of any accommodation other than accommodation required for the purposes of access to the premises.If my recollection serves me right, this was in the original 1965 Bill, or words very similar to it were. The effect of it is as follows. I concede at once that it excludes the case of the widow who lets a room in her house to somebody who has the use of the kitchen, the lavatory or the bathroom or any other accommodation apart from the entrance hall. But it does not exclude a widow who lets rooms in her house to somebody who has the use of a lavatory or a bathroom or a kitchenette of such premises not held in common with the landlady.
This illustrates the problem. Are we as a legislature really to say that a widow who decides to break her house up into two self-contained parts is to be obliged, irrespective of her feelings in the matter, to take anybody who comes along, and—I do not condone her prejudices—if such a person happens to be an immigrant, he is entitled to go along to a tribunal or a court and say, "She refused me. The only reason why she could possibly have refused me was that I am coloured."? It seems to me that it would be intolerable—I believe that there are many people in this country who will accept what I say in this context—that the ordinary citizen should be put into this position. That is why I say that it is only by a process of education that tolerance and a full degree of tolerance, can be applied by the ordinary citizen.
To take an example, a person might be refused because he had red hair and the landlady did not like red hair.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Not the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor).
§ Mr. Grieve
No, not the hon. Lady. That was not a personal allusion at all.
Surely the landlady, in these circumstances, is entitled to reserve her reasons to herself and should not be forced to declare them to any tribunal or court in the land when deciding to whom she shall let rooms in her house.
§ Mr. Freeson
The hon. Member is making much of the question of accommodation which would, in effect, be shared. Is he accepting by implication the principle that has been stated in the Bill generally in so far as it applies to accommodation normally to let—flats and houses, and for sale? In other words, is he making a Committee point?
§ Mr. Grieve
If the Bill got so far, this would obviously be a point for Committee. My recollection is that this was a Committee point in the last Bill until the whole thing was dropped and the Bill was completely reshaped. There would be a case, I think, for the point which the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) has made in the letting of accommodation generally.
I am using this not as a Committee point, bat to illustrate what I mean when I say that public opinion must be educated, and I cannot believe that in a matter of this kind it ought to be driven beyond a certain point. I believe that we as a legislature would be doing a grave disservice to the cause of human rights in this country if we sought to drive public opinion beyond the point where there is, as it were, a frontier between what is a matter of obvious public right and what is a matter of private discrimination.
There is little more that I desire to say, save that I have taken only one point in the Bill. The Bill follows closely upon the Race Relations Act, 1955, which it desires to amend. That Act was something very new in our legislation, something which took the question of race beyond anything that had gone before in legislation, and it has not yet had time to prove itself. I submit that we should be going much too far in amending that Act at this early stage before it has had a chance to be proved by experience as being of real service to the community.
I make that point because of what have already said, that the enormous influx of people who are obviously not racially assimilable over one or two generations, taking human nature as it is, has created a grave problem, and that the answers to it cannot be forced but must be given time and attention so that they may form themselves.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
The hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) seems to have under-estimated the effect which legislation may have on forming attitudes. Many ordinary law-abiding people are influenced by legislation later on in forming their attitude to colour prejudice and discrimination.
We have heard the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) on the subject a number of times. He has contributed to nearly all the debates which we have had about race relations. However, I have not heard him on one occasion, as someone from whom an example might be taken, stand up in the House and condemn discrimination and incitement on the grounds of race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin. It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman has been putting up a case over a period of time in which he has failed to state his opinion on these matters and has been prepared to support and speak for the lowest common denominator of people, perhaps in his own constituency, who are prone to colour prejudice.
The whole House owes a great debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach). The Race Relations Act, 1965, has left us in a situation where discrimination is out-lawed in precisely those places where it is least likely to occur and incitement is outlawed where it is least likely to be effective. The problem at that time was not faced up to squarely by the then Home Secretary. I am confident that a far more responsive and sympathetic attitude will come from the Home Office today.
It is ironical that the leading spokesman for the Opposition on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill, Mr. Thorneycroft, said:The right hon. and learned Gentleman is tackling a very narrow area of discrimination. If one asks those with any knowledge of the subject what the areas are, they will say that the most important are employment and housing.He went on:The question of jobs is left completely outside. Yet if one asks any group of coloured immigrants, one will find that they are concerned with getting a job…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1965; Vol. 711, c. 946–7.]931 Quite rightly, he pointed out that the main deficiency of the Act was that it did not cover those two spheres with regard to discrimination. I am glad that I am able to support Amendments to the Act which have been put forward today by my hon. Friend.
I do not wish to dwell on these matters, other than to say that one point in the Bill about which I am pleased is that at last the weakness of the conciliation committees will be dealt with. Their greatest weakness is that they do not have power at present to subpoena and call witnesses before them. The conciliation committees will be crippled unless the matter is dealt with at the utmost speed.
I want to discuss not so much what is in the Bill as what is not in the Bill and some very much needed amendments about which I had something to say in an Adjournment debate earlier this year. Yesterday, I received a letter from an organisation which purports to represent those who wish to preserve racial integrity. Hon. Members who have received its literature in the past, as I have, know that it is an organisation which has been fomenting racial hatred, and it has links going to the British National Party and other openly Nazi groups. For all its respectable exterior, it is linked with that type of organisation. What concerns me is that, so far, except in two blatant cases, the Attorney-General has been powerless to act under existing law to deal with people belonging to that sort of organisation who deliberately foment hatred against people on the grounds of their colour.
I do not believe that it is impossible to frame our law to deal with the problem and, although I shall not go into any great detail, I have before me examples of legislation throughout Western Europe. I will just quote part of the Danish criminal code, which says:Any person who exposes to ridicule or insults the dogmas or worship of any lawfully existing religious community and any person who, by circulating false rumours or accusations, persecutes or incites hatred against any group of the population because of its creed, race or nationality, is liable to punishment.I shall not quote any more, but I have a large number of examples which any potential legislator might consult to arrive at a form of wording to cover the problem with which we have to deal.
932 During the Adjournment debate to which I have referred, I expressed concern about the remarkable loophole in our existing law which allows members of a book club which is publishing literature that would otherwise be illegal under the Race Relations Act to be exempt from that Act. That is a remarkable situation. It does not only apply to consenting adults in private, because youngsters and other people not associated with racialistic organisations can be drawn in. They can join a book club, as can any other member of the public, by the simple expedient of buying a magazine which also allows the purchaser to become a member of the club. As soon as a person becomes a member, the Race Relations Act does not apply.
This was pointed out at the time, but was not accepted and the matter needs urgent attention by the Home Secretary. The situation we have, therefore, is that the only case where we are liable to be able to deal with this problem is in the case of stickers or throw-away leaflets and, by and large, books and publications are liable not to be covered because of this remarkable loophole. We warned the Government during the Committee stage of the Act and, indeed, I moved an Amendment to rectify the point. We said that the Act might be used in the wrong way because there is a provision in it which does not relate to race relations but is only an extension of the Public Order Act.
Reading "Mandrake", in the Sunday Telegraph recently, it came as a shock to me to learn that the first conviction under the Race Relations Act was not in relation to race at all, but against someone who was far from being a racialist. When the Act was going through the House, our warnings went unheeded, as they did on other matters. But there is now a new climate of opinion at the Home Office and I and my hon. Friends will expect that all these matters will be looked at again.
This Bill would have been a splendid opportunity to deal with the problem of religious discrimination. In Manchester, we have a delicate problem concerning the wearing of turbans by Sikhs on the buses. I do not want to impute any wrong motives to those workers in opposition who adhere to the strict regulations and feel that turbans should not be worn. 933 But, whether they understand this or not, they are creating a form of religious discrimination because it is part of the religion of the Sikh that he must wear his turban. Anyone who has seen the Sea Cadets, or has been to Sandhurst, or has seen the record of the Sikhs during the war, knows that Sikhs even go into battle wearing the turban.
The question of religious discrimination should have been dealt with in the Act. Not only is religious discrimination equally as abhorrent as racial discrimination—and I have made many contributions on this matter in debates on Northern Ireland—but, as has been said, religious discrimination may often be a subterfuge for what is, in fact, racial discrimination against, for example Sikhs, Moslems, Hindus, Jews and others.
The Act and this Bill, and all that is implied, are in line with modern thinking. We are poised on the brink of entry into the E.E.C. and it is interesting to note that the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, on 27th January last, made a certain recommendation about legislation. It invited member Governments to initiate effective legislation against incitement to racial, national and religious hatred and violence. In States where such legislation already existed, it invited the Governments to review the scope and effectiveness of their legislation in the light of present-day circumstances. It requested member Governments to take all steps in their power to ensure that existing legislation was rigorously enforced.
I do not believe that our legislation is altogether effective either in its scope or teeth. It does not include religious hatred and it can hardly be said at this moment to be rigorously enforced. I hope that the Bill will go some way to making it more effective. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is both sympathetic to what we are doing and has done a great deal to help the integration of immigrants and to create a good atmosphere between immigrants and the people of the areas to which they have gone. I hope that he and my right hon. Friend will review carefully the way in which we can make this law effective and give it teeth not only with regard to discrimination, but also with regard to incitement.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Maurice Foley)
It might be helpful to the House if, at this stage in our debate, I indicated the Government's attitude to the Bill. We heard from the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve), who, I think, was echoing the kind of feeling which we had in the debate a short time ago on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, that speakers on both sides of the House had made clear their conviction that there must be no discrimination on grounds of race or colour in any part of our national life. I believe that there is now general agreement among us that all those who have made their homes in this country must be treated on a basis of complete equality, whatever their national origin.
This, then, happily, is the background to our debate today and so we can concentrate our discussion on considering the methods by which we can most effectively make a success of our new multi-racial society. It is for this reason that I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach) for bringing the Bill before the House, because he has given us a welcome opportunity to explore the various courses which are open to us.
My hon. Friend has emphasised the complex question which underlies the Bill, namely, to what extent legislation is either necessary or desirable as a means of ensuring that racial prejudice cannot flourish in the circumstances of our community. We are agreed that it has an important part to play and I think that the Government have given proof of their belief in this by passing the Race Relations Act and creating the Race Relations Board.
What seems to be at issue is whether such legislation should be extended and made as comprehensive as possible to cover a whole range of human activities, or whether our attack on prejudice should rely mainly on the ordinary law of the land combined with education and persuasion and not on special statutory powers. Clearly, in the debate this afternoon there have been differences of opinion on this issue. One must recognise that there are two sides to the discussion about the extension of powers and where the main effort ought to be made.
935 The argument of those who believe that the support of far-reaching legislation is essential if public opinion is to make its opposition and of prejudice fully effective can be broadly summarised as follows: although legislation cannot remove the prejudice itself, it can prevent acts of discrimination and by so doing can have a real influence on society by making it difficult, if not impossible, for prejudice to manifest itself. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) particularly made this point.
Thus, it is said, prejudice will tend to disappear as it finds that it is prevented by law from expressing itself in overt acts of discrimination. Those who hold this view, and hold it quite sincerely, maintain that legislation can be shown to have this educational effect, since, when it exists in other countries, it is rarely necessary to invoke the full measure of the law to ensure compliance with it, and that the very fact that it is on the Statute Book means that people "pull up their socks" and want to conform.
On the other hand, there are those who argue that the education of public opinion is not the proper function of legislation and that the root causes of prejudice, ignorance and fear, must first be attacked by conciliation, persuasion and example and that when they have been successfully removed by these means, acts of discrimination will no longer be respectable and condoned and prejudice itself will disappear.
The correct answer almost certainly lies in striking the balance between legislation and education. Just as we have shown our belief in legislation by setting up the Race Relations Board, so we have to recognise the important rôle of education by developing the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants under the chairmanship of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury.
We believe that it is too soon to say with any assurance just where the balance should eventually lie in the future pattern of action. In saying this, I do not deny that there are still too many incidents of discrimination in employment and in housing; too many for us to assume that the powers and machinery currently at the disposal of the Government and the Race Relations Board are necessarily adequate.
936 From our own experiences we can all recount instances of blatant discrimination, on the grounds of colour, giving weight and emphasis to the fact that the present legislation is inadequate. The difficulties of legislation on the lines proposed in my hon. Friend's Bill, on a subject so complex and intangible as racial prejudice, should not be underestimated. We must always be vigilant to preserve the freedom of every citizen to express his or her opinion, whether or not it is acceptable to the majority.
We must be careful not to trespass on the rights of an employer to select those whom he is willing to employ. Any proposal to impose a degree of statutory control over trade union administration would certainly require, and receive, the closest possible scrutiny from all kinds of sources. It is difficult to frame a definition of discrimination in housing which would effectively deal with the sort of abuse of which we all know and which would, at the same time, exclude cases when people may have not unreasonable grounds for declining to sell or to let their property to someone else.
A statutory requirement that bankers and insurance companies must not discriminate could, in some instances, be considered to amount to interference with the proper exercise of commercial judgment. Let me say to all who have raised these issues that I do not give these examples of possible difficulties in any obstructive spirit. We have not closed our minds to the possibility of amending the Race Relations Act so as to widen its scope and extend the Board's powers. We should be anxious to avoid any premature hardening of attitudes on this difficult question. If we are to effect change we must make sure that we find the right solution, and if it be shown that additional legislation is required, we must be careful to see that we introduce practical legislation, which will provide real remedies and which is not open to easy evasion.
To do this we need more factual information than is now available. We welcome the survey which is now being conducted by P.E.P. on behalf of the Race Relations Board and the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants. The objects of this survey are to establish in what ways racial minorities are being discriminated against and to 937 what extent there is discrimination in employment, housing, credit facilities such as mortgage and hire purchase, motor insurance, car hire, admission to hotels as residents, camps and caravan sites, and in personal services such as hairdressing and medical care.
Government Departments are giving those conducting the survey their full co-operation and I hope that any organisation or individual asked for assistance in establishing the facts will be equally ready to provide it. The findings of this survey should be available early next year. It would be premature, therefore, to draw firm conclusions on the extent of discrimination and the machinery required to deal with it before we have had the opportunity to study its report.
This certainly does not mean that we should just sit back and wait for the report and do nothing in the meantime. We intend to go on using all the means we have at our disposal to remove any manifestations of racial prejudice from our national life. We shall continue our support for the National Committee and for those who are devoting their time and energy to the education of public opinion and to the solution of various new problems which are facing people in their day-to-day work.
We also want to see the existing Race Relations Act used to the full. As the House knows, the Board has been in effective operation for only a number of months and has so far been concerned with setting up local conciliation committees which it is required to appoint under Section 2. Three committees have now been appointed, and between them they cover the whole country. Eventually, there will be a total of 14 committees. The Board has also appointed a chief conciliation officer and three conciliation officers working in the field. A great deal of progress has been made and I express the Government's gratitude to all those who have seen the importance of the Board's work and who have agreed to serve on its conciliation committees.
It is not, however, only through organisations such as the Board and the National Committee that progress can be made within our present resources.
§ Mr. Chapman
My hon. Friend is leaving the question of the survey and the results which are likely to be available early next year. Will he confirm that, if the survey shows that there is a need to strengthen this legislation, the Government will bring in their own Bill to do so? We ought to have an absolutely clear pledge on that today.
§ Mr. Foley
My hon. Friend should let me finish, and if he is not satisfied at the end he is entitled to pose the question to me in quite categoric terms. I referred to the survey as a basis for establishing the real picture on which we could form a balanced judgement and determine what needs to be done. Clearly, the extent of the comprehensiveness of the survey and the extent to which it can clearly demonstrate fields in which much needs to be done will have a decisive effect on the Government in terms of their future attitude. I make that point absolutely crystal clear.
I want to go on from that and say that the Government themselves, in the meantime, are not sitting still waiting for someone else to make a survey. The Government themselves must and have given a lead, both as employers and in other ways. We can easily make the statement that we are firmly opposed to forms of discrimination in the public service, but we must make quite sure that this policy is being fully implemented.
The House will be pleased to know that Ministers have undertaken recently a survey within their own Departments to satisfy themselves that in the recruitment policies carried out by Government Departments they themselves have put their own house in order. This is an on-going inquiry. It is not a sporadic thing. It will continue to be part and parcel of the Government's concern, reflected in the initiatives of individual a survey within their own Departments I should like to feel that this sort of example was followed by the heads of large industrial and commercial organisations.
I particularly welcome the reference made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough to people in responsibility giving a lead——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that we shall not have too many interventions. There are still many hon. Member who wish to speak.
§ Mr. Winnick
Is any progress to be made towards ensuring that Government contracts contain a Clause forbidding any form of discrimination on grounds of race?
§ Mr. Foley
My hon. Friend will be aware that this is a responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Questions have been tabled to him. He has said that this is being contemplated. Discussions have been held with both sides of industry, and these are continuing. I wish I could have reported further progress and tangible results, but the matter is still in the process of consultation and discussion.
I return to the question of giving a lead and setting an example. I should like to feel that all hon. Members would use their own influence in combating discrimination. In my own particular function, when I hear of cases of racial discrimination in my constituency, I always take them up. I write to the managing director of a firm, perhaps, to find out what the position is. I say, "This is the incident. Will you look into it? Is your personnel officer engaging in his own prejudices, or is this the policy of your company?" I always receive courteous replies, and these are followed up by useful discussions. Often, it is a question either of union attitude or a jaundiced view held by someone in the lower ranks of management.
This is the way in which one can effect change. Each one of us could do a lot more in this respect. For instance, with the full support of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, arising from recent debates in the House and reports outside, I have recently written to leading banks expressing our concern at recent reports that they will not employ coloured staff, particularly school-leavers, and I have asked them for an indication of their policy.
I hope that hon. Members will, in their own constituencies, particularly when there are allegations of discrimination, take the matter up as one of urgency. I am sure that a very great deal can be 940 achieved in this way. But if, in the light of the fuller assessment of the need and the extent of discrimination in this country, we come to the conclusion that existing methods are inadequate, we shall give serious consideration to the need for and the feasibility of strengthening the existing law and administrative machinery.
I hope that, in view of this assurance, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, South will feel able to withdraw his Bill in the knowledge that this debate has drawn public attention to a difficult and controversial issue. We in the Government would like to see it thoroughly discussed in the country at large over the next few months so that we shall have available to us adequate information and opinions on which to take decisions on an issue which will be of great significance for the future well-being of our society.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
I accept wholeheartedly what the Minister has said, that all of us in the House agree that all people who have made their homes in this country must be treated with absolute equality. In earnest of that, I accept and support, on behalf of this side of the House, the invitation which he gave, that it is the duty of Members of Parliament not merely to say so passively, but to take up in their own constituencies individual cases of discrimination in the way he suggests.
I must apologise to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach) for not being here when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I was led to believe that a great deal of excitement might be engendered by the Tokyo Covention Bill, and for that reason, I am sorry to say, I missed what was evidently a treat.
Broadly, the hon. Gentleman's Bill would do two things. It is designed to widen the scope of the existing Act and also to sharpen or, indeed, add some sanctions to the existing Act. As for widening the scope, I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, as did Mr. Thorneycroft when he spoke from this side of the House in 1965. He said then, and I say now, that it is really in jobs and homes more than anything else that the shoe pinches.
941 If the Government intend, as seems likely from a reading between the lines of the Minister's speech, to bring in new legislation, we on this side would like to see that matter tackled long before the other part of the Bill, the attempt to give criminal sanctions either to the Board or to anyone else for breaches.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) said, we must realise that there are limits in the use of the criminal law for regulating behaviour; if we impose too great a strain on the criminal law, if we make it do things it really cannot do, and it is a very heavy, rough instrument, we shall not only fail in this regard but we shall bring the whole law into contempt. Whereas there is, I agree, an educative element in legislation there is also, on the other side of the balance, as the Minister mentioned, a very grave danger that if we multiply the criminal law we shall bring even those parts of it which are readily observed into the same blanket contempt. So that I hope the Government, in their consideration of the matter, will bear that influence very much in mind.
I was very impressed by what the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) had to say about the need for including religion as well as race among the divisive influences in the country. It seems to me that the whole purpose of what we are dicussing here is that to see that divisive influences in our community are reduced to the minimum, and undoubtedly religion is often just as divisive as race, and that is just as unfair. So if there is to be more legislation—something which the previous Home Secretary, Lord Stow Hill, seemed to think very unlikely—I hope that the question of religious discrimination will also be included.
I would read, however, on this matter of further legislation, a remarkable sentence from the speech of Sir Frank Soskice, as he then was, during the debate on the Third Reading of the previous Measure. He said:It would be an ugly day in this country if we had to come back to Parliament to extend tie scope of this legislation …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1965; Vo.1 716,c. 1056.]It would be "an ugly day". Well! Well! I gather that the Minister does not take that view. Certainly, the hon. Member 942 for Stockport, South does not take that view. Nor do I. It seems to me that it is absolutely right that this matter should be kept under review constantly. I think that the scope of the conciliation procedure may well have to he extended to jobs and homes.
But I must warn the Minister to think very carefully before invoking the heavy wheels of criminal sanctions for something which is intensely human and emotional, something which—[Interruption.] I hear that there are not criminal sanctions here, but in fact a great deal of sanctions are put in by this Bill. I do not want to strike a controversial note when I am just about to sit down, as I am about to do because many other people want to speak, but we see that in Clause 4 powers are to be given to the Board—and if powers are not sanctions I do not know what are—and they are powers which at present the Board has not got. It may, for instance,require any party to do such act or thing (including the payment to any other party of such sum of money …If that is not a power to exercise some sort of sanction I do not know what is. However, do not let us get into a semantic argument about what is or is not a sanction. The purpose of the Bill is to give teeth to the Board, and I call these criminal sanctions. However, never mind: we will not argue about words at this stage.
I think that the purpose we all have in mind has been very well ventilated, and no one is more pleased than I to hear that the Government are keeping the matter under close review, and for the reasons I have mentioned we on this side of the House shall not by any means oppose them in their purposes.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Evan Luard (Oxford)
There is no doubt that the Race Relations Act of last year represented a significant step forward in the legislation on race relations in this country, and I do not think it should be under-estimated, but if we are honest we must recognise that the fields in which discrimination really hurts the ordinary immigrant to this country are two, which have been mentioned already today, housing and employment, and it was precisely those two fields which are not in an effective way covered by the Act of last year.
943 What is relevant to consider in a debate of this kind are the kinds of discrimination which are suffered by immigrant peoples in those fields and the best ways in which they can be relieved or at least diminished.
I had intended to speak only on the subject of housing, but I should like to say a few words about employment because in my constituency I have come across some relevant and direct statistics on this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) said that it was very difficult to come across hard facts, and this is true, but an organisation in Oxford called the Oxford Committee for Racial Integration, with which I have been associated for a long time, undertook a survey of employers in Oxford to try to determine their attitude to the employment of immigrants. Of 90 firms which were approached, 37 already employed coloured immigrants, and 53 did not. Of those which did not, 11 said that they would object to employing Commonwealth immigrants.
That is the most direct form of discrimination which is admitted when an approach is made, but I think that it is important to bear in mind that normally discrimination does not take that form. It is rather rare than an employer or landlady says in so many words, "I do not take that kind of person". Much more often it is said, "I am sorry, I have no vacancies". Discrimination in this form is very much more common than is shown by this or any other survey which it is possible to undertake. It is precisely this kind of discrimination which the machinery proposed in the Bill is particularly well equipped to modify or diminish, because, if there are complaints of this kind, it will be possible for, first, the local board, and then the national board, to undertake a thorough inquiry into the reasons why employment has been refused, and to consider whether there are good reasons for it, or whether there is concealed discrimination.
The next point which it is important to make with regard to employment is that there are no doubt many spheres in which there is no discrimination. Building is an example of this. Prob- 944 ably no building firm would refuse to take on immigrant labour, but there are other areas in which discrimination is common. In banks, for example, and among other white collar employers reasons are often found for not taking on immigrant labour. The Oxford organisation to which I have referred undertook a survey of the banks in Oxford. Not one of them employs coloured persons, although they all claim that they do not have any particular prejudice against immigrants.
Last summer there was in Oxford a Commonwealth immigrant who was well qualified in banking. He had taken his first examination of the Institute of Bankers, and had spent several years in banking in his own country, but he was unable to get a job in a bank in Oxford. Owing to the efforts of this organisation, it was finally possible to find him a job in a bank in Slough. I am sorry to have to say, and I do so with all respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), that the banks in Slough adopt a more enlightened attitude than the banks in Oxford, a city which in many other ways is extremely enlightened.
My final point about employment is that even when immigrant people can get into a trade, they may find great difficulty in getting promotion. This is just as serious from the point of view of the immigrants, and will be even more serious in the years to come than the difficulty of getting employment. A survey carried out by the Oxford organisation showed that there are many firms which, even if they accept immigrants in certain positions, are reluctant to promote them; even to such positions as charge-hand or foreman. This creates a situation of great frustration for immigrant people who get jobs in those spheres.
§ Mr. Gurden
Does it not strike the hon. Gentleman as equally significant that there is not one coloured immigrant member of the party opposite on those benches?
§ Mr. Luard
We have had coloured candidates for Parliament. If that candidate had sat on for one or two more elections in that seat he might have been with us today. Many of us who know him are sad indeed that we do 945 not have the pleasure of having him on these benches. I agree that this would have been the best way for this party to set an example. In terms of employment, the machinery suggested is precisely what is required to examine matters of this kind and to ensure that things improve in the future.
In housing, too, there is much factual material which shows us the extent of discrimination. The clearest and most authoritative is provided by the Milner Holland Report on Housing in London, which said:there is, we find, a marked degree of reluctance among private landlords to let to coloured tenants and, where these lettings occur, the rents are in general higher.Later on it said that even where accommodation was advertised27 per cent. of landlords clearly barred coloured people and only 6 per cent. indicated that coloured tenants would be welcome.Another survey into cases of accommodation which was advertised showed thatin only 11 per cent. of all lettings would the landlord both advertise the letting and not exclude coloured tenants.A similar survey was undertaken of Oxford landladies and there, of 189 landladies interviewed, 59 per cent. said that they would be reluctant to take coloured students.
These facts are fairly well documented. Coloured persons experience great difficulty generally, and this difficulty is increased because of the difficulty of acquiring houses by methods which would be relatively easy for white people. It is often not easy for coloured people to obtain council house accommodation, at least in the early stages—not because of any discrimination by the authorities but simply because there is often a fairly lengthy residential qualification which immigrants do not acquire for some time.
Similarly, it is often difficult for them to buy houses on mortgage—again not necessarily because of discrimination, although there may be some cases of this. The general difficulty is, first, because of financial limits and, secondly, because it is felt that an immigrant family may return to its country of origin in the future. In many cities we have seen the congregation of immigrant people, often in semi-slum property, and we have also seen the undesirable social effects which have resulted. These were well docu- 946 mented in a very interesting article in New Society by Professor Rex last year.
We must be on our guard against reaching the position which has already been reached in some parts of the United States, where semi-ghetto areas have been created in the middle of cities. That is a matter in which the Race Relations Board and the conciliation procedure set out in the Bill could be of the utmost value.
On several occasions today it has been said that we cannot legislate against discrimination. In a certain sense that is true; we cannot legislate about people's thoughts. But we can legislate, to some extent, about their actions. Legislation can set up the right kind of machinery for inquiring into these cases and, as far as possible, ensuring that they do not recur.
We flatter ourselves that on the question of toleration and the treatment of immigrant peoples we are slightly more advanced than are many other societies, but we are entirely wrong in thinking this, because many other societies already have effective legislation covering precisely this subject. This is legislation that the Government would be well-advised to examine carefully. The United States is often quoted as a country which is not particularly advanced in these matters, but many American States have commissions to do precisely the kind of work proposed to be done by the Bill. There is the New York Commission on Human Rights and the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination, and in Ontario there is the Canadian Commission against Discrimination.
The machinery proposed in the Bill can provide a real step forward towards solving the difficult problem that faces our society in this respect.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I apologise to the hon. Member for Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach) for not being present when he presented his Bill, but my hon. Friends and I wish him every success, as is evidenced by the fact that two of my hon. Friends are named as supporters. I can assure him that all my hon. Friends support the principles enunciated in the Bill. It has been most gratifying to find, in that part of the debate to which I have listened, approval 947 from all sides of the principles of this Measure.
The only difficulty we face is in knowing whether this is the precise moment to introduce legislation of this character or whether we should await the result of the survey of which the Under-Secretary of State has told us. My view is that the hon. Member would be wise to stick to his guns, because nothing could be more calculated to concentrate the Home Office mind than to knowledge that the Bill was being discussed in Standing Committee whilst the findings of the survey were awaited.
The Under-Secretary told us that it is always difficult to decide whether one should allow freedom of expression of opinion and whether that should prevent the introduction of such legislation as this, but I think that we are denying certain people freedom of another kind. Because we do not have this sort of legislation on the Statute Book, we are denying them economic freedom to obtain work that is within their capacity, and the social freedom to move to a place where they would like to reside and live in a type of property for which they can pay.
Many examples of this denial have been quoted, and I would mention a survey that has been carried out by the Young Liberals in Manchester—copies of which have, I think, been sent to many hon. Members—which provides very solid evidence of the discrimination that takes place in the Manchester area against the employment of immigrants, and of people in the coloured community generally, whether or not they have come from the Commonwealth in recent years.
I agree with the hon. Lady for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) that we are not talking only of people who have recently entered the country from the Commonwealth but, increasingly, about a generation who do not know the country of their parents' origin but have been brought up entirely in the United Kingdom. I am extremely proud to say that the head of the Liberal Party organisation is a man of Indian blood whose parents came to this country, where he has been brought up entirely from birth. My party has a very proud record in this 948 respect, not only in that case, but because we have always stuck up for the principle that there should be no discrimination whatever in housing or employment. That is why my party very much welcomes this Bill, and wishes it success.
I agree with those who have said that the provisions of this Measure should have been extended to religion. I remind the House of what was said about the employment of Sikhs on buses in Manchester, and that is not the only example that could have been given. I am further disappointed that the hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to extend the provisions to Northern Ireland, where we all know that a good deal of religious discrimination occurs. I understand that this matter has been discussed in the Standing Committee dealing with the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill, and that much disquiet has been expressed. This would have been a good opportunity to extend the principles of the Race Relations Act, 1965, to religion, as well as dealing with existing types of discrimination. As hon. Members have said, legislation cannot remove prejudice, but it can remove acts of discrimination—and those were the words of the Under-Secretary of State. In any event, this is not an excuse for inaction by the House. We have a duty to educate the general public by means' of the legislation that we pass, and I hope that the Bill will receive a unanimous Second Reading.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. David Marquand (Ashfield)
In three minutes I wish to make one point which has so far not been made and which concerns the part of the Bill which deals with insurance. There is no doubt that, in fact although not in name, there exists considerable racial discrimination in insurance.
An additional reason why legislation is necessary is that at the moment the leading case taken in the High Court in 1922 in effect enjoins discrimination on insurance companies so that within the framework of the existing law it is not possible to achieve the purposes that we all desire. It is necessary to introduce legislation if we are to eliminate racial and other forms of discrimination in this respect.
949 I have said that in less than three minutes, but it is the point that I want to put on the record.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr Orbach
I rise to thank my hon. Friends who have supported me in the representations that I have made about the Bill. I am particularly grateful to my hon and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) and my hon. Friends the Members for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson), Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), Oxford (Mr. Luard) and Ashfield (Mr.Marquand).
The debate has demonstrated the very great interest which exists if we can meet at this time of the year on a Friday afternoon in a House which I think resembles a reasonably major debate. I should liked to take up many of the points which were introduced by hon. Members and to quote from my own experience of 26 years of field work in discrimination, for I could give hundreds of instances of discrimination.
Perhaps I may make one comment for the benefit of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), who pointed out that only 66 cases on employment discrimination had been reported to the Race Relations Board. May I tell him that the Race Relations Board cannot deal with these problems. It is, in fact, extraordinary that anybody should report a case which the Board cannot deal with. But, as General Secretary of the Trades Advisory Council, I can tell him that in the last six months 31 cases of employment discrimination have been reported by people who have suffered from discrimination—reported because they believe that our Council can deal with these cases by the economic sanctions which we can bring to bear upon those who are exploiting the situation.
I do not propose to deal further with the hon. Member for Selly Oak, because it is essential for me and any other hon. Member who wishes to find out his thinking to read his speech most carefully. I found it very difficult to follow him or to understand what motivated all the different ideas that he tried to put forward, which seemed to a great extent to be undigested. The hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) was res- 950 ponsible for the usual practice of declaring that he was against racial discrimination and then saying that he wanted to do nothing about it.
§ Mr. Orbach
I have only three of four minutes left and I do not wish to give way. I see in the hon. Members comments a pattern of behaviour that sometimes ought to be disturbed in the House.
§ Mr. Grieve
The hon. Member ought not to make an observation of that kind and then refuse to give way, and I commend him on giving way now. What he said was very far indeed from what I said. I did not say that I wished to do nothing about it. I advocated a process of education. I and a great many of my right hon. and hon. Friends believe that racial discrimination is anathema, but there is a point beyond which legislation is wrong and I have no hesitation in saying so.
§ Mr. Orbach
I see that I disturbed the hon. Member, and I am very pleased that I did. I shall ask him on another occasion, when I have the time, what he has done about trying to change education books and treaties in this country which maintain the chauvinistic point of view to the detriment of other people throughout the world. Has he made any representations to the Secretary of State for Education or any other authority with regard to that?
I noticed the words that the hon. and learned Gentleman used during his speech. He referred three times to "the enormous tide of immigration that we have suffered from in this country in recent years."
§ Mr. Orbach
Yes, except "enormous", which is the hon. and learned Gentleman's word. "Enormous" amounts to 2 per cent. of our population at present who are not what the hon. and learned Gentleman calls "of our own stock". I never know what that means. Has the hon. and learned Gentleman tried to explain it to himself? We are not Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Huguenots, and so on. I myself am the son of a Polish immigrant to this country of the Jewish faith who was born 951 in Wales and married an American citizen who was of Hungarian origin. What my two children are I would not like to say.
I notice that in citing the difficulties that would arise as a result of the enactment of the legislation with regard to housing, the hon. and learned Gentleman talked about widows, widows and widows—until it became almost a Freudian term. I wonder whether hon. Members opposite, in their desire to get rid of legislation which they do not want or to support legislation that they do want, are in the use of that term anxious in some way to associate themselves with widows or to create widows.
I turn to the remarks of the Under-Secretary of State. I was a little surprised by his speech. I thought it very timid. It was not quite good enough in view of the great interest aroused on this side of the House. During the middle part of his speech I was even tempted to take the Bill to a vote to see whether we could get to the Committee stage at some time. As most people know, I am an avid chess player. In chess, we have a beginning game, a middle game and an end game. I thought that my hon. Friend's middle game was atrocious, but I was prepared to accept his end game, and even his beginning game was reasonable.
I have had some private discussions with him—private discussions that can be made public—as I have had with the Home Secretary. I know of their sympathy with regard to the question of discrimination and their desire to eliminate as much discrimination as is possible and to free this country from the type of poisonous prejudices that other countries have suffered for far too long. However, I want my hon. Friend to understand that if I am to ask leave to withdraw the Bill today, it is on the understanding that if the reports which the Home Secretary and he will be studying in February or March next year confirm the point of view expressed so forcibly by my hon. Friends, legislation on the subject will be introduced by the Government during the next Session. It is only on that basis that I shall ask leave to withdraw the Bill.
I thank the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) for participating in the debate. The Liberal Party has always been excellent on the general question 952 of racial and religious discrimination. I made reference to religion during my speech. It would be possible, of course, to amend my Bill to include religion, and also to make it applicable to Northern Ireland. What makes it difficult for me is that my Long Title was restrictive, and I did not want to mention that I was perhaps not happily advised about it.
In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.