§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.7 a.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am in favour of the Race Relations Act and I believe that the Race Relations Board is doing a good job in difficult circumstances. I am glad that this country is trying to learn from experience elsewhere and has taken steps in time which may save us some of the racial enmity in other countries where discrimination was not tackled early enough. The way in which the Race Relations Board and other authorities concerned with this problem, local authorities and the Government, are tackling the task will enable us to fashion a society in which there is true co-operation between people of different races.
Racial harmony must be achieved by education and conciliation. We have to get it accepted as normal that a civilised community does not practise discrimination. Where friction erupts we must first try to settle such things amicably, as the Act provides. There are, of course, plenty of people all too ready to exploit the mistakes, injustices and absurdities perpetrated in the process of eliminating racialism even by conciliation. Our whole approach to race relations depends upon carrying the public with us and behind such legislation as we are discussing.
The success not only of the Race Relations Board but of the Community Relations Council and other bodies, ultimately depends on public support. If the public comes to think that the approach embodied in the Act is associated with what seems to it something quite contrary to common-sense or natural justice, it will affect its whole attitude to the subject. This is all the more liable to occur because this is a sensitive subject and it requires a new approach. In some cases, I admit, this approach has cut across established views of personal liberty and the established principles of our law.
770 There is one aspect of the 1968 Measure which invites trouble and has caused it. We know that acts of discrimination are legal under the Act. But there is a provision which makes it illegal to advertise in a way which indicates that one is contemplating an act of discrimination even if the act is itself legal. Section 8(11) says that the… selection of a person of a particular nationality or particular descent for employment requiring attributes especially possessed by persons of that nationality or descentshall not be illegal. Yet an earlier subsection makes it illegal to state in a particular notice or advertisement that such qualifications are required. This means that it is an illegal act to advertise a perfectly legal intention. This is a difficulty which I seek to eliminate by the first subsection which I hope to add to the Act.
There was considerable discussion about this point when the Race Relations Bill was passing through both Houses of Parliament. Several Members of all parties warned against the possible results of this somewhat curious provision. There has been trouble over it, and a considerable controversy in several newspapers, but the case which first attracted very wide attention was that sometimes referred to as the "Scots porridge" case, which touched on several sensitive nerves.
We in Scotland do not regard ourselves as the sort of racial minority to which the Act was primarily intended to apply, but from time to time we somewhat fear that Acts are passed in the British Parliament without taking into full account how they will apply to the Scots.
That case affected also a household, which is rightly regarded as a purely private affair; and it also affected employment. Employment, of course, is at the root of the matter, and it is with that that I seek to deal.
No one doubts that this case caused some trouble. I have cuttings from the Scottish Press. It was reported on the front pages of the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald, which are not irresponsible, but the leading serious or expensive Scottish newspapers. The publicity given to the case goes right through the Scottish Press, and there were articles in The Times and many other English newspapers. Whether or not the attitude was justified, the case led to a considerable 771 feeling that in this respect the law was an ass. This is not good for the law, and it is particularly bad for race relations.
Other areas of difficulty have been in the entertainment industry and in some forms of service. It is, for instance, generally conceded, and this is a commonly held opinion, that a black band shall have a black drummer, but it is not permissible under the Act to advertise in that way. There was considerable trouble about this at one time in America. It was held that the Harlem Globetrotters, which is an all-negro basketball team, would be unable to exclude white members—at least, in advertisements for new personnel. The difficulty has been tackled in America, and I believe that it is now legal there to advertise jobs in which discrimination is legal, and so stated in the advertisement concerned.
What we have at present seems to be just the sort of anomaly, whatever sophisticated arguments may be advanced for it, which appears to be ridiculous to the public and which could bring the Act into disrepute. The Government must give attention to the problem and suggest some way in which it can be cured. The potential harm is there, and I do not believe that the argument against legalising advertisements implying legally acceptable discrimination are as strong as those in favour. It certainly annoys people to find that they can be discriminated against after they have been led to suppose that they are eligible for a particular job. It seems contrary to the general tenor of our law, and it hampers legitimate activities.
When the Bill was going through Parliament two main arguments were advanced for retaining the anomaly. One was that advertisements which seem to show racial bias are peculiarly offensive. That may be the case in the type of advertisement often quoted: "No blacks need apply" is certainly offensive, and I do not seek to make it legal. The second argument advanced was that it would create difficulties for the newspapers, because they would not be able easily to tell whether or not advertisements referred to a type of employment in which discrimination could be exercised.
That argument is not conclusive, either. The hazard which it may contain for 772 newspapers is, I think, small, and of a type they already face in far more serious fields. Anyone who has read newspapers for libel, as I have, knows that they are open every day to charges of libel possibly involving very serious damages, and it is extremely difficult to tell whether or not certain newspaper items will be libellous. The penalities relating to discrimination are entirely different. The most a newspaper risks is perhaps an admonishment from the Board or a message saying "This is forbidden under the Act—do not do it again".
Further, my amendment Bill would make it obligatory on the advertiser to explain why a person of a certain nationality or descent was required for the job in question. It will not be sufficient to say "Indian waiter wanted". The advertisement must state why those particular attributes are wanted in the job. I do not believe that those two main arguments are at all conclusive.
Turning to my Bill, I first draw attention to the fact that the wording follows very exactly the wording of a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), to whom I was very grateful when he sent me a copy of his Bill. The similarity of the two Measures may arise from the fact that we may be in touch with the same draftsman.
If the wording of Clause 1(a) is not acceptable, and if the Government do not think that it will cure this mischief, I will, of course accept some other wording, but its intention is to make it legal to advertise the intention to perform a perfectly legal act as long as an indication is given of why a person of a particular nationality or descent is needed to do the job referred to.
Clause 1(b) deals with a slightly different though related point. There are certain scholarships, awards, charitable benefits, and so on, which are available only for people of particular nationality or descent. Again, this is perfectly legal—indeed, one can go on creating such awards. But there is some doubt about whether it is legal to say in the advertisements that they are so limited. I know that among lawyers there is some disagreement on the exact interpretation of Section 9(1)(b) and it probably centres on the interpretation of the word "act".
To show that this is not by any means an unimportant point, I draw to the 773 attention of the House the well-known book which lists all post-graduate awards available in this country. It is published by the Association of Commonwealth Universities. This book now has to contain a foreword which, headed "Race Relations Act, 1968", reads:Since material was collected for this edition of the handbook, legislation had been enacted in Britain which renders it unlawful to publish any 'advertisement or notice' indicating an intention to practise 'discrimination' on the grounds of 'colour, race or ethnic or national origins'. The editors have been advised that the Association of Commonwealth Universities might infringe the law if the book were to reproduce, from the regulations governing some of the awards included in it, certain of the words or phrases used in those regulations to describe categories of persons who are eligible to apply.If anyone feels that I would be misleading the House were I not to read the whole foreword, I shall gladly do so, but it ends:Disappointment and embarrassment for students, and extra correspondence for both students and awarding bodies, may, the editors realise, result from this enforced curtailment of their stated aim of providing 'the most significant of the facts about each award that were available at the time of compilation'; and they regret any inconvenience which may be caused.It seems deplorable that the law should be such as to create doubt whether in an advertisement of a scholarship one can state that it applies to people in the West Indies. Again, I find it difficult to believe that it will not encourage racial ill-feeling if someone applies for such a scholarship or award and then finds that it is not open to him at all. It will be very bad for race relations, and will do damage to the whole exercise.
Further, in Section 27 of the Race Relations Act the Government cover themselves in words which are largely reproduced in my Bill. They make an exception in the case of certain Government jobs. If they say that the Press is in special difficulty, they must be in difficulty themselves by exempting some of their own activities from the general rule. I want to make it possible that if the terms of a scholarship limit it to people of certain nationality or descent, one can say so and state the terms. I can hardly believe that this will not have the assent of the House.
One other way out of these difficulties would be to give discretion to the Board. 774 I was tempted to try to do this, but race legislation has a peculiar feature. It creates a tort but it does not give the individual any right to a remedy. That is to say, he has to act through the Race Relations Board. I understand that he cannot take action himself. I regard this as a very unusual provision in English law. It must be remembered that while many people consider that this legislation goes too far, some think that it does not go far enough.
If we were to give the Board discretion to refuse to take action on a complaint, and if we also forbade the complainant to take action, there might be criticism that a complainant who made a complaint and had it rejected under the discretion which is left to the Board should be allowed himself to go to the court. I do not believe that at present that would be desirable. I do not believe that individual complainants should be encouraged to go to court. If, however, we gave the Board discretion, there would be strong pressure to allow complainants to do so.
In this sector of legislation, it is up to Parliament to state what it intends. In principle, I am rather against giving discretion to executive bodies, although in this case I realise that the discretion would be not to take action. I realise that this is a new field of law and that most of the Board's work is conciliation and is not legal enforcement.
The hon. Member for Putney wanted to include clubs in his Bill. I have simply sought to deal with a small point but one which has caused great tension and criticism. I believe that by putting it right, I shall do a service to the Board and to the whole of race relations. If the hon. Member for Putney wants to pursue the clubs point, I understand that he will be entitled to do so if the Bill goes to Committee, when, no doubt, it will be considered, but I feel that it is not for me to include it here.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the great publicity in the Eastbourne porridge case. He has not made it clear—at least to me—that his Bill will cover such a case. I would have thought not.
§ Mr. Grimond
My Bill does this. If it was legal to engage a Scottish cook in the circumstances described, it would be legal 775 to advertise for one. That is all that the Bill does. It must be left to the courts to some extent in a particular case to make the decision. That is what my Bill seeks to do and that is what, I hope, it does. I therefore commend it to the House as a useful step in a difficult process.
I finish as I began. On balance, I think that, so far, we can be proud of what we are doing in race relations. I believe that we are on the right lines, but we must keep the matter constantly under review. It is easy to stir up ill-feeling on it. Where genuine points arise which are widely felt to be contrary to commonsense and natural justice, they should be put right by this House at an early opportunity. I am taking the opportunity to try to put one right today.
§ 11.24 a.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough, East)
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is to be congratulated for affording the House an opportunity of discussing the question of race relations. We often discuss immigration and immigration control, but seldom do we have an opportunity to talk about race relations as such.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order, With respect, the Bill deals with one aspect only and not the whole question of race relations.
§ Mr. Bottomley
That I accept, Mr. Speaker. I was saying that we do not get the opportunity to discuss the subject and I am sorry that we do not. I do not intend to discuss race relations as such but I will devote my time to the Bill.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
On a point of order. May we have the position clarified, Mr. Speaker? This, I understand, is the Second Reading of a Bill to amend the Race Relations Act. Is it not permissible, therefore, for hon. Members to discuss race relations as a whole in relation to the Act? Therefore, does not your Ruling imply a narrower interpretation of the situation?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Second Reading debates are fairly broad in nature. I am grateful to the hon. Member for pursuing the point, but he does not correctly 776 state what is the situation. The Bill isto amend the Race Relations Act … in respect of advertisements and notices and the investigation of complaints arising therefrom".
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since the Bill seeks to amend the principal Act, it is surely in order to discuss, at least in generalities, anything within the compass of the principal Act which the Bill seeks to amend.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member has not appreciated my Ruling. I have ruled quite clearly. Mr. Bottomley.
§ Mr. Bottomley
When the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland first presented his Bill, I was inclined to give support towards it, but since then I have had an opportunity of studying it more carefully and I do not think that what the right hon. Gentleman seeks to do would be accomplished. Nobody doubts the purpose of the Bill. It is liberal in intent and its intention is to improve race relations, but I put these points to the right hon. Gentleman for his consideration.
His proposed subsection (3) of Section 6 of the Act would, apparently, permit advertisements for Pakistani cooks for a Pakistani restaurant, an Indian teacher to teach students Hindi or a Scottish domestic to prepare porridge. On the face of it that appears reasonable, but I query whether it is. Is it desirable in principle, for example?
At present, advertisements must relate to the skills and qualifications required—those skills and qualifications may be possessed by people of any nationality or descent—and not to the person required. The relevant consideration should be what a person can do and not his or her nationality or descent. Although, in practice, an employer might decide, when he sees who replies to his first advertisement, that a Scots girl could cook porridge better, in theory anyone could cook porridge, make Pakistani curries or teach Hindi.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
It will not have escaped the right hon. Gentleman's attention that the word is not "skills" but "attributes"—that is to say, all sorts of definable characteristics, not excluding special skills, but including many other factors.
§ Mr. Bottomley
That had not escaped me, and I shall refer to attributes in due course. I want to say at this stage, however, that the existing law permits the suggestions which I have made, and I think it is desirable that it should. What appears to me to be undesirable in principle, however, is to ensure in advance that only people of a specialised nationality or descent could have the requisite skills or qualifications. Surely, the heart of the present anti-discrimination legislation is that a man or a woman shall be judged by his or her competence and not ancestry. Does this amendment not reach this very principle?—[Interruption.]—Well, is there not a danger that the proposed Amendment would be open to abuse by those who seek to practise racial discrimination?
Let me give some illustrations. For example, an advertisement, under the terms of the Amendment, could be issued saying, "Englishman required for work in a traditional English restaurant"—or club. Or, "English girl required for serving food in the traditional English manner in an English food shop." Or, "English nanny required to help bring up English children in the English way." Or even, "White girl required as a saleswoman in a garment shop used by white lady customers." In all these cases the employer could argue that the employment he was offering required—and here I come to the right hon. Gentleman's point—attributes specially possessed by personsof English nationality or white descent.
§ Mr. Grimond
I take the point the right hon. Gentleman is making, but is he suggesting that these discriminations he has mentioned in favour of the English would be legal under the Bill?
§ Mr. Bottomley
These expressions of these attributes would be ways in which it could be said, "No coloureds." Surely, as such, they are objectionable. In general, therefore, it appears to me objectionable to assume that certain attributes are especially possessed by persons of a particular nationality or descent—especially descent, now that people of Indian and African descent are coming from our schools with a full English education. Looking ahead, there will be some coloured people who have all the attributes of white Englishmen, except a 778 different colour of skin, and whose families have lived in England for several generations.
The amendment, as proposed, appears to me to conflict with the spirit of the 1968 Act. Its interpretation may create more problems than it solves. As yet there has been only a very short experience of the working of the 1968 Act. For instance, in industry the trades unions, about which I know, perhaps, more than some others, are themselves not quite sure whether the Act is working effectively. The T.U.C. has put out a questionnaire asking affiliated unions for their views about the operation of the 1968 Act. Mr. Adamson of the C.B.I. is on record as saying thatAll the evidence seems to show that the Act has operated without any trouble at all.However, the C.B.I. itself is seeking further information from its members so that it can assess the situation.
Of course, criticisms are always made of Acts of Parliament. Whatever Act is passed, it does not suit everybody's requirements. I think it would be better to look at the Act as a whole at some time, and not every time there is some detailed criticism of it. In my opinion, that does not necessarily ensure the best results. Therefore, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be better to look at the operation of the 1968 Act as a whole and then, if necessary, get the Government to bring in amending legislation. It is my view that we have not yet enough experience of the working of the Act as a whole to form a judgment of it.
Of course, it is important that the 1968 Act should be a success. The right hon. Gentleman has done his best to ensure that it should be, as, indeed, have many other Members of the House, as well as others outside, and we all share the view that it is far better that the means of bringing about better race relations should be by education rather than by punitive measures, to apply the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
It is well known—I hope that I am not out of order in saying this—that the House itself has set up a Select Committee to consider the question of race relations and immigration. I think that the Committee might be encouraged to look at the operation of the 1968 Act 779 as a whole and, at the same time, examine the work of the Race Relations Board in administering the law. Let me pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman who was, until recently, a member of the Committee. He had to come off it for reasons which I understand. I am sorry he had to, because he was an admirable member. I think he will agree with me that the Committee does get relevant witnesses and considers all the criticisms very carefully, and it can then, as happened recently in the case of the coloured school-leavers, present a report for all the House to consider. By this means we could produce a report which the Government and the House could consider to see what, if anything, is needed to make the 1968 Act work better.
Of course, it is quite possible for somebody to say, "Why has it not been done already?" It would have been too soon. There has not been sufficient time yet. There has not been sufficient experience to come to final decisions. We did make a report on the problem of the coloured school-leavers. I might be out of order if I were to go into all the reasons why we did that, but the report is well known and, I think, accepted by the House, the public and the Press.
I wonder whether perhaps next Session the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration could give consideration to looking at Race Relations Act as a whole, and also the way in which the Race Relations Board administers it. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give consideration to this, and not press his Bill, but allow the House to work in this direction.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I did not intend to intervene and I wish to do so only to make two very short points following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), and may I say that it is a pleasure to follow him because there is no disagreement of principle, and I would suspect that in the debate there will be no great differences on the principles involved, but merely about whether the Bill implements the various objects which we have in mind.
I would only say to the right hon. Gentleman, with respect, that on a careful reading of the 1968 Act we have this 780 provision, that under Section 27 (9)(a) it is legal for the Government to restrict:Nothing in this Act shall invalidate any rules … restricting employment in the service of the Crown or by any public body prescribed for the purposes of this subsection by regulations made by the Treasury to persons of particular birth, citizenship, nationality, descent or residence.So the Crown and public bodies have the right to restrict. Under Section 27 (9)(b) they also have the right to advertise:Nothing in this Act shall render unlawful the publication, display or implementation of any such rules or the publication or display of advertisements stating the gist of any such rules.The Government have the power to restrict, to lay down categories relating to birth, descent, nationality or residence, and they then have, I would have thought logically, the right to place these descriptions in advertisement form. That is the position with regard to the Government.
With regard to the public at large, the position is that they likewise have the power to restrict. That also is in the Act, in Section 8 (11). What it says is this:Section 3 above shall not render unlawful the selection of a person of a particular nationality or particular descent for employment requiring attributes especially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent.So the power of restriction is already there. It is not being granted by this Bill.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall) rose—
§ Mr. Thorpe
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish the sentence, I will give way.
Where the difference occurs, where the divergence occurs, is that the Government have the power to restrict and then subsequently to advertise the restrictions, whereas the citizen has power to restrict on precisely the same grounds, but it is illegal for him to advertise them. That is the illogicality of the situation. Section 6(1) contains a restriction on advertisements. All my right hon. Friend is doing is accepting the power to restrict which is set out in the Act and merely saying that it is logical that there should be the right of advertising, in precisely the same way as the Government are entitled to advertise the restrictions available to them under Section 27(9)(a) of the Act. This seems to me a logical amendment.
§ Mr. Bidwell
The right hon. Gentleman is making a fair point, but he should go further and show to the House that the discussion of those matters in Committee recognised this as something which flew in the face of the general spirit of the Bill, but was an inevitability because of the practicalities of bringing people from abroad and sending people out from this country, having regard to national security matters and so on. This was all understood in Committee.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I entirely agree. I am not blaming the Government for putting in this restrictive power, I think they were justified in doing so, and I do not for one moment suggest that they had anything but the purest motives in the interests of national security and employment in Government service. But there are occasions when a private citizen, for equally admirable but perhaps different motives, has a power to restrict. That being so, I very much doubt whether the Welsh nation would take kindly to an Irishman organising the National Eisteddfod, and there might be a requirement for a restriction of that nature.
All I am saying is that it is illogical that the power of restriction which the Government have and their subsequent right to publish those restrictions are denied to private citizens.
In reply to what the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) said, with respect, that is more for discussion in Committee. I re-emphasise what I said in my intervention, that I attach importance to the word "attributes". It is not skills, it is attributes, and this covers a variety of factors. I am fortified in that view because that was the word which the Government draftsmen included in the 1968 Act. I therefore think this is a logical extension which is taking away one aspect, namely stupidity, and that it will help race relations rather than hinder them. For that reason I hope the House will support the Bill.
§ 11.42 a.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I feel I should ask for the indulgence of the House as a maiden speaker. Although I cannot pretend that it is a long time since I addressed the House, it is a long time since it has been left to me to decide what I shall say and how I shall 782 say it. I am, therefore, happy to choose a Friday on a Private Member's Bill for this dangerous immersion, rather than to speak on a more vital partisan matter. The House should take the wise advice given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), and I hope the Government will not advise the House to support the Bill.
May I ask the House to think carefully about how the trouble which has led to the Bill first arose. The Race Relations Act was not pushed through almost inadvertently at the last moment without careful examination. I know from painful experience that it was examined at enormous length in Committee, and that Committee was almost unique in the cross-voting that took place. Those wise and good men, the Whips, on both sides, almost went off their heads not knowing how their supporters would vote. I can even remember being rather relieved that my hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) was called away on important public business abroad at the moment of a critical Division. For me to feel like that about my hon. Friend shows how independently we voted on the merits of the Bill as it then was and that it did not go through with clumsy drafting.
My attitude to the question of advertisement is this. I did not like the advertisements when they appeared in the newspapers. I did not like interference with the independence of editors. It was only after having made efforts in London to try to persuade editors voluntarily to drop these advertisements without any progress that I came round to the view that this Section was needed.
How is it that there has blown up the scandal press headlines, the idea that this is a tremendous abuse of individual liberty that it is utterly intolerable? We have been told that it is so vitally urgent, that the whole of the Liberal Party has come forward to lead us on to save the welfare of the nation and the liberty of the subject. I do not like to say this, but I have a feeling that behind this there is a good deal of organised opposition which is not based on the legal merits of the case. From some comments which are made one might think that any unfortunate householder who required the services of a cook who could 783 prepare a breakfast in a way he liked was liable to find himself in prison next day because his advertisement had appeared in the papers. One of the risks inherent in the Act is that it is liable to be distorted by mischievous people. It is a long way from that. It provides a complicated procedure of conciliation. It gives discretion to the Race Relations Board in what action it can take, and there is every possible safeguard.
May I tell a story about the episode in Eastbourne? The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and the Chairman of the Race Relations Board have many things in common which I do not share with them, but I share with them the privilege of being a member of the same college. The college at one time suffered very much, in the view of those who ran it, from having too many Scotsmen in it. Those responsible for governing the college said that the college must have a quota. They said, "We are not narrow-minded, but we do not see why we should be flooded with Scots, giving a wrong atmosphere in the college with their peculiar eating habits. They should be shared with other colleges. We will take our quota, but we will not take more." A hundred years or more passed and the Scots became integrated into that community. They began to play a prominent part in the college and eventually some very distinguished Scots were heads of the college. The Master of Balliol, who in my time was a Scotsman, told me once that he had tried to face the problem of how to get tolerable porridge in college. On his next visit to his home town of Glasgow, he recruited a Scottish cook. He brought her to the college, established her in the kitchen and assumed that she would produce tolerable porridge. The whole thing was a miserable failure. The porridge that she produced was no better than the porridge had ever been. I suspect that, like whisky, water rather than the maker determines the quality of the produce.
I mention that case merely to illustrate that it is a silly idea that one can, by asking for anyone who is a Scotsman, decide what one can do, or get what one wants or does not want. One must look at the nature of the skill of the person concerned. Once we start talking 784 in vague terms about some special hereditary attribute that people may have and which others do not, we are in danger of getting into the very mischief which the Act was designed to avoid.
It would be much better if we did not have to have racial legislation. No one likes it, and we would like to think that we were living in a community where it was unnecessary. But the House, after long and careful consideration, concluded that it was necessary to have such legislation. We took this Act through Committee and through Report with great care and patience and the House would be very unwise to get into a state of jittery nerves every time someone starts a stunt, raising some greatly exaggerated and distorted situation. One which is never likely to happen in practise and using it as an excuse for carving a great hole in the Act. If we do it on this occasion, it means that every time in future we do it we shall be eating into the Act. I hope the House will agree that we should wait for longer experience of the working of the Act.
There are obviously cases where some of the attributes of a person are essential to the job, but any properly drafted advertisement can make that clear. For example, if the Liberal Party were to advertise for a national organiser, I would know that I was not likely to have the attributes regarded as suitable for that employment.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Ever since the Race Relations Act has been in force, it has been illegal for any advertisement to appear asking for an African drummer or guitarist for a steel band. This has been the greatest disadvantage to their employment.
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not know that it need be a disadvantage. Surely, if one describes a steel band with certain particulars of the sort of people required, one would immediately convey what was wanted. In effect, my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) is accepting the position that if, in a hamhanded way, one produces an advertisement emphasising the racial origins of the people rather than what one wants them to do, he will have his hands tied and the Africans will be in difficulty. I suggest that his is an unreal point of view. We want to define the 785 job. If we do there one will be in no trouble. Any suggestion that there will be trouble as a result I regard as a form of hysteria.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
I was relunctant to support any amendment to the Race Relations Act when it had been in operation for such a short time. I believe that the Act, in this very difficult and sensitive area of our national life, has already made a widespread impact for good in this country. And I believe that the Race Relations Board, going about its job in a quiet and practical way, has already made a great contribution towards removing, slowly and in tin unspectacular way, misunderstandings that, if allowed to grow inveterate, would damage our society.
I was, therefore, reluctant to contemplate tinkering with the Act at this stage. But the Press controversy over the porridge case did tend to show the Board and the Act in a most undignified posture and to bring them both into disrepute. Therefore, when the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) put forward his simple amendment, I agreed to support him, as I do now. I find some of the arguments urged against this minor and simple amendment rather irrelevant. Section 8(11) of the Act states:Section 3 above shall not render unlawful the selection of a person of a particular nationality or particular descent for employment requiring attributes especially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent.The law does make this sort of distinction legal. What the amendment seeks to do is to make legal the advertisement of what is legal under the Act. This seems to me a simple proposition and I hope that it will commend itself to the Government and the House.
§ Mr. John Lee
Surely, in drawing attention to the anomaly, it would have been better to have set out to delete the word "attributes" in the Act rather than perpetuate it in some other way? That is the really important anomaly.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
I was dealing with the Act as it is, and there is a discrepancy between what the Act says is legal and what the Act allows to be advertised. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) has shown what difficulties the subsection has brought about 786 in relation to advertisements produced for a perfectly legitimate activity. I believe that a simple amendment, such as this Bill contains, should be undertaken to remove this difficulty as soon as possible after it has become apparent. Difficulties were bound to be found in the working of the Act. Section 6 of the Act does create a difficulty and I think we ought to seize this opportunity to amend it.
With all respect to my senior colleague on the Select Committee on Race Relations, I do not believe that the function of a Select Committee is just to take up responsibility for dealing with a rag-tag and bobtail of problems which should be handled, as they come, by the Government. I hope, therefore, that there will be some support from the Government, now that they have heard the arguments of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, and that they will agree to look at the matter and bring in an amendment to the Act.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to your Ruling about how far hon. Members could go in making general reference to the terms of the Race Relations Act.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), who is Chairman of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, said that he felt indebted to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) for bringing this matter before the House today because, even though some hon. Members could not go along with his proposal, at any rate it afforded us the opportunity to discuss a most important matter which has given rise to considerable public concern.
I am not sure whether I agree with my right hon. Friend, because I find it difficult to decide whether I am glad or sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has brought the matter before us today, particularly in this form. I know his feelings on the broad problems, and I do not think that he and I have any fundamental differences on these matters. Although I do not know very much about the fierce pride of the Scots, because I am a mere Londoner, I suspect that there is a little tinge of Scottish nationalism lurking behind the right hon. Gentleman's thoughts in rising to 787 the occasion that was made public as a result of what has become known as the Scots porridge case.
That, in turn, caused me to think about what it is that makes a Scot. I have never been quite sure about that. The Scots have a fierce spokesmanship in this House, as do the Welsh, and often I am tempted to suggest that we should have whole days set aside for the exclusive discussion on English affairs as well as Scottish and Welsh affairs. Latterly, of course, we have spent a lot of time on Irish affairs.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
The hon. Gentleman might also bear in mind that, on the days when we have an opportunity to discuss English affairs, frequently the principal speakers are Scottish and Welsh.
§ Mr. Bidwell
It is difficult to anchor down one's thoughts to the specific proposal before us, but that is what we must do.
When I first came to this House, I did not support the idea that we should have restrictive legislation on race relations, and I had in mind particularly legislation which dealt with employment. I knew that the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. held the view that it was best to leave these matters to the normal processes of conciliation in industry, especially in the more sensitive areas involving the service and manufacturing industries where there is a far greater depth of possible misunderstanding. That was my original view. However, many of my colleagues and the various reports which I have read convinced me that there was sufficient evidence of discrimination to spell out considerable difficulties for us in the future, and I came round to the view that we needed measures of this kind.
When I intervened earlier in the speech of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), I did so because I thought that we had got over the hump of many of the views that he put forward in his speech. I hope that I succeeded in outlining that in my intervention. All these matters were raised when the Race Relations Bill was in Committee and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) said, there is an element of smallness about the central idea contained in this proposition.
788 The principal purpose of the Act is to outlaw discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin or colour. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has no doubts about the desirability of that. If that remains our object, I cannot see how we can make an amendment to insert words into the general body of the Act which refer to… a person of a particular nationality or particular descent for employment requiring attributes specially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent".Employment is the key to the whole problem. It is not a question of housing or education, important though they are. Education and housing opportunities flow from employment opportunities, and in my view it is not possible to make the right hon. Gentleman's amendment and still stick to the purpose of the principal Act.
Then again, the word "attribute" has been used in other parts of the Act. I have not liked it very much, because it is indefinable. Reverting to the case which has given rise to the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, I do not know what are the attributes of a Scottish cook. The Scots like to say that they put salt on their porridge, whereas we Sassenachs put sugar on ours.
§ Mr. Heffer
My hon. Friend is not quite right. My father was a Sassenach, and he always put salt on his porridge.
§ Mr. Bidwell
It may be that he was copying the Scots. The fact remains, however, that they came south and found that putting sugar on porridge represented a rise in their standard of living, so they took to sugar.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
Perhaps I might enlighten the hon. Getleman. As a constant maker of most excellent porridge, may I tell him that it is not what is put on it but what is put in it in the initial stages of cooking it that is important? In spite of using London water—and we all know where that comes from—my porridge has been highly praised by people who have a sharp nationalist taste for it.
§ Mr. Bidwell
The principal enactment has been described as rather unusual, and I think it is true to say that it is probably the gentlest legislation ever put on the Statute Book. It provides room for conciliation in these matters, but those of us who have been heavily engaged in problems of race relations and immigration realise that it has not produced the perfect instrument. If the right hon. Gentleman's proposition took us any further forward, I would not hestitate to support it. However, we have to think not so much of discriminating in favour of but of discriminating against, and there is a slender balance between the two.
As a number of hon. Members have said already, if we talk in terms of inserting words in an advertisement to the effect that only certain people need apply for a given employment, what we really mean is that certain people need not apply. If the end result of a person seeking to engage the services of others is that that persons gets what he really wants, no harm is done, provided that the insertion of the right hon. Gentleman's words does not weaken the central purpose of what we set out to do.
It is common knowledge that I represent a constituency with a large concentration of people originating from India. Many Indian people might tend to err on the side of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. We have Indian restaurants which would probably want to advertise for an Indian waiter. They can get the same results, because it is hardly likely that others would have the necessary qualifications, in other ways. We have not outlawed discrimination, we have outlawed it on two simple counts. The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Dell) has said that we have not put in legislation which heavily favours coloured people or workers from overseas. The Measure is not working out in that way. This is not an act of discrimination on racial grounds, but on grounds of suitability. It is easy to show that, particularly with employment, without such a proposal as we have here.
Although it is good that we should discuss this today, we ought to wait for the body set up by Parliament to reach a calmer decision on what needs to be added to or taken from our present enactments. The Race Relations Board 790 and the Community Relations Commission set up under the 1968 Act should have a little more time. The Act lays upon them a duty to make recommendations to the Home Secretary. That is the right way to proceed. To adopt the terms of the amendment would be the wrong way.
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I rise to support this Bill. May I go back a little in history to the time when the present Lord Brockway was a Member of this House. He endeavoured to bring in a number of Bills which were called Race Relations Bills, and I say with some pride that I was one of those who did everything he could, successfully, to block those Bills. I did so for two reasons. First, they were extremely badly drafted and quite unworkable, and secondly, I think that to try to legislate for race relations is a mistake. The 1968 Act was a mistake. That does not mean that I want to make race relations worse, I want to make them better. To be told by Statute that I cannot criticise anyone, Welsh, Scottish, Pakistani or whatever, and that if I do so an injunction can be obtained against me, is something to which I object strongly.
§ Mr. Doughty
I understand. I was going back a little into history to say why I support this Bill, introduced by the former leader of the Liberal Party the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). At least it brought most of the Liberals here, even if they have drifted away during the discussion. It has been said that we should not pass this Bill because we must wait until the Select Committee has reported and the Government made up their mind and found time to introduce a possible amending Bill which may include these particular matters. If this Bill made any sweeping changes in the present legislation I would agree.
We should not take the Measure and alter it in a Private Member's Bill. Let 791 us see what the right hon. Gentleman proposes. The first matter deals with the publication of advertisements. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) has said, there is nothing in the Act making it illegal to:… select a person of a particular nationality or a particular descent for employment requiring attributes specially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent.If someone advertises that fact, apparently he is committing some offence which will attract the attention of the Race Relations Board and probably the newspaper will not publish it because it is frightened of attracting the Board's attention. Therefore, the advertisement is not inserted and a lot of people may apply for that employment in answer to another advertisement which is inserted, who are totally unsuitable and whom the employer does not want to employ. Is that a good thing, something we ought to perpetuate? Certainly not in my case.
All the Bill does is to say that to avoid that situation we should put something in the advertisement, not of an offensive nature, saying why a person wants a particular type of person to do a particular type of job, such as a Jewish chef in a kosher restaurant. That is all. I can see no objection to that in any way. If we were to alter the whole Act and also the possibility of who can be employed that would be another thing, but this seems to be a common-sense move.
The second part of the Bill deals with the giving of particular kinds of scholarships and matters of that sort, saying that it must be stated to whom such things are limited. There are a great many charitable and educational trusts who limit the type of persons to whom they award scholarship. To have students applying for scholarships when they are not qualified is a disappointment to them and an embarrassment to those who have to tell them that they are not qualified. That is all. It goes no further than that and because it is an excellent improvement upon the working of the original Act I support the Bill.
§ 12.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
I rise to support the Bill, for two reasons which I wish to give in two parts. First, I 792 should have thought that if I were sitting, which God forbid, where my hon. Friend on the Front Bench is sitting, and if I had been given some leeway, in distinction to what my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has said about Ministerial briefs, and if I had been told to sense the feeling of the House, at this moment I would find myself moving towards saying that perhaps the Bill ought not to be given a Second Reading.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
May I tell my hon. Friend that I have a great deal of leeway, as I have on most occasions in the Home Office, which are rather different in kind from situations in other Departments. My hon. Friend can rest assured that I am listening carefully.
§ Mr. Jenkins
We are delighted to hear that. I had hoped to be able to convert my hon. Friend from the position I feared he might be in into a position of saying that the Bill ought to have a Second Reading. The right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) put his finger on the point when he said that what is being discussed is not whether there should be more or less discrimination, but whether what is permitted discrimination—and the House must recognise that there is such a thing—should be permitted to extend to advertising the existence of employment. That is the only question that arises in the Bill.
As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said, I introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule last June a Bill which would have had the same effect as his Bill proposes. But it would have had an additional effect, and I believe that if the right hon. Gentleman had incorporated in his Bill the measure which I suggested it might have had an easier passage through the House. I think that the Bill before us will be seen by some of my hon. Friends as weakening the general effect of the Act, and that there will be some opposition from hon. Members who reasonably feel that the existing Act should be given a longer period without being altered. This view has been authoritatively put, and it is likely to impress the House.
793 One cannot say precisely what the view of the Race Relations Board is. It has been suggested that it might welcome the continuation of the Act without alteration, but I think that there is reason to believe that this is not the case, and that the change proposed would not be found unwelcome by the Board.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I think that this is an important question. I have, quite properly, consulted the Board, and I find myself in some dilemma. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend could state his source for the information which he has just given. It is not what I have heard.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am not quite sure to what extent it is right for one to describe in the House what the opinions of a public body are.
§ Mr. Jenkins
It was said in the House that the Bill would be unwelcome to the Board. The statement has already been made that the Board would not welcome it. I am saying that I do not believe that that statement is right. If I go further and start to spell out my authority for saying that, we shall place my hon. Friend on the Front Bench in the position of having to contradict me. I think that it would be better for him if we left the matter there. I dispute the statement made here that the Board would not want the Bill. That is the position I stand on, and it would be better for everybody if I were not asked to go beyond it.
§ Mr. Bidwell
I think that it is fair to state that not one of us here is in a position to say in the debate what the attitude of the Board would be on this question.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I would be glad to accept that as a happy solution to the situation.
I feel that the Bill I put before the House in June would perhaps be more acceptable to the House than the one 794 we are considering now because it would have had two effects. First, it would have had the effect sought by the Bill before us—to make it legitimate to advertise positions and work which require not skills but attributes which are in themselves characteristic of certain nationalities or descents. For example, as I said in my intervention, it is thought to be illegal to advertise for a Hawaiian guitarist, an Indian waiter, an Afro-Asian drummer or a West Indian dancer. The journals to which this guidance has been tendered have sought advice from the highest legal authorities. It is conceivable that other legal luminaries might challenge those views, and the question of who is right and who is wrong is a matter of legal judgment. But since it has been found necessary in the Act to give the Government a special dispensation to advertise in such a way, it is reasonable to suppose that without such a special dispensation anyone else would be most reluctant to do so, because he would say, "I have not got under the Act the protection specifically given to the Government. If the Government need such protection, surely I need it too?"
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Race Relations Board has indicated what its view is, and that it is the Board which starts enforcement proceedings?
§ Mr. Jenkins
This adds to the fear that what I have described is illegal. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. Members, people in those circumstances, having regard to the Government's view and the Board's view, will not advertise, and if they seek to do so, the journals concerned will not accept their advertisements. They cannot be drafted in any way which will persuade a newspaper owner to insert such advertisements.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
What is the attribute possessed by a Scotsman enabling him to make a particular type of porridge? It is no more the attribute of a Scotsman to make a particular type of porridge than anyone else.
§ Mr. Jenkins
It is perhaps unfortunate that the Bill stems from that example. There is a far more serious example which existed before, and to 795 which I drew attention in my speech on 11th June. I pointed out then that… it is now illegal to advertise for a person having particular national characteristics. Thus, it is illegal to advertise for an Indian or a Chinese waiter. It is probably illegal to advertise for a Hawaiian guitarist. Theatrical employers certainly cannot advertise for a coloured actor to fill a rôle; so if they need one they have to use a telephone or send messages."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th June, 1969; Vol. 784, c. 1480.]In other words, the message can be got across, but one cannot put it in a newspaper. This was not the intention of the Act.
Therefore, the Bill is necessary so as to make it possible to place such groups in the same position in relation to employment as other people. The groups which are discriminated against in terms of employment badly need employment; they are very much under-employed. Therefore, it is no use saying, "Let the Act go on." All the time injustice is being done to groups of people. My hon. Friends who say that the Bill is unnecessary are harming those whom they really want to protect.
If the Bill gets a Second Reading, I shall seek to move in Committee an Amendment to bring into effect the other half of the Bill I tried to introduce. Any Measure which seeks to amend the 1968 Act should not only modify but also seek to extend it. We should always be trying to push forward the frontiers of politics. My Bill would have extended the operation of the 1968 Act into working men's clubs and all other clubs. This is strongly supported by all the entertainment unions and the T.U.C.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That is out-with the scope of this Bill, as the hon. Gentleman will see from its Title.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I was outlining an Amendment which I would hope to make in Committee. I hope that it is legitimate for me to describe what it would seek to do. It would extend the operation of the Race Relations Act into clubs, and would prevent the widespread discrimination which is taking place in them.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood that the first time the hon. Gentleman said it. The Bill is toAmend the Race Relations Act 1968 in respect of advertisements and notices and the investigation of complaints arising therefrom.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I had hoped to state exactly why that amendment was necessary, Mr. Speaker, but your Ruling makes it clear that I cannot travel far along that line. I am sorry that I cannot do so, because I think that if I could develop the point hon. Members who are perhaps unconvinced of the desirability of the Bill as it stands might become convinced that it would be desirable if amended as I suggest.
In view of the handicap under which I am speaking I shall say no more about that, except to express the hope that hon. Members will at least give the Bill a chance to go to Committee and see whether the alterations which I have suggested can be made there. If I have the opportunity in Committee I shall put down an Amendment which will have the effect that I have attempted, perhaps unsuccessfully, to describe.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I had not intended to intervene when I came into the House this morning, but having listened to all the speeches, I find it difficult to understand how anybody who considers the problem objectively can fail to support the Bill. It must be clear that there is something very wrong with the existing legislation if the kinds of absurdities which have been mentioned—in one case arising out of an advertisement for a Scottish girl to make porridge—are possible. The situation is farcical, and it is high time that it was altered. It does not enhance the reputation of the House, or of the law, if such anomalies are allowed to continue.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said that his Bill was intended to make the law less of an ass. I support him in that. I cannot believe that it was intended that the proprietor of an Indian or Chinese restaurant should be liable to prosecution if he advertised for an Indian or Chinese waiter to fill a vacancy. It does not make sense—especially when, without any fear of prosecution, he could obtain the services of a Chinese or Indian waiter simply by using the telephone, or getting the news round on the grapevine that there is a vacancy. Nor does it make sense, for example, if parents of teenagers who want to learn a foreign language are not allowed to advertise for an Italian, German, French or Spanish au pair girl 797 to teach them a foreign language without being liable to prosecution. They can obtain the services of such an au pair girl of particular nationality in any other way provided there is no advertisement. The same consideration applies in the case of the band leader. Why should not he be able to advertise for a Hawaiian guitarist or a coloured crooner without being liable to prosecution?
The height of absurdity was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman when he quoted the long preamble to the brochure concerning scholarships which were open only to students or postgraduates from certain countries. It is time that the Race Relations Act was altered along the lines of the Bill, so that no ridiculous differentiation was made between advertising for something that is required and obtaining the same thing without advertising for it.
§ 12.34 p.m.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radcliffe) is a keen and enthusiastic supporter of the Race Relations Act as a whole. I listened carefully to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) introducing his Bill. He used his luck in the Ballot—and I envy him his luck—to bring forward this Measure. I hope that he will not misunderstand me if I say that I would have thought that there were items of more urgency, which should be given greater priority, than that which is now before us. But this is a matter for each hon. and right hon. Member to decide for himself if he is lucky enough in the Ballot.
I agree that any law should be clearly understandable. In respect of a matter so sensitive as race relations, it is important that there should be no weaknesses in the Act which would tend to make it look ridiculous. I am not dogmatic; if it were possible to re-phrase the Section concerned so as to help make it more effective, I should not be opposed to what the right hon. Gentleman is trying to do, but I have considerable doubts about the matter and, after listening to some of my hon. Friends today, I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman's Bill will do what he wants it to do.
A great deal of publicity was given to the porridge case. Columns of news- 798 print in the Scottish and English newspapers were devoted to it. It is rather unfortunate that a little more publicity was not given to the positive features of Section 6 of the Act. It is important to bear in mind why it was necessary for such a Section to be included. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear that he was in no way in favour of the type of offensive advertisement that used to appear. I do not know about other hon. Members opposite, but the right hon. Gentleman certainly made his position clear.
I should like to read some of the advertisements that used to appear regularly in local newspapers. I will quote from one local newspaper which is published in the Hackney area. Among its advertisements are the following:Furnished bedroom and kitchenette … business lady; no coloureds.Newly decorated double bed-sitter … linen provided; rent £5 p.w.; regret, no coloureds.Nice large furnished room; all conveniences; one gentleman; Europeans only.One roomed flatlet, self-contained; share bathroom toilet with only two people; no restrictions; regret, no coloureds.
§ Mr. Thorpe rose—
§ Mr. Winnick
If the hon. Member is going to say that what his right hon. Friend is attempting to do would not bring back such advertisements, I am the first to agree. I am merely pointing out that originally it was necessary that this type of offensive advertisement should be prevented. When we hear criticisms of that Section and so much talk about the porridge case, let us bear in mind the fact that the advertisement which used to cause so much pain and humiliation to certain people can no longer appear.
I wonder whether the provisions of the Bill would help to prevent such cases as the porridge case. Many people, apart from people of Scottish origin, can make Scottish porridge, and a number of difficulties would arise, one of which—
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
Many hon. Members seem to be under a misapprehension. There was no reference to porridge in the advertisement complained of.
§ Mr. Winnick
But it became known as the Scots porridge case.
799 If the intended amendment of the Section were made, newspapers would be placed in a very difficult position. The decision would be made by the advertising section, dealing with displayed classified advertisements, rather than the editorial department. There would be much hesitation and reluctance on the part of the advertising section, which would have to take steps to discover whether the advertisement was legal. The Bill would in no way improve that Section of the Act.
The Race Relations Board has been subject to a great deal of ill-informed criticism. Last December the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) said—and I quote his words—that thosepompous, idiotic asses … should be removed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1969; Vol. 793, col. 1312.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Whether or not that comment is a correct description of the Board, I must ask the hon. Member to come to the terms of the Bill.
§ Mr. Winnick
I am saying that many attempts have been made, not only by some hon. Gentlemen opposite but by some people in the country, to try to discredit the Race Relations Board arising from Section 6 of the Act. Only last week there was a silly, stupid hoax played on the Race Relations Board. It is obvious that there are people who want to discredit the Board because they are absolutely opposed to the 1968 Act.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
I said that the Race Relations Board was pompous and idiotic in the way that it dealt with this particular case.
§ Mr. Winnick
That is not how I read the reference which the hon. Gentleman made. Even so, I do not agree with his description.
Many attempts have been made to try to undermine the Race Relations Act. Much of the fire directed against the Race Relations Board should be directed against us, because the Board merely carries out the Act duly passed by us.
I was a supporter of the Board in the beginning. I believe that the Act is doing an important job in the community. I should hesitate to change it after such a short time. I agree with some of the comments which have been made that 800 much more time is needed to see how it will work out in practice.
In many respects I suppose that the House has a choice. Either we have a rather wide definition which gives rise to certain difficulties like the Scottish porridge case, and we accept that discriminatory advertisements are so offensive that it is necessary to have a wide section instead of a more limited one, or we limit it and make it half as effective.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) said that in the beginning he was hesitant about having a Race Relations Act; he believed that it should be education, not legislation. However, he came to the view, like many of us, that it was necessary to have an Act of Parliament.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will reconsider the Measure that he has brought before us today. After listening to my hon. Friend give the Government's point of view, I hope that he will withdraw the Bill.
I end with more or less what I said at the beginning. If I felt that more flexibility would produce a more effective Section 6, I should not be hesitant about supporting the Bill. I am not dogmatic on the point. Indeed, I want to make the law as good and respectable as possible. But I do not believe that the Bill will work. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment will avoid the type of case which has been exploited by some people like the hon. Member for Eastbourne.
§ Mr. Winnick
Exploited in the way that certain people make complaints of the Race Relations Board to discredit both the Board and the Act.
§ Mr. Winnick
The hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to make that point when the Bill was going through Parliament. It is obvious that he is totally opposed to the Act.
§ Mr. Winnick
That is the hon. Gentleman's point of view.
I said that certain people were trying to exploit differences and difficulties which have arisen to discredit both the Race Relations Board and the 1968 Act. It would be wrong to amend the Act after such a short period. We should leave it as it is. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will consider withdrawing the Bill.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) has attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) for ever drawing attention to the preposterous case of the Scottish cook. But I believe that most people, including hon. Gentlemen opposite, think that my hon. Friend performed a public service in drawing attention to the manifest absurdity of that case and, in consequence, the absurdity of the provisions of Section 6 of the 1968 Act.
The hon. Gentleman went wider still in his condemnation, because he also criticised the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) for, in effect, throwing away his good luck in the Ballot by bringing forward a Bill of this character.
I do not regard the Bill as unimportant, nor do I regard the subject as unimportant. I think that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland performed a public service in using his good fortune in the Ballot to bring forward a Bill to remedy a specific defect and to make a contribution, as he thought, to making an Act of Parliament less ridiculous.
The fact that I, unlike him, I think, am opposed to the whole of the race relations legislation makes no difference in this respect. The legislation having been passed, one is fully entitled to look at it and to say that particular parts are impractical and absurd.
The case which is the genesis of the Bill is a very good illustration. I think that you, Mr. Speaker, were inclined to discourage us from going too deeply into the porridge, but, in a sense, the Bill is about porridge in its origin. It is also about every other case in which a person with particular attributes is de- 802 sired but may not be advertised for because of Section 6 of the Act.
I do not know what the Minister will say when he replies. I do not know that he does either. At the moment his thoughts appear to be far away—[Interruption.] I think that the hon. Gentleman's wish is gratified. I suspect that he will say that this is a lot of nonsense because people can get what they want by describing the qualities of the person they seek. That is simply not true.
Suppose someone wants a French cook. That is not the same as a cook who has taken a course in French cooking.
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. Gentleman should know the answer to so simple a question. The French are generally considered to have a special flair for cooking. That is why people take French cookery courses.
Suppose someone wants a French teacher, as was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe), to teach his child conversational French. Why should he have to advertise for someone with that total skill in conversational French which is the natural attribute of every French person but is very difficult for everybody else to acquire? Why should it be unlawful in England to advertise for a French teacher to teach conversational French?
Suppose someone wants a Scottish nursemaid. How does he frame his advertisement to formulate the qualities that he has in mind? The qualities that he has in mind are those of character and background and a certain attitude to life no longer to be found in the more urbanised and cosmopolitan parts of our island. He could not possibly formulate that he wanted a Scottish nanny because of his view of the special attributes that Scottish nursemaids tend to have.
I regret that the Bill does not go further, as indeed within the Long Title it could, and explicitly say, though I dare say the right hon. Gentleman means it, colour. Why not?
Someone may want a coloured actor to play Othello. Why should he not be able to advertise for one? Someone 803 may want a white actress to play Desdemona. Why should he not be allowed to advertise for one?
We had all this out in Committee on the principal Bill. We really heard the most preposterous arguments put up. It was said, I think by the Government spokesman, that one must accept whoever comes along: it might be a black girl, but she could put flour on her face. This was said in Committee, and it illustrates the lunatic doctrinaire approach to the whole subject of laws against discrimination. Section 6, concerning employment and this kind of advertisement, brings this to a head. It is lawful to choose a coloured actor to play Othello and it is lawful to insist on a white actress to play Desdemona, but one may not advertise for them.
§ Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman would care to note that some years ago this sort of thing happened in my own case. I produced a production of "Hassan" by James Elroy Flecker with a large cast and, in the end, I had to advertise for a negro to play the part of Masrur, the negro executioner. Until I advertised I did not get people to come along for auditions, but having advertised I obtained someone suitable who played the part.
§ Mr. Bell
What puzzles me is why anyone should find this shocking. One can make a mock-up of a negro or of a white girl, but why should one do that when one can have the real thing? And why should not one have the real thing—whether it is an Italian cook, a French cook or a Scots nannie, or a French teacher of conversation. All those people, as a matter of common sense, have something special and inherent to offer.
§ Mr. Bell
The hon. Gentleman says "rubbish" because he is dedicated to the view that no one has anything inherent and that it is a wicked thought that they should have. That is what Section 6 is all about, and I welcome this amendment. I know that it will not cure the defects in the Act and the defects in Section 6, but at least it will cure the most absurd defect, the one that is causing the greatest practical incon- 804 venience. It will have one further great advantage in that it will highlight the absurdity of Section 6 of the Act, because if one looks at the Bill which we are considering, what it will allow is an expressed intention toselect a person of a particular nationality or particular descent for employment requiring attributes specially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent.What makes some hon. Members opposite angry is that once one recognises that persons of particular nationality or descent have particular attributes as such, the absurdity of the Act becomes more obvious. I welcome this Bill as making a practical contribution towards common sense in the law, and also as one step along the road to reconsideration of the fundamental error of the 1968 Act.
§ 12.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)
Most hon. Members have expressed gratitude to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) for allowing discussion of this matter, and from that I do not dissent, though I would not have thought that it was the most burning issue in Orkney and Shetland nor for that matter in South Aberdeen. Race relations is, however, a vital question affecting all of the United Kingdom.
We in Scotland are possibly lucky in our happy community spirit. Of course—although I do not necessarily want to keep the numbers small—we have only 8,000 coloured immigrants according to the Race Relations Board's last Report. We are lucky in the sense that there is no racial tension and that we have a very happy community spirit in Scotland. There are the odd jokes about Glasgow tram drivers coming from Donegal or Bengal, but these are said in a spirit of tolerance. As one well known Glasgow character said, "The Indians will be all right as long as they do not start a football team."
Nevertheless, it is right that we should discuss the matter. What happens elsewhere in the United Kingdom affects us all, and there is no doubt that bad race relations can poison, embitter and disfigure the community faster than anything else.
At the moment we have a policy of strict immigration control, and that 805 makes it all the more vital that we should use this breathing space to bend our minds as energetically as possible to getting the kind of structure of integration that we want in this country. The way in which we must judge the Bill is by asking to what extent it helps in that. Many kind things have been said about it and the right hon. Gentleman. I am not entirely sure that I can share that view. My own feeling—and I hope that I shall not be thought over-aggressive—is that the right hon. Gentleman has shown a fair deal of opportunism in bringing forward this Measure.
It arises out of the now notorious Eastbourne cook case—commonly called the Scots porridge case—a prime piece of silly season trivia which occupies so many column inches in the Scots and national Press. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman has been tempted to bandwaggon a little here. It happened just at the time of the Ballot for Private Members' Bills and he was tempted to rush in to save Scotland's, if not the Race Relations Board's, honour. He brutally abandoned his announced plans to introduce constitutional reform, one of his pet subjects, in order to introduce what he said—and I confess to doubting it—was a matter of great importance.
Sadly a confident morning gave way to a long day of doubt and disillusion, and it was only on Wednesday morning that we received a copy of the Bill. That is very late for a Measure which depends entirely for its worth on the actual text and which does not deal immediately and obviously with a question of principle on which one can stand up and be counted before one has seen the measure. There is an enormous amount of confusion as to what the Bill is even intended to do. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it was intended to cover the Scots porridge case and he gave a slightly ambiguous answer.
This confusion has been widely reflected in the comment made since the Bill appeared. Yesterday the Glasgow Herald told us:An attempt to make it lawful under the Race Relations Act to advertise for a Scots cook will be made in the House of Commons tomorrow by Mr. Jo Grimond, Liberal M.P. for Orkney and Shetland.806 That was their interpretation of the Bill. The last issue of the Sunday Times had an article to the opposite effect under the racy heading "Porridge beats Jo's reforms". That confusion has been illustrated by the debate we have had.
The right hon. Gentleman explained that the Bill allows advertisements under Section 6 to reflect the exceptions described in Section 8(11)—exceptions which can be taken into account in deciding whether there was discrimination in respect of employment. But that hopelessly blurs the position because it will lead to editors deciding on the spot whether to admit an advertisement—and deciding in a state of considerable vagueness and doubt. The right hon. Gentleman replies, "What does it matter? Editors have to make much more important decisions which may involve them in libel actions running into many thousands of pounds." That is fair enough from the point of view of the newspaper. What does it matter if the newspaper receives a few admonishing letters from the Race Relations Board? But that is not the important point to me. I am not worried about newspapers and editors. I am worried about a situation which may well result in a large number of apparently discriminatory advertisements appearing in the Press, for that would be an unfortunate and possibly, I accept, unintended result a the Bill.
The Bill would invite editors to make a difficult value judgment. They would have to decide whether an advertisement for a job was one which specified aparticular nationality or particular descentwhich enjoyedattributes specially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent".That must be a matter of considerable vagueness, lacking in specification and requiring a subjective judgment. Moreover, editors would have to do that under the pressure of time before the advertisement had to be set in print, and that is very different from the kind of process which would be undertaken by the Race Relations Board in respect of employment under Section 8(11). In that case there must be a complaint and there would be an investigation and, finally, a considered decision.
807 I submit that if we took such an attitude we should drive a very serious breach through the 1968 Act. After all, every editor could plead that an advertisement which reached him could be—to use the words of the Bill" reasonably understood "to deal with a job having special attributes which the Bill requires. If we look at the kind of case with which, presumably, the Bill is intended to deal, the dangers become abundantly clear. For example, if the Bill has any meaning, it must surely cover the Indian cook required for an Indian restaurant. If that is so, why should it not cover the Scots cook who is wanted for Scots cooking and who has to cook good porridge?
One can have all sorts of wild speculation about whether there is a special form of Scottish cooking. It has been said that the English cannot make porridge and that they are now wedded to that strange form of rather thin gruel made from oats which has been foisted on them by commercial television.
But it seems to me that if we accept that argument we do not know where to draw the line. If an exception is to be made for an Indian cook in an Indian restaurant or a Scots cook for Scots cooking, why not an English cook to make good, old-English Yorkshire pudding? And if we admit that, we are getting back to the situation of advertising "No coloureds", because if we allow advertisements saying "Cook wanted—English only", that is very similar to the highly offensive advertisement which, except for a few extremist hon. Members opposite, everyone agrees, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick), ought to be permanently abolished.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Is my hon. Friend aware that Quaker Oats are made in the Southall constituency by a considerable amount of Indian labour?
§ Mr. Dewar
That may well be, but the admirable pedigree of Quaker Oats does not reconcile me to them as a culinary delicacy. I prefer porridge as it is cooked by the Scots—thick enough to be sliced with a knife.
It seems to me that we are setting out on a very dangerous path when we en- 808 dorse the principles of the Bill, however reasonable they may sound, superficially. If the proposed change is to cover the Scots porridge case, it must by definition endanger the whole fabric of the Act; or, if it does not, then it is not worth the confusion and trouble which it causes. Under Section 6(2), for reasons which I must confess I do not entirely understand, it is quite proper to advertise in this country for an Italian waiter for an Italian restaurant or for a Spanish au pair girl, on the ground that those people are aliens and not Commonwealth citizens. That may be an anomaly and very difficult to defend in logic, but at least it limits drastically the area in which the right hon. Gentleman's proposed Amendment might be useful. I do not propose to weary the House by going through the detailed cases, but it seems to me, for example, that the difficulties of engaging a Negro trumpeter for a Negro band have been very largely exaggerated. An advertisement for a trumpeter for a band of that description would surely have very much the same practical effect.
There has been some argument about how the Race Relations Board stands in respect of the Bill. I cannot, of course, offer any distilled wisdom, but it is worth drawing attention to the Press conference of 25th November which was widely reported the next day in certain parts of the Scottish Press. At that stage—and, of course, there may have been second thoughts—the Chairman of the Race Relations Board, Mr. Mark Bonham Carter, made it clear that he did not want changes in the Act following the Eastbourne case.
It is easy to make fun of the Board. That is a situation with which we may have to live for some time, although I hope that the rather puerile wit which gets down to this kind of thing will exhaust itself soon and that people will grow tired of this passing fashion. In any case, it would not be right to bring in sweeping changes in respect of the terms of advertisements dealt with under Section 6—sweeping changes which allow a horse and coach to be driven through the fabric of the 1968 Act.
May I conclude by sounding a note of warning—and this is a comment of Scottish interest. Although the Eastbourne case may appear ludicrous as it 809 stands, there is no doubt that in Scotland—despite the fact that I referred earlier to our excellent relations—there are undertones which would make it a little less comic in the years to come if they were to develop. Our record may be good but in their last Report the Race Relations Board said that thismay be a temporary phenomenon, but it could also be a reflection of a positive attitude to the development of better race relations in Scotland.When they are talking about a temporary phenomenon they sound a warning note. I have had the experience in a solicitor's office of hearing a man refuse to sell a very high-priced, substantial, middle-class property to an Indian simply on the ground that he was on good terms with his neighbours and that he wanted to return and to visit them in the future—and that if he sold his house to an Indian, he could not do so.
I do not think there is any inherent virtue in the Scottish temperament which insulates Scots against racial prejudices, and our reasonable record so far may at least have much to do with the fact that we have not felt the kind of pressures which have been felt in some other parts of the country.
There is another undercurrent relevant to the Bill and to the Eastbourne case. In Scotland there is undoubtedly a kind of touchy patriotism which on occasions gets a little out of hand. My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South suggested that at least to some extent this might lie at the base of the present Measure, and I suspect that he was right in saying that. I have here a transcript of a radio broadcast given by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland on 26th November, just after he had announced his intention to introduce the Bill. He was asked,Aren't the Scots really making an awful fuss about the whole thing?".His answer was,No, they're not, but they think it is another example of the way in which they're forgotten or neglected. I mean, the Race Relations Act appears to them to have been badly drafted, and if this is a matter which say it affected the whole of England it would have been better drafted; they may be right or wrong, they think it is another example of the way Scotland is treated.That is a fantastic suggestion, but undoubtedly there is a little touch of 810 jingoism about the kind of panic—and there has been some panic—which has forced or tempted the right hon. Gentleman into introducing the Bill.
More importantly, this is an undercurrent which is more widely based in Scottish politics. The Scottish Nationalist Party are in favour of strict immigration control. The logic of their argument, as I have heard it, is that if we have strict immigration control it must apply to the English in the same way as to the Indians or to anyone else. That is their considered political judgment, and I am not in a position to dispute it. But the trouble about that kind of situation, is that it can develop less pleasant aspects which are directly related to the kind of phenomena we have seen in the Eastbourne case. That case is a joke, and I have been told—it is only a rumour for which I cannot vouch—that the Eastbourne doctor ended up with a Belgian au pair girl which put his conscience and love of Scots cooking to some extent in perspective.
But, in any event, we see how these incidents can escalate. In Scotland it is sometimes comic. We have the situation of Miss United Kingdom being solemnly reported to the Race Relations Board by the Scottish Nationalist Party because she appeared in some beauty contest wearing a Miss England sash. I suppose it was a form of revenge. Only a few weeks ago, another member of the Scottish Nationalist Party, rejoicing in the fine old Scottish name of Murgatroyd, complained that Miss United Kingdom had not carried out her patriotic duties as a former Miss S.N.P., which led to the reply with which I sympathise that she had done more for Scotland than had the whole of the S.N.P. put together.
It is comic, but it can be a danger and it could become serious. If any hon. Member read the kind of publicity which appears from some nationalist sources about English students in Scottish universities he would begin to appreciate exactly what I mean. If hon. Members looked at the correspondence columns of some of the Scottish papers, they would find a range of interesting and alarming letters. For example, in the Scotsman only last Tuesday hon. Members would find a ranging correspondence 811 about immigration, in which it was explained by people who were clearly S.N.P. supporters that the fear is not so much of Scotland losing population but of the fact that the people who are coming into Scotland are not of the true stock. It was pointed out that eleven Scots might leave and six might come back—and that the difficulty was not the gap of five but the fact, as we were solemnly told,That those five may be an English family and—I presume this is the crucial horror—one Indian bachelor".This is the kind of sentiment becoming all too common in Scotland, and it relates directly to the kind of phenomenon lying behind the Eastbourne case and therefore behind this Bill. I do not want to try the patience of the House with too many examples, they are wide-ranging. There was the well-known Scottish Nationalist candidate who attributed the loss of the Gorbals by-election to the fact that the voters were not true Scots but unwanted Irish immigrants.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide of the Bill.
§ Mr. Dewar
I accept that there is a danger of going wide on this point. I am trying to fill in the background to the Eastbourne case and pointing out that there is a level of intolerance developing in Scotland which may make it unwise at the end of the day to abandon entirely the kind of safeguard the Race Relations Board has even though they can be abused in an Eastbourne situation.
Those who are enthusiastic readers of the Scots Independent, the official paper of the Scottish Nationalist Party will have seen an elegant cartoon, showing a large executive desk with a little notice, "Race Relations Act, 1972" on the wall, behind a large bearded Indian, wearing a turban and speaking into the telephone. He is saying:Yes, this is the Secretary of State for Scotland speaking".There is no doubt that this theme runs through, a theme of intolerance not confined to the small extremist pro-Rhodesian lobby. There are double standards which make it important that the Race Relations Board should be 812 armoured with the full weapons it needs to deal with present and future developments.
Some of those who have shouted loudest about the Eastbourne case have shown a certain touchiness when events have moved nearer home. One of the sponsors of the Bill is the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing). She, I understand, has made it clear that in her view the Eastbourne case is an utter nonsense. I remember Mark Bonham-Carter, Chairman of the Relations Board, saying at a news conference that the selfsame hon. Lady had referred to the Board, apparently, in all solemnity, the exact mirror image of the Eastbourne case, dealing with discrimination in Scotland apparently in favour of the English. It was an advertisement which read:English representative required for English company in Scotland.In those circumstances the Nationalists were quick to go the the Race Relations Board crying both "shame" and "alleging discrimination".
This is a minor point but it raises further important issues. After only 18 months, given all the imponderables and the undefinables, I would be very loth to see any part of the Race Relations Act being demolished now. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has been over-hasty. I recognise that his motives may be good though very muddled but we need this Act in all its force. It is a necessary Act, usefully marking our determination to fight discrimination and ensure that there is a fair chance for all our citizens, in the United Kingdom whether they are Commonwealth or English or, dare I say it, Scots. He is trying to substitute confusion for confident clarity in Section 6. It would be a dangerous mistake if the House were to listen to his advice.
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
I shall detain the House for only a few moments. I referred to the case in my constituency—the Scottish cook case—on the Adjournment debate on 17th December, when I made my position clear.
I strongly support the Bill which the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has introduced. We ought to thank him for producing this 813 short effective Measure. I hope that he will not have long filibustering speeches such as the one to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar). It was an interesting and amusing speech but a great deal of it had nothing to do with the Bill.
I hope that we shall be permitted by the Government to come to a conclusion on the Bill, to vote on it and not have it talked out by Government supporters at 4 o'clock. I hope that the House can come to a decision upon it and that we can all go on record as supporting it or voting against it.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
I have no intention of delaying the debate or making any kind of filibustering speech. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) said, that the Bill came rather too late for anyone to do as much research as they would have liked.
What amused me about the Bill on first reading was the wording:… requiring attributes specially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent.That strikes me as a very good Liberal thought. I am sure that members of the Liberal Party agree with those sentiments. If we did believe in attributes belonging to people of nationalities we might say that this was a good national attribute of the Liberal Party—to believe in the idea of national attributes.
The facts, scientific, sociological and psychological, have time and again over a period of 50 years or more proved that there is no such thing as inherent or inherited national attributes. If we are to talk about the Bill let us at least talk about facts and not about the idea, which some people in the middle of the 20th century still retain, that there is such a thing as a particular characteristic which can be attributed to one race or nation.
If we were to take a public survey in England it would be found that the majority of people when given a list of races and nations and attributes and asked to put one against the other would say:Irishmen—lazy.814 When it came to the Frenchman I am sure that they would not attribute to him great culinary skills.
Are we to stand up and say this—which is no more than an out-dated and disproven notion of Liberal Englishmen since we are attributing qualities? Are we to write this into a serious Bill? There is something more serious behind this. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may not agree about attributes, but unfortunately people outside this House do.
There are people who believe that only a Scot can cook porridge. I am not interested in who can cook porridge; I hate the stuff. What I am interested in is the loophole which this gives, for no benefit; since there is no national attribute we are not doing anything for anyone's benefit, but we are giving a loophole to the kind of person who could use this to bring in his own means of discrimination.
We have heard a number of puerile and ridiculous examples, like the gentleman who had to write in his newspaper:Would a negro please apply to play a negro part?If any intelligent person wishes to cast a coloured person in a play he can advertise that rôle. If there is a coloured actor available he will, if he wants the job, apply for it along with others. If the employer does not have the intelligence to look along and say,Yes. I want a black actor, and there is a man whose face I will not have to paint because he is a black personthen it will be most surprising.
Similarly with the question of the French cook. If what is wanted is not someone to cook French food but someone to cook for one and to teach one's children French, all I can say is that it is in the nature of the Tory Party to try to get two jobs out of the working-class for the price of one. If the employer wants a French teacher, let him apply for a fluent French teacher—who will not always be French. After all, we are told that the best English is spoken in Inverness. For someone wanting his children to be taught perfect English, London is the very last place in which to look for a teacher.
When someone with certain skills is wanted for a job, it is in the interest of 815 every employer—and large industries do this on a massive scale—to take into consideration the psychological aspects when in skill all the applicants are running neck and neck. It is then likely that the person with the edge on personality or the edge on some other individual trait will get the job. That practice has been adopted by employment officers. The Bill would introduce a system by which someone could advertise for an English nanny for English children—some English people being, first, able to afford nannies, and, secondly, thinking that their children are much too good for any other kind of nanny. After all, only English nannies really know how to bring up English children in a good Conservative fashion.
Let us admit that a job can be done by many different people, but if we want it done by someone in particular, let us not create wishy-washy Liberal holes in the Act, and so allow racists and bigots to have a polite way of publicising their views. If they want to say, "We do not want to employ coloured people" it is up to them to say it. If they want to say, "We do not want to employ people of a certain nationality", let them stand up and say it. But let us not provide them with a legal means of saying it.
The Race Relations Act, being still very new, will no doubt later need to be amended. One very important amendment that is needed, and to which I shall only refer, is an extension of its provisions to Northern Ireland. If such a step were taken, and if, in the meantime, this present amending Bill were enacted, repeal would be necessary because the amended legislation would be totally unworkable in Northern Ireland. Can anyone tell me what, on the face of it, would be discriminatory or offensive in asking for a loyal employee? One could quite easily advertise for a loyal British employee. In Northern Ireland a person is an entirely different kind of worker from a British employee working in Northern Ireland; yet the word "loyal" is not, on the face of it, offensive. The fact is that such an advertisement would really be saying, "Only someone of the Orange Order need apply". Nevertheless, the advertiser could not be dealt with by the Race Relations Board—
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
The hon. Lady must surely admit that in Northern Ireland there are many loyal citizens other than those belonging to the Orange Order. It is complete nonsense to say otherwise.
§ Miss Devlin
I am perfectly aware of that fact: unfortunately, members of the Orange Order are not.
First, as I have said, the basis of the Bill is false, inasmuch as there is no such thing as a national attribute. Secondly, even if there were, it has no relevance to the ability of an individual to do a certain job. Thirdly, if the Bill were passed so soon after the passing of the Race Relations Act, circumstances would necessitate its being deleted in a few years' time.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
The dispute in the Scots porridge case was always daft, and the Bill now being promoted to deal with it seems to me to be equally daft.
In Committee on the Race Relations Bill one hon. Member opposite indicated the sort of problem that might arise in relation, for instance, to employing an Indian waiter at Veeraswamy's. We had a long discussion on the wording of what is now Section 6, and it was agreed that dilution of the wording might lead in future to advertisements such as "No coloureds," "English only," or "Whites only." In the end, we decided that the price to be paid in the form of such difficulties as might arise in the recruitment of a certain type of waiter at Veeraswamy's, and so on, was a price that we were prepared to pay.
Unfortunately, to some extent the Government acceded to the point raised, with the result that on Report they included subsection (11) of the present Section 8, which gives exemption from the provisions of Section 3 in relation to persons who have… attributes especially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent.The Amendment was not made in relation to the provisions dealing with advertisements.
817 When the Eastbourne issue arose I thought it was quite plain that some mischievous person was seeking to cast reflection on the whole scheme of the Act and was using that isolated example for that purpose. What should have happened there was that the conciliation officer should have said, "It is technically a breach of the Act, but it is not serious. Let's forget about it."
I am told that the Race Relations Board believes that it has no discretion in the application of the Act. I do not agree. Discretion, it is true, is not written into the Act, but let us also remember that a police officer has no stated discretion in relation to a criminal offence that he sees committed. Nevertheless, he has the opportunity to decide whether or not the offence committed is so trivial as not to be worth bothering about.
The reaction of the conciliation officer in the Eastbourne case should have been to say, "It doesn't matter. Let's forget about it." However, having decided that attention should be drawn to it, he asked for an undertaking that the advertisement be so reworded as to cover the legitimate point raised, which was that the fact that an advertiser wants Scots porridge made to his liking does not necessarily involve him applying for a Scots cook. That was the basis of that dispute.
The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) tried to suggest that certain national attributes are common to a whole group. For the reasons so persuasively put by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), I totally disagree with that view. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that a whole group possesses the same attributes.
There is no kind of unanimity of opinion in Scotland on how Scots porridge should be made, any more than there is in Yorkshire about how Yorkshire pudding should be made. In both cases I can speak with some authority, as my father was a Scotsman and I was born in Yorkshire, where I lived for many years. People tell me that Yorkshire pudding should always be thick, that it should always be thin, that it should always be blown up; yet even in that area of Yorkshire where once I lived I can find people who make Yorkshire pudding in all those ways, and in other ways, too. If I were to state in a news- 818 paper advertisement that I wanted a Yorkshire cook because she made Yorkshire pudding, I would have to go on to say whether she should make it thin, thick or puffy. It becomes ludicrous.
The same is true with Scots porridge. I do not really believe that the Eastbourne doctor was interested in the state of his porridge, but if he was, he should have said in his advertisement that he liked porridge in a particular kind of way, and he should have specified it. If the person who came forward to cook that delectable porridge was born in Scotland, well and good, but if she was born in England, what difference would it make? He would get his porridge as he wanted it. It is the skill he wants, not the place of origin of the cook.
The same is true of French cooking. The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South tried to suggest that everybody in France has a particular kind of flair for cooking. That is nonsense, as all of us who have tasted some cooking in France will agree.
It is, of course, true that cooking at home is a skill which a great many people in France possess. It is true that there is a kind of flavour about the way in which some French people cook which is particularly palatable and attractive, but that is a skill which can be possessed by someone who was born in Yorkshire. It can be acquired by going either to the Yorkshire College of Technology or to France and learning the art, but the fact remains that it is not something which is a national attribute.
There is nothing in the Bill which prohibits a person from employing somebody who has a particular skill, whether it is in general terms known as a national attribute or not. If one wants the skill, one can have it and one can advertise for it. Nothing in the Act prevents this. Therefore, the Bill is totally unnecessary.
I know that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) was motivated by the highest considerations. He wanted to prevent any further ridicule of the Race Relations Board and of the Act. The record in this matter of the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) is admirable, but when he said that we did not want to see the Race Relations Board in a ludicrous posture created by the Press, I would say that all of us in this House have 819 at one time or another been put into a position of ridiculous posture by the Press. All parties and politicians suffer from it. It does not necessarily mean that the Press are right, or that we have to accede to their views. What the Press were doing on the occasion in question was having one of those silly season stunts, and they played it for all they were worth.
§ Mr. Lyon
The hon. Member says that it was November. The unfortunate thing about the last few months is that the silly season has lasted so long. If one looks through the papers these days, there is practically no hard news and there is a continuation of silly stunts. This was one. That is how it should have been treated and we should have forgotten all about it.
All that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has done is to resurrect the issue so that people can come out from underneath their stones and make snide comments about race relations and the Act. It is no secret that the right hon. Gentleman has been supported on the Floor of the House by three Opposition Members who were totally opposed to the concept of a Race Relations Bill and have always been opposed to any kind of intervention by the State to bring about sensible, coherent race relations in this country. That is the kind of support that the right hon. Gentleman will get.
We ought to wait a while and see whether any real difficulty arises. I do not believe that this is a real difficulty. If such a difficulty should arise, we could then amend the Act as a whole. No doubt, it will require amendment as the years pass. We cannot pretend to omniscience. We obviously have made mistakes and things will appear in due course. Then, the whole matter can be reviewed rationally and sensibly and not in response to a newspaper scare. Meanwhile, if this kind of thing happens again, let the Home Office tell the conciliation officer, "Use your nut and do not be daft in future."
§ 1.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
I hope that by now the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) 820 realises that in this debate he has been well and truly conned by quite a number of people whose attitude to the problem is very different from his own. It was clear from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) that all kinds of people have been supporting the right hon. Gentleman in this debate for all kinds of disreputable reasons. When we hear the arch race obsessionist of the Monday Club finding something good in a Bill dealing with race relations, that of itself is almost a good enough reason for throwing it out of the window.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman —I do not mean this rudely, because I admire him in many ways—with his twenty years of parliamentary experience, has landed himself in a position of being made to look mildly ridiculous, possibly by a combination of factors that he may not have been able adequately to anticipate, but which was pregnant in the whole situation.
§ Dr. Winstanley
Does not the hon. Member recall that he himself has been supported in some rather curious places on this side of the House in the stand he has taken against the Government's prices and incomes legislation?
§ Mr. Lee
I made it perfectly clear that my reasons were totally different from theirs, and I also made it clear that the kind of legislation that I wanted was totally different from the kind of legislation that some of those people wanted. In this instance, however, although there is a total divergence of motive, there is nevertheless, albeit temporarily, an incongruous unity of purpose with regard to the proposed legislation that the right hon. Gentleman has put forward. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) could have used the analogy of the Common Market, in which case I would get into trouble with his hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell), who thinks the same as I do, although for different reasons.
The trouble with the legislation which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced is fourfold. It is too narrow a piece of legislation to merit being sent upstairs and amended. The Long Title is too restrictive even to permit the kind of Amendments that my hon. Friend the 821 Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) had in mind, which would have dealt with a specific abuse concerning clubs which the Act as a whole does not appear to cover.
The Bill is premature. Everybody realises that the principal Act is bound to require revision from time to time. It is a totally new venture in legislation, coping with a totally new situation, and it would be far better if it were left until we have seen it operating for some time. There has not even been time for a few leading cases to accrue in the courts arising out of it. It would have been far better if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to wait for that to happen before introducing his Bill. I suspect that it is the product of something like panic.
There are parts of the Bill, short though it is, which are badly drafted. I tried to make it clear to the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair), who did not appear to understand the point, that if the word "attribute" appears wrongly in the principal Act, it might be logical, but certainly not helpful, to repeat the same error in amending legislation.
As a lawyer, I wince at the use of the world "gist" in the proposed Amendment to the Act. In the second of the two changes that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland proposes to make in the Act, he would insert after paragraph (b) of Section 9(1)or render unlawful the publication or display or causing the publication or display of an advertisement or notice stating the gist of any such charitable instrument or of any such benefit".It is a loose, imprecise and very unsatisfactory word.
§ Mr. Grimond
The hon. Gentleman is aware, as a lawyer, that this language comes straight out of the original Act, is he not?
§ Mr. Lee
Again, is that a reason for perpetuating blemishes in legislation? Merely because the principal Act has it is no reason why it should come in the amending legislation. If there is an error in legislation and an amending Bill is introduced, as the right hon. Gentleman has introduced one, it should not be the practice faithfully to reproduce the errors which the original Act contains. That is what this Bill does.
822 But that is a minor matter. The real objection to the Bill—and I hope that this offers some comfort to the right hon. Gentleman, who has received a certain amount of buffetting, not all of it deserved, during the debate—is that I really do think that he underestimates the commonsense of judges and of the Race Relations Board. It really is not a serious argument for this kind of legislation that a number of people in the theatrical world are either so ignorant of the law and lawyers, or are so fearful about committing themselves to anything, that they cannot draft an intelligible advertisement without fear that they will then be mulcted for damages. Imagine such a case as that the Bill purports to provide for, somebody arriving at the court and claiming damages. Can anybody really imagine that anything but nominal damages would be awarded? Is it not at least reasonable to suppose, all the facts having been disclosed to the court, and the motives of anyone who had made some such error, that none but contemptuous damages would be awarded, the litigant finding himself having to pay costs?
Again, the Race Relations Board, to which the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps inadvertently, is most unflattering as to its capacity for common sense, has as its principal rationale conciliation; its principal function is not that it should promote disputes or see that they are pushed to logical but bitter conclusions, but to try to reconcile one person with another; its function is educative rather than arbitrational.
It seems most extraordinary to me that the right hon. Gentleman and those who support him should jump on a situation like the Scots porridge case and really not only expose themselves to considerable discredit with people who are their well wishers, as are the majority of this House and, I believe, the majority of the people in the country outside, but also expose themselves to a certain amount of judicial scorn and castigation. Contrary to what is sometimes imagined, the majority of the judges are not fools, and they are not totally "unwith it". They do read the newspapers, and they are aware of the problems of most people, and, indeed, one might say, spend a disproportionate amount of their time dealing with the problems which ordinary people project for them, criminal or civil. 823 It really seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut in this case, in producing this piece of legislation.
There is a large number of matters which, in the fullness of time, one might conceivably amend in the principal Act. For myself, I would question whether some of the exemptions in favour of the State as against private individuals are reasonable. If one could imagine the situation in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) were in charge, some of the provisions in favour of the State would make one blanch at the prospect of mischief which could be perpetrated.
I think, too, that there might be a case for amendment of Section 23 of the Act, to make some of the discriminatory practices, not amendable, but wholly void, so that they would be vitiated in toto. It may be, also, that further definition may be required of the whole question of what is a reasonable quantum in the matter of damages. It is a fact that a great deal of legislation which includes the word "damages" does leave the courts in some doubt in matters of quantum, and it very often happens that some rather rough justice is done one way or the other because it is so vague. But this, again, is not something which features in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, but it certainly, in my view, is more important than the things which it is sought to do by the Bill.
I hope that this controversy, which has caused a great deal of unholy delight to a number of, in most cases, I think, rather disreputable people, will die down. I do not say that there will not be mistakes made by the Race Relations Board, and I would not be at all surprised if the courts did throw out some glaring anomalies which Parliament did not foresee. It is very rare indeed that legislation is faultless, and I am one of the last persons in being backward in being critical of the parliamentary draftsmen. We have had some peculiar pieces of legislative draftsmanship in recent years, and it has caused a good deal of vexation and trouble. It may be that this Act will also provide us trouble.
However, I really do not think that this particular instance which has given 824 rise to the right hon. Gentleman's somewhat precipitate reaction should amount to that. I think that most people realise that—apart from a number of people who, perhaps quite lightheartedly, thought the whole thing was a huge joke. There was quite a number of people—my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) made this clear—who gleefully and mischievously seized upon a technical anomaly and ballooned it out of all proportion in the hope of trying to discredit the operation of the Act as a whole. I think that probably the best way in which to deal with that is not by this Bill; the best thing to do with this Bill, admirable though the right hon. Gentleman's motive may be, is to bury it.
§ 1.47 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I came along early this morning specially to hear the opening speech by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), whom I admire immensely. I hoped to hear, as always, what I would term a sensible, balanced speech, and I did, but as I listened I found myself, believing in the Act itself, feeling that his proposed amendments to the Act are superfluous. All my instincts told me so as I listened to him. It may have been sparked off, I am not quite sure, by some past act in connection with—I believe it was—the cooking of porridge. I find the Bill superfluous—I will not say ludicrous.
However, I find myself in a somewhat difficult position because I happened to be a Northumbrian married to a lady who is a Cockney and I live in Yorkshire. If my wife, for example, were to seek to become a cook-housekeeper in Yorkshire in the event of my demise some time she would perhaps advertise as a Yorkshire lady cooking Yorkshire puddings—and I can assure the House that she cooks excellent Yorkshire puddings—if she were to advertise for a chance of working to a Scaraborough hotel. So we begin by talking here in a kind of ethnic terms, of cooking Yorkshire puddings in York shire—Texas in England. So we are treading on somewhat delicate soil.
I spent a little while in education. We all know that there are advertisements for teachers in languages. An advertisement is couched in wide open terms to the effect that a teacher of a certain language 825 is required. When a commercial college, for example, advertises for a teacher, Hindu, Pakistani or other Asian teachers may apply, together with English, Scottish or Welsh teachers, and it sometimes happens that the job is given to an Anglo-Saxon. Asians may, and sometimes do, complain about this; they feel that there has been discrimination. Letters may be sent to the governors, and the governors may ask for the confidential dossiers giving the qualifications of the candidates who were interviewed.
If the Act were amended as is suggested and an advertisement appeared for a Pakistani or someone of a given nationality to teach a particular language to students of a particular ethnic stock, I would regard this as discrimination. As an Englishman I would be entitled to say that such an advertisement, although legal, would be discriminatory against a non-Pakistani or a non-Asian, and I cannot, therefore, accept the amendment, which puts the clock back.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) that additional legislation will amplify the sensibilities of people who are not allowed to apply for such jobs. All my instincts lead me to say that the amendment will result in sensitivity being felt where hitherto there was none.
I place my faith in the Race Relations Act as it is, and in education and the fundamental common sense of the people living in these islands. This will be sufficient, working with the original Act, to create a climate of tolerance and decency wherein there is no discrimination against people applying for jobs.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
The House will be aware that the Race Relations Act has been in force for just over 14 months. In its annual report for 1968–69 the Race Relations Board, commenting on the first six months, indicated that the Act was working well. Experience since then has confirmed this.
In all the main areas of employment, housing, the provision of services and advertisements the Act has had a valuable effect in curbing overt manifestations of racial prejudice. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security was at that time the Minister who piloted the Bill 826 through, and I am sure he would agree that nobody then pretended that this legislation could remove prejudice. Indeed, going round the country as I do, I know that there is prejudice. What the Act does is to curb overt manifestations of racial prejudice, which is what it set out to do. Moreover, the Act has provided effective machinery for the consideration of complaints and the settlement of differences. These are real gains, and it is important to bear this in mind as a background to the discussions today on one particular aspect, however important, of the Act.
There was agreement when the Race Relations Bill was before Parliament that it should deal with discriminatory advertisements. It was generally accepted that they represent a particularly blatant and objectionable form of discrimination which can give great offence and which is open to considerable abuse.
Nobody here wants to return to the days when people could, without any regard to the feelings of others, specify in an advertisement that only "Europeans or English" need apply for a job, or that a flat was to be let to "coloured people only". Let us not assume that only colour has been involved. There have been prejudices against, for example, the Irish and Jewish communities which some people have not hesitated to advertise.
Hon. Members will, however, recall that the precise provision to be made in the Bill to deal with discriminatory advertisements presented a number of problems. One approach would have been to make discriminatory advertisements unlawful only if they referred to an act which was itself declared unlawful under the Act. As we have learnt today, this would have had certain attractions. It could be argued that, where it is not unlawful to discriminate, for example, in engagement for domestic employment or in the letting of lodgings in a small boarding house, it is illogical to make it unlawful for the employer or lessor to advertise the fact that he will discriminate. It could also be argued that people would be put to the unnecessary trouble of applying for certain jobs or types of accommodation from which they could lawfully be excluded.
The other approach was to make all discriminatory advertisements unlawful, recognising that, as I have said, they 827 represent a particularly blatant and objectionable form of discrimination.
All discrimination on grounds of race or colour is undesirable, even though the Act provides that in certain circumstances some acts of discrimination shall not be unlawful. Making all discriminatory advertisements unlawful requires an employer, for example, to exercise his discrimination, even if it is lawful, personally, instead of being able to shelter behind an advertisement. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) expressed that situation extremely clearly. Parliament, therefore, decided that the Race Relations Bill should adopt this wider approach.
It was, at the same time, thought desirable to make some provision for advertisements which, though they might be technically discriminatory, were clearly unobjectionable. Section 6(2) therefore introduced exceptions for advertisements in respect of employment abroad for Commonwealth citizens—I think it was referred to as the "Ministry of Overseas Development Clause"—and also in respect of aliens required for employment here. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security, on that occasion mentioned that it made it possible to advertise, for instance, for a German, Swedish or Italian au pair girl if the appointment was for an alien coming into this country for employment. I accept straight away that the overall aspect of discrimination was altered to some small degree.
I should add here that no exception was made for advertisements relating to jobs abroad for aliens, simply because that did not seem to be necessary. It must be very exceptional for anyone to want to advertise for aliens living in this country to fill jobs abroad.
In spite of the best efforts of the parliamentary draftsman, it was not found practicable to take the exception for aliens further by extending it to advertisements for the employment of Commonwealth citizens in this country, since this would have permitted the "English only" type of advertisement which would have negated the whole purpose of the Section. Indeed, the whole of this aspect of the Act, the whole discussion of it, stems from that point.
828 The relevant Section was discussed at length when the Bill was before Parliament. The House will recall that criticism here, as it has this morning, and in another place, took two forms. First, it was argued that discriminatory advertisements should only be unlawful where the act itself was unlawful under the Bill. Amendments to this effect were resisted for the reasons I have given. Secondly, it was argued that advertisements relating to employment in which account could lawfully be taken under the Bill of particular ethnic or national qualifications should be excepted from Section 6.
Amendments to this effect were considered in both Houses but rejected on the ground that such an exception would really be no different from an exception for advertisements for domestic employment or the small lodging house, and would have been open to the same objections. Throughout the discussions on the advertisement provisions, Government spokesmen made it clear at various stages that it had not been practicable to find any completely satisfactory solution.
We also argued at the time that, in practice, difficulties were hardly likely to arise with advertisements which were generally recognised as unobjectionable, because there seemed no reason why they should give rise to complaints. I accept that, to some degree we were proved wrong here—and I shall return to this point—because there are people who have a vested interest in picking out the oddities that arise. It was, indeed, that sort of person who gave rise to the Eastbourne case, because otherwise there was not the slightest need to complain. At the time, perhaps in a certain innocence, no one ever dreamt that people would object in this way—people who were themselves not affected by the advertisement but who bothered to press it, and press it, and press it again, in the one instance where perhaps the Board was trying to play it in the way many people had argued that it should have played it.
I defend the Board in this respect because it did realise that this was—it is difficult to find the right word—an odd situation with which it was dealing. I do not believe that the Act, after only 15 months, should be altered just because an oddity of this kind has been revealed in recent months.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Gentleman has said something of great importance and I ask him to amplify it for our benefit. He has said that, in Committee, it was not practicable to introduce an Amendment dealing with a situation in which one permitted what one might call genuine advertisements, thereby indicating that there were certain advertisements which one would say were genuine and which perhaps he might have wished to have left to the Board on the exercise of its discretion. The Board has great difficulty in doing so, however. Does the hon. Gentleman hope that it will exercise that discretion in a flexible way about these advertisements? If that is the view of the Government, it would be of great help to the Board.
§ Mr. Rees
I take the point about the Board's discretion and I will come back to it. But it is not in this Bill and I hope that I will not be in trouble in that respect. However, I feel sure that those considering amending the Act would have tried to have dealt with the aspect of discretion and may well have found it not possible to proceed. But I shall come back to the point.
I want to say something more here about the general philosophy of the Act and the machinery for dealing with complaints. Hon. Members are aware that the whole emphasis in the Act is on conciliation, on the settlement by the Board or its conciliation committees of any differences between the complainant on the one hand and the person alleged to have done the unlawful act on the other.
The Act does not create any offence. It does not present anyone with the threat of action in the criminal courts if he discriminates or refuses to respond to the efforts of the Race Relations Board. The whole emphasis is on conciliation supported where necessary and in the last resort by action in the civil courts. I am sure that this approach is right and that no one would wish to change it. In the 14 months since the Act came into force, only one case has been before the courts and I think that it is unfortunate that some of the critics of the Act speak as if the Board were a litigious body and, worse, as if criminal sanctions were involved.
The general provisions relating to the investigation of complaints and concilia- 830 tion between the parties concerned apply to complaints about discriminatory advertisements in the same way as they apply for example, to complaints about discrimination in employment or housing, with one important qualification. A complainant would not himself normally be directly affected by a discriminatory advertisement as he would be by discriminatory acts under the other Sections of Part I of the Act.
A complaint will, therefore, usually depend not on whether a person has allegedly been discriminated against but on whether he has been "offended" or "affronted" by the terms of the advertisement—which was the point I obliquely referred to earlier—or by the specifically stated real intention to discriminate. It ought, therefore, to follow that advertisements which are generally recognised as unobjectionable will not in practice give rise to difficulty. I repeat, "ought"
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
This is an important aspect and it might affect my attitude to the Bill. Is my hon. Friend saying that those people who are refraining from advertising for a coloured actor to fill a negro rôle are free to do so and that it would be unlikely, in his view, that they would be in difficulty?
§ Mr. Rees
I am not saying that. Perhaps as I develop my argument it will become apparent. The point I was making is that advertisements which are generally recognised as unobjectionable will not in practice give rise to difficulty, but that in this instance that is not the case.
I want to say something, before coming to the terms of the Bill—because this is relevant to the Government's attitude—about the positive effects of the advertisement provisions. There is, I think, no doubt that the number of blatant and unpleasant discriminatory advertisements has been substantially reduced. The desire to avoid discriminatory advertisements naturally varies between various advertising agencies and, in the newspaper industry, between one paper and another, but the evidence is that the advertisement provisions are achieving their main object. I ask the House to bear that in mind when considering any Amendment to the Act, however small.
The total number of complaints under Section 6 of the Act received in the 831 Race Relations Board and its conciliation committees up to 31st December—the latest convenient date—was 215, or 12 per cent. of the total number of complaints received by them. About three-quarters of the 215 related to accommodation, the rest to employment. Of the 215 complaints, the Board or its committees formed an opinion that the advertisement was unlawful in 140 cases, and of the 140 approximately half related to acts which were not themselves unlawful under the Act because one or more of the exceptions applied, and about half related to acts which were themselves unlawful.
Most of those relating to acts which were not themselves unlawful were in the field of housing rather than employment. Just under half of the total Section 6 complaints expressed discrimination on an explicit anti-colour basis. One-third of these are blatant, using phrases such as "No coloureds" and the remmaining two-thirds used euphemisms such as "Europeans only" or "English only". Of the remaining Section 6 complaints, approximately one-quarter had advertised for coloured people, the overwhelming majority in this category asking for Indians or Pakistanis. Most of the remainder expressed positive preferences, for example, for Irish tenants. Some of these positive preferences were no more than discreet anti-colour restrictions.
I should add that most newspapers have adopted an extremely responsible attitude towards the operation of the Section. They have taken full advantage of the advice which the Board has been very ready to provide and, as a result, it has been possible to find practical solutions to many of the technical difficulties which might otherwise have arisen. In some of the examples which have been given today, I think that a little technical advice was called for, because there are ways round this problem. While this may offend some people, because they feel, "Why should we have to do it?", the Government's argument is that the overall intention of this part of the Act was to prevent advertisements of this kind. That may be rough justice, but it is producing desirable results.
From the figures which I have quoted, I think that it is clear that the Section 832 has played a positive part and has operated effectively. Perhaps I might quote just one more example. The Board made a spot check of advertisements in one of the local papers in North-East London in July, 1968, just before the Act became law, and again in July, 1969. In the 1968 issue, there were 18 patently discriminatory advertisements including "No coloureds", "Europeans only", "Indians or Pakistanis only", and "No Jews". In the 1969 issue, there was none. That is a striking illustration both of the effectiveness of the Section and of the responsible attitude of the Press.
Having said that, of course I accept that, since the Act came into force, there has been some genuine criticism of the effect of the advertisement provisions. In its Report for 1968–69, the Race Relations Board drew attention to some practical difficulties in connection with advertisement for scholarships and the entertainment industry; for example, academic institutions awarding scholarships intended for people of particular countries are precluded from advertising them. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) properly expressed his concern about the effect of the advertisement provisions on both charities and theatrical agencies. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) said, the way to do it is to advertise the job, and not the nationality or colour required. There is a way of dealing with this. An example would be: "Guitarist wanted for calypso band". When it comes to charities, I think that hon. Members should bear in mind what I had not realised, that some aspects of charities are extremely offensive in their implications that their money is is be provided for certain purposes. It is not the case that all charities are completely clean in this respect of not being discriminatory.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Is my hon. Friend aware that it is not just a matter of what would generally be regarded as offensive advertisements in newspapers? Sometimes it is more objectionable to find such advertisements in showcases outside shops.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend is quite right. However, I was dealing with the newspaper side, where it is easier to get information as to the Section's effect.
833 Hon. Members will also be aware, and we have heard again this morning, that the advertisement provisions of the Act received a good deal of publicity just before Christmas because of the advertisement in the Eastbourne Herald. It would be as well to quote what it said, because we have had various versions of it this morning. It read:Scottish daily for Scottish family able to do some plain cooking.As hon. Members were speaking this morning, it occurred to me that people knew what they were doing when they put in that advertisement. I will not go into the details of the case, partly because the day-to-day actions of the Board and its conciliation committees are the responsibility of the Board rather than of my right hon. Friend, but primarily because I share the view expressed by a number of my hon. Friends that that was not exactly the year's most important event in race relations. In fact, it was extremely unimportant. Unfortunately, it got a great deal of publicity. Like the teachers and local government officials whom I meet almost weekly, I only wish that as much information was given in the Press about the urban programme and positive steps of that kind.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
If publicity tends to show the Board and the Act in a rather ridiculous light and might undermine its authority, would not the hon. Gentleman regard that as important?
§ Mr. Rees
I quite see that, and it happened at the time. However, it is extremely unfortunate that such an unimportant matter was blown up in such a way. It is unimportant, and it is not sufficient reason for altering the Act in a way which would bring worse troubles with it than the actual events in Eastbourne did.
It was a case which scarcely merited complaint, even on the somewhat spurious grounds of the interests of the unemployed Englishmen of Eastbourne. But, pressed by the complainant to investigate, the Board had no discretion under the Act to decide not to do so. There is an undercurrent in this which perhaps has escaped hon. Members.
Turning now to the Bill before us, perhaps I might comment on the two provisions—
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Gentleman is being a little mysterious. Is he saying that there was collusion between the person who put in the advertisement and the person who subsequently made the complaint, with a view to bringing the Act into disrepute?
§ Mr. Rees
No. I was saying that the person who made the complaint made sure that the local conciliation officer did not forget that he had made the complaint. I think that that is a plain statement of the facts.
Subsection (1)(a) would make it lawful to publish a discriminatory advertisement relating to employment in which account could lawfully be taken of particular ethnic or national qualifications. Incidentally, I do not think that there is any significance in the word "attributes" which the right hon. Gentleman has used. If that were pursued, it would not legalise the Scots porridge type of advertisement, and the Amendment does not deal with the Scots porridge case, either. As I have said already, an Amendment on these lines was considered when the Bill was under consideration. It was rejected first because it might open the door to advertisements which related to a real intention to discriminate and which could give offence and, secondly, because it would place an onus on newspapers and other agencies for publishing advertisements to make inquiries to establish whether the need for a person with the particular qualifications was genuine or simply masked an intention to discriminate. The onus would be put on the newspaper. That is an obligation which the newspapers are hardly likely to welcome, and I do not think that difficulty can be treated lightly.
One of the merits of the present provision is that the distinction between what is an unlawful advertisement and what is not is normally fairly clear-cut. On the other hand, if a newspaper decided not to make such inquiries and accepted the advertisement at its face value, it would still leave scope for complaints to the Board which it would have to investigate. The amendment does not purport to deal with the problems of Section 6 as a whole or with the special difficulties which gave rise to the Eastbourne case. Whoever felt that it would does not matter, but certainly earlier 835 indications in the Press were that the Press took it that the right hon. Gentleman's Bill would deal with the Eastbourne case, and it said so in its headlines. It was wrong.
Subsection (1)(b) would make it lawful to state in an advertisement the gist of a discriminatory charitable instrument. The right hon. Gentleman is right that that word was taken from a later part of the Bill concerning the Government. Perhaps I should say here that these later Clauses referred to an exception which was made in the case of advertisements for the Civil Service. They are limited to the nationality rules, of which most right hon. and hon. Members are aware, and they are expressly outside the scope of the Act.
The rules relating to the Civil Service relate to the degree of association with this country and not to race or colour. There is no possibility, whatever government is in power, of advertisingNo coloureds need apply.It is a very narrow exception to the Bill. Under the Act an advertisement concerning the gist of a discriminatory charitable instrument would probably be unlawful unless the terms of the charity specifically required its provisions to be advertised.
I accept that this can be inhibiting, but I am not sure that I would necessarily regard it in every case as being unreasonably inhibiting. As I said earlier, the terms of some charitable instruments might be discriminatory in a way which could cause offence if advertised. In any case, I understand from the Board that such difficulties as have arisen have been relatively minor ones and it has been possible to advise those concerned on appropriate methods of attracting applications without bringing themselves in breach of Section 6.
I turn now to the discretion, which is important. One possible approach which might have been adopted would have been to give the Board discretion to ignore a complaint relating to an advertisement which it considered to be without merit. However, it would be wrong to give the Board discretion to ignore complaints because, under the Act, the Board alone has access to the courts. If 836 the Board refused to investigate, the complainant would have no way of getting his complaint heard. It is, therefore, right that as the Act at present provides, the Board should be required to consider all complaints in respect of unlawful discrimination and, if it is satisfied that a complaint is not justified, it should do its best to explain its reasons to the complainant as part of the conciliatory function. I would accept that this argument would be less compelling if the discretion were limited to complaints relating to advertisements alone since, as I explained earlier, the complainant would not have been directly affected.
I am unhappy about the details of the Bill in a number of respects, but the main reservation of the Government is of a more general nature. The fact is that the Act has been in operation for little more than a year. During that time genuine difficulties have come to light in connection with the operation of Section 6, and others have been given a good deal of misguided publicity. On present experience it is simply too early to be sure that any amendment to the Act is necessary and to be confident that in attempting to remove the anomalies which have so far emerged, we should not create others which we might all find equally objectionable.
While we shall continue to keep the operation of the Act under review, in close consultation with the Board, I do not think that the balance of advantage is in favour of attempting to amend the Act, at this stage. I have mentioned earlier that the Race Relations Board drew attention in its last annual report to certain difficulties in connection with advertisements for scholarships and the entertainment industry. It will want to consider in due course how these might best be dealt with. I can say that it shares my reservations, both about the detail of the first two amendments embodied in the Bill and about the piecemeal approach to Section 6, which both of them represent.
One final point about discriminatory advertisements. Because of the anomalies inherent in the provisions, it is not difficult to think up amusing and contrasting examples of lawful and unlawful advertisements. The fact is that many of these are fairly hypothetical. The number of cases in which actual difficulties 837 arise in respect of clearly innocuous advertisements is very small. Moreover, these difficulties can often be avoided by proper drafting.
For example, there would be no objection to an advertisement referring to the skills and qualifications required for a particular job, such as an ability to do plain Scots cooking. An advertisement such asPlain cook required by Scottish family—[Laughter.]—would suffice, rather than a reference to the person's nationality or national origins. Bearing in mind the experience of some people with Swedish au pair girls, perhaps "plain cook" might be a good description. Again, reference could be made to the circumstances of the job in, for exampleChef wanted for Indian restaurant.The Board will be glad to give what help it can in drafting advertisements. With a little more care and a willingness by certain members of the public not to complain unnecessarily, I am sure that many of the difficulties could be avoided.
In the light of what has been said, and on the understanding, which I readily give that my right hon. Friend in consultation with the Board intends to keep the operation of the Section under review, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can be persuaded to think again and withdraw his Bill. If he does not feel able to do so, then while I see the difficulties involved and at least appreciate most of what prompted him to do this, I would feel bound to advise the House not to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
The Joint Under-Secretary defended Section 6 very gallantly, though I was not at all points entirely persuaded. When I heard his last, rather promising remarks, I wondered whether he had altogether persuaded himself. It seems that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is right in his main intention and ought to be supported. As the hon. Gentleman has recalled, if the advice tendered by certain of my hon. and right hon. Friends in Committee on the main Act had been heeded this Bill would have been unnecessary. It was my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) who spotted the likeli- 838 hood of an anomaly or an absurdity of this kind arising.
An Amendment was proposed to the Bill. We thought it probable that the main victim of the provision would turn out to be the Act itself. In that I venture to say that we were not far out. After a certain amount of solemn nonsense had been talked in Committee, our proposal was rejected. It is right to put on record that a Liberal vote on that occasion was not recorded. Had it been, it might have run the matter very close.
Resisting the temptation to follow the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) into the semantics of "attributes", it seems to me that the basis of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman are unassailable. The whole success of what the right hon. Gentleman and the rest of us are trying to do surely depends on carrying public opinion with us. That process is not likely to be assisted with an Act which makes it illegal to advertise a legal intention and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) pointed out, actually discriminates in this respect between what the Government may do and what the private citizen may do.
On the semantics I have one question to put to the hon. Gentleman and the House. If a Scot is required to cook Scots porridge, a Yorkshireman to cook Yorkshire pudding, what sort of person would be needed to cook black pudding? One way out, which the hon. Gentleman touched on at the end of his remarks, is to give further discretion to the Race Relations Board. The right hon. Gentleman did not like this approach; nor does the Home Office, and nor do I. I think that as the Board's experience grows there may well be a case for it giving wider margins of discretion in such matters. I think that the Board would like this.
However, it seems to me that in the Board's own interests this process would have to be very closely watched. We cannot dodge behind this discretion in dealing with the question posed by this Bill. This is a very delicate department of the law. How much discretion in interpreting law like this should be allowed those responsible for its enforcement raises very large questions. Some would be uneasy—indeed, it might be 839 against the best interests of the Board—if too much discretion reposed there, particularly in view of the Board's responsibility for giving access to the courts, of which the Minister has reminded us. The Board is not a supreme court. It must work within the framework of the law, and if the law is not right, as we on this side of the House suspect is the case here, it is our job and not the Board's to correct it. I refuse to believe that ways could not be found, even if the wording of this particular Bill is not right, to put the matter straight without the risk of going back to the odious advertisements which have been mentioned, and for which no hon. Member has a word to say.
With respect to the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley), I am not convinced that there is a job here for the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. I have noted his comments. We share certain responsibilities in this field. But, in a sense echoing what the Minister has just said, I only observe that any investigation might be premature. Bearing in mind that the Act came into operation only in October 1968, both the Home Office and the Select Committee might do well to wait a little longer before we probe too far.
§ Mr. Bottomley
What I said was that perhaps the Select Committee could consider this matter some time in the future.
§ Mr. Deedes
As a future operation, of course; everyone would be prepared to bear that in mind.
I become more and more convinced—and this is a case for the Bill in a sense—that the cause of race relations is not always best served by excessive zeal. Those who demur at impracticable propositions, as some of us did when the Section in question was going through the House, should not be accused of being lukewarm in their defence of race relations. Some remarks made this morning, to which I shall not directly allude, tended to give that impression. I hope that no one will take offence if I say, "Heaven defend us from the Stakhanovites of the race relations industry, for whom gross output is seen to be a test of sincerity !" I have never felt that that was so. One must be very discriminat- 840 ing in the propositions put forward, to make sure that nothing happens which may ultimately damage or bring to ridicule the cause which we all support.
I recall the proceedings on the Act very well. There was a disposition to treat cautionary voices as coming from those who did not want the Bill to succeed. Some of that feeling was echoed today. But cautionary voices have a rôle to play.
As this instance has shown, the final arbiter in the matter is public opinion. There is a tendency to mistrust public opinion here, but I think that on the whole it is pretty sound. Everyone except the lunatic fringe accepts the virtue of fair conduct in race relations. I shall not dwell on these generalities too long, Mr. Speaker, in view of your ruling, but it is always dangerous, particularly in race relations legislation, to try to deal statutorily with the lunatic fringes. The majority are pretty clear where the line should be drawn in the law. People are not altogether fools.
The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) postulated that agitation about the Section might have been a conspiracy. "How was all this blown up?" he asked. I can tell him. In a way it was blown up by the English sense of humour, which should not be underrated. The English sense of humour has prevailed in this instance. I urge him not to put too sinister an interpertation on that.
§ Mr. MacColl
Is the right hon. Gentleman using the word "English" in its strictly legal interpretation, as opposed to the Scottish sense of humour?
§ Mr. Deedes
I think that the phrase "British sense of humour" sounds quite meaningless, but if the hon. Gentleman prefers it I will put it in.
Sometimes this sense of humour can be a valuable corrective. I find rather disturbing some suggestions in the debate that there was something opprobrious, something reprehensible, about the laughter which greeted the little farce of the Scots porridge. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee), who I am sure would not press the point on reflection, said that the pleasure seemed to have been largely enjoyed by disreputable people. Does he really believe that? I do not believe that there was anything unhealthy or sinister in the laughter 841 which greeted all this, nor do I share the view of the hon. Member for York, East (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) that it was a newspaper scare. It is the job of newspapers to expose this sort of nonsense, and not to pretend, as some of us here try to do, that it does not exist.
It would be a help to recognise that humour has a large part to play in race relations. Speaking with experience of travels with the Select Committee, I think that the immigrants are sometimes far better aware of that than some of us. They understand the sense of humour better than some of us. The immigrants must educate their parliamentary masters. It is worth recalling, in view of some of the things said in the debate, that nobody stormed the Race Relations Board or chased the Chairman. People just laughed. It is a reminder that humour and ridicule can on occasions be much more effective than violent protest.
It is this precious sense of humour—not the Press, and not a conspiracy by those who wish to undermine the Race Relations Board—that has exposed this kind of foolishness. We think that the right hon. Gentleman is wise to try to correct it, and we support him in his endeavours.
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) about the words of warning expressed in Committee. On that Committee I was a pillar of the Labour establishment, which is not my usual rôle. I felt that we had to approach the whole question in a cautionary way. Race relations matters probably form one of the most difficult and delicate areas we ever have to debate and determine in the House, and it is important that we should always approach them in a cautionary spirit.
I get a little annoyed when I hear people raise matters which should not be raised. They do so because they think there is a principle involved, when there is not, and sometimes make difficulties where none evxists. So, whilst I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that humour should be welcomed in the case of the Eastbourne advertisement, which was followed by laughter, I do not think that we should go so far as to hope that it might make the whole thing 842 ridiculous. The danger was that laughing at that rather ridiculous situation tended to bring into disrepute the whole question of the necessity for the law to deal with the type of advertisements mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick). Some people were laughing at it not in a kind way but in a totally unkind way—trying to undermine the whole principle of good race relations.
When I first saw that a Bill had been introduced to amend the law I was very sympathetic towards it, but when I examined it I had second thoughts and came to the conclusion that there was no need to change the existing law. I agree that there are difficulties, but they can be overcome. For instance, it is obvious that a Chinese restaurant does not require a non-Chinese cook to cook the food that will be sold there. But an advertisement for such a cook can be so worded that it is clear that the person required is one who is skilled in Chinese cooking, and it is unlikely that any person who is not Chinese will apply for the job. If he does, it is not likely that he will have the skills required. There are ways of overcoming the problem.
In the present situation, if an employer in the building industry applies for a joiner he says, "I want a joiner." Bricklayers do not apply for the job, because they cannot do it. Sometimes such an advertisement carries a qualification. The employer may say, "I want a joiner who is used to putting in oak panelling." Any joiners who are not used to putting in oak panelling will not apply. Those who are will apply, and the employer can make his selection. That is the way in which we should approach this question.
It is unnecessary to approach the question in the way in which it has been approached, although it has been done with the best intentions. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) felt it necessary to bring the Bill forward. I suspect that he has been pressurised by the campaign that has developed. Some of the hon. Members who have spoken today were very active in speaking against the Act when it was passing through the House. I know, because I was a member of the Committee. They are supporting 843 his amendment to the Act not because they believe in it but because they are against the whole principle of the Act. We must consider in all circumstances who our friends are.
§ Mr. Heffer
If the right hon. Gentleman had read the interesting article that I wrote in a Liberal journal this week on the question of prices and incomes he would realise that it is quite possible for people with different views to arrive, for a temporary period, at the same conclusion. But that consideration does not apply in this situation.
It has been suggested that the Race Relations Board would welcome the Amendment of the Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) was asked about that, and he could not give an answer. I have here the report of a statement made by the Chairman of the Board. On Wednesday, 26th November, the Scotsman, referring to Mark Bonham Carter, said:Oddities such as the recent 'porridge affair' are to be expected under the Race Relations Act, according to Mark Bonham Carter, chairman of the Race Relations Board. But though these were 'irritating' and possibly damaging to the board, no changes should be made in the Act at the moment.That is what the newspaper said. It went on to report the Chairman of the Board as saying:I think in the short run we might get quite a few complaints of this kind. But I have always taken the view that we must work this Act for a couple of years at least before asking for changes.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
I should like to make it clear that the support of the Race Relations Board that I mentioned earlier was for the Bill that I originally proposed. That would have dealt with two points. As well as the present modification, it would have extended the Board. The Title of the Bill is so tightly drawn that I find I shall not be able to amend it in Committee as I said I would. In the circumstances I have no alternative but to withdraw my support for the Bill.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees rose—844
§ Mr. Rees
I feel that I ought to intervene on the question of the Race Relations Board, which works to the Home Office. I gave as my considered opinion what the view of the Board was. My hon. Friend should consider carefully what he has said about the Board's support for an earlier Bill. There may have been discussions, but that is different from support. My hon. Friend should be careful about that.
§ Mr. Heffer
In order to clarify the situation even further I shall quote a little more from the Chairman's statement. He said:Parliament faced a straight choice. Should the odd consequences deter them from tackling a real issue? Or, recognising the consequences, should they go ahead and tackle the real issue?My view is that the Act has not been in operation long enough for us to say that this sort of Amendment ought to be made to it.
I am convinced that those who are opposed to the Act will look for every opportunity to ridicule its whole idea and to reinforce their argument that there ought to be no legislation of this kind at all. It is obvious that there should be legislation. That was made quite clear not only during the course of the lengthy discussions that we had on the Act but even today, from the quotations from advertisements given by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South with their appalling words "No coloureds", and so on. If we are to have good, decent race relations, it is clear that legislation of this kind is necessary.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether this matter should be put to the vote. The point at issue is well covered by Section 8(11) of the Act, which says:Section 3 above shall not render unlawful the selection of a person of a particular nationality or particular descent for employment requiring attributes especially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent
§ Mr. Heffer
I have it here. Section 6(1) is clear. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes me to read it I will, but I 845 shall only be taking up the time of the House unnecessarily because I assume that hon. Members know what it says. The position is well covered by Section 8(11). Therefore, I think that we should not be pressurised into racing to this House and bringing in amendments to laws because of a Press campaign which has been whipped up by certain elements in the country who, frankly, are not interested in good race relations.
§ Mr. Heffer
Opponents of the whole idea. Therefore, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw the Bill.
It is welcome to discuss the matter in the House again in the kind of atmosphere that we have had today rather than the atmosphere we had in a debate on a related question a few months ago. If we are to get the type of sensible, good race relations that we require the matter must be kept at an intelligent and emotionally low level. Far too much emotion is engendered into race relations. I am a middle of the roader on this matter in that I believe it is important that we should reject the extremists on both sides: on the one hand, those who feel that there are slights and difficulties where no real difficulties exist, and, on the other hand, those who go out of their way to create problems to bring about difficulties in race relations. Both concepts have to be rejected. I believe that we must go forward in a sensible way, as the Act does, and that we should continue along that path.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh Selkirk and Peebles)
I echo the last words of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer). This has been a good, worth-while and enjoyable debate.
In attempting to answer the debate on behalf of the sponsors of the Bill, there is no need for me to take up much of the time of the House, because the case for the Bill was adequately and amply summed up by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes).
The essential point and the basic reason why the Bill is brought forward by the 846 sponsors has to be underlined again. My right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said that the success of the work of the Race Relations Board and the operation of the Act depend on carrying the public along with us. It seems that many hon. Members today forgot this essential and important point.
One of the most effective speeches for the Bill came from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick), although he did not seem to realise it, because he tried, within the rules of order, and I think succeeded very well, to point to the successes of the Board and said that those successes should have attention, not the Eastbourne type of case which had so much attention in the Press. We are trying to avoid that kind of situation in future.
Indeed, The Times leader on the Race Relations Board's Annual Report began with this sentence:So much publicity has been attracted by the Scots porridge fiasco that it may well have diverted attention from the more substantial results of the Race Relations Act, which has now been in operation for exactly a year.This has to be stressed again as our primary concern and reason for promoting the Bill. There is no doubt that, apart from ingenuous or unintentional mistakes or errors that have been made by individuals falling foul of the law, there have been, and possibly will be in future if we do nothing about it, clear attempts to discredit both the Board and the Act through using the opportunity provided by the drafting of Section 6. Anyone who has read the unsolicited publications which are sent to me by the Racial Preservation Society will know that this has been true in this instance.
There is no doubt that the Eastbourne type of case, which can arise again in future, will be used by racialists and by others opposed to the whole concept of a race relations statutory framework as a lever to attack both the Board and the Act. We are anxious to take that lever out of their hands and to make sure that they cannot use it again.
Some hon. Members have declared themselves—in fact, one spoke this afternoon—as being wholly opposed to the concept of the Race Relations Act. Indeed, at the time of the Eastbourne incident the hon. Member for Glasgow, 847 Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) was quoted by The Guardian as saying:If Parliament passes silly legislation, we should not be unduly surprised if it produces silly results.My view and that of the great majority of hon. Members of this House is that the Race Relations Act is not silly legislation. But how can we convince the public of that when its main reading material on the Race Relations Act has been the Eastbourne case? One does not have to produce the headlines from the popular newspapers, particularly the Scottish editions. One need only turn to the main political stories on the front pages of both the Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald, which are serious newspapers, written by political correspondents who are not given to what the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Dewar) referred to as puerile wit, but serious commentary on the fact that this major fault had been exposed by the Eastbourne case.
§ Sir C. Taylor
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman one question. Had it not been for the case of my constituent in Eastbourne, would this admirable Bill ever have been conceived?
§ Mr. Steel
The fault indicated in Section 6 of the Act would not have come to light in the way that it did in the case of the hon. Gentleman's constituent. But that case having drawn attention to this fault in the Act, methought that great damage was being done and would continue to be done to the work of race relations unless we put it right.
The right hon. Member for Ashford was right when he said that we all enjoy a sense of humour. Even many Scots could laugh at this incident. But one of the most effective weapons in political argument in this country is ridicule. I thought that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South made a most entertaining and effective speech ridiculing the Scottish Nationalist Party. We should be careful that the institutions that we want to preserve are not subject to the same weapon.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
The hon. Gentleman agrees that this amendment arises out of the Eastbourne case, and I know that the hon. Gentleman and his friends wish to do something about that, but whatever else the amendment does, it does 848 not deal with the Eastbourne case. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not pretend that it does.
§ Mr. Steel
I was about to take issue with the Minister about that since the Act itself permits persons to employ whom they wish and to discriminate in employment in private households. It follows that we believe that it should be lawful to advertise for a particular person to be employed in a private household. That is what the doctor at Eastbourne was doing.
§ Mr. Steel
I must invite the Minister to look at the amendment again. It reads:Nothing in this Section shall render unlawful the publication or display or causing the publication or display of an advertisement or notice which indicates or could reasonably be understood as indicating an intention to select a person of a particular nationality or particular descent for employment requiring attributes specially possessed by persons of that nationality or descent.I suggest that the advertisement in the Eastbourne newspaper did that. The Minister disagrees.
§ Mr. Dewar rose—
§ Mr. Steel
I will not give way now.
I want to outline another case because so much attention has been fixed on the Scots porridge case that people seem to imagine that that was an isolated incident. There was an advertisement in the London Weekly Advertiser by a finance company run by coloured people and offering mortgages to coloured people—especially Asians. Publication of that advertisement had to be stopped after the Race Relations Board had inquired into it. It is ironical, surely, when one of the complaints of the minority immigrants in our country is that they cannot get credit facilities, that we had a company which wanted to help them and was seeking to do something to their advantage but was prevented from doing so by the present drafting of the Act.
§ Mr. Dewar rose—
§ Mr. Steel
I will not give way.
Many hon. Gentlemen have attempted to give examples of advertisements which 849 might become lawful if this Bill were passed. I suggest to them, first, that no example which has been given has fallen within the category of an offensive advertisement. They have all been rather hypothetical and far-fetched.
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) said that he took the view that the Race Relations Board had acted too seriously in this matter and, comparing their situation with that of a policeman, said that they should have used the same discretion as a policeman. That was my initial reaction, too, and because of that I wrote to Mr. Mark Bonham Carter and asked whether, where complaints were obviously frivolous, the conciliation officers could write to the person complaining, saying that they had received a complaint but intended to take no action because it was obviously frivolous. I had a letter back from Mr. Bonham Carter which read:The Act makes no reference to 'frivolous' complaints".It also read,But I cannot accept the conclusion of your draft. … We must form an opinion as to whether or not the advertisement in question 'indicates or which could reasonably be understood as indicating, an intention to do an act of discrimination, whether or not it would be unlawful by virtue of any other provision of this Act' and we must then inform the Parties.That is the view of the Board. Frivolous complaints will continue to be made.
The Times, in another editorial on the same subject, wrote:It is true that a little care in the wording of advertisements can nearly always keep someone on the right side of the law but such care will not always be taken, and confidence in the Act will be badly damaged if the public are bombarded with stories of well-meaning people receiving solemn warnings from the Board when they have not violated the spirit of the law".In an editorial on the same point, the Glasgow Herald wrote:It seems hardly credible that Parliament was as stupid as the conciliation committee are trying to make out … And can't they distinguish between discrimination and preference?They are referring to us.
We decided that we ought to make discrimination unlawful against particular minorities in our midst. It was not our intention that at the same time we should make it unlawful for people to 850 exercise their national preference for particular minorities in our midst—for example, by employing someone in a private household. Not even the Minister has indicated how we can get round this defect and nobody has indicated what can be the answer to the quotations read by my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland at the beginning of his speech about advertisements for scholarships which are designed to benefit people from the West Indies. I do not think we can take the attitude that if we do nothing about it the problem will disappear. The Eastbourne case will simply give further opportunities to people who wish to destroy the working of the Race Relations Board.
If the Minister had told us that the Government recognised the difficulties—as, indeed, I think they do—and were prepared to do something about them, we should have considered withdrawing the Bill. But all we were told was that the Government would keep the matter under review—not even "under constant review", which is the normal phrase, but just "under review". That is not good enough. We have to ask the question—is there something which ought to be put right? Everyone has agreed that there is a situation about which we are unhappy.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I pointed out that the Act is only 14 or 15 months old and that it is inappropriate to alter it at the moment. But we are aware of the problems. Equally, on the strongest legal advice we believe that the Bill as drafted does not deal with the Scots porridge case. We are quite firm about that.
§ Mr. Steel
The Government clearly have not pledged themselves and cannot pledge themselves to further legislation on race relations in the future. But it is our view—and this may be a matter for difference of opinion—that there is a difficulty which we ought to take the opportunity presented by the Bill to put right. What we have to decide is not whether we are for or against the Bill in principle. That, surely, is a decision for Third Reading. What we have to decide is whether this is a sufficiently important matter for us to send the Bill to Committee and there to thrash it out in detail. We can there listen to the 851 Minister's arguments and look at possible alternative drafting. There is no doubt that it is in the interests of race relations and of the good working of an Act of Parliament that the Bill should be