§ 10. Mr. Proctor
asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is now in a position to announce the date when he will introduce legislation to amend the Race Relations Act 1976 in respect of the code of practice for the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment, published by the Commission for Racial Equality; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Alan Clark
It is our firm intention, as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits, to amend section 47 of the Race Relations Act 1976 to enable my right hon. Friend to amend codes of practice before their presentation to Parliament for approval.
§ Mr. Proctor
Is my hon. Friend aware that when our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was Secretary of State for Employment he pledged, shortly before the general election, that amending legislation would be introduced? When will the pledge be redeemed?
§ Mr. Clark
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is well aware of that pledge and the importance that many of his hon. Friends attach to it. He is particularly aware of the concern that has been expressed by the Select Committee on Employment. As my hon. Friend knows, the CRE will put forward revisions to the code, following a review, within three years, and plainly it is desirable that amending powers should be available by then.
§ Ms. Clare Short
Will the Minister comment on the leak from his Department, which suggests that the Government are considering exempting businesses in general, and small businesses in particular, from the operation of the Race Relations Act? How does requiring businesses not to treat black people unjustly impose financial obligations on them? Does the real explanation lie in a further leak that has come from his Department, which suggests that in a departmental meeting he referred to the black citizens of Britain as people from Bongo-Bongo land? Does not that remark make him unfit to hold the responsible office that he does?