§ 3.52 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. My Lords, last night I was reading a book, Race and the Law, written by Anthony Lester and Geoffrey Bindman—I suppose the authoritative work on this subject. I was surprised to learn that the British Parliament carried 1040 its first legislation against race discrimination as far back as 1833, in the course of a discussion on the Government of India Act, when Section 87 prohibited racial and religious discrimination in the public service in India. This was at a time of resurgence in the Liberal Party and Lord Bentinck was able to carry that first legislative step against discrimination in that Parliament.
My Lords, I have referred to this because it causes some disarray to the first argument which I was going to put to the House. I was going to say that legislation against racial discrimination had been comparatively recent, that it was a new venture, that it was inevitably experimental and exploratory. In recent times, the first Act was in 1965 and it prohibited discrimination in public places. When that Act was applied it was found that it did not deal with discrimination in two major spheres, housing and employment. As a result of that experience a second measure was introduced in 1968 to extend unlawful discrimination to housing and to employment. My Lords, we are still passing through the period where we are feeling our way in regard to legislation which deals with racial discrimination and I think I shall be able to show that the experience of the second Act and of the Race Relations Board show now the need for further adjustment.
The Bill which I am submitting to the House for Second Reading is based on recommendations of the Race Relations Board and of the Street Committee. That Committee was presided over by Professor Harry Street, and among its members who endorsed these particular recommendations was Sir Geoffrey Howe who was Attorney General in the late Government. The recommendations of the Race Relations Board and the Street Committee have been reinforced by experience of legislation in this sphere in many parts of the world, and especially in the United States of America.
I think the most disturbing factor at the present time is the scepticism and disillusionment which exist in the immigrant community about the effectiveness of our legislation concerning racial discrimination. This has been expressed by Sir Geoffrey Wilson, Chairman of the Race Relations Board, particularly after certain 1041 decisions by the Law Lords of this House. If, after our experience, there is to be confidence among the immigrant community in our legislation, changes must be introduced. The Board recognises that its functions must be extended if it is to fulfil its purpose effectively. In saying that I do not underestimate the work it has done. It has changed the climate of conduct in this country regarding racial discrimination and it has achieved conciliation and co-operation where previously there was a sense of grievance and confrontation. But the powers of the Race Relations Board to-day are limited in a way which makes it incapable of dealing with our present problems. It acts only in individual cases—I emphasise that. Its main procedure is to consider personal complaints reaching it through the ten regional committees. It has had great success in conciliation in those cases. When they arise in industry they are considered by a joint committee of the C.B.I. and the T.U.C., but no one with knowledge suggests that this is a measure of the discrimination which exists in the country. Fewer than 1,000 individual complaints are made and considered each year—913 in 1972, 901 in 1971. The present procedure leaves untouched the great field of racial discrimination.
My Lords, there is another channel of action by the Race Relations Board than that of individual complaints received through its regional committees. Under Section 17 of the Act the Board can investigate individual cases when it suspects unlawful discrimination. Although this has been a secondary feature of the Board's work—there were only 68 occurrences in 1972—it has proved the most promising. The Board stated in its 1972 Report:In our experience, Section 17 investigations are generally more fruitful in serving the purposes of the Act than the investigation of complaints.I have no doubt that that practical experience has contributed to the conclusion which is the basic change in the Bill that I am now presenting to the House.
Experience has shown the necessity for two changes: first, to remedy the limited effectiveness of dealing with individual cases only; and, secondly, to remove the restrictive effects of the limitations on investigation, which is of value. We thus come to the essence of the Bill which 1042 I am presenting to the House, which is that the powers of the Board should be extended to enable it to investigate situations liable to discrimination, without the need to suspect that any individual unlawful act has been committed; and that it should be able to call the attention of those concerned to circumstances in which discrimination is likely to occur and to make recommendations for a change. In other words, the Board would become positive, constructive and preventive. Its sphere would be enlarged from action in individual cases to action in a social context. It would be able to look at situations where there was a danger of discrimination, to discuss the position with those concerned and to advise changes which might avoid discrimination.
In its 1971–72 Report the Board stated:We consider that the granting of such powers would increase considerably the ability of the Board to engage in work of a preventive character. The Factory Acts are an example of legislation where the agency responsible for securing compliance does so more by prevention than by dealing with individual breaches. The mere existence of such powers would stimulate steps to promote equal opportunity.That is the fundamental change proposed in this Bill. Perhaps second in importance is the provision that would give the Board the right to call for evidence and to summon witnesses. This is necessary to make both conciliation and investigation effective. I am encouraged by the fact that so many members of the present Government, including members of the Cabinet, urged this view when the 1968 Act was under consideration. This provision is recommended by both the Board and the Street Committee, and is the key to the whole working of the Race Relations Act.
The third proposal in the Bill is that the scope of discrimination should be extended to nationality. This was clearly the intention of the then Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, who is now my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill. He then observed (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 16/7/65, col. 972) that the word "national" in "national origin",… would bring to the mind of the ordinary person the idea of a particular country; a person, for example, who is a German is one regarded as having German as his nationality and, if he lived here, he and his grouping would have the protection of the Bill.1043 The Law Lords of this House ruled in the case of the London Borough of Ealing v. Race Relations Board that Section 1 of the Act had not been intended to cover alien nationality. We thus have this illogical position. While a person cannot discriminate lawfully against anyone because he is brown or black, he can discriminate against him because he is an Indian or a Jamaican. The illogicality is emphasised in view of the fact that under the provisions of the Treaty of Rome, incorporated in British law by the European Communities Act 1972, one cannot discriminate against a national of a country belonging to the European Economic Community.
On previous occasions when we have discussed this subject there has been some controversy about the application of the Act to clubs and voluntary associations. I think your Lordships will find that the clauses in this Bill which refer to this matter deal with it satisfactorily. There would be a general exemption for private social clubs and associations of persons of particular ethnic or national origins, such as Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Jewish or Commonwealth associations, though in these, too, discrimination would not be permitted on grounds of colour. A Jew could not be excluded because he was brown. An Indian could not be excluded because he was white. As I am a white who was born in India, perhaps I have an interest in that aspect. The need for this amendment again arose from a ruling made by the Law Lords of this House who were concerned with the exclusion of a coloured person from a Conservative Club in East London. The Bill accepts the right of such a club to exclusive Conservative membership, but not to exclude a Conservative on the grounds of his racial origin or colour.
Time does not allow me to deal in greater detail with the whole of the Bill, but there are three provisions which I should mention briefly. The Bill would amend the Act in relation to the accommodation of crews on ships. Strangely, the present Act against discrimination actually legalises discrimination in this sphere. Since the Act was passed there has been a considerable growth of integration among the crews of ships.
An important change is the permission given to individuals to take proceedings in 1044 a court of law if a complaint has been turned down by the Board or if a decision has been delayed unreasonably. At present, only the Board has the right to take proceedings. I believe it is unique that a person who feels aggrieved in consequence of what he holds to be a breach of the civil law should not have the right to take a case to court. This proposal represents a personal civil right against the privileges of bureaucracy. Damages would be limited to £500.
This clause also extends the remedies which may be granted in legal proceedings by the courts. These include the important provision which empowers the courts to grant positive orders, either to take steps to establish to the Boards satisfaction that the defendant will comply in future with the Race Relations Act, or to provide any benefit to the victim which he might reasonably have been expected to have but for the unlawful discrimination. At present the Act does not require any affirmative action to provide equal opportunity following the ending of a case of discrimination.
My Lords, one more amendment should be mentioned because of the attention aroused by a particular case. The Bill would give the Board the right to decline to act when a complaint appears to be frivolous or trivial. At present, the Board must investigate against its better judgment. The case of the advertisement for a Scottish cook to prepare Scotch porrridge was an example of this. The amendment would save the Board from ridicule.
Those, then, are the main provisions of the Bill, which I regret is so largely an instance of legislation by reference, probably inevitable in an amending Bill. I hope that the Explanatory Memorandum made available through the Printed Paper Office was useful to your Lordships. I should like to pay a public tribute to the barrister who drafted the Bill, but legal etiquette does not allow me to mention his name. I will only say that he has served me in his private capacity, but he is also a counsel of the Race Relations Board.
My Lords, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. While certain clauses may not be acceptable, they will be open to consideration in Committee. The crucial change involved is the power which the Bill would give to the Race Relations Board to prevent 1045 and not merely to correct. It is for that principle that I ask the support of your Lordships. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Brockway.)
§ 4.13 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, I am sure that it is valuable that we should have our annual debate on race relations. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will long be spared to make this a hardy annual event. I remember that in a short debate just over a year ago I set out the then Government's position, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will be doing the same for the present Government at the end of to-day's debate.
I venture to think that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, must be a little premature in expecting final decisions from the new Government within a month of their taking office. I am sure that they are very rapid but some of these matters are difficult. The noble Lord himself said, "We are feeling our way", and I agree with him. I would, if I may dare do so, counsel a little caution to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, before he pledges himself wholeheartedly to some of these reforms. I need hardly remind the House that this subject is the other side of the coin of the immigration control issues that we were discussing last week, and equally important; and a balance on this, as on immigration, is an important thing to aim at and to achieve.
My Lords, examining the Bill (I do not propose to go through all the measures in it on Second Reading) it seems to me that there are two main objectives: first, to reverse what appears to have been thought was the decision in the club case, Charter v. The Race Relations Board; and, secondly, the extension of authority providing the preventive powers which were asked for, as the noble Lord reminded us, in the 1971–72 Report of the Race Relations Board and again, I think, in the most recent Report. I am not saying that the 1965 and 1968 Acts together are a perfect code and need no amendment. But I would say that many changes, including I think a number of those set out in the present Bill, are likely to be controversial, not only in Parliament but in the country, and we therefore need to be sure that the changes 1046 proposed in a fairly important extension of the sort which the Bill contains would actively assist in improving race relations. Part of the judgment on that question must be the net effect of actually trying at this particular moment to legislate on controversial points in Parliament, and in discussing them opening up possible disagreements and discrepancies.
Further, I am a little dubious about the Bill because, first, I believe that at least the active and considered support of the Government, of whichever Party, should accompany a Bill on this subject. I will go further and suggest that it should in any event be a Government Bill. Secondly, I say that because the type of issues to which I have been referring require a fine judgment which I believe a Government alone can form, after full advice from their own advisers and full consultation with all those who are equipped to give sound views on the subject.
Going on from there, I doubt whether at this particular moment counsel and advice can be fully given to the Government because there are still a number of important reports, inquiries and investigations into the fairly fundamental aspects of the workings of the Race Relations Code which are nearly ready, or possibly even available to Government, and which will have to be studied—and I think published and considered—before action is taken. If the noble Lord, Lord Harris, can give us any news about some of these matters it will be of interest to us all. Perhaps he can tell us what progress is being made.
I will pick up some of those points as I look at a number of details of the Bill. I shall not take up the point about the nationality that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, mentioned. That was, of course, the case of a Pole who could not get on to the housing list. Although I have not studied that case, I have looked at the questions raised by Clause 2, which attempts to deal with the clubs that were the subject of Opinions and speeches in this House, sitting judicially, in the Charter case. I am afraid that, looking at the new section which Clause 2 seeks to insert into the 1968 Act, it seems to me to go miles too far.
The principles on the question of clubs that were enunciated by this House in 1047 the Charter case were concerned first with the definition of the words in Section 2(1) of the 1968 Act, "the public or a section of the public", which were held to be words of limitation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid, said—and I would have thought that it would have been pleasing to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and those who agree with him:I would infer from the Act as a whole that the legislature thought all discrimination on racial grounds to be deplorable but thought it unwise or impracticable to apply legal sanctions in situations of a purely private character.The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said:Some clubs may be sections of the public. The dividing line lies in the personal selection of members with a view to their common acceptability.There were a number of references to bogus clubs which were plainly not private and would fall within the provisions of the Race Relations Act as they stand.
I should like to know from the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, whether, if Clause 2 of his Bill were on the Statute Book, there could be any form of club or organisation, however small or informal, that would escape the strictures of this law. Is it possible to have any regular darts team or bridge four which could not be impugned under the provisions of this clause as it stands? If it is as I think, and this is a very wide and sweeping provision, I believe that it would be widely resented and would do great harm to the cause of race relations. I am not saying that there should not be a dividing line of the type the noble and learned Law Lords were talking about, but I think this clause would prevent there being any line at all and that it goes much too far.
The noble Lord referred to the excellent work of his draftsmen, and I am sure that that tribute is fully justified; but for the life of me I cannot understand what is the meaning of the word "association" as used in this clause. It has no ordinary legal meaning whatever and I considered—perhaps idly, but I did consider—how this drafting could possibly fit in with the express exemptions in Section 9 of the 1968 Act in relation to charities: because it seems to me that every charity must, under the definition in Clause 2, be an association. Therefore we have in 1048 this draft an absolutely direct conflict whereby one thing is made legal and illegal in the same Bill. The noble Lord cannot possibly wish that to happen. It is the result, I am afraid, of dubious drafting and the use of this word "association if I am right. That points the finger to another very good reason why I believe that legislation of this sort should be Government legislation—or that we should not have it at all—because only the Parliamentary draftsman can get these things right and only Government can provide a parliamentary draftsman, or at any rate lend his services to a private Member of either House who wishes to introduce legislation.
Then I am a little dubious about the provisions of Clause 5 which according to the rubric deals with, "Retaliation and obstruction". Can the noble Lord tell me why this is to occur only in the annals of the law in the race relations field? There is always the risk of this sort of thing happening whenever civil or criminal action is taken in the courts. The person who loses is liable to be a little sore and is liable to seek retaliation. But there is no protection in any other branch of the law for this sort of thing, and I cannot understand why the race relations field should be picked out and a special right as suggested in Clause 5 given. Indeed, this is just the sort of thing that brings race relations into ill-repute because it gives people greater rights under this particular code than under any other one known to the law.
My Lords, I come then to Part II of the Bill which contains what the noble Lord has described as the "essence". There are a number of practical matters of administration and procedure here where changes are suggested. Here, above all, I believe we need to be convinced that these changes in detail are required. I suggest that the Government should at least be sure that the existing law creates mischiefs or contains hiatuses, lacunae, which need a remedy, and the Government need to have actual examples of cases that have gone wrong for the lack of legal powers. Why, for instance, does the noble Lord suggest there is the need for an extension of time for investigation in Clause 7(i)? Are there cases which have been shown to be out of time? On the contrary, is it not the criticism that investigation takes far too long already with the rather short time 1049 limit that exists? Despite the remarks made by the Board in their 1971–72 Report, how much time is really wasted on frivolous complaints which would justify the formal provisions of Clause 7(ii)? I know about the Scottish porridge case, but is this a major issue which wastes hours and hours or days and days of the time of the Board and the courts? If not, why do we have to clutter up the Statute Book with legislation on it?
The noble Lord is quite right in drawing attention to Clauses 8 and 9 as being of major importance. The power to carry out independent investigations, and to subpoena persons and documents for the purpose, must be controversial. I know that the Board has asked for them and I know that a comparison has been made in the most recent Report with a suggested anti-discrimination machinery in Northern Ireland. I think that is to deal with discrimination between Catholics and Protestants in that Province. We have had the Factories Act analogy quoted earlier, in the debate last year. If there is one thing I know about enforcement machinery for this sort of thing it is that it needs careful tailoring to the needs and susceptibilities which are involved in the activities under review. One thing may be necessary for discrimination in Northern Ireland; another form of machinery for discrimination on grounds of sex; yet another for race relations; and for all I know one has a different sort again for the Factories Acts. Merely because you can find a parallel in terms of words does not mean that it is apt in terms of operation. Surely—and again the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will know more about this than I do—the P.E.P. Report, the work of the C.P.R.S. and the Community Relations Committee's own work on homelessness and joblessness, will all have to be studied before any decision can be taken that these preventive powers of investigation are desirable and necessary. We shall also have to see whether this will do more good than harm, bearing in mind the inevitable suspicions about poking, prying and spying that are likely to be aroused by boards having these powers of vague investigation into suspected complaints or areas of abuse. I am not saying that this is necessarily wrong, but we must bear in mind that these dangers 1050 exist to counter the enthusiasm of those who put forward such a reform.
While we are on this subject, since the Board says—and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, quoted this remark—that Section 17, covering investigations, is perhaps the most useful activity with which they occupy themselves, what actual cases have occurred where their existing powers have been found to be inadequate? I should have thought, and I seem to remember that I said this last year, that the powers under Section 17 are themselves fairly wide and I looked with some care at the drafting of Clause 8 to see how much wider that clause would make the powers of the Board. It is very much a matter of argument, and the noble Lord is right, I am certain, in being very careful about the drafting. But I should have suspected that if you read the existing Section 17 and the proposed new Section 17A, the latter does not add a great deal to what is already available under the former. Therefore, again one wants to look carefully at this to see whether we are doing anything which is worth while, because we shall certainly be involved in controversy on the grounds that I have just suggested, and if we are going to be involved in controversy let us at least get the wording right so that if something is to be done we do it with adequate drafting in the Bill.
The noble Lord, in a few words, referred to the repeals in Clause 19, which are wide and extensive in the employment field. He referred to the shipping provisions, and I think my noble friend Lord Runciman of Doxford may have a word to say on that matter. But there are a number of others, and the noble Lord has done nothing to justify the repeal of those copious provisions which were specifically set out in the 1968 Act. I really have no idea why he says that these are now wrong and should never have been incorporated in the original Act or passed by Parliament. This is again an area of great delicacy, and one where we should tread gently.
Finally, I should think that punitive damages, to which the noble Lord referred as something which could be obtained by the private citizen—this appears, I think, in Clause 14—is a very dubious legal innovation. In what other civil actions does one have punitive 1051 damages? There has been a great deal of controversy recently about this matter in the field of defamation. There was a book about a convoy which went to Russia around the North of Norway. This was the subject of bitter legal dispute; and the noble Lord should realise that he is dealing with an issue with wide legal implications when he specifically brings into the race relations field punitive damages, which do not apply, so far as I know, in many other areas of tort, where perhaps a case could be made out on the same sort of grounds as those which the noble Lord has used in this case. So certainly this is not something which should be slipped into a Private Member's Bill, I would suggest to the House, without a good deal more justification.
My Lords, I am sorry to be rather critical about this, but I think one has to be careful on this subject. I hope that in his reply the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will be able to deal with some of these points; and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will perhaps do me the credit of considering them as well. They are not intended to be carping: I am trying to pick out things which I see as genuinely doubtful. Certainly when the noble Lord, Lord Harris, rises to speak I hope that he will say things which are as generously quoted in the 1973 Report of the Race Relations Board as was my last speech on the 1972 Report. I am sorry I did not altogether please the Board in everything I said, but at least my speech was like the curate's egg—they liked some of it. I do not wish to suggest that there is no room for improvement or advance in this, but I am bound to look with a critical eye at some of the specific suggestions in this Bill, to see if the case for a change has been made, and whether the changes will actually help race relations; because if there is one thing that I am sure we are all determined to do it is to legislate, if we legislate at all, in a way which will be positively helpful and constructive to those who are carrying out this important duty.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, introduced this Bill with his usual clarity and persuasiveness. After his opening sentence he will not, I hope, be surprised that 1052 from these Benches we are very glad to support the Bill which he has brought to us. As he rightly says, anything that can be done to extend the confidence of the immigrant population in the basic justice of our laws and the effectiveness with which they can be administered is to the good. And not only, if I may suggest it, do we want to extend the confidence of the immigrant population, but also that of their descendants. We must not forget that there is an increasing number of people in this country who are descendants of immigrants. That is why, with the very greatest respect, I differed a little from what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, said when he implied that the Race Relations Act is, I think he said, the other side of the coin of the Immigration Act. It seems to me that the handling of race relations is not necessarily anything at all to do with immigration. It is dealing with people who are already here, and it is trying, as we all wish to try, to make them feel at home.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, may I just say this to the noble Viscount? I did not say that it was the reverse of the coin of the Immigration Act: I said it was the reverse of the coin of immigration control.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. I think I see the point, though I thought that Immigration Acts were mainly concerned with immigration control. The question which the noble Viscount put to us, I think not quite directly but by implication, is the very important one: is this a suitable field for legislation? I confess to your Lordships that when the 1968 Bill was being discussed in your Lordships' House before it became an Act, I was myself rather doubtful and I think occasionally critical on these very grounds: because social attitudes cannot really be governed by legislation. At the same time, Parliament agreed to pass the last two Race Relations Acts, and they agreed because they thought that there ought to be some sort of framework within which public opinion and public attitudes could be encouraged to grow in the right direction. Now, after about six years, I do not feel myself that it is too early to consider, in the light of our experience, whether some amendments to the existing Race Relations Act ought not to be introduced.
1053 I take the point made by the noble Viscount that it might be much better for this to be a Government Bill, just as the last Acts were; and if at the end of the day the noble Lord, Lord Harris, is going to tell us that the Government accept the principles that lie behind the Bill and will at the earliest opportunity be introducing something of the same kind, then I for one would feel very happy and I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, would feel happy, too. But in the meantime there is no harm, I suggest, in giving Parliament a nudge, and that is what this Bill is designed to do.
I shall not attempt to discuss the legal matters which the noble Viscount, with his legal knowledge, has brought up, because I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, will have plenty to say about them. I would rather refer to one or two of the broad ideas which the noble Lord has included in the Bill. First, Clause 2 and the clubs. I myself felt some of the difficulties about the clubs which I think have affected the noble Viscount. It is difficult to see just where the line is to be drawn, though if I may say so I thought he quoted a rather curious case in support of his view. He referred to a darts team. My Lords, if the "Red Cow" is putting a darts team into a local public house competition and one of the most skilful dart throwers is a coloured man, surely it would be right that he should be included in the team and not excluded merely because the others would rather have someone of their own colour in the team. I think that is a perfectly good example of a case where it would be wrong to discriminate against the coloured darts player even if he has not got a full command of the King's English.
I feel myself that this is a very important issue and I should have thought the intention from the start was that discrimination in this field should be made unlawful. I am sure that many of your Lordships can think of clubs to which they belong where they meet people who are perhaps more familiar to them and I should not think that that point arises on this clause. There are clubs which require a large number of names to be put in a candidate's book in order to secure his election. If that applies equally to people of all races and nationality— 1054 and as nationality is being introduced here we need not introduce colour into the argument at all—that would seem to me perfectly all right. Nobody can explore the reasons why people do or do not put their names down in support of a particular candidate. They put them down because they know them and think that they would be suitable club members. In that case I do not think the terms of the Bill, if it became an Act, would apply. I was intending to say a word about Clause 5 and the subject of victimisation; but the noble Viscount has pointed out that this raises important legal issues and I would rather leave that point to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner.
Clause 8 is absolutely fundamental to the Bill. I recognise that it might look as though it opened the door to possible "snooping", but it need not do so it the law is sensibly administered. It merely gives the Race Relations Board the power to inquire into circumstances where it has no direct evidence of discrimination but where practices are enforced which might lead to discrimination. I thought that the analogy of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, with the Factories Act was a very good one. What we want to do is to prevent offences arising rather than to pursue them after they have arisen, and the only way to prevent them arising is to investigate cases where there may appear to be a tendency which, unless checked, could lead to offences.
I was going to say something about Clause 14 and damages; but I realise that this again raises important issues of law. It is a new development in this field, and I confess that it would appear to be very difficult for any court to assess the value (if that is the word) of damage by discrimination. But at the same time the fact that there should be in the background some ability to award damages of this nature would be psychologically a great uplift for people who feel themselves in a position to be discriminated against. I hope that when we come to examine the Bill in detail the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will be able to satisfy us all about that.
As the noble Lord particularly referred to the position on ships, I was going to say something about that—largely because in my youth I had something to 1055 do with operating ships which carried a very large number of people of all kinds of races, religions and colours. I know from my experience then the real difficulty that exists in mixing people up in places where they have to share sleeping quarters, eating-messes and sanitary appliances. Different races have different ideas, and the practices of some are definitely unpleasant to others. So I think there is a great deal to be said, if we are to preserve harmony in a ship which has on board people who are rather closely confined for long periods of time, for doing something to keep apart people who are perhaps mutually not very attractive. However, I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, will be saying something more to us about that when he speaks.
In conclusion, I should like to say, in support of the Bill, that in my view it is time we took further steps to improve the present law in the light of criticisms that have been made by the Race Relations Board, because after all the members of the Board have been closer to this problem than any of us. They have put out some excellent reports. I agree with the noble Viscount that one wishes to know something of the actual cases that have come to light, but there must have been specific cases to cause the Board to put forward its comments. I believe that the time has come for Parliament to take further steps to improve the law, and I sincerely hope that, in doing so, it will do what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has said—that is, to extend and enlarge the confidence of the immigrant population in the rightness of our laws.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, I rise to support the Second Reading of this Bill, on two grounds. First, I want to pay my tribute to the Race Relations Board. Some of its members are very familiar to us in the field of law. They have, I think, done an extremely good job, which is not necessarily any the worse for the fact that there have not been clouds of sensational cases and that so much of their work has been done on the footing of conciliation. When a public-spirited body of that kind, after some years' experience of this work, makes a report saying that experience has shown 1056 that some amendments ought to be made to the Act, I think—and this is the first ground on which I support the Second Reading of this Bill—that the least Parliament can do is to consider what the Board says. It is now nearly two years since the Board reported. The last Government showed no interest in this, and never made any move towards implementing any one of the respects in which the Board suggested that the Act ought to be amended. So I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Brockway, because now at last we have an opportunity of considering what the Board has said.
The second reason why I wanted to say something is because the list of speakers on this Bill does not include the names of any other members of the Select Committee of this House that dealt with the Sex Discrimination Bill. A number of amendments proposed by the Race Relations Board received our careful consideration, and we adopted quite a number of them. Although, when that Bill was recommitted to this House, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said everything against it that he could, I do not think that he objected to a number of these points. For example, Clause 7 says that the Board should not be bound to hear frivolous complaints. The noble Viscount asked whether that had led to a lot of wasted time. In a memorandum to the Select Committee, Sir Roy Wilson, who was then acting Chairman of the Board and also chairman of their employment committee (and many of us know him also as a lawyer of great distinction and as President of the Industrial Court to which, in the old days, employers and employees alike were very happy to go), said this:We have always found that the absence of any discretion in the Board allowing us not to investigate complaints which are frivolous or vexatious, or complaints the investigation of which would in our opinion serve no useful purpose in the public interest, has been very regrettable indeed. In the result we have been compelled to spend a lot of time on quite hopeless complaints (to the detriment of our work on complaints which well merited investigation); and we have also been compelled to take up and pronounce upon complaints which may have been technically well founded but which served no good purpose at all and were for the most part put forward by ill-wishers who wished to bring the Act and the Board into discredit.1057 Sir Roy Wilson was also good enough to give oral evidence before us on July 4, 1972, and he said then:… in the Race Relations Board we have been plagued with complaints which may fall into one or other of two categories…and he spelt out the categories. Later he said they had some complainants who had put in 30 or 40 separate complaints. Most people in public life know that since the policy of the Mental Health Act was adopted—I have no doubt quite rightly—anybody who is not dangerous to the public should if possible be released from institutions, however hard that may be on the family. There are an awful lot of crackpots about.
We considered all that and, accordingly, in the Sex Discrimination Bill, after explaining our reasons, we set out in Clause 9(2) the following:The Board shall not be required to receive any such complaint made after the expiration of six months from the date of the act complained of unless it appears to them that special circumstances warrant its exception, nor any complaint which appears to them to be trivial, frivolous or vexatious.I do not think any complaint was made, even by the noble Viscount, when the Bill was recommitted to the House, that your Lordships' Select Committee had come to that conclusion.
Then there is the question of whether the Board should be able to investigate although there is no individual complaint which is dealt with in Clause 6, and more particularly Clause 8, of this Bill. Sir Roy Wilson, in his memorandum, said:I observe that the Bill"—he was referring to the Bill the Select Committee were considering—contains no provision corresponding to Section 17 of the Act. There are undoubtedly cases where the Board have had knowledge that discrimination is going on, but nobody wants to come forward.In our Report to this House, at paragraph 119, we said:The Committee were convinced by the experience of the Race Relations Board and by American experience that discrimination could not be eradicated if all actions depended on the initiative of the individual complainant, even if a case could be brought on his or her behalf by a third party. The Committee therefore decided that if the Board had reason to suspect than an act of discrimination had taken place in contravention of the Act, it could initiate an investigation without any individual complaint.1058 With regard to damages, we discussed this with Sir Roy Wilson. This is now covered by Clause 14 of the present Bill. The Race Relations Board, in their Annual Report, referred to it at some length in paragraph 89. We dealt with it in our Report to this House, and provided accordingly in Clause 12(4) of our Bill.
It is not my intention to detain the House while going through all the clauses of the Bill now before us. The question is: has a prima facie case been made out for saying that there ought to be a Bill making at least some amendments to the Race Relations Act of the various kinds which the Race Relations Board have put forward in their Report? Non constat that there may be objection to this clause or that clause, that surely is a matter for the Committee stage of the House. Nobody has suggested that none of the amendments proposed by the Race Relations Board ought to be made, and if some of them ought to be made then the rest is a matter for the consideration of this House.
There is one further matter to which I should like to refer, if only so that the powers that be can bear it in mind. In the Report of the Select Committee on the Sex Discrimination Bill we pointed out that we had considered whether it might be a good idea for us to suggest that there should be a joint Act dealing with both race relations and sex discrimination. We said in paragraph 101:A number of witnesses suggested that the most appropriate way to legislate against discrimination on grounds of sex would be to amend the Race Relations Act 1968 by adding sex to the characteristics already listed in that Act for protection against discrimination. It was pointed out that in the United States one general anti-discrimination Act had been introduced and that this appeared to work well.Then we said in paragraph 102:The Committee were initially attracted by these arguments, but eventually decided to reject them for a number of reasons. They considered that the nature of discrimination on grounds of sex was in many ways different from discrimination on grounds of race; that the scale and location of the two problems were different since immigrants are a very small proportion of the total population and are concentrated in a few areas only, while women are the majority of the population and are spread over the whole country. The Committee also thought that the Race Relations Act, despite its many undoubted achievements, failed to provide fully effective machinery for enforcement. While impressed 1059 by the success claimed for the United States legislation the Committee held that the differences in the origins and extent of the American problem in comparison with the British meant that United States experience provided a useful source of ideas rather than a model for imitation. The Committee, therefore, decided that amendment of the Race Relations Act would not be the most suitable means at the present time to deal with sex discrimination and that a separate Act was required. It will, however, be noticed that several of the new Clauses inserted into the Bill are modelled on sections of the Act of 1968;When we asked Sir Roy Wilson whether he thought it would be a good idea to amalgamate the two, he said he thought not and his main reason—which partly also influenced us—was that we had seen, as he had, reports from America of the extent to which the two halves of their Equal Opportunities Commission constantly quarrelled with each other. He said:I have read last week a report on the working of the Equal Opportunity Commission in the United States, and the squabbles which have taken place between those who are mainly concerned with sex discrimination. Each faction has accused the other of nobbling, and of stealing all the limelight, and the result I would have thought was not a happy one.… From page 50 onwards in this book it deals with the working of the Equal Opportunity Commission in the United States and devotes quite an amount of space to this dissension that broke out as to which of the forms of discrimination was getting a better deal".If anybody thinks of having one Act to deal with both, I hope that he will take those observations into account.
I support the Second Reading; it is clear that at least in some of these matters the Board were right. If one looks at damages, for example, as they point out in their Report, most of the people who were concerned to complain to them are not financially interested. There have been many cases where people have not come forward to be complainants because they say: "I may put myself at some risk. If everything is found in my favour, I can never recover any of the financial loss that I have suffered." Therefore, there is a case for a clause providing for the very moderate amount of damages for which this Bill provides.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT RUNCIMAN OF DOXFORD
My Lords, this Bill raises an area in which I think it behoves any- 1060 one to tread very warily, and perhaps the more so since it has been the subject of a great deal of discussion in your Lordships' House, in the other place and in the public at large. I would, however, risk one general observation, which is that in this, perhaps even more than in a good many other facets of life, there is always the danger of the better being the enemy of the good. When one talks about the "better", it is well to remember also that what is better in theory is not necessarily better in practice. It is that which moves me to speak on a matter which your Lordships know, from what you have heard, that I might be likely to address you; that is, the subject of the treatment of crews of varying races and nationalities in British ships. There is a significant number of varying nationalities, races, religions and general backgrounds employed in these ships.
The relevant provisions of the 1968 Act, which are contained in Section 8, were devised with some care to meet this difficult situation. I will try to explain why it is difficult in a moment or two. We are now faced with a clause in the noble Lord's Bill, to which he himself has referred, which simply repeals these provisions without, so far as I can see, attempting to put anything whatever in their place. The only comment which, if I heard him correctly, he made about this was that under the present procedure considerable progress has been made. This seems to me, if I may say so with respect, a rather odd reason for wishing to change it. I believe that to throw away (because that is what it amounts to) not only the provisions in the 1968 Act, but the good that has resulted from them, is not only wrong in principle but is likely in practice to hinder racial harmony rather than promote it, not only on shipboard, but also, because since seamen are apt to have families ashore and are apt to recount their grievances and difficulties to those families, trouble on shipboard can also extend to trouble ashore.
Seafarers tend to live in a rather different atmosphere in some ways from those who work ashore. For the seaman, his ship at sea is not only his place of work, it is also his place of recreation; and is also, for the time being, his home. There is no escape from it or 1061 from the company which it contains. In close quarters tensions can build up very rapidly and often for reasons which in a more spacious atmosphere they would have been dissipated before they came to anything that mattererd. To attempt, therefore, to compel seafarers, who wish to remain separate, to share living, eating and sanitary accommodation is in practice to ask for trouble, and every time this sort of trouble occurs, the cause of good race relations suffers.
For this reason, during 1968, at the instance of the seafarers' organisations, no less than the organisations of the ship-owners, provisions were made in the 1968 Act under which, inter alia, it is:… not … unlawful … to discriminate against any person in respect of employment on a ship, if …"—otherwise the result would be to compel—… persons of different colour, race or ethnic or national origins … to share sleeping rooms, mess rooms or sanitary accommodation.Since that time these provisions have worked well, and have helped progress in the direction which I am sure all your Lordships desire. Because that progress has been voluntary, it is, I submit, more effective and more durable than if an attempt had been made to force it with unnatural speed by Act of Parliament. At home, for instance, coloured boys bred and educated in this country are, and have for some time, been taken into the National Sea Training School at Gravesend where they are readily accepted on an equality with those of British descent, and who share their accommodation and the like so that no question of this sort arises. Similarly, gradually, one can see a happy acceptance of this kind of mixture developing on shipboard.
But it cannot be hurried. Seamen are perhaps slower to change their habits (or if you will, overcome their prejudices) than those who live in wider communities ashore. Many of them are drawn from communities whose history, religion and tradition, of which they are often justly proud, differ widely. You may, for example, find Christians, Mohammedans and Hindus serving on the same ship. To put one aspect of it a bit crudely, you really cannot expect successfully to compel Mohammedans to eat pork or Hindus to eat beef in a common mess room.
1062 It is for that kind of reason that if this Bill in its present form were to become law, I fear that the results, at least so far as the seafarer is concerned, would not promote racial harmony, but would tend, in this respect, to retard it. If the Bill should reach the Committee stage, I hope that this part will be subject to the most rigorous examination.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, we have just listened with great interest to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Runciman of Doxford who speaks with such exceptional authority on maritime matters. My noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, in his powerful examination of the Bill pointed out, among other things, that it was difficult to sub-divide the racial questions from the whole question of immigration. He also expressed his expectation and hope that it would be a matter for a Government Bill. Here may I interject my felicitations to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, on joining our House and on replying to the debate on this Bill this afternoon. I took the trouble to read the Bill with care, though I must admit that I did not do enough homework to embrace the documentation connecting it with the main Act of 1968.
I come to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. In the persuasive eloquence that we are habituated in this House to expect, the noble Lord put forward this Bill, I imagine, more with the purpose of drawing the attention of the Government to it than expecting much further progress. I want to record at once my hope that it will not progress. However, it gives one the opportunity for the first time with the new Government (apart from the day before yesterday when the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, had a good go at aspects of immigration) to deal with the main points or varied points of reflection with regard to immigration as a whole.
The House perhaps will know that I have been a consistent advocate of very drastically restricted immigration of nonwhites into this country. So I will speak for these reasons, rather than go into the particular clauses of the Bill. While the Bill, as Lord Brockway said, will achieve changes which have become necessary since the Act was passed, it also 1063 inevitably embraces aspects of immigration as a whole. I repeat that I have consistently held the view that we have been too generous in our acceptance of non-white immigration, up to, in recent years, 60,000 in one year—which is far too many, whatever may be the estimate of those who are already in this country; and we know that there are estimates which put the figure very high. I watch carefully the size of immigration because I am not ashamed of being British and I am proud to be among those who feel they want the purity of the British race. It is not an extreme thing to emphasise this, even though there is ridicule from some quarters for the suggestion that the non-white population in this country will within a relatively small number of years be a very high figure.
The points which I am going to make may be disconnected, but they are made because this is the first time this subject has been discussed in the early days of the new Government, and it is not improper or out of place to put before the Minister certain thoughts of those who take the same view as I do. There are undoubtedly a very large number of people in the country who feel that we should be a happier country with fewer non-whites in it. Those who urge the inflow of this non-white immigration say: "We must have complete integration". But of course a large number of the immigrants do not want integration; they want to be left alone to be with their own kind, with their own social habits, religions and customs. But if you are going to have complete integration, as I understand the language of it, it means physical integration too, sexual integration, and that develops mulattoes. Those countries such as the United States or South Africa, the Caribbean or Brazil, which have a large proportion of mulattoes, are no better for it; and certainly, from the examples we see, the happiness of the mulattoes themselves is not greater.
Indeed, we have a lot of bad whites, and there are a great many very brilliant negroes—Washington in the States is always quoted as a case. But a proportion of people who urge that we should have large-scale non-white immigration say: "We need them. We need them for our public transport. We 1064 need them for our hospitals." Maybe. But for a great number of years those jobs were always filled by whites. Why should not they be filled now by whites? The reason is they are the jobs that are least attractive and least well paid. But, my Lords, the second generation of immigrants, who have received the benefit of our education, hygiene and habitual outlook on life, are not going to be the ones to accept those jobs. They will be competing with the natives for employment; for housing; for education, and all the privileges associated with those who come into our country. One of the reasons why they come into this country must be that there are advantages here which they receive from our wonderful social welfare services—much greater than they get anywhere else. They are a great attraction to people to come here. The reason for the Bill the noble Lord has introduced is surely to make better the conditions under which they live here. I do not deny it would be a good thing to do it, but it is still aimed to make this country a haven of greater attraction than anywhere else and to encourage the inflow of immigrants
I am always puzzled as to why there is objection to the word "Negro", or "nigger" for that matter. Surely it is no more offensive than to use the word "Jap" against a Japanese; or, in the States, the use of the word "Wop" against an Italian, or "Polack" against a Pole, or "Greaser" against an American. Why all this sensitiveness? After all, do we not read in the financial Press every day of the Kaffir Market? Is "Kaffir" not more derogatory than the word "Bantu" or "coloured" in South Africa? I am puzzled about the sensitiveness that exists. But I emphasise that this question of competition with our native population in employment and in housing, and the complications in education, should be considered.
I see one noble Lord who may speak after me and who would be able to say much more about education than I could attempt to do. However, the health services are strained, and I often wonder what is the extent or the situation. What if we had—pray God we never shall have!—massive unemployment in this country again, or the situation that existed between the two World 1065 Wars when every mouth we had to feed was a strain on our maritime resources? Surely that reflection emphasises that we should be very parsimonious; and I hope that the new Government will be in the way in which they permit licences of entry. And how silly to call them licences for one, when each licence gives a permit for four! Why not be honest and say, instead of 3,500, four times 3,500?—I cannot do the arithmetic in my head.
Lastly, I have a paper here which says: "75,000 migrants in Britain illegally". The numbers one does not know, but one is shocked weekly, almost, by the Press reporting discoveries of the most intricate methods pursued to enable people to get into this country. The fact that people are prepared to pay so much money and to go to such lengths to enter this country shows what a haven it must be in terms of attraction to many other parts of the world. It is for this reason, my Lords, that I hope that the new Government will be far more successful than even the Conservative Government were in clamping down on these illegal immigrants.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD BOYLE OF HANDSWORTH
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for the fact that I did not put my name down to speak this afternoon, but I was not sure whether I should be able to arrive in time to hand in my Writ of Summons. But I should like to speak for a few minutes because I am at present chairman of one of the regional conciliation committees to whom the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, referred when moving the Second Reading of this Bill. I can say to your Lordships that there would be a very considerable measure of sympathy for the proposals contained in this Bill, not only among the members of my committee, but also among chief conciliation officers in Yorkshire and the North-East.
I should like to join with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, in the tribute which he paid to the Race Relations Board, and in particular to its present chairman, Sir Geoffrey Wilson. It is my belief that since the setting up of the Race Relations Board the Board and its advisers have done even more valuable work than is generally realised in this 1066 country. I think much of the credit should go to successive Chairmen of the Board, and I personally would very much agree with the noble and learned Lord's estimate of the annual reports that we have had from the Board during recent years. The only point on which I would slightly differ from him was his suggestion that the previous Government had been inactive in this field. I recall what I thought was a really splendid Party Conference speech by an old friend of mine, Mr. Robert Carr, repelling attacks over the decision to admit our obligations to the Uganda Asians, and I am bound to say that he is not somebody—and I try these days to take an impartial view of these matters—against whom I would care to make the accusation of having been an inactive Minister or one lacking in courage.
May I secondly say that of course I accept the view expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that it is a big decision to bring in fresh legislation. We have to remember that as soon as we bring in new legislation on this subject there is always the possibility, not only of Amendments being tabled by those who are, as it were, well affected in this field, but also some rather more damaging Amendments being tabled. I personally have always felt that it would be a big decision to bring in a new Bill, and I certainly agree with the view that this must be Government legislation.
None the less, as I shall report again at the end of the few remarks I wish to make, I believe that the time is soon coming when we should have some amending legislation in this field. And if I may say so with great respect, I thought that in just two respects the noble Viscount was a little slighting in his comments on the Bill before us. First, while I take his point that immigration policy and race relations policy must be thought of as a whole, surely in all conscience we do have a tough immigration policy at the present time. With regard to the notion, as it were, that we could "sell" new race relations legislation only on condition that we had a further turn of the screw on immigration policy, I would say merely that I hope those days have now gone for good.
§ LORD BOYLE OF HANDSWORTH
My Lords, perhaps the noble Viscount did not mean that, but it seems to me we can say to the British public to-day that we have an extremely tough immigration policy. Indeed, Mr. Carr himself suggested that, in his view, what happened with regard to the Uganda Asians could not easily be repeated again. Secondly, in regard to the Scotch porridge case, I can see the objection to appearing to load the Statute Book with what may seem to be secondary or unimportant matters, but even so there is still a section of opinion in this country which never misses any opportunity to deride the Act and the Board, and I personally believe that if we are to have new legislation this is one matter that ought to be included in the Bill.
However, I entirely agree with those noble Lords who have said that it is of course Clause 8 of this Bill—the extension of the provisions of Section 17 of the 1968 Act—that is the really important clause, and for my part I should like to see legislation on these lines. I believe that this alone is something which Parliament ought to tackle, very much for the reasons—although I would go slightly beyond them—given by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. I believe this is an area where prevention is important, and I also believe that legislation on the lines of Clause 8 would be a great encouragement to that considerable element in younger management which wants to encourage the best existing practice in industry. As we all know, industrial management is not an easy subject in all kinds of ways. Undoubtedly there are younger people in industry who want to modernise management, and who want to be as fair as possible in the conduct of industry over such matters as promotion and ensuring fairness between all workers. I have little doubt that legislation on these lines would encourage fairness and would be a great help to those younger managers—and I do not speak here just in an academic sense, because I have discussed this issue with some of them at conferences in Harrogate.
The noble Lord, Lord Barnby, whose vigour as a speaker, as he knows, I greatly admire, even when he and I cannot completely agree, spoke about those who do not want to integrate. I would 1068 ask the noble Lord to believe me when I say that there are large numbers in the minority communities today who are concerned about such matters as fairness in promotion; and this is something which is becoming more and more a real issue in industry. What we should have in mind is trying to raise the general standard of industrial practice—of course, if the noble Lord wishes to intervene I will willingly allow him to do so.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, will the noble Lord permit me to ask, on the question of integration, whether he overlooks the fact that in religious matters it is very difficult to get integration? I have in mind the island of Hawaii, in the centre of the Pacific; there are five different denominations there. Can they all agree?
§ LORD BOYLE OF HANDSWORTH
My Lords, I would say to the noble Lord that of course there may be religious difficulties here, but I am speaking about promotion, and about ensuring fairness, not indeed just in private industry but in public industry as well. One matter which happens to have concerned me recently concerns promotions to the rank of inspector where public transport is concerned. There are large numbers of cases where I believe we cannot be satisfied with the present position.
I should also like to make a further point to the noble Lord. We should surely remember that, despite all difficulties of religion, culture and everything else, a very large number of members of minority communities have settled into our society remarkably well. Let us think for instance of the number of Sikh women who now go out to work. Let us remember, particularly where women are concerned, just how many have in fact adapted themselves to our English customs.
I am sure we all want to take great note of what the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, said about particular areas of industry of which he has special knowledge. But when he speaks as he did at the commencement of his speech, about "not making the better the enemy of the good," I hope we realise that while the Board have real achievements to their credit, and while the 1968 Act has proved itself worth while, none the less not all 1069 is as good as we could wish where employment is concerned; nor indeed, where housing and services are concerned. Discrimination still goes on. I believe in fact, if Yorkshire is anything to go by, that the case-load is a little on the increase at the present time, and we simply cannot afford to underrate the importance of giving encouragement to those employers who wish their practice to be as good as possible. For those reasons I agree with those who say that this is an important area of legislative decision for any Government. I do not think this can be just a matter for any private Members of your Lordships' House, although I am sure we all admire the vigour and persistence with which the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has championed this cause over many years. I hope very much that we shall hear from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that there is the prospect of new legislation very soon, because I believe, six years after the 1968 Act, that we have been able pretty clearly to identify specific areas where some amendment of the 1968 Act is needed. If this Bill has done no more than draw the attention of your Lordships to the very important issue raised in Clause 8, then for that reason alone this debate, and the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will have proved well worth while.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD HARRIS OF GREENWICH)
My Lords, the first thing I have to say is to express my thanks, and I am sure those of all Members of your Lordships' House, to my noble friend, Lord Brockway, for having given us the opportunity to debate this vital subject of racial discrimination this afternoon. I know that I speak for the whole House in saying that his deep concern for justice and equal rights is something we all respect and admire. As we all know, he was in the vanguard of those who have worked towards race relations legislation in the past.
As I have said, the subject of racial discrimination is vital. I should like to expand on that for a few moments before turning to the more detailed propositions we have been discussing this afternoon. The basic fact from which policy in this country must flow is that our immigrant communities are still of fairly recent 1070 arrival. Of course, over the centuries we have received and absorbed many groups of people from overseas. Our readiness to give them a new home has always been something of which we as a nation have been justifiably proud. In the present circumstances it is particularly important not to play with words. When we speak of "immigrant communities" now, we primarily think of immigrants from the new Commonwealth. These new groups present significantly different characteristics from the earlier incoming communities in that they are of a different colour from the indigenous population. In the case of many of these groups, they bring with them a culture that is different from the traditions of Western Europe.
My Lords, we are this afternoon talking primarily about the simple issue of colour. Like my noble friend Lord Brockway, I believe that a man is entitled to fair and equal treatment in all respects in our public life, regardless of whatever colour his skin may happen to be. Equally, it is quite clear that our society is still a very considerable way from achieving this objective. Yet this question of racial equality is absolutely vital. There is probably nothing at all in the social life of this country that will have a greater influence on the sort of society in which our children are going to live. In a number of ways this country has responded well indeed to this new test of our traditional tolerance, but we must be quite clear that in other respects our record has not been quite so good. Because of this, I want to make it clear from the outset that the Government are not satisfied that enough is being done to promote equal opportunity, and that we are determined to introduce new proposals for further action.
The difficulties which face these new immigrant communities are attributable to what one might call "settler disadvantage". To some extent, this problem inevitably faces any newly incoming group to a new environment, but the present difficulties are intensified for these newcomers by the particular effect of the whole range of disadvantages that we now call "urban deprivation". I trust that I shall have some other opportunity to tell your Lordships' House about the work of analysing the problems of urban deprivation which was begun under the 1071 previous Administration, and which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is now vigorously pursuing. But that would go beyond the scope of to-day's debate. The only point I want to make in this context is that progress on measures to combat discrimination is only one part, albeit an extremely important one, of the progress needed on a much wider front if we are to pursue our objective of equal opportunity in a meaningful way. I should now like to turn to the proposals of my noble friend Lord Brockway.
My Lords, the substance of the Bill is concentrated on Clauses 8 and 9. I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, said about this. These clauses would, in effect, establish a Race Relations Board of a rather different nature from the present one. It would be equipped with much stronger investigatory powers than at present, not only to pursue investigations when, as under the present legislation, the Board has reason to suspect, whether by reason of a complaint or otherwise, that an unlawful act has taken place, but also to investigate a much more general type of situation in which the Board considered that practices or courses of conduct were contrary to the spirit of the legislation.
As my noble friend Lord Brockway said in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, these particular proposals have their root in the recommendations of the Race Relations Board. They were put forward (the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, alluded to this) in their Annual Report for 1971–72, to which I believe the noble Viscount also referred in a speech which took place in your Lordships' House last year. In particular, there is a key passage of the Annual Report, which occurs in paragraph 74. It says:It appears to us increasingly that the question of racial discrimination in employment needs to be seen primarily not in terms of active discrimination against individuals, but in terms of an exceptance or tolerance by everybody, including coloured workers, of employment situations in which equality of opportunity is consciously or unconsciously denied.The Annual Report then goes on to ask next for greater investigatory powers and concludes, in paragraph 82, that… the granting of such powers would increase considerably the ability of the Board to engage in work of a preventive character".1072 In other words, the Board considers that it needs further investigatory powers, partly to increase its efficiency in its present role, but also to enable it to make an impact in the wider area of actively encouraging the adoption of positive policies of equal opportunity, going wider than the essentially negative requirements of the 1968 Act. I have indicated that in making these proposals, the Board has particularly in mind the field of employment. This is the essence of the proposals of the Board, and it is this that is embodied in Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill before us to-day.
No one who studies the situation, either in this country or the United States, will deny that employment lies at the heart of this particular problem. The most vivid single example I can give is the much publicised dispute at Mansfield Hosiery Mills, which I believe was discussed when this matter was last debated in this House. This was a case in which the employer recruited coloured workers. The issue at stake was their promotion prospects, the precise point referred to a moment or two ago by the noble Lord, Lord Boyle. This sort of case is only the overt expression of much more diffuse patterns which, by their nature, are hard to exemplify in detail. What of those firms who employ no coloured workers because the word has gone round that they are not welcome at all and, therefore, coloured workers do not even bother to apply? We must accept—and this is the essence of what the Board are telling us—that there is an immense problem in this more loose and vague sort of passive discrimination which is not so blatant and immediately offensive as the notice which says, "No coloured workers need apply here." It is not a problem that will simply go away of its own accord. The Government have no doubt that the development of positive policies for equal opportunity, particularly in employment, must be at the core of our strategy on race relations. The work by Political and Economic Planning, which the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, announced on February 21 last year, and which he referred to this afternoon, will be published fairly shortly. The noble Viscount asked about this. I hope that before the summer we shall have a report 1073 from P.E.P. on this particularly crucial matter.
I also understand that the Community Relations Commission's Report on Homelessness and Unemployment Amongst Adolescents from Ethnic Minority Groups will be submitted within a relatively few weeks. But even in advance of these particular reports, and particularly the one on employment, it is clear already that swifter progress is vital. I hope, however, that the House will understand if I say that while the Government accept this objective without reservation, we should like a little more time in which to consider the best way of working towards it. The essential question is, perhaps, the relationship between the investigation of complaints—what one would loosely call "enforcement"—and wider promotional work. This kind of work is, of course, concerned not so much with legalistic matters as with giving advice and encouragement for the adoption of enlightened practices involving, in the field of employment, both sides of industry. The proposals put forward by the Board, which would aggregate the two functions, are, I know, based on experience in the United States. But the Government would like rather more time than the relatively few weeks they have had since the last General Election to consider whether this is the most appropriate way of now proceeding. And in considering the right pattern of institutions for our problems, we need to bear in mind that the Race Relations Act established a body, the Community Relations Commission, which stands charged with promotional activity.
As I have tried to indicate, all concerned in this field have come to see clearly that the next step forward must be in the area of positively encouraging good practices, in doing all we can to ensure that grievances do not arise, rather than in remedying those that hive arisen. The question is quite simply how this objective is best pursued. The Board's proposals certainly represent one method of proceeding, and it may well be that they are wholly right. I would however, offer the single tentative suggestion, that if one is to think in terms of the sort of model embodied in my noble friend's Bill, then we should perhaps take our thinking rather further 1074 and consider whether this sort of approach should not be accompanied by a clearer indication of the sort of positive steps that we want to be taken, and indeed the sort of recommendations that the investigating body might consequently be expected to make. In the Government's view, these points are of such importance that they need the most detailed examination before it would be right to legislate. They are not points of detail that could be put straight in committee: they are fundamental to the structure of the legislation.
There is one further point that I must bring to the attention of the House (this was referred to by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner), that is, that the Government are under a commitment to introduce proposals on the equal status of women before the end of the year and are currently giving close attention to the formulation of policy in this area. I would prefer to-day to avoid discussing—particularly after what my noble and learned friend said—the differences or similarities between discrimination on grounds of sex and of race.
§ LORD HARRIS OF GREENWICH
I am even more delighted to carry the noble Viscount with me. In particular, I am not at the moment in a position to discuss whether the institutions to deal with the two types of discrimination should themselves be similar in all respects or whether they should differ. I put it to the House, however, that it is highly desirable that the formulation of policy on the two issues should be kept in step.
To conclude, I can give the House a firm assurance that the Government intend to carry out a thorough review of the effectiveness of the Race Relations Act and will introduce proposals for action. As my noble friend is aware, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary was responsible, when he last held his present office, for announcing the then Government's decision to put before Parliament the series of proposals that became the Race Relations Act of 1968. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is determined to bring forward new proposals for early action as 1075 soon as the present review is concluded. In this review, which will proceed in step with our formulation of proposals on the equal status of women, we will most certainly take full account of the proposals that have been put forward by the Race Relations Board, and indeed by noble Lords who have spoken to-day. In view of the fact that the Government entirely share my noble friend's basic position on this crucial area of policy, I very much hope that he will feel it appropriate not to proceed further with his Bill at this particular moment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, may I first express my appreciation to all those who have taken part in this debate, and that extends to those who are critical of the Bill as well as to those who have supported it. The value of discussions, perhaps particularly in this House, is that we seek from all sides of the House to express our views, and ultimately out of that kind of discussion I think probably the truth emerges. I will refer to the contribution of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, a little later, as it raised very definite points, but I should just like to say a word or two in recognition of other contributions.
I was delighted to hear the noble Viscount. Lord Simon. He indicated that this Bill and its objectives would have the support of the Liberal Party, and that I greatly appreciated. May I make this personal observation. I was so happy that he spoke in this debate. His distinguished father, before the First World War and during the war itself, gave me personal help which I shall always remember, and it is a delight that his son should be speaking in support of this Bill to-day. We had from my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner the support which one expected; he has always stood for these things throughout a long life, and the evidence which he gave on what had been stated to the Select Committee on Sex Discrimination was extraordinarily relevant. Before I conclude I shall be saying a word or two about the relationship in legislation between sex discrimination and racial discrimination.
The noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, also bears a very distinguished name which brings back to me memories from the past. He raised particularly the case 1076 of crews on ships and whether they should be segregated. I would say only this to him, that I think in 1968, when the last Bill was introduced, the difficulties of bringing about common accommodation and other facilities for the crews of ships were considerable, and I understood at that time the need for the particular clause in the Bill by which the Act did not extend to them. I think he himself indicated that since that date very great progress has been made, and without being dogmatic about this I think it might possibly be that we have now reached a stage where the existing segregation might be discontinued. I was just delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, was able to speak. I was aware of his support of the Bill, but I did not expect him to be here in time to contribute towards the debate; all of us appreciated it. The debate would have been unreal if we had not had the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Barnby. He and I are rivals as to whom is the youngest Member of this House and we are also rivals in nearly every attitude which we express. Nevertheless, the contribution which he made was characteristic and effectively put his point of view.
I turn to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, which immediately followed my presentation of the Bill. First, I should like to express my appreciation of the tone in which he spoke. I recognise that his contribution was towards seeking to find the best method of ending racial discrimination. He had one advantage over me in that he has had legal training whilst I have not, and therefore I am not able to meet all the legal points that he raised. Perhaps the most important point was the question of clubs and associations. I recognise at once that that is extraordinarily difficult. I should have hoped that the clause in this Bill which gives exemption to private social clubs and to ethnic clubs would largely have dealt with the problems. However, I have an open mind on this, and I dare-say that further discussion is necessary. He also raised the need for some definition of associations new in legal terms. I imagine that it means broad, voluntary associations, generally open to the public. He raised the question of retaliation and of extra time, and of punitive damages. I am not going to respond to his criticisms on those points as I think it possible that by the time I conclude my 1077 speech it will be unnecessary to do so on this occasion.
I turn now to the speech of my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich. May I say to him, and indeed to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, as well, that I recognise that a Government Bill is necessary. I say only that I have the personal precedent that I introduced in nine successive years a Bill to end racial discrimination in public places, and it was only after I had persisted and converted a growing number of people that the Government introduced a Bill. Therefore, I think that some action by a Private Member may be beneficial. Then, when that Act was proving ineffective, I introduced in this House an amending Bill to extend the powers of the Race Relations Board to housing and unemployment. Again the Government subsequently introduced a Bill covering the areas that I had in mind.
I am happy tonight, having introduced this Bill and raised this debate on Second Reading, that we now have a fairly definite promise from the Government that they will introduce a Bill which has the same objectives and the same aims as the Bill that I have introduced and which is now before the House. The noble Lord said that the Government accept the objectives of my Bill without reservation. He has said that they will review the whole situation and themselves introduce a Bill. I think that my only question would be as to the time they have in mind for the introduction of that Bill.
The last point that I want to make—and again this arose not only in the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner but from the speech of my noble friend Lord Harris—concerns whether we want something even more imaginative and more constructive than the proposals in this Bill and the recommendations which the Race Relations Board has so far made. I want that; I was being a little modest in the proposals that I made in the Bill. I should like to see a Human Equality Bill applying equal rights to all human beings of whatever sex, race, or colour, whatever it may be, and giving recognition to the principle that the important service we have to give is to personality, not the colour of the skin or the sex of the individual. I recognise that there would be difficulties in having that much bigger 1078 Bill for broad human equality. There might be some conflict (which I have experienced) from those who are most concerned about sex discrimination and those who are most concerned about racial discrimination; but I should have thought that it would be possible to bring all discrimination together within one measure as something of which we must rid our society, and that it might be possible, within that one measure, to have separate associations, and yet co-ordinated with the two forms of discrimination.
I believe that the Government have an open mind about these things and they are going to make a review. I hope that that review will not be too long delayed and that they will, at an early date, be able to introduce their Bill. My Lords, in view of that promise, I ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Motion and the Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill, by leave, withdrawn.