Employment Exchange Records (Racial Discrimination)

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West 12:00 am, 20th July 1964

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will instruct employment exchanges to discontinue recording the discriminatory requests of employers who are discriminating against employees on account of their religion, race, or colour; and if he will require them to expunge such references from their present records.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

My local offices have to make a note of the stipulations made by employers when notifying their vacancies to us. Otherwise they would send men for jobs they had no chance of getting. They would also be unable to carry out their instructions to try to persuade employers to withdraw discriminatory conditions.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is causing considerable anxiety and that it is extremely serious that a Government office should record the desires of a person who wants to discriminate against others? Does he not agree that no one should be asked his race or religion when seeking employment? What right has an official at an employment exchange to ask such a question? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter, regarding it as anti-social and contrary to the interests of the country and the individual that anyone should be asked such a question?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I have given very careful thought to this matter. There is no question of discrimination by our officials. What we are always seeking to do is to bring pressure on the employers concerned to abandon any attempt at discrimination. In fact, I have recently tightened up the rules in this respect to the extent that where it is shown that continued resistance is due to prejudice, eventually and after due consideration, we are prepared to withdraw the facilities of the employment exchange.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

I recognise the dilemma here, in that a coloured person would not wish to be sent to a firm which would send him back merely because he was coloured and it may be fairer that he knows, but instead of leaving it to his local officials to bring some pressure to bear, will the right hon. Gentleman, as the Minister responsible, issue a declaration deploring this conduct which is so contrary to our tolerance in Britain?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I deplore this conduct very strongly, and I say that publicly here at this Box. I have given great thought to this point, and recently I have introduced a new procedure whereby if local officials are unable to persuade a firm not to use this sort of discrimination they refer it to the regional office. The regional office can then use persuasion, and if that fails it refers the matter to Headquarters. Finally I or my Parliamentary Secretary take action to refuse to deal with any vacancies from that firm. This is a new procedure which I have introduced, and I hope that it will commend itself to the House.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, on occasion, when employers exercise some discrimination this is often due to the attitude of their own workers rather than any desire on their part? Would not it be helpful if the local trade unions co-operated in trying to break down this discrimination?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I think that it is right that this should be a joint operation, as it were, and I shall welcome the help of the trade unions in doing just that.

Photo of Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North

In reply to a supplementary question the Minister made a statement, which he has not made publicly before, which is of great importance. He said that if other efforts failed employers' needs would not be met through employment exchanges if they persisted in their discriminatory attitude. Will the Minister clarify that and make it clear that if, after persuasion, a firm insists on adopting a discriminatory attitude, for which there is no justification, that firm's needs will not be met through the employment exchange?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

That is it. If it is without justification, we adhere rigidly to what I have just announced.

Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West

I appreciate the Minister's good intentions, but is there any reason at all why a person should be discriminated against on the grounds of religion or race? Will the Minister see to it that that question is not put? Why should the fact that a person is a Unitarian, or a Roman Catholic, or a Jew, be recorded on the official report so that an individual is insulted by employers' prejudices as soon as he goes there? What if the person answers "human race" in reply to the question about his race?

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will not ask this question of anybody. I think that the point here is that we are wholly opposed to this discrimination. We think that it is thoroughly bad in every sense, and we do not condone it in any way.