Race Relations Act

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th May 1966.

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12.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

It is a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that this debate on the Race Relations Act can be conducted not as an exercise in protest but as a constructive attempt to seek out ways of improving and strengthening the Act. During the Commtitee stage of our consideration of the Measure, my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) and I spent some time with the then Home Secretary suggesting improvements to the Bill and we moved Amendments in Committee. But all this was to no avail and we were left with a Bill without teeth and without guts. Recent events of arson against places of worship and the extension of racialist propaganda have proved that assessment fair. The failure of the Act to deal with extensive and fundamental areas of discrimination is now seen by all to have been an untenable position. The Home Secretary himself has referred to these matters in a very welcome speech which he made only last weekend.

Nevertheless, many of us supported the Bill because we felt that it would provide a foundation upon which we could build, and I hope that during this Session of Parliament we shall be able on that foundation to construct an edifice so that the spreading of racialist filth and the deliberate infliction of humiliation and a second-class status on any section of the people of the United Kingdom will be eliminated as far as it can be through the operation of the law. This is not to relieve the Government of the duty, through educational media and through the media of mass communication, of educationing our people against racialism and towards an understanding of different races, religions and cultures which together make up the only one race which is acceptable as such, namely the human race.

I therefore ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who, I am sure, will have every sympathy with what I have to say, to consider the following broad points in relation to amending the Race Relations Act, each of which I will discuss in turn. I suggest, first, that we should strengthen the law in relation to incitement; secondly, that we should extend the area of discrimination covered by the Act to include housing and employment; and, thirdly, that we should apply the Act to religious discrimination and incitement and, consequent on this, the application of the Act should be extended to cover Northern Ireland. It is——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. If the hon. Member's whole case is to be related to changing the law, he will be out of order in this debate. He is discussing the application of the Act. In doing that he may make only incidental references to the need for legislation.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. It is in the sphere of incitement that the greatest danger arises, because there is now a substantial body of evidence to show that—to quote from the report of the study which was recently organised by the Manchester University Liberal Society, for whose work we are indebted— … we are no longer dealing with isolated groups of Nazis but with well-organised and well-financed racist groups, led by persons with contacts in many countries. Later, the society referred to: … a fascinating matrix of inter-connected persons and organisations which point to fairly systematic planning, financing and operating on the part of a relatively small number of persons. Thus, links have been established between a large number of groups ranging from the Racial Preservation Society to the British National Party. What concerns me is that, in spite of the deliberate attempts of publications like Sussex News and Spearhead to sow hatred and ill-will among different sections of the community, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has so far been unable to act under the existing law.

It was a cause of concern to hon. Members in all parts of the House that in a recent case of arson there was a clear case of incitement by members of the National Socialist Party, yet no action has been taken under either the Race Relations Act or at common law to deal with this. The Attorney-General answered a Question of mine on the subject of racialist literature only last week and said that while 14 cases had been raised with him, he had not been able to take action, despite this. This shows the urgent need for teeth to be given to the Act.

The difficulty is that in some of these publications the very clever technique is being used of pretending to eschew violence while actually fermenting it. None but the most naive and gullible would believe that this is anything but a respectable front for ideas which essentially are intended to lead to the same horrors of Dachau, Belsen and Buchenwald. One leading participant of this campaign has admitted this.

It is significant that this man not only helps to run the Racial Preservation Society, but also distributes pamphlets to specially selected persons concerned with the glorification of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi régime. The "Support Rhodesia" stickers, one of which even the late unlamented hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr sported on his car in the House of Commons car park, came from the same source.

By a clever juxtaposition of slanted stories and statistics—such as photographs of coloured men with white girls—an atmosphere of distrust, revulsion and hatred is generated against the coloured section of the community. Some of these publications, like Spearhead, are more open in condemning what they call the sickness of the vote-catching democracy and they have openly stated that their intention is to seek political power. It is also significant that to avoid the Race Relations Act this magazine actually advertises a book club called "The Viking Book Club" and it is possible to join it merely by paying 6d. This is precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East and I warned the Home Secretary would happen when we debated the Race Relations Act. We said at the time that one needed only to attend a bingo session or private club to know how easy it is to escape the provisions of the Measure. So, for 6d. one can avoid the Act. It is necessary, therefore, to remove the words of Section 6 of the Act excluding its application … to members of an association of which the person publishing or distributing is a member. One of the difficulties facing the Attorney-General is to find a suitable form of words which will cover the kind of literature to which I am referring. I do not believe he will have undue difficulty, particularly if he consults some of the sources overseas because there is a vast amount of legislation on this subject——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Member is drifting into what I warned he could not do. In an Adjournment debate it is possible to criticise the working of the law, as the hon. Member is rightly doing. He can make only incidental reference to the need for changing the law, but that must not be his whole case.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

The weakness here is that, as the law stands, we are not able to deal with this kind of literature because the wording of the Act is such that it does not include, for example, bringing into contempt or ridicule and it does not rely on the equivalent of the law of libel and slander. I was merely drawing the attention of the Attorney-General to some of the legislation on this subject which exists in other countries. I wished to give these illustrations only to show the diversity of methods which exist and which can be called upon to combat what amounts to a deliberate attack on the freedom of certain people in this country which is a great deal worse than libel or slander because these attacks are not based on what these people have done or said but on what they are and cannot help being.

It would be idle to quote at length from the squalid publications to which I have referred and which power-seeking politicians or psychological misfits are using. I hope that the Attorney-General will take note of the fact that these publications range from the semi-obscene to the semi-respectable. It is the semi-respectable, precisely because of their professionalism and obvious financial backing, with which I am most concerned. I wonder just how much of the funds for some of these publications are coming from foreign sources—from Johannesburg or from treasonable sources in Bullawayo?

I turn to the question of discrimination. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) will be dealing with discrimination in employment. I do not wish to delay the House on this matter, but I would like to pay tribute to her predecessor bar one, who is now in another place, without whose pioneering work we would not be debating any race relations legislation, with or without shortcomings.

Suffice to say that a survey made in Willesden, the results of which were published in the magazine New Society on 10th February, 1965, showed that there were widespread discriminatory practices in these spheres. Whereas 15 per cent. of the people covered in the survey who had visited public houses to order a drink had known the experience of being refused—and this is covered under the Act —84 per cent. of those who had applied for private accommodation, 21 per cent. of those seeking flats and 6 per cent. of those seeking houses had had this same experience. Further, 59 per cent. had been charged higher insurance premiums on their cars. It is vital, if we are to create the right atmosphere for integration and harmony, that we eliminate these discriminatory practices.

I dealt with this problem in some detail during the debate on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and was able to move an Amendment on the Committee stage of the Estate Agents Bill concerning the practice by estate agents of discriminating. Suffice to say in respect of housing that, apart from the sale of part of a dwelling-house where the other part is retained by the owner—and where there is a personal element involved—there is need for amendment of the law in this respect.

In the sphere of employment I know that a contribution will be made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough. We have examples of discrimination by private employers, but we also have the situation in which employment exchanges are actively conniving by putting the words "No coloureds" in advertisements for employees. The excuse is that they are protecting people from humiliation, whereas in my submission it is not protection but connivance.

Photo of Dr David Kerr Dr David Kerr , Wandsworth Central

In case there is any suggestion that this is a universal practice of employment exchanges, I hope my hon. Friend will allow me to say that it is not true of my constituency, where the employment exchange goes a great deal of the way to discourage the appearance of this kind of discrimination.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I am grateful for that point. I hope that hon. Members will take note of that and perhaps bring pressure in their areas to see that this practice is stopped.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Would the hon. Member explain how better administration of the Act by any of Her Majesty's Ministers could possibly have any bearing upon the practices of employers in relation to employment? Since there is no provision whatever in the Act relating to employment, this could be only a matter for new legislation.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

As the hon. and learned Member will realise, it is the purpose of this debate to show the shortcomings of the Act. Inevitably one would assume that new legislation would flow from this. It would help a great deal to stop the practice of discrimination if an instruction were given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to prevent this practice in labour exchanges.

One of the points I was trying to make was that coloured people often suffer discrimination when they seek to obtain a mortgage, try to obtain credit from a bank or in regard to insurance. This is another matter which I hope my hon. Friend will bear in mind.

Before leaving the question of discrimination in housing, employment and the rest, I make a point which I think rather important. I understand that the Race Relations Board and conciliation committees may well be overburdened at the moment, even with the limited amount of work they have. There may be a strong case for giving them a chance to get under way and to do the job they are seeking to do well before imposing further burdens. I hope that they will not be expected to run on a shoe-string. Information I have at the moment seems to indicate that the conciliation committees and the Race Relations Board are not provided with adequate means to do their job thoroughly and to get the right sort of people with the right qualifications for this very important job.

In Committee on the Race Relations Bill—I do not want to trespass beyond the bounds of order—I moved an Amendment to cover incitement and discrimination on grounds of religion. I trust that this will be in order because in so doing, apart from this being in line with the United Nations draft covenant on religious intolerance passed on 7th December, 1962, I was trying to prevent a situation arising whereby——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

The hon. Member is going into detail on an amendment he is proposing to legislation. The purpose of an Adjournment debate is not that. There are other opportunities.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

The point I am trying to make is that at the moment in the administering of this Act it would be quite possible for a group of persons to attack a community in this country ostensibly on the grounds of religion, when the intent was in fact to attack them for other purposes or reasons such as ethnic origins. It is quite simple to level an attack against, say, the Sikh community or the Moslem community——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I follow the hon. Member's argument, but the remedy he proposes is to change the law. This is an Adjournment debate.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I am drawing attention to a weakness in the administration of the present law and to the fact that as the law stands, or as it is being interpreted at the moment, it is possible for these attacks to be made. One might cite a recent example which exercised the attention of many of my hon. Friends and of hon. Members in all parts of the House. That was the example of an attack by arson on a synagogue. This was a case of religious worship. It might be argued that the attack was not on the basis of ethnic origin or nationality or race, but on the grounds of religion and therefore the Act might well be unable to cope with that sort of situation.

For this reason I have raised the problem of the administration of the Act in that it is possible to avoid its purposes in this way. It is high time that the practice of religious discrimination which exists in certain parts of the United Kingdom was rooted out and prevented. If the bounds of order prevent me from suggesting legislation in this regard to Northern Ireland, I only say that——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. As the hon. Member knows, the Act to which he is referring specifically does not refer to Northern Ireland. He cannot refer to that at all in this debate.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

With respect, the Act specifically exempts Northern Ireland. What I am tying to say is that I have seen in the United Kingdom examples of communities so segregated that they would probably bring a gleam to the eye of Dr. Vervoerd. Instead of black persons, those discriminated against happen to be Roman Catholics.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I do not believe we have any excuse today for not combating these evils. One of the reasons for the fall of the Weimar Republic was that it did not act swiftly and ruthlessly in eliminating the poison which eventually led to a world war, the deaths of countless millions, and indescribable barbarism. The world did not realise what this poison could lead to, but we do not have that excuse because we can learn from the past. We should act quickly to eliminate this racialist cancer operating against our heritage of freedom and tolerance of which this nation hitherto has been proud. The nation has derived a great deal from that tolerance in enrichment of our cultural heritage, our spiritual health, and material life. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, bearing in mind what has been said and what no doubt will be said by other hon. Members, will act swiftly and determinedly to eliminate this sort of thing which is at present growing in this country and which eventually could be a threat to democracy itself.

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

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North West) rose——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Let me help the House. The House must not think that the Chair is unsympathetic to any point of view which any hon. Member expresses in this House, but the rules on Adjournment debates are as I have laid down, that matters can be raised for which Ministers are responsible administratively. Any reference to legislative reform must be purely incidental

12.59 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eton and Slough

Perhaps the best tribute I can pay to the person who represented Eton and Slough for so long until 1964 is to make a maiden speech on the question of race relations. I am sure that, had Lord Brockway remained a Member of the House of Commons, he would have been doing precisely what I and my colleagues are trying to do now, which is trying to make the Act which he initiated more effective than it is at the moment.

After listening to the assurance you, Mr. Speaker, gave of your sympathy with the points of view being expressed, I hope that you will appreciate that, as I have just learned the rules of an Adjournment debate, I will do my very best to keep to them, although I may stray to the side. I hope that you will be tolerant with me.

I speak on this subject with feeling and with great interest because, as hon. Members will know, Eton and Slough has immigrants of many nationalities and many backgrounds. Therefore, those of us who are associated with it have first-class experience of the problems of prejudice and discrimination. When discussing the question of discrimination, it is important to distinguish between discrimination, on the one hand, and prejudice, on the other. There are many people of high moral standards and of very high ideals who want to see the end of prejudice, but who argue. That we cannot legislate it out of existence. Yet the Race Relations Act is attempting to do just this.

We cannot legislate against prejudice. We cannot legislate against people holding certain ideas. Neither should we try to. No Act of Parliament can stop people from believing what they choose to believe or what they want to believe. What the Race Relations Act is designed to deal with is discrimination. This is a very different thing. Against this, as I have said, we have started legislation. By legislating against discrimination we make it more difficult for people to express their prejudices. Moreover, I am convinced that, if the Government, backed by local authorities, are seen to frown on racial discrimination, and to frown more strongly on it than they do at the moment, an atmosphere will be created in which it is less likely that prejudice will be expressed.

I want to refer to the speech my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made on Monday to the Voluntary Liaison Committee at the Commonwealth Institute. My right hon. Friend recognised the importance of discrimination and prejudice in employment when he said this: The employment aspect of this matter is rapidly becoming central to the whole future of our integration policy. If this is true, it follows that the matter of discrimination in employment must be included in the Race Relations Act, because we cannot talk of integration and assimilation if in the very activities where man spends most of his time he is subject to the opposite of integration—discrimination.

To spend money and to do research with a view to discovering, as many have, the best ways of helping non-English-speaking children to become quickly scholastically equal with their English-speaking contemporaries is a waste of time if, having done this, we allow a society to develop which refuses the child a job, not because he is educationally inferior, because we have dealt with that, but simply because he is coloured.

But this is going on. Some hon. Members will have seen the television programme last November in which a youth employment officer, when discussing the employment of coloured youngsters, used these words when he spoke about interviewing them for jobs: … it means more interviews and I think it has been equated with the problems that we have in placing handicapped youngsters … It takes longer to place them. Sometimes they have to accept a job that does not require quite such high qualifications as they have got, but it is more difficult to place a well-qualified coloured youngster than an equally qualified white youngster. Indeed I sometimes think that they are rather in the same position that women used to be and still are, to some extent. Certain firms within an industry are not prepared to accept youngsters because they find that there are some classes of occupation to which they are not acceptable. We also find variations of acceptability… There are some employers who will take West Indians and not West Africans, or Indians and Pakistanis or Indians and perhaps not Pakistanis, which is understandable, I suppose, at the moment. We also find, too. that some employers will say, 'Well, we will take them if they are not too dark'."

An instance was also given on the programme of two young boys going after the same job. The coloured boy was told that there were no vacancies. The white boy was told that there were several vacancies. I am sure that we could all relate similar stories.

We must take steps to avoid creating a society in which coloured people are forced into certain types of employment, though this is beginning to happen. For if we allow this to continue to happen. we shall produce a society where we will have second-class citizens, because it will hot stop, and it does not stop, in employment. If there are white jobs and coloured jobs, and if the coloured jobs tend to be less well-paid, it will inevitably lead to white housing and coloured housing, and someone in a lower-paid job will be in a cheaper house. This will mean a poorer type of living. If this happens and if, because of this trend in employment and housing, areas grow up which tend to be coloured—we have seen this happen in certain areas—it will be seen also in our schools. So the thread must be followed right through.

If the matter of discrimination in employment could be dealt with in the Race Relations Act, we should take another positive step towards building a society which does not discriminate. Equally important, we should do something to dispel an idea which is often wrongly held by many coloured people that, if they are rejected for a job, it is because they are coloured. In fact, in this way they are given a chip on their shoulder. If discrimination in employment is put without the law, it will help to eradicate the misunderstandings that arise.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary also referred, in the speech which I have mentioned, to the question of including in the fair wages clause the matter of discrimination. Other local authorities should be encouraged to follow the example of the London Borough of Camden, not to put work out to contract to firms which practise discrimination. If the lead is given in this matter, it will be followed through.

I should also like to ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary if the powers of the Race Relations Board can be strengthened in certain respects. The powers of this body should not be as limited as they are. At the moment, the Board cannot subpoena witnesses, nor can it examine documents. At present, any complaints or charges that the Board wishes to bring to court must go through the Attorney-General for approval. If the powers of the Board were streng- thened, it would be better able to deal with discrimination.

Finally, in the speech I have mentioned my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary expressed particular concern for the generation of children whose parents were coloured immigrants, but who themselves were born here. If my right hon. Friend feels sincerely that their chances in employment and housing when they grow up and get married will be the same as those of their white contemporaries, the Race Relations Act will not need to include provision for those two aspects of our life.

However, if my right hon. Friend feels, as some of us do, apprehension about the attitudes which are being expressed and which will be expressed towards these youngsters, if he feels concerned about the assumptions of inferiority that they may be forced to accept because of prejudice, which will show themselves again in discrimination, surely he will want to do all within his power to legislate against discrimination until education and understanding have removed this necessity.

1.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Hunt Mr John Hunt , Bromley

For the first time since I entered the House, 18 months or so ago, it is my very pleasant duty to follow a maiden speech and to offer congratulations upon it. I know that I speak for all bachelor Members on both sides of the House when I say that we always warmly welcome the recruitment of attractive lady Members to our ranks. In the case of the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), we have found that her looks are matched by an attractive and fluent Parliamentary manner. We listened to her speech with interest and admiration. We congratulate her upon it and we look forward to hearing her again on this and many other subjects.

I offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) for initiating this important and timely debate. I wish to detain the House for a few minutes to refer specifically to the publications of the body—it has already been mentioned—known as the Racial Preservation Society, a society to which I drew attention recently at Question Time.

When the Race Relations Bill was going through the House, and the hon. Member for Blackley and I both served on the Standing Committee, many of us firmly believed that the Bill and, in particular, Clause 6, was explicitly designed to catch this kind of racialist publication. We have, therefore, been disturbed and disappointed by the Attorney-General's reluctance to take action. To some extent, however, one can share his point of view that it would be fatal to initiate a prosecution which then failed. From that angle, therefore, I hope that recent reports that the Government are now considering moves to strengthen the Act to deal with this kind of extremist publication will prove well founded. Perhaps we may have an assurance on that either today or at an early date.

There is no doubt that the continued circulation of these despicable publications represents a grave affront to thousands of coloured citizens in this country who are living decent, honest and respectable lives. Happily, racial issues played little or no part in the recent General Election. If I may say so, much of the credit for that goes to the firm stand taken by the Leader of the Opposition, who made clear from the start that he would not tolerate the exploitation of racial issues for party purposes. Nevertheless, we should all be in grave danger of being accused of hypocrisy and self-deception if we imagined that, because racial issues were rarely mentioned during the election campaign, they were no longer of concern or anxiety to many people in this country, We have to face the fact that there is a great deal of latent racialism in Britain which can very easily be fanned by publications such as the Sussex News and British Independent, playing as they do on fear, ignorance and emotion.

We know that racialists are emotionally unbalanced and mentally sick but it is a sickness which can be very contagious, and, so long as these publications are distributed from door to door or by a certain notorious bookshop in London, we run the danger of more and more of our fellow citizens becoming infected by this kind of vicious propaganda. Anyone who has received letters from racialists—I now have quite a collection—will testify to their diseased and perverted state of mind. One extremist organisation wrote to me the other day to inform me that those responsible for what it called the "contamination of our land" will hang on Tower Hill for their treason against the British people, and the writer warned, "Make sure you are not among them". I now publicly stake my claim to the scaffold by continuing my campaign against the publications and activities of the Racial Preservation Society and all other organisations which aim to stir up racial antagonism.

As the hon. Member for Blackley rightly maintained, one particularly nauseating feature of the papers which this society produces is the publication of emotive and malicious photographs with no caption, but merely showing a white girl walking in the street with a coloured man. These photographs appear always to be taken by a J. Macintyre, who, I understand, is editor of New Nation, another nauseating periodical. But the disturbing aspect of this kind of thing is that any white girl who is innocently walking with a coloured man is liable to find herself featured, without permission, in this publication and in a context in which there is a clear implication that she is doing something immoral and undesirable. This is a quite intolerable situation.

I must say that I marvel at the restraint and tolerant good humour which is almost always shown by coloured people in face of this kind of provocation. Occasionally, of course, they give way to expressions of anger and bitterness. Some of the statements of, for example, the Racial Adjustment Action Society would themselves appear to fall within the definition of stirring up hatred on grounds of colour or race and I am sure that all hon. Members will condemn intemperate racialist language whether coming from black or from white.

But we must realise that we shall be able to restrain the justifiable anger of so many of our coloured citizens who at present feel themselves affronted and insulted by the racialist periodicals to which I have referred only if we take firm and positive action to deal with the circulation of these journals. This is why I strongly and earnestly support the plea made so cogently today by the hon. Member for Blackley for a strengthening of the Race Relations Act so that we can stamp out the evil forces of racialism and intolerance.

1.16 p.m.

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

I join the hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) on having introduced this subject today. Also, I am happy to express our delight at hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), in her most interesting maiden speech. We congratulate her on the fine manner in which she presented her case, and we look forward with pleasure to hearing from her often. If she maintains the standard which we heard from her today, as I am sure she will, the whole House will be very happy indeed to listen to her on all occasions.

I know that several hon. Members wish to take part in the debate and I shall, therefore, be as brief as I can. I shall not repeat what has been said by previous speakers. I agree with the expressions of anxiety to which they have given voice, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and his colleagues in the Government will take note of them.

I wish to direct attention to a particular aspect of this matter. We cannot deal with this subject in a vacuum. Those of us who experienced the rise of Nazism will realise that there can be no limit to the ultimate results, the horrifying results, which can flow from the dissemination of race hatred. Today happens to be the day after the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Worshippers in synagogues in this country and in very many other countries of the world were observing that anniversary yesterday and the day before.

When I was in the synagogue myself, I wondered how it could happen that men could sink to the depths to which those who villify others because of their race or religion have fallen, I thought of the horrifying effects of their indoctrination, of the millions of people who were slaughtered in consequence of what people believed to be just a passing phase of vicious propaganda. These passing phases can begin sometimes with the kind of literature being disseminated in this country today about which hon. Members have already spoken.

I thought of a recent case involving a synagogue, one of the centres of the promulgation of laws which have been accepted by all civilised people, and I wondered, if I may say so with respect, how a learned judge could have come to the conclusion he did and could have so overlooked the gravity of the serious crime of arson. But even if he were right—and I do not accept that—if a learned judge comes to the conclusion that the crime was committed in consequence of incitement, how can we stand by and not do something about bringing to justice those who by spreading their literature, by their words and by action in this enlightened country incite people, in many cases young people, to the commission of that kind of crime? I think that the common law as it stands enables us to take proceedings against those who incite and I hope that they will be taken in due course. It is no good those disseminating that kind of foul propaganda pretending that they are not inciting people or that their intention is not to incite.

I have here two books. One of them is a pornographic book issued to children in Germany at the time of Hitler. At the same time, a book was published there which was distributed among Members of Parliament in which this statement was made: At Chancellor Hitler's instigation … the foreign press officer of the National-Socialist party made the following statement in a transatlantic telephone-interview with the director of the International News Service. To the question: 'Are the reports of alleged offences committed against Jews true or untrue?' he replied: 'The Chancellor authorised me a few minutes ago, when I met him at the Munich aerodrome on arrival from Berlin, to tell you that in their totality all these accounts are vile lies.' That is precisely the kind of argument used by these cowardly people who, when accused, pretend that the kind of literature which they are spreading and action which they are taking is not conducive to the commission of crimes by themselves and by others.

Today, we have to some extent the same kind of matter which was published in Der Stunner.[Interruption.] This is a matter of extreme importance. It is no good the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) smiling. Some people did that when Hitler came to power. There are cartoons in them which resemble the kind of libels produced in Der Sturmer, one of the most vile publications of our time. I cannot for the life of me see how cartoons of this kind, which vilify coloured people and Jewish people by expression or implication, do not come within the terms of the Act.

Genocide and incitement to genocide should surely be dealt with within the Act. I, and I am sure the whole House, look with concern on the publication of the kind of literature which is being sent out in many cases under the pretence of not being anti-racial and I hope that we shall take such steps as we can to see that in our country there shall not arise anything in any way resembling, let alone resembling substantially, the shocking incidents which happened in our own time. Those incidents should cause us to take the implications in the publications to which I have referred at their true value.

1.25 p.m.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) need not think that I was smiling at what he was saying. I was merely trying to draw his attention to the clock.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I understand how the hon. Gentleman gets involved in this theme, as we all do. I was not making a personal attack against him. But one side of the case has been deployed for forty minutes. The other side will, I think, have five minutes.

I wish to join in the congratulations to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), for two good reasons. One is that my constituency of Buckinghamshire, South, if she will pardon the expression, embraces her all round. The second is that I have become something of a connoisseur of speeches on this subject, as some hon. Members will know. It is particularly pleasant for me to have the pleasure of congratulating the hon. Lady on an excellent exposition of her case. Her predecessor, up to 1964, introduced a Bill on this subject in nine successive Sessions which I, in nine successive Sessions, opposed successfully, I am happy to say. The hon. Lady will therefore realise that, when I congratulate her on her presentation of the case, I do so with some familiarity with the case. I hope that we shall have the pleasure of hearing her speak often.

I must be very short because my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) and the Minister both wish to speak. It would, however, be very wrong if the impression were to go out from the House, as it may on the balance of speeches today, that the views which have been expressed are either those of the House generally or of the public in this country. I remember the Race Relations Bill, introduced by the Government, going through the House. The predominant anxiety which was voiced, not from one side of the House only, concerned the encroachment which it made on the traditional freedom of discussion and expression of the British people. So strong and widespread were those anxieties that the Bill was drastically altered, totally recast, in Committee. Even then, many of us felt, and I still feel, that it was too high a price to pay for whatever benefits might accrue from it.

I am, and I think that all hon. Members should be, prepared to listen to any expression of view, from wherever it comes and in whatever terms it is cast. Those who advocate a contrary course do a grave disservice to the great traditions of this country. I fear that the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) injected into this subject the kind of acrimony which I find incompatible with the plea for tolerance which he made. He referred to the late unlamented Member for Perry Barr.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There we are. That is not exactly an example of tolerance and openmindedness.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The hon. Member condemned an organisation about which I know nothing because it made it clear that its object was to achieve power. That is the object of every political party in this country—a wholly legitimate object if achieved by persuasion. We should be very wrong to block the channels of persuasion. He spoke of a deliberate attack on the freedom of certain people in this country. What is he proposing except a deliberate attack on the freedom of those in this country who disagree with him?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Briefly, please. Time is short.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that the law of slander and libel also imposes certain limitations on people? Is not this the extension of that law to unjustifiable attacks and not to individuals but to groups?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I do not think the hon. Gentleman has listened very carefully to what I said. He was attacking people, an organisation or an individual, for what he called a deliberate attack on the freedom of certain people in this country. I was pointing out that that was precisely what he was proposing. Whether that was a good or bad thing is beside the point: he was condemning them for what he was doing himself.

Sir Frank Soskice, the Home Secretary at the time, when introducing the Bill, spoke of the unrivalled tradition of tolerance and fair play in this country. There must be tolerance for everybody and for every point of view, and not merely for those points of view which have recently commended themselves to the seaside conferences of the Labour Party, and that is what the hon. Gentleman has been asking for.

I felt, with respect, that my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt) was saying very much the same thing. He referred to those who did not accept those particular doctrines which appeal to him as being animated by fear, ignorance, emotion; they were emotionally unbalanced, mentally sick; they were in a perverted state of mind; and their attitudes were intolerable. Intolerable! Well, what sort of debates do we have on this basis?

I do not want to go into the particular merits of things now, but I must say that, speaking for myself, I have grave doubts about the activities of the Minister for Integration—if I have got his title right. I had grave doubts about the flood of these people which came in.

This is not some old prejudice of mine, not something which brought me into politics. When I saw that flood coming in I thought it a bad thing. It is a bad thing he should now seek to integrate them into the community, because if they are so integrated they will remain here and become part of the community. Do we want that? Is that what the hon. Gentleman wants? What folly is this for him to commend to Parliament—

Photo of Mr Maurice Orbach Mr Maurice Orbach , Stockport South

What does the hon. and learned Member want?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I would say that what I want is that everybody should have his own personal views about these matters of immigration, of integration, of the relations between people—on all subjects; and that he should enjoy freedom of expression and freedom to persuade other people.

What the hon. Member for Blackley said, astonishingly enough, was that the publications he was talking about ranged from the semi-obscene to the semirespectable—and that it is the latter that he is worried about. He does not mind the ones we would all condemn. It is the ones which are pretty respectable which he does not like. He agrees with me. This is precisely the danger of this point of view, because it is not intemperance of expression he is striking at, it is the point of view being expressed. It is the point of view being expressed which the hon. Member wants to strike at through legislative means. He wants to make temperate expressions of opinions in what he calls semi-respectable journals illegal by Act of Parliament.

We are in danger of binding ourselves with the chains of accepted phrases. I do not know what people mean when they talk about prejudice.[Laughter.] We live most of our lives—and must—according to prejudice. We cannot have specific judgments on all the things we do from day to day; 99 per cent. of them must be based on judgments made beforehand. There is no other way of living. These are prejudices. I heard discrimination condemned. Why? It is a peculiarly human quality. It is right that everyone should discriminate between all the people he meets on every ground that he can detect. This is how human progress is achieved.

Photo of Mr Maurice Orbach Mr Maurice Orbach , Stockport South

Unbelievable, is it not?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

To condemn discrimination is really to use words in a wholly artificial and unmeaning sense. This would not matter if this were a school debating society, but this is Parliament.

Whether this is on the Adjournment or not, I am afraid that what has been suggested in those speeches was legislation, legislation to prohibit people from discriminating in their relationships according to the judgments which they form of people as they go along, and that, to my mind, is something evil and wrong in itself. The hon. Gentleman does not believe in tolerance. He thinks it is wrong to discriminate between people on all grounds one can detect.

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

Incitement to murder is discrimination.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

It is not discrimination. It is incitement. The hon. Gentleman does not know what words mean. That is his trouble.

The hon. Member for Blackley wants to make an Act of Parliament to put people into prison for doing those things which he personally happens to disapprove of. For that reason I utterly disapprove of everything that he said, and I hope the House will not endorse it and that his words will carry no persuasion in any quarter in this House.

1.36 p.m.

Mr. Richard Sharpies:

I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) chose this subject for the very short debate which we are having today. I only wish there were longer, so that all those who wish to take part could have a chance to do so.

I should like to congratulate, in particular, the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) upon the speech which we have heard from her this afternoon. She, I think I may say, steered a careful course through the rules of order and many of us might envy her skill, but she gave us a thoughtful speech which was in the line of the thinking which had been carried on by both her predecessors in her constituency.

The debate has fallen, as the Act does, into two parts. First, the question of incitement, which we discussed at considerable length during the time when the Bill was passing through this House. I think that every one of us here would abhor some of the literature which we have been receiving through the post. It does seem that there is a possibility of a gap in the legislation, and I think, particularly, that there is a possibility of a gap in respect of the bogus association referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackley, and, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt).

There is also the kind of propaganda which is much more difficult to tackle, and that is the kind which is put about by means of stickers in various different places. This breaks out from time to time, I understand, in different parts of the country. I think that this is probably a problem one which is very difficult to tackle.

There is the difficulty of preserving the balance between the right of free speech which this country has always enjoyed, and which is defended so forcefully by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), and there is the abhorrence which we all feel in matters of this kind.

What I can say is that if there is a loophole in the Act through which propaganda of this unpleasant kind is slipping, despite the intentions which we all supported when the Act went through, we on this side of the House would certainly be prepared to examine in a constructive sense any proposals brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary.

I now turn to the other part of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackley described the Act—and I think that he was referring particularly to the other part of it—as being without teeth and without guts. We on this side of the House expressed considerable doubts when the Bill was passing through Parliament as to whether or not it would be an effective instrument and would achieve the purpose for which it was intended.

I believe—I said this at the time and I still hold this view very strongly—that one of the basic mistakes was in trying first to introduce a Bill related on a fairly narrow field to criminal sanctions, and then altering it and substituting in the same Act a procedure which was based upon conciliation machinery. We pressed the Home Secretary of the day very strongly to take the whole Bill back and to re-examine it from the start. If he had done so, and had introduced a Bill which was based upon the conciliation machinery from the start, it might well have been in a very different form to what we now know as the Race Relations Act.

None the less, the conciliation machinery grafted on to the other Bill was accepted, and our feeling now is that we should do what we can to assist the Act, as it stands, to work, and we should give it a fair chance to see how it works out in practice. One of the main aspects upon which the whole of the working of the Act will depend is the conciliation committees. I understand—and I should like confirmation of this—that none of the conciliation committees has yet been appointed.

I should like to know from the Under-Secretary of State how many conciliation committees it is foreseen will be needed to cover the whole country. How many people will have to be appointed to the committees? Will the principle that they should be impartial people, who are respected in their communities for their impartiality, be maintained in the appointment of members of the committees? The appointment of the committees should proceed, and they should be set up as fast as possible. Only in that way shall we be able to see how the intentions of the Act are working out.

I only regret that this debate has been so short, but I particularly congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackley on having chosen this most important subject for this very brief discussion.

1.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Maurice Foley Mr Maurice Foley , West Bromwich

I echo all the words of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharpies), and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) on introducing this topic. I also congratulate all those who have spoken, with only one exception, for the thoughtful presentation of their case and their measured tones. I am aware of the depth of feeling on this matter, and I share it. I suppose that the most charitable thing that I could say about the intervention by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) is that his was a speech from the backwoods.

I shall deal, first, with the question of incitement. Under Section 6 of the Race Relations Act, a person is: … guilty of an offence … if, with intent to stir up hatred against any section of the public in Great Britain distinguished by colour, race, or ethnic or national origins—

  1. (a) he publishes or distributes written matter which is threatening, abusive or insulting; or
  2. (b) he uses in any public place or at any public meeting words which are threatening, abusive or insulting …".
This reference to "colour, race or ethnic or national origins" follows the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and it is a definition which we should expect to cover any of the sort of cases to which my hon. Friends have drawn the House's attention.

National origins were included as well as ethnic origins, because some groups against which vicious allegations may be made are not distinguished by race, colour or ethnic origins, but only by national origins. Religion was not included in the list of prohibited grounds, because this does not give rise to the same problems as racial attacks, which would include anti-Semitism and anti-colour attacks. In practice, it would seem that an attack on religion as a concealed attack on race or colour would be likely to reveal itself for what it really was, and that it would fall within the scope of the Act.

As the House may be aware, there have not yet been any criminal proceedings under Section 6 of the Act. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions have considered various publications which have been mentioned here today, issued by Fascist and racialist organisations, but on no occasion has sufficient evidence been found that the matter was such as to constitute incitement to racial hatred as defined in the Act.

We are well aware of the circulation of repulsive and scurrilous literature, but my right hon. and learned Friend concluded, after very careful consideration, that the publications sent to him—those mentioned here today—did not infringe the terms of the Act, and I am sure that we are all concerned that it would be unfortunate, to say the least, if there were an unsuccessful prosecution in this type of case.

Photo of Mr Maurice Foley Mr Maurice Foley , West Bromwich

The answer to that question by the hon. and learned Gentleman from way down in the country is that if there were an unsuccessful prosecution this would give a measure of respectability to those that we condemn, and presumably he is not concerned with that, or is anxious to give a measure of respectability to their nefarious activities.

As to the use of spoken words—and I am not referring to words spoken in this Chamber—they can only constitute an offence under the Section if they are uttered at a public place or at a public meeting. If a person privately incites another person to commit an offence, this cannot constitute an offence under the Race Relations Act, although it may well be an offence under the ordinary criminal law relating to incitement to commit a crime.

This brings me to the comments made by my hon. Friend the respected Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) in relation to the shocking cases of attacks on synagogues. At the trial at the Central Criminal Court of four young men accused of burning synagogues, it was suggested that they had been incited to commit those crimes by leaders of the National Socialist Movement. The leaders in question were Mr. and Mrs. Colin Jordan. The Director of Public Prosecutions has investigated the case and there is insufficient evidence to take proceedings against Mr. Jordan. Mrs. Jordan is believed to be in France and there is at present insufficient evidence to justify an application for her extradition. If and when she returns to this country, she may be interviewed by the police.

Concerning these offences, I should like to comment on the excellent work done by the police in investigating and bringing to court on three occasions a total of 12 persons, 11 of whom were convicted and some of whom were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.

When the then Home Secretary spoke on Clause 6 when the Bill was before the House last year, he said that it would in no sense inhibit private discussion and would not inhibit public discussion but that what it forbade was public abuse motivated by an actual intent to incite to hatred or abuse likely to stir up hatred on account of something which nobody could help, namely, his origin. That was what Section 6 of the Act was intended to do. It seeks to strike a most delicate balance so as to stop what we all, it would appear, with one exception, want to stop but at the same time not to curtail freedom of speech or to limit legitimate political discussion and controversy.

We must be careful, therefore, in trying to preserve this balance and not upsetting it. After all, the Act has been in force for only a few months and we have much to learn of its operations. We must, and shall, work it to the full. Even if it were shown—and there is some evidence to this effect—that the provisions of the Act in this direction could not deal adequately with the mischief at which it is aimed, amending legislation would probably be most difficult to frame.

The Government are aware of the concern of hon. Members on both sides. Our attention has been drawn several times to Motion No. 30. I commend to hon. Members the reply of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on 19th May, when he stated that active discussions were taking place with a view to looking again at the provisions of the Act and the extent to which they were adequate in dealing with this whole matter of incitement.

I turn now to the proposals that have been made to extend the provisions of the Act relating to discrimination. There can be no doubt where the Government and, I believe, all parties stand on this question of discrimination on racial grounds. There is clear evidence that we all abhor it. We deplore it wherever it occurs and are determined to do what we can to see that it forms no part of our national life. The Race Relations Act is evidence of this.

It is true that the Act does not extend to a number of important fields where discrimination occurs, in particular housing and employment——

Photo of Mr Maurice Foley Mr Maurice Foley , West Bromwich

Or, indeed, Northern Ireland—and that there are those—

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to refer to Northern Ireland when it has nothing to do with the Act? Is it in order for him to confirm that there is discrimination, which is quite untrue?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Further to the point of order. You may not be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that before you came into the Chair Mr. Speaker specifically ruled that it was out of order to refer to Northern Ireland in this debate.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

References to Northern Ireland are out of order and were prompted by an interjection from the back benches. I hope that there will be no further references to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Maurice Foley Mr Maurice Foley , West Bromwich

I was saying that the Act does not apply to a number of fields, including housing and employment, where discrimination is evident, and there are arguments that it should be extended into these fields. Those arguments have been put forward in this debate. It is equally argued. as was done when the Bill was in Committee, that legislation is not necessarily the best method of removing discrimination and that education and an appeal to common sense and fair play can be more effective. The Government have an open mind on this question and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made clear in a public statement on Monday of this week that we are willing to examine in due course whether amending legislation is required or is appropriate to circumstances in this country.

Before closing, I should like to answer one or two of the points that have been raised concerning the Race Relations Board. I was asked whether the Board has adequate means at its disposal. The answer at the moment is that it has. The Board is in the early stages of its work and I can give an assurance that if the Board asks for more staff if it is becoming overloaded, we will look at this sympathetically. We are in close touch with the Board and will be aware of its needs as soon as they are apparent.

The Board is pressing on as rapidly as possible with the establishment of local conciliation committees. Its proposal in the first instance is to establish 15 local liaison committees. As a priority it is dealing first with London. It is hoped that two or three committees will probably be established before the summer, but if is a question of time.

As the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam said, it is important that the right people are found to serve on these committees. There is no question whatever that the broad composition of a local conciliation committee will reflect a measure of impartiality. Inevitably, people will be asked to serve on such a committee who have particular experience in this field. In employment or housing, people will be invited to serve who happen to be members of an organisation. Some of them may well be people who themselves were born overseas and have lived here for some time. Broadly speaking, a local conciliation committee will reflect a cross-section of the community. There is no question of its appearing to be anything other than a group of public-spirited people anxious to effect conciliation in issues which are brought to their attention.

The Race Relations Board will shortly appoint a conciliation officer to act as its professional adviser and to assist local conciliation committees. It has decided to produce a pamphlet explaining in simple language for the information of the public how to complain in cases of unlawful discrimination and describing the way in which such complaints will be investigated and dealt with.

The Board will also produce a form of complaint for use by those who wish to make such complaints. It hopes to be able to arrange for copies of the pamphlet and form to be available at town halls, W.V.S. centres, employment exchanges, National Insurance offices, and so on. All these are essential pre liminaries to the efficient functioning of the Board and its committees under the Act. I am sure that we all wish them every success in the important work which they have undertaken.

Whatever form legislation eventually takes, it will never be the complete answer. Discrimination stems from an attitude of mind. Its eradication must depend ultimately on an understanding of its causes and on a process of education whereby we can create a climate of opinion in which it cannot exist.

May I, in conclusion, contrary to normal procedure, refer particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), whose maiden speech we have heard today. Her two predecessors have contributed enormously in this field and my hon. Friend follows them in so far as she is advocating what we would consider to be sane and sensible policies. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend again on this and on many other subjects.

In the final minute which is available to me, I should like to comment on the work not merely of the Race Relations Board, but of the Archbishop's committee, the National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants, and of the various panels, for the work they are doing, and the work of local liaison committees. Whatever we may feel here in this House, the real job of work is to be done in localities to change attitudes of mind and the habits of people.

This is a job equally for voluntary organisations as it is for statutory bodies. It is a job for partnership in which we need an educative process and may also—and do—need legislation in this House. I am therefore happy to welcome the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley, in introducing this debate.