(1) With a view to assisting the Commission to decide whether to conduct a formal investigation the Secretary of State may, from such day as he may by order appoint, require any employer who employs more than twenty-five employees (in addition to any employed for the purpose of his private household) to establish and maintain records of the colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origins of his employees in such form and manner as may be prescribed.
(3) The power of the Secretary of State to make such regulations shall include the power to make provision by those regulations for the communication of the information contained in those records to the Commission, and the extent (if any) to which the Commission, may disclose the information contained in those records.
(5) Without prejudice to the provisions of this section, the Commission shall from time to time, with the approval of Secretary of State, make and publish recommendations for the keeping by Government departments, local authorities, employers, trade unions and other relevant bodies and organisations such records as may assist in the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity.—[Mr. Willey.]
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
I believe that the new clause speaks for itself. It raises again a matter which we discussed in Committee. I have raised it again because I have since had discussions with the London Region Community Relations Officer and some members of the Community Relations Commission, who have impressed on me its importance. The clause is an amalgam. Subsection (5) is declaratory and merely gives a statutory emphasis to monitoring. The other provisions refer to the formal investigation which can be held by the Commission.
As the Bill stands, the Commission can obtain such facts as are available. What we discussed in Committee was the situation when facts are not available which are pertinent to any such investigation. The new clause would place an obligation to inquire and establish the relevant facts upon the firm which might be the subject of an investigation. In other words, although the firm might not have records which would give the information which the Commission would require, the clause gives power to provide for that information to be required so as to make the investigation a full and proper one.
This provision has precedent in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. These proposals are flexible. We are not seeking to impose any general responsibility. This is because when the Select Committee was in the United States last Session it was impressed by two things—first, the importance of an effective monitoring system. That was cardinal to such success as the system has had in the United States. Second, we were equally impressed with the fact that the system in the United States is far too legalistic and bureaucratic for this country. It is on a scale which is wholly inappropriate. Furthermore, in the essential work of monitoring, the Commission will have to direct priorities.
My difficulty, which the Minister will appreciate, is that the Select Committee has not yet had a reply to the proposals in its report last Session. That means that we do not yet know which administrative measures will be taken to back up the legislative provision to which we are now agreeing. That puts us in a difficulty but I hope that the Government can at least assure us that they are as convinced of the importance of monitoring as the Select Committee was, and that, whether in legislative form or not, they are prepared to provide machinery to make the monitoring effective. I have purposely made the provisions flexible with that end in view. I am not trying to impose on the Government. I am trying to provide for the powers to be there if needed.
If it were the intention of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) to use the new clause as a means of criticising the whole approach of antidiscrimination legislation, I doubt whether he could have done a better job. From that point of view, he deserves the thanks of the House for the work he has put into it and the satirical powers of which his product bears such eloquent evidence.
The experience of those who have considered this type of anti-discrimination legislation is shared by those who have had the misfortune to try to consider others. In reading the new clause I was vividly reminded—I refer to it only for purposes of analogy—of the experience of those who considered in detail the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords]. Perhaps our experience in considering that legislation will be of direct instruction in the present context.
The original notion of those who proposed the legislation in the first place was that one of the duties of the relevant authority would be not merely to require but actually to assist employers to keep registers. In that case it was a register of religion.
Fortunately, however, the proposals had been knocking about long enough for it to be perfectly evident that if employers were forced to make records of the religion of their employees and to inquire minutely into these matters, the only effect would be to highlight differences in religion, to throw up questions of quotas and whether percentages were evidence of discrimination, and finally to leave things far more tense and difficult than they had been at first. That legislation was concerned with a fairly simple matter—although not so simple as at first sight appeared. It was not just a question of Catholic or Protestant. We discovered in the course of our deliberations that there were Socinians and certain others who had to be catered for, so that it was a big job to establish scientifically and factually, and in the proper form, as the right hon. Gentleman wishes, records showing whether there was discrimination.
Let us look at what it is that employers are to be obliged to inquire into in respect of their employees. They are to maintain records of colour. Is there to be a Ringelmann chart against which will be held the complexion of each employee and the appropriate reading entered? There is a difficulty here. The Ringelmann chart will not be adequate. Although it will indicate degrees of depth of colouration, the Ringelmann chart will not indicate tint. Surely it is important that the difference between the same intensity of yellow or brown tint should be registered, since clearly there can be colour discrimination on that ground.
When an employer has finished looking at his employees from the point of view of colour as he takes them on and has entered their respective colours on the register, he has to enter their race. Race is something that scientists have found it extremely difficult satisfactorily to define. I feel that it will be useless to leave employers to decide. The House will have observed the cunning criticism which the right hon. Gentleman has cast into the form of the new clause, criticism which destroys the validity of the legislation. That criticism is not limited to the clause. It goes to the Bill as a whole.
What is race? Of what race are some of us respectively to be entered by our respective employers? If there is to be discrimination and if there is to be a law against discrimination on grounds of race, it is not only as employers, it is not only under the terms of a clause such as this, that we must know what race is. Is an Englishman of a different race from a Welshman? Are all Welshmen of the same race? Are all—[Interruption.] Did someone mention intelligence? No? Fortunately, we do not have to consider the difficulties which would arise if that were introduced. No doubt it will come.
I think that it was a voice from the future which was heard from somewhere in the House just then, because it is of the nature of anti-discriminatory legislation that it can never stop. There is no point at which new grounds of discrimination cannot be discovered and cannot therefore, by parity of reasoning, be made the subject of anti-discriminatory legislation. On similar grounds, it will seem to be unfair that merely on grounds of intelligence, especially in cases where intelligence is not precisely relevant to the form of employment, there should be discrimination between one person and another.
We are considering a Bill which is outlawing selection on the grounds of ability. It is a form of discrimination, a prevalent one, which my right hon. Friend has not considered. Nor has he considered the interesting distinction between race and ethnic origin. That is fascinating.
I was coming to that, because I had noticed the words "ethnic origin" coming up. My hon. and learned Friend is right to remind me and the House that in all matters of discrimination on one particular set of criteria all the other criteria on which in that context discrimination might legitimately take place are necessarily involved. We must decide whether discrimination was exercised on grounds of intelligence before we can eliminate that ground of discrimination and be sure that we have correctly fastened upon the ground which the legislation seeks to penalise.
I return to the absurdity that we are legislating to create what in their enforcement will be, whatever else is said, criminal offences upon the ground of a criterion which defies successful definition. There is no successful definition or criterion of race. Employers would be unable unambiguously to compile a register—and such a register could not be made the basis of proceedings—on the grounds of the race of their employees. When I referred to the races—they have often been so called in the past—which form the indigenous population of the British Isles, my notion was by no means far-fetched since there have been cases in which the difference between a Scotsman and an Englishman has formed the basis of proceedings under the existing law. The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North deserves the thanks of the House in that he has prevented us at this stage of the legislation from simply gliding over the notion of race as though it were something self-evident, something which was unambiguously clear to anyone who might seek to obey the law.
The fact is that the races in a single nation, in a single homogenous nation, are so variously present that there can perhaps be hardly a single discrimination which we make in our ordinary life where some element which might anthropomorphologically be described as "race" is not present in our judgment. The right hon. Gentleman did not go far enough in his preparation of the new clause. I believe that it ought to have been accompanied by a schedule. If he intends to make it obligatory to maintain records of colour and race, he should have provided a schedule which laid out the various categories of colour and race —I go no further for the moment—which an employer should be required to inquire into from his employee and enter upon the register for inspection in due course by the commission.
We come to nationality. I suppose that the employer can be required to demand a passport from all his employees. He has to make the same sort of inquiry as is made by the Passport Office when it issues a passport, but he has also to inquire in the case of a person who is not a citizen of this country—I am aware that the expression is one which has no precise legal meaning—what is his nationality.
Great objection has been taken over the years by many public servants, let alone private persons employing others, to the very suggestion that they should be asked to inquire into the nationality of those with whom they are dealing. If my memory does not play me false, there was almost a strike on the part of employees of the Department of Health and Social Security when it was suggested that before issuing an insurance card they should perhaps ask to see the person's passport.
That is an irony, and I am sure that we shall muse upon what we have just been told by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), that the same body, acting under the very legislation which is set up for the purposes of outlawing discrimination, refuses to discriminate, refuses to maintain records of the very characteristics upon the basis of which discrimination is to be outlawed.
As I was saying, it is well known that objection is taken by many Government Departments to the very suggestion that, in going about their business and in carrying out their statutory duties, they should make a record of the nationality, that they should ask for evidence of the nationality, of the persons with whom they deal.
The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North is correct: it will be necessary —it is implicit in the logic of the Bill— that the employer should inquire jealously into the nationality of the persons whom he is employing or whom he may consider employing lest he should unawares —for to do it unawares is no defence—be discriminating upon ground of nationality.
Indeed, he would be hard put to it if, in some process entered into by the commission, he were to be asked "What inquiry did you make, Mr. Smith, to ascertain the nationality of your employees?" If he replied "I never inquire into that matter at all", he would no doubt be asked "How, then, Mr. Smith, can you prove to us that you are not exercising discrimination on grounds of nationality if you do not even inquire into what the nationality is, if you do not maintain records of nationality, if when a person comes to your personnel officer and presents himself for recruitment one of the first questions is not Can we please see your passport or, at any rate, your birth certificate and the birth certificates and marriage lines of your mother and father?'."
Then the right hon. Gentleman invites us—and not only us, but those to whom his new clause would apply—to contemplate ethnic origin. This is a delicious but not unimportant excursion into which he has inveigled us. Race we have left behind—that hateful four-letter word which, because it not only trips off the tongue so easily but fits in very large letters into headlines, has so often been used when race was not meant at all, has so often been substituted for the 11-letter word "immigration" when what was being talked about was not race at all. But that four-letter word we have left behind in our examination of these proposals. We have come to ethnic origin.
Clearly the right hon. Gentleman must consider ethnic origin to be rather different from race, otherwise I am sure he would not have drawn his new clause with the tautology that he has. I believe that I missed only the first few words of his speech in commending the new clause to the House, and unless he did so in those first few words he omitted to explain what is the difference between race and ethnic origin. However, he does think, for he has given the matter consideration, that it is something that should be clear and ever present to an employer of over 25 persons, because he believes that, for the effectiveness of the legislation, the employer should not only be aware of what is meant by "race" but should be so sensitive to the nuances that he can distinguish ethnic origin from race.
One can imagine the kind of interrogation which would be necessary. The potential employer is interviewing Jones, an applicant from South Wales, for a job. "What is your race, Mr. Jones?" "I am a Welshman. I am one of the Cymry." "Yes, it is all very well for you to say that you are a Welshman. I do not mind putting that down under the place here which says 'race', but what is your ethnic origin?" "Ethnic origin? Is that different?" "Yes, it is, because we have a form here from the commission, and under 'B' it says 'race' but when I go down to 'D' I find ethnic origin'."
"Well, come to think of it," replies Jones, "my grandfather on my mother's side when the mines were opened in this valley—mind you, I am not absolutely sure but I am giving you information to the best of my ability—came from Ireland." "Your maternal grandfather came from Ireland?" "Yes, so I have always heard." "Thank you, Jones. That has helped a great deal, because this must be something to do with your ethnic origin. Can you tell me what part of Ireland he came from? The difficulty is that we have these pesky people in Ulster, and according to my understanding they are a different race there from the people in the rest of the island of Ireland, and so for all I know they may be of a distinctive ethnic origin."
To cut a short story still shorter, in the case I am imagining, of course the potential employer will settle to say "Never mind"—let us suppose that he came from Tipperary—"we will write in your ethnic origin as Irish and we will go on to the next—'national origin' —which, it will be observed is different from 'nationality'. I have your passport and I note what it says, that you are a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and I have worked out from the three Acts of Parliament to be taken together that you are not just patrial—let that pass—you are a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. But that will not do. I also have to enter your national origin. So could we enter into your antecedents, because they cannot have been citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies since that description was invented only in 1948 and you look a bit older than that to me."
But I will not go further into the labyrinth. The whole point of this and the value of the debate which the right hon. Gentleman—unwittingly, I am sure, and not with malice prepense—has initiated is that it shows up the absurdity of attempting to base legislation outlawing and penalising discrimination upon criteria so indefinable, so subtle, so remote, so much a matter, if they were to be determined, of minute and absurd inquiry that even in looking into one line of the new clause we have been led into some of the considerations which I have laid before the House.
I conclude simply by saying—and I do not wish to disappoint the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North or to appear ungrateful to him—that if he should carry the new clause to a vote I shall vote against it. But I do not want him to think that I am doing that because his clause is not a natural and logical deduction from the whole consequence of the Bill. It is. In a way, it is a very effective speech against the Bill which he has crystallised into the form of a new clause on Report. The reason why I shall vote against it is that I shall vote against the Bill too.
. As a fellow member of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, the Chairman of which was the mover of the new clause, I support in general, but not in detail, the purpose for which he introduced it. If the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) were ever capable of looking without prejudice at the real problems of race relations in Britain he would realise that no policy for equal opportunity will succeed unless there is some arrangement for sensible record keeping or monitoring. Equally, if the right hon. Gentleman applied his mind, without prejudice, to the lessons of America—although he has warned us about going into undue detail, which was the American mistake—he would understand that record keeping of a sensible kind works, and is accepted to work.
In Committee the Minister of State—who was dealing with a broadly similar clause, which was confined to subsection (5) of the present new clause—took a lofty and remote view of the Government's responsibility for that. He said that monitoring might be useful in certain respects but that it was not 'for the Government to take the lead. He said that the initiative would be better taken by the Commission. It is not satisfactory to leave the matter there. My view was borne out by a conversation that I had this morning with a man who has some experience in the South of London.
The Government should give more of a lead, not only by indicating the kind of records they propose to keep in Government employment but by inserting into the Bill the type of phrasing that has been suggested. I want to explain why I am uneasy about certain parts of the new clause.
The Government should either advise the House to do what I have suggested or go further than they went in Committee, by indicating their view about the scope and type of record keeping that might be necessary, leaving the other details to the commission, if that is what the Government desire. If an equal opportunities policy is to succeed, the phrasing of subsection (5) is about as far as we should go if we are to write something into the Bill.
My criticism of the new clause is that subsections (1) to (4) pick out one group of people—the employers—for this unnecessarily detailed requirement. Record keeping does not apply only to employers; it may apply even more to trade unions. That view is borne out by the man to whom I spoke this morning. I understand that trade unions are even more hesitant about keeping records than are employers. That is an area on which the searchlight should be turned.
One could also mention schools. That is something that the right hon. Member for Down, South tends to ignore. It has proved difficult in the past to devise a form of record keeping. Likewise, everyone who pays attention to the real problems on the ground has concluded that, even without the former definitions of the Department of Education and Science, some way must be found of measuring the needs of children of different groups in different education areas. Schools are a good example.
I am torn about this matter, and I do not know the answer. Can the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) tell me why a trade union must say specifically that a man is black or brown or yellow or white? If a person joins a trade union, one asks whether that person is a carpenter, a joiner or an engineer. That is the only qualification required, and that has nothing whatever to do with colour.
If one has a list of housing in a local authority area, why should one say that a person is black and therefore has to be qualified as black? If that person is qualified to be on the housing register it does not matter what his colour is. I am worried about this, because I understand that under certain circumstances there can be discrimination because of one's colour or ethnic origin. I am concerned that we should get the matter right.
So am I. It is one of the most difficult issues in the debate.
In most cases nothing of the kind is necessary for trade unions, but I am told that in certain areas of London the trade unions are most reluctant to accept that there is a need for record keeping of any kind, in the trade union or any other sphere of life.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) mentioned local authority housing. I am sure that he has seen the evidence of a number of surveys, which suggests that families from the ethnic minorities tend to congregate in less desirable areas. There is a need for monitoring in those areas, so that people can judge whether a local authority is operating a fair housing policy between families of different racial groups.
The question of the location of council hous- ing is difficult. I have had some association with the Manchester redevelopment programme in one of the biggest ghettos in the country—Moss Side. We did not keep a register, but the operation went like clockwork, and a survey by the community health council commended the way in which the problem was handled. I am not convinced of the need for the new clause.
I accept that in some areas there is no problem at all, but in other areas the evidence proves that there is.
Subsections (1) and (4) are directed specifically at employers, when we should be concerned with other aspects of life, but not in such detail. We should have a clearer idea, either from the Bill or from the Treasury Bench, of the way in which the Government view the need for record keeping. I hope that the Minister will take account not only of what was said in our brief debate in Standing Committee but of what has been said so far today.
As this is the first time I have commented on the Bill I take this opportunity to say that I welcome it, but I have grave reservations about the new clause.
When people pass legislation saying that records must be kept they should remember that someone has to keep those records. To say that employers must keep cards and so on is to place an unreasonable burden on them, especially as the clause refers to people employing 25 workers or more. The keeping of such records would be justifiable if as a consequence they made any contribution towards the purpose of the Bill, which is to improve race relations. I am aware that the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said that he was not imposing a condition that records should be kept. However, the clause gives somebody the right to impose that requirement. It is a fine distinction.
I cannot believe that the clause will make the slightest contribution towards improving race relations, which, like hon. Members on both sides of the House, I am anxious to do. I have a large immigrant community in my constituency, like the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Dean), about whose work on this matter I know. I have been chairman of a housing committee and an education committee, and have dealt with the problems of immigrants. I was founder chairman of a community relations council.
I do not see how the keeping of records by an employer, whether voluntarily or compulsorily, can help to improve race relations. An unnecessary requirement to keep records about people is highly dangerous and a move towards 1984. I do not like records about people being kept for the joy of a civil servant, a member of a commission or a bright judge who has the brilliant idea that it might be a good thing to require a firm to keep records of all its employees stating their rate of pay, colour, age, creed, nationality and so on. That is a highly dangerous road along which to proceed.
Therefore, although I entirely accept that it has been a good thing for the House to discuss the matter, I hope that the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North will seek to withdraw the motion. If he does not, I shall be compelled to vote against it.
That brings me straight to the problems of the clause because it shows the difficulties of definition in these matters. My right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—to whom I prefer to refer as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Down, because "Down, South" always makes him sound like an American senator—looked at the clause with much the same eyes as I did. There is no need for me to repeat the scrupulous and penetrating analysis with which he enlightened and diverted the House.
I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was unconscious of the irony of the clause. He and I are always on very good terms, because on happy days we pair with each other. I do not know whether we have started that process again yet. I suppose that it is almost a precondition of a pairing arrangement that those concerned should have opposite views on most matters that come before the House. Otherwise, there would be no point in pairing.
I have no difficulty in pairing with the right hon. Gentleman on the clause. The difficulties of definition are only one aspect of the matter. It should be remembered that it is not we—not myself, not my right hon. Friend the Member for South Down or anyone on this side of the House who takes the same view—who have brought the Ringlemann chart into these debates. Apart from that, let us remember that often enough hon. Members on both sides of the House have asked questions about the number of coloured children in schools. We have wanted to know whether what some police officers have said about the statistics of coloured crime is correct. There are many matters on which we have wanted that kind of information. We are always told that the information is not available and should not be available, that it would be wrong, and that decisions are not made on those criteria.
When we wanted to know—I believe for the most legitimate reasons—the number of coloured children in schools, where the significance is obvious, the National Union of Teachers refused to collect the statistics, on principle—what principle, I do not know. I think that it was the Select Committee of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North that called for the statistics, and in evidence the NUT said "You will not have them, because it is wrong to give them".
My hon. and learned Friend may wish to add that the NUT accepted that it would count children in schools by ethnic origin if the children and their parents had entered this country within the past 10 years. It would not count them otherwise. So the absurdity was even more crass.
Yes, and the implication even greater. Only one more little box would be needed on the form, but the NUT was opposed in principle to more information being given about the ethnic or racial composition of our education establishments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) suggested that the giving of information should not be confined to employers. We should end up with a sort of Domesday Book about everybody's race, nationality, ethnic origin, national origin, and so on. My right hon. Friend has gone into the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge suggested that trade unions and a number of other categories of people should be involved. We should have a complete book—and this under an antidiscrimination Bill.
Does there not underlie this thinking another very dangerous factor, which I observed in the Sex Discrimination Act, namely, the assumption that there is discrimination to the disadvantage of some sections of the population if their number in a certain occupation or grade does not correspond to their numerical proportion of the population? That was said explicitly, and repeatedly by those who supported the Sex Discrimination Act. It is implied much more cautiously in race relations matters, but always the implication is present that if numbers are counted we shall be able to determine whether an employer or trade union, for example, has been excluding people because of their race, nationality or colour. It is thought that when the figures are counted and it is found that the numerical proportion is not right, we shall have caught that employer or trade union.
That is a lot of rubbish. I thought it was argued that employees should be chosen on their ability, regardless of their colour or ethnic origin. If that led to all employees in a certain grade being white, for example, but being all chosen on merit, that would be right. I thought that was the idea. If it is, the numerical count does not have much to do with it.
As I have said, there is always the implication that the numerical basis is the right approach. I believe it was the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North who invited us to be instructed by the American example. Indeed, race relations legislation in Britain is almost slavishly modelled on the American example, as is sex discrimination legislation. I am sorry to say that the Equal Opportunities Commission applies a strict numerical ratio.
There is the famous telephone example. I always forget what the Bell Telephone Company is now, regrettably, named, but I think it is ITT. It has had to agree to a settlement that has been made a rule of court, that in each of the 180 districts of the United States in which it operates, and at every level of operation, from the bottom to the top, the staffing must reflect exactly the numerical composition of the available population.
How much sillier can we get than that? The ascertaining of numerical composition is based on the sort of statistics that the new clause is designed to collect, and for that purpose. Therefore, I consider it to be a dangerous and revealing clause. After saying that, it is almost a climax to refer to the tyrannous mechanics of the clause. It empowers the Secretary of State to require any employer to provide the necessary information. There is no requirement that there should be a Statutory Instrument or a Regulation. There is no provision for any sort of appeal. The Secretary of State can say "You do it. If you do not do it, you will have committed an offence."
What about the statistics thus collected? Is there to be no appeal on the part of the person so recorded? He might be recorded as a Chinaman of Irish ethnic origin, or goodness knows what else, but it seems that he would have no right to complain. I suppose that the information would be fed into computers. When someone wanted a Chinaman of Irish ethnic origin to make good Scots porridge, the card would be put in the computer and out would come the nonsense. As the right hon. Member for Down, South said, that caricatures this legislation. It is oppressive, intrusive, impertinent and absurd.
The House will agree with me when I say that no one has been a stronger opponent of immigration than myself. However, I have always voiced my opposition without attacking the immigrant community. I have never blamed that community, because in its position I would have done the same thing. I blame politicians on both sides of the House for allowing such a volume of immigrants to come in. It is possible to take the strongest line on the issue without having the slightest animosity towards those who have taken advantage of an opportunity that should not, as a matter of good husbandry, have been offered to them.
This sort of legislation, whether it is the Race Relations Act 1965, the Race Relations Act 1968 or the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, crystallises and builds up tensions, hostilities and resentments. It provides a focus for the anger of the native population, which is not used to being kicked around. We have never had this sort of legislation before. We do not need this kind of thing. We shall always have the odd incidence of untypical behaviour, with or without legislation. The question is whether that sort of incidence has been typical. The answer is that it has not. It has not been typical in this country, although I accept that America presents a different picture.
In so far as such behaviour has occurred, it was an understandable expression of resentment at the total failure of political leaders of both main parties to reflect and give expression to the desire that the inward flow should be properly controlled.
I shall oppose the new clause. I shall vote against it if the matter is taken to a Division. I hope that it will be, and I encourage the right hon. Gentleman to take it to a vote. However, I fear that after listening to what has been said on both sides of the House the right hon. Gentleman will probably ask leave to withdraw it.
One can understand the hesitancy that is felt, certainly among my hon. Friends, about the keeping of records, especially in such detail. It may well be feared that they pose a threat to the freedom of all of us. However, we must be left with a feeling of doubt and hesitation after the entertainment and rhetoric that have come from some who have spoken from the Opposition Benches.
I wonder at their motives. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) has admitted quite freely—and it is well known in the House—his own record of opposition to immigration. His opposition to the clause is not surprising, but is he saying that we should take no measures to ensure that immigrants are settled in the community, given their rightful place in the community, and given a rightful proportion of jobs, education and other facilities that are available to other members of our society? He may say that, but I find it difficult to accept from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who himself was responsible for one of the earliest waves of coloured immigration as the Minister of Health in an earlier Conservative Administration. The right hon. Gentleman attempts to cover over that episode. I feel that he was sincere only when he said that he intended to vote against this measure.
This is a difficult area. Many people are concerned about the retention of privacy in our society. I sympathise with the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield when he says that much of the material might well be collected and put in computers to the detriment of society at some later date. However, there is no doubt that in the present situation it is necessary for some form of monitoring to take place. That is necessary in our determination of the way in which the immigrant groups and those of immigrant origin should be integrated in our society. For example, there is the unemployment of young people. We were told only yesterday that the number of young people of coloured origin who are now unemployed is twice that of the young unemployed white population. Presumably that information was obtained by somebody keeping records.
I agree on the need for integration, but I do not agree on the need for monitoring. However, if any monitoring is necessary for the purpose of integration, is the hon. Lady suggesting that the monitoring should be carried out by the Government in regard to the number of jobs available and in what industries they are available and so on, rather than, as suggested in the clause, a monitoring by the firm in regard to individuals?
I was not suggesting that monitoring should be undertaken to admit people to jobs. I was saying that children of immigrants who are already in this country are being discriminated against to the extent that twice as many of those young people are unemployed as of those in the indigenous population. This is also the case in council housing, where it has been established that a large number of the immigrant population are living in the worst areas of council estates in many parts of the country.
There are a number of aspects to be considered. There is the problem of promotion, because immigrants may not be given adequate opportunity to improve themselves in accordance with their abilities. If they are able to do so, obviously they will have more opportunities for job promotion available to them. There is a whole range of matters on which these considerations are important, and we need to know the details.
I do not wholeheartedly support New Clause 1 because of the dangers it contains, but I support the idea of the establishment of machinery so that if the Government, public opinion, or even the immigrant community, feel that injustices are being done on account of colour or origin, there might be a way to check the situation.
I very much regret the tone of the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield and the right hon. Member for Down, South, who obviously do not consider objectively the needs of the host community or the immigrants. They obviously show prejudice on this occasion as they have done on other matters in the past.
I cannot follow the hon. Lady's logic. The clause does not require the local authority to monitor the matter, or the Department of Education and Science, or the Department of Employment. The clause requires individual employers to monitor, for example, how many coloured persons they have working for them. Will that information in any way add to the statistics available to a local housing department in seeking to provide accommodation?
There is another area in which discrimination is being carried out, and it has already been referred to in another debate this week. I refer to the subject of immigration itself. I very much regret that, because of other duties, I was not able to be present during that debate, but it was obviously accepted that in the present situation immigration is a free-for-all. There is serious discrimination against those who come from Asian countries compared with those who come here from what is known as the Old Commonwealth. Therefore, if there is to be monitoring of any kind, I believe that these considerations should be borne in mind.
Along with some previous contributors to this discussion, I am no friend of this legislation or of the new clause. In discussing the subject of race relations we should not forget that we are talking about human relations—in other words, about what fundamentally are the relations between one person and another. The only damage to race relations lies in treating people as groups, as corporate entities or institutions specially susceptible to legislation. Surely legislation should permit people to live their own lives without interference, to develop in their own way and as far as possible to solve their own problems.
It is part of the philosophy of Conservatism to have the maximum amount of freedom consistent with the minimum amount of State control. It is even possible that some Labour Members will agree with that view. It is only a question of where we set the limits. If we accept that view, why do so many of us come into this House thinking that it is our duty to heap burdens on our fellow citizens? That is what we spend so much of our time doing. This clause is a typical example of that philosophy.
The clause can be looked at from two standpoints. The first relates to statistics, and the second relates to interference with the way in which people live their lives. We must closely examine the statistical argument. The more we heap burdens on employers and institutions to keep records the more will the proponents of these measures say "We have so much information—we now want more." In other words, a few more questions are then added to the questionnaire; the form will contain a few more boxes to take all the ticks and crosses. At present there are a record number of questionnaires and forms that must be filled in by business. They occupy companies to a great degree and interfere with their capacity to promote the prosperity we all desire. Yet here we are facing another clause that will put a further burden on private business.
It is not just on those grounds that I oppose the clause. I object to the sheer undesirability of distinguishing between Her Majesty's subjects. If we want a fully integrated society, at ease and at peace with itself, whose citizens are happy and get on well with one another, the less we say about the divisions that separate us the better. When relations are difficult and politics are sensitive, that is all the more reason not to inquire into the ethnic, national or racial characteristics of those concerned.
I believe that it has been a very good move recently by the media, in commenting on events in Northern Ireland, to cease publishing whether the victims of sectarian violence are Catholic or Protestant. For example, publicity given when a Catholic is killed is likely to stimulate his fellow Catholics into some form of revenge, and the reverse situation applies when a Protestant is killed. Such events should simply be referred to as incidents involving Her Majesty's subjects, whatever the motive behind the killing.
However, in this clause the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) is attempting to distinguish between people, to stir up trouble, hostility, distinction and differences where none should exist—and, indeed, where none will exist as time elapses, because of the natural growth in society. If these provisions are accepted, there will be the most detailed and prolific output of definitions, and no doubt subsidiary legislation will flow from the Minister. We shall have strict definitions of colour and we shall face the kind of problem that is experienced in South Africa and the United States where people attempt to pass as white. Definitions will have to be laid down as to whether in those circumstances such a person should be considered white. That type of legislation is odious and we do not want to see it in this country. We do not want to import that kind of legislation into the United Kingdom 5.30 p.m.
It seems to me that the spirit behind this new clause is utterly and fundamentally irreconcilable with a free country. The only society in which it would work without conflict, and with the benefits claimed for it, is a Socialist society. In other words, it would work only in a society controlled, regulated, conditioned, disciplined, and, ultimately, servile.
I was absolutely horrified when I read New Clause 1. It soars to new heights of idiocy, even for this Government, which is saying something. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) highlighted fairly and accurately the ludicrous position into which the House will plunge employers and the law if the new clause is embodied in the Bill.
At the moment, under the present law, we tell employers that on no account are they to advertise for an employee in any paper or magazine on the basis of race, nationality or ethnic origin. It is illegal even to ask a Scottish person to make porridge. That is regarded as very wicked indeed. Despite this, the new clause requires that the full details of race, nationality and origin shall be written down. This seems absolutely ludicrous.
I object to the idea that anyone who is Jewish, for example, shall have this fact put down on his records. That brings back echoes of the 1930s. It is utterly wrong to lay down, in a book of statistics, facts such as people's race or ethnic origin. It will be deeply offensive to many people outside the House if they are forced by law to do this.
Presumably all employers of more than 25 persons must be ready at any time to produce the statistics asked for in the new clause. This will come as a horrible shock to many employers, on administrative grounds alone. I sometimes wonder whether the Government have any idea about the way they cramp the abilities of small and medium-sized businesses by requiring them to fulfil all the existing demands for statistics. Frequently I receive complaints from small and medium businesses in Birmingham about the immense amount of statistical information that they have to produce for the Government. To be asked to do this on top of everything else will be quite appalling for them.
Who is going to pay for it all? Do the Government think that answers to questionnaires of this kind fall down out of the sky? They have to be worked at very hard, and some firms actually have to employ a clerk to work full time on providing the statistics that the Government demand at present.
I tremble to think what will happen in large businesses and the nationalised industries. What will happen if British Leyland, for example, is asked next Tuesday morning to produce all the statistics on the thousands of people who work for it—statistics about their race, origins and nationality.
I beg the Government to appreciate the magnitude of this task. It will not be a cheap operation, because it will need an army of people to go to every working person in the factory and ask him or her to supply details of race, colour, and so on. The administrative cost will be absolutely enormous.
Has my hon. Friend considered the case in which there is a dispute between a man and his employer over what colour he is? For instance, what colour is an Anglo-Indian? Also, what will happen if a black man wants to say that he is white, or a white man wants to say that he is black? Will there be a law to prevent this?
I was coming to that. Who will be culpable if the information supplied is wrong? Will the employer be culpable? Such classification as exists in South Africa has brought about a tragic situation, because many people try to pass themselves off as being of different racial origin from what they are in reality.
Has my hon. Friend thought about the difficulty that will arise if there is a dispute between an employer and an employee about the colour of the employee?
I have restrained myself so far, but I can do so no longer. The hon. Lady has accused the Government of idiocy, but this is not a Government clause. It has been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), and I would acquit him of idiocy, as I am sure would all members of this House. But I must emphasise that this is not a Government clause.
Indeed, it will. I am very glad to hear what the Minister has to say. I assume that there will be no vote on the clause because, for all the reasons that my hon. and right hon. Friends have advanced, it would be utterly wrong, totally absurd, quite unjust and hopelessly expensive to have this new clause in the Bill.
Maybe the Minister will have the opportunity to do this presently.
Although we had some fruitful collaboration with the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North in Committee, we cannot support his clause today. Apart from the escalating scale of objections we have had already in this debate, there is the fact that there are provisions in Clause 50 of the Bill, as it stands, which enable the commission to require an employer or another person to furnish much of the information required by the new clause. Clause 50 seems to be a much more flexible and lower-key provision to secure what the new clause wants to secure on a much wider canvas. We believe that the power is there already for much of the information which is sought, leaving aside the merits of that information.
The Government were quite clear in the White Paper, and I think that they were right, in respect of monitoring Government contracts and applying the contractual requirements arising from the 1968 Act. Paragraph 20 of the White Paper said:
It would be an unacceptable burden to require all contractors to supply as a matter of form full particulars on their employment polices".
It seems to me a fortiori an impossible burden—and I take the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) in this respect—that, apart from just employment policies, employers should have to provide details of employees as required under the new clause.
My final reasons for opposing the clause relate to the broader grounds adduced by a number of my hon. Friends. I take the point made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) about some of the hidden tensions which sometimes arise when certain kinds of information are deliberately elicited. I fear that in some firms, particularly with a higher level of employment of certain kinds of Asian worker—we debated the Walsall circumstances in Committee—in which refinements of recruitment, even down to taking workers from particular villages in India, are a common practice—
The discussion is now in the right context. We are dealing with a Bill which provides for the power to compel a formal investigation. It gives the commission wide powers to compel the provision of information, but the employer may not have the information which would soon decide the issue. He may say that he does not keep records. Unless we make a provision such as the one I am proposing we shall encourage the commission to have a formal investigation. I am proposing simply that where the employer does not know the necessary facts because he does not keep records, he will be required to keep those records for a period so that the position may be determined.
I still feel that, with the kind of information which might float up in a stark and explicit form, however it may be required and in whatever circumstances, real tensions may be created between different sub-groups of Asian immigrants. When a particular firm has a policy of recruitment from one part of Asia, other immigrants do not get a look in. This is the parallel of the religious point mentioned by the right hon. Member for Down, South, who referred to the undesirable effect of having a religious balance too clearly shown. Like him, I am not too sure that we are not treading on dangerous ground here.
This is an area in which I have profound misgivings about some of the strategic functions of the commission. It is implied that at the back of the right hon. Gentleman's mind is the feeling that a racial balance is appropriate.
But the Government explicitly sought to remove by this Bill the racial balance provisions of the 1968 Act. We are searching here for the photographic still of an employment situation which will enable the commission in its strategic rôle to say that there are too many black people or too many white people in a particular firm. I do not think that the racial balance provision is self-evidently a useful basis for the commmission's inquiry. We debated this issue in Committee. It may he better for the immigrant groups to be left alone to work in high concentrations of their fellow immigrants, even though this may not be best for ultimate integration.
We have heard from a number of hon. Members today that the new clause may not be necessary, but if we accepted it I believe it would have undesirable implications, and I should, therefore, want to vote against it.
I have dealt with the charge of idiocy levelled against the Government—a charge which I do not think can ever be sustained anyway. I wish to add that although we are resisting the clause, it is unfortunate that that adjective should have been used about it, since it does a disservice to the House and ignores the effort that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has exerted in trying to improve race relations as Chairman of the Select Committee on Race Relations.
Having heard some speeches from the Opposition Benches I begin to wonder whether the Government are right to resist the clause. We shall do so, however, and I shall explain why. Whenever I find support for the Government from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) I tend to think that we are being offered the kiss of death. He admitted fairly frankly at the end of his remarks that he was tantamount to being an imposter at this stage, because his remarks were really directed to the legislation generally. I do not, of course, suggest that it was invalid of him to intervene—
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is so sensitive about language. I have not always noticed him to be so. Of course, his remarks on the clause were supported by other hon. Members. However, in his general remarks about the legislation I think that he will find himself in a very small minority in the House.
Perhaps I may now deal with the clause in detail. Subsection (5) raises a matter that we discussed in Committee, and in that respect the Government's view remains as it was. It was made clear at that time by my hon. Friend the Minister of State—who I do not think has ever been described as "lofty"—that it is important that there should be a solid foundation of reliable fact upon which to base policies, to make perfectly clear what is or is not being done in any given area, so that we may judge the effect of practices. It is important that the Government and public bodies generally should be seen to be operating effectively on the question of equal opportunities and should be able to justify or modify practices in the light of factual information that will be provided by record keeping.
Will the Under-Secretary analyse what he just said? He will realise that the main attack that I made on the new clause—it is one that I have made in other contexts of the legislation—is that it seems to be based on a numerical approach? What the Minister said seems to be based on a numerical approach, for what do records show except numbers?
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to develop my case I think that I shall answer his point.
It is not a simple matter to devise records of this type. As was said in Committee, some forms may irritate and others may give offence. We would all agree that a great deal of care and thought must go into them. At this stage we do not think that my right hon. Friend's proposition has been sufficiently thought through, and we believe that it needs a great deal more care and attention.
I turn now to the question of employment, where we feel that the keeping of records is a matter that would normally need to be discussed between management and unions. After all, the records are about employees and the information may be used to affect the rights of individuals. I appreciate my right hon. Friend's concern in this matter. The information that he seeks may well help to remove discrimination and to promote equal opportunity, but these uses of the information should be recognised and agreed by all those people who are involved at the place of work. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) mentioned trade union hesitation in this respect, and he was right to do so. When the TUC gave evidence to the Select Committee it expressed misgivings about this kind of record keeping, which it felt could be unhelpfully discriminatory. There are minority groups, apart from coloured people, who may resent being singled out. This is a delicate area upon which we are trespassing.
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) rightly drew attention to Clause 50, which makes it clear that if a formal investigation throws up the need for recommendations to be made, either to an individual or to the Secretary of State, the commission can make any recommendations that it thinks appropriate. It can make recommendations whether or not it has undertaken a formal investigation.
The commission's general powers are sufficient to allow it to make recommendations on any subject and to publish them in its annual report. Clearly, record keeping could be the subject of recommendations if the commission thought it appropriate. This is a matter which I hope the commission will look at, but it would be wrong to require it to do so and to single out this part of its work.
In Committee we discussed the credibility of the commission and whether it would be right to leave it to decide for itself where its priorities will lie within the general framework of the Act. We have given it powers to tackle the general problems underlying this proposal. We should be hindering the commission and hampering its effectiveness if we tried to lay down too firmly the use it should make of those powers.
Similar considerations apply to the main proposal in New Clause 1. The keeping and maintaining of records is an area in which it is sensible to proceed with caution, and we believe that the new clause is unnecessary and, in some measure, undesirable.
The new clause is unnecessary because the commission already has power, under Clause 50, to obtain information that is needed for an investigation if it has been authorised by the Secretary of State or if the investigation's terms of reference state that the commission believes that a person named in them has discriminated unlawfully. However, it would be wrong to give the Secretary of State power of intervention in the working of individual companies when there are no criteria to judge how that power should be used, and when the effect of its use could be both unjustifiably burdensome and doubtful in value.
The new clause would effectively take away from the commission the responsibility for deciding what information should be collected and how it should be collected. It would be better if the commission were allowed to conduct its business in the way it thinks fit.
I have said that record keeping could be considered by the commission. It might also be considered by the standing advisory council set up by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, my right hon. Friend will not wish to press the new clause.
The sooner I resume meaningful discussions with my pair, the better we shall proceed.
I appreciate what the Minister has said. There is no difference between us and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) in the view that the object of the debate has been to consider whether it would be helpful to take the steps proposed in the new clause.
Most of the misapprehensions voiced about the new clause came from hon. Members who had not read the Bill. My proposal has to be seen in the context of the powers that the commission already has. It was because I was sensitive to the difficulties that I did not suggest a general statement of standards. But would it not be prudent to have these powers in reserve, for use when appropriate?
I fully accept the delicacy of this subject and the need for the fullest cooperation from management and trade unions. I realise how much more effective the legislation will be if we get that co-operation.
I do not wish to enforce unnecessary bureaucracy or record keeping, but if there are powers for the commission to undertake formal investigations and to compel the provision of information, we should consider whether the provisions in the new clause would be appropriate in this context.
Comparability is a persuasive argument, and records may or may not be helpful in certain industries. However, I am prepared to leave the matter in the hands of the Government.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.