Qualifying Bodies

Part of Clause 12 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1976.

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Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

Have they moved it out of Staffordshire? There is no such place as West Midlands. It is unnatural and impossible that there should be such a nonsensical division of the country. I am happy that at any rate I now represent a part of the United Kingdom in which the ancient counties are allowed to exist. Of course, everything possible is done to deprive them of any significance, but exist they still do. I owe an apology for being swept away by old attachments into what I fear must be only just within the bounds of order. I hasten to retire much further within those outer limits.

Let us break with precedent in so evil a matter, even though it be not merely the second time but the dozenth time that such a proposition has been made to the House. When legislation is put before us, we have a right to consider what is proposed de novo.

I was intending to emphasise as perhaps the most objectionable of all the objectionable features of this impossible Bill the words in the subsection that state to have regard to any evidence tending to show". That means that a person is to be put on unofficial trial years after the event with no provision for dealing with any irregularity or any possibility of examining the evidence, nor any right to challenge the evidence on the ground that it does not show that he committed the offence. It is sufficient that the evidence should tend to show that he committed the offence. What protection can there be five, 10 or 15 years afterwards against an allegation which, if true—this cannot be denied—tends to show that a person has been guilty, if only by association, of discrimination?

Here we are framing and moving towards the statute book a Bill in which an unsatisfactory provision, but still a provision, is made whereby under Parts VII and VIII those who are alleged to be guilty of racial discrimination have the opportunity to have that allegation examined by the commission, and then in consequence, if they are to be damnified thereby, established by one or another regular tribunal.

But all that disappears in Clause 12. In Clause 12 there is no need for the commission to have examined the matter. It does not say that the commission must have found that a person has practised unlawful discrimination. Still less does it say that the unlawful discrimination has been made the subject of a proceed- ing and that civil action has been taken against him and that he has lost it. There is none of that. He is to be put on what is, in effect, a trial in private without knowledge of the evidence and without the ability to consider the evidence, in circumstances in which the ability to practise his profession or his trade may be taken away from him. After all, that is sufficient to remove his good character.

What sort of insanity is this, borne by the virus of the word "discrimination" and the notion of discrimination, that banishes from our minds all ideas of natural justice and fairness once the allegation of discrimination is made? My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) was unjust in his suspicion that it was race that was here the sufficient cause. The answer is that it was not race, because in the earlier measure sex was quite sufficient. It was discrimination—and if we are legislating against discrimination nothing is too bad. No punishment, no injustice, is too severe or too intolerable for those even accused of it.

I do not think that on this occasion, the second time round, we can allow the statute book to be defiled by a provision of this sort.