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 Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

First, I say a few words to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), to whom the House listened with attention. I share with him, as do all my hon. Friends, a detestation of policies which discriminate unfairly and deprive citizens who are not of the same colour as we are of equality of opportunity and equality before the law, but I think he will recognise that it is possible for those of us who share that view to believe that it is necessary to examine legislation carefully. Surely it is possible to have the same objectives as the hon. Gentleman and at the same time to support the amendment and have reservations about legislation of this sort being the best way of improving race relations.

The House has a clear duty, sharing as I believe we all do a common objective—namely, to scrutinise this legislation. There are those of us on this side of the House who feel as sincerely as does the hon. Gentleman about this legislation, but there are hon. Members on the Opposition Benches who have doubts about it and who support the amendment.

I turn to the intervention made by the Home Secretary earlier in the debate. In answer to an intervention by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), the right hon. Gentleman said that he would look again at Clause 12(2). I wish to put two further points to the Home Secretary, and I am sorry that he is not present.

One point relates to Clause 32(3). My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), in moving the amendment, pointed out that Clause 32(3) had no relevance to Clause 12(2). When the Home Secretary made his intervention, however, he said that Clause 32(3) applied to Clause 12(2). I do not believe that the protection provided in Clause 32(3) can apply to Clause 12 because that subsection can take effect only when proceedings are brought under the Act. There is no reference in Clause 12 to proceedings. I shall be grateful if the Home Secretary will fulfil his undertaking to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn to look at that matter and discover whether he inadvertently misled the House in saying that Clause 32(3) could apply to Clause 12.

There is another point on which the Home Secretary may unwittingly have misled the House. In his intervention he referred to a "history of discrimination". Those were his words, and I quote them carefully. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to believe that cognisance could be taken by that authority or body referred to in Clause 12 only where there had been a history of discrimination. Here again, there is nothing in the wording of Clause 12 which refers to a history of discrimination, yet those were the precise words used by the Home Secretary when he intervened in the debate.