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 Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Bromley Orpington 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

This is a very serious matter indeed. I do not propose to go into the philosophical aspects of the problem but would like to point out some practical reasons why we should look at the clause very closely indeed. It can and no doubt will be applied, if it is passed, so as to deprive a man of his livelihood.

Let us consider, for example, the meaning of the words "good character". Traditionally—and, indeed, in all other references to the words—what that means is simply that there are no convictions recorded against a person. Conversely, we say that bad character or character must be considered. Have there been any convictions recorded against him? In other words, when we talk of crime we mean offences of which the person has been convicted and which are recorded. In all recorded instances that I know of in statutes, where we speak of crime we mean that the offences which a man has committed and his record must be taken into consideration.

In this legislation, however, and in particular in subsection (2) the Government are going much further than that because they are proposing sanctions on behaviour which have the effect of being sanctions of criminality—which are offences, with all the consequences that flow from that—without at the same time coming out in the open and saying that it will be a crime.

Racial discrimination, unlawful discrimination, is not a crime as such and therefore, in the ordinary standards of crime, is not something to be taken into account. But in subsection (2) unlawful discrimination has been elevated from the rather innocuous, nebulous civil concept to one which will have the effect of a crime, and it will have devastating effects upon any individual caught by it.

It is even worse than that, because at least a criminal before he is convicted, is entitled to the benefit of certain rules of law, such as that the case must be proved against him. There is the presumption that he is innocent until proved guilty. There are rules of evidence and the law of evidence. There is a procedure which is designed to give the man the fairest possible trial. All of us in this House know how that as the law develops there is great anxiety to ensure that it is the right of every defendant to have the fairest possible trial and that no new development should be unfavourable towards him.

Here, however, we have a dilution of that standard, because it is necessary only to produce evidence tending to show that a man has practised unlawful discrimination. In other words, only half a case is required, only some of the prosecution case and not all of it. Worse still—one never gets this in the case of a crime—the man might not be personally responsible in any way whatever, because the concept here of employees and agents fixing responsibility upon an individual comes straight from the civil law of master and servant, principal and agent.

Whereas the civil law accurately allows that connection, for the purposes of the law within the profession we are simply saying here that any evidence must be considered even if it comes from a person for whom the man is not responsible, even if it is something that only tends to show he is a certain type of person, even if it relates to only one instance and, worst of all, even if it were many years ago.