I find that reply most disappointing. The hon. Lady has simply addressed herself to the question whether discrimination is right or wrong, which is basically a matter of opinion anyway, and not to the relevant question whether there should be a law about it in particular circumstances. Even if it is acceptable that there should be a law about it in commercial operations, it is very much less acceptable when the operation is not commercial but voluntary. I mean this as no personal criticism, but her reply was inadequate, and I ask my hon. Friends to support the amendment.
I am particularly glad that Mr. Speaker selected this amendment. Although in Committee we had, as the Minister of State will recollect, quite an extensive debate on the subject of clubs, and whether they should be in this Bill, nevertheless this is a subject about which hon. and right hon. Members in many parts of the House are interested on behalf of a great many constituents. It is particularly helpful, therefore, that Mr. Speaker has given us the opportunity to raise this matter in a wider forum. A great many of my hon. and right hon. Friends will want to speak about it.
We do not believe that private clubs and associations can or, on principle, should be brought into the ambit of this kind of legislation. I use the term "private" advisedly because I am not sure that genuinely private social clubs are what the Government were originally trying to get at. On Second Reading, the Secretary of State referred first to the House of Lords decision which raised this issue, and said:
As a result, some 4,000 working men's clubs, with a total membership of about 3½ million, are not covered by the 1968 Act. In some towns these clubs have replaced public houses as the main providers of facilities for entertainment, recreation and refreshment. In addition, thousands of golf, squash, tennis and other sporting clubs are almost certainly outside the scope of the 1968 Act, although the House of Lords has not pronounced specifically on that issue."—[Official Report, 4th March 1976; Vol. 960, c. 1554.]
The clubs he had in mind were the semipublic services—places of entertainment and recreation, sporting clubs which are not selective on social criteria, open to anyone who is prepared to pay the green fee or subscription.
The White Paper drew a parallel in paragraph 72 between the kind of clubs at which the legislation is aimed and other kinds of institution:
The Government believes that the relationship between members of clubs is no more personal and intimate than is the relationship between people in many situations which are rightly covered by the 1968 Act; for example, the members of a small firm or trade union branch, children at school, or tenants in multi-occupied housing accommodation.
So again the parallel is between clubs and other institutions deploying semipublic services.
So far, it seems logical. But the Government's proposals become contradictory when it comes to the basis of the definition of a club. They define it in a way which logically differentiates it from the kind of semi-public services which the Secretary of State mentioned on Second Reading and which the White Paper described.
The White Paper continues with these words, which provide the formula for determining the kinds of institutions on which the legislation is meant to bite:
The Government considers that it is right that all clubs should be allowed to apply a test of personal acceptability to candidates for membership".
It is this test of personal acceptability which absolutely differentiates a club from these other kinds of institutions or bodies or gatherings of people which the Home Secretary and above all the White Paper specified.
A body which is empowered to apply a test of personal acceptability, such as a club, cannot have the same kind of relationship between its members as that which exists between members of bodies such as the Government have set out in the White Paper. For example, how is it conceivable for anyone to argue that a small firm or trade union branch could be organised on the basis of the personal acceptability of the members to one another? How could it conceivably be argued that the admissibility of a child to a school should be based, philosophically and logically, on the acceptability of the child to the headmaster or headmistress or the other pupils? How could it conceivably be argued that in the allocation of tenancies for multi-occupied housing accommodation by local authorities a test of personal acceptability is the criterion which must logically be applied before the accommodation is made available?
Yet it is precisely in relation to the trade unions, children at school and tenants in multi-occupied accommodation, that the Government bring forward in the White Paper the logic for including clubs, because they say that the same sort of relationships obtain—intimate and close. They then go on, ludicrously in my view in terms of logic, to give the game away by saying that in clubs, nevertheless, the essential criterion must remain, namely the personal acceptability of the members to one another.
Is not this matter of definition determined by the fact that the person who wants to enter the club can do so only if he accepts the rules of the club? If the hon. Gentleman is making out a case that there is a different kind of club—if he is suggesting a semi-public arrangement—that means that the club has no rules. This is the point that he has to answer. Entry to these clubs must be on the basis that the person wishing to gain admittance will accept the rules that are laid down.
I do not dispute that it is right and proper that clubs should lay down rules for the internal conduct and behaviour of members, once they are members. This is not central to my main argument. What I am concerned about is the basis on which it is appropriate to discriminate between those seeking access to a club.
The Home Secretary said two things. He said that he means discrimination against potential applicants on the basis of their colour to be inadmissible. He says that it is no more logical to allow colour discrimination in clubs than it is to have it in trade union branches, schools or in housing accommodation. But he follows through the logic that must be present in any sane definition of a club as opposed to a school or trade union branch, namely that there must be a test of personal acceptability. The Government have not only stated in terms in the White Paper that this is an admissible test but the Minister of State in Committee said that the clause as drafted, the crucial provisions of Clause 25(2)(a) and (b) do not rule out a test of personal acceptability. I hope that the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) and others appreciate the significance of the test of personal acceptability because it is a charge of dynamite to what the Government are trying to do.
Let us say that the rules of the club require that an applicant shall have a proposer and seconder followed by a period in which the name of the applicant is placed before the club membership for consideration, followed by a third stage in which the proposer and seconder bring in the applicant and present him to a selection committee which votes on whether to accede to the application. Let us say that the rule of the club is that one black ball, one negative vote, can result in a rejection of that applicant. There is no need to explain why he was blackballed or by whom. The test of acceptability has been applied but no-one knows whether the char) has been blackballed because of his colour. It is impossible to discover the reason for it.
If members of the club are determined to exclude coloured members—and I imagine it is easy to do that in certain clubs, otherwise the legislation would not be necessary—the Bill will do nothing to make it easier for a coloured, black, brown or white man to join a club where the test of acceptability is applied. That is the nonsense of the provision and it is contradictory.
It is not right that particular clubs in the North, which are really semi-pubs, should behave in that way. But they do discriminate and the Government are authorising them to continue to discriminate on the basis of colour.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) has made a fair point. If the object of the legislation were to prevent overt rules of discrimination I would concede that, but that is not the purpose. We are changing the law because a coloured man, trying to join a club—the Preston Docks Club illustrates this—is not able to do so.
We discussed that at length in Committee but many hon. Members did not hear those exchanges. In club life the whole show can be upset by the attitude of a small minority. When the Select Committee visited factories an employer told us that the 1968 Act had helped in general terms by outlawing discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin or colour. In the same way the legislation could help in club life, because it is often a question of the minority tail wagging the dog, making life so unpleasant that coloured people will not join.
The hon. Gentleman gave the instance of the black and white balls. That applies more to the exclusive clubs. Of course there will be difficulties, but the Commission has discretion as to how it goes about its job. The clause will help the process of integration and racial harmony.
I take the hon. Gentleman's point that attitudes and the climate of opinion are crucial, but I reach the opposite conclusion to his. If we try to force a different climate of opinion upon people—particularly in an area so sensitive as private social clubs, and particularly where the rules say that not an awkward minority but one anonymous blackballer can secure the non-election of coloured people—we shall encourage semi-public clubs to change their rules and the kind of election procedures that I have suggested might more frequently apply.
Overt discrimination in terms of general admissibility is unacceptable. No club should be able to say in terms "We will never admit Jewish or coloured members." I know of very few clubs that have any such explicit colour bar. I am happy that the legislation should disbar it, but I am not happy that, recognising that already such clubs carry out their discrimination covertly, we should make it admissible for them to continue to do so. That raises expectations in some people and frustrates others because they feel that they are being got at by the law, when in fact they are being allowed to get away with murder.
The Government have adopted the wrong approach in tying up club life with something much more akin to public services such as schools, trade union branches and so on—they gave the game away in the White Paper—yet recognising the inherent logic of what is a private social club. This is an illustration of the nonsense clauses in the Bill, and I hope that the House will throw it out.
I accept that good race relations are not determined by the amount of law on the statute book, just as good industrial relations are not determined in a court of law. The whole matter is about people coming together, about communities understanding each other, having a common purpose and being determined to share all that goes with the community. It is not a matter of using the courts to build communities. I accept that without qualification.
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) says that the clause has no purpose and will achieve nothing. That argument can be applied to those who seek to escape paying tax, but that does not mean that we do not need tax regulations. Someone has to lay down tax law.
The onus is upon the hon. Gentleman to make out a case to support his assertion that the clause should not appear in the Bill. It is not sufficient to say that it has no purpose, will not serve a purpose or will not eliminate the problem. He should be making a case for the clause being likely to cause damage. Will it do any harm?
The hon. Gentleman has made a fair point. I think he will agree with his experience of tax that tax measures are brought forward only when there is a reasonable prospect that the tax can be collected. To put it crudely, all legislation must be policeable, otherwise there is no point in having it. This legislation is completely unpoliceable.
Every Government in the world, I think, has given up the idea of being able to collect tax efficiently from the self-employed. In the majority of cases—this is acknowledged throughout the world—efficient tax collection from the self-employed is not possible. It is also acknowledged throughout the world, I think, that where payment is made in cash, the policing of tax collection is not very efficient. I think that most countries in the world have given up. However, the hon. Gentleman must make a case to support the contention that on balance the clause will do more harm than good in its attempt to set out some basic rules.
The clause will prevent certain things happening—namely, some of the overt acts to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. Now he has to argue that the clause is dangerous. He must convince the House that by leaving the clause in the Bill we shall be adding to the explosive qualities to which he has referred. I do not think that that is the position. By setting out some rules I believe that we shall be doing no harm, although I admit that we shall not solve all the problems. The setting out of rules will not create democratic membership or the sort of club community that we wish to see, but it will do no harm. Therefore, on balance I believe that it is better to leave the clause in the Bill.
My hon. Friends want to hear good reasons for suggesting that the clause will do positive damage by remaining in the Bill. That is the real point. We can all say that it will not solve certain problems—of course it will not—but that is not the point. The point is that it will not do any damage.
The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) made a reasonable intervention. However, the clause was considered at great length in Committee, and my hon. Friends tried to find possible adjustments to the clause which would make it more reasonable. I believe that we are trying to apply a legislative formula to an impossible situation that cannot be legislated for. That is the real problem.
I am sure it will be agreed in principle that if we want to harmonise race relations there should be miscegenation and that if we were to carry through such a process it would doubtless solve our race problem. But it is a totally absurd conception. De Gaulle described the problem as "Le metissage." Can anybody imagine anything more ludicrous than saying that there shall be miscegenation by order of the Home Secretary? That would be embarking on an absurd social experiment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) was correct to say that the clause, as it stands, can have dangerous effects. Conservative clubs and Labour clubs are very different from other types of club. It was suggested in the White Paper that they are similar to public houses and places where services are provided for cash. But the clubs I have in mind consist of associations of people. Therefore, for any Government, whether right wing or left wing, to try to enforce rules on free associations of people seems to me, and I am sure to Members on all sides of the House, to be an absurd contradiction of the purposes of the laws of this country. It is for those clubs to draw up their rules and not for the Government to impose them. For the Government to seek to do so would be as absurd as to try to lay down miscegenation by Act of Parliament.
I believe that Clause 25 should be dropped from the Bill. It adds nothing to the situation because, as it stands, the clause will have no effect. With skill, every one of the provisions in the clause can be avoided.
I know of no rules that say "No Jew shall be admitted", or "No coloureds admitted to this club". Therefore, what will be the eventual statutory effect of these provisions on club rules?
The rules are part of the framework of the club and they must be kept free.
I believe that Clause 25 will prove absurd and ineffective. The main objective of the Government is to have a situation where Indian clubs admit white people, and white people's clubs admit Indians. But these things are not achieved by trampling on what people believe are their personal rights by way of legislation. They are achieved by a proper association of ideas, values and interests.
I have belonged to multi-racial clubs, and they were multi-racial not because the law said so but because the members shared the same interests. To try to force the pace by an Act of Parliament is not only counter-productive, but patently dangerous.
I hope that the Government will think again and allow this clause to be withdrawn. If not, I hope that we shall press this matter to the strongest possible Division.
This is the first opportunity hon. Members who were not on the Standing Committee have had to discuss this important and sensitive clause. It is disgraceful that the affairs of the House should have been managed so badly that we are discussing it at 6.45 a.m. on a Friday. The Government are treating the House and people outside with contempt.
The Government are making a considerable mistake in introducing legislation in what is bound to be a very personal and sensitive area, irrespective of whether it is right to have race relations legislation. We would question whether it is right to introduce legislation in what is, in fact, an extension of individuals' homes. That is the way in which large numbers of people regard their clubs.
I doubt whether this clause will have any effect. The test of personal acceptability will continue as it always has in the private club or the sports club. If that is so, then this clause will not make very much difference.
I implore the Government to think again. I do not accept what the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) said when he implied that the clause was not a danger to race relations in this country. A large number of people do not want to see the law interfering in their private arrangements—whom they have and are entitled to vote for in their own clubs. Up and down the country, irrespective of their politics, people like to feel that their own clubs are their own affair to manage in their own way, just as one feels that in one's own home one's family should be allowed to decide whom to invite in. There is nothing racist about that. It is a matter of plain common sense.
By introducing this factor into a Bill about race relations the Government will gravely damage their chances of getting the Bill accepted in the way that I know they and my own Front Bench want it to be. It will build up a tremendous amount of ignorant feeling that the Government are legislating on whom shall be elected to clubs. People will not understand the nicety that they can still elect someone on the basis of personal acceptability, or that a coloured person can still be blackballed if he is regarded as unsuitable. They will see only what is written in the Press, that the Government are legislating to remove the freedom of individuals to choose their own personal friends who will come into what they regard as an extension of their homes.
I ask the hon. Members for Tottenham and Ealing, Acton (Mr. Bidwell), who I know both care deeply about these matters, to think again and to consider whether they are not damaging their own cause by the clause. Perhaps there are clubs in the North of England which discriminate against coloured people. I hope not. Perhaps certain sporting clubs do so. But far more could be done by persuading members that they should behave differently. Surely the political parties can persuade the members of their political clubs to play the game. A great deal more can be done by behind the scenes action and persuasion than by the use of a great legislative bludgeon.
I hope that Labour Members will support us in the Lobby on this issue.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) that the extension of this legislation raises the whole question of what rôle the law should play in our society. Perhaps the most dangerous way in which we as legislators can behave is, when we disapprove of something or when we want to help a particular group, to resort immediately to law.
But surely there are two most important condition precedents to be met before we resort to law. First, there must be certainty. The speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on the first new clause was a good illustration of the need for certainty. Secondly, there must be public consent. Without that, the law cannot be enforced or enforceable. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the kind of argument used by hon. Members opposite about industrial relations. It is often argued that if the law seeks to interfere in relations between individual trade unionists or between trade unionists and employers, conflict will be created because this is an area in which the introduction of the law is inappropriate and where it would be unenforced and unenforceable. I do not agree. But if it is decided that this is the test to be applied, those who argue in that way are on the right lines.
There is nothing new in the exclusion of certain classes of people from private clubs. At the time when the great Edwardian financiers, many of whom were Jewish, were well-liked at the court, agriculture was going through a difficult period and there was considerable resentment and anti-Semitism from the landed interests in this country. That has now been largely forgotten because it was not morally defensible. It has been resolved by social political and religious pressures and not by legislation. Political and religious persuasion can be used in a declaratory way, but the Home Secretary's suggestion that the law can be used in this way is mistaken. I do not believe that the evil against which this legislation is aimed is something which will respond to any sort of change in the law.
The Home Secretary said there are about 4,000 working men's clubs in this country with about 3¼ million members. They are the last refuge for many of our fellow citizens, not only from coloured immigration but from the irritations of families and jobs. We all have a place to go to when we are fed up with our wives, our children or anythting else. People can consort in these clubs with friends of their own choosing and it is sad that they are to be forced by legislation to open their doors.
I hope thtat in happier times, when the members are satisfied that the flow of immigration into this country has been strictly controlled and they are no longer being conned by this House with bland assurances that the flow of immigrants is being controlled when it is not, these clubs might choose voluntarily to open their doors. I do not want them forced to do so by legislation. If they are, a great deal of harm will be done.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The effect of the Bill will be to require them no longer to exercise any test which is in the nature of discrimination against any class or section of the community The effect of that will be to force them to open their doors. That is the objective of the legislation. I happen to believe that this legislation is neither enforceable nor likely to be enforced in that regard.
What will happen is that the indigenous population in whole areas will feel a strong sense of resentment. They will feel that resentment, unhappily, against the coloured community. If anything, this proposal will tend to reduce the harmony of future race relations. It will be a strong disadvantage to the coloured community.
There are those in the House who argue that the way in which race relations can be improved is partly through giving material advantages to the areas which have been immigrant reception areas. I do not want to enter into that argument at all. However, it will be politically far more difficult to give extra resources to immigrant reception areas if there is an initial sense of resentment towards immigrants and coloured people as a consequence of this legislation being extended to clubs. The people who are paying for these material advantages to be sent to the reception areas will say that coloured people already have a privileged position in law, and they will ask why coloured people should be given extra funds from the taxpayers as a whole. Therefore, for those who want to improve race relations by way of giving some form of subsidy to these areas, this legislation will reduce their chances and make it politically more difficult.
In the longer term the real disadvantage will be the damage that will be done to the rule of law. What will happen is that we shall see increasingly people who seek to defy the law and to say that they wish to discriminate in respect of their private clubs. It will be proved very difficult to enforce the law against such people. I am in no way encouraging anyone to break the law. The fact is that people do break the law concerning race relations. People have broken the law, and people have got away with breaking the law. Some are becoming popular heroes as a result. It does no good to race relations. Worse, it brings the whole law into contempt.
By extending this legislation to an area in which there is no popular consent for such extension, there is a serious danger of damaging the rule of law. If we are to continue as a free society, the single most important thing that the House must do is to recognise the limits of legislation. Above all, we must recognise the right of our fellow citizens to do and say things of which many of us disapprove.
I declare an interest in the clause in that I am President of the West Midlands Conservative Clubs, of which there are over 400, having succeeded the right hon. Member for Down. South (Mr. Powell). The clubs play an important part in the life of our communities. We are, as Dr. Johnson said, a very clubbable people.
It is a monstrous invasion of privacy that a club, which to many members is an extension of their home, should have its rules to some extent overseen by the all-powerful State. Under the clause, clubs and societies and all associations of that kind of more than 24 members will not be completely free, as they were, to choose whom they wish to admit in accordance with the likes and dislikes of their club members, and to chose the sort of people whose company they find a congenial if their choice involves discrimination by colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origin.
In many of the clubs only a fraction of the membership meets together at any one time. In practice we are dealing with small groups of people who will be denied freedom of recreation and relaxation in company with others of their choice. That is a denial of freedom of association, a right which is virtually meaningless unless it also includes freedom not to associate. Surely, an association is a free one only when it is mutually desired.
Earlier, I referred to the interference of the State in the way of life of the ordinary English men and women of which we have been so proud through the centuries. The clause is a denial of that freedom of association which has been a basic right in England at least since Saxon times.
I speak of England because it is the country in which the large majority of immigrants, for climatic reasons, settle. I know much less of the result of immigration into the outer parts of the United Kingdom.
In my maddest moments I never dreamt that my right to choose whom I might have in my own club would to some extent be circumscribed by the State. As I said many hours ago, Big Brother is watching us. Big Brother is watching our clubs, and I fear that if the Government continue in office for much longer it will be only a matter of time before Big Brother will also be watching our homes.
Members of Parliament should never forget who sent them here. We are sent here not by The Guardian, the media, the Hampstead set or those who favour the permissive society but by the ordinary, decent English men and women who, in spite of our failings, still look to us for their protection. If they cannot look here, where else can they look?
I believe that this clause in this awful Bill will be bitterly resented by many ordinary working English men and women. We know that the least effect it will have will be on the West End of London clubs, and no doubt the Home Secretary will notice that.
You will accept, I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker that I have sat in this Chamber more or less constantly since yesterday afternoon and have not troubled you with protracted observations at any stage. I have waited this long, and will wait until the end, because I am among those who put down the amendment to the motion for Third Reading, emphasising that, unlike some of my hon. Friends, I am not against the whole Bill in principle but that I am strongly against two particular parts of it, that dealing with clubs and that in regard to free speech, which we shall be discussing very much later.
I was delighted to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) said about the amendment, because he put his finger on the genuine objections of principle which those supporting the amendment feel so strongly. On all these controversial issues, one usually gets letters either for or against one's point of view. In this case, every letter and approach I have had, including from members of the coloured community, has deplored the idea that we should increase the racial tensions which already exist by pursuing this question of the clubs.
When one has unanimous support from all sections and all political parties, surely it is time to stop and think. My hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash made two points. First, he criticised the clause because it was going to be ineffective, as it will be, for the reasons he gave and which I will elaborate. There is not even any need for there to be a selection committee. All the rules of the club need say, both today and after the Bill becomes an Act, is exactly the same. They need simply bring in, if they have not already got one, a rule that to join one must have a proposer and seconder and that one black ball will suffice to veto the entry. The only objective that will be achieved by the Bill in this respect will be that one must not put in the rules anything saying that a black ball will be cast in the event of a member of a certain race or community attempting to join. Except for that, the position will be precisely the same in the sense of the lack of effectiveness of this provision.
It might be argued that it is not a bad idea, if the Government want to, to put in a futile and ineffective clause. Perhaps one would not have stayed to this late hour if that were the only argument. Unfortunately, the clause will be not only ineffective but counter-productive, because it will represent to many people a direct threat or challenge to their club membership, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) has said, is an extension of the home and something about which they feel deeply.
The clause will also present a challenge to the provocateurs in our midst who will want to test this legislation and try to join clubs, not because they want to join but because they want to try to prove that they are excluded on racial grounds. That is why this provision will be counter-productive.
A short while ago I was in Canada, where there are no laws such as those we are trying to pass here. Most people would accept, however, that in Canadian society—forgetting certain slight French difficulties—there is a fairly liberal attitude towards racial problems.
I was taken to lunch in Toronto at an Italian club. It was such a good club that I asked my host about the qualifications for membership. He replied that in the first place one had to be Italian, and that nobody other than an Italian had a chance of getting into the club. He added that even if a non-Italian succeeded in getting a proposer and seconder, he would be blackballed. He went on to say that only Italians from his particular region of Italy were admitted.
Two days later I visited a Canadian-Polish savings association which did not accept deposits from any Canadian who was not a member of the local Polish community. If someone not in the local Polish community were to slip in, I was told the association would not make any loans to him.
They have no laws about these things in Canada but effectively they have done exactly what the Home Secretary is trying, in so singularly futile a way, to achieve. I cannot imagine what the Home Secretary thinks he is getting out of this. All he will do is to put an amber signal before all the clubs in this country so that they will take steps to defy this legislation and find a way round it. This will happen everywhere.
It has been admitted everywhere that the test of personal acceptability will continue. All that will happen is that clubs in future will be very sure not only that just one black ball will suffice but that there will always be one black ball to cover the very point put forward in the Bill.
The Home Secretary, who has now come into the Chamber, will have achieved something totally ineffective. He may be proud to say "At least I have stopped clubs putting in their rules that they will not take anyone other than white aryans", but no such clubs exist. There are no notices to be torn down in clubs all over Britain. He will not achieve anything, if the Bill goes through in its present form, apart from bringing an awareness of racial differences to a new sphere of our social life.
We have not so far got to the point where legislation reaches even into the home, but we are coming dangerously close to it. Every time we take a legislative step to introduce the mere notion of race into our social life where it did not exist before, we do nothing but harm. Every time such an innovation is regarded as a challenge of a defensive nature by the whites, on the one hand, and a challenge, on the other hand, of a provocative nature by a minority of the coloured community who want to exploit the differences which we in this House are all seeking to resolve.
As I indicated at the beginning of my speech, I have not fought throughout the night on a whole series of amendments, nor have I spoken on them. Although my hon. Friends felt strongly, and in each case their arguments were well grounded, I did not feel that they were of an absolutely fundamental nature. Maybe I was wrong. But I feel that this clause is of a definitely fundamental nature, and the debate we shall be having much later, on the curbing of free speech, is, I believe, equally fundamental.
If the Home Secretary wants the Bill to get through the House and to become an Act, and if he wants it to be respected afterwards, as I am sure he must, I ask him to acknowledge that it has been conclusively proved to him that this part of it will achieve absolutely nothing. I ask him graciously to yield that this clause should be removed from the Bill.
It is a pity that we are debating this important amendment at this hour because the number of hon. Members in the Chamber at present does not reflect the massive interest that the Bill, and this clause in particular, have created throughout the United Kingdom.
I have had numerous letters from people objecting to the Government's intentions, and many of the critcisms which have been levelled by my constituents, and people who live outside my constituency who have written to me, have been touched upon by those hon. Members who have participated in this debate already.
It is interesting, regarding the Government's intention to prevent racial discrimination in clubs, that the Home Secretary and the Government are going to drive underground what has perhaps healthily been dealt with above ground, and quite openly, to date. That is a very unfortunate development.
In short, a number of clubs have stated quite openly, and quite publicly that they do not admit to membership people, immigrants, with a dark skin. Some people may like that and other people may not. It is purely a matter of choice. I do not believe that private clubs should be subject to Government dictation as to whom they should, or should not, accept into the membership of their particular club.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) dealt very well, and fully, with the various procedures of entry into clubs in this country. He admitted, quite rightly, that in most sporting clubs, ordinary football clubs, hockey clubs, cricket clubs, squash clubs, tennis clubs and, to a lesser extent, golf clubs, membership is very open. As long as one is a reasonable, law-abiding citizen, with no awkward or difficult habits, and as long as one is able to pay the subscription, and perhaps where golf clubs are concerned, are of a certain standard, one will be admitted. Little, if any, racial discrimination has existed for a number of years. I do not wish to go back to what happened 10 or 15 years ago.
When we pass from sporting, leisure, and physical activity in clubs, to social clubs, the situation, I entirely agree, is very different. Under Clause 25, which we want to strike out of the Bill—I hope the House will decide to take that decision a little later—groups, clubs, societies, organisations of more than 24 members will no longer be free, if the Bill reaches the statute book, to choose whom to admit—I choose this phraseology quite deliberately—in accordance with the likes or dislikes of club members and the sort of people whose company they find congenial and pleasant, if their choice involves discrimination on any of the following grounds—we have heard these criteria put forward time and again in the debates we have had on this stage of the Bill—
colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins".
That, surely, is placing upon certain clubs restrictions and limitations which will be decidedly to the disadvantage of the members of that club.
I no longer need to declare an interest but for many years I was an affiliated member of the Club and Institute Union and I was a member of a number of working men's clubs, including a miner's welfare club, in which I had many hours of good companionship and pleasant entertainment. These clubs will be severely affected by this new legislation that the Government are putting through this House and hope to see on the statute book, with the Queen's Assent, perhaps not too many days or weeks from now.
But people opt, and choose, to become members of a particular club because of the facilities and the company that that club offers. I am sure that the Home Secretary and the Minister on the Treasury Bench are aware that many immigrant organisations have in fact founded their own clubs for their own people which are as exclusive as any English or British clubs which have existed for many years.
I find it extraordinary that we should try to compel a club, by some strange procedure, and compulsion of Government, to take in a type of person which, perhaps, it does not wish to take in and which, no doubt, will spoil the atmosphere of that club for the members who have used it for many years.
There is no doubt that the Government are once again venturing into an area of difficulty and removing, or denying, personal freedom. This clause represents a denial of freedom of association, a right which is surely virtually meaningless unless it includes freedom not to associate with a particular person or a group of people. The Government are foisting irrelevant nonsensical legislation upon the House.
We have had massive representations made to us by people in all sectors of society—not just from some exclusive London-type sector but from working men throughout the country. There have even been representations from sporting clubs, although I do not believe that they will be much affected by the legislation since they have a very open membership anyway. I have been a member of numerous sporting clubs whose membership comprised people of practically every shade. I have been honoured to play hockey, rugby, football and many other games with such people.
I am impressed by what my hon. Friend says. Does he agree that one of the consequences of this legislation will be that if any member of the coloured fraternity is refused membership of one of these clubs—and there are many which have no racial bars at all—perhaps because he is not acceptable as a man, that person will attribute the rejection to his race and make the necessary, provocative reaction?
That is entirely correct. We resent authoritarian legislation of this nature. It will reflect what has happened in parts of the United States. Clubs, schools and employers will be tempted to admit people purely because of their race—this has happened in the United States—in an attempt to fore- stall allegations of discrimination. So, far from being colour-blind when admitting applicants, they will admit members of a particular racial group because of their race and not because of their suitability. That will totally destroy the present successful situation.
The Government are entering more and more into the everyday lives of ordinary people. They are trying to dictate how many children people will have, where the children are born, what houses they will have—through municipalisation— and where the children will be educated. If the NEB stretches its tentacles through the country, they will dictate where people work. No doubt eventually they will dictate how they spend their final days and they will all be cremated in a local authority crematorium.
It is unacceptable that the Government should dictate how people spend their leisure in working men's clubs. Thousands of their supporters must have made their objections known.
I can see no benefit to coloured people or immigrants in this provision. As my hon. Friends the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) said, representatives of immigrant communities have told him that they see no purpose in it, that it will upset rather than improve racial harmony. There is racial unrest in some parts of the country, including areas represented by Labour Members, but in many other areas immigrants live happily within the community. This is a further invasion of the rights of the indigenous people. I beg the Government to think again before it is too late.
I recently discussed current problems with an Asian association in my constituency. They see no purpose in this legislation. They know that race relations can be improved by education and evolution, not by legislation which will anger the indigenous population, who, wrongly but understandably, will take it out of the immigrant community.
It is regrettable that this important amendment should come before the House at this time in the morning. The clubs issue affects tens of thousands of people who feel strongly about it. They will read that we discussed the matter at 7 o'clock in the morning at the end of an all-night sitting.
Perhaps they will read about the number of hon. Members in the Chamber and they will certainly not feel that they have been adequately represented by the elected Chamber of the British Parliament. They will be entitled to feel that way. I blame the Government. It was totally unreasonable to drive the Bill through the House. That does not worry me or my hon. Friends who all look as fresh as daisies, but perhaps not as pretty.
As hon. Members know, Mr. Speaker selected 20 groups of amendments for debate and by no stretch of the imagination would it have been possible to reach, for example, Clause 70, the freedom of speech clause, or the Third Reading at a reasonable hour. The matter which we are now discussing is not the most important of the amendments but it is the first which has such a wide public application and interest. Simple arithmetic should have told the Government that this would be the situation. It would be preposterous to imagine that 20 debates could be disposed of in half an hour each, but even if that had been so, 10 hours would have passed before we reached Third Reading. Since we began the Report stage at 4.25 p.m. the best we could have done would have been to be to reach Third Reading at 2.25 in the morning. In practice there was no way in which we could have reached Third Reading before breakfast time. This important debate on clubs and another on Clause 70 were bound to take place at an absurd hour. I know that the Minister is pretending not to pay any attention to what I am saying. He has paid no attention all night. Nothing has been conceded, no argument has been taken seriously—
That is an appropriate hors d'oeuvre to my remarks. The Minister will pay no attention—that has been apparent throughout the night. It is scandalous that we should be discussing the matter at this hour.
I want to answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett). I had better answer it because the Government do not appear to be willing to do so. He asked why the clause is in the Bill. I can tell him. It was put in because the race relations industry agitated for it.
Look at the way in which it has developed. Undertakings were given by the Home Secretary during the passage of the 1968 Act that the wording did not cover clubs. The House of Lords found that it did not, but that did not stop the Race Relations Board from trying through the courts to make it include clubs. The board was determined by hook or by crook sooner or later to make this law apply to private clubs, because it is rabid. I have been searching through the night for the right word to describe the state of mind behind Ministers and all those who support the principle of the Bill. I think that "rabid" is about right. They hate any area of freedom in the matter of race relations—
That is a legitimate point to make, but I am primarily concerned with race relations.
As soon as one becomes involved in a debate on any point, the supporters of the Bill ask "Do you approve of people treating other people differently on account of their race or colour? Are you suggesting that there should be clubs from which people can be excluded because of their race or colour?" They obviously expect the answer to be "No. That would be dreadful." They would say "We can't have that". But that is not the answer. The answer has been given by many hon. Members. Hon. Members do not like it, and they think that it is regrettable, but they do not think that there should be a law about it.
This is a distinction which does not seem to have got into the minds of the Government and their supporters. They simply say that if a thing is bad there should be a law forbidding it. This tramline approach works right through the provisions of the Bill. I think that there should be freedom. I should like the Minister of State to say why there should not be clubs which consciously confine their membership to white people.
Of course. Why is it that this definition attracts this opprobrium? There are clubs which have all kinds of other fences around them. There are Caledonian clubs, which no one but a Scotsman is allowed to enter as a member. There could be Cymrudorian clubs for Welshmen. I do not see why there should not be Italian clubs and all kinds of other clubs.
What is it that suddenly happens when people want to have an indigenous Britons' club that makes it wrong? Why is there all this cluck about the colour of people's skins? It is not the colour of their skin that anybody worries about. There are a certain number of native British with fairly swarthy skins. The skin merely shows that the person comes from a different ethnic or climatic background, perhaps from the tropical regions. He probably has a different set of conventions and a different conversational background, a different approach to life. Other people are not hostile to him, but in one's club one wants to be at ease.
We do not go to our clubs when we are feeling full of brightness in spirit, at the end of an all-night sitting, and effervescent with energy. We go to our clubs at the end of each day—I have resigned from all mine as I never had time to go to them, being a Member of this place—for the purpose of relaxing. I believe that to be a view that is shared almost universally. We cannot have women as members of clubs because they make it difficult to relax. The trouble about women is that they notice everything. On going into a man's club one knows that nobody notices, for example, that one is wearing a red sock and a green sock, or that someone is sleeping with his mouth open. But a woman spots everything and tells everybody about it.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that there is no objection to admitting women to clubs provided that we have the right to discriminate as to the parts of the club that they are allowed to enter and the parts that they are not? I do not entirely share the views of my hon. and learned Friend. I happen to like women. am delighted that they should be members of clubs provided that we are able to discriminate so that there are some parts that they are not allowed to enter.
But we do not want there to be nowhere where there are not women. There are occasions when women help men to relax, but there are occasions when their eyes are out on stalks and they notice everything around them. The trouble about women is that they are interested in people. Men are not and they never notice anything. These are differences that make life interesting.
It is the same with people from different backgrounds. They can stimulate, and there can be cross-fertilisation and all the other splendid words that stand for something, but that can be inappropriate when all that one wants to do is to sink back and relax and be at ease in one's inn. In these days that is not always possible, but up until now it has been possible to be at ease in one's club.
That is what the busy-bodies do not realise—[Interruption.] I cannot hear what the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) is saying.
I was about to say that it has been my experience over the years that it is not worth knowing what he is saying. He has given me useful corroboration of that fact.
The trouble is that the Labour busybodies eat, sleep and breathe politics. They want to control everything through political instruments. They cannot even leave lavatories alone. The ridiculous Sex Discrimination Bill contained a clause to the effect that we had to have separate lavatories. We had had them for years past and no one had ever fussed about them, but the busy-bodies have to regulate everything. Everything has to fit in with social policy and social engineering. It is politics the whole time. Politics pervade everything. We wish to omit Clause 25 because we think that there should be some refuge from their ever-pervading politics.
Let me tell them what will happen with their stupid Clause 25. There is all this talk that we must have good race relations. In every argument about immigraion it is said that something must be stopped, diminished or controlled in the interests of good race relations. Things can have merits of their own, apart from race relations. The do-gooders cannot leave people alone to settle down within their own natural balance and to get on as they want to. Everything must be organised, nationalised "statutised".
The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall, sitting like a cross-legged Juno, makes sedentary comments, none of which I can hear.
I believe that these provisions will destroy the relations between people of different races in this country. No doubt when we vote on the clause, the Government will win. When the Division bells ring, in come the Government supporters —and they come in "cold", not having heard the debate. They will win the vote, and the country will hear about it. Their action will cause resentment among the white population.
It would be wrong to say that it will build up resentment against the coloured population. I think people will realise that that is a little unfair. It is not the coloured population that is pressing for these things. I know that the race relations industry, the Pratels of this world, are always pressing for everything, but members of the ordinary immigrant population do not want this. It is not fair to stir up resentment against them. There will be some resentment against them, but the main resentment will be against politicians and a law which is unacceptable to the general body of the British people.
There will never be good race relations again until we have got rid of this Bill, the 1968 Act, and the 1965 Act.
Yes, the board and the commission. These are the meddlers who stimulate opposition wherever they go. Everybody hates them.
What will be the result of the enactment of Clause 25? There are some bloody-minded immigrants as well as bloody-minded natives, and they will try to force their way into some of these clubs. This has happened already. We all remember the case that went through the county court, to the Court of Appeal and then to the House of Lords. There will be any number of such cases when Clause 25 is part of the law of the land. It will breed resentment.
Eventually that resentment will take a political form. Labour Members must be careful about their reputation on the subject of immigration and race relations because they are being seen as enemies of the indigenous population. There are many Labour Members who do not say these things in the Chamber now, although one hears them say these things in conversation. They used to be bolder, but they are now frightened to come out with it. It came as a relief the other day when the ex-Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), took his courage in both hands and made a speech, the contents of which will be repugnant to hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall and a good many other Labour Members.
The figure for club membership in the Bill is 25. Can anyone think of a more ridiculous criterion? The Secretary of State has the power to change it, but knowing the Secretary of State, I expect he will bring the number down, instead of putting it up. The club with only 25 people is virtually an appendage of the family, and the idea that a club of that size is not free to choose its members is preposterous.
There are no clubs with a rule about this. I do not see why there should not be, because clubs can be delineated in any other way. But in fact, it does not happen. I have never known any club which had a rule of that nature. Maybe it is just the fact that members do not elect coloured people.
Yes, that is true. They may even adopt a federal structure, and have a whole lot of clubs of 24 members. Clubs are formed from groups of people who are basically like-minded and they just do not elect people who are not of that kind. This is called the test of personal acceptability. It goes on all the time, and legislation will not stop it, because that is what a club is all about.
I do not think that the Minister has heeded the fact that the club of which everyone is a member does not exist. Clubs are based on exclusivism, and that is achieved by excluding individual candidates they do not want. In that way they sort out the membership they want.
This farce has arisen because there are some big clubs and working men's clubs in Labour areas full of Labour voters where the people feel strongly that they do not want coloured members. This is very awkward and embarrassing for hon. Gentlemen opposite, so they say that these are not real clubs at all. They say that they are social facilities of the neighbourhood and they must be brought under control.
This legislation is all about working men's clubs. It is not aimed at the Athenaeum. I am not sure that anyone without a medical degree can get into the Athenaeum, so the situation does not arise. If there is a club which virtually anybody can join, people can be refused membership, but not on the grounds of colour, race or national origin.
That is the argument, but, oddly enough, when they came to draft the clause the Government put in the number 25. That is not much of a working men's club or an established social amenity in an area. It is a tiny group. But the argument is that a large club must allow anybody who wants to join it to do so. But that is false because—if I may have the Minister of State's attention, since he does not appear to be listening to me—these working men's clubs at which the Government are trying to strike are closely community clubs. They could sometimes almost be described as works clubs. They have a very strong association with a place of work or the district. In a sense they are more exclusive, quite apart from the question of colour, than many clubs higher up the scale—say, in the West End. The members are all very much of a kind and they feel that strongly. They do not want this homogeneity interfered with.
The Minister of State says that it does not matter what they want, it is what the Government want that matters. We are determined, he says, to have a multiracial society in Britain, and to organise it. That is what lies behind this legislation. The Home Secretary at one point admitted that. He said that we had a multiracial society and that it was going to stay that way. But we do not have a multiracial society in Britain. We have a British population and a considerable number of immigrants—far more than we should ever have allowed in. They have gathered together in certain places and have become rather self-conscious communities. Their presence in that form is not acceptable to the British people. That does not constitute the multiracial society that Ministers like to pretend exists.
There are immigrant areas and white areas. There are clubs which cater largely for one area or the other. To force integration upon them, which is what the Government are trying to do in the interests of general political policy, will be just about as popular as bussing in the United States.
The Minister of State can expect a whole lot of trouble from the folly of introducing the Bill. First, it will be one of the worst blows that race relations will ever have suffered in this country. Secondly, it will not work. Thirdly, it will be resented by the people at whom it is directed.
Fourthly, it will be an absolute farce. Apart from the fact that it will not work, it will lead to artificialities and difficulties which will exacerbate the race relations which it is supposed to improve.
One wonders what on earth the Government think they are doing with such a Bill. We shall never know. We shall get from them only the same old mumbo-jumbo we have heard seven or eight times already tonight about the multiracial society and the obscenity of people distinguishing between other people on grounds of colour. It means nothing. It is part of the rabid, neurotic, hysterical attitude of the politicians of the Left—the Bonham-Carters of this world—who have dreamt up this folly in order to placate a sort of United Nations claque in the United Kingdom.
The Government will alienate the British people, particularly those who would normally be their warmest supporters. This will be a richly-deserved judgment upon them. It will be a swift and just judgment and, probably, an unrealised judgment. The Government are so obtuse, they do not even know what is happening. We have a punch-drunk Administration. They do not even know what they are going to do about the remaining stages of the Bill.
The collective Whippery is certainly a little disjointed, but I must not be drawn into debating that subject. The Whips' Office is one of these exclusive clubs. One black ball excludes. They want homogenity and will not have any unacceptable faces. The Whips should not complain about what working men's clubs want to do. It is exactly the same as they do themselves.
As a believer in liberty, I want people to be able to mix freely with their own kind of people. The long-established adjuncts of life in industrial areas should not be destroyed in the way proposed by the clause. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will vote against this when the debate eventually ends.
I fully support all that has been said by Opposition Members during the debate on this obnoxious clause. What amazes me is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected by the proposal to extend to clubs something that is well known to have been very unpopular and to have caused much resentment in those whom it affects at present. Hundreds of thousands of members of working men's clubs and institutes, Labour clubs, Liberal clubs, Conservative clubs and Unionist clubs and social clubs of all kinds, will be affected by the clause.
One wonders, therefore, whether the Government understand the resentment that this clause will provoke if it is passed into law and applied locally. Large numbers of the people concerned are supporters of the Government. They fondly imagine that a Labour Government are at least a Government with the interests of the British working class at heart. Those people will be very upset to discover that this is not, apparently, what animates the present Government but that it is rather some form of interference with their private lives.
To be fair about this legislation, if one tries to see it as an attempt to do something useful one must say that it is bound to be counter-productive in its attempt to improve race relations. Widespread resentment will be caused by this provision. The great essence of the problem is that clubs, in the way in which we know them and as they are appreciated and enjoyed by the people, depend upon a certain degree of exclusiveness. The degree of exclusiveness in a club is part of the whole concept of the club and its raison d'être. It is just because one can exclude people with whom one prefers not to associate when relaxing and simple enjoying oneself socially that clubs have grounds for existence.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) spoke a lot about women. He did not seem to like women to be in his clubs. I do not share his feelings about that, but I understand them. It is right that he should be able to say that he likes the sort of club that does not allow many women.
My hon. Friend is wrong about the interrelationship of clubs and women in relation to my own case. First, I mean social clubs—not the kind with which one beats women. I was saying that there should be places, at any rate in men's clubs, where one could go knowing that women would not be there. That is because they are so interested in people. They watch everything. They see the colour of one's socks, and they notice whether or not one is asleep. They are observant. That is the real trouble. I was not saying anything detrimental to women. I like them very much. However, there are times when one wants to be without them.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You may recall that earlier you admonished my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) for reading a paper in the Chamber, although, as he explained, it was pertinent to the matter of debate. It appears that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is reading a novel and is not paying attention to this very interesting debate. Is that in order?
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield for pointing out that his reservations about women are based upon the principle of a private members' club, namely, that there shall be a place or places in which a member knows that he will have the sort of company he likes. That applies to all sorts and conditions of men, high, low, fat or thin, of whatever political persuasion they may be. There are times when we all prefer not to have the company of certain people.
There are rugger clubs in which a great deal of beer is consumed. There are cultural clubs in which members wish to exchange great thoughts. A member of a club does not wish to have social intercourse with people of an entirely different kind who will not contribute to his enjoyment. That is perfectly proper and fair. There is no compulsion on anyone to be a member of a club. A person is free to join a club and there is no objection to the exclusive character of such clubs.
The Government are pushing ahead with their social engineering and saying that even this bastion of freedom and private life should fall before the application of the doctrinaire theory of a multiracial society. One of the most bizarre notions going around, which has been taken up by certain of my hon. Friends, is that Britain is now a multiracial society. It all depends what is meant by "a multiracial society". In the sense in which the phrase is used nowadays it has been true of Britain for hundreds of years. We have always had Africans, Asiatics and people born and bred in other parts of the world who are completely different from the indigenous people both racially and in other ways. Everyone agrees that the British people have always shown them tolerance and welcomed them, and there has been no real difficulty.
Although the number of people from abroad who live here may have increased, we have not reached the stage of becoming a multiracial society. If the total number of those whose origins are elsewhere came to 5 per cent. or even 10 per cent. of the total population, we should not be justified in calling this a multiracial society on that ground alone. In Fiji the proportions are 50:50 and in the Caribbean Islands substantial numbers of people originate from different parts of the world.
We are overwhelmingly English, Welsh, Scots and Irish. We have others, and they are welcome. One hopes that they enjoy their contacts with us and have equal opportunities for the enjoyment of the British way of life. But do not let us adjust the way of life of the 90 per cent. in order to accommodate the 10 per cent. Rather, let us tell the 10 per cent. "Live and enjoy our way of life but do not expect special treatment for you personally which does not apply to the rest of the population."
Clubs are rather peculiar to the British people. It used to be said that when the Spanish went abroad, the first thing they did on arriving in their newly-conquered colony was to build a church; when the French went abroad, the first thing they did, being realists, was to build a fort; the first thing the British did was to make a club. That is a perfectly characteristic story because clubs are a special characteristic of the British people wherever they are abroad. Many people resent the European clubs in Africa, but the reasons for those clubs are understandable—the members simply want, at some time in their daily life, perhaps to associate only with people of their own kind. The same applies to clubs in this country.
So this clause is directly contrary to human nature, and, indeed, the British human nature, and is therefore likely to engender terrific opposition and resistance. It is all such a shame because, as time has gone by, and as we have had opportunities of getting to know the strangers who have begun living with us, we have gradually, with them, come to arrive at a situation in which they understand us and we are beginning to understand them.
In the natural process of things, the chances are that there would not be the sort of discrimination against members of other races which we deplore. It would naturally phase out. The same applies to clubs. I recently asked the secretary of the Working Men's Clubs and Institutes Union what was his solution if he did not want the Bill to apply to his sort of club. What did he propose should be done about this sort of discrimination? He told me "the last thing we want is to legislate to compel those of our clubs practising it at the moment to change their ways because we believe that the normal processes of education, experience, maturity, and change of ideas which occur with clubs as they go along are likely to produce fewer and fewer clubs which will go in for this sort of discrimination." In any event, that is how it should be.
The same applies to the totally unnecessary Sex Discrimination Act, because in the natural way of things in this country, in the way we are developing socially, women are taking a greater and greater part in life and are therefore bound, rightly and justifiably, to have greater and greater opportunities of sharing in areas of life which were not previously open to them. We are setting up a terrific barrier in society by attempt- ing to interfere with the Englishman's right to choose whom he shall have as his friend in his own club expressed as an extension of his home.
The nub of the prohibition in the clause is in subsection (2):
It is unlawful for an association … to discriminate against …
by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept his application for membership.
That seems to me to mean that a club can refuse membership provided it has accepted an application for membership. I am reinforced in the thought that that is what it means by the similar wording in Clause 12(1)(b):
by refusing, or deliberately omitting to grant, his application for it".
If what was wanted was a prohibition on refusing membership, surely the wording used would be "grant his application for membership". But in fact the wording in Clause 25(2)(b) is
by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept his application for membership.
That is what is prohibited. But a person who applies for membership and has his application accepted is not necessarily thereby being given his membership. It may be quite sufficient, therefore, for a club to accept an application, to consider it in the usual way, and then to refuse membership to that person. It seems to me, from reading the wording of the Bill, that that would be quite legal, and if it is quite legal it drives a coach and horses through the entire Bill.
Together with Amendment No. 7 we are considering Amendment No. 40. Amendment No. 7 is to leave out Clause 25 and Amendment No. 40 is to leave out Clause 26. Therefore we have to look at both clauses. On so doing, we find that there are certain restrictions to the sorts of clubs or associations which these clauses cover.
Clause 25, in particular, is limited, in subsection (1), by the requirement, as hon. Members have reminded us, that such a club has to have
twenty-five or more members".
Subsection (1)(b) is related to Clause 20(1). If we refer back to Clause 20(1) we find ourselves in a jungle of a clause which refers to organisations which provide or sell goods, facilities or services to the public, in general terms.
We should bear those restrictions in mind, as we should also bear in mind the wording in Clause 25(1)(c), that
it is not an organisation to which section 11 applies.
In order to understand properly why the clause is objectionable, we should look back to Clause 11(1) of the Bill, which makes specific provisions for
an organisation of workers, an organisation of employers, or any other organisation whose members carry on a particular profession or trade for the purposes of which the organisation exists.
They are covered by rather different provisions from those of Clause 25. It is not my intention to consider the regulations which apply to trade unions, and associations of employers, but I think it is right that we should bear in mind that these clauses which we seek to remove from the Bill do not relate to the provisions which the Bill would enact which concern trade unions and employers' organisations. They are, in fact, almost solely concerned with what we would, in general terms, call social clubs.
Clause 26 also brings in some further restrictions and qualifications in regard to Clause 25 which are relatively straightforward, although there is some slight doubt in my mind, as I read them at this time of the morning, having been up all night, whether subsection (2) appears to have an unnecessary number of negatives in one sentence. We read:
In the case of an association within subsection (1), nothing in section 25
—that is the first negative—
shall render unlawful
—there is another negative—
any act not involving
—yet another negative—
discrimination on the ground of colour.
That is a bit of a dog's breakfast of a subsection and, perhaps, it is not inappropriate to have a dog's breakfast at 8.30 a.m. as we have had a bit of a dog's night anyway.
As I understand it—perhaps when he replies the Minister will confirm it—what Clause 26(2) says is that in this particular case one can discriminate at will on any grounds except those of colour. That is as I read the subsection through all those negatives. Perhaps when he replies he will make sure that I have read it correctly because I would not want to be voting to take out a clause if I had totally misunderstood what the purpose of the clause was and what it meant either because of rather poor drafting or, perhaps, my lack of perception at this time of day.
Understanding. The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) is pretty bright himself. He has realised that "understanding" and "perception" are just about the same sort of words and he shows how bright and full of sparkle he is. He may not often get to his feet but he does occasionally show that he is half awake. I must confess I prefer the hon. Gentleman half awake than fully awake.
As the hon. Gentleman says, some speeches are worth getting to one's feet for. I am longing for him to make a speech which it would have been worth his while getting to his feet to make. It will be a great day when the hon. Gentleman gets to his feet to make a speech instead of his usual barracking from a sedentary position.
I find myself in a great deal of agreement with what my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) said in relation to this clause. He was quite right. There are obviously many loopholes in this legislation which will enable people to evade its intention. My hon. Friend suggested some, and there are many others. One could perhaps found clubs which are exclusively for persons who were in Her Majesty's Forces before 1940, or their direct descendants. I am sure they would be as near to pure white clubs, particularly if one signified the units as being units of the Home Command. One could apply all the provisions of the Bill and yet one would have achieved an absolutely Persil-white club. We might get muddled with Rhodesians and patrials and things like that, but no doubt the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) would disentangle us from that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay said, the technique of one black ball disqualifying could work well.
Neighbourhood clubs are and will be for a long time racially orientated. Such a club in Stamford Hill would be mainly Jewish. If one chose the right street in Hornsey, the members would be mostly Greek Cypriots. We are still an unintegrated society. No doubt in Southall one would find that the neighbourhood club was an Asian club. That might explain many of the views of the hon. Member for Southall.
The hon. Member is mildly tiresome. It is obvious that I was not aware of that piece of information and I acknowledge that. He does not have to sit there braying, "You did not know", to make his point.
And he does not need the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston to join in the braying. If one donkey is bad, two donkeys are much worse, particularly at this time of the morning.
However, those of us who drive through the area we generally know as Southall know that there are parts of it where there are large concentrations of Asians. It would be natural if the neighbourhood clubs were Asian clubs. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southall for the other snippets of information—
The hon. Member is kind enough to tell me that I would get in for his constituency because I look like an Asian. He will not tempt me to come down there, however nice it would be. I would rather that he stayed down there and I stayed in Chingford, which I know much better.
What bothers me is the ease with which it will be possible to circumvent the Bill. It is bad enough that we enact law affecting hundreds of thousands of people—the Bill will affect virtually everybody in the country—working in these conditions. We have been dragged through the night because of the Government's bad management of business and for most of the time there have been fewer hon. Members present in the Chamber than the qualifying minimum number of people who have to join a club to bring it within the ambit of Clause 25.
There could be resentment among people who see that this is bad law, unenforceable law, law to which they are deeply opposed, which has been enacted by shoving it through overnight in a series of debates in which very few hon. Members have taken part—almost none of them Labour Members—in which Ministers have not bothered to reply to the points made and in which very few hon. Members have voted in Divisions. That is the sort of law which brings the law into contempt.
We have enough bad law. There is enough contempt for the law already—[Interruption.] There is also enough contempt for the hon. Member for Felt-ham and Heston, who is still braying and barracking from a sedentary position. He only brings himself into more contempt the more he does it.
We should question whether we are wise to enact legislation in this way. We should wonder whether we are wise to enact this legislation. it is perhaps coincidental that in today's Sun—which I imagine is being read all over the country at about this time, at breakfast tables and on trains—apart from the extremely attractive part of the paper—and I will not deny a glance to the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston—there is a story headlined:
Romeo Troops Get the Boot at Club.
This is an interesting story because it relates to the way in which people are disqualified from belonging to clubs and the reasons for such action. As will be seen when I read the story, the Bill would strike very much against what happened in this case and against the sensible solution which was reached. The story is by-lined Victor Chapple, who I presume
is a member of the staff of the Sun and reads as follows:
'Amorous soldiers have been given their marching orders from a nightclub … to protect the pride of local lads.
For the free-spending Romeos from a nearby barracks have been wooing the girls too ardently.
They were accused yesterday of swarming around the girls ' like bees round a honey pot.'
Mr. Derek James, 30-year-old owner of the Hexagon Suite at Frome, Somerset, banned the army invaders to stop 'a nasty situation developing.'
He said: 'They have upset the local lads by trying to make it with their girlfriends. It got to the state where the soldiers were chatting up the girls the second their boyfriends left their side.'
The soldiers are on short courses at the School of Infantry at Battlesbury Barracks, Warminster, Wilts.
Insurance salesman Chris Davies, aged 20, said: 'I am pleased about the ban. The soldiers swarm around our girlfriends and what can you do when you are confronted by 10 determined squaddies?'
Receptionist Sally Davis, aged 23, said: 'They pester us to dance or have a drink and will not take 'No' for an answer.
Some unattached girls don't mind because the soldiers splash their money about.'
You will be glad to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the stories in the Sun are customarily quite short. If I could just read the comment of the Army spokesman you will see how the story relates to the Bill.
An army spokesman said: 'We are sorry that the apparent ardour of our men has upset anyone.
The courses are very tough and they want to relax a bit".
That is a straightforward little problem, the sort of thing which might occur
in a garrison town anywhere. The fortunate thing is that the men concerned were white—unless the paper has omitted to mention what might otherwise have given rise to the headline "Race Row in Club". Suppose, instead of white soldiers, they had been black men working on a nearby construction site.
I know it does not. If the hon. Member for Southall listened more carefully he would have noticed the caveat in my comment. If he reads the Official Report tomorrow I am sure that he will find that the caveat is there and he will understand the point.
If the soldiers were black we would be discussing an even more interesting case. We could discuss whether they were all black or whether several of them were. We could discuss all the permutations because that would fascinate the hon. Member for Southall.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is passing too lightly from the issue. Will he consider the wording of Clause 26(1) and (2)? It is difficult to understand at this time in the morning, particularly when one has not heard the rest of the debate. I ask my hon. Friend to look at the last line of the clause where it talks of racial groups and colour. He has discussed the situation in which some soldiers might be white or black or mixed. Let us suppose that some were Irish, some black, some coffee and some English. Could my hon. Friend explain what the impact of the ban would be on those unfortunate soldiers?
I shall do my best to cover some of the permutations because they are clearly of interest to the hon. Member for Southall who is well known as an expert on these matters because he never ceases telling us about it.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There have been moments when I have come to the conclusion that the whole House is wasting its time upon the Bill. But it is the will of the House that we discuss it, and discuss it we must.
Let us deal with the hypothetical situation of a similar club near a building site on which work gangs of workmen who are predominantly coloured. If those gentlemen were, like the soldiers, keen to go to a club, have a few drinks and chat up the girls and they caused trouble with the regular clientele of the club, what would be the position of the club owner under the new legislation? He would say, "That is it chaps. I am banning you from my club". Then the vast machinery of the Race Relations Act would come into play, the machinery of the race establishment would be set in motion, people would make investigations, statements would be taken, complaints made—many behind closed doors and many on hearsay evidence, because the proper proceedings of the law are not required. The unfortunate owner of the club might find himself condemned without being able to examine those who brought evidence against him. He might find that all manner of occupations were potentially banned to him because under the provisions of the Bill evidence would have been given which might have led someone to the conclusion that it was possible that he had discriminated on grounds of race.
Why should we impose all that burden upon an innocent man, innocently doing the good service to his customers and the people in his area that the gentleman who owned the club did in the case reported in the newspapers this morning? We need not complicate the matter to the extent of the hypothetical case where the persons concerned are building workers. Suppose it were a club in a predominantly coloured area of a city—perhaps Wolverhampton. Imagine that the club was frequented mainly and perhaps exclusively by coloured people. The chaps are there
quietly having a drink with their girl friends when the bunch of soldiers enters, in the words in the Sun, to
swarm around our girl friends and what can you do when you are confronted by 10 determined squaddies?".
Imagine a predominantly black club with a bunch of white soldiers chatting up the girls and spending money freely. What would be more natural than that the people whose club it was would say "Get out"? Then the whole machinery would be wound up in reverse and those nasty creatures that come out of the woodwork whenever that sort of incident occurs—the black ones or the white ones—would be at work straight away. A great issue would be made of it.
Yet that is the sort of incident that has happened for hundreds of years, and probably thoustands, all over the world. No doubt there were complaints about the activities of the Roman soldiers in the cities of Britain nearly 2,000 years ago, and no doubt the same sort of thing was said. Thank God at least the Romans had the sense not to set up a race relations industry to deal with it! We, mugs that we are, are legislating not to solve a problem but to create problems.
Who will be caught in this ghastly machinery? It will not be the clever people. There will not be many prosecutions brought against the clubs in Holland Park round the Home Secretary's way. They will all be advised by the smart lawyers how to stay out of trouble. The innocent and not very clever ordinary folk who do not know much law, and do not think much of it when they get to know about it if it is law like this, will be caught.
Those who are caught will be mainly Labour Members' voters. If they have no thought for anything else, if they have no worthier thought, I wish that Labour Members would think whether it is in their long-term electoral interest to promote such daft legislation, which is against the wishes of the great majority of people.
I shall not go through all the other possible permutations of events which might have occurred under circumstances slightly different from those outlined in the Sun this morning. But I find myself asking "Does it really matter if we have our own exclusive clubs, clubs which would be outlawed by the intent, if not the effect of this wretched, squalid clause?"
Why is it assumed that there is a great mass of black people who want to join clubs that are now exclusive to white people, and that there is a great mass of white people who cannot wait to join clubs that are exclusive to brown, yellow or black people? Why do we have to assume that everyone wants to push themselves in where they are not welcome? Perhaps Labour Members are so used to pushing in where they are not welcome that they assume that everybody else must want to do so. If they cannot have VAT inspectors going into innocent people's houses at two o'clock in the morning to turn their homes upside down and interrogate the family, or some poor unfortunate individual, they are busy legislating as they insist that there are those who want to invade other people's clubs.
I do not believe that people want to invade clubs. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) want to join a club whose members do not want him? I do not think so. Does the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston have some burning desire to join a club where people do not want him? I doubt it very much.
Why do we assume that outside this place there are thousands of people whose one great desire in life is to join a club and muck it up for those who are already members? It just does not make sense. As the country has evolved it has evolved clubs and institutions to suit everyone who lives here.
I must pop out of the Chamber for a cup of tea. I was hoping to hear a fresh voice, but as there appears to be no prospect of that I am afraid I shall have to leave.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his politeness. He need not hurry back. I can tell him that he has time for breakfast. He can then return to hear my hon. Friends discussing these matters from their own angle and from their own knowledge.
Over the years clubs, pubs and other organisations have evolved to suit everyone. There are clubs with half a dozen members and clubs with thousands of members. There are clubs for those who want to play cricket, for those who want to watch cricket and for those who want to drink beer. Whatever interest a person may have, there seems to be a club for him. I am sure that many good and attractive clubs that are popular with their members have memberships composed of all races. I am sure that they are happy and that there are no complaints. They do not want to keep anyone out. They welcome those whom they like and with whom they get on well. What is it that is so sinful about the present arrangement? Where are all the complaints? What is going on in the country that necessitates the devotion of so much effort in order to legislate for something of such little import?
Every Thursday during business questions we hear hon. Members from both sides of the House pleading with the Leader of the House to legislate about all manner of matters that they consider vital. The Leader of the House always agrees that such matters are vital, but always says that we do not have time to legislate.
Is it not an extraordinary coincidence that just before the Whitsun Recess the Government were anxiously introducing legislation to withhold the rights of petitioners to petition against the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, and we were being told of the vital need to withdraw their right to petition as jobs would be lost in the shipbuilding industry if something was not done quickly, and we now find that we have been here all night debating race relations when the Government have made no move to debate the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, which they said before Whitsun was vital—
Indeed, and he is being excessively unkind to Her Majesty's Government. I would not be as harsh as he was. Indeed, he was unconstructive and excessively critical. The Government at the time said that they wanted the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill to save jobs. But this Bill does better than that. It creates jobs, and will create a whole new industry. It will enlarge the race relations industry, the fastest growing industry in the country. The Bill will create jobs for race relations men, lawyers, probation officers, and certainly for the prison officers who will be needed to staff the prisons to look after the people who may find themselves there following the noxious provisions of this Bill. Therefore, it will be jobs for all those people—in fact, jobs for the boys.
Now we know how the Government propose to work the economic miracle. We shall be the country with the largest race relations industry in the world. Tourists will flock here to see how it all works. There will be conferences held in London at the best hotels. They will go to the best clubs—probably the well-discriminated clubs, the sort of clubs to which people in the Cabinet belong, but to which ordinary people cannot afford to go. It will be a boon to the balance of payments. We shall end up with the largest race relations industry, and with probably the worst race relations in the world as a result of it.
However, it will at least mean that we shall need to employ more policemen to keep order on the streets because more people will be smashing windows. The shutters will have to go up against the bully boys because of battles over whether a club is discriminating on racial or nonracial grounds.
There are many instances where it would be reasonable to discriminate on what would probably be held to be grounds of race or religion. For example, every weekend I drive from Central London to my constituency and I pass through an area of London called Hackney Down, known as a predominantly immigrant area. In the playing fields on either side of the road, cricket games take place at this time of the year. I shall not refer unduly to our record against the West Indies, but we must admit that the West Indians are extremely good at playing cricket. They approach the game with extraordinary enthusiasm. However, as one looks at these teams playing, one is hard put to it to see one white man playing in any team. Therefore, it is obviously difficult for a white man living in that area to participate in those games. In those circumstances it is not unnatural perhaps for some of the men to get together and say "That has gone too far" and to decide to start their own club and perhaps to play in a lower league in cricket. Is an inspector then to be set on that cricket side to tell them to "Stop. You have not the statutory number of coloured people in your club."? They say that they are not good enough to get selected in the West Indian teams, and once again resentment is fuelled up, and the idiocy of this legislation is portrayed. At the moment there is no problem, so why should we legislate to create one. I would not want to force myself into a club or group of people who did not want me to join. I deeply resent legislation which would force other people on me in my club.
That would not be anything which would apply to me. It is basically wrong to have to require anyone to excuse himself and give reasons to a bunch of bureaucrats why he should or should not admit someone to his club. I am more optimistic about British society than those who drafted this Bill. I do not believe that the future depends on forcing one group to allow another to join its club against its will. I rely on the common sense of the people to form their own clubs and enjoy them in the company of people who want to belong and who are acceptable to the existing members.
I have waited for a considerable while before speaking so that I should have the advantage of listening to hon. Members opposite. I would point out that this subject has been debated for a considerable time. It was also debated in Committee for a considerable time, and there was a Division. In addition, this issue formed the central part of the debate on Second Reading, so no one is on legitimate ground in complaining about the amount of time we have devoted to this subject.
In introducing the move to excise this clause from the Bill, the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) said that the clause would be ineffective. But his remedy for ineffectiveness was to do nothing at all about it. What the Government propose is enshrined in Clause 25, and it is open for everyone to see. At the end of the debate on this issue I hope that my hon. Friends will oppose the Opposition in seeking to cut it out of the Bill.
The Government have said that there should be a test of genuine personal acceptability. I emphasise that point, because it is not right to discriminate on racial grounds. It must be genuine personal acceptability, and no one should be lumped into a category, because that is an offensive way of dealing with these matters. Of course there are persons who have personal characteristics which make them unacceptable as members of a club, but I do not believe that one can or should categorise them.
If someone is to be rejected from membership of a club, is it not much more preferable for him to be rejected on some group basis than to be rejected for his personal acceptability?
I would say not, for the simple reason that a man cannot change the colour of his skin but he can do something about the personal habits and characteristics which caused him to be excluded.
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash said that the test of personal acceptability was a difficult one. But that is exactly what the courts had to decide in the cases of Charter and the Preston dockers when they had to decide which clubs had carried out the genuine test of personal acceptability and which had not. The whole groundwork of the decision was made on that basis. The difficulties of proving it are matters of evidence and not of law, but one can imagine circumstances in which it becomes apparent that the test of personal acceptability is operated on the basis of discrimination on racial grounds.
Hon. Members suggested that the club was an extension of the home and that it was wrong that the law should impinge in this way upon that extension. That view is based largely upon a mis- conception of the extent to which the Government regulate the running of clubs. There is a text book on club law by Joslyn and Alexander which runs to 220 pages. The 1964 licensing legislation regulates not only the way in which clubs must be governed, but, for example, the time which must elapse between a person being accepted for membership and exercising the rights of membership. If hon. Members still believe that there is an analogy between the home and the club, I should tell them that there is a danger in extending that too far.
We on the Government side believe in good race relations and racial equality. We believe that people may differ as between person and person but that they should not be judged as between colour and colour, and that is the basis upon which we have framed this legislation.
Several hon. Members mentioned the figure of 25 in Clause 25 and suggested that the coincidence of the two figures might be the reason for it. I can tell them that 25 is the minimum number of members under the licensing law whom a club is permitted if it is to sell intoxicating liquor. This is therefore a well-known category of club.
Hon. Members suggested that we were trying to force the pace on the cases of Charter and the Preston dockers because people were excluded because of their colour, race or ethnic or national origins. It is suggested that we therefore covered up the decision of the House of Lords which had a material change for the basis of the law as it was then understood. If hon. Members are saying that everyone understood that that was the law, I must tell them that the Court of Appeal, in coming to a contrary conclusion to the House of Lords, and with the assistance of distinguished lawyers, did not find it as easy as some hon. Members to say with clarity that that was so. Even though clubs were held to be outside the 1968 Act, they were covered when they offered services to the public. For example, many clubs hire out their premises for wedding receptions and the like. If they discriminate in those circumstances, they are guilty of a breach of the law.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) asked about the relationship between the wording of Clause 25 and Clause 12. This was a problem analysed in Committee in some depth. I gave further thought to it and communicated with members of the Committee. We are satisfied that the acceptance of an application for membership is an admission to membership. We do not think there is a lacuna in the clause.
The hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) asked about ethnic clubs. He recognised the very careful way in which the genuineness of such clubs has to be gauged. Clause 26(2) will apply to a genuine club.
Subsection (1) secures that where an associaion has as its main objective to enable persons of a particular racial group, defined otherwise than by reference to colour, to have the benefits of membership, as long as it does not exclude on grounds of colour, it can exclude on other grounds. For instance a Polish club could exclude people who were not Poles, but could not exclude anyone on grounds of colour.
Does that mean that a club for Pakistanis as an ethnic group would be allowed under the clause? If it were restricted to Pakistanis only, it would be keeping out white men who lived in the area. Is that not standing the whole thing on its head? Is it not the sort of thing that will give people the impression that one is constantly being told that people have—that we are discriminating in favour of immigrants in these cases rather than against them? If a Pakistani man joined a club of white men, we should be told that that was allowed on the ground of colour, but in this case, if it concerns a club for Pakistanis, one is told that it has nothing to do with colour but is a question of race. That is playing with words.
I shall try to make it short. The hon. Gentleman has been extremely patient. I am sure that he will recognise the importance of this point.
I am reading the definition of "racial group", as defined in Clause 3, as
colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins".
For the purposes of Clause 26, we obviously forget the first of those words—colour. I want to put to the Minister of State a very practical question. Does an English club qualify? "English" is not a nationality. The nationality might be "British". The nationality might be "United Kingdom Islands and Colonies". Those are the two nationality definitions.
The Minister of State will appreciate the importance and the great seriousness of my question, because obviously a West Indian, naturalised or born in this country, although being a member of a West Indian racial group, arguably might nevertheless, by nationality, be not English but United Kingdom and Colonies or British. I am sure that the Minister of State will see that that is not merely spinning out possibilities for the sake of argument but is the essential practicality of the matter.
I think that I can answer the right hon. Gentleman by making this point. "English" relates to national origin and not to colour. This is well catered for in the Bill.
The kernel is that nothing new has been added to debates that we have had previously. There is the reiteration by Opposition Members of exactly the same points as they made on Second Reading. The Government believe that it is wrong on racial grounds to discriminate against a person in his admission to an unincorporated association—which is the grandiose way in which this is put. We believe that the test of personal acceptability should be exactly what it says—a test that differentiates as between one person and another. We totally reject any categorisation and any exclusion of a person because he happens to belong to a particular category. We do not believe that that is a true test of personal acceptability. We do not believe that it is a right test for clubs in this country to adopt.
Therefore, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will defeat the attempt to take this clause out of the Bill.
I have never understood the rules about declaring an interest. However, lest someone should attack me later, I had better admit that I am a past captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews—which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) will be glad to know does not admit women, never has, and is never likely to admit them. I am the president of several golf clubs and an honorory member of others, and I am a member of a golf club in America —which is fortunately outside the scope of the Bill; I suspect that its practices would not conform to it.
My feelings about the clause, always fairly hostile, have become more hostile. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield wondered why the clause was put in the Bill when it was not in the 1968 Act. The Government made a grave error in allowing themselves to be pushed into putting the clause in the Bill because of the House of Lords ruling on the Preston docker's club. That is a mistake.
The clause as it stands will not do what the Government think it will do. It will arouse expectations which will not be met. I want to show why I believe the clause is wrong and why I believe that there is a perfectly good alternative which the Government should have taken, as I said on Second Reading and in Committee.
My reason for believing that the clause will not work stems from the cogent argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison). The Minister of State always comes back to the question of personal acceptability, and that is at the root of why the clause cannot work.
I have here the rules of a Conservative club—I imagine that the rules of Labour clubs are much the same. One rule states:
Having considered the application and interviewed the applicants and their candidate, the committee should vote, and by a method which would not disclose the way in which any member voted.
The committee votes, and someone decides on a test of personal acceptability that the candidate is not suitable. The candidate might be coloured, but he might be adjudged unsuitable on the test of personal acceptability. Who can prove what happened in the committee? Who can prove why the person who voted against the candidate did so? A member of a club is surely entitled to decide whether a candidate is a suitable person to belong to his club, and it is not always desirable to say why.
I said in Committee that I would not be prepared to accept—in fact, I would seek to block—the application to be a member of my golf club of someone whom I knew to be habitually good with his feet in moving his ball from the thick rough into a suitable lie thereby being able to play it more easily. I would not wish to blacken that man's name by saying why I was not prepared to accept him, but I should be within my rights in saying that I did not think he was a suitable person to be a member of the club. I cannot see how the test of personal acceptability, irrespective of colour or anything else, can work.
My fear is that the clause, because of the loophole of personal acceptability, will build up expectations which cannot be met. People will believe that it will be effective, but it cannot be effective.
My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) and others put forward reasons why the clause will not work, and, indeed, will be positively dangerous because it will encourage provocateurs and would-be martyrs who want to make trouble. We all know that there are such people. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) asked what harm the clause would do, even if we thought it would not do any good. My answer is that it could do considerable harm because there are dangers of martyrs and provocateurs, and they are real dangers.
What can be done instead? I believe that over the years in the clubs of all kinds there has been a steady erosion of the idea of racial discrimination. I remind the House that there are many immigrant clubs and I do not see how the clause can bite on that situation. But in the main, in the working men's, Conservative, Labour, and sporting clubs the idea of colour discrimination in membership is rapidly dying. I do not believe that it is now practised on any wide scale, and I am certain that our objective would be achieved better by encouragement and persuasion.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) said "do not force the pace"; my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Boscawen) said "take behind-the-scenes action"; my hon. Friend the Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) said "let it gradually dissolve by social pres-
|Division No 229]||AYES||[9.29 a.m.|
|Alison, Michael||Goodhart, Philip||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Goodhew, Victor||Stokes, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Tebbit, Norman|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Hannam, John||Viggers, Peter|
|Biffen, John||Mayhew, Patrick||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Moate, Roger||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Page, John (Harrow West)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Mr. John Corrie and|
|Fietcher-Cooke, Charles||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Bates, Alf||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Bean, R. E.||Hooley, Frank||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||John, Brynmor||Skinner, Dennis|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Snape, Peter|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Judd, Frank||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Kerr, Russell||Stallard, A. W.|
|Coleman, Donald||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Stoddart, David|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Lipton, Marcus||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Corbett, Robin||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Tomlinson, John|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Madden, Max||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Cryer, Bob||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Moonman, Eric||Ward, Michael|
|Eadie, Alex||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Watkinson, John|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Newens, Stanley||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Flannery, Martin||O'Halloran, Michael||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Palmer, Arthur||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Pavitt, Laurie||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|George, Bruce||Pendry, Tom|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grocott, Bruce||Radice, Giles||Mr. James Tinn and|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Mr. Ted Graham.|
I said on Second Reading and in Committee, and repeat it strongly, that the best way forward is on those three grounds. Because of the personal acceptability aspect set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash, I do not believe that the clause will meet the objective of the Government. I believe that it is likely to be used by provocateurs and others who will make trouble, and will do positive damage.
The best way to bring about the best of race relations in clubs is pressure of public opinion and by action behind the scenes, and not to force the pace. That will achieve the objective, and I am sorry that the Government have decided to legislate and to abandon the course of persuasion and social pressure, which would have been far better. It is for all these reasons that I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote to remove the provision from the Bill.