Establishment and Duties of Commission

Clause 43 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1976.

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Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

Mr. Alison: I beg to move Amendment No. 13, in page 26, line 7, leave out 'Commission for Racial Equality' and insert 'Equal Rights Commission'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this we may take the following amendments:

No. 14, in line 7, leave out 'Commission for Racial Equality' and insert 'Equal Status Commission'.

No. 15, in line 7, leave out 'Racial' and insert 'Race'.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Barkston Ash

In paragraph 27 of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration Report, dated 1st July 1975, the Select Committee recommended: …that the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission should be merged in a single agency to be known as the Equal Rights Commission. The Report went on: After considering several alternatives, we believe that the new agency should be so named to emphasise that the Commission will be a new institution and also because we feel it will now be appropriate and helpful to discontinue the reference to race relations. I should like to underline that important point, that if possible we should devise a title for the new Commission which does not include the word "race", since that produces all the instinctive and inhibiting reactions that the whole sphere of race relations tends to generate.

It will be much better for a commission with a sensitive strategic rôle not devoid of the necessity to probe and investigate, formally and informally, not to have a title including that pejorative word. After all, such words as "racist", "racialist" and "race" have been bandied about in the Chamber.

The conference organised by the Community Relations Commission favoured what the Select Committee preferred, for similar reasons—the title Equal Rights Commission, which implies the equal rights objectives of the Bill. The Government view apparently is that "Race Relations" is not the best title and responded in Committee to our suggestion that an alternative be found. They felt that "Equal Rights" could be misleading in the context of the creation of the Equal Opportunities Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act, and thought that Commission for Racial Equality was better.

But I believe that that suggestion is the worst of all possible worlds. It introduces the suspect racial connotation and the concept of equality, which is misleading. That concept, particularly for Labour Members, cannot be divorced from material considerations. It is not simply a legal concept. It implies redistribution of income and resources between individuals or from Government to deprived groups or from rich to poor. If it has only a narrow legal connotation, it is likely to raise expectations and to generate subsconscious responses which may be frustrated. The suggested title, therefore, does almost everything which could be done to raise hackles and to generate suspicions and do damage, even before the content of the Act or the Commission's powers have been fully understood and appraised.

9.45 a.m.

Because of this I come back to the concept of "Equal Rights". It is a positive advantage to have a close liaison with the Equal Opportunities Commission because it must be right to work towards a situation in which these two little bits of bureaucracy can be merged, with consequent advantages in terms of expenditure, manpower and the general streamlining of administration. There is, therefore, the negative case for leaving out the concept of race and the positive case for devising a more innocuous and neutral title which will take the mind more in the direction of the merging of the two bodies. We invite hon. Members to spend some time considering this amendment.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down

I do not wish to damn with faint praise. On the contrary, my object is rather to praise than to damn. The best I can say of the amendment, though it is sufficient reason for supporting it, is that "Equal Rights Commission" is clearly superior to "Commission for Racial Equality". It is often discovered that when one is trying to do something which is inherently absurd, which one ought not to be doing at all, it is impossible to devise a proper name or term to describe it.

That is why this commission which is to be set up to do things that ought not to be attempted by law is so difficult to designate in any acceptable way. Certainly, "Racial Equality" is an unhappy term to introduce into the name of a statutory body. It imports all the difficulties of the word "race" in more senses even than were mentioned by the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison). Although, by virtue of Clause 3, "racial" is defined in the context of "racial grounds" or "racial group", "racial" at attached to 'equality" presumably—no doubt the Minister will correct me if I am misconstruing this—must be treated merely as the adjective from "race". It does not denote equality as between other characteristics such as are set out in Clause 3.

We are not, as we would be in the context of "racial grounds" or "racial group", talking about nationality or ethnic or national origins which proved so happy an exit from the difficulties earlier in the debate. We are simply limiting ourselves to "race"—adjective "racial". To purport to establish a commission to secure equality between things which cannot be defined with any certainty is inherently absurd and improper for the purposes of a statute. I assert without much fear of being contradicted, certainly not seriously, that there can be no secure identification of a race. Is there a Caucasian race? Are the Germans a race? Is there a Welsh race or an English race? There is an English national origin—we heard that from the Minister of State—but that does not help us here. So, without even being able to state what is meant by "race", without any means of identifying a race, we are setting up a commission the name of which denotes that its purpose is to secure equality between the races. That is a pretty ridiculous proposition.

Matters become even more difficult when one switches from the term "racial" to the term "equality". There is at least the merit in the alternative proposed by the official Opposition that their title indicates the sphere within which equality is applied—namely, equality of rights. Rights is a concept, at any rate in the context of statute, suffi- ciently defined for the notion of equality to be applicable to it. But the title "Commission for Racial Equality" fails to define the sphere or context of equality.

We are, therefore, left with an empty absurdity in the shape of the word "equality", since it is not indicated in what respect the races—even if one could identify them—are to be rendered equal or less unequal by the endeavours of the commission. It would be impossible to know of the existence of races, the term would have no meaning unless there were inequalities as between them, for it is by their inequalities that we are aware that a plurality of them exists. That means that in the total generality of the term "Commission for Racial Equality" there is implicit an inherent contradiction. "Racial" implies inequality in certain contexts and is then negatived by the general word "equality" following it.

The hon. Member for Barkston Ash had a point when he reminded the House that we could by statute secure certain kinds of equality but that there were other kinds that we could not secure. We can secure equality before the organs of the State. We can secure equal treatment in identical circumstances by the organs of the State. One of the basic meanings of the conception of the rule of law is that men will be treated alike who are in like case. But once one departs from that which law can define, the law is unable to secure equality. It cannot secure equality of talent. It cannot secure equality of intellectual ability. It cannot secure equality of vision, of imagination or of many other of the characteristics of humanity.

Lest anyone should suppose that in pointing that out, I am exposing myself to the description "racialist" in the sense of regarding one race as inferior to another, I shall say immediately that, however undefined be the identification of races, there is no doubt that any advantage possessed in one sphere will be found to be offset by disadvantages in another sphere.

During the debate earlier, with no one screaming from any part of the House that it was racialism, it was pointed out without contestation that the West Africans were markedly more talented at cricket—and talents involved are not limited to cricket—than the English or European, however one likes to denote the race.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

Surely we should leave the judgment about the talent for cricket until the outcome of the present series, at least?

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , South Down

An individual test match may yield a specific result, but that there are differences in talent, in gifts, in propensities, between those recognised as belonging to different races cannot be disputed. Nor can it be other than a contempt of humanity, something which is literally inhuman, to deny or to desire to wish away these differences.

The wealth of humanity is made up precisely by the inequalities in these different respects. Humanity has the capacity—it is one of the things which distinguish mankind—to blend in an almost infinite fashion the contributions of the specialised inequalities of different genetic mixtures. Therefore, the term "racial equality" is a slap in the face to respect for mankind, respect for human personality and respect for what mankind is and should be. It is only when we limit the notion of equality to an area in which the law not only can but should require it—that is, equal treatment by the State in like case—that the term "equality" acquires an intelligible meaning and becomes an appropriate objective.

Therefore, although I cannot say that "equal rights" is ideal, I immensely prefer the title "Equal Rights Commission" to that of "Commission for Racial Equality". What is the trouble with "equal rights" is that it extends further than the purport of the Bill, for there are many rights in which citizens or denizens of a territory incontestably should be equal and be treated alike which do not lie within the confines of the Bill.

Still, that is a much lesser deficiency than the deficiency of the title as it stands. I hope that the House will opt for the less awkward, less unsatisfactory title and accept the amendment.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford West

The matter was raised in Committee, where I took strong exception to the title then proposed, which was "Race Relations Commission". It was so vague that it was open to anyone's misinterpretation. It is not easy to see what "Race Relations Commission" means or what its purpose is.

The Government then, to my horror, came up with "Commission for Racial Equality". The present board is called "Race Relations Board". The proposed title of the new body makes it sound like a commission for equality in racialism. At the very least, the word "race" should be substituted for "racial". I should prefer to go further and to have a title that is not necessarily precise but has no pejorative association. Certainly "racial" has many overtones and undertones. I believe that it would be best left out of the title.

10.0 a.m.

If the Government and the Civil Service had put their heads together to choose the worst possible title, the "Commission for Racial Equality" would have succeeded in being chosen. In Amendment No. 14 I suggest as an alternative the "Equal Status Commission". That is not a precise title but it indicates the purpose of the commission—namely, to seek to achieve equality before the law and equality of opportunity. Both that proposed title, and the title proposed by the Opposition Front Bench—the Equal Rights Commission—have enormous advantages over that proposed by the Government.

There is no reference to women in the Equal Opportunities Commission One is expected to know that it refers to the sexes without it using the word "sex". But the Government are insisting that unless the word "race" goes into the title no one will appreciate the involvement of the commission. Surely it is a naïve approach to suggest that everyone will come running to it on issues not connected with race because there will be confusion unless the word "race" is included.

In all the circumstances I hope that the Government will think again. I have a feeling that they will seek to go into technicalities, examining each word in their title and each word in the proposed alternative. That is not strictly necessary. A broad title will suffice provided that it conveys the right atmosphere. Surely no one will object to a target that seeks to provide equality of rights or status for different groups within the community.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

We must consider the amendments carefully. If we reflect upon the history of how we arrived at the description "supplementary benefit", I think it will be agreed that what we call these bodies is important and has a bearing on the manner in which they can carry out their rôles.

I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that we are trying to find a name for a body that is trying to do something that should not be attempted. A certain amount should be attempted. It may be difficult to achieve, but that does not necessarily mean that a certain amount of what is in the Bill should not be attempted. However, I agree with those who have concluded that the name we have arrived at is the worst possible.

I suppose that if we have a body of commissioners it is necessary to use the "Commission". That part of the title is arguable, but it is not the most important. I entirely agree with those who have criticised the use of the word "racial" Surely there can be no doubt that it is a provocative and unnecessary word to include. As the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) has said, the Equal Opportunities Commission does not boast about being concerned with sex. I agree that there is no need to include the word "racial". Apart from obvious objections about the unfortunate overtones of the word, it is doubtful whether it is the right word to include.

Clause 3 shows some of the problems we shall run into if we use the word "racial". If a person is half one race and half another and is discriminated against, on the ground of what race is he being discriminated against? In practice, it would be just as objectionable if somebody were discriminated against on grounds of colour when that person was not black by racial origin but just happened to look that way.

We should undoubtedly try to get rid of the word "racial". Could we not do a swop and get the Equal Opportunities Commission to give up its name and find a better name for that commission?

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Beaconsfield

Could we not abolish the name altogether and choose a name from somewhere else—say, from the Egg Marketing Board?

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I might incur the Chair's displeasure if I were to go into the rôle of the Egg Marketing Board, the little lion, and all the rest of it. However, I take my hon. and learned Friend's point: it would be nice if that name were to be available. Perhaps if the Equal Opportunities Commission were to advertise for a manager or accountant it could be done without any overtones of sex, and indeed if no overtones of race were required either, perhaps the two could be rolled in together.

"Equal opportunities" is probably a phrase to which few hon. Members would object. I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South about the inhumanity of the concept that everybody must be entirely equal. We were not perhaps at one on the cricket field in terms of equality, and I gather that some areas of the world produce better sprinters than others. I understand that it has something to do with the way in which the hip bone is attached to the thigh bone, or wherever it is attached. I do not know whether that is true, but in international events certainly a high proportion of black sprinters are found in the first few places. When it comes to limbo dancing, I should hate even to think about it at this hour. This all adds up to the fact that there is considerable inequality between races.

One could multiply examples of differences. Let us take rhythms in music, or the subject of eyesight, where again there are considerable racial differences. As one who wears glasses, I realise how important eyesight it. I believe that the Japanese—and I hope that the right hon. Member for Down, South will admit that there is a Japanese race—have poor eyesight. Black people tend to have good long sight. Nothing any body of commissioners could do will change that situation.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I understand that if the Japanese did not eat so much rice, their eyesight would be much better. Therefore, perhaps if my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) were to eat less rice, his eyesight would improve.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

My hon. Friend has got me worried because I am rather fond of rice and it has done nothing for me in that respect.

The hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West, dealing with the argument of "equal status" versus "equal right", appeared to be much more attached to the concept of equal rights. If the hon. and learned Member is holding out for the word "status", I cannot go along with him.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford West

I prefer the word "status" to "rights" or "opportunities" because men may have rights, but women may be said only to have opportunities. Rights are more than opportunities. However, "status" seems to be sufficiently broad, and possibly less precise. This imprecision would suggest that it meets the case adequately.

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I am not sure that I agree with the hon. and learned Member about the imprecision of "status". The word carries the implication of a fixed position—the place where one stands and one stays. One could argue that the word "status" is open to much the same objections as the word "equality".

The hon. and learned Member made the point that women may have only opportunities, but men have rights. That raises the question of rights to what. If we have an Equal Rights Commission, it is responsible for producing an equal right to what? Rights are for everybody, not just one race or ethnic group. Even my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) as a Scotsman is entitled to some protection from the commission. The commission is all-embracing.

The Equal Opportunities Commission is concerned only with opportunities open to women, which seems to be discrimination on grounds of sex. That is a little unfair, but equal opportunities should be open to everyone.

Clause 43(1)(a) says that the duty of this body that we are establishing under the Bill is to work towards the elimination of discrimination. In paragraphs (b) and (c) the duties are listed as: to promote equality of opportunity, and good relations between persons of different racial groups generally; and to keep under review the working of the Act. The duties of paragraphs (b) and (c) probably follow from paragraph (a), which requires the body to work towards the elimination of discrimination. I like that wording because it does not suggest or boast that the elimination of discrimination can be achieved overnight by statute. The body is asked to work towards it, which is thoroughly commendable if one recognises the limitations of the law in achieving that sort of objective.

Why can we not have a title that incorporates the words "elimination of discrimination"? An authority, a board, or even a commission for the elimination of discrimination would seem to me to have a number of potential advantages over what we are presented with in the Bill.

10.15 a.m.

If we have to make a choice between what is in the Bill and the alternatives covered by the amendments, I would certainly go strongly against a commission for racial equality. Both "racial" and "equality" would have to go. On balance "equal rights" is to be preferred to "equal status" since "status" is open to a number of objections, perhaps not so strongly as the word "equality", but substantially the same.

I am somewhat concerned about "equal rights", because that phrase raises the question of rights as to what. On balance, of the alternatives presented to us I would opt for "equal rights commission". I hope, however, that in another place, where they sometimes discuss these matters with greater wisdom and under less pressure of time than in this Chamber, these matters might be more fully considered.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport

Does my hon. Friend agree that "Equal Opportunities Commission" might be the best title to sum up the duties of the commission? Might there not in due course be some way of joining the Equal Opportunities Commission with the commission we are discussing here in order to give equal opportunities to people, both male and female, of whatever race?

Photo of Hon. Tim Sainsbury Hon. Tim Sainsbury , Hove

I am grateful for that suggestion because it has a number of merits. For example, there could be overlapping discrimination. There might be an argument as to whether discrimination was on the ground of sex or race, and if the commissions were combined, with sub-groups for various areas, that might facilitate the resolution of the problem.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Beaconsfield

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) I come to damn with faint praise. I do not like either of these titles, but I think that the one proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) is the better. Of course the words must be analysed. We cannot rely on atmosphere in a statute. The words must be definitive and "Commission for Racial Equality" is about as absurd as one could get. I think that we know what "race" is. My right hon. Friend suggested that there was room for doubt about what constituted race. I suppose that there is, but that courageous body the United Nations has declared that there are five races of mankind. My right hon. Friend may say that that only establishes that whatever the number, it is not five. But let us pretend that the United Nations knows what "race" is. The word "racial" is the adjective of or pertaining to race. How can there be equality of or pertaining to race? This is not semantics. It is a matter of substance.

There are three quotations which say the same thing in different words. Last night, I could have remembered the authors. This morning I cannot. The first is: Error is never so difficult to repair as when It has its roots in language. The second is: Improper terms are the chains that bind men to unreasonable conclusions. The third, from a modern French existentialist, is: J'ai connu que tout les malheurs des hommes viennent de ce qu'ils ne tiennent pas un langage clair.

Photo of Mr Russell Kerr Mr Russell Kerr , Hounslow Feltham and Heston

On a point of order Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not possible to protect us from the flights of fancy of the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell). I know it is early in the morning, but this is a bit much.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) is speaking in a language which hon. Members opposite do not understand, would it not be better for him to address his remarks to those who do understand?

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

I think the House is becoming a little too frivolous over this matter.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Beaconsfield

I realise that the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) gets a little dishevelled at this time of the day—

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

The hon. and learned Gentleman should turn round and face this way.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Beaconsfield

The rules of order require me to direct what I am saying to the Chair. If I turned to face the hon. Lady, I should be out of order. That is the only reason I do not turn to face her.

The choice of words is not that important. We have had that fact emphasised to us throughout the night. The Government have replied to all our logical arguments with clichés such as "multiracial society" and "racial equality". I do not often agree with the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) but we have hit on the same point this morning. He objects to the word "racial". It is a false use of the adjective.

The proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash is better, though my first choice would be a manuscript amendment submitted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) which is "Equal Rights Commission" although that too has its faults because the Bill and the Commission are not about equal rights. This is what we were saying in an earlier debate. All these people have the same civil rights as we have. As soon as they enter the country—which they do in great numbers—they instantly walk into the full civil and legal rights of everyone in this country.

The last Race Relations Act, which is being repealed and re-enacted by this Bill, was commended to us on the ground that its purpose was social. It was to confer a special legal privilege on immigrants in order to compensate for social inferiority. It was nothing to do with equal rights. I suppose that it would be more relevant to call it equal opportunities, but that does not happen to be an amendment that is before us at present, so it is not something that we need to look at.

I do not like the title "Equal Rights Commission". I like even less, I am afraid, the title "Equal Status Commission", because this is not a matter of status, either. With respect to the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West, immigrants walk into legal status. Concerning status and the meaning of "esteem", no one can legislate for esteem. One is afloat on the waters of one's time in the matter of esteem. One is regarded by one's contemporaries as one deserves to be regarded—a matter of grave concern to the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston, and rightly so.

That is the fact of the matter. One cannot legislate for things like that, and it is absolute folly to try to do so. It is the sort of folly that we have just spent 16 hours debating. All that we have reached now is this equivocation about the best name for this useless body. I would abolish it. It has no useful function to perform. The Race Relations Board is, because it is still in existence, a positive evil. That is being abolished. The best thing that one can say about the Equal Rights Commission, or whatever it is to be called, is that it will no longer be the licensed persecutor of the subjects of this country in the way in which the Race Relations Board is now. It will be mischief-making rather than persecuting—though it has some persecuting powers as well in the Bill to which we have sought to draw attention and to diminish and minimise to the best of our ability.

Basically, the Equal Rights Commission is a mischievous meddling body that will try to create the illusion that by political patronage and jobs for the boys and girls one can set up something that will change the esteem in which people are held in their own country.

What folly and absolute nonsense that is. Equal rights? What right will it ensure is equal for anyone, or for whom? There is no right at all. There is nothing in the Bill about rights. There could not be, because people have got them all already. All that the Bill says is that one must not discriminate between people on the ground of their race, colour, nationality or ethnic origins, and one or two other fripperies of that genus. That is nothing to do with rights. The Bill just says that the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West and myself, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, and so on, may not discriminate on those grounds in our judgment of people and in our dealings with them.

Just what advantage this will be to anyone I do not know. It is certainly nothing to do with rights. What is this Commission going to do except try to find out whether anyone has been discriminating? Once upon a time people used to pay a great deal of money in order that their children might become discriminating. Now people will find that if their children grow up to be discriminating they will spend their lives in prison in order to flatter the blind prejudices of the Labour Party and the obscurantist obsessions of the liberal Left, who think that one must have a law about everything and a commission about everything, and that one must appoint to that commission worn-out hacks of one's own political party, at handsome salaries.

10.30 a.m.

That is what it is all about. The whole thing is a sour farce that has occupied far too much of our time. It will do no good. It will poison relations between the native population and the immigrant population, because the native population will bitterly resent it and the immigrant population will either be self-conscious about it or be exploited. By far the greater majority will be self-conscious about it and the small but mischievous minority will exploit it. As for the native population, when they get this commission around their necks their attitude will increasingly be that they dare not treat the immigrant population as they would on their individual merits when they get to know them in case any unfavourable action is treated as discriminating unlawfully.

I wonder whether any hon. Member has not received a letter in which a constituent has said "I must not tell you about something or other. I must not express my opinion of something because of the Race Relations Board." Such people are wrong. The board is not charged with the implementation of Section 6 of the 1965 Act—that is for the Attorney-General—but people do not make that fine distinction. They think that it is the board that can take such action, and they are permanently alarmed because they have a feeling that the legal machinery of the country is mobilised against them.

Photo of Mr John Stokes Mr John Stokes , Halesowen and Stourbridge

Perhaps I could add that local newspapers are hesitant, indeed, to put anything into print about immigrants that might be unfavourable to them.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Beaconsfield

I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned that, because it goes further than that. What is more, it arises directly on this amendment, because it stems from the existing Commission for Community Relations. I believe that the National Union of Journalists has passed a resolution and circularised its members instructing them—or advising, or whatever is the right wcrd—not to print anything that is unfavourable to the fashionable view about relations between the indigenous and the immigrant population. This is a wicked suppression of news and views, and a most dangerous thing. It is the kind of thing that is stimulated by these bodies, and will be stimulated by the new body. That is the reason for its being set up—to curtail freedom of expression. Freedom even of thought gets stifled in this country by this proliferation of the institutionalised influence of the State. The uncertainty of its powers and its penetration are as dangerous as the actuality of its real powers and penetration.

We in this House are well placed to know how far that body can go, what its powers are, and so on. Most educated people, such as lawyers and so on, are able to judge, but the general body of the public has not that exact assessment of the threat to its freedom of these new bodies. People know that its powers are extensive. People like Mr. Relf can go to prison for an indefinite time, or permanently. People know that these institutions have a great power of oppression but they do not know how they work or to what extent they control their lives. People talking in public houses or on the streets or in shops do not know to what extent they are threatened, and they even think that if they write to a Member of Parliament they may be doing something dangerous. Very often I receive a letter with no address or signature and the person says: "I dare not sign my name because if I do I shall be in trouble with the Race Relations Board".

It is not a question whether to call it the racial equality commission, the equal rights commission, or whether this is just a balloon debate. It is a bad thing. That is the title that I should like—a bad thing. I leave it at that, but it has to have one of these puffed-up titles to glorify its evil influence. If I have to choose one of them, I choose the manuscript amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud which at least expresses fairly pithily some of the contempt that I feel for the whole idea.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

I cannot help but intervene in the hon. and learned Gentleman's attempt to address the House to welcome him to the debate. We have not seen him during the whole of the night. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) said that we had been sitting for 16 hours debating this legislation, and so we have, and now along comes the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), fresh as a daisy, and I welcome him to the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

Order. I am sure that the House appreciates the hon. Lady's remarks, but no doubt it will be more in order if she addresses the House in a proper manner at a later stage.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Beaconsfield

Would it be in order for me to say that the hon. Lady looks as fresh as a daisy and that it is very nice to have her here?

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

I am sure that that would be acceptable. I hesitate to say that it would be out of order, because that might be misconstrued.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

I had not got very far with the remarks that I intended to make.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

I was so staggered to see the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

I was going to say to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) that I was going to commit an offence against the Bill by making the offensive observation that not only am I as fresh as a daisy, but I am an hon. and learned daisy and, in addition, a Scottish hon. and learned daisy, and I have to make the appalling distinction between myself and my hon. And learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South—

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

I beg his pardon. I should have said my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfied (Mr. Bell. He is an English daisy, and I am a Scottish daisy.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Beaconsfield

If we are to have this punctilious accuracy, I remind my hon. and learned Friend that I am a Scottish daisy sitting for an English constituency.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

The hon. and learned Gentleman is an immigrant.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

My hon. and learned Friend no doubt came from my constituency, where they make a golden liquor of the same name.

There is a gross difficulty between my hon. and learned Friend and myself. It is that although he is a Scotsman he is permitted to practise his profession only in England and I am permitted to practise mine only in Scotland, which seems to be a great offence against anything that could be tolerated by a body calling itself a Commission for Racial Equality, because my clients are inevitably restricted to 5½ million whereas his are restricted to 50 million. That, perhaps, immediately points to the absurdity of the whole concept of racial equality.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford West

Is it not also the case that the Scottish lawyers have so limited their intake that there are fewer Scottish lawyers for the 5½ million people in Scotland than there are for the 50 million in England?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

It is the fact that the Scots are so much worse behaved than the English that it enlarges the field of work, and so that, too, is unequal.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said that the United Nations had decreed that there were five races on earth. I do not understand how it came to that ethnic conclusion, but, assuming that it has, it is presumably on the basis of the origins of man and neoglyptic man and orthodontic man.

I think that the Scots would regard themselves as a race, and the English regard themselves as a race. Therefore, considering the concept of races, to say that we are to have a Commission for Racial Equality is an absolute absurdity in itself. How could the Scots ever be equal or be made equal to the English? The Scottish National Party would say that it would require the English to be upgraded or the Scots to be downgraded to an extent which would be unacceptable to either and no doubt unacceptable to both.

Therefore, in dealing with the members of the Scottish National Party Labour Members would be courting an offence under Clause 2 and could be brought before this ridiculous Commission for Racial Equality, because it is as Scots that they discriminate against them. It would not happen if they were not Scottish National Members of Parliament. Labour Members do not discriminate against me as a Scot, but they do discriminate against the Scottish nationalists as Scottish nationalists. Therefore, for every debate in the House in which the Scottish nationalists are even mentioned the Commission for Racial Equality will have to roll up and tick off anybody who discriminates against the Scottish nationalists on that basis. Under the relevant provision the commission will apply to them a requirement or a condition which it will not apply equally in the absence of some racial grouping. It is bound to do so.

Therefore, we immediately come up against the absurdity of this hypothetical world that the Labour Party is so anxious to create in which we have filed everybody down to the same size, to the same weight, the same intelligence and everything else, to the extent where it can be said that they are all equal. Let me take a very simple illustration. Some people prefer the company of musicians, some of academics, some of women to men, some like to be amongst people who like dogs, some like to be amongst people who hate cats. All of them are discriminating. All of them have differences. Why should not those very considerable prejudices be abolished?

I am surprised that my misogyny has not become an offence under the Equal Opportunities Commission. Perhaps it is. I am surprised that philandering has not become an offence in this new enlightened age in which we are all compelled to think the same thoughts about everything which is different, to treat what is different as the same, and to treat it as the same regardless of whether we feel the same about it.

I should have thought that the proper name to give the commission would be, perhaps, the Identicality Commission—after all, it is an attempt to make everything identical—or the "Indistinguishability Commission". I am surprised that it does not have powers to dye people all the same colour so that we cannot tell the difference. We could then dip the English and bleach the Africans and we should get a sort of mid-coffee Indian colour for everybody which would be fair to everybody because it would be in the middle between the extremes of the whitest and the blackest.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Has my hon. Friend considered a woad?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

The difficulty with that, again, is that there would be prejudices, because woad is blue and blue is not red and it would offend particularly those below the Gangway opposite if they had to sing "The Blue Flag" instead of "The Red Flag". In any event, woad has racial associations with the early English invaders and it would be thoroughly inappropriate for anything so racial and Saxon as woad to be introduced.

To ensure that nobody could distinguish anyone else's colour, another way out might be to make everybody blind. Then, if we all had our eyes put out, we should not be able to tell the difference on the basis of race. We should have to send some people to elocution lessons, because it is fairly easy to tell a Scot or an Englishman or an Indian, perhaps, when he speaks. So that might be a difficulty. I suppose that if we were all blind we could all learn Braille and the Morse code and if we did not speak we should never know between whom we were not distinguishing.

10.45 a.m.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said that this commission had no useful function. Then he very rightly corrected himself and said that it had a useful function—he said that it provided jobs for the boys or the girls. That is certainly one of the commission's primary functions, but it also has another extremely useful function, which the Labour Party will doubtless appreciate. It has the function of increasing the amount of public expenditure. On her resignation the former Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science said "We are the party of public expenditure". It is not just an attitude of the Labour Party: it is a positive ideal. It is a goal in itself. This is a commission which is one of the instruments which can attain this wonder of the Labour Party.

The difference between the moderates and the extremists in the Labour Party is quite simple. The moderates take the view that money should be free and superabundant like air. The extremists take the view that it is free and superabundant like air and that, just as air should be breathed, money should be spent. So here we have a commission of drop-outs who will be appointed to try to order people to take up attitudes to things which they do not hold and to give up attitudes to things which they hold dearly.

Thus the great Socialist machine once again is able to work towards the ideal robot man whose thoughts are preordained by a commission appointed by the Government. Therefore, it should not be the Commission for Racial Equality. It should be the commission for mental equality or "the commission for robot creation".

The amendment suggesting that the commission should be called the Equal Status Commission is based on a fundamental ignorance, because in law status means something. A woman has status. A widow has status. A divorced person has status. A married man has status. A single man has status. A minor has status. A pupil has status. They all have different statuses in law. So if this body were to be called the Equal Status Commission, the Indian child and the Indian widow would have to be regarded as having equal status in law.

In such an event, the commission would have to go about entitling children to do what adults are entitled to do, or forbidding adults to do what children are not allowed to do. Either adults would not be allowed to go to the cinema until whatever age it is that children are allowed to go to the pictures unaccompanied by an adult, or, alternatively, children would have to be allowed to go to the cinema unaccompanied by an adult. The status of children and adults would have to be equal in law.

There are 100 different distinctions of status and right between various members of the community even if they are all of the same colour, height and intelligence, merely because of their age or because of their marital condition. "The Equal Status Commission" would therefore be a thoroughly inappropriate use of language.

I am querulent, while we are dealing with some metaphrastic and perissological language as "the Commission for Racial Equality", to know why it was thought to be an improvement in legislation to move from a Race Relations Board to a Commission for Racial Equality. What is the distinction between a board and a commission? Neither is desirable. I do not understand the difference, except that "board" is Anglo-Saxon and "commission" is Latin and both are a misuse of language in the sense in which it is attempted to use the word. I cannot see the necessity for saying that.

When we have the Commission for Racial Equality, what characteristics of race will be equalised? It suggests that all characteristics of race are to be equalised. They are to be made equal economically, in number, strength, property-owning, attitude, and in their devotion to religion, or not to religion, to the same religion—equal in all things. Of course they will not be equal in any of those things, and people will treat them as different because they actually are different.

That is the great offence which is to be struck at—that one must not treat as different something which is different and wants to be different. That is what I find extraordinary. I suppose that it will be an offence for people who come from north of the border to celebrate St. Andrew's Day because the English will not be able to do that. It will be an offence to celebrate St. George's Day because the Scots will not be able to do that—not with their hands on their hearts, anyway. It will be an offence to celebrate Burns Night or to do any of the racially different things which people choose to do. I do not know what English Members think of people who celebrate Burns Night. I do not think I should like to say what my view is. I am sure, however, that the attitude of English Members to Burns Night is utterly different from that of Scottish Members.

Each individual has a distinction which is his personality. Each group of people has a corporate personality which is recognised in law. People talk about the Scots, Indians, English and French as having corporate characteristics. What this absurd outfit, the commission—perhaps it should be called an identicality outfit; that might be a better term for it—will tell us to do is to say that the French are exactly the same as the Germans and that the Indians are exactly the same as the Irish.

It was Bismarck who proposed the final solution to the Irish problem. He said that Ireland was the most fertile place on earth and that the Irish were the laziest people on earth; on the other hand, the Dutch were the most industrious people on earth and therefore the Dutch should be put in Ireland. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) is listening to this Irish solution; he did not try it when he was responsible for affairs in Northern Ireland. Bismarck said that if the Dutch were put in Ireland the most industrious people would be operating on the most fertile land on earth, and that if the Irish were put in Holland they were so lazy they would not mend the dykes and they would all drown and that would be the end of the Irish problem. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."] That was the proposition made by Bismarck. I am merely quoting a German statesman.

It is because the commission has moved into the realms of the absurd and the niceties of human thought, opinion, preference and distinction that it is an utterly futile bureaucratic concept which is a major waste of the money of taxpayers who must raise it.

Photo of Mr Edward Lyons Mr Edward Lyons , Bradford West

It is plain that the hon. Gentleman has not read the Bill, because not a word that he has said has been relevant to any of its objects, but is he not aware that in Committee his own Front Bench gave general support to the Bill and, therefore, in his castigation of Labour Members, he should include members of his own Front Bench, who, to the best of my knowledge, are likely to vote for the Bill on Third Reading. Are they Socialist? Do they want everything to be grey?

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has become a habit which is much to be deplored for hon. Members opposite, sometimes even hon. and learned Members opposite, to call in question the decisions of the Chair in that they say that speeches made from this side of the House are totally irrelevant. If they had been totally irrelevant, would not the Chair have taken action?

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole

This is entirely a matter for the Chair. The Chair will take the decision at the appropriate time should it be necessary.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

I am not chastened by the castigation of the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons), because if he cannot understand the simple meaning of the word "status" how is so simple a Scotsman as myself to understand so lengthy, perissological and grandiloquent a Bill as this? It is difficult for people, particularly lawyers, to understand the complicated language of modern drafting. Therefore, in my ignorance, I find myself unable to do it.

The alternative titles are of little difference or of little note. None will mean what it says, because the whole outfit is a meaningless exercise in an attempt to ensure that we are not allowed to think for ourselves.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I share the view of my hon. Friends, which I think is also the view of some hon. Members opposite, that the use of the word "race" in the title of the Bill is to be wholly deplored. Unfortunately, in recent years the use of the word "race" in titles of Bills and of boards has acquired a connotation with conflict.

I suppose that it might be argued that the conflict would have occurred anyway, but there can be no doubt—certainly there is no doubt among the public —that the existence of the word "race" and of the Race Relations Board has been exploited and has made worse a situation which, I agree, might have existed anyway. The way in which the board has operated with this title has contributed to what we have referred to as a sort of race industry in this country, with professional protesters and people who have at heart, not the good of the whole country, but only the good of the limited number of people for whom they speak.

I agree that the question of the name is important. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) reflected that the difficulty of finding a suitable name was that the object of the commission was uncertain. He asked whether the other conditions mentioned in Clause 3(1), namely, colour, race, nationality or ethnic or national origins, would be included in the consideration brought to bear by the Commission on problems placed before it. Although the Minister of State tried to answer that question, he did not give an adequate answer. It was certainly not an answer that I could comprehend.

We all realise that "race" is unclear and unsure. It is also prejudicial to the happy relations between the various groups in the country, and I therefore think that the alternative proposed in the amendment is preferable.

11.0 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Grant Mr John Grant , Islington Central

It has emerged from the debate that whichever title is chosen for the new Commission it will not satisfy all hon. Members. In Committee the Opposition Front Bench welcomed the change we made as an improvement while reserving the right to come back to it on Report. The Opposition Front Bench thought that we were moving in the right direction.

The arguments advanced in Committee in favour of "Equal Rights Commission" were broadly that that title avoided a reference to race relations, a reference which would be at best unhelpful and might be considered to be provocative, and that it more adequately characterised the new commission's rôle. The same arguments were put forward today.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) warned me against going into technicalities. I assure him that I have no intention of doing so. The Government recognise that a title containing "race" or "race relations" could be provocative to some people. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the existence of racial discrimination, and the Government think it necessary to legislate against it. There is, therefore, no merit in choosing a euphemistic title for the Commission.

The Government also recognise that the Bill is as much about equality as it is about race relations, and there is good reason to stress that positive aspect. There is, however, a danger in suggesting that the commission's remit is wider than it is by including in the title the phrase "equal rights", which suggests a wider range of responsibilities than those which are given to the commission. It was with those points in mind that we proposed—we hoped helpfully—the title "Commission for Racial Equality".

It is difficult to produce a title which will meet all the criticisms but, on balance, we think that the proposed title is better than others that have been suggested. The area of the commission's concern is defined fairly closely with the aim of stressing more positively the new commission's aims.

It has been argued that the title "Commission for Racial Equality" offers too grandiose an objective which the commission might not be able to live up to. We regard that objective as over-stated. The title "Equal Status Commission" suggested by my hon. and learned Friend

Division No 230.]AYES[11 05 a m
Alison, MichaelMoate, RogerStokes, John
Bell, RonaldMolyneaux, JamesTebbit, Norman
Biggs-Davison, JohnMorrison, Charies (Devizes)Viggers, Peter
Boscawen, Hon RobertNeubert, MichaelWall, Patrick
Brotherton, MichaelPage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Parkinson, CecilWinterton, Nicholas
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Goodhart, PhilipRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)Sainsbury, TimMr John Corrie and
Mayhew, PatrickShort, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)Mr Spencer le Marchant
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Grant, John (Islington C)Newens, Stanley
Bates, AlfGrocott, BruceO'Halloran, Michael
Bean, R. E.Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Palmer, Arthur
Bidwell, SydneyHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)Pavitt, Laurie
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertHayman, Mrs HelenePendry, Tom
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Radice, Giles
Carter-Jones, LewisJohn, BrynmorRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Johnson, James (Hull West)Reid, George
Coleman, DonaldJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Robinson, Geoffrey
Colquhoun, Ms MaureenJudd, FrankRoderick, Caerwyn
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Kerr, RussellRodgers, William (Stockton)
Corbett, RobinKinnock, NellSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Latham, Arthur (Paddington)Skinner, Dennis
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Snape, Peter
Cryer, BobLipton, MarcusSpearing, Nigel
Dormand, J. D.McElhone, FrankStallard, A. W.
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Mackenzie, GregorStoddart, David
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)Madden, MaxSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Flannery, MartinMiller, Mrs Millie (Iltord N)Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMoorman, EricTomlinson, John
George, BruceMorris, Alfred (Wythenshswe)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)

the Member for Bradford, West suffers the same defect of being euphemistic as does the title "Equal Rights Commission". My hon. and learned Friend said that the wording was somewhat imprecise. The Government's view is that it fails to reflect the aspects of the commission's work characterised by "equal rights".

The Community Relations Council avoided the use of "race" in its title. It did not for that reason become more popular. On the contrary, many correspondents wrote to the Race Relations Board, because it appeared to be the more appropriate body. That is an example of the confusion that might arise here, particularly with the Equal Opportunities Commission. We do not rule out in the long term the possibility of a merger between the two bodies.

The Government's view is that the difference between "race" and "racial" is minimal. Grammatically, they favour "racial" rather than "race" in this context. The ground which the commission will cover is fully defined in the Bill. I hope on those grounds that the House will reject the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 28, Noes 71.

Walker, Terry (Kingswood)Whitehead, PhillipTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ward, MichaelWise, Mrs AudreyMr James Tinn and
Watkinson, JohnWrigglesworth, IanMr Ted Graham
White, Frank R. (Bury)Young, David (Bolton E

Question accordingly negatived.