Mr. Deputy Speaker:
With this we may take Government Amendments Nos. 24, and 27 to 31.
We may also take the following amendments:
No. 25, in page 45, line 8 leave out from 'where' to 'be' in line 9 and insert:
'it is his intention that hatred shall'.
No. 26, in line 10 at end insert:
'or harmonious race relations are likely to be aggravated'.
This amendment raises what I regard as the principal issue arising out of the Report stage of this Bill. The Bill itself raises matters of principle which are of the greatest magnitude. During consideration of the Report stage it has been possible only to challenge these in general and not in particular, but this amendment draws attention to the most important issue which can be raised.
Clause 70 extends the limitations upon freedom of speech and writing which are currently contained in Section 6 of the Race Relations Act 1965. The passage of the Act with that section in it introduced a new extension of the provisions of the Public Order Act, and was highly controversial.
When it passed into law in 1965 it was a very severe encroachment on the traditional freedoms of the British people. It has been the subject of adverse comment ever since. Indeed, The Times ran a leading article some years ago calling for its repeal. Furthermore, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), the former Liberal Party Leader, some years ago expressed the opinion that the section should be repealed. Mr. Mark Bonham Carter, the Chairman of the Community Relations Commission and former Chairman of the Race Relations Board, also expressed the opinion that the section is of doubtful merit. Therefore, it is not merely people such as myself who have taken a libertarian view on legislation of this kind and who have pressed for the repeal of Section 6 of the 1965 Act.
However, instead of its being repealed, we now have Clause 70 seeking to make the most objectionable extension of the encroachment on freedom of speech and writing. The danger of a breach of the peace is removed from the former requirements, and it is now made an offence. Therefore, in this respect we are talking about criminal offences and no longer about the civil procedure. It would become an offence to publish or distribute written matter, described as "threatening, abusive or insulting" or if a person
uses in any public place or at any public meeting words which are threatening, abusive or insulting".
There is no requirement about a threat to the breach of peace. There is no need for an intention to stir up racial hatred and the words are not required to be "threatening, abusive and insulting", but the list is disjunctive—namely "threatening, abusive, or insulting". The meaning of words such as "threatening" or "abusive" or "insulting" is very much a matter of opinion. Indeed, they are words to which the overworked description "subjective" might be applied.
The 1965 Act did not prove to have a very limiting effect on the scope of the existing provisions. The defence which has arisen has hinged mainly on whether, under existing law, there was an intention to stir up racial hatred or whether there was a danger of a breach of the peace. However, it would not be right to suggest that issue has not also been joined on the question whether such words were abusive or insulting.
It is now proposed, in this free country of England, that it shall be a criminal offence to use words of which it can merely be said that they are abusive or insulting and that because of all the circumstances something called "hatred" is likely to be stirred up. Again, the word "hatred" is one of the vague, undefinable words against which it must be hard for anybody to defend himself. I suppose that we have to be thankful that we have not worse before us, because the White Paper at the end contained some astonishing paragraphs. It was said that the Government were not to propose a total restriction on the expression of what were called racialist views because that would be too severe an encroachment on the rights of free speech in this country, but it was then said that the Government were well aware of the strength of feeling about this issue and were prepared to consider representations for that prohibition to be included in the Bill.
If it had been included in the Bill, a good many of the speeches which have been made in the last 16 hours could only be made in this House and could not be made outside. It would be too dangerous for some of the geneticists who have been expressing opinions on the subject of race in the last few years, such as Jensen and Eysenck—
The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) describes these highly qualified and able men, Jensen and Eysenck, as racists in the fields of genetics because their studies and researches have led them to propound the idea that there may be significant genetic differences between races and that they may be deep-seated.
It does not matter whether Hitler thought so. The only question we have to consider in the end is the matter of truth. The truth is all that matters. Our duty is to follow truth wherever it leads. I have referred to two people who have put forward certain views that go against the political current of the times. However, Labour Members seek to sweep those views aside and to suggest that their proponents are racists.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that when one of these men sought to address a meeting in London, our young people in the field of genetics demonstrated actively against him?
The kind of people who demonstrate are not usually very academically-minded. People of any intellectual achievement do not have to demonstrate. They can express themselves with words, which is a rather more sophisticated form of expression.
The threat in the White Paper was that such expressions of opinion would be made illegal. But the Government are not taking that course. They have said that they will "listen to representations".
During the night I accused the Home Secretary of Lysenkoism. He did not answer that attack. Perhaps I went a little far at that point of the debate, but certainly what he is seeking to do in the Bill goes dangerously near to that philosophy. This envisages the prohibition of views which do not accord with political theories of the Government of the time, and it is a highly dangerous practice.
In a free country such as ours, a very mature country, with a great tradition of freedom and developed institutions, it is essential that people should be free to say what they honestly think. Any man in Britain, saying what he honestly believes to be true in this field, should be safe from the law in saying it. That is my belief. I think it is the belief of any balanced person on any side in politics.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that anyone should be allowed to say anything he wishes, even though it incites to violence and murder, as we have seen already in London?
Will the hon. Lady listen for a moment? I am trying to say what the Bill and the clause are about. The Bill is not about the other things in life. It is about race. The nature of the differences between races, the physical causes of them, their significance, and their future are all in the end not so much matters of opinion as matters of ascertained fact. At the present stage they are probably matters of opinion. One can hold either view. All I am saying is that people should, within the law, be free to express any view which their processes of thought and their studies have led them to believe to be true, provided that they express it honestly.
If I am being strict in my thinking, I do not believe that political views are the danger in Clause 70. Nevertheless, in as much as political views enters into this, my opinion would be that anyone who expresses a political view in which he believes, and who expresses it in good literary English—I am not talking about abusive language or anything of that sort but about straight English prose—should be safe. It does not matter whether he is right or wrong in the end. We cannot have controversy unless we have difference of opinion. What we want is controversy on a high plane, not that it should not contain ideas which shock the other side in the controversy.
To my mind, the right criterion will always be the danger of breaches of the peace. Even there we have to be careful. I sometimes feel that we have come too far away from the old Dicey doctrine of Beatty v. Gillbanks, which many in the House will know about. It is dangerous to say to someone "If you so annoy people that they are inclined to hit you, you are to blame." That is not necessarily true. It is certainly not the Dicey doctrine that most of us learned in our young days at Oxford.
People must be free to express opinions. Those who do not like them must seek to refute with words, not with blows, the ideas with which they do not agree. Society in a civilised country must not be regulated to the standard of those whose only answer to an argument they do not like is a brick.
That, in a sentence, is what I am saying. I think that the clause is a most dangerous extension of existing provisions, which are dangerous enough in themselves. Most of the responsible organs of opinion, since the White Paper and the Bill were published, have expressed hesitation and doubt at least about this. Some, of course, have made outright attacks on the Bill.
I do not think that this provision has many friends among the non-political elements in society. I do not think that it even has a great many friends in the Labour Party. I do not think that hon. Members on the Government side like this kind of thing. After all, they may be the establishment now, but they have come up the rebellious way. They have made very wide claims to freedom—
I am talking about words spoken or written in presenting arguments. I am not talking about really insulting language which is designed to daunt and provoke an individual. We do not need a provision of this sort to cover that. The law has already covered it for centuries. I am directing myself to the extension of that ancient law. This clause strikes at the free exchange of ideas, and is based upon a doctrinaire criterion. The free exchange of ideas is highly objectionable to certain people on the Left, who in the past have advanced views which were highly objectionable to the establishment. These people on the Left have been the champions and the claimants of a wider freedom of expression—
I have always spoken and voted for freedom for my opponents as much as for myself. I want a wider freedom such as, indeed, the Left has used and exploited. It ask for this wider free dom not because the Left has had it and I want the Right to have it. I want it because I believe that this wider freedom is the only way to ascertain the truth.
One knows that that is not the way in which Left-wing activism has gone, but I can think of many examples where hatred has been stirred up against other groups, though not on a racial basis. But the particular interest of the emergent Left in the past has been rather in economic affairs and matters of that sort. The Left has certainly made attacks on capitalist groups.
It has attacked centres of power in that way. It has enjoyed wide freedom in that field. But now the Left wants to deny this freedom to other people.
The Bill is about race relations. I cannot talk about anything else. I am well aware that it will not hit the liberal Left, because it canonises its opinions. That is what I am complaining about. There are people with other opinions, and they should enjoy the same sort of freedom of expression.
The effect of my amendment is to strike out the new clause and Section 6 of the 1965 Act, and to go back to the pre-1965 position, when the Public Order Act and the old common law, in my opinion, fully covered the position. In fact, even the Public Order Act was a reaction to the Mosley period, which was a bad and unfortunate one in our lives, and which happily has passed.
Nothing in the amendment to which I am speaking today has anything to do with the pre-existing Public Order Act. That remains the same. I only say in passing that it would not worry me if we repealed that Act. But the purpose of my amendment is to strike out the new clause and also to repeal Section 6 of the Race Relations Act 1965. I think we are discussing, together with this amendment, an amendment which would restore the 1965 Act.
Amendment No. 25, in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, does not go as far as the special exclusion which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) sought in his amendment. The basis of the amendment is to try to insert into Clause 70 the doctrine, or concept, of intention, along the lines of the strictures brought against the provisions of the 1968 Act by Lord Justice Scarman, who said in paragraph 125 of the Red Lion Square disorders report that Section 6 of the Race Relations Act 1968
is merely an embarrassment to the police. Hedged about with restrictions (proof of intent, requirement of the Attorney-General's consent) it is useless to a policeman on the street.
We take this point, but we also take a further and subtler point which Lord Justice Scarman made at the conclusion of that paragraph. He wrote:
"The section needs radical amendment to make it an effective sanction, particularly, I think, to its formulation of the intent to be proved before an offence can be established."
To some of us, he was not thereby saying that intention should be evacuated from the concept and from the kind of clause we are dealing with here. We believe that it is to an extent undesirable, and potentially damaging to evacuate a concept of intention in formulating what is, after all, a criminal offence. This is a field which is extremely sensitive. It is an area in which, as the Home Secretary has said in another context, it is vital that not only is justice done but seen to be done. We would paraphrase that by saying that it is an area in which it is vital that fairness should be aimed at, and be seen to be aimed at and, if possible, achieved.
There is no doubt that for the ordinary citizen the question of what is right or wrong in a criminal sense revolves around what was, or was not, in the mind of the person committing the act. Guilt in a criminal sense, without intention, is also a contradiction in terms. For the man in the street to say that somebody has committed a frightful crime which he did not intend to do, or that it was unintentional, is either a contradiction in terms or else it means that that man was somehow subnormal or subhuman. The criminal act must be one which is intended to be done with malice. It is not unreasonable, and quite understandable, that the criminal law does, in fact, provide that there is no criminal act unless the mind that goes with it is criminal.
I attempted to show when we debated this in Committee that there are some areas of the law—the Factories Acts and the Road Traffic Acts are cases in point—where criminality can arise without there being deliberate intention. I think these are exceptions which prove the rule. They are examples of acts, the effects and results of which can be so lethal, so profoundly anti-social or damaging, such harm and injury might be caused to individuals by them, or by negligence, that universal and undisputed disapprobation and rejection are caused. In those circumstances, I think the sort of criminality which attaches to an unintended misdemeanour or act of negligence is understandable.
Does not subsection (3) deal with this? It says that
it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that he was not aware of the content of the written matter in question and neither suspected nor had reason to suspect it of being threatening, abusive or insulting.
Therefore, the rest of that part of Clause 70 would not follow. I should have thought that would deal with the situation.
As I understand it, a lack of awareness—not of knowledge—does not cover the point that intention was not present. To differentiate between the kind of Road Traffic Act or Factories Act legislation, the end result for doing a certain deed, which is here made criminal, will not automatically and universally result in disapprobation or criticism. I have in mind the sort of typical case—I fear this will arise often—of spokesmen, perhaps enthusiastic, passionate spokesmen for minority groups, who will make speeches and publish writing declaiming principles usually about the way in which a particular minority group is discriminated against, perhaps economically, perhaps in law, perhaps by the provision of various services in our society; they will be denouncing the practice of the white majority which runs this country, denouncing in terms which gain universal approbation, support and enthusiastic endorsement from that community, and which will result in stirring up in the minds of that community—among, let us say, the poor West Indian school leavers without jobs—a sense of righteous indignation and anger against the white majority who rule them. That would be very difficult to differentiate from stirring up hatred against a majority racial group. Yet it would be, from the point of view of those in whom this was stirred up, entirely justifiable and reasonable, indeed necessary, because it will secure redress and change.
That can result, where there is no intention to stir up hatred, and under the terms of the Bill, in a serious criminal offence being committed which, if brought forward as a charge against, let us say, an eminent West Indian spokesman, could result in his being prosecuted on a criminal charge. Immediately, exactly the wrong situation could arise, in the sense that he would say he was not doing anything wrong; he could say he had not intended to stir up hatred, but was merely representing and claiming the truth. We would have a martyr situation.
It is for those reasons that if Clause 70 is to be moved to the Public Order Act, as the Government are helpfully proposing in principle, following the debate we had in Committee, I hope that the Home Secretary will agree that this move to the Public Order Act will be on all fours with the provisions now in that Act. We know that intent is at present the common denominator of establishing the original provisions in the 1965 Act. I hope the Government will not rule out the possibility, in order to safeguard us from the unintentional distress in this field, of reintroducing, as must be the norm in the case of a criminal act, the essential and specific element of intent.
We are dealing here with a total of 11 amendments. As the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) said, Amendment No. 23 would remove altogether the offence of incitement to racial hatred. That would not merely put us back to the previous position, because the hon. and learned Gentleman would leave out Clause 70 while leaving in, I think, Clause 78, which repeals the relevant section of the 1968 Act. I believe that that would be profoundly wrong at present. I believe that it is contrary to the views of the official Opposition, and it is certainly contrary, I believe, to the strongly held views of everyone on this side.
Amendment No. 25 in effect would leave us where we were before the Bill, reinstating the element of subjective intent and resting upon the position as it was in 1965 and as it stands after the 1968 Act. Although he did not really deal with it, the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) mentioned the point made partly by Lord Justice Scarman in what is generally agreed to be his most distinguished report on the Red Lion Square disaster. He made it clear that he thought that the law should not remain in its present ineffective state.
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash correctly said that Lord Justice Scarman did not tell me—it was not his duty—exactly how to reform the law, but he said clearly that it should not remain in its present ineffective state. But that is exactly what Amendment No. 25 proposes. I must take my own responsibility and not that of Lord Justice Scarman, but I believe that we have moved, in what we have put into the Bill, in a way that most effectively and in a reasonably balanced way improves the law in what I think is the direction which Lord Justice Scarman had in mind.
We have to strike a balance here. We cannot bring in the whole panoply of law to prevent anyone in any circumstances from making a remark which is disagreeable to any group, whether a racial minority or anyone else. It would be wrong to have people going around taking up snatches of private conversation and so on.
But at the same time there are certain actions which are objectionable. That is recognised by the position of the Opposition, or they would be in favour of the position of the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield. The trouble is that the Opposition's position, although reasonable in principle, would be ineffective in practice. I want to move to something which is more effective in practice.
I do not think that we are moving unreasonably here. In the first place, the language complained of has to be threatening, abusive or insulting. If someone indulges publicly in such language, it is not unreasonable that he should be required to take account of the likely effect of his words. That is the objective test which we are introducing. It is a test, although the circumstances are slightly different, which is to some extent in line with Section 5 of the Public Order Act, under which the test is an objective test of whether a breach of the peace is thereby liable to be caused.
That is an objective test. That is someone being called upon to apprehend the likely and natural consequences of his acts. That is in line with a good part of our law. I have always found in my dealings in these matters—I speak with great caution here, not being a lawyer—that the doctrine of mens rea is rather less clear and universal than it is sometimes thought to be. Therefore, I believe that we are proceeding reasonably.
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash, as nearly always, was perfectly fair. He said that there are exceptions. I think that there are others. He instanced road traffic and factory legislation. It is easy to imagine circumstances at present in which the deliberate use of threatening, abusive or insulting racial language can be at the very least as socially damaging and reprehensible as any road traffic offence that I can think of.
I am seeking to make my speech in as uncontroversial a manner as possible. At least such an instance would be as damaging as any road traffic offence that I can easily think of.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) wants us to go rather further. I do not want to take too much of a point on drafting and I do not want him to think me nitpicking. I do not know whether his amendment would stand from a drafting point of view, but I do not think that it is possible to "aggravate harmonious race relations", as his amendment says. There would be a considerable verbal difficulty there. My hon. Friend also introduces in the amendment a vague concept which tilts the balance too much the other way.
Oddly enough, my right hon. Friend is replying to an argument that I have not yet raised, although I intended to do so, but he has got hold of its substance. Since the exact words of the amendment are not acceptable, will it be the intention of the Home Office to keep constantly in mind the effective working of the legislation as the wording stands? What is feared in many quarters is that racist propaganda—obnoxious leaflets being handed out and strife being stirred up among schoolchildren—may not be able to be acted upon because it cannot always be proved that race hatred has been stirred up.
As my hon. Friend knows, the operation of the law, the question of prosecutions, will be a matter not for me but for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General's consent is required, I think rightly required, to any prosecution under this clause. But I shall certainly watch the position, as we watched it develop previously. So far, in this difficult field, I believe that we have got as near to the right balance—it is a balance which has to be struck—as one reasonably can.
We also propose, in Amendment No. 24, which is followed up by five later amendments, to take this whole clause out of the Race Relations Bill and put it into the Public Order Act 1936. There are some technical objections to this, but by no means are they overwhelming. I hope and believe that it will be welcome to most hon. Members. I believe that it will be welcome to the Opposition, because the first mention of this matter in our current debates was when the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) interrupted my speech on Second Reading. Speaking fairly favourably of our approach to Clause 69 as it then was—it has now become Clause 70—he asked whether it should not be in the Public Order Act.
This point was taken up strongly in Committee by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) and others. We considered this suggestion. I thought that it was a sensible move if we could do it. We found that we could do it. I think that it sits more naturally and appropriately with the Public Order Act than it does with a Race Relations Act. I have therefore been glad to put down Amendment No. 24, along with consequential Amendments Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31.
That, therefore, is the Government's position, which I think on the whole is reasonable. We would naturally ask the House to accept Amendment No. 24 and the five consequential amendments but none of the other three in this group.
I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) to say that there could be clear-cut cases not only of stirring up racial hatred but, for instance, of distributing to children leaflets which over a long period erode harmonious race relations. My hon. Friend was asking whether this will be kept under continual review under the Bill.
As I have said, the operation of any Act, not just this legislation, is not a matter for me, or whoever else is Home Secretary. To some extent we have dealt with this matter specifically. We have provided for the publication or distribution of written matter in a public place and in a public way having regard to all the circumstances. That is not the exact wording, but it amounts to that.
We shall keep the working of the Act under review, as we have reviewed legislation in the past. We shall see how effectively it operates. We believe that what we have done does not infringe the freedom of speech and does not get the balance wrong, but makes a substantial advance towards having a more effective law in this respect.
I support the amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), which seeks to leave out Clause 70. I take this opportunity to say how much I and, I am sure, many others in the Chamber have admired my hon. and learned Friend's batting throughout the night and the wonderful number of boundaries that he has been hitting.
Undoubtedly this is the most dangerous clause in the Bill. Its effect on free speech and on what is written is highly alarming and dangerous. The English, as the Home Secretary will appreciate with his great knowledge of history, used to be noted for being an outspoken race. We were often very rude to foreigners, especially to Spaniards and Frenchmen.
We were sometimes rough with distinguished foreign visitors. However, all that, as I shall no doubt be told, is past, dead and gone. An Englishman's right today, in certain circumstances, is abolished at a stroke.
I shall give one example of the absurdity and the ludicrous nature of the clause. I am thinking of recent events and about the unfortunate English lady who has been captured in Uganda and who may or may not have been killed. If someone were to say something that was offensive about General Amin after the passing of this measure to which some Ugandan immigrants in this country took exception, he would face prosecution.
The possibilities for evil in this clause are limitless, but, because of the pressure of time, I shall not produce any more concrete examples. It is necessary only to think of foreign affairs across the world to realise how easy it would be to criticise leading statesmen in foreign countries from which there are large bodies of immigrants who regard those countries as their homelands.
Another serious aspect which has barely been touched on is the effect on our so-called free Press. I am thinking not so much of the London newspapers as of the local newspapers. I am bound to tell the Home Secretary—no doubt he has much of this evidence himself—that I receive a tremendous number of letters from those living in areas of high immigrant concentration, where, unfortunately, crimes are sometimes committed but seldom, if ever, mentioned by the local newspapers for fear of prosecution under one of these intolerant measures.
I want to get on. Old ladies and others are threatened in the sort of area I have mentioned. Very often they dare not tell their Member of Parliament or the police. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said, very often when they write to us they dare not supply their name and address.
I am afraid that a blanket of silence will descend on anyone or anything in any way connected with immigration after the passing of the Bill. No doubt that is partly the reasoning behind the Bill. I am certain that gradually the freedom of speech and the freedom of the Press that we have so jealously preserved and valued over the centuries will be whittled away.
No, I shall not give way.
I never very much cared for Milton's politics, being always a Royalist, but if he were alive today he might have something to say about the clause. I believe in all sincerity—I am delighted that the Home Secretary, on perhaps one of the last occasions, is in the Chamber listening to me—that the clause betrays the whole of our past and gravely threatens our future freedom.
I shall be as brief as possible. I understand that the House will wish me to take that course. At the same time, I hope that the House will be patient and courteous.
When I first became a Member, in 1966, I became engaged in bringing the first test case under Section 6 of the Race Relations Act 1965. I well remember the trial of a young man aged 17. He was the last child in a large family from Tipperary. He was working for one of the psychopathic Fascist, racist groups He was involved in smashing the windows of my home on two occasions and sticking leaflets on the door stating, "Blacks Not Wanted Here".
Subsequently the matter went to trial and he was found guilty under the Act. On appeal the conviction was quashed. I have since taken an interest in the wording of the Act, and I am ultra-anxious about the possibilities of achieving greater success with the clause with which we are dealing. I accept that my amendment might not fit the bill, or might go much wider than is desirable.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to pay particular heed—I do not know whether he has quite taken on board what we have been driving at—to cause and effect, or whether race hatred has been stirred up. It is necessary that we bear in mind some of the psychopathic literature that we see from time to time, some of which is especially disturbing. It was the issuing of that sort of literature that took me to Red Lion Square to take part in a demonstration against the National Front. I was concerned about the production of obnoxious leaflets and their distribution to schoolchidren.
Having considered the matter with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General took the view that he could not act. Then a leaflet was issued from another obscure corner of the woodpile depicting three turbaned Sikhs who were made to appear to be particularly hideous characters, whereas normally they are very handsome men. The leaflet purported to show the three Sikhs plotting to take over Britain.
We must also bear in mind the slogans that appear in the streets. For example, in Brixton young black people born in this country are confronted with obnoxious slogans such as "Niggers Go Home" and "Blacks Not Wanted Here". The Fascist racist chant on the march reminds one of the chant of the Mosleyites prior to the war—namely, "The Yids, the Yids, we've got to get rid of the Yids".
The introduction of the 1965 Act emanated from attacks on synagogues. The hallmark and stock in trade of the Fascists who prey upon the colour question is basically anti-Semitism. Therefore, many of us plead guilty to being over-anxious. We took a major step in 1965, but this is a different part of our law. Slander and libel take away freedom of expression.
We are stepping out to build a multiracial society to ensure that racism is driven into the gutter where it belongs, We do not want to leave it to the counter-demonstrations by our liberal idealists and Young Socialists to be in the van of that. We expect a Labour Government's law to be strong enough to drive it into the gutter where it belongs.
I rise to thank the Home Secretary for responding to the various points we made about putting this clause into the Public Order Act. We believe that to be right. I would not advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the amendment in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell), but I would advise them to press Amendment No. 25.
The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) opposes Clause 70 on the ground that it limits the freedom of expression of individuals. Amendment No. 25 would have the effect of removing any legal sanction against incitement to racial hatred. The hon. and learned Gentleman should, therefore, be very clear that he is asking for recognition of the freedom to incite racial hatred as a fundamental right of any citizen. That is an extremely dangerous policy.
The hon. and learned Gentleman accuses the Left of availing itself of the right to stir up hatred against particular social groups. The Left has never aimed its propaganda against the features of the members of any social group where those features comprise a genetic endowment. Members of social groups can change the features about which the Left has been concerned. People cannot, however, change the colour of their skin or their racial endowments. It is, therefore, extremely evil to allow incitement of racial hatred to be regarded as a right, because it represents a denial of the freedom of other sections of the community.
It is total nonsense to suggest, as the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stour-bridge (Mr. Stokes) suggested, that General Amin would be protected by the clause. That is not the intention of those who support the clause.
Incitement to racial hatred leads to violence. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield and some of his lion. Friends have made clear how strongly they oppose violence. If they oppose violence they must oppose the causes of violence. One of the actual and potential causes of violence in this country is racial hatred. For that reason, we must oppose the incitement of racial hatred, and I hope that the House will make it clear how strongly it supports Clause 70.
|Division No. 231.]||AYES||[12.14 a.m.|
|Alison, Michael||Moate, Roger||Wall, Patrick|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Molyneaux, James||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Brotherton, Michael||Neubert, Michael|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Parkinson, Cecil||Mr John Corrie and|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Mr Spencer Le Marchant|
|Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Anderson, Donald||Hooley, Frank||Reid, George|
|Atkinson, Norman||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Bates, Alf||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Bean, R. E.||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||John, Brynmor||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Judd, Frank||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Kerr, Russell||Skinner, Dennis|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kinnock, Neil||Snape, Peter|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Stoddart, David|
|Coleman, Donald||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Lipton, Marcus||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Tierney, Sydney|
|Corbett, Robin||McElhone, Frank||Tinn, James|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Tomlinson, John|
|Cryer, Bob||Madden, Max||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Moonman, Eric||Ward, Michael|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Watkinson, John|
|Flannery, Martin||Newens, Stanley||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||O'Halloran, Michael||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|George, Bruce||Palmer, Arthur||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Parker, John||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Pendry, Tom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Radice, Giles||Mr A W Stallard and|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Mr Thomas Cox|
The hon. and learned Member for Beasonsfield (Mr. Bell) held out the attractive proposition to me that he would speak for only as long as I spoke. I am afraid, therefore, that I must make my remarks, even on this important occasion, extremely truncated.
We have had a long debate on Report following a substantial Committee stage. We have got the Bill through and I think that that is worth while. I do not think that anyone, in view of our debates this week, could accuse the House of ignoring the subjects of immigration or race relations, difficult and delicate though they are at present.
I believe that this Bill is worth while. I have never pretended that legislation could deal with the whole problem of race relations, but it is an essential part of the framework. There have been some differences between the official Opposition and myself on points of detail, but it should be reorganised outside the House that the broad thrust of the Bill is supported by the Opposition Front Bench and a majority of the Conservative Party. Those who do not take that view are a small minority of the House.
I thank my hon. Friends for their sustained and mostly silent support through a long and arduous sitting. In the past 20 hours. we have done something worth while.
I apologise to the House in advance for doing something I have not done before in asking whether it will be reasonable to leave immediately after I have said a few words. I am already several hours late for an interesting sporting engagement in Southport. I hope that it will be understood if I proceed to it.
We have had considerable debate on this Bill and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there have been some differences on detail. We are disappointed that we did not manage to change the Government's mind on the issue of clubs and incitement to racial hatred. We think that the Bill would have been better if our amendments had been accepted.
We had some doubts about the effectiveness of the legislation and we had some doubts about the 1968 Act, but we did not oppose it then. I understand the feelings of my hon. Friends who do not share my views and who feel that they must vote against the Third Reading. They will have to justify their position as individuals. I do not believe that it would be possible for us as a party to justify such a decision. It would be liable to grave misrepresentation whatever our view on the details.
We shall not vote against the Third Reading. Although we have doubts about the Bill, we hope that it will have some success.
I tempted the Home Secretary by saying that I would speak for only 40 seconds. However, he exceeded that time, so perhaps I may also go a few seconds over.
We have had long debates all through the night. It has been impossible in speaking on the amendments not to canvass and re-canvass the essential issues of principle. I felt that it would be an abuse of the time of the House in a Third Reading speech to recapitulate those objections of principle which every hon. Member knows I hold.
I take this opportunity of reasserting those basic objections to this form of legislation. I consider it my duty not to allow any fear of being misunderstood to prevent my dividing the House.
The whole concept of this Bill would be absurd if it were not so dangerous. It follows the Sex Discrimination Act, which was almost as absurd, if not quite so dangerous.
Discrimination is, after all, part of human nature. We all exercise it almost every moment of our lives, and it cannot be abolished as if by magic by an Act of Parliament. Discrimination is an essential part of a person's individual freedom—freedom to marry whom he wishes, until the State tells him whom he can marry; freedom to make friends, to have business partners and to join any clubs and take part in sports with whom he wishes. The Bill confers new rights on immigrants and will therefore inevitably cause new grievances. In future some people are to be more equal than others.
When tonight and tomorrow morning millions of English people read what has happened in the House today—and we claim to represent them—they will be amazed and furious when they realise that further burdens are to he placed on their backs by the Bill, which is grossly unfair to them. No wonder many foreigners think that we are mad in our attitude to immigration.
I object to much of the wording of the Bill, which I consider to be un-English. I wish that the late hon. Member for Oxford University, A. P. Herbert, were here to tear some of the words to pieces. Even the word "ambience" appears in Clause 5. That is a piece of nonsense.
The Bill strikes at the freedom of the individual and will further diminish respect for the rule of law. Freedom is everywhere threatened in the Bill—freedom for trades and professions, freedom for schools and colleges, freedom for clubs and, above all, freedom to speak and write. Magna Carta, which we have been celebrating jointly with our American cousins recently, is to be thrown on the scrap heap and replaced by Karl Marx. In place of choice for certain persons in this country, in certain circumstances we are to be forced by law to prefer an immigrant whether we like him or not.
The Bill goes against all our history in this once proud and independent nation. If Shakespeare were alive today, he would have to re-write the whole of John of Gaunt's famous speech. I hope that some of my hon. Friends will join me in the Lobby against the Bill, for now our party alone is the party that can protect the freedom of ordinary people.
It has been a long night and I have not intervened in the debates because I have no specialist knowledge as have my hon. Friends who have done much excellent work. On Third Reading one has the right to express briefly one's views which I believe are the views of the man in the street. They are that the Bill is bad and will be of no help to race relations. [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Gentleman has been away all night." If hon. Members look at the voting record in Hansard, they will see that I was here most of the night.
When I first came to the House a number of years ago, if I recall aright, I was a sponsor of a Bill introduced by Lord Brockway, who initiated this form of legislation. I supported it because I disliked discrimination and was proud of the Commonwealth. But now I realise that this kind of preventive legislation will not work. I will give just one example—the employer who was taken to court by the Race Relations Board because he would not employ an Irishman after the Birmingham bombings.
The Bill fails because it restricts free speech and because it gives an oppor- tunity for busybodies to interfere. The Bill undermines the rights of British people in matters such as the running of clubs. I believe that all British citizens are equal before the law, and that principle is not helped by the Bill.
Hon. Members who have not been sitting through the long hours of the debates on the Bill, having heard the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), will have had a sample of the type of speeches to which most of us have had to listen.
I am pleased that we have now got this legislation through, and the whole of the country will see that the Labour Government are now the vanguard in the fight against racialism and incitement to violence on those grounds. I am glad that in the future we shall be vigilant against those who attempt to stir up violence against a section of the community. Violence and hatred against a section of the community are violence and hatred against the whole community and all working people.
When we campaign for resources and help for those areas where there is a large concentration of people from the New Commonwealth, we campaign for all our people and for improvement in the standard of living of all working people. I am glad that the Bill is through and I hope that the Opposition will not take too badly that certain of their hon. Friends have let their side down.
I may not have been in the Chamber when you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were in the Chair, but I was here until well after midnight and I was back again before eight o'clock this morning. With all due respect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although you did not happen to be in the Chair at the time, I was present in the Chamber. Your remarks should not be construed as an attempt to deter me from speaking. That is my right.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that my remark was in no sense a reprimand for his absence, but when he opened his remarks by saying that this was the first time he had intervened, I thought that he obviously could not do that if he were not here.
I had many opportunities to intervene and, with respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I consider your remarks totally uncalled for. I may take note that on future occasions I might use my right to speak with greater frequency.
I shall turn to matters of some importance. I did not intervene earlier, although the Bill is a matter that concerns me and my constituency to a great extent. Some hon. Members will know that within my constituency there are about 14,000 people from what is termed the new Commonwealth. There are about 5,000 from Cyprus and about 5,000 from Southern Ireland, who also fall within the terms of the Bill. I have over the years, therefore, gained some idea of the problems attendant upon immigration and race relations. I have obtained that knowledge from both sides, as it were, of this particularly difficult and sensitive problem. I have sought, so far as I have been able in my own way as a Member representing my constituency, to do whatever was within my power to keep race relations cool, and I feel that I have to some extent been successful in that matter.
I have moved among and frequently and consistently consulted members of the immigrant groups, as I am sure that any hon. Member who represents a constituency similar to mine will have done. Clearly, resentment exists. There is no doubt that considerable resentment exists on the part of the indigenous residents of the area.
I shall come to that. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make racialist remarks he can rely upon parliamentary privilege to protect him, and no doubt his hon. Friends will have noted that. [Interruption.] The more I am interrupted, the longer this will take.
I was saying that resentment exists amongst the indigenous population as people see whole areas of the locality being taken over by newcomers. I think that that resentment would exist irres- pective of questions of race or colour, intense problems of housing arise, and resentment is expressed and felt as the original inhabitants of the area see more and more homes being taken up by newcomers in an area of great housing stress. There are also great problems in schools, where educational difficulties arise. These feelings exist, and no amount of legislation of the kind contained in the Bill will do anything to remove them.
The immigrants themselves feel a great deal of resentment. Many of them came here as the result of advertisements and recruitment by London Transport and by what is now the Department of Health and Social Security, because without them there was a time when London Transport and our hospital service could not have operated. Consequently, when the immigrants who came here on that basis feel that they are being disadvantaged in any way there is great and deep resentment on their part.
I believe firmly and fervently that once immigrants are in this country they should be given every right that is given to every other citizen and be treated equally in every way. The problem with which the Bill does not deal is the continual reception of immigrants. That is where the real problem lies, and it is by an end to immigration that we can perhaps make the greatest contribution to race relations, but for that the Bill does absolutely nothing.
The Bill seeks to deal with the problem in a particular way in that in one clause it speaks of job opportunity. What is souring race relations to a great extent at the moment is the lack of job opportunities for the children born in this country of immigrant parents. They go through our school system and end with O and A levels but then find that there is no outlet for the level of education that they have acquired, and that only dead-end jobs are open to them.
I do not know to what extent the Home Secretary has had discussions on this matter with employers' representatives—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you give the House some guidance? I am under the impression that everything that the hon. Gentleman is now saying was said yesterday afternoon between about 4.30 p.m. and 5 o'clock by other speakers from the Opposition Benches. Must all the arguments be rehearsed?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is the Government's responsibility. If they want to have the House sitting at one o'clock on a Friday afternoon discussing the Race Relations Bill, they cannot object to my hon. Friend expressing his opinion. I speak as one who, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, enjoyed being here all night. If the Government wish the Bill to be debated on Third Reading at one o'clock on a Friday afternoon instead of dealing with the European business, hon. Members should allow my hon. Friend to be heard. He is only taking advantage of the opportunity that the Government have given him to express his view.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for a Member on the Opposition Front Bench to talk about delays to the Bill and try to place the blame on the Government when it is known that the delay is due entirely to the racist fringe within the Conservative Party which hour after hour, has attempted to stifle and delay the legislation on the basis of a racial attitude? The Opposition Front Bench has lost control of its Members—
I do not mind turning my back on the Benches opposite, in view of the way that some hon. Gentlemen are behaving.
What I was seeking to do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and of course you will call me to order if my remarks are not relevant to the matters in the Bill, was to address myself to a particular problem facing a large number of my constituents. I am referring to the lack of job opportunities for many of my constituents who have achieved certain levels of education and now find themselves without the outlets for their knowledge. They find themselves having to go into dead-end jobs. It is that which will exacerbate race relations more than anything else that we have been discussing, and it is an important matter that the House should consider, if only for a few moments.
The Bill establishes a commission that will lay down a code of practice. I was here to debate an amendment dealing with that, but it was not called. I therefore raise the matter now. The code of practice is said to be laid down to deal with matters of job opportunity. Had that amendment been called—
I am obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, it is on the Amendment Paper. No matter—it was not discussed. I should have liked to ask the Minister how this code of practice can help in solving this problem. That is why I was asking him what discussions the Home Secretary has had with, for example, the big bankers on the recruitment of immigrant children educated in the country up to A and O level standard, to see whether they would be prepared to ensure that job opportunities exist for them. The same goes for the large insurance companies and also for the professions. What is the position with regard to the acceptance of articled clerks into my profession, for example, from this group of our citizens? I am not aware whether any discussions have taken place with the professional bodies concerned.
Such a discussion between the Government and the relevant bodies would be of greater assistance than a code of practice to be laid down by a commission. That is subject to whatever is envisaged in the code of practice. On that I should have liked some assistance from the Minister, because it is a matter of great concern to many of my constituents.
I have one criticism of the Home Office. It does not give all the help it could give to the local authority reception areas where there is the greatest concentration of immigrants, and particularly during the crisis in Cyprus in the summer of 1974 the refusal of the Home Office to treat the Cypriots coming to this country as refugees meant that the whole burden of about 800 to 1,000 families—4,000 to 5,000 people—fell entirely upon the slender resources of my local authority.
If the Government are concerned about race relations, there is a need to have a co-ordinating body between local authorities and the various Government Departments concerned to ensure that there are the facilities for reception and that the necessary economic and other aid will be given to the local authorities which suddenly have thrust upon them the problem of dealing with large numbers of immigrants arriving in a crisis situation.
I hope that the Government will consider that matter, because it is not discussed in the Bill.
Just one further point in conclusion. I am prompted to say this by a comment which was made by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) who is no longer here.
The hon. Member for Bolsover threw at me the remarks—"You are not white either". I have a very dark skin, but I am not ashamed of saying that my origins are from Italy. I am first-born in this country. I think that to a certain extent I have possibly experienced some of the problems that immigrants and immigrant families have in establishing themselves in a new country. I think that their desire more than anything else is to put down roots, to find a home for themselves, and to have a job by means of which they can feed and clothe themselves. Beyond that, they want to live in peace and to let live in peace.
I will do anything that I can to assist in maintaining good race relations. I do not think that the Bill really helps. It is a piece of Government window dressing. It does not change the minds and hearts of people. It lays down certain rules which are unobjectionable in parts and highly objectionable in others. My right hon. Friend the Member for Pen- rith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) put the matter entirely in perspective.
My experience shows that the British people are the most tolerant in the world to new immigrants. I do not think that there is any country, apart perhaps from the United States of America, where the opportunities exist and have existed down the centuries for new immigrants on the scale that they do in this country. I owe my being here in the House to the opportunities in education, and so on, that this country has given me, and I am deeply grateful. I want to see that others whom we have seen fit to receive obtain the same opportunities as I have in this country. I do not think that it is necessary for legislation to achieve that.
There are on the fringes of our society the prejudiced, the biased.
It exists within the party of the hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Latham). The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice), who has interrupted me, has origins similar to my own and, therefore, he should resent equally the racist interjection of the hon. Member for Bolsover, which proves that there is racial prejudice—probably muted, probably under cover, but nevertheless there—amongst fringes of his own party and the supporters of his party.
What the hon. Member has just said in accusing my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) of racism is utterly disgraceful. My hon. Friend was here all night and voted in favour of this measure. That an hon. Member who is not prepared to vote for this measure should have the impertinence to accuse my hon. Friend of racism is disgraceful.
No doubt the remark that the hon. Member for Bolsover addressed to me is on the record and it will be there for posterity to see, for what it is worth. I withdraw nothing of what I have said.
There is just one other matter that I want to raise with the Minister. Will the Bill be directed not only against people who incite hatred against people of colour but also against immigrants who incite racial hatred among their fellows? Some people seeking power within their own immigrant groups use colour and race in an inverse fashion to attain that power. Such evil people are as equally responsible for racial tension as white people who express resentment against coloured people.
In other words, I hope that we shall not have a dual standard and that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be applied equally and impartially against all people who incite hatred. It is important to ensure that the people we have admitted to our country live in harmony together and with us.
|Division No. 232.]||AYES||[10 p.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Hooley, Frank||Reid, George|
|Atkinson, Norman||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Bales, Alf||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Bean, R. E.||John, Brynmor||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Judd, Frank||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kaufman, Gerald||Skinner, Dennis|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Kerr, Russell||Stoddart, David|
|Coleman, Donald||Kinnock, Neil||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Lee, John||Tierney, Sydney|
|Corbett, Robin||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Tinn, James|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Lipton, Marcus||Tomlinson, John|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Cryer, Bob||Mackenzie, Gregor||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Madden, Max||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Ward, Michael|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Moonman, Eric||Watkinson, John|
|Flannery, Martin||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Newens, Stanley||Whitehead, Phillip|
|George, Bruce||O'Halloran, Michael||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Graham, Ted||Palmer, Arthur||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Parker, John||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Pavirt, Laurie|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Pendry, Tom||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Radice, Giles||Mr. Peter Snape and|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Mr. A. W. Stallard.|
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Mr. Ronald Bell and|