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Overseas Students (Accommodation)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal what arrangements are made by the British Council in compiling lists of approved lodgings for overseas students to prevent official scholarship funds being used to purchase accommodation where the landlord refuses to accept coloured students.

The British Council does not purchase accommodation in lodgings, and so no question of using official scholarship funds for this purpose arises.

Is the Minister aware that that is a very unsatisfactory Answer? Is he aware that a colour bar on accommodation is unfortunately a common experience for overseas students in this country? Is he aware that one prejudiced landlady, quite unrepresentative of the attitudes of the British people, can undo all the good work which Her Majesty's Government try to do with various scholarship funds? Will the hon. Gentleman encourage the British Council and other public authorities which have considerable influence in this matter to set standards and to refuse to allow landladies to enjoy the privileges of the official lists if they are not prepared to operate without racial discrimination?

I have looked into this point personally with the British Council and I think that the arrangement which the Council has is the most satisfactory. It is not just a matter of a colour bar. There is, I know, this prejudice, which is deplored on both sides of the House, but there are other factors which arise where students would not be particularly welcome, some for racial and some for other reasons. The British Council maintains a list of people whom it believes would welcome particular students. It offers students the choice of three or four people whom it thinks would make them feel at home. Surely that is the best practical way of dealing with the matter.