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Race Relations Act

Volume 728: debated on Wednesday 18 May 1966

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asked the Attorney-General how many representations he has received concerning the publication of material alleged to contain incitement, as defined in the Race Relations Act; and in how many cases he has instituted proceedings.

Since the Race Relations Act came into force on 8th December, 1965, I have received 14 representations on which I have consulted the Director of Public Prosecutions. In no case have proceedings been instituted. Inquiries in one of these cases are still continuing.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware that the most scurrilous and costly literature of a racialist nature is being distributed throughout the length and breadth of the land by an organisation based on Sussex and the Midlands? Is not his Answer evidence that the Race Relations Act needs new teeth to deal with this situation?

I am aware of the circulation of both costly and surrilous literature, but I have to deal with the question whether the publication in question infringes the criminal law and the terms of the Race Relations Act. I have concluded that the publications sent to me did not do so. It would indeed be deplorable if there were an unsuccessful prosecution in this type of case.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman let it drop in the exalted circles to which he has access, in the nicest possible way, that the deliberate arson of places of public worship is quite a serious offence and that much of the disquiet felt about this would be removed if there were exemplary sentences imposed in respect of it?

I respectfully agree with that, save with the reference to the exalted circles in which I am alleged normally to circulate. But the fact is that the penalty for arson is a maximum term of life imprisonment, and there was a case recently in which the learned Judge at the Old Bailey imposed a sentence of five years' imprisonment for this offence. I think that the judges are aware of the gravity of the matter.