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Commission For Racial Equality: Report

Volume 414: debated on Thursday 30 October 1980

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what response they have made to the criticisms and proposals made by the Commission for Racial Equality in their annual report.

My Lords, the annual report of the Commission for Racial Equality covers a great deal of ground. It is not practicable to deal with all the criticisms and proposals in it, some of which are in very general terms, within the scope of an oral reply. But my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has carefully noted the contents of the report, and the Government are in close and regular contact with the commission.

My Lords, would the Minister agree that it is very rare for a Government to have been so criticised by a Government-appointed commission, and is it not more distasteful to Her Majesty's Government that the chairman should have been a distinguished Conservative Member of Parliament? May I ask the noble Lord two specific questions? First, what is the Government's reply to the charge that they have taken no steps to implement an effective policy in respect of Government contracts? Secondly, what is the Government's reply to the charge that, by changing immigration rules, in particular with regard to fiancés, they have caused a setback to race relations in this country?

My Lords, I do not accept the first supplementary question of the noble Lord: indeed, I do not accept his first two supplementary questions. So far as Government contracts are concerned, the matter of employment policies of Government contractors is to be discussed, at the request of the Commission for Racial Equality, by the Department of Employment's Race Relations Employment Advisory Group when it next meets, probably in December.

I shall not conceal from the House the fact that the Government have no plans to pursue the proposal that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, has in mind of requiring contractors to comply with provisions of the current race relations legislation, and having this matter monitored into the bargain. That proposal would be incompatible with the stated policy of not imposing additional burdens upon industry. With regard to the noble Lord's last supplementary question, the current immigration rules lead, I believe, to firm immigration control, which is a prerequisite of good race relations in this country.

My Lords, will the Government respond to the commission's call

"for more leadership from the top",
and for the Government
"to take a clear and unequivocal stand"
to meet
"the frustration and disappointment of the last year"?

My Lords, in view of the Minister's previous answer to my noble friend to the effect that the Government are assisting race relations through their immigration policy, may I ask whether he equates policy on immigration into this country with coloured immigration, or is he speaking of immigration of all people, irrespective of their skin colour?

My Lords, it is assisting race relations due to the fact that we are a very small island with only a limited amount of capacity.