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The roots of the Notting Hill Riots are found in the migration of people from the Caribbean to London right after World War II. With the population influx Notting Hill became a more international district. The Caribbean population across London grew to be well over 100,000 by 1961 with most in the Notting Hill area. North Kensington, the borough in which Notting Hill is situated, had high rates of poverty, crime and violence. There was also competition for housing between poor black and white families; tensions that were exploited by ruthless landlords. While the governments of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands encouraged this immigration to meet labor shortages at home, many local residents feared being displaced in housing by the newcomers. Moreover, many African and Caribbean colonies were pushing for independence which also contributed to racial tension.
A group of white working class youth known as the "Teddy Boys" were openly hostile to the black newcomers in Notting Hill. Their resentment was further stoked by right wing political groups who sought power on a platform of racial intolerance. The “Union for British Freedom” established a presence in Notting Hill and the founder of the “British Union of Fascists,” Sir Oswald Mosely, rallied the local population with the cry of “Keep Britain White” at meetings in West London. Repeatedly concerns were raised by Caribbean community leaders about this flourishing prejudice and the potential it had to develop into conflict, yet government officials took no action.
Violence broke out on August 20 when property owned by Caribbean immigrants was vandalised and the owners were subject to physical harassment. The violence quickly escalated on August 24 when nine “Teddy Boys” attacked five black men in Shepherd’s Bush, London, and Notting Hill leaving three seriously injured. The wave of unrest spread up to the Midlands city of Nottingham, where there was rioting for two weeks.
These events in turn acted as the catalyst for the Notting Hill Riots, which began on August 30. Crowds of white youth, reportedly numbering 400, chased the Caribbean population in the area. Petrol bombs and milk bottles were launched as missiles, and some rioters armed themselves with iron bars and butcher’s knives. There were counterattacks by black youths similarly armed in self defence. The rioting stopped after a week; by that point approximately 140 people, mainly white, had been arrested.
The riots sparked a still ongoing debate about race discrimination and the levels of immigration to urban areas. In 2002 it was discovered that contemporary government commentary on the events dismissed assertions that the attacks were racially motivated, preferring instead to frame the disturbance as hooliganism from both sides.
The Notting Hill carnival, an annual celebration lead by the area’s Caribbean population which draws huge crowds, was initiated as a direct response to the riots.
London Police Clash with White Youth During Notting Hill Riot
“Notting Hill Riots 1958” taken from “Exploring C20th London”: http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk/server.php?show=conInformationRecord.161; “The Home Office cover-up of Notting Hill’s race riots” by Ian Burrell, published in The Independent, August 2003: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-home-office-coverup-of-notting-hills-race-riots-101549.html; “After 44 years secret papers reveal truth about five nights of violence in Notting Hill” by Alan Travis, published in The Guardian, August 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/aug/24/artsandhumanities.nottinghillcarnival2002.
University of Bath, England
§LORD PAKENHAM rose to call attention to recent outbursts of colour prejudice and violence in this country; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name and to call attention to recent outbursts of colour prejudice and violence in this country. Between August 24 and September 17, when the disturbances virtually came to an end, 51 coloured people were arrested in the Metropolitan Police District, including 34 in the Notting Hill area. For white people the corresponding figures are 126 arrested in the Metropolitan Police District, including 73 in the Notting Hill area. The white figures, therefore, are considerably higher than the coloured. I am assured that no useful figures can be given for the number of convictions up 633 to the present, since many of the cases are still outstanding. In Nottingham there were serious disturbances on August 23 and on August 30, when 23 white people and 2 coloured people were arrested.
§ These figures can be regarded as very grave or relatively light according to taste, but I think that most of us felt during those crucial weeks that we were standing on the edge of a precipice and that we were looking into an abyss from which we must draw back, and draw back at once. If that sort of thing was going to continue, it might be an exaggeration to say that our survival was at stake, but it would be no exaggeration whatever to say that our British traditions and the ideals that we most prize and pride ourselves on in the face of the world would be placed in extreme jeopardy. It may not be appropriate, at any rate for me, with other cases pending, to comment on the sentences passed. We can, however, draw satisfaction from the fact that law and order have been restored. The Government did no more than their duty, but they certainly did their duty, and they did well to make it clear, I think, on September 1, that the utmost strictness would be observed in the impartial enforcement of the law and in preventing the illegal carrying of offensive weapons.
§ The Government stated at that time that they had for some time been examining, to use their own words, and that while this study would continue I certainly applaud the refusal of the Government to be panicked at that time into emergency actions or emergency restrictions on immigration under the impact of this wicked violence. But two and a half months have passed, and we are now surely entitled to ask the Government for a clear, unequivocal statement as to where they stand on at any rate the main issues.
§ May I, for the purpose of exposition, divide the internal from the external problem, taking the external problem first, although I appreciate that of course these two sides of a problem cannot be altogether divorced? By the "external problem" I mean the question that arises from the 634 free and unrestricted entry of immigrants from the Commonwealth, whether white or coloured. There is also the internal question—that of our treatment of the immigrants and their relationship with the native population while they are here. It is difficult to give figures in this respect—any figures given by the Government will be more authoritative than mine—but in order to launch the discussion, may I provide the best figures available to me? I gather from a Government estimate, that the total coloured population in Britain at the present time is about 190,000 out of a population of 50 million—that is, about four out of every 1,000 people are coloured. Of the 190,000 perhaps 100,000 came originally from the West Indies and 50,000 from India and Pakistan. Most of these coloured people are recent immigrants or the children of recent immigrants, though there have been some coloured families in this country for generations.
§ Immigration from the West Indies, India and Pakistan is still continuing, but India and Pakistan have recently, on their own initiative and in the interests of their citizens, taken some steps to discourage and reduce the flow from those countries; and the flow from India and Pakistan this year may amount to some 12,000. The figures of immigrants from the West Indies were 24,000 in 1955, 26,000 in 1956 and, a little less, 22,500 last year; and the total this year will be perhaps 20,000. That is some decline, bearing in mind in particular the fact that the majority now coming are women and children who are joining men already here.
§ Considering the difficulties attaching to these figures, for, as we know, immigration statistics are not very good, it is perhaps worth observing that immigration from Australia and Canada combined is not far short of 30,000, so that it is of the same order as the combined immigration from the West Indies, India and Pakistan. If we add in the immigration from Ireland, it was estimated in 1956 that coloured immigrants represented only 25 per cent. of the total. I cannot check these figures and therefore must offer them with reserve. At any rate coloured immigrants were, and are, a minority section of the total immigrants.
§ It is, of course, their concentration in particular areas and their distinguishing colour which has exaggerated in many eyes their actual numbers. Those factors 635 have helped to encourage the more virulent forms of prejudice against them. It only remains for me to remind the House, as noble Lords will be aware, that throughout the post-war period there has been a heavy balance of emigration from this country, with many more people going out than have come in; and, with a persistent labour shortage most of the time, immigrants have been a valuable, some would say an essential, element in maintaining the supply of labour, and therefore they can clearly be described as a national asset.
§ A week or so ago, not for the first time recently, I visited a famous boys' club within the affected area in Notting Hill. I was cross-examined for something like two hours by young men there. I cannot say whether their attitude is representative of the young men in that area or elsewhere, but I was submitted to pretty strenuous cross-examination and pressed repeatedly to give any good reason for allowing coloured immigrants to enter this country. The question was simple: "What good do they do us? We do not want them here." If I may descend for a moment to the frivolous, it reminded me of the way in which some noble Lords viewed the entry of ladies into your Lordships' House—" We have got along all right without them; why should we have them now? We do not want to have to sit next to them in the Library." It was talk of that kind, on a more juvenile level and in a more dangerous context, that I encountered in this boys' club in Notting Hill.
§ That is the question which is being put by many young people at the present time—" What good do they do us? "Taking that question on the national plane, the first answer is that which I have just given: they perform many essential tasks for which labour has not otherwise been available. The second answer surely is implicit in what I have said: that many more people leave this country than enter it. I gather that in 1957 89 per cent. of our emigrants went to the Commonwealth. In terms of legitimate but very crude national self-interest, it should be obvious, even to the blindest, that if we restrict the free entry of Commonwealth citizens into this country we are running the risk of having 636 all kinds of restrictions imposed—restrictions more severe than exist already—on our own emigrants wishing to go to the Commonwealth.
§ At this point someone might say (though I hope no one in this House will say it): "Why do we not restrict coloured immigrants and let white immigrants come in unrestricted? "Surely that would be colour discrimination of the crudest kind and, I hope, would be repellent to the moral sense of this House and the British people. There are other arguments for the present unrestricted immigration from the Commonwealth, perhaps less easy to measure but even more weighty. Whatever may be said of the self-governing Dominions, we in this country—and an old Colonial Secretary like the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who I am glad to see is to speak very shortly, would have this very much in mind—must surely accept a major responsibility for the economies of the Colonies and for the welfare of their citizens. We know that widespread unemployment, underemployment, poor housing and very low wages are common throughout the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Africa. Some of those countries are not Colonies, of course. Jamaica is far from the poorest of the Colonies, but I have been advised that in Jamaica the average annual income per head of the population in 1956 was £60. That is more than three times the average for Kenya but compares with £300 per head in the United Kingdom, so that, by that calculation, we here were five times better off per head than those in Jamaica.
§ The new quota system introduced not long ago by the United States of America drastically reduced opportunities for West Indians to follow their traditional search for employment in that country. In those circumstances who can deny that the citizens of the Colonies, workers who cannot find employment and decent homes in their own countries, should have the same right as Britons in depressed areas to seek jobs and homes in this country?
§ I say the same right, but of course it may not always be to their advantage individually and collectively to come here. With unemployment increasing here (I do not want to distract the House this afternoon by talking about the reasons for that) obviously the openings 637 in Britain for these coloured immigrants become, at least for the time being, less attractive. It becomes not only the right but the duty of our own Government to keep the overseas authorities concerned most fully in the picture. Those Governments cannot complain, and would be the last to complain, if they are warned of the situation here; but they would have every right to complain if they were not warned about what was really going on. I suppose our Government to be performing that duty; and equally it would seem that the West Indian authorities are collaborating in passing on the warning and doing all they can to make plain to their own population what would be in store for them here.
§ I have here (though I will not distract the House by brandishing it; I can pass it round after, if required) a vivid poster which demonstrates this. It is issued by the Migration Advisory Service of the Jamaican Government and it is widely circulated throughout the West Indies. It says: And it gives much other salutary advice. That is being widely circulated, I gather, in Jamaica and it is obviously a very sensible warning. A warning from us is one thing. The steps that might have been taken by all Colonial Governments, and steps that have been taken by India and Pakistan, to damp down the flow of immigrants in their own interest are not directly our responsibility.
§ Again, the question may be ventilated this afternoon—the Government have touched on it in a preliminary way already—of deporting Commonwealth citizens who are convicted of serious offences. Standing outside the Government, so to speak, and therefore not being privy to much of what is necessary for a judgment, I could not say that that in all circumstances should be objected to, though it is a course full of hazards. No one knows where it would lead, and it would certainly require very close scrutiny. Certainly it could never be applied on any kind of colour ground or affected by colour considerations; and if it were embarked on it would clearly have to be something to which there was no objection from any Commonwealth Govern- 638 ment concerned. We may hear more on the question of deportation this afternoon. But a restriction imposed here on the free entry of Commonwealth citizens is something utterly different and full of sinister implications if introduced.
§ I have mentioned our direct economic interest, whether in terms of essential labour here or migration to the Commonwealth. I have mentioned our equally clear moral responsibility for the welfare of the people of the Colonies. But most of us in this House—and I would say that this applies to noble Lords who have done much more for the Commonwealth than I have—are accustomed to think of the mission of the Commonwealth in still wider terms. We all realise that a successful function of the Commonwealth is indispensable to our future prosperity and also to our future influence in the world After all, it is a world now in which the 50 million inhabitants of this small Island might count for less and less if it were not for the influence we could exert through the Commonwealth. I am not interested in prestige—I do not suppose that nowadays, after two wars, most people in this House are interested in national prestige as such—but the Commonwealth, if we play our part properly, can become an ever more vital contributor to world peace.
§ Our capacity to play our part still depends on the confidence we establish and maintain between ourselves and other Commonwealth members, and particularly on our success in overcoming differences of colour. In the words of the statement issued by the Labour Party, but I am sure echoed in many circles outside my Party, If I am told by any noble Lord that we are unique in preserving the unrestricted, open door, I reply that the Commonwealth is unique, and our place within it is unique. We have given up calling ourselves the Mother Country, and I should defeat my own purpose if I described our role in any language that was even remotely irritating to our sister peoples. But as the oldest member of the Commonwealth, still in some sense the 639 centre and headquarters of the Commonwealth and still in some sense the heart of the Commonwealth, do we not always recognise a special responsibility in this country for holding the Commonwealth together and for inspiring it and for setting standards?
§ Therefore, I beg the Government—I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is to reply, and later the noble Lord, Lord Chesham—to say in the clearest possible words (because I fancy their words will be studied in very far quarters) that the Government stand unreservedly for the unrestricted entry of Commonwealth citizens, and in particular that any restriction on grounds of colour would be as detestable in the Government's eyes as in ours.
§ My Lords, I have spent so long on these vital aspects of what I call the external question that I must leave to other speakers much of what is most important and constructive. I endorse whole-heartedly, of course, what is said in the Labour Party statement on the need for regular consultation with the rest of the Commonwealth and on the internal front about housing policy, about full employment and about a sustained educational campaign—a matter of the utmost importance, on which I believe the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, and the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will be speaking this afternoon. And I know that, from practical, down-to-earth, first-hand knowledge, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who is to make his maiden speech this afternoon, can probably contribute as much as any Member of the House. I talk of education; but, of course, that must be a double process: we must educate ourselves; the white people must educate themselves, and we have a good deal that we can teach our coloured friends. There is no question of their being in some way more perfect than we are, but we have a very great double responsibility there. There is also the vital part to be played by the local citizens' committees, such as that presided over by the Mayor of Kensington; and also the strong need for legislation, about which I will say a word before I close. Those are general headings that will no doubt be developed by other speakers, but my personal thoughts, for what they are worth, on the internal aspects can be stated very briefly.640
§ First, the outbreaks in Notting Hill were only partially, perhaps not mainly, a function of colour prejudice. They are attributable at least as much to juvenile and adolescent tendencies in that area, which can be more suitably discussed on a day when we are debating crime in general, and on another when we discuss, as I hope we shall discuss, the Youth Service as a means of defeating crime. I have no desire to stick a criminal label on a large section of London, but everyone is aware, I think, that crime has been heavy in recent years in certain parts of the area under consideration. A recent inquiry discovered, I believe, that in one particular street in North Kensington 89 per cent. of the houses contained a member with a criminal record. That does not apply to the whole of North Kensington, of course, and it would be entirely wrong to give that impression; but there is one such street, and there may be others.
§ As regards the Youth Service, let us glance at one large community centre (not the club I mentioned earlier) which has 800 members, not all juveniles, of course, and only one warden and one assistant warden to look after them. That is a club I myself visited not long ago. It seems that at about the age of sixteen the boys in that particular club tend to lose interest in athletic games, and although they sometimes recover it later, for a few years they concentrate on rock 'n' roll. But that is not the worst. They do not even tire themselves out by rocking 'n' rolling: they leave that to the girls, while they sit against the walls, like elderly sultans. And you will not be surprised to hear, my Lords, that on occasions the police have had to be called in and the club cleared with police dogs.
§ That is a community centre, grossly understaffed, in spite of having a respected warden and assistant warden. I dare say that it is an extreme case, when the police have to arrive with dogs. But in the ordinary way, stimulated by this spectacle, but not at all exhausted, the members sally forth from the club, ripe for mischief; and if coloured men cross their path, so much the worse for the coloured men—if not, other victims will do. That is one aspect of the subject which we are discussing this afternoon. I must leave this particular aspect now, for I do not want to restrict other 641 speakers. I must leave it for another occasion.
§ However, I do not think one can fall back on any senile complacency in talking of the young in this way. It has become all too easy, and certainly very fashionable, to denounce our young people. But when one turns to the Report issued about a year ago by the All-Party Select Committee of Parliament on the Youth Service, I think one's complacency is shattered. I therefore say this: If we older people—we who aspire to have some influence—do not do more for these young people than we are doing at present, and if we starve the Youth Service and so many other social services which could help them in their great need, then it is we, the older ones, who are carrying a terrible responsibility.
§ Do not let me seem to argue to the House that the attacks on coloured men and the hostility towards coloured men are a product of mere hooliganism. I have recently sat in houses within that same area and talked to responsible citizens (I am talking now of very decent people indeed) who—though they hate to confess it—find their own attitude towards the coloured influence growing less friendly than it was. That is a painful reflection. So many myths are current that it is hard for them to know what to believe. It is widely said that the coloured men undercut the white men in the labour market; that more than their proportion live on immoral earnings; that a high proportion of them suffer from unpleasant diseases, and that they do not know how to use lavatories. Those are things which are being widely said. There is very little truth in them, although there may be in some cases, of course, just an element of what is not altogether incorrect. But I do hope that the Government will say something, either through the noble Earl or through the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, which will make it easier for those who are trying to reason with our white citizens to conduct the argument. One has so few facts with which to make a reply to all these legends which are being circulated, in many cases by evilly-disposed people, and which are being picked up by decent-minded people. I think that a Minister said not so long ago that there was no evidence that coloured people are less law-abiding than white people. I hope that we shall have that said again this afternoon, and that, 642 through our discussions, we can have the whole question brought into proper perspective.
§ I confess that my own feeling is that the prejudice is likely to continue, even though it may not be allowed to take any violent form, so long as we have this concentration of coloured immigrants taking such a form that, in practice, the white residents are frequently eliminated, gently but firmly, from certain houses or streets. The West Indian welfare officers, whose numbers I hope will be increased, and to whom I should certainly like to pay tribute now, are fully alive to the evil of concentration and are anxious to promote dispersal. But in practice the great difficulty confronts them of finding landlords who will accept West Indians in good surroundings. In other words, we shall never effect dispersal and break the back of this problem unless we break down the discrimination which, though far from universal in our country, is. nevertheless much too prevalent for a country which claims, with some justification, to be Christian.
§ We in the Party to which I belong have the right to ask the Government, just as we should rightly be asked if we were in power, to define their attitude to public discrimination on grounds of colour. I was sorry to see that Sir David Eccles recently advised the Conference of the British Travel and Holiday Association not to pass a resolution opposing the colour bar in hotels. There have been questions about that in another place. The Prime Minister did his gallant best yesterday to try to put a different complexion on that matter, but it has made a deplorable impression; and I can only hope that something very much better and healthier will be said this afternoon. I hope that it will not be said for the Government that in these matters one must not go ahead of public opinion. That can be a very dangerous argument. It is certainly an argument for doing nothing at all when something very badly needs doing. Public opinion on this question, I venture to think, is in a very confused and impressionable condition. Now, while the nation is still meditating on the Nottingham and Notting Hill riots, is the time for the Government to give a lead, and a lead not only in words but in action.
§ I mentioned earlier, my Lords, that the Labour Party (and not the Labour Party 643 only) has called for legislation. That call we wholeheartedly endorse from these Benches this afternoon. I should like to put to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, a question, of which I have given him some notice, about hotels. Is it or is it not the case that any hotel licensed as an inn must offer accommodation to any guest who requests it? Is that or is that not the law of the land; and is it the case that any hotel proprietor who refuses admission to a coloured man is guilty of a criminal offence? That is a straightforward question, whether or not the answer is easy to give. We are under the impression that the legal position is far from clear at the present time. We argue, therefore, that legislation should be introduced to cover discrimination by hotels: and not only by hotels, but by all establishments which cater for the public—restaurants, dance halls, and so on.
§ I go further. If the Government want to give a lead against racial prejudice, as I hope and believe they do, then I submit that they should extend the prohibition of the colour bar to the licensing provisions of public-houses, so that it can be made a criminal offence when colour discrimination is practised. Then, last but by no means least, the prohibition of the colour bar should be extended to leases for houses and flats. To some that may seem a somewhat extreme measure, but I should guess myself, though no-one can prove it, that without some such step the policy of dispersal is likely to remain a dead letter during our lifetime.
§ I have spoken earlier of the way the Commonwealth is watching our performance, for good or for ill, now that we are faced with the problem on our doorsteps which we hitherto had been able to discuss in a spirit of detachment while others struggled with it overseas. They are watching us inside and outside the Commonwealth; and nowhere, it would seem, with more acute interest than in South Africa and the United States. On every ground of statesmanship it is up to us, the British people, to give our Commonwealth brothers and sisters a warm welcome and to see that they are integrated into our British community and not segregated in special areas of our towns. Nothing less than the policy which I have tried to sketch this after- 644 noon would seem to me to be in keeping with what we claim are the principles of the Commonwealth.
§ But that should not perhaps be the last word of all. The principles of the Commonwealth go wide and deep, but there are principles which go wider and deeper still. And now, in my last few sentences, I am asking for unanimity—not unanimity about precise measures, as to which the differences of opinion are reasonable and inevitable, but unanimity about the spirit of the message that we send out from this House this afternoon. And that message, if we mean anything by calling ourselves Christian, can only be this: that we recognise that every one of the citizens entrusted to our care should be treated on an equal footing as being of equal importance in the sight of God, whether he be black, white, yellow or brown. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§THE EARL OF SWINTON
My Lords, I am sure that on all sides of the House there will be agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in his condemnation of the dastardly attacks which took place in North London, and in one or two other parts of the country, a few months ago. Equally, I am sure, there will be unanimous approval of, and gratitude for, the firm action of the police, the speed with which the hooligans, if not worse, were brought to justice and the stiff sentences which some of the worst of them received. British justice is not only sure but swift.
I can remember the occasion, many years ago, in the days when I was at the Bar, when a French murderer was tried in this country. He was arrested, cum-mined, tried, convicted and sentenced all within little over two months. He was very indignant—not because he [...]ad [...]ot received a fair trial: he said that the trial was completely fair. He also said that the verdict was quite right; he certainly had committed the murder. What shocked him to the core was the speed with which the whole business was conducted. He said that in France it would have taken two or three years, and that this was not the way to conduct the great machine of justice. Fortunately we in this country have—I will not say a better tradition, but at any rate a quicker practice.
645 I shall intervene for only a few moments. The practical issues before us in this debate are, I think, several. The first is: is there any action which the Government, or Parliament, should take? I need hardly say (I hope my whole official career bears it out) that I am utterly and entirely opposed to racial discrimination in any shape or form. I also value highly the traditional right of any British subject, whatever his colour or creed, to come to the United Kingdom. But that right surely connotes a duty: that if he comes to this country, he must behave as a decent citizen and not abuse the hospitality of this country. Let me say at once that the great majority of these immigrants, whatever their colour, are admirably behaved. I believe that the noble Lord is right and that, by and large, they are just as law-abiding as any of those of us who were born here.
There are, however, a small minority who are guilty of serious offences. Some are guilty of crimes of violence, and I have little sympathy with these. But there is a more despicable set of offenders—the miserable pimps who live on the earnings of prostitutes. That is shocking and disgusting, and if ever there was an abuse of the hospitality of this country, it is the actions of these people. I say, without hesitation, that people who are guilty of offences like that ought certainly to be deported from this country. They are abusing our hospitality and they are also bringing discredit to their fellow-immigrants.
I think that those of us who have had to deal with this question, and who are sympathetic with its difficulties, are anxious about the undercurrent of feeling, of prejudice, that there is against some of these immigrants. I am sure that that is greatly strengthened by the cases, relatively few, of immigrants convicted of such offences. If these people could be deported, as any alien is, on a Home Office order, that would be not only right and just but also greatly to the benefit of the great mass of law-abiding coloured citizens in this country. I am sure that such action would be readily accepted in every part of the Commonwealth. I do not know whether it requires legislation—perhaps we shall be told to-day—but if it does, then I am certain that legislation of this limited kind would go through 646 with speed and with unanimity. I think that that is easy.
We come to a question which is much more difficult: should there be any restriction on entry? It is true (I think that the noble Lord admitted it) that we are the only country in the whole Commonwealth, in both self-governing countries and Colonies, which gives free entry as a right and which does not have some form of restriction. It may be that it would be in the interests of future immigrants themselves that there should be some form of restriction. One of the things that rouses antagonism is that men who are out of work think that some newly arrived immigrants are getting the jobs. They are not getting Lower wages—I am sure they are not. I believe that the whole House was impressed the other day by the speech of my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton, in the debate on the humble Address, when he pointed out that there were ample unfilled vacancies for skilled men, and that the men out of work were nearly always those who were unskilled, and that, with the progress of industry and greater efficiency in mechanisation, more and more would the skilled man be required and less and less would there be a place for the unskilled. Of course, the great majority of the people who come into this country, certainly from the West Indies, are unskilled men.
I had to consider this question of restricting entry while I was in the Government, and I have not lost my interest in it. My view is that even as things are to-day I should deprecate any legislative restriction on the entry of immigrants. I should like to retain the traditional rights of the British citizen to come to this country. I believe that these matters are better dealt with by agreement. I think that there is a great understanding in the West Indies, particularly among responsible Ministers, like Mr. Manley and the Prime Minister of the Federation, of the situation in this country and of how much it is against the interests of their own people to come here unless there are jobs for them. I think a lot of mischief has been done by rather unscrupulous people, not in this country but over there, having organisations which encourage them to go—and I dare say taking money from them, but I do not want to be too dogmatic about that. I am 647 sure also that the painting of rosy pictures which have no near relation to the truth has its effect. I feel that these things are better dealt with by negotiation and agreement and by the spread of knowledge. If that is done, you will get good will and effective co-operation in the countries from which these people come; but without it I do not believe the problem can be solved.
I have only one further thing to say. At the end of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, as I understood him, advocated new legislation making it a criminal offence for any hotel keeper, lodging-house keeper or keeper of a restaurant or public-house to refuse admission to a coloured person. There is the law to-day. Whatever that law is, I certainly, consistent with my principles, would say that that law should be applied equally, irrespective of any colour question. I am not against a Government giving leads, so long as they are sensible, but I doubt whether it would be wise to introduce new legislation making new criminal offences. I am doubtful whether it would be in the interests of the coloured people themselves, and whether it would be possible to enforce it; and nothing is worse than a law which is unenforceable. You only have to look at Prohibition in the United States, and the awful rackets which followed in its wake, to know that you cannot do a greater disservice to law and order in any country than to create criminal offences which people as a whole are not prepared to accept and which are unenforceable.
I would add this. I know that there are cases—and when I read of them in the papers I am disgusted, as is the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham—where very decent people have been turned away. But when that happens it is not always the fault of the hotel proprietor. He, after all, has to consider his customers, and it is often the case that it is the customers in the hotel who make it almost impossible for the hotel proprietor to do what no doubt is his civil duty and what many hotel proprietors would be perfectly ready and willing to do. I think it would be a mistake to attempt to create new criminal offences. Let us proceed in this matter by, if I may so put it—the noble Lord ended by saying that this was a Christian matter, and I 648 agree with him—spreading the light of the gospel. It is by decent people making their influence felt that the majority of people will be brought, as a matter of course, to accept any man, whatever his colour. That, I believe, is the way in which we shall make most progress, and progress with general good will.
I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has raised this matter, and I look forward to hearing the speeches which will be made in the debate. I am sure that, not for the first time, the noble Lord does a signal public duty in raising this subject, and he has done so, as he always does, in a moderate and persuasive way. I am sure that nothing can do more good in this country and throughout the Commonwealth than the kind of authoritative, informed, understanding and sympathetic debate that I know we shall have in this House; and I am sure that the House will send to the Commonwealth the kind of message in which the noble Lord has asked us to concur.
§ 3.26 p.m.
My Lords, I ask for the indulgence that is always accorded to those who for the first time have the honour of addressing your Lordships. My natural feelings on this occasion will be well understood, and they are by no means lessened by still vivid recollections of a similar maiden essay that I made some thirteen years ago from this very Bench when it was temporarily part of another place, even though now, as on that occasion, my noble friend Lord Macpherson of Drumochter is sitting at my right hand as bottle holder. My apprehensions do not spring from any doubt of your Lordships' kindness, but from my own inadequate mastery of what I may be allowed to call your disarming methods. It is a totally new experience for me to sit and listen to debates without being aware that blows have been struck until I read the same speeches in Hansard the next morning. The only consolation I have is that when I am myself the subject of such verbal knockouts there will be no pain, and on recovering consciousness no need to ask, '" Where am I? ", because obviously I shall be among friends.
My main difficulty, however, is that maiden speeches should be non-controversial, which I have always thought in Parliament to be virtually impossible. I 649 have been trying to recall any statement I have ever heard at Westminster which has not at some time or other been the subject of controversy, and the only one I have been able to think of is: "Prayers are over." So, in default of saying nothing at all, I will give expression to a few sincerely held convictions, although having listened with complete agreement to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, I do not think I am likely to say anything which your Lordships will find unacceptable.
In recent years changes have been wrought in the British Commonwealth of which we can all be justly proud. Potentially, in my view it is the greatest force for peace in the world. But I feel that our high hopes of building a successful multi-racial Commonwealth will not be achieved unless we succeed in ending colour prejudice here in Britain. I think it is as important as that. But, important as it is, and grave as the recent outbreaks in West London and Nottingham certainly were, I am convinced of two things. The first is that these recent, much publicised outbreaks totally misrepresent the attitude of the vast majority of our people; and the second is that the trouble cannot he cured by legislation. I think it would help (and I wholly agree with my noble friend Lord Pakenham on this point) to make the colour bar illegal in accommodation, in places of employment and in public places, but it would be a moral rather than a practical advantage: there would be a great moral advantage in clearly indicating the official or Government attitude.
But no one is going to a hotel if he has to take a policeman with him to ensure admission; and no one can last long in employment if his workmates are unwilling to work with him. Colour prejudice is rooted deep in ignorance, and you cannot cure that kind of ignorance by law. We shall end racial intolerance only when each and every one of us makes it his personal business to ensure that no one is penalised, either economically or socially, because of the colour of his skin. Speaking as an employer, I would say that every employer and every trade unionist has a vital part to play.
I should like, as briefly as possible, to give my idea of the nature and size of the problem and some of the things that I think can be done to help solve it. 650 First, with regard to its size. Until recently I represented in another place the metropolitan boroughs of Shoreditch and Finsbury. They are immediately adjacent to the City on the east and northeast, and, despite the building of thousands of council flats, there is still a grave housing problem there. The still remaining privately-owned houses are over a century old, and sub-standard. Geographically you have all the classic conditions present, and not surprisingly there is a fair number of Commonwealth residents there, particularly Cypriots, Maltese and West Indians.
In addition, it is an area where, for the last twenty-five years, apart from the war years, the Fascists have maintained a persistent and sustained effort. Indeed, they were so strong there before the war that the late William Joyce was a Shoreditch London County Council candidate. In recent years they have circulated the Black-Shirt every other month from house to house, free of charge. It is a local sheet, grossly libellous and hideously cartooned, in which real grievances such as housing are cleverly and unscrupulously exploited with the prime object of arousing racial intolerance. But, despite this activity, at municipal elections, which they contest regularly, their candidates get only about 2 per cent. of the votes cast, which means that they are supported by far less than 1 per cent. of the people. That is precisely my estimate of colour prejudice in acute and violent form.
In case this should be regarded as a superficial judgment, I would mention that I have a factory in the area, and spend a considerable part of each working day there. For many years every Friday evening until last month I held constituency interviews. One can get to know what people are thinking in that way, because when they are troubled or angered they speak their minds. In my opinion, good housing would remove the major cause of ill-feeling which exists at present, although even that is largely fed on untruths. You get a distressed mother coming before you with two or three children living in one or two rooms, and complaining that she has waited in vain for a council flat for ten years, while a Negro family has been given one in twelve months. Immediately she is challenged she withdraws, and the statements are obviously lies that are spread. No local authority allows colour or creed 651 to influence its housing allocation but, unfortunately, they often fail to say so. It needs saying often and authoritatively, so that the truth can be made known before the lies get a hold. On the other hand, real trouble does arise when Negro families buy a part-occupied house. Their part immediately becomes grossly overcrowded and the shared facilities intolerably overstrained. No one can possibly live under such conditions without being irritated. Of course, the local authorities have powers in matters of that kind, and they should exercise the powers they possess.
Another real grievance arises from the fact that for a long time now, in all metropolitan boroughs, building for housing for general need has been suspended in favour of slum clearance. Very properly and necessarily the slum families, both white and coloured, are re-housed in new flats. But it would appear to many tragic families on the waiting list that they are left virtually without hope. This is a social and not a racial problem, but it has racial implications in the kind of area I have described. The difficulty can be solved by a resumption of building for general housing need, and according to an announcement made recently that is to be very soon.
These are real problems, but I can honestly say that in the last six years, in this difficult area with a resident population of about 80,000 men, women and children and a much larger day-time population, there has not, to my knowledge, been a single disturbance arising from racial prejudice or things of that kind. My view is that where these incidents occur, they are fostered by a Fascist minority, working on the ignorant prejudices of the "dead-beats" of a "beat" generation—a tiny minority of, I suppose, worthless youngsters who are so secretly conscious of their own inferiority that they have to resort to violence in order that they may feel superior to someone. It does not matter who the victims are. As well as coloured people, they could be Jews, Irish, or any recognisable group.
It is to me unthinkable that because of them we should adopt panic measures such as the restriction of coloured immigrants—any kind of restriction. Quite apart from the vital blow it would deal to the Commonwealth, there is the im- 652 portant fact, of which people are insufficiently aware, that more people emigrate from Britain each year than come into the country. Certainly we must consult with Commonwealth countries to ensure that would-be immigrants, before they leave their homes, know all about the conditions here and all about the prospects of employment. Do not let us forget that, even if they do know, they are not so likely to be deterred, because what is hardship here may still seem luxury to them. But that is another side of the story.
There is no question that in the long term the schools will provide the solution. My office window overlooks the playground of a large secondary school of which my noble friend Lord Lucan is one of the governors and of which, incidentally, a Cypriot boy is a very popular head boy. I see the children almost every day, both under discipline and in the riotous, noisy, uninhibited periods of complete freedom. No one can say with absolute certainty that with children and adolescents there is no problem—perhaps I had better qualify that by saying "the younger adolescents." But certainly with the children of that secondary school up to the age of fifteen there is no problem at any age or at any level. If you were foolish enough to speak to them about colour prejudice they would not begin to know what you were talking about. I know the difficulties. If local education authorities could spread coloured children in as many schools as possible, it would not be many years before we had an adult generation which was unconscious of colour problems.
I would make two suggestions. The first concerns the minority of criminal immigrants and the undesirable cafés. It seems to me extraordinary that we take such pains about the licensing of people who sell intoxicants, and almost no trouble at all in licensing these all-night cafés, for many of which the term "den of inquity" is a compliment. A publican must be a man of irreproachable character, and if he serves drinks after 10.30 p.m. he loses his licence. Yet in my constituency I had an all-night café run by Maltese and licensed by the London County Council. It was in a mean street but inhabited by decent working people. For two years their lives were made an absolute misery by the incessant blaring, day and night, of the juke box, the 653 quarrels and fights, the smashing of windows and the real danger to their womenfolk and children. It was the haunt of blackguards, of Borstal boys on the run and girl prostitutes. The police did their utmost, but they were powerless apart from a couple of convictions for minor offences. The London County Council, to whom I appealed, said that they could not withdraw the licence unless there was some really serious and successful conviction.
Surely, my Lords, we should insist that the regulations governing the licensing of such places must be more stringent, and that the police should be not only consulted but given wider powers when cafés of this kind become a real nuisance. I have on this matter pressed both the police, who have been extremely willing and co-operated to the extent almost of leaving some other duties, and the London County Council, but there is still a big gap in between which should be filled.
I have spoken of this particular café, the only one I had in my former Division, in the past tense. The reason is this. Some months ago a respectable working man who lived nearby was walking by with his wife and children and was so cruelly set upon by three or four of these cafe loungers that his life was seriously in danger. When he came out of hospital he came to me and asked for police protection, not for himself but for his wife and two children who had been threatened if he persisted in his intention of giving evidence against his assailants. The protection was given and the men convicted. Judge Maude, whom some of us remember with affection as an esteemed colleague in another place, when they came up for sentence gave them as the alternative to a long prison sentence the option of going immediately back to Malta provided they stayed away for ten years, and they went that night. In default of possible legislation, which may be difficult and which would most certainly have far-flung repercussions. I should have thought that this method could prove an effective way of ridding the country of criminals from overseas, just as the stringent licensing of cafés would remove many breeding grounds of crime and racial intolerance.
Finally, my Lords, I would plead for better co-ordination of individual activity 654 in welcoming overseas citizens. Last month my local branch of the United Nations Association organised, with the help of the British Council, the visit of some twenty Commonwealth students. We each had one or two of them in our homes for the week-end. They were all colours from yellow to black—Chinese from Singapore, Nigerians, and Philippinos who, I was very glad to note, preferred to come here to study rather than the United States. My guest came from the Seychelles. Most of them had been here only a few weeks. The visit was a complete and absolute success both from the viewpoint of the hosts and the guests. It is, of course, excellent to promote lectures and study groups for students, but for real understanding there is nothing to compare with a man putting his feet under your table and sharing the ordinary life of the family.
There are 600 branches of the United Nations Association in this country, and only that one single branch organises visits of this kind. If all the 600, and similar social organisations, followed suit, and the churches, too, arranged similar visits of that kind, we could make friends and promote real understanding with tens of thousands of Commonwealth citizens, and many of them would include the future leaders in industry, in the professions and in politics in the countries of the Commonwealth. I should think it would do more good in one year towards a real United Nations than all the speeches and resolutions can do in a century.
My Lords, I am very conscious that I have contributed nothing to this debate except a limited personal experience, but that experience leads me to the sincere belief that although we must take resolute action with a minority of troublemakers, both white and coloured, there is not any real problem, any really serious problem, with the vast majority of ordinary, decent folk. They must be given the facts regularly and often. Facilities must be provided so that their natural human warmth and sympathy can be guided into the channels where it will do most good. But in no circumstances must we ever countenance action, by legislation or otherwise, which will seriously disrupt the greatest force for peace in the world, the integration and intercommunication of the peoples of the Commonwealth.
§ 3.45 p.m.
My Lords, you would all wish me to begin by extending the warmest possible congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, on the admirable speech to which we have just listened. It was full of interesting firsthand information—the noble Lord certainly need not have apologised in his concluding sentences for giving us so much first-hand experience—it was full of first-hand information, it was persuasive and it was eloquent. In past debates in your Lordships' House I was not among those who extended the warmest of welcomes to the prospect of the arrival of Life Peers, but I feel now that if I could have had a preview of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, or at any rate a prehearing, I should very likely have taken a different line. Most of your Lordships will remember, as I certainly do, the appalling preliminary terrors of delivering a maiden speech in your Lordships' House. I still dream about it sometimes myself, after a heavy dinner. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was nervous before he began—I believe no speech worth listening to was ever made before which the speaker had not a certain amount of preliminary tremors (it is said that even the younger Pitt at the height of his powers was always afraid that he might fail)—but if Lord Stonham was nervous he certainly did not show any signs of it, which is always very pleasant for an audience. I am sure your Lordships agree that we hope to hear him frequently in our debates.
I should like to begin by recalling that it is almost precisely two years—to be precise it was on November 20, 1956—that I had the honour of moving a Motion in your Lordships' House to The avowed and principal object of that Motion was to give the Government an oppo[...]unity of making a considered statement about what was already a serious problem and might alt too evidently soon mature into a crisis. I recalled that after the First World War there had been race riots in Liverpool and Cardiff and disturbances of a lesser extent in Glasgow, on the Tyneside and in London, and that there had been a serious race riot in Cardiff in 1949. I pointed out one or 656 two danger signals, for example the statement recently made by a Barbadian Minister that he knew of an English landlord who had evicted an English tenant paying twenty-five shillings a week and had leased the space thus made available to no fewer than eight West Indian tenants paying twenty-five shillings a week each. I asked the Government—and here, if I may, I will quote precisely [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 200, col. 395]: The reply for Her Majesty's Government was given by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. He gave us one of the admirable speeches which we so much regret we do not still hear, but I think it would be fair to summarise his theme as being that the Government did not consider the dangers serious but were watching the situation closely. I must say that in view of what has happened since I cannot help wondering whether on that occasion, as on a number of others. "watching the situation closely" may not have been officialese for hoping for the best."
I do not want to repeat what was said in a previous debate; we all know—indeed we have been reminded by the noble Lords who have already spoken—that unrestricted immigration from the West Indies has bred some, ugly social problems, and is likely to continue to breed them so long as it continues on the same scale. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is naturally concerned about one of the social problems arising from this immigration—colour prejudice. I myself do not consider that this is one of the most serious problems, but it is one aspect of them.
I myself think that there is a good deal of mental confusion about colour prejudice. I think that over a great part of these islands our people are exceptionally and creditably free from colour prejudice of any kind. I believe that few individuals feel any instinctive prejudice against a coloured individual because he is coloured. Most of what can be so readily mistaken for colour prejudice is not prejudice against the colour of the West Indians but against their numbers; for it has to be remembered that although there are only about 100,000 of them in 657 the country, these are concentrated in four or five already highly congested cities. Where there are no excessive numbers there is, so far as I can find, very little, or no, prejudice.
Two years ago a coloured native of the West Indies stayed over Christmas in my house. He was received everywhere in the village with open arms. It was only too evident that if there were any prejudice in respect of his colour it was prejudice in his favour. But then he was riot competing for the village amenities. To take a different example, in order to illustrate the same point which I am trying to make, I have heard more bitter complaint from a gentle, elderly English lady against the Americans who had occupied most of the flats in the block in which she lived and were making them noisy at night than I have ever heard against West Indian immigrants. That was prejudice, if you like, but it was certainly not colour prejudice. It was prejudice against what was held, rightly or wrongly, to be an intrusion in unwarrantable numbers, and a diminution of the local amenities.
If it were known in my home village that my noble friend Lord Pakenham were coming to live there, I should not be at all surprised if the bell-ringers were to ring a self-congratulatory chime on the church bells. If it were known that five Lord Pakenhams were coming I should still expect that whenever two or three villagers met together they would be exchanging congratulations. But if it were known that twenty Lord Pakenhams were coming, and if there were a shortage of housing in the village, then I think that there might be some murmurings. But it would not be anti-Pakenham prejudice—God forbid!; it would be prejudice aroused by competition for the limited vilinge amenities. And that, I think, is what we find in towns such as Birmingham, Nottingham and Liverpool at this moment. And that, after all, is a natural kind of resentment and quite distinct from colour prejudice as such. Suppose, for a moment, that it was 25,000 Maltese, who are not coloured people, and not 25,000 West Indians who were pouring into this country every year. You would certainly by now have had some ugly social problems. You might well have had some riots, too. But they 658 would not have had anything to do with colour.
Now if these people had been Maltese, I think it is more than probable that before now we should seriously have considered introducing some sort of regulation of the inflow, for the simple reason that we should not have been scared off it by the ever-present threat of being accused of colour prejudice. After all, in an age which is too much, rather than too little, addicted to planning, it is a somewhat startling anomaly that every citizen of the British Commonwealth—all 539 million of them—is held to possess a natural and inalienable right to reside in these small and congested Islands; whereas migration into virtually every other country in the world, and certainly migration from these Islands into any other country of the Commonwealth, is subject to elaborate processes of selection, regulation and even prohibition.
If one asks why we in this small and over-populated country should not ask our fellow-citizens in the countries of the Commonwealth overseas, some of which are crying out for additional migrants to fill their empty spaces, to accept from us much the same conditions of entry which they accord to us, the first reply is apt to be, "Oh, but, after all, Britain is the metropolis of the Commonwealth". I think we have heard that view put forward this afternoon. But when you come to think of it, my Lords, London is the metropolis of England; and yet by now we have begun to find that mere laissez-faire in respect of the migration, so to call it, of citizens from other parts of England into London is creating some formidable social problems which we are now compelled to seek to alleviate by encouraging some of the population of London to move into satellite towns elsewhere.
Again, I read not so long ago in one of the Jamaican daily morning newspapers (I forget whether it was the Beacon or the Gleaner) the argument or assertion, not that there are certain obligations on the metropolis of the Commonwealth, but that this country is the motherland of the West Indies and, indeed, of the entire Commonwealth. Here I think we come to the crux of the whole problem. I speak here as a mere historian and not as a lawyer, and therefore subject to correction from an 659 uncomfortable number of quarters in your Lordships' House; but surely the tradition that all the 530-odd million citizens of the Commonwealth overseas necessarily possess an indefeasible right to live here, whatever the condition of their health, their finance or their morals, whereas citizens of these Islands have to prove their qualifications for living in countries of the Commonwealth overseas, whether or not it has been embodied in law, does not derive from any fundamental legal or moral concept but, quite simply and historically, from an era of some 100 years ago or more, when the natives of these islands were settling great empty countries overseas. Then it was eminently and evidently natural and right that an Englishman, or a Scot, or a Welshman who had chanced his luck, so to say, in Canada or New Zealand and had not made a success of the venture, should be entitled without let or hindrance or question to return to his native land. The notion that the citizens of every country under the British flag necessarily enjoy similar rights under the extraordinarily different conditions of to-day derives historically, I believe, from that earlier colonial period, and requires reconsideration.
Is there any ultimately valid reason why, without doing any harm whatever to inter-Commonwealth relations, we should not ask our friends overseas, of all colours and in all Commonwealth countries, to agree to accept from us something like the conditions of entry which we accept from them? I say "something like", because undoubtedly we should wish to interpret such conditions in a specially generous manner. We should not seek to exclude, but rather should wish to be able to exercise some power of selection and regulation. And in that way we should not be exposing ourselves to the invidious and ever-dreaded charge of colour prejudice, for we should be seeking to establish by agreement a new arrangement with peoples of all colours within the Commonwealth.
I believe, nevertheless, that we should in fact be taking the most effective method open to us of obviating the growth of the prejudice which is concerning us this evening and which is so readily mistaken for colour prejudice but is, I believe, much more often prejudice 660 against the intrusion of what are held to be, in the circumstances, unwarrantable numbers. Unless some such measure is adopted that prejudice will, alas! continue, and will inevitably be increasingly associated with colour, so that thus we shall quite unnecessarily be raising up for ourselves within the next generation a full-scale colour problem.
§ 4.2 p.m.
My Lords. I must begin, if your Lordships will allow me, by adding my congratulations to those which my noble friend Lord Stonham has already received upon his maiden speech. I believe there will be general agreement that it was a speech of particular interest and one which was based upon facts which clearly have come under his own very shrewd observation; and it was quite evident, from the approving murmurs which accompanied his speech, that your Lordships will be always very glad to hear from him whenever he is good enough to offer the House his opinions upon any subject under debate.
I have to declare a certain interest in this matter. as I am vice-president of a society which occupies itself with the prevention of slavery and the preservation of human rights and in that capacity a great deal of information comes to me which bears upon the subject of the Motion before the House. This has led me to the very definite opinion that discrimination because of race, colour or religion is an intolerable insult to the human dignity of an individual; and in my experience I have found that this discrimination is often practised or preached by people whom I should describe as of a rather low "I.Q."
It has been noticeable that in this debate there has not been very much dwelling upon the events which occurred in Notting Hill and Nottingham. The debate seems to have tended to get away from that aspect, and I am not sure that that is not a very good thing. Perhaps we might now begin to finish with the events at Notting Hill. If it is true, as my noble friend Lord Pakenham has said, that we had there a glimpse into the abyss, it may be that that glimpse has done us a great deal of good and may have put an end to this racial discrimination for some time to come. My dogs have an abominable habit of going down to the orchard, digging up their 661 bones, giving them a chew over and then burying them again. I have never found that a very good way of conducting human relations, so perhaps having had this debate about Notting Hill, we may in future regard that matter as settled.
After all, the new-style Commonwealth, as we know it to-day, is an immense multi-racial association, particularly exposed to very difficult race relations; and, with the growth of nationalism, these tend to become more sensitive and more difficult. If they go wrong, then peace and friendship will go. We have to learn to get along together with various races. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to teach lessons of racial understanding and co-operation. To my mind that is a far greater mission which falls to the lot of the Commonwealth to-day than the old mission of conquest of empire. I believe that, in its present form and present mission, it is a symbolic fact of supreme importance that all citizens of the Commonwealth are welcomed here. To my mind that is the very symbol of Commonwealth.
What are the facts which cause friction with the coloured people? I would say that undoubtedly the chief of them is housing—I hear that wherever I go and wherever I make inquiries. It is this living cheek-by-jowl in crowded and unsatisfactory housing conditions. Then, of course, there are in industry spells of recession and unemployment which cause difficulty, for I think we do not always stop to realise the supreme importance to our working people of their job. They have traditions and experience of being out of a job—and very painful ones, too—and therefore the job is something to which they cling; and any suspicion that somebody may be doing them out of a job, or is likely to do so, will arouse their liveliest suspicions and resentment. In addition to employment and housing there are the facts of very different habits and customs of life. The question of w amen has been touched upon this afternoon, and that aspect, of course, gives rise to feelings from time to time; and the greater the physical differences—as, for instance, supremely, difference in colour—the greater are the tensions.
These difficulties call for the utmost patience and forbearance. I am quite aware that it is far easier to talk about that when one does not have to live in 662 actual contact with those of other races but nevertheless I believe what I have said is quite true; and, after all, these immigrants are not without their troubles. It is not only we who have difficulties to support because of their presence here. To immigrants this must seem a very strange, cold, wet country, inhabited by people of very strange ways. They themselves have considerable adjustments to make, more particularly as so many of them come into the hurly-burly of our industrial life from, perhaps, a sugar plantation. It is a very big adjustment indeed that they have to make.
The figures about this immigration have been given, and I will not repeat them, but I do not think it has been mentioned that this year alone something like 20,000 women and children are expected to come here from the West Indies. I think the details showing where they settle—a matter which has been mentioned once this afternoon—are also of interest. I hear that about 40 per cent, of them settle in London, and some 30 per cent. in the Midlands. It may be a reflection upon the views of the West Indians that I understand Scotland accommodates only 3 per cent. of these immigrants.
The West Indies always have had in the past a very considerable migration; but the quotas are now getting tighter; the doors are shutting on them. The United States of America now admit only 100 West Indians a year. The West Indies no longer come under the British quota, and 100 from that teeming West Indian population is not a great contribution to the problem. Then, of course, there is now a poor employment situation in South America, so that again the South American States restrict immigration into their countries. So it is not surprising that the West Indians, and other coloured races, too, increasingly look to this country as their one asylum.
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to make one point with regard to the United States? That is that they do admit an enormous number of Puerto Ricans, whose country is, of course, a West-Indian island. They are making a very considerable contribution to solving the problem by doing that.
I know that. I have seen consignments arrive at Idlewild, but. 663 I was thinking about this country in relation to what we regard as West Indians. Geographically, Puerto Rico is a West-Indian island, but we do not think in this country of Puerto Rico as one of our West-Indian islands.
My Lords, the great question is: what is the way to improve race relations? I would say, first and foremost, by education in schools, in colleges and in universities, and by informed teaching—teaching how interesting other peoples' lives are, and how great and how remarkable have been the achievements of some coloured people. I am sure that it will be so, but I should like to ask whether it is the case that the Ministry of Education impress this particular side of education upon those who go to our teachers' training colleges, because I regard it as essential that there should be thorough, complete and sympathetic teaching about the ways in which other people live. I feel, too, that local authorities, who I am sure already do a great deal, might do still more to encourage committees to bring our own people together with the minority and immigrant groups which come to the country, and to combat every form of discrimination. This is what I believe in, first and foremost: education and encouragement towards integration.
I am not so "sold" on legislation. I have found myself, as is so often the case when he speaks, in agreement with what the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said on this subject. I consider that legislation, especially legislation against discrimination, might easily increase prejudice. It would be a very difficult law to enforce, and while, in principle, I dislike passing any new law, I am sure that the fatal thing to do is to pass a law which cannot be enforced. I cannot help noticing that some progress, not bad progress, was being made towards integration in the Southern States of America before the Supreme Court handed down its judgment about integration; and since then things do not perhaps appear to have gone quite so smoothly or so well. I am sure that the worst possible form of legislation would be to limit the numbers of Commonwealth immigrants coming here. That, I think, would be completely disastrous and would lose us the confidence of the coloured races throughout the world, 664 which to-day I think we can fairly say we enjoy to a very considerable extent.
I should be prepared—I have not yet come to a final conclusion—to listen to arguments in favour of preventing convicted criminals from coming in here, which would of course be a matter for Commonwealth consultation; but I should be strongly opposed to do anything to impair our good record in regard to receiving people from other lands, and especially from the Commonwealth. We have a very good record in this matter.
My Lords, may I intervene? I believe I am right in saying that in Jamaica, for example, a convicted criminal, or a criminal convicted of certain crimes, is not in fact able to obtain a passport at present.
That is the sort of thing to which I have referred. I should be quite prepared to listen to the arguments about such action. But even if there is a case for excluding criminals, I do not think there is a case for deporting those who become criminals after their arrival in this country. In my own words, I would say that we have to consume our own smoke in this matter: if a man goes wrong here, well, we must take the responsibility for that. I think it would be a very bad thing indeed to deport him.
I have spoken already about education. I believe that we have to try to fight against a longstanding prejudice that people of colour are less intelligent than white people and cannot be adapted to Western ways. I believe that the contrary to that is being constantly proved, on an increasing scale, year by year. It cannot really be said that the coloured man is inherently inferior to the white man and always will be, although I know that a certain country is trying to prove that that is the fact and that the lot of the coloured man has been Divinely ordained to be that of a hewer of wood and a drawer of water. My stand in racial matters is very different, and I am quite sure that the attempt to which I have referred will ultimately fail.
I believe that our position in the matter was well expressed by Mr. Justice Salmon when passing sentence in one of these Notting Hill cases. I consider that his words were splendid words. He said: I doubt whether the matter could possibly tie better put than it was put by Mr. Justice Salmon in those words; and they should form our guide, our principle, in these matters.
Moreover, the boot is not all on one foot. Our economy is under a considerable debt to these immigrants. They have filled in where labour has been short. Especially they have filled in in transport and in hospitals. The Birmingham Corporation decided to employ coloured men on equal terms with white as far back as 1953, and I have been told repeatedly that the West Indian recruits have been notable for their courtesy and for their ability at their job. In London Transport there is a very large coloured contingent. They have a West Indian graduate employed as a welfare officer. They take great care in training, and results have been excellent.
When difficulties do occur in industry I think it is because management and labour are often reluctant to embark upon a new departure—to open up in new ways. We must admit the fact that we cannot yet say that equal opportunity exists for these people in this country; nor do I think we could get this equality of opportunity by legislation. Because how could one prove that employment had been refused or that promotion had been denied, on grounds of colour? It would be only too easy for an employer to advance another reason than the real one. The assurance of equal opportunities will depend upon a change of attitude in this matter and that can come about only slowly. It must come by a change of attitude following on experience and on education; it cannot satisfactorily be achieved by legislation. However, a leaven is working in this matter of employment., The Transport and General Workers' Union, for instance, has come out strongly against discrimination. I have read of a shop stewards' committee in a large works in the Midlands which has put up this statement: That is a step in the right direction, and the coloured workers will do well to pay heed to that advice to join the unions and to be good union members.
666 I should like now to return for one brief moment to the question of housing, which I believe is the greatest single cause of antagonism that exists. At the back of it, of course, is not so much the coloured man—the Hungarian refugees met with just the same difficulties when they came over here. The trouble is that we suffer from a chronic housing shortage; and, that being so. sub-standard conditions are bound to exist, and coloured landlords will be found in possession of houses charging grossly unfair rents for overcrowded, bad accommodation. There will be no general cure for this problem while accommodation continues to be in short supply.
In regard to matters other than housing, local authorities who have not already got them (probably a great many of them have) would do well to establish liaison officers to assist the coloured folk generally about their affairs; and all established organisations can help by encouraging these people to join the many clubs and societies which exist in this country. I found myself in head-on opposition to something I saw the other day, a statement that these people should be encouraged to form their own clubs and societies. I should have said that that is the very thing we do not want them to do. We want them to integrate and to join the clubs and societies which already exist in this country; and I know that where this has been done, integration has gone smoothly: neighbourliness and friendliness inevitably gradually replace prejudice.
My Lords, in conclusion, and with reference to what I said earlier about the feeling that the coloured man is essentially inferior to the white man, I must say that that has not always been my experience. I have never noticed, for instance, that white children have a natural antipathy to coloured people. I remember that I visited a school in Ghana, before it became Ghana, which had been established by the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation under the auspices of General Spears, who had very wisely said that this school must be opened to black and white children alike. I have rarely in my life seen a prettier sight than the black and white children playing together at recreation time at that school. I noticed the same thing in Cyprus, where we had a considerable number of 667 coloured people. I never saw any prejudice amongst children there. Then I know of a young coloured officer who has just finished his training in our Navy. He has been one of the most popular officers who has ever been under training in our Navy. Everyone he has met, from cadets up to captains, has thought him a fine fellow and has treated him absolutely as an equal. As for these bush-men that we are hearing about now, they are by no means stupid people. And among the Aboriginals of Australia, who are supposed by some people to be hardly human, is one called Mamatizaire, who is one of the finest water colour painters working to-day.
It has been said to-day that the term "Mother Country" is going out of fashion—and that may be so. But if any meaning is to remain in the term "Commonwealth"—common wealth; common weal—we really cannot bar entry to people from the Commonwealth or make life uncomfo[...]able for those who do come here. We ought to be able to put up with and assimilate those who come. To do so will give meaning and reality to the word "Commonwealth" and will show an example to the world. These men have talents and aptitudes which it is only common sense for us to utilise, and we shall get the best out of them—a very valuable best for this country—by giving them conditions here which enable them to feel that they are a respected part of our community. To this end, surely, the Government, employers, trade unions, and local authorities should all work together.
§ 4.28 p.m.