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Anti-discrimination legislation.

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Thank you for coming to listen to this presentation. The subject I am going to be talking about is the Race Relations Policies; I will also be talking about the origins of anti-discrimination legislation, the genesis of race relations policies and the 1976 Race Relations Act. The three major Race Relations Acts passed since 1965 have been highly controversial and have aroused the opposition of those who see them as an attempt to give favourable treatment to blacks over whites in the search for jobs, homes and other goods. This kind of opposition has boiled over into open calls for the dismantling of the major institutions of what is sometimes called the race relations industry. Now I am briefly going to talk about the origins of anti-discrimination legislation From the 1950's the question of what to do to counter racial discrimination emerged as a major dilemma in debates about immigration and race relations. Even in the early stages of black immigration there was awareness that in the longer term the question of racial discrimination was likely to become a volatile political issue. In the early stages of post-war black immigration political debates about race were centred upon the question of immigration controls. However, an underlying concern, even at that stage, was the question of future race relations. The notion that the arrival of too many black immigrants would lead to problems in relation to housing and employment. In the context of the intense debate about immigration during the late 1950's, for example, the Labour Party set up a working party to look at the question of legislation to combat racial discrimination, and instructed it to make practical legislative proposals. ...read more.


Taken together these assumptions were seen to support the need for stronger action by government to promote equal opportunity because as stated by the Select Committee in 1975, 'there is a growing lack of confidence in the effectiveness of government action and, in the case of some groups such as young West Indians, this lack of confidence can turn into hostile resentment'. In addition they were seen as supporting the need for more efficient social policies on race in order to achieve the original aim announced by Roy Jenkins during the 1960's: namely, the achievement of a genuinely integrated society where there was 'equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance.' More fundamentally perhaps, the evidence that went into these reports had a major impact on the white paper on Racial Discrimination, which was published in September 1975. This accepted the relative failure of past policies to achieve fundamental changes, the need for stronger legislation and the need for a 'coherent and coordinated policy over a large field of influence involving many government Departments, local authorities, the existing and future statutory bodies concerned with the subject and, indeed, many individuals in positions of responsibility and influence'. It also accepted the need for a broader governmental role in tackling those 'more complex situations of accumulated disadvantages and of the effects of past discrimination.' The rationale for this emphasis, according to the white paper, was the recognition by the government that the majority of the black population was 'here to stay' and that policies had to be based on recognition of this fundamental principle. ...read more.


First, the machinery set up to implement the Act had not functioned effectively. Second, the policies did not produce the intended results. Third, the policies failed to meet the expectations of the black communities. Proposals for reform During the 1980's and the early 1990's a number of bodies, including the CRE, lobbied for a major reorganisation of the administration of race relations policies, a stronger central government lead and a major radical programme of action to tackle the root causes of racial inequality. In the absence of a strong lead from central government the CRE has attempted to innovate within the terms of its powers. One of the major innovations introduced by the CRE during the early 1980's was a code of practice for the elimination of discrimination in employment, which came into force in April 1984. Therefore in Conclusion Whatever the outcome of this debate in the next few years, it is clear that the law is not likely to be the sole or perhaps even the single most relevant instrument in the fight for a fairer and more just society in Britain. Therefore, whilst the law and the Commission for Racial Equality have obvious limitations, for the moment and for the foreseeable future they remain important weapons in the fight against racial discrimination. It has been now over two decades since in 1976 Race Relations Act came into force, and there is little ground for arguing that it has achieved in practice the kind of radical changes which it promised. ...read more.

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