Race Relations Act – 50th Aniversary

Act

On 8th November 1965 the first Race Relations Act was passed. It came in to force one calendar month later on the 8th December 1965.

A report by the General Purposes Committee to the City Council on  7th march 1967 stated: The Act makes it unlawful for the proprietor or manager of any hotel, eating place, place of entertainment, public transport, or public resort maintained by a local or public authority to practice discrimination on the ground of colour, race or ethnic or national origins by refusing or neglecting to afford a person on any of these grounds access to the place or the same facilities or services which are offered to others.

As early as March 1966 the Birmingham Evening Mail was reporting that “New-style community associations with both white and coloured members may be formed soon to assist integration in “fringe” areas of Birmingham with concentrations of immigrant populations.” The Lord Mayor, Alderman George Corbyn Cadbury envisaged a ‘liaison committee’ as advocated by the Act itself, which would consist of members of the City Council, churches, ethnic communities and neighbourhood associations.

In order to deal with any difficulties that might arise out of the new legislation, the Act established the Race Relations Board. Local conciliation committees were set up to deal with contraventions on a local level, although complaints could be referred directly to the Race Relations Board, who reported to the Attorney General. The first eight members of the West Midlands Conciliation Committee were announced in November 1966 and included members of the City Council, members of the University of Birmingham Council and other members appointed from institutions across the Midlands. There was clearly a need for the Conciliation Committee as on its launch, it already had 16 complaints about racial discrimination awaiting their attention.

The newspaper reports can be found in the Ethnic Community newscuttings for 1965 – 1966, available by request on level 4 of the Library of Birmingham.

 

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