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Race Relations Act 1968

Race Relations Act 1968The Race Relations Act 1968 was intended to strengthen the first Race Relations Act 1965. The new Act maintained the 1965 definition of a person discriminating against another if, 'on the ground of colour, race or ethnic or national origins he treats that other… less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons...' The previous 1965 legislation  had applied only to public places, such as hotels or cinemas.

Although the Act helped to counter racial discrimination, it was argued that the definition of this was not broad enough. Under the Act, in order to win a case on the grounds of racial discrimination, one had to prove that discrimination had been suffered and that discrimination was intentional, which was difficult.

The Act extended the powers of the Race Relations Board – which was created in the 1965 Act - to deal with complaints of discrimination, and set up the Community Relations Commission which aimed to promote 'harmonious community relations'.

Equality campaigners had argued that the earlier 1965 Act was insufficient to combat racial discrimination and that the 1968 Act fell short because it did not cover Government services such as the police. Opposition MP Quintin Hogg remarked that it was unfair to treat private employers more strictly than public employers. He asked the Commons: 'Why should the ordinary subject be liable to an action for damages, as the Home Secretary has decided that he should be, but the Home Secretary get off scot-free?'

Audio Interview

Nicholas DeakinNicholas Deakin has worked as a civil servant and in local government and chaired national and local voluntary bodies. He was a founding member of the Runnymede Trust and worked with Jim Rose on the seminal Colour and Citizenship. From 1980 to 1998 he was Professor of Social Policy and Administration at the University of Birmingham. He is currently Vice-Chair of the Baring Foundation.

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