Race Relations Act 1965

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Race Relations Act 1965
Citation1965 c 73
Royal assent8 December 1965
Other legislation
Amended byRace Relations Act 1968
Repealed byRace Relations Act 1976
Status: Repealed

The Race Relations Act 1965 was the first legislation in the United Kingdom to address racial discrimination.

The Act outlawed discrimination on the "grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins" in public places in Great Britain (although not in Northern Ireland, which had its own parliament at the time).[1]

It also prompted the creation of the Race Relations Board in 1966. This would consist of a chairman and two other members appointed by the Secretary of State.[2] Its remit was to consider complaints under the Act.[1]

Reasons for the Act's introduction[edit]

The UK saw an influx of economic migrants after World War II, many from the Commonwealth countries. The Museum of London states that "casual colour prejudice' was part of daily life" for many.[3] The left-wing Member of Parliament, Fenner Brockway had introduced a bill to put a stop to racial discrimination eight times from 1956 to 1964.[4] In 1958, London saw the Notting Hill riots,[3] and in 1963 the Bristol Bus Boycott occurred.[5]


The Act made it a civil offence (rather than a criminal offence) to refuse to serve a person, to serve someone with unreasonable delay, or to overcharge, on the grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins. The Act also created the offence of "incitement to racial hatred".

The first conviction under the act came in October 1967, when a 17-year-old member of the National Socialist Party was found guilty of racial discrimination at Middlesex Area Sessions.[1] The leader of the British National Socialist Movement, Colin Jordan, was also successfully prosecuted under the Act and jailed for 18 months in 1967.[6]

Black immigrants were also tried for this offence including Black Power leader Michael Abdul Malik (Michael X) and four members of the Universal Coloured People's Association for "stirring up racial hatred against white people."[7]


The Act did not extend to Northern Ireland, and specifically excluded shops and private boarding houses, only outlawing discrimination in "places of public resort." The Race Relations Board was rather weak in its enforcement capabilities, being limited to conciliation and an assurance not to return to the discriminatory behavior.[8] It was "a weak piece of legislation"[9] and failed to end racial discrimination in the UK fully.[9]

Amendment and repeal[edit]

The Act was strengthened with the Race Relations Act 1968, which extended the legislation's remit to cover employment and housing. It was repealed by the Race Relations Act 1976, which saw the creation of the Commission for Racial Equality.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "On this day: 8 December 1965: New UK race law 'not tough enough'". BBC News. 8 December 1965. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  2. ^ "Race Relations Act 1965" (PDF). http://www.legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 29 June 2019. External link in |website= (help)
  3. ^ a b "Race Relations Acts 1965-1976". The Museum of London. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  4. ^ Smith, Evan (7 December 2015). "The Communist Party's campaign for the Race Relations Act 1965". Hatful of History. Evan Smith. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  5. ^ Editorial (10 November 2005). "In Praise Of...The Race Relations Acts". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Colin Jordan sent to prison for 18 months on Race Act charges". Glasgow Herald. 26 January 1967. p. 7. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  7. ^ "Twomey, Anne --- "Laws Against Incitement to Racial Hatred in the United Kingdom" [1994] AUJlHRights 15; (1994) 1(1) Australian Journal of Human Rights 235". www.austlii.edu.au. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  8. ^ "The Origins of the Race Relations Act Philip N. Sooben Research Paper in Ethnic Relations No.12 Centre for Research in Ethnic Re". webcache.googleusercontent.com. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Discrimination and race relations policy". The National Archives. Retrieved 10 January 2010.


  • Hepple, B.A. (1966). "Race Relations Act 1965". Modern Law Review. 29: 806. JSTOR 1093572.