Race Relations Act 1965

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Race Relations Act 1965
Citation 1965 c 73
Royal assent 8 December 1965
Other legislation
Amended by Race Relations Act 1968
Repealed by Race Relations Act 1976
Status: Repealed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.[1]

It also prompted the creation of The Race Relations Board (in 1966), 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.[2] In 1958, London saw the Notting Hill riots,[2] and in 1963 the Bristol Bus Boycott occurred.[3]


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 offense 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, John Colin Campbell Gordon was also successfully prosecuted under the Act and jailed for 18 months in 1967.[4]

Black immigrants were also tried for this offence including Black Power leader Michael Abdul Malik and four members of the Universal Coloured People's Association for "stirring up racial hatred against white people."[5]


The Act did not extend to Northern Ireland, and specifically excluded shops and private boarding houses,[1] 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.[6] It was "a weak piece of legislation"[7] and failed to end racial discrimination in the UK fully.[7]

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 It was repealed by the Race Relations Act 1976, which saw the creation of the Commission for Racial Equality.[1]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 e "On this day: 8 December 1965: New UK race law 'not tough enough'". BBC. 8 December 1965. Retrieved 10 January 2010.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  2. ^ a b "Race Relations Acts 1965-1976". The Museum of London. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  3. ^ Editorial (10 November 2005). "In Praise Of...The Race Relations Acts". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "Glasgow Herald - January 26, 1967". Retrieved 2016-06-23. 
  5. ^ "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 2016-05-01. 
  6. ^ "The Origins of the Race Relations Act Philip N. Sooben Research Paper in Ethnic Relations No.12 Centre for Research in Ethnic Re" (PDF). webcache.googleusercontent.com. Retrieved 2016-05-01. 
  7. ^ 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.