British Anti-Discrimination Law: An Introduction

01 Jan 1983

The United Kingdom is a signatory of a number of international treaties protecting various aspects of human rights, including freedom from discrimination. Yet, there is no legislation in this country protecting a comprehensive list of human rights in the manner of the United States Bill of Rights, although there have been a number of unsuccessful atempts to enact such legislation since 1969. Moreover, prior to race relations legislation, there was no general rule, policy or principle in common law directly relevant to combating racial discrimination or incitement to racial hatred.

The inadequacies of the common law and statutes stimulated several unsuccessful initiatives during the 1950s and early 1960s to secure legislation directly designed to combat racial discrimination and render incitement to racial hatred unlawful. The Labour Party, going from a position of neutrality to one of support by 1964, gradually accepted the principle of legislation, a decision attributed in part to the effect of the Notting Hill and Nottingham race riots in the summer of 1958. The resurgence of neo-Nazism in the early 1960s also contributed, particularly to the law relating to incitement to racial hatred.

This article shall examine the development and current operation of the law in two areas connected with race: incitement to racial hatred and unlawful discrimination.