1968 Race Relations Act

Whilst racial discrimination had been acknowledged for the first time in the 1965 Race Relations Act, this was extremely limited in scope.

The Race Relations Act 1968 sought to remedy some of its deficiencies, most significantly by outlawing direct discrimination – ‘on the ground of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins’ – in employment and housing. This was, therefore, the first piece of anti-discrimination legislation to apply to the workplace.

The act strengthened the powers of the Race Relations Board (which had been set up in 1966 following the 1965 Act) to investigate, conciliate or enforce (even where no complaint had been filed). It also set up the Community Relations Commission.

Civil enforcement proceedings could be brought by the Race Relations Board through county courts (England and Wales) or sheriffs’ courts (Scotland). Any case was to be presided over by a judge, assisted by two assessors with ‘special knowledge and experience of problems connected with race and community relations’.