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Race Relations Act 1965
UK Government Coat of Arms
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Statute book chapter: 1965 c. 73
Other legislation
Amendments: Race Relations Act 1968
Repealing legislation: Race Relations Act 1976
Status: Repealed

The Race Relations Act of 8 December 1965[1] 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.[2]

It also prompted the creation of The Race Relations Board (in 1966), to consider complaints under the Act.[2]


Reasons for the Act's introduction

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] In 1958, London saw the Notting Hill riots,[3] and in 1963 the Bristol Bus Boycott occurred.[4]

Results of the Act

The Act made it a civil offence (rather than a criminal offence) to refuse to serve a person, an unreasonable delay in serving someone, or overcharging, on the grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins.

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.[2]


The Act did not extend to Northern Ireland,[1] and specifically excluded shops and private boarding houses.[2] It was "a weak piece of legislation"[5] and failed to end racial discrimination in the UK, as evidenced by the expansion of the National Front and Enoch Powell's 1968 Rivers of Blood speech.[5]

Amendment and repeal

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 It was repealed by the Race Relations Act 1976, which saw the creation of the Commission for Racial Equality.[2]




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