Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Burnham: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him how, if the Bill were enacted, he would deal with my lady associate members paying one-tenth of the subscription.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thought that I had answered that question. The important point about associate membership is that it will continue, if the club and the members wish it to continue. However, both categories of membership

22 May 2002 : Column 859

must be equally available to both genders. Men should have the right to be associate members and women should have the right to be full members. That is what the Bill seeks to achieve.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to clarify one matter? I had intended to go to the Garrick for dinner, but when I heard of this debate, I thought that I had better come here. Would it be safe for me to go there in the future?

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, the noble Lord may have to wait for the next amendment to be absolutely satisfied on that.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, this has been a most interesting debate in which a number of people who did not take part at earlier stages of the Bill have spoken.

Sex equality is a principle of tremendous importance to all liberal-minded people. Freedom of association is also a liberal principle. The Bill ignores the latter and over-emphasises the former. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who supports my amendment, said, 1,500 is only a probing figure. But, as at Committee stage, my noble friend Lord Faulkner has moved not at all.

Because of the application of the threshold of 25 to race discrimination, and perhaps my noble friend the Minister's discovery of the new point relating to the licensing laws, it does not seem to me appropriate that 25 should be the figure. That is because it would involve compelling the members of many working men's clubs—my noble friend mentioned hundreds—whatever their views, to treat male and female members in precisely the same way, not even having a single room, a bar, where men can drink on their own among other men. Is that such a terrible thing for male members to want?

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Does he appreciate that that is not quite right? A club can have a separate bar for men and a separate bar for women, provided they are equal. That is made clear by the Sex Discrimination Act.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, in practical terms, with regard to modest sized premises, the noble Lord's point may not be feasible.

My main concern in trying to increase the threshold from 25 to a more reasonable number is to ensure that hundreds of working men's clubs are not required by law to do what this House may think should be done. There is no doubt—my noble friend Lord Faulkner has admitted this point—that, of the hundreds of working men's clubs, some have gone in a certain direction while others have not. Evolution is regarded as taking place too slowly and therefore the law must intervene.

My noble friend the Minister said that this is a small Bill. However, hundreds of clubs, each with dozens or even hundreds of members, will be required to do

22 May 2002 : Column 860

something ex hypothesi that they do not wish as yet and have not decided as yet to do. Is a Bill justified on that basis? I very much doubt it. As there are views on all sides of the matter, I am tempted to divide the House on this amendment. However, it is only a probing one.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I do not know how many noble Lords are present in the House as a whole or what the outcome of that would be. However, I do know that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has been comforted by the fact that each of the debates on the Bill so far has taken place on a quiet Wednesday evening. The number of noble Lords who would give a credible total to those voting has not been very great. No one has been Whipped. I do not know when the Third Reading will take place and my noble friend Lord Faulkner does not either. My noble friend nods. He is well in with the Government, as it were, and I am not. It would appear that the noble Lord knows the date of the Third Reading.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, in the interests of accuracy I should make it clear that as the sponsor of the Bill I have been offered a date by the usual channels but it has not yet been confirmed.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, I am happy on this occasion to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Elton): Is it your Lordships' pleasure that this amendment be withdrawn?

Noble Lords: No!

The Deputy Speaker: The Question is that this amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say "Content", to the contrary "Not Content".

Noble Lords: Not Content!

The Deputy Speaker: The Not-Contents have it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 2:


    Page 1, line 11, after "29(1)" insert—


"( ) it is not an organisation which restricts membership to persons of one sex;"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can deal with this like greased lightning. This amendment, as I tried to explain, is designed to make it clear beyond argument that an organisation which restricts membership to persons of one sex will not be affected in any way by this Bill. To answer a question that was raised a short time ago, the reason this is entirely symmetrical with the Race Relations Act is as follows. The Race Relations Act draws a distinction between colour bars

22 May 2002 : Column 861

and clubs which promote the cultural values, for example, of Bangladeshis, Afro-Caribbeans or any other group. In the same way, a distinction is being drawn in this Bill between the single sex clubs and clubs that admit both sexes. I hope that we have the drafting right. The consequential amendment to which I also speak, Amendment No. 4, is designed to do away with the vague and ambiguous provisions in what is now new Section 29B which might bring the Garrick and other clubs within the scope of the Bill. This is designed to make it crystal clear that that will not happen. Provided that the club does in fact exclude women, it may freely do so. Provided that a club excludes men, it may freely do so. That applies to guests as well as to members. I beg to move.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, it is good to my mind that the proposers of this Bill—my noble friend Lord Faulkner and the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill—have moved away from what was certainly the earlier view of my noble friend Lord Faulkner; that is, that while single sex clubs should generally not be covered by the Bill, they should be bound by the so-called "guest" provision and should treat male and female guests precisely equally. It was unclear from the earlier drafting—I think that that was admitted in Committee—what would be the outcome if the Bill as it originally stood had gone forward.

My belief is that Amendment No. 2 of the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, has achieved the complete exclusion of single sex clubs from the Bill. I am glad to note that exclusion in his amendment does not turn on the club's constitution or some particular written document. It suffices if, as a matter of fact—I hope that the noble Lord will agree with my interpretation—the club does restrict membership to one sex. I see that the noble Lord nods and therefore I trust that that is the case. I welcome that. I shall at the appropriate moment withdraw Amendment No. 5 in my name which seeks to achieve the same result.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I do not think that it is necessary for me to add anything to what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, has said. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for coming forward with his amendment which I think is probably superior to the amendment put forward by myself and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. I have taken some advice from a colleague of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, who is learned in the law. I am assured that it achieves those things that we seek. On that basis, like the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, I shall not want to press our amendment when we get to it. I shall be more than happy to accept—if the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, is happy to accept it, which I take it he is as he has his name to it—the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lester.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition I rise to support the whole group of amendments. However, I also have a preference for the amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lord Lester of Herne Hill.

22 May 2002 : Column 862

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the Government understand the drive towards simplification and the problem that some elderly, indeed, venerable associations have no specific constitution and that many which do have constitutions will not say explicitly that their membership is to be limited solely to men or to women. Therefore, we see the thrust of the amendment that my noble friend puts forward. We now think that the factors which have been mentioned in the debates on the Bill suggest that a more simplified test of whether a club limits its membership exclusively to one sex is likely to provide the way forward. We cannot at this stage specifically endorse the amendment as currently phrased but we certainly endorse its thrust.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page