Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Buscombe moved Amendment No. 277:

The noble Baroness said: Clause 61 sets out the conditions that need to be complied with before premises can be counted as a club for the purposes of Part 4 of the Bill. One of the conditions is that the members of the club may not be admitted as members without an interval of at least two days between their nomination or application for membership and their admission. The reason for the two-day break is to ensure that the system is not abused by people simply turning up at the door of a club and being granted membership there and then. It thus enables the premises to be able to qualify as a club under Part 4. The clause reflects the existing legislation in relation to clubs.

The amendment proposes altering the words "two days" to "48 hours" so that the spirit of the legislation is met, namely by ensuring that there is a full two day break between the application for membership and the admission to membership. Otherwise, someone who applies for membership at 11.30 p.m. on a Tuesday and is admitted as a member just 25 hours later, at half past midnight on the Thursday, would qualify as a member for the purposes of Part 4. I beg to move.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My amendment, No. 309A, is grouped with Amendment No. 277. It relates to clubs and door supervision under Clause 72. Concern has been expressed about Clause 72(1) which refers to club premises certificates inevitably including a condition for door supervision. It states that each individual undertaking door supervision must be licensed by the Security Industry Authority. I do not believe that there is a problem with that latter part, but there is a concern that local authorities and the licensing requirements will increasingly require door supervision for all clubs. At present a club registration certificate does not include an equivalent requirement.

A number of clubs would argue that they are essentially private members' clubs, most of which are community social centres and have a restricted membership, for the reasons that have just been mentioned. Therefore, there is the risk that zealous local authorities will, over time, insist on door supervisors as a condition of maintaining a licence. That will impose on modest institutions, a number of which are under great competitive pressure from alternative leisure outlets, the expense and the complication of providing door supervisors. As I understand it, to date registered private members' clubs have been exempt from such requirements. I believe that it is worth teasing out an argument that in this limited area exemption should be and could be justifiably maintained.

Lord Davies of Oldham: As the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, indicated in introducing her amendment, Clause 61 sets out the five conditions that

16 Jan 2003 : Column 364

a club must satisfy to be a qualifying club and to be eligible for club premises certificates. The first of the five tests that a club has to pass is set out in subsection (2). That requires the minimum of two days between an application or nomination for membership and the commencement of such membership. She rightly identified why that is an important consideration. We have always insisted, and want to continue to insist, that club membership is not granted as instantaneous entry into premises, but that there is a decent interval between the application and the benefits of club membership.

The difference between us is marginal. Although the difference between two days and 48 hours does not appear to be much mathematically, there is a slight difference. The difference would be that someone who applied at 3 p.m. on a Monday afternoon would receive membership by Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. under the amendment of the noble Baroness, whereas under our proposal in the Bill the membership would not be granted until the next day, the Thursday.

We maintain that we should continue with arrangements to protect club membership that has operated satisfactorily for many years. The two-day requirement has lasted for many years. It is well attested to and it works without difficulty. We have not had substantial representations that it should be changed. The change proposed is on the margin. We believe that we are better advised to stay with the tried and tested formula, that people wait that extra time before they enjoy full membership. I have no great objection to the amendment but I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it because I do not see that it significantly advances the position.

With regard to Amendment No. 309A, Clause 72 is not the easiest clause in the Bill to understand. I acknowledge at once that the department's Explanatory Notes on it are less than accurate. The notes suggest that, in cases where premises are being used exclusively for the purposes of a qualifying club, and where the club premises certificate includes a condition that someone acts as a door supervisor or carries out some other specified security activity, the person appointed by the club does not have to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority. The amendment would make the Bill have just that effect. Therefore, I willingly concede that it appears only reasonable for the Government to accept it. However, I hope to persuade the Committee that on this occasion the Bill should stay as it is and that it is the Explanatory Notes that need amendment.

Under the Bill as drafted, it will be for the licensing authority to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a club premises certificate needs to include a door supervisor or other security activity condition. In many cases such a condition will plainly be unnecessary and the provisions of Clause 72 will never arise in the first place. However, in those cases where a security activity condition is judged to be necessary, it will be important that the person selected by the club is up to the job and can be relied upon to carry it out in a responsible way.

16 Jan 2003 : Column 365

In general, it will be for the club to exercise its own judgment about whom to use, and rightly so. The club may want to ask one of its own members to supervise admission, even if that member does not hold an SIA licence. We see no problem with that. But where a club provides music and dancing, the door supervisor has to be licensed on the rationale that those are activities carrying the highest risk of certain matters going wrong.

It is important to be clear that the Bill is not saying that any club running a disco, however small or mild, must employ a door supervisor, let alone a door supervisor licensed by the SIA. The issue of SIA licensing will arise only if the club's premises certificate includes a condition requiring the club to use a door supervisor. If there is no such condition, or the club chooses to employ a door supervisor voluntarily, it will be free to make whatever arrangements it thinks best.

In that respect the Bill does no more than maintain the position established in the Private Security Industry Act 2001. I have sought to clear up what may be a misunderstanding based on our guidance notes. Therefore, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment on the basis that what is in the Bill is reasonable and correct.

Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for his response to the amendment. I hear what he says about there not being necessarily a big difference between two days and 48 hours. In fact there is a difference. For example, Monday at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. gives us only until Wednesday after midnight as a two-day period rather than a proper 48-hour period within which to have an opportunity to vet an application for club membership. Recently, that point was illustrated to me when I was a guest at a gaming club. It was interesting that so many of those entering that club and wishing to become members were not resident in this country. The club needed the time in order to vet the applicants properly.

So I hear what the Minister has said, but I shall consult the local authority which suggested the amendment to hear its view. On that basis, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester moved Amendment No. 278:

    Page 35, line 28, at end insert—

"(7) Nothing in the following condition applies to a club which restricts membership to persons of one sex.
(8) Condition 6 is that the club does not—
(a) in the case of a woman who is not a member, discriminate against her—
(i) in the terms on which it is prepared to admit her to membership; or
(ii) by refusing or deliberately omitting to accept her application for membership;

16 Jan 2003 : Column 366

(b) in the case of a woman who is a member or associate of the club, discriminate against her—
(i) in the way it affords her access to any benefits, facilities or services, or by refusing or deliberately omitting to afford her access to them;
(ii) in the case of a member, by depriving her of membership, or varying the terms on which she is a member;
(iii) in the case of a member, by offering her rights of participation in the governance of the club of lesser efficacy than a male member of the club;
(iv) in the case of an associate, by depriving her of her rights as an associate, or varying those rights;
(v) in the case of an associate, by offering her rights of participation in the governance of the club of lesser efficacy than a male associate of the club; or
(vi) in either case, by subjecting her to any other form of detriment; or
(c) in offering (whether for payment or not) goods, facilities or services to persons who are not members or associates of the club, discriminate against a woman who is not a member or associate of the club and who seeks to obtain or use those goods, facilities or services—
(i) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide her with any of them;
(ii) by refusing or deliberately omitting to provide her with goods, facilities or services of the like quality, in the like manner and on the like terms as are normal in this case in relation to a man who is not a member or associate of the club.
(9) The following are examples of the facilities and services mentioned in condition 6—
(a) access to and any use of any place where persons who are not members or associates of the club are permitted to enter;
(b) accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or other similar establishment;
(c) facilities for entertainment, recreation or refreshment;
(d) facilities for transport or travel.
(10) For the purposes of condition 6(a)—
(a) a person is a member of a club if he belongs to it by virtue of his admission to any sort of membership provided for by any constitution, rule, policy or practice of the club (and is not merely a person with certain rights by virtue of his membership of some other club) and references to membership of a club shall be construed accordingly;
(b) a person is an associate of a club if, not being a member of it, he has under or by its constitution, rule, policy or practice some or all of the rights enjoyed by members (or would have apart from any constitution, rule, policy or practice thereof authorising the refusal of those rights in particular cases).

16 Jan 2003 : Column 367

(11) Nothing in condition 6 shall affect—
(a) the provision of separate facilities or services, or the separate use of facilities or services, for men and women, if the facilities or services are provided for, or are likely to be used by, two or more persons at the same time and—
(i) the facilities or services are such, or those persons are such, that male users are likely to suffer serious embarrassment at the presence of a woman;
(ii) the facilities or services are such that a user is likely to be in a state of undress and a male user might reasonably object to the presence of a female user; or
(iii) the facilities or services are such that physical contact between the user and any other person is likely, and that other person might reasonably object if the user were a woman; or
(b) the provision of facilities or services restricted to men, or of separate facilities or services for men and women, if—
(i) the club exists for the purposes of an organised religion; and
(ii) such restrictions or use are maintained so as to comply with the doctrines of that religion or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of a substantial number of its followers."

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 278, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 279 and 280 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill. He sadly cannot be with us today, but I greatly look forward to the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, who will be speaking more than adequately on his behalf.

Those Members of the Committee who followed the progress of my Private Members' Bill in the previous Session will recognise the wording of the amendment. It follows the text of my Bill, which passed all stages in this House and went to another place. It is appropriate for the issue of sex discrimination in private members' clubs to be discussed in that context because it repeals Schedule 7 to the Licensing Act 1964, which deals with the governance of these clubs. That schedule states that the affairs of the club must be managed by one or more elective committees, and that there must be a general meeting of the club at least once in every year, for which the voting must be confined to members.

The Act goes on to say that all members entitled to use the club premises must be entitled to vote and must have equal voting rights. However, the rules may exclude from voting women if the club is primarily a men's club and men if the club is primarily a women's club.

Prior to the Second Reading debate I was advised by the Cabinet Office's Women and Equality Unit that the repeal of the Licensing Act 1964 would remove the discrimination contained in Schedule 7 to that Act, stemming from the use of the word "primarily". It told me that the Bill therefore represented a step forward.

16 Jan 2003 : Column 368

I spoke to that effect at Second Reading and it was on that basis that I tabled my amendment for consideration today.

The amendment also seeks to address the issue of club facilities, dealing with matters such as women being barred from the snooker room or being made to play golf only at times when the men do not want to.

However, it now appears that the situation is not as straightforward as I or the Women and Equality Unit believed. The Bill, by repealing Schedule 7 of the Licensing Act 1964, removes the permitted discrimination by the use of the word "primarily", but it puts nothing whatever in its place. So I should apologise to the Committee for inadvertently misleading the Chamber at Second Reading.

However, I was not alone in not appreciating that instead of representing a modest step forward in providing a better deal for women as to how they are treated in private members' clubs, the Bill makes possible a step backwards to a worse situation where women are discriminated against to a greater extent than at present in the governance of clubs. I cannot believe that that is what my noble friend Lady Blackstone wishes. She has a distinguished record in combating sex discrimination in private members' clubs, as indeed does the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, on the Benches opposite, who supported my Private Members' Bill on the subject in the previous Session, and who, I am pleased to see has put her name to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lester.

While obviously I have no intention of pressing my amendment to a vote today, I hope to hear from my noble friend that the Government will agree to amendments at a later stage that will do what I, and I believe most noble Lords, seek to achieve. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend, Lord Lester, who, as the Committee has already heard, regrettably cannot be in the Chamber today and offers his abject apologies.

The amendments are reasonable and progressive. They are similar to those passed in the Equal Status Act by the Irish Parliament. There is no difference in principle between the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, and our amendments.

Amendment No. 279 seeks to ensure that, where a club offers membership to women, it must do so on equal terms with men as a condition of receiving a licence. That includes women taking an equal part in the governance of the club. It also includes women not being excluded from certain parts of the club or any facilities that are available to men.

The amendment allows for the continuance of single-sex clubs as it applies only to clubs offering membership or associate membership to both men and women. A club can choose to maintain its status as a single-sex club, but where it chooses to permit both

16 Jan 2003 : Column 369

sexes it should do so on equal terms. This issue is not just about voting rights. Amendment No. 279 inserts the condition of giving fair notice that a club does not discriminate, but it does not apply to single-sex clubs. It does nothing to violate the privacy of all-male or all-female clubs.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page