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Lord Henley: Perhaps I may say a few words on the amendment, having spoken on the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, on a previous occasion. The noble Lord rightly flagged up this amendment when he spoke at Second Reading. He somewhat—dare I say—misleadingly suggested that he had support from all sides of the Chamber and that there had not been much in the way of objection to his measure at that time. He will remember that in fact there was considerable objection to his measure. There was objection from his own Benches, from the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. There were objections from some elements on the Liberal Democrat Benches—the few Liberals who remain, such as the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and possibly the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. There were objections from people such as myself and my noble friend—

Lord Tordoff: Perhaps the noble Lord will give way. I have been a Liberal all my life and intend to remain one until I die.

Lord Henley: On a previous occasion I accused the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, of being illiberal. He asked me on that occasion what I knew about the Liberal Party. I pointed out that I had been a Member of the Liberal Party and that my father had been president of that great party. I was somewhat doubtful whether the Liberal Democrat Party still adhered to the same liberal traditions that the old Liberal Party used to stick to. I make that point merely as an aside. The point I wanted to make was that not everyone was thoroughly behind the views of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.

I want only to make a few brief points at this stage because I am very grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, has no intention of pressing the amendment to a vote at this stage. Perhaps we can discuss the matter at some later stage following what we hear from the Government.

I ought to make two or three points. As this is the first time that I have spoken on the Bill I ought to declare an interest as a member of various clubs, some of which might be affected by such a measure. First, I understand that the Bill is designed to be a deregulatory Bill. As I understand the amendment it is very much regulatory and therefore it would not be appropriate to include it in the Bill. I would hope therefore that the Minister can assure us that the Government, whatever their views of the merits or otherwise of the amendment, will say that this is not the appropriate place to insert such a provision in the legislation.

The second simple point I make is that, though a member of the Conservative Party, as one who still deeply believes in all good liberal principles, I believe

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that this a matter that should be left to the clubs themselves. They can decide who should be members of their clubs and how they run themselves. There are strong rules about freedom of association. It is a matter for the clubs to decide how they deal with these matters themselves.

The last point I wish to put to the Minister concerns the current licensing law. Recently, there was a case of a Conservative club—I believe it was, although it may have been a golf club—that was affected by re-licensing when the licensing authorities—the magistrates, I assume—insisted that it refrain from some allegedly discriminatory activities. Were those magistrates acting within the law—I understand that the club in the end complied—or did they exceed their powers under the 1964 Act? Would it have been more proper for the Crown—again, this is a matter for the Crown—to have challenged that in the courts, or do the Government have a view about whether the licensing authorities had power to behave in that manner?

Lord Borrie: My noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester is to be congratulated on his ingenuity in framing not only these amendments but earlier ones in which he has sought to amend the Bill with the objectives—worthy, no doubt—of protecting employees and children from the passive effects of smoking or of reducing unjustified discrimination against women, which, to my mind, are beyond the purpose of the Bill.

When responding to the amendment concerning smoking many weeks ago—whenever it was that the Committee began—my noble friend Lady Blackstone emphasised that the purposes of the licensing regime should be clearly focused on public safety and the prevention of disturbance or disorder. The focus of Part 4 is clearly the same. Hence the requirement for clubs to be established and conducted in good faith, the need for various rules about people being members before they are allowed in and restrictions on the supply of alcohol. Adding conditions forbidding any discrimination against women would be wholly extraneous.

Amendment No. 278, tabled by my noble friend Lord Faulkner, makes clear in ways that the other amendment does not that it does not apply to single-sex clubs, such as the Garrick Club—I declare an interest as a member—or other St James' clubs, some of which are still men-only, or working men's clubs up and down the country, a few of which still do not allow any form of membership to women. Under Amendment No. 278, they could continue to discriminate against women. Indeed, another club, to which some of my lady friends belong, the Sloane Club, could continue to restrict membership to women.

We all know that many clubs in all those categories—and golf clubs, to which my noble friend briefly referred—allow some form of membership, sometimes called associate membership, to women. Often, women receive the quid pro quo of a lower subscription for reduced facilities and, one may say, a

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reduced role in the governance of the club. What I shall say about the amendment—which shows that I thoroughly dislike it in principle, even if it were not struggling to get within a Bill in which it does not really belong—is that it interferes with private relationships in private clubs and the governance of those clubs in a way that has nothing to do with good order or public safety and, in any case, has a dubious basis in principle.

For example, if a bar in a club is open to male members only, under the amendment it would have to be opened to women members at all times and on exactly the same terms. If women guests are admitted to those clubs at all, condition 6 at subsection (8)(c) of my noble friend's amendment provides that if women are not admitted to all facilities, they must be admitted to the same facilities as are male guests. If we consider working men's clubs—I owe a debt to my noble friend Lord Faulkner, who, during debates last year on the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill supplied many interesting facts and figures about them—60 per cent of them now have some form of membership for women, be it called associate membership or whatever. If the amendment were carried, they would be forced to return to being men-only, because they simply do not have the facilities and number of rooms that would be required under it.

The only exemptions allowed by the noble Lord's amendment are for lavatories and changing rooms, which would continue to be separate. I admit that there is a broader exemption if clubs exist for the purpose of a religion whose doctrines require that men and women should be separate. However, a mere inclination on the part of men to drink only with other men, not in the presence of women, would be absolutely forbidden. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, spoke, is basically as objectionable, although it may not cover mere guests—I am not too clear about that .

Under Amendment No. 280, instead of allowing male-only clubs such as the Garrick to continue as they are, as would the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, would introduce a much more subtle test that will be great for lawyers, because it mentions the objectives of the club and,

    "the essential character of the association".

I shall not read out now, as I did during debate on the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill promoted by my noble friend Lord Faulkner, the objectives of the Garrick Club, which were set out in 1831. As one would imagine, they concerned promoting the appreciation of drama and the arts in general and said absolutely nothing about it being for men only. Of course, the assumption of the club's founders was that it would be for men only: they did not need to state that. But how that would be interpreted by the courts today if—an awful prospect—the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, Amendment No. 279, were carried, I do not know.

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I end simply by saying that freedom of association is one of the great freedoms of which we are surely all in favour. That must include the notion of mixing with those people that we want to on this or that occasion—for drinking or playing snooker. If that excludes women on the one hand or men on the other, so be it. In private clubs, that freedom should continue.

Lord Monson: As on previous occasions, I support the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his advocacy of genuine liberalism. It therefore follows that I support what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said. Moreover, perhaps I may point out that Amendment No. 278, as distinct from the other two amendments in the group, is positively sexist. It would hit mainly male clubs that treat women differently in one or more ways, but would not touch mainly female clubs that treat men differently in one or more ways.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, may argue that such clubs do not exist, to which I would say, first, "How can he be so sure?" and, secondly, even if they do not, "What is to prevent them coming into existence in future?". I suggest that the amendment is defective on those grounds alone.

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