Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Burnham: I am very interested in what my noble friend says. However, perhaps she will take this opportunity to correct her remark during debate on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, that it was Conservative Party policy to be in favour of that Bill and of this amendment.

Baroness Buscombe: In response to my noble friend Lord Onslow, I said at the outset that we are not against single-sex clubs. Whether they are all male or

16 Jan 2003 : Column 376

all female is fine. I stated that during debate on the Private Member's Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner.

Speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, what I have said today to the best of my knowledge remains Conservative Party policy.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Quite a chasm has opened up in Committee with regard to this series of amendments. In responding, perhaps I may seek to build a bridge to the other side.

I have enormous sympathy for the thinking which lies behind the amendments. The noble Lords, Lord Lester and Lord Faulkner, will recall that on behalf of the Government my noble friend Lady Scotland welcomed a Private Member's Bill introduced in the last Session. The Government will continue to keep the matter under positive review.

I have no time for those clubs which do not offer their members, whether men or women, good facilities on a fair and equal basis. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, indicated that that was her view. I know that some clubs continue to operate what can be described only as a second-class membership for women, or do not allow women to use some parts of the premises or to use them only at certain times. I agree with the noble Baroness. This is no way to operate in the 21st century. I am a keen golfer and the golfing world has to adjust to the changing circumstances. Many golf clubs are doing so. I hope that that will be recognised as an important step forward.

However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and my noble friend Lord Borrie in their contentions that the Bill is neither the proper place to tackle these issues nor the best way to do so. If I have understood the logic of the amendments, it is that we should not allow clubs which discriminate between the sexes to benefit from the club premises certificate regime. They should instead be subject to the normal premises licensing regime. This might encourage them to think again about their membership and other policies. I think that that is a rather oblique way of going about the matter.

I am not persuaded that we should accept the amendments for three specific reasons. First, the proposed amendments would not make sex discrimination in clubs unlawful but would introduce an additional requirement for the grant of a club premises certificate. The result of discrimination by the club will be that all the club members, including the person discriminated against, are deprived of the advantages of the club's certificate while no appropriate remedy will have been given to the person discriminated against. It would be a gesture rather than an effective remedy to discrimination.

Secondly, because the amendments are aimed at the wrong target—the grant of a certificate rather than a remedy for the discrimination—they do not make sufficiently clear the precise circumstances in which discrimination will lead to a refusal. For example,

16 Jan 2003 : Column 377

would a single past incident of discrimination, perhaps perpetrated by one particular member of staff at the club, override the future intentions of the club management who might express themselves in different terms? We should be faced with uncertainty and inconsistency. That would not be right in law.

Thirdly, the proposed provisions would not apply to the many thousands of clubs which do not have or seek to obtain a certificate to sell alcohol or to provide regulated entertainment. It is simply a licensing Bill with regard to alcohol and entertainment. Yet exactly the same considerations apply, quite properly, to discrimination in all clubs, wherever it occurs apart from single-sex clubs. Here we are only talking about clubs involved in alcohol sale or entertainment.

I make clear that I am not saying that discrimination in the provision of services or in the rules of admission to clubs does not need attention. I argue that it needs to be considered as part of legislation on sex discrimination or on clubs and not in a Bill about licensing. That would be an ineffectual way of addressing the matter as a club could simply evade the issue by applying for a normal premises licence.

I should like it to be clear that I appreciate that the amendments have been carefully thought through and crafted. I pay due regard to that fact and pay tribute to the skills with which the amendments have been presented. They do not therefore give rise to the normal objections and considerations of religious sensitivities. That is all included in the amendments.

However, this is not the Bill in which these skilful amendments ought to be addressed. The issues need to be discussed and debated. I think that my noble friend Lord Faulkner recognises that. He clearly set out to create a Bill that received the assent of the House, and which dealt with the issue of discrimination in the necessary breadth. The problem with regard to a Licensing Bill is that there is a very narrow focus for dealing with the issue of discrimination.

To sum up, I appreciate the thinking behind the amendments. I am ready to accept that discrimination in clubs is something which needs further attention. The Bill provides for club membership certificates. Clause 61 sets about defining the principal characteristics of a club to prevent abuse of the system. Whatever we may think of them, the type of clubs which have been described today are nevertheless clubs. They have not been set up deliberately to evade licensing laws. We are talking of bona fide clubs which have, in the past, enjoyed the benefits of licenses. Certainly, some clubs could do with some prompting to change their ways. Perhaps this debate will assist in those terms. This is not the legislation which needs to be changed in order to force the issues on the clubs.

However, I hope that some aspects of real concern will be addressed. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, as well as other noble Lords speaking to the amendment, said that we may be in danger of taking a step backwards because Schedule 7 to the 1964 Licensing Act is subject to repeal under this legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, referred to a case. As he did not specify which case I am unable to form a judgment,

16 Jan 2003 : Column 378

except to say that I recognise that there has been at least one case where the magistrates, under Schedule 7 to the 1964 Licensing Act, made a judgment of refusing a licence because they regarded the rules of the club as not meeting the requirements consistent with no discrimination.

I say to my noble friend who proposed the amendment that we shall look at this issue further. We shall be prepared to meet with him and his colleagues who wish to make representations on these matters to see whether we can, at a later stage, introduce an amendment in order to guarantee that the one thing we do not do is step backwards rather than make further progress. On that basis, I hope that we have enjoyed a vigorous and interesting debate, but largely outwith the provisions of the Licensing Bill. I hope that the noble Lords proposing the amendments will feel free to withdraw them.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: The Committee will be relieved to know that I do not intend to rehearse all the arguments which we debated at some length during the passage of the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill in the last Session. However, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, even though some arguments were rather familiar .

I am particularly grateful for the final comments of the Minister who has accepted that the Bill, as it stands at present, removes the element of the 1964 Act which deals with the governance of private members clubs. I accept with gratitude his offer to discuss possible amendments that can be brought forward at a later stage to ensure that the Bill does not drive us further back to the dark ages. I suspect that one or two of your Lordships may wish to do that in the case of private members clubs, although I am sure not the great majority. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 279 not moved.]

Clause 61 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 280 not moved.]

Clauses 62 to 67 agreed to.

Clause 68 [Authorised persons, interested parties and responsible authorities]:

[Amendments Nos. 281 to 299 not moved.]

Clause 68 agreed to.

Clause 69 [Other definitions relating to clubs]:

[Amendments Nos. 299A and 299B not moved.]

Clause 69 agreed to.

Clause 70 [Application for club premises certificate]:

[Amendments Nos. 300 to 303 not moved.]

Lord Clarke of Hampstead had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 304:

    Page 41, line 2, at end insert—

"( ) the maximum capacity of the premises,"

The noble Lord said: I apologise for rushing into the Chamber late. I was attending the Select Committee on Religious Offences. I need a couple of seconds to

16 Jan 2003 : Column 379

gather the relevant papers on this amendment, which I believe deals with the number of days for the application. Is that correct?

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Thomas of Walliswood): For the assistance of the noble Lord, this amendment has already been debated.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page