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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, on bringing back what she described as a simple amendment. I do not think that it is simpleI was impressed by the complexity and the coverage that the amendment attempts to secure. There is little doubt that it addresses a matter of very considerable concern to people in many areas where lap dancing clubs and other similar clubs have opened in recent years.
My first experience of this matter as a politician was when, as leader of a council, I was appalled by the proposition of having a lap dancing club in Hove, which seemed an altogether inappropriate place. Many people in that part of the city were deeply offended by the suggestion that such a club should be located there.
The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, put her finger on the point, as it were, when she said that the planning criteria that were available to consider the application were not fit for the purpose, which made it difficult for decency to prevail.
We accept that the matter is importantall our political experience tells us that local authorities should have adequate powers to regulate such establishments. However, as I said earlier, the amendment demonstrates the complexity of drafting to cover the types of dancing and performance that may take place in such clubs. I have heard of many of the types of dancing described in the amendment, but I have not come across taxi dancing before. I am looking forward to somebody telling me exactly what that is.
I can see that much thought has gone into the drafting of this amendment. The problem with it, however, is that it would catch a far broader range of clubs than those at which it is aimedby reason of including dancing in clothing that reveals a portion of the buttocks, for example. That is not only a matter of drafting; it raises very significant questions about the extent to which entertainment should be controlled.
I am concerned that this is a matter on which there is a need for wider consultation than is possible within the time scale of the Bill. I appreciate that that is similar to the response given in Committee, and I anticipate the disappointment of the noble Baroness in hearing those words. However, the proposal has implications for local government and they and other interested parties would need to be consulted extensively. It is a regulatory matter on which there would need to be a regulatory impact assessment. There are enforcement issues that would need to be taken very carefully into account. There is a need for more generalised consultation within local government and other interested groups and I am sure that the police, who would get involved in some aspects of enforcement, would also need to be consulted.
The Government are more than happy to pursue the issue and undertake consultation. However, given the time frame of this legislationthe new financial regime must be ready to kick in by a certain time next yearwe cannot proceed on the basis of this amendment, crafted cannily and extensively as it undoubtedly is. We cannot support this amendment for this Bill. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will take up our offer of further discussions so that we can try to perfect something for a later time and another government Bill that covers local government matters. As my noble friend Lord Rooker said yesterday, "There's always another one coming along shortly afterwards".
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before my noble friend Lady O'Cathain decides what to do about her amendment, the Minister talked about complexity, but all legalese is complex; that is a given. We know that lay readers find such matters difficult to work their way through. However, the Minister has enormous back-up from parliamentary counsel and officials in the department. Is he really saying that he admits that there is a problem and that local authorities have inadequate measures to deal with it and that some of these clubs are offensive to the communities, but is not taking a heaven-sent opportunity to do something about the problem? He has not explained why my noble friend's amendment is unacceptable.
The amendment would be widely welcomed. If, over time, it is seen not to be suitable for the purpose, it is within the Government's powers, with our support, to perfect it at a later date. I see nothing wrong with my noble friend's amendment and nothing that the Minister has said tells us why the amendment is defective.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I need not tell you how very disappointed I am about this. It is quite unfair because we will not now protect the people who live around the areas and those who are seduced into going into these clubs. There is a chipping away at the moral fabric of this country that is going on relentlessly. We have an ideal opportunityand I thank my noble friend Lady Blatch most sincerely for her support.
Somebody in this country has to stand up to stop these clubs. It is not good enough to sayand I use the Minister's words back at himthat it is "a matter of very considerable concern". If that is the case, why can we not do something about it? There is no earthly reason why not. The Minister said that we need a full regulatory impact assessment and that the police must be consulted. Those are fine words, but that is all that they are. The Minister has not said when the consultation would take place, what sort of time scale would be involved, or how long these adult entertainment or lap dancing clubs will be permitted to rampage throughout the country. That is what they are doing.
There are people who are caught by such clubs on the basis of corporate entertainment, as I explained. One place is even next door to a Christian cathedral. It is not good enough. On the basis of the Minister's reply, I am not satisfied and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
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