Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

6.30 pm

Lord Brett: Alas, alas. Noble Lords have made a number of interesting points. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, suggested that we are using the wrong term by using the term "lap dancing" at all. In that case, what is the Lap Dancing Association doing about it, given that it has chosen to call itself the Lap Dancing Association-an association that represents the owners of these establishments? I suggest that lap dancing, which covers pole dancing and other similar activities, is not an inappropriate name in itself.

As the noble Baroness says, the amendments in the group seek something of the same end. Amendment 83 reflects concerns about the term "sex encounter venue".

6 July 2009 : Column 503

If it were accepted, sex encounter venues would not fall under the definition of a sex establishment under the 1982 Act. There is, however, no requirement in the clause for a lap dancing establishment to call itself a sex encounter venue. If it chose to advertise itself as such when it did not provide that, trade descriptions legislation might be a better way of dealing with that. In truth, this is how they are described in licensing terms, not how they are described in public relations or advertising terms.

The point has been made that the word "encounter" could give the impression that lap dancing clubs and similar venues offer sex for sale and by implication stigmatise those who work at such venues. We take this concern seriously. We are aware of our responsibility to those who are employed in the industry not to represent them unfairly and the work that they do. However, we believe that the term "sex encounter" accurately reflects the nature of the entertainment that is provided. We do not accept that the impression is given, or that it will be reasonably assumed, that sex is for sale, particularly as we do not require the term "sex encounter" to be used publicly by the establishment that is so licensed.

We also think that "adult entertainment" would be an inappropriate name as it is not clear, despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, says, that it could apply only to venues that provide entertainment with a sexual content. Other forms of entertainment, such as horror films, have been called adult entertainment, without any obvious sexual content at all.

We are looking at what Clause 26 attempts to target. The definition of "relevant entertainment" is clearly that, to qualify as a sex encounter venue, the entertainment must be,

Where that definition does not apply, such venues will not be classed as sex encounter venues. The definition does not suggest that these are premises where sex is being sold, as criminal law rather than licensing law steps in to deal with those establishments.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, made the plea that we should not use the term "sex encounter". He is much senior to me both in experience and wisdom, and can probably recall the term being brought into effect in 1986 by a Government who are familiar to Members on the Benches opposite. It has been used to define venues such as peep shows in London since 1986. Again, these are not places where sex is for sale, but they are described in legislation as sex encounter venues.

I therefore think that I have explained clearly why the Government believe that the existing name is appropriate for the purpose of regulating lap dancing clubs, and I hope that the noble Lords will not press their amendments.

Earl Ferrers: I listened to the arguments made by Members on both sides of the Committee with great interest, and I thought that the Minister's answer was pretty miserable. It repeated all the reasons that civil servants give for keeping this kind of wording. As the

6 July 2009 : Column 504

noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has said, the words "adult entertainment" are known, but the words "sex encounter" are not. If you are told that you are going to a sex encounter place, it is pretty obvious that you expect to encounter sex and have some kind of relationship if you so want it. It is a most disagreeable title, and very misleading. I think the Minister said that if you go to a sex encounter place you could be sexually stimulated, but you can be sexually stimulated without ever having a sexual encounter. The term is most misleading and I hope that he will think about it again.

Lord Brett: As people know from when I dealt with the nationality Bill, I am never oversold on particular names if more acceptable names can be found. However, we are looking for a term that describes how this will be dealt with in law, not for a term that will be used on the outside of public houses, lap dancing clubs or anywhere else. Therefore, does it matter?

On the question of what employees would put on their CV, they are not required to put on a CV that they were employed in a sex encounter venue. Presumably they would be happy to apply for employment on the basis of having been employed as a lap dancer in a lap dancing establishment.

Viscount Bridgeman: I am not entirely happy with the Minister's reply. The Lap Dancing Association is very concerned about the reputation of its dancers. Unfortunately, if the legislation remains as it stands, a large number of dancers will be stigmatised career-long for truthfully putting this on their CV. This will affect their future employment throughout their careers. I shall look again very carefully at the Minister's reply, but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 83 withdrawn.

Amendments 84 to 86 not moved.

Amendment 86A

Moved by Viscount Bridgeman

86A: Clause 26, page 22, line 34, leave out "or" and insert "and"

Viscount Bridgeman: This is one of a small number of quick groups to probe the definition of "relevant entertainment", which the Government consider suitable for this type of regulation. The definition in subsection (2)(a) of new Section 2A has several rather surprising characteristics, and I would welcome further explanation of the wording. In particular, the "or" at the end of subsection (2)(a) suggests that a fully clothed dancer could be considered to be sexually stimulating. This seems ridiculous. I do not particularly wish to get into the question of what is sexually stimulating or not, but a significant degree of nudity should surely be part of it. The Bill later defines nudity in an extremely strict sense. Will the Minister say why it was decided to draft the provisions in this way? Would it not be more sensible to have a looser definition of nudity and to rule out any dancing where the performer is fully clothed? I beg to move.

6 July 2009 : Column 505

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: There was quite an interesting example recently of the possible difficulty of definition in a show which some of your Lordships may have seen. It was called "La Clique" and showed on Shaftesbury Avenue. It was, in effect, a series of circus acts. One scene involved a lady taking off all her clothes. It was mostly singing and circus acts, and it should fall nowhere near the definition of the Bill. Everyone who went to see it certainly went along to be entertained, but I would be incredibly doubtful as to whether anyone went along with the idea of being sexually stimulated. Nevertheless, there was stripping and nudity. I do not think that you could call it pole dancing; it was more like rope dancing because it involved trapeze acts and so on. It would be appalling if that sort of show, which was very well known and understood, fell anywhere near the sort of definition that is described here.

The Government always get into a bit of a problem here. The noble Lord, Lord West, did well to stay out of our debates in a previous Committee when we had to discuss sexual stimulation and pornography. I wish that I could stay out of it at the moment. The Government never do well when they get into the question of what is sexually stimulating. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, raised a very good point-it is so subjective, it is not a good idea to legislate for it. As far as we can, we should keep the wording of the Bill as objective as possible.

Lord Brett: I think that the distinction is not the one made by the noble Viscount-between a fully-clothed dancer and a naked dancer-but I start by assuring the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that a theatrical performance, such as a play, or a show which is not centrally designed to provide a kind of sex encounter experience as such, but has nudity, dancing and so forth within it, is not meant to be covered, nor is it covered, by the provisions we are discussing today. The purpose of this would be to demonstrate, for example, that the Shaftesbury Avenue show that the noble Baroness referred to was not designed and put on specifically for the purpose of sexual stimulation. The nudity, or whatever, was part of a more general theatrical endeavour which was not for the purpose of sexual stimulation and therefore would fall outwith these provisions.

The amendment would mean that, in order for entertainment to be considered "relevant entertainment", it would have to be a live performance and a live display of nudity. The present wording of Clause 20 provides that it can be either a live performance or a live display of nudity. The amendment, as has been explained, seeks to ensure that it can be considered as such only if the entertainment is provided by an entertainer who is nude. That represents a significant narrowing of the current definition and would allow lap-dance operators to avoid the tight controls provided by Clause 26 simply by ensuring that performers were partially clothed in such a way that they would not come within the definition of nudity-lap dancers in socks spring to mind. This is different from fully-clothed dancers, although fully-clothed dancers could, in themselves, be sexually stimulating. I take the point of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that in that sense, there is an element of the stimulation which has to be in the mind of the person observing the performance.

6 July 2009 : Column 506

Of course, many lap dancers are clothed to some degree-maybe not extensively, but it would be nonsense to suggest that nudity would be sexually stimulating and therefore disbarred and someone scantily clad performing the same kind of activity-pole dancing or lap dancing-would not. We therefore think that the amendment as proposed would create a significant loophole and prevent the reforms we are proposing from properly addressing the concerns of the local communities. The existing definition of "relevant entertainment" recognises that the prevailing factor which should dictate whether premises are sex encounter venues should be the nature of the entertainment provided and not solely whether the performers are nude. It is the performance, not the nudity, which determines whether it is a sex encounter venue. It would be strange to many people if we concluded that a lap-dancing club offering nude entertainment was a lap-dancing venue but the same club offering entertainment of the same nature, but with very scantily clad performers, was not.

We are confident that the existing definition of "relevant entertainment" is correct and will target those forms of entertainment that are of concern to local communities. I trust that I have been able to persuade the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount that the definition goes wider than just whether or not performers are nude and goes to the essential nature of the entertainment being provided, that being the key. I hope, therefore, that the noble Viscount will find it possible to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Bridgeman: As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has indicated, this House has to be very careful when it ventures into the realms of nudity. We need to look very carefully at the Minister's reply before coming back with any views on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 86A withdrawn.

6.45 pm

Amendment 86B

Moved by Viscount Bridgeman

86B: Clause 26, page 22, line 36, leave out ", ignoring financial gain,"

Viscount Bridgeman: Once again, we return to the question of financial gain. I am uncertain how this disclaimer in paragraph 2 relates to the specific requirement in sub-paragraph (1) that the organiser or the entertainer is performing for financial gain. As I understand it, the entertainment is classified as relevant only if someone is financially benefiting, but need it be only the performer? Is this correct? I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: This is one of the interesting questions that we come back to. I have understood that, in a lot of these clubs, the dancers are not actually paid; they have to exist, basically, on tips. That has been seen as being undesirable for a number of reasons. That is the way that they work at

6 July 2009 : Column 507

the moment. I do not want to return the Committee to an earlier part of the Bill but that is what makes Amendment 82A, tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and referring as it does to conditions of employment for performers, particularly attractive.

Lord Brett: As has been said, Amendment 86B would remove the words "ignoring financial gain". The purpose of including these words in the definition is to account for the fact that, first and foremost, the purpose of sex encounter venues is financial gain. Therefore it is necessary to ignore this aspect of the business when assessing whether the entertainment provided is solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience. Whether it is financial gain to the performer or, more likely, financial gain to the performer and the club owner, there is a requirement to ignore that in order to make a fair assessment of whether the entertainment provided is solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience.

The effect of this amendment would be that, irrespective of the nature of the entertainment provided, premises would not be considered a sex encounter venue as long as the operator could prove that the purpose of the entertainment was solely or principally for gain. Obviously, this would be easily demonstrated, because they are running sex clubs only for gain, and therefore, these provisions would be left ineffective by the inability to cover such venues-hence the need to leave aside the question of gain. The effect of this amendment would be to provide a loophole for sex encounter venues to avoid the need for a sex encounter licence. I expect that this was a probing amendment-at least, I hope that it was-and I hope that I have shown why the inclusion of the provision to ignore financial gain is correct and the undoubted unintended consequences if this phrase was removed. On that basis, I hope the noble Viscount will withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Bridgeman: I can assure the Minister that it was, indeed, a probing amendment. I am grateful for his reply and explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 86B withdrawn.

Amendment 86C

Moved by Viscount Bridgeman

86C: Clause 26, page 22, leave out line 39

Viscount Bridgeman: I come to the last of my three probing amendments on the definition of "relevant entertainment". Amendment 86C probes the inclusion of verbal performance. We seem to be taking the concept of a lap-dancing club to the very extreme where there needs not to be any dancing at all. Indeed, the subsection as a whole would suggest that a person could be paid to stand, dressed from neck to ankle, absolutely still on a stage and, if she sings a racy song, that could count as a sex encounter. It would seem to strike at a lot of the tradition of music hall. Why have the Government decided to include verbal means in this definition? I beg to move.

6 July 2009 : Column 508

Lord Brett: In moving the amendment the noble Viscount referred to people standing still fully clothed. I thought that we were moving on to the Windmill Theatre, which I think was a forerunner of this kind of entertainment. It required the ladies only to stand still and I do not think that clothes were involved. The noble Viscount raises an interesting point, to which I hope that I am able to respond. The words are important because they make clear that the means used to sexually stimulate the audience can be by word or by other conduct, which could include physical touching or very provocative dancing. This clarification is also included in the existing definition of sex encounter establishments as found in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

The Government are confident that the definition introduced in Clause 26 will target those forms of entertainment, such as lap dancing, that are the concern of many communities. The definition will exclude entertainment which is primarily artistic or educational by stating that the "relevant entertainment" must be,

Hence, the Shaftesbury Avenue show referred to would not be covered by these licences. Artistic performances, such as plays, will not be captured by these provisions even if they contain occasional nudity. There will also be a power to exclude certain types of performer or displays of nudity should that definition prove unintentionally wide. I hope that the explanation given satisfies the noble Viscount and that he will withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Perhaps I may check something that the Minister has said. I understood that any form of touching was already illegal. I cannot remember under what provisions that would be so, but I am fairly certainly that touching is not allowed.

Lord Brett: The noble Baroness may be correct. Touching a member of the audience could mean touching a member of the audience without physically putting a hand on them. One might have some equipment with which to poke a person-perhaps to wake them up-who is not too stimulated by the lap dancing. I am not sure: I have never entertained myself in a lap-dancing establishment. Certainly, aural stimulation with the use of songs, jokes or whatever at the same time as a provocative performance could fall within this area and that would be covered. That would be necessary to ensure that these regulations are effective.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I should like to hear what the Minister will further define because I think that he has just received further advice on whether touching by hand or with an extended toy is permitted.

Lord Brett: The answer I have is that not all lap-dancing clubs have conditions in their licence. At present, they exclude touching, which would suggest that this legislation will presume to bring a standard across all lap-dancing establishments and is to be desired.

Viscount Bridgeman: The Committee will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for probing the issue of touching. I am grateful for the Minister's

6 July 2009 : Column 509

explanation, which I will read carefully and perhaps come back to on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 86A withdrawn.

Amendments 86B to 87 not moved.

Amendment 88

Moved by Viscount Bridgeman

88: Clause 26, page 22, line 42, at end insert-

"( ) premises licensed under Part 3, and clubs granted a certificate under Part 4, of the Licensing act 2003 which-

(i) authorises "relevant entertainment"; and

(ii) has conditions expressly relating to the way "relevant entertainment" is provided during such time that regulated entertainment is being provided;"

Viscount Bridgeman: I tabled Amendment 88 to highlight the concern among highly regulated venues, which are currently operating under a premises licence, that they are being punished for the crimes of the unregulated sector. My noble friend Lady Hanham touched on this point earlier and I would like to probe the Minister a little further on the reasons behind these provisions, and to raise some concerns about the enormous impact they will have on a significant number of clubs.

The group of amendments after this raises various aspects of the new regulations that will be particularly burdensome. There is a significant danger that clubs that have been operating under the existing licensing regime will struggle to survive the transition to the new regime. Is that the Government's intention? Bleeding a business dry through expensive and complicated regulation seems a very convoluted way of reducing the number of lap-dancing venues in the country. If that is not the Government's intention, why have they not inserted a grandfather safeguard to soften the blow on existing businesses? My amendment would completely exempt existing businesses from the new provisions, but many alternatives could be considered; for example, a staggered timeframe or a presumption that they will at least get their first year's licence. I beg to move.

Lord Brett: I am not sure that I can construct from the proposed legislation any circumstance which could be described as bleeding a business dry. The amendment would mean that where a venue has been granted a premises licence or a club certificate to authorise relevant entertainment to take place, provided that there are expressed conditions regulating the lap dancing or other similar entertainment being provided as part of the relevant entertainment, it would not be considered to be a sex encounter venue.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page