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"unreasonable works or alterations to be carried out on existing buildings",
I am not speaking about scheduled works or works that would otherwise be done. I am referring explicitly, in the context of the Bill, to the kind of works that would be forced on the organisations or associations by the terms of the Bill, unless it is amended by my amendment.
David Wright (Telford) (Lab): The Bill relates to private members clubs that currently offer membership to both sexes but discriminate against women in their practices. That would mean that all those clubs would already have facilities for women to use, such as changing facilities or toilet facilities. If any changes were required to deal with women or men who had disabilities, those would be covered by the disability discrimination legislation. The clubs would have to make the necessary changes anyway, following action by the House. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that?
Mr. Forth: The hon. Gentleman obviously knows what his own Bill means. I can only go by what is stated on the face of it. I am seeking to amend it and the fact that the amendment has been selected suggests that it has relevance. We have not even come on to guests yet, and I have not got on to my thoughts on whether his Bill might force a lot of clubs to go back from being open to both sexes to being single-sex clubs.
I think the intervention that my right hon. Friend has just made is legally incorrect. The hon. Member for Telford (David Wright) is legally incorrect in his remarks. My understanding is that a private club does not have to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 unless it admits members of
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the public, so a private members club open only for the benefit of its members is exempt from the Disability Discrimination Act, but, for example, if that club hires out a room for a wedding on a Saturday, it would have to comply for that particular day with that particular Act. The premise of the intervention was wrong.
I was seeking to draw to my right hon. Friend's attentionI hope he will address the issuenot the lack of provision for, let us say, ladies lavatories, but the fact that under proposed section 29B there is a reference to
"subjecting to any other detriment",
Mr. Forth: I will seek to lengthen my speech to get back the proportions, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if that is your wish. It is not often that I have been encouraged from the Chair to do that, but I am more than happy to do so on this occasion. Let us get back to the text to find out whether that helps us to keep our bearings.
We are talking about a womanor a manwhen she or he is a guest and about the facilities or services afforded to guests. Of course that is where we get into the likelihood that is referred to in my amendment of the need to carry out works and alterations to buildings. Given the breadth of the definition, it is surely self-evident that benefits, facilities or services can cover a huge variety of different circumstances in the context of clubs. That must be the case at a large number of premises. I suppose that the facilities can range all the way from the obvioustoiletswhich my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) has mentioned already, to changing rooms and, no doubt, all sorts of other facilities as well. As was highlighted by the Royal and Ancient golf club, although the same thing is in the minds of many people, the problem is the likelihood that, if the Bill were ever to reach the statute book, bite and start to affect clubs in the way in which it is presumably intended, expenditure would be inevitably forced on those clubs.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): My right hon. Friend refers in his amendment to unreasonable costs that might be attributable to a club in undertaking material alterations to the structure. I put it to him that the use of the word "unreasonable" could subject those clubs to an endless barrage of litigation to determine that which is reasonable and that which is not reasonable. In the circumstances, instead of using the word "unreasonable" and bearing in mind what my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) said about some of those clubs having small numbers of people, might it be preferable to put a monetary figure on such things, rather than leaving them open to the lawyers to decide?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend because that could well be a very useful further amendment to seek to make to the Bill. I think that I am right in saying that, procedurally, as we are sadly about to run out of
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time, there happily will be plenty of time to table further amendments to the Bill for consideration on the subsequent occasion on which it is debated in the House. My hon. Friend has just come up with a very helpful suggestion to which we could return if my amendment, after due deliberation and perhaps even a Division, proves not to be to the satisfaction of the House.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): My right hon. Friend's amendment refers not to unreasonable costs, but to unreasonable works. The cost of the work may be only one of the grounds on which the work is unreasonable.
Mr. Forth: Ah! Again I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, which gives me another thought: a planning dimension could come into play and a conflict could therefore arise. If the Bill became a statute and it were thought that it required alterations of a kind for which planning permission could not be obtained, there would appear to be a conflict between the Bill's requirements and planning law.
Mr. Forth: I find many things odd in both the law and life in general, but I can only deal with the Bill as it is before us. Again, if my hon. Friend thinks that further amendments would be helpful, he will happily have the opportunity to table them for debate when the Bill is further considered.
David Wright: The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that the R and A had contacted him about the Bill. Has he had any contact from the CIU, which is offering wholehearted support for the Bill? I think that the CIU would find the amendment rather strange.
Mr. Forth: The CIU is the Club and Institute Union, which is a very august and eminent body that represents what, in the good old days, used to be known as working men's clubs. They are probably now known as lifestyle clubsI should not be surprisedor work persons' clubs, more probably, given their current attitudes
It being half-past Two o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the debate without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order.
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [23 April], That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Debate to be resumed on Friday 16 July.
Order for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time on Friday 15 October.
Order for Second Reading read.
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