Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Falkland: I had not intended to speak on this subject, but as my name has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, I broadly agree with the views expressed by him, my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, on the Private Member's Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, especially with regard to single-sex clubs. That matter has been satisfactorily resolved, for the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I do not want his remarks to leave the Committee with the suspicion that I am, in any way, a chauvinist pig, in taking that line.

For the guidance of the Committee, I must amplify some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. There would be practical difficulties for golf clubs, were the amendment to be incorporated. I am in favour of golf clubs treating men and women entirely equally, as they do in France, Belgium and many other European countries.

The Earl of Onslow: Nonsense!

Viscount Falkland: The noble Earl shouts, "Nonsense!". I am not sure why.

The Earl of Onslow: It has something to do with English culture, in which we have men-only clubs. The idea that the French should have men-only clubs would be laughed out of court.

4.30 p.m.

Viscount Falkland: I thank the noble Earl for that. I was going to lead on to the cultural point.

Golf clubs have some practical difficulties. I belong to a leading golf club, which hosts the Women's Open championship. The men and women members of the club get on well, although the women are all associate

16 Jan 2003 : Column 373

members. As the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said, they pay a significantly reduced subscription for that membership. When the subject was introduced in the club, women members were asked to vote on whether they wanted any change in the situation that prevailed, in which they paid a lower subscription and enjoyed fewer—not significantly fewer—rights than men. Between 95 and 97 per cent voted against change. Noble Lords may say that they had their eye on the lower subscription. I do not take that cynical view.

The men's changing room in a golf club often adjoins a bar. The position of the changing room requires the bar to be a men's bar. There will be a separate mixed bar, where men and women members meet. That may not be a satisfactory situation, but if we were to change it, the expense to golf clubs of doing the necessary restructuring work could put many of them out of business. Everybody would be worse off.

Although I have great sympathy with what, I think, lies behind the hope of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that we will, in the future, have a fairer system for the sexes, there are practical difficulties. Making the amendment would create enormous alarm among golf clubs.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I support the intentions behind all three amendments. I have listened to the debate with considerable amusement, as well as interest. However, what has been said reflects the debate that we had on the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, which has since been passed. Like others, I thought that that debate took fully into consideration the question of single-sex clubs allowing certain things to happen.

There is an obvious ambivalence—even hostility, in some respects—to any debate about single-sex clubs. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, made some fascinating comments about the difficulties for golf clubs, but I have heard such comments about almost every other proposition. With regard to employment law, people said that women could not be allowed in because of where the men's loos were. I am not impressed by such arguments.

I am sad to say that I support the intention behind the amendments because of that ambivalence. It is important that the Minister consider the intention of the amendments and bring us back something that we can all accept in the Bill. We still have a long way to go on the subject. To most fair-minded people—I do not deny the intellectual rigour of those who have spoken on the other side—it is sad that we go on arguing in this way about single-sex clubs.

The Earl of Onslow: I am a member of the Garrick and of the Beefsteak, and I am seriously old-fashioned on this subject. Today, I am wearing a Household Brigade tie. It would entitle me to be a member of the Cavalry and Guards Club, which I am not. The condition for membership of the Cavalry and Guards Club is that one must have served in one of the Brigade of Guards regiments, the Household Cavalry or the line cavalry regiments. However, someone such as Vanessa Lloyd-Johns, who was doctor to the

16 Jan 2003 : Column 374

Household Cavalry Regiment in London, should be entitled to membership of the Cavalry and Guards Club. The point is that the condition for membership of that club is that one has achieved a certain thing.

I know that there was a frightful row in the Oxford and Cambridge Club, although I am too stupid to have gone to university. They said that women could not join the Oxford and Cambridge Club. That is silly, if the condition for membership of a club is that one must have a degree from Oxford or have served in a cavalry regiment. A woman who has served in a cavalry regiment—an Amazon—or a woman who holds a degree from Oxford or Cambridge should be entitled to be a member of the relevant club.

If we boring fellows want to get together to go on being Neanderthal and doing all the things that uncultured northern Anglo-Saxon Protestants like doing in the Garrick—including meeting the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—we should be allowed to do so, without outside let or hindrance. After all, it is possible for there to be bodies such as the Black Police Officers Association or the Black Lawyers Association. I know that it is outside the scope of this Bill, but it would be fun to think what might happen if someone were to say that there should be a White Lawyers Association or a White Police Federation. All Hell would break loose. We old-fashioned, Neanderthal male chauvinist piggies should be allowed occasionally to get together and enjoy the company of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

Baroness Buscombe: I have added my name to two of the amendments. Before I speak to them, however, I must correct the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. The Sloane Club admits men and women. My husband is an ex-member of the Sloane Club, and—believe me—he is all man. Secondly, I welcome any opportunity in any Bill to confront all forms of discrimination on grounds of sex, but, on these Benches, we are not interested in supporting any amendment that interferes with single-sex clubs. That is not what this is about.

The Committee will notice that I have not added my name to Amendment No. 278. That is because, like the noble Lord, Lord Monson, I agree with the spirit behind the amendment, but it appears to me, having read it closely, that the amendment discriminates against men. That is why my name is not attached to it. None the less, I understand entirely the spirit in which the noble Lord tabled the amendment.

The other amendments—those in my name and the name of the noble Lords, Lord Lester of Herne Hill and Lord Faulkner of Worcester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond—make it clear that the preferential treatment for qualifying clubs does not apply to single-sex clubs. If a club wants to have preferential treatment, there must be no sex discrimination. If a club wishes to practise sex discrimination, it should not be entitled to be treated as a qualifying club and must apply for a premises licence like the proprietor of any proprietary club. Parliament is not interfering with how such clubs operate. It will merely deny them preferential

16 Jan 2003 : Column 375

treatment if they give preferential treatment to one sex or another. Surely there can be nothing objectionable in that.

With all due respect to noble Lords who have raised the question of associate membership, to suggest that there should be some form of discrimination is feeble. I was proud to resign my membership of the Carlton Club. I was admitted as an associate member on the ground of gender. My husband was not a member but had access to many parts of the club to which I did not on the ground that he was a man. If members wish to retain the associate membership, why not offer associate membership to men as well as women?

Lord Burnham: Perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend. Is she prepared to agree that the male associate member would pay one tenth of a full membership subscription?

Baroness Buscombe: I accept that entirely. If a lady is offered associate membership at a reduced fee, it is right that the male associate member should pay, therefore, a reduced fee. That would probably be the purpose of the associate membership rather than on the ground of gender.

The debate revisits the numerous debates on the Private Member's Bill introduced during the last Session by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. In some ways it is amusing but in other respects somewhat depressing. We are in the 21st century. To hear noble Lords saying that it is acceptable slowly to introduce women into a male environment is deeply depressing. I hope that the Government will take this sensible opportunity to outlaw, if I may put it that strongly, in a way which is not regulatory, these ridiculous forms of discrimination.

The Earl of Onslow: I believe that the noble Baroness was right to resign from the Carlton Club. A condition for becoming a member of the club is that one is a loyal supporter of the Conservative Party. That should now count practically everyone out of membership. But that is another story altogether; it is nothing to do with gender.

When we old codgers want to get together, it has nothing to do with achievement. It is just men wanting to get together and being boring, but some of us like that. My noble friend makes a very different point. She may be surprised and, I hope, gratified that on that issue I completely agree with her.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page