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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I strongly support the amendments, which are also in the name of my noble friend Lord Falkland. The amendment is eminently sensible in the bodies that it sets out. The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said that issues would arise from the nil fee for those premises. There will be a cost implication for local councils, if they are still expected to inspect the premises involved. However, the cost must be weighed against the social benefit of ensuring that the organisations involved are viable.

Village halls, in particular, are the lifeblood of many rural communities, and are under severe threat. Even the smallest charges are difficult to meet from the limited funds of many such bodies.

A further consequence of no inspections would be the safety implications. Obviously, inspections should continue on a regular basis. The Government indicated that churches will be exempt from inspections. Will the Minister give an indication of the level at which inspections will take place on these buildings if no fees were set under regulation? I hope that the Minister accepts the amendment.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I support the amendment. If the Minister is not ready to come forward with this solution, will she at least tell your Lordships the issues

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that need to be considered? She mentioned them on 16th January at col. 357 of the Official Report, as indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. If they are not complex issues, the Minister has had almost six weeks in which to consider them. I should have thought that at least a description of the issues could be put forward so that we know precisely what is involved. Small village halls work on extraordinarily precarious economics. They even have whip-rounds. My former home was in the village of Down in my former constituency of Orpington. Every so often I receive a letter asking whether I will contribute to the cost of running the village hall; and I am delighted to do that. That demonstrates that the economics of such village halls mean that they cannot break even on the activities that take place in them, but need to be subsidised by the generosity of local residents and anyone else that can be roped-in. To charge village halls fees on top of other costs which they already incur while maintaining what is essentially a service to local people, would be an additional burden that they do not deserve. I hope that the Minister will agree to this amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I do not want to waste the time of the House, but I want to say that all these halls and community centres operate on a shoestring. Rather like the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I receive letters from the new town—except I suppose that these days it is an old new town—of Skelmersdale, and my family has not lived there for three generations. Perhaps I am a little more divorced from it than the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

It is important that the lowest possible fee—which ideally should be a nil fee—be charged for licences for these types of places. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, raised health and safety issues. During the passage of the Bill, we have been told time and again by Ministers that certain aspects of linked but somewhat extraneous law are outwith the purposes of the Bill. Fire inspections and health and safety inspections of village halls, community centres and so forth, must fall into that category.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale. If the Minister rejects the amendment, has she considered charging a nominal fee? That would overcome our difficulties.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government have taken seriously the many representations that we have received on this issue. On 7th February we confirmed that we intend to exempt church halls, chapel halls and other similar buildings occupied in connection with a place of public religious worship. In addition, village halls, parish or community halls and other similar buildings will be exempt from the fees for entertainment under the licensing regime.

Our intention mirrors current licensing law outside London where such premises are already exempt from the fee for an entertainment licence, although not from

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the licensing regime itself. Inside Greater London a fee is payable. Our scheme therefore represents a considerable liberalisation within London.

However, we do not agree that it is necessary, or would be helpful, to set these arrangements out on the face of the Bill. It would weaken the flexibility to extend the fee exemption to other classes of premises if it became clear, in the light of experience of the new system, that that would be desirable.

I hope that those on Benches opposite accept that this is a firm undertaking to carry out the proposals in the amendment. We are now on record in the House and elsewhere that this is what we intend to do—and we shall do it. It is to be hoped that noble Lords agree that the Government's clear statement of intent ensures that small local entertainment, so vital to our communities, continues to thrive and develop as a result of this concession. On that basis, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. We are grateful for the concession that the Government have made with regard to these particular types of premises. I also thank noble Lords who supported the amendment. However, I take issue with the Minister at the suggestion that having this list clearly on the face of the Bill would limit the ability of the Government at a future date to extend the exemption. Having the list on the face of the Bill should not be considered exclusive. However, I am grateful that during today's debate, and in a letter to me, the Minister has confirmed that the Government are keen not to exempt, but to ascribe a nil fee to these categories of premises. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 [Inspection of premises before grant of licence etc.]:

[Amendment No. 125 not moved.]

Clause 61 [The general conditions]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 126:

    Page 35, line 28, at end insert—

"(7) Nothing in the following condition applies to a club which restricts membership to persons of one sex.
(8) Condition 6 is that the club does not practise sex discrimination (within the meaning of section 1(1) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65) (sex discrimination against women)) in the arrangements made or operated as regards the rights of participation in the governance of the club."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked me to move this in his place. He has had to leave in order to fulfil another commitment. Amendment No. 126 stands in the names of my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester and the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. In speaking to this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 127 and 128, standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Lester.

We have reached Part 4 of the Bill, which deals with clubs. In order to obtain a club premises certificate under this part, a club must be a qualifying club. Under Clause 60, if a club wishes to provide alcohol or

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entertainment or both, it must satisfy each of the five conditions set out in Clause 61. If the club wishes to supply alcohol, whether or not it also provides entertainment, it must also meet the three additional conditions set out in Clause 63.

It might be helpful if I spoke first to Amendment No. 127, although that might take us out of numerical order. That amendment deals with a relatively straightforward point, which is distinct from the point raised in the other two. Amendment No. 127 would impose an additional condition along with the general conditions set out in Clause 61. It says:

    "Condition 7 is that there is no finding by a court in proceedings under section 20 of the Race Relations Act 1976 . . . that the club has done an act which is unlawful by virtue of section 25 . . . of that Act".

That condition would not apply in cases in which the finding was made before the clause came into force or more than three years before the application.

The Race Relations Act 1976 applies to clubs. If a club is found guilty of discrimination on grounds of race, legal proceedings can be started against it and sanctions can be applied. Amendment No. 127 would create an additional sanction, the effect of which would be that, for three years after there had been a finding against the club, the club would not be able to apply for a club premises certificate, as it would not be a qualifying club. That sanction should be applied. It would be a powerful sanction against racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is a serious evil, and banning such a club from applying for a club premises certificate for three years is a proportionate penalty for breaching the Race Relations Act.

Amendments Nos. 126 and 128 apply to the question of sex discrimination. The position is different because the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 does not apply to private members' clubs. As is well known, private clubs retain the right to be men-only or women-only clubs. However, there are clubs to which women are admitted as members but in which they are excluded from certain rights enjoyed by men who are members. We are particularly concerned with the right to participate in the management and governance of the club, and we feel strongly that such exclusion is a breach of the spirit of the Sex Discrimination Act.

The exemption of clubs under that Act was intended to protect a long-standing right—it may now be thought by many to be anachronistic, but it has a great deal of tradition behind it—to have clubs of which only men or only women could be members. My noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill is in a better position than, perhaps, anyone else now living to know about the Sex Discrimination Act, as he was involved in its creation. The intention of the Act was not to allow women to be admitted to membership of a club only as second-class members. We believe therefore that the appropriate step to take would be to say that a club which allows women to join, but then makes them second-class members because they are not allowed to take part on an equal basis in the governance of the club, should not be entitled to a club premises

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certificate. In order to gain the certificate, the club must admit women on terms of full equality as regards its governance.

I understand that an amendment tabled in Committee would have gone still further by providing that a club premises certificate could be issued only in a case where women were equally entitled to participate in all the functions and benefits provided by the club. We have narrowed that down and are now bringing forward an amendment to apply only where women cannot take part on equal terms in the management of the club.

Amendment No. 126 adds a further condition to the general conditions set out in Clause 61 which would exclude the right of a club to be a qualifying club if it practised sex discrimination,

    "in the arrangements made or operated as regards the right of participation in the governance of the club".

Part of the amendment also makes clear that that condition does not apply to single-sex clubs. However, whenever a club admits members of both sexes, then the condition as regards participation in the governance of the club must be satisfied.

Amendment No. 128 deals with Clause 63, which sets out the three conditions for those clubs wishing to sell alcohol. It requires that the purchase of alcohol must be managed by a committee whose members are,

    "(a) members of the club;

    (b) have attained the age of 18 years; and

    (c) are elected by the members of the club".

It may well be that under the provision, women would be entitled to take part in the voting procedure, but it would be legitimate to say that although they might be able to vote for the committee because they were members, the club could validly have a rule that excluded women from membership of the committee which purchased the alcohol. We feel that that activity is also an important part of the governance of the club and therefore, for the avoidance of doubt—although it may well be implicit in Amendment No. 126—we believe that it should be spelt out as suggested in Amendment No. 128. Membership of the committee as well as the right to vote for members of the committee must be open to members of both sexes.

We believe the amendments to be important and useful. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I am pleased to support the amendments. As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, pointed out, I have added my name to Amendment No. 126.

The three amendments take forward our debate in Committee on the issue of sex discrimination in clubs. At that stage I moved an amendment which sought to make unlawful discrimination in the provision of goods and services, access to facilities and participation in the governance of clubs.

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The crucial piece of legislation which is to be repealed by this Bill is Schedule 7 to the Licensing Act 1964, which deals with the governance of such clubs. The schedule states that the affairs of private members' clubs,

    "must be managed by one or more elective committees",

and that,

    "There must . . . be a general meeting of the club at least once in every year",

at which the voting must be confined to members. The 1964 Act goes on to say,

    "all members entitled to use the club premises must be entitled to vote, and must have equal voting rights".


    "the rules may exclude from voting . . . women if the club is primarily a men's club, and men if the club is primarily a women's club.

I think it fair to say that in Committee some confusion arose about whether the repeal of Schedule 7 to the 1964 Act left the situation better or worse than before. My concern was that repealing the schedule would make the situation worse because it would remove the modest protection for governance.

When my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham replied to the debate—I believe that I am paraphrasing what he said fairly accurately—he tended to agree and said that he would look further at the matter because it was not desirable, obviously, for the situation to be made worse. He was kind enough to offer a meeting with himself and his officials, which was held on 11th February. It was attended by the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, and myself. We had an interesting discussion on these matters and the officials promised to come back to us with further advice on how the Bill would affect the governance of clubs.

Noble Lords who attended that meeting received today, at lunch-time, a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Davies, in which he states that the primary escape clause is repealed. However, if I understand the letter correctly—I hope that my noble friend appreciates that I have not had long to study it—the Bill represents a modest step forward as all full and associate members, men and women, will be empowered to vote for the committee.

I hope that this means that committees elected as a result of these new governance arrangements will, if they wish, be able to eliminate discrimination in the provision of facilities and access to them. I hope that when my noble friend replies he will confirm that that is the case. If it is, and the situation is taken forward and improved as a result of the Bill, I would not encourage the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, to press his amendments.

Tomorrow, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, will introduce the Second Reading of his Equality Bill, which deals with this and many other equality issues. I am looking forward to taking part in that debate and to supporting him on that occasion as well.

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