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Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I have just reread the evidence and see that I apologised to the Minister's officials for being quite so ferocious and said that the ferocity was of course directed at Ministers. I am deeply grateful for the fact that that ferocity has produced a much more encouraging and optimistic response from the Minister and we look forward to real progress being made.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am grateful for that. It is not that my officials are incapable of absorbing such ferocity, but it is not always their fault. Ministers must take responsibility, and we made clear to the officials and agencies concerned that the timescale that we are considering is considerably shorter than may have been implied in that evidence session.

I am grateful to the noble Earl, the committee and all noble Lords who participated in the debate. There is much work for us to do, but we are determined to deliver the objectives sought by the Select Committee.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may respond. I think that he earlier inferred that I suggested that we should avoid regulation. If I have misunderstood what he said, or if he misunderstood what I said, I clarify that I do not think that we should avoid regulation. I was trying to say in that context that regulation should apply across all member states and that some member states interpret it differently. I should hate the record to be incorrect.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I apologise if I gave the impression that the noble Baroness was a complete opponent of regulation. I occasionally receive the impression that some regulations irritate her a little.

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3.4 p.m.

The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, I should not want for a moment to detain my noble friend Lord Plumb from his environmentally friendly farming—or, indeed any other Member of the House—for a moment more than necessary, but I thank the Minister for his positive and helpful response. Even my rather dubious noble friends Lord Crickhowell and Lady Byford have been persuaded that the 10-year timescale is as unacceptable to the Minister as it was to the committee. I must say that we shall carefully monitor how quickly the impressive proposals are implemented. I thank all those who participated in the debate.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Equality Bill [HL]

3.4 p.m.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Lester of Herne Hill.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Protected areas of activity]:

Lord Borrie moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 5, line 14, leave out paragraph (f).

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8, with which Amendment No. 1 is appropriately grouped. Both amendments stand in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Henley. When I first studied the provisions of the Bill concerning members' clubs, I noticed the exemption for single-sex clubs. It is welcome. As a matter of principle, I believe it wrong for the law to intervene in how people choose to associate with others in their social lives.

I notice that the wording used to define single-sex clubs is similar to that used in the Race Relations Act 1976 to define clubs for single-ethnic or single-national groups. They are allowable as an exemption to the main rules prohibiting race discrimination so long as the exclusivity is not based on colour. The Bill repeats the exemption allowed in 1976 for single-ethnic or single-national clubs exclusively open to people of one such group. It also adds an exemption for clubs catering for single-religious groups in respect of the new provisions in this Bill prohibiting discrimination on religious grounds.

My concerns about those provisions and the reasons why my amendments seek to delete them are threefold. First, if it is thought appropriate to exempt single-sex, single-ethnic or single-religious group clubs from anti-discrimination laws, why not clubs confined to particular age groups or people of particular sexual

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orientation; for example, pensioners' lunch clubs, youth clubs or gay clubs? Does not the logic of the Bill suggest that those clubs, too, should be exempt from the anti-discrimination provisions, which cover much broader areas than they have done heretofore?

My second concern is that, because the wording used to define single-sex clubs is borrowed from Section 26 of the Race Relations Act on single-ethnic group clubs, we have a complicated set of words that is difficult to interpret. Instead of just referring to, "an organisation which restricts membership to persons of one sex", it refers to,

    "the principle purpose of which is to enable the benefits of membership to be enjoyed by persons of one sex".

It states that to determine the principal purpose, regard is to be paid to the essential character of the association, all relevant circumstances and whether the affairs of the association are so conducted that persons enjoying membership benefits are of one sex.

During the Committee stage of the Sex Discrimination Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Faulkner, I pointed out the problem of the Garrick Club, of which I was a member and still am. Its objects or purposes, which were stated when it was founded in 1831, are concerned with drama and literature, but, as is well known, membership is limited to men only. In that debate, the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, accepted the difficulty that I had pointed out—his words are reported at col. 1252 of Hansard for 8th May last year—and produced a clearer form of words in an amendment that was tabled on Report. Now he has gone back to the more problematic wording that appears in the present Bill.

I have a third and final concern about the provisions dealing with private members' clubs. Although single-sex clubs are, as the noble Lord said at Second Reading, intended to be and, subject to what I have just said, are exempt from sex discrimination laws, a male club that allows women into any form of membership—for example, associate membership—must grant them the same rights to facilities or services in the club as men. Paragraph 41(1)(c) of the relevant schedule makes it clear that that general right to facilities or services applies even to non-members—that is, guests.

Last year, during the passage of his Bill, my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester gave us the facts about working men's clubs that belonged to the Club and Institute Union. He pointed out that the largest proportion of such clubs—60 per cent or 1,612 clubs—allow women to join but with a different class of membership and a lower subscription. Members of those clubs, as distinct from the national executive of the CIU, appear not to want women to have full and equal rights with the men. That might be because they want to preserve one of the bars in the club for men-only drinking. Is that so terrible that we legislators must introduce a law against it?

I apologise to those who were here for the discussions on my noble friend's Bill last year for repeating myself, but I must ask again what moral or other right we have, as legislators, to impose equality

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by law, contrary to the wishes of the members of a free society or club. As we all know, clubs of all kinds have, over the years, changed their attitudes, especially to membership for women, although not all have done so, including the college in Oxford that apparently wishes to remain women-only. Over the years, clubs of most kinds throughout the country have changed their attitudes and are multi-sex. That position should be allowed to evolve in accordance with the wishes of the members of the clubs concerned. The freedom for people to associate or not to associate as they choose should not be subverted by an over-eager attempt to involve the law in enforcing so-called correct attitudes to our fellow human beings.

I recognise that there may be a case for bringing within the scope of anti-discrimination law clubs that have such a huge membership that they virtually provide a public facility. I think, for example, of a golf club that may be the only such facility in an extensive area. The Bill will apply to all clubs of every kind, including those with a membership as small as 25. I have not, however, tabled an amendment to fix a higher membership number. As I have several objections to the provisions relating to clubs, I prefer to seek to leave out of the Bill all coverage of members' clubs. That is what the amendments do. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Henley: I support the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, in moving Amendment No. 1. I am not sure whether I should declare an interest because as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, explained, the Bill does not affect single-sex clubs. I am a member of a number of single-sex clubs. However, the Bill affects other clubs. As the noble Lord made clear, he was speaking not only for single-sex clubs, but also pensioners' clubs, gay clubs and a whole host of others, all of which might be affected.

I do not believe that there is anything that I can add to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. I rise merely because during Second Reading of the Licensing Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, pursued the line that he pursued with his Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill. He tried to imply that there were relatively few noble Lords of the same mind as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, and that there was general support around the Chamber for his own ideas about enforcing equality in clubs.

As the noble Lord will remember, a number of noble Lords—not only myself and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie— opposed what he was trying to do in the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Bill and what the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, is doing now. For that reason, I felt it appropriate to add my name to that of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, and to give the amendment my support. I shall continue to do so as he and the noble Lord, Lord Lester, make this and further attempts to bring what they consider to be equality to

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an area in which, as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, puts it, it is not really appropriate for Parliament to intervene.

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