Licensing Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 29th April 2003.
I beg to move amendment No. 205, in
clause 67, page 39, line 21, leave out from 'club' to end of line 22 and insert—
'(b) he has been a member of that other club for at least two days, and
(c) the club's committee or subcommittee responsible for the supply of alcohol is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the primary purpose of that other club is not the supply or purchase of alcohol.'.
To prove that a visiting member is a member of a recognised club is pretty difficult. By the Department's own admission, it would rely on the secretary of the other club, probably more than anyone else, confirming that the club was indeed recognised. That in turn would require the certification that the relevant wording in clause 62 was included in its constitution. Furthermore, as we have discussed, the requirement that the club is conducted in good faith as a club can be determined only by the licensing authority, having regard to the terms of arrangements for the purchase of alcohol, the use of club money, property or profits to the benefit of anyone except the club
''for charitable, benevolent or political purposes'',
the proper keeping of accounts and the provision of financial information to members, and, of course, the nature of the club premises. All those things will already have been taken into account when the licensing authority deems that the club is being conducted in good faith.
Surely it would be much simpler to invoke the standard safeguard of the two-day interval between application and membership, which our revised paragraph (b) provides?
Is it not the case that in the CIU movement, in Conservative associations, and certainly in Labour clubs, guests go from club to club and have cards to prove that they are members of the overall organisation? If there is any unruly conduct on the part of the individual, disciplinary action can be taken by the members of their own club. Therefore, by restricting access to members of the CIU, Conservative associations or Labour clubs, people can move from club to club.
I am not sure about that. I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Such movement is perhaps facilitated by the arrangements that he mentioned, but we are attempting to make absolutely certain that the club at which visitors and guests are being entertained—if I may use that word—complies with the law set out in clause 67. Our suggested paragraph (c) would allow the host club more safely to admit a member of another club. The Bill would be clearer.
The hon. Gentleman is wrong to propose the amendment. It would delay the access of members of other clubs to social clubs. From a constituency point of view, many of the clubs in seaside towns in North Devon offer their facilities to people who are visiting resorts and are members of clubs elsewhere. Some people come only for a long weekend or a few days and if they had to wait for the two days proposed in the hon. Gentleman's amendment, half their holiday would be gone. Clubs allow members of other clubs simply to show another club card, be it from the National Union of Liberal Clubs, the CIU, or, heaven forfend, even from Conservative or Labour clubs—such people are simply allowed to brandish their cards and come in. That approach is preferable to the delay that is inherently built into the hon. Gentleman's amendment.
Clause 67 provides that references to guests of club members include associate members of the club and guests of associate members of the club and further provides that a person is an associate member of the club, for the purposes of the Bill, if,
''in accordance with the rules of the club, he is admitted to its premises as being a member of another club, and . . . that other club is a recognised club''.
A recognised club is one that satisfies the first three conditions set out in clause 62, as we have agreed.
Amendment No. 205 would change the definition of ''associate member'', requiring that to qualify as such, a person would have to have been a member of the other club for at least two days and that the committee or sub-committee responsible for the supply of alcohol was satisfied that the primary purpose of that other club was not the supply or purchase of alcohol. The amendment would therefore prevent any member of a club whose primary purpose was the sale of alcohol from being an associate member of another club.
I am afraid that I am at a loss to understand the amendment's intention. Let me say once again that the expanded definition of ''guest'' for the purposes of part 4 of the Bill is not a backdoor through which a club can supply alcohol to its members without the need for a club premises certificate or a premises licence. A recognised club is not a guest. Under existing law, members of clubs are able to use associated clubs. As we have heard, a member of a miners' welfare institute in Wales can use another miners' welfare institute when visiting England if the rules of that institute permit that admittance. That seems sensible. It reflects the community role of such clubs and the fact that, traditionally, clubs knit together nationally, not only at local level.
The point that the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) made was important. I know for a fact that members of all manner of clubs, including railway clubs and many others, enjoy a pint when, for example, they visit a seaside resort by going into a club. Often, they feel that they are getting a better deal than they might get in another licensed premises, although that is not always the case. The amendment would prevent anyone who is a member of a club whose primary purpose is the sale of alcohol—which includes a great many registered clubs at present—from being treated as an associate member of another club. The Government do not agree that curtailment of the extent to which members of qualifying clubs can use the facilities of other, associated qualifying clubs is justified. Nor do they think it appropriate to prescribe the rules of a club in the Bill, except where that is necessary to impose a qualifying standard for clubs that wish to take advantage of its provisions. I can see no such necessity here. The scheme set out in the Bill reflects closely the position in existing legislation on clubs, which has operated well for a number of years. I therefore hope that the amendment will not be pressed.