Clause 4 - Short title, extent, commencement and transitional provisions

Sex Discrimination (Clubs and Other Private Associations) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 14th June 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Wright David Wright Labour, Telford

The final clause is mostly technical. It sets out the short title and scope of the Bill; it provides for the Act to come into effect on a day to be appointed by the Secretary of State; and it allows for necessary transitional provisions to be made by order.

We have discussed in some detail this afternoon the fact that we would need to ensure an ongoing debate with clubs and associations about transitional arrangements. The R and A and other golf clubs have spoken of their need for a long transitional period. Five years has been suggested, but I hope that it will not take that long for organisations and clubs to take on the simple provisions of the Bill, particularly in relation to the use of bars and facilities. I do not see why clubs cannot open bars and facilities immediately to both men and women members. Some investment may required to ensure that the facilities are of a good quality, but I hope that it could be done fairly rapidly.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley Conservative, Worthing West

The hon. Gentleman has put the case for clause 4 very adequately. He may want to check that the wording is as it should be, and whether the Secretary of State should be able to make transitional provisions rather than provision. I realise that if ''provision'' is plural, it will not be necessary. However, the point may be worth checking with the parliamentary draftsman, because the Secretary of State may want to make more than one such provision to allow for various time scales. I suspect that the wording is fine, but it is worth raising the issue for consideration.

The key point is that giving people rights and making some things into wrongs does not necessarily change things instantly. We would not have more than 2,000 people a week committing first-time serious criminal offences if making something unlawful stopped it from happening. It does not do that, but, rather, provides penalties, although I am glad that we

are not troubled too much by penalties in this amending Bill. The Bill will give a clear signal to clubs that those that have made changes have done the right thing, that those making such changes are doing the right thing, and that those that have not considered it should get on and make those changes.

I have been involved with a City livery company, which has tried, over the decades, to move on to what some call equality, which I call fairness. We did that by discussing whether we could treat people on merit and realising that sex is not merit. That message needs to go out to clubs, some of which do not need this legislation because they have already made or are making those changes, but some of which probably need it in order to catch up with the clubs that have got rid of unnecessary discrimination and are the better for it. It is fairness that matters most. People should not face unfair discrimination. Much discrimination that people thought justified has turned out not to be, and the sooner it dies the better.

Rob Marris: I understand that the Bill will not cover Northern Ireland because the 1975 Act does not, and that there are different anti-discrimination statute revisions for Northern Ireland. I seek the Minister's assurance that the Government will shortly introduce parallel anti-discrimination legislation in Northern Ireland if it does not already exist.

Photo of David Wright David Wright Labour, Telford 5:15 pm, 14th June 2004

I am sure that the Minister will be keen to drop my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West a line about the Government's view on that point. It is rare for me to be in a position to say something like that in Standing Committee—I hope that the Minister does not mind.

I thank those who have taken the time to come along this afternoon and those who have supported and assisted me with the construction of the Bill and its passage so far.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

On behalf of the Committee, I thank the Officers of the House, without whose assistance our work would be much harder. I congratulate the hon. Member for Telford on the smooth passage of his Bill through Committee.

Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose at seventeen minutes past Five o'clock.