HC Deb 13 June 2002 vol 386 cc995-6
29. Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset)

What plans the Government have to deal with discrimination against women members of private clubs. [58250]

The Minister for Women (Ms Patricia Hewitt)

I understand that the hon. Gentleman intends to introduce a private Member's Bill on this subject later in the month. I have already welcomed a Bill on the same issue that has been introduced in another place. I can of course make no commitment in regard to parliamentary time, but we will certainly keep the matter under review, because there can be no justification for treating women who are members of mixed-sex private clubs as second-class citizens.

Mr. Walter

I am somewhat disappointed by that reply. When the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill was proceeding through the House of Lords—it is due to have its Third Reading on Monday evening—it was supported by the Government, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benches. I hoped that the Minister would be able to give us a clearer indication that Government time would be made available when that Bill came to the House of Commons and took its place alongside my virtually identical Bill. It seems to me that the Government are more interested in the welfare of foxes than in the welfare of women.

Ms Hewitt

Until that point, I was full of sympathy for the hon. Gentleman. As I think he knows, there are technical problems relating to Lord Faulkner's Bill and the Bill that the hon. Gentleman intends to introduce, connected with, for instance, amendments to the Licensing Act 1988 and aspects of the drafting. If the hon. Gentleman wishes, I shall be happy to ensure that my officials discuss the drafting of his Bill with him; I shall certainly continue to discuss the issue with the business managers.