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New Discrimination Law Expected to come into effect

In the August 2007 edition ofthe Conservative Clubs Magazine, I published an article concerning the Government’s published r proposals for a Discrimination Law Review which would, for the first time, consolidate under one Act, the various existing pieces of legislation concerning discrimination. The Law Review also sought to widen the current scope of discrimination legislation.

The Government has now concluded a public consultation of this Law Review and it is now likely that a “Single Equality Bill" will be laid before Parliament before the end of this year. Most observers of Parliamentary Procedure considered that this new legislation will receive royal assent some time next summer.

The introduction of this Act will affect those Clubs which continue to elect women to non- voting Membership in the case of a Club which is primarily for men, or men to non—voting Membership in a Club which is primarily for women. It is worth repeating the following extract from the original proposals of this Law Review:-

If Private Clubs do have both men and women as Members, we propose lo make it unlawful for them to discriminate on the grounds of sex against {heir Members, associates, applicants  for membership or their guests. We have for many years encouraged Clubs to address this issue voluntarily, but we continue to receive numerous representations from women Club Members who experience blatant sex discrimination because some Private Clubs still limit women Members’ access to activities and benefits, and treat them as “second class Members". We cannot see any justification for this. ’

Those Clubs which operate a single sex Membership Policy without admitting Members of the opposite sex to any form of Membership will not be affected by this proposed new legislation.

The Association of Conservative Clubs has consistently over many years promoted and encouraged Clubs to adopt a policy of equal Membership providing equal voting rights and facilities for both men and women. I am pleased that this campaign has proved successful since the vast majority of ACC Member Clubs do operate a policy of full equal Membership. A very small number of Clubs remain men only.
Those Clubs which continue to admit women to non-voting "Associate Membership" will be unable to do so following the introduction of this Act.

Many such Clubs are in the process of updating their Rules using this Association’s Model Rules for Clubs. ACC Model Rules provide full and equal Membership for both sexes and, if adopted by a Club which currently elects women to non- voting Membership, the automatic effect would be that all existing Associate Members would be elected to full Membership and all future women candidates could only be elected to full Membership.

For most Clubs, the existence of Rules which exclude women from full voting Membership, survive more as a result of historic accident than blatant discrimination. At the time when ACC Member Clubs were formed, women simply did not enter Clubs or public houses and did not even enjoy voting rights for Parliament. For many Clubs, the introduction of Lady Associate Membership only took place following the Second World War.

Putting this point of interest to one side, it is now a relatively short time before such Clubs shall have no option other than to accept women as full members. In my opinion Club members would prefer to make necessary amendments to their Rules, although once the legislation is in place the affect on such Clubs will be automatic.

It appears that the main reason for some lady associate members not wishing to become full members is that they do not wish to pay the full subscription. There is nothing to prevent a Club from agreeing special reduced rates of subscription for, say, widows of members, ladies over sixty or sixty-live years of age, or couples. Alternatively, full subscriptions could be phased-in over a period of two or three years, thereby reducing what can, in some cases, be a dramatic increase in subscription.

In short, equal voting rights do not necessarily mean that everyone must pay the same subscription. Clubs wishing to amend their Rules in order to create an equality of membership are advised to contact the ACC.