Male-only clubs face ban under new law

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The Independent Online

The second-class status of women at male-dominated golf and gentlemen's clubs is to be banned under government-backed proposals to end discrimination.

All clubs, from the Conservative Party's Carlton Club through to golf clubs and to more than 2,500 working men's clubs, will have to offer women full membership or bar them altogether, under a private members' Bill.

The Bill's backers say they hope that commercial pressures, including rules surrounding the handing out of grants, will lead clubs to choose the former option.

Ministers want to end the practice of clubs offering "associate" membership to women – allowing them to use club facilities but barring them from voting or standing for office. In some cases, women cannot enter certain parts of a club, while in others men are given precedence on the golf course.

The moves would not affect single sex sports or clubs, such as the Scouting movement. However, it is likely to create intense controversy in clubs such as the Carlton, which has resisted pressure to admit women on equal terms. Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative leader, has refused membership of the club, an honour traditionally granted to all Tory leaders, on the grounds that it bars women.

The Bill, championed by Lord Faulkner of Worcester, the Labour peer, is due to be given its second reading today. It is being supported by Barbara Roche, the Cabinet Office and women's minister, who said the change was long overdue.

The Government is expected to allow it to become law and it would apply to private clubs with 25 or more members.

The latest attempt at reform comes after Robert Walter, Tory MP for North Dorset, tried to introduce legislation to the Commons seeking to give women the right to full membership of clubs.