Joan Smith: Another expenses scandal – in lap-dancing clubs

Share
Related Topics

Here's an expenses scandal, if ever there was one: taxpayers are subsidising companies which entertain their employees in lap-dancing clubs.

Taking staff to a club, buying drinks and paying for women to dance is a legitimate business expense, it turns out, and companies can claim back 15 per cent VAT on the bill. This is jaw-dropping stuff, especially under a government that is committed to reducing demand for paid-for sex, so it's good news that Harriet Harman has the lads' culture of corporate "entertainment" in her sights. The Minister for Women and Equality says taxpayers should no longer subsidise evenings out that support the wider sex industry; she points out that parents can't get tax relief for childcare, yet companies are claiming relief for the cost of sending their male employees to watch barely dressed women gyrate on tables and around poles.

Apparently this is regarded by City firms as a team-bonding exercise (though not for the women on the team, presumably). I'm never surprised when I'm reminded that sexism is rife in the corporate world; a recent report from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission exposed entrenched discrimination in the finance sector, including the fact that women received around 80 per cent less in bonuses. What is startling is to find the Treasury colluding in it, not for historic reasons – lap-dancing clubs only really got going in this country in the Nineties – but because it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that the rules offer financial support to an industry that is demeaning to women. Lap-dancing clubs perpetuate ancient myths about sex, such as the idea that women love nothing more than taking off most of their clothes and writhing in front of a group of tanked-up, jeering, groping men. There's a brilliant scene in the movie Fish Tank in which a woman takes part in an audition, trying to look as if she's having multiple orgasms, just to get a job in a seedy club.

Lap-dancing clubs sell fantasies that disguise a commercial transaction, one into which students and single mothers are forced because it's more lucrative than the low-paid work available at the job centre. For the punter, it's an expensive form of voyeurism, or at least that's what I thought until I began to appreciate the economics a couple of days ago. According to research carried out by the Fawcett Society, 41 per cent of lap-dancing clubs market directly to companies; one club owner estimated last week that between 75 and 100 per cent of his clients were on business expenses. With a typical night out costing a couple of thousand pounds, no wonder a generous subsidy from the poor old taxpayer is so welcome.

Lap-dancing clubs have proliferated in recent years, encouraged by a ham-fisted piece of legislation, the 2003 Licensing Act, which classed them as part of the leisure industry rather than sexual-encounter establishments. This is ludicrous – lap dancing and pole dancing are clearly part of the commercial sex industry – but the result is that the number of clubs has doubled to 310 in the past four years. They've even opened on residential streets, dismaying local people who dislike the idea of punters emerging drunk and aroused in the early hours of the morning. The legislation was amended this year, but not all councils are aware of the changes, and women's groups would like to see it given more teeth. Ms Harman is already being denounced as a killjoy for targeting the expenses scam which subsidises such clubs, but that's the price of dragging sexist City culture into the modern world.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
Andreas Lubitz runs the Airport Race half marathon in Hamburg on 13 September 2009  

Being sensitive to mental health need not lead us to downplay the horror of what Lubitz did

Will Gore
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing