Culture minister tackled over lapdancing clubs

April 21, 2009 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

by Gemma Pritchard

Culture Minister Gerry Sutcliffe faced some tough questions about lap-dancing clubs in Parliament yesterday.

During oral questions to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Under- Secretary of State was grilled by Labour member for Stourbridge, Lynda Waltho, about the use of temporary event notices as a legal loophole for nights organised by lap-dancing clubs.

When asked to make a statement about the number of notices issued for events of this kind in the past 12 months, Mr Sutcliffe admitted that the Government did not hold such information.

He said: “Although the Licensing Act 2003 covers the provision of regulated entertainment, it does not censor the content of such entertainment.”

Ms Waltho, who has been working on the Policing and Crime Bill and concerns over the proliferation of lap-dancing clubs, replied that she was “disappointed” with this response.

She said: “He may or may not be aware that local councils’ licensing offices are getting more and more concerned about temporary event notices because they are being used increasingly by lap-dancing clubs, and also bars and pubs; one notice can be applied for per month.

“One owner of a lap-dancing club told me that the notices would be good for business because he would be able to move his “stable” of girls from venue to venue more often and develop his business.

“This is a big loophole. Will the Minister meet me and agree to look into that loophole as soon as possible?”

When he was then challenged by Conservative MP Mark Field about the effectiveness of licensing acts related to lap-dancing clubs, Mr Sutcliffe countered:

“The 2003 Act is working and powers are available to local authorities and the police to close down premises, including lap-dancing clubs, that are not operating in a proper manner.

“But there certainly is an issue around lap dancing; that is why it is important that while the Policing and Crime Bill is before the House we seek to strengthen any provisions that would stop the proliferation of such clubs.”

The Labour member for Rotherham, Denis MacShane, went on to make an impassioned comment about his daughter’s experience as a university student in Newcastle, where she had encountered a seedy bar offering free drinks to girls who took their tops off.

He praised Newcastle University students, who went on to organise a boycott and demonstration against the bar.

“Is the Minister aware of Newcastle’s “Sinners” bar, which is one of these horrible places? Young Newcastle university students went there recently and saw a notice saying “Whoever shows her”—the word begins with t and ends in s—“to bar staff gets a free shot! Girls only!” Will the Minister congratulate Newcastle university students who launched a boycott and a demonstration outside that wretched establishment? One of them, a young lady, said:

‘it promotes the degradation of women and binge drinking and I think it’s demoralising.’

“Will the Minister encourage other university students to take on that feminist message? I declare an interest: that young lady was my daughter.”

The Minister agreed that there is a need to strengthen powers to deal with irresponsible advertising where possible.

Picking up on Mr MacShane’s point, Conservative member for the Forest of Dean Mark Harper suggested an element of hypocrisy on the Government’s part regarding these issues, as JobCentre Plus still advertised many vacancies in the adult entertainment industry.

Mr Harper said: “Is the Minister aware that there is a little hypocrisy in the Government on the issue? Last year, Jobcentre Plus advertised 351 vacancies in the adult entertainment industry, including for topless and semi-nude bar staff. If the Government are to start looking anywhere to sort the matter out, they had better look at themselves.”

However, Mr Sutcliffe replied that this point was not relevant or appropriate to the current debate.

“I do not want to get into a debate about offers of jobs in the adult entertainment industry—and you would not allow me to, Mr. Speaker. We are here to talk about the Licensing Act 2003, and its provisions dealing with the establishments under discussion.

“I do not think that there has been any hypocrisy on the part of the Government; we are trying to do our best to make sure that people can pursue what they want to pursue within the framework of the law.”

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