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Lap-dancing Clubs

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

1. How many times temporary event notices have been issued for events organised by lap-dancing clubs in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (269383)

We do not hold information on the type of temporary event for which a notice is given. Although the Licensing Act 2003 covers the provision of regulated entertainment, it does not censor the content of such entertainment.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, although I am disappointed by it. 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?

Certainly. I appreciate the work that my hon. Friend has been doing on the Policing and Crime Bill and on the issues relating to the proliferation of lap-dancing clubs. There clearly is an issue, although I am not sure that the way to resolve it is through temporary event notices. When my hon. Friend is able to see me, we can have further discussions on how we can look at using the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 and the new Bill to try to prevent the occurrences that she has referred to.

Given the proliferation of lap-dancing applications throughout the country, is the Minister convinced that the interests of local residents are best served by the new licensing authorities—or by the magistrates courts, which were part of the regime before the 2003 Act came into force?

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.

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.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend’s daughter and the other Newcastle university students. What he mentioned was clearly irresponsible advertising and it is not what we want to see, particularly where alcohol is concerned. However, the powers are there to deal with irresponsible advertising and with lap-dancing clubs when local people do not want them. If we can strengthen those powers, we will do so.

Will the Minister please look seriously at the democratic loophole that prevents elected representatives from making representations to the decision maker in respect of temporary event notices? Only the police can make such representations, and only on very narrow grounds.

We have to be careful. Temporary event notices came about at the request of many Back-Bench MPs, who wanted village halls and parent-teacher associations to have the opportunity to put on events for which licensing requirements were in place. More than 120,000 temporary event notices have been granted, and there has been no real trouble. However, during our discussion of the Licensing Bill, we said that if there was a problem we would look at it. If the police feel that events will be inappropriately dealt with, they have the power to stop them. The temporary event notices have been a power for good, not for evil.

I should like to pick up the point made by the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). 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.

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.

My hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) talked about the responsibility and conduct of these establishments. As the Minister will be aware, the so-called designated premises supervisor is legally responsible for the conduct of any pub, club or lap-dancing establishment. However, there is no requirement for that supervisor to be present in his establishment at any time; he can verbally hand over responsibility to an untrained manager with no qualifications. Will the Minister examine whether that is the best way to ensure that pubs, clubs or lap-dancing operations are run properly? The feedback from local authorities with vibrant town centres is that it is not.

Designated door supervisors have been a force for good in the sense of working with establishments, the police and local authorities. I made an enjoyable visit in my Bradford constituency to police on the licensing route late one Friday night, to see at first hand how door supervisors were working. [Interruption.] No, lap dancing was not on at that venue that evening. We are trying to ensure that local authorities, the police and the industry are working together in trying to protect the public.