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Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 09:38 GMT
Men's club ban a 'nonsense'
Women celebrate after gaining admission to the Marylebone Cricket Club

The government has dismissed reports suggesting it plans to ban men-only clubs such as London's Garrick and a range of sports establishments.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "It is nonsense. There are no plans to do this."

The omission of private clubs results in various discriminatory rules and arrangements which support stereotypical images of men and women
Equal Opportunities Commission
A number of exclusive dining clubs continue to refuse to admit women, regarding it as part of their centuries-old tradition. The Sex Discrimination Act currently excludes private clubs.

About three-quarters of golf clubs also retain extra privileges for male members, such as men's bars and banning woman from playing on courses at certain times.

Proposals from the Equal Opportunities Commission would force all private clubs to fall into line with sex discrimination laws and treat men and women equally.

According to a report in The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, pressure from women ministers has caused the government to plan this change as part of an equal opportunities bill for the next parliamentary session.

William Hague: Questioned role of men's clubs
Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam last week put "eliminating unjustified discrimination wherever it exists" at "the heart of the government's agenda".

The minister responsible for equal opportunities at the Department for Education and Employment, Margaret Hodge, and the minister for women, Baroness Jay, are also said to support a change in the law.

But the newspaper also quotes former Conservative minister Nicholas Soames, who describes any attempt to bring a ban as "preposterous".

He adds: "What sensible woman wants to be a member of a men's club?"

However Tory leader William Hague could back such a move. He once suggested he might leave the Conservative Carlton Club unless it opened its doors to women.

"There is no point in me going round the country saying we should have more women candidates and bring more women into the Conservative Party and then saying, 'Sorry women can't join the Carlton Club'," he said.

The change in heart by members of the Marylebone Cricket Club, which recently voted to admit women after 211 years, also leads equal opportunity campaigners to believe the change will come.

A spokeswoman for the Equal Opportunities Commission said it had received no direct response to its proposals on private member's clubs since it put them to the Department for Education and Employment in November.

"There has been no response on these particular recommendations. There have on various other bits but not on private clubs," she said.

"The report seems to be quite speculative - certainly there was nothing in the Queen's Speech."

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