Corporate visits to lap-dancing clubs exclude women, Ms Harman says
Equalities Minister Harriet Harman has called for tax breaks for corporate entertainment visits to lap-dancing clubs to be banned.
Ms Harman has petitioned the chancellor to end tax relief on events which she says exclude female employees and form part of the wider sex industry.
However, the Treasury said corporate entertainment of any kind was not deductable for tax or VAT purposes.
Ms Harman said going to such clubs should not be a legitimate expense.
'Exploitation of women'
She told a meeting of equality campaign group the Fawcett Society: "Entertaining in lap-dancing clubs has the effect of excluding women.
"It's wrong, both in excluding women in the workplace, but is also part of a larger industry of exploitation of women and selling sex, so we have to look at it in both respects.
"I will take up the issue of tax relief, because there is a whole host of rules around tax relief. For example you can't get tax relief for childcare, which is necessary for you to go to work.
"Why should you be able to get tax relief for a night out at a lap-dancing club where effectively you are discriminating against women employees in doing so?"
Ms Harman's office said on Friday that she was raising the issue with Chancellor Alistair Darling, but said it was too early to say what action might result from her intervention.
However, a Treasury spokesman said: "Corporate entertainment of any kind is not deductible for corporate tax or VAT purposes.
"Knowingly claiming for corporate entertainment is tax fraud and those who try to evade their legal obligations will face penalties in addition to paying back any evaded tax"
Research published by the Fawcett Society found that 41% of lap-dancing clubs market direct to businesses, and 86% of those in London provide discreet receipts to clients, so that the nature of the entertainment is not apparent when they claim expenses.
However, Chris Knight, of the Lap Dancing Association, said the industry had seen a drop in corporate spending in recent months. He also denied visits to lap-dancing clubs excluded women.
"We get a lot of mixed groups coming in to all our clubs," he said. "And I am sure there are types of corporate entertainment that cater mainly for women as well."
He denied they were part of the sex industry, but were "clubs with entertainment".
"Sex is not for sale in any of our venues, " he said.