Page last updated at 15:19 GMT, Tuesday, 10 July 2012 16:19 UK

Peers tells of 'pride' in working men's clubs

A Labour Co-operative peer has spoken of his "pride" at the contribution made by working men's clubs to life in the UK in the year of their 150th anniversary.

During questions on 10 July 2012, Lord Bilston, who is secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Non-Profit Making Members' Clubs, asked what plans the government had to mark the anniversary of the Club and Institute Union.

The Working Men's Club and Institute Union (CIU), now a federation of 2,000 clubs with around two million members, was formed on 14 June 1862.

Communities Minister Baroness Hanham congratulated the CIU but said the government had no plans to mark the occasion as the clubs were "private institutions".

She added that the all-party group were holding their own commemoration on 11 July.

Lord Bilston said "my heart fills with pride" at the CIU's contribution to the "life of working class communities", but asked for government attention to the effect of "years of pernicious legislation" on the CIU and other clubs including Conservative, Labour and Liberal clubs.

He asked for "some respite in these very harsh and difficult economic and social times".

Baroness Hanham told the House that the government would "support small businesses such as clubs and has already granted them rate relief" until March 2013.

Labour peer Lord Grocott insisted that clubs were "much more than small businesses" and could be categorised as part of the Big Society, claiming that the Labour movement "invented it long before anyone else did".

Baroness Hanham acknowledged that peers were talking about "private clubs" but that such clubs may be able to qualify for small business rate relief.

"They have a valuable history and have clearly seen a lot of people through some very difficult times," she said.

The CIU describes itself as "neutral in matters of politics and religion".

Other questions were on diabetes in England and Wales, the number of mothers imprisoned with their infants in England and Wales, and the successor to the current governor of the Bank of England.

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