Lap dancing is not sexually stimulating, the chairman of the Lap Dancing Association told a parliamentary committee.
Simon Warr made the claim, which was greeted with justifiable scepticism by MPs, while he was giving evidence to the Commons culture committee as part of an inquiry into the operation of the Licensing Act.
The government is under pressure to change the act so that lap dancing clubs have to be licensed as sex encounter establishments.
At the moment, they are licensed in the same way as pubs and clubs, which has led to complaints from councils who believe that they do not have the power to stop clubs being opened in their areas.
In their evidence to committee, Warr and colleagues from the Lap Dancing Association claimed that their clubs should not be classified as sex encounter establishments because they were providing hospitality, not sexual services. But Warr
astonished the committed when he argued that sexual stimulation was not part of the clubs' attraction.
One of the biggest problems we face is that not enough people understand the business blueprint of our clubs, he said: Actually, our premises are not sexually stimulating. It would be contrary to our business plan if they were.
At this point, Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley who was questioning Warr, said he found that hard to believe.
Warr replied: Then you need to go to a club, because the purpose of a club is to provide entertainment. It's to provide alcohol, it's a place of leisure. All right, the entertainment may be in the form of nude or semi-nude performers, but it's
not sexually stimulating.
Peter Stringfellow, the strip club owner, who was giving evidence alongside Warr and his colleagues, intervened to try to explain what he thought Warr had meant by his comments.
Of course it's sexually stimulating. So is a disco. So is a little girl flashing away with her knickers showing. Of course it's sexually stimulating. So is David Beckham laid out in his Calvin Klein [underwear]. So are the Chippendales. Of
course it does have some form of sex.
But what my colleague was trying to explain was that it's not sex, 100%. It's not 'I'm going to go and get divorced.' It does not go on like that. Our environment lasts three minutes. Their clothes are on and off before you can blink. It's a lot
more to do with personality. It's a lot more to do with the ambience of the club.
Earlier in the session, Davies asked the Lap Dancing Association to respond to allegations that at some clubs dancers do offer sexual services, contrary to the rules. Chris Knight, the vice chairman of the association, replied: We are not
saying there are not bad clubs. There are bad drivers. But you do not change the way that you licence drivers.
Kate Nicholls, the secretary of the Lap Dancing Association, said that councils already had enough power to stop clubs opening under the existing legislation, which allows them to consider issues such as public safety, public order, public
nuisance and the protection of children: If you cannot form an objection to an outlet [under one of these criteria], then you are just accepting that you have got a fundamental objection to the premises.
But the committee also heard from two representatives of Object, a human rights organisation campaigning against the sex object culture. Object wants lap dancing clubs to be classified as sex encounter establishments.
Sandrine Leveque, Object's advocacy officer, said: Lap dancing clubs promote gender stereotypes and their expansion is therefore of concern to women's organisations up and down the country.
Banks join benefit cheats, lap-dancing clubs and drinkers at the top of a list of targets for legislative action to be unveiled today.
Gordon Brown has made unfairness to men the theme of the second Queen's Speech of his premiership.
Companies will be free to discriminate in favour of women and black job candidates under a proposed Inequality Bill. The move allows employers to give preferential treatment as long as applicants are equally qualified. It is designed to boost the
proportion of female and ethnic staff, as well as thrusting more of them into senior posts.
Measures to toughen laws against benefit fraud, ban alcohol promotions and reclassify lap-dancing clubs as sex encounter establishments were trailed yesterday.
Plans by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, for a new Bill of Rights have been shelved.
The Prime Minister said in a document previewing the Queen's Speech yesterday. So as Government takes action, we expect people to play their part in return, with clear consequences for those who do not.
The speech will also announce a Crime Bill changing prostitution and drink laws. There will be proposals to criminalise men who pay for sex with trafficked women. The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has made clear the bill would include a strict
liability offence of paying for sex with a trafficked or pimped woman which means that ignorance will be no defence for those accused. The Conservatives have already indicated they are likely to oppose this, making tackling prostitution one
of the more unlikely flashpoints in politics over the coming months. [Saying that I didn't notice the Paying for sex provision in any of the Home Office press releases accompanying the Queen's Speech.]
Pbr on the Melon Farmer's forum notes the absence of a Bill to prohibit non-photographic visual depictions of child sexual abuse ... perhaps the first bit of good news in government policy for quite a while now.
Off with their bollocks!...
Any man found enjoying a sex life will be
liable to the 'appropriate' summary penalty
Lap dancing clubs may be closed if they are located too near supposedly inappropriate sites such as schools, under transitional powers contained in the policing and crime bill published yesterday.
On lap dancing, the introduction of transitional powers to threaten existing lap dancing clubs goes further than originally billed. The man hating home secretary, Jacqui Smith, has already indicated that she expects the legislation to curb
the growth in the number of lap dancing clubs, which has doubled to 300 over the last four years.
But Coaker indicated that the transitional powers contained in the bill would give local authorities the power to refuse to renew the licences of existing clubs if there are local objections that they are sited inappropriately.
Despite the recent protests of the lap dancing industry that what goes on in their clubs is not sexually stimulating , the legislation proposes to categorise lap dancing clubs as sex encounter establishments and remove them from the
existing 2003 entertainment licensing regime, which classed them along with bars and pubs. A sex encounter venue is defined as one in which relevant entertainment is provided before a live audience for the financial gain of the organiser. An
audience can consist of only one person.
The effect will be to allow local authorities to take far more account of the views of nutters in granting new licences and to ban the opening of further clubs by declaring that a particular town or city centre has reached saturation point
The Treasury has denied firms receive tax breaks for corporate visits to lap-dancing clubs after 'Equalities' Minister Harriet Harman denounced it.
Harman petitioned the chancellor to end tax relief on such events which she argued exclude female employees. However, the Treasury said corporate entertainment of any kind was not deductable for tax or VAT purposes.
Firms can claim back VAT for trips which were genuinely related to developing staf", a spokesman said. He said HM Revenue and Customs would likely have to examine whether such a visit to a lap-dancing club had been wholly and
exclusively for the benefit of business , and would more likely be seen as a "gift" or perk.
Harman told a meeting of extreme feminists of the Fawcett Society on Thursday: 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?"
A Treasury spokesman said it appeared Ms Harman had been misinformed: 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.
The Government have responded to the petition asking:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill 2008-2009 Section 25 to exclude any public performance or performance art from the act that involves the removal of clothing
that does not result in nudity as laid out in Section 25 and to exclude it from classification under the Sexual Encounter Entertainment License.
Under Section 25 of the proposed Policing and Crime Bill 2008-2009 Burlesque will potentially be eradicated due to the requirement of a Sexual Encounter Entertainment License even though there is no nudity in burlesque (as
described in section 25) it has been stated by certain boroughs already that the element of the removal of part of you clothing constitutes as stripping and therefore requires a license, although you are able to appear in front of an audience
partially clothed you are not allowed to remove any item of clothing in front of an audience in order to achieve this state without the aforementioned license. We would like this loop hole in the act removed to ensure that performances that
involve the removal of part of your clothing and do not result in nudity will not require licensing.
The Government's response:
Thank you for your e-Petition dated 6 May 2009 about the introduction of Clause 26 of the Policing and Crime Bill, and its impact on burlesque performances.
Clause 26 of the Policing and Crime Bill introduces a new category of sex establishment under Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 called sex encounter venue . The purpose of these
provisions is to give local people a greater say over the number and location of lap dancing clubs and similar venues in their area.
Whether or not a venue will require a new licence will depend on the nature of the entertainment provided. Only venues who offer a live performances or live display of nudity, which is of such a nature that it must be
reasonably assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience , will need to apply for a sex establishment licence. Therefore, as long as a burlesque performance does not fit
this definition a new licence will not be required. There is also an exemption for infrequent events.
The Government believe this is the correct approach to ensure the measures are properly targeted and address the real concerns of local communities.
Roberta Blackman-Woods, the mean minded MP representing Durham, has welcomed the fact that the Policing and Crime Bill has passed its final parliamentary hurdle, with amendments between the two Houses of Parliament resolved.
The Bill contains provisions to restrict the licensing of lap dancing clubs, which Roberta campaigned for and persuaded the Government to include.
Blackman-Woods said : The new licensing regime will give local councils and local people far more of a say over the number and location of lap dance clubs in their area.
Despite Liberal Democrat amendments in the Lords supporting the lap dancing industry which would have substantially weakened the Bill, the Government held firm and made sure that local people would come first and that lap dance clubs would be
subject to strict but fair licensing arrangements. The Government has also announced that it is conducting a review of the whole issue of 'Temporary Event Notices' which is something I have been pressing for.
I will be urging Durham County Council to adopt the provisions and use the powers this Act will give it to as soon as possible.
The nightclub boss Peter Stringfellow has warned that he would appeal under human rights laws if he was forced to close his lapdancing clubs under new government regulations.
Hundreds of lap-dancing clubs will have to seek new licences under powers that are expected to force some premises to close. The new licensing regime will start on April 6, when clubs will be called sexual entertainment venues . They will
all have to apply for a fresh licence.
Local councils in England and Wales will be able to ban clubs from opening near schools or other buildings in quiet or busy neighbourhoods. The public will be given the right to oppose an application to open a club on the basis that the premises
are inappropriate .
Stringfellow and the Lap Dancing Association are threatening to go to the European Court of Human Rights if any club given specific permission to conduct lap dancing loses its licence. They claim that loss of the licence breaches human rights
because it deprives them of their possession.
Stringfellow said that the regulations had been brought forward because Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary, and Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, were entranced by the radical feminist organisation known as the
Fawcett Society .
Lap dancing clubs could use the Human Rights Act to oppose legislation allowing councils greater freedom to turn down lap-dancing licence applications, venue owners say.
The Policing and Crime Act forces existing lap-dancing clubs to apply for new licences and allows councils to close venues for moralistic reasons.
Chris Knight, president of the Lap-Dancing Association (LDA), said clubs could take their appeals to the European Court of Justice. If local authorities don't give us new licences, they are effectively taking away our right to property and to
do business, as outlined in the Human Rights Act, and we will consider taking it as far as we have to in the courts, he said.
Local councils are likely to vigorously defend the legislation. Richard Kemp, vice-chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: If they want a legal showdown, then we're going to test the depths of their pockets, because we're
certainly going to test ours.
Club owners argue that the legislation could infringe their right to property protection. The issue involves article 8 of the Human Rights Act which concerns the right to protection of private property, and activities pursuant to that
property, said licensing lawyer Richard Arnot. If an existing lap-dancing licence is your property, then you have the right to run a lap-dancing club, and the new legislation is arguably an infringement of that right.
Julian Skeens, head of licensing law at Jeffrey Green Russell and the LDA's solicitor, said appeal cases were likely to take a long time, and clubs could remain in business for some time.
The situation has angered nutter groups that pushed for the new law. Anna van Heeswijk, campaigns co-ordinator of Object, said: Human rights legislation exists to safeguard against discrimination and to promote principles of local democracy,
not to protect the rights of club owners to make a profit.
Strip clubs across Britain are facing closure as an increasing number of councils use new laws to ban them. Local authorities are at varying stages of implementing licensing changes to close clubs and businesses.
There are about 300 clubs in Britain and many opened after a relaxation of the licensing law in 2003. A subsequent 2009 law rebranded lap dancing, pole dancing, and strip clubs as sex entertainment venues gave councils new morality
Ten councils, given the power to impose repressive restrictions, have already opted for nil policies which will refuse applications for any new venues.
Among them is Tower Hamlets Council in East London. It is supposedly awaiting the result of a public consultation whilst keenly anticipating the closure of 11 clubs in the borough.
In Leicester three clubs were denied licences last week while in the City of London repressive licensing rules saw its only club decline to apply.
Enfield Council in North London, one of a number of local authorities to ban the clubs despite never having had any. It passed a motion last month, under the slogan no sex please, we're Enfield , which stated that it would not allow new
Elsewhere in London, Hackney, Haringey, and the City of London have all capped their quotas for new clubs at zero, though Hackney has made one area, Haggerston, an exception for existing clubs.
Islington, which has four clubs, has also voted in a nil policy on new venues. Richmond upon Thames has adopted a nil policy on new venues and its last remaining venue will hear its fate next month.
Cambridge City Council brought in new licensing laws in June and its only club declined to apply.
Newcastle City Council capped the number of clubs at five, and all are having licences considered. There are a further 15 occasional venues , many of which have not applied.
A lap-dancing club has appealed against the arbitrary refusal of a licence to allow it to continue trading. Angels, in Braunstone Gate, West End, Leicester, faces having to close or cease its shows by the end of March, unless it can overturn the
decision by Leicester City Council.
Leicester councillors said they were concerned the application was being made on behalf of a third party for someone they would not grant a licence to. Councillors also claimed the club was not in an 'appropriate' location given that a sports
centre is being built by De Montfort University, in nearby Dun's Lane.
The council's head of licensing, Mike Broster, said Angels had appealed on both grounds and the case was due to be heard by magistrates at a date yet to be set.
Well, many readers may have heard of research being carried out by Professor Phil Hubbard on Sexual Entertainment venues. The initial results are in, and although the full results are not due until March 2013, I have been given permission to
produce a synopsis of the report. I will say at the outset of this post that the majority of the report is not surprising and does no harm to the industry; there is one sticking point which I will discuss in more detail and explain why I feel
that it is not likely to affect the industry.
There are 241 licensed premises regularly offering lap dancing or striptease in England and Wales. Nearly half (43%) of those applying for a Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) license have received no formal objections at all. This doesn't really
come as much of a surprise: most people are not bothered about the venues and there tends to be only a small handful of complainants who may write in. Given that Portsmouth managed to obtain a massive response following a very vocal campaign by
pressure groups to get the clubs shut down, with 113 against and over 3000 for the venues, the fact that some clubs receive no objections at all should not surprise anyone.
A survey of residents in towns and cities with lap dance clubs suggests that around one in five were not even aware there was an SEV operating in their town or city! Fewer than one in ten identified an SEV as a particular source of local
nuisance, and in some locations this was considerably lower. Once again not a surprise, as we have seen previously from my report on crime that the belief that venues are an issue for police is a fallacy.