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Gentlemen's clubs will be forced to admit women

After centuries of harbouring men, all-male enclaves in Pall Mall and St James's fall to an equality Bill that outlaws single-sex refuges. One of the last bastions of privilege and male exclusivity in Britain is to fall. After hundreds of years, gentlemen's clubs will be forced
to open their doors to women in a government overhaul of equality laws.

Clubs such as White's, whose members include David Cameron, the Tory party leader, will be forced to accept female members. A review by the Department for Trade and Industry designed to plug the gaps in existing equality laws, is examining ways of banning single-sex drinking and dining clubs. The revamp would also include working men's clubs.

But the move is likely to provoke grumblings over the brandies if the Government wipes out centuries of tradition. And it will infuriate Tory MPs who accuse the Government of unnecessary interference. Nicholas Soames, Tory MP for Mid Sussex and a member of both White's and Pratt's, said: "I would have thought they have got better things to do. It is a load of nonsense."

The end of men-only dens is being welcomed by many. The broadcaster Jennie Bond said: "It's about bloody time. Having clubs where membership is barred to half the population is absurd, ridiculous and antediluvian. It's pompous, astonishing and horrible. It really gets my hackles up."

Amanda Platell, the commentator and a former aide to William Hague, said: "I'd like to see their doors open to women but I wouldn't want to be one of the women walking in." A catch-all equality Bill, to be introduced before the next election, will streamline equality laws and force single-sex clubs to justify their exemption. It will also extend fresh protection from discrimination to groups not covered by current discrimination laws.

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