Following is the the reply to the following letter.
Dear Dr Howells
Any music or dancing, including congregational singing of hymns (in churches and elsewhere) is public entertainment as currently defined by the 1982 Act. Will this still be considered so under the proposed reforms?
This music making is currently and specifically exempt from the PEL requirement, due entirely to the nature and context of the music, (music as part of a religious service), not because it is safe. Most of the premises (like old churches), where this takes place would not come up to scratch for any PEL safety inspection. Is this exemption also to be scrapped along with the 'two in bar' rule?
The fact that many of the tunes used for the congregational singing of hymns, were originally traditional folk songs, exposes the cruel irony of the current situation and of the one that will still exist after the Government's proposed licensing reforms.
Could you please confirm that the following four points are correct?
1. Any amount of people singing or playing such a tune (even amplified), in the unsafe and unlicensed conditions referred to above will exempt the premises from the current and future licensing requirement.
2. Currently, more than two people singing or playing the same traditional tune, non amplified, on safe and inspected licensed premises, simply for the pleasure of it (or for profit), will not.
3. Any number of people singing or playing this same tune, anywhere else, for the pleasure of it or for profit, amplified or not, currently and under the proposed reforms, will need the premises to hold and pay for an additional licence.
4. After the reform even one person singing or playing this same traditional tune, for profit or for pleasure, amplified or not, will not be permitted on safe and inspected licensed premises. Unless the licensee has paid for an 'entertainment' element and specified in advance that this particular activity is to take place.
As one who feels that the right to publicly sing/dance and play the traditional songs and tunes of my country for pleasure, to be no less important that being able to sing them publicly as part of my religion, I hope you will recognise that this right must not be conditional on a third party paying any fee to enable it.
The way to ensure this is to finally recognise that all music making on licensed premises cannot justify the need for any additional licence, fee or paperwork, the public's interest having already been ensured.
Other public premises should be made safe for whatever activity takes place, and no music should be prevented by local authorities calling all music entertainment in order to charge a fee, or risking any music making by classing it all as a noise hazard. One size does not fit all.
Dear Mr Gall
Thank you for your letter of 3 May to Dr Howells about the proposed licensing reforms. Am replying on his behalf.
It may be helpful if I explain the current law affecting churches. In London, where Schedule 12 to the London Government Act 1963 is the applicable legislation, there is no exemption for churches, which require a public entertainment licence if they are to used for public dancing or music, and any other public entertainment of a like kind. Outside London, where Schedule 1 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 1982 applies, there is a limited exemption from the need for a public entertainment licence in the case of music in a place of public religious worship. Therefore, for example, a concert in a provincial church would not require a public entertainment licence whereas a discotheque, which involved dancing, would need this permission.
It is currently the Government's intention to make all places of public religious worship exempt from the requirement for permission to stage a public entertainment in so far as it is possible.
Rather than answer your individual questions, I feel it would be more helpful for me to explain how the new licensing regime would work. Under the new system, the concept of a public entertainment licence would completely disappear.
Permission to sell alcohol, provide public entertainment, stage a play, show a film or provide late night refreshment (between 11.00pm and 5.00am) would be integrated into a single licence – the "premises licence". This integrates six existing licensing regimes into one, cutting at a stroke significant amounts of red tape.
Accordingly, under our proposals, any public house would need to obtain permission to sell alcohol for consumption on those premises and would be free to apply simultaneous for permission to put on music or dancing or similar entertainment whenever desired. The fee for such a premises licence will be no different whether the pub simply seeks permission to sell alcohol or if it decides to go for multiple permissions. There would therefore be no deterrent to seeking multiple permissions. The position now is that many pubs are wary of obtaining a separate public entertainment licence because the costs can be prohibitive in some local authority areas. Subject to our continuing discussions with stakeholders, any variation in fee levels would more likely relate to the capacity of the venue so that smaller venues pay less than large ones. The fees will also be set centrally by the Secretary of State order to eradicate the wide and sometimes unjustified inconsistencies that presently exist.
The premises licence will also set the hours that the premises may open for its activities, and set fair, necessary and proportionate conditions under which these activities may take place in order to achieve three important purposes: the prevention of crime and disorder; the assurance of public safety and the prevention of undue public nuisance. Another important feature is that local residents will have the right to object to the grant of a licence or certain parts of the operator's proposals and to have their views considered. This means, for example, that the conditions affecting noise being emitted from the premises might be more restrictive after, say midnight, than before.
Public entertainment, which would be covered by the premises licence, would be defined as music or dancing, or entertainment of a like kind, which is presented publicly for commercial purposes or for gain. Public singing which is not undertaken for profit or gain will not be affected.
We do not accept that it is the case that certain types of music, for example acoustic folk music, are never "noisy" or that they should be excluded from the new licensing regime. If public music is to be performed at premises, then the licensing authority will have the power to impose necessary and proportionate conditions in order to protect residents and customers. The conditions will not be standardised. The licensing authority will be required to tailor them to the style of venue. Major venues staging rock bands would be likely to be the subject of more restrictive conditions than a small pub or club which puts on unamplified live music.
Although the "two in a bar" exemption will be abolished for the perfectly sound reason hat one musician with modern amplification or simply microphones can make as much noise as three without, Dr Howells is confident that the proposed reforms will provide a licensing framework within which musical performance can thrive and develop, while providing adequate protection for local people in the community.
A Bill which will be presented as soon as Parliamentary time permits. It will then be for Parliament to consider the merits of our approach.
The answers to my questions were:
Yes religious music, as part of worship will still be public entertainment.
No the current exemption for it, to the licensing will not be scrapped.
Given the Government's concern for safety, they do appear to be going further in strangely exempting from the licensing requirement, any commercial performance of public entertainment, specifically taking place in churches.
"In so far as it is possible", which means it is probably not possible.
3 Yes "Public entertainment, which would be covered by the premises licence, would be defined as music or dancing, or entertainment of a like kind, which is presented publicly for commercial purposes or for gain. Public singing which is not undertaken for profit or gain will not be affected."
This sounds reassuring but as in other correspondence Mr Bridgett further defined 'public singing' as needing to be spontaneous and the 'gain' element can just be indirect benefit to the licensee, like increased takings, all music making in pubs will be prevented without the 'entertainment ' element of the premises licence. See below.
Dear Mr Bridge -
You ask me to explain how the two responses can be reconciled. In response to the question - will criminal offences be committed by customers who spontaneously break into song, our advice is that we do not anticipate that spontaneous singing which does not constitute a "performance" under the terms of the Bill or is not undertaken or organised for "reward" as defined in the Bill, will be within the range of the licensing regime. Whereas a musical "performance" as defined in the Bill by a single musician undertaken for "reward" (either his own or the organiser's) will be subject to the licensing regime. It is for Parliamentary Counsel to decide how in terms of draft clauses to give effect to that policy.