The following, in their own words, is the how the Government's (clear) position re sessions and singarounds has evolved (and is still evolving).
The DCMS's Ronnie Bridgett made the following reply to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council on 04/02/02.
It is not planned that the new system will give an exemption to any forms of entertainment. The proposal is that all activities to be held on a Premises Licence (including non-amplified music) would need to be revealed in the operating plan put for approval to the licensing authority. The authority could only impose conditions on the Premises Licence which protect public safety and prevent disorder, crime and public nuisance.
Dr Howells in a letter to Michael Portillo 14/03/02
However, under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 1964 a public entertainment licence is not required if music or dancing is performed by less than three performers on licensed premises i.e. the 'two in a bar rule'. The rule is intended to apply to public performances put on by a public house to entertain the public and should not prevent ordinary people singing together or dancing in public houses
The following question from is from Hamish Birchall.
But the Government now proposes that, in addition to the risk assessments employers have a statutory duty to undertake (taking into account all activities in the workplace), 'all activities to be held on a Premises Licence including non-amplified music would need to be revealed in the operating plan put for approval to the local authority'.
Do you envisage licensees being required to declare whether or not customers will sing - unamplified - for their own amusement?
And the (03/04/02) reply from Ronnie Bridgett of the DCMS.
We do not anticipate that premises licences would have to include such an element
From Mr Bridgett to Richard Bridge 08/04/02
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.
Accordingly, whenever a group of people in a bar break into spontaneous song, the licensee would have to decide the point (noise level) at which he is at risk of being closed by the police because of "excessive noise" which might be disturbing the public. This is an important point for context and explains why it would not be necessary to bring spontaneous singing (music making) within the licensing regime as adequate public protection would already exist.
Dr Howells on Radio 2's Mike Harding Show. Broadcast 17/07/02.
Kim, if I can just go on to some questions we've had sent in from listeners, very quickly, because I do realise you've got to get off to the house and various other things … Roger Gall has emailed us to say, and I quote, "When you introduce this new licensing system, if pubs don't have an entertainment licence, will sessions and singarounds be banned?"
Yes, I suppose they would be. The landlord would need to get an entertainments licence to cover himself or herself …
But this is not for gain, is it, you were talking about …
Oh, I see, I am sorry, I'm sorry, I thought that you meant it would be professional musicians being paid
No, just sessions and singarounds, people just playing for their own fun.
No, they certainly wouldn't and I'm very keen that we should make sure that that facility is there. There shouldn't be a problem. As long as money isn't changing hands, then there's no reason why they should have to have a licence.
The Secretary of State has later written to Hamish Birchall, to say that the Government intends to regulate: - "commercial performances of music or those for private gain, but not those involving performers singing together for private (sic) amusement
Are we now back then to this music making having to exclude the public, in order for it not to be licensable - in addition to it also being required to be spontaneous and non-rewarded?
Is it not bad enough that the Government are going to replace legislation that maintains that three people singing in a pub, makes the premises unsafe, with so-called deregulatory proposals that now maintain that one person singing in a pub, makes the premises unsafe?
Can I suggest that if some of the folk community were somewhat reassured by the clear statement made by Dr Howells on Mike Harding's programme, that they contact their MP and ask them to try and establish exactly what is now proposed?
Fax your MP