The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54299   Message #840586
Posted By: The Shambles
04-Dec-02 - 01:37 PM
Thread Name: PELs of the past
Subject: RE: PELs of the past
The thought of upsetting all the folk involved in church hall and church concerts (and Cliff Richard), has obviously caused more worry to our Government than annoying the MU's members and all the folkies.

It has begun to alert the political journalists, who we badly need to be informed. Some overseas journalists covering the issue, could certainly help in this regard.

We really have a long uphill climb, even so.

It is a line I think we should concentrate on. Even to the extent of asking for the music as part of a religious service exemption to be scrapped!

For there can be no justification for such an exemption under the objectives of this Bill and asking for this to be scrapped is logically following the Bill's objectives and will certainly serve to keep the issue in a little higher press profile.

The (very few) exemptions to what is defined in Schedule 1 as licensable are probably the best demonstration of the bogus rationale of the entertainment aspects of the Bill.

The four objectives of the licensable activities are -
a) the prevention of crime
b) public safety
c) the prevention of public nuisance; and
d) the protection of children from harm

[From the guidance notes]
310. A number of exemptions to regulated entertainment are included in the Bill including-
a) the provision of any form of entertainment for broadcast where there is no studio audience

b) the showing to an audience of television and radio programmes forming part of a programme service within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (so long as the programmes have not been pre-recorded)

c) recorded music which is incidental to an activity which is not a
licensable activity, for example, music played in lifts

d) film exhibitions used for product demonstration, advertisement,
information, education or instruction. This would exempt, for example,
educational films shown in schools, or special advertisements shown at
product display stands in shopping centres.

e) entertainment incidental to a religious meeting or service. This would exempt, for instance, the singing of hymns or other religious material at a religious service. It would not, however, exempt the provision of entertainment at religious premises that were being used for a purpose unconnected with a religious service - for example, the performance of a classical concert at a church.

f) entertainment provided on vehicles in motion

We could always ask for exemption ( c ) to be extended to incidental live music also, but that could prevent safety issues in lifts. I am not too sure if many of us or Ministers have tried performing on the back of a moving lorry, but there must be safety concerns there as well.

The way of course to really make sure your music is exempt, is to play for a religious service on the back of that moving lorry.

I hope you agree that the above may be worth a laugh but the stark reality of it, is rather grim?

Bitter experience over two years, tells me that the draftees of this Bill will be able to provide for Ministers, perfectly acceptable reasons (well acceptable to them), as to how these exemptions can be justified on the grounds of the objectives a,b,c or d.

But will these reasons be able to convince our rather sharp political
journalists? Perhaps we could ensure that they are asked to try?

If they attempt this and cannot satisfy, perhaps the whole rationale behind the entertainment aspect of this Bill will have to be reviewed? That then emphasis may be placed on enabling local Authorities to make all premises safe (where possible) and not, as currently, concentrated on defining what is licensable i.e. what is entertainment.

The former is one that our Local Authority officers are skilled and trained to operate. The latter - what is entertainment, is largely a matter for personal taste, and not one for legislation.

Two in a bar
Interestingly, 'the religious service exemption' (e) survives but the 'two in a bar' exemption does not.

The wording of the guidance to the Bill mentions that hymns at a religious service would be exempt but this would not have to
be limited to hymns and rather importantly there is no mention of the real possibility of this music being amplified.

Now if you accept that the exempt 'religious service' music can be
amplified, and many services now are, can there be any justification, given the stated objectives, for scrapping one and keeping the other?

Sadly, the rationale used by the Government ministers as to why the 'two in a bar' exemption should go, was NOT that most Local Authorities were preposterously claiming that the simple addition of one 'performer' to a duo, automatically made the premises unsafe. Or including customers as 'performers'.

The Government's Ministers, are being advised to quote the totally bogus claim that the issue is 'because one musician with modern amplification can make more noise than three without'.
Implying wrongly, that as currently PELs cannot be imposed on these premises, scrapping this exemption, is the only way this noise can be dealt with.

It is correct to say that Local Authorities cannot impose the current PEL on excessively noisy 'two in a bar' exempt premises (and obtain the revenue), but not to suggest that Local Authorities cannot deal perfectly adequately with excess noise from this activity through other existing legislation (without obtaining the revenue).

Perhaps we could ask our MPs for the evidence that noise from this currently exempt entertainment, is in reality presenting such an insurmountable problem to public and Local Authorities. Such that new legislation is required to deal with it? Of course there is no evidence but this does not appear to matter to the Government. Perhaps we can make it matter?

It does nor reflect well on Local Authorities, that this liberalising
exemption has been misused to such a degree that scrapping it, is claimed as deregulatory measure in this Bill, when it is, in fact the complete opposite.

This exemption has enabled a lot of fine music to take place, where due to the high level of fees and disproportionate conditions placed by Local Authorities in some areas of the country, it otherwise would not have taken place.

Before history is completely rewritten, we must learn the lesson of the PEL regime. As we are in danger of repeating it. The fact is that this regime has not protected the public.

When Local Authorities gain revenue from the issuing of PELs, they have a vested interest in issuing as many as they can.

In premises where entertainment is unsuitable and perhaps better if it did not take place, there is the problem that by turning the applicant down, the council does not receive the revenue, so the temptation is that compromises are sought, to enable the entertainment for all the wrong reasons.

When noise complaints are made about premises with PELs, the temptation is the same.

Pressure is exerted on licensees and the benefits of holding the licences are 'sold' to them. This encourages a licensee with a PEL to 'shop' those that have not.

The only way premises can open late, is to pay the fee and obtain a PEL, even when no live music is intended to be provided. Currently all
nightclubs, with dancing to recorded music, will have to have PELs

The new optional 'entertainment element'
After all the largely unnecessary definition in the Bill, about what is or is not entertainment and the additional revenue gained, the Bill should have ensured that all public premises are safe. So that in future, no one can be claimed to be taking part in a criminal offence, and be prevented, just for making music.

The Bill takes away the licensee's option to pay or not for entertainment, by combining and increasing the fee, but strangely issues a Premises Licence, which leaves the option of having the premises made unsafe.

It is largely the insistence on making the entertainment element optional that necessitates all the Schedule 1 definitions. Take away this option, impose a safe capacity on all public premises, and you take away most if not all the argument.

All public premises must apply for the Premises Licence and should, by the granting of this, be made safe for whatever the public go
there for. Or is this too simple?

If the 'entertainment element' is not optional, the licensee would still have choice to provide entertainment or not and the premises will be safe with the Premises Licence if they did. The only reason public premises can be then claimed to be unsafe, is if they were found on inspection and consideration, to be so.

I predict that any serious inquiry along these lines, will bring the
extraordinary response from the Government and Local Authorities that they don't have the resources to do this and from the Pubcos, that they cannot afford to make all their premises safe.

If the Government really do not wish to risk local Authorities from placing disproportionate conditions on premises and community activities, why do they not ensure this, by not including them in the first place in the licensing requirement?

Is it really a serious proposal that every Brownie carol concert would have to apply to the Secretary of State to waive the licensing requirement?

The Local Authorities have not followed Government guidance on this issue in past, so why should they do so now?

Where is all the increased revenue, generated by this Bill going and to what end, if all our licensed premises cannot be made safe for even one person wishing to make a little non-amplified folk music?

Or that a Morris Dancing side wishing to dance in pub car park will make the premises automatically unsafe?