The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #55964   Message #872454
Posted By: The Shambles
22-Jan-03 - 07:14 PM
Thread Name: PELs Government v MU & lawyers
Subject: PELs Government v MU & lawyers

The above is where you can read both sides of the story, it is very long but here is the MU's bit, the DCMS does not appear to be on their site, but I have posted it on Graham Dixon's petition site.

The following from Hamish Birchall

The MU today held a press conference to address accusations by Kim Howells that the Union is leading objectors to the Bill in a 'pernicious lying campaign'.

Two independent lawyers were present, neither representing the Union. Both have studied the Bill closely. Both share MU concerns about the scope of the Bill's definitions and the implications for live music, particularly folk and jazz.

They were invited as representatives of the legal profession with particular concerns about the Licensing Bill: Chris Hepher, an expert in licensing law, with 20 years experience working in the PEL and liquor licensing field; and Robin Bynoe, a music business solicitor and amateur musician who assisted in drafting some of the amendments during the Bill's Committee stage (which is now over - the next 'Report Stage' should take place within the next 3-4 weeks).

Journalists from The Times, Daily Telegraph and The Stage attended. Interestingly, the Department for Culture sent along an 'observer' who took copious notes. She also provided us with a statement from Howells who maintained the Party line: the MU are scaremongers, and their claims about the Bill are 'fantasy'. Both the lawyers, on the other hand, completely endorsed our claims.

The DCMS have now provided a comprehensive commentary in response to MU concerns, and the concerns of other groups (see below). As a statement of intent, some of it is welcome (i.e. no wish to licence private events where musicians charge a fee etc). However, this intent is not - yet - reflected in the words of the Bill. You may also notice some rather slippery justifications.

I apologise for the amount of information, but I think it is better that you have the complete document rather than edited sections. If you can find time to read it all, please keep a few points in mind, particularly in relation to the safety and noise justifications for licensing:

This Bill criminalises almost any public music-making - unless licensed - however small in scale.

Many categories of currently exempt private performance are also caught - again, however small in scale.

No licensing regime that criminalises an activity will be 'light touch', however cheap the fees.

The exemption for broadcast entertainment means that premises (any place, not just pubs) can install multiple widescreens and powerful sound systems without a licence under this Bill.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) objected to this exemption on crime and disorder grounds. Tackling crime was the government's main selling point of the Bill.

Under the entertainment facilities section of Schedule 1 (para 3) there is no requirement for an audience to be present (READ SCHEDULE 1) - this applies to bell ringing, music shops, rehearsal rooms and music studios. They are all facilities for music making, provided for the public 'for the purpose, or purposes that include the purpose, of being entertained.'

The Joint Committee on Human Rights report on the Bill said the government had provided no justification for criminalising all musicians who perform without first checking that a premises is licensed. They commented that the explanation offered was an attempt 'to pull the Bill up by its own bootstraps'.

In England, as in Scotland, there is nothing stopping licensing justices imposing noise or safety conditions on the grant of liquor licences. Licensing justices continue to use this power in spite of the fact that there is guidance (without statutory force) advising against the practice. Setting a 'safe capacity' in this manner is relatively common in London and Birmingham. Otherwise, all health and safety and noise legislation in Scotland is exactly the same as in England - it is shared legislation, unlike licensing which is separate.

The case law precedent from 1899 determined that where two (or possibly more) pub customers made music for their own amusement on a pub piano, on a weekly basis, unpaid - this was exempt from licensing as public entertainment.

The Licensing Bill would not only render this activity illegal unless licensed, but also the provision the piano is itself a criminal offence without a licence!