The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #55964   Message #872689
Posted By: The Shambles
23-Jan-03 - 05:54 AM
Thread Name: PELs Government v MU & lawyers
Subject: RE: PELs Government v MU & lawyers
Also in The Times.

Music Bill attack 'pure fantasy'
By Jack Malvern, Arts Reporter


A ROW between the Government and musicians escalated yesterday when Kim Howells, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, accused critics of his Licensing Bill of indulging in fantasy.

The Musicians' Union, which is proposing to sever its 80-year-old ties with the Labour Party, claims that Dr Howells's Bill will prevent live performers from playing at any event from weddings to carol singing on the street. A spokesman has accused the minister of incompetence in drafting the Bill.

Dr Howells stood by earlier comments that the union was spreading "a pernicious lying campaign". He said: "The problem with the union is that it is good at dishing it out, but no good at taking it. What it is saying is nonsense. It thinks that a postman walking down a street and whistling will need a licence."

But the union cited work by Robin Allen, QC, which claims that a literal interpretation of the law would prevent customers in a music shop testing an instrument before purchase.

A spokesman added that while the law would not be enforced in the most extreme cases, it was open to abuse by malicious parties.

Gill Alexander, a music teacher from Needham, Norfolk, said that she would leave the country if the new law prevented her from holding informal charity jazz concerts in her barn. A literal reading of the Bill suggests that she would have to apply for a "premises licence" because the concerts raise money.

Dr Howells, who described last year's Turner Prize entries as "conceptual ********", added: "Claims that activities such as rehearsing in a rehearsal studio, carol singing on someone's door step, or trying out a guitar in a music shop will be licensable are pure fantasy. I hope that the Musicians' Union will acknowledge this."