The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #55964   Message #878525
Posted By: The Shambles
30-Jan-03 - 02:34 PM
Thread Name: PELs Government v MU & lawyers
Subject: RE: PELs Government v MU & lawyers
Licensing Bill and Article 10

Dear Madam

Can I request that your Committee consider the following, for their information?

Rather than making hypothetical projections about 'whistling postmen', I hope this actual situation, will demonstrate how some of the undoubted good intentions of this Bill are placed at risk by the need of the Schedule 1 definitions, to 'catch all'. These risks are presented by the words of the Bill, failing to address one of the main failings of current legislation. This is the conflict of entertainment licensing with HR legislation and the refusal of local authorities to be governed or even guided by the latter.

I am aware that the committee is considering the Bill here. The only difference of the Bill to current legislation, as far as this aspect goes, is that even one pub customer making music, will be illegal. But also by this act, to have made these perfectly safe and inspected public premises, automatically unsafe, without the additional and optional entertainment element of the new Premises licence. Transgressors will be subject to the unchanged maximum penalties.

I have for over two years been struggling with my local authority over the interpretation of current licensing legislation and their failure to recognise that enforcement of this, must be compatible with Article 10. I consider that they have not proved that the customer's right, with the licensee's permission to make unpaid music in the pub, presents a safety hazard that cannot and is not adequately dealt with by the subsisting legislation.

For in this case, no additional safety measures were required in order to issue the Public Entertainment Licence, but the customer's unpaid musical activities, for their own pleasure, were prevented until this document was paid for and in place. These activities were non-amplified and had received no complaints, noise or any other, from the public.

Another identical weekly pub session that had been running for over 5 years has also recently been permanently stopped by the actions of this council. As on receipt of a letter from them, the licensee did not choose to apply for the PEL, and that ended a beneficial musical activity, but more importantly, a perfectly safe activity. Again one where there were no public complaints and where the public's right of freedom of expression has been completely ignored and been sacrificed to unnecessary bureaucracy.[See Attached]

Dr Howells first wrote to me via my local MP Jim Knight on 15/08/01. He has been in contact Dr Howells has assisted me in this, but the problem remains unsolved and the Bill does not address this. In fact it is made worse in this Bill, produced by Dr Howells. I have also made a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman about the way my concerns have been dealt with by my local authority. The LGO found that there was no evidence of maladministration and have made no criticism of the local authority concerned.

I think it would be fair to say that the overall consensus is that the only way forward is for me to take the issue to the courts. This of course is made in the safe knowledge that this is unlikely to happen, for reasons only of finance. I am neither rich nor poor enough to consider legal action, like most of the population, I suspect? Licensees are also unlikely to take the course of pleading not guilty, when accused of providing unlicensed entertainment, for the additional reason of the penalties facing them if they should lose.

Any future disputes, about what is and is not licensable and therefore what is safe or not, and given the wording of the Bill, there will be many, will have to be settled in the court. Given the above circumstances, and the threat of these heavy penalties, this is not the way things should be, on introduction of new legislation. Especially when this presents so many risks to beneficial musical activities and the rights of people to take part in them.   

In fact under the Bill, even a piano that has not been rendered unplayable, or a floor that could be danced on will be considered as an entertainment facility, and to make the premises automatically unsafe, if the officers of a local authority so decide. And local authorities do, and will decide such things. [See attached]

The following is the only HR advice given to the elected members of my local authority, in the report to the Social and Community Committee 05/06/01.

 Human Rights Considerations
5.1 Mr Gall has argued that by requiring the premises at which sessions take place to obtain a PEL Council officers are interfering unlawfully with his right to freedom of expression contained in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As has been explained to Mr Gall, the right to freedom of expression is not an absolute right under the Convention. By applying the relevant licensing the Council has imposed conditions and restrictions on Mr Gall's rights which are legal, necessary and proportionate in the in the interests of public safety, control of nuisance and the prevention of crime and disorder.

 5.2 In any event the requirement for a PEL does not represent an absolute ban on informal music sessions. Where two or fewer performers provide musical entertainment the exemption referred to in paragraph 4.4 of this report would apply. Alternatively if musicians chose to make music together on premises operated as a private club a PEL would not be required although other legislation may apply.

Given the stated objectives of the Bill, many people find it inconceivable that the mere act of singing on a regular basis in a pub will make, these inspected public premises automatically unsafe, without an additional licence. Especially as singing as part of religious service is exempt from this requirement, no matter what the safety considerations of the (church) premises may be, or the volume of the music. And that crowds attracted to live football matches or loud music on TV, are now and will under this Bill, also be exempt from this requirement.

I feel your committee must question very deeply the implications for ordinary people, and whole basis on which the Bill is supposed to be founded. Failure to do this NOW will have serious ramifications for both music and Human Rights. Local Authorities are not taking this responsibility seriously, if they are just content to 'stonewall' until they are taken to court. We either consider the right of freedom of expression as important, or vital, or we do not. If your committee does not totally reject this aspect of the Bill, then I must consider it and this nation's commitment to Human Rights legislation, to be as much of a sham as the pretexts that underlie this 'Silly Bill'.

I would like to finish with this quote from Segovia, used in 1992 for an advert for Spanish tourism.

Playing music must be like life itself: an explosion of liberty........