The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #60626   Message #977802
Posted By: The Shambles
06-Jul-03 - 11:57 AM
Thread Name: Licensing Bill UK - Urgent help please.
Subject: RE: Licensing Bill UK - Urgent help please.
FAO Paul Evans, Clerk to the JCHR
Jean Corston
JCHR Members

Licensing Bill.

Dear Madam

I am concerned that The Secretary of State will state that the Licensing Bill (as it stands) will be declared to be compatible with Human Rights legislation, as I greatly fear that it is not. If she is permitted to so declare this – I fear that we may as well not have Human Rights legislation, as no one appears to take any notice of it, and our Government appear to setting the lead in this.

The opening, and the closing words of the Lords debate on 3 July 2003 from Lord MacIntosh – would seem to sum up the Government's position towards the concerns expressed by your Committee.

There has been an awful lot of fundamental misunderstanding of the issues, particularly outside the Chamber. I think that that misunderstanding can be summed up in just a few words: generally speaking, nothing that does not need a licence now will need one under the Bill. Even the so-called two-in-a-bar exemption needs a justices' licence.

What the Bill does is to make it much cheaper and easier to get a licence where one is needed. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights stated in its seventh report, it is legitimate to say that there is a pressing social need for regulation in this area. It is not legitimate to claim that, for example, the Bill will spell the end of folk clubs. If they need a licence now, they will need one under the new system, but at much reduced cost and bureaucracy.


When we come down to it, I have two things to say: first, I have huge respect for musicians from Gloucester or Portland, particularly if, as I hope, they are good musicians, but I have to put that against the views of those who are responsible for public safety and the interests of residents—"public amenity" if one wants to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips.

The Association of Chief Police Officers, on behalf of the interests of public safety and crime and disorder, and the Local Government Association, which will be responsible for these licensing activities and has as its interest the protection of residents, are firmly against the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. I have to put that against the views of individual musicians, much as I wish to respect and accommodate them.

I also have to say that, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, we are at the third stage of disagreement between this House and another place. Yes, of course, it is legitimate for this House to continue to insist on matters of high import—for example, Lloyd George's People's Budget of 1909 and matters of profound conscience such as the War Crimes Bill—but ambient unamplified bass guitar?

I suggest that the Government have gone as far as they can in meeting the legitimate concerns of those who have been expressing those concerns. Without abandoning our profound duty to preserve public safety and to prevent crime and disorder and public nuisance we can go no further.

The right of freedom of expression, even for a single 'ambient unamplified bass guitar' player, is a matter of the very highest import – and one of profound conscience. I am not a Peer of the Realm but I consider that Human Rights in general should never be treated as a matter of political expediency – as it would appear to be treated by our Government, on the introduction of vital new legislation.

Lord MacIntosh again
It is interesting to note that the people who are really concerned about this are the performers, who will not actually have to get licences, rather than the publicans or organisers, who are largely content. However, we are alive to those concerns. That is why in another place we made a concession to the effect that where a pub with a capacity of up to 200 wanted to put on live music of any kind, any conditions imposed on the licence by the licensing authority would be suspended except where they related to public safety and crime and disorder.

The second part of this paragraph, is no real concession, as it applies only when a Premises Licence, Entertainment Permission and a safe capacity limit are first in place. It does not prevent the type of conditions that can be required, it only declares them to have no effect if these are not to the Bill's objectives of public safety and crime and disorder. If the Premises Licence or Entertainment Permission should be refused say on the grounds of noise - any other form of entertainment, not presenting this concern would have also been prevented.

I doubt whether it is true that publicans and organisers are largely content, as this organiser is not. The fact that musicians are so concerned, especially about the HR aspects, is important, as musician's expectations for their rights are not excessive.

They first recognise that their freedom of musical expression is subject to a third parties agreement but expect that if a licensee or other third party gives permission for them to make music on their premises, this should be enough. Any further licensing permissions, conditions will act as a disincentive and if these measures are not proportionate to the risk presented, and result in the entertainment permissions nor being obtained, the musician's right of freedom of expression is prevented unlawfully by this Bill.

I have attached for circulation a list of four examples of how the Bill's different entertainment licensing requirements apply to conventional paid music. However my direct experience and concern is to unpaid music making, in pubs in particular.

Currently there is an exemption for music only, where once a week my wife and I could for fun and no reward and with the licensee's agreement, play traditional folk tunes on non amplified instruments in their pub. The local council considered that the addition of one unpaid other musician would make this a licensable activity. If the licensee did not pay and obtain a public Entertainment Licence to enable it, the activity and our freedom of musical expression would be prevented on the grounds that this activity made the premises unsafe, or unsafe without this particular licence.

I foolishly hoped that this new legislation would remedy this sate of affairs. But that was not to be the case, as this Bill will require additional Entertainment Licensing Permission, even for one non amplified unpaid musician and still consider that this activity presents a risk to public safety that can only be dealt with by this advance blanket licensing requirement.

But at the 11th hour the Government have provided -given the objectives of the Bill - yet another illogical, inconsistent and unfair measure, to add to the others already contained in the Bill and commented on by just about all of those speaking in this Lords debate.

62LSchedule 1, page 112, line 12, at end insert—
"Morris dancing etc.

The provision of any entertainment or entertainment facilities is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act to the extent that it consists of the provision of—
(a) a performance of morris dancing or any dancing of a similar nature or a performance of unamplified, live music as an integral part of such a performance, or
(b) facilities for enabling persons to take part in entertainment of a description falling within paragraph (a)."

.....As a result of this – when I want to regularly play a non-amplified Morris tune on my own at a pub – this will make the premises automatically unsafe without the Entertainment Permission of the Premises Licence.

.....If a non-amplified and non specified number of musicians regularly play the same Morris tune for an unspecified number of dancers at the same pub, this is not considered to make the premises automatically unsafe.

Are there are any real public safety risks presented by either of these activities, ones that can really only be dealt with by the advanced blanket entertainment licensing contained in this Bill? If so it must be clear that the musicians + dancers present the (slightly) greater risk - but this activity is now specifically exempt.

Given the objectives of the Bill, there can be no grounds for this exemption or for the many other exemptions to the blanket entertainment requirements. The economic burden was the reason why places of public worship were made exempt from any entertainment controls and for the lifting of the charges for church halls etc. The reason why pub TV sport and music events should be exempt, is still a mystery…..As is why a sensible safety measure like safe capacity limit, cannot be imposed on all Premises Licenses.

There are, I am sure many more qualified of HR matters than I am, and I hope that your Committee will also be presented with concerns from them. But I hope that you will take my concerns on board, as a member of the public who is astonished that vital new legislation can be pushed through in this casual and arrogant fashion. The Government have provided the public with scare stories rather than facts or solid evidence, whilst largely ignoring your Committee's serious concerns or of even distorting them by being rather selective over how these concerns are presented.

If the Secretary of State is permitted to declare this unfair Bill as being compatible with HR legislation, this member of the public for one, would have lost all faith in our political system. For I will look forward to the day when this Government declares that the world is flat, that the moon is made of green cheese, that I am Mickey Mouse, and I will have to go to the courts to try and prove otherwise.

If the Government consider that the Bill is compatible with HR legislation – they should have no problem in providing the evidence for this and proving this to your Committee. I am relying on your Committee to show that there is still common sense and that principles are not just a designer label and a high street store.

Yours faithfully

Roger Gall

Four examples of competing premises wishing to provide entertainment.

[see elsewhere in the thread for this document]