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PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?

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McGrath of Harlow 04 Jan 03 - 07:39 AM
The Shambles 04 Jan 03 - 07:04 AM
The Shambles 03 Jan 03 - 01:33 PM
The Shambles 03 Jan 03 - 07:50 AM
Nemesis 02 Jan 03 - 11:47 AM
DMcG 02 Jan 03 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,Peter from Essex 01 Jan 03 - 09:05 PM
The Shambles 01 Jan 03 - 08:01 PM
Nemesis 01 Jan 03 - 06:45 PM
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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Jan 03 - 07:39 AM

And of course there is no reference whatsoever to the fact that pubs aren't the only places affected.

It's as if a law was being passed limiting and restricting the use of balls in all kinds of games in all kinds of settings, but was discussed solely in terms of its impact on professional football stadiums.

Mind they'll quite likely get round to doing something like that in time...

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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: The Shambles
Date: 04 Jan 03 - 07:04 AM

Their may be some more insight into the workings of one minister's mind on BBC Radio 4 Sunday 5th January at 9 am.

Where Dr Kim Howells and Margo Macdonald will be giving us the benefit of the working of their great minds.

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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: The Shambles
Date: 03 Jan 03 - 01:33 PM

The licensing bill will increase the problem it is supposed to control.

Martin Kettle
Thursday January 2, 2003
The Guardian

When an individual goes to Alcoholics Anonymous, they are expected to introduce themselves as an alcoholic. That isn't easy, but it is the key breakthrough. So, as a nation, we should also tell it like it is. We are Britain, and we are an alcoholic nation.

We drink too much, too fast and too young, and the consequences are a national menace. It is a menace we happily inflict on others too. Every summer we export it to places like Ibiza and Rhodes. And, increasingly, British stag night drinking is making life a misery for cities such as Dublin and Prague.

By general consent the worst thing you can do to an individual alcoholic is to make it easier for him to get another drink. It is the same for an alcoholic nation. Yet incredibly that is exactly what the government is trying to do, in its 169-page licensing bill, which is being debated in the House of Lords before going to the Commons later this year.

This country's public alcoholism is now so widespread, so openly encouraged and promoted, that it may have become impossible to restrict. Certainly that seems to be the government's view, since the central proposal in its bill is to sweep away many remaining controls. The bill's subtitle innocently claims it is a piece of legislation "to make provision about the sale and supply of alcohol". But a more honest subtitle is that the licensing bill is designed to extend the culture of public drunkenness and all the miserable consequences that flow from it.

Individual drinkers can suffer serious health, crime, work and other personal consequences. These are bad enough. But it is the public realm that suffers most. Excessive noise, mess and disturbance means more work for police, more work for cleaners, and more injuries that need to be treated. All this needs to be paid for by taxpayers. Far from regenerating the night-time economy and culture of town and city centres, alcohol can also have an economically deterrent effect. Anyone who has tried to get a late taxi in a city centre will know that.

That is why this licensing bill is so extraordinary. Most of the public debate has focused on its potentially restrictive effects on live music. But with all due respect to Britain's musicians, it is the reckless approach to public drinking that will be by far the most noticeable consequence of this legislation.

The bill proposes that pubs, clubs and restaurants should be able to be open at any time of the day. The theory is the beguiling belief that 24-hour availability of alcohol will make our drinking habits more sensible. At present, the government argues, the 11pm closing time creates an artificial encouragement for excessive drinking, after which drinkers are expelled on to the streets to create concentrated nuisance and disorder. Under the new laws, lack of legal restraint will lay the conditions in which responsible drinking can at last thrive, ministers say.

To judge by the speech which Baroness Blackstone made in the Lords when introducing the bill in November, the government has succumbed to a fantasy. Too many Tuscan holidays or weekends in Paris may have weakened the baroness's grasp of British realities. She seems to envisage this country becoming a cafe society in which moderation rules and in which folk such as herself will pop into a subdued bar after a performance of La Traviata to discuss the novels of Jose Saramago. "It will make our country more attractive to tourists and our great cities better able to compete for international events," she concluded.

Sadly this will not happen. The idea that foreign tourists expect Birmingham to be like Barcelona is risible. Most tourists are from Europe or the United States. Has Baroness Blackstone ever tried to get a drink in a provincial French town after dark? Such places are normally dead by nine o'clock. Has she ever met any Americans? They have created a culture with even more restrictive drink laws than ours used to be.

What anyone with fewer illusions must know is that the end of licensing hours will simply mean that late nights in British cities will be the same as they are now, only more so. Longer hours will not mean more sensible drinking. Longer hours will just mean more drinking. And more noise. And more fighting. And more accidents.

Don't take my word for it. Take the word of those who have gone down this road already. All-day drinking has been a reality in Scotland since 1976. And what is the reality? A steady rise in alcohol-related illnesses. A growth in binge drinking, especially by women. A steady rise in knife crime in city streets. As Tim Luckhurst put it recently: "Licence-liberated Scotland has not become a shining example of moderation. Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night resembles the Somme, except that the injuries are more likely to be self-inflicted."

Ireland's experience is just the same. There, pubs can now stay open until 2am and clubs until 4am. The result, wrote Kathryn Holmquist in the Irish Times, is that the violence in the centre of Dublin goes on all night. "Liberalised licensing laws have changed us from a people who got drunk on beer and stumbled home at midnight, to a nation of clubbers taking high-energy drinks with triple vodkas who don't know when to stop."

Don't think that what happened in Glasgow and Dublin won't happen in London and Cardiff too. All their problems are coming our way: alcohol-addicted youngsters, binge drinking, night-time street violence, overcrowded accident and emergency wards. They will come because the pubs and clubs will want the custom; the authorities will want the revenue from the licences; and, most of all, because through advertising the drinks trade has targeted young, high-testosterone drinkers, and accommodated them even when it is supposedly illegal for them to drink.

Supposedly Tony Blair's government is politically risk-averse. Here, though, is a policy which is certain - absolutely certain - to increase the problem it is supposed to control. Who, other than the drinks trade, stands to benefit from this awful irresponsibility? Absolutely no one. But unless peers and MPs can get a grip, it will all be done by a befuddled act of parliament fully worthy of an alcoholic nation.

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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: The Shambles
Date: 03 Jan 03 - 07:50 AM

The following from Hamish Birchall.

For circulation

Paul Vaughan is Chairman of the Magistrates' Association in Worcester and Chairman of the Worcester Three Choirs Festival. He has kindly provided me with his view of the Licensing Bill and has given permission to distribute this widely (it will be posted on to the MU website in due course).

Note particularly points 10 and 11 in relation to government arguments that the abolition of existing PEL exemptions is necessary for public safety reasons:

* * *

1) The Government has signalled its intention to remove from Magistrates their responsibility for licensing (broadly alcohol licensing).

2) We have been given no satisfactory reason for this.

3) Properly trained magistrates, formed into licensing committees, have been fulfilling, effectively, efficiently and diligently, a responsibility for licensing for many years. Sitting as a committee of at least three, we maintain that, among many other benefits, this system is corruption proof. I myself am a long-standing licensing chairman.

4) Magistrates hear cases on a daily basis, in which alcohol is cited as a reason for offences being committed. "Your worship, my client was in drink at the time . . ." is an almost daily mantra from defending solicitors. Therefore, there is good reason for Magistrates to continue to make their valuable input into this area of the law. We see the picture (usually in full Technicolor!) from all angles.

5) Magistrates are volunteers. Therefore, all licensing activity by Magistrates has been carried out for countless years very inexpensively, or on an expenses only basis. Apart from full day licensing courts, in the past, it has not been unusual for us to work well into the night on visits to licensed premises; this for no payment whatsoever (apart from the reimbursement of petrol expenses).

6) Local authorities are, in general, delighted to have more powers, and have readily accepted the notion of taking over alcohol licensing, but clearly, they are not going to take over all those responsibilities (formerly the Magistrates') without additional budgetary provision. My Association believes that the costings for setting up new council posts, support staff and so on to cope with the new burden are considerable.

7) We venture to suggest that the imposition of fees on music performance - across the board, from one man in a pub to 500 in a cathedral, is the result of a simple fiscal imperative. Money is needed to enable the councils to take over licensing work from the Magistrates. This has to be generated somehow.

8) Clearly the Government is not going to provide all, if any, of the additional monies necessary and being demanded as a prerequisite by Local Authorities, from central funds ! How simple therefore to impose fees on music - citing health and safety as the plank (or do I mean sieve?) upon which to sail this one up the river.

9) Should this Bill be allowed to proceed - even in an ameliorated form (for example with much reduced fees) - let there be no mistake, once the Bill is enacted, fees would be later variable at a stroke, in an upwards only direction.

10) There has never been a health and safety issue with the Three Choirs Festival Concerts we have been putting on in Worcester, Hereford or Gloucester Cathedrals for the past 275 years, or indeed with those huge number of events which take place as part of the Fringe throughout the City and County. We are already carefully regulated by bodies such as the Fire Brigade, which limits the number of seats we may set out in the Cathedrals, and the disposition of those seats. There has never been an audience placed in peril in our Cathedrals and, to the best of my knowledge, in any other Cathedral in the land. Why then, this sudden rush to "protect the public"?

11) This is 'Yes Minister' politics at play and has nothing to do with public protection.

12) Deregulate licensing by all means - carefully and judiciously - but leave it in the hands of the Magistracy - which have proven themselves safe over many years.

(By way of a postscript, I should add that, as a long-serving magistrate, I am only too aware of the correlation between alcohol and crime. But the practice of tipping all drinkers onto the streets at 11.15pm - many of them having accelerated their intake of alcohol substantially between 10.30pm and 11pm in some sort of race to the bell - is clearly not in the public interest. Many of the tipees are then unable to get into the night clubs (eg. can't afford price of admission, are too drunk, wrong attire/footwear etc) and it is then that the troubles begin. The cost of policing all of this is very high. Ask any police force where the majority of their manpower is disposed between 10.45pm and 2.30am? So, personally, I am very much for the ending of those regulations (permitted hours) which, after all, were originally imposed during WW1 to ensure that munitions workers arrived relatively sober and rested at the munitions factories the next morning. Let people drink up and go home when they please and allow pubs to close when the landlord realises that there are not enough people on the premises to make staying open viable).

With all good wishes
Paul Vaughan
The Three Choirs Festival - Worcester
Chairman - The Magistrates' Association (Worcestershire)

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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: Nemesis
Date: 02 Jan 03 - 11:47 AM

"Are we sure there is a mind here to have inner workings? "

Good point DMcG!

I emailed the advice (that the Lords had confirmed that Carol singers would need a a license) to others including my MP (Peter Bottomley) and unlike nearly 300 people he was incapable of picking out those 2 lines at the top of the message which were the crux of the message.

Although, give him his due .. he did email me to verify that he was a complete moron .. I suggested he gets his Secretary to explain "letters" and "EMAIL" contents to him (draw pictures possibly)

Who's demonstrating on the 27th?

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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: DMcG
Date: 02 Jan 03 - 05:01 AM

There is an interesting article in today's Guardian at,3604,867304,00.html discussing the potential effects on alcoholism and raising the issue of noise in streets around pubs no longer being concentrated around 11pm - midnight but now potentially spreading through till morning. (It was raised in the House of Lords, for example, that a car door slamming at 3am may cause more disturbance than a group of revellers at 11pm.)

So the story appears to be that live music needs to be suppressed because of noise and health & safety issues; however the opening hours can be extended with a potential long term impact on health and an almost certain increase in the effects of noise and this raises no issues.

Are we sure there is a mind here to have inner workings?

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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex
Date: 01 Jan 03 - 09:05 PM

On Roger's last point above I am not aware of anything in the act that is going to stop Environmental Health Officers "gold plating" the safety requirements for live music.

A fairly typical example is the pub that was told that all curtains and upholstery would need to be replaced with new fire retardant fabric for a session containing a dozen people while being considered perfectly safe for 50 plus drinkers without live music.

The other thing that is unclear is the amout of detail that a landlord's business plan will have to contain as a fee will be payable for every change. Of course the whole idea of a detailed business plan is fine for a music pub that hires performers but ignores the way that informal sessions actually work.

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Subject: RE: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: The Shambles
Date: 01 Jan 03 - 08:01 PM

Thanks Hille

See Hamish Birchall's (long) reply to this 'standard' letter from the Department of Culture Media and Sport, in the following thread. PELs for beginners

It is just a question of writing again to our MPs until the Government finally are made to understand by our MPs, exactly what their Bill actually will mean in practice.

Good intentions are no use. Remember that the two in a bar exemption was introduced as a well-intetioned liberalising measure but it was subsequently used by our local authorities, to make out that three people making music, automatically make premises unsafe for the public.

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Subject: PEL: Inner working of Minister's minds?
From: Nemesis
Date: 01 Jan 03 - 06:45 PM

Just to add to the sum of information available about the PEL debate here is a copy of a letter I was passed from Tessa Jowell replying to Francis Maude

The Rt Hon Tessa jowell MP
Secretary of State
Department for Culture, Media and Sport        
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH
Tet 020 72116243
Fax 020 72116249

The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP
House of Commons
SW1A OAA        December 2002

Thank you for your letter of 2 December, enclosing another from your constituents Ms Anne Sartain and Mr Alan Wheeler of ** *********** ****, Horsham, West Sussex, in connection with the proposed reform of the current public entertainment licensing system.

I appreciate Ms Sartain's and Mr Wheeler's concerns with regard to the proposals but would like to assure you that the new licensing system will provide increased opportunities for musicians and other performers to stage local activities. It may be helpful if I explain in detail what is proposed. Although the "two in a bar rule", which is an exemption from the normal requirement for a public entertainment licence, will be abolished because one musician with modern amplification can make as much noise as three without, I am confident that the proposed reforms will provide a licensing framework within which musical performance and dance could thrive and develop, while providing adequate protection for the local people in the community.

Under the new licensing regime, the concept of a public entertainment licence will completely disappear. Permission to sell alcohol, provide public entertainment, stage a play, show a film or provide late night refreshment will be integrated into a single licence - the "premises licence". This will integrate six existing licensing regimes into one, cutting at a stroke significant amounts of red tape. Accordingly, under our proposals, any public house will need to obtain permission to sell alcohol for consumption on those premises and will be free to apply simultaneously for permission to put on music or dancing or similar entertainment whenever desired. The fee for such a premises licence will be no different whether the pub simply seeks permission to sell alcohol or if it decides to go for multiple permissions. There will therefore be no deterrent to seeking multiple permissions. The position now is that many pubs are wary of obtaining a separate public entertainment licence because the costs can be prohibitive in some local authority areas. Subject to our continuing discussions with stakeholders, any variation in fees will more likely relate to the capacity of the venue so that smaller venues pay less than large ones. The fees will also be set centrally by the Secretary of State to eradicate the wide and sometimes unjustified inconsistencies that presently exist

The premises licence will also set the hours that the premises may open for its activities, and set fair, necessary and proportionate conditions under which these activities may take place. This will achieve three important purposes: the prevention of crime and disorder; the assurance of public safety; and the prevention of undue public nuisance. It is essential that the greater freedom and opportunities which, wll be available to licensees and performers to stage local activities are balanced with powers to deal with the small minority who might abuse such freedom, damage communities and bring the industry into disrepute. Under the new regime, local residents will have the right to object to the grant of a licence or certain parts of the operator's proposals and to have their views considered. This means, for example, that any conditions affecting noise being emitted from the premises might be more restrictive after say midnight, than before.

Public entertainment, which will be covered by the premise., 'Licence, will be defined as music or dancing, or entertainment of a like kind, which is presented publicly for commercial purposes or for gain. Your constituent's may wish to note that the current legislation applies to public performances put on by licensed premises only to entertain the public and should not prevent people from singing together in licensed premises. This will not change under the new system.

We will not accept that certain types of music, for example acoustic, are never noisy" or that they should be excluded from the licensing regime. If public music is to be performed at a premises, then the licensing authority will have the power to impose necessary and proportionate conditions in order to protect residents and customers. The conditions will not be standardised. The licensing authority will be required to tailor them to the style of venue. Major venues staging rock bands will be likely to be the subject of more restrictive conditions than a small pub or club which puts on unamplified live music.

The new reform Bill will require local authorities to follow rules and procedures. They will have no discretion to refuse a licence or impose any condition unless the police, an environmental health officer, the fire authority or local residents have raised a reasonable objection to the licensee's operating plan. In granting or refusing licences, or imposing any conditions, the local council will be legally bound to take account guidance issued by the Secretary of State. Departure from this guidance, without a good or valid reason, will provide grounds for an appeal to the courts.

As you may be aware, the Licensing Bill was introduced to Parliament on 14 November. It must now be for Parliament to debate and decide upon the Bill's merits.


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