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PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails

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Aidan Crossey 07 Jan 03 - 06:25 PM
Alice 07 Jan 03 - 06:32 PM
Mr Red 07 Jan 03 - 06:36 PM
Mr Red 07 Jan 03 - 06:40 PM
The Shambles 08 Jan 03 - 06:49 AM
Aidan Crossey 08 Jan 03 - 07:36 AM
My guru always said 08 Jan 03 - 07:43 AM
GUEST,Charles Atlas 08 Jan 03 - 10:58 AM
banjoman 08 Jan 03 - 11:45 AM
The Shambles 08 Jan 03 - 02:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 08 Jan 03 - 03:22 PM
The Shambles 08 Jan 03 - 04:51 PM
fiddler 08 Jan 03 - 04:55 PM
vectis 08 Jan 03 - 07:34 PM
IanC 09 Jan 03 - 04:24 AM
Mr Happy 09 Jan 03 - 05:21 AM
IanC 09 Jan 03 - 05:36 AM
Partridge 09 Jan 03 - 05:51 AM
Mr Happy 09 Jan 03 - 05:55 AM
IanC 09 Jan 03 - 05:56 AM
The Admiral 09 Jan 03 - 05:59 AM
Dave Bryant 09 Jan 03 - 06:23 AM
John J 09 Jan 03 - 07:53 AM
GUEST,Tony Blair 09 Jan 03 - 07:57 AM
fiddler 09 Jan 03 - 08:03 AM
The Shambles 09 Jan 03 - 09:13 AM
vindelis 04 Feb 03 - 12:14 PM
IanC 04 Feb 03 - 12:21 PM
McGrath of Harlow 04 Feb 03 - 12:31 PM
The Shambles 04 Feb 03 - 12:41 PM
The Shambles 04 Feb 03 - 12:49 PM
DMcG 26 Feb 03 - 03:29 PM
The Shambles 26 Feb 03 - 04:09 PM
Alexis 28 Feb 03 - 02:45 AM
The Shambles 28 Feb 03 - 11:18 AM
The Shambles 28 Feb 03 - 11:22 AM
Alexis 28 Feb 03 - 01:30 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Feb 03 - 02:12 PM
DMcG 01 Mar 03 - 05:10 AM
Folkiedave 04 Mar 03 - 07:31 PM
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Subject: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Aidan Crossey
Date: 07 Jan 03 - 06:25 PM

I had the following non-commital response from my local MP, Joan Ruddock ...

Dear Mr Crossey

Thank you for your email expressing concerns about the effect of the licensing bill on performances of live music. I attach the explanation provided to MPs by those who drew up the plans. Please let me have your further comments.

Many thanks,

Joan Ruddock

The text of, presumably, some sort of official parliamentary briefing which she attached is set out below.


The new Licensing Bill combines six different licensing regimes into one new simpler one.

Currently, pubs and any other venues need to apply for a separate licence if they want to host musical acts that make up more than two performers, even though it is entirely possible for one person with amplification to make much more noise than say, three acoustic guitarists ever could.

The result was that pubs and smaller venues would avoid hosting acts that would require an additional license.

So this was incongruous and inconsistent and didn't take into account disturbance or public nuisance to local residents.

Additionally, local authorities would set their own fees for public entertainment licenses. So fees varied hugely.

With the new legislation, it will no longer be more expensive to host performances by three musicians than it is to put on a solo artist.

If businesses make use of the reforms, we hope to see an increase in the number and type of venues that offer live music.

And we'll be setting the licensing fee centrally – in the past, local authorities would arbitrarily set licensing fees in order to raise revenue through the back door.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will it not be harder for licensed premises to stage live music?

Our proposals will make it easier for licence holders to stage live music events because it will cost them nothing to add music to the list of activities that they wish to undertake.

By setting the fees centrally, local authorities will be prevented from attaching unreasonable conditions to licensees.

How will folk music survive when the 'two in a bar' rule is abolished?

The 'two in a bar' rule was an exemption from the normal requirement for the public entertainment license, when there was an automatic assumption that three musicians made more noise than two and therefore should require a license. We recognise that this makes no sense, as it is entirely possible for one amplified performer to make as much noise as three without.

We are abolishing the 'two in a bar' rule and replacing it with a licensed framework within which musical performance and other public entertainment can thrive alongside sufficient protection from noise nuisance for local people in the community. Simplifying the licensing system will make it easier for licensed premises to obtain permission to stage live music, hopefully creating an environment for all forms of music to be enjoyed.




So ... you see ... we're stupid to have been making a fuss when our aunties and uncles in Westminster have really been doing us a huge favour after all!

Anyone got any succinct comments that I can whizz back to Joan Ruddock and which fellow 'catters can use to refute similar missives from their MPs?


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Alice
Date: 07 Jan 03 - 06:32 PM

There are standard form letter responses if you fax your MP, and they have been discussed in the Action For Music email list. A link posted to a rebuttal by the Musician's Union.

http://pub22.bravenet.com/forum/fetch.php?id=9967583&usernum=1824620545

Click here


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Mr Red
Date: 07 Jan 03 - 06:36 PM

I'll read all your text offline.

I had an e-mail from my MP which was equally non-commital.
Had I had the info below 6 months ago I might have had better results. It was an e-mail on the e-ceilidh service. Not sure how it works for non-gov MPs.

**********************

If you send a communication to your MP, always ask him what the Minister's
view is.

This forces the MP to refer the matter upwards to the approrpiate Minister,
and thus obliges the MP to take some action, in case the Minster checks
back.

Thus the issue gets far more attention than just an polite acknowledgement.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Mr Red
Date: 07 Jan 03 - 06:40 PM

Standard letters don't get as much attention, but you do have to cover all the essential points. MPs ignore less than 10 letters, and never ask questions in parliament for less than 100 letters per subject. OK, OK the numbers may vary on the integrity of the MP (yes, as little as that) but the message is get a lot of people writing. And get them to refer up (see above).


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 06:49 AM

This from Hamish Birchall.

Licensing: Labour backbenchers to meet Howells tomorrow.

With hundreds of letters now pouring into Parliament objecting to the live music provisions of the Licensing Bill, Labour backbenchers are becoming increasingly worried. At very short notice, they have arranged a meeting with licensing Minister Kim Howells. This meeting will be held tomorrow, Thursday 9 January, at noon.

I only learned of this yesterday evening when Martin Linton (Lab, Battersea) contacted me to ask for the names of other Labour MPs who have shown an interest. He wants as many as possible to attend the meeting with Howells.

If your MP is Labour please contact them immediately (the House of Commons switchboard is 020 7219 3000) and urge them to attend this meeting and to register their intention to attend with Martin Linton on 020 7219 1181. If you don't know who your MP is, www.faxyourmp.com will them automatically from your postcode.

A footnote: government Ministers continue dismiss out of hand the legal advice that private events where performers are paid are caught by the Bill. In fact, on the day the Bill was published, the Arts Council received a legal opinion from one of the UK's leading licensing lawyers confirming that corporate hospitality events where performers are paid were licensable under the Bill as published. This contradicted the government's own statement published in the Explanatory Notes that accompany the Bill.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Aidan Crossey
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 07:36 AM

I've e-mailed my MP a moment ago. Let's see what happens.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: My guru always said
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 07:43 AM

I had a nice little postcard from the House of Commons, but nothing else yet to my email :-(


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: GUEST,Charles Atlas
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 10:58 AM

I've just faxed Nick Reynsford MP for Greenwich - i also want 6to keep this thread near the top! - time is running out before miusic is a criminal offence - get off your arses - make a noise NOW!!!


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: banjoman
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 11:45 AM

I emailed Sir George young, and despite not wholly accepting his party's views on most issues, was impressed by the speed of his reply advising that he would take the matter up with the relevant minister. Today I received a letter from him on House of Commons Notepaper, advising that he had received a written reply from the Parliamentary Secretary to Kim Howells, and attatched a copy, which refers specifically to music preformed in churches and places of worship. This indicated a possible exemption but does not address the overall problem. However, Sir George Young has said that he suspects there may be some changes in the offing and will continue to monitor the situation.

Well done Sir George - appropriatley named for one looking to preserve our English Tradition.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 02:47 PM

The following is the latest on the church concert problem.

Churches and Church Halls (Licensing)

2. Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): What estimate she has made of the costs that will be incurred by churches and church halls as a result of the provisions contained in the Licensing Bill.

4. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry): What representations she has received from church organisations concerning the Licensing Bill.

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): Any costs for churches and church halls under the provisions of the Licensing Bill as it stands would depend on the licensable activities, if any, which are undertaken and their frequency, and whether temporary or permanent permissions are sought. The Archbishops Council of the Church of England wrote to me to express its concern that the provision of entertainment in churches outside Greater London would be brought under the licensing regime by the Licensing Bill. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will accept that while I cannot provide them with a solution today, the Government have made a commitment to reconsider our position on this issue and will announce our conclusions as soon as possible.

Mr. Randall : I am very grateful to the Minister for seeing sense. The sooner we get the new regulations, the better, as that part of the legislation would best be described with the words that he used to describe certain types of modern art.

Dr. Howells: I couldn't possibly comment.

Mr. Boswell: We have the answer for which we were hoping. Would the Minister accept as representative the comments of my constituent, Mr. Williams, who is chairman of the trustees of the Holy Sepulchre restoration trust in Northampton? In particular, he points out that the use of his church, which is an 11th century crusader round church, is as important to the schools that perform there as to the church which brings in the takings. Will the hon. Gentleman give us an absolute assurance—or as absolute an assurance as he can—that nine centuries of history are not going to be sacrificed to nine minutes of ministerial inadvertence?

Dr. Howells: I will certainly do my utmost to ensure that that does not happen. If I may, however, I ask the hon. Gentleman to hold his fire until we have reconsidered our position on the matter.

Alan Howarth (Newport, East): Can I—I think I can—congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on intervening to restore common sense and ensure that, in an uncharacteristic excess of bureaucratic zeal, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport does not wipe out the indispensable tradition of music-making in churches? Will they go further and impress on the Arts Council the need to support church and cathedral music positively, just as English Heritage has supported the conservation of the physical fabric of our churches and cathedrals?

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend has fought long and hard to help church and cathedral music wherever he can. I reassure him that I have no intention of doing it any harm whatever, and that I will do all that I can through regulation to ensure that it thrives.

Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): Having met a group of clergy in Blackpool on Friday, may I tell my hon. Friend how welcome were the words of Baroness Blackstone in another place on Thursday? Does he appreciate the extent to which many places of worship depend on the activities and income that come from such events, the licensing of which is now to be reviewed? Will his Department do everything that it can to make sure that a perfectly reasonable attempt to correct an existing licensing anomaly does not become an unfair and intolerable burden on places of worship?

Dr. Howells: Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that reassurance. I also thank him for the work that he has done to make my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and me very much aware of the circumstances that obtain both in his constituency and in those of many other right hon. and hon. Members.

Nick Harvey (North Devon): Does the Minister agree that, in the absence of the guidance promised in the Bill, it is quite to hard to decipher the Department's intentions on church concerts or anything else? Do we need to license activities in church at all, given that there has not been a serious public order offence in a church since the time of Thomas à Becket, and does he not accept that, even if he waived the fee, the application process would in any event be an unwelcome layer of bureaucracy for already hard-pressed volunteers?

Dr. Howells: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point very well. I hope that he will accept the statement that I made earlier.

Dr. Jack Cunningham (Copeland): Is my hon. Friend aware that his statement will be widely welcomed, not least in rural areas where churches and church halls sometimes provide the only facility in which cultural, educational and musical activities can take place? They are therefore an essential part of the fabric of rural communities for those as well as other purposes. Will he ensure that, when he reconsiders the matter, churches and church halls are finally completely exempted from the proposals?

Dr. Howells: I get my right hon. Friend's message loud and clear. I shall certainly consider what he said.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford): I welcome the Minister's statement as far as it goes, but does he accept that a Bill that will require anything up to 15,000 parish churches—not to mention the places of worship of other faiths—to apply for a licence at a not insignificant cost cannot possibly be described, as the Secretary of State has described it, as deregulatory, and that anything less than the continuation of the existing exemption and a complete abandonment of the proposals in the Bill will be unacceptable?

Dr. Howells: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will know that, for a long time, the Conservative Government had a chance to get rid of the rule that has existed for 40 years which says that churches inside London have to apply for and receive a licence for the playing and singing of secular music. I hear what he says, but I hope that he will accept that we do not need lessons from the Conservative party on getting rid of the regulations.

Mr. Whittingdale: I point out to the Minister that the existing exemption for churches was granted by Parliament in 1982, under the previous Conservative Government. However, given his willingness to see reason this afternoon, perhaps he would like to consider another aspect of the Licensing Bill, which is that covering licensing for the live performance of music. Will he explain how a Bill that will require thousands of live musicians to perform only in licensed venues when there is at present no requirement for a licence is deregulatory?

Mr. Speaker: Order. That goes far beyond the original question.

http://www.faxyourmp.com/

http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/alms.htm


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 03:22 PM

Well that definitely sounds as if Kim Howells is planning a strategic retreat on the churches issue. Which won't be much help to us, except that once they start allowing common sense into it, just possibly it might creep into other parts of this daft bill.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 04:51 PM

I understand that my MP instigated tomorrow's meeting of backbench Labour MPs with Dr Howells.

With the announced findings on the Bill, of the Common's Joint Committee on Human Rights, perhaps the retreat Dr Howells is undertaking is not quite so stategic after all, maybe it is a rout?

Or am I hoping for too much?


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: fiddler
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 04:55 PM

Fingers and toes well and truly crossed, however by exempting palces of worhsip we do loose a valuable ally!

A


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: vectis
Date: 08 Jan 03 - 07:34 PM

Or is it a case of divide and rule?

Maybe pressing for ALL ACOUSTIC music to be PEL free would help Folk, church, jazz and blues.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: IanC
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 04:24 AM

Are we getting a bit too obsessed with music here? I've noticed the Lords amendments are ... we need to make sure it doesn't affect other types of entertinment too ... I'm a member of a mummers groups and a sword dancer and these are well and truly caught.

Exemptions aren't enough.

:-(


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Mr Happy
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 05:21 AM

IanC,

concerning dancing & many other forms of self-expression, see the Cerne Abbas Mummers thread + most other PEL threads- plenty there


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: IanC
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 05:36 AM

Not what I meant.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Partridge
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 05:51 AM

Ann Taylor never bothered to reply to my fax, well I can't say I'm surprised. I see her some fridays in our local pub, perhaps I should ask her right out.

Pat


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Mr Happy
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 05:55 AM

the govt. web page on PELs seems to be unavailable at the moment too,

I wonder why?


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: IanC
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 05:56 AM

Both my MP (Oliver Heald - Con) and the Stevenage MP (Barbara Follett - Lab) replied to m fax/letters last month. Neither was much use.

Oliver Heald said of course he would oppose such disgusting measures in a bill, then spoiled it all by saying he was signing up to the churces EDM rather than 331. No further news.

Barbara Follett said she was passing my letter to the appropriate minister for comments. No further news.

:-(


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Admiral
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 05:59 AM

I sent an email to my MP, Jane Griffiths, this morning (Thursday 9th)concerning the Backbenchers/Kim Howells meeting at lunchtime and give her her due she responded almost immediately to say that she would do her best to attend the meeting but she also said, and I quote; 'I would say however that the provisions in the Bill should make it cheaper and easier for pubs and other premises to have live music, amplified or not, with any number of musicians'.
I'm not sure how she has worked that out but hopefully she will learn otherwise at the meeting...

Ian C: I didn't see this thread as being particularly music and not dance or mumming, at the end of the day we're all in the same boat.

Fiddler: Why should Churches and Church goers get rights not allowed the more secular of us?

Vectis: I agree that all accoustic music should be exempt, particularly when, in Folk, what we mostly do is entertain ourselves, I regard the right to make sing and music as a basic Human Right - how dare they try and make it illegal?!

Noli carborundum......


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 06:23 AM

I have FAXed my MP (Mr Clive Efford - Eltham - Labour) three times and never yet had any sort of reply or acknowledgement.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: John J
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 07:53 AM

I emailed my local MP, Ian Brady (Con), he wrote back promptly to say he was going to look into it and would get back to me. That was just before Christmas.

I faxed him yesterday with more information.

I'll print this thread and send it on to him so he can see that it's not just me wingeing.

Perhaps others should try sending different selections of threads to their MPs to give them some idea of what's going on in the world.

John


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: GUEST,Tony Blair
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 07:57 AM

My MPs are to busy - get off their backs!!!


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: fiddler
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 08:03 AM

With you all the way admiral!

I don't think churches should get exemptions.

Waht beefs me is look at the safety record of music in UK pubs and folk(ing) music in pubs - pretty exemplary - why do they need to legislate anyway.

The effect on festivals could be serious.

A


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 09 Jan 03 - 09:13 AM

I have FAXed my MP (Mr Clive Efford - Eltham - Labour) three times and never yet had any sort of reply or acknowledgement.

Does anyone have the misfortune to share Dave's MP? Or have simolar experiences?

Some more letters from other constituents may help. Failing that an approach to the opposition candidate or a letter to the local press may wake Mr 'effin' Efford and other MPs up?


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: vindelis
Date: 04 Feb 03 - 12:14 PM

I finally got a reply from my M P today. Noncommital is the understatement of the week - and with the most marginal Labour seat in the country - apparently.


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Subject: MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: IanC
Date: 04 Feb 03 - 12:21 PM

If you don't get a reply from your MP it's very much worth trying to get another 4 or 5 people to write. From campaigning in other areas, I am aware that the threshold of what is "a lot of letters" is in fact 4. If an MP receives 4 or more letters on a particular issue, that's normally enough to wake them up.

BTW - both the MPs I wrote to have replied fairly satisfactorily and both have signed up to EDM331. I posted the infomation to another thread.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Feb 03 - 12:31 PM

The faxyourMP people make efforts to collect info on who is replying and who isn't, with a view to publishing the figures.

The point isn't really getting a reply, its nagging them into taking some interest, in the hope that that can make other MPs see it as a real issue.

If they don't answer, or ifvtheybjust send an acklowledgement, send them a series of follow-ups to keep them in touch with developments. And if they do answer, send them a reply explaining why they've got it wrong or - if you are unusually lucky - thanking them for getting it right.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 04 Feb 03 - 12:41 PM

Interestingly enough Vindelis and I share the very same MP who has been very active with this issue for over two years, and who was responsible for the recent back bench meeting with Howells.

That this reply was non-commital is interesting. He had the good sense to at least not send me the Howells/DCMS 'spin'. He is trying in public to hold on the Party line, although he does not try to convince me.

Perhaps this 'non-commital' reply could be posted? I know of one other who has written and has yet to receive a reply at all.

I suspect our MP is trying to both run and hunt? If so I suspect he may end up pleasing neither party and needing a new seat come the next election?


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 04 Feb 03 - 12:49 PM

Reply from an MP More interesting stuff on this thread.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: DMcG
Date: 26 Feb 03 - 03:29 PM

FUMING AT MY MP!

I've been exchanging emails with mine (Nigel Beard) since mid December. Here's his latest one to me, dated 18th Feb, after a series where I'd seemed to be gaining ground by pointing out how each reply contradicted something he'd said earlier:


Dear Mr. McGlade

Thank you for your 11th February email on the Licencing Bill.

I have put substantial effort into getting to the bottom of the implications
to the Licencing Bill on behalf of many constituents like yourself who have
written to me about it. I am still awaiting some of the latest
clarification and when I have that I will look most carefully at what you
say and the full range of replies I have received already from the Minister
on various points.

Thank you again.

Yours sincerely

Nigel Beard MP


And guess what appears in the local freebie dated 26th February?

But Bexleyheath and Crayford MP Nigel Beard told the News Shopper he believes groups like the veteran's club singers and Morris dancers will be safe. He said he had taken up the issue with Culture Minister Kim Howells, who has assured him for community centres. villiage halls and similar places, the cost of a licence will be negligable. Some venues could even be exempt.
"Nobody is knocking a knees-up" he said. Nor will anyone be put in jail for testing equipment in a music shop, bell ringing or Morris Dancing, though these are among the lurid stories which have circulated."

He added "The Government has not been taken over by killjoys and Puritans."


Any suggestions for the next step? I've already had half a page in that paper two weeks ago. My proposed course at the moment is to wait for the Lord's debate tomorrow and then write to the paper again, but it seems fairly thankless.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 26 Feb 03 - 04:09 PM

They have to appear to be all things to all people and can't really be seen to 'rubbish' their own party's Bill (I am assuming he is Labour). But many have voted against the party line tonight.......

I am sure that they do not really wish to have to defend illogical rubbish like this Bill. I always enjoy reading between the lines of Lord MacIntosh of Haringey' comments, when he defends, or tries to defend the Bill's contradictions. it is on the lines of 'why me'? Or 'who writes this rubbish'?

The important thing is what he actually does. It is a matter of just keeping on and encouraging others to contact him too. A face-to face meeting at an MP's surgery is the best way to work out where you stand and whether he can rely on your vote.


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Subject: McGrath(?)reply to MP (PEL)
From: Alexis
Date: 28 Feb 03 - 02:45 AM

I have received a reply fro my MP to my fax. It is the standard 20 myths one but also tells me that she refuses to sign the EDM. I have looked in the PEL threads but am getting baffled. Could someone direct me to a suitable reply please.
Alex
I moved this message here from another thread on the same topic.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Feb 03 - 11:18 AM

The following from Hamish Birchall.

For circulation


On 18 February the DCMS published a leaflet entitled: 'The answer to 20 myths about public entertainment and the Licensing Bill'. Kim Howells commented: 'A host of rumours - many of them completely ridiculous - have been circulated about this Bill. Today I am setting the record straight for the benefit of everyone involved in live entertainment, either as a participant, organiser or spectator.'

Before commenting on the list of 'myths' (more than 20 in fact - see below), it is worth setting the record straight about a few other points:

On 17 July 2002, interviewed by Mike Harding on Radio 2, Howells denied folk sessions in pubs would be licensable under the new regime.

On 18 January 2003 Howells agreed such sessions were caught ('Battle over last orders for live music', Daily Telegraph).
Howells' consistent justification for abolition of the two in a bar exemption is the potential for noise nuisance - not public safety risks. He has sent innumerable letters to MPs including the statement: 'We do not accept acoustic music is never noisy'.


But all the evidence points to there being far more noise complaints about recorded music. The biggest source of complaint is noisy people outside pubs. In other words, there is no evidence of any 'pressing social need' to increase licensing controls over freedom of expression. This is one reason why the Joint Committee on Human Rights has been so critical of the government.

In the face of this evidence against their position, the DCMS has resorted publicly to misquoting from an as yet unpublished document produced by the Institute of Acoustics (IoA) without the IoA's knowledge or consent.

The IoA has confirmed that the latest version of their document, currently being rewritten, includes 'televised sporting events' as a potential source of noise nuisance.

The likely title of their forthcoming document is Good Practice Guide on Control of Noise from Pubs and Clubs.

The reference to televised sporting events is omitted from the DCMS publications and in the Guidance that has just been published to accompany the Licensing Bill (Guidance Issued Under Section 177 of the Licensing Act 2003, para 8.28).

Last week, Geoff Kerry, the President of the IoA wrote to the Secretary of State at the DCMS complaining about the way in which IoA material had been used.

On 15 November, Tessa Jowell launched the Licensing Bill as 'a central plank in the government's drive to tackle anti-social behaviour'.

Before the Bill was published, the Association of Chief Police Officers, ACPO, had formally warned the DCMS against the exemption for televised sport on the grounds it was frequently a source of disorder.

Last Monday, 24 Feb, at a DCMS briefing of music business journalists, Howells claimed he was unaware of this.

At the same briefing, Howells said he 'didn't know' of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS - the leading body representing traditional song and dance).

In fact, EFDSS had been in direct contact with his office last year on several occasions, asking to be included on the Licensing Bill's advisory group. They were refused (although they have this week been included on the new working group set up to advise on the Guidance that accompanies the Bill).

Here are the DCMS 'myths' with my comment below:

"Existing public safety and noise legislation does NOT cover all of the issues dealt with by licensing law."

It is perfectly adequate to deal with small-scale live music that finishes at a reasonable hour. In Scotland live music that is secondary to the main business is automatically allowed if it finishes during permitted hours. Safety and noise legislation applies UK-wide. The government has, of course, decided that existing safety, noise and crime and disorder legislation DOES cover every possible risk arising from the provision of big screen broadcasts in pubs. For more detailed info visit the MU website: Click here for the M.U.

"Music in pubs will not be harmed by the Bill."

Given the depressed state of local gigs, almost any increase would be welcome. But will there be any significant increase? When the new Bill is enacted, 78,000 pubs and bars, 25,000 restaurants, and 4,000 clubs will lose their automatic right to host one or two performers. No-one knows how many will take up the option to host live music under the Bill, least of all the Government.

In an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 18 January, Kim Howells said: 'Maybe it won't work, but no-one has come up with a better way of doing it'. [Battle over 'last orders' for live music', by Colin Randall, Daily Telegraph, Arts and Books section, p11]. Of course, others have come up with better ways of doing it: Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, France. And even if 50% of licensed premises opt to host live music, that will leave 50% where organising a solo, acoustic gig would be a criminal offence. The provision of big screens and a massive sound system will, however, be perfectly legal.

"It will NOT cost anything extra for a pub to apply to provide entertainment as well when applying for permission to sell alcohol."

Good - but this is only true if the applications for alcohol and licensable entertainment are made simultaneously. If they are not, an additional fee will be payable for 'variation' of the premises licence if the licensee wants to have live music.

Variation means starting the whole process over again: notification of and approval by the police, fire service, environmental health, local residents, and finally the licensing committee of the local authority. Why is this necessary for live music, if crowds can jump up and down in these places in front of big screens and powerful PAs and that is not licensable?

What about the potential hidden costs of compliance: local authority licensing conditions? Government assurances that local authorities will only be able to impose 'necessary' conditions has not satisfied the leisure industry who, the Minister himself has said, would 'resist robustly' if satellite tv were to become a licensable entertainment (Howells letter to Chris Smith MP, 4 September 2002). If the leisure industry is worried, musicians are entirely justified in their concern that local authorities will have almost complete control over live performance.


"Local authorities will NOT be able to impose unreasonable conditions on licences."

Unless applicants can fund expensive appeals to magistrates court, local authorities will be able to impose any condition they believe is necessary.

"Individual performers will not be disadvantaged by the Bill"

Wrong: if pubs and bars, or any other premises, do not obtain the permission to host live music, performances by solo musicians will be illegal.

"Performers will NOT need to be individually licensed."

Correct.

"Performers will NOT now be liable to a fine or to imprisonment just for playing or singing."

It is amazing to think that the Government actually allowed such an offence to get into the Bill in the first place. The Joint Committee on Human Rights specifically criticised this Clause (Clause 134), now amended, thank goodness.

"A licence will not be needed every time someone plays a musical instrument."

Quite right.

"Rehearsing or practising will NOT be licensable."

A welcome clarification of intent, but our legal advice is that use of professional rehearsal studios by musicians is covered by the present wording of the Bill. The government also doesn't understand that rehearsal studios are often used to showcase bands, and such events are caught if they are public or the premises are made available for profit.

And rehearsals of plays, which may involve only one person playing a role and the presence of one spectator, ARE licensable (Schedule 1, para 12(2)).

"Music tuition will NOT be licensable."

The MU does not claim that it is - but the Government has confirmed that public master classes are caught (Lord Andrew McIntosh, House of Lords, 1st committee stage debate, 12 December 2002).

"Busking will NOT be licensable."

Our legal advice is that it is caught by the Bill as worded. The DCMS argues against this: their interpretation is that the premises will not have been 'made available' (Schedule 1, para 1(3)), and therefore the busking doesn't meet the second of two required conditions (the other being whether the event is public, or for profit, or in a club - para 1(2)).

However, the DCMS interpretation would mean that anyone can take over 'any place' that is not actively being 'made available'. It would mean that anyone could take over a disused warehouse for a music and dancing event and that escapes licensing. Was that the government's intention?

Recently, Howells has been arguing against an exemption for acoustic music because 'six Japanese drummers could perform in a pub'. If we take the DCMS at their word, that would mean the Japanese drummers may not be able to perform in a pub, but they could certainly busk outside!

Government Ministers in the Lords have confirmed that carol singers in shopping malls or railway stations would need a licence. This would equally apply to buskers. Clearly the DCMS is itself confused.

"Testing a musical instrument in a shop will NOT be licensable."

The Performer-Lawyer Group argues that this is caught. Certainly public demonstrations (so-called 'clinics' by an endorsee) do fall within the Bill's definitions: they are both public and for profit. Irrespective of entertainment licensing, the testing of musical instruments in shops by the public is covered by copyright licensing: the Performing Rights Society have a tariff for this type of public 'performance'.

"Community venues will not be disadvantaged by the Bill: Village, church and parish halls, and other community buildings will NOT need to pay for licences to provide entertainment."

This is no change from the present regime that applies outside London. Such premises inside London will, however, benefit. (For historical reasons, London's entertainment licence legislation is slightly different).

"Any entertainment provided in a church will NOT be licensable"

Correct: following the government u-turn of 03 February. A welcome move.

"Church bell ringing will NOT be licensable."

Correct: a result of the u-turn above.

"Spontaneous performance will NOT be licensable so: spontaneously singing 'Happy Birthday' will NOT be illegal."

There is no definition of spontaneous in the Bill, and renditions of Happy Birthday are unlikely to be spontaneous. This example is not an MU claim about the Bill, although the Performer-Lawyer Group puts forward a very persuasive argument that, technically, a planned rendition of Happy Birthday in a restaurant is caught. As with the testing of musical instruments in shops, and again irrespective of entertainment licensing, Happy Birthday is still in copyright and any public performance without copyright permission is technically an offence!

"Spontaneous pub singalongs will NOT be licensable."

Good.

"Carol singers, going from door to door, or turning up unannounced in a pub and singing, will NOT be licensable."

Our legal advice says this is licensable under the Bill as worded. An expert licensing lawyer, Chris Hepher, has written to the DCMS pointing out that carol singing on people's front door steps is licensable (contact 020 7353 0505). The Performer-Lawyer Group, comprising professional lawyers who are also amateur performers, has also come to the same conclusion (contact Richard Bridge: 01634 272720).

"A postman whistling on his round will NOT be licensable."

Not an MU claim, but amusing nonetheless.

"Private events where invited guests are not charged will NOT usually be licensable so: A school nativity play, which took place before a non-paying private audience of parents will NOT be licensable."

But if the events are to raise money for charity the Bill specifically says they will be licensable.

"A licence will generally NOT be required for performances taking place at a private party where the host organises the music and does not charge their guests."

Our legal advice, and that of Chris Hepher and the Performer Lawyer Group, is that if a bandleader charges a fee at a private event, then licensing is required. The Government has just tabled an amendment to this section of the Bill (Schedule 1, para 1(4)) but again the legal advice is that the clause remains ambiguous.

"A licence will NOT be required for a band playing in a marquee at a wedding reception in someone's garden."

That depends. See above.

"A performance in an old people's home, hospice or hospital before a non-paying private audience of staff and patients will NOT require a licence."

But in any public area it would be licensable, and some local authorities already regard hospital wards as a public area. Any private performance to raise money for charity would be caught (viz Schedule 1, para 1(6)).


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Feb 03 - 11:22 AM

The following from Richard Bridge.

Hamish nails Howells to the mast [above] below - but he is too charitable!

Music tuition is likely to be licensable. The teacher will play example pieces to the student (so the student is an audience). That is a musical performance and it is plainly for consideration and with a view to profit. The tutor usually makes the premises available. the only issue is whether the purpose "includes the purpose of entertaining that audience". Well, if the tutor plays well the tutee will enjoy it. The tutor will intend this, in order to inspire the student. It is not his main purpose, but it is one of his purposes. Oh dear.

Also, the church exemption may not exempt bellringing. This is an area where the govt is looking at a problem raised in teh House of Lords. The exemption is for places of PUBLIC worship. THe lords' worry was that even churches are not public outside the times of services - the vicar can ask anyone to leave. Now I would argue that the belfry is plainly private. Just you try to get in in most cases. Likewise, oddly, the organ loft which is usually kept locked to prevent oiks vandalising the organ.

But the main point is not the sideshow about silly defintions - it is music throughout the land - in pubs and other licensed premises which lose the 2-in-a-bar exemption, in clubs (including clubs in the back rooms of pubs, or like "Tall Poppy") which cease to be exempt despite being private, and for stuff like Morris dance which becomes regulated in pub carparks,and possibly (no-one seems to be very clear yet) regulated on the public highway as soon as the relevant authorities do not "move along" the obstruction caused (and so make the premised ("any place") available) - all compared to intrusive juke boxes and DJs without dancefloors which are exempt so long as "incidental", and big screen TV which is exempt even if NOT incidental.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Alexis
Date: 28 Feb 03 - 01:30 PM

thanks Shambles i will keep at it.
Alex


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Feb 03 - 02:12 PM

Shambles, you omitted the evident fact that people playing music in places which do not have, or seek to have, licences to sell alcohol are caught by the law, for example in coffee bars or coffee houses, or teashops.

A barbershop chorus which tried to sing in a barbershop would be illegal. While a whistling postman on his round might be ok, a singing postman in a post office would be in trouble, or at least the post office manager would be. I know those aren't things that happen too often, but a law that means they are illegal is daft.

Howells saying he's never heard of the EFDSS is pretty rich, from a Minister of Culture; all right he's Welsh, but I think that an English Minister of Culture who said he'd never heard of this Eisteddfodd thing would be pretty widely ridiculed. Well of course, he is pretty widely ridiculed.

But the news in there that the EFDSS will now be included in this advisory committee is very welcome. I just hope that they don't just concentrate on the Morris Dance and so forth end of it, and ignore the other sorts of sessions.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: DMcG
Date: 01 Mar 03 - 05:10 AM

Ok, here is the letter I eventually sent to the local paper (see the 'FUMING' posts above). Whether anything will come of it, who knows

========

I am very disappointed in the way Nigel Beard MP dismissed the concerns of the group of singing pensioners in your recent article. Nigel says he has been assured by Kim Howells that the "cost of licensing will be negligible. Some venue could even be exempt."

This simply will not do. The pensioners sing, amongst other places, "in old people's homes." No member of the Government has ever suggested old people's homes will be exempt. Kim Howells has said the licence fee will be between £150-£500. May I reminded Mr Beard we are talking about pensioners. I doubt if many pensioners regard £150 as negligible, never mind £500. Moreover, old people's homes need to balance their budgets as well. As a manager of such a home, do you spend £500 on a licence, or just let the residents sit in front of the television for another day?

But let us be generous. Let us assume that the Government waives all fees for such events. The events still have to be licensed. Someone has to take responsibility for filling in the paperwork and making sure everything is done properly. Every voluntary group I have ever been involved in has found it difficult to persuade people to take on the roles of treasurer, secretary, etc. Now we have to persuade them to take on the government-inspired paperwork as well. If they make a mistake in such a way that the licence is not valid they are liable to fines of up to £20,000 and/or six months imprisonment. Once again, Nigel Beard says no-one "will be put in jail ... These are among the lurid stories being circulated." Once again, this will not do. The bill states those maximum penalties. If the Government insists they will not apply, it is absurd that they remain in the bill. I do not suggest imprisonment will be used, but it is, legally, an option, and I believe it should not be a possible penalty for these singing pensioners. But once again, let us be generous. Let us assume the court merely imposes a fine of a few hundred pounds instead. How many weeks pension is that?

The quotation from Nigel Beard finishes with a flourish: "The Government has not been taken over by killjoys". Well, on the 24th February, the Lords voted through an option to delete the word 'recorded' from one sentence in the bill. In plain English, this amendment allows our pensioners to sing in old people's homes without needing this licence. The Government fought long and hard to prevent this amendment but were finally defeated. However, they have not given in and have indicated they intend to reverse the amendment when the bill comes before the commons, where Nigel will be asked to vote on it.

Will Nigel vote to allow the pensioners to sing, or will he be "a killjoy"? We will see.


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Subject: RE: PEL : MPs' replies to your e-mails
From: Folkiedave
Date: 04 Mar 03 - 07:31 PM

Some questions to ask your MP.

There is a local Scottish Country Dance club locally that practices in a school. Will it be able to use a recorded music without a license?

The answer is yes.

Can that same group use an paid accordion player?

The answer is NO. Ask why there is a difference.

If they say "no audience" ask how many people constitute an audience.

Ask why if as Howells claims the bill is deregulatory then ask why is a piano in a pub that is open and able to be played then the pub will need a licence.........if it is locked and decorative it wont need a licence.

Ask about the Japanese drummers (a quote of Howells) and why it is thought they make more noise in a pub than outside a pub. (Since busking is legal).

I have loads more of these.............anyone want any?

Dave


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