With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 163, in page 110, line 14, at end insert—
'( ) For the purposes of subparagraph (4)(a), a person concerned in the organisation or management of entertainment facilities is not concerned in the organisation and management of the entertainment within paragraph 3(2) by reason only—
(a) that he makes available the entertainment facilities or the premises on which the entertainment facilities are provided, or
(b) that during the entertainment he continues to organise or manage the premises on which entertainment facilities are provided.'.
A number of organisations, including the Historic Houses Association, are concerned about the definition of private events in the Bill. That drafting means that private events—in particular, wedding receptions and concerts—could inadvertently be drawn into the scope of the Bill, despite the statement that the Minister made to the Historic Houses Association in a letter of
"It is not the intention or the effect of the Bill to require wedding parties to require a licence to serve alcohol at their reception or provide entertainment for their guests (except in the rare circumstance when guests are charged to attend the wedding)".
Despite that statement, the situation still appears far from clear. The Historic Houses Association is working hard to encourage more houses to open up, and the Opposition are concerned about anything that will needlessly frustrate those endeavours and restrict public access to and enjoyment of our heritage. We support its efforts to encourage more tourists to visit such locations.
The Government have already revised paragraph 1(4)(a)(ii) of the schedule expressly to prevent private events from being brought within the scope of the Bill. Indeed, in its new form the provision states that private entertainment facilities need to be licensed only if any charge is made and if the owner or manager is also involved in the organisation of the music, dancing or provision of alcohol. However, the interpretation of that provision appears far from clear. I shall give the House two examples. First, officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have said to various people that the provision of a dance floor would fall within the definition. That appears to encompass informally making available—I quote from the Bill—"space within a room". Of course, dancing could take place in such a space. The provision could thus result in an anomalous situation whereby a licence would not be needed if a bride and groom hired a marquee, complete with a dance floor, to be placed in the garden of a house, but one would be needed if dancing took place inside the house.
The second anomaly relates to paragraph 1(1)(b), which expressly gives an exemption when a person performing or playing music at a private event provides any facilities for the purposes of his performance. We believe that that definition needs to be extended to avoid a licence requirement applying if a bride and groom hire audio equipment, but not if the person performing or playing music provides the equipment.
At best, the legislation is still highly ambiguous. At worst, it appears contrary to what the Department intends. Unless there is extremely clear guidance—we await guidance on many issues even at this late stage of the Bill's passage—the legislation will become subject to widely differing interpretation, which will cause confusion and inconsistency of application. The amendments seek to address those problems.
I, too, have great admiration for the Historic Houses Association. It is doing excellent work in opening up some of the most wonderful buildings and gardens, which are great assets to the tourism trade.
Let me say up-front that the Government cannot accept amendment No. 162, as it would introduce a serious loophole into the entertainment licensing regime. I shall try to explain why. It would allow any individual who wished to put on entertainment under paragraph 1(2)(c) of schedule 1 to circumvent the licensing requirements altogether, simply by providing sandwiches, for example, and making a charge that he or she claimed to be for the food, but which was actually for the entertainment. The amendment would drive the proverbial coach and horses through this part of the Bill, and I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman will see fit to withdraw it.
Amendment 163 is a little more complicated. Those who inspired it have aired their concerns to the Department on a number of occasions. They are concerned about situations in which the owner of a stately home might wish, for example, to hire out the ballroom to a third party who would then organise the entertainment at a wedding. They argue that in such circumstances the owner of the home should not require a premises licence or other authorisation if they take no further part in the entertainment.
The Government agree with that view, and we have amended the Bill to make that clear. Let me explain how. Schedule 1 sets out a number of conditions that determine whether the provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities is regulated entertainment. The condition in sub-paragraph (2)(c) is that where entertainment is not provided essentially to the public, or exclusively for members of a club, it is regulated entertainment where it is provided
"for consideration and with a view to profit."
Sub-paragraph (4) sets out what we mean by "consideration". It states that
"entertainment is, or entertainment facilities are, only to be regarded as provided for consideration if any charge—
(a) is made by or on behalf of—
(i) any person concerned in the organisation or management of that entertainment, or . . . those facilities".
In relation to entertainment facilities, sub-paragraph (4) provides that a person will not be so concerned unless he is
"also concerned in the organisation or management of the entertainment within paragraph 3(2) in which those facilities enable persons to take part".
Clearly, that excludes the circumstances that I described a moment ago. The owner of the stately home would be concerned in the provision of the entertainment facilities—the dance floor, say—but not in the organisation of the entertainment for which those facilities were provided.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's trouble, because it is a complicated issue, but I hope that in the light of my explanation and assurances he will see fit not to press the amendment.
The Minister attempts to separate the functions taking place under private agency in the grounds of an historic house, and an entertainment facility within the house itself—a ballroom, for example. Surely, however, the management of that enterprise will be involved in the setting up of whatever the customer wants to take place in the ballroom. They cannot simply say, "There's the ballroom: get on with it." They will have to be involved in some discourse about where things go, where the power points are, and so forth. That is where the anomaly arises. It is not clear-cut where the demarcation lies between the non-licensable activity taking place in the garden, perhaps under a marquee, and facilities that are being provided in the house. How do people avoid that problem?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman considers my explanation to be authoritative. As I said, it is a complicated issue, but I am confident that I have said enough to give some comfort to him and to owners of historic houses who may feel threatened or concerned about this part of the Bill.
I beg to move amendment No. 64, in page 111, line 27, leave out from '2' to end of line 28 and insert—
'(2) For the purposes of subparagraph (1), the performance of live music or the playing of recorded music shall not be regarded as anything other than incidental to some other activity, merely because it has been advertised.'.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 161, in page 111, line 28, at end insert—
'Performance of live music indoors
7A (1) The provision of entertainment consisting of the performance of live music indoors is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act if—
(a) it takes place wholly inside a building,
(b) the audience present at the event is accommodated wholly inside that building, and
(c) the size of the audience and the noise resulting from the event do not exceed the prescribed limits.
(2) The Secretary of State shall by order prescribe the limits referred to in subparagraph (1)(c).'.
No. 132, in page 111, line 32, after 'that', insert—
'(a) such entertainment is inaudible outside the premises, and
No. 109, in page 112, line 2, at end insert—
9A The provision of any entertainment or entertainment facilities in the premises of an educational establishment for the purposes directly connected to the activities of the establishment is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act.'.
No. 63, in page 112, line 18, at end insert—
'Small events—live music
(1) The provision of entertainment consisting of the performance of live music is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act where—
(a) the number of listeners or spectators present does not exceed 200 at any one time, and
(b) the entertainment ceases no later than 11.30 pm.
(2) The provision of entertainment facilities solely for the purposes of entertainment described in subparagraph (1) is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act.
(3) Nothing in this paragraph shall be read as rendering invalid or otherwise affecting any provision of, or any regulation made under, any other legislation that applies to the entertainment, the entertainment facilities or the premises on which the entertainment is to take place.'.
No. 105, in page 112, line 18, at end insert—
'Traditional folk performances
The provision of entertainment consisting of paceegging, mumming, morris dancing, souling or other traditional folk performances of a similar character is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act.'.
No. 160, in page 112, line 18, at end insert—
'Small events — dance and plays
The provision of entertainment consisting of the performance of dance or plays is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes for this Act where—
(a) the performance takes place in the open air; and
(b) the performance ends before 11.30 p.m.; and either
(c) the number of persons performing does not at any time exceed twenty four, or
(d) the number of listeners or audience does not exceed 200.'.
No. 62, in page 113, line 19, at end insert—
'(2) The "performance of live music" means a performance of any musical composition, whether involving improvisation or not,—
(a) which is given wholly or in part by one or more persons actually present and performing, and
(b) in which the whole or a major proportion of what is done by the person or persons performing is either singing, or the playing of a musical instrument, or both.'.
I shall begin by speaking exclusively to amendment No. 64, which relates to the exemption provisions in part 2 of schedule 1. We tabled the amendment because although we had a good debate in Committee on incidental music, and the Minister made every attempt under the sun to define it for us, we remained unconvinced. He made a good fist of it, however. He said:
"If the entertainment is advertised and the purpose of the music is to draw in customers and to make a profit for the business, that has a direct bearing on the business and it would be difficult to describe it as incidental."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D,
The reason for the amendment is simple. If something is advertised, why should it be read across to bottom-line profit? Should it necessarily be regarded as a nefarious activity involving trying to make money? To my knowledge, most people who run pubs are in the business of trying to make money, so why will the activity be precluded from the exemptions under paragraph 7 if it is advertised? If there was to be an exchange of money or a charge at the door, then, yes, perhaps there would be a direct correlation between the advertisement of the event and people turning up as result and paying their money. One could then say that the pub landlord was indeed trying to make money out of advertising the music. However, if there was no charge at the door, surely he would simply be attempting to get more people into his pub. I suppose that he would hope to sell more alcohol, but there is not necessarily any direct correlation between people coming to enjoy some folk music, or the improvisation of certain musicians, and drinking more alcohol.
We tabled the amendment in a different form from that which we debated in Committee to tease out from the Minister exactly why he and those advising him think that advertising folk music in the local pub means that it should be licensable, given that the music that is played may be the same background music as would be played normally if it had not been advertised. Precluding it from the exemptions is neither logical, sensible nor fair to those involved.
There is surely an argument that we should encourage pubs to put on live music of any kind. In Committee, the Minister was frequently at pains to stress that he championed live music and wanted more music to be played and heard in pubs and clubs. We will discuss the meatier stuff in the Bill later, but the measure might achieve the opposite of what the Minister genuinely—I choose the word with care—wants to happen.
It could be argued that incidental music—indeed, any live music—should be encouraged in pubs. Doing so means not only that the landlord or tenant encourages live music and the musicians who play it, but the encouragement of social cohesion in villages and rural areas. It would spread culture and the arts and foster the sort of ambience and lifestyle that are so vital to our tourist industry. As the former Minister for tourism, the hon. Gentleman said that we needed to broaden the range of our activities to encourage people from not only abroad but our country to visit rural communities and participate in the sort of events that I described. We believe that the encouragement that the former Minister for tourism gave should be adopted.
We are not considering a band session in which people sit and listen to the music all the time, but music in the background, with different people playing. The amendment would help folk groups and promote social cohesion and culture in our rural communities.
Amendment No. 63 deals with the "Small events—live music" exemption and is coupled with consequential amendment No. 62, which defines the performance of live music. It resembles an amendment that was accepted in the other place. However, the Government saw fit to reject it in Committee. We believe that it is so important that we have tabled it again. If my antennae serve me well, the matter will be around for several sittings in the other place as well as here for a little longer; it will not go away. As I said earlier, the Government may have decided to dig in and go to the wire on the matter, but I believe that they must devise a sensible and practical provision on small events and relevant issues to live music in small gatherings to get the Bill through all its stages.
Throughout the Bill's passage, those involved, such as the Musicians Union, the Association of British Jazz Musicians and the English Folk Dance and Song Society, have not wavered from their opinion that the measure will prove a disaster for the performing arts. Indeed, they believe that it goes against the Government's much heralded inclusivity banner and that the Bill is perhaps the most exclusive measure drafted by a Labour Government. Although it was hailed as an improvement, the organisations state that
"this hodge-podge of proposals actually extends the arbitrary discriminations of the old licensing regime."
They give examples. First, the Bill appears to allow a full-scale stand-up comedy routine, with stage, lighting and amplification, but insists on a licence to perform a play. Fears continue that a "play" could cover Punch and Judy shows.
I received a letter today from someone who takes his Punch and Judy tent to many events throughout the country. He is miffed that he may not be allowed to do that in future if he has to obtain a licence at every location that he visits. I shall not go into detail about that now, but it is another example of someone who has realised that the Bill is all pervasive and catches all sorts of people who perform a tremendous service to the community and bring enjoyment to many people.
Yesterday, I attended a social function that the Ventnor branch of the Isle of Wight Conservative Association organised. A young man called Christopher Philpott, who is a pupil at the middle school in Ventnor, expressed his concern—entirely unsolicited—that Punch and Judy shows would have to be licensed forthwith. When the Minister winds up, I should like him to state whether they need to be licensed and not merely say that the matter is in the hands of the licensing authority.
Another anomaly is that the Bill allows big-screen broadcasts and amplified juke boxes anywhere, but insists that live performance be licensed. It allows a play, dance, disco or musical performance in a place of worship or at a garden fête, but insists on a licence when the same events are held in a school, university or restaurant. The Bill also insists that traditional song and dance on village greens should be licensed.
What grounds do the Government cite for regulating live music? Noise was frequently mentioned in Committee, but when one examines the statistics, one wonders why it is such a major issue. The Noise Abatement Society states that noisy people outside the premises are the cause of 81 per cent. of complaints about pubs and bars. The United Kingdom Noise Association states that complaints about live music are relatively rare. Indeed, it receives more complaints about noisy recorded music. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, all local authorities can seize noisy equipment immediately and issue £20,000 noise abatement notices for compliance forthwith or in anticipation of a noise nuisance. Under current legislation, the police can close noisy pubs immediately for up to 24 hours. The Institute of Alcohol Studies, which canvasses the views of residents' associations, states that none has ever made an issue about live music.
What about public safety? We understand that a radical new fire safety regime for workplaces is due to be published in mid 2004 and will be called the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. It will apply to premises including cinemas, theatres, pubs and restaurants and cover the provision of entertainment irrespective of licensing requirements.
Employers and the self-employed have statutory duties to make risk assessments of their work activities, covering risk to employees and others in connection with their work. Failure to undertake such risk assessment could lead to criminal prosecution. The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 imposes a duty on employers to ensure as far as practicable the health and safety of employees and non-employees who may be affected.
Event organisers, promoters and licensees are bound by this duty to ensure that premises are safe and without risks to health.
Who is to be affected by the measures? What of the impact on those involved? Let us consider the folk arts in England. Forget Scotland—which has a much less onerous licensing regime—Ireland, where I am sure the regime is even more liberal, and Wales. Let us just look at England, where we have a rich living cultural heritage in the form of the various folk arts and customs, including music, song, dance, drama, storytelling, games and other customary events and celebrations. These folk art forms are true community arts; they are inherently participatory, encouraging imagination, aspiration and learning.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the resurgence of magazines such as Folk Roots illustrates that there is currently a renaissance in English, Welsh and Scottish folk music? The concerns that he is raising are shared by the readers and authors of that magazine.
The hon. Gentleman emphasises my point that this is a growing and developing part of our cultural heritage that ought to be encouraged rather than—according to its practitioners' interpretation of the Bill, and ours—have its activities curtailed in one form or another.
Folk art activity is extremely widespread, despite attracting relatively little attention in the mainstream arts listings and media. Let us look at the statistics. There are around 750 folk dance teams nationwide, including morris, clog, molly, longsword, rapper, Appalachian and other international styles. These teams involve more than 14,000 dancers, musicians and singers, and together they provide at least 10,500 folk dance events for at least 500,000 members of the public each year.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware, having sat through the Committee proceedings and Second Reading, of the two-in-a-bar rule, under which two musicians, two dancers, two singers, or two people doing a recitation are allowed to perform. This great renaissance of folk music is taking place at a time when this law is in force. Is he saying that that renaissance is due entirely to the fact that two people, and only two people, can sing their way through an evening in a pub? Or is he saying that this golden age owes its existence to a very different legal regime from the one that exists now?
I shall be coming to the two-in-a-bar problem later. To answer the Minister's question, the renaissance does not relate simply to the two-in-a-bar rule in pubs. We are not just talking about a renaissance of folk arts and music; it is general and across the board. These people perform in other places as well as pubs. Obviously the licensing implications will affect them when they carry out those activities in pubs, but I do not remember seeing many morris dancers doing their stuff inside the pub. Perhaps they do on some occasions, but they normally perform outside in the open air. I shall come to that matter later as well.
There are at least 400 folk song, music and dance clubs in England. A minimum of 9,000 regular folk music sessions and singarounds take place in England each year, though hundreds more spontaneous, one-off events also occur. The greatest number of these folk arts activities are small scale and occur within local communities, outside the mainstream of arts planning and provision. On a community level, they are almost entirely voluntary and therefore highly sensitive to legislation, particularly when it carries cost implications.
In my opening remarks, I alluded to the fact that many interested parties and groups had attempted to get their views across to the Department and, in particular, to the Minister. I remember addressing this issue in Committee, particularly in relation to the English Folk Dance and Song Society—EFDSS. On
"I have had lengthy meetings with representatives of all the large morris, folk song and dance groups, including wassailers, storytellers and mummers. I took them through the Bill and they were much happier at the end of it than they were when we began." —[Official Report, Standing Committee D,
But EFDSS has written to me at this late stage to say that it is concerned because
"this is absolutely not the case."
The society says that it was grateful to the Minister for the meeting on
"not received adequate answers to the specific questions" that it had raised. Here we are, discussing the Bill on Report, with Third Reading imminent and the Bill then going back to the other place, yet many of the questions that were rightly raised by these bodies have not been answered. The answers might not be the ones that they want to hear, but they do not think that they have had a fair or proper hearing.
EFDSS has warned the Government that many folk music and song clubs that are currently not covered by entertainment licensing might become so under the new Bill. It states that many such clubs currently operate as private, members-only clubs which attendees have to join at least 48 hours before benefiting from any entertainment. It is their belief that there is therefore no requirement for them to have a public entertainments licence. EFDSS believes, however, that under the Bill, there will be no such get-out, and that the majority of England's 400 folk clubs could become licensable.
EFDSS first submitted its concerns to the Department in February; so far, it has had no answer. It believes that the legislation relating to public safety is more than adequate to take care of the safety and noise aspects, and it has four questions that it wants to put to the Minister, through me. Perhaps he could answer them this evening in his response.
"How does the Government feel that folk clubs will be affected by the Licensing Bill?
Why is current, subsisting legislation deficient with regard to folk clubs?
What is the pressing social need to extending entertainments licensing regulations to cover folk clubs when broadcast football matches and loud recorded music in pubs remains exempt?
Does the Government feel that folk clubs are an acceptable casualty in the pursuit of its other licensing objectives?"
Those are four excellent questions for the Minister to address.
Coming to the two-in-a-bar rule, the Minister has made the point tonight and many times in Committee—and we understand this—that the rule is the only existing form of limited exemption for live music at the present time. The justifications that are given for the new proposals, however, do not read well with those involved. Paragraph 3.5 of an entertainment factsheet published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport states:
"It is quite possible for a single performer using amplified equipment to give rise to considerably greater nuisance than four or even more entertainers performing acoustically. The Government simply does not accept that live music in pubs is never a source of disturbance."
We would never say "never", but the statistics on noise issues that I quoted earlier show that most complaints are not about the music inside the pubs but about noise outside the premises. In fact, no matter how noisy the playing of music and broadcast entertainment might be, they would be exempt from the new measures if they were incidental to the main business on the premises. It is the view of EFDSS that such an exemption for incidental music is unsatisfactory and does not go far enough.
The problem for those in the entertainment business, if I can call it that—the people involved in live music and entertainment of all kinds, most of it small scale—is not that it is easy to tick the box.
How many times did the Minister say in Committee, "Well, all they've got to do is tick the box."? That, of course, is the DCMS mantra: when someone applies for a premises licence, a little box on the same application form can be ticked, which says, "Yes, I would like an entertainment licence to go with my alcohol licence." There is no additional fee on application for such an entertainment licence, but that is not the issue. The issue, of course, begins when all that gets to the licensing authority, which is the local authority.
Do the hon. Gentleman and others recognise that a pub or other venue has to apply for an alcohol licence and a separate entertainment licence, sometimes at great cost? That is putting off a lot of venues from applying. Surely the number of premises that consider putting on live entertainment will increase when there is one licence.
That is wishful thinking, frankly. No one has done any research, and I have seen no analysis, to back up the hon. Gentleman's point. The Department and the Minister, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman, hope that that will be the case. Indeed, I hope that it will be the case, but among most landlords whom I have talked to out there in the real world, who have perhaps applied for public entertainment licences and had problems with local authorities or who have spoken to other licensees who have had difficulties and been involved with such costs, there is a feeling that ticking that box may lead them into all kinds of approaches from local authorities that will impose conditions and restrictions on them. Many people would happily not get involved with all that if they could avoid it.
From my experience as chair of public health in Newcastle, I know that the disincentive is not the bureaucracy that the hon. Gentleman talks about, but the current law and the expense of applying for the public entertainment licence in the first place—sometimes people have to employ solicitors and go to a hearing—and, secondly, the cost of the licence. Under the Bill, that will be done away with. There will be one licence, which surely will make it a lot simpler for many of those people who would consider putting on live entertainment, but who are discouraged from doing so due to the bureaucracy and cost.
The hon. Gentleman is continuing the argument that has been used over and over again by the DCMS, and I think it false. It leads people to believe that just by ticking that box they will be able to have any form of entertainment on their premises. That is not the case. When the local authorities look at the operating schedule and what is proposed, they will come round to inspect. In the local authorities that I know, when such people get involved, they then start nit-picking. They will say, "If you have more than a certain number of people in here, you must put in a new fire door, a new exit, do this, do that." [Interruption.]
I ask Mr. Jones to talk to the publicans in his area. I have talked to publicans in my constituency, and those who have recently applied for public entertainment licences do not complain about the cost of that application, although I accept the point—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman's local authority may charge through the roof; I do not know. In parts of Cambridgeshire, local authorities do not charge inordinate fees for the application.
Let me finish my point. The hon. Gentleman must not be too eager. Now I have lost the thread, of course, which is exactly what he intended. It is not so much the cost of the application but the cost of the work that people are told to do so as to comply that worries them. If they are to have someone crawl all over their premises and dictate major improvements, they will not bother to tick the box. What will happen, which is even worse than the hon. Gentleman predicts, is that there will be not two in a bar, but none in a bar.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I doubt whether that will occur in most cases involving a small number of performers, but is he really suggesting to the House that he is against expense being incurred if there is a serious public safety risk that warrants an extra fire door being put in?
I am not against measures for public safety, but I have been through a list of Acts of Parliament that deal with noise and safety and which cover most of those eventualities. The hon. Gentleman used the same argument in Committee and I repeat what I said then: we are not arguing that there should not be proper safety measures, but countless existing laws should take care of that situation. Why are we overburdening this sector of society with even more layers of bureaucracy?
If that is the case and if all those laws are a terrible bureaucracy that will put off venue holders from allowing such events to happen, why does the Musicians Union have a code of practice on its website? It urges its members to insist on that code being used at existing venues to ensure that the inadequacies of the current system do not result in lots of injuries to its members, let alone to audiences that may pack in there. Why does the Musicians Union feel that that is necessary?
The hon. Gentleman is now the great champion of the Musicians Union—it is wonderful to see Tories behaving in this way—so perhaps he will tell us why the need for additional safeguards has been mentioned on that website. The union insists on those safeguards because the existing system is not good enough to protect its members.
I must admit that I have not seen that section of the website, so I am most grateful to the Minister for forcefully pointing it out to me. However, I suspect that what is on that website is what I would call common-sense remarks saying, "If you are playing at any venue, be it a pub or anywhere else, make sure that the sockets and electrics are okay. Obviously, that will affect your equipment." It is common sense to recommend such things to those people.
The Minister may confirm otherwise, but I am sure that the website does not say that people must put the appropriate legislation—the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, for example—on the table in front of the landlord and say, "Right, tell me whether you comply with all this before I start playing my oboe." I do not think that that is the case. Common-sense advice is being given to those who are involved.
I am a regular visitor to the Brecon jazz festival, which is a fantastic event, and I am only sorry that I cannot attend this year. I cannot believe that the event is not already licensed. Although parts of my speech will agree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying, I cannot believe that the Brecon jazz festival is threatened by the Bill.
I was at the first Brecon jazz festival and I have been to virtually every one since. Will the hon. Gentleman take this from me? If the pubs and the other venues in Brecon were not licensed, the Brecon jazz festival would never have taken place. He is bound to know that after 60 hours of Committee sittings. If he does not know it, he ought to be ashamed of himself.
I do not want to challenge the Minister, but perhaps he will point out the column of Hansard in which the Brecon jazz festival was mentioned in Committee. I do not remember it being mentioned. [Interruption.] Oh, it was, was it?
I am sure that the festival was mentioned, but not as often as the Isle of Wight. The hon. Gentleman knows exactly what I mean: any venue where more than two musicians are playing has to have an entertainments licence under current law. If he believes that that is not true, perhaps he should stand up, say so and tell me how the Brecon jazz festival continues to thrive year after year.
Who mentioned the Brecon jazz festival in the first place? I have not been, I am sure that it is administered and organised absolutely to the letter of the law, and I want to move on.
Let me end by quoting from a report published today or yesterday by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, entitled "Scrutiny of Bills Further Progress". Page 17 contains a couple of short paragraphs in heavy type which deal with the wonderful Bill that we are discussing. The Committee says
"We take the view that there is a significant risk that the proposed system of exemptions from the licensing requirements and from the applicable fees as currently set out in the Licensing Bill might: give rise to an incompatibility with the right to be free of discrimination in respect of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief under ECHR Articles 9 and 14 in so far as the exemption is given to premises used principally for the purposes of religion, or occupied by people or organisations on account of their religious beliefs or practices, and is denied to premises used principally for secular purposes, or occupied by people or organisations without a religious affiliation; and"
—this bit is wonderful; it should be on the front pages of all tomorrow's newspapers—
"leave a patchwork of different licensing requirements without a coherent rationale, calling in question the existence of a pressing social need for the restriction on freedom of expression through a licensing regime for public entertainment, and so undermining the Government's claim that such a licensing regime is a justifiable interference with the right to freedom of expression under ECHR Article 10.2. We draw these concerns to the attention of each House."
I am happy to have helped to draw them to the attention of this House in particular.
As I said earlier, amendment No. 63 is similar to an amendment that was passed in the other place and subsequently thrown out. We shall return to the issue again and again, because unless the Government have some bright ideas at the eleventh hour—which I suspect they will not—this seems to be the best way of exempting small live-music events from the draconian measures in the Bill.
Amendment No. 109 is also similar to an amendment passed in the other place and removed in Committee. We cannot see why, if village and parish halls and community centres are to be exempt at least from fees, a similar exemption cannot be applied to educational establishments.
I should declare at the outset that I am a member of the Folklore Society, and that my wife is involved with its journal.
I plead with the Minister to ensure—by amending the Bill if necessary—that traditional folk performances are not stamped out. Most have survived efforts to stamp them out by Cromwell and the Puritans, and by landlords and squires in the 17th and 18th centuries. They have survived the Victorian period, and all the commercial pressures. Their activities tend to be on a small scale.
I was told by people involved with the Bill that many such folk performances would not require licensing, and would therefore not be caught by the Bill. I am not sure about that. I was told that there would be no problem because these were spontaneous events. It seemed that if some of us persuaded the Minister to celebrate after Third Reading—if we went into one or two pubs, some songs were sung, a bit of music was played, perhaps a little play was put on about the Minister's performance today—all that would be perfectly all right, because the performance would be spontaneous.
If someone passed around a pint pot, asking for contributions so that the Minister could be presented with a small token of esteem—perhaps a little more drink—there would, again, be no difficulty. A good many folk performances are not very different from that, but they cannot be said to be spontaneous, because they have been taking place for at least 400 years.
Wales in general and mid-Wales in particular are awash with performances of this kind. They tend to take place weekly. I sometimes play the harmonica at The Grapes in Newtown: the Minister is welcome to come and enjoy the performance. It can hardly be described as spontaneous, however, as people come along every week to participate. The performers, and indeed the publican, could be in breach of the law without a licence.
I do not want to be drawn into that argument. I want to concentrate on performances with a long history. I see a series of anomalies. It would be easy for the Government to exempt such historic events. Some appear to be exempted already. I am not sure what is happening to the rush-cart ceremony, which concludes with rushes being taken into a church. Presumably it has already been exempted. However, similar events with no religious connotation would probably be covered by the Bill, which worries me.
Yes, but in the case of many traditional performances the two-in-a-bar rule has been taken into account. We tend to see a fiddler and someone playing another instrument during pace-egging, souling and similar activities. The Minister must ensure that such traditional events are exempt.
I understand that the Shrove Tuesday football matches are not covered by the legislation. I find that amazing. Huge numbers of people participate in the Haxey Hood football matches, which are far more violent than modern organised rugby matches, but they do not require a licence. Anyone going into the pub to do some singing in order to raise money to pay for the Hood, however, would be caught by the Bill.
I will not go into the matter with my hon. Friend, but I beg the Minister to tell me why, for instance, the Haxey Hood, the pace-eggers, the Britannic coconut dancers, the various groups of rush-bearers—some of whom do not go into churches—the Abbots Bromley horn dance and the souling at Antrobus will not need licences.
Some of those groups have no interest in publicity; they simply want to continue a tradition that has gone on for a long time. Will the Minister therefore give an assurance that those people will not be harmed by the legislation?
This group of amendments is useful, as the subjects that the amendments cover cut to the heart of the Bill's difficulties and the objections raised to it. The Government would be well advised to accept as many of the amendments as possible, and if they are not convinced by the letter, they should accept the spirit of a good number of them.
Amendment No. 64, the first in the group, is particularly useful. The Government accepted the principle of incidental music, or music secondary to the principal business being carried out in particular premises, as a basis for exemption. However, I believe that the Minister's explanation in Committee of what constitutes incidental activity undid some of the good. The amendment is pertinent in focusing specifically on advertisement. If we take the view that any activity that is advertised cannot, by dint of its advertisement, be deemed secondary or subsidiary to the principal activity, it will not turn out to be much of a concession or exemption at all.
I can think of several pubs in my own constituency that put out informal advertisements, perhaps on blackboards, announcing that they have live music every Friday night or Sunday lunchtime or whenever. I contend that that is incidental to the principal business of selling drink or food. When the Government first made the concession, I did not believe that such pubs would be caught out by dint of advertising, but the Minister's statements in Committee led us to that view. I readily grant the Minister the opportunity to put the record straight.
I am always pleased to put the record straight for Nick Harvey. The Bill does not exclude entertainment from the possibility of exemption on "incidental" grounds merely because it is advertised. If music is advertised, it may make it less likely to be incidental, but it certainly does not exclude advertised music from being defined as incidental. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's question.
I am grateful to the Minister for putting that on the record, because there has been an increasing tendency recently when matters are brought to court to pore over the proceedings of Standing Committees. It was my understanding that the Minister was leading us down that path in Committee, but I am pleased to hear what he has just said. I am sure that he is right: there is nothing in the Bill that places advertising on the wrong side of the exemption. It was more the commentary around it in Committee that worried me. To hear what he has just said on Report is most helpful.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his patience. Let me expand a little and say that it will be a matter of judgment both for the venue owner—if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to use that expression—who has to take a decision about how he presents the entertainment, and for the licensing authority, which may have to decide whether the principal attraction is Lembit Öpik playing his harmonica in Newtown or the food and drink sold at the venue. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that the judgment should be decided on a case-by-case basis. The strength is that it allows for flexibility, so a venue is not necessarily excluded from an exemption simply because his hon. Friend is playing an incidental harmonica.
I favour a flexible approach and if we have established that a function does not fall on the wrong side of the line by dint of advertising alone, I greatly welcome it.
I can assure the Minister that, to the best of my knowledge, not a single person has ever visited The Grapes simply to hear my harmonica—the opposite is more likely. I hope that my hon. Friend Nick Harvey agrees that the Minister's seminal clarification is important to the example that I raised. In the light of that significant reassurance, does my hon. Friend accept that advertising does not necessarily exclude live performance from being denied a licence where it is fairly clear that a performance has not been billed as the main attraction or reason for visiting a tavern?
I am also pleased to note another attempt to give exemptions to small events. The suggestion that events be made slightly smaller is realistic, because I am not convinced that the initial efforts on small events defined them as small enough. I hope that the Government will give further consideration to that perfectly sensible proposal even now.
Amendment No. 132 deals with the anomaly of television and radio receivers. Many people outside the House made the point—and I did the same in Committee—that it is odd that a pop concert on a large television set with big speakers would not require a licence, whereas two or three performers standing close by and producing noise at much lower decibel levels would require one. The Government argued throughout that they did not want to introduce additional burdens of regulation in areas where they currently do not exist. In a manner of speaking, amendment No. 132 steps into that territory. It has the useful benefit of highlighting again that there is something nonsensical about the inconsistent treatment in parts of the legislation.
Amendment No. 105 deals with traditional folk performances. Andrew Bennett proposed what many would regard as a simple way of dealing with the vexed questions. Some of the difficulties to which he alluded remain real, because we have not had satisfactory answers to them. In the case of Morris dancers or other performers who are touring from one place to another, we have established that their activities would—whether by temporary event notices or premises licences—need to be licensed. If people are to perform far and wide and their activities are licensable, I can see them getting tied up in enormous amounts of red tape and, indeed, expense. No one believes that such traditional folk performers cause a public nuisance—or anything to which the public might take exception—so something along the lines of the amendment might well provide a good solution for the Government at this late stage.
Unless the Bill is changed, is there not a danger of giving local authority licensing officers enormous powers to determine who and what activity is or is not licensable? I have severe doubts about whether such officers will exercise their powers in the way that the Minister hopes they will.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. If, in the early days of the legislation coming into force, local authorities held that various activities required a licence, I would be concerned that it might have an adverse effect. My fear is that some of the traditional groups that tour the country entertaining in one place or another will begin to lose the will to continue and give up the ghost.
Local authorities will be required to present local policies, but they will have to accord with the legislation and the objectives mapped out in it. Some of these traditional groups move from village to village, and they might move from one local authority area to another, with the real danger that the whole process becomes so cumbersome that they conclude that it is not worth their while. The Government would do well to consider the amendment. I appreciate that the list in amendment No. 105 cannot be deemed to be exclusive, and no doubt my hon. Friend Mr. Heath would wish to include wassailing. However, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish attempts to cover that problem by including the words
"other traditional folk performances of a similar character".
I suspect that lawyers will make a lot of money arguing that all sorts of other things fulfil those criteria, so I do not claim that the amendment is perfect. However, the Government would be well advised to try to address the point it makes.
I would welcome clarification from the Minister on the question of educational establishments, as mentioned in amendment No. 109. What is the Government's position? I understood that they had agreed the principle of some exemption, and I am confused about what they now propose to allow.
The amendments suggest various forms of exemption for various forms of entertainment and they encapsulate the concerns that have been raised in the months of the Bill's passage through Parliament. They include some ideas that the Government would be well advised to adopt, even at this late stage, to try to prevent the Bill from having all sorts of unfortunate unforeseen effects on and consequences for areas of public life that no one would wish to see wither, but which could be in genuine danger.
The amendments cover forms of exempted entertainment and I wish to raise the issue of a form of entertainment that is very popular in pubs and clubs in the midlands and north of England, but which is subject to hardly any licensing or regulation—and I and many others are very concerned by that. I refer to stage hypnosis. Hypnosis is a complex phenomenon, in which the subject is put into a state of heightened concentration and becomes greatly suggestible.
The practitioner of stage hypnosis may have had only half an hour of tuition. Guidelines have been laid down for those using hypnosis as a form of entertainment. They include having to remain on the premises for half an hour after the event, or having to have public liability insurance. In most cases, the activity is subject to very little regulation, but it can do huge damage to members of the audience. People have been known to die a few hours after being subjected to stage hypnosis. Others have had their lives completely traumatised.
The Bill is welcomed by many people in the music and entertainment industry, because it is a complete overhaul of our archaic licensing laws. The Bill will introduce a 21st century licensing framework for an industry that is important to many of us, be it through music or any other form of entertainment. Many aspects of the Bill have been highly controversial, but I wish to point out to the Minister that it contains no regulation for stage hypnosis.
People who have had a couple of hours' training in hypnotism can be let loose on an audience and can do incalculable damage, because they may not have asked the audience if anybody suffers from epilepsy or schizophrenia, or whether anyone has suffered a recent trauma or is on medication. All those factors can have a detrimental effect if the person is hypnotised. I wish that I had been able to raise the issue earlier in the Bill's progress, because a constituent of mine, Mr. Robert Mitchell, has suffered great trauma because of stage hypnosis. He was hypnotised in the name of entertainment, at a sales conference at a hotel in the west midlands, and it has wrecked his life, including his working life. I hope that the Minister will find a way, if necessary though other legislation or orders, to reconsider the regulation of that, at present, unlicensed activity.
This group of amendments should be called the Punch and Judy amendments. I am sure that the Government had the best of intentions when bringing forward the Bill. The intention was deregulatory, and aimed to provide a single route for application for licences, instead of the multiple routes we have at present. However, those who were members of the Committee can testify that there is no coherent thread running through the Government's decisions about what should and what should not be licensed. Diana Organ illustrated that point perfectly. The application of the licensing objectives laid down at the beginning of the Bill is inconsistent with regard to the content of schedule 1.
I shall refer in particular to amendments Nos. 132, 105 and 160. As Nick Harvey pointed out, amendment No. 132 tries to pin down the Government on why it should be a requirement for films to be licensed when it is not necessary to license big-screen television. Both forms of entertainment might produce the same amount of volume and be watched on the same size screen in the same premises by the same number of people, with the same effect on those living in the area. It is entirely inconsistent for broadcast television not to be licensed and I hope that the Minister will explain why that is the case.
I thank the hon. Gentleman doubly, for giving way and for congratulating me. I am chuffed that he did so. He knows that there are specific reasons why the exhibition of films in film theatres is licensed. Those reasons date back to the early days of film when the film stock and projectors used were liable to burst into flame—and often did. As a consequence, the exhibition of films was governed by very specific laws. That did not happen with television, as the hon. Gentleman also knows. The Bill is deregulatory in intent, and we did not wish to extend legislation to cover areas that are currently not regulated. That is the reason for the apparent anomaly.
I thank the Minister for that explanation. He has demonstrated that the Bill will not introduce 21st century regulation for entertainment—as the hon. Member for Forest of Dean suggested. In fact, it will retain early 20th century regulation for no better reason than that cinematograph projectors used to burst into flame. I accept that there is another reason, to do with the regulation of what is shown by the projectors.
If it is merely intended to protect children and other youngsters from seeing films that are unsuitable, film entertainment does not need to be licensed in the panoply of ways that will be required as a result of its inclusion in schedule 1. That is my first point, and I should be very happy if the Minister is able later to provide an explanation that defeats it.
"traditional folk performances of a similar character" may extend to Punch and Judy shows. The Bill makes it a requirement that morris-dancing in pub car parks, on village greens, under oak trees and in a multitude of other locations must be licensed. It also means that Punch and Judy shows will have to be licensed.
A Punch and Judy proprietor in my constituency entertains many children every day in the summer months, and he is concerned about whether he will require a licence in order to perform or whether the local authority will need a licence in order for him to perform on its premises—in this case, a beach in my constituency.
My constituent Mr. David Randini is equally concerned for the same reasons. I see no reason for them to be concerned about whether they must be licensed: the Bill is absolutely clear, and they do. A Punch and Judy show is
"a performance of a play" under paragraph 2(1)(a) of schedule 1. It
"takes place in the presence of an audience and is provided for the purpose, or for purposes which include the purpose, of entertaining that audience."
That is why Punch and Judy shows take place, and they will, therefore, be a licensable activity. They will have to be licensed.
Mr. Jones, now not in his place, suggested that licensing authorities could get around that by producing a licensing policy. I am afraid that the hon. Member for North Devon was right to respond by saying that the licensing policy must be within the law. If the Bill is passed, the law will be what is contained in schedule 1. We cannot avoid the need to licence a Punch and Judy show by writing a slightly vague licensing policy.
The hon. Member for North Durham, whom I am pleased to see returning to the Chamber, has repeatedly said, in Committee and this evening, that most of the things to which I refer have to be licensed already, and that there is therefore no greater licensing requirement. I hope that I have represented him correctly; he smirks, but I am sure that he means it as a nod. Perhaps such entertainments should be licensed, but the fact is that they are not. I discussed that with the chief executive of my own local authority, who was surprised to discover that morris-dancing would have to be licensed under the Bill. He was even more surprised to discover that the Minister believed that morris-dancing was already a licensable activity. The Isle of Wight council does not license morris-dancing. I hope that it never has to do so.
Newcastle city council, on which the hon. Member for North Durham was chairman of the public health committee, may have licensed morris-dancers, pace-eggers—whatever they may be—and Punch and Judy shows, if they were fortunate enough to have such things on the banks of the Tyne. However, such activities are not licensed by every authority in whose areas they take place. That is the problem.
The hon. Gentleman seems to be telling the House that a local authority—namely, the Isle of Wight—was ignorant of the law. Consequently, he says, it was an exemplary local authority in that it did not attempt to license and monitor particular activities, including, in his example, morris-dancing. Is he saying that when the House considers law, we should not change it if local authorities such as his have a chief executive who clearly does not understand his role? Is he suggesting that we should try to pretend that the law that exists does not in fact exist just because a local authority for whatever reason—whether it turns a blind eye or is unaware of the law—does not carry out its statutory functions? Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying?
No, he is not. Nor is he saying that the Isle of Wight council is an exemplary authority. He is saying merely that if that is what happens in one council, it may well happen in other local authorities too. It is because the law is not properly observed that people feel that the Bill is not a deregulatory measure. I am not arguing that the Minister's intentions are not pure; they are, I am sure, as pure as the driven snow. The problem is that morris-dancing is not at present licensed in many parts of the country, so far as I can judge from representations made to me. After the Bill becomes law, it will have to be licensed, as will Punch and Judy shows. I cannot understand why the Minister wants to go down in history as the man who wanted to regulate Punch and Judy shows.
Is not the history entirely irrelevant? We have before us a Bill that does things that many Members of this House believe to be foolish and unnecessary. For that reason, we should argue that its foolish and unnecessary elements should be left out.
This is absurd. Mr. Heath should know better than to say what he said. He knows that the law exists as it is; there is no way around that. In attempting to put the law regarding public entertainment on a much better basis, we believe that we will improve the situation. We shall not do that by pretending that the current law does not exist. Just because a local authority, perhaps for the best of reasons, may not enforce it—I hope, in fact, that lots of local authorities will in future decide to exempt all sorts of activities—we cannot pretend that the law is not what it is. That is complete nonsense.
I agree; they do now. They may decide to do so, or they may exempt things out of ignorance, but they do exempt things now. The Minister is saying that many local authorities will be able to decide to exempt—Hansard will show whether I have understood his words correctly—activities of the sort that we are discussing. However, under the Bill, local authorities will not have the power to exempt such activities. Either they are licensable activities, or they are not.
Clearly, local authorities that are not enforcing the law do not necessarily do so in ignorance. They have a duty to enforce the law when the law breaking is pointed out. The fact that no one has pointed it out and that the law is not known means that such activities have been able to go ahead. That is not an exemption, but under the new Bill, when the new law is brought to everyone's attention, there will be a blanket ban on activities that have been taken for granted.
I am sorry, but it is not a daft argument. We have the opportunity to decide whether Punch and Judy shows will be licensable in future. That is what the amendments provide for. My amendment No. 160 provides for that in a different way.
Whether we describe the Bill as regulatory or deregulatory is irrelevant to its content. Its content is absurd because, as the Minister said in Committee, the Government would "certainly encourage" local authorities
"to obtain premises licences for public spaces . . . where there is any demand by groups of dancers, folk singers or anyone else who wanted to use that area."——[Official Report, Standing Committee D,
The Minister believes that such activities are licensable.
Once the Bill becomes law, there will be guidance from the Department in the law. Conferences of local authority licensing officers will be held; they will attempt to interpret and assist local authorities in implementing the law, but they cannot amend schedule 1—only we and those in another place can do that, and we should be doing so tonight.
I want to speak to amendment No. 161, which I tabled in order to revisit some of our arguments and debates in Committee on this part of the Bill.
On Thursday, when I tabled the amendment, I thought that I would have to be careful not to try the patience of my hon. Friend the Minister too much when I was trying to persuade him to reconsider certain matters. Then, when I looked at the No. 10 Downing street website on Friday afternoon, I thought that it would be even more important to put my arguments because a new Minister would be in charge of the Bill. However, my hon. Friend is still with us and I am glad about that. I hope not to try his patience but I want to have one more go at putting my case.
As everyone realises, the aim of the Bill is to deregulate and simplify, and much of it does so. However, in at least one sphere it extends regulation to a currently unregulated activity: small performances, especially music—small gigs. It is no surprise that, when the Government try to extend regulation to an unregulated sector, there is immediate concern. My concern is that the Government have not yet provided evidence of the need to regulate such activities. People are asking whether the Bill's response is really proportionate to whatever complaints may have been made. I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has carried out a study into noise and licensing reform. Can the Minister tell us about the progress of that study? Was it taken into account in formulating the measure?
Concern turned into vociferous opposition from some quarters when it was discovered that big-screen broadcast entertainment—video jukeboxes and sports bars—would not be licensable and that there would apparently be no limit on amplification. In many cases, such entertainment would be a larger and louder event than the kind of small gigs that I am talking about.
I do not want the Government to be ridiculed or criticised, and I am concerned that that may happen. We could end up with a situation where a large number of football fans were watching an England game on one of those big screens; they could enjoy England beating the opposition and erupt when David Beckham scored the winner. Whatever nuisance that event caused, it would not be licensable, yet the solo guitar strummer or the lone pianist would be licensable. The comments made during the debate about incidental entertainment have been helpful, although I am concerned about how different local authorities might interpret the provisions. That point leads me to the root of my concern.
My concern was not provoked by the Musicians Union lobby. Some of that lobbying was over the top and has been counter-productive because it hardened attitudes. My concern stems from my experience of how local authorities can operate, especially in rural areas. As a councillor, and as leader of a district council for six years, I have seen what can happen on licensing and planning panels—certain aspects of planning legislation are comparable to these provisions.
Such panels and committees can make a considerable meal of what are often not very substantial objections. As has been said, it is simple enough to tick the box; the problem is that ticking the box is merely the entry to a form of local authority decision making about which many people are fearful. I am concerned about that.
There could be two unfortunate consequences. The first relates to rural areas. In such areas, there is not much musical entertainment. There are not many venues; they tend to be pubs, many of which operate the two-in-a-bar rule, with no entertainment licence. Currently, when an establishment in a village or market town wants to apply for an entertainment licence, there are often objections and opposition, because these days so many people move to the country for a quiet life. They then become rather over-anxious about what might happen at entertainment venues.
A high proportion of elderly people live in the countryside and they get worried about bands of young tearaways attending such events. In my experience, they lobby their local councillor, which is not difficult because councillors, too, are concerned about events in the village. The councillor talks to people on the planning committee or the licensing committee. Sometimes the application is turned down; sometimes it is just caught up in the process or deferred. That is how a meal can be made out of such things, quite apart from the attention of over-zealous council officers who sometimes have their own way of making a mountain out of a molehill.
There is a shortage of entertainment in rural areas, so young people go off to the towns, in cars—because there is no other transport—often with disastrous consequences.
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point about local licensing boards making a meal out of an Oxo cube, but if people are turned down for a licence, under the Bill, do they not have the right of appeal to the magistrates court?
Yes, but quite a meal might have been created before that point. Appeal to the magistrates court would be yet another course in the meal. Currently, people do not get caught up in that process. I am concerned that some establishments that currently offer unlicensed entertainment may be turned down when they apply for a licence because there are objections. Furthermore, the whole process may take a long time.
That brings me to my second point, which does not apply only to rural areas. If a landlord were not really bothered about whether he put on certain types of entertainment, he might not do so at all if he thought that he would have to follow a long and onerous road to get a licence. If he knew that he would have extra custom and make some money, he would go through the process.
I am concerned about minority forms of music. Some hon. Members have mentioned folk music; as I said earlier, I am keen on jazz. Often it is not easy for folk and jazz musicians to find venues. Some landlords are not keen to put them on because they do not attract huge audiences. Lovers of that music are worried that some venues might get squeezed out if landlords feel that it is not worth getting a licence.
My hon. Friend knows as well as I do that live music has been distorted for years in this country by the two-in-a-bar rule and that jazz has suffered especially. Is he suggesting that we should somehow defend the existing regime?
My hon. Friend intervenes at just the right time, as I was about to say next that the two-in-a-bar rule is intellectually unsound. That regime is not defensible, but it has given rise to a certain de minimis arrangement. That is the purpose of amendment No. 161, as I believe that, if we are to have a modern and reformed licensing regime, we need to consider some form of de minimis arrangement that permits the activities that I have been talking about, allows them to continue and prevents them from being squeezed out.
I have not tried to define the de minimis regime in amendment No. 161 because I am sure that I would be shot down if I did so. I tried to do so using various arguments in Committee, but I am trying to ensure that the sort of entertainment that takes place in rural areas at the moment and minority forms of music can continue, so I ask my hon. Friend to put on his thinking cap and, with his officials, try to come up with some de minimis regime.
The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent case—exactly the case that I would want to make if I had the opportunity. Is he not really saying that there is no need to introduce a remedy when there is no mischief, and that there is no mischief when there is no disturbance to the outside world, where no transgression of existing health and safety rules takes place and when a performance in a given venue causes no problem for anyone and those who want to witness the performance enjoy it?
I am saying that there is no need to license every form of musical activity.
I want to leave time for my hon. Friend the Minister to respond to all the points that have been made in the debate, so I just ask him to accept the case for a de minimis arrangement and to consider devising one. May I give an example? We have had live music in the House of Commons. It is not the order of the day—it may even be frowned upon—but a little live jazz was performed acoustically in the Terrace Pavilion last year. We had Andy Sheppard on sax and John Parricelli on guitar. Perhaps the sound was a bit distorted, but that happened and it did not disturb anything that goes on in this place; nor did it disturb the House authorities. In fact, people much appreciated the chance to listen to that music and enjoy it. If we can do that here, we should allow it to continue to happen in various establishments throughout the country.
I hope that we can avoid the ridicule of the comparison between recorded, big screen, broadcast entertainment and small, live entertainment. I fear that, if we do not get this right, the arguments will come bouncing back to the House again.
I rise to speak because I am interested in promoting and enabling small-scale rural and Welsh language events. In particular, I refer to local eisteddfodau. The Minister will be very familiar with them, but I should explain to other hon. Members that they are essentially amateur, small-scale, competitive village events in singing, other forms of music and poetry. They are often held at community or village level, in a variety of venues, such as chapels, churches and chapel and church halls, so they are subject to certain legislative regulation, but they are also held in pubs and increasingly in hotels, as well as in schools.
Amendments Nos. 62 and 63 are eminently sensible in situations where eisteddfodau should not be regulated. They often close down before 11.30 pm, and fewer than 200 people are usually involved. In fact, if everyone in most small rural communities attended, they would still involve fewer than 200 people.
I wish to consider what would be achieved by regulating eisteddfodau in terms of the aims of the White Paper, which are to reduce crime and disorder. The Minister will know that, at the crowning or the chairing of the poet in an eisteddfod, the cry goes up, "A oes heddwch?"—"Is there peace?" The audience must respond, "Peace", or the event cannot continue. They are essentially peaceable events.
What about encouraging tourism? Certainly, eisteddfodau are an untapped source of tourism for rural Wales. What about reducing alcohol misuse? They are very often teetotal. What about encouraging rural self-sufficient communities? Eisteddfodau should be encouraged, as an obvious example of what can happen in self-sufficient rural communities. Eisteddfodau are not a problem, and they should be exempted from the Bill.
We have had an excellent debate on this set of amendments. Before I address amendment No. 64, with which Mr. Moss opened the debate, let me say that I accept and understand completely much of what has been said. The Government amended the Bill in Committee to exempt from the provision of regulated entertainment incidental live music in certain circumstances in response to concerns raised in another place. The exemption relating to incidental music represents a major deregulation from current licensing controls. It was part of a package of concessions that we have made since the Bill was introduced to broaden the significant liberalisation of the entertainment licensing regime that it is designed to bring about.
Some of the other concessions in that package include: exempting places of public religious worship; amending the Bill to make it clear that entertainers who simply perform at unlicensed venues and do no more in respect of the entertainment will not commit an offence; announcing that we will exempt church halls, village halls and other community buildings from fees associated with regulated entertainment and, in a similar exemption, entertainment provided at schools and sixth-form colleges by the institution.
The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire asked a valid question, which we debated at length in Committee, about higher and further education institutions, and I want to repeat that, in the long-distant past, I remember going to lots of gigs with very big bands and very big audiences at universities. Indeed, that is one of the most lucrative parts of the entertainment trade. I am sure that he would have doubts about trying to compare what may happen in a primary or secondary school hall with the kinds of events—sometimes enormous rock concerts—that can take place in our larger universities.
We will certainly use the accompanying guidance to underscore the requirement that only necessary and proportionate conditions are attached to licences. My hon. Friend Mr. Blizzard expressed fears that we would let loose local authorities on the poor venue owners, for whom life would be made unbearable. I want to make several responses to that. First, it is vital that the House should know that this Government believe wholeheartedly in encouraging live music, drama and dance. In response to my hon. Friend Andrew Bennett, we will ensure that there is no doubt whatever in the minds of local authorities, either in relation to the statutory guidance that we will issue or discussions that the Department—I keep calling it my Department, but it is not my Department any more—for Culture, Media and Sport will have, and have had, with local authorities, that we expect cultural expression to be an important part of the life of every area, and that they will be expected to encourage it everywhere. That is an important consideration. I will respond more specifically to the points that he raised later, but I want to place them within that context.
We have exempted live music to the extent that it is incidental to some other activity, which is not itself entertainment or the provision of entertainment facilities as described in the Bill, bringing it into line with the exemption for incidental recorded music—such as that provided through juke boxes and, of course, the dreaded muzak, which one might encounter in lifts or hotel lobbies—in the Bill as originally drafted. Hon. Members might question that last point, but I am afraid that, however much I might wish it to do so, the Bill does not make distinctions on grounds of taste. That is a serious issue. Every example about which we have heard tonight is of a civilised group playing quiet music with moderate amplification. No one mentioned the fact that if we take away the two-in-a-bar rule—which I am entirely in favour of doing—there is nothing to stop a suddenly unregulated venue from putting on music that might have huge amplification. Were that to happen, I can guarantee that the welter of letters that some right hon. and hon. Members have received from some constituents, mostly those in the Musicians Union, will appear as a mere trickle compared with the letters that they will start to get from residents who will have no defence whatever from bands playing in unregulated venues at such volume that they are blown into next week. If we are to be honest, we should mention that.
In Committee, much of the debate focused on the definition of incidental live music, as well it might. As is often the case, the Government amendment reflected the spirit of concerns raised by certain lobby groups. In response to the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, I accept none of his criticisms about not having consulted and discussed matters with lobby groups from all manner of music and entertainment sectors. I spent many hours doing so, and many more hours answering written submissions from those sorts of people when it was impossible to meet them. For example, there was a great deal of lobbying at a late stage from individuals such as my right hon. Friend Mr. Field about giving historic churches the same kind of exemption—
It being Two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Questions necessary to dispose of business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].
Question accordingly negatived.
Amendment proposed: No. 63, in page 112, line 18, at end insert—
'Small events—live music
(1) The provision of entertainment consisting of the performance of live music is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act where—
(a) the number of listeners or spectators present does not exceed 200 at any one time, and
(b) the entertainment ceases no later than 11.30 pm.
(2) The provision of entertainment facilities solely for the purposes of entertainment described in subparagraph (1) is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act.
(3) Nothing in this paragraph shall be read as rendering invalid or otherwise affecting any provision of, or any regulation made under, any other legislation that applies to the entertainment, the entertainment facilities or the premises on which the entertainment is to take place.'.—[Mr. Moss.]
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 146, Noes 284.