The live music forum will produce its analysis in the next few weeks. Current evidence is anecdotal, but it none the less suggests a broadly neutral impact.
According to the MORI research commissioned by the Minister's Department, only 60 per cent. of smaller venues that previously offered live music were given licences under the Licensing Act 2003, many of which have expensive conditions attached. Will the Minister tell the House what proportion of that group implemented the conditions? If he cannot do so, does that not render the statistics worthless, and what is the value of the Department's boast that the Act is good for live music?
As the hon. Gentleman knows—he takes a keen interest in this area, which we welcome—the research published in December looked at 2,000 small establishments. It discovered that in only 3 per cent. of cases the new licensing requirements were a deterrent. From the anecdotal evidence, however, the impact appears to be broadly neutral, although it may be better than that. The hon. Gentleman will know that we are conducting a detailed analysis, which we will publish later. He should remember that the new process means that there is only one application, one fee and no renewals. The additional bonus is that local residents, who were seriously affected in the past by live music, now have a say, which is important.
I wonder whether the Minister is aware that over 38,000 people have signed the Downing street petition on live music. What comfort can he give that ever-growing body of people? Does he agree with the person who was recently reported in the press as saying that whoever dreamt up Downing street petitions was—and I quote with apologies, Mr. Speaker—"a prat"?
We absolutely agree with the 30,000 people who rightly do not want music and dance to be restricted by burdensome licensing regulations. If the hon. Lady looks at the changes, she will see that there is one application process and one fee, with no renewals. Inconsistent fees, which were often excessive, and the standard book of conditions have been removed, and the fact that 63 per cent. of venues have either obtained a music licence or put on live music via other means shows that the Act is working. In a survey, 55 per cent. of people said that they found the process easy, although I admit that 25 per cent. found it hard. We will work to improve the system—we believe that it has already been improved—and we will take very seriously the evidence submitted in the next few weeks to see whether there are more improvements to be made.