Licensing Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 2:56 pm on 24th February 2003.

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Votes in this debate

Report received.

Clause 1 [Licensable activities and qualifying club activities]:

[Amendment No. 1 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Provision of regulated entertainment]:

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 3:05 pm, 24th February 2003

moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 108, line 32, leave out from "of" to ", and" in line 33 and insert—

"(i) any person concerned in the organisation or management of that entertainment, or

(ii) any person concerned in the organisation or management of those facilities who is also concerned in the organisation or management of the entertainment within paragraph 3(2) in which those facilities enable persons to take part"

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 3 and 218. The Government are committed to providing a regulatory environment within which entertainment can thrive. The Bill is a key tool to help us achieve that aim. However, in view of the real concerns raised by many performers, on 18th February we announced a package of concessionary measures. The amendments in this group constitute one element of that package. They make clear that entertainers will not commit an offence if they simply take part in the provision of unregulated entertainment unless, for example, they also had a hand in the organisation of the provision.

Amendment No. 2 makes clear in Schedule 1 that for private functions, an individual who simply makes facilities available, but is not concerned with the management or organisation of the entertainment for which the facilities are used, is not to be considered as doing so for a charge. In practical terms, that means that an individual—perhaps someone who owns or manages an historic house or other suitable venue—will not be subject to the licensing regime simply because he hires out the venue to a third party, perhaps for a wedding or other function, and that third party then chooses to provide regulated entertainment using the venue's facilities unless the person hiring out the room becomes concerned with the organisation and management of the entertainment.

Finally, Amendment No. 3 clarifies that the performer is not to be considered as concerned in the management or organisation of an event merely by virtue of his or her having decided on the music he or she has chosen to perform or play, the manner in which it is performed or played or by providing facilities such as musical instruments to perform or play the music. So a jazz trio booked to perform in a night club would not be considered to be concerned in the organisation or management of the entertainment—and therefore not caught by the Bill—simply because it decided the set list and brought along the instruments.

Taken together with the other elements of the package, which will be introduced later during Report, the amendments represent significant concessions. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the amendment; it would be churlish not to do so. Much has been made of the whistling postman being arrested in the street—an example that I have never used until now, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to do so.

The Government have gone a long way to meet many musicians' concerns, but a slight problem remains in their minds. If small performers—say those organising a jazz quartet—were dealing with a wedding party and transgressed the Bill's licensing provisions in any way, even if they did not mean to, would they be liable for the onerous penalties set out later in the Bill? I ask that only so that the Minister can clarify the matter, because it appears that although performers themselves would be exempt, many musicians who run their own bands and organise their events might well still fall under the Bill's provisions.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, we on these Benches also welcome the concessions in the amendments. But they do not go far enough. For example, we are concerned about the suggestion that under Amendment No. 2 there would not be a problem if a person was not concerned in the organisation or management of facilities. Surely, no matter how careful those involved in the music business may be, it will be difficult for them to decide what the provision means—whether they are involved in the organisation of an event.

A perfect example, to which the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred, is that of the organisation of a private wedding. Clearly, the organisation of such an event would amount to a joint undertaking among a number of people: the bride's parents' approach to the band leader; the band leader establishing what type of music is required and his engaging the appropriate musicians; and, lastly, his charging the parents a fee for that service, plus a fee for his performance, plus a fee to distribute among the other musicians. Band leaders generally pay themselves something extra for all the telephone calls involved, any advertising, and so on.

Much professional live music is organised in that way for private weddings and other private social events. Even if the initial approach by the parents is to an agent, the musician is often then required to liaise directly with the bride or best man about all manner of details: band line-up, male or female vocals or, if instrumental, saxophone or guitar-led, performance times, repertoire, special numbers, and so on. Although we welcome the concessions in the amendments, we are concerned that they do not provide sufficient clarity to those who will be examining the Bill to understand whether they fall within its provisions, given their actions.

Amendment No. 218 also relates to small performances. Musicians are concerned that, unless they have taken all reasonable precautions to ensure that premises are licensed for their performance, they may still be criminalised.

We thank the Government for considering with care the concerns that we and many beyond your Lordships' House have had about the regulation of music and live entertainment. However, we fear that the amendment does not go far enough.

Photo of Lord Colwyn Lord Colwyn Conservative

My Lords, I support what has been said. I have been a band leader for 30 years or so and done thousands of small functions. It was a regular occurrence for us to have meetings with the people holding the function to discuss the line-up of the band and the sort of music that was wanted. That happens regularly, and I am worried that the amendment does not cover it.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am grateful for the reception of the amendments, as far as they go. I think that I can give the assurances that are sought.

This morning, I received in the post a splendid black poster from the Association of British Jazz Musicians. I suspect that it must have come from the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn; I see that he has one. On the front, it has a picture of Tony Blair playing the guitar and saying that performers will be subject to £20,000 fines or six months in gaol. The description of gaol may be a little more demotic than that.

The amendments are designed precisely to avoid the situation that the Association of British Jazz Musicians describes. It is not intended that performers should have to take responsibility for any failure by the organisers of a venue to obtain the appropriate licence. That never was our intention, and the amendment makes that clear.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, referred to certain types of function. A private wedding would have to be a rather peculiar wedding to be licensable, anyway. It would have to be open to the general public, and there would have to be an entry charge. I am not aware of any private weddings that do that. So, that would be exempted to start with.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, asked me about band leaders who negotiate with the organisers. They would not be responsible, and the amendments cover that point.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

My Lords, my noble friend has seen the poster that was referred to. Has there been consultation with British jazz musicians? Have they accepted the position set out by my noble friend in dealing with issues that they have raised with all of us?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I received the poster only this morning. I have no idea when it was produced, and I do not know whether it was produced before or after the announcements that we made on 18th February. Certainly, we have been open to debate with various musicians' organisations for years, since the preparation of the White Paper, let alone the preparation of the Bill. I can give the assurances sought.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 108, line 37, at end insert—

"( ) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (4)(a), where the entertainment consists of the performance of live music or the playing of recorded music, a person performing or playing the music is not concerned in the organisation or management of the entertainment by reason only that he does one or more of the following—

(a) chooses the music to be performed or played,

(b) determines the manner in which he performs or plays it,

(c) provides any facilities for the purposes of his performance or playing of the music."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 3:15 pm, 24th February 2003

moved Amendment No. 3A:

Page 109, line 4, leave out "raising money" and insert "making a surplus"

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, Amendment No. 3A is a technical amendment, designed to clarify the provisions in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1. I have been assisted in thinking about the amendment by the Minister's officials, who have been helpful.

I shall endeavour to explain this thorny little issue. Paragraph 1 of the schedule is, at best, a highly dense and complex central provision. In defining "regulated entertainment", it says that the situations in which entertainment will be classed as "regulated entertainment" include an event to which the public are not admitted and an event which is not exclusively for members of a club but which is,

"for consideration and with a view to profit".

That might seem clear enough—I shall not use the word "simple", as nothing in this part of the Bill is simple—were it not for the fact that paragraph 6 mentions that, as regards a charity, an event carried on,

"with a view to profit", shall include an event that is carried on,

"with a view to raising money for the benefit of a charity".

This further elaboration in paragraph 6 confuses rather than clarifies the picture.

The Bill should not catch and is not, I think, intended to catch—hence the amendment—a situation such as a fifth-form dance at a school. There might be a three-piece band playing at the dance, and the young people might be charged admission. Such a situation would not be caught by any other provision, but it might be caught by this one, if the words,

"with a view to profit", literally mean "with a view to raising money for the benefit of the school". However small the amount charged—there might be refreshments as well—it might allow one to say that the event was being held with a view to raising money for the benefit of the school.

If the position were left so that an event would be caught only if there were a charge for entry and it was being carried on with a view to profit, meaning profit overall, that would be fair enough. As it stands, some sharp-eyed or, perhaps, less than sharp-eyed lawyer might, out of an excess of caution—in these days of suing, we lawyers are invariably driven by caution rather than boldness—interpret the provision in a way that it is not, I think, intended to be taken.

If noble Lords are still with me, I congratulate them. I have done my best to explain that nasty little point. If the Minister does not understand what I am trying to say, she should say so, and I will have another crack. Otherwise, I shall leave it at that. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My Lords, I understand the point that the noble Lord makes. He has discussed it with my officials. It is a thorny little issue.

It is not the intention of the Bill to define entertainment provided by a charity as provided for,

"consideration and with a view to profit", even if the charity concerned is trying only to cover costs and may even make a loss on the event. I hope that I can avoid keeping the House too long on the point, and I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, that I—or some other sharp-eyed lawyers—will examine the drafting of the Bill again. We will take action at a later stage of the Bill's progress, if necessary. I shall write to the noble Lord to explain the outcome of the re-examination and place copies of the letter in the Library. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I happily withdraw the amendment and await receipt of her letter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 109, line 17, at end insert—

"( ) a playing of a programme included in a programme service within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42),"

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 6, I speak also to Amendment No. 9, which relates to broadcast music, particularly in pubs and clubs. As this Bill presently stands, a businessman can hire a room, erect a large television screen and invite members of the public to watch football and boxing matches on a regular basis. The businessman could do that without a licence or without even serving a temporary event notice. Such an event could attract hundreds of football or boxing fans, all armed with cans of lager, for what euphemistically could be termed "a good night out". In contrast, a licence would be required, or a temporary event notice should be given to the licensing authority, if a vicar supplied mulled wine after a carol service.

There is no doubt that serious health and safety issues, and those of public nuisance, arise as regards televised football and boxing. I am told by the Association of Chief Police Offices that events involving televised football attract large crowds and are frequently the source of disorder. If Amendment No. 6 is not accepted, it will be open to every public house, in however peaceful a location, to erect a large television screen and show football and boxing matches to supporters.

The health and safety and public nuisance issues will be in a different league from those that arise in a quiet pub. The promotion of televised events would transform the unobjectionable activities of a small public house into something quite unacceptable for those living in the neighbourhood. While many nearby residents might agree to a public house, few would agree if it promoted football and boxing matches on television, attracting an entirely different clientele which could be inappropriate to the locality. Indeed, the greater mischief is the promoting of football and boxing matches on television. In comparison, there is less need for a licence for a small public house. It cannot make sense that the former requires no licence but the latter does.

I find the Government's stance difficult to understand. Amendment No. 6 is supported by ACPO which has considerable experience of such events. I therefore challenge the Minister to provide the evidence on which the Government rely in opposing the amendment and the views of ACPO. The stance undermines the approach taken by the Government in relation to unamplified music. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I support these amendments. As has been pointed out by many, it is anomalous that severe and strict regulations are placed on the playing of any form of music while, at the same time, wide-screen televisions can be operated at any volume that does not break health and safety guidelines. I watched a particularly fine rugby match recently—indeed, I counted a number of pubs locally which relied on wide-screen televisions. However, it is strange that televisions, where sound can be greatly amplified by many speakers and so create an extremely noisy event, should be outside the provisions of the Bill. A wide-screen television could be easily regulated. It is easy to control the volume, as it is to control the volume on amplifiers of live music.

Has a specific deal been done with those providing broadcast entertainment? I do not understand why every form of music in the country has been regulated under the Bill—which the Government claim is deregulating legislation—while wide-screen entertainment is left out of its remit. People who enjoy the wide-screen showing of football and rugby, like myself, are happy that it is outside the remit of the Bill. The Minister, when arguing about live music causing public nuisance, gave an example of an entire orchestra cramming itself into a pub—a wonderful image which I should like to retain. It is strange that on the one hand we can regulate heavily against that unforeseen circumstance, but on the other hand, we cannot deal with an event that we know attracts a large number of people in a partisan atmosphere which will cause a lot of noise. Indeed, most noise will not be caused by the wide-screen broadcasts, but by supporters watching the game.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I do not want to be provocative, but this is a deregulatory Bill and a great deal of the thrust of the amendments continues to be deregulatory. However, Amendment No. 6 wants to impose new regulation. As has been made clear, the Government's position is that when music is incidental to the purposes of the licence, it will not be regulated. Muzak in shopping malls, recorded music in restaurants or pubs, and so forth, is not regulated. On aesthetic grounds, some of us may wish that that was not true and that it would be forbidden in many cases. But some people like it. I have just returned from Portugal where it is impossible to go into a small restaurant without the television being on. I find that offensive, but we do not propose introducing new regulation where none exists.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, have spoken about wide-screen television, Sky sport and the type of television that encourages noise from those watching it. However, the great bulk of television, which would be covered by those amendments, is television playing quietly in the background or being watched by a few people. Whether the television is being played in a shopping mall while people shop, or in a pub while people drink and talk, or a restaurant while people eat, drink and talk, for the sake of dealing with offensive large-scale noisy television, all television would be brought under the scope of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Minister raises an interesting point but he is arguing from both ends. I have visited a number of pubs, as I am sure he has, in which there has been little control on the volume of television and recorded music. However, the argument put forward by the Minister at Committee stage was that music, at any level, could cause the same amount of nuisance and had to be severely regulated against.

I have not put my name to these amendments. I hope that they will not be pursued because I understand that this Bill is deregulatory. It is not my intention to add to regulation. However, I still do not understand the Minister's argument because it seems contradictory that noise from live music is more offensive than noise from recorded or amplified televisions.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, does not understand my argument. I had not concluded the argument. The conclusion is that the nuisance from a very loud television and a large audience of young men shouting in accompaniment to it is to be dealt with by the offence of public nuisance.

The pub or wherever the television is playing must have a licence because alcohol is being sold. Perhaps I may finish the sentence, even though I may not be allowed to finish the argument. In obtaining a licence, the applicant must state what will be occurring on the premises. If there are representations, there must be a hearing.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 3:30 pm, 24th February 2003

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I want merely to say that on several occasions during the debate he has talked about public nuisance and again he said that the matter would be dealt with by public nuisance legislation. I have to tell him that it would not because it would not be a case of public nuisance.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, that is an assertion. The Bill is clear on the subject in setting out the licensing objectives. They are:

"the prevention of crime and disorder . . . public safety . . . the prevention of public nuisance; and . . . the protection of children from harm".

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I should have spoken for longer. It is not often that I speak too briefly. "Public nuisance" is strictly defined and its test is much higher than "private nuisance". It deals normally with, for instance, running a disorderly house, letting off fireworks in the street and acid house parties. It comes nowhere near the level of disruption to which the Minister refers and, therefore, it is no good him saying that the Bill stops public nuisance. That is such a high hurdle that much of the disorder and lack of amenity with which people are concerned come nowhere near it.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I do not want to get into a Committee stage debate with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, particularly as the challenge to the concept of public nuisance was not made in Committee and is not made in the amendment and is therefore not the subject for debate. The point—

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, I do not believe that that argument can stand up. All governments get things wrong. I used to watch my own side getting things wrong time after time. Here again the noble Lord appears to be getting something wrong. It is not good enough to say, "The argument should have been made earlier. We got away with getting it wrong earlier and now we are not going to do anything about it". That is, in essence, what the Minister has said.

I admire and know the noble Lord sufficiently well to realise that when he puts on a face like the one he is wearing now, which looks very uncomfortable, he knows he has done wrong—as someone said of a Labrador. He is a good and kindly man and I therefore ask him to address the problem posed by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, my discomfort is with the behaviour of noble Lords opposite; not with the quality of my arguments. We are not in Committee. I have made it clear that the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, do not arise in consideration of the amendment; they do not arise on the intervention of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow; and they ought not to be considered by this House at Report stage. They ought not to be the subject of intervention when there has been a perfectly good opportunity to take part in the debate before the Minister has risen to his feet. I have made no new points but noble Lords opposite are seeking to make new points in the form of interventions. They are not relevant to the amendment before us. If we are to have any semblance of order in this House, we must debate the amendments before us.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Minister said that he has made no new points, but one new question struck me in what he has said. He explained that when the applicant applies for a licence, he must make it clear what is to take place. Does that mean that in the application he must say in advance that he intends to show television broadcasts on wide-screen television?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, an applicant will be applying for an entertainment licence and he will be subscribing to the licensing objectives. That is the point I want to make. Under those circumstances, the suggestion that we should be putting under the licensing regime all television programmes that are shown—that is what the amendment means—is not acceptable. It is a degree of new regulation which is not acceptable. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is plainly wrong. The regulatory framework in the area has been in place for many years. It works now and it will work in the future.

It was claimed that ACPO is in favour of the amendments. I would like to see the chapter and verse for that. The police are certainly concerned about rowdy behaviour caused by heavy drinking when people watch televised sporting events in public houses. We control the sale of alcohol and allow conditions to be imposed to control disorder, but television without alcohol is no different from inviting friends to watch something in one's own home. Control on the sale of alcohol and disorder is the key to our regulatory regime, rather than the imposition of a new degree of regulation.

We oppose these amendments. They would cause serious trouble indeed to the deregulatory thrust of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I assure your Lordships' House that it is not our proposal to introduce new regulation where none exists. Furthermore, noble Lords should rest assured that I have no intention of dividing the House on the amendment. The purpose of proposing it was merely to show that the Bill as drafted does not provide a level playing field for amplified or recorded music, broadcast entertainment and unamplified music. We believe that that is wrong and that all the Minister's arguments about why we should not have regulation in relation to broadcast entertainment apply equally to unamplified music. That was the whole purpose of seeking to engage the Government in debate on the issue.

It remains a concern to us and to ACPO. However, I shall not dig into the huge pile of documentation that we have received from many quarters beyond your Lordships' House to illustrate that concern. I shall refer only to page 10 of the Scrutiny of Bills: Further Progress Report—the fourth report of Session 2002–03—from the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It was published on Monday 10th February 2003. It states:

"we consider that the proposed blanket requirement for all premises to be licensed before any live performance takes place in them, regardless of whether there is a real risk of noise or nuisance, the nature of the performance, the nature of the premises, or the number of performers and spectators, is somewhat heavy-handed. We note that the licensing regime under the Bill would not cover the use of amplification equipment for recorded music, which would seem to prevent health and safety risks similar to those caused by electronic amplification of live performers".

It goes on, but we understand where the Minister is coming from. It is difficult to suggest that we should legislate depending on, say, the level of sound that broadcast entertainment would produce. Most of us love to get away from piped music, but, sadly, it is in almost all premises involving entertainment. That is unfortunate.

We do not want to regulate in that way. We want a level playing field for musicians and other performers within premises such as public houses and clubs. We hear what the Minister says. I do not want to divide your Lordships' House but merely send a message to all those who enjoy television broadcasts of live football and other forms of entertainment. We are not agin it; we are trying merely to show that the Government should be doing all they can to provide a level playing field. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 110, line 16, leave out "recorded"

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 8, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 12. Although not consequential, the amendments are grouped together because many of my arguments rest on the same premise. Depending on the Minister's response, I may return to Amendment No. 12 when we reach that point in the Marshalled List.

Amendment No. 8 seeks simply to leave out the word "recorded". Some of the arguments in favour of the amendment were rehearsed during the debate on the previous amendment—that is, that there seems to be an assumption that live music is more troublesome and causes more problems than recorded music, an issue we discussed in some detail at the previous stage of the Bill.

However, at that stage I was working on the assumption that the Minister's facts were correct. Information has since come forward which causes me a degree of worry. Some of the statements made in Committee were based on the report of the Institute of Acoustics, which was unaware that it was being cited in the guidance document. The material used in the guidance document appears to be from an Institute of Acoustics document which is currently being rewritten and misleadingly implies a hierarchy in the list of sources of potential complaint.

Indeed, the as yet unpublished Institute of Acoustics document also lists noise from televised sporting events as a potential source of complaint. I mention that in view of the debate on the previous amendment. The Institute of Acoustics relies on noise complaint data from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health that do not discriminate between noise from pubs and other commercial premises, let alone between live and recorded music. Therefore, if it is based on the Institute of Acoustics document, much of the regulation in regard to live music is somewhat suspect.

We must therefore debate where noise complaints come from. Much was made by the Minister at the previous stage—we are at Report stage and therefore I am dealing primarily with issues raised in Committee—about how noise could be a public nuisance. I have carried out some research in this regard and some 81 per cent of noise complaints about pubs and bars relate to noisy people outside the premises. My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury raised the issue of people banging car doors late at night.

The UK Noise Association has stated that complaints about live music are rare. It receives more complaints about recorded music. The Institute of Alcohol Studies states that none of the residents' associations it has consulted has ever made an issue of live music. Residents' associations in the heart of London agree that there is adequate legislation to deal with noise within premises. It is the noise and anti-social behaviour outside premises that most concerns residents.

I raise these issues because, as the Minister said about recorded music a few moments ago, there are adequate provisions in the Bill outside of regulation that already deal with noise pollution. Indeed, health and safety legislation is extremely rigorous in this area. We are concerned that we are basing much of this legislation on a problem that is overstated and, to a degree, misinterpreted.

We support the abolition of the two-in-a-bar rule. It hidebounds many musicians into giving the kind of performance that destroys much spontaneous music. It seems very unfair to limit all live music to only two performers in an evening. We support wholeheartedly what the Government are trying to do to widen the remit for music. We are not satisfied, however, that there is enough protection. The amendments seek to protect the small sources of live music that are the basis of so much entertainment.

I read an article by Billy Bragg in the Observer in which he stated that he got into music by playing in local pubs for drink money. Whether or not you like Billy Bragg's music—I am a devotee, but it is an acquired taste—will determine whether you believe that that is a good thing or bad thing.

If there is a problem with the Bill—the Minister says that there is not a problem, but that is a matter of conjecture—it lies in the fact that there has to be a degree of proportionality; there has to be a human right to make music.

I mention this because there is a real concern that Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention may be breached. Indeed, the most recent report on the Licensing Bill by the Joint Committee on Human Rights considered the Government's justification of the Bill in respect of the implications for a performer's right to freedom of expression under Article 10.1 of the convention. The Joint Committee was not satisfied with the Government's argument. Not only did it criticise Clause 134, which renders all performers potential criminals—although the Government amendment has gone some way to alleviate that situation—but crucially it stated:

"Because the licensing regime would apply generally to live performances, without regard to the circumstances in particular cases, we are not satisfied that the proposed system of entertainment licensing as a whole is a proportionate response to a pressing social need to regulate public performances, as ECHR Article 10.2 requires".

The report also refers to the recently announced U-turn on the licensing of live music in churches, which is extremely welcome. It states:

"This apparently random exemption for places of religious worship might tend to undermine the argument for the rationality of the blanket licensing regime as a whole, and could engage other human rights issues by appearing to discriminate against occupiers and users of non-religious premises".

I notice that the right reverend Prelate is in his place and I shall say nothing about the exemption made for churches. However, the Government have rightly made considerable concessions for churches after taking on board the views expressed. These amendments seek to reintroduce the aspect of proportionality, one of the fundamental principles on which human rights are based. There is a reason for introducing legislation in regard to noise control, but musicians also have a right to stand up and perform.

If there was no problem with that principle musicians would not be worried, but their concern is based on past experience. I particularly welcome the petition raised by the Musicians Union which now contains approximately 75,000 signatures. So a vast number of people in the country believe that the issue needs to be addressed.

The Government have since the Committee stage published guidance to the Bill, which is helpful to a degree. I was surprised by paragraph 4.45 of the chapter on general guidance. It states:

"In determining what conditions should be attached to licences and certificates as a matter of necessity for the promotion of the licensing objectives, licensing authorities should be aware of the need to avoid measures which deter live music, dancing and theatre by imposing direct costs of a substantial nature".

That is extremely welcome and answers one of our major concerns. However, the paragraph continues:

"Licensing authorities should be aware that the views of vocal minorities should not be allowed to predominate over the general interests of the community that the committee represents".

This is worrying. Does the "vocal minority", whose views should not be allowed to predominate over the community that the committee represents, refer to singers? Perhaps the word "vocal" is misleading, but should singers automatically have their views suppressed because of the views of the local community? Or is it the other way round? Should vocal minorities within the community stop the majority of people who sing from expressing their views? It is particularly badly drafted. I believe that the guidance may be made into regulations due to an amendment later in the Bill's proceedings. However, it is causing real concern, and that is the basis of the amendments. They are wide ranging and will affect large sections of the Bill and how licensing is regulated. I believe that they are necessary in order to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s of a welcome piece of legislation. We are not against the Bill, but we believe that live music is a fundamental right, as set out by the committee, and we have to be proportional. We believe that those at the bottom end of the scale who are producing live music should have the right to do so. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, we wholly support Amendments Nos. 8 and 12, to which I have added my name and that of my noble friend Lord Luke.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has fully explained the principle behind the amendments. The Government say that the Bill is deregulatory; they say it seeks to promote the performance of live music; they talk of scaremongering in the music world and the myths perpetuated about the negative constraints that the Bill imposes on musicians. But the regulation of music in the Bill is in line only with the licensing objectives in terms of public safety, nuisance and so on. Yet there is no doubt that the provisions will in practice increase the regulation of music even though there already exist adequate legal controls to respond to issues of health and safety, noise, crime and disorder, and so on. For example, there already has to be compliance with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Local authorities can, moreover, take action for an injunction where there has been, or it is believed there will be, a nuisance affecting a class of person within their area.

We have had information from lawyers suggesting that the proposed regulation in the Bill may infringe Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds that the Secretary of State can or should impose controls only where the proportionality test provides that they are necessary. We are not convinced that the necessity has been proved in this case.

Paragraph 7 of Schedule 1 exempts the playing of recorded music when incidental. Why must music be recorded? The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh said in Committee:

"The difference between amplified and unamplified music is more important than the difference between live and recorded music".—[Official Report, 12/12/02; col. 398.]

Paragraph 7 is therefore over-specific. Live music can be equally incidental. Many of the concerns voiced by musicians have been about the inherent problems in spontaneous musical activity, such as a guitar being played in the corner of a pub. Our amendment would exempt unamplified music that is incidental. The Government will undoubtedly respond by saying that it is hard to draw a line between amplified and unamplified, but I do not believe that the line is so tricky to draw. Moreover, the principle is straightforward.

This concession would go a long way towards convincing musicians nationwide that the Government are genuine when they say that the Bill is intended to promote the performance of music, not strangle it.

The Minister said in Committee with regard to broadcast entertainment that,

"if a licensee permits disorder and noise nuisance on his premises he will face a review of his licence, and it will therefore be in his interests to maintain an orderly public house".—[Official Report, 12/12/02; col. 404.]

What is the difference? Surely the same would apply in relation to unamplified music. Surely that is the right way to deal with unamplified music. We have already spoken about the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which is deeply concerned about this issue, and the question of proportionality.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred to the petition that has received over 70,000 signatures. It was based on words put down in an Early-Day Motion introduced by Her Majesty's Opposition in another place. These amendments respond to an overwhelming lobby from beyond your Lordships' House. The lobby has listened to and watched the Government. It has seen the Government, and it is determined not to be difficult. But there is no question that the Joint Committee on Human Rights should be listened to and the interests of the musicians heard.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

My Lords, my noble friend on the Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, are absolutely correct. The Minister might like to consider paragraph 12.45 on page 85 of the draft guidance, which states:

"The Act anticipates that any noise coming from the premises should be disturbing members of the public, for example, in the street or residing locally—otherwise it could not constitute a nuisance".

What, then, is the difference between a nuisance coming from recorded music as opposed to live music?

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, I totally support my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale. If Verdi's "Requiem" is banged out very loudly on a mega-something thing which our children all buy to record music on, that would make much more noise than four people on a zither in a pub. Surely the issue is the upset to outsiders, and it will vary from place to place. We must therefore try and look at this as grown-ups rather than as the Government are doing. They are regulating; they are saying that we can do this with zithers but not that with machines which make a lot of noise. At the upper end, only dogs can hear them, anyway. That is where it is going wrong.

We should be addressing our minds to the noise and disturbance made by people outside pubs or places of entertainment, rather than to whether music is recorded, live, amplified live or non-amplified live. The amount of nuisance will vary from place to place. If a concert takes place in the middle of Salisbury Plain, it will make less environmental impact than in Chester Row in Westminster. I suggest that the Government are not addressing those judgments.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, if we had the survey commissioned by DEFRA on the implications for the control of noise by local authorities and the licensed trade that may arise from the new legislation, we would not be speaking in the dark about the nature of the nuisance that is arising or has arisen in relation to licensed premises in the past. The examples that have been given such as Verdi's "Requiem" and the full orchestra suggested by the Minister are both bizarre and improbable.

We are talking about whether people have perceived any nuisance arising from live music in licensed premises in the past or whether they may do so in future as a result of the Bill. I believe that if the DEFRA survey had been made available to your Lordships, we would have seen clearly that live music is not a source of nuisance and that it should not be discriminated against as it is in the Bill.

I deprecate the fact that we are trying to reach important conclusions about the Bill without having information that the Government ought to have made available to us. We were talking about the guidance at an earlier stage, and now we have that. I am now concerned about the DEFRA survey. I asked a question about it the other day and did not receive a satisfactory answer. I would like to know from the Minister why it is not possible to give your Lordships details of the replies to the survey so that we know the facts before we reach a decision.

Photo of Lord Colwyn Lord Colwyn Conservative 4:00 pm, 24th February 2003

My Lords, at some stage we shall need a definition of what is amplified and what is unamplified. I looked it up in the dictionary earlier. Amplify means enlarge, increase, augment, enhance, elaborate on or exaggerate. Many modern instruments make no sound unless an amplifier is used. An electronic piano has an amplifier in it to make it sound like a normal, unamplified piano. The issue will have to be clarified at some stage. It may come up later, but this may be an appropriate time for the Minister to consider it.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, we have discussed the issues of live music at considerable length. These amendments give us the opportunity to consider the matter further. I welcome that.

Amendment No. 8 would broaden the exemption for music that is incidental to other activities, from simply recorded music to all forms of music, live or recorded. I remind the House that on the previous amendment I said that however strong our aesthetic objections to incidental recorded music, none of us thought that it should be brought within the scope of the Bill, unless it is so loud as to cause a public nuisance and therefore go against the licensing objectives. I entirely understand the purpose behind the amendment, but it is born of the misconception that in some way the Bill will threaten guitar-playing in the corner of the pub, as the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, put it, or four people on a zither—I hope the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, means four people on four zithers.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, that point had been drawn to my attention before the noble Lord pointed it out. The thought of four people on one zither gives me an immense amount of pleasure.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I was just imagining the huddle. The thought gave me a lot of pleasure, but then, everything that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, says gives me pleasure—up to a point.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, flattery will get the noble Lord absolutely everywhere. I lap it up.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, it is not getting me anywhere, so I shall stop it.

The amendment would address that perceived threat by drawing a hard and fast line across the face of a flexible Bill. The exemption for recorded music is designed to cover background music in lifts, supermarkets or restaurants or provisions such as juke boxes in pubs. It is clear that a lot of us would like to do something about it. However, primary legislation would certainly be the wrong way of achieving that noble end, as our society is tolerant about views and tastes. All we can do is seek to persuade people of the error of their ways.

Some people argue that recorded background music can give rise to similar issues of nuisance and safety as live music, but we do not accept that that is the case. I have heard scare stories that the exemption will lead to neighbourhoods blighted by juke boxes blasting music through the doors and windows of pubs. That seems unlikely. People go to pubs to talk to each other and drink. Very loud music of a kind that would cause a nuisance outside the premises would defeat that object. Any licensee who knows what is good for his business would not turn the volume up so high that it was impossible to talk. On the rare occasions on which that happens, measures can be taken to stop it. It would be difficult to argue that the music was incidental to another activity, so the foundation of the exemption could be challenged. That would put the licensee at risk of committing the offence at Clause 134 of carrying on a licensable activity without an authorisation, with all the implications for penalties and ultimately the potential for forfeiture of the personal licence.

The Bill provides strong powers for the police to close premises that are giving rise to noise nuisance. Those powers have been in place since December 2001 for premises with a justice's licence to sell alcohol. It is true that they have been used in only a handful of cases, but the police tell us that that is because the powers have been shown to be a useful deterrent. The Bill will extend the powers to cover all licensed premises.

Finally, where supposedly incidental recorded music is giving rise to nuisance, it is open to the responsible authorities, including the police and interested parties, including anyone living nearby, to request a review of the premises licence.

It has been said that all those issues can apply to live incidental music as well as recorded music. They can, but live music is different from recorded music. For example, it often requires cabling and finding a place to put the performers, which can affect access to fire exits or extinguishers. The sound produced by live music can often be far more penetrating than the average set of pub speakers. I am not saying that it always is, but it can be. It is often more difficult to restrict the volume to a level that is commensurate with the idea of incidental music. We are talking about incidental music, not music that is a performance for an audience.

I totally accept that piano playing in the background of a restaurant is unlikely to give rise to issues of disorder or safety, but the range of music goes wider than that. That is why it is dangerous to draw hard and fast dividing lines. The approach we have set out in the Bill, complemented by the range of measures we announced on 18th February, some of which are contained in amendments that we have tabled on Report, provides the flexibility to ensure that the kind of activities that give rise to no significant issues of safety or nuisance are allowed to proceed unhindered, while at the same time avoiding throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

For example, in Amendment No. 218 we ensure that only those concerned with the organisation and management of regulated entertainment rather than individual performers will be liable to the offence of carrying out regulated entertainment without a suitable permission. That puts the onus on the organiser to ensure that the necessary authorisation is in place. To ensure that licensees are not put off seeking these authorisations by the fear of disproportionate, inappropriate and expensive conditions being imposed by the local authority, we are working with a group drawn from representatives of performers, the music industry, the licensed trade and local government to inform us in drawing up the relevant sections of the guidance, which will provide clear distinctions about what might and might not constitute appropriate conditions to apply to licences that authorise live music. We have already said that a licence for the provision of entertainment, including live music, can be applied for at the same time as an alcohol licence and that there is no additional charge for it. I am sorry to say that the petition and a lot of the claims made by the Musicians' Union are based on that misconception.

Amendment No. 12 also falls victim to the wide range of activities that come within the definition of regulated entertainment. It would exempt unamplified live incidental music from regulation under the Bill. The same arguments apply here. The amendment appears admirable, but it ignores the simple fact that many unamplified instruments can be loud and penetrating. Drums are an obvious example. In addition, with the package of measures that we have put in place, there is no need for the amendment.

When the working group that we have convened has finished its work, the relevant sections of the guidance will draw clear distinctions about what might and might not be appropriate conditions for unamplified music. It will be flexible enough to cope with special situations such as the use of drum kits or other loud and penetrating unamplified instruments in a way that the Bill never could without increasing its length and complexity. While I am on that subject, it is not our intention to turn the guidance into regulations. We are proposing that the first issue of the guidance should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, but it will still be guidance. Authorities will have to have regard to it rather than being obliged to follow its every dot and comma. In maintaining the flexibility of guidance, we can tailor the system in the light of experience, subject to the safeguard that I have just referred to, which is a response to the recommendation of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform.

Finally, by avoiding the drawing of hard and fast lines, we can avoid the kind of perverse disincentive that was in the existing "two in a bar" rule. I am glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, confirm that he opposes that rule. In pubs, at least, it discouraged many forms of entertainment outside the narrow definition of entertainment covered by the exemption.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, raised the issue of human rights. We have tabled amendments that will satisfy the Joint Committee on Human Rights. They deal with matters of proportionality, for purposes of compatibility with the European convention. The combination of a flexible Bill and flexible guidance gives licensing authorities the tools to tailor their approach to the appropriate level in individual cases.

I have little to say about the Institute of Acoustics. The matter is referred to in the guidance, although I am not conscious of having referred to it in debate. The guidance simply used what was published. I understand that there may be a desire to revise the guidance for local authorities. That is fine, and can be taken into account.

Photo of Lord Peyton of Yeovil Lord Peyton of Yeovil Conservative

My Lords, I am much obliged to the Minister. I did not wish to delay or hamper him in any way—not that I could. We on these Benches might feel some dismay that we do not have the guidance in front of us now. That puts us at a great disadvantage. The Minister says that the guidance will be flexible, but does he recall the noble Lord, Lord Davies, saying that the guidance would provide the parameters within which the authority must comply?

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, the guidance has been available for some time. I am sorry that it did not reach the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, but other noble Lords have had access to it.

I shall be entirely clear about what guidance does and what the parliamentary authority for it is. The Select Committee requests that the first issue of the guidance should be subject to affirmative resolution procedures and that subsequent variations should be subject to negative resolution procedures, so that there is a degree of parliamentary control all the time. We have agreed to that—we are doing exactly what it wants. However, it is still guidance. It maintains a degree of flexibility, for which everyone involved has expressed a wish, including local authorities, the trade and everyone else with an interest. Local authorities will not be bound by every dot and comma of the guidance but must have regard to it and must have good acceptable reasons if they propose to depart from it.

I am reluctant to oppose the amendments, because I know the good faith in which they are moved and the extent of public feeling about them. However, they are misconceived, and we cannot accept them.

Photo of Lord Skelmersdale Lord Skelmersdale Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that blocking a fire exit is an offence under the fire Acts?

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I have listened carefully to the Minister's remarks. He said that I was born of a misconception, which is an interesting phrase to use, but I will not hold it against him. However, that is the start of our differences of view.

Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, as the noble Lord's father was a friend of mine, I should be especially careful about withdrawing any unfortunate misstatements.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I withdraw happily.

The Minister referred to noise causing a disturbance. That is dealt with in one part of the Bill, but the amendments intend to give proportionality, as set out in the convention. He refers to people being assaulted when they pass a pub with a jukebox playing. That may be the case, but a large number of people like to go to pubs to listen to live music.

The Minister in another place said how much he disliked folk music. I should declare an interest, as I work for the English Folk Dance and Song Society. That music is an acquired taste, too. Such performances give people the opportunity to listen to other types of music, although they may not result in mass participation. A few people playing in a pub should be regarded as proportionate, and the legislation should be proportionate, too.

Noble Lords have referred to penalties and health and safety. The Minister has said that fire exits can be blocked, but health and safety legislation is clear on that point. If health and safety legislation is good enough for recorded music, it should be good enough for live music. The measures in the Bill would kill all spontaneity. I have been to many pubs in which, at the end of the evening, a guitar is taken out and someone starts playing. That is a fantastic thing to be able to do, but such activities would be put at risk if the publican for some reason failed to set them out in applying for an entertainment licence.

The purpose of the Bill, as set out by the Minister, is to expand all the venues available for the production of live music, which would lead to a renaissance. I am tempted to refer to a renaissance of the regions, given that this is a DCMS Bill, but I do not want to take that line because that policy proved a slight disappointment in some respects, although it was helpful in others.

The Minister said that the amendments would draw a line, and that is their purpose. They draw a line in the sand and state that, at a certain level, live music should be acceptable. In a mature society, we should have the right to listen to music in the circumstances that we are discussing, and performers of music should have the right to perform it. The Bill is deregulatory. The amendments do not affect the Bill's nature but support its aims. On that basis, I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 151; Not-Contents, 115.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Licensing Bill [HL]

Aye: 149 Members of the House of Lords

No: 113 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My Lords, after thinking about this issue, the Government have tabled Amendment No. 10, which would exempt places of public religious worship from the need to obtain a licence for the provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities. That will include instances in which the entertainment provided is secular. Amendment No. 11 is therefore unnecessary.

Within Greater London, the provision of secular entertainment at places of public religious worship has for many years required a licence. The exemption that Amendment No. 10 will create reflects the current position outside Greater London where the provision of secular music in places of public religious worship is not licensable. The amendment is therefore adding to the deregulatory measures contained in the Bill.

Amendment No. 10 will benefit religious institutions, music societies and other community groups and will further boost the diversity of cultural experience available to people and communities. The amendment will complement other measures in the Bill designed to foster live music by opening up even further the opportunities for musicians to perform. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, we on these Benches are very grateful to the Government for listening to the concerns about churches which we raised both on Second Reading and in Committee. There was unquestionably an outcry from many members of the public about the need to exempt those religious establishments.

I seek reassurance from the Minister in relation to the amendment. Amendment No. 11, in my name, refers to "religious buildings" as opposed to religious meetings or services. Amendment No. 11 states:

"Religious buildings

The provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities in premises mainly used for public religious worship is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act".

It is our hope and wish that both the spirit and the actuality of Amendment No. 11 reflect the Government's intention. We on these Benches seek to ensure that all forms of entertainment in religious buildings are exempt, as opposed to merely entertainment for the purposes of, or incidental to, religious meetings or services.

Staff in the Public Bill Office assured us that government Amendment No. 10 is correct even though it inserts at page 110, line 30,

"(b) at a place of public religious worship".

As currently drafted, line 30 on page 110 contains no paragraph (a).

I had proposed a different amendment to the Public Bill Office which read,

"Religious buildings

The provision of any entertainment or entertainment facilities

(a) for the purposes of, or for purposes incidental to, a religious meeting or service, or

(b) at a place of public religious worship, is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act".

I hope that the Minister sees where I am coming from. The wording of Amendment No. 10 does not make sense in the context of the wording of the Bill.

We have been approached by a number of noble Lords and people outside the Chamber who seek to ensure that the government amendment, which we are keen to endorse, exempts all forms of entertainment in religious buildings. I quote again from Amendment No. 11, which states:

"The provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities in premises mainly used for public religious worship is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act".

I give the example of bell ringing which concerns the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. The Bill refers to entertainment in the context of religious meetings or services. Bell ringers may play bells in different parts of the country for a charitable purpose or otherwise. They want to be sure that, in doing so, they do not require a licence. A number of noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, are concerned about concerts which take place in many different kinds of religious buildings. Many of those concerts take place to raise funds to maintain those buildings.

We welcome government Amendment No. 10 and want to support it. We do not wish to press Amendment No. 11 but we seek assurance from the Government that Amendment No. 10 covers,

"The provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities in premises mainly used for public religious worship".

We seek to ensure that that kind of entertainment will not be considered regulated entertainment for the purposes of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 4:30 pm, 24th February 2003

My Lords, we on these Benches welcome this excellent amendment. My right honourable friend Alan Beith will be displeased if I do not mention disused chapels. Some disused chapels in the north—former places of religious worship—have trust status. Musical performances may take place in them for fund-raising purposes. Are such disused chapels included in the terms of the amendment? If they are not, will the Minister consider altering the guidance to include them?

Photo of The Bishop of London The Bishop of London Bishop

My Lords, all those responsible for places of public religious worship will be very grateful for the amendment we are discussing. I am grateful for the support from noble Lords on all sides of the Chamber. I was particularly grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, in Committee as this is emphatically not a concession made to churches but, as the government amendment makes clear, to all places of public religious worship.

As the noble Baroness said, the contents of our postbags show the depth of feeling on the matter. I believe that amateur music making traditions, so vital to many communities and so important in encouraging people of all ages to take part in musical or dramatic activities, would be badly curtailed if the Bill were not amended. As a legislative innocent, I presume that, if Amendment No. 10 is accepted, paragraph (a) will materialise at page 110, line 30.

I hope that I am right in thinking that the amendment is couched in clear legal terms. I believe that the phrase,

"place of public religious worship", has specific legal meaning in other contexts; it is not just a question of religious assemblies. There should be no ambiguity as to whether a particular place qualifies for the exemption we are discussing. I shall listen carefully to the Minister's response to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe.

It is heartening that government Amendment No. 10 will free places of worship from the need to make impossible judgments as to whether a particular event is incidental to a religious service. Entertainment provided for the purposes of a religious meeting or service will be exempt, as will entertainment provided at a place of public religious worship. That is clear, simple and easy to understand on the part of all those who care for, or are responsible for, places of worship. It is not the intention of any such person to cause a public nuisance. I hope that no such person is likely to put on an event that would lead to nuisance. Indeed, the very absence of complaints about the present situation—the Government acknowledged that even the original proposals did not result from any specific problems in relation to entertainment in places of worship—should reassure Ministers.

As the Minister reminded us, when tabling the amendment the Government made the welcome statement that they proposed to exempt buildings such as church and village halls and similar premises from licensing fees, even though those premises would need to undertake the necessary procedures. That is encouraging news for those who look after places of worship and community buildings. I note that no specific government amendment on that matter has been tabled although a measure has been tabled which would have a similar effect. I should be interested to know what the Government propose in that regard. Will the Minister be kind enough to give an undertaking on how it is intended to bring that welcome proposal into effect? I reiterate the thanks of all those of all faiths and denominations who are responsible for places of worship for a generous recognition, through government Amendment No. 10, of the wide role such places and buildings play in the community, and for the clarity of the amendment itself.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate said that the concession applies not only to churches but to all places of religious worship. Is the Minister sure that that is the case? As I understood it from speaking the other day to the director of National Church Watch—that organisation is concerned with offences that take place on religious premises or against persons in religious premises—the only services that are public in the true sense of the word are those in the Church of England.

The divine service in the Church of England is open to any person who wishes to come through the doors and participate, but in all other churches the person who enters does so by means of a deemed licence, which can be withdrawn. That is also the case in the Church of England at any time other than a divine service. The director mentioned that because it was important in dealing with cases of misconduct in places of religious worship, as one could tell someone who, for example, entered a church outside the hours of divine service with a hat on or barechested, "That is an unseemly way in which to behave, so your licence to enter the premises is withdrawn and you may now leave". If the person did not leave, a policeman could be called to escort him off the premises.

That rule extends not only to the Church of England outside the times of divine service, but to any other church or place of religious worship that is not part of the Christian faith. I am afraid that using the term "public religious worship", as the amendment does, may exclude many of the premises that we think that we are covering—all the non-conformist churches, Catholic churches and those of other denominations—where entertainments may take place. We would like to exempt them, but may find that we have failed to do so because of the use of the term "public". Will the Minister kindly look at that? If I am wrong, she could say so now. However, I do not expect to be given an answer off the cuff, so perhaps the matter could be considered before Third Reading.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I speak briefly to support the welcome that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, gave the Minister and to ask a question. Does the exemption apply to redundant churches? They range from somewhere such as St John's, Smith Square, down to one in my own town used regularly for concerts. It is used on one day a year for public worship, because the Historic Churches Preservation Trust insists on that. It is not regularly used for public worship, yet it is a church and is known as a church. I feel that it ought to fall within the definition that the Minister has given.

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

My Lords, I should like to join those who thanked the noble Baroness for tabling the amendment, which will give great satisfaction to those of us who spoke at earlier stages of the Bill's passage.

If I had to choose between the government amendment and that tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, I would prefer the latter, because one phrase in paragraph 9 of the schedule leaves a certain lingering doubt. The paragraph covers:

"The provision of any entertainment or entertainment facilities for the purposes of, or for purposes incidental to, a religious meeting".

Does that cover a point that concerned me at an earlier stage of the Bill's passage? Those of us who try to support the structure, appearance and capabilities of ancient buildings—the building that I support is listed as class I by none other than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and we arrange for charitable concerts—wonder whether we will be covered by purposes incidental to a religious meeting. It is not absolutely clear. I am sure that the intention is there, but I hope that we are not causing any difficulties.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, accurately reflected my views on bell ringing. I raise the subject only for the reason that I explained in my letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on 15th February. A document described as a leaflet about the Bill has come into my hands. To my surprise, it contains a whole paragraph about bell ringing. I think that it must have been written before the stages of debate in which the subject was raised. A sentence in the leaflet gives rise to doubt when it states,

"if an organised bell ringing event takes place for the public that would be licensable".

We were given some extremely helpful and categoric statements by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, at earlier stages that bell ringing was not a licensable activity. I moved an amendment in Committee to that effect. I was told by the noble Baroness that the amendment was entirely unnecessary and would not be required. I therefore withdrew it. I hope that she can ensure that if the leaflet is given further circulation, the offending sentence will be removed. If she can, that will close me down, otherwise I might have to come back to the subject at Third Reading.

Photo of Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market Conservative 4:45 pm, 24th February 2003

My Lords, I too very much welcome the amendment. I speak only because I was a little concerned when I heard the Minister say that Amendment No. 11 would be redundant if Amendment No. 10 was accepted. It seems to me, as it does to the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, that Amendment No. 11 is much clearer than Amendment No. 10.

My point follows what my noble friend Lady Buscombe said, and from my interest as a patron of an orchestra. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is also a patron of the same orchestra. It mainly performs its evening concerts in churches in London. If the heading "Religious meetings or services" remains in the Bill, does that qualify Amendment No. 10? The great attraction of Amendment No. 11 is that its heading is "Religious buildings", which is very much clearer. Amendment No. 10 seeks to go beyond religious meetings or services, but the heading still remains in the Bill, so far as I can see.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My Lords, I begin by saying how very grateful I am to noble Lords for their welcome to the Government's change of mind on the issue and our amendment. I also want to explain that the wording has been agreed with all the main religious groups, so I believe that it satisfies them all that we are making a genuine change to the Bill.

I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, that bell-ringing will not require a licence. I want to reiterate what was stated quite clearly in Committee, and I hope that he will accept our good faith on that matter. Several noble Lords asked whether concerts would be covered by the amendment. They certainly will. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, I can say that all forms of entertainment in places of public religious worship will be exempted. I hope that that is helpful to her.

Several noble Lords asked about disused churches or disused chapels, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. If a church is not consecrated, it would not be covered by the exemption. The trigger is,

"a place of public religious worship".

That is the right wording, because it is an understood term and was agreed with the various religious groups consulted. Case law tells us that not only must the place be available to the public for religious worship, but it must be apparent that it is so available. I am not sure whether that covers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, but I shall certainly take his question away and look at it again.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that the chapels in HM Prisons are not consecrated, and that they would therefore not be covered by the exemption? Can she think of a way round that one?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My Lords, I was not aware that chapels in prisons are not consecrated. I shall take away the issue that the noble Lord raised and examine it.

Photo of The Bishop of London The Bishop of London Bishop

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that consecration is a technical term and that most places of public religious worship, even in the Christian tradition these days, are not legally consecrated? They have a lesser form of legal dedication. It is a particular term and the difficulty about prison chapels is not as substantial as may appear at first sight.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My Lords, that was extremely helpful. I must admit that I am not terribly familiar with the niceties of the meaning of the terms "consecrated" and "deconsecrated" but I am glad to be reassured that the right reverend Prelate does not believe that that will be a problem.

I say to the right reverend Prelate that it is indeed our intention that church halls, chapel halls and other similar buildings—village halls, parish halls and community halls—will be exempt from the fees associated with the provision of entertainment and entertainment facilities. A relevant amendment has not been tabled because we do not need one: the Secretary of State is already able to set fees at any level for any class of premises. We shall take this issue into account when setting the fees.

I believe that I have answered all of the questions that were put to me. I hope that we shall now be able to go ahead with an arrangement that has existed in the rest of the country for a very long time; I hope that concerts and other forms of entertainment will be able to take place in churches and other places of religious worship without having to seek a licence.

Photo of Lord Bridges Lord Bridges Crossbench

My Lords, before the noble Baroness concludes, will she kindly answer my question about the phrase in the leaflet that I mentioned?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My Lords, I have not seen the leaflet to which the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, refers. I am confident that what he wants will happen and that there will be no particular problems in relation to the issue that he raised.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 110, line 32, at end insert—

:TITLE3:"Unamplified music incidental to certain other activities

(1) The provision of entertainment consisting of the performance of live music (and not comprising or including the playing of recorded music) is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act to the extent that the conditions specified in sub-paragraph (2) are satisfied and to the extent that it is incidental to some other activity that is not itself—

(a) entertainment of a description falling within paragraph 2, or

(b) the provision of entertainment facilities.

(2) The conditions referred to in sub-paragraph (1) are that—

(a) the other activity referred to in sub-paragraph (1) is the subject of, and is undertaken in accordance with, a licence granted under this Act;

(b) the live music being performed is not provided in whole or part by means of, or with the assistance of, electrical or electronic amplification, or made more readily audible by such amplification either in the place where the performance is occurring or in any other place."

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I believe that this amendment is not consequential on Amendment No. 8. On the understanding that it will be accepted, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 110, line 38, at end insert—

:TITLE3:"Educational establishments

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."

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, we now turn to the question of educational establishments. We do so purely in relation to the provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities in the premises of an educational establishment. I make it absolutely clear from the start that we are not talking about the provision of alcohol in educational establishments. That is one of the problems with the Bill—there is much confusion about it in your Lordships' House and beyond; there are misconceptions about whether entertainment or alcohol is involved. It is unfortunate that although the Government had the opportunity of a fresh start in repealing the licensing laws, they confused the issue—not, I am sure, intentionally—with regard to entertainment and alcohol.

In Committee, we discussed the issues raised in the example of a school concert when the local community is invited to attend and to pay for a ticket. The Minister responded by saying that if the public attended the event, it would be licensable because issues of public safety and public nuisance arise. I found that a curious response because if there are any public safety issues about members of the public attending a school event, surely there are public safety issues about children attending, for example, assembly in the same place. Is the Minister aware of any school in which children are safe but members of the public would not be safe?

We in your Lordships' House know that schools are over-regulated and are already covered by many health and safety guidelines and regulations. Surely those are sufficient for members of the public attending a school concert. As regards public nuisance, children are by nature noisy. When schools finish for the day, children pour out of them and normally make an incredible amount of noise and create some disturbance in the streets surrounding the school and in the neighbourhood at large. Are the Government seriously saying that adults attending a school concert will cause a greater public nuisance than that?

The Bill will impose yet more regulations on schools. As noble Lords know, teachers are already overburdened with regulation and paperwork. The bureaucracy is now so great that teachers have less time to teach and no time at all for extramural activities. We believe that it is time to call a halt to that bureaucracy and that enough is enough; using school premises for entertainment must be exempt from the legislation.

I shall refer briefly to the recent report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which was published on Monday 10th February 2003 and which has already been referred to. The committee referred to the proposed exemption for places of public religious worship and we are all extremely grateful to the Government for that. However, the committee said that that apparently random exemption for places of public religious worship might tend to undermine the argument for the rationality of the blanket licensing regime as a whole and could engage other human rights issues by appearing to discriminate against occupiers and users of non-religious premises. We could list a number of different types of premises—we tried to do so in Committee—which we believe should be exempted. However, we on these Benches have been very constrained. We feel, after much consideration, that we should again propose that educational establishments at least—in addition to places of public religious worship—should be exempt from the provisions of the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, we support the amendment, which also appears in our name. There was some concern in Committee that the wording of the previous amendment would have allowed the premises of schools to be used by outside bodies for activities that would be outside the remit of the school. This amendment would close that loophole. It is only fair that schools, which are extremely heavily regulated—perhaps that is as it should be because that avoids as much risk as possible for those in the schools, although schools should not be over-regulated—should be given an exemption in the same way that churches have been given an exemption for logical reasons. On that basis, we support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (the Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

My Lords, I am sure that the House has some sympathy with the aim of attempting to ensure that our schools do not have to be burdened with the administrative requirements of the Bill and the associated costs. However, I am afraid that we see many problems with the amendment. That includes the scope of the amendment as well as some points of principle. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that in Committee a rather different amendment had been considered. One point about which we were concerned has been put right but I am afraid that other points still give rise to concern.

First, on scope, the amendment uses the expression "educational establishment" without offering any more detailed definition. I remember from my previous job as a Minister in the Department for Education, when I handled a number of Bills, that the term "educational institution" is more commonly found in statute; it is used in the Bill and defined in Clause 16(3). It means a school or an institution within the further or higher education sector, within the meaning of the Education Act 1996, or a college, school, hall or other institution of a university, in circumstances where the university receives financial support under Section 65 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. The definition suggests what would be exempted by the amendment. It is not just about school plays, concerts and similar activities. It would draw in dances, raves, rock concerts and major festivals held by universities, colleges and places of further education for their students. It can also be argued that it would include students' unions, which run and control nightclubs as serious businesses these days. I am afraid to say that their premises give rise to as many anxieties about alcohol consumption, disorder, noise nuisance and drugs as any similar commercial venture in towns and city centres. It would be reckless to bring within such an exemption the range of premises that might be affected by the amendment, so we have serious problems with its scope.

I shall outline the points of principle. Entertainment is regulated under the Bill to achieve the licensing objectives, not least public safety. The establishments that would be at least partially exempted through the amendment host occasions that the public can attend. Occasionally, schools stage concerts and plays on a commercial basis. Just because those events take place at schools does not mean that the public should not be protected or expect to be protected. They are different kinds of events to those referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, which are entirely about activities for pupils and their parents.

I remind the House that the reforms in the Bill are designed to establish a level playing field for all charitable and community bodies, with a light touch and an unbureaucratic system. To exclude some premises entirely from that while including others would not achieve that aim; it would introduce a measure of injustice.

It might be sensible if I take the opportunity to clarify some of the points about entertainment in schools that have given rise to concern. First, it has been suggested that the teaching of music, including the performance of musical pieces in schools by teachers and pupils for other teachers and pupils, might have to be licensed. Of course that is not a licensable activity. Secondly, school concerts or plays for teachers, pupils, parents, guests and invited friends are not licensable activities unless a charge is made that is intended to generate profit. If the charge is meant to do no more than cover the school's costs, no profit would be intended or made. Again, the qualifying conditions would not be met. If such a school concert or play is staged and those attending are invited to make a donation to the school but are not obliged to do so, the event would not be licensable. No charge is being made if only voluntary donations are sought.

So the vast majority of school activities of that kind are already exempted by the Bill. School concerts are currently licensable activities under the existing legislation, although outside London the local authority may grant a reduction in fee if it considers that the entertainment is of an educational or other like character. So there is no exemption at present. Under the Bill, the key is where either the entertainment is intended to be provided for the public—in other words, anybody, whether connected with the school or not, is free to attend—or where a charge is made, and profit is the aim of the performance. We license commercial activity because the profit motive may override immediate concerns for public safety and public nuisance. We license places open to the public because every citizen should know that his or her interests will be safeguarded regardless of whether the building is a school or community hall or a major commercial concert hall.

If a school wants to go down the route of staging public concerts or activities that generate income, the licensing system is not overly burdensome, so I cannot agree with some of the claims that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, made. Temporary event notices should not cost the organiser more than £20. They cover events lasting up to three days for fewer than 500 people. Five such events could be staged each year within the three terms. I do not think that a school administrator will find that a great burden. The noble Baroness's assertion that many teachers would be affected does not stand up to examination.

If a school is more ambitious than that and wishes to plan larger and much more frequent events, it would need to obtain a premises licence, which would cost no more than £100 or so initially and £50 or so each year. But I would be surprised if many schools had the time or inclination for such activity. I can also give an undertaking that we will look at developing the guidance for licensing authorities to ensure that overly burdensome and disproportionate conditions are not imposed on schools beyond that which is absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of performers and audiences alike and to address the other licensing objectives. We want to ensure that music and other cultural activities thrive in schools, and nothing in the Bill will deny that intention.

In conclusion, although I know that the amendment was tabled with the best of intentions, I ask the noble Baroness not to press it, for reasons of both scope and principle.

Photo of Baroness Buscombe Baroness Buscombe Shadow Minister (Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs) , Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her full response. It was similar to her response in Committee, which she made with some pressure, urging us to rethink our amendment. Following Committee stage, we reduced the scope of our amendment to include educational establishments only, rather than looking to hospitals, museums and prisons as we did originally.

I cannot accept the Minister's claim that the provision will not be more burdensome on schools. We must question why the Government have chosen to except churches—we are very happy about that—but, for all similar reasons, schools cannot be excepted. I hear what the Minister says on students' unions and student bars. But we are talking simply about the performance of entertainment, not situations where alcohol is served in educational establishments. We do not wish to discriminate against different forms of educational establishments. We believe that proportionality is very important. The Government have not made the case for having an additional layer of bureaucracy for schools to cope with.

All the licensing objectives—the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance, and the protection of children from harm—are already clearly covered by current regulations, with which schools and other educational establishments must comply. I thank the Minister for her response. I do not accept what she has said. On that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 13) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 169; Not-Contents, 107.

Division number 2 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Licensing Bill [HL]

Aye: 167 Members of the House of Lords

No: 105 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.