My Lords, I believe passionately in live music. I went to the Brits recently in what I hope will be its permanent new home, the O2. It was a stunning experience which confirmed my totally unbiased view that British musical talent is the best in the world and that we must do everything we can to encourage its development. Clearly, this view is shared by the coalition Government, who pledged in the coalition agreement to cut the red tape involved in live music performance. However, I am afraid to say that the Licensing Act 2003, introduced by the previous Government, created a bureaucratic minefield which has stifled creativity and prohibited innocent and innocuous live music events taking place. Even the provision of musical instruments without a licence became a criminal offence. However, despite some encouraging discussions with the Minister, my honourable friend John Penrose, we are still awaiting the outcome of interdepartmental discussions on how to achieve the objectives of the coalition agreement. I welcome the fact that John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, who is as impatient as I am for reform, has now tabled an EDM in the other place asking for an exemption for small venues to be introduced without delay.
I move the Second Reading of what I believe is a new and improved Live Music Bill, designed to reduce the red tape surrounding the performance of live music, particularly in small venues, in the hope and expectation that it will receive an explicitly positive response from my Government. In 2002, the previous Government introduced the Licensing Bill and promised that it would make it much easier to host live music. At the time of its passage, Ministers were confident about the likely impact of the Act. Lord McIntosh of Haringey, then DCMS spokesperson in the House of Lords, who we remember so well, told this House:
"My view is that there will be an explosion of live music as a result of removing the discriminatory "two in a bar" provision".-[Hansard, 26/11/02; col. 736.]
In fact, the Bill significantly increased entertainment licensing control over live music. Among other things, it abolished a "two in a bar" rule-a long-standing exemption in pubs and bars for two performers. In effect, this became a "none in a bar" rule. Under the Bill, most public performances and many private performances need a licence.
Liberal Democrats opposed these changes on the grounds that separate legislation was already more than adequate to regulate most small-scale performances, and that criminalising such performances, unless licensed, was unnecessary and disproportionate. I am very glad to see my noble friend Lord Redesdale in the House today taking part in the debate. We forced defeats on the Government in the House of Lords, creating exemptions for incidental music and certain small-scale performances. Naively, perhaps, in the subsequent ping-pong, we accepted a new clause to the Bill-Section 177-which the Government put forward, which appeared to be an exemption for live music in certain small venues. In 2003, the Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament. As feared, the Licensing Act has not delivered an increase in live music, despite these promises. Back in July 2007 the Live Music Forum, which had been set up in 2005 by the then Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, published its findings and recommendations on the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on live music. The LMF concluded that while the new law had a broadly neutral effect the Act harmed certain small local venues, and recommended an outright exemption for these. The LMF also reported a huge disparity in local authorities' interpretation of the law when issuing licences, and that the promised increase in live music had not occurred. In fact, it found that 29 per cent of smaller establishments that had previously operated without a public entertainment licence, but used the "two in a bar" exemption to put on live music, did not apply for live music provision when the new Act came into force. In particular, the Live Music Forum called for the reform of Section 177. The LMF argued that the wording contained in the Act is convoluted and in many respects totally impenetrable. The forum was unable to find a single example where Section 177 was actually used by licensing officers or venue owners, so it recommended new exemptions for small gigs as a matter of some urgency.
The LMF's report was followed in December 2007 by a BRMB survey commissioned by the DCMS on the impact of the Licensing Act on live music, which concluded that there had been a 5 per cent decrease in the provision of live music in secondary live music venues since the benchmark MORI survey of 2004. However, the figures for restaurants and cafes and church halls and community centres showed a drop of 12 and 24 per cent respectively. As a result, the then Secretary of State, James Purnell, pledged to explore exemptions for some venues. But despite assurances by the Government, this was put on the back burner. In July 2008, the House of Commons DCMS Select Committee launched an inquiry into the Licensing Act. In May 2009, it concluded in its report that the Act hampered live music performances, especially by young musicians. The committee recommended an exemption for venues up to a capacity of 200 and the reintroduction of the "two in a bar" exemption, which existed prior to the 2003 Act. As the chairman, my honourable friend John Whittingdale, rightly said:
"Young musicians often get their first break through performing live at small venues".
However, the then Government continued to put their faith in the minor variations procedure. But as I made clear in the debate on
The absurdities and inconsistencies of the Licensing Act generally in respect of live music are manifest. The interpretation varies widely from local authority to local authority with some taking a lenient view of incidental music and others a much more restrictive approach. There are many examples of licensing authorities imposing, or allowing to be imposed, absurd restrictions on live music; for instance, the number of musicians allowed to perform, the genre of music or the type of musical instrument they may play, restrictions on those under 18 listening to live music, the days of the week they may perform and the frequency with which they may perform. Some premises are required to leaflet the surrounding area, warning residents of impending live music events, and some local authorities have issued no premises licences for public spaces, effectively banning live music in public.
Many of us recall the fact that the provision of 30 pianos in London streets under the Play Me I'm Yours scheme was caught by the Licensing Act as the provision of an entertainment facility. Without a licence from the local authority, the organisers could have committed a criminal offence. More recently, we had the ridiculous situation where Westminster City Council told Tate Britain to get an entertainment licence for Susan Philipsz's Turner Prize-winning sound installation. Ms Philipsz's prize-winning exhibit features a recording of her singing "Lowlands Away", a traditional folk song, played through two loudspeakers. Westminster's legal department ruled that the Act's incidental music exemption could not apply in this case. Even more absurdly, the morris dancing exemption under the Act could have offered Tate Britain an intriguing way round Westminster's licensing requirement. It allows unamplified live music if it is an integral part of a performance of morris dancing or dancing of a similar nature. If Susan Philipsz, or another vocalist, were to sing "Lowlands Away" unamplified in the gallery to some morris dancing or dancing of a similar nature, this should be exempt. Of course, that is entirely her choice.
As we can see, the Act has had the effect of criminalising the showing of a prize-winning piece of art by one of the world's leading art institutions, a range of musical and other performances, and the provision of facilities for them that could not conceivably produce anti-social levels of noise. I could come up with myriad examples of the idiocies of the Act. Contrast that position with the freedom to show large-screen broadcasts of football matches in pubs without a licence under this legislation, because that form of entertainment is explicitly exempt. In addition, think how many premises have permission for a DJ but not for live music.
At the end of 2009, a very effective demonstration in aid of live music was held in Parliament Square by the MU and Equity. The demonstration coincided with a full debate in Westminster Hall on the Select Committee's report. At that point, the previous Government suddenly seemed to wake up and make proposals for an exemption for a capacity of 100. They launched yet another consultation on this issue, close to the general election, when they had absolutely no hope of implementing any proposals. Mr Feargal Sharkey, the CEO of UK Music, the umbrella organisation that represents a large proportion of the music industry and strongly backs deregulation for live music, calculated that there had by then been nine consultations, two government research projects, two national review processes and a parliamentary Select Committee report-yet still no action.
The desire to nurture creativity, cut back bureaucracy, save costs for small venue owners and eliminate the inconsistencies and absurdities of the Licensing Act explains why I am once again bringing forward a Private Member's Bill on live music. This is somewhat different from the previous version, but I hope that this Bill is even more effective than the previous Bill I introduced this time last year.
My Live Music Bill amends the Licensing Act 2003 in five main respects, including an exemption for live music in small venues for audiences of up to 200 that are licensed under that Act. This exemption is conditional on a new Section 177, which could be triggered to review a licence and make live music in that venue licensable if complaints by local residents are made.
The Bill reinforces the rights of residents by allowing conditions to be placed on the premises' licences, following complaints upheld under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Unamplified live music is exempted anywhere between 8 am and midnight on the same day, but this can be disapplied in alcohol-licensed premises if complaints are upheld. Conditions could then be applied.
A broad exemption is introduced for any premises not already licensed under the Licensing Act that qualify as a workplace for the purpose of health and safety legislation. This covers not only hospitals, schools et cetera, but factories, offices and any place covered by the workplace definition. This is an important new addition to the Bill.
Then there is the removal altogether of the entertainment facilities provisions. There would no longer be a separate requirement to authorise the provision of musical instruments such as the piano for a school concert open to the public.
There is a new exemption under the Bill to allow live and recorded music to accompany morris dancing, which I am sure my noble friend Lord Redesdale will approve of.
The rationale for this approach is as follows. The Licensing Act 2003 creates and regulates the three licensable activities: the supply and sale of alcohol, regulated entertainment and provision of late-night refreshment, subject to the operating schedule that forms part of every premises licence issued. Live music is classified as regulated entertainment under the Act and, therefore, without an exemption, small premises are bound by the same legislative burden and costs as larger premises in relation to being able to provide live music, which can be disproportionately prohibitive.
The 2003 Act created the review process as a safeguard to residents and other parties who are subject to noise and other disturbance. The Live Music Bill preserves this right for residents and businesses in the vicinity of licensed premises, and explicitly allows for the exemption to be removed in circumstances where premises operating under the small venues exemption are found to undermine the licensing objective of prevention of public nuisance.
A further exemption for unamplified music at venues of any size, regardless of whether they possess a licence or not is again a proportionate solution, because it allows, for example, cafés to put on such entertainment without the cost of applying for a full licence.
The final exemption for hospitals, schools and colleges would permit such institutions to host live music entertainment without the additional cost and administrative burden of a licence, subject to a reasonable limit on the number of people attending. My proposals are not set in stone. The Bill can be amended as it moves through its stages in this House; but let us remember that the Select Committee recommended that the appropriate figure was 200. This figure is backed by the MU, Equity, UK Music and the Incorporated Society of Musicians. I look forward to the debate on the Bill, which I very much hope the Government will support, and that we hear some encouraging words from the Minister at the end of today's debate.
The pub trade is particularly concerned about the health of live music. There are 39 pubs closing every week. This form of live music exemption could give a great boost to the economy of the pubs and I commend my honourable friend Mike Weatherley's Rock the House campaign, which will set up live music competitions in constituencies right across the country. Perhaps we should add to them a competition to see who can find names of pop songs with "dog" in them as many times as possible.
I hope that the Government will respond positively today. I am delighted that we have so many speakers in today's debate. In particular, I look forward to the maiden speech of my noble friends Lord Grade and Lady Randerson. I am delighted that they are taking part. I beg to move.
My Lords, that late and much loved comedian Harry Worth may not have been in the top flight of the 20th century's great philosophers and thinkers, but he had some sage advice for anyone foolish or brave enough to speak in public. Harry said with great insight, "Never worry if the audience walks out during your performance-the time to worry is when they walk towards you". Well, thanks to one of the many great traditions of this House, there are Doorkeepers deployed throughout this Chamber to deter your Lordships from walking in any direction while I offer these maiden words. That is a great relief to me, if less of a comfort to your Lordships.
It is customary to thank all those who work in this House for making new Peers -and I am no exception-so very welcome and I do so wholeheartedly now, but with one small caveat. Those who patrol the doors and corridors of your Lordships' House to such great effect have brought me, quite late in life, to a stark self-realisation: I have absolutely no sense of direction whatever. Each time I step out of one Room or other in this great Palace, the nearest staff member is quick to anticipate the glazed look in my eyes and tactfully steps in to save me from my fourth fruitless lap of the Chamber. So I have more reason than most to be grateful for their support and direction. As Blanche DuBois might have said in one of the greatest curtain lines ever written for the stage at the end of "A Streetcar Named Desire", I have always put my trust in the kindness of strangers.
Still on a personal note, I would like to be allowed to record how proud I feel to be following in the footsteps of my two late and noble uncles, Lords Grade and Delfont. They gave me so much to live up to, not just by their achievements in the entertainment industry but, more importantly, the immaculate reputations and the good will they engendered throughout their careers. Along with my late father Leslie, these three remarkable brothers really taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, they did not teach me everything they knew, so I am still working for a living.
And so to the Bill under debate this morning. Let me state from the outset that I speak in full support of my noble friend and erstwhile colleague Lord Clement-Jones in his legislative quest to repair the unforeseen damage that the Licensing Act 2003 has caused. There is overwhelming support for the proposed reform of this Act, since it threatens musical life in our nations at its most fragile point-grass-roots level.
No doubt in the case of the 2003 Act, the road to these unintended consequences was paved with good intentions, with or without musical accompaniment along the way. I can certainly understand the need to give the authorities the necessary powers to curtail public nuisance and noise disturbance caused by unruly and unlicensed events of scale. No one wants a Glastonbury-style rock festival to explode on the local allotments but in the event, the Act contains such wide powers that, as we have heard today, it threatens to criminalise even small groups of unlicensed music lovers huddled together in a public place, giving pleasure to but a handful of innocent lovers of live music. In the iPod and headphone world that we inhabit today, surely we should be doing everything to encourage and promote live music.
I have had a long career nurturing and spotting talent. If I know anything-I hasten to say that this not a question I should like to see the House divide on-it is that fledgling talent needs somewhere-anywhere-to find an audience. Stars have been spotted as buskers, bus drivers, at amateur talent contests, village halls, pubs and social clubs-anywhere where they might find an audience to help them practise their talent and hone their skills. Rightly, we are proud in these islands of our great musical tradition, whether your Lordships' taste is for Gilbert and Sullivan or Gilbert O'Sullivan, The Beatles or Benjamin Britten, Sir Simon Rattle or the Singing Postman of blessed memory. They all had to start somewhere. I am certain that wherever they did start, they were not burdened with the redundant bureaucracy of filling out forms to apply for a licence for a harmless pursuit.
Under the current Act, without a licence, you can tune up and get banged up. I admit that there are some purveyors of alleged modern music that I would happily see locked up-preferably in a sound-proof cell. But, as your Lordships especially understand, hard cases make bad law. The 2003 Licensing Act is bad law. It is beyond the credible to argue that the legislators' intention was actually to stifle the small pleasure of sharing live music with a small audience in any public space.
I hope that one or two of your Lordships may recall, with me, that the age of rock and roll was spawned by what became known as the skiffle era-Lonnie Donegan, and all that. Tea chests, a broom handle and a line of string made a double bass, and Mum's old washboard and thimbles sufficed for percussion. That DIY musical movement liberated generations of kids who found that they could make their own music at virtually no cost. All they needed was an audience. It spawned a great British musical tradition and movement which put Britain in the forefront of live popular musical culture-a tradition that continues today.
In those days, no one had to care if halls and rooms above the coffee bars were licensed or not. From this amateur beginning, Britain gave the world the Stones, the Beatles, the Who and a whole hall of fame of music industry legends. As they set out on their roads to world fame, they performed anywhere they could find a public room and a few people-no licence required but a licence to inspire.
I ask your Lordships to consider how many of those legends who have brought such benefits to Great Britain plc would have had these opportunities had the 2003 Licensing Act been in force in those days. This Bill does not offer a simplistic anything-goes antidote to the 2003 Act. It does not propose going from the heavily prescriptive requirements of the Act to a free-for-all. My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones has presented a Bill that contains some very well thought through protections and checks that offer real powers to the authorities where there is unacceptable abuse. These, I believe, are more appropriate and better fit the original intentions of the 2003 Act. I support these reforms wholeheartedly.
In conclusion, I offer my grateful thanks to your Lordships for your patient attention and for resisting the urge to walk in any direction. One last question: when I exit the Chamber for the Peers' Dining Room, do I turn left or right?
My Lords, I am delighted to follow my noble friend and pleased that he has been able use the occasion of his maiden speech and long experience in the media and entertainment business to show support for the Live Music Bill which concerns the promotion of live music entertainment and consequent support for many thousands of musicians.
The noble Lord has a long and distinguished career in media which started at the Daily Mirror in 1960 and progressed to London Weekend Television in 1973, the BBC, Channel 4, the BBC again, and most recently as executive chairman of ITV in January 2007. He stood down as chief executive to become non-executive chairman at the conclusion of regulatory reviews into advertising contract rights and digital television in April 2009. Many noble Lords will have seen his programme last Monday on BBC4 recalling the days of music hall and variety which has many similarities with your Lordships' House.
For a time, the noble Lord joined the family business as an agent and was responsible for booking acts and planning variety running orders. Of course, in this House, persuading noble Lords to perform and planning a running order is the job of the Whips-agents are not involved. If the acts are put in the wrong order, the show can be destroyed. This has been very obvious in the past month or so when old jokes and stories have been repeated ad infinitum by the same comedians and the shows have overrun by several hours at each performance. The noble Lord will be comfortable with a speakers' list despite the fact that there is no bill matter. A brief description of the intended speech might be a very good idea for contributions in the House. Today he is designated "maiden". For noble Lords who are unfamiliar with theatrical bill matter as opposed to matters concerned with Bills, it was the description that acts gave themselves. Max Miller was the Cheeky Chappie and Spike Milligan was the Performing Man. I am delighted to welcome the noble Lord as another performing Peer.
At speaking position number 2 my noble friend is top of the bill this morning, perhaps sharing the position with the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. I congratulate him on his delightful maiden speech. It was informed and interesting. I am sure that we will look forward to many further contributions but must remind him that jokes about playing the Palace of Westminster, comments about the size of the audience and the use of props are not appreciated.
My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones covered most of the issues this morning. Under the current law, the performance of live music is regarded as regulated entertainment and must be authorised either by a premises licence or a temporary event notice. There are certain exemptions for religious music and music played which is incidental to some other activity which is itself not regulated. Until 2005 the exemption known as the "two in a bar" rule allowed one or two musicians to perform at premises where a justices' licence was in force. Small venues did not need a public entertainments licence for live performances by up to two musicians but they did need a licence if the two were joined by a third musician or if a succession of musicians performed individually during the course of an entertainment. That allowance was so important for thousands of musicians, many of them young, who under the current legislation find it increasingly difficult to find venues in which to practise and perform their art.
I have campaigned on behalf of musicians for many years and again declare my interest as a member of the Musicians' Union, a very part-time musician and co-chair of the All-Party Group on Jazz Appreciation, and member of the Performers' Alliance parliamentary group. Live music licensing has been discussed for many years.
"the laws on entertainment are there to ensure adequate control, specifically in terms of safety. In places of public resort. Licensed premises are exempt from these laws for small scale entertainments primarily because, when granted a justices licence, the license will have shown that his premises are structurally suitable for the sale and consumption of alcohol, which by necessity includes adequate health and safety provisions. For entertainment on a larger scale, such premises may not be suitable and a further inspection under the terms of a public entertainment licence is deemed necessary".
Musicians believed that common sense would prevail but it has proved impossible to find a solution to this problem.
I will not take up your Lordships' time by going over the old ground of Section 177 of the Licensing Act which, as a last-minute compromise, was intended to protect certain forms of live music in small premises. The whole process exposed the Act's absurd overregulation of the most innocuous live music against the light touch for canned entertainment such as big-screen sport and recorded music. The restrictive legislation had serious implications for musicians, who were prevented from performing and learning to play to a live audience. Many of our biggest selling British artists started out by playing gigs in pubs. Section 177 has proved to be a complex, unworkable provision. There is no exemption from holding the required licence and the Government at the time considered that such exemptions were not necessary to protect live music, but were forced to compromise in this House to secure the passage of the Bill.
In May 2009, the Culture Select Committee considered the Act's impact on live music and concluded that live music in smaller venues was decreasing. It recommended that the Government should exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for the performance of live music. The committee also recommended the reintroduction of a "two-in-a-bar" exemption for non-amplified music. In their response, the former Government rejected these recommendations. However in October 2009, they indicated that they were now minded to consider an exemption for live music in small venues with a capacity of less than 100 and would launch a public consultation on the issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has covered most of the key differences between this Bill and the previous one. I am sorry to see the "two-in-a-bar" rule go, but understand that performers did not agree with it. Blanket exemptions can be unhelpful. Two musicians playing loudly and attracting a large crowd might not require a licence, but three unaccompanied singers would have to be licensed. I am pleased to see the removal of the definition of minimal amplification. The situation for amplification of instruments which are silent unless minimally amplified was never clarified during discussion on the Licensing Act or the noble Lord's previous Bill.
Under the new Bill, unamplified live music-I hope that this includes minimally amplified-will be exempted anywhere between 8 am and midnight on the same day, but can be removed in alcohol-licensed premises if complaints are upheld. The Bill also redefines the exemptions for live music in schools, colleges or hospitals and removes entertainment facilities provisions altogether.
After the election, the coalition agreement for the new Administration undertook to,
"cut the red tape to encourage the performance of more live music".
"The Government are currently considering options to remove red tape from live music and other entertainment. I hope to be able to announce our conclusions, including the timetable for reform, shortly".-[Official Report, 31/1/11; Commons, col. 507W.]
My Lords, I support the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, with all the energy I can. I am aware how important it is. I declare an interest: I was for eight years the chair of the National Campaign for the Arts. As such, I thought of addressing your Lordships with a poem:
"We are the music-makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams. World-losers and world-forsakers, Upon whom the pale moon gleams; Yet we are the movers and shakers, Of the world forever, it seems".
The Government of this country are the movers and shakers, and we here are movers and shakers ourselves who have a duty to the music-makers of this country.
The National Campaign for the Arts was inundated from the moment that the original Bill, which became the 2003 Act, went into operation. We have hundreds of members, and they all, in small groups, seek to find a voice through the National Campaign for the Arts to speak for their interests. It quickly became clear that the Act was not working. Like other speakers, I shall address the problem from three points of view: that of the musicians, the audience and the venue.
Musicians in this country have the benefit of an outstanding musical education, if they go to college. If they get together in small groups, they are often better. The noble Lord, Lord Grade, has already spoken of the emerging music of the 1960s. When the Beatles came to public knowledge, they had already been part of a group of musicians in Liverpool at a time, from 1960 to 1962, when there were 300 groups in that city alone. How could they have survived under this law? They met in small places, playing to friends and family. They were in cellars and attics everywhere. Young people were completely moved by a tidal wave of what we can only call musical inspiration. We must not let that kind of inspiration be stifled by the amazingly bureaucratic nightmare of the Act. Young people need to appear together in small places where they can be appreciated by their peers, reviewed, meet each other, talk and compare instruments, music and opportunities. Musicians need our help.
Audiences need our help. We live in a world in which music is intrinsic to our lives in every nook and cranny, but too often it is coming from iPods and is not a real live activity. Anything that can move the enjoyment of music to a live event with a space between the music and the audience seems to me valuable. That exchange between the performer and the audience is about more than the music. As the poem suggests, it is about a whole relationship of creativity, as was demonstrated so well in Liverpool.
Small audiences need to go to small venues. Young people are often in awe of the larger music venues, not to mention the cost of going and the distance. Small venues that are local, familiar and congenial are an enormously important element in inspiring music-making and music appreciation. Rites of passage-birthdays and celebrations of all kind-are often occasions where small musical groups, whether informal or groups of friends, perform in venues where alcohol is consumed. They are not an appropriate subject for the 2003 Act.
As for venues, we are all aware of and saddened by the decline of the English public house. Publicans have suffered enormously from the smoking ban, as we know. Many now feel that small groups for music-making-jazz or folk-will make a difference to their survival. The PRS for Music commissioned research in December 2009, and found that 80 per cent of pub managers said that music would help them survive the recession. Pubs with music are three times more likely to stay in business.
The Licensing Act 2003 is an Act with unintended consequences. We have already heard how the Tate was required to have a licence for a Turner Prize-winning piece of sound installation. In 2009, a Northamptonshire school had to scrap a production of "We Will Rock You" following a warning from the licensing officer. As a consequence, the head of the council's licensing committee resigned in protest, saying that, soon, people would need to apply to host wine and cheese parties in their own home because selling alcohol for a good cause would need licensing permission. The current provision is not working and it calls out for revision. The movers and shakers, of whom I am now proud to be one, back the Bill.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones on introducing this important Bill, which of course I support. I declare an interest as someone who started off at the age of 12 singing live music with a small band in small venues.
Nowadays, if you were to ask a child or young person about what type of music they like, the vast majority would answer with a list of the most current pop singers and groups. If you asked them where they sourced their music, they would more than likely answer that they downloaded it from the internet on to their computer or MP3 player.
This clearly demonstrates that young people usually access music at arm's length, in a sort of detached way. Many of today's most popular performers are acts and groups made famous by television talent shows, but, for me, one of the most worrying aspects of these performances is the absence of performing musicians in vision. In the vast majority of cases, the audience is treated to a dazzling display of dancing, lighting effects and highly produced soundtracks, but nowhere to be seen are the musicians who make the music which backs the singer or group. It is as if the music just magically plays as a backing track behind the performers.
My concern is that many youngsters are growing up never seeing or enjoying the performances of talented musicians. As the daughter of a jazz saxophonist and a singer, I find it both sad and disturbing that many of the nation's children believe that the music which backs their singing idols is produced electronically in a distant studio and played as a backing track.
I went to a concert recently at which some of today's biggest stars, pop groups and boy bands were performing. I saw not one real musician playing on stage; they all used backing tracks. In contrast, last year, I hosted a concert at the Royal Festival Hall where children and young people performed live music-some were as young as seven. The performers included Sahana Gero's 51st State Band-100 young musicians who played saxophones, flutes, trombones, trumpets as well as percussion and guitar instruments.
Many of the performers were from disadvantaged backgrounds who might otherwise have found themselves drawn to gangs and street crime if it were not for the opportunity to learn an instrument and play in a band. It enabled them to focus on something positive; it taught them to be disciplined, to show consideration to others; it built self-esteem and confidence as well as helping them to be creative and use their imagination. However, my concern for them is that if they decide to branch out and form a small group in the hope of being discovered, the places and opportunities for them to perform are limited because of the existing live music legislation.
As a teenager in the 1960s, I grew up performing with my father's jazz band in pubs, at weddings and parties, and at town halls and private functions all over London and beyond-we even performed in a prison once, which was quite an experience. In those days, there were no restrictions on what we did or where we could perform. Of course, our instruments were unamplified and so caused little nuisance. Mind you, we once experienced some restrictions, when we arrived for a gig at an Irish-run pub on St Patrick's Day. The landlord asked whether we played Irish music. My father replied, "No, we play jazz!". To which, the landlord said, "Well, you'd better leave quickly before the customers hear you".
With the progress and growth in the popularity of pop music and the introduction of amplifiers, it became less acceptable to allow a free-for-all in the performance of live music in venues without stringent licensing controls and legislation. Obviously, today's audiences can go in their thousands to see live music at expensive music festivals and large venues up and down the country. However, the Licensing Act 2003 went too far and had a negative effect on the performance of live music in small venues, especially by small groups playing unamplified music. My biggest concern is the shift away from live music performances in these types of venues and the lack of opportunity that young people have to see grass-roots musicians playing in cafes, bars, restaurants and other local venues and to enjoy listening to a live guitarist or jazz trio playing in the corner of their local pub. The Act stifles the opportunity for audiences and aspiring musicians to get together and enjoy and revel in the performance of live music, music which brings joy and happiness to the human soul and feeds the human spirit in these difficult and unhappy times. The power of music stimulates the brain; it does not just help us to feel better but assists us in our thinking and emotions.
I therefore wholeheartedly support my noble friend. Let us amend the Act and allow more freedom for musicians and venues to provide live music and create a much needed feeling of well-being-because, as I said, music is food for the soul.
My Lords, I must begin by thanking your Lordships for the warmth of the welcome that I have received here. I wish in particular to thank my sponsors, the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Finlay of Llandaff, both of whom have provided me with valuable advice. I also thank the staff of this House, who have been unfailingly helpful and have, quite literally, steered me in the right direction on many occasions-indeed, I think that my fitness has improved since I came here because of my needless laps of the Building and fruitless climbing of the wrong stairs.
I speak in this debate with a mixture of emotions: pride, humility and considerable trepidation. I am one of a growing number of Members of your Lordships' House who have been Members of the devolved Assemblies and Parliaments. In my case, I remain a Member of the National Assembly for Wales, but only for the next four weeks.
It has been a great honour to represent my constituency of Cardiff Central for the past 12 years. Cardiff is a beautiful city with a strong and distinctive culture. Of course, there have been, and are, several Members of your Lordships' House from Cardiff. However, I believe that I am the first Liberal or Liberal Democrat Peer from Cardiff since DA Thomas, who was briefly MP for Cardiff in 1910 and became Baron-later Viscount-Rhondda in 1916. He survived the sinking of the "Lusitania", so I hope that I have survival skills here.
I am, of course, a member of a political party, the Liberal Democrats, which until recently was in opposition for many years. I believe that it was my noble friend Lord Ashdown who once said about those years in opposition, "The first 60 years are the worst". However, we have in the mean time been part of coalition Governments in Scotland and Wales. Indeed, I was honoured to be the Welsh Minister for Culture from 2000 to 2003, and it is that experience that I shall draw on in today's debate.
As an historian by training, I am more than a little intimidated by the history and traditions of your Lordships' House. In contrast, in the Welsh Assembly, we have literally been creating our own history during the past 12 years. Speaking on the day when the votes on the referendum on further powers for that Assembly are being counted, I hope that there will be the opportunity to create even more tradition there.
Noble Lords will be pleased to hear that one of the disciplines that I learnt in the Welsh Assembly was that of brevity, so I shall proceed rapidly to the topic of this debate-I thank my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones for bringing forward the Bill today.
I come from what is popularly known as the land of song. However, the Licensing Act 2003 has made it considerably more difficult for that for that song to be heard by an audience. As Minister, I introduced a culture strategy, Creative Future, which emphasised the importance of music in the cohesion of communities and for our tourist industry and economy in general. We planned to increase opportunities for professional musicians, and to reinvigorate amateur and semi-professional community music organisations such as choirs and brass bands. We planned to strengthen the infrastructure of small venues for the performance of all types of music. However, the Licensing Act 2003 proved a hindrance to those ambitions.
Your Lordships will be well aware of the reputation of Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. What your Lordships might not be aware of is that those renowned organisations also tour extensively in Wales, in small groups to small venues-to churches, village halls, schools and youth centres. They are funded by the Arts Council of Wales to do so to inspire our young people, provide community cohesion in deprived areas and provide entertainment in rural areas that get very little else by way of entertainment. The Arts Council of Wales has a very well established and highly respected scheme called Night Out, which helps to fund professional organisations in community buildings.
However, these initiatives have had to work against the grain of the Licensing Act. The time, cost and bureaucracy involved in getting a licence for a small venue when you are likely to hold only two or three such events a year is simply not worth it. Remember, those venues are almost invariably run by volunteers, who have neither the time nor the expertise to go through that bureaucratic minefield. Geographically, Wales is 80 per cent rural and characterised by a network of village and church halls. The entertainment that they can host has been curtailed by the 2003 Act.
Your Lordships will also have heard of the National Eisteddfod. That internationally famous music festival is underpinned by a network of local festivals and eisteddfodau. The national youth Eisteddfod, the Urdd, holds preliminary competitions in every part of Wales and almost every school participates. The tip of the pyramid, you see, is underpinned by a very wide base. It is the community venues that provide the opportunities for a performer's first step in performing music. Without that first step, they will not take the second, which is to consider earning their living that way. This means that you lose your source of income for creative industries and the cultural tourism sector suffers. Those are enormously important to the Welsh economy; approximately 5 per cent of the economically active workforce works in the cultural sector in Wales. In Cardiff, that figure rises to 13 per cent.
Like the rest of the UK, Wales has suffered from the reduction in the number of premises licensed to sell alcohol that have sought a licence for live music. There has been a reduction to about one-quarter of those premises seeking a licence. That means that the opportunities are very much lower for those wishing to participate. Many of those licences, as my noble friend has indicated, already contain other restrictions. Therefore, I urge your Lordships to look at the evidence very carefully. The live music scene appears to flourish, but it is the upper end and the middle that are flourishing; the small-scale venues are suffering and declining. As the poorest part of the UK that is often overwhelmed by the culture of its much bigger neighbour, Wales has a particular need to develop its own culture and identity, and has suffered disproportionately from the impact of the Act.
My Lords, it is my duty and privilege to congratulate my noble friend on her wonderful maiden speech. People coming into this House are often overawed by being in this situation, although the atmosphere is not always as exciting as it has been in the past month or so. However, my noble friend Lady Randerson has been in politics for quite some time. She became a councillor for Cardiff in 1983, and her career in local politics culminated in her becoming the first Liberal Democrat Minister for any national body. That is a position that, I am happy to say, is now commonplace. We have many Ministers among our colleagues in another place. If the Bill for five-year terms is passed, probably almost all our female colleagues in the Commons will emulate my noble friend Lady Randerson in the coming years.
My noble friend's expertise will be extremely helpful, especially as her career in teaching and lecturing will bring such knowledge to debates on education. Particularly pertinent to this debate was her introduction of Creative Future, a cultural strategy for Wales, and Iaith Pawb-I knew that that would be embarrassing, and I will get letters about my pronunciation being wrong-which means "a language for everyone". This is particularly pertinent because, just as the Welsh language is a cultural indicator, I would argue that music is of incredible importance and has been terribly undervalued.
In their maiden speeches, the noble Lord, Lord Grade, and my noble friend Lady Randerson talked about the difficulty of finding out about this place. As they have many years yet to come in this place, I suggest that they spend a couple of days wandering around. You find many new Peers in strange Corridors, saying, "I just thought I'd take a day to wander around". I suggest the cellars. Most people have not been to the cellars; I spent a week there and was thrown out many years ago. What makes up this Building is incredible. I just leave noble Lords with that.
This is a Private Member's Bill. The noble, Lord Clement-Jones, is to be congratulated on bringing it back. I say that because he gave me the same accolade. Private Members' Bills in this place over the past few years have tended to be about either live music or dogs. I hope one of us will break the deadlock.
I am speaking in this debate because I was heavily involved in the 2003 Act. What I find depressing is that most of the complaints that we get about the Bill were expressed at the time. We worked out that there would be a major effect on the provision of live music. One of the problems is that, at the time, we were running a campaign to get rid of the "two in a bar" rule for being too repressive. The noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, as a publicity stunt, was in the Red Lion across the way. We had two people playing and, when he tried to blow his trumpet, he was immediately thrown out of the pub because he was breaking the laws, which were extremely strictly enforced by Westminster Council. There were occasions when, if members of the audience took part in a sing-along, it was seen as having more than two in the bar. Cases were brought against organisations. We thought this was terribly restrictive but, looking back, we should have been campaigning for the retention of the "two in a bar" rule. Many places that used to keep to it now simply do not bother because of the paperwork. The situation now is far worse than it was then.
I declare an interest. I am chairman of the national committee of Best Bar None-an organisation for pubs and clubs that tries to improve the situation for the night-time economy by raising standards. I have been all around the country to award ceremonies and have seen best practice in many pubs and clubs. I have often asked those running them about the provision of music and they have replied that their business is dying because of the amount of bureaucracy instituted by the 2003 Act. There are 36 pubs closing a week.
I declare an interest as the owner of a pub, the Redesdale Arms on the A68. It is a very fine pub if you happen to be going between Newcastle and Jedburgh or are on your way to Edinburgh. It has sleeping accommodation and very fine food, although I am obviously not advertising here. I understand that at the moment publicans have a real issue in trying to keep their pubs going. My own pub was particularly hit by the fact that announcements kept being made on the radio that the A68 was closed, even though it was not. That has an effect on your trade when you have a pub on that route. Publicans are having a real difficulty in keeping going at the moment. Of course, live music is helpful but not if you have to fill in an enormous amount of paperwork, and that leads me to the second point to be emphasised, which is that you do not go down that route if you think that, by instituting live music, there will be a review of your premises licence. That is a real threat to an organisation and, unfortunately, due to the 2003 Act, it is one that licensees are not prepared to take.
I believe it is a human right to have unamplified music, and I moved an amendment during the passage of the 2003 Act to say that that type of music should not be included. The problem was that the Government were totally opposed to it. At the time, they said that there was a danger of outbreaks of violence because of live music. Lord McIntosh, who, sadly, is no longer with us, was very clear on that point. I took it to a Division four times and beat the Government, and this House threw it back at the Commons four times in ping-pong. I would have taken it further but no one has ever taken an issue to a fifth Division, so it would have been breaking new ground and I was told by my Whips that I had to give up at that point. The Government did not offer me anything, even though we tested opinion on the issue so many times. They were keen to get the legislation through, so on the fourth occasion, at 10 o'clock at night, Tessa Jowell offered me a concession. She offered me morris dancing, which was fantastic, as I am a great supporter of morris dancing. Noble Lords laugh.
No, we do not have an entertainment licence, although morris dancing is exempt. There are 14,000 morris dancers in the country but the legislation could have destroyed that activity. Every time there was a morris dancing event, it would have needed a temporary event notice, which would have cost £15 a time, plus all the time needed to fill in the paperwork. That would have killed off a traditional dance in this country, which would have been devastating. I very much hope that when the Minister answers some of the questions today she will be up there at the front saying that morris dancing should be included in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games as an indicator of how important it is to the culture of the nation. We foresaw the problem and it was extremely lucky that morris dancing was exempted. The amendment referred to morris dancers and their like, so I have never understood why jazz singers have not called themselves "morris jazz singers". You could also have "pop morris". It would fall under the Act and it would be up to the licensing authority to prove that they were not morris dancers. However, I should have thought that if they put a couple of bells around their ankles, they could get away with it.
What is so ridiculous is that large-screen TVs are exempt under the Act. You can watch football matches on large-screen TVs because that is not going to cause an uproar. You could even have three people performing next door to a pub, with their performance beamed on to the large-screen TV in the pub at exactly the same volume. That is legal, but it is not legal to have the people actually inside the pub.
This matter really needs to be addressed. It was often said that the legislation would be proportionate and would not be misused. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, said that if you have a cheese and wine party and sell alcohol, you might soon need a licence. The noble Baroness should be aware that, if she has advertised, she already needs a licence to do that. It falls within the Bill. It is ridiculous but that is the case. The legislation has stopped the performance of music in hospitals, schools and village halls, and has been a massively destructive element in our society.
The Minister might say that this is a problem that we need to look at, but we have put off doing so again and again. It really needs to be dealt with, and I very much hope that the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is taken up by the Government and that this problem in our society is dealt with.
My Lords, I am going to risk the mood of the House because I am going to start by speaking in defence of the iPod. The iPod, or MP3 players, have been mentioned a couple of times. They did not exist when I was young and became a great enthusiast of popular music, yet just before I came into the Chamber I checked my iPod and found that I have 1,269 different tracks on it of what I believe is the best music in the world. An iPod or MP3 player means that, when I am mowing the lawn, doing my ironing-which I do-and doing mundane tasks, I can listen on shuffle to an extraordinary mixture of music in a way that was never possible before, whether it is Manfred Mann and the Doors through to Spandau Ballet and Level 42, or even Kasabian and the Gorillaz. That may be considered to be a rather narrow taste in music but it is fantastic that we are able to listen to music in this way.
My noble friend Lady Randerson, in her fantastic maiden speech, mentioned the Welsh Assembly. I was also part of an Assembly-the European Parliament-that had more than one language, so there was an excuse for putting on earphones during the parliamentary sessions. However, no one knew what you were listening to. Perhaps one of the tragedies of this House and the other place is that we do not have that excuse. Of course, at that time I always listened on my iPod to Radio 4 podcasts, rather than music, as well as the debates. However, that is only one section of music. In December, I went to the O2 Arena for the first time to attend a fantastic large live music event. On that occasion, there was a performance by the Scissor Sisters, to whom I listen with my eldest daughter. It was a fantastic event, but those are only two dimensions of music.
I have a reason for wanting to take a small part in this debate. My road to Damascus-or, in this case, my road to Donegal-was when we went on holiday for a week to the Republic or Ireland a couple of years ago. We went for the scenery, to see friends and relatives, to experience the culture and to enjoy the Guinness of Dublin. However, what I remember most is visiting the villages of rural Ireland and the towns of western Ireland in the evenings in particular. What rang out and struck me most strongly, and what has left me with those memories, was that a huge proportion of the pubs, restaurants and other places where people gathered had a huge range of different styles of live music performed by local people. It was that memory that made me ask myself, on returning home, why the United Kingdom is so barren in that form of creativity and entertainment. Of course, one reason is that this country has a prohibitive licensing structure that has to be surmounted and passed through in order for live music to be performed legally.
One thing that I believe to my soul is that music is one of the greatest things that we as human beings enjoy. It is a liberation. It can take us out of troubles or things that we are thinking about and into a different world. There is no better way of experiencing that with friends, children and colleagues than being able to perform and to have live music in small venues. That is why I am delighted to speak in this debate and to support the purposes of this Bill. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones on having introduced it to this House again.
My Lords, I rise in the gap to support this Bill strongly and to give the Government a warning from history. Cromwell banned music and frivolity and closed a lot of inns and theatres, but look what happened. After five years of his military dictatorship, everyone was so fed up that they welcomed a king back with open arms and they had fun-look at the Restoration comedies. People do not like too much puritanism and Cromwell was a strong puritan. The frightening thing about the Act is that the fact that the regulations would stifle innovation was foreseen in the debates and therefore, I assume, must have been intended. In other words, we have a lot of puritans somewhere behind the Government. We have to remember the definition of "puritan". A puritan is someone who has a haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might be enjoying themselves. Do we really want to be run by those sort of people? That is the warning that I want to give. I finish by saying that I was highly amused by the juxtaposition of the two Bills today. Perhaps we should think of the words of Florence and the Machine and hope that the "Dog Days are Over".
My Lords, this is the second time in just over a year that a Bill on this topic has come before your Lordships' House. Indeed, those who spoke in the earlier debate must be pinching themselves to make sure that this is not some sort of weird déjà vu. Or is it worse? Your Lordships' House may recall the movie "Groundhog Day". Are Bill Murray, now played by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and Andie MacDowell, now played by the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, doomed to find out that everything that happens on
So how will the movie turn out this time? Of course, the parallel is not exact and keen movie buffs will have quickly picked up that the first time round the debate was not so well adorned as it has been today by the three categories of person that we must consider, in the words of my noble friend Lady Bakewell: the performers, the musicians and the venue owners. She said that we are the movers and shakers-I like that. We have had comments from performers and players, such as the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, and the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. We have had poetry, which is now a performance art, from my noble friend Lady Bakewell. We have even heard from publicans, thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and his second attempt to publicise his wares to the House. Indeed, the noble Lord showed his entrepreneurial spirit in his suggestion that we should open up the cellars and make them into a venue for the music that he likes to hear-or was it for morris dancing?
We also had two excellent and assured maiden speeches, by the noble Lord, Lord Grade, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. Those who know Michael Grade, whom I still count as a friend, will not be surprised that he spoke so wittily and well. It was as if he was "to the manner born", which I suppose he was, given his distinguished family. He brought to the debate real knowledge and experience of our topic. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, explained her connections with Wales and the Assembly and was able to add valuable insights to our debate, particularly about the situation on the ground in the land of song.
We have learnt a lot about the live music scene in this debate and we have been on a trip down memory lane, given the many groups and bands that have been mentioned. We heard some useful facts; I did not know that there were 14,000 morris dancers in the country. They all seem permanently to be performing in my local pub, but now I know why that is the case.
I reassure the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, that I am not a puritan and that on our side we do not take that view on this matter. I should say at the start that I agree with Feargal Sharkey that, particularly in the midst of recession and with an increased emphasis being placed on our creative industries to stimulate the economy, it is paramount that we should be creating opportunities for and not stifling our creative talent. As he said:
"Live music can have a hugely positive economic impact both locally and nationally".
As a nation, we produce many of the world's best musicians, as we have heard, and Britain is home to some of the most innovative music entrepreneurs, the vast majority of them being small companies and therefore to be cherished. Music is a growth industry. It attracts millions of users to high-tech services-we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, about his iPod-it attracts people to want to work in the industry and, like all the creative arts, it drives tourism. We should all back live music and we should do so to the hilt.
I was not involved in the Licensing Act 2003 but I am happy to admit that we got it wrong. However, we have heard only one side of the story in the debate so far today. Clearly, we want to support live music and we want it to happen with the minimum of bureaucracy and the minimum of cost, but there is another side to this. There is a concern for everyone who lives next to a pub or venue and we should not curtail their liberties to enjoy a peaceful life. Clearly, it is difficult to get this to bottom out, but I do not think that we should duck it.
There are two competing freedoms. First, we should bear in mind that live performance carries with it a downside in terms of the impact that it has on others. People may wish to allow others to perform live but they may also feel the consequences when there is an impact. Secondly, there is no doubt that the unintended consequences arising from the sensible but ambitious approach taken to merge nine different licensing schemes into a single premises licence in the 2003 Act have created the main problem that we face. As we have been reminded, the Government said at the time that approach would lead to an increase in live music. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Pretty much any performance of live music, no matter how small, now requires a licence, the bureaucracy and cost of which has reduced, not increased, opportunities for live music.
There is a third point, however. The main purpose of the 2003 Act was, of course, not just about music; it was also about alcohol and, in particular, the potential to allow premises to open for flexible periods. Then as now, we still have split responsibilities within Whitehall. The Home Office is responsible for alcohol and DCMS is responsible for regulated entertainment. If you then add in the fact that responsibility for enforcement lies with DCLG and local authorities, you have the absolutely classic Whitehall problem-a three-way crunch, with all that that implies for the difficulty of trying to make progress. I suspect that that is behind a lot of this and I will be interested to hear the Minister talk about that.
Clearly, a good response to that sort of blockage is to provide evidence, which is why we have the Live Music Forum. We have heard what it found about this. It is important to recognise that the research carried out by MORI has been influential. The fact that 29 per cent of smaller establishments that had operated without a public entertainment licence did not apply for live music provision when the Act came into force should have rung strong alarm bells for those responsible. It is worth recalling the figures given by my noble friend Lady Bakewell: 80 per cent of pub managers felt that music would help them to survive the recession, while pubs with music are three times more likely to stay in business. We must have regard to the venues and, as my noble friend Lady Bakewell said, to something that is so intrinsically a part of our national life.
As we have heard, a campaign is going on. In 2009, the influential Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee reported on the Licensing Act and said that, to encourage the performance of live music:
"We recommend that the Government should exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for the performance of live music. We further recommend the reintroduction of the 'two-in-a-bar' exemption enabling venues of any size to put on a performance of non-amplified music by one or two musicians".
That, as well as some lobbying and demonstrations, led the Government to introduce an exemption for small live music events performed for 100 people or fewer in licensed and unlicensed premises. Of course, as we have heard, that has not been satisfactory.
The truth is that we are stuck because, much like the film, we seem to be in a continual loop. A formal consultation has taken place and UK Music has analysed the submissions of all respondents to the consultation and found that 74 per cent were in favour of an exemption for small music venues, including some local authorities. For example, Oxford City Council, in welcoming the proposal, said:
"We believe that the proposal fully reflects the need for small venues to provide live music should they choose in order to generate much- needed streams of revenue and provide much-needed diversity. The measures proposed to uphold the licensing objectives seem to be both proportionate and fair".
You cannot really say much more than that.
Although the previous Government were intending to move on this, the general election intervened. As we have been told, rather surprisingly perhaps, the coalition agreement includes the following undertaking:
"We will cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music".
We have had some recent experience of the determination that the Government have to see coalition measures forced through without amendment and with minimum delay, and with scant regard, perhaps I may say, for the conventions and courtesies of this House. But that is not happening as regards red tape encouraging the performance of more live music. Why is that?
The public responses were published in June 2010. In a response to Don Foster MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DCMS, John Penrose, as has already been quoted, in June 2010 said that,
"we are committed to moving as fast and as positively as we can towards better arrangements for the performance of live music in small venues".
In response to Mr John Whittingdale, that same Minister floated the idea that there might be a broader and potentially more radical solution to the problems which this Bill is intended to address. Perhaps that is another reason why we are having continuing delay, which seems rather odd at this late stage in the process, after there has been so much time, so much lobbying and so much unanimity, as we have heard, around the industry and the users for a more radical solution.
However, going forward to January 2011 the Minister said:
"The Government are currently considering options to remove red tape from live music and other entertainment. I hope to be able to announce our conclusions, including the timetable for reform, shortly".-[Hansard, Commons, 31/1/11; col. 506W.]
In correspondence with the Live Music Forum, Mr Penrose said that,
"finding an answer which solves the problems without opening unwanted public safety loopholes elsewhere isn't easy".
The same press source reports that,
"the Local Government Association has been lobbying against any loosening of restrictions, arguing that it could cause disorder".
I think that we can guess where this is being held up.
In June 2010, the Government were committed to moving as fast and as positively as they could with a minimum of further consultation, but it is now March 2011. So we are hardly setting the heather alight, even on the A68. Perhaps I am right that we are in "Groundhog Day".
Will the Minister please inform the House when the coalition agreement's commitment to cut red tape will be enacted? Can she give us even an outline timetable for a proper response to the extensive consultations and pretty convincing case put by UK Music and others for action in this area? Can she throw any light on what Mr Penrose meant when he said he was considering radical solutions? Despite the convention of maintaining a neutral stance on Private Members' Bills, will the Government consider picking up the Bill introduced by the noble Lord and, if not, will the Minister say specifically why that cannot happen in this case? If we are going to make progress with this, it would be helpful to know which version of the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the other points that have been made around this debate the Government prefer.
UK Music, which is the representative body for the commercial music sector, has argued persuasively that live music needs to be nurtured at grass-roots level. Without the hundreds of small bars and music venues developing young raw music talent up and down the country, there would not be a music industry. The worry is that the unintended effects of the Licensing Act have harmed and will continue to harm the grass roots British music movement. With this Bill there is a chance to prevent the harm from continuing. The Government talk about developing an economic growth strategy: what better way than by starting with this Bill?
I leave noble Lords with this thought: at the end of "Groundhog Day", the two main protagonists-noble Lords will recall that in our version the heroes are played by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and the Minister-get together and the loop is broken. The next day, when they wake up, they can get on with their lives together. That is all fiction of course, although film buffs will say that if you look at the film in critical detail it covers 39 days of continuous loop. We have been stuck in this loop for rather longer than that.
As I leave the film set to the noble Baroness for her response, I leave it with a heartfelt request to put the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, out of his groundhog misery.
My Lords, first, I offer my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, on securing a Second Reading for his Bill. It has been a fascinating, constructive debate with much unanimity and I welcome and add my congratulations to my noble friends Lord Grade and Lady Randerson on such excellent maiden speeches. My noble friend Lord Grade's witty, wise and wide-ranging speech was a treat. Of course, we look forward to many more occasions on which to hear his wisdom. However, it will be of no consolation to him that after many years in your Lordships' House I still go around in circles, but no longer do I dare ask my way. My noble friend Lady Randerson enchanted us with all her Welsh connections and experience in cultural matters. She will be a huge asset to your Lordships' House.
It is a good, although rare, occasion to follow the opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and to agree with most of what he said so eloquently and so clearly. The case for change relating to the regulation of live music has been well made by most noble Lords here today, and both inside and outside this House. The Government are in agreement with my noble friend on the need for reform and we are committed to delivering change. The coalition agreement states:
"We will cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music", and we are keen to deliver this promise. This does not preclude the use of my noble friend Lord Teverson's iPod. We have a clear, unequivocal, intention to free performers from unnecessary regulation and to return the right of performers of all ages to perform.
For all the good intentions of the Licensing Act 2003, it is clear that there are many instances where the public and voluntary organisations that make up the fabric of our society have been adversely affected by unnecessary regulation. There were countless representations from musicians, teachers and many charities during the passage of the Licensing Bill in 2003. This still continues.
We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, about her experience that the licensing regime deters schools, hospitals, village halls and community centres from putting on events for the benefit of the local community or in support of charitable activities. My noble friend Lord Colwyn has been involved with live music petitions for many years and was involved with the Licensing Act 2003. He envisaged an explosion in the number of gigs in small places, but that has not happened, as he rightly said. He stressed that live music is thriving in larger venues, but smaller events have been cancelled because of licensing requirements, or because expensive and restrictive conditions have been imposed. All these obstacles reduce the scope for new talent to get started, because small-scale venues find it harder to stay open with all the extra red tape.
There is also the role played by public houses in local communities, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Redesdale. There is evidence that public houses that have diversified to include activities other than drinking are better able to survive the recession. It is important to make it easier to put on live performances that can provide an important source of new income to struggling businesses such as public houses, restaurants and hotels.
In 2009, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended that the Government consult on permitting live music for low-capacity audiences, which the previous Government took forward last year. In recent days, we have seen another Early Day Motion in support of live music deregulation garnering support in another place. We agree with my noble friend that reform in this area is necessary and that it is the right thing to do to help local communities and boost the big society, as well as helping businesses. We must do so in a manner that at the same time ensures appropriate public protections are in place to cover issues such as noise nuisance, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said. We are pleased to announce that it is the Government's intention to be supportive of the Live Music Bill.
I must, however, add a number of caveats before we can offer unreserved support. First, we would support my noble friend in examining the technical aspects of the Bill to make certain that the legislation operates as effectively as possible and has no unintended or adverse consequences in the way that it amends the Licensing Act 2003. Secondly, we wish to explore issues relating to the time limits for live music performance. The previous Government's public consultation on the removal of restrictions for live music was predicated on a cut-off point of 11 pm, rather than midnight, as currently outlined in the Live Music Bill. This is an important point, and we wish to work with my noble friend to amend the Bill to reflect this, and ensure our continued support.
Thirdly, we will need to explore with my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones issues such as what the effect of the provisions of the Bill should be on conditions imposed by licensing authorities prior to such time as the proposed legislation comes into force. Those things aside, we are clear that we wish to support my noble friend's Bill. We are pleased that the Bill retains key local protections, including the right for licensing authorities, local residents and other interested parties to request a review of a premises licence where there are concerns about the licensing objectives of preventing crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and-as my noble friend Lady Benjamin will appreciate-the protection of children from harm. It is important that licensing authorities, local residents and businesses retain this right, and that robust controls remain in place to deal swiftly and effectively with problem premises. As part of the discussion process within government, we will be conducting a full impact assessment on my noble friend's Bill that will be subject to agreement from the Regulatory Policy Committee.
We see the Bill of my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones as being an important and complementary part of any reform and will do all that we can to help the Bill reach the statute book, if appropriately amended. We can offer support for the Bill today. These are wider, active discussions that we will have within government on the wider issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and others.
I offer my congratulations once again to my noble friend on his Bill, and reiterate the Government's general support, qualified as I have outlined earlier for the measures. We wish to see the Bill amended to take account of the 11 pm noise cut-off for unlicensed live music performance, to make certain that he has continued support. We would like to explore consequential drafting and other amendments with my noble friend in Committee. We are delighted to see that the Bill retains the key protections from the Licensing Act 2003, while making certain that low-risk community events are no longer prevented, or overburdened, by red tape and bureaucracy. The consequences of the Licensing Act 2003 have been to disadvantage many of the cornerstones of local life. It should not be the role of government to restrict creativity and community interaction, but to promote it.
This has been a most constructive and uncontroversial debate, with passionate speeches from noble Lords who obviously care about and love live music. I hope that I have addressed most of the points mentioned. If I have missed out anyone, I shall of course write to them with the further points that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, raised. I congratulate my noble friend once again and wish the Bill a safe and swift passage.
I am delighted to see that the Bill has received such a positive reception from all those around the House, including some very encouraging words from the Minister. I thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate, in which there were many inspirational words and entertaining speeches. In particular, I thank my noble friends Lord Grade and Lady Randerson, who made their excellent maiden speeches today. My noble friend Lord Grade mentioned skiffle; I think that my first record was Lonnie Donegan's "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour (On the Bedpost Overnight?)", so that reference was spot on. As someone who has lived with my noble friend Lord Grade in the past, I can tell noble Lords that life was never dull-and I do not think that it will be dull around him in this House.
As for my noble friend Lady Randerson, I am delighted that she brought in the Welsh dimension. I was born in Neath, the home of several bards and the host of the Eisteddfod on many occasions, so there is a connection there that I value very greatly.
It has been a very good debate. We started off with the difference between recorded and live music. Of course the iPod is an incredibly useful thing to have and it is wonderful to have a collection of music that one can access so easily. I shall compare tracks with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, any day of the week. But live music was what we were talking about today. It is absolutely crucial; without those young performers getting that start in life and a chance in small venues, we will not see the big bands who are able to sell their records and have downloads on iPods.
We heard all about the very long history of the attempts to deregulate the licensing of live music. The noble Lords, Lord Colwyn and Lord Redesdale, are the two musketeers who have been working on this since 1988-something that I had not appreciated before. Then there is the interesting saga of how the morris dancing exemption came about. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, made the vital point that music is central to our lives, and we have a duty to the music makers of this country. She reminded us of what she called a tidal wave of music inspiration in Liverpool and the value of small venues in that context.
My noble friend Lady Benjamin talked about how she grew up playing live music and how participation in live music is so important. That is where small venues have an incredibly important part to play.
My noble friend Lady Randerson talked about the frustrations caused by the Licensing Act when trying to encourage live music initiatives, and how they were curtailed by the requirements of the Act, even with the small venues and the preparations for the Eisteddfod. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has engaged in similar initiatives across the country and talked about the similar frustrations when trying to encourage live music in pubs.
My noble friend Lord Teverson spoke about the Irish experience. Does it not appear extraordinary that they have such a different regime from ours in this country? It reminded me of that great movie "The Commitments"-one of the best movies of all time, which showed how a small Irish blues band made it by starting off in the pubs and clubs around Dublin. It was fantastic.
I also want to address the wonderful confection made by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. Perhaps I should call it the Groundhog Day fantasy. I very much hope that we are not in Groundhog Day and I took considerable comfort from what the Minister had to say. I also took strong comfort from what the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said about the positive economic benefits of live music. I thought that I should quote not Harry Worth but perhaps another comedian on the metamorphosis of moving from government to opposition, "before your very eyes". Many people will pick up that reference to another comedian.
To address the point about residents which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, picked up, the Local Government Association and others have commented on that and it is the reason why these proposals have sometimes got rather stuck in the pipeline. I do not believe that this Bill will adversely affect local residents. The Bill explicitly safeguards residents from public nuisance caused by noise from live music, by allowing licence conditions to be imposed as part of the process under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. If these exceptions under the Bill are not granted we may well go backwards, as the coalition Government's Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill proposes changes to the Licensing Act 2003 that are aimed at dealing with alcohol-related crime.
Two proposals in particular may have the unintended consequence of stifling live music. The vicinity test for making representations is proposed to be removed, so that any party can now object to a live music event even if they are located in the licensing authority area. Also under the same proposals, "necessary" will be replaced with "appropriate" in the powers given to councils when imposing licensing conditions. In 2009, the DCMS Select Committee rightly expressed concerns about the automatic association between live music and public disorder, so if we are not careful we will very much be again in the area of unintended consequences of combining the two forms of licensing: alcohol and music. That will not produce an effect which will advance the cause of live music.
I listened carefully to what the Minister said about three particular areas which any impact assessment would look at: examining the technical aspects so that there were no unintended consequences from this Bill, the question of time limits and the effect on conditions imposed by licensing authorities. I have always said, both on the previous Bill and on this version of it, that I am more than happy to talk to the Government about amendments if they are necessary and proportionate. I believe that this will be a way to make sure that all are comfortable with new forms of licensing.
We have been inspired during this debate by the description of the key role played by live music in all our lives and how we want it to make an even bigger impact on them. The Live Music Bill aims to rebalance the Licensing Act and restore some fairness to the treatment of live music and musicians by the licensing authorities. I hope that noble Lords will support it as it goes through the House and I request that it be given a Second Reading.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.