Busking — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:44 pm on 30th June 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat 2:44 pm, 30th June 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the link between busking and crime and disorder; and what plans they have to issue revised guidance on the use of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 in respect of busking.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, no assessment has been made, but the Government are clear that appropriate busking can enrich a community’s quality of life and generate a positive atmosphere that can be enjoyed by many people. The police and local councils have powers available to them where there is a risk of crime or disorder or complaints of anti-social behaviour are made.

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that response, which I very much appreciate. The arrest of the King’s Parade, the winners of the mayor’s busking prize, under an archaic law by eight policemen in Leicester Square only too clearly illustrates the need for a proper, comprehensive policy on busking for London. Will my noble friend refute the alleged link between busking and crime and will she work with her colleagues and with the mayor’s busking task force to develop a coherent approach to busking across London?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, unfortunately I have not been invited on to the mayor’s busking task force and I cannot comment on individual cases. The particular case that my noble friend refers to is a matter for the Metropolitan Police, but I can say that in areas around Leicester Square, where large groups of people gather, there may be opportunities for pickpockets. However, this must be balanced against the enjoyment that busking inevitably brings.

Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench

My Lords, given the itinerant and spontaneous nature of buskers and busking, does the Minister accept that the same guidelines need to be issued nationwide? She might look at Liverpool, which, following constructive talks with the Keep Streets Live campaign, is soon to issue guidelines which will not include a requirement for licences or other draconian measures. That might be a model of interest for the whole country.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I thank the noble Earl for those comments. I do not know about the individual cases, although I do not live far from Liverpool. I understand that licences for buskers are required in only two London authorities, Camden and Hillingdon.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

My Lords, I am sure my noble friend is well aware that, in London, busking is very widely supported by a large number of people. The Mayor of London has gone so far as to say that busking is what gives London its joie de vivre—not least, I might add, for those who use the Underground, where a lot of busking takes place. My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones referred to the mayor’s appointment of a busking task force, of which he is a member, which includes representatives of the Metropolitan Police. Can she confirm that one of the jobs of the task force is to suggest ways of dealing with irresponsible busking?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The task force obviously does a very valuable job; I am now intrigued by it and very much look forward to the letter in the post inviting me on to it. There is no difference between the mayor’s view of busking and the Government’s view: where it is appropriate it is widely supported.

Photo of Lord Anderson of Swansea Lord Anderson of Swansea Labour

Are there any special provisions applicable to, say, aggressive busking on the London Underground?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Any behaviour of an aggressive sort would be dealt with appropriately, whether it involved busking or not.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I will not ask my noble friend to comment on the mayor’s talents in this area, but does she think that it is appropriate to criminalise people who are making music? Some of them are young people endeavouring to further their career in music. It is an extraordinarily precarious career, and one where it is difficult to get started.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

Buskers are not criminalised. People who behave in a disruptive or harmful way are criminalised, but busking in and of itself is not.

Photo of The Bishop of Chester The Bishop of Chester Bishop

My Lords, will the Government confirm that carol singing will not be reclassified as busking?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, it depends on the carol singers. If they were being disruptive they might well be.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Basildon Baroness Smith of Basildon Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, we have a number of candidates today for the busking task force, if perhaps not too many wanting to be buskers themselves. I think the noble Baroness missed one part of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, which was about the revised guidance that is awaited. The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and the 1839 Act are also relied on. When will the new guidance be issued?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, we have no plans to issue guidance in relation to how the two existing Acts are applied to buskers. However, we have undertaken, as the noble Baroness says, to include reference to busking in the guidance for the new anti-social behaviour powers for use by the police and others. This will be published shortly, in advance of the new powers commencing later in the year.

Photo of Baroness Knight of Collingtree Baroness Knight of Collingtree Conservative

Does my noble friend agree with me that although we should recognise that buskers are perhaps building their careers, they are also adding to the gaiety of nations? It would be most unpopular were we to consider any banning of busking.

Photo of Lord Colwyn Lord Colwyn Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Does my noble friend know what regulations apply to busking outside the Peers’ entrance of the House of Lords?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

No particular licence is required for busking in Westminster. I imagine they are the same as for anywhere else.