Licensing Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee on 1st April 2003.
I remind the Committee that with this we are taking the following amendments: No. 116, in
schedule 1, page 110, line 21, after 'of', insert 'amplified'.
Amendment No. 115, in
schedule 1, page 110, leave out line 22.
Amendment No. 113, in
schedule 1, page 110, line 22, leave out 'playing' and insert 'performance'.
Amendment No. 114, in
schedule 1, page 110, line 22, at end insert 'to the public'.
Amendment No. 110, in
schedule 1, page 110, line 25, at end insert—
(j) making music,'.
May I begin, Mr. Benton, by saying what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship again. I was coming to the second part of my remarks on amendment No. 54, which I said at the outset is a probing amendment to ask the Government why live music should be licensable in the first place. Before I comment on the other amendments, may I say that it seems to many people in the music industry that the Bill discriminates against live music in favour of, say, wide-screen television and juke boxes, which are both exempt from the Bill. We will come to those later.
There is a feeling—we will develop the argument I am sure in later clauses—that the Bill infringes human rights. The Joint Committee on Human Rights found that the Government have provided no evidence of any need to increase licensing controls over live music and that the Bill could infringe people's right to freedom of expression under article 10 of the European convention on human rights. It is our view, shared by those in the music industry, that a licensing regime that encourages and enables the performance of live music in pubs and clubs would bring incalculable benefits for the nation. It would provide another incentive for tourism, help young musicians to develop and hone their music skills, increase access by the general public to live music and increase work opportunities for musicians of all ages.
In the huge amount of material that I, and no doubt other members of the Committee as well as the Minister and his officials, have received were two
quotations from two of our leading jazz musicians of long standing. I refer, of course, to Humphrey Lyttleton and John Dankworth. I want to quote briefly from both of them. Humphrey Lyttleton states:
''The question must be answered—why? Ostensibly, I understand, it is to help curb anti-social behaviour. I have surveyed audiences in venues from prestigious to humble for over half a century and never once suffered so much as a twinge of anxiety that they might, as a result of my music-making, rush out into the street and create mayhem.''
John Dankworth says:
''The proposed bill is a nightmare for musicians. It began as a simple attempt to get rid of an antiquated and stupid restriction on our lives. The result is another far more stupid (and pernicious) restriction on our simple wish to make music. However well-intentioned its perpetrators might be, the new legislation can only be seen by those it affects in one way—bureaucracy gone mad, and yet another unwarranted interference by government in our already difficult battle with recorded music.''
I should be interested to know when those comments were written because towards the end of last year an enormous number of myths were circulating about the implications of the Bill, particularly for live music. Were they written while those hares were running?
I cannot satisfy the hon. Gentleman because I do not have the date on the quotes. I would not have thought such eminent musicians would wax lyrical in that way unless they were sure of their ground.
Amendments Nos. 113, 114 and 110, which appear in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban), would make it clear on the face of the Bill that it is not just the playing of recorded music that is the issue, but the more active involvement in the performance of recorded music by a disc jockey. Amendment No. 2 does not solve the problem; it compounds it.
Returning to the performance of recorded music, there seems to be scope for confusion between the reference to any playing of recorded music in this part of the schedule, and part 2 paragraph 7, which provides exemption for the playing of recorded music
''to the extent that it is incidental to some other activity''.
This calls into question when recorded music is deemed to be incidental. Is that related to the type or simply to the volume of the recorded music?
Will businesses risk being in breach of their operating plan if they misinterpret their recorded music as being incidental and do not include it when submitting their application to the licensing authority? The assumption seems to be that paragraph (2)(1)(f) is aimed primarily at the performance of recorded music by DJs. If that is the case, it needs to be amended as proposed in the interests of clarification.
I shall address some remarks to amendments Nos. 116 and 115, which stand in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Sanders). Let me say at the outset that I agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) in moving this group of amendments. As yet, we have not heard from the Government why we need to license music and entertainment at all. I will not go
over all the same ground. The hon. Gentleman went through the other forms of regulation that already exist: noise abatement, environmental health departments, health and safety, fire and so on.
What is it that necessitates this extra form of regulation? Why is it that they do not feel the need for it in Scotland—and the world does not seem to have ended there as a result—but we persevere with it in England and Wales? I am not convinced that we need to get into these realms of regulation at all. If the Bill was to achieve some of the deregulatory objectives that it sets for itself, the Government would have taken this opportunity to follow the Scottish example.
We tabled the two amendments, one on live and the other on recorded music, because we need to hear the Government's interpretation of the amendment on incidental music that was passed in the other place, which they have reformulated for us here. If it is the Government's interpretation that the performing of music in a pub is incidental to the main business of serving alcohol, that is a significant breakthrough. It was our fear that fewer venues would host live music in the future, but it may not be as bad as we initially supposed. However, I have not yet heard the Government confirm that that is their view. We shall come to that in a few minutes. If that is not their interpretation, the two amendments—other ways of skinning the same cat—introduced by Conservative Members will be very necessary. Otherwise, as I said on Second Reading and as was said this morning, we are replacing the two-in-a-bar rule with a none-in-the-bar rule. If we are, that would be a retrograde step and there will be a danger of killing live music, particularly in pubs.
Landlords will be reluctant to tick the entertainment box entitling them to hold live music events if they think that it may raise queries about their entire licence and that residents in the area may put forward objections that would put the licence in doubt. That could mean that far fewer pubs and clubs will be willing to apply for a licence and serve as a venue for musical events. I hope that the Government will clear that up for us this afternoon.
Amendment No. 115 would remove the phrase
''any playing of recorded music''.
The amendment would enable those who play live but want the backing of pre-recorded music to do just that. Some musicians use background harmonies, or a drum or piano track, to improve the quality of their performance, which was one of the ideas that we had in mind when tabling the amendment. The amendments approach the same issue in different ways. Perhaps they can serve as probing amendments if the Government have a more comprehensive solution up their sleeve, but if not, they are very important. We need to hear from the Government what their interpretation of amendments Nos. 2 and 3, with which we shall deal later, actually is.
I have concerns about the need to regulate live music, which I will expand upon when we deal with the amendment in my name and that of my
hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard). I wanted to speak briefly to these amendments, which do not quite hit the mark in dealing with the concerns.
Amendment No. 54 would omit live music from the provision. As I mentioned in an intervention on the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, there are circumstances in which live music certainly should be regarded as regulated entertainment. I used the example of the Glastonbury festival—the most extreme example, but there are plenty of others—as a place where a performance of music will undoubtedly attract a significant number of people. That should be regulated for the sake of public safety, noise nuisance and so on. The amendment does not hit the mark.
Amendments Nos. 113 and 114 suggest that we refer to the ''performance'' of recorded music to the public. I find that idea of the performance of live music fairly confusing. I can imagine some scenarios where the definition might work. Miming on ''Top of the Pops'' might be regarded as a performance of recorded music. I suppose that Fatboy Slim and the like, who are DJs, might be performing recorded music. However, having listened to the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, it sounds as if he has framed the amendment to get round some of his worries about incidental music, so I do not think that he quite hits the mark with that amendment either.
I am unsure about amendment No. 110 adding ''dancing'' and ''making music''. As a former arts promoter and performer, I think that the participatory aspects of the arts should not be regulated. I would be concerned if amendment No. 110 added dancing and making music to regulated entertainments. I do not want participation in dancing and making music to be regulated.
The hon. Gentleman has doubts about music making and dancing being included in No. 110, but those are already there in paragraph (3). Is he saying that he does not agree with their being there?
I will look quickly at paragraph 3. I am concerned about how this part of the schedule is framed. There are circumstances in which huge, mass dances and mass jamming sessions may be required to be regulated entertainments. My amendment is intended to explore whether exemptions may be made for such things in the provisions for regulated entertainment.
The Liberal Democrat amendments Nos. 115 and 116 are equally flawed and unconvincing. Those talk about the performance of amplified live music. That sounds as if it is moving more in the right direction. However, I am mindful of what I would feel like if I had a steel drum band or an African drum group next door. Those are capable of making as much noise as amplified music.
Leaving out the playing of recorded music puts me in mind of that huge problem for public safety on Brighton beach, when 100,000 people turned up to hear the likes of Fatboy Slim, who were playing recorded music. Such events should certainly be regarded as regulated entertainment.
The more I listen to debates on the schedule, the more convinced I am that the approach adopted by the Government is wrong. If I had the opportunity to listen further to the hon. Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight), I would perhaps feel that the approach is even more wrong. The approach seems to consist of saying, ''What kind of event is this? Shall we put it in the Bill?'' The judgment about whether to include it in the Bill depends on what kind of trouble the event causes. As the hon. Gentleman has demonstrated, the approach should vary according to not the kind of event but its size, the volume of noise generated, the numbers in the audience or the number of spectators, and the kind of participation in which they engage. We have not considered such things in the debates on the amendments moved so far.
I find it difficult to get into a sensible debate on the schedule when the Minister says, ''It is no good talking about environmental health legislation, because it does not work.''
The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells) indicated dissent.
The Minister shakes his head. I thought that he said that that legislation was retrospective, rather than prospective, and that it would not work for the purpose of the Bill. Surely, we should make existing legislation work when we are amending legislation, rather than create new legislation that also does not work.
The debates we have had demonstrate that, however much we fiddle around with the definitions, there will be some things with which we will be deeply sympathetic, such as two people playing quiet instruments in a public house some distance from residential accommodation in the middle of the day, and other things with which we will be unsympathetic, such as two people playing steel drums in a public house close to residential accommodation in the middle of the night. There is, however, nothing in the Bill that distinguishes between those two things. As far as I can see, none of the amendments seeks to tackle the problem.
Does not the licensing board have the freedom to take into consideration local noise nuisance and, more important, the venue, rather than the number of people playing? That is the important point in the public safety argument, rather than the nonsense of whether the rule is two musicians in a bar or, as proposed in Lords, 250 people in a bar or venue.
I accept that that is the issue from the public safety point of view, but the argument has not been about public safety; it has been about noise pollution.
No. As someone who used to administer public entertainment licences, I know that the key issue is often not noise but the public safety of the people who are attending the events.
I am prepared to accept that from the hon. Gentleman. I was merely giving my recollection
of the debate on amendments to the schedule so far. That debate was not, in the main, about public safety.
The problem is that it cannot be. If different events were held with exactly the same number of people in the same building, some would be unlicensable and others licensable. Therefore, it cannot be public safety that makes the difference as to whether 100 people are in a building for the purpose of religious worship or to listen to two people strum a guitar in a non-religious manner.
I am not sure what type of religious services the hon. Gentleman attends, but most that I attend are quite well organised and are serious events. There is a big difference between them and public entertainment that may involve live music and alcohol. The only alcohol served in my local church is that served during communion.
They are not different things. The two kinds of event could take place in the same building and involve the same number of people, but one of them, which may include a recitation of scripture, some organ music, singing and perhaps even dancing, would be unlicensable and the other, which may include singing and dancing but have two people playing, would be licensable.
Can the hon. Gentleman give an example of religious services that involve, for example, consumption of large amounts of alcohol?
I do not claim to know everything about all religious services ever conducted, but I know of plenty of live concerts that do not involve massive consumption of alcohol.
Perhaps a better example of the hon. Gentleman's point would be that a television pounding out a concert may be watched by just as many people, cause just as much noise and involve the consumption of just as much alcohol as live music. However, the live music would have to be licensed.
The hon. Gentleman makes my point a great deal better than I did. I am greatly obliged to him. That is a perfect example. [Interruption.] I am quite content to be rescued from time to time by the Liberal Democrats. They do a great deal of good for me in my constituency, where they run the local council in much the way that the hon. Gentleman described earlier. I am grateful for that intervention. It is an example of the Bill distinguishing between two activities that are just as likely to be noisy and a threat to public safety. The Bill also fails to distinguish between activities that are miles apart in terms of noise and public safety. As I said earlier, playing steel drums in the middle of the night next to residential accommodation is very different from playing a clarinet and a flute in the middle of the day at a country pub miles from residential accommodation, yet they are both treated in the same way under the Bill. That is a fundamental problem with the way in which we are proceeding.
The argument is rather ridiculous, because surely the local licensing authority will have something to say about noise nuisance. If the steel drums to which the hon. Gentleman referred were played in a residential area, local residents would object. The Bill gives them the right to do so.
That is right. Now we are getting to the point. The hon. Gentleman prefers that people should have to go to the licensing authority to ask whether they are allowed to have two clarinets or guitars—two relatively quiet instruments—playing in a bar at lunchtime. That is what this is about. The reason why some things are exempt from licensing is that it is thought that it is unnecessary for them to be licensable. It is not a matter of the conditions involved: it is that the Government and the other place do not think that such things should be licensable. In my view, plenty of other things in the schedule should not be licensable.
In the case of two clarinettists playing in a bar, there is little likelihood that there would be objections or problems with the licensing authority.
But the problem is the bureaucracy—filling in the application.
That may well be, but why should we legislate, regulate and give local authorities the power to control—[Interruption.] I understand that they already have the power in relation to two-in-a-bar.
At the moment, the two-in-a-bar rule means that there is an exemption from having to seek a licence. A licence has to be obtained for anything above that.
I am grateful to the Minister, because that contradicts what was said about having to obtain a licence for the two clarinettists.
No. If there is a string quartet in a pub, a public entertainment licence has to be obtained.
It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman's notice, but a quartet consists of four people. Two clarinettists are exempt at the moment. The question is why should such things be licensed? Why should somebody be asked to apply for a licence to do what we would expect them to be able to do in a free country? They are not doing something that causes trouble to anyone else, or causes noise or traffic pollution, or poses a threat to public safety.
The fact that such things need licences now is no answer. I think that it was Mr. Micawber who uttered the immortal words,
''the law is a ass''.
The law is quiet often an ass. It is our job to try to make it better, not merely to say, ''Because it happens now, it will happen in future.'' There are plenty of things that Governments of all descriptions have passed that we throw out. Indeed, we are throwing out many things with the Bill. The fact that something happens now is no argument. The problem is that the Bill does not approach the issue from the point of view of whether the things in question are a nuisance or even from the point of view of public safety.
I will illustrate that point by referring to the intervention that I made this morning on the Minister. The Bill would not cover noise pollution from a funfair, at which music is incidental to the entertainment, but it would cover the same noise levels produced by a concert. The concert would be licensed as entertainment.
It would indeed. To give another example, the other day I gave away the prizes at an event in my constituency for young learners. Perhaps giving away prizes is an educational function, but there were films, extremely noisy performances of recorded music and large numbers of people in a small space, not all of whom were participating and some of whom were the audience or spectators. Because that was educational, it appears not to be covered by the schedule. That seems utterly absurd.
Will the Minister explain why he is approaching the matter from an event-by-event point of view, rather than by considering whether things are a threat to public safety? It is no good saying that the licensing committee will decide, because the provider of the entertainment has already been constrained by being forced to apply for a licence in the first place. That is the infringement of individual liberty that we will be legislating to create—or to maintain—if we pass this schedule unamended.
I also wish to thank you, Mr. Benton, for chairing this Committee. It is good of you to give up your time and it is always a pleasure to serve on a Committee with you.
Amendment No. 54 goes to the heart of the Bill. It would remove
''a performance of live music''
from the descriptions of entertainment that is to be regulated by the Bill. It would therefore take live music out of the licensing scheme altogether.
Now that we have amended the Bill and introduced a series of non-legislative concessions, all musicians should welcome its reforms. If the industry makes full use of them, the opportunities for musicians to perform and for the public to enjoy a much wider range of music, will be vastly increased. Under the new system, it will be much easier and—in most cases—much cheaper to get the necessary authorisation to put on live music. It must be remembered that the Bill provides a one-stop shop for the first time. Any premises obtaining a licence permitting the sale of alcohol can simultaneously obtain permission for live music at no additional fee. I hope that the Committee takes that on board, because some of the fees that are charged for entertainment licences are huge and many of them have to be renewed annually: they can be more than £20,000 for premises in London.
The Government are continuing to say that there is no extra charge. That is true if the landlord of the pub, for example, makes a simultaneous application for his drinks and entertainment licences and ticks the appropriate box. However, at present there is much uncertainty and 95 per cent. of pubs do not have a public
entertainment licence. Why is there going to be a massive rush in the transition period to tick the box when there is that air of uncertainty? If a pub landlord is going to apply for an entertainment licence, he will probably do it later rather than sooner and there will be a charge if landlords do not apply for the licences simultaneously.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but we owe the music industry and the licensing industry a duty to clarify the situation with regard to licensing music. I do not know the exact number of licensed premises that apply for an entertainments licence at present: some people say that the proportion is about 8 per cent. and others say that it is lower than that. Regardless of what the figure is, the performance of live music in this country is enormously distorted by the two-in-a-bar rule. The Musicians Union was the first to want to get rid of that rule: it said that a much more consistent approach was necessary. Increasingly, we are not even seeing two in a bar; it is one guy with a karaoke machine and that is the golden age of live music performances in licensed premises in this country. I fear that we will lose the hugely creative undergrowth that is necessary for an industry that is important to us.
Does my hon. Friend also agree that the problem at the moment is not only the cost of the licence but the bureaucracy surrounding the hearing for a public entertainment licence and the expense that many licensees have to go to, sometimes on an annual basis—hiring solicitors and others—to appear before the licensing boards?
Yes, absolutely: there is great bureaucracy at the moment, which is why so many landlords of licensed premises are put off from doing anything other than allowing one or two musicians in a bar to play without any application for a licence. I have been amazed about this. As I said, the Musicians Union initially thought that the two-in-a-bar rule was a nonsense that was distorting music. I suppose that there were good reasons for it, especially in the days before amplified music, although that was a long time ago. The Musicians Union felt that it was not good. It was certainly no good for the jazz music that I like. Something can be done with two in a bar, but not very much. It does not make for very adventurous music. It certainly does not allow people to experiment, which I should have thought was important.
I understand fully the argument of the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey). When he said that two in a bar was better than none in a bar, he echoed what the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire said earlier. I shall explain why such worries are misplaced, although I acknowledge that the provision will make a big change in the way in which we regard entertainment in licensed premises.
Before the Minister starts to justify the Government's action, I want to pick up on his point about the Musicians Union. It is all right for him to pray in aid the fact that it wanted the two-in-a-bar rule to be eliminated, but that was done on the basis that all live music would be permitted without a licence up to about 12 hours a week. That was the initial approach in 1998. Since then, the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport has been saying that the Musicians Union was persuading the Government to take such action. Yes, it wanted them to get rid of two in a bar, but it wanted live music to be exempt up to a given level of hours in a week. That was the union's argument.
Such a suggestion is fair enough. I cannot remember what the situation was in 1998. I am not even sure that it was a matter for the Department at that time. We are proposing a better scheme.
I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed most vociferously by performers and their representatives. That is why we have made several concessions about live music. However, amendment No. 54 would go too far. An obvious point and some technical detail lie behind the Government's thinking. Under the amendment, there would be no means of regulating public safety at, say, a 70,000-capacity concert at one of the country's great stadiums. There would be no means for the police to tackle crime and disorder, especially drugs, at large rock festivals. Local residents would have no say whatever if a heavy metal band decided to play gigs in the local community centre. The Government cannot agree to the amendment.
The Committee must appreciate that live music often gives rise to special considerations that are not relevant to many other forms of entertainment. For example, events may be large and immensely popular. They may generate particular noise and other nuisance problems and they may give rise to specific public safety problems—for example, when large numbers of people gather in premises that are not designed for such a purpose. However, the problem is not always down to size, especially when public safety and nuisance issues are involved.
Many people have argued that there is no need to license live music because existing health, safety, and nuisance legislation is sufficient to regulate problems that may arise. The hon. Member for North Devon pointed that out. I rarely disagree with him, but I do now for two reasons. First, existing health and safety nuisance law is not adequate. As I said, it is reactive. [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Gentleman knows what I mean. Action can be taken only when a problem has arisen. It would rely on premises operators having a thorough understanding of the special safety and nuisance considerations associated with live music to protect members of the public fully.
Let us imagine the operator of a community centre putting on a live band for the first time. Although we want to encourage that, the operator—not having experience of putting on live bands—would not have a clue about many of the hazards that might arise. They probably would not know how to prevent shock, trip or fire hazards as a result of cabling. They might not know what were the safety issues surrounding the provision of a stage, or how a crowd might behave in the event of a fire. Importantly, their idea of a nuisance might be different from that of local residents living near the venue. That is something we have hardly mentioned so far.
Does my hon. Friend also agree that if we accepted the amendments there would, for example, be nothing to stop someone taking over a warehouse or any derelict building and holding a rave, which could cause great nuisance and annoyance to local residents and local authorities and the police would have no powers to close down such an illegal activity? From personal experience, in Newcastle in the 1990s there were raves and the only legislation that stopped them was that covering the grant of a public entertainment licence.
Yes, indeed. I agree. The police have made it clear to us that raves—the sudden phenomenon of the 1980s—were often organised by people whose main purpose was selling drugs. Unless the police have a say in the licensing of the sort of events that my hon. Friend describes, they have no way of saying, ''We can tell you that the organiser is very undesirable and the event should not go ahead.'' Given the concerns expressed by hon. Members about the welfare of their constituents, which all of us have, they should be concerned about that.
The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones) mentioned raves. In my experience and in my constituency, most of the raves were not announced to the general public and there were no applications for licences—they just happened. The police turned up—[Interruption.] All right, let me finish. Does the Minister say that the Bill would enable the police to close down such rave events more easily than before?
We will talk, during the later stages of the Bill, about the powers that the enforcement agencies, including the police, will have to close down disruptive events, houses or licensed premises.
If there is no obligation for such a form of entertainment to be licensed, the police cannot possibly know about it before it happens. The police have no remit to become involved until they receive reports about an event. The previous Government introduced measures designed precisely to ensure that the police had some purchase on the incidences of raves in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and in many other constituencies.
The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) deprecated what the previous Government did and I think he was wrong to do so. They did it for good reasons. All manner of public nuisances and dangers were involved in those events and the previous Government introduced measures to try to cope with them. We are trying to make the regime better.
I understand why the Minister feels that the Government's role is to make the regime better, but surely he realises that whether we talk about raves or any similar large-scale event, however much licensing and however many laws are passed, we must have the proper enforcement. If thousands of people attend a rave in the middle of a field, hundreds of police would be needed to rectify the situation and break up the event. All the laws we could pass, whether today or in future, would make no difference unless an enforcement procedure was in place.
I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but he ought to pay some tribute to the previous Government, who looked hard at the matter. The incidence of raves has dropped off considerably, which may be a result of changing fashion—I do not know. I am 56. It is a long time since I went to anything like a rave. We must not make it easier for a drug dealer to organise an event that would result in all sorts of nefarious activities—we should make it harder.
Is the Minister suggesting that the drug dealer will get in touch with the local licensing authority before he goes to sell his drugs to ensure that his rave will be fully and properly licensed? Is he going to be worried about licensing laws? I accept that that is a major problem and I do not wish to trivialise it because I feel as strongly as the Minister does, and indeed, many of our residents tell us that something needs to be done. However, the reality is that putting many more laws into the statute book that are bypassed by a large number of our fellow citizens would surely lead to a worse position than the one we are in at the moment.
No, I disagree profoundly. If a rave is unlicensed, the organisers can be prosecuted for not having a licence. If there is no requirement for a licence, the police can act only if they can prove that other criminal activities are taking place. Making an exemption would put a huge burden on the police and they carry enough of a burden as it is. At the moment, people can be fined £20,000 or given six months in jail, but they must have broken a law. If that law does not exist and people are not required to have a licence for such an event, they are not breaking the law. It is then up to the police to investigate the situation and given, as the hon. Gentleman has just said, that the police are often stretched on such occasions, I cannot see how that would do anything other than make their job more difficult. The licensing scheme gives the experts in such areas an opportunity to make absolutely sure that the event is safe, and local residents a chance to have their voices heard.
Before we started discussing raves, the Minister went through a list of things that the experts might consider. He cited the example of a community centre putting on a band for the first time, and the different areas that those running it might not know anything about. Does the Minister appreciate that the list of considerations that he was marshalling sounded exactly like the list of concerns put forward by publicans to explain why they would be reluctant to tick the entertainment box? It is the fact that all the experts will be down on them like a ton of bricks that makes them reluctant to tick the box, which means that we run the risk of putting live music out of small pubs.
Yes, I can understand that. That is especially true given the great propaganda war that I have experienced—I think that I have signed about 1,600 letters to right hon. and hon. Members on behalf of constituents who have written. The campaign has been very effective. Especially as misinformation—as I would term it—has been spread about what the legislation will mean. We shall come to that later.
I say to the hon. Member for North Devon that the Secretary of State will issue guidance that will make the situation very clear. If, for example there are two musicians, singers or dancers in a bar—or whatever the absurd rules allow at present—a local authority will not suddenly be able to say, ''If you want that to continue, you're going to have to put another fire door in.''. We are going to be very strict and clear on that in the guidance, which will have statutory power. I want to reassure the hon. Gentleman about that.
It is somewhat surprising that we are in Committee debating a Bill that was introduced in another place and we still have not seen the guidance, or even a draft. I do not know if the guidance is available. It does not appear to be in front of us. Is that the extent of the so-called legislative reforms to which the Minister referred earlier? I am concerned that we shall find that the guidance may even be statutory guidance, but such guidance cannot change the law. If the law says that something is licensable, one can be absolutely certain that some local authority somewhere will be chasing around saying, ''It is licensable. You have to apply for a licence under these conditions. The Secretary of State may say that you shouldn't need a new fire door, but we think that it is necessary.'' I realise that I have asked two questions.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. In a way, I am making a statement of faith; when we put out the statutory guidance, we will have to make sure that it works. That is the job of a Department, and there is no question about that. I do not share the hon. Gentleman's cynical view of how local authorities work, as some are very good, but he is right to say that some are very poor. The response to existing laws has been incredibly patchy. I am sure that the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire will be interested to hear that we even found local authorities that are charging licence fees for two in a bar. That is extraordinary in this modern age of live music in licensed premises.
Absolutely. I do not want to strengthen the argument of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight, but that is something that we must bear in mind.
The hon. Member for North Devon drew attention to the list that I read out. I am sure that he will be interested to hear that the Musicians Union publishes a code of good practice for the health and safety of performers. If existing health and safety law on live music were adequate in itself, surely there would be no need for such guidance, welcome though it is. The conditions attached to licences form an essential part of the package ensuring that entertainment is provided in a responsible way, paying appropriate regard to the need to protect public safety, among other things.
A question was asked about the guidance. The Minister responded that it is available and has been for some time. When I went to get an updated copy from the Vote Office only yesterday, I got the same version that I had some weeks ago. At the back, under annexe A, which relates to schedule 1, there are the wonderful words, ''being prepared''. The
Vote Office did not have the updated version yesterday. Has it materialised now? We are discussing schedule 1, but we do not have the guidance relating to it and at 5.30 pm we will be moving on to other things. Is that satisfactory?
I have found the relevant passage; it refers to the list of annexes being prepared and is on the last page. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the annexes are still being prepared. There is a chunk of guidance there that he can read, but I will try to ensure that he and the Committee get the rest of the guidance at the earliest opportunity.
I am grateful to the Minister for making sure that I get a copy, but I do not suppose that it will be an advance copy; I will get it with everyone else. My point is that the Minister said that he has made two concessions to the Musicians Union that it would be pleased about and that they are in the guidance. Well, who knows whether they are or not? The Committee certainly does not.
I would have said that they will be in the guidance. I put that on record. I shall try to ensure that the hon. Gentleman and the rest of the Committee get the guidance at the earliest opportunity. I am making that statement in Committee and it carries some weight because I am giving an undertaking, on behalf of my Department, that that will be a fact.
Mr. Moss rose—
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman speaks, notwithstanding what the Minister said, the learned Clerk has drawn to my attention that the list of annexes being prepared—schedule 1, 2, 4 and so on—are actually the schedules. I hope that that remark is helpful. It is easy for me to understand, but I hope the Committee may be able to accept it as well so that we can make some progress.
On a point of order, Mr. Benton, I am sure that the Committee is grateful for that explanation. Would it not be helpful if papers that were to be referred to in Committee were available to hon. Members here? I accept that we are expected to collect them from the Vote Office, but in Committees on which I have served in the past, the Department sent copies of guidance to right hon. and hon. Members in advance and copies of those papers were available for reference at the Committee meetings.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but that is a matter for the Minister. I suggest that the Committee should make some progress as we are getting bogged down.
Thank you Mr. Benton. I pointed out that the conditions attached to licences form an essential part of the package, to ensure that—among other things—entertainment is provided in a responsible way, paying appropriate regard to the need to protect public safety. Many people are under the misapprehension that the only problems that arise from the provision of live music relate to public safety and public nuisance. That has been the main thrust of the argument so far; but it is not the case.
Many events have the potential to give rise to serious crime and disorder problems. For example, in
extreme cases some popular music is closely associated with drug culture, which can lead to violence and disorder. If music is to be performed in public at licensed premises, then the licensing authority would have the power—after the relevant representations have been made—to impose necessary and proportionate conditions to promote the licensing objectives for the benefit of residents and customers. We understand the need for common sense and proportionality in relation to the conditions that the licensing authority might impose on licences providing authorisation for live music. That is why we have convened a special working group to suggest conditions that might be appropriate for certain types of music in certain circumstances. Representatives of performers, the music industry, local authorities and so on have been invited to become part of that group and we have had a good take-up. If we agree the amendments, we will put innocent people at serious risk for the benefit of a minority. I ask for the amendments to be withdrawn.
Amendment No. 116 would exempt all unamplified live music. The Government cannot accept that amendment for a number of reasons. First, it creates a perverse restriction on the sort of music that would generally be provided to the public. We would end up finding it hard to benefit from the full range of cultural provision that the Bill was designed to foster. That would be bad news for both performers and the public.
I was in a pub recently where two people were singing in a corner with a guitar and a small amplifier; if they had not had the amplifier it would have been impossible to hear them. I do not see why they should be discriminated against. My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset talked about a loud drummer. Someone keeps mentioning Japanese drummers to me, who can be extremely loud, but an ordinary drum kit can make a racket, especially if the venue is in the middle of a residential street.
That is precisely my point. I am convinced that there will be a renaissance of live music in this country because we are going to put everybody on an even footing and make it much easier to put music on. The idea that we should favour music that has no amplification could create a real problem—although perhaps not as much of a problem as the two-in-a-bar rule tends to generate. I agree with the hon. Member for North Devon on that matter.
Some of my own musical heroes—from Charlie Christian and the great jazz guitarists onwards—would never have played if the music had not been amplified. They transformed music, but they needed amplification to do so.
Amendment No. 115 would exempt any playing of recorded music from the licensing scheme. I do not wish to say anything further on that, save that it would exempt all DJs from the licensing scheme. We have heard about the extraordinary event in Brighton. Somebody might have died—although, perhaps, not
as a direct consequence of the musical event. After it, the bill for picking up the broken glass on Brighton beach was phenomenal. That was partly because no conditions were attached in the way that they could have been—somebody from Brighton will now probably write to me to say that they were.
On a similar point, amendment No. 113 ensures that only the performance of recorded music should be caught by the Bill. That is unnecessary because the Bill makes it clear that incidental recorded music—the kind that would be exempted as a consequence of the amendment—is already outside the scope of the new regime.
Amendment No. 114 adds ''to the public'' to the description. That is also unnecessary. Where recorded music is played in private and people are not charged to listen, there is no need for a licence. If people are worried that playing CDs at home would be licensable, I reassure them that it would not.
Amendment No. 110 adds two further descriptions to the list—''dancing'' and ''making music''. That appears to add nothing of value to the system already set out in the Bill.
I hope that hon. Members will not press any of the amendments in this group.
We have had a good debate on this matter, and we should address the issues that it raises again when we discuss further groupings of amendments.
The Minister stated that there are concessions in the guidance that the music lobby would find very attractive and that would allay all of its fears about the legislation. However, we have discovered that there is no guidance relating to schedule 1 and entertainment—an explanation of that would be helpful—and the Minister has not told us what the two wonderful concessions are, if they exist. He is looking blankly at me.
I can immediately think of one concession. If musicians or a musician had played a gig at a licensed premises which did not have an entertainments licence or did not have permission to play music, they could have been prosecuted, with very serious consequences. Their Lordships protested against that in another place. The Bill removes that, which is an important concession.
I am grateful to the Minister for that, but I already knew that: it is in schedule 1(1)(6). That is a concession of a kind, and it is welcome. However, the panoply of argument against this heavy hand of legislation and bureaucracy coming down on the whole of live music being played has still not been answered: the Government have not made the case for that.
We would not stand in the way of proper regulation of large raves, gatherings, pop concerts or festivals. However, we are talking about small-scale making of music—not just in pubs, but in all sorts of venues—where people will now have to start applying for licences.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee how the local authority and police would regulate large entertainment or music events such as raves if we were to accept his amendment?
As I have said, my amendments are probing amendments. I want the Government to tell the Committee and the world outside why they are going down this road.
Two of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues have tabled later amendments that attempt to find a way in which small-scale live music can be exempt from licensing. I do not know whether their amendments will do the job. I have not tabled amendments to do that. I am simply asking the Government to say why the whole of live music, from the oboe player to the symphony concert, has to be regulated in that way. I do not think that the case has been made, but we will return to that later.
The amendment is a probing amendment. The hon. Gentleman rightly points out that I have not tabled the amendment to sort out the problem. However, it is the Government's Bill and they ought to sort it out. They have had enough aggravation in the other place and here, as well as from the Musicians Union and the musicians lobby. They must understand that there is a great deal of anger and frustration that such bodies are not being listened to.
I accept that it is the responsibility of the Government to justify their action, but does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the greater public also want to hear from the Government how they would regulate the serious antisocial behaviour that is associated with events such raves in large entertainment venues?
Plenty in the Bill enables such matters to be taken care of. Earlier, I pointed to existing legislation that allows the police to move in and shut places down immediately if there is too much noise. A whole raft of legislation already exists. When paragraph 12 under part 2 of the schedule covering exemptions was discussed, there was an attempt between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in the other place to solve the problem. Later today, if we can, we shall look at the Government's position on that proposal, which is to chuck it out wholesale. They are not giving credence to any of the proposals being put forward. This afternoon, Labour Members may have some ideas that the Government will favour. We have tried to find a way through the huge edifice of legislation to deal with the problems that the hon. Gentleman has rightly pointed out. We are in favour of dealing with them but in such a way that the Bill does not crush other smaller groups of people who play live music.
My hon. Friend may recall that, when they were in opposition, Labour Members criticised us for regulating local government on the basis of Hackney, Southwark and one or two loony authorities. They criticised us roundly for that. The Government are now proposing to regulate two people in a bar on the basis of raves in my hon. Friend's constituency. That is absurd.
I am not sure whether I agree that raves take place only in my constituency. I assure my hon.
Friend that they happen in lots of rural areas throughout the country. It just happens that rural Cambridgeshire and Norfolk have wide open spaces and plenty of barns for them to take place in. I do not want people to get carried away with the idea that I have a massive problem. It is certainly a lot better than it was.
I said that amendment No. 54 was a probing amendment. I think that the Government will have to go away and think up some stronger arguments to sort out the problems that have been highlighted in the debate. We shall return to those later on. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment No. 55, in
schedule 1, page 110, line 23, at end insert—
'( ) a performance of comedy which is not a play'.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No. 56, in
schedule 1, page 110, line 23, at end insert—
'( ) a performance of hypnotism.'.
Amendment No. 57, in
schedule 1, page 110, line 23, at end insert—
'( ) a playing of a programme including a programme service within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c.42),'.
Amendment No. 117, in
schedule 1, page 111, line 29, leave out paragraph 8.
I shall speak briefly because I know that we want to move on to some meatier topics in the Government amendments in the next batch.
Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 are probing amendments. We could not work out why the work of stand-up comedians and hypnotism shows that attract large audiences are not regarded as entertainment under the schedule. If descriptions of various forms of entertainment are deemed necessary, why have they been omitted? If the list is not to be completely prescriptive, what criteria did the Government use to include or exclude certain entertainment forms under paragraph 2(1) of the schedule? Amendment No. 57 follows on from that. It is curious that the list of entertainments to be licensed does not include the broadcasting of either television or radio programmes.
The hon. Member for North Devon wanted to know the difference between the potential for public disorder and noise if a soccer match were broadcast in a pub. Its customers may support different clubs. Copious amounts of drink would be consumed on the premises. There have been instances of public disorder when the soccer game has finished. Why is that exempt when the ubiquitous two-in-a-bar oboe players are not? That does not make a lot of sense. I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to talk to his amendment, which is similar to ours.
I want to say a few words about the hon. Gentleman's last point, which is why we tabled amendment No. 117, which deals with television and radio. I am not anxious for broadcasting media to be
brought within the remit of the Bill, but I want the Government to explain why they are currently outwith it. We are dealing with an anomaly. If the performance of music is to be a licensable activity, why is music that happens to be coming from the television set not to be a licensable activity? Some television sets are large and have big speakers connected to them. Furthermore, although I do not watch it myself, I am told that Channel 5 broadcasts a television programme that, to all intents and purposes, is indistinguishable from karaoke. Music tracks are played at full volume and on-screen lyrics invite the viewer to have a singalong. Karaoke is, in fact, taking place.
The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster will know that Westminster City council, I think, prosecuted the Pitcher and Piano because it noticed that, on several occasions, people in the pub—where there were plasma screens and live music—swayed rhythmically. As a consequence of that, the pub was fined a large amount. Such behaviour has been the subject of some controversy.
What if there had been rhythmic swaying by people in a pub who were watching a football match? They may have decided to do a Mexican wave. Clearly, that is not a licensable activity. I am looking forward to the Minister telling us what the Government consider is incidental to the primary purpose of the premises. I hope that he thinks that the performance of music in a pub is incidental to its primary business, which is providing alcohol. If he does not, we shall get into tricky waters. Will the advertisement of the fact that a small jazz quartet will be in a pub on a Sunday lunch-time make that something other than incidental? What about the blackboards outside pubs, which say that a football match is to be shown on satellite television on a Wednesday evening, or Saturday afternoon?
I want to hear from the Minister what the difference is in terms of public order, nuisance, noise, safety or whatever. Is the sound and the entertainment from a television set qualitatively different from a performance in a pub?
Paragraph 2 lists the activities that are entertainment for the purposes of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 seek to bring comedy routines and stage hypnotism within the provision of regulated entertainment as defined in schedule 1. Amendments Nos. 57 and 117 seek to make the showing of television programmes a description of entertainment, the provision of which may be a licensable activity. The Bill is mainly deregulatory, which I know the Committee supports. I said that with a straight face, and in a moment I will turn to comedians.
In other respects we have been criticised for not going further with deregulation: for example, in exempting many kinds of music and dancing altogether, as the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire urged us to. We have been
considering what may be swept away, not what could be added.
I know that many Committee members may feel as though they have been hypnotised already, but perhaps I could deal with hypnotism first. The Hypnotism Act 1952—there is one—already controls and regulates performances of hypnotism at places licensed for public entertainment and at other places. To regulate that under the Bill would duplicate those provisions. Hypnotism gives rise to issues that go beyond the licensing objectives in the Bill. There are, for example, health issues attached to it. Many people still dispute the effects of hypnotism on certain vulnerable people and it is correct that that matter is addressed separately with its own legislation—we do not intend to change that.
I am not sure why the hon. Members who tabled the amendments wish to license stand up comedians or, indeed, comedy of any kind. I have not heard of riots or any problems that need to be controlled at such events and no one else has suggested to us that comedy should be licensed. If that should be licensed, why should we not licence poetry readings?
My hon. Friend is straying into dangerous territory. When I was a promoter I ran a theatre and then an arts centre, and promoting comedy was one of the most popular things I did. Public order and public safety for such events were governed by the Theatres Act 1968. It is pertinent that comedy performances be covered. I remember the Mary Whitehouse Experience playing Wembley arena some years ago—that was a very large venue. If we are to be consistent, it seems pertinent to regulate such performances.
The Minister says that he has had no complaints about comedy, but that opens up a can of worms. For example, has he had complaints about performances by four guitarists in a pub?
I thank my hon. Friend for telling us about his experience as a promoter.
I repeat what I said at the beginning: we are not in the business of adding new layers of regulation. We are trying to deregulate and to streamline the regulation that it is necessary to maintain. I do not agree with my hon. Friend. We have the right balance. I did not, however, realise that he had to rely on the Theatres Act—I learn something every day.
The Minister set out reasons why we should regulate a host of activities, including music and plays. In Gun Wharf quay in Portsmouth, there is a comedy club called Jongleurs where alcohol is served. Lots of people go there. Why is a comedy performance different to a play or music? Surely the same health and safety issues apply—perhaps the same noise issues apply, if the jokes are funny—yet we do not seek to regulate such performances in the Bill. That shows the inconsistency of the Bill. It fails to tackle the real issues: it tries to tackle particular events, rather than the things that cause problems for neighbours and communities.
I do not follow the logic of the last part of that argument but I think that the hon.
Gentleman has a perfectly reasonable point. I repeat the answer that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset. If something is not regulated at the moment, it should not be regulated in future, because it survives perfectly adequately. Music and live musical events are regulated for some of the reasons that I tried to make clear earlier. Clearly, the hon. Gentleman does not accept the argument.
Does the Minister agree that many of the acts, such as comedy acts, will take place in licensed premises and other venues that will be covered by alcohol and public entertainment licences?
I did not make that point, because I do not know how many of those venues have entertainment licences, but I bet that many do.
I wonder whether the Minister will consider paragraph 2(1)(h), which refers to
''entertainment of a similar description to that falling within paragraph (e), (f) or (g)''.
The paragraphs mentioned refer to
''a performance of live music . . . any playing of recorded music''
''a performance of dance''.
Will he consider whether it is sensible to include a cover-all that applied to things such as stand-up comedy? I recall, for example, promoting John Hegley, a fine comedian and poet, who sometimes appeared with a musician. If I were promoting John Hegley in a venue that did not have an alcohol licence, I would have to find out whether John was going to bring his tuba player. It all seems a bit nonsensical.
I will certainly consider that. I am grateful for that important example. My hon. Friend stresses that we will have to ensure, in the guidance among other things, that licensing authorities come at the matter with a heavy dose of common sense, because that is important. [Interruption.] There are sniggers coming from the Opposition Members. I do not share that cynicism about local authorities. There are some good authorities and there are some not so good ones. We will have to work closely with them, as with all licensing authorities.
Some hon. Members would like the watching of television to be licensed. In the Bill, we have identified entertainments that require licensing in their own right. Such entertainments include music and dancing, because, among other things, on occasion, there can be issues relating to noise and drugs culture, late night refreshments and disturbance and disorder. For theatre and cinema, there can be issues relating to, for example, fire safety. Watching television, which almost every citizen does almost every day of their life, does not in itself give rise to the need for licensing. The concerns that the amendments attempt to address are really about the combination of the consumption of alcohol and the televising of certain sporting events in public places.
The hon. Member for North Devon made a good point when he said that there are advertisements outside venues—people frequently trip over them, especially if they have had one too many—that inform people that there is a World cup game inside. I repeat
that such things are not licensed at the moment. I know that the hon. Gentleman has read the Bill, so he will know that, if a venue proves to be a nuisance to the neighbourhood and public, its licence can be modified. If it is really bad, it can be closed for 24 hours by the police—something that they could not do previously. I have seen for myself in Manchester that a venue can be made to step into line if what is going on is disorderly or constitutes a public nuisance or if the leakage of noise from that building is such that it makes the lives of people or businesses in the area a misery.
The last point seems logical and sensible, and I do not understand why that approach cannot be used for a variety of activities. If the Government genuinely wanted to take a deregulatory approach, that would be the most sensible way of approaching the issue of music in pubs, or any of the other subjects that we have discussed.
I realise that I may have hypnotised the hon. Gentleman when I tried to explain. I know that it is not easy to have to sit and listen to this stuff, but I tried to make it clear why playing live music and some other licensable performances are, and should remain, licensable. I have tried to point out that there are reasons for that other than nuisance and the issues covered by some health and safety laws. Obviously, he does not accept that, but I repeat that we do not intend to extend licensing. Indeed, he does not want licensing to be extended to activities that are not licensable at the moment.
The Minister is pitching an extreme example of why activities that are rather reasonable and modest should be licensable. It is not common for there to be problems with raves, even in my constituency, but it is common for small entertainments involving a limited number of musicians to take place. Earlier, the Minister said that he would set up a committee to examine the kind of music that would be likely to cause public nuisance. Is it his intention that local authorities should be able to veto the kind of music played? That is the impression that I got from the way he associated certain kinds of music with a threat to public order or a danger of crime.
That is a fair question. The last thing that I want from the Bill is the sudden introduction of a bunch of cultural commissars who decide what music is to be performed in public. That is exactly what I am not saying, and I tried to explain the reasons why. When the hon. Member for North Devon spoke to his amendments, which called for non-amplified music to be exempt, I tried to explain why that would distort the position in the way that two-in-a-bar rule has done. I confirm that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight is certainly not my intention or that of the Bill.
The hon. Member for North Devon properly raised the issue of premises with loud television. I do not know—but will try to find out—the law governing the playing of MTV-type channels that broadcast constantly, often on big plasma screens. I know that the premises probably have to pay Sky a pretty hefty fee. That can, in some cases, act as a deterrent. There
were many complaints about that during the World cup: many licensees complained about the fact that they were forced to pay a lot of money, but that is a contractual agreement that I do not want to get involved in. The hon. Gentleman knows what I mean.
As I have pointed out, the Bill provides a power for the Secretary of State to alter the definition of the description of entertainments in schedule 1, which may be used if experience shows that other forms of entertainment should be regulated and it would be in the public interest to extend the scope of the control in that way. However, it would not be appropriate to extend the regime's coverage in the way suggested in the amendments. In the light of my comments, I hope that hon. Members will see fit not to press their amendments.
The debate that we have had on this short list of amendments demonstrates two things to me and my colleagues; perhaps it will do so to the public at large as well when Hansard is read. First, the Bill does not seem to have any logic. Secondly, it does not have any consistency. We are not in favour of adding to regulation. The point of many of our earlier amendments was to deregulate and take activities out of licensing. No one could accuse us of wanting to add things. The purpose of the amendments was just to test the logic of why one thing is licensable and another not.
The Government and the Minister go round the houses, using such reasons as noise, drugs, health and safety and disturbance. Occasionally they say that if there have not been any complaints they will not make an activity licensable, but there is no logic to their position on that. I would not have thought there were any complaints in most instances when two people play in a pub, but they will now have to be licensed. Where is the logic in that? Where is the health and safety issue? There is not one. Where is the disturbance? There is not one. Where is the noise? There is probably very little noise. Most complaints about noise come from people nearby, as I said earlier, when people disgorge from the pub, rather than because of noise from inside.
The Government have not made the case that there is a logical and consistent approach here to which activities are in and which are out—whether they are entertainment activities or anything else. Under later amendments, we shall take a firm stand on that point because the case is not made. To argue that the measure is deregulatory is, frankly, nonsense. Anyone looking at the whole list of activities here would, I think, arrive at the conclusion that we have reached: there is no logical consistency to what is and what is not included in the list.
Entertainment licences will be issued for a period of years, but I cannot see where in the Bill numbers of musicians are specified. Let us say that a pub that usually has two people playing there applies for an entertainment licence. Will its licence stipulate that no more than two people can play, or will there be a blank
licence specifying up to a small combo, or up to 10 musicians? Who will specify that? If the pub then wants to go above that number, will it have to reapply for a licence? I have looked in the Bill to see where that is dealt with, but it is still not clear. It is all right applying for an entertainment licence, but what will it state that someone can do? If it is not specific, it seems to me that it is hardly worth having the regulation, but if it is specific, every time someone wants to change their activity they will have to reapply. That will add to the cost.
We shall not press the amendments to a vote. They were tabled simply to draw out the Government's arguments on and justification for their stating which activities are licensable and which are not. On the next series of amendments, however, we shall take a stand because the Government do not seem to be making any effort whatever. Under the next group of amendments, they are going to destroy the effort that was made in the other place. They are trying simply to cut out the changes and making no effort to replace them with something that is practical and workable and that seeks to address problems such as those that we have raised. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment No. 2, in
schedule 1, page 111, line 23, leave out 'playing of' and insert
'performance of live music or the playing of recorded'.
Hon. Members will no doubt be aware that the Government suffered a number of defeats on the Bill in the other place. Some of those defeats we will seek to overturn in Committee, but as hon. Members will know, we are prepared to compromise on some, as we already have during today's sittings. We have accepted some wholeheartedly, subject to necessary technical modification. The defeat on incidental live music—the subject of this group of Government amendments—falls into the latter category, as I am sure the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire will be pleased to know.
I hope that the Committee will allow me to make one matter clear. Regardless of the myths and misinformation surrounding the Bill in respect of regulated entertainment, the Government are firmly committed to improving the range and diversity of cultural provision available to the public, and preserving important musical traditions that help define the character of the country. That is why the Bill was designed to make it much easier and cheaper for venues to get a licence to put on entertainment, and why it removes the perverse disincentive of the two-in-a-bar rule.
I made a mistake earlier when I said that the Musicians Union did not say back in 1998 that all music should be exempt. In fact it said that all music should be licensed, with no exemptions, and argued that licences should then be set at a moderate and affordable price. That is precisely what we are doing
and I would be very interested to hear its reaction to that when the next avalanche of letters arrives.
We accept that more could have been done in the Bill to further that aim, which is why we have made a range of concessions since the Bill was introduced. For example, we have exempted places of public religious worship. We have amended the Bill to make it clear that entertainers who simply perform at unlicensed venues, and do no more, will not be committing an offence. We have announced that we will exempt church halls, village halls and other community buildings from entertainment fees. We shall use the accompanying guidance to ensure that only necessary and proportionate conditions are attached to licences.
As part of that package of concessions, Government amendment No. 2 provides a modification to Opposition amendments made in another place which would exempt incidental live music and recorded music to ensure that the effect of the amendment is perfected. The spirit of the amendments is retained in its entirety. Government amendment No. 3 removes an anomaly that arose as the result of the defeat in another place. Paragraph 11 of schedule 1 provides an exemption for unamplified incidental live music. As the Government have accepted the principle that all incidental live music, whether amplified or not, should be exempt from the requirement to obtain a licence, that further exemption is unnecessary and will be removed.
I suppose we ought to be terribly grateful for the crumbs from the Minister's table. If the total of the Government's concessions as a result of the prolonged debate in the other place is simply to exempt the performance of live music and the playing of recorded music so long as it is incidental, that is to be welcomed. It would be churlish, to use a ministerial word, to oppose the concessions. On the other hand, we have a problem with the definition of ''incidental'', which the Minister made no attempt to interpret or convey to the Committee; nor did he assuage our fears that that could be a minefield that potential licensees would stray into at their peril.
I was simply repeating the term that was used in another place: ''incidental music''. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not have wanted me to attempt to change or distort that term.
I am grateful to the Minister, but as I understand it, the word ''incidental'' appeared in the Bill when it was first published. I am not suggesting that there is something wrong with the paragraph. On the face of it, that seems to be an attractive concession by the Government to the performers of live music that is incidental, but unless we know what ''incidental'' really means, it may not carry the weight the Minister thinks it does.
I will have a pop at a definition for the hon. Gentleman. Incidental live music is music that does not form part of the main attraction for visitors to a premises. Examples might include a piano played in the background in a restaurant, or carol singers in a shopping centre. However, if a band in a pub was advertised to draw in customers, or live music was played so loud that it could not possibly be regarded as
incidental to another activity, it would be unlikely to benefit from the exemption. To clarify the matter further, we would expect the licensing authority to exercise this discretion as it currently does in regard to public entertainment licensing.
I am grateful to the Minister. Let us get this clear: if we are in a pub and the landlord has a small combo playing quietly in the background—nobody is particularly listening, most people are drinking and there is no dancing—there is no limit to the number of musicians he could have in there because their music is incidental to the drinking that is going on in the pub. Is that right?
I did not give way; I intervened on the hon. Gentleman.
Yes. The role reversal threw me; I beg the Minister's pardon.
Did my hon. Friend pick up what the Minister said about music being so loud that it could not possibly be incidental? This morning I raised the issue of the funfair that is on the outskirts of my constituency, where the noise level is very loud. Based on the Minister's explanation, the music might not be incidental to the funfair, and should be a regulated activity under the Bill.
My hon. Friend makes a telling point. He has come back to it several times, so obviously he has not received a satisfactory answer so far. Perhaps the Minister will address that issue in his response. We are concerned that insufficient thought has been given to the definition of ''incidental''. The people out there are going to try to use this legislation; if we in the Committee are not clear, how can we expect them to find their way through this and know exactly where they stand when they are making their applications? Clarification on that point would be helpful.
Government amendments Nos. 2 and 3 reformulate in an acceptable way what those in the other place thought they were achieving with their amendments. My noble Friend Lord Redesdale tabled the relevant amendment in the other place. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 do the job rather more straightforwardly than the formula that came from there.
The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire has cut to the key point: the definition of ''incidental''. I was disappointed to hear the Minister say that in his view anything that was advertised would cease to be incidental. I can see that if there was a charge for the entertainment, it could no longer be said to be incidental, but it is part of the character of a pub to have live music. The pub that I go to at Sunday lunchtime frequently has a quiet jazz performance going on in the corner. Some people may know that this generally occurs on a Sunday, but others may simply wander in and find it there as a bonus.
If a pub establishes a tradition, or lets it be known that it has live music at a certain time, it will no longer be deemed to be offering something that is incidental to its primary activities of selling alcohol and food and so forth. This will not prove to be anything like the concession or breakthrough that their lordships in
another place and members of the Musicians Union and others outside thought it would be.
It may be the case that the Government are going as far as they can in offering a lay interpretation of ''incidental'', and that only case law will nail that down, if things come to that. However, I am disappointed by the suggestion that everything that is advertised ceases to be incidental, and I hope that that will not be what happens in practice.
I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Cambridgeshire; he has highlighted a grave concern. We should not go down the worrying path that the hon. Member for North Devon described. The courts should not decide the definition of ''incidental'' as a lot of case law would be an unsatisfactory way of determining that.
I am concerned by what the Minister said. What precisely does ''incidental'' mean? Is there a risk that if music is unamplified enough there would be nothing that is a purpose for licensing—or, indeed, incidental to that purpose—even if it is the primary purpose? Is this just a matter of very loud music? In the Bill, are we talking about several primary purposes? This is a mess. We need a stronger idea of the definition of ''incidental'' and how that would operate in practice. Several hon. Friends—not least my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham—have put forward some practical examples, and I would be interested if the Minister could determine through those examples how ''incidental'' will or will not work if he gets his way and the Government amendments are reinserted into the Bill.
If it will help the Committee, I am willing to be intervened on on this issue.
I am not sure that I share the unease of some Opposition Members. If the entertainment is advertised and the purpose of the music is to draw in customers and to make a profit for the business, that has a direct bearing on the business and it would be difficult to describe it as incidental. On the other hand, the hon. Member for North Devon gave us an illustration. He goes to a pub on a Sunday where a jazz quartet plays in the corner: as there are not merely two players, it will have to have a licence. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. We have another example of a pub that is not properly licensed. If it is a quartet, it will already have a licence. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman meant to say that it was just a duo? He nods his head. In that case, it is two in a bar, and they do not need a licence.
I have tried to describe a distinction to the Committee. There might be a clear attempt by the holder of a licence to draw people into his premises by advertising the music that will be played. On the other hand, I occasionally get invited to some posh restaurants—it is one of the perks of my job, and perhaps at some time in the middle of this century the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire will be invited to them himself—and there is a restaurant nearby where a good pianist plays jazz standards
through the course of the evening. That music is incidental; it is tucked away in the corner. However, the hon. Member for North Devon is right that this distinction is not clear.
I would have thought that the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire would be pleased with us because we have given the licensing authority the opportunity to use its common sense when it comes to defining what sort of music that is. I have made some suggestions about how it is possible to differentiate between what is incidental and what is the main attraction, and I used advertising as one example. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be pleased to realise that some of the music played in a licensed premises could be described as incidental.
I would not have become interested in the subject if it were not for Roger Gall, a constituent of mine, who lives on Portland, where there is a folk jamming session on a Friday night in a pub called the Cone House Inn. It became known that the landlord was comfortable with people coming along on a Friday night and playing their music. These sessions were not advertised. Such an event, which is not advertised or actively encouraged, may be a passive part of the atmosphere of the pub, and it may begin to build up business and become a substantial attraction and profit maker for the publican. Would the Minister regard such an activity as one that should be regulated under the Bill?
It seems that that is largely a spontaneous activity, to which people turn up occasionally, and it seems also that the word has spread that people can hear some nice music. However, as the hon. Gentleman says, the licensee does not spend money on advertising. If it is clear that music is being played in the corner of the pub, that would be incidental in my book. I do not know whether that gives him any comfort.
Often, if it is intended that the everyday meaning of a term be used in legislation, it must be judged commensurate to the circumstances of each case. I know that that has drawn some guffaws from Opposition Members, but I hope that the combination of the term ''incidental'' and the explanation that I have tried to give, taken together with the guidance that the Department will issue, will be sufficient to ensure that licensing authorities give due consideration to whatever music is being performed.
The Minister did not answer my question about whether a small combo in a pub would be classified as incidental to drinking, which is the main activity. That is difficult to interpret. Under paragraph 7,
''it is incidental to some other activity which is not itself . . . a description of entertainment falling within paragraph 2''.
On turning to paragraph 2, it makes sense to say that it is incidental to the
''performance of a play . . . an exhibition of a film . . . an indoor sporting event'',
but at the bottom there is a reference to the fact that
''the entertainment takes place in the presence of an audience and is provided for the purpose'',
which includes the purpose
''of entertaining that audience.''
When does the combo in the corner of the pub playing incidentally to the main activity—drinking-—become a performance for the audience? That is incredibly difficult to interpret.
I agree. It is very difficult to interpret, and I do not think that there is any clear way of differentiating between what is incidental and what is the main purpose. There is no easy way of doing that, but it is vital that, if we are to encourage live music and its performance, we must convince and give guidance to local authorities that they should look sympathetically at such situations. It is difficult to see why somebody playing a piano in one licensed premises may be regarded as the main attraction, whereas someone else playing a piano may be incidental to the main purpose, which may be eating and the serving of alcoholic drinks. That may be why their Lordships decided to press an amendment on the use of ''incidental'', as a means of relaxing the Bill that arrived on their doorstep. I would have thought that the use of ''incidental'' by the draftspersons provided the sort of flexibility that the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire wanted. The Government accepted that amendment as being the proper way to move forward.
I am grateful that the Government accepted their Lordships' amendments to the extent that they did. Earlier, the Minister said that he hoped that local authorities would consider how they interpreted ''incidental''. The problem is that it will not be up to local authorities initially; it will be up to providers of premises to decide whether they will apply for licences. We are talking not about the conditions under which the licence may be granted, but about whether the activity is licensable in the first place.
Is the Minister saying that in the licensing statement local authorities can set out how they will interpret ''incidental'', and therefore give some guidance to prospective providers of entertainment on whether the entertainments in question are licensable in their local authority area, or does that apply only to liquor?
Draftspersons often adopt that approach when the term in question has to be flexible, and applicable to myriad considerations that cannot be listed exhaustively. Something will be incidental in one set of circumstances but not in another. I think that the hon. Gentleman is trying to get at whether we can set out watertight scenarios that relate to what is incidental in the Bill. I have been trying to explain to the Committee—clearly I have failed, at least so far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned—that if we take away that flexibility, we are restricting the ability of licensing authorities to describe music as incidental or licensable. That is if the authority is challenged, of course.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset asked me about the pub in Portland. At present, if there are more than two musicians playing in that pub, regardless of whether the music is incidental or advertised, they must have a licence. The same is true for the hon. Member for North Devon and his
Sunday club. I am sure that he meant to tell me that the performers were a duo; if they were a quartet, they would need a licence. There will be situations in which music will clearly be licensable, and others in which it will be incidental, as a consequence of the decision, which I hope the Committee will have welcomed, taken in another place. These decisions will have to be made case by case.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 3, in
schedule 1, page 112, line 13, leave out paragraph 11.—[Dr. Howells.]
I beg to move amendment No.4, in
schedule 1, page 112, line 31, leave out paragraph 12.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Amendment No.89, in
schedule 1, page 112, line 35, leave out '250' and insert '200'.
Amendment No.90, in
schedule 1, page 112, line 35, leave out 'and'.
Amendment No.91, in
schedule 1, page 112, line 36, at end insert—
'(c) the entertainment takes place wholly inside a building, and
(d) the persons attending the entertainment are accommodated wholly inside that building.'.
Government amendment No. 4 seeks to reverse a damaging amendment made by the Opposition in another place. That amendment, misleadingly entitled ''exemption for small premises'', drives a coach and horses through the Bill. It exposes the public, particularly children, to great safety and harm risks. It leaves residents without a voice to protest against nuisance and strips away the powers of the police to control crime and disorder, but for what purpose?
I understand the sentiments behind the amendment that was made in another place. They were to exempt a kind of genteel, low level and perhaps traditional music made in small premises from the perceived burdens of the new licensing regime. I stress ''perceived'', because the Bill strips away most of the burdens and costs associated with the existing licensing system. Such sentiments in isolation are laudable. However, the amendment was seriously misguided. It is perhaps unfortunate that the world does not consist solely of sophisticated jazz trios or, in North Devon, duos playing to well-heeled, well-behaved and civilised audiences or of wassailers—or a few folk singers—quietly entertaining country folk on a golden summer's evening, although I am yet to come across any. The world is not like that, thank goodness.
Many forms of entertainment give rise to serious issues of crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance and of the protection of children from harm. The Bill sets out a simple, flexible and proportionate system that is designed to deal with those problems, while sweeping away unnecessary barriers that stop performers entertaining the public. As a result of the defeat in another place, the Bill as drafted will exempt any entertainment from its provisions, provided that
the audience does not exceed 250 at any one time and the entertainment finishes by 11.30 pm. Entertainment under the Bill includes the playing of recorded music and the performing of live music, dancing, plays, exhibiting films, indoor sports entertainment and other similar entertainments. All those types of entertainment would therefore be covered by the exemption. We must remember that that applies not only pub music, but to many other types of entertainment.
I reiterate that the description ''exemption for small businesses'' is misleading. The exemption relates to the size of the audience, not the premises. It would cover Fatboy Slim playing his music at full blast in the middle of a residential area or Ozzy Osbourne playing an open air concert—and perhaps biting the heads off small flying mammals—in a quiet country village, so long as there were fewer than 250 people present at one time and if he had finished the performance before 11.30 pm at night. I am sure that bats would not appreciate that.
The measure would even exempt the Albert hall if there were fewer than 250 people in the audience. Why should an audience of that size be denied the expert consideration of their protection and why should local residents be denied a voice in relation to such events? The situation would not be helped greatly by amendment No. 89, if my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney presses it, which would reduce the limit to 200. The same serious issues of crime and disorder, nuisance, safety and the protection of children from harm would arise.
The musician's lobby argued that existing health, safety and nuisance legislation should be sufficient to protect the public on those counts, although it is interesting to note that the Musicians Union publishes a code of good practice relating to the health and safety of performers that goes well beyond what health and safety law requires. That view is seriously misguided for various reasons.
If we put to one side our differences on public safety and public nuisance, the exemption has serious consequences for the two other licensing objectives in the Bill—the prevention of crime and disorder and the protection of children from harm. Amendment No. 91 would require all such entertainment to take place indoors and would not help. Its potential effects are far reaching. For example, in the case of a small cinema holding up to 250, a child of any age would be free to enter and watch a film classified for viewing by 18-year-olds. That is because the recommendations of the British Board of Film Classification and those made by local authorities, which differ from those of the BBFC, as they can do, have no standing in law. They are currently enforced through conditions attached by the local authority to cinema licences under the Films Act 1985.
The Bill will eventually replace that Act in England and Wales and it is intended that similar conditions will be attached to premises licences held for cinemas or other premises exhibiting films. Without those conditions, BBFC classifications would be wholly
undermined. There would be no way in which a licensing authority could have a say in the classification of films exhibited in its area. The amendment would give young children unrestricted access to sexually explicit and violent films in cinemas. We have received strong representations from the BBFC on that issue and I understand that some Conservative Members have also received similar requests for consideration.
The Minister said, ''If we put to one side our differences'' on the small premises exemption. He then went into the issue. Section 11 of the Video Recordings Act 1984 makes it a criminal offence to supply material that the BBFC has classified to under-aged persons. If that were amended to add the wording ''exhibiting or displaying'' as well as ''supplying'' the material to under–18-year-olds, it would be fairly simple to remedy the problem in that way. As the hon. Gentleman says, putting our other disagreements to one side, the issues that he raises about the showing of films to children under 18 could be relatively simply addressed.
I will certainly try to find out for the hon. Gentleman, but I know that the cinema exhibitors have been worried about the amendment because the way in which films are shown these days tends to vary dramatically. For example, films come in the form of film prints, which are what most of us see when we go to the cinema. There are films that, increasingly, will be delivered directly by digital signal or DVDs, and those that are supplied, as the hon. Gentleman has described, via video. There are some very strict rules about what can be shown in a public place in that regard, but that does not invalidate my point about the meaning of the amendment. He shakes his head and I understand what he means.
The amendment would also have a serious impact on the crime prevention objective. The effect is wide-ranging, but let me illustrate that with an example. The exemption would allow an individual involved in the sale of drugs to organise an entertainment, perhaps a disco for 250 teenagers, with a view to selling drugs at the event. We heard earlier about some of the scams operated by those who organised raves in the past. At the time, the Government were forced to take action and did so in a decisive way.
The event that I described would not require a licence or even a temporary event notice, as it would be exempt because the audience was not big enough. The police would not be informed and they would lose their right to intervene on crime prevention grounds and have the event stopped. They would not even receive advance notice of it. They would only become aware of an event after some nuisance or tragedy occurred. Is that what we want in a licensing system that aims to facilitate the provision and diversity of entertainment in a responsible way, subject only to those controls that are absolutely necessary?
Another example would be that of a sex offender recently released from prison organising an entertainment for up to 250 children. Again, the police would not be notified and would have no right to intervene. It is the fact that they would not even
know about the proposed event that gives me the greatest concern.
I do not believe for one moment that that was the Opposition's intention when they inflicted this defeat on the Government. Nevertheless, that is the effect of the amendment as it was made and as it stands now. They, and we, have an opportunity to put things right by supporting Government amendment No. 4.
In many ways, the regulation of entertainment that the Bill seeks is good and I support it. However, it has opened Pandora's box—or a can of worms—because, as we have seen in today's debates, all sorts of events that should be licensed go on unlicensed because people do not realise that they should have a licence and are acting illegally. Now that they are starting to examine that, people realise that they must get a licence, and they are not happy about it. That has raised all sorts of problems and set all sorts of hares running, many of which are entirely mythical—if we can have a mythical hare.
As I said, I am very supportive of the Bill and of tidying up the regulation of the provision of public entertainment. As I have made clear already today, I was involved in that in a previous life. I especially support doing away with the nonsense of the two-in-a-bar rule, which essentially says that what matters is the number of performers, rather than the number of people attending. I am interested, through my amendments, in teasing out from my hon. Friend the Minister and the Department whether it would be possible to have an exemption based on the number of people attending, rather than the number performing.
The Musicians Union and others have over-egged the pudding, misinterpreting what is in the Bill and the way in which it is being interpreted by the Minister. I should not want any Committee member to believe that because I am interested in probing on the small premises exemption, I agree with everything that the Musicians Union has said; I do not. I welcome the concessions on places of worship, village halls and schools and colleges, which are all helpful. In the end, however, the problem comes down to the philosophical difference discussed by the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, concerning the reports from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and whether we are over-regulating a freedom of expression. My hon. Friend the Minister has tackled whether current noise, health and safety and fire safety regulations provide sufficient safeguards for the public. The Committee can form its own judgment on that.
Is there a figure, be it 200, 150 or 50, that my hon. Friend the Minister would be happy with, which would allow that freedom of expression—allow public entertainment to take place in an unregulated way indoors? I am not too hung up on the arguments about indoors or outdoors, and my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney will say more on that.
I should be interested to hear whether my hon. Friend the Minister has examined the possibility of coupling a small premises or small audience exemption with a notification procedure so that we can get round some of the problems that he has rightly raised and the
concerns relating to cinemas and the police having notification of what events are taking place. If a sufficiently small audience is planned and attends, all that the organiser would have to do is notify the licensing authority what is going on where, at no fee. Prior notification would be given so that some of the concerns could be dealt with. A pre-notification route would be an easy, free and unbureaucratic way of ensuring that public safety concerns could be dealt with.
There is plenty more that I am prepared to say, but I have got to the heart of my concerns and I have no wish to delay the Committee unduly.
I want to focus my remarks on amendments Nos. 89, 90, and 91, which appear in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset. The amendments offer some ideas about how the Government's objections to the small premises exemption, as outlined by my hon. Friend, might be met if there was a will to do so. The amendments suggest a kind of third way—if I dare say that. I am aware that rather than talking about a third way, we now tend to talk about progressive governance. Being progressive means that one does not regulate unless it has been shown absolutely and overwhelmingly that there is a real need for that.
I want to explain why I consider that we need a small premises or small audience exemption. The case for such an exemption relates to the two-in-a-bar rule, which has operated for many years. I will say right from the beginning, as every member of the Committee has done, that the two-in-a-bar rule is intellectually unsound and illogical in practical terms because it does not make a distinction in the case of acoustic amplification and is based on the number of performers rather than audience numbers. Also, why two? I have never quite worked that out. I am not arguing for the retention of the two-in-a-bar rule, but, over the years, that rule has served a certain purpose. It has acted as a kind of de minimis rule for live music. It is not a perfect de minimis rule, but it shows that a de minimis approach can work and has worked.
As many hon. Members have said today, where is the overwhelming evidence that small establishments with live music have caused such problems and need licensing? I have yet to see that weight of evidence from my hon. Friend the Minister. That point obviously exercised the concern of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Let us consider where the Government can get their evidence from. Other hon. Members have mentioned some of the bodies that are regularly consulted. They include the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the National Society for Clean Air. Those bodies do not discriminate between complaints about live music and complaints about recorded music, yet the Bill attempts to make that distinction in the way in which it sets out the licensing regime. I understand that the chartered institute does not even discriminate between noise complaints relating to pubs and noise complaints relating to other commercial premises and that the National
Society for Clean Air does not discriminate between complaints about music, whether live or recorded, and complaints about noise from people—it has data about pubs and bars, but such data are under a single, catch-all heading of ambient noise.
The hard data that I feel are necessary to prove overwhelmingly the case for further regulation do not appear to be there.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
I was talking about the lack of data that would provide evidence that the nuisance and problems created by live performed music were so great that virtually all of it had to be licensed. Someone said earlier in the day that the Noise Abatement Society found that 81 per cent. of its complaints related to the problems caused by noise in the vicinity of pubs and clubs, but the remainder apparently related to noise from amplified recorded music, some of which is exempt under the Bill. The UK Noise Association says the same thing: it is more likely to get complaints about loud, amplified pre-recorded music than live music. The Institute of Alcohol Studies found that few residents associations complained about live music; it was the antisocial behaviour in the vicinity of the area that caused problems.
My hon. Friend the Minister and his Department have made much of a quotation from the Institute of Acoustics. I am told that the president of that body is concerned about how that quotation has been used to make a case that he was not entirely sure he was making. There seems to be a little bit of a contradiction in that it has been argued that forms of entertainment such as martial arts and comedians do not need licensing because there is not a particular problem with them, but we have a seeming lack of hard evidence of a problem with live music. That lack of evidence, combined with the existence of current statutory powers to regulate noise, health and safety, and crime and disorder, and planning legislation that can lead to pre-emptive action against noise if used properly, means that we are faced with a big question mark. It is hard to see the evidence that adds up to a case that all live musical entertainment, however small its scale, should be subject to a licensing regime.
I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently completed a study into the noise nuisance implications of licensing reform, which is complete but may not be published until the end of April. It would have been helpful to consider that information in the Committee, although I understand that it has not gathered any new data.
Why are so many people concerned about the new arrangements? I accept entirely that the process of ticking a box is straightforward, but I am concerned about what may come afterwards. I speak as someone who was leader of a local authority for six years. I
have seen how local authorities work and at the time I was quite proud of how they work. Looking back from a different perspective, I am sometimes not quite as sure as I was that they are doing the right thing. People worry that if they tick that box, the Bill requires them to be caught in the net of local authority regulation and enforcement.
Many people see what happens under planning legislation. Under such legislation, there is a presumption in favour of the applicant, but that does not mean plain sailing for the applicant. Some local authorities really make a meal of any decision that they are asked to make—a meal that can become very bureaucratic. If there are no objections to an application, it will automatically be granted. However, my concern is that, as I have seen in my local authority, a few objections can cause the council to enter major deliberations over a decision, taking a great deal of time and causing delay and extra cost to an applicant.
I know that on licensing panels and committees, a proper, professional officer sometimes lays down strict and stern advice to members, but I have seen members defer making a decision when that happens because although they do not want to stand up against that, they do not want to go forward either. It is deferrals, legal appeals and so on that many people are worried about. Again speaking from experience, I know that more elderly and retired people often fill up places as local councillors. It seems that being a councillor is not too attractive to younger people. The view that many such councillors have on licensing is not that which licensees, younger people, or people trying to regenerate their communities through the entertainment industry would necessarily agree with.
I have seen already from the Local Government Association that local authorities are gearing up for their new role. They always like a new role and a new reason to exist and I feel that there might be problems. I hope that the guidance that my hon. Friend the Minister issues will be very strong, because where local councillors are given some discretion over planning guidance, it tends not to be given as much weight as we might want.
Local authorities are saying that the fee levels suggested by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will not cover their costs. I wonder whether there will be pressure to raise those levels. People are concerned about such matters. That returns me to my central point. If we can, we should try to achieve something that serves as a de minimis rule, so that small premises, small audiences and small operators can avoid being caught in such a net.
I have examined my hon. Friend the Minister's objections to the small premises exemption measure. I noticed that he did not attack the measure in principle. He did not attack the principle of having a small premises or small audience exemption. I realise that those are not one and the same thing and that fire regulations will cope with some of the problems that we can think of, but most of his objections raise genuine concerns over what the consequences would be if paragraph 12 remained in the Bill. If there was a will to have a de minimis rule with a small audience or
small premises exemption, other measures could deal with such problems as film classification and the protection of children. The hon. Member for North Devon mentioned the Video Recordings Act 1984. Such measures could be used to close down the sort of horror show mentioned and avoid the unwanted consequences of paragraph 12, if there was a will to make the measure work.
One of my concerns, on which I agree with my hon. Friend the Minister, is the possibility of open-air pop concerts popping up in the most unlikely and unwanted places. That is why one of my amendments simply restricts the small premises exemption to events taking place inside, not in the open air. Amendment No. 89, which would just change the number, is a way of bringing a question to the Committee. If 250 is not acceptable—it seems a large figure for a small premises exemption, and I do not know what is behind it—I suggest 200. There is nothing magic about that figure. Could it be 150? I do not know, but there must be a point at which we can say that the event is so small that it need not come under the new legislation. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's response to my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset—is there a figure? He might not want to give it today, but will he consider whether there could be a de minimis figure?
I hope that the Minister will provide a figure, because without one, we shall end up with the rather bizarre inconsistency in the legislation that requires us to license the single piano player at the back of the bar—he might be incidental but if his name is put up outside or there is a notice that states that he is playing that night, he is not considered to be incidental—but not a big-screen showing of MTV or a football match, with noise, shouting and thumping. If my hon. Friend is satisfied that broadcast entertainment can be controlled by existing legislation, why cannot the small gigs and events such as those that I have mentioned be? I hope that we can get it right because there is much in the Bill that I would support, as would many others. However, I would not like it to be remembered as the Bill that licensed the piano player but not the big screen video juke box and cup final.
I support amendment No. 4, but would like to speak against amendments Nos. 89 to 91. Paragraph 12 is headed ''Small premises'' but makes no reference to the size of the premises. That is important for public safety. I can give an example from my constituency. The Village Inn in Sacriston is a small, rural village pub in which 250 people would constitute a severe health and safety problem, whereas the Daisy Hill pub in the next village has a large concert room that could easily accommodate 250 people. The problem is that the paragraph refers merely to the number of people attending, rather than to the size of the premises. It should be reworded, or its title should be changed.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Waveney said about de minimis. Is it not apparent that the 250 limit is an arbitrary measure of capacity—it was given because some figure had to be proposed? There has been much derision about talk of two in a
room or about capacities that seem arbitrary, but the point was to give a figure, rather than to specify that the limit is exactly 250.
I appreciate that. The problem is that we still have the ludicrous situation of the two-in-a-bar rule regarding performers, yet we are considering 250 attendees. Any figure that is picked without reference to the size of the premises is bound to lead to safety problems locally. I should like—the Bill allows for it—local licensing authorities to have a say about such licences. People's human rights were mentioned in relation to performance. It is also a fundamental human right for people attending functions to know that their safety is guaranteed. My other concern is that people would have no say about large events that took place in local establishments.
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why it may be unsafe in the first of the public houses that he described for a musical entertainment to take place, but it is not unsafe to hold an entertainment on a large plasma screen showing, say, the England versus Ireland match?
There are two reasons. First, as the Minister has said, we do not want to introduce new legislation. Secondly, under the powers given to local authorities in the Bill, they will be able to take action against problems such as disorder in a public house that has a large plasma screen or any other entertainment system. That can be tackled anyway. However, the Bill gives local people a say in public entertainment for the first time. In my constituency, several venues can hold up to 250 people and could create huge problems.
Following on from the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight, what is the difference between a pub in which 250 people are drinking, and a pub in which there are 250 people and a person playing a musical instrument? I am not sure.
My experience is that if live entertainment is on, people will move around. Also, the drinking of alcohol creates problems locally. Those issues and the issue of size are currently considered when one applies for a public entertainment licence. The provision does not take into consideration the size of the premises, and that is a fundamental flaw.
The hon. Gentleman completely avoided answering my question. When one applies for a licence to sell alcohol, magistrates do not ask how many people will come to drink, so what is the difference?
I am sorry, but in my experience they do. Licensing magistrates take the issue of the health and safety of those drinking in an establishment seriously. With public entertainment licences, one of the key things that magistrates take into consideration is safety in relation to the size of the premises. The provision does not do that. It asks us to put an arbitrary figure on the number of people who can go into premises without any regulation at all.
If it says on someone's alcohol licence that their pub can admit up to 250 people, and the licensee applies for an entertainment licence, could not the limit for the number of people drinking in the pub
be the limit for the small premises exemption for entertainment?
No. The Bill gives the local licensing authority the power to deal with every application for a licence on its merits—that is one of the strengths of the Bill—rather than just using an arbitrary figure, which is what this provision does. When considering public entertainment licences, local licensing boards and inspection officers spend a lot of time ensuring public safety. The Bill gives local authorities many powers to ensure public safety.
The hon. Gentleman has at last acknowledged that local authorities spend a hell of a lot of time on such matters and are likely to do so in future, too. He says that that is for the purpose of public safety. He talks about arbitrary numbers. What if a pub has a licence or planning permission for the sale of liquor and can admit a limit of, say, 100 people? I simply cannot understand why it would be unreasonable to admit that number on health and safety grounds for the purposes that the amendment covers—that is, entertainment—when it is reasonable to admit that number to watch the England versus Ireland match on a widescreen television.
One would have to link the two together. At the moment, a person would have to apply for a separate public entertainment licence, but under the provision, they could just tick a box and apply for a licence that covered entertainment. I think that that will make the process simpler.
Paragraph 12 would, if I read it correctly, allow venues to admit up to 250 people until 11.30 pm. At that time, entertainment would have to cease. If the premise also has an alcohol licence, it could serve alcohol later. This morning, my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) raised some difficult problems that would occur if alcohol were sold even after music had been turned off arbitrarily at 11.30, because it was a venue of less than 250 people.
No. At the moment they would not need an entertainment licence. They could just turn the music off and sell alcohol later, if they wanted to, without a public entertainment licence.
I shall not.
That would create more problems than it would solve. The music would be turned off and people would still be allowed to serve alcohol, which would create the kind of problems that my hon. Friend the Member for Selby mentioned this morning.
I support the Government amendment and, with due consideration, say that I think the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Waveney and for South Dorset are well intentioned but ill thought out.
I am disappointed that the Government introduced amendment No. 4 and that they want to reject the amendment made in the other
place, which I do not believe was tabled for the wicked reasons the Minister mentioned.
The Minister mentioned the problems that could be caused in cinemas. I made a proposal about how that could be dealt with. If that proves inadequate in dealing with the issue, why should not cinemas be left out of the small premises exemption? That would be reasonable. For there to be the objective of a small premises exemption is entirely consistent with the Government's drive towards deregulation and common sense, to which theme the Minister has returned several times during the day.
When I saw the amendments in the other place, it struck me that 250 was a rather high figure. Small premises in North Devon do not go from small to medium-sized at 250; in North Devon parlance, they would be going from huge to colossal. Hon. Members are entering into a spirit of negotiation in bringing the figure down a bit and they are moving in the right direction. I am disappointed that the Minister seemed to reject the idea of a small premises, or a small-scale events, exemption.
The hon. Member for North Durham talked himself into more trouble as he highlighted all the inherent contradictions to which we have referred during our deliberations today. None of the mechanisms we have considered so far provides, as yet, a perfect way of doing things. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the Government seem to want to throw the baby out with the bath water and that they will not entertain the idea of a common-sense, deregulatory small events exemption, which would be entirely laudable and consistent with their overall aims.
I reassure the hon. Member for North Devon that I do not attribute any wickedness to their Lordships. I simply think they are wrong-headed, for the reasons I tried to make clear earlier. There could be big problems with the attempt to set an audience figure. We may come to that in a moment.
I turn to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset. Incidentally, since we may consider some of the human rights issues later, the seventh report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights welcomed the changes that have been made as a reaction to its concerns and to those that were raised by my hon. Friend in that Committee's fourth report. It has raised no further concerns in relation to article 10 on freedom of expression. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Durham spoke about exemptions. We know from experience that seeking to frame exemptions in the Bill on hard and fast lines is asking for trouble. Every time one tries to define a cut-off point one tends to create a perverse disincentive and distortion, like that created by the two-in-a-bar rule. I ask my hon. Friends the Members for Waveney and for South Dorset to think carefully about that. It is a strong argument against what has been proposed. That is why we have gone for a combination of a flexible Bill and flexible guidance, which together provide the necessary degree of control at the right level and a light touch where it is merited.
My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney talked about introducing de minimis levels. There are certain areas of regulation where it is inappropriate to introduce a de minimis level below which the rationale for regulation either falls away or can be regarded as acceptable. I ask him how he can justify a situation where a child is badly injured or killed in an audience of 10, rather than in an audience of 20. We are attempting to ensure that regulation is proportionate and not excessive by requiring the licensing authorities to attach only necessary conditions and to assist through guidance.
We recognise some of the arguments that the Minister is deploying regarding the provision. If there are problems about children, we set an age limit. If there are problems about films, there are other pieces of legislation that we can turn to in order to deal with them. An existing law that has already been referred to makes it illegal to show certain classified material to under-age children. Some of those matters are covered.
The Government are trying to squash the whole edifice under their heavy boot, simply because one or two things may cause problems. We should look at the issue from a completely different angle and try to support the arts and culture, particularly music. What do they do in Ireland I wonder? Why is it so vibrant there? I do not suppose that they have all this legislation over there.
I do not think that Ireland is a particularly good comparison. We have a very vibrant cultural industry in this country. We are the second largest exporter of culture in the world. Ireland is a country of 3.5 million people. It does not even begin to compare with this country's great cultural life. The Irish are extraordinarily good at advertising Ireland as a home that is full of fiddlers and dancers. Good luck to them, they are a very inventive people.
The hon. Gentleman should not talk down what goes on in this country. We have a tremendous entertainment industry. Soho, which is represented by the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster, is one of the great world centres of entertainment, and is sought after by people from all over the world.
We do not stamp down in any way on any cultural activity in this country. The hon. Gentleman's proposal that we should search for an age limit, or think about another capacity limit would be immensely complicated. It makes us think about the new bureaucracies that will go round to check all these things. What we are proposing is a very simple new regime. I know the hon. Gentleman has an argument to make—he has been lobbied senseless over this matter, like the rest of us.
I repeat: what we are proposing is a much simpler regime that people will understand. We have a job of work to do to make sure that local authorities, licensees and others understand it, but we will get there.
Would it not be consistent with much of Government policy in other areas to have a de minimis rule? I am thinking about the right to have a stakeholder pension, which a business of less than five people does not have to provide. Certain trades union recognition does not apply in businesses of less than 10 people. Across a series of Acts and legislation, the Government recognise that the burden of legislation and regulation becomes more intense the smaller the business. Would it not be sensible to consider a de minimis position?
I do not think that that would be sensible, for the reasons that I have set out. The measure is not an avalanche of regulation. As the Committee discusses the Bill, I shall argue that it sets out a simpler process than what happens at present. Local authorities already control five of the six licensing schemes that have been brought together under the Bill. The arrangement will enable licensed premises to put on entertainment in a way they cannot do at present, without traipsing around offices and paying large amounts of money. I have sympathy with members of the Committee who believe that what we are proposing will produce too much bureaucracy but, given the concerns of police and other agencies, the Bill is worth while.
If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I wish to make a little progress.
The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster asked about the use of capacity limits as a de minimis cut-off point. He reflected some of the worries that have been expressed by my hon. Friends. Such an argument illustrates a potentially adverse consequence of wanting to define cut-off points. Using capacity limits would require all premises that wished to benefit from the exemption to have and to enforce a capacity limit. That would introduce considerable new bureaucracy in many cases.
I remember being lobbied hard by the body representing nightclub owners. It felt that it was being discriminated against because nightclubs must have a capacity limit whereas, generally, pubs in the high street do not. It said that if they had to have someone on the door clicking people in and out and that super-pubs in the high street should, too. The hon. Gentleman should think about that argument. Such a provision would add to the cost and bureaucracy that businesses would have to bear.
The Minister will be glad to know that I have already thought about that aspect. A capacity limit is simply in relation to the size of the building. It is a notional capacity limit. Much as I understand his comment about the potential destructive effects of arbitrary limits, surely the message that goes out loud and clear to such premises is that, once they go over a particular limit, bearing in mind the physical size of their premises, which has implications for a capacity limit, there will be strong implications for the safety of the public at large. The amendment proposed in the other place tried to achieve that. I appreciate that it is
difficult to achieve such a balance, but it makes some sense to have an arbitrary limit.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for clarifying his earlier contribution. I stick to my argument, however, about why I consider that the limit is shot through with problems. It could well involve the premises and the local authority in even greater costs than they bear at present. We do not want that.
I have explained that we are not only worried about nuisance. My case against setting an audience limit in the context of the amendments still stands. I believe, as the Musicians Union did when it first wrote to the Government on the subject in 1998, that all entertainment, including all music, should be licensed with no exemptions and that the licensing regime should be efficient and fair. Fees should be set at moderate levels at affordable cost. That is precisely what we want to achieve under the Bill. We will have to ensure in our statutory guidance that licensing powers are not abused by local authorities. We will work with the Musicians Union and others to spread
the word to licensees and premises holders that the system will be capable of encouraging live music from all varieties of groups and bands to all audiences of whatever size.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 5.