Clause 1 - Licence review for live music entertainment

Live Music Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 14th December 2011.

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Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 18, leave out ‘music entertainment’ and insert ‘live music’.

Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Conservative, Ilford North

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 2, in clause 1, page 2, leave out lines 1 and 2 and insert—

‘(b) either—

(i) the live music is unamplified, or

(ii) the live music is amplified and takes place in the presence of an audience of no more than 200 persons, and’.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Scott. I wish to say a great thank you to all hon. Members for coming along. I want first to deal with the amendments to the clause and, hopefully, we can then have a brief stand part debate because members of the Committee might wish to raise one or two other issues.

Amendment 1 is an incredibly minor technical amendment. When the Bill was discussed in Committee in another place, an amendment was moved to clarify its wording. Under the new section 177A of the Licensing Act 2003, the words “music entertainment” were changed to read “live music” to make it absolutely clear what we were dealing with. Unfortunately, at the same time, those in another place failed to change the wording in the heading of that section, so the amendment would merely change the wording of the heading to fit in with the rest of the section.

As for amendment 2, in its current form, the Live Music Bill will create an unintended lacuna in respect of unamplified live music taking place in licensed premises with audiences of more than 200 persons. As a result of the new paragraph 12C to schedule 1, the performance of almost all unamplified live music between 8 am and 11 pm will cease to be regulated entertainment. However, that exemption is subject expressly to new section 177A(3) and (4). The intended effect is that, for alcohol-licensed premises such as pubs and clubs where unamplified live music is played, it should be possible—following a review of the licence—to alter or add a condition about live music to make the exemption effective.

However, due to the current drafting of section 177A(1)(b) of the 2003 Act, it would only be possible to include conditions relating to unamplified live music following a review of the licence or club premises certificate for events with audiences of no more than 200 persons. The Bill inadvertently fails to address the situation when the  audience of unamplified live music exceeds 200 persons. The same principle ought to apply to events in pubs, clubs and the like with audiences exceeding 200 persons, as to events with smaller audiences.

The amendment would deal with the anomaly; it would reflect the fact that paragraph 12C does not impose an audience limit for unamplified live music. The result is that the provisions under section 177A(3) and (4) will apply to unamplified music before audiences of any size so that, when necessary, licensing authorities will be able to impose conditions relating to live music, following a review of the licence or the club premises certificate.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I am worried that venues are increasingly putting on acts where someone sings, but most of the music is on backing track. That is causing concern that musicians will be put out of work. Would such an event be covered by the definition of “live music” under the Act or would it come under the heading of music entertainment? Is there a difference between someone singing along to a backing track and someone performing, say, karaoke in a venue or will such an event count as live music?

Further worries have been expressed by residents, groups and local authorities about the impact of such a provision, which was why the measure was introduced. Perhaps the Minister can deal with that issue and say how a balance can be struck. I support the Bill. It is important that we are taking steps to encourage the performance of live music in small venues, but there are obviously some residual concerns.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her support. I hope to address the concerns expressed about the conditions relating to noise when we come to the clause stand part debate. On her first point, I assure her that the definition will be clarified in the guidance that will be issued.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment made: 2, in clause 1, page 2, leave out lines 1 and 2 and insert—

‘(b) either—

(i) the live music is unamplified, or

(ii) the live music is amplified and takes place in the presence of an audience of no more than 200 persons, and’. —(Mr Foster.)

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath

I shall quickly outline the broad purpose and effects of the Bill. I pay particular tribute to Lord Clement-Jones, who successfully piloted it through the other place. In doing so, he made some significant changes to an earlier version of the Bill to address concerns that had been raised and which were along the lines of those expressed by the hon. Lady.

Within the past couple of days, as a result of the changes made to the version introduced in another place by my noble Friend, I received a letter from the chairman of the culture, tourism and sport board of the Local Government Association. It may be interesting, particularly for the hon. Lady, to hear that he wrote:

“Councils are fully committed to supporting live music and we believe the PMB”— the Bill—

“strikes the right balance between increased flexibility and ensuring councils have appropriate safeguards to keep communities safe and protect residents from noise and anti-social behaviour.”

In a minute, I shall deal with that issue in more detail.

I pay tribute to many members of the Committee who have played a key part in continuing to promote live music—for example, the hon. Member for Hove, with his excellent work on Rock the House, and the Chairman and members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, among others. They are well aware that, since the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003, there have been fears that it has produced a bureaucratic minefield, stifled creativity and prevented innocent and innocuous live music events from taking place, especially in small venues.

The Live Music Forum confirmed that fear in its report of July 2007. For example, it found that 29% of smaller venues that had previously operated without a public entertainment licence but had used the “two in a bar” exemption to put on live music, no longer applied for live music provision under the 2003 Act. In December 2007, the BRMB survey, which was commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, reported a decrease in the performance of live music of 12% in restaurants and cafés, and of 24% in church halls and community centres.

In May 2009, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee concluded that the 2003 Act hampered live music performances, especially those by young musicians. Indeed, at the end of 2009, the excellent then chairman of UK Music, Mr Feargal Sharkey, claimed that there had been nine consultations, two Government research projects, two national review processes and a Select Committee report, and still there had been no action. Even more recently, early-day motion 546, which was sponsored by the equally excellent Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, called on the Government to

“bring forward proposals for an exemption to the Licensing Act for audiences of 200 to tackle the negative impact with regards to small venues hosting live performances”,

not least because such venues are the

“bedrock of the entertainment industry”.

The Bill amends the 2003 Act by partially deregulating live music performance and removing confusing regulation on the provision of entertainment facilities. First, the Bill will remove the need for a music licensing requirement for unamplified live music taking place between 8 am and 11 pm in all venues. It will do so subject to a licensing authority’s right to impose conditions on live music following a review of a premises licence or club premises certificate relating to premises authorised to supply alcohol for consumption on the premises.

Secondly, the Bill will remove the licensing requirement for amplified live music taking place between 8 am and 11 pm before audiences of no more than 200 persons on premises authorised to supply alcohol for consumption on the premises. That measure will also be subject to the right of a licensing authority to impose conditions about live music following a review of a premises licence or club premises certificate.

Thirdly, the Bill will remove the licensing requirement for amplified live music taking place between 8 am and 11 pm before audiences of no more than 200 persons in workplaces not otherwise licensed under the 2003 Act or licensed only for the provision of late-night refreshments.  It will also remove the licensing requirement for the provision of entertainment facilities, which has been very confusing for licensing authorities and those wishing to perform.

Finally, the Bill will widen the licensing exemption for live music integral to a performance of morris dancing or dancing of a similar type, so that the existing exemption for performance accompanied by unamplified live music will also apply to amplified live or recorded music.

This is a modest Bill, but one from which many musicians, local communities, and the licensed trade will find genuine benefit. I shall give a brief commentary on the measures in the clause. It will amend section 177 of the 2003 Act, which currently applies to dancing and live music in small premises, so that it applies only to dancing. I should add that I have nothing against dancing, and there may be good reasons to consider making similar changes in relation to it in small premises, but the Bill’s focus is on live music; I will leave the wider issue to the Minister’s ongoing consultation.

The clause also adds new section 177A to the 2003 Act, which deals with live music taking place in premises authorised to be used for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises. The new section provides that conditions in a premises licence or club premises certificate relating to live music will not have effect where the requirements set out in section 177A(1)(a) to (c) are satisfied. However, on a review of the premises licence or club premises certificate, a condition relating to live music may be made effective by altering it to include a statement that section 177A does not apply. In addition, at a review, a licensing authority may add a condition relating to live music as if the live music were regulated entertainment authorised by the licence or certificate. Section 177A(5) lists the provisions in the 2003 Act under which conditions to which section 177A applies may be included in, or added to, a premises licence or club premises certificate.

That explains the purpose of clause 1, but there is an issue that has been raised by several people, including the hon. Lady. I am well aware that Committee members may have received communications from various residents’ associations outlining their concerns about potential noise impact, which I shall address. I seek guidance from the Minister, and I hope he will confirm that my understanding of the situation is correct.

First, I would like to be clear about the existing provision. Under section 177 of the 2003 Act, all public nuisance conditions imposed on the grant of a licence that specifically address live music in small venues are suspended while a live music performance is taking place. So that has already happened and is contained within the 2003 Act. That position was negotiated during the Act’s late parliamentary stages in 2003 so that live music was not unfairly penalised. We need to remember that, prior to the 2003 Act, we had the “two in a bar” situation in which musicians could perform without licensing requirements.

The need for noise controls, however, can be real. The prevention of public nuisance is one of the 2003 Act’s four key objectives, and there is considerable flexibility in that Act to control noise nuisance in the wider environment in which a licensed premises operates.

Noise in licensed premises may occur for a variety of reasons. Where alcohol is consumed there is, of course, the heightened possibility of noise when, for example, customers enter or exit the premises, or talk loudly inside or outside the premises. Conditions are frequently attached to licences to control the overall operating environment of the individual premises in question, and no change is being made to that.

The Bill does not, in any way, prevent such generic public conditions from being imposed on licences or cover specific instances that might mean a greater risk in relation to that premises. That simply means that noise issues should be considered in the round and that music should not be treated differently from other activities that take place within licensed premises, such as the large-screen broadcast of football matches, which can be controlled through licensing conditions but are not themselves licensable.

So the big difference is that licence permission will no longer be required for live music when the Bill is enacted, but there will not be a free-for-all. If licensed premises behave badly, a full range of licensing sanctions will be brought to bear under the review procedure, and conditions on any of the four licensing objectives can at that point be inserted into the licence, which is a considerable disincentive. I commend the Bill’s sponsor in another place, Lord Clement-Jones, for his considered approach to improving the previous session’s Bill and for the elegant technical solution that the Bill now contains.

Although I believe the situation is clear, the Government may still clarify any grey areas on conditions and their use in statutory guidance under section 182 of the 2003 Act. Given the changes resulting from the Bill, I hope the Minister will confirm that it provides an opportunity for the reissuing and reconsideration of guidance to clarify any concerns.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Education), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development) 9:45 am, 14th December 2011

I want to support the Bill. I thought that the provision in the 2003 Act was bad and heavy-handed. The exception for morris dancing was typical of some of the discussions on the Act, so we had the heavy-handed on one side and the silly on the other. That exception was famously secured by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath) before his glorious rise to his present exalted position. I suppose I should repeat the old saw that one should try absolutely everything other than incest and morris dancing—somebody had to say that this morning, even at this early hour.

I have a serious reason for rising, however. In Wales we have a thriving Welsh-language rock and pop scene, which is hampered to a certain extent by the lack of venues. I hope that the Bill will go some way to addressing that difficulty and supporting something that is popular, as I am sure that the hon. Member for Cardiff West will confirm.

I also want to mention something that will probably not be mentioned in this place this year. Next week in Wales there will be a rock and pop strike, which might be unique in world history, because the BBC in its wisdom has decided that music in the national language of Wales is regional and attracts a lower rate of royalty. I mention that in passing, because I will be trying to draw attention to it. I wish the Bill well, I am glad that it is before us and I will be supporting it.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Labour, Ilford South

It is a pleasure to appear in a Committee chaired by my fellow Ilford Member of Parliament, Mr Scott.

I give my support to the Bill and I concur with the hon. Member for Arfon, who has referred to the difficulties that some of the provisions in the Licensing Act 2003 presented. Several of us had reservations at the time and some late changes were introduced in the Lords as a result of such reservations—but they were not sufficient, as the Musicians’ Union and many other organisations have consistently pointed out over a number of years.

I must declare an interest as a member of the all-party parliamentary jazz group, and as somebody who listens to live jazz regularly in the Royal Air Force Association Ilford and Woodford club in my constituency. That live music is performed by members of the Musicians’ Union, who are rehearsing for their normal purposes of making a living in a very fraught industry.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath

Since the hon. Gentleman is passionate about the RAF, I hope he will be attending the performance that they are giving later today in Portcullis House.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Labour, Ilford South

Yes, I have received the e-mail, and I intend to be there. That performance will be given by a bigger band, however, rather than by a small ensemble of jazz musicians practising on their day off, which is what we tend to have in my constituency.

Some of the concerns that residents’ associations have expressed are overblown. People who move next to a pub or a club often seem shocked when people start attending that facility, whether in motor cars or on foot. We need to get the balance right in our society between the needs of our citizens for culture and entertainment and the needs of people who want to draw their curtains and cut themselves off from the world. I welcome the Bill, and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Bath on introducing it.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

It is a pleasure to have you here in the Chair looking after us this morning, Mr Scott.

I echo both sides of the Committee in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath and Lord Clement-Jones, who initiated the Bill at the other end of the corridor. The Bill is tremendously welcome, and I am delighted that it has had cross-party support in both Chambers of Parliament. It is greatly to everybody’s credit that we can create such a level of cross-party unanimity to back up this important measure. I am delighted that it has been introduced, and I urge everybody to support it when we reach the end of our deliberations.

I want to address the issue that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath asked me to clarify in his response to questions from the hon. Member for Bristol East about noise control. I confirm that my right hon. Friend was entirely right about how the changes in the Bill will affect the previous legislation, and we are happy to reissue or provide any necessary guidance to make it clear how that can be used in future. I echo him in confirming that, as a result of the Bill, there will be plenty of ways for local communities and local licensing authorities to continue to exercise effective control via licence conditions, particularly for alcohol on premises.

In the very few or theoretical circumstances in which isolated licensed premises have grandfathered rights, which are unusual—we think there are few of those—a simple solution is to have a quick licence review, which local authorities do all the time, and that would also fix the problem. If problems arise, plenty of solutions and powers are still available to local communities, should they need them, to ensure that there are sufficient protections.

The Bill is a welcome and overdue step in the right direction. As everybody here is aware, the Government have been consulting on other proposals over the past few months. As an update, we have had about 1,400 responses to those proposals. They are somewhat wider than the measures we are debating today; many were extremely positive, but some legitimate concerns are being raised, and we will evaluate and address them carefully during our consideration of the consultation responses.

The fact, however, that wider potential amendments are out there should not distract from this being a sensible, contained Bill that moves us firmly in the right direction. I commend it to the Committee and add that the Government are very happy to support it as it stands.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Education)

I rise to support the clause and, more broadly, the Bill; I do not expect to rise again in the debate.

The 2003 Act was well-meaning when it was passed but it had a fundamental flaw, and those of us, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South, who supported it with heavy hearts did so because there were attempts at the time to improve it and make its implications less pernicious. The well-intended part was to regulate a nuisance that can and does occur in licensed premises, and anyone who has lived next to such a place—licensed premises can, by the way, sometimes become a nuisance after having been a very good, well-run establishment for many years—will be aware of how that can be detrimental to the quality of life of nearby residents.

I certainly do not pooh-pooh the concerns of residents’ associations and others who have written in about the Bill, but the fundamental flaw with the 2003 Act was that it sought to pick out music as a particular nuisance, rather than noise. The issue is noise, or badly run or disorderly establishments, and there are sufficient powers to deal with that problem without having to pick out—or, if I may say, pick on—live music as a problem, because it is not. It can become a nuisance in a badly regulated and badly managed establishment.

The right hon. Member for Bath and his colleague in the other place, Lord Clement-Jones, have brought forward an extremely sensible Bill. It is a measure that quite elegantly, as the right hon. Gentleman put it, enables us to move on from the 2003 Act without taking away the appropriate safeguards that should be in place to regulate nuisance from licensed establishments. Before concluding, I should declare an interest as a member of the Musicians’ Union, which I congratulate on its long-standing campaign to get the legislation amended.

Finally, I pay tribute to my late hon. Friend the Member for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen) who was a great campaigner on behalf of live music and music generally, and particularly in his role as chairman of the all-party group on folk arts. I am sure that he would welcome the measure, were he able to join us today.

Photo of Mike Weatherley Mike Weatherley Conservative, Hove 10:00 am, 14th December 2011

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath for mentioning Rock the House earlier. To clarify, a particular section of that competition relates to live music. A distinguished visitor to the House of Commons recently was Alice Cooper, who was enthusing about how important live music was to the development of all artists, saying that without the ability to play live we would not have half the artists in this country that we have now, or half the overseas earnings. Ian Gillan, the lead singer of Deep Purple, also visited recently, and he has already entered his local venue into the competition for next year even though it has not actually opened yet.

One thing that I will say about the Bill is that the permitted audience should be levelled at 500. We are not suggesting that we change it at this stage, but I am concerned that 200 is too low. Indeed, the Rock the House competition allows for venues with a capacity of under 500.

On noise, the Noise Abatement Society is based in my constituency of Hove, and I am a patron. The society provides solutions to live music. It does not want to stop live music; it thinks that it is a good thing. It holds awards here on the Terrace every year, where people who have designed out the problems of noise—double doors or whatever—are recognised. I want to invite the Minister to meet the members of the Noise Abatement Society, to go over some of their practical solutions.

Photo of Andrew Griffiths Andrew Griffiths Conservative, Burton

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath on his efforts with the Bill. I must declare an interest as the chairman of the all-party group on beer; the Bill clearly impacts dramatically on pubs and publicans across the country. In that role, I say to the hon. Member for Ilford South that I hope that, having enjoyed the fantastic music of the RAF band this evening, he will join us on the Terrace, where we will be celebrating the all-party beer group Christmas party. I hope that he will come and raise a glass of great British beer. I know that he will take some persuading, but I hope that we can twist his arm.

I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about residents who, having moved in next door to a pub that may have been there for 100 or 150 years, suddenly express great consternation that living next door to a pub or a live music venue has consequences. Of course, I also share the concerns of the hon. Member for Cardiff West about the need to protect local communities from the pernicious impact of noise, traffic and everything else that goes with a venue, but the Bill’s clever drafting allows the correct safeguards to be put in place to protect such communities and it allows licensing authorities the power to control venues that are not acting correctly or within the best interests of nearby residents.

I want to keep my comments brief, but I draw hon. Members’ attention to the words of Feargal Sharkey, the ex-CEO of UK Music, who said that

“pubs lie at the very foundation of the UK’s music industry.”

We have all seen to our consternation the closure of 4,000 pubs over the past two years. At its height, we were seeing 52 pubs close a week. That figure has now reduced, but it remains at some 28 a month, which is  obviously a concern as we all recognise that pubs are at the centre of our communities. They do not only dispense drinks; they also play an important role in the big society. Publicans and musicians across the country will be breathing a sigh of relief at the sensible measures in the Bill.

Research shows that pubs that offer live music to their customers see their takings increase by 44%. At weekends, that can increase to 50%. If we want to support pubs and publicans, as I think we all do, making it easier for publicans to have live music and to benefit from that kind of uplift in takings is surely a good thing. I congratulate my right hon. Friend, and he has my full support.

Photo of David Morris David Morris Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath on all his efforts and endeavours in trying to amend the Bill. Looking at the comments from both sides of the House over the past 18 months, I am absolutely certain that this legislation was brought in with the right spirit, but it has amounted to a nuisance clause.

I am trying to extol the virtues of doing live music in pubs. When I first started out, back in the day, people had to go through the pub route before eventually going on to the bigger venues. The old saying is that rock stars have to start in the pubs before doing the stadiums. It brings back some good memories and I am very glad that my right hon. Friend is taking this on and enabling a future generation of musicians to come through in the way that I did.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Chair, Privacy and Injunctions (Joint Committee), Vice-Chair, Conservative 1922 Committee, Chair, Privacy and Injunctions (Joint Committee)

May I apologise, Mr Scott, to you and members of the Committee for arriving late? I shall therefore keep my remarks brief. I just want to place on the record my full support for the Bill. Two and half years ago, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which I am proud to chair, did a report on the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003. One of our unanimous conclusions was that to encourage the performance of live music

“We recommend that the Government should exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for the performance of live music.”

We were very encouraged by the positive response that we received from the Labour Government. We were even more encouraged when the coalition agreement made a clear pledge that the Government would move  to lift some of the regulation of live music. They have made slow progress since then, it is fair to say, but I should like to commend the efforts of my hon. Friend the Minister who has been working hard to support live music and to reduce the burden of the 2003 Act. But it is obviously Lord Clement-Jones and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath who have taken it forward.

The Bill exactly incorporates the recommendations of the Select Committee. If any more arguments are needed in its favour, I draw hon. Members’ attention to the Select Committee report. I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Liberal Democrat, Bath

I thank all hon. Members who have spoken in support of the Bill. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Barnsley Central, who leads on these issues for the official Opposition, was unable to be with us today in Committee. He has asked me to make sure that the Committee is aware of his full support for the Bill.

I thank the hon. Member for Cardiff West for describing the Bill as elegant and the hon. Member for Burton for saying that the wording is clever. The credit for that is entirely down to my noble Friend Lord Clement-Jones and the extremely efficient and effective officials within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. They deserve our thanks as well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hove questioned whether the figure should not be 500 rather than 200. Very interestingly, a further part of the letter I referred to earlier from the Local Government Association also suggests that we could have gone up to a figure of 500. I think my hon. Friend is right to say that it is better to get this measure through and then, with my hon. Friend the Minister’s further review into these issues, 500 or perhaps an even greater figure could be considered.

It is lovely to have my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon with us now. I referred specifically to the Select Committee report but also to his excellent early-day motion 546, which had all-party support for moves in the direction that the Bill proposes. It is clear that there is support on all sides and I am grateful for all the comments that have been made.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose.