Mudcat Café message #1229682 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #70681   Message #1229682
Posted By: GUEST,Hamish Birchall
20-Jul-04 - 05:43 AM
Thread Name: A little more news on Licensing
Subject: RE: A little more news on Licensing
I will try to answer Dave Bryant's question about the likelihood of licence conditions, and give my view about the MU's current position on licensing reform.

First, conditions: they are likely, but they should not - in theory - be imposed if the condition is already provided for in other legislation. For example, if safety or noise legislation already provides adequate safeguards for a public safety or noise nuisance risk identified by the local authority, a licence condition duplicating that provision may be unlawful. The Licensing Guidance goes into some detail about this (copies available from DCMS website, see paras 3.53-3.55 and Chapter 7). The various exemptions from entertainment licensing have interesting implications in relation to conditions. The government must accept that safety legislation adequately covers the public safety risks arising from the provision of regulated entertainment because places of public religious worship are exempt from licensing for such provision. The government also must accept that crime and disorder legislation, and legislation protecting children from harm, is adequate to cover risks of disorder or crime, or possible harm to children, arising from the provision of televised football matches in pubs. Broadcast entertainment is exempt, anywhere, anytime.

That accounts for three of the four licensing objectives. So, it would seem that the only reason that a broad exemption was not granted to live music in pubs, bars and similar places, was because the government feared a) that noise complaints would soar, and b) that existing anti-noise legislation is inadequate.

The experts I spoke to in the course of researching this (environmental health officers, DEFRA consultants, acoustics consultants) were generally of the view that noise legislation was not inadequate, rather its enforcement was under-resourced. Irrespective of entertainment licensing, local authorities can issue pre-emptive noise abatement notices and confiscate noisy equipment immediately. The police can close noisy pubs immediately for up to 24 hours.

So it would seem that even where a pub with thin walls and no double glazing wanted to provide heavy metal bands 24 hours a day, local authorities and the police have sufficient powers to prevent that, irrespective of licence conditions. The Licensing Guidance puts it more cautiously: '... there will be circumstances where no additional conditions may be necessary where existing legislation and regulation already effectively promote the licensing objectives, and where, for whatever reason, licensed premises could not conceivably add to any crime and disorder or other relevant issues.' [para 3.55]

Secondly, the MU: as you probably know I ceased working for the MU in September 2003 (although I remain a member). The only work on this issue I have been paid for since was the 4-page briefing for musicians, commissioned by Jazz Services, recommending ways to work with local authorities so as to make the best of the new regime.

The MU appears now to be reluctant to criticise the Licensing Act strongly. It is certainly no longer fighting 'tooth and nail' against it. It also seems to have sidelined the 'freedom of expression' arguments which have important implications for all musicians and local authorities. I have asked the General Secretary, John Smith, several times about this, but have yet to receive a credible explanation.

My impression is that the Union's Executive Committee has collectively decided to 'move on' and to work as closely as possible with the government to promote maximum take-up of entertainment authorisations under the new regime. Personally, I see no contradiction in working hard to make the best of unsatisfactory legislation, but at the same time making it public that you strongly oppose its underlying assumptions and its unjust treatment of live music. But it appears to me that the MU now thinks differently.