Mudcat Café message #834853 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #53667   Message #834853
Posted By: GUEST,Richard Bridge with no cookie
25-Nov-02 - 05:53 PM
Thread Name: PELs UK Music needs your HELP
Subject: RE: PELs UK Music needs your HELP
Just sent to my MP

To: Mr R. Marshall-Andrews QC, MP

From: Forge House
High Street
Lower Stoke

Tel: 01634 27 10 20
Fax: 01634 27 27 21

29th November 2002

Dear Mr Marshall-Andrews
I refer to the letter of the 30th May you received from the mendacious minister Mr Howells.

There is little in it to command much respect, and much in it to command derision.

At no time did I claim to represent the Musicians' Union, as Mr Howells implies. If Mr Howells had read the prior exchanges of mine with his so-called civil so-called servants, he should (I almost said "would" but that would have been expecting too much) have seen that everything I said was perfectly justified and in no way an over-reaction by a member of the electorate being given the run-around in slippery and sarcastic half-truths by unelected jacks-in-office.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight it can now be seen that the "rational and sensible" behaviour of the Musicians' Union produced absolutely no responsive reaction from the men from the ministry who carried on churning out at best half-truths to you and to other MPs with the cynical objective of proceeding on their own course rather than dealing with the proper concerns of the public from whom the truth about government intentions had been concealed. I would point out that eventually even the patience of Job was tested, and the union was forced to correct a number of terminological inexactitudes from the minitser's department.

Remember: the government promised the reform of the "two-in-a-bar" rule not a "none-in-a-bar rule. It lied. Remember the promises to the nation of the Mike Harding show (Radio 2). Already broken.

The basic plank of the minister's letter that I referred to a "public entertainment licence" when that designation was no longer to exist is the sort of feeble sophistry that the weakest university debater would scorn, and nowhere touches the substance or truth of the problem that the minister tries blindly to deny. One acoustic musician will be subject to the full rigours of the law of public entertainment licensing, and, worse, will expressly be subject to penalty along with the organiser.

The minister states that there would be no disincentive to applying for multiple licences. That could not honestly be said by any man of integrity, and I leave it to the minister to decide where he falls short. Each category of licence applied for will be subject to the "reasonable" (why does that word no longer make me laugh?) restrictions to be imposed by local authorities, so the application for multiple licences will bring multiple conditions and so multiply the on-costs of compliance.

The minister pretends that local authorities will be effectively prevented from imposing unreasonable conditions by the possibility that landlords might take them to court. He cannot be serious. We all know the kneejerk reaction of local authorities. Do you know the song "Jobsworth" by Jeremy Taylor? "Jobsworth, jobsworth, it's more than me jobsworth: I don't care, rain or snow, whatever you want the answer's NO!" Remember the local authority that had ALL local gravestones laid flat in case they might fall over and injure someone? I think it was East Sussex. That is the classic local authority way of dealing with safety and public order to over-react to imagined issues. These are the authorities fining pubs because customers "sway rhythmically"! You cannot say that we dare not speak the name of local authority irrationality.

Local authority tendency to over-regulate is even implicitly admitted, for the bill tries to fence local authorities around. But the right for the landlord to sue the authority is an illusion an illusion only rich men or those spending public money could fail to recognise as such. The landlord needs his licence. He needs it now, to earn his living. The local authority hypothetically (frankly, it is not so hypothetical in the real world) imposes a silly condition a 20,000 new lavatory block, or three bouncers at over 90 per night (that's the going rate in the real world) for a folk club with a capacity of 20. The landlord can go without his licence (remember, this is the licence to sell his booze as well, because all the licences have been integrated), or give in and spend the money, or give in and not bother. If he wants to fight, the local authority has a bottomless purse to instruct learned and expensive counsel. And if it loses, who pays? The ratepayers (council tax payers if the minister still fancies being a pedant's pedant), not the jobsworths personally! But the landlord must hazard all he has to pay his lawyers, risk his house if he is mulcted in costs, and, until judgment, still not have a licence. Only a lawyer married to a lawyer could think this is anything other than a nightmare for the poor publican.

Perhaps the silliest evasion of the minster's is the argument that folk music cannot be defined, so an exemption for it cannot be drafted. First it can be defined it's just that the definition (I can dig it out if you want it) is really only of academic and sociological use. Second, for a sensible exemption you don't have to define folk music. You don't even want to, because folk music could be electric. You only have to define what does not need regulating. That is easy. It is so simple even a minister could see it, if he were not blinded by hubris and the "not invented here" rule. It is acoustically produced music that does not need regulating. It is not the type of music that needs regulating, but the means of sound production, and that is a matter only of mechanics (or electro-magnetics) not musical taste and judgment. No-one has produced a single case of disturbance or noise breakout nuisance from acoustic music. In the real world hypothetical arguments about the intensity of sound at the bell of a trumpet are irrelevant. How often do you hear excessive noise in pubs from acoustic instruments? In practice 100% of noise nuisance from sound breakout is caused by electrical amplification. If extraordinary circumstances do arise, the existing law permits the control of noise nuisance so long as the necessary resources are not otherwise eaten up, as they are to day, which they would not be under the proposed new law.

The minister says that the exemption I proposed would not work. Extraordinarily, even for him, he gives no reason. You as a lawyer will have noticed that.

Foolishly, the minister repeats the exemplification of his illogicality. He says that one musician with an amplifier can make more sound than three without. But that does not compel the restriction of the three. It makes a case only for the restriction of the amplifier, and to say otherwise is folly.

To rub salt in the wound the minister brags to you that the bars in the houses of Parliament will remain free from licensing restrictions. We the people resent being told that what the ministers enjoy is too good for us. Please sing him a folk-song some time. At least he has admitted hating them.

You will be pleased to hear that I am almost done. But I must also pass on one or two remarks about the reply of Claire Vickers (ref 02/17246) dated the 19th November 2002 to another folk musician. It repeats most of the idiocies I expose above but adds some of its own (or culled from intervening development of the government's wholly unjustifiable position).

It tries to hide behind the suggestion that not-for-profit music will not be affected. This is another illusion, and a silly and transparent one too. Pubs permit music in their bars because they expect more customers and to sell more drinks. So even if singers are not paid, all music in pubs is with a view to profit. Also, so what? What is less worthy about music for profit, than music not for profit? It is the music that a ministry of Culture should be trying to preserve.

It openly says that the government does not accept that acoustic music is never noisy. Only the most retentive control freak could run that one. In the real world no-one has produced one single instance of noise breakout, public disturbance, or safety problem associated with unamplified music. Not one. That's close enough to "never" for the rest of the world and if the government does not accept it is they who look stupid.

I appreciate you are busy with Cliffe Airport. I am wholly against that airport too (as you know), and I was the folk singer at Saturday's Rochester rally. Please support folk music now. You never know when you might need a folk singer again.

Yours sincerely

Richard McD. Bridge