Mudcat Café message #867577 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54636   Message #867577
Posted By: The Shambles
15-Jan-03 - 01:39 PM
Thread Name: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Subject: RE: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
The following from Hamish Birchall. Please circulate this.

I am very grateful to Molly Barrett for getting this transcript together so quickly. She listened online, and there were some gremlins, so some bits were not easy to hear. When considering Howells' comments ('total fibs that have been put about by Hamish and his colleagues'), bear in mind that the MU conclusions about the Bill are based on QC's advice, they are shared by the independent Performer-Lawyer group, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights has agreed with us that the Bill has the potential to violate performers' rights to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Transcript of BBC Radio London interview: Robert Elms with Hamish Birchall & Kim Howells, Wednesday January 15, 2003, broadcast at approx 1pm.

RE: [the future of live music,] that's what we're about to discuss, and we're going to discuss that with Hamish Birchall, who's an adviser to the Musicians' Union, and to Kim Howells, who's the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State responsible for changing the licensing laws. Welcome to both of you to BBC London, gentlemen. Hamish, first of all, let's begin with you; I think most people are very happy that the licensing laws are going to change, we'll be able to drink for longer hours, we're being treated as adults in pubs, what's the problem?

HB: Yeah, that aspect of the Bill is something we also have broadly welcomed, but the live music provisions are a problem for us, they seem to go very far in the direction of regulation of live music, they abolish a number of important exemptions that have applied for a long time. We don't really see there's been any justification for abolishing these exemptions, and we don't think there's going to be a really significant increase in the number of venues providing local live music...

RE: So you actually think this a threat to live music? I mean, I've particularly heard that it's a threat to folk music and jazz music and the more traditional forms.

HB: Yeah, forms that rely on more informal gatherings of musicians without a fixed number in small premises like pubs and bars I do think are under threat, yes, they are.

RE: Mr Howells, do you accept this? I'm sure it's not the aim of the Bill, is it?

KH: No, I certainly don't, and Hamish knows far better than this, I don't know why he's been spreading this misinformation around the place. What we're going to do is ensure that any licensee who is going to have live music, as an attraction if you like, for customers to come in, will be able to apply for an entertainments part of his new licence as part of his normal application for an alcohol licence. It won't cost him a penny more, and it'll do away with the absurd rule that we have now at the moment called the 'two in a bar' rule. Now if Hamish and the Musicians' Union want to continue over the next century as we have for so very, very long with only being allowed to have two musicians playing in a restaurant or a pub or any other
licensed premises, well, I think he's mad, and I think we've taken a big step forward and it's going to create many more music venues and give much more freedom of expression to musicians right around the country.

RE: Hamish, you're mad!

HB: [laughter] Yes, well, if I am, then so are all the 38,000 people who have signed the on-line petition opposing the live music elements of this Bill, and a [attempted interruption by KH] team of lawyers who operate independently of the Musicians' Union as well. Now I'm sure the Minister intends to improve matters, but I think perhaps that these provisions were not given adequate consideration. We think that smaller premises will think very hard before seeking this permission which will now apply even to one unamplified musician and yet on the other hand there is an exemption for broadcast entertainment no matter how powerful the amplification used. That's what most people find strange about this Bill.

RE: So, Mr Howells, it seems to me that televisions as loud as you like and yet if someone's singing along with a guitar, you've got to have a licence?

KH: No, it's absolutely not true, and Hamish knows it isn't, and I wish he wouldn't persist with this myth. What's going to happen is this: when somebody applies for a modification to their licence, let's say they want to under the new law be able to stay open until - serve alcohol until two o'clock in the morning. When they make that application they'll be able to put - simply fill in a part of the form which says, I would like also please to be able to put on live music in my pub. It won't cost that person a penny more. What Hamish doesn't tell you is that at the moment if you apply, especially in big cities, as a licensee for an entertainments licence, the local authority, we've heard in some areas, charge you 15,000 a year for
it. Now that's an extreme example, but very often it seems, it's been a nice little earner for local authorities. What we're going to do is set absolute charges. A lifetime premises licence will cost between 100 and 500 depending on the size and location of the premises, and there'll be a 50 to 150 annual charge for that alcohol premises licence. It'll not cost a single penny more to tick the box or fill in the form that says, I would like to have music in my pub. Now how that could be seen as a retrograde step is completely beyond me unless of course you wish to distort it for your own trades union's ends.

RE: It does seem there's a degree of rationalisation here, I mean, the old system was all over the place, wasn't it, and the two in a bar rule was a bit odd, alright, it did enable one man and his dog to have a singalong, but if you wanted a band, you had to have a licence anyway.

HB: Yeah, but this is a none-in-a-bar rule, and contrary to what the minister claimed, of course, there is an exemption in the schedule - it's Paragraph 8 - for the provision of broadcast entertainment. And this Bill applies to any place, it's not just pubs. We've welcomed the (proposal?) and we accept that on the point of application, later on this year, if the Bill is enacted, it will be no additional cost in applying for permission we know the way local authorities operate, they've already said to us that they'd like to stipulate the maximum number of musicians, where in the premises, when they're to perform, and making - treating all live music in that special way when you've created an exemption for a pub to be crammed with people watching a big match just seems disproportionate to us.

RE: Disproportionate, Minister?

KH: No, it isn't disproportionate, and I think Hamish ought to - really ought to be a little less churlish about the way in which he's just accepted - what he's saying is, yes, it might be good, but we know local authorities. He doesn't know local authorities, I believe that most local authorities will be very responsible about it, they'll want in the same way as I do, to see music venues proliferating, and the silly rules, which currently determine how many there are going to be, and the crazy charges which licensees have to pay for music licences and entertainment licences will decrease and make it much easier for musicians to play properly in bands larger than one or two, and by the way, may I say this:

I was recently in a pub, with my wife, and we were sitting there having a chat, and some guy came in with a karaoke machine, two massive amplifiers and nearly blew us out of the premises. That is an absurd situation and makes a mockery of the existing law. That's why we want to change it and that's why we want to make the whole of the system accountable. There will not be exemptions for local
authorities to charge the earth for musicians to play in licensed premises and I'm absolutely certain we'll see more music venues, and not fewer.

RE: How much of it though is down to the discretion of the local authority, if you get a local authority who stubbornly says, we don't want music which they probably perceive as loud teenage gatherings in their area...

KH: Well,

RE: - do they have the right to stop it?

KH: Look, the thing is, Robert, the current law enables them to do that now. They can tell a landlord he's not allowed, or she's not allowed to an entertainments licence, or not allowed to put music on, or whatever. The new regime will mean that frivolous objections will not be entertained. And that local authorities will have to have a very, very sound reason for not
granting an entertainments licence in the same way as it happens at the moment. We think that that'll be - that landlords, licensees of all sorts will see the value of having good live music of all sorts as a pull for customers in their pubs and other licensed premises.

RE: Does this just apply to pubs and licensed premises? 'Cos I've heard lots of stories about weddings and private parties and all sorts of -

KH: No, those are other total fibs that have been put about by Hamish and his colleagues. We've even heard - one guy wrote to us saying that postmen whistling on their rounds [laughter, presumably RE] would need a licence. You know, this is total nonsense and it does the Musicians' Union by the way no good at all to be seen to be spreading these kinds of things. They ought to be adult about it, enter into a proper discussion and help us to get it right.

RE: Hamish, do you think that's what you're doing?

HB: "Total fibs" indeed? That's interesting. Well, it's absolutely clear from the wording of the Bill that any performance of live music that's performed with any intention to entertain in public is licensable and that's it.

KH: What, a whistling p-

RE: No, no, alright - maybe not whistling postman, but will you let me

RE: for example Klesmer bands, Jewish events, whatever it is?

HB: Yes, the bill says that if you charge a fee and that fee is paid on behalf of the people being entertained that triggers the licensing requirement and I should add that this is again also the opinion of the QC advising the Musicians' Union and the independent group of lawyers who have taken a close look at this particular section of the Bill. Now again, I fully accept the Minister's wish that this should not be the case If that were reflected in the wording of the Bill, we'd be very happy. But it's not, the Bill needs clarification. These exemptions should be clearly put, for educational purposes, for private events, etc. But as worded, I'm afraid it's a catch-all Bill.

RE: Kim, could this be an example of unforeseen consequences?

KH: No, certainly not, and we've talked to the licensed trade, we've talked to everyone about this Bill, and I'm very confident that it'll be seen as a civilising measure. Do remember this, by the way, Hamish might not care about it, but there are millions and millions of residents who feel very often that their lives are being made a misery because there is no consideration given to the noise that comes out and so on. [cough] excuse me... and we wanna make sure that those considerations are properly taken into account, properly reflected in the same way as we want the demands and needs
of musicians to be reflected and enshrined in legislation.

RE: Can I put a question to both of you, and, sort of in different ways: if once the Bill does go through and it becomes law - a: to the Minister, if it is stopping live music, if people are getting licences rejected, or if there's a reduction in live venues, then would you redress that, and equally: to the Musicians' Union if, unlike your worst fears, it works rather well and means that live music can grow and take its rightful place in the entertainment in this country will you say we were wrong?

KH: Right, yes, can I answer first?

RE: Yeah, go ahead

KH: Yes, absolutely, I give an undertaking to everybody listening to this now, to Hamish and everyone else, that if [cough] for whatever reason - sorry about this cough -

RE: No, worry not

KH: - if, for whatever reason, the effect is to reduce the opportunities for musicians to play, then we will review that legislation.

HB: Can I just come back, just to return to the example he gave about the karaoke machine, well, of course under this Bill, any premises will be able to install a powerful sound system coupled to a juke box. That's not licensable if it's incidental to eating or drinking and he can be blasted out of his chair by that juke box, no licence required under this Bill.

And local residents have redress if only local authorities would use it. Under existing noise legislation they can slap a 20,000 noise abatement notice, they can even serve an anticipatory noise abatement notice if they think a nuisance is likely to occur.

And I don't think local residents would think very highly local authorities who have spent out on under-cover licensing officers merely to count numbers of performers when they could be better used actually monitoring noise nuisance break-out. And I honestly don't think that a regime that could give rise to thousands of premises where having one musician is a criminal offence and yet you can have amplified broadcast entertainment, no problem, I don't think the general public will think that is a good idea, especially coupled with 24-hour opening.

RE: Finally, Mr Howells, I'll let you have the last word here

KH: Sorry, Robert. If I could say, this is a typical example of the googly-gook [laughter from RE/HB] - those absurdities - we're going to stop the two-in-a-bar rule, we're going to make sure that there isn't a limit in the way that Hamish has described and we're gonna free up those venues so that we can have proper bands, not limited to one or two people in a pub, that there can be a proper expression of all kind of music. We won't be able to do it without this legislation and I would only wish that the Musicians' Union would see that it's a real step forward, not a step backwards.

HB: Well, they've got to convince more than us, I believe.

RE: Well, what we've got is a two-step in two directions going on here. All I hope of course, is that we can keep music live using the old slogan of the Musicians' Union, and that live music can proliferate under the new licensing rules. I think, gentlemen, this is one that we'll be returning to at a later date. Thank you. Kim Howells and Hamish Birchall, thank you very much.