Mudcat Café message #883837 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56416   Message #883837
Posted By: sian, west wales
06-Feb-03 - 05:21 AM
Thread Name: PEL - A Reply From An MP.
Subject: RE: PEL - A Reply From An MP.
Just to add to the library of response, I copied my letter to my AM to the National Assembly for Wales' Cultural Minister, Jenny Randerson. So, first my letter to the MP (his reply isn't worth retyping, and he just sent along the stock Kim Howells letter) and then the reply from our Minister of Culture's dept:

sent 13-12-02

Dear Mr Ainger,

I write to add my voice to the growing number of people protesting the government's changes outlined in the Licensing Bill.

From my reading of the Bill, and it's supporting schedules, the current proposals will effect activities as diverse as informal music and poetry sessions in pubs, choral rehearsals in chapels, non-sectarian fundraising events held on religious premises, book launches in book shops if involving 'readings', and, apparently, carol singing!

Should the current Bill be passed, particularly without the modifications being proposed by members of the House of Lords and in Early Day Motions, the social cohesion of Wales, and rural Wales in particular, will be seriously under threat. Social interaction within communities, and participation in local culture is often the first step to full participation in a healthy civil society and no legislation should be set in place which creates barriers to this.

Neither should any legislation be undertaken which encourages globalization of culture while penalizing the local. Making an exception for television and 'piped' music not only encourages a preference for the global, but also sends the message that citizens should be observers, not participants.

I am aware that the current legislation, appropriately dubbed 'daft' in the first EDM, needs to be reformed. I have no objections to the concept of a single, check-box license, nor to inspections of venues to ensure that Health and Safety regulations are met. However, what is being promoted - rather vaguely - as an inexpensive license may well be inflated far beyond the majority of current venues' means by multiple inspections by local authorities more interested in the income generated than in enabling community cohesion.

I would point out that this legislation flies in the face of current thinking in Wales, as well as long standing cultural customs and practices. Where the Assembly is working, through initiatives such as Cymru'n Creu, LEADER+ themes, and Rural Community Action, to encourage a culture of participation, Westminster's Labour government is criminalizing activities which are essential to these policies. Similarly, what future for the Arts Council Cultural Industries initiatives, or Wales Tourist Board Strategic Tourism schemes if the community interface is undermined by the Licensing Bill as it currently stands?

In closing, I think that we, once again, are faced with legislation which may work for major conurbations where population density makes expenditure on licenses viable. This, from Dr. Kim Howells' comments on BBC Radio last week, is obviously the paradigm being used. However, in rural Welsh communities, where chapels are concert venues and taverns host the passing on of musical and poetic traditions, the critical mass required to make expenditure on this license viable does not exist.

I would like you to note my opposition to the proposed Licensing Bill and my objection to our cultural traditions, to say nothing of our freedom of expression, being undermined by this government.

Siān Thomas
(via faxyourMP)

Dear Ms Thomas

Licensing Bill

Thank you for sending the Minister of Culture a copy of your letter of 13 December to Nick Ainger MP about the Licensing Bill which is currently before Parliament. I have been asked to reply.

As you state in your forwarding email, licensing is a matter which has not been devolved to the National Assembly for Wales and the Licensing Bill is the responsibility of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in London. The Welsh Assembly Government was not consulted by the DCMS about the provisions relating to the licensing of places of entertainment. The Bill would not allow the Assembly Government to modify those provisions in respect of their implementation in Wales.

Jenny Randerson has written to Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to express her disappointment about the failure to consult and to relay the concerns which you and others have raised. Ms Randerson made clear in her letter that she shared the concerns relayed by her and pointed out that whilst licensing is a non-devolved matter, provisions in the Bill will have significant implications on several key policy areas which are the responsibility of the Assembly Government – the arts, community sustainability and social inclusion in particular.

Ms Randerson asked that the DCMS Ministers take the issues raised into consideration as they take the Bill forward through its remaining Parliamentary stages. For your information, the Bill has not yet cleared the House of Lords; it will be introduced into the House of Commons later in the session.

Yours sincerely
Gareth Thomas
Arts Branch