Mudcat Café message #889353 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56271   Message #889353
Posted By: The Shambles
13-Feb-03 - 07:36 AM
Thread Name: PEL's: News Blackout!
Subject: RE: PEL's: News Blackout!
This does not seem to be on the paper's website, linked to above.

Western Morning News 12 February 2003
www.thisisdevon.co.uk
Bill 'infringes' human rights.
Paliamentary committee attacks changes to licensing laws.
By Paul Andrews
Pandrews@westernmorningnews.co.uk

The Government will "infringe individuals' freedom of expression" if it continues with its proposed shake-up of licensing laws, according to a parliamentary committee. The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHS), a body consisting of senior members from the House of Commons and House of Lords, says freedom of expression may be "incompatible" with the proposed change of law.

If the Government's Licensing Bill became law in its current form, all kinds of performance would be illegal unless licensed, which musicians and landlords fear would lead to the death of live music in pubs.

The JCHR report states: "There is a significant risk that the blanket licensing regime proposed in the Bill would give rise to an incompatibility with people's right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The proposed blanket requirement for all premises to be licensed before any live performance takes place in them, regardless of whether there is a real risk of noise or nuisance, the nature of the premises, or the number of performers and spectators, is somewhat heavy-handed".

"We note that the licensing regime under the Bill would not cover the use of amplification for recorded music, which would seem to present health and safety risks similar to those caused by electronic amplification of live performers."

The committee also criticised the Government's recent U turn on the exemption of churches from the proposed legislation. Church music was set to be licensable, but this was later retracted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The committee said: "This apparently random exemption for places of religious worship might tend to undermine the argument for the rationality of the blanket licensing regime as a whole, and could engage other human rights issues by appearing to discriminate against occupiers and users of non-religious premises."

Campaigners have labelled the report a "major victory". Hamish Birchall, a spokesman for the Musician's Union South West said: This report utterly vindicates the campaign against the Bill. If premises don't need a licence to provide big screen broadcast entertainment with a powerful sound system, why must even small-scale acoustic performances be a criminal offence?"

The Bill, which could be law by next year, would abolish the "two-in-a-bar rule", which allows a landlord to stage one or two musicians in their pub without needing an entertainment licence. landlords would need to apply to their local authority for a new premises licence to stage any musical performance, however small.

But because of the expensive conditions which may be insisted upon by fire and police, there are fears landlords will be unable to afford to provide any live music. Mr Birchall said: "Of course we want venues to be safe and local residents to be protected from noise nuisance. But there is already adequate legislation in place to deal with these concerns." "At grass-roots level musicians need to be able to seel work and exchange ideas." "And it seems senior political figures agree."

The report will now be forwarded to the DCMS. A DCMS spokesman said: "We will consider our response to their specific concerns once we have studied it in detail." "As our amendment on churches proves, we are prepared to listen and will therefore give full consideration to the committee's conclusions."

One band who have graduated from the Westcountry pub circuit are Show of hands. The Exeter-based duo who have played all over the world and twice sold out the Albert Hall, believe the Bill would deny young musicians the chance to break through.

Singer-songwriter Steve Knightley said: " The grass-roots level is crucial to young talent. When you start out you need any gig at all, and it might be the only chance you will get. The two-in-a- bar rule provided us with that chance."

" If your set works in a small pub, where you are face to face with unforgiving audiences, it will work anywhere. You can't hide, so you learn to handle a crowd and build up a rapport."

"The Irish and the Scots have a living musical culture, they play at their own weddings and parties. The English don't really have that. So we are dependent on music-loving landlords who want to offer people an alternative."

The WMN campaign to challenge the Licensing Bill has now received over 1,400 protest forms from readers. Along with the petition forms published yesterday these will be handed to Minister for Culture Kim Howells, demanding that live pub music is protected.

Mr Knightley said: "There seems to be an assumption at Government level that we have no vernacular culture worth protecting but they are wrong." ENDS

Law would encourage live music minister

Culture minister Kim Howells was fiercely criticised by Westcountry pub landlords yesterday after he claimed the Government's Licensing Bill would encourage more premises to put on live entertainment.

Dr Howells said that more than 9,000 premises currently held permanent entertainment licences, with a further 37,000 temporary licenses being issued each year.

And he claimed that the new combined licence would make it easier and cheaper for pubs and other premises licensed premises to put on entertainment as it would be governed by a "single premises licence" covering both alcohol and public entertainment.

Joe Duthie, chairman of the West of England Licensed Victuallers Association, said: "Of course Mr Howells is going to make these claims." "He is responsible for the legislation and therefore has a political responsibility to defend it."

"But I an sure he knows it just isn't true." "He is just obstinately digging his heels in" "When any aspects of licensing laws have been handed to local authorities in the past it has always resulted in massive hikes in fees. That is an historical fact."

"I have not spoken to one licensee who welcomes these changes." "Everybody is fearful because ultimately it will be landlords and their customers who will lose out." " The Government gets involved more and more and each time it just adds another level of expensive bureaucracy."

In a written parliamentary answer, Dr Howells insisted that the new combined licence would cost "no more" than an alcohol licence. he said: "The Government expects that the removal of the cost deterrent in applying for permission to provide entertainment, along with the provision of a less bureaucratic system and measures to prevent unnecessary conditions being attached to licences by licensing authorities, will encourage many more premises to take the opportunity to provide public entertainment."

Landlords who have experience of applying for public entertainment licenses are also unconvinced by Dr Howells. Viv Wilson, who has run the Lime Tree in Paignton for the last three years said: "The idea that these licenses are easy to get just isn't true."

"They may be cheaper but the conditions that are placed on applications make them impossible to obtain, especially for small rural pubs." "we applied for an entertainments licence some time ago. We just wanted to put on the odd bit of music." " but because of a few objections from local residents that was it." "In the end we were so deflated by the whole experience we just left it."