Mudcat Café message #909922 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56271   Message #909922
Posted By: The Shambles
14-Mar-03 - 09:57 AM
Thread Name: PEL's: News Blackout!
Subject: RE: PEL's: News Blackout!
Western Morning News 14 March 2003.

The WMN presented a petition from 11,000 of their readers to No 10 Downing Street and spoke to Dr Howells.

FEARS FOR LIVE MUSIC MISPLACED – MINISTER

The concern of more than 11,000 WMN readers that plans to change licensing laws will threaten the future of live music in pubs are "wrong", according to Culture Minister Kim Howells.

Speaking exclusively to the WMN yesterday, Dr Howells claimed that proposals laid out in the Government's Licensing Bill would allow live music to "flourish".

Despite overwhelming opposition to the Bill from musicians, landlords, the Licensed Victuallers Association, politicians from all parties, the Joint Committee of Human Rights and senior peers, Dr Howells insisted that the move would actively encourage live pub music.

He said: "The response to the WMN campaign has been very impressive, and it proves that people care deeply about live music. " But they are wrong to believe that if this Bill becomes law it will be under threat. "I am a big fan of live music myself and I would not be part of something which would diminish the number of venues available."

The WMN Don't Kill Our Live Pub Music campaign was launched on February 1. Reader protest forms were published every day , and campaign petition forms were published weekly. Each day the campaign- spearheaded by Westcountry based musician Billy Bragg – has featured pubs and musicians from across the Westcountry, all concerned about the Bill's impact on live music.

Campaign posters published in the WMN are on display in pubs across the region.

But Dr Howells blamed criticism of the Bill on "misinformation" and defended his plans to abolish the two-in-a-bar –rule, which allows up to two musicians to play in a pub without the need for a entertainments licence. He said: "When the Bill becomes law there will be a year for it to be implemented. All pubs will apply to their local authority for the right to serve alcohol, and tick a box saying they also want live music. It won't cost any more. "Currently, if you want to put more than two musicians on you need to apply for a public entertainment licence. "These can cost thousands of pounds, but the new licence will not cost a penny more than people already pay. "The two-in-a-bar-rule is itself restricting the flow of musical talent, It distorts live music and is a nonsense."

But campaigners against the Bill have argued that abolishing the two-in-a-bar-rule will force pubs to apply for an entertainments licence which could make them subject to extra costs and additional health and safety measures.

Dr Howells said local authorities would not be able to place unnecessary restrictions on applications for the new premises licence. He said: "No local authority will be allowed to impose any additional conditions on the venue itself. We have to tighten up things up. "Once this change is made everybody will see it as a benefit to live music, and not to its detriment."

The WMN campaign has received the backing of many hundreds of Westcountry pubs which believe that their long-standing tradition of offering small-scale live music to pubs is under threat.

But Dr Howells brushed off their concerns. He said: "Musical tradition is exactly the same in South Wales. And publicans already deal with these terms in the existing regime. "I can assure your readers the only difference will be a question of just ticking a box on an application form. "We have to balance what musicians want with the needs of local residents, businesses and the police. We have to ensure public order."

The government had key parts of the Bill overturned in the Lords when peers objected to Dr Howells' plans. They insisted on exemptions for "unamplified music" and small pubs with a maximum capacity of 250. The Bill will shortly move to the House of Commons to be considered by MPs – an ideal opportunity for the Government to consider the points made by the critics of the legislation.

Dr Howells said: "We will consider the Lords amendment. But the exemption for premise holding less than 250 people is ridiculous. It sounds like a great idea until something goes wrong."

Despite overwhelming criticism of the Licensing Bill, Dr Howells refused to accept that the government had made a mistake. He said "There hasn't been the level of opposition people believe. I don't think the public would object if they knew the truth, but they have been misled. "This will not go away. We have to be serious about this and what we want for live music in the future."