Mudcat Café message #915924 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54636   Message #915924
Posted By: ET
22-Mar-03 - 06:57 AM
Thread Name: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Subject: RE: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Please circulate

On Monday (24 March) MPs will debate the Licensing Bill for the first time. If you support the idea of an exemption (or automatic permission) for small-scale gigs, please fax your MP now (suggested text at the end of this message): The site automatically identifies MPs from post codes.

The Government will strongly resist the small events exemption won by Opposition Peers on 11 March. This exemption would allow entertainment up to 11.30pm, no more than 250 attending at any one time. The Government's probable line of attack was disclosed in this week's Stage newspaper: '[the exemption] would put children at risk and cause misery for local residents. It wholly ignores fire and safety and crime prevention. Just because there are fewer people doesn't mean there is less risk as there are fewer injuries and deaths.' [quote by spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, The Stage, 20 March 2003, p5]

Ominous stuff. It doesn't explain, of course, how the risk of injury and death is addressed for crowds (children or adults) jumping up and down in front of big screen (or radio) broadcasts and a powerful PA in any place and at any time - no licence is required under the Licensing Bill for this entertainment. It doesn't explain why jukeboxes should be exempt, no matter how powerfully amplified, or that the UK Noise Association says noise complaints from recorded music are greater than those from live music.

Trailing cables, or blocked fire exits - examples put forward by the Government in defence of licensing - could lead to criminal prosecution under separate health and safety legislation. Employers and the self-employed have statutory duties to make risk assessments of their work activities that take into account any risk to employees and other members of the public who may be affected. Failure to do so can lead to criminal prosecution under safety legislation. The police can close noisy or unruly pubs immediately for up to 24 hours. Local authorities can seize noisy equipment immediately, or serve anticipatory 20,000 noise abatement notices.

The Stage also reported that Government will consider 'very carefully' an exemption for 'incidental' live music. But this is unlikely to cover advertised, featured entertainments, even by one unamplified performer in a small bar. A suggested text for your message follows:

Dear MP

Licensing Bill 2nd Reading 24 March 2003 - small events exemption (Sch 1, para 12)

I write to ask that you support the exemption above as it relates to live music. If the Government can allow crowds to jump up and down in front of big screens and a powerful PA at any time and in any place without a licence under this Bill, surely it is possible to allow live music up to 11.30pm, restricting attendance to 250 at any one time?

While the Government's acceptance that 'incidental' live music should be exempt is welcome, it is likely that this would not cover advertised or featured performances, even by one unamplified musician. Under the existing regime, over 100,000 pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs in England and Wales that do not hold public entertainment licences can provide such performances by one or two musicians. This automatic right would be lost under the new regime, even allowing for an incidental live music exemption.

The Government has failed to satisfy the Joint Committee on Human Rights that the Licensing Bill is a proportionate response to a pressing social need to control live music. The Committee also concluded: '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 ECHR Article 10, even in the light of the Government's announcement on 3 February [churches exemption] mentioned in paragraph 18, above.' [Scrutiny of Bills - Further Progress Report, Fourth Report of Session 2002-03, HL Paper 50, HC 397, 10 February 2003].

If you cannot support the small events exemption as it would apply to a performance of live music in a restaurant or bar, I would ask that you explain where subsisting public safety, noise and crime and disorder legislation is deficient, such that licensing control for live music is the only solution.

Yours etc