Mudcat Café message #924687 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54636   Message #924687
Posted By: ET
02-Apr-03 - 02:37 PM
Thread Name: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Subject: RE: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Please read the debate below.   It is very important to us all. See also extract in next thread

Subj: Howells ditches small events exemption and makes a patronising comment about Irish culture
Date: 02/04/2003 19:52:44 GMT Standard Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Please circulate

In the Licensing Bill's first Committee debate yesterday (01 April), Culture Minister Kim Howells rejected the small events exemption and got it voted out of the Bill. Even Labour MPs on the Committee who supported the exemption (or their own slightly altered version) voted with the Whip. Read the debate:

However, the Minister promoted the Government's change of heart over the 'incidental' exemption for live music. He offered a definition of 'incidental', conceding that it was not entirely clear. He seemed to think its interpretation should be at local authority discretion:
Dr. Howells: 'I will have a pop at a definition for the hon. Gentleman. Incidental live music is music that does not form part of the main attraction for visitors to a premises. Examples might include a piano played in the background in a restaurant, or carol singers in a shopping centre. However, if a band in a pub was advertised to draw in customers, or live music was played so loud that it could not possibly be regarded as incidental to another activity, it would be unlikely to benefit from the exemption. To clarify the matter further, we would expect the licensing authority to exercise this discretion as it currently does in regard to public entertainment licensing.'

And later: '...If the entertainment is advertised and the purpose of the music is to draw in customers and to make a profit for the business, that has a direct bearing on the business and it would be difficult to describe it as incidental...' And: '... There might be a clear attempt by the holder of a licence to draw people into his premises by advertising the music that will be played. On the other hand, I occasionally get invited to some posh restaurants—it is one of the perks of my job, and perhaps at some time in the middle of this century the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire will be invited to them himself—and there is a restaurant nearby where a good pianist plays jazz standards through the course of the evening. That music is incidental; it is tucked away in the corner.'

So it looks like the Government agrees that advertised gigs are unlikely to be covered by the incidental exemption.

Conservative, Lib Dem and supportive Labour MPs (notably Bob Blizzard and Jim Knight), argued around all the live music issues very effectively. But this didn't stop most amendments being withdrawn. Towards the end of the afternoon, Conservative Malcolm Moss expressed his disappointment at Howells' position over the small events exemption. This is when the Culture Minister made one of his famously unguarded comments:

Mr Moss:.... The Government are trying to squash the whole edifice under their heavy boot, simply because one or two things may cause problems. We should look at the issue from a completely different angle and try to support the arts and culture, particularly music. What do they do in Ireland I wonder? Why is it so vibrant there? I do not suppose that they have all this legislation over there.

Dr. Howells: I do not think that Ireland is a particularly good comparison. We have a very vibrant cultural industry in this country. We are the second largest exporter of culture in the world. Ireland is a country of 3.5 million people. It does not even begin to compare with this country's great cultural life. The Irish are extraordinarily good at advertising Ireland as a home that is full of fiddlers and dancers. Good luck to them, they are a very inventive people.

* * *

In the same debate Howells also said:

'...I turn to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset. Incidentally, since we may consider some of the human rights issues later, the seventh report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights welcomed the changes that have been made as a reaction to its concerns and to those that were raised by my hon. Friend in that Committee's fourth report. It has raised no further concerns in relation to article 10 on freedom of expression. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that.'

He is wrong. The Seventh Report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights welcomed the Government amendment to Clause 134 (which now limits the potential criminal liability of musicians to those organising their own events), but added:

'As we noted in our Fourth Report, the Government intends that certain venues would be exempt from the licensing requirements, and some others would be exempt from the fees normally chargeable for entertainment venues. While the proposals would made the licensing regime more responsive to the requirements of ECHR Article 10, exempting (for example) places of worship but not secular venues from the licensing regime might give rise to discrimination and threaten a violation of the right to be free from discrimination under ECHR Article 14 taken together with Article 9 (the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and Article 10 (freedom of expression). We draw this risk to the attention of each House, and we might wish to report further on it when we have had an opportunity to consider carefully the terms of the Government's proposed amendments to the Bill.' [para 35, 'Scrutiny of Bills: Further Progress Report, Seventh Report of Session 2002-03', HL Paper 74, HC 547, published 21 March 2003]