Mudcat Café message #967156 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54636   Message #967156
Posted By: The Shambles
16-Jun-03 - 03:44 PM
Thread Name: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Subject: RE: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
The following from Hamish Birchall

Please circulate

Today's petition presentation to 10 Downing Street went well, but the press stayed away this time, in spite of our best efforts to engage their interest. The lack of a celebrity performer may have been a factor. There is no question, however, that the 110,000 signatures, and the coalition of performers' organisations and the music industry backing the MU campaign, has made a big impact behind the scenes with the Department for Culture, MPs and Peers.

Pressure on the Government is also being maintained by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR). Their latest Report, published on 13 June, is scathing. The exemption for places of public religious worship remains a potential discrimination (against people doing the same thing in premises used for secular purposes), but the Report also concludes that the Bill might

'...leave a patchwork of different licensing requirements without a coherent rationale, calling in question the existence of a pressing social need for the restriction on freedom of expression through a licensing regime for public entertainment, and so undermining the Government's claim that such a licensing regime is a justifiable interference with the right to freedom of expression under ECHR Article 10.2'.
[JCHR, 'Scrutiny of Bills: Further Progress Report, Twelfth Report of Session 2002-03, HL Paper 119, HC 765, p17, para 3.4]

This is strong stuff, and it will be raised by MPs in this evening's Commons debate of the Bill (although it is unlikely that anything other than Government amendments will be accepted).

However, the petition and the JCHR Report has been on the agenda earlier today during behind the scenes discussions between Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and key Opposition Peers.

The discussions are a sign that the Government recognises they are in difficulty. This could be good news, but I do not want to raise hopes prematurely. A last round of letters to Peers may yet be required.

When the Bill goes back to the Lords on Thursday (19th), Opposition Peers could delay the Bill by refusing to accept Commons changes to the first round of House of Lords amendments - unless the Government can agree some compromise behind the scenes.

What further letters to Peers might say depends to a great extend this evening's debate in the Commons. Even though the Government should have no difficulty getting the Bill through in the Commons tonight, Ministers may give clues as to the nature of any further concession being considered. As soon as I have had a chance to read the Hansard record tomorrow I will circulate another note.