The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Saturday 9th December 2006 - Christmas carols - 'Strong case for review' of Licensing Act: Jack Straw

House of Commons, Thursday 07 December 2006:

David Heath (Lib Dem, Somerton and Frome): ... Lastly, may we have a debate on, and perhaps a review of, the Licensing Act 2003 - in respect not of alcohol licences, the area that has so often engendered debate, but of public performances? Here I ought to declare an interest, as honorary president of the National Association of Brass Band Conductors, west of England area. The Leader of the House may be aware that a council in Cornwall determined that a brass band in its area could perfectly properly play Christmas carols, provided that it restricted itself to carols such as "Away in a Manger" and "Silent Night" - but that if it strayed to playing anything that did not have a directly religious content, such as "Jingle Bells", "Frosty the Snowman" or "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer", it would have to pay a licence fee. Happily, that particular situation has been satisfactorily resolved, but there are huge discrepancies between council licensing committees throughout the country as to what comprises a public performance. Can we not have some degree of consistency, and one that errs in favour of the Christmas spirit?

Jack Straw (Leader of the House of Commons) [after addressing previous points raised by Mr Heath including a request for a debate on Iraq]: ... and on his final point, on which I think it is fair to say that he was blowing his own trumpet -


Mrs. May: "And you complain about my script writer!"

Mr. Straw: At least my last comment was unscripted - although I accept that it was just as bad as many of the right hon. Lady's. The hon. Gentleman has a strong case for an immediate review, based on what he says about the kinds of difficulties that local authorities are getting into over Christmas carols. I promise to draw what he says to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.


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Link to Daily Mail article of 27 October 2006:

'Council enforce licence fee for band playing non-religious Jingle Bells'

Hamish Birchall