The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Monday 2nd April 2007 - Petition passes 63,000 - Parliament exempt from safety law


More than 63,000 people have signed the online licensing/live music petition:

It now stands a good chance of reaching number 1 in the list of over 6,600 by 11 June:

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Parliament exempt not only from licensing, but also from health and safety law...

On 7 March I reported Parliament's exemption from entertainment and alcohol licensing that dates back to 1689.  Ministers have consistently argued that entertainment licensing is necessary for public safety and to control noise at performances of live music.

However, MPs and Peers have enjoyed a number of unlicensed performances of live music in the public atrium of Portcullis House on this basis, including one for the All Party Jazz Appreciation Group by jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith with his Youth Jazz Orchestra on Wednesday 17 January this year:

It is now clear that not only is Parliament exempt from licensing, but also from health and safety legislation. Under the 'doctrine of exclusive cognisance', which dates from the 1689 Bill of Rights, only laws that expressly apply to Parliament are deemed enforceable.

'... Statutes treated as not binding upon either House on the basis of this decision have included the Prices and Incomes Act 1966, the Industrial Relations Act 1971, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Food Safety Act 1990, and the Data Protection Acts 1984 and 1998. Many of these Acts have been applied voluntarily, but the criticism remains that the law-makers are exempt from the laws they make for everyone else. This criticism is forceful, because these Acts cover activities far removed from core activities of Parliament. Parliamentary privilege exists to enable members to discharge their duties to the public. It cannot be right that this privilege should have the effect that Parliament itself, within the place it meets, is not required to comply with its own laws on matters such as health and safety, employment, or the sale of alcohol.'

Despite that criticism, which appeared in a report on Parliamentary Privilege dating from 1999, the position remains unchanged. Even the new fire safety regime which came into force last October remains unenforceable within the Parliamentary Estate (although it is in theory to be made enforceable at some point in the future).

For more information see 'Parliamentary Privilege - First Report', 30 March 1999, para 250,

Hamish Birchall