The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Tuesday 8th January 2008 - Licensing - Parliamentary questions resume

Pressure is mounting on the government to amend the Licensing Act 2003 in light of recent research that found a 5% drop in live gigs since the Act came into force in November 2005.

[A Survey of Live Music in England and Wales 2007 - summary : ]

Tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday 09 January, Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury will ask Her Majesty's Government '...what proposal do they have to amend the Licensing Act 2003 in light of the results of the BMRB social research survey of live music staged in England and Wales as published on Monday 17th December 2007'.

HMG may reply that it has already promised a public consultation this year on an entertainment licensing exemption for some small-scale performances.

There is a certain irony here. No compelling argument was ever made by the government for criminalising thousands of innocuous and historically exempt gigs for the first time unless licensed. But that is the effect of the Licensing Act 2003. Indeed, the Act created a new potential criminal offence of providing unlicensed 'entertainment facilities' (see Schedule 1, para 3). This turned the entertainment licensing clock back more than 100 years. A court case in 1899 showed that a landlord without a public entertainment licence could lawfully keep a piano which customers used for their own amusement [Brearley v Morley 2QB 121]. Today he could be fined £20,000 and sent to jail for six months - even if no-one had ever played the piano. Nonetheless, the Licensing Act was touted by ministers as a licensing regime for the 21st century.

Let's hope that in replying to Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, HMG provides an early date for the public consultation. If not, the noble Lords should press the government to get a move on.


Hamish Birchall