The Live Music Forum


Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Friday 8th May 2009 - Licensing Act inquiry report due 14th May

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee will finally publish its Licensing Act inquiry report on Thursday 14 May. Embargoed copies will be made available to the national press two days beforehand.

Publication of the report was originally scheduled for February this year. The inquiry was first announced on 18 July 2008, and its remit included an examination of the impact on live music.

In evidence heard by the Committee in November, the Musicians' Union, Feargal Sharkey of UK Music, and the licensed trade reported that the Act was harming small gigs.

Despite this, the government has abandoned its promise to hold a public consultation on further exemptions for 'low risk' performances by this spring.

On 13 October 2008, Lord Davies of Oldham announced: '... We hope to publish a consultation document in the autumn, and subject to the outcome, to have the exemptions in place by spring 2009.' [Written Answer to Lord Clement-Jones, question HL5366]

But there has been no such consultation. In March 2009, Lord Clement-Jones asked why not. On 24 March Lord Davies replied:
'There is no formal review of the live music provisions of the Licensing Act 2003. However the Department for Culture, Media and Sport continues to discuss the effect of the Licensing Act 2003 on live music with representatives of musicians and local government. These discussions include consideration of how low impact live music events might be further encouraged.' [Written Answer to question HL2235]

It is clear from this, and the weak endorsement for live music in the Minor Variations amendment guidance, that the government has been cowed by local authority lobbying.

There are rumours that the Culture Committee report will support the case for a new small gigs exemption. But with ministers apparently in thrall to council licensing enforcement officers, the music industry campaign may have to change up a gear.


Hamish Birchall