The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Saturday 22nd November 2009 - Live music bill returns to haunt government

On 19th November Tim Clement-Jones' live music bill returned to the Parliamentary agenda:

If enacted, it would go a long way to meeting the recommendations of the all-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The bill proposes to exempt live music from entertainment licensing in bars and other premises up to 200-capacity, provided they are already licensed for the sale of alcohol, and similarly exempt schools and hospitals for audiences up to 200:

Originally published in July, it lapsed at the end of the Parliamentary year (like all private members bills awaiting 2nd or 3rd readings). But due to the determination of Lord Clement-Jones and Baroness Bonham-Carter (his proxy for the 1st reading of 19th November), the bill now stands a good chance of a full debate in the Lords early next year.

This will dismay government spin doctors. They thought they had pulled a smart trick on 21st October by leaking the government's apparent u-turn on an exemption for small gigs to the Guardian:

Wider media coverage was suppressed. And, by creating the misleading impression that the long-running licensing controversy would probably be resolved before the general election, they hoped to secure a smooth ride for the government on this issue in the run-up to the general election.

But the return of Lord Clement-Jones' bill ensures that the controversy, and the government's empty promises, will be exposed again in Parliament and in the press.

Meanwhile the Chief Executive of UK Music, Feargal Sharkey, has again fiercely criticised the government's misrepresentation of the latest licensing statistics. Writing for the Conservative blog 'CulturePolitick' he described as 'ridiculous' the DCMS claim that there has been an 11% rise in venues between 2007 and 2009:

'DCMS... claim that the Licensing Act has actually delivered an 11% increase in live music from 2007-2009! I'll try and put this rather kindly, it is shall I suggest, somewhat misleading if not bordering on the ridiculous. This estimate includes whole new ranges of venues like schools and hospitals, plus others not even licensed for live music so quite frankly shouldn't count.'


Hamish Birchall