The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 20th January 2010 - DCMS entertainment facilities consultation published

On Friday 15th January DCMS published a new public consultation, this time on proposals to 'clarify' the definition of entertainment facilities within the Licensing Act 2003:

Unsurprisingly, there was no press announcement. This would have drawn unwanted media attention to one of the Act's more absurd effects: the separate requirement to licence the provision of pub pianos, and other instruments or facilities enabling people to make music, if the facilities are for public use, or indeed for private use if such provision is for a charge with a view to profit. Unlicensed provision, where a licence is required, is a criminal offence punishable by fines up to £20,000 and six months in prison.

Even the Act's exemption for 'incidental music' is disapplied if entertainment facilities are provided.

The DCMS consultation explicitly acknowledges this problem: 'The Government considers that this was not the intention of Parliament when it introduced the exemption for incidental performances of live music.' [p5, para 1.6]

But once again, the proposed remedy is flawed and could not work.

The draft DCMS amendment, set out on page 9 of the 19 page document, would exempt unamplified musical instruments, but not amplification, or indeed any facility enabling amplified performances (which could be a stage, or even the performance space itself).

And while it also proposes to exempt facilities provided solely for incidental music, it fails to strike out the source of the problem: the vexed entertainment facilities sub-paragraph within the incidental music exemption itself (Schedule 1, para 7(b)). The amendment and the incidental music exemption would contradict one another.

Friday 15th January was also the date of the 2nd reading of Lord Clement-Jones' live music bill in the House of Lords. If enacted, this would exempt performances of live music and the provision of entertainment facilities in a range of venues up to 200 capacity. It would effectively implement most of the Culture Committee recommendations following their inquiry into the Licensing Act last year.

The debate saw strong speeches in support, not only from Lord Clement-Jones, but Lords Colwyn and Redesdale. Government spokesperson Lord Faulkner said that the government had reservations about the bill, but these were dismissed by Lord Clement-Jones. The bill now goes to the Committee stage on Monday 1st February.

Much of the debate covered old ground, but significantly the Conservatives announced their backing for the Bill. Lord Howard of Rising said:

'This is a Bill which we on these Benches support. We give that support in the hope that this Bill may go some way towards achieving the original objective of the 2003 Act, which was, broadly speaking, to promote the development of live music, dancing, and theatre. That never happened-rather the reverse; there has been a decline. Her Majesty's Government recognised this and introduced the minor variations procedure in June 2009; but I am afraid that that has had no discernable beneficial effect.'

Significantly, Lord Howard is also a borough councillor. The support of the Conservatives tends to undermine the objections of the Local Government Association.

Read the full debate:
Read the live music bill:
Yahoo news coverage:
Lord Clement-Jones in Music Week, 19 Jan:

Numbers are rising again on the Number 10 petition calling on the government to stop criminalising live music and to implement the Culture Committee's recommendations. It now has over 14,000 signatures:


Hamish Birchall