The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Thursday 24th March 2011 - Culture Secretary hints at removing entertainment from Licensing Act

In a letter to Tessa Jowell MP dated 21 March, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has hinted that entertainment could be removed from the Licensing Act altogether:
'As you may well have heard, Baroness Rawlings announced during the recent debate on the Live Music Bill that it is the Government`s intention to be supportive of the Bill. We will also be looking into whether we can go further than the Bill by deregulating entertainment from the Licensing Act 2003, and John Penrose [licensing minister] hopes to be in a position to say more in the coming weeks.'
The letter was sent in response to an enquiry from Annie Bright via her MP, Tessa Jowell. Ms Bright is a jazz singer, former Equity Council vice-president and currently an elected Equity Councillor.  In 2002, when she herself was Culture Secretary, Ms Jowell launched the then Licensing Bill as 'a licensing regime for the 21st century'.
On 8th March 2006, about three months after the Licensing Act 2003 came into force, Ms Jowell found herself on the wrong side of her own Department's legislation.  She participated in what turned out to be an unlicensed and illegal singalong while celebrating International Women's Day in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament.  The licensing authority, Westminster council, generously said they would not prosecute, as it was a first offence.  See contemporary coverage in The Times:
and BBC video of the singalong:
Jeremy Hunt's 'deregulation' could be the 'radical solution' to which Penrose referred on 21 June 2010 in response to a question from John Whittingdale, chair of the all party Culture, Media & Sport Committee:
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): 'Is my hon. Friend aware that the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee
 - that there should be an exemption for smaller venues of a capacity below 200 - was supported by the previous Government, who were intending to introduce a regulatory order to provide an exemption for venues of a capacity below 150, and that there was widespread disappointment that that was not done? Will he confirm that he sees no need for any further consultation and that he will move to introduce the necessary order as soon as possible?'
John Penrose: 'My concern is that my hon. Friend's proposal goes for a particular solution when there might be a broader and potentially more radical solution that should also be considered. If we go for other alternatives, we will need to consult on them, but if we decide to go down the route of ideas that have already been thoroughly canvassed, I would obviously want to move as fast as possible and reduce the level of consultation to the bare legal minimum.'

On 16 February this year, Whittingdale tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM 1465) calling on the government to implement an exemption 'without delay'.  35 MPs have signed so far:

Lord Clement-Jones' live music bill is awaiting its Committee stage in the Lords, possibly by June:

Given that the government is already supportive of the bill, what better vehicle to implement a radical deregulatory solution for live music.


Hamish Birchall