The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Monday 23rd May 2011 - Government moves to scrap entertainment licensing

The government will launch a public consultation next month to scrap entertainment licensing altogether, except for very large scale events and adult entertainment such as pole dancing.
Under the proposals, trailed in the Sunday Times of 15 May under the headline 'No more licences to party', an alcohol licence would be sufficient to allow live music, without an additional authorisation.  Licensing minister John Penrose said:
'Live entertainment is a good thing.  It improves our cultural life, provides enormous pleasure for millions and should be encouraged, not stifled by the clammy hand of bureaucracy.  The current regime makes it harder for new talent to get a chance to perform in front of audiences, imposes a deadweight cost on small businesses and voluntary bodies who want to put on shows, and in a small but significant way, reduces our free speech. As long as we have proper controls on alcohol, and spectator safety and noise nuisance are controlled, the rest is mostly bonkers red tape, and it’s time we consigned it to the bin.'
Radical deregulation of the entertainment licensing regime was first hinted at by Penrose during Parliamentary debate nearly a year ago (21 June 2010).  In a letter to Tessa Jowell dated 21 March this year, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote:
'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 hopes to be in a position to say more in the coming weeks.'
Set against the sweeping deregulation now being proposed, the small gig exemptions in Lord Clement-Jones' bill look modest.  But a DCMS source confirmed last week that government support for the bill would continue.  A date for its Committee stage debate, where the government is expected to put forward some amendments, has yet to be fixed.
One likely reason for this continued support is that while the bill's exemptions could be implemented within a year, the bolder solution could take much longer.
Curiously, DCMS itself did not issue a press release.  However, a more detailed account of the deregulation proposals was published by Lib Dem MP Don Foster on his Bath constituency website:


Hamish Birchall