The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Circular

Friday 25th November 2011 - Live music bill passes 2nd reading in Commons

Lord Clement-Jones' live music bill, now sponsored by Don Foster in the Commons, has just passed its 2nd reading there.

If implemented, the bill would create entertainment licensing exemptions for performances of live music between 8am and 11pm to audiences of up to 200.  However, it retains the licence review process for bars and other alcohol-licensed venues if the exemption is abused.

The bill now moves to the Committee stage. A date has yet to be fixed, but it could be before Christmas.

It is unusual for a private members bill originating in the Lords to get this far.  However, while encouraging, its success today is no guarantee that it will become law.  Potential pitfalls, and much hard work, remain.

Meanwhile, another hysterical denunciation of the government's more radical entertainment licensing deregulation proposals has been published, this time by Wandsworth council:

Entirely misleadingly it suggests that pubs and bars '...would not be subject to proper safety checks with potentially no limits on the numbers of people attending, nor on the hours of operation. This would negate one of the reasons for introducing a licensing regime in the first place which was to prevent tragedies where young people have been injured in fires or as a result of overcrowding or crushing.'

This is complete nonsense and scaremongering of the worst kind.  The safety of the public in workplaces is no longer regulated by entertainment licensing, but by separate health and safety and fire safety legislation, and this applies to all activities taking place. Also, as alcohol licensing and conditions in alcohol-licensed venues would remain under the deregulation proposals, enforceable opening hours would remain.

In their consultation submission to DCMS, Wandsworth puts forward other specious or contradictory arguments against more radical deregulation:

For example, their Q1 response states: 'Of the 579 premises in the London Borough of Wandsworth with a licence to sell alcohol on or on/off the premises, 213 also have a licence to provide live music. Of the 48 Private Members Club in the borough supplying alcohol, 32 have a licence to provide live music. There are, therefore, many venues within this borough that could allow live music performances (albeit with controls to protect neighbours from noise nuisance). However, many of these licences are not used and this Authority would, therefore, question whether live music is not being promoted in venues because of market decisions rather than because of bureaucracy and red tape.'

But it is impossible to draw any reliable conclusion from this data about the reasons for having or not having live music.  How does the council know that the licences are not being used?  Venues that have in fact closed often remain on council licence registers as if they were still in business. And what licence conditions have been imposed?  These might include costly requirements to provide door supervisers during performances, or to fit a noise limiter. Or they might restrict the number of performers, or genres of music.  The venue may have particularly intolerant neighbours.

And even if the amount of live music currently provided were entirely determined by factors other than entertainment licensing, as the council would like to believe, what then would cause the explosion in noise nuisance that they warn so stridently against if entertainment licensing is removed?


Hamish Birchall