The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 29th June 2006 - Lords licensing questions: government replies

The government has replied to Lord Clement-Jones' licensing questions tabled on 12 June 2006. See below for the Hansard extracts.

Points to note

Pubs/football: from the minister's answer it is clear that, irrespective of licensing, there is more than enough legislation to deal with noise and disorder. And the minister didn't mention powers available to local authorities under the Environmental Protection Act to confiscate noisy equipment immediately, and to issue pre-emptive or reactive noise abatement notices. In 2003 Camden council closed a West End show, Umoja, using a noise abatement notice. One resident's complaint was enough.

On 8th May 2006 the Home Office announced the 4th Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign. Newspapers headlines promised a crackdown on problem pubs in the run-up to the World Cup. Strangely, the government now appears to have no information about the number of pubs that have been closed down or prevented from screening such matches as a result of enforcement under the new Licensing Act.

Top of the Pops:  licensing of the BBC studios depended on whether, under the new legislation, the live studio audience arrangements rendered the event public. Under the old legislation it was understood that free tickets allocated to the public meant that such studio recordings private (and not for profit) and therefore exempt. The government says is not aware of any evidence that the Act is unclear. Perhaps they don't know that Camden council appears to be interpreting the Act differently by allowing MTV to arrange studio audiences in the same way for their Hawley Crescent studio without a premises licence.

It is ironic that the government should suggest that any amendments to the Act must be 'evidence based'. They abolished the 'two in a bar rule' on noise grounds, but never provided any research to suggest that it was a problem. Indeed, all the evidence that existed pointed to noisy punters outside licensed premises as the source of most complaints.

Proportion of new live music authorisations in licensed premises: the government doesn't know the answer, but will attempt to find out later this year. Strange again. They could have found out within weeks of the Act coming into force by checking a representative sample of new premises licences and comparing them with the previous year's PEL records. The information is held by local authorities - a few DCMS staff could have done the work. 

Assessing a 'flourishing' live music scene:  the government's response is, of course, still based on the MORI survey data of 2004, specifically MORI's estimate that there were 1.7m live gigs a year in venues whose main business is not live music. There is no statistical justification for the word 'flourishing' first used by the then licensing minister, Richard Caborn, in the now notorious DCMS live music survey press release of 25 August 2004 (notorious because Caborn's quote was covertly altered in October 2005 when the Market Research Society ruled that his claim was misleading). DCMS has so far resisted my Freedom of Information Act request for details of correspondence with MORI over the wording of this press release. There was no benchmark against which to judge the data because by DCMS' own admission, it was the first survey of its kind. In any case, 1.7m live gigs a year works out at roughly 1 live gig a year for every 25 people in England and Wales (assuming population of 50m that could attend). The MORI survey also found that the majority of pubs, restaurants and hotels had no live music at all, and that the more the Licensing Act was explained to licensees, the less likely they were to host live music in future.

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House of Lords 26 June 2006 Licensing: Closure of Premises

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

What powers under the Licensing Act 2003 have been used to close down licensed premises with a history of disorder and to prevent some licensed premises from screening games involving the England football team during the 2006 World Cup. [HL6250]

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Licensing: Live Entertainment

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, following the outdoor performance of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the BBC's "Top of the Pops" programme on 15 April, they will amend Schedule 1 to the Licensing Act 2003 to clarify the distinction between public entertainment that is licensable and private entertainment that is not licensable. [HL6247]

Lord Davies of Oldham: We have no current plans to amend Schedule 1 to the Licensing Act 2003, as there is no evidence to suggest that the distinction is unclear. We shall, however, continue to monitor and evaluate the impact of the licensing reforms, to ensure that future proposed amendments to the legislation are evidence based.

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And from 22 June 2006: Licensing: Live Entertainment

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proportion of licensed premises in England and Wales that did not previously hold an entertainment licence now have authorisation for the performance of live music. [HL6248]

Lord Davies of Oldham: This information is not held centrally.

However, the DCMS intends to commission research this year to assess the take-up of new licences permitting live music performances in England and Wales. This research will provide a measure of the number of smaller venues that did not previously hold an entertainment licence and which have secured the authorisation to provide live music under the new system.

Once completed, copies of the results of this research will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and published on the DCMS website at

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what basis they assess that there is a flourishing live music scene in bars and restaurants. [HL6249]

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government's last assessment of the live music scene in England and Wales was made in 2004. This was based on findings from a survey by MORI, commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that year, about live music performances in a wide range of smaller venues, including bars and restaurants, in the preceding 12 months. The survey findings are available on the DCMS website (, and copies were deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.


The DCMS intends to commission research this year to assess the take up of new licences permitting live music performances in England and Wales. A repeat of the 2004 baseline study will take place in 2007, when the Licensing Act 2003 will have been fully operational for more than a year, to measure its impact on live music.

Hamish Birchall