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Licensing Bill [Lords]

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

Schedule 1

Provision Of Regulated Entertainment

6.55 pm

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 162, in page 109, line 31, at end insert

'for the entertainment or entertainment facilities'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 163, in page 110, line 14, at end insert—

'( ) For the purposes of subparagraph (4)(a), a person concerned in the organisation or management of entertainment facilities is not concerned in the organisation and management of the entertainment within paragraph 3(2) by reason only—
(a) that he makes available the entertainment facilities or the premises on which the entertainment facilities are provided, or
(b) that during the entertainment he continues to organise or manage the premises on which entertainment facilities are provided.'.

Mr. Moss: A number of organisations, including the Historic Houses Association, are concerned about the definition of private events in the Bill. That drafting means that private events—in particular, wedding receptions and concerts—could inadvertently be drawn into the scope of the Bill, despite the statement that the Minister made to the Historic Houses Association in a letter of 30 January:

Despite that statement, the situation still appears far from clear. The Historic Houses Association is working hard to encourage more houses to open up, and the Opposition are concerned about anything that will needlessly frustrate those endeavours and restrict public access to and enjoyment of our heritage. We support its efforts to encourage more tourists to visit such locations.

The Government have already revised paragraph 1(4)(a)(ii) of the schedule expressly to prevent private events from being brought within the scope of the Bill. Indeed, in its new form the provision states that private entertainment facilities need to be licensed only if any charge is made and if the owner or manager is also involved in the organisation of the music, dancing or provision of alcohol. However, the interpretation of that provision appears far from clear. I shall give the House two examples. First, officials at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have said to various people that the provision of a dance floor would fall within the definition. That appears to encompass informally making available—I quote from the Bill—"space within a room". Of course, dancing could take place in such a space. The provision could thus result in an anomalous situation whereby a licence would not be needed if a bride and groom hired a marquee, complete

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with a dance floor, to be placed in the garden of a house, but one would be needed if dancing took place inside the house.

The second anomaly relates to paragraph 1(1)(b), which expressly gives an exemption when a person performing or playing music at a private event provides any facilities for the purposes of his performance. We believe that that definition needs to be extended to avoid a licence requirement applying if a bride and groom hire audio equipment, but not if the person performing or playing music provides the equipment.

At best, the legislation is still highly ambiguous. At worst, it appears contrary to what the Department intends. Unless there is extremely clear guidance—we await guidance on many issues even at this late stage of the Bill's passage—the legislation will become subject to widely differing interpretation, which will cause confusion and inconsistency of application. The amendments seek to address those problems.

Dr. Howells: I, too, have great admiration for the Historic Houses Association. It is doing excellent work in opening up some of the most wonderful buildings and gardens, which are great assets to the tourism trade.

Let me say up-front that the Government cannot accept amendment No. 162, as it would introduce a serious loophole into the entertainment licensing regime. I shall try to explain why. It would allow any individual who wished to put on entertainment under paragraph 1(2)(c) of schedule 1 to circumvent the licensing requirements altogether, simply by providing sandwiches, for example, and making a charge that he or she claimed to be for the food, but which was actually for the entertainment. The amendment would drive the proverbial coach and horses through this part of the Bill, and I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman will see fit to withdraw it.

Amendment 163 is a little more complicated. Those who inspired it have aired their concerns to the Department on a number of occasions. They are concerned about situations in which the owner of a stately home might wish, for example, to hire out the ballroom to a third party who would then organise the entertainment at a wedding. They argue that in such circumstances the owner of the home should not require a premises licence or other authorisation if they take no further part in the entertainment.

The Government agree with that view, and we have amended the Bill to make that clear. Let me explain how. Schedule 1 sets out a number of conditions that determine whether the provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities is regulated entertainment. The condition in sub-paragraph (2)(c) is that where entertainment is not provided essentially to the public, or exclusively for members of a club, it is regulated entertainment where it is provided

Sub-paragraph (4) sets out what we mean by "consideration". It states that

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In relation to entertainment facilities, sub-paragraph (4) provides that a person will not be so concerned unless he is

Clearly, that excludes the circumstances that I described a moment ago. The owner of the stately home would be concerned in the provision of the entertainment facilities—the dance floor, say—but not in the organisation of the entertainment for which those facilities were provided.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's trouble, because it is a complicated issue, but I hope that in the light of my explanation and assurances he will see fit not to press the amendment.

Mr. Moss: The Minister attempts to separate the functions taking place under private agency in the grounds of an historic house, and an entertainment facility within the house itself—a ballroom, for example. Surely, however, the management of that enterprise will be involved in the setting up of whatever the customer wants to take place in the ballroom. They cannot simply say, "There's the ballroom: get on with it." They will have to be involved in some discourse about where things go, where the power points are, and so forth. That is where the anomaly arises. It is not clear-cut where the demarcation lies between the non-licensable activity taking place in the garden, perhaps under a marquee, and facilities that are being provided in the house. How do people avoid that problem?

Dr. Howells: I hope that the hon. Gentleman considers my explanation to be authoritative. As I said, it is a complicated issue, but I am confident that I have said enough to give some comfort to him and to owners of historic houses who may feel threatened or concerned about this part of the Bill.

Mr. Moss: I am grateful for the Minister's assurances. Knowing him as I do, I am sure that they will be transferred verbatim to his successor, whom we shall no doubt hold to account in due course. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 64, in page 111, line 27, leave out from '2' to end of line 28 and insert—

'(2) For the purposes of subparagraph (1), the performance of live music or the playing of recorded music shall not be regarded as anything other than incidental to some other activity, merely because it has been advertised.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 161, in page 111, line 28, at end insert—

'Performance of live music indoors
7A (1) The provision of entertainment consisting of the performance of live music indoors is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act if—
(a) it takes place wholly inside a building,

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(b) the audience present at the event is accommodated wholly inside that building, and
(c) the size of the audience and the noise resulting from the event do not exceed the prescribed limits.
(2) The Secretary of State shall by order prescribe the limits referred to in subparagraph (1)(c).'.

No. 132, in page 111, line 32, after 'that', insert—

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