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Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the resurgence of magazines such as Folk Roots illustrates that there is currently a renaissance in English, Welsh and Scottish folk music? The concerns that he is raising are shared by the readers and authors of that magazine.
Folk art activity is extremely widespread, despite attracting relatively little attention in the mainstream arts listings and media. Let us look at the statistics. There are around 750 folk dance teams nationwide, including morris, clog, molly, longsword, rapper, Appalachian and other international styles. These teams involve more than 14,000 dancers, musicians and singers, and together they provide at least 10,500 folk dance events for at least 500,000 members of the public each year.
Dr. Howells: The hon. Gentleman will be aware, having sat through the Committee proceedings and Second Reading, of the two-in-a-bar rule, under which two musicians, two dancers, two singers, or two people doing a recitation are allowed to perform. This great renaissance of folk music is taking place at a time when this law is in force. Is he saying that that renaissance is due entirely to the fact that two people, and only two people, can sing their way through an evening in a pub? Or is he saying that this golden age owes its existence to a very different legal regime from the one that exists now?
Mr. Moss: I shall be coming to the two-in-a-bar problem later. To answer the Minister's question, the renaissance does not relate simply to the two-in-a-bar rule in pubs. We are not just talking about a renaissance of folk arts and music; it is general and across the board. These people perform in other places as well as pubs. Obviously the licensing implications will affect them when they carry out those activities in pubs, but I do not remember seeing many morris dancers doing their stuff inside the pub. Perhaps they do on some occasions, but they normally perform outside in the open air. I shall come to that matter later as well.
There are at least 400 folk song, music and dance clubs in England. A minimum of 9,000 regular folk music sessions and singarounds take place in England each year, though hundreds more spontaneous, one-off events also occur. The greatest number of these folk arts activities are small scale and occur within local communities, outside the mainstream of arts planning and provision. On a community level, they are almost entirely voluntary and therefore highly sensitive to legislation, particularly when it carries cost implications.
In my opening remarks, I alluded to the fact that many interested parties and groups had attempted to get their views across to the Department and, in particular, to the Minister. I remember addressing this issue in Committee, particularly in relation to the English Folk Dance and Song SocietyEFDSS. On 8 May, in Committee, the Minister said:
EFDSS has warned the Government that many folk music and song clubs that are currently not covered by entertainment licensing might become so under the new Bill. It states that many such clubs currently operate as private, members-only clubs which attendees have to join at least 48 hours before benefiting from any entertainment. It is their belief that there is therefore no requirement for them to have a public entertainments licence. EFDSS believes, however, that under the Bill, there will be no such get-out, and that the majority of England's 400 folk clubs could become licensable.
EFDSS first submitted its concerns to the Department in February; so far, it has had no answer. It believes that the legislation relating to public safety is more than adequate to take care of the safety and noise aspects, and it has four questions that it wants to put to the Minister, through me. Perhaps he could answer them this evening in his response.
Why is current, subsisting legislation deficient with regard to folk clubs?
What is the pressing social need to extending entertainments licensing regulations to cover folk clubs when broadcast football matches and loud recorded music in pubs remains exempt?
Does the Government feel that folk clubs are an acceptable casualty in the pursuit of its other licensing objectives?"
Coming to the two-in-a-bar rule, the Minister has made the point tonight and many times in Committeeand we understand thisthat the rule is the only existing form of limited exemption for live music at the present time. The justifications that are given for the new proposals, however, do not read well with those involved. Paragraph 3.5 of an entertainment factsheet published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport states:
The problem for those in the entertainment business, if I can call it thatthe people involved in live music and entertainment of all kinds, most of it small scaleis not that it is easy to tick the box.
How many times did the Minister say in Committee, "Well, all they've got to do is tick the box."? That, of course, is the DCMS mantra: when someone applies for a premises licence, a little box on the same application form can be ticked, which says, "Yes, I would like an entertainment licence to go with my alcohol licence." There is no additional fee on application for such an entertainment licence, but that is not the issue. The issue, of course, begins when all that gets to the licensing authority, which is the local authority.
Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): Do the hon. Gentleman and others recognise that a pub or other venue has to apply for an alcohol licence and a separate entertainment licence, sometimes at great cost? That is putting off a lot of venues from applying. Surely the number of premises that consider putting on live entertainment will increase when there is one licence.
Mr. Moss: That is wishful thinking, frankly. No one has done any research, and I have seen no analysis, to back up the hon. Gentleman's point. The Department and the Minister, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman, hope that that will be the case. Indeed, I hope that it will be the case, but among most landlords whom I have talked to out there in the real world, who have perhaps applied for public entertainment licences and had problems with local authorities or who have spoken to other licensees who have had difficulties and been involved with such costs, there is a feeling that ticking that box may lead them into all kinds of approaches from local authorities that will impose conditions and restrictions on them. Many people would happily not get involved with all that if they could avoid it.
Mr. Jones: From my experience as chair of public health in Newcastle, I know that the disincentive is not the bureaucracy that the hon. Gentleman talks about, but the current law and the expense of applying for the public entertainment licence in the first placesometimes people have to employ solicitors and go to a hearingand, secondly, the cost of the licence. Under the Bill, that will be done away with. There will be one licence, which surely will make it a lot simpler for many of those people who would consider putting on live entertainment, but who are discouraged from doing so due to the bureaucracy and cost.