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Mr. Sanders: Unless the Bill is changed, is there not a danger of giving local authority licensing officers enormous powers to determine who and what activity is or is not licensable? I have severe doubts about whether such officers will exercise their powers in the way that the Minister hopes they will.
Nick Harvey: My hon. Friend makes a good point. If, in the early days of the legislation coming into force, local authorities held that various activities required a licence, I would be concerned that it might have an adverse effect. My fear is that some of the traditional groups that tour the country entertaining in one place or another will begin to lose the will to continue and give up the ghost.
Mr. Kevan Jones: I thought that the Liberal Democrats were the party of local government. Each local authority will have to produce a locally determined licensing policy, which will be able to reflect local circumstances, such as the prevalence of folk music and other interests.
Nick Harvey: Local authorities will be required to present local policies, but they will have to accord with the legislation and the objectives mapped out in it. Some of these traditional groups move from village to village, and they might move from one local authority area to another, with the real danger that the whole process becomes so cumbersome that they conclude that it is not worth their while. The Government would do well to consider the amendment. I appreciate that the list in amendment No. 105 cannot be deemed to be exclusive, and no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) would wish to include wassailing. However, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish attempts to cover that problem by including the words
I would welcome clarification from the Minister on the question of educational establishments, as mentioned in amendment No. 109. What is the Government's position? I understood that they had agreed the principle of some exemption, and I am confused about what they now propose to allow.
The amendments suggest various forms of exemption for various forms of entertainment and they encapsulate the concerns that have been raised in the months of the Bill's passage through Parliament. They include some ideas that the Government would be well advised to adopt, even at this late stage, to try to prevent the Bill from having all sorts of unfortunate unforeseen effects on and consequences for areas of public life that no one would wish to see wither, but which could be in genuine danger.
Diana Organ (Forest of Dean): The amendments cover forms of exempted entertainment and I wish to raise the issue of a form of entertainment that is very popular in pubs and clubs in the midlands and north of England, but which is subject to hardly any licensing or regulationand I and many others are very concerned by that. I refer to stage hypnosis. Hypnosis is a complex phenomenon, in which the subject is put into a state of heightened concentration and becomes greatly suggestible.
The practitioner of stage hypnosis may have had only half an hour of tuition. Guidelines have been laid down for those using hypnosis as a form of entertainment. They include having to remain on the premises for half an hour after the event, or having to have public liability insurance. In most cases, the activity is subject to very little regulation, but it can do huge damage to members of the audience. People have been known to die a few hours after being subjected to stage hypnosis. Others have had their lives completely traumatised.
The Bill is welcomed by many people in the music and entertainment industry, because it is a complete overhaul of our archaic licensing laws. The Bill will introduce a 21st century licensing framework for an industry that is important to many of us, be it through music or any other form of entertainment. Many aspects of the Bill have been highly controversial, but I wish to point out to the Minister that it contains no regulation for stage hypnosis.
People who have had a couple of hours' training in hypnotism can be let loose on an audience and can do incalculable damage, because they may not have asked the audience if anybody suffers from epilepsy or schizophrenia, or whether anyone has suffered a recent trauma or is on medication. All those factors can have a detrimental effect if the person is hypnotised. I wish that I had been able to raise the issue earlier in the Bill's progress, because a constituent of mine, Mr. Robert Mitchell, has suffered great trauma because of stage hypnosis. He was hypnotised in the name of entertainment, at a sales conference at a hotel in the west midlands, and it has wrecked his life, including his working life. I hope that the Minister will find a way, if necessary though other legislation or orders, to reconsider the regulation of that, at present, unlicensed activity.
Mr. Andrew Turner: This group of amendments should be called the Punch and Judy amendments. I am sure that the Government had the best of intentions when bringing forward the Bill. The intention was deregulatory, and aimed to provide a single route for application for licences, instead of the multiple routes we have at present. However, those who were members of the Committee can testify that there is no coherent thread running through the Government's decisions about what should and what should not be licensed. The hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Diana Organ) illustrated that point perfectly. The application of the licensing objectives laid down at the beginning of the Bill is inconsistent with regard to the content of schedule 1.
I shall refer in particular to amendments Nos. 132, 105 and 160. As the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) pointed out, amendment No. 132 tries to pin down the Government on why it should be a requirement for films to be licensed when it is not necessary to license big-screen television. Both forms of entertainment might produce the same amount of volume and be watched on the same size screen in the same premises by the same number of people, with the same effect on those living in the area. It is entirely inconsistent for broadcast television not to be licensed and I hope that the Minister will explain why that is the case.
Dr. Howells: I thank the hon. Gentleman doubly, for giving way and for congratulating me. I am chuffed that he did so. He knows that there are specific reasons why the exhibition of films in film theatres is licensed. Those reasons date back to the early days of film when the film stock and projectors used were liable to burst into flameand often did. As a consequence, the exhibition of films was governed by very specific laws. That did not happen with television, as the hon. Gentleman also knows. The Bill is deregulatory in intent, and we did not wish to extend legislation to cover areas that are currently not regulated. That is the reason for the apparent anomaly.
Mr. Turner: I thank the Minister for that explanation. He has demonstrated that the Bill will not introduce 21st century regulation for entertainmentas the hon. Member for Forest of Dean suggested. In fact, it will retain early 20th century regulation for no better reason than that cinematograph projectors used to burst into flame. I accept that there is another reason, to do with the regulation of what is shown by the projectors.
If it is merely intended to protect children and other youngsters from seeing films that are unsuitable, film entertainment does not need to be licensed in the panoply of ways that will be required as a result of its inclusion in schedule 1. That is my first point, and I should be very happy if the Minister is able later to provide an explanation that defeats it.
Mr. Sanders: A Punch and Judy proprietor in my constituency entertains many children every day in the summer months, and he is concerned about whether he will require a licence in order to perform or whether the local authority will need a licence in order for him to perform on its premisesin this case, a beach in my constituency.
Mr. Turner: My constituent Mr. David Randini is equally concerned for the same reasons. I see no reason for them to be concerned about whether they must be licensed: the Bill is absolutely clear, and they do. A Punch and Judy show is
The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones), now not in his place, suggested that licensing authorities could get around that by producing a licensing policy. I am afraid that the hon. Member for North Devon was right to respond by saying that the licensing policy must be within the law. If the Bill is passed, the law will be what is contained in schedule 1. We cannot avoid the need to licence a Punch and Judy show by writing a slightly vague licensing policy.
The hon. Member for North Durham, whom I am pleased to see returning to the Chamber, has repeatedly said, in Committee and this evening, that most of the things to which I refer have to be licensed already, and that there is therefore no greater licensing requirement. I hope that I have represented him correctly; he smirks, but I am sure that he means it as a nod. Perhaps such entertainments should be licensed, but the fact is that they are not. I discussed that with the chief executive of my own local authority, who was surprised to discover that morris-dancing would have to be licensed under the Bill. He was even more surprised to discover that the Minister believed that morris-dancing was already a licensable activity. The Isle of Wight council does not license morris-dancing. I hope that it never has to do so.
Newcastle city council, on which the hon. Member for North Durham was chairman of the public health committee, may have licensed morris-dancers, pace-eggerswhatever they may beand Punch and Judy shows, if they were fortunate enough to have such things on the banks of the Tyne. However, such activities are not licensed by every authority in whose areas they take place. That is the problem.