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Mr. Kevan Jones: I appreciate my hon. Friend's point about local licensing boards making a meal out of an Oxo cube, but if people are turned down for a licence, under the Bill, do they not have the right of appeal to the magistrates court?
Mr. Blizzard: Yes, but quite a meal might have been created before that point. Appeal to the magistrates court would be yet another course in the meal. Currently, people do not get caught up in that process. I am concerned that some establishments that currently offer unlicensed entertainment may be turned down when they apply for a licence because there are objections. Furthermore, the whole process may take a long time.
That brings me to my second point, which does not apply only to rural areas. If a landlord were not really bothered about whether he put on certain types of entertainment, he might not do so at all if he thought that he would have to follow a long and onerous road to get a licence. If he knew that he would have extra custom and make some money, he would go through the process.
I am concerned about minority forms of music. Some hon. Members have mentioned folk music; as I said earlier, I am keen on jazz. Often it is not easy for folk and jazz musicians to find venues. Some landlords are not keen to put them on because they do not attract huge audiences. Lovers of that music are worried that some venues might get squeezed out if landlords feel that it is not worth getting a licence.
Dr. Howells: My hon. Friend knows as well as I do that live music has been distorted for years in this country by the two-in-a-bar rule and that jazz has suffered especially. Is he suggesting that we should somehow defend the existing regime?
Mr. Blizzard: My hon. Friend intervenes at just the right time, as I was about to say next that the two-in-a-bar rule is intellectually unsound. That regime is not defensible, but it has given rise to a certain de minimis arrangement. That is the purpose of amendment No. 161, as I believe that, if we are to have a modern and reformed licensing regime, we need to consider some form of de minimis arrangement that permits the activities that I have been talking about, allows them to continue and prevents them from being squeezed out.
I have not tried to define the de minimis regime in amendment No. 161 because I am sure that I would be shot down if I did so. I tried to do so using various arguments in Committee, but I am trying to ensure that the sort of entertainment that takes place in rural areas at the moment and minority forms of music can continue, so I ask my hon. Friend to put on his thinking cap and, with his officials, try to come up with some de minimis regime.
Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent caseexactly the case that I would want to make if I had the opportunity. Is he not really saying that there is no need to introduce a remedy when there is no mischief, and that there is no mischief when there is no disturbance to the outside world, where no transgression of existing health and safety rules takes place and when a performance in a given venue causes no problem for anyone and those who want to witness the performance enjoy it?
I want to leave time for my hon. Friend the Minister to respond to all the points that have been made in the debate, so I just ask him to accept the case for a de minimis arrangement and to consider devising one. May I give an example? We have had live music in the House of Commons. It is not the order of the dayit may even be frowned uponbut a little live jazz was performed acoustically in the Terrace Pavilion last year. We had Andy Sheppard on sax and John Parricelli on guitar. Perhaps the sound was a bit distorted, but that happened and it did not disturb anything that goes on in this place; nor did it disturb the House authorities. In fact, people much appreciated the chance to listen to that music and enjoy it. If we can do that here, we should allow it to continue to happen in various establishments throughout the country.
I hope that we can avoid the ridicule of the comparison between recorded, big screen, broadcast entertainment and small, live entertainment. I fear that, if we do not get this right, the arguments will come bouncing back to the House again.
Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): I rise to speak because I am interested in promoting and enabling small-scale rural and Welsh language events. In particular, I refer to local eisteddfodau. The Minister will be very familiar with them, but I should explain to other hon. Members that they are essentially amateur, small-scale, competitive village events in singing, other forms of music and poetry. They are often held at community or village level, in a variety of venues, such as chapels, churches and chapel and church halls, so they are subject to certain legislative regulation, but they are also held in pubs and increasingly in hotels, as well as in schools.
Amendments Nos. 62 and 63 are eminently sensible in situations where eisteddfodau should not be regulated. They often close down before 11.30 pm, and fewer than 200 people are usually involved. In fact, if everyone in most small rural communities attended, they would still involve fewer than 200 people.
I wish to consider what would be achieved by regulating eisteddfodau in terms of the aims of the White Paper, which are to reduce crime and disorder. The Minister will know that, at the crowning or the chairing of the poet in an eisteddfod, the cry goes up, "A oes heddwch?""Is there peace?" The audience must respond, "Peace", or the event cannot continue. They are essentially peaceable events.
What about encouraging tourism? Certainly, eisteddfodau are an untapped source of tourism for rural Wales. What about reducing alcohol misuse? They are very often teetotal. What about encouraging rural self-sufficient communities? Eisteddfodau should be encouraged, as an obvious example of what can happen in self-sufficient rural communities. Eisteddfodau are not a problem, and they should be exempted from the Bill.
Dr. Howells: We have had an excellent debate on this set of amendments. Before I address amendment No. 64, with which the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) opened the debate, let me say that I accept and understand completely much of what has been said. The Government amended the Bill in Committee to exempt from the provision of regulated entertainment incidental live music in certain circumstances in response to concerns raised in another place. The exemption relating to incidental music represents a major deregulation from current licensing controls. It was part of a package of concessions that we have made since the Bill was introduced to broaden the significant liberalisation of the entertainment licensing regime that it is designed to bring about.
Some of the other concessions in that package include: exempting places of public religious worship; amending the Bill to make it clear that entertainers who simply perform at unlicensed venues and do no more in respect of the entertainment will not commit an offence; announcing that we will exempt church halls, village halls and other community buildings from fees associated with regulated entertainment and, in a similar exemption, entertainment provided at schools and sixth-form colleges by the institution.
The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire asked a valid question, which we debated at length in Committee, about higher and further education institutions, and I want to repeat that, in the long-distant past, I remember going to lots of gigs with very big bands and very big audiences at universities. Indeed, that is one of the most lucrative parts of the entertainment trade. I am sure that he would have doubts about trying to compare what may happen in a primary or secondary school hall with the kinds of eventssometimes enormous rock concertsthat can take place in our larger universities.
We will certainly use the accompanying guidance to underscore the requirement that only necessary and proportionate conditions are attached to licences. My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) expressed fears that we would let loose local authorities on the poor venue owners, for whom life would be made unbearable. I want to make several responses to that. First, it is vital that the House should know that this
We have exempted live music to the extent that it is incidental to some other activity, which is not itself entertainment or the provision of entertainment facilities as described in the Bill, bringing it into line with the exemption for incidental recorded musicsuch as that provided through juke boxes and, of course, the dreaded muzak, which one might encounter in lifts or hotel lobbiesin the Bill as originally drafted. Hon. Members might question that last point, but I am afraid that, however much I might wish it to do so, the Bill does not make distinctions on grounds of taste. That is a serious issue. Every example about which we have heard tonight is of a civilised group playing quiet music with moderate amplification. No one mentioned the fact that if we take away the two-in-a-bar rulewhich I am entirely in favour of doingthere is nothing to stop a suddenly unregulated venue from putting on music that might have huge amplification. Were that to happen, I can guarantee that the welter of letters that some right hon. and hon. Members have received from some constituents, mostly those in the Musicians Union, will appear as a mere trickle compared with the letters that they will start to get from residents who will have no defence whatever from bands playing in unregulated venues at such volume that they are blown into next week. If we are to be honest, we should mention that.
In Committee, much of the debate focused on the definition of incidental live music, as well it might. As is often the case, the Government amendment reflected the spirit of concerns raised by certain lobby groups. In response to the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire, I accept none of his criticisms about not having consulted and discussed matters with lobby groups from all manner of music and entertainment sectors. I spent many hours doing so, and many more hours answering written submissions from those sorts of people when it was impossible to meet them. For example, there was a great deal of lobbying at a late stage from individuals such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) about giving historic churches the same kind of exemption
It being Two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the programme motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Questions necessary to dispose of business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].