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Mr. Caborn: I wish to quote, for the record, what the president of ACPO said in a letter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, because it is very important:

Mr. Moss: I suppose that the House ought to be grateful to the Minister for reading out that letter, but I was dealing with wide-screen sporting events. He went further than that and read a letter that obviously embraced other issues as well.

In the letter to the Liberal Member that was also circulated to me, the Government are disingenuous in the sense that they admit that they made mistake in not saying that ACPO had made representations about television broadcasts. Of course the letter goes on to say—this is where the disingenuity comes in—that the

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police have not asked that television broadcasts per se should be licensed, for example, in premises where alcohol is not consumed. How many of those big-screen sporting events take place outside pubs? Most of them take place on premises that are licensed for alcohol sales, and the police still maintain to us—no doubt, they did so to the Government some six months ago—that they feel that a problem is associated with such situations.

On Thursday 13 June last year, the Morning Advertiser—a licensed trade paper—reported on the World cup celebrations and said:

Where is the evidence of such disorder arising from the two-in-a-bar rule, or at private performances where people seek to raise funds for good causes, or at private folk and jazz clubs, all of which are exempt under the current rules? The police have not provided any such evidence, nor have the Government, yet the fine mesh of the new law will ensnare them.

Musicians are surely justified in believing that the Government are making them a scapegoat for problems that have nothing to do with live music. They are also justified in wondering how the Government believe that introducing entertainment licensing controls on live performances where none previously applied, or have not applied for a very long time, will benefit live music at the grass roots.

Last week, in another place, Ministers quoted the same letter from Chris Fox, president of the ACPO, as the Minister has quoted from tonight. Again, the emphasis is that

The Opposition dispute that—some live music, yes, but not all live music. Surely it is up to the Government and the police to target those situations where the problem arises, rather than introducing a catch-all, blanket law that applies to all scenarios.

Andrew Bennett: Will the hon. Gentleman explain whether he welcomes, or opposes, the concessions that the Government have made?

10.30 pm

Mr. Moss: The hon. Gentleman will have to wait until about 11.15 pm to find that out. I hope that he enjoys the debate in the meantime.

Of course, the morris dancing exemption is to be welcomed. It means that an event in which an unamplified pianist accompanies morris or similar dancing would be exempt. A solo performance by the same pianist without the dancers, however, would be illegal in any place if not licensed, unless it was a public place, a place of religious worship or at a garden fête, not for private gain.

In lieu of the small events exemption, the Government have made further concessions for unamplified live music, which is the substance of the amendment that we are considering this evening. Perhaps we should be

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grateful for these crumbs from the Government's table. It is crucial to recognise, however, that this is not an exemption from licensing. The provision of both unamplified and amplified live music in venues with a permitted capacity of 200 or fewer remains illegal unless licensed. It is the potential for licence conditions that is restricted, subject to review if there are problems or complaints sufficient to trigger a review of the premises licence.

The Government's revised amendment is, as I have said previously, rather difficult to interpret. Whichever way one looks at it, it appears both bizarre and contradictory. First, it means that performances of unamplified or amplified live music in places primarily used for the consumption of alcohol qualify for a round-the-clock exemption from noise conditions. Secondly, venues not used primarily for the sale of alcohol are subject to all conditions, including noise, between midnight and 8 am. Jukebox music is exempt due to the incidental exemption. Drinking establishments, particularly city centre bars and pubs, are the very premises already known to cause residents the most problems if they open late, which is due largely to noisy people outside the premises but also to noise breaking out from within. They, however, are to be exempt from noise conditions when live music is performed, subject to review, round the clock.

If a small venue is not used primarily for the supply of alcohol—for example, a restaurant, a library or someone's garden—all conditions are disapplied between 8 am and midnight. That is the wording in the amendment. If it provides live unamplified or amplified music at any time after midnight up to 8 am, however, all conditions including noise would apply. That does not make any sense. Restaurants are the very places where featured live music uses low-level amplification. Such places are not associated with the antisocial behaviour that occurs in the vicinity of city-centre bars. Surely if the Government had any genuine concern for local residents' potential exposure to unwanted noise, they would impose the midnight to 8 am curfew on both amplified and unamplified live music or, better still, insist on noise conditions if either amplified or unamplified music is to be provided between midnight and 8 am.

Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Moss: No, I must press on.

By a strange irony, today, the Government's appeal will be heard against the European Court of Human Rights ruling that Heathrow's residents are entitled to noise protection by restriction of night flights. In this case, the European Court of Human Rights has previously upheld the residents' argument that they are entitled to that protection under article 8 of the European convention on human rights—the right to private and family life. The Government argue that the economic benefits of night flights outweigh the residents' rights to a quiet night's sleep. I wonder whether that position is in any way related to the issue that we are debating today.

Dr. Vis: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Moss: No, I must continue.

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On public safety, the Government have justified their position with claims about the inadequacy of public safety and fire safety legislation where entertainment is provided even on the smallest scale. Yet they have not produced any evidence from a qualified authority setting out how that legislation is so deficient that entertainment licensing is the only means to ensure public safety.

By contrast, the Arts Council, with the Musicians Union, has provided at least two detailed reports by a lawyer with health and safety expertise, and a statement from a former Home Office entertainment safety expert, that suggest that existing legislation is indeed adequate to allow an exemption for small-scale performances.

Senior officials at the local authority unit of the Health and Safety Executive confirmed only last week that risks such as those arising from trailing cables should be covered in work places irrespective of licensing. Officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is the Department responsible for the new fire safety laws that are due to come into force next year—well within the transition period of the Bill—also said that licence conditions should not be necessary under those laws.

The broadcast entertainment exemption is, again, highly relevant. In the same issue of the Morning Advertiser that I quoted earlier, the front page carried a report stating:

The incident was also reported in the Bristol Evening Post on Saturday 8 June 2002. Presumably, the Government took all that into account when making their pronouncements on public safety.

We come next to noise. There is no evidence that live music causes a significant noise problem, and no noise complaint data discriminate between complaints caused by amplified and unamplified music. The Noise Abatement Society says that noisy people outside cause the overwhelming majority of noise complaints associated with pubs and clubs. Additionally, strong powers are available to local authorities and the police to deal with noise emanating from within bars and pubs, although it is probably true that there are inadequate resources with which to implement those powers.

Throughout the debate, the Government have conspicuously avoided mentioning noise data and comment provided by the Musicians Unions, the Noise Abatement Society, the United Kingdom Noise Association, residents associations in Soho and Covent Garden and the Institute of Alcohol Studies. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has instead referred to a document by the Institute of Acoustics, although it initially did not even identify its title, to suggest that live music was top of the list of sources of complaint.

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