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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Perhaps I may also ask the Minister to clarify the point which follows on from the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. He said that one does not necessarily have to charge. Can he clarify whether, in the school concert scenario, there is a difference if people are not specifically charged but are asked to donate? I cite as an example the case of the charge of £7.50 for the event at a church. When one enters museums, one often sees a notice saying, "Donations suggested", with an amount, even though it may be a non-charging museum. Can the noble Lord clarify whether the word "donation" makes any difference?
Lord McNally: Before the Minister reads those helpful pieces of paper that are on their way to him, perhaps I may, in a spirit of comradeship, give him a little advice. He knows of the affection that I have for him. Part of my job from these Benches is to go to another place and sit in on our parliamentary party meetings. Very rarely do I receive questions or comments on what we are doing at this end of the building. Last night, a large number of Members said that their post bags were already being filled by complaints, fears or doubts about this part of the Bill. Before the Minister plays his usual elegant, straight bat in response, perhaps I may suggest that he takes back the matter to the department. He will certainly have trouble from this end of the building and my suspicion is that, as those post bags fill up, he will also have trouble from the other end.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I can get a word in edgewaysexcellent! Clearly a large number of specific questions about specific caseswhether they be master classes, opera schools or whateverhave been raised, and it would be foolish of me to attempt to answer them at the Dispatch Box. I shall undertake to write to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate about all the issues raised.
I want to return specifically to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, about existing health and safety legislation and whether it is being duplicated. Our existing health and safety legislation relating to the workplace covers schools. It does not matter whether it is a place of work or an educational institution; health and safety issues are addressed in a place of work or educational institution. It does not cover the issues which may arise when those premises are used for other purposes; in other words, when the public have access to entertainments which are comparable to those provided in commercial premises. The issues when large numbers of the public come into a school are different from those concerning schoolchildren in a school.
Lord Redesdale: I apologise to the Minister for interrupting at this late stage. As I understand it, under health and safety legislation a school hall in which 200 to 300 children sit, and where there is amplification for the teachers, is covered in the same way as a play.
I shall try to answer as many as I can of the individual points raised in so far as they could be helpful to the general tenor of the debate. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton: no. Clearly, that is an exact example of an occasional licence for up to five occasions a year. He said once every year or every two years. For the reasons I have given, although that is licensable, it is on a restricted and a limited scale.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I apologise to the Minister, who is being extraordinarily patient. However, I believe the Committee would want me to say that that reply was unintentionally misleading. Under this paragraph, it does not matter whether there is a charge, a donation or nothing. That is the point. As was rightly said in introducing the amendment, there are three alternatives, any one of which being satisfied brings in the whole of the registration procedure.
I did not properly deal, except flippantly, with gatecrashers. The answer is that a gatecrasher would not make an event licensable, because the entertainment has not been provided for the public. The entertainment must be provided for the public in order to bring it within the regime. If someone gatecrashes your wedding party, you are not in retrospect guilty of not having applied for a licence.
Baroness Buscombe: I do not know where to begin. I shall try to be brief. In relation to previous amendments, the Minister said that it is unnecessary to go into all the detail. I hope he now accepts that we are raising significant questions with regard to clarity and the implications of the Bill, which require answers.
I am grateful to the Minister, as I am sure are all noble Lords, for offering to write to us to give answers to some of the questions raised. However, surely the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is right when he says that as currently drafted, this provision will create a field day for lawyers. As a lawyer, I support that. I simply do not understand some of the answers given by the Minister. My noble friend Lord Brooke put it succinctly and summed up the problem. When referring to how to get round the problem of an event which is private, one has an invitation card on which one writes, "Admit 2". The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, is right. Perhaps the amendment is not the right one, and we should consider excluding the whole of the subsection.
Questions have been asked about weddings as religious services. Sadly, many weddings today are not religious services, although now we are told that they do not need to be religious in order to be exempt from the Bill. There is much here that is unclear. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, rightly said in relation to school concerts that schools are subject to considerable burdens in relation to health and safety issuesquite rightly. However, this is another layer of regulation. We believe passionately that this is entirely against what we were led to believe; that is, that this would be a deregulatory measure. The Bill will give us more regulation, more red tape, and more cost.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, rightly said that complaints following this debate alone will mean that our postboxes will be fuller than they have been hitherto, as will our e-mail accounts. We shall consider with care the Minister's remarks. I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. We hope very much that the Government will consider carefully before Report all that has been said. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: We now turn to another important area. In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 23, tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, which we entirely support, and to Amendment No. 24.
The amendments relate to the question of whether "public" should include educational and religious institutions. We ask whether schools, churches, synagogues and mosques will be required to have premises licences for the performance of plays and concerts. This subject was covered to some extent by previous amendments. However, I believe it is important that we now consider this in detail.
While there is an exception for religious meetings and services in paragraph (9) of the schedule, that does not appear to extend, for example, to an orchestral concert or a play performed in a church, cathedral or other religious building. Do the Government intend that where such activities are performed in religious buildings, they would be licensable, and that therefore a premises licence would be required if there were more than five such occasions in any one year?
What does the Minister have to say in respect of the Written Answer in another place given on Monday 9th December at col. 1W to my honourable friend Anne McIntosh, by the Second Church Estate's Commissioner, Mr Stuart Bell, which was as follows:
If each of those 16,250 buildings had to pay £100never mind the fee that would be attracted in terms of inspectionsthe cost to the Church Commissioners would be £1.6 million. The level of fees would probably be much higher than £100 in many cases, as they would require full premises licences if they held more than five concerts, plays or "other entertainment" events in any one year.
Does the Minister intend that such costs to churches of all denominations should be attached to the consequences of this legislation? In essence, does this mean that the proposals will cost the Church of England and other religious communities of whatever faith, many millions of pounds in licence fees, either in the form of temporary event notices or full premises licences?
There are no exceptions for schools. Thus, will school halls be required to have premises licences and/or issue temporary event notices? Schools put on plays and concertsdefined as "entertainment" in paragraph 2for
As I said at Second Reading, the Government have shown their support for evidence-based research in draft legislation in relation to the draft communications Bill. What evidence-based approach can we see in relation to this Bill? I beg to move.
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for her speech. I agree with much of what she says. The amendment standing in my name covers ground that is treated by other noble Lords, but it is not tabled in a spirit of unseemly competition. We simply wish to help the Minister, who will be understandably concerned to secure some form of words that would protect from any abuse a general exemption for places of public religious worship and educational institutions.
Many of the arguments for maintaining the present position were rehearsed at Second Reading. I do not wish to weary your Lordships by repeating them and delaying the Committee proceedings. The exemption was approved by Parliament in 1982 and we have
Since Second Reading, some two-and-a-half weeks ago, countless examples have come to light of just how close the relationship of church and community entertainment often is. St Paul's, Covent Garden, for example, is a place that provides facilities for young musicians and actors at the beginning of their careers, while children from local schools and special art schools use the space for concerts and drama.
We have already heard examples from across the river in Southwark diocese. I must say that I admire the scale of fees it seems to be charging just across the Thames. But as to the situation countrywide, I have been told of one church in Ludlow which has held 27 performances so far this year, ranging from the local choral society to the rugby club. A church in Carlisle has detailed 10 events from organ recitals to a concert by local people. They are far from being money-spinners; for example, that programme in the church in Carlisle has been subsidised.
That is an important point which has been emphasised again and again in correspondence. Some of the events are simply seen as part of the church's outreach into the local community. Some are intended, as in the example we had from Battersea, to raise funds, but usually for charity or to maintain the building itself. Many places of public religious worship are listed as important parts of the architectural inheritance of the whole community. Nearly one-half of Grade I listed buildings in the country are ecclesiastical. They are cared for, very cost effectively I may say, on behalf of the whole community by an army of volunteers. If unamended, the Bill would represent a further tax on their efforts.
I note Dr Howells' comment in his letter to The Times that it would be possible for the Secretary of State to waive or reduce charges for places of worship and charities, but that would still be an added layer of regulation imposed on hard-pressed volunteers by a Bill with the laudable aim of deregulation.
I fear very muchPrunella Scales has got the matter absolutely rightthat if volunteers contemplate the costs of obtaining a licence, the time involved in annual inspections and making temporary notifications, they will conclude that it would be safer and simpler not to hold the events at all. This is a very law-abiding part of the community and I can hear in my inner ear now the anxious debates on the PCC.
I know very well that this would be a long way from the intentions of DCMS. The department's paper A Force for Our Future argues cogently for the wider use of heritage buildings for community activity and as a focus for tourism and regeneration. There is an army of unpaid volunteers countrywide who are trying to do just that. They need encouragement.
The second element in the amendment recognises the problems likely to arise from the attempt to exempt those entertainments that are incidental to a religious service. Of course, it is often difficult to make a clear distinction between religious services and entertainmentalthough unfortunately, sometimes it is only too easy. For example, how should we classify a medieval mystery play or a Christmas carol concert at which some crooner sang "White Christmas"? By inserting the word "anything", we hope to assist the Minister by avoiding confusion and making the exemption workable.
In the light of so much that has been said in this debate and real andjudging from my post baggrowing concern, I hope that the Minister will be able to accept the amendments and take the opportunity to improve the provisions by taking into account the valuable contribution made to community and cultural life by educational institutions and all the nation's faith communities.
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