Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

He went on to say that there would be a great explosion of live music, which did not turn out to be the case. I have talked to many publicans and the amount of red tape and bureaucracy, and the difficulty of understanding the regulations, mean that no licensing will go forward. This morning on the radio there were some buskers playing in a square, which was against the Licensing Act. I am sure that nobody at the radio station understood that. There was that large spontaneous dance at Liverpool Street, which was totally against the Licensing Act. There are many examples, which people laugh off, but a publican faces large amounts of regulation and could lose his licence— and therefore his income and

15 Jun 2009 : Column 930

livelihood—or even face six months in prison or a £20,000 fine over this. I find such penalties incredible. If you said that this was a law passed by a one-party state, I could understand it, but it was passed by the Government, claiming that they are doing something to increase the amount of live music.

I find it almost laughable that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport can hold its head up and call itself cultural. We fought very hard for live music. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, is taking a personal pop because I was the one who had to stand down. People tend to forget that we took this to a record number of Divisions. I never get the credit for this so I am going to say it now and blow my own trumpet in the same way that the noble Lord has done many times. If we had taken it to a further vote, it would have stood as a record for the number of times that we have ping-ponged a single issue between the two Houses. It was at that point that the Secretary of State in another place, the right honourable Tessa Jowell, offered me morris dancing. I had 600 morris dancers dance in honour of the DCMS in Trafalgar Square. The Act would have killed morris dancing. At the last minute, when the Secretary of State offered me morris dancing on the phone, I said, “Excellent. You are offering morris dancing. You have got your Bill”. She thought that she had gone too far and said, “It does not include cloggers”. There was an intake of breath from another DCMS official on the line; I had not realised that it was a conference call. Another voice on the line said, “Secretary of State, it does include cloggers”. That is so good, because clogging would have been killed as an art form in this country. I take this opportunity to hope that the Minister will back morris dancing at the Olympic opening ceremony, to show that the DCMS backs culture in this country.

The problem with the amendment is that it sounds as if the Minister has suddenly spotted a slight problem with the way in which the Licensing Act has been dealt with. The Act has been a massive constraint on live music in this country and has destroyed a vibrant and economic area of the country. Large numbers of bands that have made great wealth for the country started in the pubs and clubs, and they are being denied that opportunity. If we can have live-screen TV—we know that there has been disorder because of live-screen TV, even though it was denied that that would happen—but we cannot have live music when people playing in a pub tends to calm the situation rather than causing violence, we must address the situation. I hope that the Government do not use this as an opportunity to bring something forward and then not keep their eye on the ball, so that we end up with a bureaucratic mess that causes so many problems.

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, any attempt, however modest, towards reducing bureaucracy and the burden of red tape must be welcomed. Before going further, I declare some interests. I am a district councillor. I own an ancient monument and have to apply for a licence under the Act, and I am chairman of the National Playing Fields Association as well as chairman or president of my local football and cricket clubs.

15 Jun 2009 : Column 931

On a previous occasion when Section 182 guidance of the Licensing Act 2003 was debated at the instigation of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, speaking for the Government the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, commented that their Lordships were using the occasion to debate the main principles of the 2003 Act as much as debating the guidance which was the subject of the debate. It is difficult to debate any aspect of licensing without a reference to some, if not all, the problems created by the 2003 Act. I speak in the hope that one day the words spoken in this House will fall on more fertile ground than they have done so far.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has spoken far more ably than I could on licensing and music, assisted by my noble friend Lord Colwyn and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. I again draw to Her Majesty’s Government’s attention that the 2003 Act has imposed a disproportionate burden on small organisations, such as social and sports clubs, especially in rural areas where bar receipts can constitute a significant part of income. It is difficult in small country communities for money taken out of the community in the form of licence fees to be replaced from other sources.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in another place recently commented that it was highly unsatisfactory that not-for-profit and sporting clubs with modest turnover and laudable aims should be treated in exactly the same way as commercial operations. The committee also concluded that although the Act had improved the process the system was still too bureaucratic, complicated and time-consuming.

Recent press reports have said that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is leaving the Government in July after presenting the Digital Britain report. I cannot say that I blame him, although I am sure that it will be a loss for the Government. I hope that he will listen to what has been said today and, before he goes if he is indeed leaving, make the point to his successor that there are issues that need addressing.

Before finishing, I should comment that the wording in new Section 41B(3)—

is the same wording used in new Section 86B(3)(a). It is hardly ever possible to say that something could never have an adverse effect. The adverse effect might come from something exceptional and improbable, but if it could happen, however unlikely the event, the order says that the local authority must reject the application. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that the intention behind the wording is for it to be in ordinary or reasonable rather than any or exceptional circumstances.

The Minister might also clarify the wording on the 15-day limit, which says that if approval for an application is not given within 15 days then it is automatically rejected, although a reapplication can be made. The reapplication, and any subsequent ones, could equally be ignored under the 15-day rule, thereby allowing the application to be rejected without giving any reason as is required in new Section 86C(5), the last paragraph in the order. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that the Government do not intend the order to be used in that way.

15 Jun 2009 : Column 932

9 pm

The Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): My Lords, although this debate has not packed the Chamber with the same number of noble Lords as the previous debate, I, for one, recognise its importance. Indeed, tomorrow I shall be making an Oral Statement to the House on the Government’s White Paper following the conclusion of the work on Digital Britain where, among other things, we shall discuss the future of digital radio. I have long held the view that that has the potential to be a driving force for providing outlets and support, particularly for niche music interests and, indeed, for jazz.

I have sympathy with the issue, then, and as noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, may know, I have had the good and occasionally challenging fortune to have spent quite a bit of time in the past nine months with the music industry on this issue, among others. While I am afraid that I do not have the history in my mind that other noble Lords have of the debates on what became the Licensing Act—I am not overly complaining about that—I am well aware of the level of passionate support on this question, particularly from colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I was not surprised, then, at what could be described as the astonished explosion of passion on this issue tonight. The Government are well aware of the arguments, particularly the debates that still rage around Section 177.

I shall try to answer the specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and other speakers who supported him. I shall come back to deal with some specific questions on the minor variations point later. I am afraid that I shall disappoint the noble Lord by saying that the Government cannot agree that the Licensing Act has made it harder to put on live music. Indeed, as the noble Lord will know, the Live Music Forum chaired by Feargal Sharkey, who also now chairs UK Music, found that the Act had had a neutral impact on live music, while the Live Music Survey in 2007 indicated that there had been a 5 per cent reduction, but that licensing was rarely a factor in decisions about whether to put on live music. In fact, in 2008-09, live music provision increased in licensed premises by nearly 8 per cent and, with the addition of members’ clubs, there are now more than 90,000 venues licensed for live music.

Nevertheless, the Government recognise that there is evidence to suggest that small-scale, informal gigs may have been negatively affected by the Act. We believe—I checked this in the briefing I received—that the Government have tried to honour their commitment to explore options for further live music exemptions. As I am sure noble Lords will know, discussions were held last year with musicians’ organisations, local authorities and others on draft exemptions for small live music events. However, I have been reliably informed—and I pressed officials on this point—that it proved impossible to agree on exemptions that would deliver an increase in live music but still protect the rights of local residents. It is not the case that the Government have turned their eye to this question, but rather that we have sought to find a balance of

15 Jun 2009 : Column 933

interest. On this basis, the Government have agreed with the Musicians’ Union and the LACORS to explore other ways of encouraging live music.

While I understand the noble Lord’s frustration on some of these questions, I was slightly disappointed that he dismissed the entirety of the benefit of the minor variations. Our view is that the minor variations bring some advantages, for live music in particular. We think that the minor variations process, appropriately implemented, will help venues to put on more small live music events. The statutory guidance states:

“It is the Government’s intention that applications to vary a licence for live music should benefit from the minor variations process unless there is likely to be an adverse impact on the licensing objectives”.

The Musicians’ Union, which the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, mentioned, is one of the bodies we have engaged with and is the main body representing musicians. It recognises the potential of minor variations to increase live music provision. It has formed a new group with local authorities to explain and promote the benefits of the new process for live music. The group is also developing a communications programme to explain the current exemption for incidental music, which we accept has had a limited effect, and will see whether it can tackle other live music issues as they arise. We share the noble Lord’s view that these measures will help to deliver an increase in small live music events. The Government undertake to review the situation in a year’s time when the minor variations and the other initiatives outlined have had time to take effect. If necessary, we will revisit the subject of exemptions.

I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, will take up the question of Olympic endorsement for morris dancing with my colleague in another place. The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, was supported by the noble Lords, Lord Colwyn and Lord Redesdale, and I ask that the House reject it before I return to answer the other questions posed.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Strangely enough, when I started thinking about the kind of response that I was going to put to the Minister, even before this debate, I wrote “disappointing”. The Minister rightly anticipated that I am pretty disappointed by his reply. I suspect that he feels that he is coming into a conversation that has been taking place for some time, but it is an important conversation for the future of live music. We all thought the Government were taking part in the conversation, but it now appears that they have almost given it up, which is rather sad.

I thank my noble friend Lord Redesdale and the noble Lords, Lord Colwyn and Lord Howard of Rising, for their contributions, all of which were extremely constructive and reveal some of the flaws not only in the current Licensing Act, but in the minor variations order. I enjoyed the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn. I am always willing to have my tail twisted in that fashion. At the time, we accepted a new Clause 117 in good faith, and we have now been able to repent at leisure, having seen that it is a completely useless clause that nobody has taken advantage of throughout the history of the Licensing Act 2003.

15 Jun 2009 : Column 934

We still appear to be going backwards. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, talked about the impact of the new minor variations order on live music, but I thought that, forensically, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, had it absolutely right. This is a minnow of an order, but such as it is, as a lawyer, I could come up with all kinds of objections under it.

“The variation proposed in the application could not have an adverse effect on the promotion of any of the licensing objectives”.

If I had taken the order seriously, I would have made points similar to those made extremely well by the noble Lord, Lord Howard. Frankly, the order will not give rise to a greater amount of live music in small venues or in social and sports clubs.

I am not going to push the amendment to a vote. Frankly, I do not think this minnow of a minor variation order merits it. As the Minister knows, over both tobacco advertising and casinos, I have been quite prepared to do the Government’s work for them and prompt them into action. As regards live music, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has made it plain that the Licensing Act needs primary legislation to ensure that the necessary exemptions for live music are created. It seems extremely sad that the Government appear to have given up the ghost in the face of objections from the LGA.

I therefore intend to introduce a Private Member’s Bill that will provide a conditional exemption for live music in small venues licensed under the Licensing Act 2003. This exemption will be conditional on Section 177, which will be triggered so that a licence for live music can be reviewed, and if complaints by local residents are made, then there can be a full, proper hearing. The second element of the Private Member’s Bill will be to reintroduce the two-in-a-bar rule so that any performance of unamplified live music by up to two people will be exempt from the need for a licence. Thirdly, the Private Member’s Bill will provide a total exemption for hospitals, schools and colleges from the requirement to obtain a licence for live music when providing entertainment where alcohol is not sold and the entertainment involves no more than 200 people.

I look forward to debate on that Private Member’s Bill, which I hope to persuade Members of this House, and later the Government, to support. I know that those provisions will have great support, not only down the other end of this building through the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, but also from all those who have an interest in the spread of live music in small venues. I withdraw my amendment at this point but I look forward to future debate.

Amendment withdrawn.

Lord Carter of Barnes: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the gracious and considered manner in which he withdrew his amendment. I am always shocked to the core by his disappointment and I hope it will not be repeated tomorrow. This debate clearly needs to continue and the Government acknowledge that there is a legitimate debate still to be had around Section 177. It is unreasonable to characterise the Government as being completely in awe of the LGA’s response—although it is a voice—and we look forward to the debate.

15 Jun 2009 : Column 935

I know I may be slightly out of order, but I was asked a question in the debate on that amendment around the relevance of Form 696 and I wanted to clarify—

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, with some reticence I interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Carter, who is well respected in these matters. I am confused with regard to the procedure we are following this evening. Clearly, I will have to take it up tomorrow to inquire whether the Government intend to introduce a new procedure for the putting of a Motion. I understood the Minister to say very courteously that he intended to answer particular questions after the Motion. It is our custom that questions are answered before the vote on the Motion is put and that the whole of these proceedings are concluded when the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in this case, withdraws his amendment. Therefore, we are in uncharted waters but we are a self-regulating House. I feel that noble Lords wish to hear what the Minister has to put on the record but it is perhaps an unwise development tonight.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux): My Lords, it is my mistake. I should have put the Motion straight away.

Motion agreed.

9.14 pm

Sitting suspended.

Political Parties and Elections Bill

Main Bill Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes

Report (1st Day) (Continued)

9.28 pm

Amendment 31 not moved.

Clause 11 : Control of donations to members associations: responsible persons

Amendment 32

Moved by Lord Tunnicliffe

32: Clause 11, page 11, line 44, at end insert—

“A notice of alteration takes effect on the day on which it is received by the Commission or (if later) on such date as may be specified in the notice.”

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, these are technical amendments to Clause 11 on the control of donations to members’ associations. The amendments do not materially alter the policy intentions here: rather, they are intended to ensure that the clause is as clear as it can be and that the procedure to be followed when giving a notice for the purposes of these provisions is easily understood. As has been helpfully noted in previous debates, members’ associations are often voluntary organisations and we must make sure that provisions regulating them are free of the potential to confuse.

15 Jun 2009 : Column 936

Specifically, Amendment 32 seeks to add clarity to the process of making an alteration to an existing notice appointing a responsible person. The amendment explicitly states that a notice of alteration takes effect from the day it is received by the commission or from a particular date specified in the notice. Previously, the clause did not explicitly state when a notice of alteration would take effect, which could have led to a potential dispute over the date on which the appointment took effect. This could be unhelpful: for example, in a case where it is not clear who is acting as the responsible person for a members’ association on a particular date, which could be important if called into question as part of an investigation.

Amendment 33 clarifies that a notice appointing a responsible person has to be in force for a minimum of 12 months from the point that a donation is received or a loan entered into which triggers the requirement to appoint a responsible person. This was already implicit in the provision given in Clause 11(4)(b), which states that a notice appointing a responsible person,

But it was not explicit that the notice appointing a responsible person could not be terminated before 12 months had elapsed. This amendment puts that requirement beyond doubt.

This is a small but important clarification, given that one of the key benefits of the policy-reforming regulation of members’ associations is the fact that an identifiable individual will be responsible for complying with the requirements of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and liable for any failures to comply with that Act. The benefit of this policy is increased by retaining that individual in post for a significant period. If the members’ association could appoint somebody when it receives a reportable donation and then terminate that person’s appointment immediately, the benefits of the policy would be significantly reduced. It is also worth noting that the requirement does not prevent a change in the responsible person in-year; the provisions in the Bill already allow for a notice of alteration, altering any details of the responsible person. I hope that noble Lords will agree that these amendments represent sensible clarifications of this clause.

Amendment 34 is a technical amendment concerned with Clause 12 on compliance officers. Specifically, it relates to the way in which a holder of elective office, or the compliance officer himself, may inform the Electoral Commission of an alteration to the arrangements under which the compliance officer has been appointed. The Bill already provides a notice of alteration procedure which allows any necessary changes to be made, including the appointment of a new officer. It also enables the commission to be kept up to date when a compliance officer’s details, such as their home address, change during the period for which he or she is appointed. I will not speak at length as the amendment is simple and I hope that it will be welcomed, bringing as it does a little additional clarity to new paragraph 18(7) of Schedule 7 to PPERA, as inserted by the clause. This is the provision for giving an alteration notice to the commission. This amendment mirrors that to Clause 11.

15 Jun 2009 : Column 937

This amendment will add an additional line clarifying the proper effect of a notice of alteration by plainly stating that an alteration contained in a notice takes effect from the date of receipt of the notice by the commission. Alternatively, it will take effect on a date specified in the notice. I hope that this clarity could help to avoid potential disputes over responsibility that could arise: for instance, if the commission was investigating a donation received during a period of transition between individuals in a compliance officer role. I hope that this clarification will be welcomed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page