Updated: 10/04/08
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The Licensing Bill - Message 1 - Tony Says...

You may not have heard about this, but the Government is about to try and bring in a ridiculous new law which will make it far, far harder for pubs, clubs, organisations and anyone else for that matter to promote live music.

The proposals in Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Kim Howells' new Licensing Bill, published a couple of weeks ago, will mean that soon you will need a licence (cost £100 -£3,000) to perform music of any kind almost anywhere!

What's more anyone caught giving an unlicensed performance (and that could even include you and your family singing "Happy Birthday" to your granny at a party in a restaurant!) will be liable for prosecution and a heavy fine or even a jail sentence!

(Full details are in the article at the end of this text, which was send to me courtesy of Richard Pavitt of Blues Alive - thanks Richard!)

Unbelievable, isn't it?

If you're as outraged by this as I am, DON'T DELAY!




Proposed new law will affect everyone

Recently there have been press headlines about the government¹s proposals to abolish the restriction on pub opening hours. At last we will fall in line with just about every other country in the world. Hurrah!

But before you cheer too loudly, there is a sting in the tail and a nasty one at that. It lies in the less publicised parts of "The Licensing Bill" currently before Parliament.

At the same time as revising the law on pub opening, the Government is proposing to tidy up the situation on entertainment licenses which is riddled with anomalies; but rather than making the situation better, the proposed bill makes it far worse.

For a start, all the pubs and clubs that have 'got away' without needing a Public Entertainment Licence in the past because they've never had more than 2 musicians appearing at the same time will need a licence in the future. The two-in-a-bar rule was a long outdated regulation and needlessly restricted live music performance but what it is being replaced with will limit live music still further.

{ there are all the other areas of public entertainment. The bill currently before parliament contains provisions that will have a serious impact on all branches of the performing arts, both amateur and professional. All premises in which performing arts activities take place will require a licence from the local authority. No costs have been revealed, but licences will be granted only after inspection by the police, fire authority, health and safety inspectors and consultation with local residents and interest groups, so the cost will be far from nominal. At present a license for a pub can be anywhere between £100 and £3,000 depending on where in the country.

Churches, schools, village halls, pubs, restaurants, even private houses will have to be licensed if used for performance events, whether they take place frequently or only occasionally. Performances for members of clubs or for charitable purposes are also subject to this legislation, as are recording studios and premises used for rehearsals. Any performance in unlicensed premises will be a criminal offence, punishable by a large fine and costs, or a prison sentence.

Religious gatherings are exempt but here¹s a prime example of the madness of this legislation. 100 people attending a church service and singing hymns with orchestral accompaniment will not require a license. But if the same 100 people go into the same church simply to listen to the orchestra (i.e. a concert) it will require an entertainment license. It really will be a tax on entertainment.

Existing legislation relating to law and order, noise nuisance and health and safety makes the licensing of premises specifically for entertainment superfluous. There is no need for new regulations. No other country imposes such restrictions on artistic activities and a leading legal authority has determined that this legislation is incompatible with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights relating to freedom of expression.

Who, then, has been campaigning for these measures? Suspicion must fall on local authorities for whom this legislation will be a big money earner. These organisations have had a significant influence on the committee that formulated the Licensing Bill, while bodies representing arts interests have been refused representation.

Recent experience indicates the lengths to which some local authorities go in applying the letter of the law. A landlord was fined £500, with more than £1,500 costs, for allowing four of his regulars to sing ŒHappy Birthday¹ (without an entertainment license); another was threatened with court action when patrons were seen to be Œtapping their feet¹ to, and therefore being Œentertained¹ by, unauthorised music. The new Licensing Bill provides even more opportunities for Œjobsworth¹ interference in harmless activities.

The net effect of this new law will be curtail peoples¹ freedom and drastically reduce the number of small-scale music performances. If you value your freedom to enjoy watching and listening to, or participating in live performance be it music, drama, poetry reading, or any other performance art then you need to voice your concern about this new legislation. Once it becomes law, it will be a difficult and lengthy process to get it changed and the damage to the performance arts could well be permanent.

Write to you Member of Parliament, your County and District councillors, and your local paper.

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