Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for her response. Sadly, I am disturbed by it. In a sense it confirms our worst fears. We are talking about particular institutions that we have singled out for exemptions—prisons, hospitals, educational establishments, museums and public galleries. I am grateful to noble Lords who have supported the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to performances in prisons attended only by those directly involved with the prison. We understand that that would not attract the need for a licence. I went to a performance of "The Threepenny Opera" a couple of years ago at Winchester prison. It was a fantastic performance put on over a number of nights by prisoners working with professional actors. It was the best form of rehabilitation I have ever witnessed, giving the prisoners a feeling that they were working with the outside world and gaining confidence and self-respect. I am pleased to report that some of those prisoners are now free again and pursuing the activity of drama. That must be applauded and I applaud Winchester prison.

I am depressed to think that such activities would attract a licence. I hear what the noble Baroness says about noise, but surely that issue would not arise for prisons and hospitals. When I went to Winchester, my family and I—particularly my children—remarked at the level of protection provided for the public. The public do not need protection. My noble friend Lady Hanham referred to the patients and staff of a hospital. What about if visitors of those patients come in and listen to the performances? An element of common sense must prevail, but, regrettably, the Bill will unquestionably cause insecurity for musicians and performers across the board about what they can and cannot do and the spontaneity with which they can perform.

We will not divide the Committee at this stage, but given the support shown around the Chamber we will want to return to the issue on Report. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts moved Amendment No. 29:


The noble Lord said: This takes us back to Amendment No. 11, to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, replied. He said he wished to save his ammunition for later. He now has a chance to fire it off.

12 Dec 2002 : Column 413

The amendment relates to Clause 14 in Part 3 of the Bill. The definitions of buildings have been drafted to exclude structures with roofs that may be opened or closed. The amendment would treat them as if the roof was permanently closed.

The aim of the provision is probably the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which is a splendid building. It is currently the only major building with a sliding roof, but it is unlikely that it will be the only building with a sliding roof over the next 25 or 30 years, which is the likely life of this legislation.

When the roof is closed, I do not see how the stadium is any different from any other major indoor arena, such as Earl's Court, Docklands or the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. I understand that rock concerts in the latter three would fall within the provisions of the Bill, but rock concerts in the Millennium Stadium, even with a closed roof, would not. Except for the convenience of the parliamentary draftsman, who could not find a way of excluding it neatly, that does not seem logical.

It also raises the wider issue of the position of people who live close to major rugby and football grounds. We heard much at Second Reading about late-night drinking in central London and the associated problems. Those living next to major football grounds experience some of the same problems that occur in central London; people being sick in their front gardens and worse. In these cases, not even the council will help to clear up.

I accept that this is a difficult issue, but it is part of the general policy area covering the licensing of entertainment and the sale of alcohol. My fundamental point is that, given human ingenuity, legal tenacity and developing building techniques, if the Bill is not amended we must expect that wholly or partly movable or removable roofs will become more prevalent. In the meantime, I am not clear why a stadium that can be roofed in should have any special treatment in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, for the way he moved his amendment. I assure him that I said only that I would reserve my arguments for later on. I certainly did not talk about ammunition. I have not come here armed. In fact, I am seeking to disarm on this issue.

I recognise the noble Lord's point. Of course the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is a unique sporting venue. I must emphasise that it is subject to its own safety and licensing regime, as would any other stadium of such a size that had this particular facility. I am not sure that I share the noble Lord's pessimism that we may be several decades away from getting a replica, but, as he rightly says, such stadiums will be few and far between. That is why the Millennium Stadium has a regime all its own, as would other similar stadiums. It is certainly the case that it has a development in terms of the roof which gives added protection to spectators. We realise what an enormous asset that is to the sporting facilities at Cardiff.

12 Dec 2002 : Column 414

In drafting the Bill's provisions, we had no desire to make such stadia subject to duplicate licensing regimes merely because "indoor" sport, when the roof is closed, could cover football or rugby played in the stadium. We therefore explicitly exempted them. Members of the Committee should rest assured that, like all such stadia, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff—and other buildings that can close their roofs in the future—are subject to strict safety regimes. I recognise the point identified by the noble Lord that this particular stadium is a mix between "closed" and "open" buildings because of this special facility. I can reassure him that there is a licensing regime in existence that controls and ensures public safety. That regime does not need to be replicated by adding further provisions to the Bill.

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances, and his "disarming" comments. I just wanted to ensure that we were not allowing a lacuna to develop in the Bill. In the light of the noble Lord's explanation, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bridges moved Amendment No. 30:


    Page 111, line 38, at end insert—


"(2) For the avoidance of doubt, "music" does not include the ringing of church bells, for the purposes of this Act."

The noble Lord said: I shall begin by declaring an interest in the subject. I am a bell-ringer. I normally ring bell number four in a peal of eight at our parish church—a bell that my wife and I gave to the parish. I am also a member of the Suffolk Guild of Bellringers.

The reason for troubling noble Lords with this subject is that, unless you are careful when engaged in bell-ringing, you can cause a certain amount of inconvenience to people living nearby. Unless we insert a provision of the kind that I suggest in this amendment, I am worried that some people who are unhappy with the noise made by the bells, or with the time at which they ring, may approach the licensing authority or take legal steps to stop the bell-ringing. I do not believe that that is the right way to set about it.

Our church tower fell down in 1830 and was only reinstalled in 1960 with the help of many people, including assistance from the millennium bell fund. We managed to get a peal of eight bells installed again. Our bell-ringer, who was a wise and sensible person, took certain steps; for example, he made sure that the recruitment of the band covered the whole social spectrum of the village, and all ages. At the age of 75, I am one of the eldest, if not the eldest. We also took the unusual step of placing louvres with shutters attached to them in the bell chamber. Therefore, when we are practising, we close the shutters and the sound of bells ringing is not heard outside the church. In that way we have managed to gain the overwhelming support of our small community. That is what we should try to do.

12 Dec 2002 : Column 415

It would be helpful if we could put into the Bill the reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, gave on Second Reading when he said that,


    "bell ringing and carol services do not require licences".—[Official Report, 26/11/02; col. 734.]

All my modest amendment seeks to do is to insert that wording into the Bill. I trust that Members of the Committee will feel able to approve it. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: Church bell-ringing is not music that is licensable under this Bill. I can confirm what my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey said on Second Reading. Amendment No. 30 seeks to make this explicit on the face of the Bill, but it would be very odd if we listed in the legislation every single thing that is not licensable. Indeed, the Bill is about directly the opposite. Schedule l sets out a series of conditions that must be met before particular entertainment, or entertainment facilities, become a licensable activity. It also sets out a number of exemptions in Part 2.

In many cases, church bell-ringing is unquestionably for the purposes of, or incidental to, a religious meeting or service. It is, therefore, without doubt exempt from licensing. When the bell-ringers are practising, there is no audience present, as would be required if it were entertainment. Practice is also not for the purposes of entertainment, as would be required. Finally, if we examine the term of "entertainment facilities", we find that the church makes no charge on the bell-ringers for the use of the bells. Whichever way you approach the issue, church bell-ringing is not licensable under the provisions of the Bill. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page