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Lord Monson: My Lords—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that it might be better if I made my speech before he has an opportunity to intervene, after which I can respond to him.

The intention was to exempt a kind of genteel, low-level and perhaps traditional music made in small premises from the perceived burdens of the new licensing regime. I stress the word "perceived" because the Licensing Bill strips away most of the burdens and costs associated with the existing licensing system. I agree with those sentiments, but the amendment is seriously misguided. It is unfortunate that the world does not consist solely of sophisticated jazz trios playing to well-behaved and civilised audiences. However, I used to go to a jazz club in Paris where the sensitivity of neighbours was so great that the audience was not allowed to applaud; instead they simply click-click-clicked their fingers to show appreciation. Perhaps that system could be introduced in this country also. The amendment would have destroyed all the protection, including the kind that I have been describing.

I hope that it does not come as too much of a shock when I say that the world is not like that. The most popular forms of live music in this country consist of loud and sometimes quite aggressive rock and pop music that provoke audience reaction. Many forms of entertainment give rise to serious issues of crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. It should come as no surprise that both the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Local Government Association are vehemently opposed to an exemption of this nature.

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The Bill sets out a simple, flexible and proportionate system designed to address those issues while sweeping away unnecessary barriers that stop performers entertaining the public.

The amendment made in this House would exempt any entertainment from the provisions of the Bill provided the audience does not exceed 250 at any one time and the entertainment finishes by 11.30 p.m. Entertainment, in the Bill, includes the playing of recorded music and performing live music, dancing, performing plays, exhibiting films, indoor sports entertainment and other entertainment of a similar description. All those types of entertainment would be covered by the exemption.

I reiterate that the description "exemption for small premises" is misleading. The exemption relates to the size of the audience, not the premises. The exemption would cover, for example, Fatboy Slim or Marilyn Manson playing music at full blast in the middle of a residential area so long as there were fewer than 250 people present at any one time. It would even exempt the Albert Hall if there were fewer than 250 people in the audience. Why should an audience of fewer than 250 be denied the expert consideration of their protection, and why should local residents be denied a voice?

I know that the musicians' lobby argues that existing health and safety and nuisance legislation should be enough to protect the public on those counts. However, I note that the Musicians' Union publishes a code of good practice relating to the health and safety of performers that goes beyond what health and safety law requires—good luck to it. However, the Government disagree fundamentally with that view for several reasons.

Fire safety law is often enforced through conditions attached to licences under the existing regimes. Exempting vast swathes of entertainment from licensing removes the opportunity to ensure public protection from fire risks through preventative measures.

Existing health and safety legislation is reactive. Licensing offers the opportunity to prevent problems before they have an opportunity to arise. Health and safety legislation relies on an individual operator knowing what they need to do to protect the public at an entertainment event and actually doing it. One of the key aims of licensing is to ensure that that happens. For example, if I were to put on a live band at my local community venue, I would not have the first idea about what I needed to do to ensure that the public and performers were protected from hazards arising from staging, lighting and electrical cabling. But the experts who would have the opportunity to comment on my licence application would certainty know what is needed.

If we left the small premises amendment in the Bill, it would take public protection out of the hands of the experts and give it, in many cases, to amateurs. That is not right, and I do not think it melodramatic to say that it would put lives at risk. However, if we put to one side our differences on the issue of public safety and public nuisance, the exemption made in this House has

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very serious consequences for the two other licensing objectives in the Bill—the prevention of crime and disorder and the protection of children from harm.

The potential effects of the exemption in those areas are wide-ranging. For example, in the case of a small cinema holding up to 250 people—there are quite a number of those—a child of any age would be free to enter and watch a film classified for 18 year-olds. That is because the recommendations of the British Board of Film Classification have no standing in law. They are currently enforced through conditions attached by the local authority to cinema licences under the Cinemas Act 1985. The Bill will eventually replace that Act in England and Wales. It is intended that similar conditions will be attached to premises licences held for cinemas or other premises exhibiting films. But, without those conditions, the BBFC classifications would be wholly undermined. There would be no way in which a licensing authority for a particular area could seek to have a say in the classification of films exhibited in its area.

The effect of the amendment is to give young children unrestricted access to sex and violent films in cinemas. There was outrage when I said that in the House earlier. I say it again because it is true. We have received representations in strong terms from the BBFC on the issue. I understand that other noble Lords have been on the receiving end of those representations.

The amendment also has a serious effect on the crime prevention objective. The effect is wide-ranging, but I shall illustrate it by way of example. The exemption would allow an individual involved in the sale of drugs to organise entertainment, perhaps a disco, for 250 teenagers with a view to selling his target audience drugs. As the event would not require the authority of a licence or even a temporary event notice, the police would not be informed and they would lose their right to intervene on crime prevention grounds and have the event stopped. They could intervene only after the event if some nuisance or tragedy had occurred.

Is that the type of licensing system that we want? We want a licensing system that aims to facilitate the provision of diversity of entertainment in a responsible way, subject only to those controls that are absolutely necessary. Are we prepared to put that at risk? I do not believe that that could possibly have been the intention of noble Lords opposite when they carried this amendment. They have an opportunity to put things right by supporting the amendment made in another place. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 62.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)


62ABaroness Buscombe rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 62, leave out the words from "that" to the end and insert "the House do disagree with the Commons in their amendment but do propose the following amendment in lieu thereof"— Page 112, line 30, at end insert—

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    "Small events: live music


    (1) The provision of entertainment consisting of the performance of live music is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act where—


(a) the number of listeners or spectators present does not exceed 200 at any one time, and
(b) the entertainment ceases no later than 11.30pm. (2) The provision of entertainment facilities solely for the purposes of entertainment described in sub-paragraph (1) is not to be regarded as the provision of regulated entertainment for the purposes of this Act.(2) Nothing in this paragraph shall be read as rendering invalid or otherwise affecting any provision of, or any regulation made under, any other legislation that applies to the entertainment, the entertainment facilities or the premises on which the entertainment is to take place."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I speak to Amendment No. 62A, and to respond to, and substantially disagree with, several issues raised by the Minister this morning. He knows that we are sticking to what we have said in repeated debates in your Lordships' House and on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition in another place.

We understand that the Government's concern is particularly with regard to health and safety. I will seek, as briefly as I am able, to deflect some of the Government's arguments. We contend that there is more than adequate existing legislation to meet the objectives of the Bill, making superfluous the imposition of specific conditions on a licence. We support the view that a small premises exemption is a feasible option within the proposed regime. On health and safety, there is a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for employers to ensure the safety of their employees and others who may be affected by what they do. Thus, publicans, event organisers and others already have a duty with which they must comply. They must ensure that their premises are safe for the use to which they are put, and that any equipment used on the premises is safe, not only for the user, but for all those in the vicinity.

When there is no employer, a similar duty is imposed on the person with control of the premises to ensure that the premises are safe for those using any plant or substances provided for them, which could include promoters or event organisers when premises are let to them to use. Breach of those sections is a criminal offence, with a maximum fine of 20,000 in a magistrates' court and an unlimited fine in a Crown Court. Publicans already have to comply with those provisions.

The enforcement agencies are also able to serve improvement and prohibition notices—the former requiring steps to be taken before an event can take place, and the latter preventing the event from occurring. Breach of those notices is an imprisonable offence.

The Government have suggested that existing health and safety legislation does not provide a sufficient safeguard because it is reliant on the duty holder complying with it, understanding it and taking steps to ensure the safety of patrons before the event. In other words, it is reactive legislation and imposes no site-specific requirements as licensed conditions would do. That is true, to a degree. However, such a statement fails

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to recognise two important issues: although conditions may be proactive in that they are placed on a licence prior to an event taking place, those imposing non-physical requirements—such as occupancy levels, the checking of fire doors and so forth—are still reliant on the licence holder complying with them.

There is already an existing obligation on every employer and self-employed person—which could include performers—to undertake an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, themselves and others who may be affected by their conduct under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Not only must a publican have already carried out a risk assessment of his premises, if he has a band, comedian or some other form of entertainment, he must undertake a new assessment considering the risks posed by the new activity. He may consider restricting the occupancy levels, ensuring that any staging is safe and so forth.

On fire safety, the risk assessment must also include consideration of any risk from fire. As from 2004, when the proposed Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order becomes effective, a specific duty will be placed on an employer or the person responsible for the activity being undertaken to undertake an assessment of the risk posed by fire.

I could go on. Noise nuisance is a concern. Concerns have been expressed about the inability of existing legislation to deal proactively with the potential noise nuisance arising from unlicensed premises. It is accepted that local authorities, when exercising their powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to serve noise abatement notices, tend to be reactive, and act following complaints. However, the officers have the power to serve such notices and must do when they are satisfied that a noise nuisance is likely to occur. Thus, when a premises is known to be a problem, a notice can be served requiring steps to be taken or works to be undertaken to prevent noise nuisance.

On anti-social behaviour, it would be wrong not to mention the Bill currently under scrutiny in Committee. The Bill provides councils with powers to deal with noise nuisance—among other issues—and creates a closure order that councils can serve upon premises holding a premises licence or a temporary event notice, closing them down immediately for 24 hours.

Although we accept that the safety of the public is a major consideration, there is a strong argument that the licensing regime for entertainment is overly restrictive and unnecessary due to existing controls, and potentially falls foul of the European Convention. If the requirement for a licensing regime is accepted based on the objectives stated in the Bill, we must decide whether a distinction can and should be made between events based on capacity and timing—namely, whether there should be a small premises or, preferably, a small event exemption. That is what we are putting before your Lordships today. By allowing events to take place and limiting the audience to 200 people, as in our amendment, and to a terminal hour

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of 11.30 p.m., the Government would surely be seen to be recognising a cultural need and desire, while ensuring that the local amenity is not unduly affected.

The health and safety implications of such an exemption would be no different from those affecting a public house showing live football to potentially many hundreds of patrons or a popular comedian entertaining an audience of hundreds in a like premises, both of which fall outside the definition of entertainment.

There is extraordinary inconsistency in the Bill. A limited amount of entertainment that is not broadcast will be unduly restricted, but a large plasma screen pouring out very loud music or the sounds of a football match to hundreds of people will be outside the remit of the Bill. Whatever the entertainment, each would have to be risk assessed for both general and fire risks, and each would be subject to noise control, not to mention the powers of the police. There is justification for such events to be treated differently.

I heard what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh said, but we feel very strongly about the issue. Unless I hear some new and overwhelming argument, I intend to press the amendment. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 62, leave out the words from "that" to the end and insert "the House do disagree with the Commons in their amendment but do propose an amendment in lieu thereof.—(Baroness Buscombe.)

1.15 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. She has covered the health and safety grounds for our amendment, so it is not appropriate for me to cover them again today. We have returned to the amendment on several occasions.

The amendment has been changed to take account of some of the concerns expressed at earlier stages of the Bill. However, one fundamental principle that should not be overlooked is that, although the Minister used some scare stories—even embellishing some of them—about drug pushers organising discos, we should not overlook the fact that drug pushers could get a temporary events notice, but they would still be undertaking a criminal act.


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