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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, there is a danger in listening to debates in this House, especially debates initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. The noble Baroness made a powerful caseone that might have changed my mind if it could have been changed at this late stage.
The Minister could have changed my mind the other way. It is a worry when he speaks because he puts a powerful but slightly dangerous case in that he paints the bleakest of pictures of our intentions in the amendments we have tabled.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank the Minister. I start with an interesting matter, which has not been part of the long and arduous debates on the Bill: Amendment No. 62L. Although it causes a massive degree of hilarity, the issue of morris men, folk dance and traditional dance is one in which we on these Benches believe passionately.
It should be remembered that there are 14,000 morris men in the country. Some people have expressed the view that that is quite a scary thought. However, all those people take part in something that has gone on for many years and is part of the traditions of this country. They take part in 11,000 events that could have been licensable. The concession made on that basis means that a possible 11,000 licensable events will be taken out of the licensing regime, which will save them a great deal of money and will save all local authorities time, effort and money.
We are in the third stage of ping pong. I still hold dearly to many of the arguments that led us to reject the Government's arguments. We cannot dismiss the issue that the Bill could infringe on Article 10.2 of the
Some of the examples given for why we should introduce legislation have gone from the rare to the bizarre, especially the skinhead punk bands in the Midlands, who I do not believe ever use unamplified music. However, putting that aside, there is a history to why we have pushed so hard on the issue and why the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, has worked so hard: the history of problems with allowing live music in pubs. It is an issue that only 5 per cent of licensed venues put on live music. If we went to Dublin, it would be unthinkable that only 5 per cent of pubs would have music on.
The Government have said that the purpose of the legislation is to deregulate and to make it easier. The reason we have put forward such a staunch argument and gained so many concessions from the Government is that so many councils in the past have abused the privilege of the public entertainment licence and made it difficult for live music to be heard. Frankly, I find it unacceptable that one is unable to listen to live music in many pubs unless one really hunts down such places.
I also want to raise the "two in a bar" issue. I wondered whether we should press the amendment further and go for grandfather rights in relation to the "two in a bar" rule. I have campaigned over a number of years against that rule. I have supported the Musicians' Union and those who have worked so hard for the union in attempts to remove it. I do not consider it acceptable to return to having the rule. It would introduce a limit on numbers which would become fossilised in the way we regard music. I believe that far more people should be allowed to play music in a pub. At an earlier stage of the Bill, the Minister said that a whole orchestra could be fitted into a pub to play music. Rather than seeing it as dangerous, I rather like that idea.
There is incompatibility in this legislation. On the one hand, large-screen televisions are exempt and, on the other, three people, say, with guitars are seen as a danger to the public. A large-screen television, especially when a cup match is broadcast, draws into a pub vast numbers of people whose primary aim is to watch football. They become excited and drink a great deal of beer. That could have some implications for public disorder. However, it is my understanding that, on many occasions, three musicians playing in a pub tend to empty the place rather than fill it.
That being so, I find it rather strange that if those three musicians went in front of a video camera, videoed their performance and then put it on the large screen, just as many people could watch them doing exactly the same thing, if not in person. Therefore, an issue does arise in that respect.
Having said that, it is not my intention to reject this measure. Many musicians will believe that I am betraying them by not throwing this matter back to the Commons. I, together, I believe, with other Members of the House, do not consider that the amendment would pass as it stands. We pressed for amendments from the Government and they have come forward with a number of concessions.
The most recent concession concerns unamplified music. I have a problem with the concept of the unamplified music exemption because, in order to obtain the concession, a licensed premises must first obtain the licence for the provisions of the licence to be made exempt. I take on board the Minister's view that that gives the police a backstop to remove the licence, but it seems a rather strange way of going about the matter.
I am supporting the Government because I believe that they have put forward these amendments in good faith. They have made two more concessions. One is the review which will take place after a period of between six and 12 months to ascertain the effect of the measure. If there is an outcry and vast numbers of music venues start to close, I very much hope that the Minister will move as soon as possible to reverse any difficulties caused by the Bill. Although I know that it will be difficult to do so, I hope that the Minister will be able to give an undertaking now that a debate will be held in this House about the outcome of such a review. The concept of putting forward a forum to promote live music is also to be welcomed.
I have one question for the Minister. It is on the issue of incidental spontaneous music, especially if it is amplified. Earlier, the Minister implied that, so long as spontaneous music, even if amplified, did not break health and safety requirements, it would not fall within the ambit of the Bill. I should like clarification because I believe that it would help to ease the minds of many musicians worried by this measure.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, my noble friend has fought such a long and determined battle for live music to be performed in pubs without unnecessary regulation that it would be churlish not to support him in accepting what he regards as a fair compromise. I shall therefore do so, but I hope that he will not mind my saying that, having thought about the matter and listened carefully to the enormously powerful speech made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, I very much regret that we must accept this compromise. I want to say in a few words why I have that regret.
For me, the starting point is John Stuart Mill's injunction that one does not regulate unnecessarily unless a particular activity causes serious harm to other people. It seems to me that the amendment that we should like to be able to maintain is proportionate. It keeps in place fully the general lawthe criminal law and the law relating to public nuisances and so onand it does so expressly. It limits the time and number of persons and, as my noble friend said, it simply does for live music what is done for large screen television in pubs and what has been done for places of worship and religious occasions.
I find the distinction drawn between live music in pubs and dead music or dead entertainment on mass television in pubs arbitrary and somewhat discriminatory. Perhaps it reflects some kind of cultural bias. I believe that it shows a complete lack of proportion to insist on unnecessary regulation in licensing. I should be interested to know how the Minister, for whom I have such high regard, would explain, if he had to do so in a court of law, how this kind of regulation is proportionate and how it satisfies the basic principle of proportionality. Are the means being used really necessary to achieve the Government's legitimate aims, or would some lesser sacrifice of free expression be proportionate?
My own viewto some extent, this was considered by the Joint Committee on Human Rights when we examined the issue in another manifestationis that, if necessary, the courts will have to use the principle of proportionality in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights if unnecessary and heavy-handed use of regulation takes place in this area. Therefore, although it is always excellent when there is a fair compromise, I simply wish to express my general support for what the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, said in her speech.
Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, I hope that the House will not have to divide on the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. It was nice to hear her declare herself once again in fighting mood. I submit that, over the weeks that it has been discussed by the House, the Bill that we now have has been much improved by those fighting qualities.
Noble Lords who have taken an active interest in the Bill and who have participated in the many debates will surely agree that, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, many accommodations have been arrived at. We certainly have a far better proposition in front of us today than we had when we started down this road. If the amendments were agreed by the House, that would cause further delay and further disagreements with the other place. Members there would inevitably insist on the "ping" becoming a "pong" and the "pong" becoming a "ping" again.
However, my main reason in rising to oppose the amendment is to draw attention to the Local Government Association's clearly stated support for what has come out of these deliberations. After all, it is local government that will have the major part of enforcing this Bill in their localities. I recognise the wonderful contributions made through the passage of
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