Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, my particular interest in this Bill has been public amenity. It was notable that in the speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and my noble friend Lord Redesdale, not one word was spoken about public local amenity. The position that we have reached in this Bill is a most bizarre one. For my money, we are dealing with the lesser of evils. Amendment No. 62 which the amendment from another place seeks to overturn requires no licence at all for amplified live music in pubs where there are up to 200 people present at the knees-up. I have to tell those who think I pursue an esoteric case, that the number of people potentially affected by the huge noise such music often gives rise to will far outstrip the 200 which is the limit of the amendment to be overturned. However, we have the Government proposing an alternative that, frankly, is even more bizarre. Their amendment requires a licence for live amplified music where numbers are up to 200 but then allows the playing of that music to go on 24 hours a day. There is no time restriction at all on a licence granted for the playing of live amplified music under the government amendment. At least the amendment that this House put into the Bill has a requirement that the entertainment ceases no later than 11.30 p.m.

Even more extraordinary is that Amendment No. 62B says that of the four licensing objectives around which this Bill is supposed to revolve the one that deals with amenity—very inadequately—is not even allowed to hold sway with regard to music licences granted under this amendment. One has the extraordinary situation that local residents may protest against the noise consequences of the licence being applied for. Their local authority say they will impose a restriction on live amplified music beyond midnight and yet subsection (3) of the amendment strikes down that condition as being unallowable and unlawful. I find that bizarre. In either case, with either amendment, the only remedy that residents have in the case of Amendment No. 62 is to pursue a private nuisance action or a public nuisance action. That is also the case under Amendment No. 62B. This House knows what a massive enterprise it is to pursue a private or public nuisance action. It is long-winded, complex, expensive and uncertain. The alternative would be for them to call for a review of the licence. That, I would concede, is marginally better as a remedy than being forced into the courts.

I am sorry to sound a discordant note. At least I can support my noble friend Lord Redesdale and congratulate him on the morris dancers. I am sure that is an achievement that he will cherish to the end of his parliamentary days. But for the rest, I believe this House and the other place have ill served the people of this country. Amenity in this age, noise pollution in

3 Jul 2003 : Column 1060

particular, is of huge concern to millions of our fellow citizens. We have heard a debate today where that did not seem to be an issue in our lives.

Lord Monson: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, sits down, is it not the case that the government Amendment No. 62E does specify a time limit between 8 a.m. and midnight? So it is not the case that music could go on for 24 hours as he claimed.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, to which amendment is the noble Lord referring?

Lord Monson: My Lords, Amendment No. 62A.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I was referring to Amendment No.62B—sorry, 62E.

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, I was going to start by saying I felt sure that the Minister would have an answer to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. It looks like it has been answered already. I support my noble friend Lady Buscombe. It still makes no sense that small groups of musicians should be penalised and yet large widescreen TVs and sound systems are exempt. The Government have made concessions and I am grateful for those. But I am still concerned about the interpretation of the word "unamplified". I thought for one moment that the Minister was going to address it but he did not go into detail on it. I have a note here from Ken Dibble, a well-known expert in court cases involving noise nuisance and a member of the Institute of Acoustics. He says:

    "The ambient noise level in a bar, just from general talking, is about 75 to 80 decibels".

A jukebox is not much louder. He goes on to say:

    "Musical instruments cover a huge range of natural loudness. An unamplified singer is typically 70 to 75 decibels. An unamplified guitar about 70 to 80 decibels. A trumpet—"

I play one myself—

    "105 to 110 decibels. A flute 85 decibels. A drum kit 105 to 110 decibels.

    It follows, that unless the voice, the guitar or a flute are amplified, they will not be heard against other instruments or against crowd noise. To sing in a bar without amplification, will result in a sore throat after about 10 minutes simply because of the effort involved. Also the performance is marred because everything must be sung forte in order to be heard.

    Modern music making in any event increasingly relies on electronic instruments—electric piano, electric keyboard instruments, rhythm machines, electric guitars and basses, none of which could be used if such an absurd provision were introduced.

    In essence, the proposed exception would still preclude live music. A better provision would be to permit live music subject to the music not being audible at any residential or noise sensitive premises and subject to time limits".

That would cover the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. Ken Dibble goes on to say:

    "I accept that there will need to be a limit on crowd numbers otherwise one would find full-scale concerts and rave events held in pubs without the necessary controls. There should be a requirement that any pub or restaurant intending to put on live music should be fitted with a volume restriction device which

3 Jul 2003 : Column 1061

    could be set up to the satisfaction of the local environmental health officer before any amplified music is played. There are some sophisticated devices available".

I have been shut down myself on many occasions by these machines. We are getting closer but we still do not have it right.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry that at such a late stage there are still things being said which do not reflect the provisions of the Bill. I fully accept that that must be my fault. The contrast was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, between provisions in the amendments. She used the example of widescreen television and football matches. She, like me, has had a letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers. It takes the view that widescreen television, pool competitions, quiz nights, theme food evenings and so on tend to be in various venues with similar events which dilute their impact. ACPO says it can handle that. It says, on the other hand, that live amplified music can generate a leisure magnet even in smaller venues. It goes on to state:

    "Live music always acts as a magnet in whatever community it is being played. It brings people from outside that community and having no connection locally behave in a way that is inappropriate,"—

it says, "criminal". I think that is a bit strong—

    "and disorderly. The public expect the police to be able to deal with these incidents and the powers as outlined"—

that is, the concessions the Government have made—

    "would seem to be a sensible way to do just that".

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said: "Well, only 5 per cent of pubs put on live music". That is exactly the case. That is why we are making it so much easier for pubs to put on live music. That is why we have made the concession to the effect that should a pub with a capacity of up to 200—even the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, agreed that there should be a capacity limit—want to put on live music of any kind, any conditions imposed on the licence by the licensing authority would be suspended except those which relate to public safety or crime and disorder. Can anyone seriously disagree with that?

The noble Lord said that if these live musicians were to put the music on a video they would evade the requirement for a licence. That is not the case. The showing of a video, as he described it, would be a licensable activity. Only simultaneous live broadcasts are excepted.

Coming back to the noble Lord's 5 per cent point, yes, of course, the existing system is expensive and bureaucratic. We are making it cheaper and easier. We are knocking down the hurdles. I would be astonished if there were not a significant increase in the proportion of pubs putting on live music as a result of this Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, talked about juke boxes. I think she has been answered by the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, who gave the decibel limits for juke boxes. But they are not exempt. They are like live music; they are exempt if incidental. Recorded music is licensable.

3 Jul 2003 : Column 1062

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, talked about spontaneous music. Spontaneous music, whether or not it is amplified, is not licensable. He asked, in the case of the review we have undertaken, whether it would be debated in this House. I cannot give that assurance. That is a matter for the usual channels, of which I am glad to say I am no longer a member.

The issue of human rights was raised, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Lester. There is no greater authority than he on that matter. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, on which we must rely, agreed that there has to be a balance between the right of freedom of expression and the legitimate aim of public safety and the right of peaceful enjoyment of property. In its seventh report, it said:

    "The licensing regime serves legitimate aims, namely the protection of public safety, the protection of the rights of others and the prevention of crime and disorder. It is legitimate to say that there is a pressing social need for regulation".

Of course there will be cases at the interface. Wherever we draw the line, there will be the possibility of litigation. I do not think that there will be what the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, always describes as a "bonanza" for his profession because there will always be some place where there will be dispute about whatever rules apply or do not apply. We are indeed, I believe, properly respectful of human rights and properly respectful of the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips, raised a completely new red herring about 24-hour live music. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, pointed out the provisions in Amendment No. 62E. In any case the licence remains reviewable. One can have the position of "one strike and you are out". That is the protection for residents, other interested parties and responsible authorities.

When we come down to it, I have two things to say: first, I have huge respect for musicians from Gloucester or Portland, particularly if, as I hope, they are good musicians, but I have to put that against the views of those who are responsible for public safety and the interests of residents—"public amenity" if one wants to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. The Association of Chief Police Officers, on behalf of the interests of public safety and crime and disorder, and the Local Government Association, which will be responsible for these licensing activities and has as its interest the protection of residents, are firmly against the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe. I have to put that against the views of individual musicians, much as I wish to respect and accommodate them.

I also have to say that, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, we are at the third stage of disagreement between this House and another place. Yes, of course, it is legitimate for this House to continue to insist on matters of high import—for example, Lloyd George's People's Budget of 1909 and matters of profound conscience such as the War Crimes Bill—but ambient unamplified bass guitar? I

3 Jul 2003 : Column 1063

suggest that the Government have gone as far as they can in meeting the legitimate concerns of those who have been expressing those concerns. Without abandoning our profound duty to preserve public safety and to prevent crime and disorder and public nuisance we can go no further.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page