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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, we support the amendment, which also appears in our name. There was some concern in Committee that the wording of the previous amendment would have allowed the premises of schools to be used by outside bodies for activities that would be outside the remit of the school.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am sure that the House has some sympathy with the aim of attempting to ensure that our schools do not have to be burdened with the administrative requirements of the Bill and the associated costs. However, I am afraid that we see many problems with the amendment. That includes the scope of the amendment as well as some points of principle. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that in Committee a rather different amendment had been considered. One point about which we were concerned has been put right but I am afraid that other points still give rise to concern.
First, on scope, the amendment uses the expression "educational establishment" without offering any more detailed definition. I remember from my previous job as a Minister in the Department for Education, when I handled a number of Bills, that the term "educational institution" is more commonly found in statute; it is used in the Bill and defined in Clause 16(3). It means a school or an institution within the further or higher education sector, within the meaning of the Education Act 1996, or a college, school, hall or other institution of a university, in circumstances where the university receives financial support under Section 65 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. The definition suggests what would be exempted by the amendment. It is not just about school plays, concerts and similar activities. It would draw in dances, raves, rock concerts and major festivals held by universities, colleges and places of further education for their students. It can also be argued that it would include students' unions, which run and control nightclubs as serious businesses these days. I am afraid to say that their premises give rise to as many anxieties about alcohol consumption, disorder, noise nuisance and drugs as any similar commercial venture in towns and city centres. It would be reckless to bring within such an exemption the range of premises that might be affected by the amendment, so we have serious problems with its scope.
I shall outline the points of principle. Entertainment is regulated under the Bill to achieve the licensing objectives, not least public safety. The establishments that would be at least partially exempted through the amendment host occasions that the public can attend. Occasionally, schools stage concerts and plays on a commercial basis. Just because those events take place at schools does not mean that the public should not be protected or expect to be protected. They are different kinds of events to those referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, which are entirely about activities for pupils and their parents.
I remind the House that the reforms in the Bill are designed to establish a level playing field for all charitable and community bodies, with a light touch and an unbureaucratic system. To exclude some premises entirely from that while including others would not achieve that aim; it would introduce a measure of injustice.
It might be sensible if I take the opportunity to clarify some of the points about entertainment in schools that have given rise to concern. First, it has been suggested that the teaching of music, including the performance of musical pieces in schools by teachers and pupils for other teachers and pupils, might have to be licensed. Of course that is not a licensable activity. Secondly, school concerts or plays for teachers, pupils, parents, guests and invited friends are not licensable activities unless a charge is made that is intended to generate profit. If the charge is meant to do no more than cover the school's costs, no profit would be intended or made. Again, the qualifying conditions would not be met. If such a school concert or play is staged and those attending are invited to make a donation to the school but are not obliged to do so, the event would not be licensable. No charge is being made if only voluntary donations are sought.
So the vast majority of school activities of that kind are already exempted by the Bill. School concerts are currently licensable activities under the existing legislation, although outside London the local authority may grant a reduction in fee if it considers that the entertainment is of an educational or other like character. So there is no exemption at present. Under the Bill, the key is where either the entertainment is intended to be provided for the publicin other words, anybody, whether connected with the school or not, is free to attendor where a charge is made, and profit is the aim of the performance. We license commercial activity because the profit motive may override immediate concerns for public safety and public nuisance. We license places open to the public because every citizen should know that his or her interests will be safeguarded regardless of whether the building is a school or community hall or a major commercial concert hall.
If a school wants to go down the route of staging public concerts or activities that generate income, the licensing system is not overly burdensome, so I cannot agree with some of the claims that the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, made. Temporary event notices should not cost the organiser more than £20. They cover events lasting up to three days for fewer than 500 people. Five such events could be staged each year within the three terms. I do not think that a school administrator will find that a great burden. The noble Baroness's assertion that many teachers would be affected does not stand up to examination.
If a school is more ambitious than that and wishes to plan larger and much more frequent events, it would need to obtain a premises licence, which would cost no more than £100 or so initially and £50 or so each year. But I would be surprised if many schools had the time or inclination for such activity. I can also give an undertaking that we will look at developing the
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her full response. It was similar to her response in Committee, which she made with some pressure, urging us to rethink our amendment. Following Committee stage, we reduced the scope of our amendment to include educational establishments only, rather than looking to hospitals, museums and prisons as we did originally.
I cannot accept the Minister's claim that the provision will not be more burdensome on schools. We must question why the Government have chosen to except churcheswe are very happy about thatbut, for all similar reasons, schools cannot be excepted. I hear what the Minister says on students' unions and student bars. But we are talking simply about the performance of entertainment, not situations where alcohol is served in educational establishments. We do not wish to discriminate against different forms of educational establishments. We believe that proportionality is very important. The Government have not made the case for having an additional layer of bureaucracy for schools to cope with.
All the licensing objectivesthe prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance, and the protection of children from harmare already clearly covered by current regulations, with which schools and other educational establishments must comply. I thank the Minister for her response. I do not accept what she has said. On that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.