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Live Music

Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

The Government are committed to supporting live music in all its forms. Through the Live Music Forum, we are working to ensure that opportunities for the promotion of live music are realised to the full.

For 25 years, The Studio in my constituency has encouraged participation in grass-roots music by delivering a range of recording, training, rehearsal and performing opportunities, while giving local people access to internationally recognised musicians. Despite making cutbacks, including redundancies, it is forecast that, by the end of the year, The Studio will run out of money, although it requires only an additional £20,000 per annum to stay open. What steps will my hon. Friend take to ensure that small yet vital concerns such as The Studio stay open, so that live music can be enjoyed today and in future?

I thank my hon. Friend for campaigning to make sure that there are the right music services, particularly for young people in his constituency. In relation to The Studio, I know that the Hartlepool local authority is looking at that issue very closely. It was keen to ensure that the services offered met its strategic priorities for the coming period, as it is an important funder. I hope that we can achieve that, and the Arts Council advises that it is keen to look into how arts provision is met at The Studio. It is important that the local authority and the Arts Council can work together on that over the coming months. I will keep a close eye on the matter but, as my hon. Friend knows, there is an arm’s length relationship between us and the Arts Council; it is right that the funding decisions are made independently.

It is important that we have the right facilities, particularly for young people in our most disadvantaged areas. I know that that is why my hon. Friend takes the issue seriously.

What would the Minister say to Steve Dickinson, the proprietor of Mojo’s café in Scarborough, who has had to curtail his popular Wednesday afternoon jamming sessions because the two-in-a-bar rule has been abolished? He now faces having to pay for a licence for such events, which allow local bands their first opportunity, and local people to hear music for free at no cost to the taxpayer, unlike the case in Hartlepool.

I like a jamming session like anybody else, but we do have licensing provisions. It is clear that small venues have been able to apply for licensing, and that music is going on. We set up, and specifically tasked, the Live Music Forum, which has representatives from the unions and the industry, to look closely at the issue. It will report to us in the autumn so that we can be clear on how, or if, the licensing provisions have affected our live music venues.

May I wish you, Mr. Speaker, the happiest of birthdays and say how extraordinarily well you are looking? It will not have escaped your notice that at least one other Westminster character shares your birthday; I refer, of course, to PC John Harrigan, although it is also my birthday.

Parts of my body are considerably older.

Further to previous questions, may I ask the Minister whether the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will report on a study that I understand it intends to conduct into the experience of small venues and the impact of the Licensing Act 2003—not so much on Mojo’s of Scarborough, but on the wider musical scene?

Yes, I can tell my hon. Friend that we will come back to Parliament on those issues in the autumn.

If everything is so rosy in the field of live music, why do the results of a recent survey by the Musicians Union reveal that there has been a marked drop in live music in smaller venues, particularly those previously benefiting from the two-in-a-bar rule? If Ministers think that the Licensing Act 2003 is encouraging live music, why are they issuing new guidelines to local authorities? It is not the local authorities’ fault; no, it was the Government who passed the inadequate Licensing Act, and the Government who wrote the guidelines, and arrogant and incompetent Ministers who are only now waking up to the situation that we and thousands of musicians predicted over three years ago.

The hon. Gentleman made all sorts of spurious predictions on the record that have not stood up to the facts. If there is incompetence, it is on his side, and the Hansard record will show that.

The unions are part of the Live Music Forum, which is conducting the research and the survey, and as I have already said, that forum will come back to us with its findings in the autumn.