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Licensing Act

Volume 459: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

5. How many representations she has received on the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on fundraising events for charities. (131508)

We have received a wide range of representations from community groups and not-for-profit organisations about the costs and processes involved in licensing events under the Licensing Act 2003 and we will continue our dialogue with those organisations to evaluate the effect of the Act.

My constituent Mr. John Sutton, who is chairman of the county fair committee of the rotary club of Kettering Huxloe, has written to me to express his understandable concerns about the cost—and the financial and other regulatory burdens on exclusively charitable events—of the new premises and entertainment licences. What firm plans does the Minister have to bring forward legislation to exempt charities from the new burdens that he has imposed?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are currently considering some of the proposals in Sir Les Elton’s report and will subsequently put those out for public consultation. The purpose of the 2003 Act was to introduce a streamlined system. It included charitable events for one simple reason: we had to make a proper assessment, regardless of whether the event was for charity, to make sure that appropriate conditions were attached to licences, to protect to the public. His constituent, Mr. John Sutton, acknowledged the fact that a charge would have to be paid. That does not mean that Daventry council could not make a contribution to that. As Mr. Sutton said,

“We will simply make the fair bigger and better than ever”.

In looking at the impact of legislation on charities, will the Minister also consider, in relation to charitable events that use microphones, the impact of the review of how the spectrum is going to be dealt with? As I understand it, there has been a further section of Ofcom’s review. Will he make sure that charitable fundraising events can continue without limitations on their use of the spectrum?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I reassure her and other hon. Members that we are in dialogue with Ofcom about this matter and that we are in constant contact with organisations that will be affected to ensure that in the future the spectrum is allocated effectively, not adversely—which is what she is concerned about.

The Minister may be aware that my constituency is rural and semi-rural. There are 32 villages. Most have their own halls. Most of those are charities. None has a record of disorderly behaviour at any of its functions. The halls are run for charity and they—particularly the little halls—have been severely hit by the legislation. In his review, will he consider taking some of this heavy-handed legislation off those little village halls, perhaps starting with a de minimis level below which the legislation need not apply?

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. I wish to point out that 91 per cent. of village halls have a premises licence, which allows all kinds of regulated entertainment to take place. The purpose of the new legislation was to introduce a light-touch regime, bearing in mind that previously an appearance before a magistrate was required or there was a need to apply for different temporary provisions when offering a combination of entertainment. None the less, his point is well made and we are considering proposals for the future.