To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they maintain their view given to the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Select Committee in response to its question 5 published in its report on the Draft Legislative Reform (Minor Variations to Premises Licences and Club Premises Certificates) Order 2009 (2nd Report) that in many cases the extension of music and dancing beyond 11 pm, or the addition of the playing of music to a licence, will not fall within the definition of a minor variation. [HL4463]
Yes. The Regulatory Reform Committee asked:
“Why could the definition not exclude particularly controversial matters such as extension of licensing hours at sex encounter establishments, extension of existing music or dancing licensing hours beyond 11 pm, and first-time applications to allow playing of music?”.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport responded as follows:
“DCMS has indeed agreed to exclude most alcohol-related variations in response to the concerns of consultees.
In many cases the extension of music and dancing beyond 11 pm, or the addition of the playing of music to a licence, will not fall within the definition of a minor variation. This would be most likely where, for example, the extension would coincide with a pre-existing authorisation to sell or supply alcohol. But there may also be cases in which such an extension could not impact adversely on the licensing objectives, and we would not want these to be excluded from the benefits of the new process”.
The new minor variations process will allow licensees to make minor changes to their licences more quickly and cheaply. As this response makes clear, this may potentially include the addition or extension of authorisation for regulated entertainment (such as live music). In all cases, the test of whether a variation is minor is whether it could have an adverse impact on the licensing objectives.
A live music group has been set up by Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) and the Musicians' Union to explain and encourage the use of the new minor variations process for those premises that wish to add live music to their licence. It will also encourage uptake of the existing exemption for incidental music.
Under the Licensing Act 2003 (the Act), licensing authorities must carry out their functions under the Act with a view to promoting the licensing objectives. These are the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm. Public nuisance, in particular, may present a risk to residential amenity.
The licensing regime under the Act regulates licensable activities (such as the sale by retail of alcohol) by authorising them subject to representations (including representation from local residents) and subject to conditions on the licence or club premises certificate. Although other legislation exists that regulates public nuisance (such as environmental health legislation), this typically addresses problems after they have occurred. The licensing regime regulates potential risks in advance, while allowing the particular circumstances of the premises to be taken into account (including the applicant's own risk assessment and whether existing legislation may be sufficient to mitigate risks). This means, for example, that licence holders have more certainty about what is permitted, and enforcement action is both easier and more rarely required.
Licensing authorities report that simple conditions, such as requirement to close windows and doors, are invaluable in the prevention of public nuisance. More strict conditions or restrictions may be required in certain circumstances. For example, residents of properties physically adjoining licensed premises may benefit from specific noise limits. Likewise, conditions may be attached to a licence to ensure public safety, although the Act does not duplicate health and safety legislation.
The provision in the Licensing Act 1964 known as the “two in a bar rule”, was created before the widespread use of modern amplification. It was widely misunderstood, unpopular with musicians and not widely used. Feedback from local authorities' representatives and members of the public, however, showed that two performers with amplification can create a significant level of public nuisance. It was abolished partly for this reason. Additionally, musicians' representatives argued that, given that an amplified duo could make a great deal of noise, it discriminated unfairly and irrationally against the majority of musicians, who perform in larger groups.
The latest Alcohol Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment Licensing Bulletin reports as of 31 March 2008 there were an estimated 80,500 premises licences with live music provisions (around 41 per cent of all premises licences).
There were also an estimated 10,900 club premises certificates with live music provisions (around 62 per cent of all club premises certificates).