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Legislative Reform (Entertainment Licensing) Order 2014

Volume 757: debated on Monday 17 November 2014

Motion to Consider

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Legislative Reform (Entertainment Licensing) Order 2014.

Relevant document: 6th Report from the Regulatory Reform Committee

My Lords, in 2011 the Government launched a consultation that examined the regulatory regime for entertainment licensing under the Licensing Act 2003 with the aim of removing any regulation which unnecessarily restricts creativity, community expression and economic growth. This has been and is being taken forward in three phases.

On 3 June last year, your Lordships considered and approved the first of three phases of reform of regulated entertainment. That phase related to performances of plays, dance and indoor sporting events. The second phase is a clause in the Deregulation Bill before your Lordships’ House and seeks to deregulate the exhibition of film in community premises, about which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and I had an interesting exchange last week.

The order today is the third element of the reform package. The Government launched a consultation on the details of individual measures on 22 October last year. The intention of the order is to reduce the burden of licensing on entertainment organisers through the introduction of a range of targeted licensing exemptions for lower risk entertainment activities that are subject to the satisfaction of important conditions. These exemptions take into account the four licensing objectives: the prevention of crime and disorder; the prevention of public nuisance; public safety; and the protection of children from harm.

The order removes the need for licences between 8 am and 11 pm for many public entertainment performances in lower risk circumstances. The order brings common sense to the licensing framework. Where an entertainment activity is organised by a local authority on its own premises, that local authority will no longer have to grant a licence to itself. The order will make it less bureaucratic for parent-teacher associations to stage entertainment in support of schools. A healthcare provider can organise entertainment on its own hospital premises without needing prior authorisation. The order will enable greater numbers of businesses and performers to benefit from the conditional deregulation of live music entertainment in alcohol-licensed premises and workplaces. It will do this by increasing the audience size limit to 500 people. The order will remove the licensing burden on music entertainment in village halls and other community premises that are not licensed for the supply of alcohol on the premises. The order will also put travelling circus entertainment on a clearer statutory footing, assisting both licensing authorities and circus operators.

As long as an activity meets the criteria for an exemption, organisers will no longer have to incur the administrative, and sometimes financial, cost of acquiring a licence authorisation. For instance, PTA UK estimates that this order will probably save £0.25 million a year, which can be ploughed back into activities and support schools. Overall, this order will probably save organisers about £1 million a year, which is a useful financial advantage and, more particularly, will be of great assistance in reducing administrative burdens. Where the criteria for an activity are not met, for example where live music is performed until the early hours of the morning, a licence will still be required.

The order also extends the licence review mechanism to include recorded music in alcohol-licensed pubs and clubs. That is an important safeguard for local residents. Anyone with legitimate grounds can ask their licensing authority to review the alcohol licence on the grounds of noise from performances of live or recorded music. Conditions can then be imposed or reimposed on the music performances where necessary to protect the licensing objectives.

Organisers of entertainment events will also continue to be subject to health and safety, environmental protection and fire safety legislation that provide safeguards for the public without imposing unnecessary double regulation through the licensing regime for lower-risk entertainment. Indeed, given the new arrangements, work is already in hand with stakeholders, such as PTA UK, to formulate guidance to assist organisers. As I said, this order deregulates in lower risk circumstances. I emphasise that it does not remove licensing from the sale and supply of alcohol, nor does it deregulate sexual entertainment or mixed martial arts.

The Government believe that the order strikes an appropriate balance between encouraging entertainment in local communities and promoting the licensing objectives. As I said, it will remove some of the costs and bureaucracy that can sap the will of volunteers and soak up often scarce financial resources. In response to the consultation, 75% of respondents were either supportive or offered qualified support for the proposals. This included a wide range of performers, entertainment industry members and local authorities. The Voluntary Arts Network said of the measures:

“The … burden of entertainment licensing … has in recent years been a major obstacle to voluntary arts groups putting on small local events and performances”.

And the Musicians’ Union said:

“We agree that these proposals would lead to more performances of live music, particularly in small venues. Over the past few years our members have been telling us that the number of gigs available to young musicians who are still perfecting their craft has gone down”.

This is sensible deregulation of activities which we believe should not be caught by the Licensing Act. The Government’s view is that existing safeguards put in place under alcohol controls, fire, health and safety and anti-social behaviour legislation mean that it is sensible to remove these lower risk activities from regulation. The removal of this cost and bureaucracy will help sustain community entertainment, such as live music, which I think we all believe is part of the cultural heritage of England and Wales. For those reasons, I commend the order to the Committee.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that exposition, which brings back happy memories of my Second Reading Speech on the Live Music Bill back in 2011. I wholly support the rationale for the deregulation of live music. It may have taken some time, and I must be a collector of consultations in one way or another since 2011, but it has been a very careful and stately progress towards building on the Live Music Act exemption for venues with an audience capacity of 200, which will be extended to 500 if this order goes through. It is as if, between 2012 and now, Christmas has arrived after many years of waiting under the previous Government. I remember first raising the deregulation of live music performances in 2007. I kept being told that reviews would take place. I think that a consultation paper was issued in early 2010 and thereafter, of course, a new Government took office, so I am extremely pleased to see this on foot. I thought that the original 5,000 figure was rather extravagant. I do not know whether it was aversion therapy or whatever, but certainly I expect that local authorities made their views known about the idea of deregulating an audience of up to 5,000 for live music.

There are still areas of live music which could be improved, but I was very pleased to see stated in the LRO consultation of July 2014:

“The coming into force of the Live Music Act 2012 has not negatively impacted the licensing objectives and the Government considers that having an audience limit of not more than 500 people for music entertainment in relevant premises strikes the right balance between those who welcome it, and those who have concerns about noise nuisance”.

That is a very fair and balanced approach.

I am often critical of the Government’s impact assessments, but the impact assessment that assesses the administrative savings from the reduced need to apply for licences and TENs for business and third-sector organisations states the figures at £5.9 million and £3.8 million. Over the appraisal period, that may sound slightly spuriously precise, but I am sure that there will be considerable administrative savings as a result of this order.

Again, I welcome the order, but there are further steps that we should take to free up live music. We had some sensible proposals on how leafleting for live events and small social and cultural events is going to be treated, on which DCLG is consulting at the moment, and I welcome them. I have spoken on busking, and I promoted an amendment to the Deregulation Bill, but had somebody else speak to it. The way in which the planning law operates is still a problem for some small venues, as many people know, and there are petitions on changing the law, which I hope will make progress.

My only question for the Minister at this stage is about the guidance. Chapter 15 of the current guidance deals with regulated entertainment. Of course, it took a little bit of time to consult over exactly how the guidance needed to be changed last time around. Does the Minister consider that it will take an equivalent time this time or can the process be speeded up? I hope that it will come into effect as quickly as possible.

My Lords, I, too, welcome the order. I have no particular objection to it as it stands, and I agree with many points made by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in his current mainstream form, although I have welcomed him in surrogate packaging form on a couple of other recent occasions.

First, I want to say how nice it is that this order will come into force on 6 April 2015, which is one of the common commencement dates, and that the department has been able to find a way in which to make that happen this time. However, I do not quite follow the argument that I heard the Minister make about how the four principal objectives of public licensing come through in the specifics of some of the issues raised by this order. The one on which I want to concentrate particularly is children. I understand that crime, public safety and public nuisance issues are well dealt with because there are other ways in which they can be addressed. The choice of low-risk venues and the experience over a reasonable period with deregulated live music gives us all confidence that there are ways in which this will come through. However, I put one caveat on that, in that I worry slightly about the size of some of these venues.

In preparing for the debate that we had last week on the deregulation of community cinema, we were told by a number of expert witnesses that the size specified of 500 people was very large in proportion to existing community premises, which tend to be much smaller, and to the licensed exhibition of films. Sadly, these days there are very few cinemas; there used to be cinemas that could hold up to 2,000, particularly in London, whereas most cinemas now hold something of the order of between 300 and 500 people. So we talking about deregulating what is admittedly a low-risk environment—venues that are probably not in existence and are unlikely to be built. I wonder slightly about that, but it is not my main concern, which is that in crime, public safety and public nuisance we have reasonable experience of what has happened in the deregulatory phases of the past two years, and we understand how the regulations will apply.

Let me just take two issues. It may be a good thing to ensure that the licensing treatment for peripatetic circuses is evened up across the country. Removing regulations is a novel way of doing this—although I understand the reasoning—since it avoids the possibility of different approaches in different areas. However, circuses are aimed at children and in my experience, although I have not been to a circus for many years, most of the performances include bringing children on stage, or certainly engaging them through the clowns and various other aspects. There must a priori be an interest in ensuring that the child protection aspects of that are well considered. Will the Minister point out where that appears in the order, as I could not see it in relation to circuses? As I read the order, there is nothing specific addressing children. There is a lacuna there that we might wish to reflect on.

Secondly, there is the addition, for reasons that I do not quite understand and would like an explanation about, of Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. I am not a wrestling aficionado and am certainly not an expert, but I do not quite get why they have been picked out in preference to many other styles of wrestling. I do not really understand how it can be said that they are by some definition freer from concerns about public order issues than might apparently apply to Cumbrian wrestling or indeed, if we were talking about Scotland, which sadly we are not, Scottish wrestling, which is, as far as I understand it, certainly not public nuisance-free. It seems to take place in Scottish highland games, at which there are very large amounts of alcohol copiously available. Apparently for Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling you have to be not only an aficionado but under the auspices of British Wrestling, an organisation I am not familiar with, but which is apparently the one specified. By some miraculous arrangement—perhaps the Greco-Roman gods are looking over this—there is no alcohol present because that just does not happen. That may be true, but it seems rather odd to have picked out Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling for this, particularly as the order makes provision for this to take place in venues for up to 1,000. Not 200, not 500, but 1,000 people can gather together for an alcohol-free festival of Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. That is good news. Again, I worry a bit about that, but I worry also about the child protection aspects. This is an area where, presumably, young people are being brought to encourage them. It is very physical and very direct exercise—it was pretty good in the Olympic Games, and it was interesting that in the audience, there were quite a lot of children watching. My concerns are therefore obvious and I will be grateful if the Minister will respond to them.

Other than that, we think that the order is well presented. Like the noble Lord, I thought the Explanatory Memorandum was very good. I enjoyed reading it and felt it answered many of the questions I had.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for their overarching welcome for the thrust of what we are seeking to achieve. I understand my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones’s reference to stately progress. It is sometimes important to get it right, but I understand the frustrations when things take rather longer than one would wish. My noble friend used the words “the right balance”. The Government have sought to find the right balance. The whole purpose of this is to ensure that the activities that we seek to deregulate are at the lower risk end. This is not about in any way changing the main thrust of what is required if there were problems.

On audience limits for live music, we believe—and this is something that has been felt across the piece generally—that 500 achieves a fair balance between promoting creativity and ensuring the sustainability of live music and entertainment yet at the same time protecting local communities from unwanted noise nuisance. In the end, where people run these events, they will be part of the local community, and where you have live music, very often it will affect people in the community who might well go to the pub or to various events. We have this safety mechanism in that when someone has an alcohol licence and the music is causing a problem, there are ways in which the licensing authority can trigger reimposition of sanctions. We have been seeking to achieve the right balance here.

I will deal with the other points in no particular order. I am very much at one with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, in not being an expert on Greco-Roman or indeed freestyle wrestling. These types of wrestling are ancient combat sports where a competitor seeks to gain control over his or her opponent through the use of throws, locks and clinching techniques. In the Greco-Roman discipline, competitors may not attack their opponent’s legs or use their own legs to trip, lift or execute other moves. It has to take place in a controlled environment and usually takes place in seated indoor arenas. For those reasons, it was considered that spectator safety can be safeguarded for those particular types of wrestling.

The noble Lord mentioned other types of wrestling, including Scottish wrestling, but there is also Cornish and Cumbrian wrestling. These very often take place outdoors as part of festivals, and therefore on balance they are not considered to be as low in risk with reference to the licensing objective for public safety.

I am grateful to the Minister for explaining that. However, my other point was that it seemed odd to choose those particular styles of wrestling. The reason as he explained it may well be sufficient, but the bulk of the interest as I understand it is in martial arts, particularly kick-boxing and the like. I am a bit surprised that that is not the way the mind is moving; audiences would certainly be more active in those sort of events, which take place in sports halls and other recreation centres.

I am obviously not in a position to say that we might be thinking of extending this beyond these two activities, but as I say, those two—the Greco-Roman and the freestyle—are the only Olympic wrestling events. It may also have something to do with a view that, on balance, they are at the lower-risk end. We will see, but I think that is sensible.

Quite rightly, none of us would wish to do anything in terms of deregulation if for one moment it was to put any child in jeopardy. As for children going into circuses, they provide family-oriented entertainment and are not typically licensed for alcohol purposes. The protection of children from harm is about sexual entertainment and alcohol harm, not about regulating circus performance, which it would arguably be disproportionate to do. I know the noble Lord did not mention this, but in terms for instance of the protection of children who are part of circuses, there are separate child performance regulations covering how many hours a child may perform, which are administered by local authorities. My guess is that most children would go to a circus either with their parents, in a school group, or whatever. I take the point very seriously, but there is no lacuna because these regulations are about ensuring that the key points of the licensing objectives are retained.

Going back somewhat to the size of venues, if someone is organising an event, there may be a limit of 500. However, if you were thinking of getting 500 in a very small pub, that would not necessarily pass the test in terms of all the key factors that a publican or an organiser has to ensure such as fire safety, health and safety, and all the existing legislation and regulations. We are not removing those—we are deregulating for music in this instance.

Again, I will look at Hansard and see whether there are any outstanding reassurance that may be needed, but I think this sets the right balance and is an appropriate form of our deregulation task. I very much commend the order to your Lordships.

Motion agreed.

Committee adjourned at 4.50 pm.