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Campaign Against Leafleting Bans – Lord Clement-Jones


Lord Clement-Jones, one of the driving forces behind the Live Music Act 2012, is now involved in a campaign to protect small-scale cultural and community events from local authority restrictions on flyering.  In this blog post, he explains why he believes that leafleting is a key civic freedom and one vital to grassroots events.  The campaign, in partnership with the Manifesto Club, was launched in The Daily Telegraph on November 14th 2012 with a number of signatories from the live music and comedy sector, including comedian Al Murray and promoter Harvey Goldsmith. You can sign the petition here.

Up  and down the country local authorities using powers granted by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005  have been restricting leafleting for cultural events, including performances at comedy clubs, theatres, music venues art galleries and even village halls.

Under the 2005 Act, councils can designate areas within which people must buy a licence to hand out leaflets. Nearly a third of councils now restrict leafleting, and licences are prohibitively expensive – £350 for a Saturday in Basildon;
£50 per person per day in Oldham and Rugby; £262 per distributor in Wolverhampton.

These rules have been catastrophic for local organisations which rely on leafleting to build an audience, but cannot afford such fees.

A flyer ban in Leicester Square caused the collapse of several comedy nights and a dramatic reduction of audiences. One Women’s Institute was threatened with a fine for handing out leaflets about their art exhibition. Oxford student societies and arts events have to pay £100 a month for leafleting. The leafleting licence system in Brighton caused the decline of smaller, more experimental music nights, who cannot afford the fee.

All the while of course professional leaflet companies can afford to carry on distributing literature.

The problem could be solved by an amendment to the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, to allow exemption for cultural and community events. The Act already provides exemption for political and religious leafleting, or leafleting on behalf of a charity. A wider exemption would avoid the unnecessary penalisation of informal events that are so valuable to community life.

Leafleting is a key civic freedom, with a long tradition in this country going back at least to the late 17th century when the requirement for printers to be licensed was lifted, and should not be restricted without very good reason.

Problems with litter should be dealt with through provision of litter bins and other common-sense measures not by placing restrictions on our civil rights. Leaflets advertising cultural events, an important expression of our community activity, should not be treated in the same way as a burger wrapper or crisp packet.

I opened the Manifesto Group’s campaign in Parliament with an oral question in the Lords last week  and received the reply from the DEFRA Minister Lord Taylor that localism meant that we should not restrict the freedom of local authorities to do what they want.

A topsy turvey argument indeed and one which we should all be heavily disputing in the months to come!

Next steps: a massive petition demonstrating public support for an exemption for cultural and community events, further pressure on Ministers and laying of the ground for a private members bill.

Tim Clement-Jones

Read on:

Leaflet laws are killing comedy, say campaigners, Daily Telegraph

Letter to Daily Telegraph – signed by comedians, musicians, promoters

Give us back ancient leafleting rights, says Lib Dem peer, BBC News

Manifesto Club Campaign Against Leafleting Bans

Licensed leafleting means lost liberties in Britain, Free Speech Debate


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