Author(s): DCMS Committee
Organisation/Affiliation: Government (DCMS)
A report from a public into the effects of the Licensing Act of 2003, partly in response to pressure from UK Music and the Live Music Forum, which cast doubt on earlier assessments that downplayed the negative effects on live music and reinforced the case for reform.
From the summary:
Live music and entertainment
We are concerned at the linkage of live music and public order issues by the Licensing Act and its accompanying guidance, and we emphasise that music should not automatically be treated as a disruptive activity which will inevitably lead to nuisance and disorder. We therefore conclude that the Metropolitan Police’s Promotion and Event Assessment Form, Form 696, goes beyond the requirements of both the Act and its Guidance to impose unreasonable conditions on events and that it should be scrapped. To encourage the performance of live music we recommend that the Government should exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for the performance of live music. We further recommend the reintroduction of the two-in-a-bar exemption, enabling venues of any size to put on a performance of non-amplified music by one or two musicians.’
The licensing process
We note that although the Licensing Act has simplified and improved the licensing process there is still concern that the system is too bureaucratic, complicated and time-consuming, especially where a premises is run by volunteers. We conclude that the Government should, together with local authorities, licence applicants and other stakeholders, evaluate the licensing forms with the aim of making them more user friendly.
The night-time economy
We welcome the successful development of partnership working between licensing authorities, relevant authorities such as the police and fire service, and licensees themselves in order to solve licensing problems and promote the licensing objectives. However we are concerned that the relaxation of rules on premises’ closing hours have not diminished law and order problems, but have merely moved them one or two hours later than previously. We conclude that the density of venues in a particular area should always be a consideration when granting a premises licence and that the Government should support the bar and pub trade in encouraging responsible drinks promotions.
Personal licence holders
We note that it is important that there is appropriate control of the personal licence holder system in order to prevent abuse, and recommend the implantation of a national database of licence holders to improve the level of information available to local authorities and the police. We are not convinced by the Government’s argument that lack of evidence of such abuse is a reason not to create a national database; indeed we believe without one it seems unlikely such evidence could be proffered. We further recommend that, where a personal licence must be transferred due to the death of the licence holder, the allowable period for doing so should be increased from seven to 21 days.
Temporary event notices
We note the use of the Temporary Event Notice (TEN) system by many premises and organisations, especially community groups, who do not hold a premises licence, and the conflicting evidence as to whether the current limit of 12 events per year is too many or too few. We conclude that the time is right for a modest increase in the number of TENs which can be applied for to 15 and a relaxation of the rule on the number which can be applied for by any individual. We recommend that this should be balanced by an enhancement of the ability to object to the granting of a TEN, with both the police and local councillors able to make such an objection within a period of three working days from receipt of the application.
We conclude that the Licensing Act works well when licensing entertainment provided in a permanent building, but that its success is more limited when either the premises or the entertainment is portable. We note the huge difficulty and expense experienced by circuses in complying with the new regime. We conclude that it is right for circuses to be subject to the Licensing Act but that they should be issued with a portable licence by their home authority. We further recommend that the Government should consult on exempting certain low risk, small-scale travelling entertainments such as Punch and Judy, and activities which add to communities’ cultural life, such as travelling plays by mummers.
The adult entertainment industry
We note that there are no specific provisions in the Licensing Act or its guidance to give licensing authorities extra powers to control lap dancing clubs. We understand the frustration of the public that objections to a licence for such establishments cannot be made on the grounds of the type of entertainment which it will provide. For this reason we welcome the Government’s proposal, contained within the Policing and Crime Bill, to move licensing of lap dancing to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act. However we recommend that a new category should be created for such clubs and that it should be compulsory for local councils to use this system to licence them.