A House of Lords committee has completed its ten-month inquiry into the Licensing Act 2003, finding the legislation is in need of a "radical overhaul".
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Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen, who represents the Cabinet Office in the Lords, said Lord Clement-Jones's motion would conflict with the act's harm-reduction aspects
By Jon Chapple on 12 Dec 2016
An amendment to the UK’s Licensing Act 2003 that would have compelled local authorities to consider “social or cultural” benefits when granting live music licences has been withdrawn by its sponsor.
As reported on Tuesday, figures from across the British live music industry were banking on Tim Clement-Jones’s amendment to “pave the way” for an overhaul of the controversial act, which UK Live Music Group/Live Nation’s Paul Latham said is currently interpreted by many local authorities in ways “not always helpful or consistent, which is frustrating and creates obstacles for venue operators at all levels.”
Lord Clement-Jones (pictured) tabled his amendment – which proposed making “the provision of social or cultural activities” part of the general duties of licensing authorities – on Wednesday (7 December), but withdrew the motion following opposition from government spokeswoman Carlyn Chisholm, who argued: “Requiring licensing authorities to consider the provision of social or cultural activities would run in contradiction to the other licensing objectives, all of which are aimed at harm reduction” (for example, restricting noise levels).
Lord Clement-Jones’s amendment was, however, supported by Roy Kennedy and Nicholas Trench, the Earl of Clancarty – the latter of whom quoted Mark Davyd of Music Venue Trust, calling his wish to see “grassroots music venues acknowledged and respected alongside theatres and art centres as spaces that are vital to the health, wealth and happiness of the UK” a “laudable aim”.
“I believe the Home Office has responsibility to help to preserve our venues, rather than simply saying, ‘We’ve got a very fine Licensing Act as it is'”
Baroness Chisholm expressed her support for the Licensing Act in its current form, arguing it provides for a “presumption that licensing authorities will grant a licence in respect to an application, with appropriate conditions, unless there are strong concerns in terms of the licensing objectives”.
This was met with a fiery rebuke by Lord Clement-Jones, who before withdrawing the amendment spoke of his wish that “the drip-drip of the fairly incessant rhythm – perhaps that is the right phraseology to use in connection with live music venues – of the campaign to ensure that we keep our live music venues has some effect”.
“I believe the Home Office also has responsibility in this area to help to preserve our venues, rather than simply stonewalling and saying, ‘We’ve got a very fine Licensing Act as it is and we don’t need any further objectives’,” he concluded.
“When we come to our next debate, I am sure the government will make the same argument – but they may find a rather different response when it comes to a vote.”
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