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Pressure mounts on UK Govt to liberalise small gig licensing

The debate held in the House of Lords on Friday (4 March) saw Lord Clement-Jones's small event-liberalising Live Music Bill receive widespread support among peers, including former ITV executive Michael Grade.

Alongside an Early Day Motion tabled by John Whittingdale MP, an Upper Chamber debate on Lord Clement-Jones’s Live Music Bill is adding to calls for the liberalisation of UK live music licensing arrangements, writes David Davies.

Last Friday (4 March) saw the much-anticipated House of Lords debate on the Live Music Bill pioneered by Lord Clement-Jones (pictured). Originally proposed before the last General Election and covered extensively by PSN-e at the time, the Lib Dem life peer’s bill aims to make it easier for schools, colleges and villages to hold concerts commanding an audience of less than 200 people. It also calls for venues holding an existing licence to be able to stage live music events without restrictions.

The hectic pre-election wash-up period brought a halt to the momentum behind the bill, but it has found a new lease of life during the last few months – a period in which DCMS minister John Penrose has promised an imminent announcement on entertainment licensing deregulation.

During the debate on Friday, the Bill received the widespread support of peers, with Baroness Rawlings – the Government’s culture spokesperson in the Lords – announcing that, in principle, the Bill would have the support of the Coalition. High-profile Lords to back the Bill included children’s broadcaster/educator Floella Benjamin, arts journalist/author/campaigner Joan Bakewell and former ITV/BBC executive Michael Grade, who used his maiden speech to express his enthusiasm for Clement-Jones’s proposals.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of Incorporated Society of Musicians, commented: “We’re delighted that the Live Music Bill has passed its first parliamentary test and has received the support of the Government. It’s vital that we demolish the bureaucratic barriers of the current licensing regime and allow live music to thrive. Live music-making is a crucial part of our creative economy and many musicians receive their first break by performing in a small venue. We will continue urging peers and MPs to support the Bill as it progresses through Parliament.”

The Bill is now set to go to the committee stage for amendments during the next few weeks. If that is successful if will pass to a third reading before transferring to the Commons.

In parallel with the Clement-Jones bill, an Early Day Motion (EDM) focusing on exemption for venues of up to 200 capacity was introduced by John Whittingdale into the House of Commons last month. EDM 1465 was tabled following a public inquiry into the Licensing Act instigated by the all-party Culture, Media and Sport select committee, of which Whittingdale – the Conservative MP for Maldon – is chair. Evidence from a variety of stakeholders, including local government representatives and the police, is said to recommend an exemption for concerts in venues up to a capacity of 200.

Accordingly, the EDM introduced last month reads as follows: “That this House notes that it is now more than 12 months since the Department for Culture, Media and Sport launched a consultation to exempt small live music events from the bureaucracy of the Licensing Act 2007; further notes that an exemption has not yet been granted despite the commitment to cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music in the Coalition Agreement; and calls on the Government to introduce an exemption without delay.”

At the time of writing, the EDM has received the signatures of 28 MPs, including Labour members Jeremy Corbyn and Dennis Skinner, Conservatives Peter Bottomley and Greg Knight, and Liberal Democrats Andrew George and Adrian Sanders.

Many industry groups are encouraging individuals to ask their MPs to sign the EDM via the website. Meanwhile, the progress of the EDM can be monitored on the UK Parliament website at