The Live Music Forum



Friday 8thWednesday 20th July

Yesterday 'Music' Minister, James Purnell, appeared on another BBC radio programme aiming to pacify claims that the new Licensing legislation means lots of trouble for all sorts of people.

In this interview, Purnell again delivers the now well-worn White Stripes script. He also makes some of his most misleading, or misinformed statements so far. Here are just three examples:

On getting permission for live music: 'If you're applying for an alcohol licence in effect you only have to tick one extra box and, er, you can then get a public entertainment licence.'
That is, er, total twaddle. The reality is well described in the transcript below by a caller, Susan Violino, who made a variation application to extend her restaurant's opening hours. She had to make 204 photocopies, among other things. Variation applications will be required by almost all bars, restaurants, hotels etc applying for live music.

On the new application forms: 'So, actually most people only have to fill in the 7 pages.'
Not if they want live music. 7 pages might be true for a pub converting its alcohol licence with NO application for live music and no extension of opening hours. But, according to licensing lawyers, even just keeping 'two in a bar' gigs going will require a minimum of 15 pages to be filled in.

Lastly: 'If it's just people singing along or jamming then it's not, then it doesn't require a licence.'
Perhaps Purnell should volunteer as a defence witness when the first prosecution for jamming is brought under the new Act. 'Spontaneous' jamming might just qualify, but there is no definition of 'spontaneous' in the Act, and many lawyers doubt whether such a claim would work.

Note that I have omitted sections where Vine discusses the implications for circuses and jousting tournaments. I cannot guarantee that I have spelt callers/emailers names correctly.

Hamish Birchall

-Transcript Begins -

JEREMY VINE BBC R2 - Tuesday 19 July 2005 - 1.30-2pm approx.
Interview with James Purnell, and feedback from listeners re licensing and live music

VINE: If you are pub or a restaurant, or premises which sell alcohol or provide live music, you only have 18 days left to apply for a new licence which has been created by the government. At least 60% of all licensees are yet to apply. And if they don't meet the deadline of August the 6th they may have to close when the new Licensing Act comes into force in November. The government has come under some criticism for this new legislation. At the moment a single musician or a duo can perform in pubs and clubs without a licence. But, under the new Act all proprietors have to apply for permission to host any live music, whatever the size, so we're told. With so few clubs and pubs yet to apply musicians fear the legislation may lead to the decline of live music and we love live music here on Radio 2, so that's why we're discussing it. James Purnell is minister for licensing and joins us, good afternoon.

PURNELL: Good afternoon.

VINE: So now you're basically giving out a warning here are you, saying 'apply now'?

PURNELL: It's very important that people who sell alcohol or who put on entertainment, or indeed sell food after 11 o'clock, get their licence applications in by the 6th of August. Once they do this is going to be, I believe, a much much better system. It's going to get rid of some of the old arkike.. archaic rules like you know the 11 o'clock closing time for example which means that people end up necking two or three pints of beer then all being chucked out on the streets at the same to fight for cabs, and sometimes even fight with each other. I also think it's going to be much better for live music, actually, and I know there have been worries about this, but er, er I believe that this Act is going to be much better for live music. I'm a huge live music fan myself, and I think that's something which we, you know, will see a real benefit from here...

VINE: Because you've streamlined it, have you, so you, you used to have to bring out er an alcohol licence and then an entertainment licence separately, and now you fill out one form.

PURNELL: That's right. If you're applying for an alcohol licence in effect you only have to tick one extra box and er you can then get a public entertainment licence. And before you had to apply every year and there were lots of areas where people were being charged thousands of pounds for these public entertainment licences. There is this worry about what was called the 'two in the bar rule'. And there used to be an exemption for people, if two people turned up to play then that was OK. But our fear about that was that actually it massively distorted the, kind of, the market for gigs. You could have the White Stripes turning up, you know they've only got two people in their, er in their band they could turn up and play. But someone with three or four people, Coldplay or whoever, couldn't. So actually you had a distortion. We think it's much better to have a regime where music's properly licensed, and erm we think it will increase the number of areas of pubs that actually apply for those music licences.

VINE: But it seems that people are either objecting or they just want to live in ignorance about this because this, this form is trouble. Now how many, how many sheets of paper is this form?

PURNELL: If you're applying to convert your licence you have to fill in seven pages. The form's 21 pages long. But that's to cope with all the different regimes which we're bringing into one. So we're bringing six previous regimes into one and the form is 21 pages long so you can cope with all the, the various um, the various er reasons why people to apply. But you would only have to fill that in if you were a pub that was putting on dancing, cinema, wrestling as well as, um, you know, having er, applying for extra hours. So, actually most people only have to fill in the 7 pages.

VINE: Do you have to supply architect's drawings of your establishment?

PURNELL: You have to provide drawings of your establishments and that's because, for example, if you got, er, er, a nightclub everyone would expect it to be properly licensed for health and safety reasons, for fire reasons, and that's why, that's why that's there...

VINE: But you didn't have to do that before.

PURNELL: You did actually have to provide forms of your er, plans for the.... before, yeah.

VINE: Because it just seems people find this form a bit of a bind and they, and they and they may not be filling it out they may not be getting their licences because it's actually, it's another overhead they just don't need.

PURNELL: Well what we've done is gone from a situation where people were having to run off to the magistrates every time they wanted to put on a special event. So for example if you wanted to show a Lions test in the, early in the morning, or if you wanted to stay open late for Christmas Eve, people would have to go to the magistrates to get a special permission. And I think there were about 16 million of those a year. Instead of that we're gonna have people apply for a licence once, and then they never have to apply again. So that means we're front-loading the application process. So it's perhaps not surprising that people are worried about the burden they're going through now. What I would say is that the light at the end of that tunnel is they will have, they will never have to apply for it again. So it is going to be a much more flexible system, and overall we calculate it's gonna save the industry about two billion pounds over ten years, so there is work to be done now, but there's a real prize for doing that work.

VINE: Susan Mallett has just emailed and she say's 'Can you ask the minister why it's necessary to require a licence for nursery school assistants in a drop-in play group open to the public to sing along with two-year-olds... ' [laughs] er that can't be right.

PURNELL: Doesn't sound right to me. Ahm, the, the principle that we've put in place here is no different from one exists under the current Act, so there's no difference there at all, so essentially..

VINE: So they can sing without filling out a form...

PURNELL: It's not for me to say that, that would be up to their local authority. But the essential principle there is if you're putting on a piece of public entertainment, like a concert where you're advertising it, people were coming along to listen to a performance then that is what would need a licence. If people are jamming for example, or something happening in a play group, it doesn't sound like they would need a licence.

VINE: OK, she says you could put on a tape but if you join in with it you require a licence, that can't be right [laughs]...

PURNELL: Doesn't sound right...

VINE: And she says this, 'Can you ask the minister is he aware that nursing homes are cancelling musicians coming in to entertain the elderly and the sick. They are aware that if relations and visitors are present and they join in with the singing, they need a licence'!

PURNELL: Again that doesn't sound right to me.

VINE: Because you get into this bureaucratic thing don't you where everybody things they need a licence and they may not do.

PURNELL: Yeah. And the point is that there is no real difference between the Act as it exists at the moment, the law as it exists at the moment and what we're bringing in. So the point is if it is a concert and it's public entertainment then it probably will need a licence, and people would expect that. If it's just people singing along then it probably won't.

VINE: Let me just read some more comments that are coming in. Ashley Hunter's just emailed 'I understand that this Act applies to all live music in places like working men's clubs and church halls as well as pubs.' That is correct isn't it?

PURNELL: Well, er, churches are exempted from the Act.

VINE: Well church halls, though, village halls and so on.

PURNELL: Village halls would be included if they were putting on a concert, yeah.

VINE: He says it doesn't apply to live music in churches themselves...

PURNELL: That's right.

VINE: So people singing hymns don't need to get a licence. Adrian Fry emails and says 'I am a professional musician. This new legislation is unnecessary bureaucracy. Sound volume levels should be covered by the environmental health department. And when it comes to safety concerning numbers, each venue should simply have a capacity limit. There's no broader picture. Those are the real issues. Administration of anything else is a waste of public money and another example of New Labour creating a nanny state.' And email here from Paul Dixon in Rochdale who says 'Dear James Purnell, why did your department leave it until the third week of June to publish guidance for licensees on how to complete these application forms?'

PURNELL: Well that's not true actually. We, er, published, er we've been publishing evidence all the way through. We've been trying to make people aware of this, er, for the last two years. And people are often coming to us asking specific questions, and as they come up with specific questions we've been posting specific advice. But we've, we've published a wide range of advice and it's not right to say that we waited until June.

VINE: Judy Warlham in Stratford on Avon says 'we've had to apply for a licence as a school to put on entertainment and serve alcohol and it's actually not as daunting as you might think'. You have a supportive listener there.

PURNELL: Here here!

VINE: Mandy Friend in Croydon says 'I was on a hen night in a pub and we started singing "You've Lost that Loving Feeling", the whole pub joined in and...' er, this, no this can't be right... 'the bouncers then stepped in and were very cross and they said we had to all stop singing because we did not have a licence for live music'. Come on, could that happen?

PURNELL: Well that presumably is under the current regime, under the current law before the new law comes in. But certainly under the new law when it comes in, that we think that would be fine. If it's...

VINE: A hen night on a night out, in a pub that doesn't normally have live music, no problem...

PURNELL: The the principle I think is fairly clear which is if it's an entertainment, where you're advertising it, people are coming along, paying, expecting to see live music that will require a licence as it does now. If it's just people singing along or jamming then it's not, then it doesn't require a licence.


PURNELL: ... But the point is this is an Act that covers 190,000 people. As it comes in there will be some anomalies, some issues that we need to look at. We've put in a review process and where there is evidence of real problems you know we are committed to acting on that.

VINE: And it won't hurt live music in pubs and bars in this country?

PURNELL: We think it will be good for live music. As I say it's going to be an easier process people won't be being charged thousands of pounds. We're working with Feargal Sharkey and the Live Music Forum to get people to apply for these public entertainment licences. The Musicians' Union, for example, are visiting all the pubs where people play to get them to apply. The PRS society are doing it, the agents and concert promoters are doing it. So, we, I really really am working to make sure this is good for live music rather than having a system before where if there were two of you or less you could play, but if not it was very very hard.

VINE: OK Thank you very much James Purnell MP, minister for licensing, in charge of all this, thanks for your time.

PURNELL: Thank you.


VINE: ... we were talking to James Purnell who's the minister in charge of this Licensing Act. And Roger Heywood from Norfolk is managing a small circus and you're very very concerned indeed...


VINE: .... The Two Lips, er, have just emailed, well Mark Kelly from the Two Lips which is a duo. Of course at the moment duos can play without a licence. Under this new law they will need to be licensed. And he says: 'We're a musical duo struggling to make a living in the south west. This new licence could spell the end for us. How can two self-employed musicians ending up on the dole be any good for anyone?'. Howard Bragen emails and says: 'I am a working musician as well. I rely on casual engagements in pubs, in restaurants, bars, hotels. From my point of view I shall probably lose a great deal of work because of the two in a bar exemption disappearing. It looks like I am looking at life on the dole from now on.' This is terrible news. This is all to do with this one particular thing, the provision that says the licence must be there for any live music from now on, whereas previously it was only if it was more than two people. Susan Violino from Frome, is that Susan? Hello.

SUSAN VIOLINO [on phone]: Hello Jeremy.

VINE: You Frome in Somerset are you?

SUSAN VIOLINO: Yes that's right.

VINE: It's nice down there isn't it.

SUSAN VIOLINO: It's lovely, yes, a lovely rural spot.

VINE: And you have a restaurant.

SUSAN VIOLINO: We do yes, run by my husband who's a chef, and myself.

VINE: Now is this a restaurant where, where you get a guitarist wandering around playing at tables?

SUSAN VIOLINO: No, not at all. No, our problem is completely different. All we wanted to was extend our licensing hours, our supper licence and the hours where we can, er, provide alcohol by literally a couple of hours a day. But in order to that we had to fill in a, an enormous quantity of forms and make plans etc as I was explaining to the person on the phone. I had to do 204 photocopies.


SUSAN VIOLINO: Yes! You have to send them to environmental protection, public safety, planning enforcement, protection of children from harm, fire and rescue, trading standards, etc.. you know...

VINE: That sounds a bit like overload.

SUSAN VIOLINO: Yeah, it has been. I mean, you know, it's been difficult to run the business, you know, as we're only a two man team and do all this paperwork as well.

VINE: But at least, the minister's gone now, but he did say it is a one-off thing.

SUSAN VIOLINO: I know, but he, I heard him speaking on I think it was the Today programme on Radio 4, his quote something like 'all you have to do is put a tick in the box'. I mean the forms have been so complicated, so difficult. I'm not an unintelligent person but I really found them hard. Also drawing up to scale plans of your premises. I mean why? You know, we hadn't had to produce any plans until now.

VINE: And what about if somebody suddenly bursts into song while they're eating a meal in your restaurant!

SUSAN VIOLINO: Oh, [laughs] I don't know about that!

VINE: Is that legal?

SUSAN VIOLINO: That remains to be seen.

VINE: Susan, thanks and good luck with it.

SUSAN VIOLINO: OK, all right. Thanks. Bye.

VINE: Chris Finch is in Devon, not the Chris Finch I assume, and says: 'If the whole pub spontaneously bursts into song - that is legal. If you organise the pub to burst into song, you need a licence.' Nick Bird in Clevedon in Somerset says 'I'm a degree educated man. I've just received these reams of info that I need to fill in to get a licence and I've found that it's a minefield. And the worst thing is if you get it wrong you risk not getting your licence in November'. Lots and lots and lots of calls on this. Rosemary... here's one more for you. Rosemary Hilyard in Slinfield says 'Because our village hall has had to apply for a licence the parish council can no longer meet there. Parish councils are not allowed by law to hold meetings in licensed premises. We have taken advice.'


VINE:.... [we were talking about] licensing and the, er, what seems to be a new scheme of licences which is not receiving widespread approval [laughs]. Nick Edwards outside Maidstone in Kent says 'No-one's been mentioning the cost of this. We've just had to apply for our licence. Last year it cost £26. This year it's going to be £600. We are a non-profit making sports and social club.' We have very... an emailing from Welwyn Garden City who says 'Why do we have to be different in this country from any other country in Europe when it comes to music licensing? France, Holland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria and Switzerland, they don't have these complicated rules.' And Roy Turner in south Wales says ' I was on holiday recently in Croatia. We were outside a bar having a drink, having a good time and there was a group of Croatian musicians at the next table. Suddenly, spontaneously they started singing and produced some instruments. And they then spent two hours singing to us and enjoying themselves. How can it be that in this over-regulated country that now would not be allowed to happen?' Geoff Winship in Exeter, good afternoon to you.

GEOFF WINSHIP [on phone]: Good afternoon Jeremy.

VINE: Now I understand you run a medieval jousting tournament.


[MUSIC follows to end of show at 2pm]


Hamish Birchall