The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Tuesday 17th July 2007 - Lib Dems force debate on Licensing Guidance

On 28 June, DCMS published revised Licensing Guidance issued under s.182 of the Licensing Act 2003, including new sections intended to clarify the interpretation of the incidental music exemption:

Both the Live Music Forum and the Musicians Union have already made public their disatisfaction with this exemption, and both have called on the government to do more than tweak the Guidance. They want a new exemption for small gigs within the Act itself.  Local authorities need only 'have regard to' the Guidance - it is the Act which takes precedence.

Now an influential Parliamentary Committee has added its voice to the chorus of criticism, saying that the revised incidental music guidance has failed to clarify the law. The latest report of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee published yesterday, 16 July, says of the revised Guidance:

'Some definitions have been clarified, for example what constitutes “a private event”, but we regret that some, such as the definition of “incidental music”, could not be made clearer and so may impose a burden on the courts until sufficient precedent is established.' [Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, 27th Report of Session 2006-7, p9, point 27]


By way of response, Tim Clement-Jones, the Liberal Democract culture spokesperson in the Lords, has tabled a motion calling on the Guidance to be annulled.

There will now have to be a debate on the Guidance in the House of Lords. However, because of the imminent summer recess, it will take place in the next Parliamentary session, on or before 18 October 2007.

The legal status of the revised Licensing Guidance is now unclear. Sources close to the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee have suggested that it was published by DCMS before it had been properly endorsed by Parliament (by a process called 'negative resolution').

Hamish Birchall