The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wednesday 29th Ocrober 2008 - A tale of DCMS efficiency

On 19 September, in response to the DCMS refusal to confirm that Feargal Sharkey had recently met DCMS officials to discuss Licensing Act exemptions for small gigs, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for:

'... details of all meetings organised or scheduled by DCMS between 01 January 2008 and 31 March 2009 for the purpose, or for purposes which include the purpose, of discussing draft exemptions from the Licensing Act 2003 for small-scale live music. The details should include names and job titles of those attending, or scheduled to attend. In the case of meetings already held by the time of the decision on this FoIA request, I request that the meeting minutes also be published.'

The phrase 'or for purposes which include the purpose' comes from the Licensing Act itself, specifically paragraph 2(1) of the entertainment Schedule 1. This lists descriptions of potentially licensable entertainment '...where the entertainment takes place in the presence of an audience and is provided for the purpose, or for purposes which include the purpose, of entertaining that audience.'

DCMS confirmed receipt of my FoIA request that afternoon. Curiously, however, the text had been altered. The 'purposes' phrase and the final sentence concerning meeting minutes were missing. I raised this immediately and was given a written assurance that the text would be 'addressed in its entirety'.

But on 16 October, in a holding response from DCMS, these sections of my text were again missing. Once again I raised this immediately. The response was slower this time. On 21 October, an official replied by email with a vague undertaking to address the 'request for notes of meetings'. I replied asking that they address the full, original FoIA request. There was no reply.

After waiting a further week I phoned the Department. Why the delay? What is the problem with the request? Answer: We couldn't understand the bit about 'purposes which include the purpose'.


Hamish Birchall