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
'... 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
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'.