The Live Music Forum
Hamish Birchall Bulletin
Thursday 20th May 2010 - Small gigs exemption imminent?
Conservative peer and jazz trumpeter
Anthony Colwyn suggested yesterday that licensing reform is imminent for
small gigs, reports Jazzwise magazine from the 6th annual Parliamentary
Colwyn's speech had ministerial support, according to jazz journalist Sebastian Scotney:
'The only overtly political speech of the night was from Lord (Tony)
Colwyn. And it contained a couple of sentences which counted: "[Culture
Secretary] Jeremy Hunt will remove the restrictions on small gigs."
Colwyn expressed the intention to re-instate the Liberal Democrat's Live
Music Bill, and to make it into law. This commitment received the loudest
applause of the night. And - maybe more significantly - it also got both
a grin and a thumbs-up from Arts Minister Ed Vaizey.'
As it turns out, Vaizey does not have the licensing brief. It was announced today that this has gone to DCMS Tourism minister John Penrose. For the moment, it seems, licensing remains a DCMS function: http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/7071.aspx
However, well-informed sources within the licensing industry believe that licensing will be transfered back to the Home Office, and that this will be announced in the Queen's Speech next Tuesday, 25th May, although DCMS may retain control of entertainment licensing.
Significantly, it was Home Secretary Theresa May and not Culture Secretary
Jeremy Hunt who yesterday announced a 'complete review' of the Licensing
As a shadow licensing minister, Mrs May severely criticised the legislation during Parliamentary debate, including this comment about the changeover to the new regime in 2005:
'The Minister [then James Purnell] should now face the truth and accept
the reality of what is happening. He need not accept my word, but he should
accept the word of village halls, community centres, clubs and sports
clubs throughout the country. He must face the truth, accept the chaos
that the Act is causing and do something about it now.' [House of Commons,
12 July 2005]
But a note of caution: many licensing ministers and several DCMS Secretaries of State have come and gone since the Licensing Bill was first published in November 2002. Some senior civil servants with licensing responsibility, however, have been in post for all that time.
It will take a wily and determined minister indeed to wrest control of licensing from the Sir Humphreys within DCMS and the Home Office.