The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Saturday 17th June 2006 - Lords discuss big screen football and live music

Yesterday, 15 June 2006, Lord Addington asked the government:

'Whether local authorities and the police have adequate powers to control crime, disorder and public nuisance at premises or open spaces where World Cup football matches are shown on large screens.'

Reading between the lines of Home Office minister Baroness Scotland's replies it would seem that the answer is 'yes'.

The disproportionate regulation of live music was raised by Lords Addington and Redesdale. Baroness Scotland suggested that Lord Redesdale 'should raise changes in legislation if and when there is a passing bus onto which he can jump'. Entertainment on moving vehicles is of course exempt under the new licensing laws:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the police have a wide range of powers at their disposal to control public order at large screen events. Following incidents of disorder, including at events showing England's last match, local police forces are liaising with event organisers and local authorities about safety and security at public viewing events. Decisions on whether further big screen events should go ahead will be taken on a case-by-case basis by local police.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she not agree that there is an element of absurdity the system when these large screen events do not need a licence but somebody who wishes to have three or four musicians playing acoustic instruments in a pub does?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says. However, some of us would say that, fortunately—many will say unfortunately—the World Cup does not often come our way.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, will my noble friend comment on what is happening in Germany, where tens of thousands of England fans are watching the football matches on big television screens and are not causing any trouble to anybody at all? Will she send a message to them saying "Thank you, please keep it up", while paying attention to what our ambassador in Berlin said yesterday about deterring the uncouth tiny minority who seem to derive pleasure from singing Nazi songs, goose-stepping, giving Nazi salutes and otherwise engaging in inappropriate World War II behaviour?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I very much agree with my noble friend's first comment. England  fans have achieved a great deal in recent years to help transform their reputation. The Frankfurt experience is the latest example of England fans travelling abroad and enhancing their reputation as the best fans in the world. It is a disgrace when a small minority tarnish that good reputation. We endorse all the efforts to ensure that those who do that feel the consequences of having done so.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, it appears that part of the problem, in some instances, has been the sheer numbers that have turned up rather than the incidents of violence. The Minister referred to the ability of the police to cope, but does she not agree that the police, local authorities and the BBC should sensibly address this matter day by day during the World Cup?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I reassure the noble Viscount that that is exactly what is happening. A lot of organisation is going on between the police, the event organisers and local authorities. For instance, for big screen events in Manchester, it has been decided by the Manchester police, in consultation with the event organisers and the local authority, that they should be ticketed. This planning is going on and is much to be commended.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, when the Licensing Act 2003 was going through Parliament there was a great deal of discussion about why large screen television was exempt and the issue of violence, which has unfortunately come to pass, was raised. However, rather than saying that perhaps we should now license large screen television events, will the Government look again at taking unamplified music out of the licensing regime? There have not been the same headlines of punch-ups at folk festivals.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says. However, noble Lords will remember some of the reasons why large screen events were excluded. First, there is no consistency in when they can happen; and, secondly, the arrangements between organisers, the police and local authorities were felt to be a better way of managing them and getting agreement on when and if they should occur. Of course, it is always open to the noble Lord to raise any changes in legislation, if and when there is a passing bus onto which he can jump.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the police are simply citizens in uniform and the best assistance they can get is the support of the public in cases of antisocial behaviour, whether at football matches or anywhere else? There is more likelihood of that happening if there is less chance of them being confronted by people with knives or other offensive weapons.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend's comments. I reassure him that the police and other agencies are working extremely hard with the public. The public are responding well. Most fans do not want to have anything other than a good, peaceful time, and we are, at last, seeing a change in the way in which many fans behave.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, does the Minister know whether local authorities have been asked to monitor noise levels where screens, which attract large crowds, are erected near residential areas? There is no screen near me, but I feel for people who live near one.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, in arranging any large event, the organisers have to take into account issues in relation to noise, traffic and the displacement of other activities. I can assure the noble Baroness that that issue has been considered. From what we know from events that have already gone ahead, that matter has been taken into account. I am relatively confident that it will be for any future events as well.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I declare an interest as a life-long supporter of Wrexham football club, which has one current and two former players in today's World Cup match. Will the Minister join me in sending best wishes to the Trinidad and Tobago team and to its very peaceful supporters?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am delighted so to do, and I shall be just as delighted to send our commiserations when they lose.

Hamish Birchall