HC Deb 30 June 2003 vol 408 cc4-5
4. Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge)

What recent (a) representations and (b) discussions she has had on the Licensing Bill.␣[122079]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) back to his place. My ministerial colleagues probably wish that he had had a longer period of recovery, but it is good to see him back.

My ministerial colleagues and I have received many representations recently from right hon. and hon. Members, organisations and members of the public about various aspects of the Bill. We have also had numerous meetings with a whole range of organisations with an interest in the Bill.

Richard Younger-Ross

Will the Minister consider the Lords amendments regarding the licensing of acoustic groups that play in pubs? If 50 to 100 people gather to watch a football match on a wide screen in a pub, they make a lot of noise and the referee's whistle can be heard clearly down the street; if there are two people in a pub listening to a boy with a tin whistle, a licence will be required. Is that not nonsense?

Mr. Caborn

I answered that question during the discussion of amendments last week. No representations have been made with regard to regulating the showing of football matches in public places; neither the police nor anyone else has made such a representation. So it is not correct to draw a parallel between that and what we are trying to achieve with our modernisation of the licensing laws in this country.

Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that Ireland has had an unhappy experience with relaxing alcohol licensing and is now considering reversing the decision, which led to a surge in alcohol consumption in that country. Will my right hon. Friend consult his Irish counterparts and look at the experience there?

Mr. Caborn

I do not know about meeting my Irish counterpart, but I was in Dublin the weekend before last at the special Olympics and I did not see any of the activities to which my hon. Friend referred. Five areas underpin the modernisation of licensing in this country; crime, disorder, public nuisance, safety and the protection of children. We have looked at the experiences worldwide, which have underpinned our modernisation.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)

In last Tuesday's debate on the Licensing Bill, and again a few moments ago, the Minister denied having received any representation from the Association of Chief Police Officers regarding its wish to license the showing of televised sporting events on wide screens in pubs. ACPO has now confirmed to us that an exchange of e-mails with the Minister's officials took place on this issue last year. Was the Minister told about this? If not, will he question his officials? If he was, does he wish at this late stage to put the record straight?

Mr. Caborn

I did not know that those representations had been made, but I take the hon. Gentleman's word. I have not seen those representations and I will ask my officials to let me see them.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new responsibilities. Will he reflect further on the Bill—despite all the good that is in it—and ask himself whether there is not some inconsistency between the large-scale transmission of sports events or pop concerts not requiring a licence and the requirement for the smallest kind of live music event to be licensed? Is not the way forward not to abolish the two in the bar rule but to modernise it and come up with new de minimis arrangements that would permit harmless small-scale acoustic entertainment to escape the net of local authority licensing?

Mr. Caborn

What we have been trying to do in the Bill is to provide greater access to music in public places, and in particular in licensed premises. We are introducing a single licence for liquor and entertainment, with a modest fee, and incorporating six licensing authorities into one. That, underpinned by the principles that I have just outlined, will give live music in public places a tremendous lift. That is the intention of the Bill, and that is what we believe will happen.

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