HL Deb 03 February 2003 vol 644 cc9-10WA
Lord Berkeley

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will review the policy set out in the Licensing Bill with regard to regulated entertainment taking place in churches and other places of public worship, and in church halls, chapel halls, community centres and similar premises. [HL1455]

Baroness Blackstone

Following further consideration and consultation with faith groups, the Government have tabled an amendment to the Licensing Bill that would exempt secular entertainment provided in places of public religious worship and the provision of entertainment facilities in such places from the need to obtain a licence under the Bill when it is enacted. Music for the purposes of or incidental to a religious service or meeting is already exempt.

The exemption reflects the current position outside Greater London. Within Greater London, the provision of secular entertainment at places of public worship has for many years been licensable. The amendment the Government have tabled will add further to the deregulatory measures already contained in the Bill.

The Government also wish to make plain their intention to exempt church halls, chapel halls or other similar buildings occupied in connection with a place of public religious worship, and village halls, parish or community halls or other similar buildings from the fees associated with the provision of entertainment or entertainment facilities under the licensing regime. Use of such premises to put on entertainment will still require a licence as such provision can and does give rise to issues of nuisance, public safety and crime and disorder. However, the Bill provides for a streamlined and straightforward licensing scheme with minimum bureaucracy. In addition, the guidance to be issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport under the Bill will make it clear that conditions attached to any licences for such premises be proportionate to the risks involved which are likely to be minimal in most cases.

Where a premises licence authorises the sale of alcohol in premises of this nature, however, the normal licence fee will be payable. This is entirely in line with existing arrangements. In addition, those wishing to use village, church and parish halls, and other community buildings will all be able to take advantage of the simple and easy notification procedure that the Bill provides for temporary events.

The precise details of the fee structure will be the subject of consultation with interested parties.

The Government hope that religious institutions, music societies and other community groups will derive great benefit from the exemptions and that the initiative will further strengthen our drive to increase the diversity of cultural experience available to people and communities throughout England and Wales. Furthermore, the exemptions will bolster the measures already contained in the Bill that are designed to foster live music by opening up even further the opportunities for musicians to perform.

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