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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 14:16 GMT
Minister defends music licence bill
Kim Howells
Howells says reform will give the arts a new lease of life
A UK government minister has hit back at what he calls the "urban myths" that have grown up around the proposed reform of entertainment licensing.

Culture minister Kim Howells criticised as "unhelpful" reports suggesting the reforms would mean church bell ringers, school concerts and music lessons would be licensable as part of the plans.

The last thing any of us want to do is threaten the traditions of performance

Kim Howells

The reforms mean that pubs and bars without an entertainment licence will no longer be able to host gigs by solo performers and duets, as they can now.

The Musicians' Union fears that the live music circuit across England and Wales could suffer as a consequence.

Abandon

"The last thing that any of us would want to do is threaten the traditions of performance that have been at the very heart of our nation's cultural life for hundreds of years," wrote Mr Howells in The Stage newspaper.

According to the union many venues may be forced to abandon live music to avoid the trouble and expense of getting a licence.

Some artists are concerned that the bill makes it an offence to carry out a performance without a licence and that the potential punishments are a prison sentence or a fine of up to 20,000.

Mr Howells said he found the worries "understandable".

"Some people find the penalties intimidating but I must stress that these are maximum penalties and, as with all offences, the courts would, on any conviction, decide the appropriate punishments," he wrote.

See also:

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