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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 15:10 GMT
Churches escape licensing reforms
Church
There were fears churches would fall silent
Churches are to be made exempt from licensing reforms which critics claimed would have led to carol singers being criminalised.

The government is to amend its licensing bill so that places of public worship will not need a licence to put on entertainment.

The move follows a campaign by thousands of protesters opposing the government's reform plans.

They feared the legislation would silence live entertainment in Britain's music venues.

Kim Howells
Dr Howells says he has acknowledged objections
Culture Minister Kim Howells said the government had listened to protesters.

"Concerns were raised about our original proposals for licensing regulated entertainment in places of worship by a range of groups," he said

"We have listened to their concerns and taken them on board."

The exemption for churches "will enable religious institutions and music societies to flourish", he said.

The amended bill also exempts village and community halls from having to pay fees for entertainment licences.

Red tape

However, events at this type of venue will still require a licence because of issues of nuisance and public safety still needs to be monitored.

But Dr Howells insists the amount of red tape involved in applying would be "streamlined".

If alcohol is to be sold at an event then the normal licence fee would be payable.

He added: "I recognise that church and community halls are integral to community life and provide a social hub in a great many rural and urban areas.

"I am determined to enable them to continue to play this essential role."

Last month, musicians made a silent protest outside Parliament against the bill.

They said it will hit small acoustic bands and folk singers and could see off ancient traditions such as Morris dancing.

An online petition has been signed by more than 40,000 people disgusted at what they see as attempts to silence live music.

See also:

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