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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 11:57 GMT
Licensing move gives musicians hope
Musicians in a pub
Critics say the government is being inconsistent
The Musicians' Union has said it hopes the government will shelve plans to license pub musicians, after churches and village halls were told they would be exempt.

Licences will be required for any premises where musicians perform, including pubs and bars, as proposed in the upcoming Licensing Bill.

But on Monday the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said churches and village halls would be exempt from the planned licences.

Keith Ames, a spokesman from the Musicians Union, said the government has been inconsistent in its attitude towards public entertainment licences.

"We are concerned about all small-scale music-making anywhere in the UK," he said.

He said even within the same venue there were conflicting rules over what entertainment could be held.

"You can have 500 guys at one end of a bar watching football on a satellite TV screen and you don't need a licence for that," he said.
Dr Kim Howells
Dr Howells says he has acknowledged objections

"But if two guys get up at the other end of the bar and play a guitar without a licence then suddenly that's a danger to the public."

More than 65,000 people have signed a union online petition against the licence plans, Mr Ames said.

He said playing music in a bar was a cultural activity, and EU law banned governments from denying people the right to observe their culture.

The licence plans are part of new legislation that would bring an end to the long-standing "two in a bar" rule, where no more than two performers can play in public houses.

Pubs or other venues would apply for a normal alcohol licence and would tick a box if they planned to host live entertainment.
Church choir
Churches could have broken the law hosting choirs without a licence

A DCMS spokesperson said the position towards the musicians' union had not softened despite Monday's decision.

The new rules would open up more opportunities for musicians, the spokeperson said.

"Under the current system you have to apply for a number of licences. These can cost you from hundreds of pounds up to 20,000 in central London," he added.

"Now they are essentially getting their entertainment licence for free."

See also:

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