Just before Christmas I was on the Committee for the Live Music Bill, which was introduced in the Lords by Lord Clement-Jones, sponsored in the Commons by Don Foster MP, and has cross-party support so went through the Committee without much of a problem. It repeals some of the measures in the 2003 Licensing Act, which – as some suspected as the time – has acted as a deterrent to small venues putting on live bands. The Bill removes the need for a licence for unamplified live music and amplified live music in venues of less than 200 people (though local authorities can still impose conditions during the normal licensing process for pubs and clubs). There is also something in there about morris-dancing.
It’s now second on the list for next Friday’s Private Members Bills, for report stage – ie to approve the changes that were agreed during committee. It can, I think, also have its Third Reading there and then, which means the only thing outstanding is Royal Assent.
I’ve blogged at some length before about the ridiculous procedures governing these Friday sittings, and the opportunity it gives backbenchers from the awkward squad (step forward David Nuttall, Bill Cash, Philip Davies) to filibuster and talk Bills out. See here – http://labourlist.org/2010/11/friday-filibusters-and-mug-poetry/
The first Bill on the list is the Daylight Savings Bill, which is about turning/ not turning the clocks back. Opinion is divided on this but the Bill only calls for the Government to review the situation, not to actually change the clocks. Even so, we’ve received indications that some backbenchers who opposed any change are going to try to talk it out… this means they have to still be talking at 2.30pm. They are perfectly capable of doing this. The only way to stop them is for more than 100 MPs to vote for a closure motion, after a reasonable time has been allowed for debate – ie a motion that they should sit down and shut up because they have delighted us enough, as Mr Bennett once said.
If this happens, we’ll get onto the Live Music Bill, and if we conclude proceedings before 2.30pm then there isn’t much to stand in the way of its becoming law pretty soon. It’s unlikely anyone will try to talk it out, or object to it, as the usual suspects tend to be those vehemently opposed to any new regulation or government ‘interference’ and this Bill actually scraps some of the existing restrictions. For what it’s worth, I think the debate on the first Bill will go on for a few hours, there won’t be 100 MPs there to force a closure (it’s a Friday, most of us will be in our constituencies), but we’ll get onto the Live Music Bill and everyone present will do their best to ensure that it’s wrapped up before the 2.30pm deadline.
PS What I should have added is that the Government whips can make this happen, by doing what whips do – ie whipping their backbenchers. The ball’s in their court.