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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The Licensing Bill, which brings together six different licensing regimes under local authorities and gives police new powers to close down problem pubs and clubs - and anticipate problems, such as football violence - looks set to receive royal assent this week.

The Bill, which opens the theoretical possibility in some city centre and tourist areas of 24-hour drinking and/or eating, cleared the house of lords, which failed to pursue its original amendment to the Bill insisting for an exemption for live music at small events - those accomodating audiences of 200 or less.

Peers were considering whether to accept amendments made in the commons. MPs had accepted many of the peers' changes to the original Bill.

The most controversial part of the associated second chamber amendment on live music, which was defeated because the Liberal Democrat decision not to support Conservatives and other peers around the chamber - means that despite the freeing up of the licensing system, pubs, clubs and cafes will still have to apply for any form of amplified music, even if there are only two performers.

The requirement will not apply to Morris dancers, unamplified musicians, stand-up comedians and, perhaps, most concerningly, wide-screen pub televisions, whether generating audience noise from people watching football or pop music.

Keen to avoid a ping-pong situation between lords and commons, with the possibility of losing the Bill, the government promised a review of the effects of the measure within 12 months of implementation.

'If it proves the Bill has had an unintended, disproportionate, negative effect on the provision of live music, we will use powers already in the Bill to modify the position through secondary legislation,' said Lord McIntosh of Haringey, for the government.

Liberal Democrats believed the government had made sufficient concessions and did not back Conservative on insisting on a licensing exemption for small events. The Tory motion rejecting the commons amendment was defeated by 145 votes to 75.

Hansard 3 July 2003: Column 1045 - 1064

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