Busking Laws and the Lords

Lib Dem Peer Lord Clement-Jones, a well-known supporter of live music who brought in the Live Music Act in 2012 as a private member’s bill, has proposed the effective repeal of the law underpinning Camden’s draconian busking legislation.

(Report by Hamish Birchall with additional input from Jonny Walker)

During yesterday’s 2nd Reading of the Deregulation Bill in the House of Lords, he said:

‘The Mayor of London has rightly been fulsome about the place of busking in London life. In the Bill we should explicitly remove Part 5 of the London Local Authorities Act 2000, which provides for busking licensing schemes at individual London councils’ discretion. We should also remove Section 54(14) of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, which was recently used against buskers in Leicester Square.’

If implemented, these measures would pull the plug on Camden’s controversial borough-wide and extremely costly licence scheme (about £70k so far), and prevent buskers being arrested and detained by the police merely for doing what buskers do.

Lord Clement-Jones continued: ‘As I explained to the House [on 30th June], the King’s Parade, the winners of the mayor’s busking competition, were interrupted by the police mid-song as they performed in Leicester Square and informed that they were in breach of Section 54 of the archaic 1839 Metropolitan Police Act. They were bundled into a van by eight officers and held at Paddington police station for more than six hours. This 174-year-old piece of legislation, which also – I think the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, would be pleased by this – prohibits kite flying, sleigh riding and doorbell ringing, was used to justify the arrest.’

According to licensing lawyers, a potential criminal offence is committed by buskers under the 1839 legislation if they accept a donation or even hand out a free CD. Moreover, the police can use these powers against any busker in London – even if they are among the select few now licensed to busk in Camden (7, at the last count).

The Leicester Square day-time arrest, widely reported in the national press, took place on 14th May. It was filmed by a member of the public and posted on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjFLNjtA6uc.  No-one had complained about the band.  This particularly draconian enforcement appears to have been part of a purge of Leicester Square buskers, backed and part-funded by the Heart of London Business Improvement District. See:http://bit.ly/1xL0yd7 and note the use of noise abatement notices.

Lord Clement-Jones went on to explain the rationale for his proposals, at the same time strongly criticising Camden’s regime:

‘There are more than adequate powers under separate legislation to deal with noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour. For example, there is the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Control of Pollution Act 1974. There are also powers to make by-laws available to local authorities with respect to street nuisance. Camden, under the London Local Authorities Act, has banned street music at any time, amplified or unamplified, except through a special busking licence. Camden’s approach runs completely counter to the arguments heard and accepted by government and Parliament during the Live Music Act debates.’

Busking deregulation will now be formalised as amendments to the Deregulation Bill for consideration at the Lords Committee stage, for which a date has yet to be fixed but could be by October. If the amendments are approved, the Commons would then consider them.

Another important October date is the 6th when there will be a ‘permission hearing’ at the Court of Appeal for the Keep Streets Live Campaign against the High Court ruling in support of Camden’s busking licence scheme.  The Keep Streets Live Campaign is also part of a London Mayoral busking taskforce set up by Boris Johnson to make London more busker friendly.

The campaign to keep music live on the streets of Camden and protect cultural freedoms is very much on!

With love,

Jonny

Founding Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign

http://keepstreetslive.com

http://facebook.com/groups/keepstreetsliveincamden

http://facebook.com/groups/keepstreetsliveinlondon


Key links:

Greater London Authority and Mayor of London launches #Backbusking campaign 9th April:
http://bit.ly/VDwv9i
Boris Johnson warns ‘Don’t let London become a no-go area for buskers’.

Hansard transcript of Deregulation Bill 2nd reading, 7th July:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/140707-0002.htm [search on page for ‘busk’]

Lord Clement-Jones’ question about busking and 1839 Metropolitan Police Act in the House of Lords, 30th June:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2014-06-30a.1529.3&s=speaker%3A13517#g1529.4
Support of Mayor of London for busking quoted. Concerns about over-regulation of busking also raised by Viscount Clancarty, Baroness Hamwee and others. Government spokesperson, Baroness Williams of Trafford, is broadly supportive of busking, but mistakenly suggests it is not ‘criminalised’ when for all practical purposes it is under the 1839 MPA.

London Evening Standard: Best Buskers Row Over Arrest Rages On

London Evening Standard: Best Buskers Row Over Arrest Rages On

Published by Rachel Blundy at the London Evening Standard on 02/06/2014

A row over the decision to arrest a band hailed as London’s best buskers by Mayor Boris Johnson is raging on today after a community leader voiced his support for a police crackdown on busking.

Colin Bennett, chairman of the Leicester Square Association, has come out in support of police after last week’s arrest of the King’s Parade in Leicester Square.

The four-piece from Cricklewood were led away by officers last Wednesday as they came to the end of their set in front of a bewildered crowd.

They did not require a permit to perform but police arrested them under the terms of an archaic Metropolitan Police Act from 1839, claiming they were performing in order to earn cash from passers-by.

Mr Bennett has said that police were right to detain the musicians, adding that the authorities’ approach to buskers in the capital needed “managing”.

He said: “Entertainment is fine but it needs managing. At present it isn’t.

“Nobody wants draconian action, but without a clear policy in place, there is little left.”

Speaking about Mr Johnson’s ‘Back busking’ campaign, which aims to prevent parts of the city becoming ‘no-go areas’ for buskers, he said: “The Mayor’s busking campaign may be headline grabbing, but it lacks forethought, resulting in places like Leicester Square becoming unregulated free for all with the potential to project a poor image – not the world class destinations I’m sure he and we wish to convey.”

In response, band member Olly Corpe challenged Mr Bennett’s stance on the issue.

He told the Standard: “It seems Colin agrees with the Met’s decision to arrest us but wants busking to be managed – surely arresting buskers isn’t a good way of managing it?”

He continued: “He obviously hasn’t read up on the ‘Back busking’ campaign because the whole idea of it is to regulate and unify the busking rules around London, which is exactly what Colin is asking for.

“If he agrees with our arrest then he believes that all buskers in Leicester Square should be arrested as well. Considering our arrest took more than five hours, I’m wondering if Colin has considered the time and resources needed to do so.”

The band were released without charge but could still face a court summons.

Defending the arrest earlier this week, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said that “unlicensed street performing” contributed to “anti-social behaviour and is a driver of crime”.

In a statement, the Greater London Authority (GLA) said it was involved in discussions with police over the band’s arrest.

It said: “We were made aware of the arrests of the Kings Parade and note that they were released with no further action being taken. Since then we have been liaising with the Metropolitan Police to review what happened.

It added that representatives for the Mayor’s pro-busking campaign are set to meet next week.

It said: “The Mayor announced a high level taskforce in April, aimed at making London the most busking friendly city in the world. This is bringing together the police, boroughs and other organisations to develop a pan-London approach.”

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