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!
Founding Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign
Greater London Authority and Mayor of London launches #Backbusking campaign 9th April:
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:
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.