But Kim Howells - yes, him again - says it's nothing to worry about. And we trust him, don't we?...

More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition protesting at new licensing laws, which, it is feared, will decimate the grass-roots level of the UK’s live music scene.

The penalties of up to £20,000 or a six-month jail sentence for playing music without a licence.

The Licensing Bill will mean that a licence must be obtained for any performance of live music in pubs and clubs, places where alcohol is served, churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, schools, colleges, community centres, village and parish halls, at weddings – and even gigs held in private homes or gardens.


The penalties are slammed as “draconian”, and the 51,000-plus people who have so far signed declare they consider it “grossly unfair and inconsistent that live music will not be licensable in Scotland but will be in England and Wales”.

It is further described as “a totally unacceptable regulatory intrusion into mainstream activities”. The petition can be viewed and signed here.

At the same time, Culture Minister Kim Howells has pooh-poohed the Musicians’ Union’s fears that the bill will force pubs and bars without an entertainment licence to stop putting on gigs by solo performers and duos.

Controversy-courting MP Howells, whose recent comments on rap and gun culture have provoked an outcry, writing in The Stage newspaper, has dismissed fears as “urban myths”.

Howells said it was understandable that some people would find the penalties “intimidating”, but added: “I must stress that these are maximum penalties and, as with all offences, the courts would, on any conviction, decide the appropriate punishments.”