The United Kingdom's recently-appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Andy Burnham was among a select group of 200 politicians, artists and music industry insiders who gathered at the Houses of Parliament in London last night for the fourth annual All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) Awards.

Burnham presented the jazz musician of the year award to pianist/vocalist Liane Carroll, who is signed to U.K. independent Splash Point Records. The minister, who described himself as "a passionate believer in live music" declared that "despite the smoking ban, jazz is flourishing."

The U.K. government introduced a total ban on smoking in all enclosed public places in July 2007, sparking fears that attendances at small venues might be adversely affected.

Despite Burnham's encouraging words, other speakers at the awards took advantage of the presence of politicians from various parties to voice their concerns over low levels of state funding for the arts, and the effects of the 2003 Licensing Act.

The Act, which took effect in November 2005, made it a requirement that all premises where any number of artists perform had to apply for-and pay for-a public entertainment licence. Previously, if only up to two performers appeared during an evening on licensed premises, no licence was required. In July 2007, a report from the Live Music Forum said the Act had adversely impacted upon the number of small venues which had previously showcased live music by soloists or duos.

APPJAG co-chair Michael Connarty, Member of Parliament for Linlithgow and Falkirk East in Scotland, told attendees that "more and more members of both sides of Parliament appreciate the vast amount of talent in the music industry and in jazz in the U.K." He added: "Hopefully when we recognise it, the funding organizations will follow our example and allow jazz to grow and flourish."

The awards are voted for by the 100 members of APPJAG from the House of Commons and House of Lords. Its aim is to encourage wider and deeper enjoyment of jazz, to increase politicians' understanding of the jazz industry and the issues surrounding it and to raise the music's profile inside and outside Parliament.

The other winners on the night were: Classic FM radio presenter Helen Mayhew (jazz broadcaster of the year); the Tithe Barn in Needham, Suffolk (jazz venue of the year); trombonist Dennis Rollins (jazz educator of the year); Jazz U.K. magazine (jazz publication of the year); veteran jazz writer John Fordham (jazz journalist of the year); retailer Paul Pace of Ray's Jazz (services to jazz); trumpeter Guy Barker (jazz CD of the year for "the Amadeus Project" on Global Mix) and London-based Empirical (jazz ensemble of the year). The ceremony was followed by a 30-minute performance from guitarist John Etheridge and his band the Blue Spirits Trio.

The event was hosted by BBC radio presenter Paul Gambaccini and sponsored by U.K. neighboring rights collecting society Phonographic Performance Ltd, whose chairman/CEO Fran Nevrkla told the audience: "we are very proud to be able to champion jazz music and the very talented jazz musicians in this country."