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Amendment made : No. 42, in page 104, line 9, at end insert
Column 348(5A) Article 17 of the Fines and Penalties (Northern Ireland) Order 1984 (power of Secretary of State by order to alter sums specified in certain provisions of the law of Northern Ireland) shall have effect with the insertion, in paragraph (2), after sub-paragraph (j) of the following sub-paragraph
"(k) column 5 or 6 of Schedule 4 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 so far as the column in question relates to the offences under provisions of that Act specified in column 1 of that Schedule in respect of which the maximum fines were increased by Part II of Schedule 8 to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.".'.--[ Mr. Maclean. ]
Amendments made : No. 189, in page 104, line 13, leave out from beginning to shall' and insert The Extradition Act 1989'. No. 361, in page 104, line 14, at end insert
( ) In section 4 (extradition Orders), in subsection (4), for the words "warrant his trial if" there shall be substituted the words "make a case requiring an answer by that person if the proceedings were a summary trial of an information against him and",'. No. 362, in page 105, leave out lines 1 to 6 and insert
(4) In section 9 (committal proceedings)
(a) in subsection (2), for the words from "jurisdiction" to the end there shall be substituted the words "powers, including powers to adjourn the case and meanwhile to remand the person arrested under the warrant either in custody or on bail, as if the proceedings were the summary trial of an information against him" ; and
(b) in subsection (8)(a), for the words from "warrant his trial" to the end, there shall be substituted the words "make a case requiring an answer by that person if the proceedings were the summary trial of an information against him ;".
(5) In Schedule 1 (provisions applying to foreign states in respect of which an Order in Council under section 2 of the Extradition Act 1870 is in force)
(a) in paragraph 6(1) (hearing of case), for the words from "hear the case" to the end there shall be substituted the words "have the same powers, as near as may be, including power to adjourn the case and meanwhile to remand the prisoner either in custody or on bail, as if the proceedings were the summary trial of an information against him for an offence committed in England and Wales." ; and (b) in paragraph 7(1) (committal or discharge of prisoner), for the words from "justify the committal" to "England or Wales" there shall be substituted the words "make a case requiring an answer by the prisoner if the proceedings were for the trial in England and Wales of an information for the crime,".'.--[ Mr. Maclean. ]
Republic of Ireland -- Amendment made : No. 363, in page 105, line 23, leave out from from' to end of line 29 and insert
"and the proceedings" to the end, there shall be substituted the words "as if the proceedings were the summary trial of an information against that person.".'--[ Mr. Maclean. ]
Column 349Sporting event for which 6,000 or more tickets are issued for sale'.
Amendment No. 127, in page 108, line 39, leave out match' and insert event'.
Amendment No. 128, in page 108, line 40, leave out match ;' and insert event ; and'.
Amendment No. 129, in page 108, line 41, leave out from second ticket' to end of line 46.
Government amendment No. 181.
Amendment No. 130, in page 109, line 5, leave out designated football matches' and insert sporting events.'
Mr. Pendry : The purpose of amendment No. 126 is to extend the legislation to cover not only football matches but all sporting events that sell more than 6,000 tickets. It does not go as far as the amendment moved in Committee, which the Government--for reasons best known to them--did not support. However, it specifically addresses an area of increasing criminality.
Crime prevention should be a high priority for the Government, with worrying trends being seen in society and particularly in ticket touting. I hope that the Minister will respond positively. This is more a sporting than a political lobby. The Minister will see that the amendment's supporters include not only sporting institutions but hon. Members on both sides of the House--including the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), and hon. Members representing the interests of the Police Federation.
The House may wonder why we pitched the ticket issue figure at 6, 000. That is partly because we have no intention of restricting the measure to small events, such as those held on the local village green, where the menace of touting does not arise. A figure of 6,000 ticket sales will cover No. 1 court and the centre court at Wimbledon. It is of particular concern to that sport, because there is much evidence that significant criminal elements are hijacking the smooth running of the championships. Our information is that activities of ticket touts are now a major and growing criminal problem.
We recognise-- [Interruption.] If Conservative Members want me to go on and on, I shall give way to as many of them as they like, but I will go on and then keep quiet, because my Whip tells me to. We recognise that no two sports are the same, and the problems associated with football do not necessarily relate to other sporting events, but there is now one common element to all major sporting events such as cricket, football, rugby, tennis, golf and so on--the potential that they offer to the criminal element who tout tickets. I intend to highlight some of those problems.
Suffice to say, I have had letters of support from various bodies, including the Professional Golfers Association, the Rugby Football Union, the Football Association, the Test and County Cricket Board and Lord's cricket ground as well-- [Interruption.]
Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North) rose
Mr. Pendry : I will not have any help from the hon. Gentleman. I have had it before, and do not particularly like it. As I said, I have received letters from various organisations. The hon. Gentleman is a member of Lord's, so he should be listening carefully to what I am saying.
The actions of the criminal element now regularly include fraud, theft, deception, intimidation, forgery and, in some circumstances, activities of a very serious criminal nature, such as gang and Mafia-type operations.
In Committee, the Minister stated that it was the public order consequences of touting that worried him. The advice from all sides--the customer, the organiser and, indeed, the Police Federation--is that there is a serious problem with events other than football. If the Government reject the amendment, they will fly in the face of all known opinion on the subject.
The sporting bodies that I listed believe that legislation is necessary. Wimbledon has become so frustrated at the touting problem that it has introduced its own attempts at self-policing. That concern took many forms, but, principally, it was worried about the increasing use of strong-arm tactics, theft and forgery of tickets, as well as the bad image that such a presence was giving to the tournament. Wimbledon tickets now state that they are
non-transferable and may be bought only from the club or its licensed agents. The unauthorised sale or transfer of those tickets immediately invalidates them. That means that the actions of the touts is nothing less than criminal deception. When they sell on a ticket, it is worthless.
Sadly, that has led to misery for hundreds of customers who, having spent a fortune on tickets from touts, are refused entry at the doors of the ground. While sporting events such as Wimbledon are now much more protected by those regulations, their potential customers are not. Cases highlighted to me by Wimbledon include one where five individuals paid £2,500 for an unofficial corporate package in which the tickets were invalid. Another was of a German executive who paid £50,000 for what he believed was a corporate package of 35 centre court tickets, only to find on arrival that they were invalid because they had broken the transfer rules.
The Minister may take the view that that is the fault of the person buying the ticket. Yet, in many cases, the buyer has been misinformed by the tout and has little comprehension or awareness of ticket regulations and, in some cases, even of the language.
All the major sporting bodies report having to undertake intensive operations in the mailing of their tickets to prevent theft by post. I do not wish to go on, although I could. But the Government are foolish indeed if they ignore all those sporting bodies. The 14th Earl of Derby would be turning in his grave if he knew that the Government were ignoring these institutions in our society. The Government must recognise that this is a criminal justice Bill, not just a public order Bill. The criminality elements contained in ticket touting are manifest. If the Government do not recognise that today, they will do so very soon because the institutions to which I have referred will not keep quiet but will intensify their lobbying of us and of the Government. I hope that the Government will eventually recognise that--if not now, in the very near future.
Column 351clause was designed to try to alleviate circumstances that might give rise to danger for people attending football matches. It is clear from what has been said by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) and from a large volume of evidence, anecdotal and otherwise, that ticket touting has an effect on sporting events beyond simply creating circumstances in which there might be a risk for those who wish to attend as spectators. As has already been pointed out, there is now convincing evidence of organised criminal behaviour. The notion of the ticket tout as a friendly Flashman-type figure has long since been removed from the consciousness of those who have made any study of the matter. Consequently, the amendments are intended to bring home as graphically as possible the fact that ticket touting is a serious criminal matter.
Quite apart from that, ticket touting stains the reputation of the United Kingdom and of particular sporting events. Some of the stories from the west end theatre world about ticket touting and the extent to which tourists have been deceived make it perfectly plain that it is does very little for the reputation of London or for that of the United Kingdom as a whole. We are not dealing with the theatre now, but the same principles apply to sporting events.
The sporting authorities at Wimbledon, the rugby unions and other sporting organisations have done their best and changed the terms on which tickets are made available to members of the public by introducing their own schemes deliberately designed to try to thwart the efforts of ticket touts. It is perfectly clear that there is a substantial problem beyond football. The amendments are designed to deal with that problem and, on that footing, I hope that they will commend themselves to the House.
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw) : I have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) said, but this is a long-standing problem which has been brought to the House's attention many times. It is really a trade and industry problem in the sense that it is very difficult to control the price of a second-hand article, whether it is a car, a house, a painting or a ticket. I do not agree with it, but I accept the argument that there is a market value for a product and that one cannot distort the market.
I am glad that the Minister has accepted some amendments relating to football, but there is a further problem involving danger. At football grounds, supporters are segregated--each lot of supporters goes to a different end of the ground to prevent the punch-ups, violence and disturbances that we witnessed throughout the 1970s. Ticket touts often gain a large number of tickets for one end of a ground and sell them indiscriminately. There have been allegations about football managers, but I shall not mention the manager who has been accused on television of selling 2,000 of his team's supporters' tickets indiscriminately on the black market, thus causing 2,000 spectators at Wembley to be at the wrong end of the ground. If there is a dispute over a controversial goal, it is clear that aggravation and violence are likely. That is why we prevailed on the Minister. I am glad that the Minister has accepted the advice of the Football Association and, apart from banning the sale of tickets on the day of the event, has graciously agreed to ban the sale for seven days beforehand. If a team gets to a
Column 352cup final and tickets are sold in the pubs in the preceding seven days, there is often a tiny oasis of spectators at the wrong end of the ground who are surrounded. It can become like the battle of the Alamo or Custer's last stand, and the spectators feel that they have to fight their way out.
When there was standing at football grounds those spectators could be escorted to the front of the ground, taken round to the other end and told to stand anywhere. They could be absorbed, and the violence could be prevented. But with the all-seater stadiums that Government regulations insist on, there is nowhere to put them now. There are no spare seats at the other end of the ground and people have to remain in the original seats. Women and children are often surrounded by thugs who may be semi- drunk, and use bad language and threatening behaviour. The thugs create all sorts of problems for the police and the stewards when the video cameras pick them out.
That is one reason why I am glad that the Home Office has accepted the Football Association's advice that the issue is one of public order and of preventing disturbance. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, at Wimbledon and other sporting events and at pop concerts the difference is that everyone is on the same side. At Wimbledon there are not two sides who will have a punch-up if someone's favourite loses the match. There is no such problem at pop concerts, or at the Derby and other horse races. Although I am against touts making a profit out of those events, at least one can say that the market economy can prevail there. I am glad that the Minister of State has accepted the argument on violence at football matches--an argument that does not apply to Twickenham or other such places.
Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden) : I must tell the Minister that I cannot understand the logic of looking at the issue entirely in terms of football. I realise that there is a problem with violence at football matches, but the question is whether ticket touting in itself is an offence that should be considered, and whether it has the potential for causing disorder in other sports.
I ask my hon. Friend to reconsider the matter in the wider context. I have had representations from the cricket authorities suggesting that touting is a potential problem for them, too. As an attender of cricket matches I know that it is offensive, for example, if one is going to a match at Lord's, to walk out of St. John's Wood station and have to go through a channel of people touting tickets. If that is not now a serious offence, it will be a serious problem in future.
We should not consider the matter in a blinkered fashion, as a problem affecting football alone. Sad though it may be to say so, it could be a wider problem. My hon. Friend would do the House a service if he undertook to reconsider before the statute is finally determined whether the problem is exclusive to football. I suspect that it is not.
Mr. Sebastian Coe (Falmouth and Camborne) : I do not wish to labour some of the arguments about law and order which have already been articulately expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but I shall dwell for a few moments on a couple of issues that I consider germane to the debate.
Column 353When I left the Sports Council in 1989, I was convinced that our sporting future--our ability to produce winning teams and to maintain the ethos of competitive teams--was bound up with people's ability to watch sport at the highest level. There are sophisticated and sensitive arguments about excellence and participation, and sensitive balances have to be struck, but in my mind there is no doubt that youngsters' ability to emulate competitors and role models on the sports field, through having reasonable access to sporting events of the highest nature, is a vital part of that.
Ordinary constituents of mine who hope one day to get to a test match, a Wimbledon final or--with a little bit of luck--an FA cup final, think little of sleeping rough for a day and a half or two days outside a stadium to get a ticket. A moral issue arises when a ticket tout can sell a ticket that should have been destined for one of those people to someone who simply turns up on the day of an event with a few hundred pounds in his pocket. That is wrong. Clearly, the morality of that should be questioned on both sides of the House. It is increasingly difficult for ordinary fans to get into most events, with a plethora of sponsorship boxes. I do not wish the difficulty to be added to by ticket touts cornering the market. I know that the argument will be that this is not a law and order issue and that it is not an issue on which we should regulate. We are committed to improving and enhancing our national sport. We are committed to doing so by the enhancement of competitive sport. These are issues of participation, and participation depends greatly on excellence. Excellence comes from people's ability to watch sport at the highest level. Ticket touting sits uneasily with our determination to develop competitive sport. It also sits uneasily with our need to develop "The Health of the Nation" policies. I wish to
Mr. Maclean : There has been support for clause 137 from most hon. Members. The main criticism has been that the Government's original proposals were drawn too narrowly. I undertook to reflect following the debate in Committee. I have done so and I am now pleased to commend Government amendments Nos. 179 and 181 to the House. I appreciate the kind welcome given to them by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), whose wise words I commend to all hon. Members.
Amendments Nos. 126 to 130 seek to go much further and to widen the offence of the unauthorised sale of a ticket for a designated football match to all sporting events for which more than 6,000 tickets are issued. The Government do not believe that that is necessary.
As I said, the original clause 112 was intended to implement the specific recommendation of the Taylor report after the Hillsborough stadium disaster that the touting of tickets for and on the day of a designated football match should be made illegal. Taylor adduced two evils which arose. First, the presence of touts outside football grounds can act as a focus for disorder, as those without tickets are encouraged to travel to the venue in the hope of obtaining them, with the result that an unofficial, unruly rugby scrum sometimes develops. Secondly, Taylor was
Column 354concerned about the effect of the indiscriminate sale of tickets by touts on segregation arrangements, as the hon. Member for Bassetlaw pointed out. In other words, action was necessary on football ticket touts for reasons of public order and public safety only. In the cases quoted by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), if people were selling forged or fraudulent tickets, or tickets that did not guarantee the seat that they were alleged to guarantee, existing criminal law would cover that. Existing offences of fraud cover those situations.
With all due respect to many great sporting organisations, I believe that they should police their own arrangements better. It is possible to follow the excellent example of Arsenal football club whose tickets are invalidated if they are transferred, by whatever devious means, to others who, perhaps, should not have them. We must ask ourselves this question : do we intend to bring in the criminal law and make it a criminal offence for someone, when there is no question of disorder or violence, to sell tickets for Wimbledon or other sporting events at more than their face value ? Where is the really bad or immoral behaviour ? Is it found in those who are selling the tickets, or in those who acquired them to pass them on to the touts in the first place ? I say to sporting organisations that if they do not want touts selling tickets, they should control their own tickets more strictly.
The unauthorised sale of tickets for football matches presents a problem to public order and public safety, as we all agree. We see little evidence of public disorder or lack of safety in other sports. If, in due course, there is rioting at the ice dance championships or public disorder at the synchronised swimming events, I shall consider legislating in those cases only. At the moment, we see no such need, so I must, therefore, oppose the Opposition amendments.
Question put , That the amendment be made :
The House divided : Ayes 143, Noes 269.
Division No. 208] [12.09
Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Bennett, Andrew F.
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Corston, Ms Jean
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Donohoe, Brian H.
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Hill, Keith (Streatham)