|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I shall be very brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some months ago, we had extensive argument about the measure, so I shall say only that it is supported by all political parties in Canterbury and by local people and the local media.
Those street traders face unfair competition from people from all over the country who have not paid for street trading licences but in practice are acting as street traders and not as pedlars. I urge the House to support the measure.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I did not expect to detain the House by making a speech, but the introduction to the Bill was so short that I did not have the chance to put the point I wanted to make.
We hear yet again that the Bill is slightly different from the previous Bills we have discussed. The argument in the short introduction appeared to be that an enormous amount of police time was being used to enforce the existing rules. Can my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) or another Member explain why enforcing a new Act will not require exactly the same amount of effort?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman has been attending debates on these proceedings long enough to realise that that is a generalised point. I have tried more than once to emphasise the distinction that the Chair has tried to make to assist the House, and which I understood the House had accepted all along. To overturn it at this stage would probably be against the wishes of the House, judging by the majorities that have been recorded.
Mr. Bone: I am grateful for that ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I apologise for straying. I was trying to make a specific point relating to the Bill, as there seemed to be a different argument, and the introduction was so brief that the position was not clear to me.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I shall make merely two points that are specific to Canterbury. The first is that the Bill, as I understand it, is intended to protect genuine shopkeepers selling their wares in Canterbury. In my previous career, working for Asda, I had cause to visit our store in Canterbury on many occasionsindeed, I was responsible for marketing it when it had a revamp about five or six years agoand the House may or may not want to bear in mind the fact that I was never aware of any complaints about pedlars impinging on their business either from the manager at the Canterbury store, or anybody I came across in other shops in the locality.
My second point specific to Canterbury is that the Bill states that Canterbury council wants to regulate touting. Such a provision is not in the other Bills we have discussed thus far, but is something that Canterbury has decided to indulge in.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, of which I am a member, recently held an inquiry into ticket touting. I am not entirely sure why a local authority would wish unilaterally to take up the role of regulating ticket touting. As the Select Committee and the Government have made clear, it is a perfectly legitimate business.
Mr. Brazier: My hon. Friend makes a good point. The short answer is that, borough for borough, Canterbury is the busiest tourist centre in the entire country, in terms of numbers of visits per capita of local population. The truth is that we have problems with people touting for nightclubs, and with a variety of other activities. The problem is sometimes concentrated outside the cathedral, or in other places where people gather. That is why the council sought the introduction of the measure that we are discussing.
Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification. I know that he is a great champion of his constituency, and he knows his local area better than I doindeed, better than anybody else in the House. I certainly do not dispute his point. My point is that the provision seriously strays from those in the other Bills. If Canterbury decides to regulate touting, that will drive a coach and horses through the whole secondary ticketing market. Our Select Committee decided to hold an inquiry into the subject, and it found that it was a legitimate market. I repeat that the Government, too, found that it was a legitimate market.
It is one thing for people to sell their wares on the street, or to sell balloons outside shops, as we have heard, but tickets are quite another thing. If somebody buys a ticket to an event, it is theirs and they can do what they will with it. If they wish to sell it on to somebody else, so that that person can visit the attraction in questionthe cathedral, in the case of Canterburythat is a matter for them. I do not understand why Canterbury needs to interfere in the secondary ticket market; that seems to be a million miles away from the purpose of the other measures in the Bill.
I do not know about the issues relating to Canterbury cathedral, but if somebody buys a ticket to go to the cathedral, decides at the last minute, quite legitimately, that they cannot go, and sells the ticket on to somebody else, I do not see what business it is of the local council,
or of the House for that matter. That is a completely different issue from that of pedlars. Many people, including tourists, may perfectly legitimately have bought a ticket to an event that they can no longer attend. Why on earth should they lose out because Canterbury city council has decided of its own volition that it will start sticking its nose into the secondary ticket market? I do not see the purpose of including that element in the Bill, whatever the merits of the provisions relating to peddling in Canterbury. I do not know whether they are a good or a bad thing; I am happy to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) on that subject. However, it is a totally different matter when we start interfering in ticket-touting.
Mr. Bone: I went to Canterbury this year for a short holiday, and I have to say that I was not aware of a huge amount of ticket touting near the cathedral. It seems that a measure has been slipped into the Bill that makes it much more significant than the other Bills that we have discussed.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): It is always a pleasure to listen to my hon. Friends mellifluous tones. Tourism in Canterbury among hon. Members is obviously a growing concern, because, following on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) said, my wife and I have been to Canterbury to stay in a hotel on three occasions in the past 18 months. I point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) that I have not encountered anybody seeking to sell me a ticket, in a primary or a secondary capacity.
Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having pointed that out. He is a great champion of the free market, and I am sure that he would not want to see any restriction on people buying and selling tickets if they wish to do so. If my hon. Friend did not encounter a problem, that reiterates the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone), who said that the Bill is a solution looking for a problem.
I have great admiration for my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, but I have to tell him that I found his explanation of why the legislation was required specifically for Canterbury rather unconvincing. He was talking about people having tickets for nightclubs
Philip Davies: I would not like to answer that, given that I might well mislead the House if I gave a specific number. As I said earlier, I used to visit the Canterbury store regularly when I worked for Asda. I would say that I have visited the city on at least half a dozen to a dozen occasions [Interruption.] Will my right hon. Friend allow me to make the point?
My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury said that people are buying tickets for nightclubs and for the cathedral. Lots of people may well buy tickets for nightclubs and for the cathedral in Canterbury; I do not doubt that for a minute. My point is that that applies to virtually every city in the country, particularly those with tourist attractions. I would venture to say that places with large sporting venues would be much more susceptible to ticket touting than Canterbury ever would be. I would have thought that Canterbury was one of the last places in the country that would want to interfere by regulating the secondary ticketing market.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the promoters statement in support of the Second Reading of these six Bills makes no mention whatever that any of the Bills contain proposals to regulate touting? Does he not think that a serious omission?
Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out; I was not aware of that, as I have only recently become aware of this aspect of the Bill. It would be rather unfortunate if the House supported a Bill that specifically included the regulation of the secondary ticketing market, given that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, on which I serve and which conducted a thorough inquiry into the issue, found that the secondary ticketing market was perfectly legitimate. Furthermore, the Office of Fair Trading has ruled that that is the case, and in answers to questions in the House the Government themselves have acknowledged that. We would be going down a slippery slope if Canterbury council decided that it would be the one council in the country to regulate the industry.
Mr. Brazier: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As far as I can determine, there is no reference anywhere in the Bill to secondary ticketing, although I have sat listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) talking about that for some time. The Bill refers to touting for business, which is quite different.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That is not a point of order, but a point of argument. I have listened to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) and am wondering how far he will stretch his point. He has had a good outing so far and I hope that he will accept that he has made his point.
Philip Davies: Indeed; I will fully abide by your wise words, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury. All I will say is that the Bill is clearly badly drafted because it makes what touting is rather ambiguous. It would be foolish of us to vote on something when it appeared that we did not even know what we were voting about.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there may be a hidden issue that we have not discussed? He suggested that the Bill might be more appropriate in respect of large sporting arenas. If there were an international cricket match in Canterbury that I could go to at the
last minute, I would turn up and try to buy a ticket outside the stadium. That would be impossible under the Bill.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. If that speculation were correct, I would probably find myself joining the hordes of people moving towards Canterbury, but I think that it is probably stretching the argument a little too far.
I hope that the House will reflect seriously on what the clause about regulating touting means in reality. Having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury, I am not sure that I am any wiser what it meansto be honest, I am not sure that he is any wiser eitherbut it could have serious unintended consequences for the secondary ticketing market.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|