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Lord Pendry: My Lords, I am very pleased to speak on this important Bill, which was so ably introduced by the Minister. It marks a key point in the delivery of the Government's manifesto commitment to reduce public disorder, violent crime and anti-social behaviour. Those are problems that will not magically disappear; they need sustained action to address them. The Government have shown time and again their resolve to reduce crime, both through legislative measures and action on the ground.
There are many important features in the Bill that others have touched on. At this stage, I would like to concentrate my contribution on one area of the Bill that deals specifically with football and sport-related matters; that is Part 3. Perhaps I will find more disagreement than the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, in that part. Before I do so, I remind the House that as well as being chairman of the All-Party Group on
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Sports, I am president of the Football Foundation, having previously served as chairman of that body and of its predecessor, the Football Trust.
Those organisations came into being as a result of the terrible tragedy in Hillsborough in 1989, the 17th anniversary of which will be next month. They have played a key role in the evolution of improved standards of security and safety at football grounds across the country. The years of investment through the Football Foundation and the Football Stadium Improvement Fundin all-seated stadiums, CCTV operations and improved facilitieshave made a considerable impact on the state of our football stadiums. In the past 15 years, the experience of going to football matches has been transformed. One side-benefit of that investment is that we now have the finest stock of football stadiums in the world, a fact that should hold us in good stead when the FA next bids to host the World Cup.
One measure that the Bill addresses is touting at football matches. Ticket touting is an issue that I have campaigned against for many years. Eradicating touting was a key recommendation of the Taylor report. After lots of prompting from myself and others the then Conservative government finally introduced a measure to make touting at football matches illegal through the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. At the time I would have preferred measures to be taken further to embrace other sports, as they also face issues of public order associated with touting.
Touting creates a range of public order and public nuisance concerns, from allowing the black market economy to flourish, to undermining policing and security arrangements. Lord Justice Taylor, in his final report, said that,
Following that line of reasoning, there was a subsequent Labour Party policy commitment in the Labour's Sporting Nation initiative in 1997 to legislate against ticket touting for all sports. I will be expecting the Government to live up to that commitment in the near future. The legislation on football ticket touting had an impact initially, but touting tickets at football matches still exists. The problem has evolved with criminals bypassing the original terms of the offence largely due to the advent of the internet, which was of course not considered when the legislation was introduced.
I commend the Government for taking on board the views of the Football Association, the Premier League, UEFA, FIFA, the police and other stakeholders, who have more than 10 years' experience of dealing with this legislation but are now looking to the Government to strengthen its provisions. I fully understand that further tweaking of the clause in the current BillI hope to have some support from all over the Housemay be needed, and I look forward to supporting the process as we reach Committee.
The Bill improves the law and makes explicit the illegality of unscrupulous touts who, one way or another, get round the spirit of the original criminal
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justice Act by offering football tickets and a "free" gift alongside the overpriced purchase of the original ticket. They offer some worthless article, such as a scarfunless, of course, it is a Derby County scarf.
Perhaps most important of all, the Bill introduces new measures to tackle ticket touting over the internet. This is a growing problem that leaves more people at risk from exposure to scams. Your Lordships will be aware that a great many tickets have been bought and sold over the internet for the World Cup in Germany, with many football fans finding themselves priced out of the market by touts selling only for extortionate prices. That practice causes significant problems for the police and the intelligence services, who try to target resources to ensure that the World Cup passes without incidents of the kind that we have seen in the past.
The anti-touting initiatives are just one strand of the Government's good work in participating with the FA and the German authorities to combat the threat of disorder at this summer's World Cup. In addition to the work on policing and banning orders, the FA and the Home Office have continued the Altogether Now campaign from 2004. This initiative is aimed at encouraging a positive approach to supporting England, and it is good to see that supporter groups have had an input at every stage of this development. The FA also deserves congratulations on successfully lobbying for a small increase in FIFA's ticket allocation for England fans for the World Cup group matches.
Current legislation on football ticket touting prohibits touting of tickets only for domestic football matches and overseas club or international matches in which the England or Wales national team is playing. With the World Cup in June this year, new measures introduced by the Home Office last week extend the prohibition of touting to include all tournaments and competitions organised by FIFA or UEFA in which the English and Welsh national teams or senior club sides are eligible to participate.
Although it is currently an offence for unlicensed traders to sell tickets for England's confirmed group games against Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and Sweden, this new order will close the loophole that allows traders to speculate on later stages of the tournament. Perhaps the Minister will have a personal interest in this issue, particularly in relation to the match against Trinidad and Tobago. It will now be illegal to sell on tickets for any matches that England may play in Germany after the knockout stage, including tickets for the final, which, believe it or not, are being advertised on the internet for something like £1,000. The Football Association's chief executive, Brian Barwick, has said of the order:
"It has been extremely frustrating to see online touts, who we monitor on a daily basis, undermining all this good work by selling tickets for the latter rounds in which England could be playing. The new regulations will close this loophole and should lead to a better tournament for all England fans in Germany this summer".
Finally, I want to touch briefly on another issue which affects the sports worldthat of stewards at sports ground. The Minister is no doubt aware of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the intention of the legislation to raise security standards in licensed premises and reduce criminality within the security sector. Unfortunately, the Act has inadvertently been applied to stewards at football grounds and sports events. Not only does that pose a threat of increased costs for sports events, it also threatens to divert resources away from investment in effective stewarding to licensing costs and training procedures that are not appropriate. It would reduce the levels of protection at our sports grounds, where those who run them are deservedly proud of their worldwide acclaim for safety standards.
The Bill presents us with an opportunity to rectify that unfortunate mistake, and I know that other Members of the House who, like me, care about sport are looking carefully at this option. Will the Minister consider amending the Private Security Industry Act via an amendment to the Bill to exclude sports grounds from the Security Industry Authority's remit? Might she meet a delegation of interested Peers and representatives of the sports world so that we can discuss this matter and find the correct amendment to bring forward in Committee?
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pendry. Not for the first timeand, I am sure, not for the lastthe Government Front Bench will find itself, on one issue at least, in a small squeeze between the noble Lord and myself.
I want to suggest to the noble Baroness that we should correct a couple of previous pieces of legislation involving sport. She will be aware of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and its intention to raise the standards of the security industry in relation to licensed premises and to reduce criminality within the security industry. However, is she aware that the regulating authoritythe Security Industry Authority has subsequently sought to include stewards at sports grounds and major sports events? I am led to understand that even the PGA European Tour open golf championship, the Olympics, when they come, and all other major sports events of that nature could fall, as they do at present under the law, within that remit. This potentially causes a huge financial and administrative burden to all the sports involved.
I understand that arrangements are already in place for football events under a separate regulatory framework, and rightly so. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, knows considerably more about the football world than I do. However, during the initial consultation on the licensing of door supervisors et cetera, and in the accompanying regulatory impact
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assessment, it was not made explicit that the proposals would apply in the case of other sports events. Nor were representative bodies on the consultation lists. This seems to suggest that sporting events were not intended to come within the scope of this Act. The Minister for Sport, Richard Caborn, has said that in other places. It may well have been an oversight that they were not excluded from the Act in the same way as cinemas and theatres were.
I understand that, as of last week, it has become illegal to work as a security guard without an SIA licence, which means that organisers of sports events are nowtodaypotentially criminally liable for using unlicensed stewards. I also understand that consultation is going on between those representing sports events organisers and the Home Office. While this consultation is going on, however, members of the sports industry have been left in uncertainty about whether they will fall foul of the Act. As I understand it, they are relying solely on an informal agreement with the police that they will not be prosecuted. I am sure noble Lords will agree that that is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The Bill presents us with an opportunity to rectify this unfortunate situation. I ask the Minister to table an amendment in Committee through which we can agree to sort this out, or perhaps I could speak to officials outside the Chamber and try to draft an opposition amendment that might satisfy the Government.
The second issue is another problem caused by previous legislation which also was mentioned earlier today by my noble friend Lady Anelay. It is the effect of firearms legislation on the ability of our pistol-shooting athletes to compete with foreign competitors on an equal footing. I acknowledge the sensitive nature of this issue. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 was passed after the terrible events at Dunblane. However, the ban on sporting handguns has had a disproportionate effect on would-be international and Olympic competitors who wish to represent their country in a perfectly legitimate activity.
I accept that there is a massive gun crime problem in the United Kingdom, but I am afraid that, since 1997, the current system has proved ineffective in preventing the rise in gun crime, while jeopardising the UK's medal-winning attempts for the London 2012 Olympics. Three of the 15 Olympic shooting disciplines involve the use of banned cartridge-firing pistols, but the current situation means that our athletes have to store their weapons and train abroad for these events at great expense and inconvenience. I understand that, for the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, special licences had to be issued to allow the English team to import their pistols into the UK. While this may provide a temporary and expedient solution for a specific event, it does not address the lack of opportunity for young pistol shots to train regularly and cheaply. As the Government have just set a target of the UK being in the top four of the final medal ratings for the 2012 Olympics, now would be an excellent time to remove this impediment to our medal-winning hopes. I understand that the
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Great Britain Target Shooting Federation is in talks with the Home Office on this issue. The last thing I would wish would be for anything to jeopardise a successful outcome to those discussions, but given the context of the Bill, now would seem an appropriate moment to ask Her Majesty's Government what their intentions are in this matter.
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