Is the Minister aware that the powers of the police, which are limited to arresting touts for obstruction, are wholly inadequate to cope with the problem of touting, which is a scar on the face of west end theatre and of major sporting events such as Wimbledon and the Cup Final? Will he ask Lord Justice Taylor to consider whether ticket touting has any implications for crowd safety at football matches by encouraging persons without tickets to go to matches in the hope of obtaining tickets from touts?
I am sure that Lord Justice Taylor will take into account the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is a distinguished lawyer and has strongly held views on this issue. I think that most hon. Members would regard ticket touting as pretty obnoxious[Interruption.] I carefully said "most hon. Members" with my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) in view. Nobody is compelled to take part in the process.
Will my hon. Friend agree that ticket touting is a form of brokerage between a willing seller and a willing buyer—[Interruption.]—that it is no more reprehensible when it takes place on a pavement than when it takes place in one of our City exchanges, that brokers are risk-takers and that everyone is jealous of them when they make a profit but nobody has sympathy for them when they make a loss?
I do not want to get into ideological trouble with my hon. Friend, but I agree with her that nobody is compelled to take part in the process, that the person who raises the price of a ticket to sell it on the street does not defraud the person who originally set the ticket price and that the person who pays the price is not unaware of the difference. I believe that it is pretty obnoxious and that it is extraordinary the prices people are prepared to pay, but it is a lawful activity.