Secondary Ticketing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:14 pm on 13th March 2012.

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Photo of Hugh Robertson Hugh Robertson Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport and the Olympics) 1:14 pm, 13th March 2012

After the hon. Lady’s private Member’s Bill was introduced, I undertook some checks with both the Home Office and the wider security services. I have checked with both the Metropolitan Police and the wider security services, and without going into too much detail about the information that they have given me, I regret to say that those organisations have told me that they think that we have the balance about right. They have said that this is a moving threat.

It is fair to say—it came across clearly in Assistant Commissioner Allison’s evidence to the Committee—that this is a new and growing threat. It is reasonably easy, through Operation Podium, to nail that down for the Olympics. However, the organisations that I mentioned do not feel—I really have asked them about this—that there is sufficient evidence at the moment for them to tell the Home Office, “Our legislative offer is deficient in this regard; we want a ban across the piece.” The police have not said that and neither, yet, have the security services.

I have asked the security services this specific question every time that we receive a briefing about intelligence behind a large range of threats to the Olympic games. We always ask about Operation Podium and the influence of large-scale criminal gangs, and the rest, on the games. The security services are happy that the current fine is sufficient to deter that activity. They are making good progress in targeting those who have offended and taking down dummy websites that have sprung up all around the place offering tickets that they cannot supply—people send off money out of misguided enthusiasm, but find that the thing is a complete sham.

At no stage, however, has anyone said that the threat is sufficient to support a more general ban. I shall come on to that in a minute, but I have an open mind. When that Rubicon is crossed, we will need to look at the matter very carefully, but I think that I have covered the Olympic-specific points, about the bid requirement and last year’s London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Act 2011 being a response to a specific threat identified by the police and to a need for a higher penalty than the existing £5,000.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hove went through the range of opportunities open to event organisers, but I suspect that we are on slightly different sides of the argument. The Government are keen for event organisers to look at all the options currently available to them before we legislate, whether paperless tickets or photo IDs, although I recognise what he said about some of the shortcomings in given situations.