Date: 28 September 2011
Reference: NIA 14/11-15
ISBN: Only available online
Mandate Number: NIA 14/11-15
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
To all MLAs
Legislative Consent Motion – London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill
1. The Minister of Justice has tabled the following Legislative Consent Motion for debate in the Assembly on Tuesday 4 October 2011:
“That this Assembly endorses the principle of the extension to Northern Ireland of the provisions in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill dealing with ticket touting”.
2. The Committee agreed to prepare a short report to be sent to all MLAs in advance of the debate. This Report, agreed by the Committee at its meeting of 22 September 2011, is attached and includes a summary of the Committee’s consideration of the Legislative Consent Motion, correspondence from the Department of Justice, the relevant Hansard minutes of evidence and relevant extracts from the Bill and Explanatory Memorandum.
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
28 September 2011
Report on the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill Legislative Consent Motion
Contents of Report
Appendix 1 Departmental Memorandum
Appendix 2 Minutes of Evidence - 16 June 2011
Appendix 3 Departmental correspondence of 27 July 2011
Appendix 4 Relevant extract from the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill and Explanatory Memorandum as introduced on 16 March 2011.
1. The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill (Appendix 4) was introduced in the House of Commons on 16 March 2011. The Bill is being promoted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and makes a number of technical changes to the law governing the running of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in relation to advertising, ticket sales and traffic management.
2. Only one clause of the Bill, (Clause 3), the ticket sales provision which will increase the penalty for unauthorised sales of Olympic tickets, will affect Northern Ireland directly.
3. Under section 31 of the London Games Act of 2006 it is an offence throughout the UK to sell an Olympic ticket in a public place, or for profit, without written authorisation from the London Organising Committee. This is a “summary only” offence; in Northern Ireland it is triable in a magistrates’ court. The current maximum penalty for the offence is a level 5 fine (£5,000). Clause 3 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic (Amendment) Bill provides that the maximum penalty available is increased to £20,000.
4. The Bill has recently started its journey through the Lords and second reading – the general debate on all aspects of the Bill – is scheduled to take place on 3 October 2011.
5. The Department of Justice wrote to the Committee (Appendix 1) on 9 June 2011 to notify the Committee that the Minister of Justice was proposing to put a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) to the Assembly seeking agreement for the DCMS’s Bill to be used to increase the maximum penalty for the existing UK-wide offence of unauthorised selling of tickets for events at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to £20,000 in Northern Ireland and seeking the views of the Committee.
6. At its meeting on 16 June 2011 the Committee for Justice took evidence from departmental officials on the proposed LCM. A copy of the Hansard transcript is attached at Appendix 2.
7. During the evidence session a number of issues and concerns were raised and these are outlined below.
Objections to the use of a legislative consent motion
8. Some members of the Committee voiced their objection to the use of LCMs in principle, regardless of subject matter, given the primary role of the Assembly as a legislature for devolved matters. Both offences and penalties, and matters in relation to sport, are devolved matters and it would therefore normally fall to the Assembly, rather than the Westminster Parliament, to increase the statutory penalty for an offence such as illegal selling of tickets for Olympic events.
9. In response officials highlighted that, with the ticketing process already under way, it was important to make any legislative amendment as soon as practicable as a new maximum penalty would only affect ticket sales made after its introduction in law. The Westminster Bill offered a much faster outcome than the initiation of a Bill through the Assembly.
The need for the provision
10. Questions were raised regarding whether there was a practical need for the provision and why the powers relate only to the London 2012 Olympics and officials were asked to provide further information in relation to convictions for football ticket touting offences in the UK for the most recent year available.
11. Officials explained that DCMS was proposing the increase of the maximum fine as it was concerned about the low deterrent potential of £5,000. This was based on Metropolitan Police threat-assessment information and advice about the lucrative nature of selling real and fake tickets for Olympics events where demand is highest. The information and advice given suggested that the scale and global significance of the Olympic Games made them materially different from other sporting and cultural events and the threat from ticket touting materially higher.
12. The Department subsequently wrote to the Committee on 27 July 2011 (Appendix 3) with additional information on the use of football ticket touting powers.
Whether the provision can be enforced in practice
13. Concerns were expressed about how enforceable the provision was given that it would be unable to address internet sales from non-UK based websites and ticket sales outside the UK.
14. The officials acknowledged that there may be loopholes however the offence of unauthorised selling of tickets already existed and the DCMS was of the view that an increase in the maximum penalty would increase the deterrent factor.
Whether the legislation would deter major criminality
15. Doubts were expressed regarding whether increasing the maximum penalty for the unauthorised selling of tickets to £20,000 would achieve the stated aim of deterring organised criminal groups and stop major criminality.
16. The officials indicated that intelligence showed significant intent from organised criminal groups and the aim was to create an environment that would deter ticket touting and ticket fraud. An equivalent motion was being put to the Scottish Parliament to allow DCMS’s Bill to extend the new maximum penalty to that jurisdiction. If the new maximum penalty was not extended to Northern Ireland there was a concern that this would encourage criminals from England, Wales and Scotland to operate and tout tickets in Northern Ireland.
17. It was also highlighted that a member of the public would quite legitimately be able to sell a spare ticket at face value to a colleague or family member. The London Organising Committee would also be operating an exchange system for those who wish to sell on their tickets legitimately.
18. Following consideration the Committee concluded that, on balance, it was prepared to support the Legislative Consent Motion but did so with reluctance given the issues and concerns raised and with objections by some Members.