Private Members' Business. - Prohibition of Ticket Touts Bill, 1998: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

May I share my time with Deputy Rabbitte?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I compliment Deputies Naughten and Shatter for bringing forward this legislation. It is worthy legislation which addresses an issue of great concern to the public. I also take this opportunity to give my full support to the Minister's decision to accept this Bill in principle. This is a constructive approach and one which is welcomed by all Members in this House.

Ticket touts are a regular feature at matches and concerts. They exploit fans and concert goers in a selfish attempt to line their own pockets. Touts who operate outside sports grounds and concert venues seem to do so with immunity. The introduction of anti-touting legislation will provide an opportunity to clamp down on this activity. At this stage in the debate, however, it is important to realise that clamping down on ticket sellers outside venues is only part of the solution to prevent touting.

While legislation enabling the gardaí to arrest and confiscate ticket touts is necessary, we should realise that the ticket touting network goes beyond the point of sale, and efforts must be made to cut down on the number of tickets available on the black market. The prime responsibility in this area lies with major sporting organisations and other legitimate ticket sellers. Greater efforts must be made to implement tracking systems for tickets so the relevant authorities can find out exactly how tickets are getting into the hands of touts on the black market.

One of the main deficiencies with this Bill is that it seems to place on the gardaí all responsibility for dealing with ticket touts. This emphasis is wrong. The ticket dispensing organisations also have key role in this process and must be required to play an active part in limiting the number of tickets available on the free market.

I welcome the section which makes it an offence to publish advertisements for the sale of tickets in excess of their face value. This has become a regular occurrence and a casual perusal of small advertisement columns in the newspapers in the run up to any major sporting event or music concert will demonstrate that this is a vehicle often used by ticket touts to sell their wares. What is also evident from such advertisements is that a minority of ordinary punters who may have spare tickets to an event are not slow to avail of this avenue to make a quick buck. It is important this is stamped out because it lends to the legitimacy of ticket touting if ordinary punters begin to dabble in this trade in an attempt to line their own pockets. When this Bill reaches Committee Stage it will be important that we manage to strike the right balance between cracking down on the illegal sale of tickets above face value and the normal barter and exchange which happens between fans around large sporting events.

I had the pleasure of seeing the Kildare football team make it to the All-Ireland final this year and am only too aware of the ticket frenzy which takes hold when tickets are in short supply and demand is high. Often a genuine fan may have spare tickets on the day of a match, and although I cannot speak as an expert on the music industry, I am sure the same applies to pop concerts. It is important that we do not criminalise the legitimate exchange of tickets between fans and supporters. In any ticket touting legislation, we must be clear who the real targets of the law should be and establish safeguards to protect legitimate punters who engage in the usual barter and exchange of tickets in the run up to large sporting events. I support the legislation and hope to speak on it further at the next Stage.

I thank Deputy Wall for sharing his time, especially given the year that was in it when Kildare got to the All-Ireland final. I support and congratulate Deputy Naughten on bringing in this Bill and on his success in persuading the Government to accept it. On 13 November 1990 I published the Sale of Tickets Bill. I would certainly not accuse Deputy Naughten of industrial or legislative espionage but it was very similar. What is different is that the Minister on this occasion is permitting the advance of this legislation to Committee Stage, which is a welcome change. I just read the coverage of the Bill I introduced on 13 November 1990 when the then Minister with responsibility for sport, Deputy Fahey – some people are extremely fortunate in the duration of time for which they are Ministers as Deputy Fahey is still happily with us – said such a measure would be unworkable and impossible to enforce and voted it down.

It is not an unimportant measure. The victims of ticket touts are usually the genuine sports fans who come from constituencies like my own and who do not have the type of money ticket touts demand on the day, whether for an All-Ireland final, a soccer international, a Triple Crown game or, indeed, a concert. The ticket touts know there is a market and a certain type of punter who will be there on the day to pay whatever the price – the sale price multiplied by whatever factor. It disadvantages the ordinary sporting fan who has followed his or her team around for years.

I agree with Deputy Wall in that it is not only a question of responsibility being put on the Garda, and I look forward to Committee Stage when I will have the opportunity to contribute. The dispensing authorities have a responsibility, and we have seen that in a fairly spectacular way in recent times when they have not lived up to their responsibility. I congratulate Deputy Naughten and the Minister for agreeing to allow the legislation to advance to the next Stage. Ticket touting is an important reforming measure which other countries have introduced. Ticket touting is an anti-social activity and people are profiteering from the goodwill of genuine sports and concert fans and it is time we dealt with it.

May I share my time with Deputies Pat Carey, Michael Moynihan, Kelleher, Moloney and Callely?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I share the concerns of Deputy Naughten and other Deputies about the activities of ticket touts and commend the Deputy on bringing this Bill forward. Ticket touting is a very unattractive feature of our society and, as Deputies and the Minister said, is carried on openly on our streets prior to major sporting and cultural events. Paying the type of prices for a match ticket which Deputy Naughten quoted last night is very foolish and those who support ticket touts by paying such inflated prices must play their part in bringing this unsavoury practice to an end.

The demand for tickets for certain events will always exceed supply. There is simply no way around this where, for example, major sporting events are concerned. The example of the Ireland-England rugby match at the weekend is a good one. I agree with Deputy Naughten who said that every year thousands of sports and music fans are disappointed when they are unable to obtain tickets for such events. What can we do where demand greatly exceeds supply? What can be attempted, and what this Bill seeks to do, is to put arrangements in place to ensure that the available tickets go to genuine fans who must not be denied access to major events because of the operation of ticket touts. This is a noble aspiration and I commend Deputy Naughten for it. It remains to be seen whether it will be possible to devise feasible measures to achieve this objective because, as my colleague, the Minister, said last night, the Bill, as drafted, poses many practical difficulties.

However, I, like my colleague, the Minister, come into this House in a positive frame of mind. I listened carefully to what the Minister said last night about there being times when, as politicians, we must say we will try to deal with the issue but it would be remiss of me if I did not refer to the possible difficulties. I also listened carefully to what Deputy Rabbitte said about a similar Bill he proposed. There is no doubt that legal and official advice will say we cannot do many things but it is important to deal with it as best we can.

Foremost among those difficulties is the question of enforcement. I am sure Deputy Naughten and Deputy Shatter would agree that it would be pointless to enact legislation which was unenforceable and clearly known to be so. It would bring the law and the Oireachtas into disrepute if ticket touting was seen to continue in defiance of the expressed will of the Oireachtas. There is a danger that the Bill drafted by the Deputy could, albeit unintentionally, have that effect. One can imagine the difficulties facing the gardaí trying to monitor the myriad number of deals being conducted in dozens of pubs before, for example, an All-Ireland final to say nothing of the wheeling and dealing by telephone, fax and, no doubt, e-mail which goes on in the frantic weeks before a big game.

I understand why the enforcement provisions were adapted as they were. Full Garda powers, including powers of arrest, would be required if there were to be any prospect of effective enforcement. The danger is that the use of such powers may be regarded as over kill by the public. Careful consideration will have to be given to the enforcement issue on Committee Stage.

In discussing this Bill we should not give the impression that legislation is the only answer to this problem and the Deputy is not suggesting that. I agree with Deputies who referred to the responsibilities of organisers and promoters of major events, such as football matches and concerts, to regulate ticket sales. This is one area which needs to be tackled. Deputy Naughten has pointed out that many sporting organisations support this Bill and while that support is welcome, these organisations might look at their distribution arrangements rather than relying on this House to resolve a difficulty to which their actions may be contributing.

As Minister of State with responsibility for consumer affairs my interest is in ensuring that legislation protects the consumer in his or her dealings with traders and professionals. Much of this legislation is designed to allow the consumer to make an informed choice about a product or service. False or misleading advertising, labelling or price indication is prohibited by the Consumer Information Act, 1978, supplemented by the European Communities (Misleading Advertising) Regulations, 1988. The legislation ensures that the consumer is armed with sufficient information about a product or service, including the price.

It is normally considered a matter for each consumer to decide whether he is prepared to pay over the odds for a product or service. Prices are most effectively restrained by competition, so much so that price control was effectively aban doned ten years ago. It could be argued that this Bill would reintroduce a form of price control. However, I accept that this situation is unusual in that competition cannot effectively operate where there is such an imbalance between supply and demand.

I applaud the objective of the Bill but the means of achieving that objective will be our primary focus on Committee Stage. This will not be a simple task but that does not mean we should not try to deal with the matter. In the meantime, event organisers must play their part in ensuring that their distribution arrangements are such that genuine fans have access to tickets to our major sporting, cultural and entertainment events at a reasonable price and that ticket touts are removed from the distribution chain.

I compliment Deputies Shatter and Naughten on this legislation and commend the Minister for agreeing with its general tenor. I cannot recall getting a ticket to a match by any means other than a most circuitous route, whether by haggling in the Royal Dublin Hotel, talking to friends or bartering a ticket for a Manchester United match for a ticket to the Wales-Ireland game. However, this is a serious matter and the measures proposed are important.

Four advertisements appear in today's edition ofThe Irish Times, three of which appear correct but one reads: “Wanted Rugby, Ireland Vs England, Seats or Standing, Discretion assured-Ireland Pickup”. This is the kind of ticket touting which is reprehensible as these people are obviously charging over the odds.

On 3 FebruaryThe Irish Times noted that tickets for Saturday's rugby match were selling for as much as £600. What will prices be by this weekend? This issue needs to be dealt with. I agree with the letter in today's edition of The Irish Times which challenges the paper and suggests “perhaps your advertising people make a distinction between the sheepskin coat brigade and the humble spiv?” There is a clear distinction between people who sell flowers or sweets outside Croke Park and who have a few tickets to spare, no matter how they get them, and those who trade in this area.

In recent years I have been waging war against credit card companies and booking agents who have the abominable practice of charging a credit card fee and a transaction fee. When presenting "Liveline", Marian Finucane did a great deal of good work in countering this practice and consumer affairs officials have curbed it to some extent. However, there is an advertisement in one of today's newspapers run by a chain of cinemas and there is a 60p credit card charge. Many theatres also adopt this practice which is not in the spirit of good consumer legislation. I can see why a transaction fee is charged but I do not understand why a ticket fee is attached to such transactions.

A booking agency showed me how complicated this procedure was. It produced boxes of counter foils from all over the country and claimed that this was a labour intensive process. However, surely these people are not trying to cod us all into thinking that this is credible. Whatever amendments are being considered by the Minister, he should look at ways of curbing the attachment of fees to credit card bookings and ticket prices for theatres.

There are issues to be addressed. Sporting organisations need to examine the risk posed to the public by allowing tickets to be issued indiscriminately whereby people can obtain tickets for hostile parts of a football ground. This poses a public order threat. Unfortunately, we had instances of this in Dublin and it has happened regularly abroad. This is good legislation and we have to try to ensure that the consumer and the bona fide sports follower can access tickets without having to go through a convoluted, underground distribution system. I commend the Bill.

I welcome the opportunity of speaking on this Bill. I compliment Deputy Naughten on its introduction and the Minister for accepting the main thrust of the legislation.

Deputy Rabbitte must have been supporting Cork in 1990 when he introduced his Bill on 13 November 1990 after the famous Cork double in hurling and football. It was almost impossible to get tickets for those games, particularly the football final, and some people paid £500 or £600 for a pair of tickets.

There is a long way to go on Committee Stage. However, we must examine where those who stand on street corners or who place advertisements in the newspapers get their tickets. I am familiar with the GAA and all of these tickets are distributed through its organisation. Sporting organisations have a great deal to answer for. It cannot be that difficult to implement a checking system whereby if someone pays over the odds for a ticket he can go back to the organisation and have the situation checked. There is a need for greater scrutiny. The difficulty in enforcing the Bill is that the Garda, apart from policing traffic and crowds at big sporting occasions, would have to check out what is happening in pubs. However, if people could get their hands on all-Ireland tickets ten years ago, one can be sure they will get them for the 1999 all-Ireland football and hurling finals in which undoubtedly Cork will participate.

Most speakers mentioned sporting occasions but tickets for cultural and musical events can also be scarce. People telephone friends, relations and anybody they think might have tickets. It has been said that a seat in the Seanad could be assured of if one had regular access to tickets. The Bill can be amended and implemented, but sporting organisations and promoters who distribute tickets must be made more accountable. A system must be introduced where if a person distributes five tickets for a sporting organisation and it can be shown they were not sold at face value, he or she can be held accountable. If a person cannot offer a logical explanation, he or she must answer for it.

I welcome the Bill which is timely. It provides an opportunity to discuss the issue of ticket touting. When one comes from Cork, supporting one's hurling and football teams is an expensive business. Up to recently, we had to travel to Croke Park on many occasions to support the players. It is disappointing to get off the train in Dublin and see touts openly selling tickets for all-Ireland matches under the shadow of Croke Park. This is very upsetting for genuine fans at home who spend weeks following the teams and watching league matches in the dark winter months and who cannot get tickets for the glorious occasions. There are technical difficulties with the Bill but the Minister must take on board its spirit and thrust. He should introduce whatever amendments are necessary to ensure the Bill is effective.

The problem of ticket touting at sporting and cultural events is huge. It has been known for tickets for the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis to be put on the black market and to make substantial sums. The problem does not only affect sporting events but also cultural events. The Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis could be described as a sporting, cultural and political event.

We might need a tribunal to look at it.

The issue of security must be addressed, particularly with regard to certain sports. There is a move towards pay for viewing and genuine fans will be unable to watch games for free. People who are loyal to clubs and watch games on television because they cannot travel to matches will be forced into the black market. The area of segregation and security must be considered. Unfortunately, there were ugly scenes at a stadium in Ireland in the past. Unless there is a clamp down on ticket touting, there will be serious security problems in the future.

I urge the Minister to take on board the thrust of the Bill and to consider where it can be amended to ensure it is technically correct and can be enforced. The House has passed legislation in the past which was difficult to enforce. Organisations have a moral duty to ensure that tickets distributed from their headquarters reach genuine fans. Touts must be getting tickets from organisations initially and the bodies have a duty to address this problem. The Bill should include a provision which would discourage organisations from allowing tickets to get into the hands of touts. I am sure the Minister will consider the Bill favourably and adjust it to make it more efficient.

I also welcome the Bill and I acknowledge Deputy Naughten's initiative in bringing it before the House. I compliment the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, on his reaction to it. He welcomed the thrust of the Bill. It is also important to note that the Bill is accepted on all sides. This rarely happens and it shows that issues can be resolved sensibly and quickly when politicians are prepared to work together.

At last people have become used to free time which they use to enjoy themselves. The country's economic prosperity has ensured that young and old people are able to share in the delight of sporting and musical events. It is important that regular sports enthusiasts have a fair chance of getting tickets for events. It is also important that they can share in the delight of matches safely and comfortably.

Too often we have seen the distress caused by the difficulty in securing tickets for the all-Ireland final. Usually this distress is suffered by long standing fans who have huge difficulty securing tickets for all-Ireland finals. The continued success of sporting events depends on the availability of tickets for regular, long standing fans. Ticket touts deprive people of enjoyment of their favourite sport.

The Bill is timely. It appears touting has been around forever, but it has taken on a life of its own in the past ten to 15 years. Organisations and promoters must move to ensure that tickets are distributed fairly. Systems must be improved to prevent touts getting what they claim is their market share. While it will be impossible to totally eliminate touts, all initiatives to curtail their activities should be supported.

Section 3 proposes that powers should be given to the Garda to arrest a person where the member of the force has reasonable cause to believe the person is committing or has committed an offence. I accept that everything possible should be done to eradicate touting. However, I have reservations about expecting the Garda to deal with the problem. If the Garda are involved, it might reduce the responsibility of the organisers of events. Organisers and promoters profit from events and they must invest in ensuring that touts are eliminated.

I am from a public house background and it has taken years to eliminate the involvement of the Garda in visiting local licensed premises. Publicans will agree that if they have to depend on the Garda to control and patrol their premises, it creates the impression that he or she is unfit to run the premises. When an application for a new licence is made, it is noted if the Garda have made regular calls to the premises. If the Garda is given powers in this area, a similar difficulty could occur in the future. I fully support the Bill. Touting is greed at its worst. The unscrupulous activities of touts have serious implicationsvis-à-vis security the segregation of fans and so on. This is a measure we all welcome. I compliment Deputy Naughten on introducing it and the Minister for accepting it.

I have privately congratulated Deputy Naughten. I am happy to publicly con gratulate him heartily on his success in having the Private Members' Prohibition of Ticket Touts Bill, 1998 brought before us tonight. I also acknowledge the spirit in which the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, agreed to accept the Bill.

I understand from the Minister's contribution last night that while some aspects of the Bill before us are inadequate, these can be satisfactorily resolved on Committee Stage. This is an issue I have constantly raised over the years. Even though ticket touting is carried out openly in our streets prior to all major public events, when I began to raise the issue in this House by way of parliamentary question, I was sent from one Department to another. Eventually I forced the issue on a parliamentary question in March 1998. My question related to what procedures, if any, were in place to prevent the sale of tickets for concerts, football matches and so on, at a cost above their face value and the reply was that there was no basis in consumer law for prohibiting the sale of tickets above their face value and accordingly no procedures existed for that purpose.

I listened with interest to Deputy Pat Rabbitte's contribution when he attempted to address the issue in 1990. I gather from what he said that he was advised that regulation or legislation would be unworkable. We all agree in principle that something has to be done but that it will be difficult to come up with the right mechanism to address what we all want addressed.

Genuine young, innocent fans are victims of abusing touts who publicly use very opportunity to squeeze the last penny out of them, even in relation to charity events to support the most worthy causes. I issued a press release in February 1998 expressing my shock and horror at the abuse by ticket touts with regard to a forthcoming Spice Girls concert in support of Childline. If ever there was an abuse of people wishing to see their favourite group and support the very worthy cause of Childline it was the abuse that occurred on that occasion. That is what prompted me to issue the press release in which I stated that whether with regard to rock concerts, festivals or sporting events, these greedy touts must be stopped and that the exploitation of our young people by these heartless touts was unforgivable. I went on to say that the sale of tickets at more than face value is wrong, that it not only puts increased pressure on parents but, in the case of the Childline benefit concert at the Point Theatre, these touts pocketed money that should have gone to children in need. I urged the promoters who stage events to cater for the huge public demand by scheduling extra dates for fans who would otherwise be disappointed.

I am delighted to see there is unanimity in this House to try to address the problem. We will probably run into some difficulties on Committee Stage that will require a reasonable and pragmatic approach. Given the commitment that was evident last night and is evident again tonight, I ask that we go forward in that spirit to adequately deal with the matter in whatever way is required.

One other issue that needs to be looked at on Committee Stage is the booking fee of £2.50 charged by stores and sales offices and the credit card fee issue. I do not mind somebody charging a nominal fee for taking a large, possibly awkward, booking, but it is a bit rich that concert ticket issuers should charge an additional £2.50 simply to book a concert ticket. It may appear relatively insignificant compared to the price of a ticket, but if somebody is booking five or six tickets that additional cost amounts to quite a good deal. My fear is that the touts or sales offices will try to get around whatever we put in place. I ask that we look at this as best we can.

Deputy Ring is sharing his time with Deputies Ulick Burke, Coveney, Finucane, Bradford, Hayes and Cosgrove.

I am delighted the Government accepts this Bill. I compliment Deputy Naughten for bringing it before the Dáil.

A tout is somebody who gets tickets and makes money from them. How do these touts get the tickets in the first place? One cannot get a ticket for an all-Ireland match but outside Croke Park, or Lansdowne Road there are people selling tickets. Somebody within the sporting organisations is handing out tickets. I cannot understand why the rugby and soccer associations and the GAA did not do what the Football Association in England did. If 100,000 people attend a match at Wembley Stadium the Football Association can identify all the tickets. If a ticket tout sells a ticket at £100 over the odds, that ticket can be traced back to the person who got it from the association. Why can we not do that here? It is because nobody has the courage to do it. There is a fear in many of the organisations that the people handing out the tickets will be found out. Those people are bigger touts than the touts on Lansdowne Road or Jones's Road selling hundreds of tickets on match days while the genuine supporter cannot get a ticket.

Another problem is that one can go to the Connacht finals or the Leinster finals and get into the games, but when it comes to an all-Ireland final the corporate people, the people with the money, the people with the boxes are more important than the poor devil on the ground.

I am glad this Bill has come before the Dáil. It should have been introduced 20 years ago. Ticket touts should not be allowed to sell a ticket above face value. The GAA, the soccer and rugby associations should be able to account for any tickets they issue, and if tickets get into the hands of a tout, the people responsible should be dealt with. For too long genuine supporters have had to pay above the odds to these people. What is to be done about the people who hand these tickets out to the touts? The sporting organisations and concert organisers will have to take some responsibility. This Bill is a move in the right direction. I am delighted the Government is accepting it. I hope that when the legislation comes before the Dáil we can deal with both problems.

Mr. Coveney

I compliment Deputy Naughten on bringing this Bill before the House and thank the Government for accepting it in principle. It is good that we all agree on something. It is probably the first time since I became a Member of the House that everybody has been in agreement.

Ticket touts must be controlled. When this Bill is passed it will be a criminal offence to advertise or sell tickets for musical, sporting or theatrical events for more than the face value of that ticket. Currently, there are a number of unacceptable touting practices. Touts sell tickets for big events on the streets and the price is determined by supply and demand. If the event happens to be one which many people want to attend, the price rockets. People who can afford it often pay huge sums for tickets. Last week people paid £600 for tickets to attend this weekend's rugby international. I am frightened to think about the prices being paid this week.

The ordinary man on the street cannot afford to buy these tickets and in many cases he is a more genuine fan. People should not be able to obtain tickets just because they can afford to pay huge sums for them. It is up to us to legislate to ensure that genuine fans have access to tickets. However, touting is not confined to the sale of tickets on the streets. Sports clubs sell their tickets allocation for big matches and they should be held accountable. Tickets for rugby and soccer internationals and all-Ireland finals should not used by sports clubs to raise funds. It may be unpopular but if we are serious about ensuring that all tickets are sold at face value to genuine fans, we must clamp down on all forms of touting.

An Irish rugby club sold its entire allocation of tickets for next Saturday's rugby international to an English company. It is bad enough to sell tickets for profit but selling them to the opposition is even worse. These tickets should have been allocated to genuine Irish fans but, instead, they have been sold to an English company which has paid over the odds and that is unacceptable.

The IRFU, the FAI and the GAA have attempted to stamp out blatant ticket touting using various means to trace ticket numbers and punishing those who sell their tickets by cutting future allocations. However, it has not worked. If, as legislators, we decide that ticket touting is an unacceptable practice we must legislate to ensure that it is stopped. It has been done in other countries. For example, during the recent World Cup the French Government made the sale of tickets above face value a criminal offence and visitors caught touting were deported and refused entry into the country until the tournament was over.

If we are serious, touts must be taken on but we cannot hand over total responsibility to the Garda. Selling tickets above face value must be made illegal. The only exception should apply to charities or community organisations which have been given tickets to sell to raise funds. This is provided for in the Bill. Under it a ticket tout is liable to a prison term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding £1000. A garda can arrest a suspect if he has reasonable cause to believe the individual has touted tickets and he can confiscate tickets in the individual's possession. On Committee Stage, we must decide how this can be policed properly and organisations such as the FAI, IRFU and the GAA need to work in tandem with the Garda to stamp out ticket touting because it is not possible for the Garda to police the entire country with regard to ticket touting.

I am pleased the Bill has been accepted. The Government previously accepted a Bill initiated by Deputy Shatter but it is a unique achievement for Deputy Naughten, who is the youngest Member of the House, to have this honour bestowed on him. I compliment the Minister on his maturity in accepting the Bill and if it needs to be refined on Committee Stage, so be it. If good ideas are promoted by the Opposition, the Government should have the maturity on occasion to accept them.

This issue never manifests itself more forcefully to an individual than when his team is in the all-Ireland final. We, in Limerick, have had the unfortunate experience of losing two finals in recent years. I was in Dublin during the weekend of both finals and I witnessed the sheer frustration of young supporters and club activists who could not get tickets. As a public representative, I was inevitably approached and asked for spare tickets but I did not have extra tickets. Many of those people watched the match on television in Dublin but as I approached Croke Park ticket touts openly displayed tickets for sale above face value. One wonders how they obtained them. There are obviously channels open to them and those who pass tickets to touts make a profit; hence, the inflated prices.

However, I have attended matches at Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club, in England, and ticket touts are not to be seen. There are rigid controls on ticket touting at football matches. We should introduce legislation to counteract the abuses to which big sporting and entertainment events lend themselves. Young people pay inflated prices to attend concerts. The Bill is timely and the debate has focused on the success of the Irish international rugby team. However, the respectable face of ticket touting was highlighted in last Sunday's newspapers. Agencies had bought tickets for this weekend's international rugby match and sold them at excessive prices to corporate clients.

The Bill will be a success, if implemented. It is right that we root out this problem that has existed for years and has almost become an acceptable feature of big occasions. I congratulate both Deputies on introducing the Bill and I hope its improvement will continue on Committee Stage.

Most of my colleagues hail from counties where people do not have as much difficulty obtaining tickets for sporting events as Cork people. When Deputy Naughten has difficulty getting tickets to see Roscommon playing in an all-Ireland football final, then we will know that times have changed. I congratulate Deputies Naughten and Shatter for introducing this legislation and compliment the Minister for accepting it in principle. I am sure there will be a lengthy, but productive, debate on Committee Stage.

It is ambitious legislation because, until such time as Croke Park can hold 150,000 people or Landsdowne Road can hold 100,000, ticket touting will be a difficulty given that demand will always exceed supply. People are willing to purchase tickets regardless of the price. It has been a problem in Ireland for years. My first experience of it came at the centenary all-Ireland hurling final in 1984 between Cork and Offaly in Thurles. The word was out that tickets were not available, but, as it transpired, the ticket touts suffered a disastrous financial loss because tickets were sold for less than face value. Generally the touts have won but, I hope, as a result of this legislation the position will be reversed and order will be brought to bear on this chaos.

The legislation must be workable and the Garda will have a big role to play in that. I look forward to the Minister's observations on Garda intervention and deployment. Traceability of tickets is absolutely crucial and there has been greater success in Great Britain on that issue. A number of well known sporting figures were highly embarrassed there when it was brought to public attention that they had sold tickets which ended up in the black market. That situation has never happened here. Surely it must be possible in this era of computerisation for sporting organisations, especially the GAA, FAI and the IRFU, to account for the whereabouts of tickets. It would be much more difficult for touts to operate if full traceability were in place. Such an obligation must be placed on the major sporting organisations and concert promoters. Were that to happen, the legislation introduced by Deputy Naughten could work. We are all aware of people paying over the odds to attend a sporting occasion or concert of their choice. Supply and demand can never be ignored but it is improper and, to a certain degree, immoral that people should pay £500 to £600 for tickets with a face value of £20 or £30. I hope the legislation will lead to the problem being dealt with successfully.

I congratulate Deputies Naughten and Shatter on introducing the Bill. I thank the Minister for accepting it and hope there will be a mature debate on Committee Stage leading to a regularising of the situation.

Mr. Hayes

I congratulate Deputies Naughten and Shatter on the introduction of the Bill, which was published some months ago. It has received support not just in the House but also from major sporting organisations. There have been few examples in the Dáil of legislation or a resolution receiving such huge support from the organisational base.

It is poignant and right that the youngest Member, Deputy Naughten, has managed to successfully steer the legislation through Second Stage. An issue which repeatedly comes to our attention as public representatives is people under 25 being hassled, if I may use that unparliamentary word, by the inflation of ticket prices for concerts by promoters and the difficulties they encounter in obtaining concert tickets. In that context, it is right that Deputy Naughten should introduce the legislation and successfully steer it through the Dáil.

Both the Minister, Deputy McDaid, and the Minister of State should be congratulated. For once the Government has not listened to the expert constitutional advice of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. On every occasion legislation comes before the Dáil in Private Members' time, the Department marches in with expert advice, which means the legislation does not progress beyond Second Stage. I am delighted the Minister, Deputy McDaid, and his colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, contrary to the expert advice I am sure was given by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, have in this case stood up for the interests of people who want to attend sporting and cultural events. It is an excellent use of Private Members' time.

The work of Young Fine Gael, the youth wing of our organisation, was central in the legislation in terms of petitions and support it received for it. It pinpoints the initiation of legislation which can occur when those in politics put their mind to it.

Seán Kilfeather said inThe Irish Times on 13 June on this issue:

If members of the Dáil and Seanad . . . are serious about representing the people who elect them . . . the Fine Gael Private Members' Bill should go through "on the nod".

When the legislation was first mooted by my colleagues, Deputies Shatter and Naughten, there was support from those interested in sport for it to progress to Committee Stage and be enacted. The Government has done the right thing to support the legislation. We should aim to have the Bill enacted by the time the rugby World Cup returns to these shores in autumn. In that way, the legislation will be an international flagship of reform of the law to eliminate touts. That should happen by autumn at the latest.

A recent report by the ESRI pointed out the importance of sport and cultural life to Ireland. Those who emigrated ten to 15 years ago want to return, not just because of employment oppor tunities but also because Ireland, Dublin in particular, has so much to offer. The quality of life in our capital city has been enhanced considerably as a result of major productions coming to Dublin and major sporting events being held here. That quality of life can be further enhanced if the city is marketed internationally to attract large-scale international musical productions and sporting events on a frequent basis. It is essential in that context that the standards in force for the sale of tickets for all major events are rigorously imposed. The Bill will make a difference to people who want to purchase tickets at reasonable prices for these events.

There was some discussion last night about the Bill having to be substantially amended on Committee Stage. I do not believe it will, on the basis that, once touting is made a criminal offence and those engaged in it are liable to the prosecutions referred to in the Bill, although there is a possibility it will be driven underground, the on-site touting of tickets which is a feature of major international events, as will be seen this Saturday at the Ireland-England rugby game, will be eradicated overnight. By making touting a criminal offence, the sanctions proposed in the Bill will pose a huge disincentive to those engaged in the practice and will greatly assist in rooting out touting at sporting and other events.

One of the issues which has been brought to my attention in my constituency is the discrimination between those who have credit cards and those who do not. If one has a credit card, one can book a ticket for a major musical, theatrical or sporting event without difficulty, whereas without it, one must queue up at a location where a certain proportion of tickets is being sold. That is sharp practice and should be investigated by the Director of Consumer Affairs. People who do not have credit cards are discriminated against and must queue on the streets for a small number of tickets.

I welcome the legislation. It is good law and I congratulate Deputies Naughten and Shatter on initiating it.

I congratulate Deputies Naughten and Shatter on the excellent work they have put into the Bill. It will not only offer the hope of a better way for those who attend major musical, sporting or theatrical events, but will also be of great joy to the hard pressed parents of teenagers. The unacceptable practice of touting is mean, exploitative, cheating and abusive. The cost of attendance at major events is expensive enough, and the Bill proposes to put an end to unnecessary extra expense. The idea of people buying great numbers of tickets to artificially inflate prices is nothing more than exploitation of the innocent. It is an abuse of those with limited access to tickets because of lack of funds and an inability to be first in the queue. This ripping off is not confined to the young, it extends to those on modest means, be they in golden years, strugg ling to make ends meet or rearing a family on funds that will not stretch.

The Government has agreed to accept the Bill. It is accepted that touts must be removed from the turnstile. We can now secure the ethos of a fair ticket for those who are fed up and disenchanted by the effects of the touting practise which is nothing more than highway robbery. The level of profit achieved by touts on a short-term investment is outrageous and would make even the chairman of the AIB or Bank of Ireland blush. This racketeering must stop. The ordinary match, theatre, concert or event goer must be protected from those who are nothing more than pimps living off the exploitation of others.

Every parent of a teenager is well aware of the demands placed on them by their children. They can see only the ESB, gas, rent or mortgage bill. Where there are a number of teenagers making demands on modest means it can be a source of friction, irritation and anger when parents have to tell them they do not have the money to buy tickets on the first day of sale. When their resolve is broken and they scrape together the not inconsiderable price of a ticket or tickets, they are informed they have been sold out but that they can obtain them on the black market for a little more than face value.

The House should put a stop to this exploitation and allow decent people to attend concerts, matches, music gigs and so on at the cover price set by the promoter to recover their costs and make a fair profit. These events should be given back to the people at a price they can afford. A stop should be put to this cheating and robbery by touts.

I congratulate Deputies Naughten and Shatter on their initiative in introducing the Bill. It is a great distinction to have a Bill accepted by the Government. I pay tribute to the Minister for accepting it. There will be alterations during its passage through the House, but that is to be expected.

The allocation of tickets for sports events and concerts has never been considered in detail. While blame can be apportioned to various organisations such as the GAA, the IRFU and the FAI, members of the public often discard tickets, perhaps because of lack of interest, which unwittingly fall into the hands of the touts. It is, therefore, incumbent on the organisations concerned, given the level of profiteering, to closely monitor the sale of tickets through their outlets.

Who are the touts and from where do they come? It is easy to say they are out to make a quick killing – this is not to legitimise their activities – but they do so out of need and necessity. In applying the law the many social ills in society must be eradicated.

The problem arises only when there is a major concert or international – next Saturday Ireland play England in Lansdowne Road – or at all-Ireland finals. People returning from abroad such as the United States or Britain are willing to pay the exorbitant sums demanded.

I thank Deputies Naughten and Shatter for providing the House with an opportunity to discuss this issue in detail. I commend the Deputies who contributed in such an informative way to the debate on an issue which preoccupies the minds of many and is of great concern and intense annoyance to them. The debate is timely as we approach the rugby international between Ireland and England at the weekend.

The problems created by the touts are obvious, clear and straightforward. The solution, however, is much less simple, less straightforward and more complex when one comes to devising and implementing responses and systems to deal with the problem effectively.

The Government supports the spirit and broad thrust of the Bill's objectives and agrees that it should proceed to Committee Stage when Deputies will be afforded an opportunity to consider its provisions in much greater detail and address areas of difficulty and concern. The Minister outlined a number of aspects which require careful and detailed consideration. There are a number of others.

Section 2(1) would create an offence of extraordinary reach, applying as it would to every person, not just professional ticket touts, and to every place, not just public places. It would criminalise a young person who in his or her own home offers a ticket to a family member or friend for a price even fractionally over the face value. We can all think of examples where that transaction could occur for any number of reasons. To apply criminal law to such harmless bartering appears excessive.

Section 2(2) would make it an offence for an unauthorised person to advertise for sale a ticket for a specified event at a price in excess of that officially designated on the ticket by the organiser or organisers of the event. This would apply to any person who publishes such an advertisement. It would apply to a newspaper or magazine which publishes an advertisement even where there is no reason to suspect the seller is unauthorised or the asking price is in excess of the designated price. In other words, it would be an offence of strict liability. I am not sure if that is what is intended, but the subsection would benefit from further consideration on Committee Stage.

Section 3 would give the Garda Síochána disproportionate powers. If a person is seen passing tickets to friends and money exchanges hands, a garda would have reasonable cause for believing that person is committing an offence. He or she could follow the suspect home, force entry into the house, search the premises and arrest the person without a warrant. This cannot be acceptable.

It is worth mentioning that the general law on Garda powers of entry to effect an arrest, set out as recently as 1997 in the Criminal Law Act, con tain strict limitations on entry to private dwellings.

The involvement of the criminal law and the Garda Síochána in what is described by the explanatory memorandum as "a new form of consumer protection" is questionable and opens up a wide range of issues which need to be addressed.

Section 3 provides that a Garda may arrest without warrant a person who is committing or has committed an offence under section 2(1), that is the offence of selling or offering or exposing for sale in any place a ticket for a specified event for a price in excess of the price officially designated on the ticket by the organiser or organisers of the event. It goes on to provide that a Garda may, for the purposes of making such an arrest, enter, if need be by force, and search any place where the Garda suspects the person to be.

It seems to me that this is an exceptionally severe power to apply, for example, to a youngster who had agreed to sell a ticket for a football match or a rock concert to, for example, a brother, sister or friend for even a pound over the face value of the ticket.

If he was a good friend, he would not do so. He would probably give it as a present.

He might argue that he had some acquisition costs like travel, etc., to acquire the ticket in the first place and, indeed, might have had to spend 24 hours queuing outside the premises where the ticket was sold in the first place.

I thought blood was thicker than water. The Minister has started going down the slippery slope.

No. As I indicated, I am just pointing out these matters to be helpful because all of these matters can be thrashed out on Committee Stage.

During last night's debate on the Bill Deputy Broughan mentioned my Department's new Sports Capital Programme and his opinion that £50 million would be needed to meet demand. The Government has committed more than £50 million to the new programme over the next three years to help in the provision of high quality facilities for clubs and organisations throughout the country. This compares with £17 million spent over the past three years.

I share Deputy Broughan's concern for disadvantaged communities. My constituency has many needs and concerns in this regard. Priority will be given in the allocation of funding under the new Sports Capital Programme to meeting the needs of disadvantaged areas. This is clear evidence of the Government's commitment to addressing the needs of these areas. The Deputy will be aware that a sum of £30 million has also been provided by the Government to the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund. This fund has been established for the purpose of developing youth facilities, including sports facilities, and services in disadvantaged areas to involve young people at risk in positive, healthy and productive activities.

The question of the sale of tickets by touts has raised many concerns among many ordinary decent people who simply want to attend a concert or sporting activity. It is time this House, through the auspices of the Bill, tackled the issue once and for all.

There are examples in other countries, to which Members referred, where there has been a clampdown on the sale of tickets by touts. Consequently, we are making sure the exorbitant prices charged by touts become a thing of the past. The onus will be placed on organisers of events, whether sporting or leisure and recreational, to develop a system which will allow them to trace tickets which have become the subject of tout sales. Organisations involved in sporting and leisure activities must put in place structures to trace tickets which become the subject of sale by touts. We will send the clear message, through not only this legislation but by the manner in which organisations deal with the sale of tickets, that we, as a society, will no longer accept the position whereby tickets are sold at exorbitant prices to people who simply want to support a sporting, leisure or recreational facility.

I commend those who brought forward the legislation. My colleague, the Minister, Deputy McDaid, and I look forward to dealing with this matter on Committee Stage.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Shatter.

I congratulate Deputy Naughten and Deputy Shatter on bringing the Bill before the House. It is a positive initiative on their part. I know how difficult it is in Opposition to bring forward legislation. There are difficulties with research and with producing Bills. There should be a service available to all Members of the House who do not have the back-up of a Department to research and draw up Bills. This approach would enhance the democratic process.

The current situation with regard to ticket touts, where they have a free reign, is totally unacceptable. Many of our European partners have recognised this and introduced controlling mechanisms to eliminate the practice. It is not fair that these people can get their hands on tickets for musical, sporting or theatrical events and line their pockets having ripped off the genuine fans who must pay well in excess of the face value of the ticket.

While I welcome the initiative by Deputy Naughten, it is a disgrace that this issue has not been addressed heretofore. Sporting organisations have tried in vain to control the situation but have been singularly unsuccessful in doing so.

No doubt this excellent legislation is necessary to control what is happening to ensure that tickets are available to genuine fans, those who do not have the wherewithal to pay the inflated prices, such as the unemployed, others living on social welfare or senior citizens who survive on their pensions. It is important and fair that tickets are sold at face value and are available to the less well off. They should not be available for purchase by touts who exploit events and line their pockets.

However, I question the deterrent and the figure of the fine. Today I listened to "Lifeline" on RTE and anybody who heard it will be aware that people were discussing tickets for the last rugby international and next Saturday's one which were £400, £600 and £800 a pair. There was one report of £1,200 for a pair of tickets. With that level of turnover, one would not be long making up the fine proposed in the Bill, but I know the reasons for the limitations constraining the Deputies in that regard.

That the Garda will have the power of arrest, if there is reasonable cause for believing a person is committing an offence under the proposed legislation, will be a deterrent. I hope the threat of arrest and confiscation of tickets will be a real deterrent in preventing this unseemly activity.

I welcome the section which allows registered charities and voluntary community organisations to sell tickets donated or purchased by them for more than their face value when they have been authorised to do so by the organisers of the event. However, there is too much pressure on many organisations to obtain finance in this way. The national lottery was meant to be more active in this area and I know the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation supports my belief that inadequate funds are made available to him to fulfil his responsibility in the area. It was introduced by a Fianna Fáil Government but the work was done by a former coalition Government. The then Minister for Sport, Deputy Donal Creed, made an enormous contribution to the area of sport and recreation.

This area should be examined to see if it is playing an effective role. If the Minister has any proposals in this regard I will be the first to support him. I congratulate the Deputies on bringing forward the Bill.

I wish to give two minutes of the time available to me to Deputy Sheehan.

That is agreed.

I thank all of those who spoke on the Bill which was tabled by myself and Deputy Naughten. I want to thank in particular the Minister, Deputy McDaid. We had a very constructive debate on the Bill and I welcome the approach taken by the Minister last night and that taken by the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, this evening.

Far too frequently, Private Members' time becomes a knock-about session at the end of which nothing of constructive value in a legislative context is produced. Opposition parties are not solely at fault for that. In the context of some Departments – Minister McDaid's Department is an exception as was Minister Cowen's Department in terms of a Private Members' Bill I brought before the House last year – if an Opposition party produces a Bill, the Minister tends to see it as a challenge to his ministerial responsibilities. His or her civil servants, who jealously guard their bailiwick, regard it as their duty not to encourage a Minister to support in principle a Private Members' Bill but to pick as many holes in it as possible so that the Minister has many reasons to vote against it. We need more debates of this nature in Private Members' time.

A good job of work was done in the House last night and this evening in tackling the scourge of ticket touts. The Bill, when it comes into force, will make ticket touts sporting outlaws and pop concert outcasts. For too long they have unscrupulously exploited the allegiances of real fans wishing to attend major musical and sporting events. When the Bill comes into force it will bring a halt to their activities.

Last evening, in expressing welcome support for the measure, the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation expressed doubt about conferring on the gardaí the powers to arrest ticket touts without a warrant. This evening the Minister of State, Deputy Flood, raised issue with the criminal provisions in the Bill. The criminal provisions are a vitally important part of this measure as they will enable the gardaí to arrest ticket touts outside the grounds of major sporting events, such as Lansdowne Road and Croke Park, prevent them selling tickets at exorbitant prices and facilitate them in confiscating those tickets. These measures will have the same effect in facilitating gardaí dealing with ticket touts at major pop concerts or other musical events. It is a central objective of the Bill that the presence of ticket touts at events of this nature be ended.

As is the case with every Private Members' Bill I have tabled over the years, I accept that the phraseology contained in the Bill is not written on tablets of stone. I have no doubt that further work can be done on the Bill on Committee Stage to address any difficulties or concerns it is felt exist which will take away from its effectiveness. It is essential that gardaí are given specific powers under this measure to remove ticket touts from outside major sporting events, to confiscate tickets they have obtained and to prevent them selling tickets at exorbitant prices to real fans who do not have the same access to obtaining them as the touts.

In so far as Minister McDaid and Minister Flood, or indeed my constituency colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, whose support for the Bill I also welcome, have reservations in this area, police forces in England and in France have similar powers. If they did not, the laws in force in those countries would not work. They have been used in England not just to get rid of ticket touts but to prevent fans of different teams mixing in the one area in grounds and causing the sorts of difficulties that occur from time to time among spectators at sporting events. These types of powers are not seen in France or England as draconian but necessary to ensure that the genuine fan can gain access to tickets and enjoy the events they are attending without being subjected to difficulty in that context.

There is a belief in some quarters that some of those – I emphasise the word "some"– engaged in ticket touting are organised by criminal gangs based either in this State or in England. There is a real ground for suspicion about the way some very shady characters manage to be present outside major sporting events on a regular basis, readily identifiable, and who the suppliers of the tickets are.

Questions need to be asked also in regard to the advertisers for tickets in our newspapers. I call on the newspaper editors to apply the spirit of this legislation before we enact it and refuse to allow their columns to be used by people whose intent is to exploit young people and obtain large profits from them simply to gain access to sporting events to which the public should have easier access than is currently the case. Sadly, many of the advertisements carried by major newspaper groups in the context of sporting events add to the touting problem. That is the reason the Bill contains the important provision which outlaws such advertising. When the Bill becomes law it will strike a blow at those criminal gangs. This is an area the gardaí need to investigate.

I am pleased we are referring the Bill to Committee Stage. With the Government's co-operation I believe we can complete Committee Stage soon after the Easter break and that there is a possibility of enacting the Bill into law before the summer vacation period. It should be our objective to ensure the Bill is operative before the All-Ireland finals take place this year and before we enter the pop concert season this summer.

I want to add my voice to the debate on this important Bill, which is long overdue. I congratulate Deputies Shatter and Naughten on their foresight in bringing forward such worthwhile legislation.

I have had the experience on several occasions of writing to the GAA seeking to buy tickets for an All-Ireland final or semi-final and receiving a polite reply to the effect that because my team was not playing in the competition, tickets were not available, yet one can buy tickets from ticket touts at exorbitant prices on the day of these matches. If this practice is not stamped out genuine supporters of the various teams will become fed up with this problem. Only a certain number of tickets are allocated to each county, yet these ticket touts can obtain hundreds if not thousands of tickets to sell outside the grounds of Croke Park and Lansdowne Road. I congratulate the Minister on accepting this worthy legislation and on playing his role in doing away with the system of touting which has operated for many years and is becoming more prevalent by the day. The time has come to call a halt. I am delighted the Minister has the courage an foresight to tackle this problem with the two Fine Gael spokespeople who presented this worthwhile legislation to the House.

Question put and agreed to.