Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Shooting

Petition - Royal Bank of Scotland Closure – in the House of Commons at 4:49 pm on 21st March 2018.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Andrew Stephenson.)

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 4:51 pm, 21st March 2018

It is always a pleasure, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has been almost a year since I have had a personal Adjournment debate, but it has only been 24 hours since I was involved in one. This has been the week of the three Jims—Jim Fitzpatrick on Monday night, Jim McMahon last night and Jim Shannon tonight.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

My speechwriter is exhausted.

I have been seeking this debate for eight or nine weeks, and I am very pleased to see the Minister in her place. We are all very fond of her and grateful for the work that she does. She was a guest speaker at my association’s dinner in Strangford some time ago, and she had a chance to meet the Comber Rec women’s football team, which I know she enjoyed—my team enjoyed it, too. We look to the Minister for some guidance tonight on how we can take this forward. I have some suggestions that I hope might be effective.

I want to put on record my thanks to Mr Speaker for allowing this issue to be aired, and I am glad to see many hon. Members in the Chamber to support it—I hope. They may just want to make an intervention to get their own back—[Laughter.]

Coming from Northern Ireland and with a neighbouring constituency whose Member refuses to take his seat, I am used to taking on issues that have an effect more widely than Strangford. Birmingham is slightly further than I usually stretch, but I am concerned about the issue of the Commonwealth games 2022, and I believe that other hon. Members here tonight are also concerned about it. It is not about Birmingham per se, but about the recognition of shooting sports and the fact that that entire category has been removed from the games without appropriate foundation.

I put on record that I am a member of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and of the Countryside Alliance, and have been for more years than I care to remember. I am also a member of several shooting clubs, and I served in the Army, which gave me a chance to shoot weapons legally.

The proposed sports programme for the Commonwealth games 2022 in Birmingham does not include any of the shooting sports. There is a large petition on this. A number of right hon. and hon. Members are here to put that on the record, because it is important. I hail from Northern Ireland, and there are those who say that we are too familiar with guns, but this is not an issue of gun control. It is an issue of sport—a sport at which I believe we are pretty good. Some might ask, why do the people of Northern Ireland excel in boxing and shooting? It is a hard one to answer.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

In part, I wanted to do that just to know what it feels like to intervene on the master of interventions, but I do have a serious intervention on his point about the success of shooting in Northern Ireland. Will the hon. Gentleman join me in congratulating veteran shooter David Calvert, who, having first competed in Edmonton in 1978, has been selected for his 11th Commonwealth games? Having won eight medals in that time, including four golds, he has inevitably inspired many others to compete in Commonwealth and Olympic games.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for taking the opportunity to intervene on me—I quite enjoyed that. I also say how pleased I am that David Calvert is a member of Comber rifle club in my constituency. I have met him on a number of occasions, and he has been the most successful shooter for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

I am glad that the Minister mentioned David Calvert. I was a member of Comber rifle club when I was about 12 or 13. I remember him coming and showing us his gold medal for Kuala Lumpur, and I remember just how inspiring that was for young kids such as me who were involved in target shooting, who wanted to progress and who wanted to do well. If shooting is not in the Commonwealth games, that inspiration for young target shooters will not be there in future. Perhaps my hon. Friend could reflect on that.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing that up. I will not go far down memory lane, because I go down memory lane further than most, but the fact is that my introduction to shooting and target sports was as a young boy of about 10 years old in the ’60s—the late ’60s, I have to say, because that gives me a couple of extra years. My cousin Kenneth Smyth—hon. Friends will know that he was murdered by the IRA—was always an inspiration to me, and I particularly value the time that he spent with us as young boys, introducing us to shooting. Whenever we went down to our grandmother’s and ultimately to meet Kenneth, the highlight of that holiday for us was the .22 rifle and shooting at targets down on the farm. In those days, restrictions were a lot less rigorous than they are today, and the fact was that we were able to do that. That was our introduction to the sport. My hon. Friend said that he was introduced to it as a 12-year-old at Comber rifle club. That is very important as well.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

May I also say how much I enjoy the opportunity of being able to intervene back on the hon. Gentleman after all the times that he has intervened on me? He raises a really interesting point about youngsters shooting. A lot of people turn around and say, “Isn’t this abhorrent? You can’t have youngsters shooting,” but actually, I was taught how to shoot at a very early age. One of the great things about teaching children how to shoot is that they learn an incredible amount of discipline and an incredible amount of respect for each other and for sport. We end up with very responsible young adults coming out as a result of all the discipline and camaraderie that we get around shooting sports.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank my hon. Friend for saying that. He is absolutely right. The introduction to shooting sports at a very early age puts a discipline in place and an interest. I will talk later about my boys and my children and the opportunities that we have had. My son Jamie and I shoot together. I took him shooting from a very early age, and he is a much better shot than I am, by miles. My granddaughter Katie—she is the third generation—is also interested in shooting. I see Simon Hoare across the Chamber on the front row—he takes his son with him when he goes shooting. I know how important it is for someone to have that relationship with their child and to have the chance to introduce a fantastic sport that can do so much. I thank Mark Garnier for that intervention; it is exactly one of the points I wanted to make.

A joke often touted in my local shooting club, where I am a member, is that they have asked for a couple of my election posters for target practice. I never would say no if they wanted to do that. There were other election posters, but obviously I was in no position to offer any other than my own, so mine were used—I was just happy they were used and recycled in some way.

My local shooting club hosts a very successful event called “the Swaziland cup” at which amateurs and the more professional come together to win the cups and in the meantime raise hundreds and thousands of pounds for the children of Swaziland. The club also hosts the little choir when they come for an afternoon of safe fun and good food. We do it every year they come. I have never won the Swaziland cup, by the way, but there is always next year. That is how it works. It is the same with fishing: I have not caught that big fish yet, but I am going to catch it next year. That is how it goes.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

The sport of shooting in my area is great. We have a rifle club not half a mile from where I live, and the young people who go along learn not only discipline but a great sense of camaraderie that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. It would be a retrograde step if they had not something to aim at—excuse the pun. Let us be honest: they get involved to improve and expand the sport and to take part in competitions—and what greater competition is there than the Commonwealth games? It is something they should be encouraged to attain to—something we should be inspiring them to achieve—so it would be a retrograde step to remove shooting from the Commonwealth games.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

My hon. Friend, like others, reinforces what we all know: the introduction of the sport of shooting to young people from an early age develops character, friendships and accuracy—and, of course, we hope that some will attain perhaps even a Commonwealth medal.

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has two hours before the House has to adjourn, given the number of interventions. On a serious point, however, I must note how many people are here for his Adjournment debate. I do not think that any other Member is held in the affection and warmth that we feel for him. I speak as a Glasgow MP. Obviously, we had the 2014 Commonwealth games, and we had shooting—not in the east end of Glasgow, but at Barry Buddon—and I commend his remarks tonight. We must make sure that this is not a retrograde step and that we see shooting at the Commonwealth games in Birmingham.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. I am just pleased to see a goodly crowd here to support an important issue and a sport at which we excel.

Target shooting has a real place in our community, and the skills of those who play deserve recognition. This is a sport in which we are recognised. The connotations of gun violence must be removed from this discussion, because these are legitimate, law-abiding, licence-holding people who have the opportunity to shoot. Those who wish to use a gun for nefarious reasons are not target shooters; they do not follow the rigorous legalities that come with owning and shooting a gun; they are the ones who buy through the back door, instead of coming with a licence through the front door, and that should be said at the outset.

I wish to thank all those organisations and individuals who contacted me and sent me information on this subject, including the Countryside Alliance, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the sports societies. The following information was provided by the British Shooting, which covers a range of shooting sports and offers varying levels of support and expertise. I spoke to the Minister before the debate to say I believed there was something we could do, and I look to her now with genuine hope that she will take this in the direction we want. The following are the facts of the case: the 2022 games were originally awarded to Durban, South Africa, with a sports programme that embraced all the shooting sports—shotgun, rifle and pistol, airgun and full-bore rifle. The Durban organising committee was unable to obtain satisfactory financial guarantees from the South African Government, however, and unfortunately had no option other than to relinquish responsibility for the games.

The Commonwealth Games Federation sought alternative hosts, and a bidding process was opened. In England, the cities of Birmingham and Liverpool put forward outline bids. The Liverpool bid included shooting, after constructive dialogue with British Shooting and others. Birmingham’s bid team did not engage with British Shooting or, it appears, any other shooting body—that was very disappointing, and I do not think the procedure was followed correctly—and did not include shooting in its bid. It should have done so. The Birmingham bid was put forward to the CGF, and it was ultimately awarded the right to host the games.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for introducing the debate, and I am very concerned by the suggestion that there may have been an ulterior motive behind the exclusion of shooting from the Commonwealth games on this occasion that is being dressed up as a logistical problem—the problem that Bisley is too far away from the location. Has the hon. Gentleman any specific indication that the people who are hosting the games this time are in some way ideologically opposed to target shooting?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making that point. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am always very wary about what I say, and I would rather put the facts of the case and let the right hon. Gentleman draw his own conclusions, but yes, some people would say that that is something that may be lingering in the background. When the Commonwealth games took place in Manchester, Bisley was used as a location. Why not use it this time, given that it is closer to Birmingham than to Manchester? That seems perfectly logical to me.

I am very pleased that Birmingham’s bid was successful, and, indeed, I supported it. By extension, it has benefited the whole United Kingdom. The Commonwealth games should benefit everyone, not just those in one particular place. To host games of this calibre is a feather in our cap, and well worth the money that it entails. I welcome Birmingham’s contribution and its efforts. In normal circumstances, however, the decision to award the games to a host city and a Commonwealth games association is made at a CGF general assembly, even when there is only one bidder. That usually takes place some seven years before the games.

Following the late withdrawal of South Africa, the CGF executive dealt directly with the decision to find a replacement, which meant that Birmingham’s bid and, significantly, its proposed sports programme were not subject to debate by the 72 member nations of the CGF that would be normal practice. I suggest that in this case normal practice was not followed and that it should have been. What I am asking, in so far as it is within the remit of the Minister’s responsibilities, is for that normal procedure to be followed.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way again; he is being incredibly generous with his time.

I must declare an interest as a member of the National Rifle Association and the Rifle Club at Bisley. It seems to me that it would be perfectly simple for the shooting sports to take place at the National Shooting Centre there, not only because it is available but because that would provide a very good income for the National Rifle Association. Is the hon. Gentleman surprised as I am that the association is not pushing as hard as it can to ensure that we have shooting sports in the Commonwealth games? If it is not pushing as hard as it can, why not?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

That question is in my mind as well. Why not? I believe that there are now many thousands of signatures on the petition. I hope that the CGF is listening to the grassroots, because they are saying, “Are we all swimmers? Are we all runners? Some of us are shooters, and we will not feature in the Commonwealth games.” I will not, certainly—but these are our games, and we want to see opportunities for all disciplines to feature there. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: that should happen, and the grassroots support for it is very clear.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I, too, should declare an interest. My nephew Joe Hendry will represent Scotland in the wrestling in the Gold Coast Commonwealth games next month. I am sure that Members will join me in congratulating him and wishing him well.

The hon. Gentleman is advancing a compelling argument about the need for continuity in sports. Young people taking part in sports need to know that there will be a future in the work that they are putting in. That should apply to all disciplines, including shooting.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. It is the first time he has intervened on me, but I have lost count of the number of times I have intervened on him. I thank him for attending the debate, and he is right that going to the Gold Coast games is a tremendous achievement. Wee Amy Foster from my constituency has just been notified that she has qualified for those games as well, so I know how important that is, and how important it is to encourage young people to do these things.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. Those of us representing Welsh constituencies share his great disappointment that shooting will not be taking place at the 2022 Commonwealth games. Do you agree that perhaps the UK Government could take the lead and organise a similar international competition somewhere else in the country?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. As this is an Adjournment debate with several Members present, I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to address that remark to me rather than to Jim Shannon.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and what he says is absolutely right. I look forward to the Minister perhaps being able to exert influence in places we do not seem to be able to, to see whether that can happen.

In 2015, the CGF general assembly in Auckland approved a new strategic agenda, “Transformation 2022”. Approval of this general direction embraced, by default, much detail, including changes to the list of so-called compulsory sports as well as the overall quota of athlete places in the games. Shooting remained an optional sport, while many others attained compulsory status. It should be noted that the consequence of the decision did not have an impact upon the Durban bid, which included all shooting sports. Again, I suggest that that omission—or whatever it might be—needs to be looked at.

Shooting sports have been omitted from the games on only one occasion, in 1970. On other occasions, when shooting sports have presented logistical challenges to host cities they were addressed, particularly in England in 2002, when the option of Bisley was agreed upon even though the games were hosted by Manchester. As I have said before, I have had the privilege—at least once in my life, in any case—to shoot at Bisley, with the Army back in the ’80s, and I greatly enjoyed that experience. We were never going to win the encounter, by the way. It was like reaching the FA cup final: getting to the final was our big occasion, so we were very pleased to be there, even though we knew we were going to get walloped—and we were.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee

I encourage the hon. Gentleman to come to Bisley every year with the Commons rifle team, where we have the privilege of shooting against the Lords team. In passing, may I pay tribute to a now retired member of the House of Commons staff, Mr Gary Howard, who worked in the Vote Office for many years? For a long period he gave freely of his lunchtimes—week in, week out, and month in, month out—to tutor Members of both Houses of Parliament in shooting skills and was rightly rewarded with the British empire medal when he retired for his long service in the House, his service to shooting, and his service to young people.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

When my hon. Friend Ian Paisley and I were elected in 2010 we joined the House of Commons rifle club; we really enjoyed getting the badge, to tell the truth, because we wanted to show everybody we were in it. We particularly enjoyed going down and shooting at lunchtimes, and I suspect that many other Members have also enjoyed those lunchtime engagements.

As I have said, in the Manchester games Bisley was a venue, and it can be again. Shooting is a traditional Commonwealth sport, and for many of the smaller Commonwealth nations shooting sports are among the very few sports in the programme that they can realistically select athletes for and therefore play a part in the games. Some of the countries that excel at shooting sports perhaps do not excel at any other sports, and I will name some of them, as I think that is important: Jersey, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Guyana, Norfolk Island and the Falkland Islands. Shooting sports are crucial to their meaningful participation in the games, and to their way of life as well.

For larger nations such as India, Malaysia and Australia, the absence of shooting sports has a major impact on their team size and their medal winning. Closer to home, the teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all regularly secure a significant medal haul from the sport. Information I received from the Countryside Alliance states:

“Shooting contributed 15 medals to England’s medal tally at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and England has won a total of 168 shooting medals in all previous Commonwealth Games—more than any other competing nation and over 20 per cent of the medals available.”

That is even more than Northern Ireland!

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

Further to the comments made by my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis, the hon. Gentleman is very welcome to come along to the match between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I am the captain of our team.

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the contribution of the smaller Commonwealth countries, but he has missed an important point about shooting sports. We need to remember that this is the one sport in which men and women compete equally against each other. We have just had International Women’s Day, and it is really important that we should not be getting rid of sports in which there is no gender discrimination. We should be celebrating this sport.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention.

The 2018 Commonwealth games in the Gold Coast, Australia, which were mentioned earlier, will include four shooting disciplines: full bore, pistol, rifle and shotgun. The shooting programme will be held at the Belmont shooting centre in Brisbane, where 20 athletes from Team England—the mother country—will compete in 19 separate events. There needs to be a commitment not only for Birmingham in 2022; I am seeking a commitment from the Commonwealth Games Federation to include shooting in the 2026 games. We need to look forward and ensure that what has happened this time does not happen again. The Minister referred to David Calvert in her intervention. He will shortly be competing in Brisbane, and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East was inspired by him many years ago. I am sure that many other young boys and girls were inspired by him as well. That is why I am raising this issue today.

Two key international bodies oversee the shooting sports that appear in the Commonwealth games: the International Shooting Sport Federation and the International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations. Both have indicated a willingness to work with the CGF to find a solution to keep shooting sports in the games and on the 2022 programme. Both are willing to do more than most, and representatives met the CGF president in February this year. This is about finding solutions. When people come to me with problems, it is not about the problem; it is about the solution. We bring the issue to the Floor of the House to seek a solution, and we hope that that solution will be forthcoming. At Olympic level, the ISSF represents a category C sport, recognising its growing and significant contribution to the Olympic ideals and family.

Having four disciplines, shooting sports can be delivered flexibly, both in terms of which disciplines appear and in terms of location. The preferred position is, naturally, to embrace all four disciplines, and I would encourage that. That option could be delivered at Bisley, as was the case for the successful hosting of the 2002 Manchester games. Bisley has the capacity to do that. It is not unusual for some sports to be outsourced remotely in that way, with examples including shooting in Malaysia in 1998, shooting in Manchester in 2002, shooting in Glasgow in 2014 and track cycling and shooting in Brisbane in 2018. All those events involved shooting, yet we have a big void at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth games. As London’s Olympic and Paralympic games and Glasgow’s Commonwealth games all showed, the UK is the world leader in providing low-cost temporary facilities to ISSF standards. It can be done, and it should be done; there are many out there who want it to happen. Equally, some shooting sports could be accommodated easily in Birmingham in the many existing arenas that the city is home to. I encourage the sporting authorities to consider that.

I have been reliably informed that the ISSF, the ICFRA and British Shooting are all willing, ready and able to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the CGF and the host city to accommodate the sport in the 2022 games. Many organisations, individuals and right hon. and hon. Members are keen to add their support. I urge that the matter be considered and acted upon while we have the time to do so, and I look to the Minister to bring that about.

I did not intend to speak for the full two hours, and I am sure that everyone in the House is thinking, “Thank the Lord for that”. I will conclude with this point. My granddaughter Katie is nine years old, and I took my son Jamie shooting when he was younger than that and introduced him to a sport in which he is now fairly proficient and much better than his dad. My granddaughter Katie has started to go hunting with her dad and me. It is a family tradition, and if the tradition continues, perhaps the child will better the father. My son is a better shot than me, and perhaps my granddaughter will be a better shot than my son.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee

This is positively the last intervention that I will make on the hon. Gentleman. In support of the point made by my hon. Friend Mark Garnier about the sport being gender-neutral, I should have declared an interest as the president of the Colbury rifle and pistol club in the New Forest, where the champion shooter is a young lady called Molly. I think she is still in her teens, and she has on more than one occasion shot 100 out of 100, something I have never managed to do and I fear I never will manage to do.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

There is still hope—you just never know—but I think my days of shooting as accurately as that are a long time gone. We have a couple of young ladies at the Comber Rifle Club, and both are holding their own at that level against the men, which is good stuff.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

I thank the hon. Gentleman for being so generous with his time and letting me intervene yet again—I shall try to conform to the rules this time, Madam Deputy Speaker. We have heard a lot about male and female shooters and about young shooters, but we have not heard so much about those at the other end of the scale. A former constituent of Brecon and Radnorshire, the late Lord Swansea, won gold medals at both the Olympic and Commonwealth games at the grand old age of, well, his late 60s and early 70s, so shooting is open to everyone.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

As I said, there is hope for everyone, and I think everyone has been covered now. Thinking of the Gold Coast games, it is significant that there is opportunity for disabled people. I know from my time as a shooter over a vast number of years that even those who are visually disabled or in a wheelchair can still excel, win and beat the able-bodied.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Chief Whip, Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business in the House of Commons)

My hon. Friend spoke passionately about his granddaughter Katie pursuing shooting as a sport, perhaps in competition. He may be aware that when the Commonwealth games fell through for Durban there was some talk that Northern Ireland might make a bid to host the games, perhaps supported by our neighbours in the Irish Republic. Of course, they have not yet rejoined the Commonwealth, but we look forward to the day. Does my hon. Friend join me in aspiring to the day when his granddaughter will shoot for Northern Ireland as Northern Ireland hosts the Commonwealth games for the first time?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Yes, absolutely. I thank my right hon. Friend for that. It may be aspirational, but it is something that we would all love. We always love to see our sons and daughters doing well, and we want to see our grandchildren do well. I want to see Katie beating her dad at shooting, and hopefully that will happen. I have no doubt that she would beat her grandfather every day, but I hope that she will beat her dad, too. I hope that Katie will be some shooter in the years to come, and I would love her to be a member of Team GB or of the Northern Ireland team at the Commonwealth games. We would also love to see the Republic of Ireland come back into the Commonwealth. That may be a bit aspirational and not terribly likely, but that does not stop us thinking about it and wishing for it to happen. The Commonwealth games will not become be representative of our own wee Northern Ireland if games without shooting become the norm. As my hon. Friend Paul Girvan said, it should never be the case that we opt out of shooting when hosting the games.

We hosted Olympic shooting, and will do so again at the first opportunity. What an outcry there would be if there were no athletics—no long jump or high jump—or swimming. I believe that there should be an outcry out of concern about shooting sports. Let us do what we can and secure the sport for the future gold medallists among us—perhaps not us, but our families—and provide shooting in Birmingham in 2022. As Chris Davies said, at the age of 68, you never know what you will do.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:25 pm, 21st March 2018

I thank Jim Shannon for introducing this important debate. I am grateful, too, for the contributions from colleagues, especially those who mentioned their fantastic shooting clubs. The Whip has asked me to mention that he, too, has a fantastic shooting club—Kelbrook shooting lodge in Pendle—which, I am sure, inspires many youngsters in his community and, indeed, older generations to become involved in shooting.

The hon. Member for Strangford is passionate about this issue from a personal, local and national perspective and I think that his speech has reinforced that view beyond the Chamber. I would like to wish our home nation shooting squads the best of luck at the Gold Coast games starting in 13 days, 16 hours and 33 minutes. Across the United Kingdom, we should be proud of our teams heading to Australia, and I know that they will do their best to succeed and to bring back gold, silver and bronze to showcase their respective nations.

Northern Ireland is sending 88 athletes and has a good record at the Commonwealth games. I hope that after a heavy day of discussion on legislative issues this debate will provide an opportunity to mention the positive power of sport and the inspiration it brings to many people, young and old, beyond the challenge of politics. Fast-forwarding to the 2022 Commonwealth games in Birmingham, we all welcome the positive opportunities that hosting an event such as the games can bring to Birmingham and the UK as a whole. The games will showcase Britain to the rest of the world, providing new economic growth and trade opportunities to the west midlands and beyond. In addition, the games will leave a legacy of new and refurbished sports facilities in Birmingham and the west midlands, including a fully refurbished Alexander athletics stadium and a brand new aquatics centre in Sandwell.

The Government have been working closely with its partners, Birmingham City Council, Commonwealth Games England and the Commonwealth Games Federation to begin plans for delivering a unique and exciting games in 2022. The appointment process for the chair of the organising committee was launched last week, and plans to deliver an amazing handover ceremony at the end of the 2018 Gold Coast games are also under way. We hope that, with the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting around the corner, the handover ceremony will be a great opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the Commonwealth movement and to show the world what Birmingham has to offer.

Hosting the Commonwealth games is no small undertaking and a number of important decisions need be taken to ensure that the city of Birmingham delivers the best games possible. One of these decisions is the sports programme for the event. The programme proposed by the Birmingham 2022 bid team and approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation is now being put into action. I should explain that, when bidding to host the Commonwealth games, a bidding city is required to develop a sports programme within the technical requirements set by the Commonwealth Games Federation, which requires all host cities to include a number of prescribed core sports and then select additional sports from a list of optional sports.

Shooting is, and always has been, an optional sport, and that status was reaffirmed by the Commonwealth Games Federation general assembly in 2015. That motion was voted on by the federation’s members, in line with its constitution, and it is not a decision with which any Government can, or should, interfere. So the first thing to say is shooting was considered for potential inclusion in the Birmingham 2022 programme under the optional sport banner.

A number of other considerations have to be taken into account when developing a sports programme that best meets the needs of Birmingham 2022. For example, a fixed quota of athletes must be complied with. So it is not simply the case that all sports could be included, even if this were feasible. In addition, Birmingham was awarded the Commonwealth games with just four and a half years in which to deliver it, rather than the usual seven.

I have no doubt that the city will deliver an outstanding event, despite the timeframe, but this does mean a number of additional practical considerations must be taken into account, including what sports facilities exist across the UK, their proximity to Birmingham and the west midlands and the level of financial investment required to make them suitable to host the games within the timescale available. The city also considered its wider objectives of showcasing high-quality competition, gender equality in medal events, and a strong and developing para-sport programme. In balancing all those considerations, the decision was taken not to include shooting in the 2022 Commonwealth games bid. Rather, the optional sports and disciplines submitted as part of the bid instead include three-on-three basketball and three-on-three para-basketball; track cycling and para-track cycling; mountain biking; diving; rhythmic gymnastics; and para-triathlon.

I am sure the whole House would agree that this combination of optional sports will complement an exciting and inclusive programme. If all of the other factors I have outlined did not apply, we would of course like to include a full spectrum of sports and disciplines. However, the important considerations relating to the size, scope, scale and deliverability of the games meant that Birmingham had to make difficult decisions. I understand the disappointment that many, including colleagues in this House and, especially, the athletes, will feel with this decision, but it is one that the Commonwealth Games Federation accepted the bid on.

The decision not to include shooting in 2022 should not be considered a reflection of the importance of the sport. After success in Rio and the trajectory of success across global competitions, UK Sport is providing £6.9 million of funding for the Tokyo 2020 shooting performance cycle—

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for giving way. I was trying to be helpful in asking for a copy of my speech to be sent to her Department before this debate and I hope that was done. The International Shooting Sport Federation and the International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations have indicated a willingness to work with the CGF to find a solution in order to keep shooting sports in the games and in the 2022 games programme. In February, so no more than a few weeks ago, they met the CGF president, and at an Olympic level they have been to see all these different people who they think they can influence. What I am really saying, if you do not mind my intervention being a little long, Madam Deputy Speaker, is that many people wish to make this happen. I am asking the Minister to use her efforts to see whether this is possible, ever mindful of the fact that Bisley wants to make its facilities available. As Manchester did it in 2002, I do not see why Birmingham cannot use Bisley, if it is made available and if all those organisations want to make this happen.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, which gives me the opportunity to re-emphasise and make clearer the point I made: Birmingham put in a bid to the CGF with its optional sports programme and shooting was not in it, and the CGF accepted the bid without shooting in the programme. My fear is that, if the CGF and Birmingham were to change that, it would challenge the bid that has already been accepted. But I am sure that officials and the Birmingham team have heard that intervention. They will certainly have heard the passion that he and other colleagues have spoken about on the issue of shooting. Let me reiterate that we certainly recognise the importance of shooting. As I was saying, UK Sport is continuing to provide millions of pounds for both the Tokyo 2020 shooting performance cycle and for the para-shooting in Tokyo.

The hon. Member for Strangford is a reasonable man. He will appreciate the technical rationale behind the difficult decision that Birmingham took as part of its bid process and appreciate that that bid was accepted by the CGF. I am always happy to discuss these issues with him further and to keep him in the loop in respect of the conversations with the federation and the international organisations. I am just not in the position to be able to say whether anything can change at this point.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

The Minister has acknowledged that the athletes will be disappointed that shooting is not happening at the 2022 games. Will she commit the Government to supporting British shooting beyond the Olympic games and show that they are prepared to support British shooting into eternity?

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I assure my hon. Friend that UK Sport continues to invest funding into elite-level shooting sports and that there will be funding for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic cycle. That investment will continue. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend asks from a sedentary position about the period beyond that. The decisions for beyond Tokyo 2020 will come in the run-up to 2020; there is always an eight-year funding cycle for elite sport.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Will the Minister and the Government reconsider the funding of the shooting part of the games, if that is part of the issue, and be ever mindful that Bisley wants to make its grounds available? I gently remind her that I referred in my speech to how the process for Birmingham was arrived at. I suggested that it did not follow normal practice. Let me mention what normal practice would be. When Durban was declared not to be available, Birmingham made its bid. The CGF executive dealt directly with the decision to find a replacement, such that Birmingham’s bid and, significantly, its proposed sports programme was not subject to debate by any of the 72 nations. I suggest that the process that should have been followed was not followed. With that in mind, I think it should be reviewed.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that, although the CGF worked on an expedited timetable, it certainly followed the process that it needed to follow, and Birmingham was the successful bid and was awarded the games. I recognise that he, other Members and athletes are disappointed that shooting will not be in the 2022 programme, but re-emphasise that that is no reflection of what we all think about the success of shooting. I shall continue to listen to the hon. Gentleman and other colleagues to make sure that these opinions are shared with the CGF and others.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

To build on the question in my hon. Friend’s last intervention, given that there is a desire to encourage greater participation and that the Minister has obviously indicated the willingness of Government to support shooting more generally, would the Government welcome a bid from the shooting fraternity in the UK to organise an international competition that could run alongside, or coincide with the timetable of the Commonwealth games?

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

We look at all bids from international sports and put them alongside other event strategy decisions. If there were a bid, we would pay attention to it in the same way that we do when we make decisions on lots of other bids. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that we continue to support many bids from Northern Ireland for whole island international sporting competitions.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

No, I will not give way again. [Hon. Members: “Ahh.”] The hon. Gentleman had his chance much earlier on, before I got to the last sentence of my speech.

I recognise the disappointment that Members around the Chamber are feeling right now, but I do hope that the whole House will join me in wishing the hundreds of athletes representing the home nations the very best of luck at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and will offer Birmingham continued support in its preparations for 2022.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.