‘(1) The Secretary of State must make regulations to provide the powers necessary for the relevant local authorities to levy charges on hotel occupancy and short-term rentals in their respective areas for the duration of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom.
(2) The regulations must define “relevant local authorities” to include the local authorities for each Games location.’—(Alison McGovern.)
This new clause would provide for money to be raised during the Games by the relevant local authorities charging a levy on hotel occupancy and short-term rentals.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
I am tempted to engage the House in a long discussion about local government finance in relation to new clause 2; however, I will try not to go on and on. The hotel levy proposed in new clause 2 has been previously proposed by Members of the House of Lords—Lord Rooker of Perry Barr and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath—and is supported by not only Birmingham City Council but, to my knowledge, a number of local authorities that have strong experience of hosting large cultural and sporting events.
Without going into too much detail about the terrible impact that austerity policies have had on local government over the past 10 years—I hope that most Members are more than well aware of that—the fact is that we in this country now have a national challenge to figure out how we can properly fund local government. Local authorities are struggling through the coronavirus crisis, having been told by the Government to do whatever it takes to fight the virus, and now the Government are falling short of their commitment to fund local authorities to do whatever it takes. That is the background and the backdrop to the situation in which we find ourselves.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, given that coronavirus is currently so job-destroying, the Government should look at this particular measure urgently?
My hon. Friend pre-empts what I am about to say. She is absolutely right, and of course as an experienced leader in local government herself, she would know more than anybody that the challenge in funding for local government has been exacerbated over the past 10 years.
We need to focus on means by which we can enable local authorities to do what they do best, which we are seeing with the work of Birmingham, Sandwell and all the boroughs across the west midlands. They know their areas best and they are able to create amazing events and opportunities that not only drive forward a city’s and a region’s economy but are a game changer in the status of a place whereby people can experience, perhaps for the first time, or the first time in a long time, what that place is like. That has incredible knock-on positives for that place.
We therefore need to concern ourselves, as a House, with opportunities to enable funding for these events. The Commonwealth games is a massive opportunity to pilot an idea that has huge support from various city leaders right across the country. The idea of applying a small levy to hotels has been discussed and investigated for quite some time now. I encourage the Minister to look seriously at this option, given the possibilities that it could create.
There are a couple of reasons why I suggest that the Minister take this seriously. The visitor economy is a growing area in our country. Until the recent coronavirus crisis, I am not sure that that was widely understood or accepted, but given the impact that the measures needed to control the virus are having on the economy, I do not think anybody would doubt it now. As a country, we rely hugely on the tourism and visitor economy, but that part of our economy must be sustainable. It takes considerable investment to get the right facilities and the right infrastructure, and to make sure that people’s experience of visiting a place is good. We need to consistently offer people a really enjoyable place to visit so that the reputation of an area grows and grows over time. That is where events like the Commonwealth games come in. They are showcase opportunities. They are a reason to visit for many thousands of people who will be excited to go to Birmingham and Sandwell. Therefore, in order to make these places sustainable, they need sources of income. That is just an economic fact of life.
With the undoubtedly positive impact of the Commonwealth games on the economy of the west midlands, we need to be sure that it is worth it to Birmingham and the wider west midlands to be hosting these games. There are measures in the Bill that require reporting by the organising committee on the impacts of the games, but we also need to be clear about how we measure the economic impact.
I hope the Minister is going to accept this suggestion, but if he does not it would be helpful if he at least offered to discuss it with the Chancellor, because surely our tourism and hospitality industry is searching for new ideas to stimulate it, and the Chancellor would welcome a chance to look at these proposals.
I thank my hon. Friend. I trust that the Minister was listening carefully and will respond to that request. In my experience, Members of Parliament who go to the Chancellor or the Treasury with requests for funding get one kind of response, and Members of Parliament who go with ideas on how to raise funds get a different kind of response, so I can only be encouraging of my hon. Friend’s suggestion. I hope the Minister will beat a path to the Treasury door, and might take with him some colleagues—perhaps my hon. Friend and some from the other place, where there are experienced leaders of local authorities who would help him to make the case. I think that would be an excellent thing to do.
I say this in all seriousness: I have a strong suspicion that people in the world of economics and finance have slightly pooh-poohed the impact of tourism and the visitor economy on the UK and the role it plays. We talk about the service sector in these broad, sweeping terms without ever really breaking down what that means, the jobs that people do and the roles they play. That is why it is important that we seek these opportunities to put the tourism and visitor economy on a sustainable and solid footing, and this idea ought to be considered as part of that.
I have been listening carefully to what the hon. Member is saying, and I am trying to understand it. Is she arguing for more tourism by taxing more people? I cannot get my head around that, so could she explain it a little better? She says, “We want more tourists to come, but when you come, we’ll tax you more.” Is that it?
On the face of it, the hon. Member makes an argument that is understandable, in that taxes might constrain economic activity. However, many years of having taxes on economic activity show that the thing we use those taxes for can also generate and sustain economic activity. I am arguing that we ought to have a stream of investment to help local authorities sustain themselves and be able to put on events like the Commonwealth games now and in the future. If he thinks that that is not necessary, I would simply invite him to discuss the matter with any leader of a large local authority in the United Kingdom.
Does my hon. Friend accept that it might help to burden-share across the region, so that local council tax payers do not have an increase in their council tax bill? If some of the funded visitors were able to pay a small amount extra on their hotel bill, that could spread the burden of this exciting international opportunity, so that not just Birmingham has to pay for this, and it can be spread a little wider.
I appreciate the positive remarks. I can assure you that no business in the tourism and hospitality sector would advocate a levy on people coming to stay, especially when you yourself have accepted—
I realised that as soon as I said it, so I appreciate that intervention.
The hon. Member has said that the coronavirus has impacted jobs. Surely an additional levy—an additional cost—impacting demand is not something that businesses in the west midlands would want.
I welcome the hon. Member to the House. He has worked in the service of a city and a region of our country that is one of the finest anywhere, so I applaud his work in that. I simply disagree with him. I am sure he is right about the situation that tourism businesses are in. The problem is that we need local authorities to be sustainable, so that they can provide the environment in which those tourism businesses can succeed.
Sometimes it helps to read the clause. If a £1 per night levy will be a significant deterrent for the hotel industry, why is such a tax in place in Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Greece—in fact, most of western Europe? Has it been a significant deterrent to hotel stays in western Europe, in my hon. Friend’s experience?
In my experience, it has not. My right hon. Friend makes an extraordinarily good point. What I think is a deterrent to the tourism industry is when local authorities cannot afford to fund the things that make events like this a success. Local authorities need the ability to make these events sustainable.
I will in a moment. Just let me finish responding to my right hon. Friend, although the enthusiasm for debate in this place is always to be welcomed.
Local authorities need the ability to make sure that events are a success. That is what they do best, and I know that Birmingham City Council, Sandwell Council and all the other boroughs are working their fingers to the bone to make sure that in 2022 we have a games that the whole country can be massively proud of. All the new clause seeks to do is levy a very modest amount on hotel bills so that they can succeed in those efforts.
I get the point about councils needing the budget to do things, but Birmingham has proved itself to be completely useless at managing a budget. The Perry Barr bus depot will be three times over the original allotted budget. Another example is the Paradise Circus development in the city centre—all three phases of that budget were spent in the first phase. Birmingham City Council is badly managed and cannot manage a budget properly.
The point was made that the levy is a small amount of money, but there is an administrative cost as well. Does the hon. Lady think it right at this moment, when the hospitality industry is already struggling, to place extra burdens on it?
I am sure the hon. Lady wants to defend hotels and tourism, as I do, but I simply make the point that I made previously: local authorities are crucial to making sure that the tourism and visitor sector is successful in Birmingham and other boroughs in the west midlands, and everywhere in the country that has a significant visitor economy. The level of austerity and the funding cuts that local authorities have borne to date have been significant and are causing problems and challenges for our ability to host such events. This is a modest proposal in pursuit of the sustainability of such events.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Birmingham Hippodrome made significant job cuts this week, that the Birmingham Rep is running a significant deficit this year, and that the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is also running a significant deficit? Is she also aware that a crisis in the cultural sector is breaking upon us now? Those institutions will be coming to the Secretary of State next week to ask for his help, so he has a choice: either he can find the money himself or he can support small, common-sense measures such as this.
I was not aware of the specifics, though it is no surprise to me, because I am aware of the situation in the cultural sector right across the country. My right hon. Friend knows very well that the art collection in Birmingham city is one of my favourites. It is a brilliant art collection that will do a great deal for the cultural offer alongside the Commonwealth games. It is a reason people go to Birmingham. Without funding, such things cannot be sustained, and their loss would fatally undermine the tourism offer in cities up and down our country. Again, I simply say to Government Members that this is a modest proposal. Do they think, at this point in time, that the Treasury and the Conservative Government could do with a few modest proposals to bring in a small amount of income? Might the Minister not therefore consider this seriously?
Finally, it is important that we have proper metrics and measures to assess the economic impact of these games. It could be substantial—it could be substantially positive for the economy—so will the Minister commit to discussing with me a set of metrics that we can agree on to monitor the economic impacts of the games on all the various sectors that Members on both sides of the House have discussed, so that we can make the case that cultural and sporting events do properly benefit the economy? Will he consider this fully and take seriously the question of sustainability for the tourism and visitor economy, which at the moment should be at the heart of all our concerns?
I, too, wish to speak in support of new clause 2; we would be content this afternoon with a commitment from the Minister that he will explore this proposal with the Chancellor in the spending review, which we know is forthcoming.
I shall give some numbers, because I think they will help this debate. The total cost of the Commonwealth games is about £778 million, about three quarters of which is being provided by Her Majesty’s Government. Some £184 million is coming from Birmingham City Council and its partners, with £25 million going towards the Alexander stadium from the combined authority, plus a further £165 million going to kick-start the housing development, including the athletes’ village, from the combined authority.
I say that because the Minister will be aware of two significant risks to the local contribution, which makes up about a quarter of the budget. First, there is a risk to the local government contribution. At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet said to local authorities up and down the land, “Do whatever it takes to get through this crisis, keep the receipts and we will pay you back on the other side.” The House will be amazed to learn that the deal is now beginning to unravel and the Minister’s Cabinet colleague in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is beginning to query whether all the bills will be paid. In a city such as Birmingham, that means we could be confronting a deficit of £164 million this year. That is why the Minister has an obligation to take steps now to de-risk the local contribution to the games.
It is not just Birmingham City Council that is in jeopardy; the combined authority is, too. We revealed just a week or two before the elections were postponed that the Mayor’s budget has a £1.2 billion black hole in it. He has made commitments £1.2 billion in excess of the funds he has available. That is because he failed to get his precept through, he failed to get any movement on supplementary business rates and the funding that was going to novate from the local enterprise partnerships to the combined authority has not come through. In addition, there is a £700 million funding gap on the transport plan, because the Department for Transport is beginning to query some of the transport schemes. The broad point I want to make is that coronavirus has created a significant risk to the local authority contribution, and it would appear that there is a significant risk in respect of the combined authority as well.
On the point of commitment, it is cheap to try to bring coronavirus into this, given that we were having this discussion about the city council’s contribution before the pandemic started. I have to remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was the leader of the council, in order to get the Birmingham Commonwealth games through his own group, who made the commitment that the contributions of the city council would not have an impact on the revenue budget. He has gone back on that commitment, one that many Labour councillors are very annoyed about. So does the right hon. Gentleman share my disappointment in the leader of the council who cannot keep his own budget in order?
I can scarcely believe what I have heard this afternoon. This council has had its budged halved by this Government over the past 10 years, yet its area is home to some of the worst deprivation in the country. The leadership of the council in the past few years have been miraculous, given the challenges that they have had to go through. They have gone over and above that, helping the country out by offering to host the Commonwealth games when Durban pulled out, and we should be grateful for that, not curmudgeonly, like Gary Sambrook. He should be less curmudgeonly and more welcoming of the leadership the city is providing.
I do not want to let hon. Members escape from the substantial point we are confronting now and going forward. Coronavirus has created a fiscal risk to the city that totals about £164 million, because of the umming and ahhing from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. That is not unique to Birmingham. The Local Government Association and Tory and Labour Members alike have written to the Government about this situation. One way we can de-risk it a bit is to have a pilot scheme in which a £1 levy on hotel rooms is created to help to fund some of the brilliant cultural work that needs to go on around the Commonwealth games.
Just so that hon. Members know, we have two risks coming up in the west midlands. The city of culture in Coventry has now been moved from January to June next year and that will run straight into the Commonwealth games, which will start in the summer of 2022. Frankly, it will be a pretty thin affair if all of the cultural institutions in the west midlands have collapsed. I say to the Minister today that they are on the brink of collapse now. The Hippodrome is already firing people. The Rep, which is a signatory to the letter to the Secretary of State from UK Theatre, is running a serious fiscal deficit. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is also looking at a serious deficit. In fact, when I convened a meeting with Culture Central from the west midlands last week, they were all reporting significant deficits.
I know that the Minister, because he is a responsible sort, will be working on a rescue plan for the cultural sector. I know that he is going to have difficult conversations with the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I know what the other side of those conversations looks like, because I had them with Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Ministers in my time. The Minister’s arm will be strengthened if he is able to bring to the table imaginative proposals such as that in new clause 2. We are not asking for the moon; we are asking for £1 a night. That could, across the region over the course of four or five years, create a fund of about £4 million or £5 million, which could offset some of the costs that are needed and help to save the magnificent cultural institutions in Britain’s second city.
My right hon. Friend is making some excellent arguments. Does he remember that during the London Olympics—as a London MP, I remember this well—a series of MPs went to the Government to say that it was an extra thing for our city and therefore more resource, ideas, innovation and creativity were needed? The west midlands taxpayer cannot fund the whole project, so it is well within the remit of every MP in the region to be asking the Government for specific help and this proposal is a particularly imaginative solution.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It could be that the Minister has a better plan, in which case now is the time to set it down. The letters from the cultural sector are coming to him next week. I hope they will be signed cross-party, because we share an interest in the rich cultural life of Britain’s second city. If this is not the way forward, I ask him please to tell us a better way. If there is not a better way, I hope he will accept new clause 2.
We have discussed the issue of a hotel tax at great length during the Bill’s passage, but may I first say that I completely support and appreciate the comments on the importance of the tourism sector made by Alison McGovern at the beginning of her speech? It has perhaps not been recognised as so important partly because of the fragmented nature of the industry, but I assure her that I consider the tourism sector to be of great importance and will be doing everything I can to support it.
The Government have always been clear that the Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for a proposal such as the hotel tax. It is not a money Bill; that would be for Her Majesty’s Treasury to bring forward. My colleagues in the Treasury have been crystal clear that any case put forward for a hotel tax would need to be fully costed, including balancing the additional burdens on businesses. In any event, were such a tax to be introduced solely for the duration of the games, it is estimated that it would raise for Birmingham City Council about £4.5 million to £5 million for the whole year. That would be only a small part of the financial contributions owed by the council and its partners to the games. Liam Byrne mentioned the £184 million contribution from Birmingham City Council, and of course central Government will contribute nearly £600 million directly.
I want to stop the Minister at that point. He mentions the relative investment of the Treasury and the city council, but surely he accepts that the resources of those two bodies are not the same. We are trying to come up with proposals to help the city council and other authorities. Will he concede that the proposal is something that should be taken forward?
I do not believe that the proposal should be taken forward for a variety of reasons. The discussion about the financials of the Commonwealth games was sorted out and agreed some time ago—and it is still agreed.
We should consider the wider context. The tourism and hospitality sector has been impacted by covid-19 and the Government are focused on doing what they can to support the sector throughout this challenging period. As my hon. Friend Marco Longhi said, I cannot see how an additional tax would help. Only a few moments ago, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill lectured me about the importance of £1 and what a big difference that would make. Now he tells me that it is trivial. Which is it? It would not just be £1; it would be another pound and another and another. The potential for incremental increases in that kind of taxation is dangerous.
I respect the economic argument that the Minister tries to make, but the proposal is for a pilot scheme, which can be governed jointly, that delivers a £1 a night tax. A pound a night in the context of the average hotel bill in Birmingham is frankly pretty insignificant, but across a spectacle as grand as the Commonwealth games, it could mean a significant amount of money. If the Minister has got a better way of de-risking what is now a dangerous fiscal situation for the Commonwealth games, let us hear it.
I will come on to the financial contributions in a moment.
The new clause would or could inadvertently discourage people from staying overnight in Birmingham and the west midlands at games time—the very time we want to welcome the world to the west midlands and when the region is doing whatever it can to increase visitors and the opportunities generated by the games. On top of that, even though we do not charge a tourism tax in the UK, we charge full VAT on hotel stays, which many other countries do not. Many other countries do not charge full VAT rates on hospitality and leisure.
Furthermore, local authorities have a range of existing revenue-raising and fundraising powers that they could explore to support them to meet financial contributions that are associated with events such as the Commonwealth games. Most important, the council has always been clear that it can and will deliver its financial commitments to the games without the need for a hotel tax. As ever, we remain in close contact with the council on all aspects of the games, including the budget. It is also worth noting that early analysis of the financial impact of covid-19 has demonstrated that the additional costs arising from the pandemic can be met from the existing games budget.
Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I have managed to elicit a direct response from the fabulous Mayor of the West Midlands to the suggestion that there is a black hole in his budget. Rather than test your patience with a long intervention, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall reserve his comments for the House if I catch your eye on Third Reading.
There should be no increase in Birmingham’s financial contribution. Although we recognise the additional pressures that local authorities are under in dealing with the covid-19 pandemic, central Government have already announced additional funding of £3.2 billion to support that.
All games partners continue to work closely together to ensure that any additional cost resulting from covid-19 can be absorbed in the current budget so as not to increase Birmingham’s financial contribution to the games, to which it has already committed without the need for a hotel tax. That close partnership and working relationship will ensure that we deliver a memorable games with lasting benefits in Birmingham and the west midlands. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Wirral South to withdraw the motion.
I thank the Minister for his comments, but as one of my hon. Friends has just pointed out, £1 is about half an hour’s parking. In the context of what we are talking about, the idea that that would massively dissuade people from a hotel stay would probably bear interrogation. However, this idea, similarly, is not going anywhere, and it is well supported across the country by civic leaders. For now, however, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We are moving at speed today. I would like to thank Catherine West, who led the Bill through Committee for the Opposition, and to wish her all the best in her new role. I would also like to thank all Members who sat on the Public Bill Committee and who have otherwise contributed to the Bill’s passage, including Mr Mahmood, Liam Byrne, the hon. Members for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Preet Kaur Gill) and for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Northfield (Gary Sambrook), for Dudley South (Mike Wood), for Dudley North (Marco Longhi), for North Warwickshire (Craig Tracey), for Stourbridge (Suzanne Webb), for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon), for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards) and for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey), and many more.
I would also like to thank all the games partners, including Birmingham City Council; the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Mayor, Andy Street; Transport for West Midlands; West Midlands police; and, of course, the organising committee itself. As a games partnership, they have provided excellent support during the passage of the Bill. As I am sure hon. Members would agree, they have been open and have engaged with Members right across the House.
My thanks also go to the officials, who have worked so hard on this Bill since its first introduction last year, and to my noble Friends Baroness Barran and Lord Ashton, for steering the Bill through the House of Lords in such a collaborative and accomplished fashion. I would also like to thank Members of this House and the House of Lords for their scrutiny and for the thoughtful and constructive contributions we have seen throughout the Bill’s passage. Indeed, we have seen many positive changes on the back of that scrutiny—for example, the organising committee is now required through this legislation to report on certain areas of games delivery, ensuring full transparency and accountability.
Now seems the right moment to reflect on the preparations for the Birmingham 2022 games, which have already had to overcome an unprecedented level of challenge and uncertainty. We started out with a truncated delivery timeline of four and a half years, rather than the usual seven for a full games cycle. We should not forget that the games were originally awarded to Durban, and it was not until the end of 2017 that Birmingham picked up the baton. Of course, the current pandemic has also brought its own set of challenges. However, despite that environment, great progress has been made to ensure that we are still set to deliver a fantastic games on time and on budget, delivering real benefits to those in the region and beyond.
As Members know, significant upheaval has been caused in the international sporting calendar because of the impact of covid-19, with many major competitions being postponed or cancelled altogether. Following collaborative discussions with the organisers of other major events, including the world athletics championships, I am pleased to confirm that the start of the games will move back by one day, with the opening ceremony now taking place on
All of this will ensure that 2022 continues to be a fantastic year of celebration for our country and an opportunity to champion all that is great about this United Kingdom—a year where, alongside welcoming the world to Birmingham for the 22nd Commonwealth games, we will be celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s platinum jubilee, marking the 100th anniversary of the BBC and staging a major nationwide festival showcasing our creativity and innovation.
I would also like to reflect on and celebrate those things that will make the Birmingham 2022 games unique. This will be the first time in history that a major multi-sport event features more women’s medal events than men’s, as well as featuring the largest integrated parasport event. We have seen the Birmingham 2022 organising committee publish the Commonwealth games’ first ever social values charter, helping to ensure that the important values discussed both here and in the House of Lords remain at the forefront of games delivery. Such values are those of accessibility and a lasting games legacy.
Earlier this week, the Birmingham 2022 organising committee formally announced the new Birmingham 2022 inclusive games standard, alongside its commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. It is hoped that the BIG standard, supporting the Birmingham games to be the “Games for Everyone” will become a blueprint for future editions of the Commonwealth games.
Turning to legacy, the importance of the games as a catalyst for the economic, cultural and social renewal of the west midlands is underscored now more than ever as we look to restore livelihoods and rebuild from the current situation. In 2020 alone, £145 million of organising committee contracts will be available for tender across a broad range of services, and the organising committee will see its workforce double. In recent weeks, it has held webinars with local chambers of commerce to promote these tenders, and it will continue to do so. All these opportunities are listed on the Birmingham 2022 website.
I thank my hon. Friend for bringing the Bill back to the House, and for talking about the legacy and the economic positives that will come from this. Does he acknowledge the role that the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has played in making sure that this Commonwealth games was brought to the west midlands, thrusting our region on to the international stage?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Indeed, all stakeholders, but I have to say Andy Street in particular, have been very focused on the legacy, plus the trade, investment and tourism opportunities that could come. He played a pivotal role in securing additional money in the Budget earlier this year for those initiatives.
We must ensure and continue to ensure that the benefits brought by the games are lasting ones felt long after the 11 days of sport. A director of legacy has recently been appointed to help ensure we can meet this ambition, driving forward and embedding this work across the games partnerships. I know the organising committee has already reached out to hon. Members across the House to ensure that these benefits can be realised across the west midlands and beyond.
The Government and all games partners remain fully committed to delivering a fantastic and memorable games in 2022, building on our excellent reputation for staging major events, and showcasing the best of Birmingham, the west midlands and the entire country to the world. Although today marks the final stage of debate on this Bill, there will be many more opportunities for the House to keep up to date on the delivery of the games and its legacy, and I hope hon. Members can take advantage of those opportunities.
I thank the House once again for its support for the games and for this Bill. As we have heard, the Bill is integral to ensuring that these games are a success, and it is an important milestone in the ongoing preparation. I am very happy to have led this Bill’s charge to the finish line, and I look forward to seeing it reach the statute book very soon. I commend the Bill to the House.
I thank the Minister for his comments. It has been a joy to be a part of this Bill, even if only for a short time. In the main, it was ably steered through its Committee stage by my hon. Friend Catherine West, who is no longer in her place. As the Minister said, our thanks should go to her and to all the Members who took part in the Bill Committee. I particularly thank my right hon. Friend Liam Byrne and my hon. Friend Steve McCabe, who have both made compelling contributions today, and I hope—and I wish—that the Minister will listen carefully to the points they have made. All Birmingham Members, and others from the west midlands, have contributed to the process of getting this Bill through, and we should be thankful to them, as well as to our colleagues in the other place who have brought significant expertise to producing it.
I am also thinking today of colleagues in local government, who have had a rough time over the past 10 years and are currently dealing with a challenge that is so great that I think that they are proving to be some of the best and finest public servants that we have anywhere in government. Local government should be much more recognised across Whitehall than it actually is. I am thinking particularly of those in Birmingham and in Sandwell and across the west midlands authorities who are working so hard to defeat the coronavirus outbreak as well as preparing for what will be a hopeful and happy event in a few years’ time. I am thinking of them today; they are working so very hard. We have also mentioned Coventry, which is going to be city of culture and is preparing for that. I thank the organising committee of the games, which has been kind enough to brief me in my new role, and has done so diligently and expertly.
It is easy to wonder, in the face of such events around the world, whether sport means anything. Obviously, we all know that the real answer is that it does not. In the face of people dying of a terrible virus outbreak, of course sport is highly unimportant. However, it is something that we can lose ourselves in. We can enjoy sport, and for a short time just marvel at the abilities of other human beings enjoying themselves and competing for fun against one another. It is that idea that we can lose ourselves in the enjoyment of it that I think of as we finalise this Bill’s progress through the House.
I think back to moments in my own city region, when Liverpool was European capital of culture in 2008, and the joy that that brought to our city. I think of this city, London, in 2012, and the enjoyment, renewal and sense of civic pride that the London Olympics brought. I know that, as we have said, Birmingham—and the west midlands— is a place more than capable of inspiring not just our nation but countries around the world in the celebration of human endeavour. That is what sport is really about and that is the good that it does.
That much should be obvious, but there are 2.3 billion people in the Commonwealth and that means that the games are really important as a global event that will place Birmingham and the west midlands on the world stage where they belong. Birmingham is a fantastic place. Being from Merseyside, I have high standards when it comes to the friendliness of people, their sense of humour, and the enjoyment that you feel when you get off the train in a city. Birmingham meets all those tests. There is no better feeling than getting off the train at New Street—
Yes, nearly as good as Scousers. Birmingham is a fantastic place that I am only sorry I am unable to visit at the moment. But as soon as the regulations lift and we are able to travel in a more normal way, I shall be there, with bells on. It is a diverse place. It has beautiful buildings. Its art collection, as we have mentioned, bows to no other in the quality of its works. With its theatre, and its orchestra, in every respect, it is a vital part of our cultural life in this country. I fully anticipate that in the period of the Commonwealth games people will revel in the opportunity to visit and to enjoy everything that Birmingham, Coventry and all the other places in the west midlands have to offer.
I now turn briefly back to the Bill itself. For all the sporting, civic and cultural reasons I have mentioned, this is a very important Bill and the Commonwealth games will be a truly important event. However, we must go further than that, because this is not just about the games: it is about being ambitious for people in the city region. While there are new homes being built in Perry Barr as part of the infrastructure investment that the games are bringing, and better stations and better bus routes are being created as part of them, people are truly ambitious about how we can lift up their wages, skills, and ability to create businesses and really play a full role in the economy of the west midlands and our country.
The Bill has reporting requirements in it, but I repeat to the Minister that, if he is really to ensure that the games are a success for every single person in the west midlands who is ambitious for their future, he could voluntarily go further and do more. The reporting requirements about the values of the games, the commitments on accessibility for disabled people, the promotion of sustainability, and maximising the benefits being derived from the games are good ambitions, but they are, as I said, a bit woolly. Perhaps the Minister should work with colleagues, or voluntarily go even further than the Bill requires, because people will remember the games and the good that they did for a long time. It would be a hollow promise if we were unable to really progress the economy of the west midlands.
The Minister has heard the ferocity with which many Members from Birmingham have spoken, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, who I thought made a serious and devastating case. The Minister has heard how people feel about food banks, and the role of low wages in creating the necessity for those food banks. I would simply say to him again that the problem is not going away, and it is on all of us, including him, to try to progress a solution. Decent though the Bill’s laudable aims are, we should all want to go much further for people. Sport is one thing, but fundamentally changing people’s lives in addition is what we should really aspire to.
We meet at a time, as many Members have mentioned, that is truly challenging for our country, but hopefully the Commonwealth games come at what could be a perfect moment, in that 2022 feels near enough to be truly something to look forward to, but far enough away to ensure that the dedicated team of the organising committee, and all of us, can work together to create all the infrastructure and aspects of organisation that are needed to create a successful games.
As much as anything, the Commonwealth games should be about hope—not just hope for our country, and hope that we will deal with the current situation and improve on the challenges that we face in dealing with coronavirus, but a much greater hope that the representation of the Commonwealth games, in all the diversity of the athletes who will come to participate and the varied number of people who will come to witnesses them, and its unity can drive forward a better standard of living and an improvement for people in the west midlands and right across our country. It is about our ability to look forward in hope.
I will start where Alison McGovern finished, but before I do I congratulate both Front Benchers on, if I may use a sporting analogy, being thrown in the deep end in order to take the Bill through. They both spoke really well about the importance of the games and of the Bill. They also both look very fit and well following the dreadful lockdown, which has affected us all. I may be stretching a point, but perhaps we will see them both training in Sutton Park, which will play such an important part in the games.
The Bill provides an optimistic and encouraging moment because, as the hon. Lady said, it gives us a chance to look beyond the acute challenges that our country is facing at the moment and is genuinely something to look forward to. Boy, are we going to need it. Quite apart from the games, the sport, the fun and the excitement, all of which mean so much to so many people around the world, for us in the west midlands it is about the boost to our local economy, which we all know we must maximise. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create thousands of jobs, new homes and a massive improvement to the public realm.
At a local level in Sutton Coldfield, we are delighted that our historic park is going to come into active use. It is the place where King Henry VIII used to hunt and where soldiers undertook their training in trench warfare before heading off to the western front in the first world war, and it was also visited by Her Majesty the Queen and 30,000 others to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the scouting movement in 1957. In Sutton Coldfield, we will proudly host the triathlon for the games.
In a virtual meeting with the leadership team of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth games, I was pleased to hear about the progress. Nearly three quarters of a billion pounds is involved, and it will leave a tremendous legacy. Locally, I was pleased to hear from the leadership of the Commonwealth games committee that co-operation with Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council under its leader Simon Ward has been going so well.
My constituents will hopefully benefit greatly from the improved infrastructure in our park, which I believe is the largest municipal park in Europe. It will improve the facilities to be used, including for future events. The gain is not just for businesses locally, but for jobs, community projects and volunteering. The games will require 10,000 local volunteers to welcome people from all over the Commonwealth, as well as to perform in the opening and closing ceremonies and to host athletes and teams at sporting facilities for training purposes. In Sutton Coldfield, we are deeply grateful for the opportunities and very excited by the prospects.
We need to ensure, as the Minister made clear, that all the different organisations involved play their part and work together from now on until the games open. I have worked extremely closely over the past three months with Birmingham City Council and, in particular, with Liam Byrne. He and I co-chair a committee that tries to bring together all the local interests in order that we can tackle some of the problems that affect us across Birmingham.
I will leave others to underline the importance of the council’s role and local government, if I may. Instead, I want to refer to the role of the Mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority, which is absolutely crucial both for the games and for the legacy. I have seen what the London Olympics have done for the east end of London. In particular, through the legacy that went on afterwards, including with the International Inspiration programme chaired by Lord Coe, I saw the huge ability of sport not only to energise children and improve education, also to help health, education and vaccination in the developing world. There is a huge importance to focusing on the legacy that will follow in all its many forms.
I salute the efforts of Andy Street, our Mayor. He was teased, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman earlier about the so-called black hole in the budget. I have said to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I have, through the miracles of modern technology, been able to elicit a response from the Mayor. He said this:
“There is no black hole. Every year, the West Midlands Combined Authority has lived within its budget—both in-year finances and also within investment ceilings. It has been well managed and for example at last week’s board the annual finance review was fully accepted. Citizens of the west midlands have not paid a penny for a Tory mayor, but over £2 billion of new Government cash has been brought into the region since Andy Street was elected. Yes, we are still short of funds for some investments, but they are steadily closing as further new investment comes in.”
Those are the other words of Andy Street, delivered through me to the House on this important point this afternoon.
That was a fantastic defence of the Mayor, and it only lacks the very best wishes conveyed to the Mayor of the West Midlands on the occasion of his birthday today. None the less, all I would ask by way of intervention is for the Mayor to speak to his finance director, because during the transition talks before the mayoral elections were cancelled, it was not my analysis that revealed the £1.2 billion black hole; it was the analysis of his finance director. Admittedly, it took her three weeks to crunch the numbers and produce that figure. This is a gentle ask, I suppose, that we work together to try to repair this rather large hole that the WMCA finance director herself has identified.
It is extremely decent of the right hon. Gentleman, given his current position, to send his best wishes to the Mayor on his birthday. I am sure the Mayor will receive them, if not from one of us Conservative Members then over the airwaves. I reassure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that the Mayor of the West Midlands needs no lectures on financial success, financial ability or financial probity: he ran John Lewis, one of the most respected and most brilliant retail organisations in the country. I have no doubt whatsoever that we are all grateful for that experience, which he is sharing with the people of the west midlands through his mayoralty.
The Mayor has personally lobbied for £21.3 million to support the TTI—tourism trade and investment—programme to maximise the Commonwealth games opportunity, and that is, of course, in addition to the Mayor’s pivotal role in securing for Perry Barr, in respect of the games, £165 million of housing infrastructure fund money, which will help to regenerate a swathe of north Birmingham and leave a legacy of additional housing. All that was agreed in the March Budget this year, and last week, on
Given the current economic impact of covid-19, all that will have even greater significance, as it will enable us to raise the profile of the region’s businesses and to promote trade and work to secure jobs. In that respect, I particularly welcome the focus that the Mayor, the WMCA and all its partners have placed on using the opportunity of the games to accelerate and improve regional skills and employment opportunities. To help to achieve that, we have the new Commonwealth jobs and skills academy; the Mayor has put £1 million of the devolved adult education budget into funding technical skills for the development for the games.
The £100,000 skills hub in Perry Barr, in partnership with the main contractor, Lendlease, is very encouraging. We know that the construction industry in our region will need 50,000 more trained staff by 2030. The hub, funded by the WMCA, offers local people free skills training and a guaranteed job interview once a 20-day course has been completed. We hope the programme will help 4,600 young people and 2,600 unemployed people to gain skills, experience and then jobs. The games will also benefit, along with the rest of us in the region, from the wider transport investment programme that the Mayor is promoting, including the expansion of the metro network and investment in the rail network.
Having looked at severely local and regional aspects and aspirations, I wish to end by considering the international dimension, to which the hon. Member for Wirral South referred towards the end of her speech, and the Commonwealth itself. By ensuring that the world-class games succeed and bring pleasure to millions, perhaps billions, of people around the globe, Britain underlines the community of nations that is the Commonwealth. It is a north-south organisation, a family of countries co-operating in many different ways. At a time when narrow nationalism is rampant and the case for the international rules-based system is severely on the back foot, let us hope that the games will remind us all that we have much to gain from international co-operation and much to lose when the structures that sustain it breakdown.
What a marvellous opportunity to follow a marvellous speech, which I felt hit almost all the right notes.
The Commonwealth games that we will host in Birmingham in the West Midlands will be the greatest Commonwealth games that the world has ever seen. It will be not only the most spectacular festival of Commonwealth sport, but a magnificent festival of our civic spirit—the civic spirit that helped to build our city in the 19th century and propelled our city to become the second city of this nation. I very much hope that the games will not be the last word in the renaissance of culture and sport in our region; they will be just a first step.
If there is one ideal that I hope we can put centre stage, it is the words that Jo Cox gave us: that we have more in common than anything which can ever divide us. I hope that will be the animating spirit of these games. As the youngest city in Europe, I hope we can use that ethos and ethic to act as an inspiration for a revolution in the youth work we have across our city. On Second Reading, I called for the creation of a young Commonwealth leaders’ programme, because, as a city of 160 different nationalities, we need to look to the next generation to help lead the business of bringing a diverse city together to live and play well. I hope we will find it in ourselves to put youth workers back in every ward, with safe spaces for our young people, to connect the inspiration of “more in common” to the great, animating festival of the Commonwealth games so that a young generation will work not only to bring our communities together but to strengthen the relationships in Birmingham and the west midlands with Commonwealth countries around the world. I am grateful to the high commissioners from around the Commonwealth who have begun to talk through that programme with me.
I hope that these games are the catalyst for a transformation of disability sports. As many people know, our city is home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine: a place that, frankly, works miracles. I hope that in due course we can bring that centre together with the Commonwealth games team to create, in our green heart of Britain, the great new centre for the Invictus games for the years to come. That is a practical thing that we could do quickly and well.
I hope that these games are the catalyst for an extraordinary cultural renaissance in our part of the world. We are looking forward to an extraordinary decade with not just the city of culture in Coventry, starting most likely in June next year, but the Commonwealth games and then the arrival—when it is finally built—of High Speed 2. There could be an extraordinary transformation of the cityscape in our city region. As Mr Mitchell said, this is an optimistic moment and the Bill will give the decade an extraordinary kick-start.
Following on from what my right hon. Friend and Mr Mitchell said, this Bill is of enormous importance not only for the future of Birmingham and the wider west midlands but for the here and now. As we face a tidal wave of redundancies, this boost to the construction sector, keeping our construction workers in work now, will be enormously important for the long term.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is the second big point I want to make. This is a partnership. I am grateful for the investment that the Government have made, which will not just help unlock the greatest festival of Commonwealth sport that we have ever seen but bring 5,000 new homes to the constituency of my hon. Friend Mr Mahmood, who I know is watching us. That gain, however, would not be happening without the leadership of Ian Ward and the team at Birmingham City Council. Together, the city council is putting in about £184 million. It had the political courage to step up to the mark when Durban pulled out. Given the halving of Birmingham’s budget in the last 10 years, that was a brave act, a courageous act and a wise act. We will be grateful for that political decision for decades to come.
My right hon. Friend puts his finger on something critical. In the debate we just had on new clause 2, the Minister did not betray much sense of how the world had changed. I hope he will reflect on that remark and what he has heard this afternoon. If the Bank of England is correct—you never know. it might be—we will see unemployment in our region rise by 192,000 next year, to 320,000. That will put unemployment in our region at the highest level we have seen since 1987. The fiscal maths tells us that we need a capital kick-start of about £3.5 billion to deal with unemployment of that significance. As I said in earlier debates, our cultural institutions are crying out to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for help. The DCMS must look at the realities of what is going on in the sector and work with the Chancellor to do whatever is necessary to de-risk our bridge from where we are now to the beginning of the city of culture next year.
The prize is significant. I agree with the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield that this Bill is an optimistic moment. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us, but it has to lift a generation out of unemployment, out of poverty, out of hunger, and out of hopelessness. We have to make sure that, when the eyes of the world —of 1.5 billion people—are on us in 2022, we dazzle them not simply with an extraordinary spectacle of sport, but with an extraordinary society that, together, we have built.
It is a pleasure to follow Liam Byrne. I find myself agreeing with some of the points that he has made. The idea that HS2 is the right thing for the region is perhaps something that we will continue to disagree on, but I will move on from that because this debate has the potential to be an uplifting one.
I am delighted to speak in this debate and to have supported the previous stages of the Bill, including as a member of the Bill Committee. At this point, we should certainly congratulate my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston on what was probably one of his first outings as Minister. Perhaps we should give him a gold medal—the first medal of the games—for ensuring that the Bill was scrutinised in, if not world record time, certainly Commonwealth record time. I will endeavour to make my remarks with the same brevity today, Mr Deputy Speaker.
What our Bill Committee demonstrated was unity and a desire across the House to ensure that Birmingham delivers in 2022 a games of which we can all be proud. I agree with both speakers on the Front Benches that this Bill has come just at the right time given the current climate. We should never underestimate the power of such events not only as a showcase for the elite of international sport but in pulling the country together. Sport has an almost unique ability to collectively raise our spirits, although as a long-suffering Newcastle United fan, I find that those spirts are often quite quickly dashed shortly after, but I am sure that that will not happen with this event. If we think back to 2012, we will remember how the mood of the country was visibly lifted as we all came together to help deliver, arguably, the best Olympic games ever hosted, and it took place here in London.
It is incredibly important to get this right. It has been great to meet with the organising committee on several occasions. Its outreach to Members across the House has been brilliant—it certainly has been very good for me. It is great to hear about its exciting plans and visions for the games ahead. I have absolute confidence that this first-class team will make a huge success of these games. I have no doubt that people across Birmingham and the wider west midlands, including my constituents in north Warwickshire and Bedworth, will be inspired and ready to pick up the baton handed over by the legacy of the London games.
The Bill will allow us fully to recognise the amazing opportunities that the games can bring to the west midlands region. They are significant opportunities, even for areas that will not be lucky enough to host an event, including my constituency—although, if the Minister and the organising committee are listening, with a legacy of being able to deliver high-class sporting events such as national cycling, we are ready, able and willing to help if they are so inclined. There is still so much potential to be recognised across the whole region. As we have heard, around 41,000 game-time roles need filling, with important economic and employment benefits. I have been assured that those will reach out across our society, including to jobseekers and professionals of all levels, so there really is something for everybody to get involved in.
There has been a debate on the living wage, and I appreciate the assurances from the Minister. Lifting people out of unemployment and looking to people who are desperate to get into work is a really powerful aim of the games. I welcome the announcement by the West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, of the launch of the Commonwealth jobs and skills academy, which has the aim of improving regional skills and employment opportunities. That will not just help people during the delivery phase; it will undoubtedly be the lasting legacy of these games, providing people with a platform to transfer their skills and upskill, and helping them get into work. That is incredibly powerful.
There are also great opportunities for business. Contracts worth £300 million are available to tender for. It is fantastic that around 4,000 of those contracts will have a value of up to £175,000, providing opportunities to a broad range of small and medium-sized enterprises to bid for them and secure work. Because of the central location of the midlands, we have a great tradition of exhibition, hospitality and event hire companies. I know that a number of those companies have really struggled during the current pandemic, and this gives them an opportunity to showcase their skills on an international stage. I will certainly be encouraging the businesses in my area to apply for these contracts, and I am sure colleagues across the House will do the same.
There is precedent for local businesses getting these contracts. At the Glasgow games in 2014, 76% of contracts went to local or regional businesses. At the most recent games in 2018, in the Gold Coast, that figure went up to 84%. The organising committee has the ambition to deliver as much locally as possible this time round. The bar has been set—it has been proved that it can be done, and now we all need to help deliver that.
There are not only financial and employment benefits; we should not underestimate the education and cultural ones. The games will come right off the back of Coventry being the city of culture, and my constituency falls right in the land between where the two will happen. I am particularly excited about the school engagement programmes that the organisers are looking to undertake. Those programmes will give young people across the region an opportunity to become an integral part of the games and take part in what is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to welcome the world-class athletes competing on the doorstep, while learning about their countries, backgrounds and culture. As I know from speaking to schools across my constituency, they cannot wait to get involved in this.
To conclude, I am delighted that the Bill is making progress. These games have huge potential to provide a welcome boost across the region, which we arguably need now more than ever. For 11 days or so, the eyes of the world will focus on the west midlands for an outstanding spectacle of sport featuring some of the finest athletes in the world. It is a once-in-a-generation—if not a lifetime —opportunity to showcase our region on this stage and make the most of the employment, investment and tourism opportunities that are on offer if we get it right. I, for one, cannot wait to see this happen and have no hesitation in supporting the Bill’s passage.
Like so many of my west midlands colleagues, I am incredibly proud that we have such a high-profile sporting event coming to our fantastic region; with an estimated global audience of over 1.5 million, what an opportunity we have to showcase the potential of our region.
There is something incredibly special about having 71 nations and territories from across the Commonwealth coming to the west midlands; it speaks to our values of diversity and openness. It will last for 11 days, with over 12,000 athletes competing in 18 different sports, along with 41,000 staff, volunteers and contractors, and over 1 million ticketed spectators. I know that many of my constituents are very pleased that the shooting and archery events will be going ahead in India, too.
In many ways, we are lucky to be hosting the Commonwealth games at a time when the economy will still be rebuilding itself after the impact of coronavirus, as the Minister and many others have said in this debate. We must do everything we can to make the most of this opportunity for our region, and I am very pleased that creating thousands of jobs for local people like my constituents in West Bromwich East is at the heart of the vision for the games. It is a great shame, however, that Birmingham City Council has felt it necessary to push through its plans to demolish the Perry Barr flyover. I have already made my concerns about that known in this House, but I want to focus on the many positives of the games.
I welcome many aspects of the Bill. The games transport plan is excellent, and I am excited to see the provisions for training opportunities, too. I am very pleased that the Commonwealth games jobs and skills academy will particularly focus on supporting young people and unemployed adults in the region. Andy Street is already spearheading this drive to ensure that everyone can capitalise on the current opportunities associated with the games. It has been clear that at the heart of all Andy Street has done so far in preparation for these games is ensuring that there is a lasting legacy for the communities of the west midlands. It is also clear that the visitor experience is paramount to our success, so Andy has worked hard to ensure that we have frequent and reliable transport options for athletes and spectators in time for the event. Communities such as mine will benefit for years to come, and we owe it to them to make this happen.
I have already had conversations with the local jobcentre in West Bromwich about how everybody can feel the benefits of the jobs boost to come, especially given the current issues. Not only are we lucky to be hosting the games after the economic impact of coronavirus, but it would be great to focus on healthy lifestyles and the enjoyment to be gained from sport at a time when we must be talking about health inequalities. Sport is a fantastic leveller and unifier, but we can go beyond that: we have an amazing opportunity to use the games as a further platform to address the severe health inequalities our communities still suffer from. I want this to be a priority. In the same way as we are focused on the economic recovery from coronavirus and using the games to address those challenges, I hope that the games can promote good lifestyle choices and inspire the next generation to take up sport.
Above all, I want us to feel pride in our region. One of my main aims is to ensure we can spread the legacy and benefits of the games throughout the west midlands and make sure their positive drive for lasting change and regeneration is not confined to Birmingham. This Government were elected on a platform of levelling up our communities, and the games will be a catalyst to further that work. In many ways, our commitment to levelling up has been a continuation of the inspirational work that our mayor, Andy Street, has been doing throughout his time in office. I have always been proud of my home region, and the Bill has my full support.
I want to begin by saying that I welcome the measures in the Bill. It has always been important that everyone gets behind these games and makes sure they are a huge success, but, as we have heard, given the economic circumstances we know face, that has taken on added significance.
I particularly welcome the investment that will result in new homes and necessary transport infrastructure, as well as huge improvements in walking and cycling routes. I greatly welcome the A34 cycleway, which will extend through Perry Barr and beyond to revitalise communities and connect new housing with the Alexander stadium and on to Walsall, opening up the west midlands, just as the canals did centuries before.
Birmingham City Council and its leader, Ian Ward, deserve our congratulations on the lead they have taken generally over these games and on the £72 million upgrade plans for Alexander stadium. During the games, the stadium will be viewed by an estimated 1.5 billion TV audience. Following the games, it will retain an 18,000 permanent seated capacity, making it the largest facility of its kind in the UK. It will also provide a teaching base for Birmingham City University’s sports and exercise students. The university is already pushing new boundaries in its work in the areas of sports psychology, medicine and training—all work that has much wider potential benefits for the rest of the community.
As we have heard, it is not just Birmingham, because these are west midlands games. I want to acknowledge councils and organisations across the region, especially Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, which will be hosting the swimming and diving events. Its new £73 million state-of-the-art venue will be a jewel in the crown of the west midlands long after the games are over.
We have heard today that there are concerns about funding and issues about the economics of the games, but the Birmingham business charter for social responsibility is an example of what we might achieve. It can mean jobs for local people—new jobs and apprenticeships, work experience opportunities, programmes to target disadvantaged residents, opportunities for local suppliers and businesses, school engagement, a community fund, and a commitment to create a carbon-neutral construction environment. These are all things we need if we are to make it a success.
This is our chance for the city of a thousand trades—a city where 46% of the population are under 30; a city which, at the last count, is host to 187 nationalities from the Commonwealth and around the world. This is our chance to make Kare Adenegan, Elise Glynn and Galal Yafai household names. This is our chance to make the games and their legacy an achievement that people will talk about and remember fondly for many years to come.
This is a debate of many firsts. It is the first I have sat in with my friend and neighbour Nicola Richards and to which here we have both contributed, and it is probably the first in which three of the four Members from Sandwell Metropolitan Borough area have been on the Government Benches at the same time. It is also the first debate in which I have found myself agreeing with Liam Byrne. His speech hit most of the points. I do not agree with him on most things, but in fairness it was a very good speech, so I thank him for that.
It is not often that I come to a Third Reading debate so excitable—and no, it is not just because you are in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, or because I get to head back to Tipton soon. It is fantastic to talk about what is at the core of this debate: opportunity. That has been highlighted by all the speakers so far. Areas and communities such as mine are crying out for this opportunity to grow and invest.
My hon. Friend Nicola Richards was right when she said that nearly 1.5 million people would be visiting the west midlands during the games. This is our time to shine. That point was echoed by Steve McCabe, who put it very eloquently. The influx of visitors to the west midlands will put it back on the map. Our Mayor, Andy Street, has been advocating at every level to ensure that the west midlands has its voice heard during the games.
The urban west midlands is made up of some of the most diverse and unique communities in the whole country. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East and other Members who represent the West Midlands Combined Authority area would agree that what works in one part of the west midlands, particularly in our borough of Sandwell, might not work in another—go half an hour down the road and suggest it and you will get some raised eyebrows. Indeed, what works in West Brom might not get looked at the same way in Tipton, but that is the joy of our area—that diversity, that coming forward with views, that straight talking is what makes me so proud to be a west midlands and black country MP.
Before I turn to my main comments, I want to make a more sober point about security. As we saw last week, our police are heroes; we cannot deny that. What they put up with last week was abhorrent. It was disgusting, and I want to put it on record that all police officers in this country are unsung heroes, and they deserve our praise and support.
We need to make sure that visitors to the games feel supported and safe and that they can come here without fear of crime. I have talked a lot in this Chamber about the effect that crime has had on my communities in west Sandwell, and nowhere more so than in Tipton, which is set to lose its police station this summer. I must reiterate my utter opposition to that move. It undermines the safety of our communities and, I am sorry, but when the police and crime commissioner can spend £38 million on his ivory tower at Lloyd House but cannot save the police station in one of my most vulnerable communities, that is absolutely out of order. It shows a complete lack of priorities from the administration there.
I am indeed, and I am very aware of the campaign that my right hon. Friend has been running to keep the police station open in the royal town.
Security will be key and we need to make sure that people feel safe. I have every confidence that our west midlands police officers will do that. They are, in my view, the best police force in the world, and I am proud of the work that they have done across our community to support cohesion and diversity and to keep our communities safe. I put on record my thanks to them.
I turn to my main point, which is about long-term opportunity, and that comes in the form of long-term investment. Many Members have made points about the crisis we find ourselves in and the economic crisis that we will go into. Liam Byrne said that we need about £3.2 billion of investment to deal with the jobs crisis. These Commonwealth games go some way towards doing that, but they are not a fix-all. However, their timing could not be better. We need to ensure that we have those long-term opportunities to battle the threat of long-term and increased unemployment, which will happen. My area and the communities that I represent —Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton—were absolutely decimated by unemployment last time. I do not want to see that happen again and I will be fighting to make sure that it does not.
The point about community is absolutely crucial. I am very proud to represent Tipton. Many Government and Opposition Members have heard me go on and on about the town. I love Tipton, mainly because it is an underdog. Many people often call Tipton the forgotten city and that makes me angry, because nowhere in this country should be forgotten, and why should Tipton? Why should the people of Tipton feel that they do not matter? People might think that it is a joke or that it is funny, but it is not, because those communities are crying out. When I stood in a school in Tipton and spoke to those students, I took a straw poll and said, “How many of you will come back here once you have done whatever qualification it is you decide to do?”, and 80% of those kids said that they will not come back. That is the reason why we need these games and the long-term investment and opportunities that come out of them. It is for those kids in that school, because they should feel proud of the town and community they come from, and they should feel that they will come back there and live their lives in that community.
The fact is that if we are going to enhance these opportunities, we need to ensure that we respect the fact that the urban west midlands in particular is a patchwork of individual socioeconomic areas. Yes, the games will be in Birmingham, but as many right hon. and hon. Members have said, we need to ensure that the benefits transfer across the urban west midlands, and I am proud of the fact that that will happen. As hon. Members have pointed out, we will have the aquatics centre in Smethwick, in the constituency of John Spellar, but if we think back to the long-term legacy, we need to look as well at encouraging innovation.
I have been really impressed by the engagement from the Commonwealth games team and the fact that it wants to secure local procurement and local jobs, but we need to tie that into ensuring that we get whatever residual investment comes out of that into Black Country innovation, because that is what makes the Black Country —things such as the Wood Green Academy in Wednesbury making personal protective equipment, and Q3 Academy in Tipton currently completely diversifying the way it teaches its students. It is about latching on to the core principle of ingenuity in the Black Country and that residual investment as it comes through over the years—not just in 2022, but in 2032 and 2042—and absolutely maximising it, so that Tipton is never forgotten again.
I will draw my remarks to a close, because I appreciate that I have been talking for some time and, as one of my predecessors said, sometimes it is better to be a bit quicker and leave them wanting more. We need to join this up; we need to ensure that the opportunity and investment that comes out of these games benefits the whole of west midlands, from Tipton to Tettenhall, from Perry Barr to Princes End, from Wolverhampton to Wednesbury and from Clitheroe to Burnt Tree—
And Shropshire, of course, as my hon. Friend says. These games present a fantastic opportunity. It is not a sticking plaster to the problems we are going to face, and I do not think any right hon. or hon. Members would suggest that it is, but it is a start. If we seize these opportunities, we will succeed, in the way the west midlands does. I commend this Bill to the House.
It is tough to follow a barnstorming performance such as that, but it is a pleasure to speak in a debate that delivers something that voices from across the House can agree on: the desirability of delivering a successful Birmingham Commonwealth games. I must start with a personal comment, which is that I am delighted that women’s cricket is in the Commonwealth games for the first time. I had the honour and privilege of playing cricket with the icon and pioneer of women’s cricket Baroness Heyhoe Flint, who was a proud West Midlander—she was from Wolverhampton. So it is absolutely appropriate that these are the Commonwealth games at which cricket is introduced—it is wonderful.
This is wonderful opportunity to focus on the positive future after covid-19. The details of delivery are still to be finalised, but the agreement that hosting the games is a good thing is there. Let us not forget that for many potential hosts, including Durban, hosting the games has been seen as a bad financial option. As the finance of the games has been a key part of the debate about Birmingham 2022, we owe it to cities such as Durban, and others across the Commonwealth, to deliver a games with the very best of best-practice lessons to learn from. I am talking about a games that generate a legacy of economic benefits that are clear enough to make raising finance and leveraging partner and sponsor finance easier, and for a far wider, more diverse range of cities.
It used to be thought, particularly after the staggering success of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, that hosting an international games event was a sure bet for making money, massively boosting the visitor economy and delivering long-term infrastructure assets. The sad truth is that hosting an international games is not a magic wand and that a great deal of work will have to go into delivering a legacy that gets the city of Birmingham and the wider country its money back and more. If we do not do that, we will simply be confirming to underdeveloped cities across the Commonwealth that the games are a rich city’s plaything, and that would be a tragedy. That is not to say that Birmingham is a city with money to burn, because of course it is not, so I see the attraction of considering a hotel tax, as the Opposition have suggested several times as this Bill has progressed. However, as I have said earlier, it is a superficial attraction that does not bear scrutiny.
I absolutely accept the belief that there is an intrinsic link between the games and tourism. The visitor economy needs to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Birmingham 2022, not just for Birmingham and the west midlands authority area, but for the whole of the west midlands, from Hereford to Stoke-on-Trent, and all that is in between. The games should be about delivering a boost to our regional tourism economy, not an opportunity to impose an additional tax on it. Partners who stand to gain need to step up to the plate and actively ensure that success is delivered by the agencies charged with delivering it. They include VisitEngland and VisitBritain. Our national tourist agencies need to pull out all the stops to secure a legacy from the games across the midlands engine, and Stoke-on-Trent looks forward to working with them. Indeed, Stoke-on-Trent City Council wants me to put on record that it is extremely keen to get involved, to collaborate, to host, to work or to do whatever it takes with any of the games agencies in the interests of the entire west midlands region, but that involves reciprocation of interest from the relevant agencies in collaborating with Stoke-on-Trent. I would be interested to hear from the Minister what the great west midlands cities such as Stoke-on-Trent can expect in terms of engagement, tourism promotion and cultural and volunteering opportunities around the games.
To deliver a clear economic benefit, there needs to be promotion of how well connected Birmingham is to the wider west midlands, and how visitable the wider west midlands is and what its destinations and touristic experiences have to offer. The authentic Potteries, the world capital of ceramics, need a platform from the Birmingham games. They need an opportunity to sell themselves and to be sold by the tourism agencies as a must-see, must-visit experience, as a midlands city and as a cultural experience and investment opportunity like no other.
No Commonwealth games should be about money only. They should be about inspiring involvement in sports, culture, travel and coming together in something that is so much bigger than any one of us. However, if we try to pretend that it is not in any way about money, we will be condemning underdeveloped cities across the Commonwealth never to host the games. We need to prove that the games are worth the partnership funds they can leverage and the long-term socioeconomic legacy they can deliver. I support the Bill as a step towards getting that long-term benefit delivered.
I am delighted to follow my hon. Friends, who are vocal champions for the west midlands, and particularly those Members who represent the Black Country. I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests as a councillor on Birmingham City Council. I should also like to draw the House’s attention to the fact that I believe I am one of the games’ most enthusiastic supporters, not just because I am a west midlands MP but because many years ago I competed at club level in the very stadium that is to be the focal point of the games. That is, of course, the Alexander Stadium. That club, the Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletics Club, was in the constituency of my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell. Running for that club, I of course had my sights set on greater achievements, but hindsight is always a good thing. In fact, I had to wait until 2012—some 30 years later—to first set foot in an Olympic stadium, and then it was only as a spectator. Members can imagine my anticipation for 2022, when I will see the stadium that I first ran in become a Commonwealth games stadium.
The Bill contains important measures that I very much welcome—namely, those that touch on financial propriety rules and the proposal that the committee should report annually on the delivery of the games. These measures will give assurance to the financial rigour of the investments, particularly when the Government, the Mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority have been so generous and supportive on the financial side, but we cannot adequately assess an organisation’s financial rigour without also looking at the governance practices and its decision making. This is vital, as Birmingham City Council has its part to play in the planning, preparation and delivery of these games, and it does not have a good track record of governance or financial management. It is on its seventh chief executive in eight years, and it has had three successive section 24s issued in as many years. The power under section 24 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 is used when auditors are concerned about a council’s financial sustainability.
I believe that, to make the games a success, we need to evaluate on an ongoing basis the structures and processes that involve decision making, essentially as a check to determine whether the information given to key stakeholders is reliable. We have the window of the world on these games and there should be a mechanism in place not just to challenge financial rigour but to challenge and scrutinise those who govern. In this instance, that is Birmingham City Council. An essential element of any corporate governance is to do just that, and these games are no different—indeed, the need is even greater as the investment is the hard-earned money of the taxpayer.
I would now like to touch on the fiscal legacy of the games. When the games were awarded, we knew nothing of covid-19 or that the games would play their part in a much-needed antidote to this vindictive and indiscriminate killer. The games will be vital to heal the economic scars that covid-19 has brought. We have a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on the international spotlight that the games will bring. When the games start and the visitors arrive, we will be showcasing a world class destination for trade, investment, education and tourism. The west midlands will benefit from £778 million of sport investment, the biggest since London 2012, which will include a brand new aquatic centre, a redeveloped athletics stadium and 1,400 new homes. What is not to love about these games?
I echo the sentiments of my hon. Friends and welcome with open arms the new Commonwealth jobs and skills academy, an initiative by the West Midlands Combined Authority and its partners, led magnificently by Andy Street. Some 41,000 games-time roles are set to be recruited. For businesses, there are £300 million-worth of contracts to be procured and, of course, impressive feats of engineering to make the city of Birmingham ready. My one wish is to urge the organising committee to procure local, invest local and recruit local, and to showcase all that is great about this region.
This is my shameless plug for my constituency of Stourbridge. I have some fantastic microbreweries—the Printworks brewery at the Windsor Castle Inn and Craddock’s Brewery, to name but two. It would be fitting to see local beers showcased at the games as part of the hospitality. Some suggestions for beer names are “Stourbridge Sue”, “Bostin”—look it up—and “2022”. And we should not forget the awesome pies for which the Black Country is famed, perhaps served on ceramics from the constituency of my hon. Friend Jo Gideon.
The games will be a celebration. I will not be donning a pair of running shorts again, but I can assure the Government, the organising committee, the fantastic west midlands Mayor, Andy Street, and all my constituents that I will be a strong and leading voice for the games. I very much welcome the Bill with the gusto it deserves.
It gives me great pleasure to follow my Dudley borough and Black Country colleagues. I thank the Minister and his team for their efforts to bring the Bill to this stage, and all Members on both sides of the House who have contributed.
Birmingham 2022 represents a fantastic opportunity to showcase the wonderfully diverse offer of Birmingham and the wider west midlands region. The inward investment of some £778 million is also a significant economic opportunity for the region. Birmingham is so often described as the beating heart of the west midlands. I think many people will understand that characterisation, and some possibly even accept it. However, I would not be doing my job if I did not point out that a heart can only function if its arteries are working. Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell and Wolverhampton must be integral to the functionality of that heart.
Places such as Dudley and my neighbours in the Black Country have suffered disproportionately from an industrial legacy and the effects of globalisation, with so many jobs offshored to China and other places. There are swathes of people who have quite simply been forgotten about over the past few decades. It is key that the games are used as a meaningful tool in a measurable way to level up, especially as we enter a post-covid-19 economic environment. We cannot allow the people of the Black Country to be forgotten any longer. The games provide an incredible opportunity to add an additional 41,000 jobs. My aspiration is that as many of those jobs as possible come to Dudley and the Black Country. That is what drives me in politics. We can stand here in this Chamber and offer platitudes and words of hope, but we have a chance to change lives and the benefits can be very real if we deliver.
The Black Country needs help, and it needed help before the onslaught of covid-19. I note with interest that Birmingham 2022 has established a legacy and benefits committee, and I very much look forward to having sight of a detailed legacy plan, which I hope will identify exactly how and by how much the whole region will benefit from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The games cannot solve the complex generational problems I have spoken about, but it can provide a stepping stone for change, hope and recovery if opportunities are intelligently targeted to the right people. The Bill has my wholehearted support because, through the financial assistance to the organising committee, it enables the delivery of a great games—a games that could leave a transformational legacy for the rest of the region.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.
We will now have a three-minute suspension of the House in order to allow Members to safely leave and others to safely come into the Chamber.