Local Commonwealth Games levy

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 2:08 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 2:08 pm, 11th June 2020

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