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

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.