Local Commonwealth Games levy

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 2:18 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 2:18 pm, 11th June 2020

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 5 June, the West Midlands Combined Authority signed off a further £2.6 million as a regional contribution to the programme.

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.