Local Commonwealth Games levy

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 2:36 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Craig Tracey Craig Tracey Conservative, North Warwickshire 2:36 pm, 11th June 2020

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.