Local Commonwealth Games levy

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 2:44 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Nicola Richards Nicola Richards Conservative, West Bromwich East 2:44 pm, 11th June 2020

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.