Amendment 1

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales) 4:00 pm, 9th July 2019

My Lords, this has been a most instructive debate right at the outset of our consideration of the Bill. It might well be worth while for all of us to read in Hansard the many detailed, specific and informed remarks that have been made from varying angles. I thank all who have taken part thus far and I invoke the name of my noble friend Lord Hunt, simply because his absence today really was unavoidable and he will certainly want to take part in the future evolution of this debate. I thought if I mentioned that right now, noble Lords could take that into account. Much of the thinking, as my noble friend Lord Rooker said, was initiated by him.

These amendments, in their totality, ask us to look at a number of things. It is true, as has been said, that the wish list on the legacy amendment is long and, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, could be longer. I will concentrate on two things my noble friend highlighted: the question of housing and the alchemy—if that is what it is—that turns houses into communities. A proper legacy would not only build a certain number of houses and have a certain percentage of them for this, that or the other category of use, but would leave us with schools that children could go to and places where they could play. Some of the very desirable things mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan—activity, sport and so on—could be done within the community thus created. It seems to make a lot of sense. Various percentages are mentioned in the amendments: 50% for social housing, for example. The right reverend Prelate suggested that from the Birmingham end it is 35%; well, there is room for debate there. The facts have been laid before us, the options are there and I am sure we will have some keen and passionate debates in due course.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, talked about the importance of the flow of information, and he was echoed by others. The noble Lord, Lord Coe, or perhaps it was the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan—I tend to get them mixed up; since I first met them both on television, I cannot tell them apart in the flesh—emphasised information flow and the prime need for transparency. It does us well as we debate this issue to remember that we are not the only stakeholders, or prime actors in this drama. In terms of local government, it is not just the City of Birmingham but other local authorities which differentiate this initiative from Glasgow and London and make it a bit more complex and needful of a good deal more thought. There is local government; DCMS and our own Government; our own organising committee, which has been amply referred to, with the owners’ responsibilities weighing upon it; the Commonwealth Games Federation itself, of course; and all those beholden to all of them. Very complex organisation of bureaucracy is involved here, and the need for a flow of information is paramount.

Such awareness as I have of the work being done in other places in this process leaves me really rather heartened. In Birmingham, the strands of community cohesion, civic pride, culture, tourism, trade, investment, jobs and skills, education, infrastructure, sustainability, accessibility, physical activity and well-being are being looked at already. Areas of collaboration between the private and public sectors, and local and national government, are already being identified, and schemes and projects are already being worked on. In a sense, we are behind the curve compared with what is happening elsewhere. We must take heart from that. The flow of information seems very important.

As for the need for the Games to produce extra commitment to and practice of physical, energetic, outgoing activity, whether of a team nature or cross-country running—my bane, which I could never see the point of or say anything praiseworthy about—of course we must leave a legacy of people being more active. For example, I heard only this morning—perhaps the right reverend Prelate can confirm with a nod of the head whether it is true—that by 2022 every child in Birmingham will be provided with a bicycle. He nods; Homer nodded too, but for a different reason. That is a foretaste of the energy flow that we want to see captured and set forth as a result of these Games.

I turn to the charter—now, there’s a thought. On this side of the House we were purring to hear all these details. We loved it: “More”, we kept saying to ourselves. I thank the APPG, which I believe is doing some of this work, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for bringing it to our attention. It would be terrific if this could be the backcloth against which everything practical that we are proposing takes place and flows forward. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and my noble friend Lord McNicol have come in on that as well. Such a charter, honouring human rights, dignity, the value of work, personal pride, community development and so on, is very important indeed. We could lead the world on this, as the noble Lord has said—and why not?

There are two things to say before I leave this point. First, if it is that important, that importance can only really be felt and understood if it appears in the Bill. If it is implicit, hidden or understood, it loses much of its point. I hope that we hear pressure from the Benches opposite, because the Minister, who is a nice friend of Labour, takes quite a lot of notice of what his friends on those Benches say. Then, we can perhaps see whether we can persuade the Government to put this on the face of the Bill. Secondly, we must honestly avoid referring to infractions, corruptions and abuses of rights as if we were the example of all that is right, with a charter that judges people from other countries who happen to come together for this competition. We are, shall we say, as open to question on these matters as anybody else.

There is a sense in which nobody can possibly be against any of the lovely things that have been said. The challenge will now be to make sense of them, such that they transparently flow into a code of practice and a practical Bill that will help the other stakeholders—the local and regional governments, the Commonwealth Games Federation and the organising committee—so that we all feel that we are pulling together to give Birmingham the time of its life.