Amendment 2

Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Lord Moynihan:

Moved by Lord Moynihan

2: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—“( ) for the purpose of ensuring access for disabled people at all facilities and in the vicinity of all facilities at the Games, or”

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 2 and speak to Amendment 12, both standing in my name. I hope that, in the spirit of bipartisanship, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, and his colleagues will continue purring to the sound of the proposal I will try to encourage the Minister to adopt as an amendment to the Bill. It has a similar back-cloth to the last amendment, inasmuch as if the Government of the day see objectives as being of critical importance, it sends the strongest possible signal to place them in the Bill.

If substantial public funding is invested in hosting the Commonwealth Games here in the United Kingdom, in Birmingham, it should be possible to reflect in the Bill the importance attached to that objective. The two amendments I will speak to now reinforce that point. They are about disability access and the priority that should be attached to disabled people in hosting and running the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

I go back to the Paralympics and reflect briefly on a Games that transformed our respect for those with disabilities, because it left the whole nation focusing on their abilities, not their disabilities. That was in part because of the remarkable work done by the organising committee; above all, it was due to the athletes themselves. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, a wonderful personality with incredible ability and a rare talent, was critical as the face of the Paralympics for many people. She has continued to campaign, alongside my noble friend Lady Young of Hornsey and others, to ensure that that remarkable achievement during the Paralympic Games caused a generational change and had significant television coverage. This is not always the case around the world but was vital, as has been the coverage of women’s sport this summer. Thank heavens that at last we now know names, there is sponsorship coming in and television coverage is giving priority to the importance of women’s sport.

In this simple amendment I ask the Minister to reflect on making regulations to ensure that the access of disabled athletes and spectators to sports events and venues, including technical specifications, training for accessibility—making sure the volunteers and everybody can respond positively to those who may require assistance—and events requirements are all built into venue design, the planning of the Games and the whole approach that the Commonwealth Games organising committee has made to date to support equity, dignity and functionality.

I referred to the finest document that I have read on the subject—the 2013 Accessible Guide: An Inclusive Approach to the Olympic & Paralympic Games. If, when we come back to further consideration of the Bill, the Minister wants to amend that to a better, more up-to-date document, I am open to his suggestions. However, I hope that he will give due consideration to ensuring access for disabled people at and in the vicinity of all the facilities of the Games, and give them the priority they deserve by placing that condition for the funding of the Games firmly in the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I touched on the issue of disability in the previous group of amendments and this is an opportunity to file it down. After his speech the noble Lord can be forgiven for not zoning in on that one small amendment.

The Commonwealth Games make it even more important that the disability aspect is done well because the para events are taking place at the same time as the main Games and are integrated into them to a far greater extent. It is worth remembering that. It means that spectators will not have to come back for a para event but will see a wheelchair race after watching something else. It sends the message that it is a normal and accessible part of the Games—that, no matter how wonderful it is by itself, it is a part of the norm of sport.

As both categories of events are taking place at the same time, the challenge of providing more facilities, camps and so on will add more pressure. Some indication that the community have taken this on board and is doing something about it would be reassuring to anyone who will need to use the facilities. For para athletes the idea that they are not excluded and that they can get around with good planning and organisation is well worth taking away and is a genuine legacy unto itself.

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords)

My Lords, I apologise to the Committee that I was not able to be present for Second Reading but I am pleased to participate now in Committee on this important Bill. It brings back memories of previous debates in this House in relation to other Games and many of the issues we were able to agree around the House in a positive way. It allowed the Olympic Games to go forward in the way that they did and, in passing, allowed the Glasgow Games similarly to progress.

With the passing of time we gain more knowledge and understanding about the context in which these decisions are taken. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington said, it was possible a few years ago to take for granted that issues such as the ones that are currently at the forefront of our thinking would be dealt with and there was no problem. However, when the Minister comes to respond, will he reflect on whether we need to be careful about not passing up by default—a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan—an opportunity to pick up on the particularities of the approach that we want to see in the organising committee for areas where our range of concerns has not yet been taken into account?

There is a question about whether or not we should put in the Bill measures to cover something that would probably happen anyway, is not contentious and to not do it would be illegal. It is still worth adding such measures to the Bill and seeing them in print to be absolutely sure that there is no doubt that people could comment that we were not fulfilling all these mandates.

It is a question of equity, empathy and making sure that any future Games, looking to gain substance for what they might do from this debate and discussion also recognise that we took the extra step necessary to make sure that these points were important. If it is important for us as a society, it may be worth including certain superfluous wording to make sure that there is no mistake for those who might have cause to cause difficulty in doing it. I support the amendment and look forward to the response from the Minister.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 4:45 pm, 9th July 2019

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for introducing this amendment and to the noble Lords who subsequently spoke to it. On the previous group, I said that the management agreement is between three parties—the Secretary of State, the organising committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation—but actually, it is between just the organising committee and the Secretary of State. To save me writing to everyone, I put that on the record. I knew there were three people; the accounting officer also signs it. Moving swiftly on, I accept the point the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, made about signing things by putting them in the Bill. There is another way of making clear things that happen and which we commit to, and that is by me saying things from the Dispatch Box.

The amendment seeks to ensure that sports venues and events for the Games are accessible to athletes and spectators and are funded accordingly. As I explained on the previous amendment, I do not agree that an explicit reference to accessibility is needed in the financial assistance provision in Clause 1. I do not agree that it is necessary to provide for regulations to ensure that accessibility issues are considered as part of the planning and delivery of the Games. However, I welcome the opportunity provided by my noble friend Lord Moynihan to speak on accessibility, which is such an important issue, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, highlighted.

The Bill is not explicit about every activity or workstream that the organising committee will undertake, but it does not follow that those particular activities will not be taken forward. The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games provide a unique combined sports and parasport competition programme—unlike the Olympics—which demonstrates a truly integrated approach to accessibility. At present the parasport programme includes seven parasports. One further discipline, para table tennis, has been recommended for inclusion and is now subject to the Commonwealth Games Federation membership vote on additional sports. With the inclusion of para table tennis, the parasport programme for Birmingham 2022 would be the most extensive ever for a Commonwealth Games.

The organising committee will follow the same principle of a truly integrated approach in developing its accessibility strategy to include spectators, athletes, media, broadcasters, the Games workforce and volunteers. The organising committee has confirmed that it will appoint a dedicated accessibility manager who will develop the accessibility strategy. When developing this strategy, the Games will draw upon a full range of accessibility good practice, including lessons learned since the production of the International Paralympic Committee’s 2013 guidance, such as lessons from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and in Gold Coast in 2018. The organising committee will work collaboratively with partners, local authorities, accessibility consultants and local organisations to ensure that venues and services are designed, operated and delivered to ensure that everyone, regardless of ability or any impairments, has a fully accessible and positive Games experience. This is essential for an integrated Games. The organising committee will also, of course, meet the applicable accessibility legislation and guidance when designing and delivering both competition and non-competition venues.

The organising committee will also consider issues such as financial capability, better use of technology, affordable ticketing and access to public transport, alongside understanding what local communities need. This will ensure that all people who live in the local communities have the very best access to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. With accessibility at the core of the Games, the existing language of the financial assistance clause—Clause 1—already enables funding to be provided for this purpose. It includes the words,

“any other purpose connected to, or arising from, the Games”.

I hope that I have been able to reassure my noble friend about the central importance that accessibility will play in a truly integrated Games, and I therefore ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords)

Perhaps I might put to the Minister a further point that occurred to me while he was speaking. That was a very impressive list of contextual regulatory and other activity that will ensure the delivery of a Games of the type that he talks about. However, it struck me that he will have heard some of the words offered by other bodies in the sporting world—I think particularly of Premier League football clubs. For many years they have said that they will upgrade their stadia and ensure that they are made more fit for disabled access but they have failed to do so. Does that not give him cause for some concern?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The partners organising the Commonwealth Games have a very different motivation. Apart from us, they include the Commonwealth Games Federation and local authorities—I think that those are most of the partners. They have a very clear motivation to make sure that these integrated Games—I repeat that, deliberately, they have the biggest para representation ever—work well. I suggest that the motivation of a Premiership football club is somewhat different.

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for giving the Committee a comprehensive review of the importance with which the organising committee and the Government view this key area. I am only disappointed that, having said that he is doing absolutely everything that I have asked for in this amendment, and that indeed he has gone further, even to the point of saying “any other purpose”, he has not gone one step further and recognised that “any other purpose” should be very clearly defined where possible, as it is as important to the Government and the organising committee as it is for disability access and the interests of disabled sports men and women.

That said, I am sure that between now and Report we will have the opportunity to reflect on whether we can put this in the Bill in a form that will be acceptable to the Government. It will set an excellent precedent for future mega sports events not just in this country but internationally, which I think will be to the benefit of sport.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The only thing I would say to that is that I think we all agree. This is really a question of signing the importance. “Any other purpose” includes accessibility and many other things. The trouble is that that might be what my noble friend thinks is the most important thing to sign but many other noble Lords might have other priorities. The whole point of including the words,

“any other purpose connected to … the Games”,

is that it covers everything and individuals’ personal priorities are not put on the face of the Bill. I ask him to reflect on that.

Photo of Lord Moynihan Lord Moynihan Conservative

I do not want to get into too great a debate with my noble friend on this subject. Suffice it to say that this is not a personal preference; it is an amendment tabled for the consideration of the whole Committee and, ultimately, the House. If the House felt that it was of significance—if that were the view of the House; not my personal preference—that would be the opportunity for it to be considered outside the generic phrase “any other purpose” and put on the face of the Bill. Not only would it then be capable of being implemented—the Minister has set out very ably and in significant detail how it can be implemented—but it could go further, sending a signal of the importance that we attach to disability access and to disabled athletes, and sending a further signal to future holders of Commonwealth Games and mega sporting events. However, for the time being, I am happy to withdraw the amendment and I look forward to further discussions with the Minister.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.