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Amendment 4

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour 5:00 pm, 9th July 2019

My Lords, I too rise to support this amendment, moved by my noble friend Lord Rooker. However, I do not underestimate the difficulties of a tax like this. My noble friend became a very distinguished Minister, but many years ago, when he and I were aspiring Ministers in Opposition, we both had some responsibility for writing various proposals into an election manifesto. As well as being partly responsible for the transport manifesto, I regularly wrote in this suggestion that there should be a bedroom tax in major cities payable by tourists and business people—in those days, I was radical enough to suggest that congestion charges and workplace parking charges might be a good idea too.

The first time I proposed this, in the run-up to the 1987 election, the then shadow Chancellor—I have forgotten who it was, because, as the Minister said, Ministers, like shadow Ministers, come and go—spoke to me in horrified terms about this proposal for, as he put it, hypothecation. “We can’t have hypothecation”, he said. “It undermines the duties and responsibilities of the Treasury”. Well, I pointed out that undermining the duties and responsibilities of the Treasury might well serve the country in a way that he had not thought of.

Subsequently, in 1992, I made a similar proposal. Obviously, I was regarded as being more important in 1992 because a junior shadow Treasury Minister was dispatched to tell me that on no account could this appear in the manifesto because of the dreaded word “hypothecation”. So I do not underestimate the difficulties. However, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, there is a considerable funding gap with the Commonwealth Games in 2022—figures of up to £40 million have been mentioned. So if we do not raise the money in this way, it will have to be raised in other ways.

Of course, it will not be just the Treasury that will object to the proposal; I have no doubt that the hotel and catering industry will have something to say about it. But, again, as my noble friend suggested, in many parts of the world these sorts of taxes are accepted and paid without demur. Many of us have had the opportunity over the years to visit New York, where there is a 7% tax on all visitors. It has not dissuaded tourists and business people from visiting that great city. In Europe itself, there is a 3% tax in Vienna, and many Italian cities have a tourist tax of anything up to 5%. I am not sure whether we will be allowed to visit Brussels after 31 October, but, if we do, we will pay €7.50 per head per night in any hotel. At the Novotel in Paris, there is a 10% subvention on tourists who are staying. I seem to remember that the Minister confessed at Second Reading that he was an old Etonian, so I do not suppose that he would stay at the Novotel in Paris—perhaps the George V might be more to his taste.