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Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:22 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Snape Lord Snape Labour 3:22 pm, 3rd February 2020

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the Minister. I welcome her comments, as I am sure they will be much welcomed in Birmingham and the surrounding areas. We spent considerable time in a previous Session of Parliament on this Bill. I do not wish to detain the House by repeating any of the questions I put to Ministers or any of the exchanges that took place on these and other Benches at that time, but there are a couple of points that I wish to raise with the Minister, and I would be grateful if she considers them when she comes to wind up the debate.

She mentioned the aquatic aspects of the Games and rightly paid tribute to Sandwell Council, in whose area the new aquatic centre will be built. I join her in paying tribute. It is an area I know reasonably well. I had the privilege of representing the constituency of West Bromwich East in the borough of Sandwell in the other place for more years than I care to recollect—possibly more years than they care to recollect as well. It was almost 30 years, so I am familiar with the area.

The Minister also talked about the transport aspects of the Games. I wonder whether later she could amplify exactly what provision will be made, particularly for road transport. I do not really have an interest to declare, although I was heavily involved in the transportation aspects of Birmingham and its surrounding areas in the past. I had the honour of chairing the major bus company in the area, Travel West Midlands, before and after it became part of the National Express Group. I know about the difficulty with congestion in the area. It is not only cities such as London or Manchester that struggle, not just in the rush hour but for much of the day. Problems with timekeeping were fairly great during my time as chairman 15 years ago; I am fairly certain that the transport congestion in the city has not improved any in those 15 years. Indeed, I live in Birmingham; I know full well how much worse it has become.

I wonder exactly what the Minister has in mind and what lies behind the clause that says that assistance will be given as far as transport of spectators, as well as competitors, is concerned. The House will be aware of the success of the Olympic Games in London in 2012, when certain roads in London were reserved entirely for traffic going to the Games. I do not know whether that is advocated at present. Travelling by bus from the centre of Birmingham, for example, to the aquatics centre at Londonderry in the borough of Sandwell is by no means straightforward for much of the day. As I understand it, there is also provision in the Bill for the organising committee to issue tickets not just for entry into the Games; perhaps include public transport as well. Would the Minister like to comment on that? It seems sensible and progressive.

The other aspect of transport to which I wish to draw the attention of the Minister and the House attention is Birmingham New Street station. I have in the past possibly overegged the fact that I used to work in the railway industry.