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Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:58 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative 4:58 pm, 3rd February 2020

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this debate. I declare my interests, as set out in the register.

I cannot see any of the signage at Birmingham New Street Station. I am at absolutely no disadvantage whatever. It is a delight that Birmingham has been awarded the Commonwealth Games. I am delighted, but I also share the sadness for South Africa, and the hope that soon the Commonwealth Games will take place on the continent of Africa.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the shadow of Birmingham. I swam for nine years in the city of Birmingham swimming squad, where, from a 25-yard pool with a roof held up with scaffolding, we got four swimmers on to the Paralympic team and five on to the Olympic team for the Seoul Olympic Games and Paralympic Games of 1988. That was under the excellent coach Rick Bailey, who went on to do so much in leisure across the city. However, it is not only about sport, but also about culture. We have already heard about so many of the cultural high points from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. There are also fabulous culinary opportunities for people to experience such as the table naan bread and the Balti Triangle, possibly washing much of it down with a glass or two of the Cobra beer of the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria.

I was delighted to be part of the West Midlands. It shaped me as I grew up before going away to higher education. Having mentioned Cobra beer, I should also echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, and those of my noble friend Lord Moynihan and others on shooting and archery. What further efforts are the Government making to ensure an optimum solution to the problem and include shooting and archery? It is quite right that the Commonwealth Games Federation should look at new sports that attract the young people of the West Midlands, this country and the Commonwealth, but these are Games for the Commonwealth, and as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria said, shooting is such an integral sport across the Commonwealth. It has one of the highest levels of participation, not least in the home country itself.

Building on that, Birmingham is also, as we have heard, an incredibly diverse city—187 nationalities are represented. Whichever corner of the Commonwealth athletes come from, they will have spectators not just from their home country but home-grown from the city of Birmingham. Some 40% of the population of Birmingham is under the age of 25. It is a diverse, vibrant city, so I ask my noble friend, what percentage of the organising committee and what percentage of senior roles within that organising committee are currently held by disabled people, BAME people and people from all the different protected characteristics in the broadest sense of diversity? Crucially, what percentage is aimed at for Games time, and across the volunteer workforce as well?

I was lucky enough to be a member of the organising committee for London 2012 and as well as many of its key targets one of my informal targets for measuring the success of the Games was that in autumn 2012 and beyond we should be able to say that attitudes towards and opportunities for disabled people had fundamentally changed as a result of those Games. I think that we saw that, as we also did in Glasgow 2014.

The opportunities are potentially even greater for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022 where we see the increased inclusion of para athletes in full medal events in the sporting programme. What an incredible journey the Commonwealth Games has been on since there were demonstrations in Canada in 1994 when certain coaches asked why we had these people in the Commonwealth Games because it was an embarrassment. It was no embarrassment in Glasgow 2014 or on the Gold Coast and para athletes are now fully embedded and an excellent example of inclusion and integration in the Commonwealth Games programme.

As something to be built on, will my noble friend or her department consider writing to all of the international sports federations, not least FINA and the IAAF, to ask them where their current thinking is in terms of looking at integrated, inclusive sports programmes for the European and World Championships to have disabled and non-disabled competitors at the same competition?

We mentioned swimming and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Snape, about the sensational venue being constructed in Smethwick, not just for Games time but, significantly, for that community moving forward. What an incredible distance we have travelled since the 25-yard pool that I trained in in 1988.

This legislation is necessary and proportionate. It does not necessarily go to the great heights of sporting cultural achievement, but it forms the brilliant, critical basics that enable the magic to come through. It is quite right to protect all the commercial sponsors who are putting their brands and their money on the line to ensure a successful Games.

It is crucial to ensure that you know when you present your ticket that it is a bona fide ticket. Will my noble friend say whether all the learning from the 2012 ticket care programme has been taken on board? If you were partially sighted, you got a ticket right at the front of the seating bowl. If you were hearing impaired, you got a ticket with direct line of sight to the video boards. If you had mobility impairment, you got a seat at the end of the row and, building on what the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said, if you were a wheelchair user, you could sit with your family and friends and enjoy the sporting occasion together and were not forced to sit with other people whose only connection to you was that they were also wheelchair users.

At Birmingham New Street you may find yourself in the blue lounge or the red lounge. In your Lordships’ House some of us find ourselves in the red lounge or the blue lounge and some noble Lords may perhaps, inexplicably, find themselves in the yellow lounge. When it comes to this Bill and the 2022 project, speakers in this debate have been loud and clear that it is critical that we are all in the Commonwealth Games lounge. We should never underestimate how important it is to have cross-party support for these mega sporting events.

Transport is the lubricant of the Games. Is the Minister satisfied with the plans not just for transport connectivity to all the venues but, crucially, for the last mile—the bit from the transport hub to the gates of the venue? Is she happy with the Games mobility service which will enable that access in the venues? As we have already heard, access and mobility go much further than just athletes. For disabled and non-disabled spectators, one of the best nights of the Paralympic Games was when we had people from all parts of society in the stadium. We stored 1,500 pushchairs that evening because so many families came, disabled people and non-disabled people. Everybody was represented in that stadium in the seating bowl as much as on the track.

On construction, will the Minister say whether we are taking advantage of the potential training opportunities and driving apprenticeship money into every opportunity from the Games? So much can be done through procurement pathways to drive everything we want in terms of the kind of society we want to be, not just inclusion and diversity, but fighting modern slavery. Procurement amplifies the power the Games can have.

The difference between a good Games and a great Games is putting athletes at the heart of every decision. Alongside that, one of the most important groups is the local community. We must enable them right from the outset to feel part of this celebration of sport, culture and their city. We cannot possibility overcommunicate that narrative of possibility and empowerment that can come through the Games. Does my noble friend believe that that narrative is in the place it needs to be and that local people feel connected to the Games and to the possibilities for them, their families, their children and their grandchildren? One of the key ways that local communities can get involved is through the volunteer programme. At London 2012, we had Games makers: people who for no remuneration made the Games. Through being Games makers they became change makers. It is such a fabulous legacy from 2012, and a fabulous legacy from 2022 will be what the volunteers go on to do for the rest of their lives as a result of being part of that volunteer programme at the Games.

There is an extraordinary opportunity but nothing is inevitable. We can have such a moment in time in 2022 but, as we have already heard, it is not just about one sensational summer of sport—it is about the legacy that is driven. If we get this Bill right, it will be a key part of that legacy and the standards set by 2022 will roll forward into future sporting occasions, not least Paris and LA, and Paralympic Games, Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games to come.

This might seem a small Bill but it is incredibly important. Counterfeiting and corruption will be out, rogue trading and ticket touting will be out, and world-class athletes and local communities will be absolutely in. The Commonwealth, the country and the world will be invited to experience these Games in the flesh, across the country and via broadcast right around the world. What a beacon they will be for Birmingham, for Britain and for the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty’s remarkable, unrivalled reign—2022, happy and glorious.