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Amendment 1

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:46 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 4:46 pm, 25th February 2020

My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 3 and respond to the noble Lord, Lord Foster. He is right about the need for transparency in the underwriting agreement between the Government and Birmingham City Council. It is not at all clear to noble Lords. The key issue is: who is the provider of funds of last resort if the Games run into financial difficulty? We are entitled to be told at some point during the passage of the legislation. Whether we get that is another matter entirely.

It needs to be repeated that these Games are a fantastic opportunity for the country, Birmingham and the West Midlands. Many characteristics of the Games are very exciting. Now that we have resolved imaginatively the issue of the two sports originally to be excluded, all is set fair for a brilliant competition. However, the problem of finances for a city that is already under some financial challenge is formidable. As we have heard, there is a 75:25% budget split between central government and Birmingham City Council. Birmingham has to find £184 million and it will of course look for commercial opportunities to help with that; but it also has other plans such as the post-Games housing development in Perry Barr. All that means that sources of private funding will have to be found. We must recognise that the city council’s finances are under pressure, which is why this is such an important issue.

I have been interested in a tourism levy because the city council has been. The Core Cities group believes that a levy would be a sensible and fair way in which to raise funding revenue. Scotland is close to implementing such a levy for Edinburgh, and the consultation of the city council there showed high levels of support for it—85% of respondents to the consultation backed a levy of either 2% or £2 per room per night. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, rather unkindly took me to task for the wording of my amendment. We should not take the wording of amendments in Committee too literally. The point that I am trying to make and is clear in my amendment is that we want the Government to look at this matter sympathetically and produce a report. The issue that the noble Lord is right to raise is the length of time for which a levy would operate. I fully accept that important point and it surely would be discussed after review by the Government and the city council.