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Amendment 1

Part of Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:15 pm, 25th February 2020

My Lords, I start by sharing the positive sentiments that many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, the noble Lords, Lord Grocott and Lord Addington, and others made about the excitement that we all feel about the potential for the Games and the message that we can send to cities which might wish to host games in future. The Government absolutely share that view.

I turn to the amendments. Amendment 3 calls for the preparation of a report, a key aspect of which includes an assessment of the case for implementing a temporary hotel occupancy levy throughout the Games, the proceeds of which, after costs of administration, would be made available to Birmingham City Council. I understand that Amendment 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, is to seek clarity on Birmingham City Council’s financial position. As the Committee knows, Birmingham and the West Midlands region will benefit from a £778 million public investment to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The city council is responsible for funding 25% of the Games budget—£184 million—which the council has publicly committed to meet.

The Government have supported the council by agreeing that we will provide the majority of the contributions in capital and profiling its revenue for the final year 2022-23, as the council requested. A number of noble Lords raised concerns about the ability of the council to meet this. The Cabinet approved the council’s financial plan for 2020-24 at its most recent meeting on 11 February, with the funding requirement to be met from partner contributions, prudential borrowing and council-generated funding, such as capital receipts. The council recently submitted a proposal to my department requesting to pilot a statutory hotel occupancy tax, such as that outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. The tax is not necessary for the council to meet its share of the costs and the council’s own figures show that it would provide only a small contribution towards its revenue requirement. In any case, as I said at Second Reading, if the council wants to raise proposals for a new tax, the Bill is not the appropriate vehicle, as it is not a money Bill.

The Government will continue to work closely with Birmingham City Council to ensure that it can deliver on its financial contributions. It might be helpful if I set out some of the processes and assurances in place to ensure that the Games remain on budget. I also gather that that is the thrust of Amendment 5, tabled by my noble friend Lord Moynihan, and I hope it also addresses Amendment 11, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington.

The Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee has been established to deliver the Games, with the UK Government as the primary funder. There is robust financial governance and the budget has been subject to significant scrutiny. Contingency is held by the strategic board, including the Minister, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the leader of Birmingham City Council.

I will cover a couple of additional details, given the number of questions there were on this issue. To reiterate, the budget has a significant but realistic level of contingency within it. As joint funders, it is in both the Government’s and the city council’s interest to keep within the cost envelope. Importantly, it should be remembered that, when Birmingham bid to host the Games, 95% of the venues were already in place, reducing some of the risk around the Games. The Government have also committed to providing Parliament with updates on expenditure during the project.

I note that the intention behind Amendment 5 is to better understand any link between the Games budget and the proposed shooting and archery championships in India. To be clear, shooting and archery are not part of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, but rather a Commonwealth event that will be held in India in 2022, at no cost to the UK Exchequer or Birmingham taxpayers.

On the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on local authority funding for future sporting events, the Government and UK Sport regularly engage with local and regional authorities when it comes to bidding for and staging major sports events. This is clearly successful. Most recently, the UK hosted the 2017 World Athletics Championships, the 2019 Netball and Cricket World Cups, and the UCI Road World Cycling Championships, to name but a few, with a strong pipeline of events in coming years. Local authorities have a range of revenue-raising and fundraising powers to support them meeting the financial contributions associated with such events; for example, through local taxes, such as precepts and business rates. Local or regional authorities may have particular views on how best they can raise funds for such events; I know that the Chancellor keeps the tax system under review and would always welcome representations for improving it. The Government will of course continue to work closely with local authorities to support them in bidding for and successfully staging major sporting events, building on our fantastic track record in hosting such events.

Amendments 19 and 20 seek to bring forward the first period on which the organising committee is required to report, and for these reports to be produced every six months rather than annually. I absolutely understand the desire of the House to be given adequate and timely opportunities, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, explained, to scrutinise the organising committee’s preparations and delivery of the Games. To allay such concerns, I want to be clear that the end of the first reporting period in the Bill, regardless of the date, will certainly not be the first opportunity this House will have to scrutinise the organising committee’s delivery of the Games.

Unlike the London 2012 or Glasgow 2014 organising committees, the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee is a non-departmental public body and already subject to a number of controls and transparency requirements through a management agreement that is available on GOV.UK. As such, the organising committee must publish an annual report of its activities together with its audited resource accounts after the end of each financial year. These accounts must be laid in Parliament and made available online. The first of these reports was published and laid before Parliament on 9 September last year, and we anticipate that the report for the 2019-20 financial year will be published in July and annually thereafter, in the summer. However, I am happy to undertake to write to the organising committee to request that the report includes reference to those areas set out in the Bill and of interest to the Committee, such as accessibility and legacy. I know that a number of your Lordships have already engaged with the organising committee on these topics.

As noble Lords will be aware, the organising committee has already published its social value charter and has committed to publishing both the accessibility and sustainability strategies once they are finalised. It has also committed to publishing a modern slavery policy alongside its modern slavery statement. The organising committee is happy to write to interested Peers once those documents are available, and I know it would welcome any feedback that noble Lords may have.

My noble friend Lord Moynihan’s amendment also seeks to require the organising committee to produce its statutory reports twice a year. It is only right that we give the organising committee adequate time to make and demonstrate progress in the areas set out in the reporting provision and of interest to the Committee. There is clearly a balance to be struck. Updates on Games delivery are already available through a number of channels. For example, information can be found on the Birmingham 2022 website, and the organising committee plans to produce quarterly reports on progress, including relevant updates on key areas such as accessibility, employability, legacy, skills and sustainability. These reports will be made available online; again, the organising committee has offered to issue them directly to those noble Lords who are interested. As we discussed at Second Reading, the organising committee has also recently appointed a dedicated government relations lead, and I understand that a number of your Lordships have already taken the opportunity to discuss the organising committee’s plans in further detail with him, as well as having met the senior figures in the organising committee, including the chief exec and the director of sporting accessibility lead, alongside officials within DCMS.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Commonwealth Games has recently been reconvened and will meet soon to set out its work programme to ensure that Parliament has a good opportunity to engage with the Games. The organising committee is developing an engagement programme, which includes regular updates to such groups.

I hope that these details are enough to reassure your Lordships that there will be adequate opportunities for Parliament to scrutinise the work of the organising committee and about the Government’s commitment to working with Birmingham City Council and the entire Games partnership; to monitoring the Games budget carefully and managing any cost pressures effectively; and, further, to supporting local authorities in bidding for and delivering future sporting events. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.