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House of Commons Hansard
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Commonwealth Games: Wales
16 March 2016
Volume 607

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Charlie Elphicke.)

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It is a pleasure to have secured this Adjournment debate today—a day that has been excellent for Wales—and I am delighted to see the Minister in his rightful place, after hotfooting it from the significant announcement earlier. That announcement, on the Severn bridge tolls, is tied to this debate and will be extremely welcome come 2026 and, more importantly, 2018.

I rise to talk about the Commonwealth games bid for 2026, around which time many of the investments announced today will come to fruition. Over time, the Welsh Government’s feasibility study into the games has changed significantly. I will touch later on the Cardiff city deal and the Chancellor’s openness to the Swansea city deal and what that means for the bid, but there has been a continuing dialogue about the games for several years. On the feasibility study, it has been a bit like the hokey-cokey with some parties and Governments: they support it, they don’t support it.

I hope today to bring some consensus to the Chamber around a vision for a Commonwealth games that Welsh civic society, the Welsh Government and the UK Government need to get behind. It would be good for Cardiff, south Wales, Wales and the United Kingdom.

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rose

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I see our first hope for a consensus from the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

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I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on how he has called for that cross-party approach. In the spirit of Welsh unity, may I encourage him—although I do not think he needs much encouragement—to talk about the huge benefits that would accrue to the whole country, north, south, east and west, urban and rural, were our campaign to be successful?

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The hon. Gentleman—hon. Friend, I think, on this issue—hits the nail on the head: this would be a Welsh bid. That is why I named this Adjournment debate not “The Commonwealth Games for Cardiff”, as you might have expected me unabashedly to do, Mr Speaker, but “The Commonwealth Games for Wales”.

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rose

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rose—

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In the spirit of consensus, I will take one more intervention, from the hon. Lady, and then make some progress.

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Newport kindly shared the NATO summit with Cardiff. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there would be huge potential for Cardiff to share the games with Newport, given our excellent facilities and expertise in planning this type of event?

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I know that the hon. Lady—again my hon. Friend on this issue—is very proud of the velodrome and other cycling facilities in Newport and its other arenas. The games would be for Cardiff, for south Wales, for the whole of Wales; it is a Welsh bid, and I champion it. I also acknowledge that Newport graciously hosted the NATO summit with Cardiff.

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rose

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I will make some progress, but everyone who hopes to get in, in this very short debate, will.

Of course, Cardiff has hosted the Commonwealth games before, but that was in 1958, which was a little before my time in the House and on this planet. The Commonwealth games is the only multi-sport event in which Wales competes as a nation, and it is an important opportunity for many athletes to brandish the Welsh brand and represent their country. We have had a proud historic involvement in the Commonwealth games, first appearing in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada, and we are one of only six nations to have taken part in every games since 1930.

The first Commonwealth medal—this is where competition can emerge in Wales—was won by Valerie Davies, a Cardiff local winning two silver medals in our first games. That was not too surprising to many Welsh Members. We also do spectacularly well in weight-lifting; it is one of our most successful sports. The Commonwealth games podiums of the past have seen the likes of Lynn Davies, Nicole Cooke, Colin Jackson, David Davies, David Roberts, Kelly Morgan—now Baroness Grey-Thompson—and Dai Greene flying that flag for Wales.

At Glasgow, in the not-too-distant past, we were represented by athletes from all corners of our country, and we returned a record-breaking 36 medals, including five golds. Frankie Jones became the first-ever Welsh athlete to claim six medals in one Commonwealth games, winning one gold and five silvers. Just imagine what we could achieve with a home crowd; I think we could break the record we established in Glasgow.

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I thank my hon. Friend for bringing the Adjournment debate forward. I would like to add to the list. Natalie Powell, who won a judo gold medal in the Commonwealth games of 2014 came from Builth Wells in my constituency. I suggest that mid-Wales would certainly benefit from the Cardiff Commonwealth games. A legacy would be left for the whole of Wales, as my hon. Friend rightly says.

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My hon. Friend touches on what others have said on this subject. There could be a Welsh bid, and it is something that hon. Members from the UK or the Welsh Government could really get behind and deliver a legacy for the whole country—north, mid, west, south.

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I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate, which gives confidence. Wales already has a strong record of hosting international events. Indeed, my own constituency was the start of the “tour de Britain” only last year. Anglesey has bid for another important games—the Island games in 2025. That could be a showcase for 2026 or even 2030 if it were successful further on. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the whole of Wales needs to get behind the Island games? We are the only island in Wales that can really qualify for this, but we could share the benefits with the rest of Wales.

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I wholeheartedly support that bid. What a fantastic couple of years it would be if we achieved that and then we achieved the Commonwealth games. That really does cover the breath of our country—from top to bottom.

Let me explain why I think Wales is best placed to deliver in 2026. The UK has had a fantastic record, with Manchester’s Commonwealth games, and then there were the Olympics, in which we all played a part across the UK. Most recently of all, there were the Glasgow games.

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I, too, thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing the debate forward. The Wales bid for the Commonwealth games is one that I would fully support. We would see economic benefits for the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Commonwealth games in Scotland, for example, brought benefits for Northern Ireland and particularly from the teams who trained beforehand. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that we should do more? Let us do more with the Northern Ireland Assembly and local councils as well. Then we can all reap the benefit of the Commonwealth games in Wales.

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The hon. Gentleman is exactly right. I was just about to touch on the legacy effects across the United Kingdom that the games would bring. Let us look at some cold, hard numbers. I appreciate that the Welsh Government need to carry out the feasibility studies, but they will take us only so far. We need the gut political instinct that makes us say, “We are proud of our nation and our country; we would like to host international, global stages, and we must do that.” I think we are at that juncture now.

Following the Manchester games of 2002, we have had some time to do some economic studies. The chief executive of Manchester city council, reflecting 10 years on, said:

“The Games accelerated regeneration and economic growth in the city by 20 years or more and the ten-year anniversary puts in to perspective how much the City of Manchester has grown and changed over the past decade.”

Looking closer in time to Glasgow, there has been a £52 million boost to Scotland’s economy, and 1,000 jobs in each of the past six years have resulted from the building and revamping of Glasgow up to the competition, and then after with the athletes village.

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I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. What consideration has he given to the extra infrastructure that will be required in Cardiff and across the country to host the games? Glasgow had the SSE arena with a capacity of over 15,000, and it hosted about six of the disciplines, but we do not yet have that sort of facility in Wales.

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The key word is “yet”. Sir Terry Matthews has ideas for the promotion of an arena, and Cardiff Council also has some excellent ideas involving regeneration and the building of an arena.

The plans are there, but a catalyst is needed. At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned the Cardiff city deal and the infrastructure that the south Wales metro will provide. If Glasgow and Manchester had benefited from the kind of infrastructure investment that has been announced in the Budget today, it would have made the games much more achievable. We may talk about new arenas, but this is about having a vision for Wales and going for it. Our capital city certainly needs more hotel capacity, Newport needs more grade A hotel capacity, and Swansea needs its arenas and conference facilities. These are things that we lack as a country, and I am not just talking about the Commonwealth games; the legacy effect extends further.

The building and refurbishment of games venues and the athletes village in Glasgow has produced an estimated 1,000 jobs and £52 million for Scotland’s economy. There are 5,000 games-related training and job opportunities on national legacy programmes throughout Scotland, which are not focusing on a single city. An average of about 200 jobs and a £10 million economic boost were created during the six years that led up to the games, via the multi-partnership urban regeneration firm Clyde Gateway URC. The firm initially invested £100 million to help create a regenerated, well-designed community. All the new and refurbished games sporting facilities are already open to the public: schools, clubs and sports bodies. The legacy in Scotland is fantastic, and we could have the same in Wales.

There has also been an expansion of the major events industry in Scotland. As I said earlier, we need international conference facilities in Wales, but we cannot currently do that because of our chronic lack of hotel capacity, and the lack of capacity in the areas where we host conferences. The games would serve as a catalyst in that respect.

Let me say something about the legacy and economic benefits for our country. Sarah Powell, chief executive of Sport Wales, has said:

“Wales’ global reputation for staging world leading sporting events would be further enhanced by hosting the Commonwealth Games. We should be proud of our reputation around major events as it projects the image that we want the world to see—a strong confident nation comfortable with our place in the world and increasingly treating success as not a surprise, but an expectation.”

Throughout our nation is a wealth of world-class sporting venues. It will not surprise Members that I mention first the Millennium stadium in our capital city, which has now been renamed the Principality stadium, but Wales also has the Liberty stadium in Swansea and the velodrome in Newport. The Commonwealth games would not just bring benefits to south Wales; north Wales could host sailing and other events. The National Sports Centre in Cardiff regularly hosts international competitions, training camps and athlete training, and a number of international competitions already take place throughout the year at the centre.

Any Commonwealth games bid would have a positive regeneration impact in terms of infrastructure development, as well as adding to the already increasing levels of sporting participation. Given the indoor arena that is planned for Cardiff, and the 5,000-seater Wales International Convention Centre at the Celtic Manor resort, the building of new sporting venues may be completed well before 2026. Those are arenas that we already want to build. Any feasibility study would find that we are well on our way to pulling all this together—and, of course, we already have many rugby and football stadiums, and provision for the other sports in which we do so well in Wales.

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Commonwealth games athletes from all the nations of the United Kingdom train at the Judo Centre of Excellence in the black country. Does my hon. Friend agree that a Commonwealth games in Wales would benefit the whole United Kingdom?

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My hon. Friend is quite right. What a happy Union we would be if another Commonwealth games were secured in the UK. I know of no bigger fan of the black country, and no bigger supporter, than my hon. Friend.

Let me list a number of events that we have already hosted on the world stage. At the turn of the millennium, there was the 1999 rugby world cup in Cardiff. Who could forget Max Boyce going on to the pitch and singing hymns and arias to a stadium full of people?

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rose

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Of course I will give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wants to do a Max Boyce, but I do not know whether he is allowed to sing hymns and arias.

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The advantage of having teams from other Commonwealth countries in your area is that it gets the local people involved. Examples from the Glasgow games included cycling and fencing. This is not just about the economic boost; it is about the community boost as well.

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Absolutely. However, some of the main criticisms of the proposals for the games being held in Wales are economic, so I am putting those to the test at the moment. The cultural and legacy aspects of the games are immense, and their role in encouraging young people into sport is terrific. I shall say more about that in a moment. I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing that point up.

At the turn of the millennium we in Cardiff did our bit for England’s World cup. We did our bit in the match as well as hosting some games. We did our bit for the FA cup, the Ryder cup, the Olympic and Paralympic games. We also did our bit for the Ashes in 2009 and 2015, the rugby league world cup in 2013, Rally GB, the Community shield and the British speedway grand prix. We also host premier league football fixtures, although sadly they take place further down the M4 these days. I am sure that they will be coming back to Cardiff before long.

Of course we also host international rugby matches, including the six nations and the Heineken cup, and international football matches. The Volvo ocean race is coming to Cardiff bay, and we are about to host the UEFA Champions league final. The world half-marathon is also coming to Cardiff soon. The benefits to Wales from hosting an event that stands so large on the international stage as the Commonwealth games would be innumerable. Anyone who had an unlimited budget to publicise their country and cities would go for events such as those. Wales does not have an unlimited budget, yet we secure them.

Let us also consider the legacy products and the potential surge in Welsh national pride. I say to my colleague from Plaid Cymru, the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards), that that does not equate to Welsh independence. I am talking about Welsh national pride. The Commonwealth games would be a perfect opportunity not only to bring benefits to Wales but to showcase our beautiful nation. That can bring legacy benefits to tourism and culture. We are indeed better and stronger together.

It is estimated that for every £1 of national lottery funding invested in major sporting events, an average of £4.90 of additional direct economic impact is generated for the host city and region. Staging the Ashes cricket at Cardiff SWALEC stadium brought in an estimated £24 million to the region, according to Cardiff Metropolitan University. An economic study of the 2011 Champions league final in London estimated that the windfall for that city was about £43 million. A recent report carried out by Econactive for the Welsh Rugby Union showed that the Millennium stadium—now the Principality stadium—generates over £130 million a year for Cardiff and sustains more than 2,500 jobs. From 2006 to 2016, spectators who attended events at the stadium spent £848.6 million. The overall economic impact of the venue is estimated to be £130 million a year.

The 2010 Ryder cup hosted in Newport generated a total economic impact for Wales of £82.4 million and had a direct economic impact of £53.9 million for south Wales. On the legacy aspect, Golf Union Wales said that in the 12 months following the Ryder cup, 40% more boys and 60% more girls under the age of 18 started to participate in the sport. We can only imagine what the multitude of sports represented in the Commonwealth games could do to encourage the young people of our nation.

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The hon. Gentleman is talking about young people. Is he aware that the Commonwealth Youth games are coming to Northern Ireland and to Belfast in 2021? They should give a great boost not only to the young people of the United Kingdom and the rest of the Commonwealth but also, I hope, to the hon. Gentleman’s bid for Wales.

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Absolutely. I cannot see why the games should not start in Northern Ireland and go over to Anglesey before coming down to Cardiff, the host city, and across Wales as the consensus develops for this project.

Sport can have a lasting and positive impact on the people of Wales, on our health and wellbeing, on our place in our communities and on our national pride. Sporting success is important to Wales because it makes a statement about our heritage, our culture, our achievements and our ambition for our nation. There is a definite link between successful, high-profile sporting role models and children taking up healthy activity and sport. Sport participation is crucial for children and young people for many reasons. An active child is more likely to become an active adult, and being part of a team gives children a sense of belonging, challenges them to work in a group and encourages them to develop social and other essential skills.

In south Wales, the infrastructure developments, the changes that the Government are making in other programmes, and investment in young people and the next generation represent a real coming together for 2026. I look forward to hearing in the Minister’s reply what support we can offer to the Welsh Government and Welsh civic society, but tonight’s debate has shown that parties across Wales and across the United Kingdom support the need for us to at least bid for the 2026 games. Wales is an ambitious nation and we have an immense opportunity, but we sometimes lack a little confidence. If Welsh civic society and everyone else get behind the bid, if it is the only bid from the United Kingdom and if we get support from the UK Government, there is no reason why we cannot rejuvenate the economy, get more young people into sport and win an even greater number of medals for Wales come 2026.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams) for not only the way in which he introduced the debate, but his recognition of the role that Cardiff can play in supporting the whole of Wales. I am also grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for enabling the debate to take place in the same week as Commonwealth Day, because it presents a great opportunity to discuss how a Welsh bid for the Commonwealth games could once more showcase Wales to the world and provide a welcome boost to our economy.

As my hon. Friend mentioned, what a day this has been. It is shaping up to be a fantastic week for Wales. I was delighted yesterday that we signed a £1.2 billion city region deal for Cardiff, a transformational opportunity, which the UK and Welsh Governments, along with local authorities, have worked together for some time to create. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for spearheading the campaign from the outset. There is no stronger champion of the city deal and its benefits for Cardiff. The Budget has of course delivered some significant outcomes for Wales. The north Wales growth deal offers great prospects for north Wales, and the Swansea bay city deal offers excellent opportunities. The changes to the Severn tolls demonstrate that Wales is open not only to business, but to tourists. Dare I say that Wales is also open to major sporting events? It is good to see the hon. Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), who has championed the need for changes to the Severn tolls for some time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North will know that the Wales Office hosted a reception in January to celebrate Welsh sporting success, and I said then that I would like Wales to develop a bid for the 2026 Commonwealth games. That remains my ambition, so I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss that further today and am grateful to see cross-party and even cross-nation support from across the United Kingdom.

Wales is well known for its sporting achievements. We achieved our best result in history at the 2014 Commonwealth games, finishing 13th in the overall medal table having secured 36 medals. We know that Wales can punch well above its weight. For example, we develop 6.5% of the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes, despite having under 5% of the UK’s population. We are committed to showing our continued support for Welsh elite athletes, and it is a priority of this Government to provide the right conditions to produce the sports stars that will continue to shine at such events in the future.

Bringing the Commonwealth games to Wales would put us on the world stage once again, just like when we hosted the NATO conference in 2014, which was referred to by Opposition Members and my hon. Friend. We also hosted Olympic events as part of London 2012 and hosted the Ryder cup in 2010. At the 2012 Olympic games, the world saw what we have always known: the UK is an unbeatable venue for world-class sporting events. The world also saw what Wales has to offer when we hosted the very first event—Great Britain’s women took on New Zealand in the football competition in Cardiff.

We know that as well as reinforcing the Wales brand, sport can make huge economic contributions to Wales. Much has been said about how the Principality stadium is among the best stadiums, and it generates more than £130 million a year for the Welsh economy and sustains more than 2,500 jobs. In its first decade, the then Millennium stadium boosted the Welsh economy by more than £1 billion. The 2015 rugby world cup played a significant part in boosting the economy of south-east Wales. Cricket is another sport that we have managed to celebrate and derive significant economic success from, with the Ashes at Sophia Gardens giving a £19 million boost to the capital region economy in one year.

Wales is continuing to grow in this area, as it can look forward to hosting an exciting range of sporting events in the next few years, some of which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North. These include: the world half-marathon championships; the UEFA champions league final; velothon Wales; and the international Snowdon race. But there is no reason why we should cap our ambitions at just those events. With Wales riding high on a sporting wave of success, there is surely no better time to identify how we can attract more global sporting occasions to our shores—occasions such as the Commonwealth games.

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The Minister mentioned the national rugby stadium in his remarks. Although it is probably the best stadium in the world, UEFA was not going to allow us to hold a champions league final in that stadium because Cardiff airport is not designated as being up to a sufficient standard. One way of moving forward on that airport would be by devolving airport duty tax, especially in respect of long haul flights, to allow the airport to develop. Let the UK Government show some ambition and devolve that tax.

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The hon. gentleman knows that the Treasury is actively looking at that area of policy, but this is a debate about the Commonwealth games and Cardiff airport will rightly play its role in hosting the visitors from the nations involved in the champions league final. As the airport lies in my constituency, I certainly hope to play a part in welcoming some of those superstars from around Europe and elsewhere when they visit Cardiff and Wales.

The opportunities to host such events in Wales should know no bounds. Not only can they pump millions of pounds into our economy and create thousands of jobs, but they can leave a lasting legacy and inspire youngsters from every corner of Wales to get hooked on sport. The 2014 Commonwealth games were the largest multi-sport event ever held in Scotland and a spectacular display of world-class sporting success. The enthusiasm of competitors and the public, the excellent organisation and of course the economic contribution came together to ensure lasting legacy from those 11 days of sport. From the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council’s capital investment of about £425 million, topped up with ticket sales and revenue from commercial sources totalling £118 million, came a return of £740 million to boost the economy of Scotland and of Glasgow in particular. Hosting such a games can therefore be seen as an investment. That return included £390 million for Glasgow’s economy, and support for an average of 2,100 jobs each year between 2007 and 2014, including 1,200, on average, in Glasgow. The games attracted 690,000 unique visitors, whose net spending contributed £73 million to the economy over those 11 days alone.

Those figures demonstrate the investment and the opportunity; this is something Wales can hope to emulate. A bid team would, however, rightly need to look at the figures in more detail. Let us be clear about the challenges ahead of us. We have some of the best facilities. We have the Wales national velodrome in Newport and the national pool in Swansea. We have no shortage of mountains in Snowdonia for mountain biking. We have fantastic facilities in Bala for canoeing. Those facilities demonstrate that a bid from Cardiff could really be a bid from Wales, which we would welcome, but they are widely spread and we need to take that into account. Additional facilities are also needed. One pool is insufficient, so we would need a practice pool. One velodrome is insufficient and it will be 20 years old by the time of the games, so we need practice and warm-up facilities. That demonstrates the planning and construction challenges that exist. Over the next week or so, I am meeting one of the individuals who was responsible for planning the 2012 games in London to establish what Wales would practically need to achieve.

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rose

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I will give way in the very brief time that I have left.

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May I remind my hon. Friend that not far away from Cardiff is the Brecon Beacons National Park where we have mountains on which to compete and practise?

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My hon. Friend is a true champion of his constituency, and he uses every opportunity to promote it, and rightly so.

For Wales to host major events, there are challenges to which we must respond positively. There needs to be a team approach, and the Wales Office stands ready and willing to co-ordinate and bring together all the issues ranging from transport problems right the way through to immigration and security issues.

As we look to the next decade, there are few opportunities to host major international sporting events here in the UK. We will not have the Olympics or the rugby world cup, and it does not appear that we will get the football World cup. I truly hope that, as a result of the initiative being pursued by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North, all Members of Parliament here, and the UK Government, we will host the Commonwealth games in 2026.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.