Clause 1: Financial assistance: the Organising Committee
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—
“( ) for the purpose of ensuring access for disabled people at all facilities and in the vicinity of all facilities at the Games, or”
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 1 and 6 on accessibility, standing in my name on the Marshalled List. I thank noble Lords from all sides of the House for signing these amendments. I will also address Amendment 5 in my name on the social charter and briefly speak to government Amendment 4 on reporting.
It may be helpful to your Lordships if I briefly update the House on progress made on the amendments I have tabled, not least because it could shorten matters and simplify the debate. I am conscious that I have asked for considerable detail on accessibility to be placed in the Bill; I will address this first. My objective is for the Government to take seriously all the issues raised so far on accessibility, both in Committee and at Second Reading before that. It has never been clear to me that, despite good words, previous Commonwealth Games have followed to the letter the modern-day accessibility norms that one would expect, particularly for disabled athletes and spectators, and I think we will hear more of that during the debate today.
If I can persuade the Minister that the issues I have raised can be referred back to the Games committee as part of the report that the Minister has brought into the legislation in a new government amendment, I hope I will be satisfied that that process is the best way forward. At the moment, unless we had a letter or some form of outline detail as to what the House was looking for, the amendment could be interpreted as a little thin and capable of not engendering the sort of detailed analysis that we in your Lordships’ House would be looking for.
This has been an important issue to me for many years. Indeed, back in 1988, as Minister for Sport, I convened a working party that published a report called Building on Ability. That was the first—albeit gradual—policy shift by the Sports Council towards the mainstreaming of disability sport. We are now nearly 30 years on from that. It should be at the heart of hosting any mega sporting event in this country that we put the interests of those with disabilities at the forefront of our thinking from the day we begin constructing the various facilities to the end of the closing ceremony.
On accessibility, I appreciate that there are now, fortuitously and rightly, a number of Acts on the statute book, including the Equality Act 2010, and that as a public body the organising committee is already bound to comply with a number of statutory requirements, not least in that Act. However, I hope the organising committee goes further and draws up a comprehensive accessibility strategy, and that in drawing it up it will listen carefully to what noble Lords on all sides of the House have said during the passage of this Bill through Parliament.
I make reference in Amendment 6 to the International Paralympic Committee’s accessibility guide. It is regularly updated—it was updated for Sochi—and it is important to focus on what it seeks to achieve. The principles, the solutions and the practices used to make any host city and all Games-related infrastructure and services accessible and inclusive must create a culture of inclusion. That will then influence and change, in the long term, the way the public think and the way in which public facilities and services are designed, operated and delivered. We must strive for a world where universal accessibility is more than a goal—it must be the norm—and sport can have an important role in seeking to achieve that objective.
The key issues that I hope would be in any report presented by the organising committee under the Government’s proposed amendment include accessibility standards, Paralympic requirements and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and how those rights have been implemented at all stages of the organising committee’s work. If your Lordships’ House agrees with a report to Parliament that includes those items, I look forward to hearing from my noble friend the Minister whether that will ensure that the report will be both comprehensive and meet the objectives that I have set out in the early stages of the Bill and which other noble Lords will set out today.
I hope that we will also take into account Envision2030. The 17 goals embedded in Envision2030 to transform the world for persons with disabilities are a welcome step forward on the 17 sustainable development goals. While I think I am correct in saying from memory that disability is not expressly stated as a sustainable development goal, building on the principle of leaving no one behind would be a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. I welcome the Envision2030 17 goals and I hope the organising committee will take them into account when it addresses its report to Parliament.
Turning to the rest of this full group of amendments—we will have done most of the work on this Bill by the time we have finished the first two groups —the charter for the Games, to which I have referred and spoken at length about, is in Amendment 5. I take the same approach to that as I have done with regard to the Minister’s amendment. That seeks to ensure that those writing the report from the organising committee take into account Commonwealth Games values. It is a generic and broad phrase and I hope that if the Minister accepts that comments made from all sides of the House that are more specific and relevant to a charter for the Games are reported on, we will have made considerable progress and I would support it.
The sport vision of these Games is, effectively, a Commonwealth Games Federation vision—that through sport we can create peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities across the Commonwealth and that the Games are a catalyst for that action. Beneath that, there is a Commonwealth support impact framework. It established a number of aims: structuring; assessing; communicating; and ultimately driving the positive impact that the Games can have across diverse societies, economies and physical environments. I hope there will be a focus in that report on the work of the charter on sustainability and social, environmental and economic well-being. I shall not go through the details that were covered at greater length at earlier stages of the Bill, but I believe that it is inherently important in a social charter for the state to a have a duty to protect human rights, for there to be a corporate responsibility to respect human rights and for there to be access to remedy. All those are relevant to any mega sporting event which receives significant funding from government. They are values and goals. They are the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, and we should be seeking to embed them in the preparation for the Games and in what I hope will be an outstanding Commonwealth Games.
I have one final point to make on the Government’s amendment on the report. One of the issues that came out of the London 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games—I declare an interest having been chairman of the British Olympic Association at that time and having worked with my noble friend Lord Coe on the London organising committee and the Olympic board—is that legacy does not just happen immediately after the Games. Legacy can take up to 10 years to reach fulfilment. The urban regeneration legacy, which is an important component part, can come into being much quicker than the sports legacy, which takes much longer.
The final report is being requested from the organising committee only a matter of months after the end of the Games. I would much prefer to learn more about the effectiveness of the legacy one year, or even five years, down the road. In the spirit of being extremely helpful, I know what officials will immediately say to the Minister—the organising committee will have been wound up, so who would do this work? However it is worth reflecting, if possible, that we should have an opportunity further down the road to look at these Games to see whether they have met the objectives on legacy, accessibility and all the detail covered in that report. A one-off Select Committee of your Lordships’ House did that for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Should that trend continue, I hope the Birmingham Commonwealth Games would be a suitable subject for your Lordships’ House to study in detail.
When hosting a mega sporting event in this country it is as important to have a wonderful celebration of sport and recreation for able-bodied and disabled athletes as it is to have a legacy from all the investment that is made in the community in infrastructure, the redevelopment of run-down parts of our cities and the wider sporting benefit for the length and breadth of this country, not just in the immediate area of Birmingham. I look forward to hearing what other noble Lords have to say on this, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I have not spoken on the Bill before now, but it is not often that I gasp loudly enough from below Bar for colleagues to turn round to look at me. I was listening to the debate in Committee on the amendments on accessibility tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and he made a remark about specifically mentioning accessibility and disability rather than just scooping things up in “any other purpose”. In his reply, the noble Lord, Lord Ashton —I think he might have missed the point that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was trying to make—said of disability and access:
“The trouble is that that might be what my noble friend—
the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan—
“thinks is the most important thing to sign but many other noble Lords might have other priorities. The whole point of including the words, ‘any other purpose connected to … the Games’, is that it covers everything and individuals’ personal priorities are not put on the face of the Bill”.—[Official Report, 9/7/19; col. 1742.]
I gasped because, of all the protected characteristics, disability has very special provisions under the Equality Act. That is because people with that protected characteristic—in this case, athletes, spectators or people trying to use services—have the most difficulty in accessing the sports that they want to take part in, in whatever form. The point that the Minister unwittingly made said to me that we needed something specific in the Bill for the exact reason that too many people assume that, if you mainstream it along with other protected characteristics, everybody knows what you mean.
I declare my interest as a former trustee of UNICEF. I was at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Games and I have also been to a number of Soccer Aid games in recent years. At the Glasgow opening ceremony, Celtic Park met the accessible stadia requirements but was not accessible to this person, who was supposed to be a VIP hosting other guests, because there was no access to the VIP suite for people in wheelchairs. Worse than that, there were no wheelchair spaces in any of the directors’ boxes areas, so my daughter and I had to sit in a completely different area from the one used by the people we had come to host. That seems utterly ridiculous. The Glasgow Commonwealth Games did not quite meet the level of accessibility of the 2012 Games in many ways but it was considerably better than many others.
The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, who cannot be in her place today, has also read Hansard and is very concerned. She has sent me five pages of bullet points, listing things that could be improved; I will spare your Lordships the details. I am very grateful to the Minister’s office for writing to ask whether there are any particular issues that we would like to take up. Both the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and I would like to do that because we have specific points to raise, although they are not for this Report stage.
To try to illustrate the problems, I have picked three points that the noble Baroness has made about toilets. The first is that there are virtually no Changing Places toilets. There is now a mobile Changing Places toilet that, very unusually, can be hired, but such facilities are absolutely vital for some athletes, as well as for some spectators. She also points out that she cannot remember a time when there have not been accessible toilets for anti-doping purposes. That needs to be considered, because at football stadia you would not expect to have accessible toilets for anti-doping purposes for athletes. There also needs to be consideration of the provision of disabled toilets and whether they are truly accessible for spectators, both close to the seating areas and in the areas where people are likely to eat.
Regarding the accessibility of food outlets, the counters are high—they are designed for people who are standing up. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, says—I agree with her—that you have to hand your card over to someone to make a payment for you as you cannot see the card reader. You have to place your trust entirely in the hands of a stranger.
The subject of hotels goes well beyond the issue of stadia. It concerns services—in this case, in Birmingham and its surrounding area. A well-known disabled campaigner tweeted fairly recently that she had booked a fully accessible room with a shower seat. She arrived to discover that the hotel did not have a room of that description and she had to borrow a plastic garden chair from the hotel in order to take a shower. There are questions over whether an accessible room is actually accessible. I am usually very complimentary about Premier Inn but half of its accessible rooms have baths with showers over them. Some disabled people can access them but others cannot.
These may seem tedious, detailed points but the important thing about 2012 was that the whole of London, including the tourist industry, got to grips with every single issue, including: dropped kerbs, more ramps, people with visual impairments sitting on the ends of rows, and training the Game Changer volunteers so that if they saw someone with a disability they would ask, “Can I help you? What can I do to make your visit better?”.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, for tabling his amendments. I too will listen with care to what the Minister says; I am not yet quite as confident. We need to ensure that the onus is on the organising committee, the city of Birmingham and the transport hubs that people will use; whether you arrive at the Commonwealth Games as an elite athlete, a spectator or a visitor just trying to use services, we must follow the law under the Equality Act and the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in these Games.
My Lords, that was a very valuable intervention by the noble Baroness. I hope that her speech and the Minister’s response will be communicated to the organising committee; clearly, if we are to make a success of these Games, we need to ensure that the sorts of risks identified by the noble Baroness for the city of Birmingham and from other Games are averted.
In supporting the noble Lord, I come back to the point that he raised about the Minister’s Amendment 4 on annual reporting. First, I welcome the amendment, which very much responds to the debate in Committee. Also, to pick up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, the last reporting period ends on 31 December 2022. There is a practical reason for that: I understand that the organising committee will not continue after that date. However, in relation to the legacy, as he pointed out, particularly in relation to sport, physical health and well-being, the work that has to be done will go on for a period of years after the Games. It seems sensible that—whether by invitation or the organising committee formally handing it over—the city council has a responsibility for ensuring that the legacy continues. I do not quite know how that should be done, but a statement from the Minister, today or at Third Reading, ensuring that the city council is expected to continue the work on legacy and to report on a regular basis, would be very helpful.
My Lords, I come in as a tail-end Charlie on this. On the subject of disability, no matter the Long Title of the Bill, the positive experience of London 2012 hangs over it; it was a great cultural success and, as a result, the level of expectation has risen. To use flower show standards, it got its gold; everything else is expected to be at least a silver gilt. We have raised the bar and we must make sure that this level is maintained. Part of that is making sure that people know what their duties are and that people outside know what they are expected to do. Amendment 4 is a step towards this and makes my Amendment 9 totally superfluous. However, we need to know what comes with it.
When the Minister speaks again, I encourage him to guide us—and make sure that Hansard has it—to where we can find out what these duties are, so that people can look them up. If you have responsibilities that nobody knows about, and nobody knows where to check, those responsibilities die. This is the experience with lots of legislation on disability generally: if you do not know that you are supposed to do it, you do not do it; if you do not know that someone should have done it, you do not report them or pull them up on it. It is one of those patterns. There is lots of dust-gathering legislation to which this has happened. I hope the Minister will take this opportunity to let us know what is going on.
The Minister has listened. He has done something that on the face of it makes things better, but how it relates to the regulation and the stuff behind it is the real question here. I hope I am not encouraging him to speak until this time next week, but we need a guide to what is going on and how this will be implemented. If we get that, many of the problems that we are having will probably occur less frequently, although there is no silver bullet.
I too have the information from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. It is probably as good a description of all life’s little irritations writ large as you could possibly want. Nothing stops people taking part; it just takes the edge off it every time. We did not do that in London. We should make sure that we try to meet the standard wherever we can. I hope the Minister will tell us the legal situation on that, the penalties for it and how to make sure that if anyone is not coming up to standard, they know about it and so does the rest of the world.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, this is actually the heart of the debate we have been having on the Games, concentrated in one very small group of amendments. As he says, it may well be that we can take all the tricks that are on the table—if that metaphor actually works—at the same time if we get this right. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, that will largely depend on the Minister’s response because a lot of this is about how we judge the need to ensure that the legislation that goes through this House—and, presumably, very quickly through the other place thereafter—contains the minimum requirements appropriate for Games of this scale and stature. As I have mentioned before, it is important to note that these Games, unlike the others that we have looked at before, are very much in the direct control of the Government because the organising committee will be a non-departmental public body and the accounting officer of the department will therefore have legal and statutory responsibilities, as well as those that we might want to have placed on the organising committee and its staff in the approach to any other Games.
We want to ensure that the requirements are appropriate but not an undue burden on the organising committee in its main role, which is to produce a brilliant Games for the audience and the participants, to make sure that there is an appropriate and long-lasting urban regeneration programme for the people of Birmingham, and that we have a legacy—a point that has been made by others who have spoken—that is not just immediate but long-lasting and affects the culture and health of everyone in this country as a result of seeing, and possibly experiencing, the Games. That is a big ask for legislation that is just a few words on a piece of paper, but the issue can be addressed.
I turn to Amendment 8, which is in the name of my noble friend Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, but I confess that I had a hand in it. It follows from the point made in Committee that we are not thinking widely enough if we restrict our concern to how the Games are received across the country, and indeed across the world, and do not think about the broadcasting element. This issue came up recently in relation to cricket but it has much wider resonance. The way that this country deals with listed events sometimes runs counter to a common-sense approach to what should be available to people, particularly in this case. I say this without in any sense trying to use it as an excuse. If the Government are taking responsibility for funding a proportion of the Games, they must also take on the responsibility of relating to the people who are paying for them through taxation. One way in which they could discharge that responsibility is by making the Games accessible through free-to-air terrestrial television, but that would require a change to the rules on the listing of events. The amendment therefore seeks to press the Government to look again at the way in which Ofcom deals with that and, if necessary, to amend or impose conditions relating to the broadcasting of the Games on a free-to-air basis. I look forward to the Government’s response.
That is the method that I want to use to test whether government Amendment 4, to which the Minister will speak shortly, meets the issues that have been raised throughout the House, including by the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Addington, my noble friend Lord Hunt and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, in a very moving speech. If we are to place all our hopes on the Government’s amendment to ensure that the annual reports are extended or carried on in legacy terms by Birmingham City Council, as my noble friend Lord Hunt said, the annual reporting specified needs to be sufficient to capture the spirit laid out in the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and others.
Amendment 4 says that the report must include certain elements about the delivery of the Games and details of how they promote the values of the Commonwealth Games Federation, which, as has already been mentioned, includes a huge amount of additional activity. I accept all that; the Commonwealth Games has done a great deal of work on these issues, which is reflected in the values. However, I hope the Minister will recognise that proposed new subsection (2)(c) simply refers to,
“details of what the Organising Committee has done to ensure that Games events are accessible to disabled people”.
The wording used by the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, in Amendment 5 is much more appropriate. I am not seeking a change to the wording, but I wonder whether the Minister recognises the very obvious point that by not mentioning that the Games participants will include disabled people, and all that implies, the question remains as to why that wording is not used. The simple reference to “accessible” does not pick up the richness of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, in the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. However, the recommendations could be improved if we had more of a sense of what will be in the charter.
On sustainability, the amendment framed by the noble Lord on behalf of the Government refers at subsection (2)(d) to,
“details of what the Organising Committee has done to promote sustainability”.
However, if we read across, the charter refers not just to sustainability but to specific development goals and COP 21. It is therefore much richer and more engaged with what the issues are about.
I will not go through all these points, but I accept, as I think noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, does, that if we got behind Amendment 4 and it became the main focus of what we are trying to achieve in setting standards for the Games that are not burdensome but will reflect the importance of human rights, the elimination of fraud and corruption, the carrying out of sustainable development activities, and most particularly—because it is the most important aspect—the acceptance that these Games reflect the totality of human existence, whether able or disabled in terms of performance, and that they therefore must be accessible to all, not just in terms of physical presence but on broadcasting media, then I think we will be moving in the right direction. But it is important that we hear from the Minister whether he thinks the amendment, as drafted, does that. If not, might he be prepared to reflect on what has been said during this short debate and bring it back at Third Reading in a slightly better form to reflect the issues raised here?
My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to discuss these amendments and for noble Lords’ constructive comments. I should say right at the beginning that I have been struck all the way through the passage of the Bill by the fact that there is cross-party consensus that this is a good idea, that the Games will provide a tremendous opportunity for the West Midlands and Birmingham, and that amendments from noble Lords are, as I said at Second Reading, trying to improve the Bill. I am taking this on board seriously. That is why we have made some changes and amendments, and I hope that by the end of my remarks, with some further reassurance, that will be adequate. I am also sorry that I might go on a bit, but it is important to get some things on the record. I will address all the amendments.
We support the intention behind these amendments, as I said, and the paramount importance of delivering Games that are fully accessible to everyone. I turn to the amendments, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Griffiths, Lord Moynihan and Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, on accessibility first. As accessibility is already at the forefront of Games planning, I do not agree that all the amendments are necessary on the face of this Bill, and I will explain why.
First, however, I want to first address the comments that I made in Committee on this issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, kindly gave me advance notice that I may have suggested that I do not consider accessibility to be of great importance. I want to be clear that that is absolutely not the case. In this vein, I hope now to provide the necessary assurance that accessibility is at the core of these Games. I say to the noble Baroness that, if I gave that misleading impression, it is my fault and that is a lesson learnt that we have to be very careful in our language, even if we are doing it on spec, as it were. I hope that this will reassure the noble Baroness.
As several noble Lords have said, the organising committee is already bound to comply with a number of statutory requirements. Most notably, the organising committee is subject to the requirements in the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate on the grounds of disability and to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled people seeking to access Games events. The organising committee is also subject to the public sector equality duty. There are strong enforcement powers in the Equality Act 2010, and a person who has been subject to discrimination, harassment or victimisation can seek redress through the courts and tribunals. Additionally, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has powers to require that employers and service providers cease any discriminatory practices and make changes that are necessary to prevent future discrimination or non-compliance.
However, regardless of statute, the organising committee is committed to delivering an accessible Games and to hosting a fully integrated competition. Indeed, the Commonwealth Games’s unique approach of an integrated parasport programme underscores the Commonwealth Games Federation’s long-standing commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, and the Commonwealth Games Federation’s co-ordination commission reviews accessibility as part of its scrutiny on the planning and delivery of the Games. The organising committee will also develop an accessibility strategy, which will define the guidelines for accessibility across the entire Games to include spectators, athletes, media, broadcasters, the Games workforce and volunteers.
In addressing the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I want to reassure the House that, in developing the strategy, the organising committee will consider the lessons learned from previous Games, including formal knowledge transfer through the Commonwealth Games Federation as well as lessons from other major sporting events.
Before the Minister leaves that point, can he also ask the organising committee, when it is in the process of developing this welcome accessibility strategy, to take fully into account the points made on the Floor of the House today, and the letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, which I am sure will be of assistance to it in developing that strategy?
Can I come to that later? I certainly will bear that in mind.
My officials have made the Birmingham Organising Committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation aware of the issues raised by the noble Baroness. We take this very seriously, we do not want similar concerns raised about the Birmingham Games and we would be happy to continue engaging with the noble Baroness on this matter. Further, in developing this strategy, the organising committee will establish a disability forum, which will include disability specialists, charities and regional organisations, to ensure that venues and services are designed, operated and delivered so that everyone has a positive Games experience. The organising committee is happy to listen to the views of noble Lords as this strategy is developed. Once it is available, the strategy will be published on the committee’s website, and a copy will be placed in the Library.
Recognising the strength of feeling in the House, the Government also wish to place accessibility on the face of the legislation. That is why the Government have brought forward Amendments 3, 4, 10 and 11, which require the organising committee to report annually on the details of what it has done to ensure Games events are accessible to disabled people. This report will be laid before Parliament. I will come to those amendments later.
I turn to subsection (3) of the new clause proposed in Amendment 8, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, on accessibility relating to the list of designated sporting events, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. We want as many people as possible to experience the Games. The organising committee is looking to maximise the audience by exploiting a range of platforms. As the Commonwealth Games is a listed event, broadcasting rights must already be offered to the qualifying free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters on fair and reasonable terms. There is nothing to prevent free-to-air channels bidding successfully to show live coverage of group B events, as with the BBC’s live coverage of the Gold Coast Games and ITV’s forthcoming exclusive coverage of all 48 matches at this year’s Rugby World Cup. Indeed, the Commonwealth Games has been in group B since the list was compiled in 1998 and has had excellent live coverage for many years on free-to-air television. We believe that group B is the correct listing for the Games, helping to enable extensive free-to-air coverage for the nation and allowing the organising committee to agree live free-to-air coverage as it sees fit.
Further, reconsidering which group the Commonwealth Games sits in would not be appropriate at this time. The organising committee is already in the middle of a competitive commercial process with potential rights holders. These negotiations may not be concluded until next year. Any changes to the listed events regime during this process could significantly and detrimentally affect those negotiations. Finally, contrary to the drafting of this amendment, Ofcom does not hold the responsibility for amending the listed events regime; that power rests with the Secretary of State. The organising committee would be very happy to discuss its approach in all these areas with interested Peers. I hope that I have been able to further reassure noble Lords of the organising committee’s strong commitment to accessibility and to delivering a truly integrated and inclusive Games in 2022.
I turn to Amendment 5, on a charter for the Games. I make it clear that I agree with the spirit of this amendment, which highlights a range of important matters, but we do not consider it necessary to put the charter on the face of the Bill. As I have said before, the organising committee is merely the custodian of the Games for the next three years. It is the role of the Commonwealth Games Federation to set the level of expectation from a host city. That is why the federation is working with hosts of the Games to support delivery of its vision, mission and values.
As I will come to discuss, the Government will require the organising committee to report on what it has done to ensure that its delivery of the Games promotes the values of the Commonwealth Games Federation. As such, the values of the federation provide an important foundation for the government amendment on reporting and represent a further mechanism to ensure the organising committee upholds and delivers on these important values. In promoting these values, the organising committee is wholly committed to protecting human rights, tackling corruption and promoting sustainability.
Indeed, I am pleased to confirm that the organising committee is developing a Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games social values charter, which will be published in due course. The charter will include policies on equality, human rights and anti-corruption, and objectives on legacy delivery, reflecting the values of the Commonwealth Games Federation. Such a charter will underline the committee’s commitment to delivering a Games which builds on the matters set out in noble Lords’ amendments. I know that the organising committee would again be happy to engage further with Peers on this.
As I mentioned earlier—my noble friend Lord Moynihan also mentioned this, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, alluded to it as well—the organising committee is already required to comply with the Equality Act 2010, the Bribery Act 2010, the Fraud Act 2006, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and other health and safety legislation, the Human Rights Act and the Public Services (Social Value) Act. In addition, the organising committee will include a requirement in all its contracts for suppliers to comply with its social values charter, once published. Recently, the organising committee also agreed a modern slavery statement, which will be published on its new website. I hope I have demonstrated that many of the issues in Amendment 5 are covered by existing statute or are already being proactively considered by the organising committee.
I hope that my noble friend Lord Moynihan recognises that the organising committee is already taking great strides in this area—for example, with the development of a social value charter. The requirement that I have outlined will ensure that the committee reports on what it has done to promote the values of the Commonwealth Games Federation. Therefore, we think the Government’s amendment is a good compromise on the issue. However, I am pleased to give the further reassurance to my noble friend that I shall write to the organising committee to stress the importance of ensuring that it addresses all the issues raised by noble Lords in this debate, including the accessibility guidance issued by the International Paralympic Committee, in preparing its statutory report. Going a little further in that respect speaks also to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson.
I am grateful also for Amendment 9, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, which I consider is addressed by the government amendments. I think he alluded to the fact that he agrees with that, so I shall spare the House some words.
The government amendments will place a statutory requirement on the organising committee to report annually on its functions and the progress made towards delivery of the Games, and for the report to be laid before Parliament. This will ensure that there is a single source of information about what the organising committee has done to prepare, addressing the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. The amendments also reflect a number of other matters that this House and the Government consider important. I want quickly to mention some of them because they refer to comments made by noble Lords.
As I explained earlier in responding to my noble friend Lord Moynihan on the charter, we will require the organising committee to report on what it has done to ensure delivery of Commonwealth Games Federation values—I gave some additional reassurance on that. As the report will be laid in Parliament, noble Lords will be able to hold the organising committee to account on those values.
On accessibility, to address points raised by noble Lords in their amendments, it will be a statutory requirement of the organising committee to report on what it has done to ensure that Games events are accessible for disabled people, whether competitors, spectators or officials. Having those annual reports will allow noble Lords and others to look at progress made before the Games. It will not just be a question of waiting for the Games to happen and seeing whether something is wrong; proactive steps can be taken.
On sustainability, the Games partners are committed to embedding sustainability. I acknowledge the interest expressed in that—the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned it. The organising committee is in the process of developing a Games-wide sustainability plan. When this is published, I will place a copy in the House Library.
On legacy, as I said in the House previously, in delivering this event we must maximise the benefits for the city, the region, the country and the wider Commonwealth. There was agreement across the House that this was extremely important, which is why the Government have brought forward a requirement for the organising committee to report on the steps taken to maximise the Games benefits. However, responsibility does not sit solely with the organising committee. All Games partners will be working together to make sure that there is a lasting legacy from the Games that starts benefiting the people of Birmingham now. Games partners will develop a cross-partner legacy plan which will be published in due course and a copy will be made available.
The government amendment requires a final report to be produced by the organising committee after the Games. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and my noble friend Lord Moynihan asked what we could do in that regard. I can confirm that the Government will carefully consider who will be best placed to report on the impact of the Games and how, because it is our ambition that the positive effects of the Games are lasting. Both noble Lords were right to point out that the organising committee will not be around to do it. That is a commitment from the Government.
As for keeping the public updated on Games preparations, the organising committee will launch a new website this Saturday, marking three years to go. It will include information on sports and venues, when people can sign up to volunteer at the Games and apply for tickets, and the plans I have outlined. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Addington, is satisfied that there are considerable plans and mechanisms in place to ensure that the organising committee communicates appropriately and effectively and that he will not press his amendment.
I believe that Amendments 3, 4, 10 and 11 in my name strengthen the Bill and address the House’s desire that information on Games delivery is available and accessible. In light of my reassurance to my noble friend Lord Moynihan, I hope he will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, 24 hours ago I was in Smackover, Arkansas, talking to a 10 year-old, Ramsey Wilson, who could not quite understand why I was leaving to go to London to participate in this debate. She parted by saying, “I hope you get some of what you want”.
I hope that the House is as grateful to the Minister as I am, because the accessibility strategy is very welcome. The disability forum, of which I was unaware, is an important step towards making that accountable to experts in the field. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, for her contribution, both in writing to me immediately after the last debate and this afternoon on the Floor of the House. The commitment the Minister has given that accessibility will be taken into account, particularly in drafting the accessibility strategy, is very welcome.
On the charter, while it would have been my preference to see that in the Bill—it would send a signal to all future mega events—again, the Minister has given significant commitments that the Government place a high priority on human rights, anti-corruption, fighting modern slavery and the legacy to be delivered. I believe that this is not quite the Commonwealth Games Federation’s responsibility; I think it is the organising committee’s responsibility to translate that into action, as it was in London 2012. To have a 2022 social values charter, however, and for that commitment to be made and supported so strongly by the Government today is another important step in the right direction. I was very pleased to hear the Minister report to the House that all these issues will be considered in detail by the organising committee. We do not always get quite as much as we seek in responses from government on such important issues in sport, so that is exceptionally welcome.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in nodding his assent to what the Minister was saying, echoes my view that it is appropriate to have some forum that gives due consideration to the success or otherwise of legacy post the winding up of the organising committee. It is a welcome commitment made by the Minister. Perhaps the Commonwealth Games Federation could play a role in assisting the Minister in identifying the most appropriate format for that work to be done in, because that federation has a lot to gain from learning the lessons of Birmingham for future cities that will host the Commonwealth Games.
For all those reasons I am exceptionally grateful to my noble friend the Minister for meeting me and for taking into account and responding so positively to the many issues raised by noble Lords on all sides of the House. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“(2A) The Secretary of State must provide by regulations for local authorities—(a) to raise a hotel occupancy levy for the duration of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in the United Kingdom; and(b) to provide financial assistance equivalent to the proceeds of the levy, after costs of administration, to the Organising Committee for the purpose of delivering the Games.(2B) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.(2C) If a draft of an instrument containing regulations under this section would, apart from this subsection, be treated for the purposes of the standing orders of either House of Parliament as a hybrid instrument, it is to proceed in that House as if it were not a hybrid instrument.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 2, I will also speak to Amendment 7, to which I have added my name. I must apologise for not being able to be here in Committee. I am indebted to my noble friend Lord Rooker for raising a number of very important matters, to which I now wish to return.
Like every other noble Lord who has spoken, I am right behind these Games and feel that they will give huge advantage and impetus to the city of Birmingham and the West Midlands in many ways. However, a financial commitment is clearly involved. The Minister confirmed in Committee an investment of £778 million. This was to be split 75:25 between the Government and Birmingham City Council and a number of its key partners. It is clearly important that the city council pulls off agreements with key partners to defray much of the expenditure. The finances of the city council are, shall we say, fragile, and it would be disappointing if any resource had to be found from existing services to find the money that the city council needs to contribute.
That is why I have considerable interest in the idea of a hotel levy tax to help fund some aspects of the Games. I understand that Edinburgh is likely to be allowed to go ahead with such a tax, and the Core Cities Group is absolutely behind it. The noble Lord may be aware that we had a very good debate last week in Grand Committee on the report of the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, on the role of cities in investing and allowing the economy to grow. In his report Empowering English Cities, he makes the point that the Government should allow local authorities, or “mayoral authorities”, as he describes them, to,
“raise local taxes and charges. These … include vehicle excise duty, airport passenger duty, tourist tax and local cultural admission charges. With appropriate local exclusions, it is ludicrous for British tourists to pay to visit historic collections and buildings abroad while millions of visitors to this country enjoy free access”.
I will not go into the whole of his argument. The point is that there is some support for allowing local authorities to raise local taxes in the way he describes. Hotel taxes are quite accepted in many parts of the world. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said in Committee, a £1 a night tax for a three-year period could be expected to bring in £4.5 million to £5 million a year.
In Committee, the Minister did not exactly embrace this as enthusiastically, as I would have wished, but he referred us to a report on tourism tariffs by the all-party parliamentary group, which has expressed some reservations about the likely impact of a long-term tax having a positive impact on tourism infrastructure. That report concluded:
“Further studies need to be commissioned on the economic impact and viability of a tourist tax”.
I fully accept that. We are at the beginning of exploring such a concept. The argument I put to the Minister is that we have a heaven-sent opportunity to try a pilot in Birmingham to see how it works. We hope it would raise resources towards the Games. We would see what impact it had on the hotel market and the economy of the city as a whole. I cannot see what there is to lose in allowing the city council to be a pilot in those circumstances. It does not commit the Government to the principle for all local authorities in the future, but says that they are prepared to see whether a hotel tax is feasible, does not produce negative impacts and would be of immense help to Birmingham. There are two versions, if you like, of this idea: my amendment, which is a requirement on the Secretary of State to essentially bring forward a scheme, and my noble friend’s amendment, which asks the Government to look at the feasibility and come forward with a report.
In the end, it is important for future Commonwealth Games that the financial viability of these Games works out effectively for the host city. One reason why Birmingham had to take this on at short notice was the financial difficulties in the original host city. I know that the Commonwealth Games Federation is very interested in the concept of low-cost Games; indeed, the organisation of these Games is consistent with the federation’s desire to keep costs at the lowest level possible commensurate with a quality Games. All that needs to be supported. All I ask is, to ensure that that undue burden does not fall on the city of Birmingham and local services, the council is given an opportunity, as it wants, to try out a hotel tax and make a contribution to the cost. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to express some concerns about the amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath and Lord Griffiths of Burry Port. I am sorry that I was not able to speak at Second Reading, as I am a great supporter of Birmingham, which is a brilliant, vibrant and enterprising city, and a great supporter of the Commonwealth Games. I remember the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Games, which I was lucky enough to attend as a Business Minister, with great nostalgia. We all remember those Scottie dogs. On a more serious point, I remember the benefit the Games brought to Glasgow, and indeed to UK plc. As your Lordships can imagine, I am therefore a huge supporter of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. We are right to take the plunge, even though we have had less time than usual to prepare, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, kindly explained in Committee, we are taking over the Games planned for Durban.
Clearly, hosting the Games is a financial challenge, but I believe the Government have gone about this in a sensible way, and that the 75:25 split between central government on the one hand and Birmingham City Council and its partners on the other is fair. The Games will be a huge boost for the local economy and the worldwide reputation of the Midlands, and of Birmingham in particular. I should mention my interest as a director of Secure Trust Bank, which is headquartered in Solihull.
However—this is my concern—I am not a supporter of a hotel occupancy levy, even on an experimental basis, at a low rate, and for a good purpose. It would be a new form of taxation, and new taxes should not be introduced or even mooted without great care and consideration of the financial and administrative costs, any perverse effects and, equally important, the way such attacks can morph into a new piggy bank for the Chancellor or set an unwelcome precedent. I say the same to those looking at the hotel tax in Edinburgh.
The hospitality and hotel sector is already challenged by the changes it will have to deal with post Brexit. Moreover, in the main, it is taxed highly compared with other countries that impose hotel occupancy levies. We have VAT at 20%, employment taxes, costly business rates—which we debate often—together with the joys of vigorous HMRC-style enforcement, which competing European hoteliers often avoid. There is also a level playing field issue: digital operators such as Airbnb take trade from hotels and ironically, they would appear to benefit relatively from the proposed hotel charge. Our hotel businesses, in Birmingham and elsewhere, are in many cases small businesses, and we should be reducing burdens on them, not increasing them.
Even bigger businesses, such as IHG, which is listed in the UK and, I understand, has 350 hotels, pose a problem. By chance, I met somebody from IHG today and asked them about the Bill. I understand that the vast majority of its hotels are franchised, often to small business people and family enterprises.
So there is a problem. My noble friend has rightly promised more information on the Games budget, which I look forward to studying. However, I ask him to live up to the principles of fiscal rectitude and resist this new tax, however well argued in the context of the Bill.
My Lords, I do not object to the idea of a hotel room tax, providing it is done correctly, but I do not think that the Bill is the right place to do it. The bid was won on certain terms and references, and this was not in there. Also, I would not complain too loudly, because an Answer from the Government that somebody found for me states:
“The government’s other commitments to the Games, including the underwrite of the organisation and delivery of the Games and a number of guarantees, will remain in place until the end of the 2022/23 financial year”.
That is a pretty good deal. Changing the deal you have at the last minute will be a danger. We should discuss the idea further at another time; I do not think that this is the right time.
Also, the Birmingham city plan—let us face it, we are talking about Birmingham City Council—does not mention this at all. I suggest that there will be another time when we can go into this properly, but making sure that this tax stays local is important, if we are going to do it at all. Now is not the time or place. We have a pretty good deal that has been agreed by the people involved. We should stick to it.
My Lords, I support my noble friend in these two amendments. I shall try not to repeat anything that I said in Committee, but I want to express my disappointment with the ministerial reply on that occasion, which I thought, for the Minister, was unusually unhelpful on this proposal. I remind noble Lords on both sides that this is not the imposition of a new tax; it is merely a look at whether such a tax is feasible—no more, no less.
I listened to the noble Baroness opposite, who is a former Business Minister, I recollect, plead on behalf of business that there should not be another imposition. I remind her—having said that I would not repeat anything that I said in Committee, I will break what I said pretty early on, but I know that she was not present in Committee—that, coincidentally, I used the example of the Crowne Plaza hotel in Birmingham and how its nightly rate varied in the course of a week. If I recollect rightly— she will correct me if I am wrong—the Crowne Plaza hotel is part of the International Hotel Group to which she referred.
Again, I must say gently to her that if the price of one of its hotel rooms can vary by £130 in the course of a week, those small businessmen, the franchisees on behalf of whom she was making her plaintive cry, will not really go bust if we put another pound or two on our hotel rooms, as do many other cities throughout the world.
I express particular disappointment at the contribution from the Liberal Benches. I understand through the usual channels that this amendment would have been pressed to a Division had the Liberal Democrats indicated any support. They are always telling us how radical they are: here is a chance not to be particularly radical but merely to support a proposal for an inquiry into a tax that would assist something as worthy as the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham—yet without even hearing the sound of guns, before the guns had been loaded, they have fled the battlefield and said that they do not wish to be involved.
When you have an underwriting from government in a deal like this, do you want to change the rules after it comes out? I actually think that the Government have done well on this. That is why I first joined these Benches: I am not afraid to agree with people who I normally disagree with. If the noble Lord cannot handle that, well, there we go.
I think that I can handle most things that the noble Baroness throws at me in this place. Of course, it is not the first time that the noble Lord has defended the Government; indeed, the Liberal Democrats spent some years in alliance with them from 2010—and much good it did them, I might add on the subject of elections. Neither the noble Lord nor the noble Baroness mentioned the fact—I hope that the Minister will—that there is, it is said, a £40 million gap, which must be closed before the Commonwealth Games go ahead. If the gap cannot be closed in this way, how will it be closed?
Perhaps the noble Lord who speaks on behalf of the Liberal party should not knock an idea that seems enormously attractive to me. I fought three elections as a local councillor, only one of which was successful. If I were still a member of my local authority—that would be difficult because it was abolished some years ago—the thought of a tax that did not penalise my voters would be enormously appealing. That is the sort of self-interest that one normally hears from Liberal councillors—although it normally depends, of course, on which end of the village they are and the group of people that they are addressing at the time.
I go back to the question of yield management, as I think it is called—as a former Business Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, will know that. If it is good enough for hotel chains to vary the prices of their rooms on a nightly basis, surely it is permissible to look at the possibility—no more, no less—of a tax with which, I repeat, we are familiar with across the world and which, to give the city credit, Edinburgh hopes to introduce in the near future.
I will repeat one more phrase from my speech in Committee: we all know that the objections are based on the Treasury, because it hates the word “hypothecation” and hates the idea of anybody else applying taxes because that takes away some of its power. Again, I remind the Minister that the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands—I did not vote for him; I accept that he won against the odds and will have to fight for re-election in 2020—has publicly announced his support for the scheme. Looking at his former partners on the Liberal Benches, it comes to something when a Conservative mayor is more radical in his views on taxation than his former colleagues in the Liberal Democrat party.
So I hope to get a more sympathetic hearing from the Minister on this occasion. Surely we could look at something like this; it is not revolutionary or Marxist or anything like that. Surely it would benefit the city, the region and, most importantly, the funding of the Commonwealth Games.
My Lords, I am delighted to have an opportunity to follow the noble Lord, Lord Snape, who made an interesting contribution. This is my first opportunity to contribute to the Bill. I ought to declare my interests at the outset: I chair the board of PASSCo, the proof of age scheme.
I echo the comments of my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe and the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Snape, has read closely the terms of Amendment 2, moved by his noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. It puts enormous obligations on local authorities to raise this levy and,
“provide financial assistance equivalent to the proceeds of the levy, after costs of administration, to the Organising Committee for the purpose of delivering the Games”.
The real reason I counsel my noble friend the Minister against accepting this first-ever imposition of a hotel tax in England is that it would be the thin of the wedge. It would put down a marker for others, as we have seen in Edinburgh, who may wish to go down the same path.
At Question Time, the Liberal Democrat Benches in particular—I think it is the noble Lord, Lord Lee—often raise the spectre of the concerns that the tourism sector currently faces. One of these—I imagine that both hotel rooms and dinner tables face it; this has been one of the tourism sector’s persistent, as-yet-unsuccessful campaigns—is that we impose a 20% VAT rate, which already makes us uncompetitive in the face of our nearest competitors in the European Union and beyond. The States would not dream of putting such a high tax on their own business, particularly as they want to put America first, as we keep hearing.
We know that hotels and restaurants will face particular challenges as we leave the European Union at the end of October, in the sense that these businesses and the tourism sector generally—are heavily dependent on non-British EU citizens. We do not yet know what the supply of labour from EU countries will be, as we do not know whether there will be a transition phase or whether there will be the complete frictionless trade and free movement that we currently enjoy.
I do not wish to rehearse all the arguments that others have made, other than to say that I am convinced that a tourism tax—even on the level of a pilot scheme, as proposed here—could have a huge negative impact on businesses that rely on the tourism economy by potentially reducing visitor spending right across the industry. We are talking about hotel rooms today, but it could be restaurants and other businesses tomorrow. I urge my noble friend to look carefully at Amendment 2 and Amendment 7, particularly subsection (2), and advise him against accepting these measures.
My Lords, without repeating anything I have said previously, I support my noble friend. We are in a pretty unique situation at the moment, at 5.30 pm today: the country does not have a Chancellor of the Exchequer, so we can actually crack along. I realise that that is impractical, but the thought did occur to me.
I point out to my noble friend that not only is there no Chancellor but we have an old Etonian Prime Minister taking office shortly—I think he has taken office. We also have—on his own account; he is frank enough to say it—an old Etonian Minister present, replying. Surely some deal could be done early on to demonstrate how effective this new order is.
Notwithstanding my support for the principle, which I have promoted, I fully accept the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. I see the force of the argument. It looks late in the day and, it is true, I see it as the thin end of the wedge—as I said to the noble Baroness. I made the point that the broader the tax base, the less you have to raise the particular taxes. It has to be a good thing in principle to broaden the tax base. It is not something we have total control over, because it is a devolved issue; it may happen in Edinburgh. It is not as though it does not happen and work elsewhere—that is the point.
My noble friend used the example of that incredible debate last week on the report by the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine. It was packed out; there were twice as many people in the Moses Room as there are here. I got the message that the Lib Dems were far more iffy about the report and recommendations from the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, than the general thrust in the meeting. I am not picking out any particular points, and I do not single out this one, but a lot of caveats came from Lib Dems. Nevertheless, there is the genesis there of something to take forward for our cities. I fully accept that the timing is probably wrong; there is always an excuse for doing nothing, but I do not accept that. There is an argument here for a pilot scheme. It might fail. We do not use pilots enough and this is a classic example where we could use one. If it fails, we will see the defects in it.
A long time ago, the late John Smith sent the Front Bench off to Templeton College, Oxford for four days as preparation. I remember the material there and I took two lessons from it: first, always pilot the things you can; and, secondly, it is never too late to avoid making a bad decision. I once said that to Gordon Brown when he was Prime Minister. He thumped the table and pointed out that the decision that was about to be made was not a bad decision. That was during 24 hours of drinking coffee and debating around the table. I had been sent along as the hapless Minister of State by one of my bosses.
It is an example of the Games providing the genesis for it. We know that there is a financial shortfall and that the finances of the city council have been under serious pressure in recent years—hence the commissioners sent in by the Secretary of State for the Environment. Obviously, we will not go to a Division on it but the issue will come back.
I am sure it is not the idea that it would apply to every bed—we are talking about the big chains, not B&Bs. I fully accept there are new forms of competition to the catering, hotel and hospitality industry, such as Airbnb, but those kinds of pressures have come from new technology. We have to be careful how we do this, which is why the opportunity for a pilot scheme should have been grabbed with both hands.
My Lords, it was not my intention to speak today but obviously there has been a great deal of speculation about Lib Dem policy, to which I am not going to add. My view is that localised taxation would be a good idea if we devolved decision-making a great deal further down the chain.
I like the idea of taxation for certain areas of development. However, we have to be careful because this could be a blunt tool. As the owner of a hotel—a particularly fine hotel on the A68, the Redesdale Arms, a pub with great food and beer if you are heading to Scotland—I declare a personal interest.
The noble Lord will be first in the queue. I understand it is hard in the hospitality sector at the moment and we should not underestimate the problems that many hotels which have pubs are facing. A number of pubs are going out of business at the moment. It is a seasonal trade and you have to put prices up in the summer—especially in my pub because for two weeks the year before last it was cut off by snow and there was no income whatever.
While the idea of localised taxation is good in principle, we have to be careful that it is not seen as a blunt tool. Small providers who might find a few pounds the difference between making a profit, breaking even or making a loss should be considered carefully.
My Lords, it has been an interesting debate that has been not without its entertainment, as we have enjoyed over the past few minutes. I shall speak to Amendment 7.
In Michael Heseltine’s recent report Empowering English Cities, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, reference was made to the West Midlands joint authority, and the Birmingham Games of 2022 figure as a part of what will generate economic activity in the next five years in that area. It is on the list of the authority and I am glad to refer to it.
I am glad to have that intervention, which does not affect what I want to say in the slightest.
The thin-end-of-the-wedge argument interests me. I was once an academic. I do not know who remembers Microcosmographia Academica by FM Cornford. In academic circles, the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument was one sure way that nothing would be done. Let us remind ourselves that the wedge is not always a bad thing. In my house it does considerable work with uneven floors. So, let us take things as we find them. I heard the proper arguments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and from the Liberal Benches, and I also heard the proper arguments from our Benches. We have been debating this for 31 minutes and 17 seconds. The report to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality took its time—considerably more than 31 minutes and 17 seconds—and all the arguments that have been rehearsed on behalf of the business community were heard and are properly registered. All the arguments that were put for the possibility of such a tax have been rehearsed and are part of the argument. Having heard both sides in detail, we get to the recommendation that has already been mentioned—forgive the poor cataract-less ancient Peer putting his glasses on:
“The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality is calling for greater examination of the potential impact of a tourist tax on consumers, businesses and the economy before taking any decisions on the principle of introducing one”.
The question is open; evidence is needed. A project to find some evidence would not be a bad thing so that we can take 32 minutes and 24 seconds in a year’s time to say that the study has been done, the respective arguments have been seen and weighed and we can now with some confidence recommend either that this goes forward for a two-year period so that we can see what happens and evaluate it carefully, or that the evidence is conclusive and we had better drop it. That is where the APPG left things after a lot of consideration. I have listened to it very carefully. The arguments against and for are valid, and the conclusion is uncertain. Something is needed to give us more certainty when we look at the matter again. I suggest that Amendment 7, which I tabled, might do that. It is provisional, time-limited, place-limited and linked to the Commonwealth Games. Where is the wedge in that? It is specific. It has a shape. It is not pointed to be rammed in further later, but has a definite geometrical shape.
I have heard from the council in Birmingham. It tells me that it has had discussions with DCMS during the bidding process and since about alternative funding streams, including a hotel occupancy tax. It was given assurances by DCMS that it would assist the council in talking to the Government about those alternative funding streams. The council’s argument goes on to the points we have heard already. So, the DCMS Minister is facing me and DCMS has had some discussions and made a commitment to talk to the Government about the possibility of achieving an object rather like the one we are putting forward now. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what the substantive remarks and commitments referred to in the document were. I cannot see what we have to lose.
I am following the noble Lord’s argument as carefully as I can, and I shall go away and read the book he recommended, with gusto, I am sure. Will he address the point I made about imposing a tax, even in the circumstances of Birmingham, making us less competitive and the fact that hotels are potentially facing staff shortages and 20% VAT, which they mention every time I see them?
I am grateful for that intervention. It allows me simply to give the assurance that in the findings of the committee to which I have referred those specific points have been considered, with figures identical to those that have been mentioned. The business side of things needs to be heard. VAT at 20% in this country compares with 12%, 6% or 7% in other European countries, and it loads the tax base here much more than there. It puts this country’s hotels at a disadvantage compared with those overseas. I am not denying these important considerations at all; I am simply saying that, by approving this measure, we could have a specific, properly looked at piece of work that would allow us to take all these factors into consideration and come to a conclusion that would be justified evidentially rather than simply being based on a feeling at this particular moment—on the last day but one of a Session, when, as noble Lords can see, sartorially I am dressed for other occasions.
My Lords, I did not expect to enjoy a debate on raising tax but it was very entertaining. I thought that the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Griffiths, put their case very persuasively. I was going to mention the thin edge of the wedge but it has already been mentioned several times. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made a new suggestion about taking advantage of the absence of a Chancellor of the Exchequer. There might not be a Minister soon, and it would guarantee that there would not be a Minister if I did that. I am also grateful for the support of my noble friends.
Perhaps I might say something about the state of Birmingham’s finances and what Birmingham City Council is doing. As I mentioned in Committee, Birmingham and the West Midlands region will benefit, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, from a £778 million investment to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with Birmingham City Council and a number of its key partners providing funding of £184 million—25%—of the Games budget.
Birmingham City Council has publicly committed to meet its financial obligations for the Games, and approved a four-year council budget at a full council meeting on 26 February this year, stating that there are sufficient reserves to cover the city’s share of the costs. It has already explained how it will meet its obligations without impacting on existing services. I refer noble Lords to Birmingham City Council’s publicly available Financial Plan 2019-2023. This states that,
“resources have been identified for this purpose that will be sufficient to meet these funding liabilities as they fall due”.
It might interest noble Lords to know that the Government have already committed to working constructively with Birmingham City Council, to the extent that there was correspondence on 7 December 2017 from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to Birmingham City Council on reviewing existing legislative powers and listening to requests for new powers, should the case for additional funding be made.
As the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, said, we are in frequent dialogue with Birmingham City Council but, to date, no detailed case has been put forward to evidence the need for an additional power. However, I understand that Birmingham City Council is now undertaking detailed work, with expert advice, on various options for revenue-raising to offset the costs of the Games, including the use of existing powers or the introduction of a new tax, such as a hotel tax. We and Her Majesty’s Treasury await the conclusion of that analysis and stand ready to look at the details of any proposals put forward by the council.
My honourable friend the Minister for Sport and Civil Society—I have her full title right this time—has spoken to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury about this. As I stated previously, matters of taxation are for HM Treasury to consider, with appropriate evidence, consultation and assessment of impact—for example, on tourism—as my noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lady Neville-Rolfe mentioned. I am grateful to my noble friends for their support.
We consider that these amendments are not an appropriate measure for the Bill, which, I remind your Lordships, is focused on providing the temporary operational powers required to deliver a successful Games, and they would pre-empt the outcome of the work already being undertaken by Birmingham City Council.
Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, also emphasises the value of the Government supporting Birmingham City Council to maximise the impact of legacy projects following the completion of the Games. Birmingham City Council is already doing that; for example, it has secured a number of commitments from the lead contractor, including on-site training, a training package and pre-employment training places. But maximising the legacy of the Games, as I mentioned in the last group of amendments, is not just for Birmingham City Council but for other Games partners, working together, to achieve. The legacy of the Games will be felt in the broader West Midlands region and, in some cases, the UK more widely, so support for legacy planning will come from a variety of organisations, not just central government.
Finally, the Government have already committed to providing Parliament with regular updates on expenditure against the budget throughout the life cycle of the project. These reports will cover the whole Games budget, as delivered by all Games partners, and will not be limited to the Government’s contribution. I therefore hope that noble Lords are reassured that the Government remain committed to working with the city council on its plans to deliver its required financial contribution to the Games.
To sum up, Birmingham City Council and its cosignatories have made a commitment that they can fund the Games. They have subsequently explained publicly how they will meet their obligations without impacting on local services. In spite of that, the Treasury has offered to consider any requests they make in terms of new powers and I am glad that Birmingham City Council is now undertaking that work.
Although I understand the attraction, I must reiterate the Government’s position that these powers are not necessary and—here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington—not appropriate for this Bill. That position will not change, so I hope that noble Lords will feel able to withdraw or not move their amendments, rather than testing the opinion of the House. If they want to do that, they should do so now.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in what has proved to be a spirited debate. We have taken quite a tour around the issues. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said in Committee that a £1 charge might raise £4 million to £5 million per year; I do not think that a £1 tax will impact hugely on the economics of the hotel trade in Birmingham and, indeed, the West Midlands. To take my noble friend’s example of the Crowne Plaza, every day brings a new rate according to how the market operates; hotels are quite used to flexing the prices they charge.
Regarding uncompetitiveness, I suppose that one should acknowledge the Government’s efforts on behalf of the tourist trade in allowing the pound to collapse in the wake of their disastrous policies on Brexit. There are many factors, but the point made by my noble friend Lord Griffiths is that we know there are arguments both for and against a hotel tax. I do not seek to run away from that; my idea was simply that we have a great opportunity to try this out, not so much as the thin end of the wedge but as a pilot, so that we get, for once, some evidence-based policy. It would have been a good opportunity. The finances of Birmingham City Council show clearly that it has a difficult balance to strike. It wanted to run the Games, so it has had to give guarantees around budgetary control and having enough money. But, frankly, given the state of its finances, I would be concerned if it had to take money from reserves; I am not sure whether by 2020 there will be many reserves left in the kitty. It would be wrong for money to be taken out of service provision in order to fund it.
I am grateful to the Minister for what he said about the Treasury and the Government being prepared to listen to any arguments that the city council puts. The city council is now undertaking some detailed work, and that takes us quite some steps forward.
We should end on a constructive note, whereby, as I hear it, if the city council comes up with a really good argument about this, it will be listened to sympathetically. That is probably as far as I can take this, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 14, at end insert—
““Games event” means—(a) an event forming part of the Games (whether or not a sporting event), or(b) any other event arranged by, or on behalf of, the Organising Committee;”
Amendment 3 agreed.
4: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Annual reporting: the Organising Committee
(1) As soon as is reasonably practicable after the end of each reporting period, the Organising Committee must send to the Secretary of State a report on the exercise of the Organising Committee’s functions during the period.(2) The report must include—(a) an assessment of the Organising Committee’s progress towards delivery of the Games;(b) details of what the Organising Committee has done to ensure that its delivery of the Games promotes the values of the Commonwealth Games Federation;(c) details of what the Organising Committee has done to ensure that Games events are accessible to disabled people;(d) details of what the Organising Committee has done to promote sustainability in its delivery of the Games;(e) details of what the Organising Committee has done to maximise the benefits to be derived from the Games.(3) The reference in subsection (2)(b) to the values of the Commonwealth Games Federation is a reference to the values expressed in the constitution of the Commonwealth Games Federation, as amended from time to time.(4) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a copy of each report received by the Secretary of State under this section.(5) In this section “reporting period” means—(a) the period beginning with the day on which this section comes into force and ending with 31 March 2020,(b) the period beginning with 1 April 2020 and ending with 31 March 2021,(c) the period beginning with 1 April 2021 and ending with 31 March 2022, and(d) the period beginning with 1 April 2022 and ending with 31 December 2022.”
Amendment 4 agreed.
Amendments 5 to 9 not moved.
Clause 8: Interpretation of Part 2
10: Clause 8, page 5, line 23, leave out from “event”” to end of line 27 and insert—
“has the meaning given by section 1(3);”
Amendment 10 agreed.
Clause 23: Interpretation of Part 3
11: Clause 23, page 14, line 37, leave out from “event”” to end of line 41 and insert—
“has the meaning given by section 1(3);”
Amendment 11 agreed.
Clause 24: Games transport plan
12: Clause 24, page 15, line 32, leave out “person” and insert “local authority in England or a combined authority”
My Lords, the Government have listened carefully to the issues regarding Clause 24 raised by noble Lords during previous stages of the Bill and to the comments of the DPRRC. I am pleased that the House is in agreement on the need for a well-understood and supported Games transport plan. By giving this plan a statutory footing, we are ensuring that it has the appropriate authority and weight to deliver on the transport measures required for an event on the scale of the Commonwealth Games.
While it has always been our intention that the body directed to prepare a plan would be a local authority or combined authority, we recognise that simply providing for “a person” may not offer the assurance needed. That is why we have brought forward amendments setting out that only a local authority in England or a combined authority may be directed to prepare the plan. The House can be assured that an appropriate body will receive this direction and can be held accountable. To ensure that Parliament is appropriately sighted, we will make a Written Ministerial Statement when the direction has been made by the Secretary of State. Further, once the draft transport plan has been made available, we will deposit a copy in the House Library.
I would like to highlight the importance of placing the Games transport plan on a statutory footing. This, alongside a requirement on local traffic authorities to implement the plan, provides the clear framework needed for the effective delivery of Games transport operations. It will facilitate co-operation between transport partners, minimise the risk of disruption and disagreement and give the Government the assurance that they need. I beg to move.
My Lords, in echoing the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I want to say as a former member of the DPRRC that I particularly welcome the Written Ministerial Statement that the Minister has offered today. I thank him for listening so carefully to the arguments made in Committee.
Amendment 12 agreed.
13: Clause 24, page 15, line 35, leave out “A person” and insert “An authority”
14: Clause 24, page 15, line 38, leave out “person” and insert “authority”
15: Clause 24, page 15, line 39, leave out “person” and insert “authority”
16: Clause 24, page 15, line 41, leave out “person” and insert “authority”
17: Clause 24, page 16, line 6, leave out “person” and insert “authority”
18: Clause 24, page 16, line 8, leave out “person” and insert “authority”
19: Clause 24, page 16, line 10, leave out second “person” and insert “authority”
Amendments 13 to 19 agreed.
Clause 26: Concurrent exercise of powers of a local traffic authority
Amendments 20 to 25
20: Clause 26, page 17, line 2, leave out “A person” and insert “An authority”
21: Clause 26, page 17, line 3, leave out “person” and insert “authority”
22: Clause 26, page 17, line 5, leave out “a person” and insert “an authority”
23: Clause 26, page 17, line 7, before “authority” insert “local traffic”
24: Clause 26, page 17, line 12, leave out “A person” and insert “An authority”
25: Clause 26, page 17, line 16, before “authority” insert “local traffic”
Amendments 20 to 25 agreed.
Clause 27: Power to direct a local traffic authority
Amendments 26 to 28
26: Clause 27, page 17, line 31, leave out “a person” and insert “if different, an authority”
27: Clause 27, page 18, line 4, leave out “A person” and insert “An authority”
28: Clause 27, page 18, line 5, leave out “person” and insert “authority”
Amendments 26 to 28 agreed.
Clause 28: Interpretation of Part 4
29: Clause 28, page 18, line 16, at end insert—
““combined authority” means a combined authority established under section 103 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009;”
Amendment 29 agreed.
Clause 30: Regulations
30: Clause 30, page 19, line 3, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
“( ) A statutory instrument containing regulations under paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 (whether alone or with other provision) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.( ) Any other statutory instrument containing regulations under this Act is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”
My Lords, we had an interesting debate in Committee regarding the delegated powers in this Bill and whether certain powers should be subject to the draft affirmative procedure rather than the negative procedure. I have carefully considered the arguments raised in Committee and the recommendations made in the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee’s report, which also formed part of the last group. I issued a written response to the chair of the DPRRC last Wednesday, and a copy is available in the Library.
After reflecting on suggestions made, I am pleased to move government Amendment 30. The amendment applies the draft affirmative procedure, instead of the negative procedure, to the regulations under paragraph 16 of Schedule 2. This means that the draft affirmative process will apply to the regulations regarding the procedures for compensation claims in certain circumstances following enforcement action.
As far as compensation is concerned, the amendment is in line with Amendment 31 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the recommendations in the DPRRC report concerning the compensation power, and will offer Parliament the opportunity to debate the Government’s proposals. I hope noble Lords will welcome the amendment. At this point, it may help the House if I let the noble Lord, Lord Addington, speak to his amendment, or I could carry on. He has said that I should carry on.
I still believe that the negative procedure is appropriate for the other regulation-making powers in the Bill. This includes powers to make regulations to specify the Games locations and the time periods when the temporary advertising and trading restrictions will be in place, and will make provision about the vicinity of Games locations. I have been clear before that we have looked carefully at the approach taken in London and Glasgow and have subsequently ensured that the powers taken in the Bill are not as broad. As such, I maintain that the differences in approach mean that the negative procedure is appropriate here.
I reiterate the important point that these restrictions will be proportionate and temporary; they will last for a maximum of 38 days, and many for considerably less time than that. I reassure the House that we are focused on proportionality here. I anticipate taking a similar approach to Glasgow regarding time periods, Games locations and their vicinity. We are talking not about blanket restrictions across the region but about an area that in most cases may extend a few hundred metres beyond a Games location. In particular, this will ensure a celebratory look and feel around Games locations and create a welcoming environment for spectators. I remind noble Lords that the offences can be further narrowed in regulations through the provision of additional exceptions to the offence. The Government will run a public consultation on those exceptions.
Given government Amendment 30 and the reassurances that I have provided to the House on the proportionality of these measures, I respectfully ask the noble Lord, Lord Addington, not to move his amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his speech. Of course, I am slightly disappointed that I could not get everything, but half a loaf is better than no bread, and there is some validity in the noble Lord’s statement about some of the other powers in the Bill. I would have preferred the affirmative procedure, but on this occasion we might let it go.
My Lords, I also welcome the Minister’s announcement on the affirmative procedure for compensation claims. We looked at this in some detail in Committee and I am very grateful to him for responding so positively. I am disappointed that the negative procedure will continue to apply for Games locations and advertising. Will the Minister’s department continue to engage with the Advertising Association? It has been proactive in having constructive discussions with the department on this Bill, and I know it is disappointed about the negative procedure continuing in this context. However, it has made some useful points and it would be useful for those discussions to continue in another place.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. Of course, we will continue to have discussions with advertising stakeholders. As I think I have made clear throughout the passage of this Bill, we and the organising committee are very willing to talk to people about any concerns they have on it. I have made that point before and I repeat it now.
Could the Minister help me? He mentioned the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Commonwealth Games London. I had the great privilege of attending the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1970, which were very different from the Games in Glasgow and London. I know the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, did not participate in the Edinburgh Games, but it was not long after he had participated. Has the Minister taken account of anything that happened with the Edinburgh Games?
I ought to correct the noble Lord for the record. Glasgow certainly hosted the Commonwealth Games, but London had the Olympic Games. I am not trying to show him up; it is important because they are very different. One of the interesting things about this proposal, and one of the reasons why we are dealing with it in a shortened timescale, is that the costs of putting on the Commonwealth Games are considerable, as has been mentioned. The Commonwealth Games Federation had to look at how to make it possible for them to be put on around the world, not just in the richest nations of the Commonwealth.
On lessons from previous Games, we have looked at financing and the other issues we discussed earlier. We can learn lessons from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and I hope the noble Lord enjoys watching the Games in Birmingham—I assume he is not participating—as much as he did those in Edinburgh.
To add briefly to what the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, said, Edinburgh has hosted the Commonwealth Games twice: once in 1970, which was a complete success, and again in 1986, which was, frankly, a total failure in many respects. The organising committee ran out of money and the Government of the day—Lady Thatcher was Prime Minister at the time—declined to offer any additional assistance. It is a measure of the comparative costs of 1986 and now that the total deficit from the 1986 Games was £4 million. That is but a drop in the ocean of the cost of the Games with which we are concerned.
To some extent, I am retreading remarks I have made before, but Birmingham has made an enormous contribution to the Commonwealth Games movement through its willingness to undertake the responsibility for these Games at relatively short notice. I am not sure how often that is acknowledged. I suspect we are about to end Report and it is worth reminding people that, without that willingness, there is every possibility that the Commonwealth Games movement might have found itself in very deep embarrassment. On other occasions, people have referred to the fact that the cost of these Games is now such that the number of cities—remember, the Games are awarded to cities, not countries—able to undertake that responsibility is declining. I think we are all conscious that it would be a great pity if the Games became something for what is sometimes called the white Commonwealth—I use the term with some delicacy—rather than being part of the whole Commonwealth story. On that basis, with respect, it seems Report has improved this legislation greatly. For that, all those who have participated, among whom I cannot number myself for various reasons, deserve great credit.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord, and I agree with everything he said. It is important that we get this right for Birmingham and the West Midlands. It is also important for the Commonwealth, for the reasons he suggested. The Games have been expensive in the past, but Birmingham will cost considerably less than the last Commonwealth Games. We are introducing the partnership model in addition to the host city, as he rightly says, to enable us to do that. It is more complicated in some ways and there is risk involved in doing it at short notice. However, I am sure that if we show the constructive, helpful attitude that has been the hallmark of Report, it will be a great success.
Amendment 30 agreed.
Amendment 31 not moved.