House of Lords
Tuesday 25 February 2020
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.
Message from the Queen
My Lords, I have the honour to present to your Lordships a message from Her Majesty the Queen, signed by her own hand. The message is as follows:
“I have received with great satisfaction the dutiful and loyal expression of your thanks for the speech with which I opened the present session of Parliament.”
War Widows’ Pension
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the announcement by the then Prime Minister on 8 November 2014, what plans they have to reinstate the war widows’ pension for those widows who were required to surrender that pension due to marriage or cohabitation.
My Lords, in 2014 the then Prime Minister announced that changes would be made to the rules of the war pensions scheme and armed forces pensions scheme from April 2015 onwards. The amendments allow survivors’ pensions to be paid for life—known as pensions for life—for widows who remarried or cohabited on or after 1 April 2015. These changes were applied on a prospective basis.
My Lords, I thank the Minister. As a vice-president of the War Widows’ Association I am extremely disappointed that after five years, the Government are still dragging their feet on reinstating these widows’ pensions. We are talking about 200 to 300 war widows whose former partners served in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and the first Gulf War, among other theatres and whose only course of action today, if they want their pension reinstated, is to divorce and remarry their present partners. How bonkers is that? Will the Minister, despite what she has said, take back to her department our call that this has to be resolved once and for all?
I thank the noble Baroness and pay tribute to and thank the War Widows’ Association for its excellent work. I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her role within the association. I realise that this is an emotive issue that provokes many passions and I sympathise with and understand that. The noble Baroness will be aware that the difficulty with applying retrospective treatment to the provisions is that the policy of successive Governments—not just this one but previous ones—and across departments has been that such benefits cannot be applied retrospectively. I make it clear that in no way do the Government seek to diminish or disregard the support provided and contribution made by the ladies to whom the noble Baroness refers. My problem is that I have a very hard nut and I do not have a hammer to crack it.
My Lords, as president of the War Widows’ Association, I say to my noble friend that the Answer she has given will not wash with those ladies who naturally feel aggrieved by this decision. Will my noble friend at least agree to a meeting where this could be discussed more thoroughly with the officers of the association and honorary members, such as myself¸ who are able to be present?
I thank my noble friend for her question—I am beginning to feel a formidable array of onslaught opening up before me. I also thank her for her invaluable role as president of the War Widows’ Association. The department is very anxious to continue a dialogue and to continue to hear what war widows are experiencing. The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, referred to data, which is notoriously difficult to quantify. No one has the data but the association might now be able to pinpoint more accurate information. Anything that adds to our aggregate knowledge will be welcome. I say to my noble friend Lady Fookes that the Central Advisory Committee on Compensation, chaired by the Minister for DPV—which covers service charities, including the War Widows’ Association—is meeting tomorrow. I very much hope that the association will use that forum to make plain the strength of views that I am detecting clearly in the Chamber today.
My Lords, the Minister is relying on the usual excuse of no retrospection. I remind her that in the 1980s an award was given to widows. It was deemed to be an award and therefore did not get caught by retrospection. Perhaps she could see whether such an approach could be used on this occasion.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that the scandal of this situation is that it applies only in cases where the incident that caused death occurred between April 1973 and April 2005? Those widowed because of an incident before 1973 or after 2005 do not lose their benefit if they remarry. That is complete nonsense and shameful. Should it not be put right? Furthermore, the noble Baroness has described this payment as a benefit. Can we not describe it instead as compensation? Should not war widows’ pensions be called war widows’ compensation so that widows are not subject to this sort of withdrawal?
The right reverend Prelate’s latter point is an interesting one. I understand that technically, the payment is a pension. As I said earlier, the difficulty confronting my department is not imaginary; it has confronted many Governments and has reached across all government departments. To be fair, the difficulty at the time of the change, which was welcomed in 2015, was reflected by the War Widows’ Association. At the time, it said that it understood the principle that legislation cannot have a retrospective effect. It realised that that was not unique to the association and its campaign, and that trying to change it would have been very difficult. I detect the strength of sentiment in the Chamber and reassure your Lordships that I undertake to relay that to the department.
My Lords, I declare an interest both as a military widow and as another vice-president of the War Widows’ Association. Service life means that families follow the flag and are regularly relocated. We ourselves moved 24 times in 30 years. As such, it is well-nigh impossible for wives—now widows—to have a career that earns them a pension, so they are entirely dependent on their husband’s pension entitlement. Therefore, was it not an act of real meanness that they lost that pension if they found happiness in a new relationship? Surely the Government cannot keep hiding behind the pretence of not being prepared to consider retrospection. It must be time to remedy this. The sum of money involved would be a pittance in the MoD budget.
I pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her role in this and her connection with the War Widows’ Association. I hear clearly what she says and I agree. She is absolutely right that the women to whom we are referring have made sacrifices: they were frequently required to be posted abroad and may have put their own careers on hold. I understand all that. I think the noble Baroness will be familiar with the difficulty because she was a government Minister at the time of the change. It is a difficulty over which I personally have no control. However, her voice is added to the chorus that I hear very clearly this afternoon.
My Lords, the energy company obligation is our main domestic energy efficiency policy. It is worth £640 million a year and is focused on fuel poverty. This year, we will announce further policies to upgrade the energy performance of our homes, which will address fuel poverty and support the transition to net zero.
My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, to his new position as Minister for Energy. It is estimated that, if we had each of the 29 million households in this country with an energy performance certificate rating of A or B—which we would like to—we would save something like the energy from six Hinkley Points and abolish fuel poverty at a stroke. Does he feel that that is a good policy and focus?
I thank the noble Lord for his good wishes. It is nice to answer questions on something other than EU withdrawal for a change. I take on board the noble Lord’s concerns. He makes a very good point. As I said, we will be announcing further policies in this field in the Budget and in the forthcoming energy White Paper. He will understand that I cannot predict what might be announced at those times.
My Lords, it is fantastic to hear that the Government will have another policy. I welcome the noble Lord to his new post—I am sure that we will confront each other about this quite a lot. It is not just about having policies but having the funding in place. Will we see some funding for this in the Budget?
I thank the noble Baroness for her best wishes. I am sure that confronting is not the right word. Working together for the common goal would be more appropriate—you have to start out optimistically. There were funding commitments in the Conservative manifesto. As I said earlier, we will set out the details of that funding in the Budget and the energy White Paper.
My Lords, in welcoming the Minister to his new post, I remind him that we are now supposed to save energy wherever we can under the Paris climate accord. Can he tell the House why new builders are allowed to build traditional homes? Why do they not have photovoltaic panels or tiles on the roof so that every building generates electricity?
The noble Baroness makes a good point about building standards. That is something we will seek to address. There have been tremendous improvements over recent years in building standards and quality; the issue is the relative cost of installing all these measures in new homes, and the price that will be reflected. However, as I said, she makes a good point; it is something that we will need to look at.
My Lords, will my noble friend agree to look into why it is that, if you switch a house from oil-fired to gas-fired central heating, its energy performance certificate gets worse, not better? It is a perverse system in the regulations. I declare my interest as a landlord.
My Lords, the Government already have ambitious targets for improving home energy efficiency, so 10 days ago I introduced a Bill simply to put those targets into legislation and give the home energy efficiency industry the certainty that it needs. The noble Lord, Lord Duncan, said that the Government could not support my Bill because it would cut across their plans for strategies and a route map. Yesterday, the Energy Minister in the other place told people at a Sustainable Energy Association reception, “We tend not to support Private Members’ Bills when we are going to legislate for the same things.” Which excuse is right?
I notice that my noble friend Lord Duncan is watching the performance today. I will certainly not disagree with what he told the House. As I said, there will be a number of upcoming announcements in this field. I cannot at this stage predict what they will be, but I am sure that the noble Lord will be pleased when he hears them.
My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on his new post. Can he share with the House any thinking in the forthcoming White Paper that will ensure that the cost of cutting carbon and retrofitting will not fall unevenly on the poorer people in our society, who are already suffering from fuel poverty and will need all the help they can get?
The noble Baroness makes an extremely good point. As she will be aware, the ECO scheme is funded from fuel bills. If we increase funding for the ECO scheme for poorer households, that puts up the cost of bills for all customers. That is one of the points we need to address; her point is well made.
My Lords, I too welcome the Minister to his new post—and his new collaborative approach. However, he still manages to miss the point. He said that the ECO scheme was the main weapon for tackling fuel poverty, but it has failed to do that and to meet what is necessary on home heating to tackle climate change. Has the time not now come—I hope that he will raise this with the Chancellor—for the restoration of a tax-funded intervention for the nearly 4 million homes that are suffering particularly from lack of insulation and failed heating systems? This was dropped 10 years ago; it now needs to be restored.
I am, of course, always happy to work collaboratively with the noble Lord, but I point out gently that he is not correct to say that the ECO scheme has failed. The latest fuel poverty statistics show that the aggregate fuel poverty gap is falling year on year. We can always argue that we need to make faster progress, but the scheme is a success and it is working to bring down fuel poverty.
Afghan Interpreters: Security Clearance
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Goldie on 22 October 2019 (HL19), whether the review of security clearance policies for Afghan interpreters who have been relocated to the United Kingdom has been completed; and if so, what was the outcome.
My Lords, I am pleased to confirm that the Ministry of Defence has revised its national security vetting policy for all interpreters who deploy overseas in support of military operations. Afghan interpreters who have relocated to the United Kingdom will now no longer be disadvantaged for not meeting the previous residency and nationality requirements. The Government will also now take account of previous loyal service alongside UK Armed Forces overseas.
My Lords, I am relieved by and pleased to hear that Answer, although I find it odd that if residency and nationality for five years are no longer a barrier to security clearance, a minimum of five years’ residency is still required as proof of honesty and integrity—as set out in the Minister’s letter to me earlier this month. What is the difference and why can the two not be aligned? Also, I ask about the interpreters who remain in Afghanistan and do not qualify for the provision to relocate to the UK under the excellent ex-gratia scheme, but who might still be vulnerable to intimidation and death threats from the Taliban. Since responsibility for interpreters was contracted out to the private company thebigword, protection and the general duty of care for them has not matched the previous government-run scheme. When will this contract be reviewed and what due diligence will be undertaken to ensure that the previous intimidation policy will at the very least be restored, if not improved?
As I indicated to the noble Baroness, in determining security vetting the Government will take account of previous loyal service alongside UK Armed Forces overseas. A variety of criteria are applied for UK clearance. It is for other groupings such as NATO to determine what satisfies them. On the point about thebigword and monitoring, I reassure her that the Ministry of Defence holds regular governance and assurance meetings with the contractor and has performance metrics in place to ensure that standards are met. On the intimidation angle, she will be aware that the UK Government have been at the forefront of providing support—and to considerable effect. In addition to the checks that the Government expect the contractor to carry out, there is an intimidation unit in Afghanistan, manned 24/7, to deal with any situations of concern. She asked for some specific figures; I will check Hansard and undertake to write to her.
My Lords, these people effectively fought the Queen’s enemies alongside us. Does the Minister not agree that the foot-dragging, delays and confusion over this is a terrible message to give, because our forces will again, without a doubt, fight elsewhere and people will not be willing to help them if they see that we do not look after them?
I respect the noble Lord’s experience on such matters, but I disagree. The United Kingdom Government have effectively demonstrated that they stand by the people they ask to work alongside them in situations of hostility and conflict. Help has been forthcoming, particularly for those who feared intimidation: 570 locally employed staff have received support throughout the scheme, ranging from bespoke security advice to 40 locally employed staff being supported to relocate within Afghanistan. The two systems, intimidation and redundancy, indicate that a great deal of help has been available from the United Kingdom Government, which is something of which we should be very proud.
Can my noble friend tell us, in addition to the good news she has already given, how many of these brave interpreters are still in the pipeline or are being processed, and when they can expect to hear when they and their families will be relocated?
My understanding is that, under the redundancy scheme, there are only two former locally employed staff and their families waiting to relocate, neither of whom is an interpreter. So far, 445 former locally employed staff and their families—1,317 people in total—have been relocated to the UK, the vast majority of whom were interpreters. The noble Baroness referred to families in the pipeline; I understand that the Ministry of Defence is processing 66 spousal applications and 58 child applications for relocation from former locally employed staff who relocated without their families.
My Lords, I do not know if in preparing for this Question the Minister had regard to the Hansard of 17 June last year. At that time it was made abundantly clear that there was considerable sympathy on all sides of the House for the position of those who were willing to risk life and limb by being interpreters for the British Army. Some of that good will has in fact been dissipated by the length of time that it has taken to reach the conclusion that she announced in her initial response to the Question. However, I go back to those who have not yet been afforded the opportunity of settling in the UK. There is of course at the moment the suggestion of some kind of peace treaty between the Americans and the rebels in Afghanistan, but it is highly unlikely that the position of these interpreters will in any way be protected by that. Should we not be much more generous towards those who were willing to assist us, not least for the pragmatic point made by the noble Lord, Lord West: why will other people be willing to do the same thing if they do not believe they will be properly treated?
I have endeavoured to reassure the House by giving the information that I have been able to disclose. A great deal has been done for the very reasons that the noble Lord rightly states. We value what these people have done in supporting our Armed Forces in an area of conflict; we value the contribution that they have made. It is clear that with the two schemes we have done everything we can to ensure that these people are not compromised, placed at risk or put at a disadvantage. In fact, the noble Lord will be aware that in particular the training and finance packages available for those who seek to stay in Afghanistan are very generous. They are having very positive outcomes as we speak, which is to be applauded and commended. We do not want a situation where people would be reluctant to work with the United Kingdom, and I am not aware of any evidence to that effect.
My Lords, the Government are firmly committed to supporting local areas impacted by recent severe weather. Following the floods in November and storms Ciara and Dennis, we rapidly activated both the Bellwin scheme and the flood recovery framework, offering support to flooded households and businesses through community and business recovery grants, council tax and business rates relief schemes. The Government continue to stand ready to support areas affected by such devastating impacts.
My Lords, we have a Statement coming up so I will stick to this specific point. The letter sent recently to MPs by George Eustice, the Minister, says:
“We have triggered the Flood Recovery Framework”,
which the Minister referred to,
“ensuring that families and businesses will receive funding from the local councils and can get back on their feet, whereby: Flood-hit households can apply for up to £500 and 100% council tax relief”
while flooded businesses can apply for up to £2,500. Obviously this short-term money is welcome, but the Statement put out by the Government on 18 February read:
“Measures announced today apply to those affected in district or unitary authorities that have 25 or more flooded households as a result of Storms Ciara and Dennis.”
Does the Minister agree that people in a village where perhaps 10 or 15 houses are flooded are not eligible for this, because there are not more than 25 flooded properties locally, and that this is not fair?
I will try not to steal the thunder from my noble friend who is following on behind me. On the noble Lord’s specific question about why the support from the flood recovery framework is available only to district or unitary authorities with over 25 flooded properties, the framework is premised on the principle that recovery is led at a local level, and that it is reasonable for local authorities to plan for and cover emergency costs up to this level.
My Lords, communities across Wales have been terribly affected by these recent floods. Per head of population, the county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf has been harder hit than anywhere else within the UK. The council needs £30 million, at least, to cover necessary repairs and resilience work. As these exceptional events remain exceptional but are becoming more frequent, does the Minister think that while funding is devolved, the UK Government still have responsibility to help those flooded areas? Will they make additional funding available to local authorities in Wales?
I thank the noble Baroness for raising a cause that is also dear to my own heart. She is right about the terrible effects in Rhondda Cynon Taf. The glib answer, of course, is that flood defences are a devolved matter but on the day the flood events took place, Defra and the Environment Agency were immediately offering mutual aid to the Welsh Government, should they need it. We offered whatever help they would need to respond. The Secretary of State for Wales has already met the First Minister, but the Welsh Government have not yet specified what support, if any, they require. The First Minister of Wales announced today £500 for every household affected by flooding and an additional £500 for those without insurance, to be paid within the next 24 hours. I am sure that the UK Government will also offer similar help.
My Lords, Worcestershire has been as badly affected as anywhere in England by the recent floods and the river level is still rising in Worcester. At the same time, I have to observe that a great deal of work has been done since 2007, which has meant the damage has been much less than would otherwise have been the case. I support the call for swift and full compensation. At the same time, I pay tribute to the emergency services, which have been superb during these floods. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to them?
Of course I pay tribute to the extraordinary response from the national response centre. It was stood up on February 14 and the scale of its response was truly extraordinary: we have installed three miles of temporary flood barriers and 90 mobile pumps. However, that is not to say there are no grave risks involved in the rising tides, particularly on the River Severn. I know that the peak time will be between midnight tonight and 5 o’clock tomorrow. We are severely worried that the flood defences in place will be tested by the amount of time they have been under pressure; there is some risk of overflow.
My Lords, will my noble friend also thank the council officials and those from the Environment Agency who have been on duty for weeks during the present floods? Does she not agree that it is morally indefensible to continue to build and sell in flood plains houses for which no insurance cover can be bought?
I agree with my noble friend, but it might be helpful to set out that “building on flood plains” is a catch-all expression. There are two different forms of flood plains; indeed, London is on one of them—I am not sure whether she is suggesting that we stop building here. However, high-risk flood zones, known as flood zone 3a, were developed as permitted, subject to Environment Agency concerns being satisfied. National planning policy is clear: inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding from all sources should be avoided by directing development areas to lower risk. Where development is in a high-risk area and is absolutely necessary, sufficient measures should be taken to make sure homes are safe, resilient and protected from flooding. New housebuilding and most other forms of development should not be permitted in functional flood plains where flood water has to flow or be stored in times of flood. These flood plains are known as flood zone 3b.
Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill [HL] (Law Commission Bill)
Order of Commitment
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been tabled to the Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment, or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
High Speed Rail (West Midlands– Crewe) Bill
Motion to Agree
That if a Bill in the same terms as those in which the High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill stood when it was brought to this House in the 2019 session is brought to this House from the House of Commons in this session—
(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been read a first and second time,
(b) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee,
(c) any petition deposited against the Bill in the 2019 session (if not withdrawn) shall be taken to have been deposited against the Bill in this session and shall stand referred to the Select Committee on the Bill, and
(d) the Standing Orders of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the 2019 session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in this session.
My Lords, the High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill, also known as the phase 2a Bill, concerns the section of HS2 which extends the railway from the end of phase 1 just north of Birmingham to Crewe—the gateway to the north. On 11 February, the Prime Minister announced the go-ahead for HS2. He also confirmed that the Government would seek to revive the phase 2a Bill as soon as possible.
Bills are not revived often but doing so is far from unprecedented. It is more common for a Bill to have a carry-over Motion, but revival has the same effect, as if a carry-over Motion had been agreed. Noble Lords may be familiar with revival from private Bills, where it is common. Hybrid Bills are relatively rare but revival has been used previously for them also.
The Bill was originally introduced in July 2017. It then took over two years to complete its Commons stages, which involved a specially convened Commons Select Committee, which reviewed more than 300 petitions. Petitions were from those who found themselves specially and directly affected by the Bill. Two additional provisions were tabled which made changes to the Bill to meet the needs of those individual petitioners. Many were based on the recommendations of that specially convened committee. Last September, the Second Reading debate took place in your Lordships’ House and the Bill was committed to a Lords Select Committee. In the 2019 Session, that committee was nominated but did not meet, owing to the Dissolution. If this Motion is agreed today, and a similar Motion is subsequently agreed in the House of Commons, it will allow the Bill to resume in the same place that it stopped in the last Parliament.
A Select Committee will then be nominated, and I thank in advance the Members of this House who have agreed to sit on it, including those who volunteered but did not get to participate due to the Dissolution. That Select Committee will hear the remaining 28 petitions which are yet to be heard. It is crucial that those petitioners are given the chance to be heard and the opportunity to air their concerns.
Passing this Motion allows the Bill to retain the progress previously made and make further progress. It allows those who are directly and specially affected to continue with the legal process, and to achieve a resolution to their concerns in a timely fashion. I beg to move.
My Lords, I strongly support the Motion and join the Minister in paying tribute to noble Lords who have agreed to serve on the Select Committee. However, as she is aware, the extension of HS2 from Birmingham to Crewe—the phase 2a Bill we are talking about—is integrally linked to the 2b provisions that will extend HS2 from Crewe to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds.
In the Statement of policy made two weeks ago, the Prime Minister said that there would be a further review of the northern elements of HS2 covered by phase 2b. He indicated that the review would last about six months, but no detail has been given so far. Because it is so vital to understanding the implications of 2a, can the Minister tell the House more about the review? Who will conduct it? What will the timescale be? When will the Government publish the terms of reference? When will the review start? Is she aware that there is serious concern in Crewe, Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Scotland—where HS2 will ultimately terminate—that, if the review is unduly delayed, we will end up with a high-speed line that goes to Birmingham and Crewe but does not extend these vital benefits to the north?
My Lords, I endorse what my noble friend has said. It is important that consideration is given to the further extension, particularly to Scotland. In addition, there have been reports that China has expressed interest in taking over the construction of the high-speed link, and that it could do it more quickly and cheaply. Is that a serious proposal? Is it being looked at by the Government? If so, when will it be considered by Parliament?
My Lords, I would like to pursue the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about the effect of the phase 2a Bill on phase 2b. Can the Minister confirm, first, that under this legislation a station separate from the current mainline station will be built at Crewe? This will mean that people coming down from Scotland will have to change trains. Secondly, will she confirm that, under phase 2b, trains north of Crewe are not going to run at the same speed as the HS2 trains, and that trains to Manchester from Crewe will be doing only the same speed as the 125 trains?
My Lords, I support the comments just made by the noble Lord from Cumbria—whose name I have forgotten and to whom I apologise—whom I often meet on the trains coming down from Cumbria and Lancashire. Is not one of the problems of the whole organisation of HS2 the lack of adequate integration of stations in cities and towns where it joins the traditional network, and that the stations proposed in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds are not ideal because in effect they are not the same stations as far as passengers are concerned?
While I am talking about Crewe, for some of us Crewe, like Balham, is the gateway to the south, not to the north. Even if the Minister wants to take a southern-centric view of Crewe, it may be the gateway to the north-west but it is certainly not the gateway to Yorkshire or the north-east.
My Lords, first, I reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. It is a genuine pleasure to be able to support something he has said in the House, as quite often recently he and I have appeared to be on different trajectories. Secondly, to reinforce the point he made about the part of the b leg that goes through the east Midlands to Sheffield and Leeds, perhaps the Minister could help me out. Two weeks ago, when there was no mention whatever of Sheffield and South Yorkshire in the Prime Minister’s Statement, it became clear that the review might have more to do with doing away with that leg rather than actually reviewing the route. If she could clarify that, it would be a miracle.
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Blunkett, I feel slightly disorientated in agreeing wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Adonis. I particularly agree with his point about needing some clarity about 2b. I slightly wondered whether the Prime Minister had introduced reference to 2b just so that he could make his gag about “2b or not 2b”. The crucial thing is how long that reconsideration or re-examination will take. Of all the questions the Minister has had thrown at her, perhaps she can at least give a specific answer to the question: how long will that take and when will it start?
My Lord, can the Minister tell the House a bit more about the review that the Government published last week, I think, about HS2 and the northern powerhouse—the Williams Rail Review? I believe it answers some of the questions posed by my noble friend Lord Adonis about the review that is to be led by the Government—perhaps she can tell us who in the Government—but with input from the National Infrastructure Commission, to cover not only the whole of phase 2b but the northern powerhouse and possibly Midlands Connect. Can she also explain why the National Infrastructure Commission has been asked to look at this bit of HS2 but the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has been asked to look at phase 1? It seems a bit odd that two separate government organisations are looking at different bits of the same project.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and his new friend, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for their interventions in this very short HS2 debate—which I feared was going to turn into a much larger debate; but I am sure there will be many of those to come.
First, I will address the comments about the integrated rail plan—which I point out is a rail plan, not a rail review. Obviously, it is being led by the Secretary of State for Transport, and he will have assistance from the National Infrastructure Commission, as well as from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which, as noble Lords will know, is taking a much closer look at the way that large projects are being run in government; indeed, this afternoon I have a meeting with it on roads.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will be relieved to know that the terms of reference for the plan have already been published—they were published last Friday—so he can look at them and I will be happy to answer any further questions he may have. We aim to publish the integrated rail plan—IRP—by the end of the year to ensure clarity on how best to proceed with HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands rail hub and all the other major projects in the Midlands and the north, because it is essential that these projects work well together in order that we can maximise the opportunities they provide.
The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked whether China will be building the railway. China’s involvement has not come to my attention, apart from some stuff in the media, but if I can find anything out, I will write to him.
As for Crewe, services on HS2 will run into Crewe station. I have visited Crewe station and it is undergoing significant redevelopment, which I think will be hugely beneficial to Crewe and the services that will be coming into it.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned the location of stations. I fear that at this point we get into the whole HS2 debate and I might just leave that one for another day: I am sure there will be many more opportunities to discuss that.
As I said, passing this Motion will give a lot of closure to those who are affected by the Bill.
Before the Minister sits down, I would be grateful for her further response. I note that “six months” has already become “the end of the year”, which is already a significant extension. She said that this review will be led by the Secretary of State for Transport, but we were led to understand there would be a new HS2 Minister, who I understand the Government also announced last week. Is this an HS2 Minister who is not, in fact, really responsible for HS2?
No, not at all. As the noble Lord knows, all Ministers within the department are ultimately responsible to the Secretary of State, and that includes the HS2 Minister. The noble Lord will be very pleased to know that Andrew Stephenson has been appointed Minister of State in the Department for Transport with specific responsibilities to oversee HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, which of course is closely integrated, and the trans-Pennine upgrade. I beg to move.
Motion agreed, and a message was sent to the Commons.
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the other place. The Statement is as follows:
“Mr Speaker, with permission, I will make a Statement to the House on recent flooding caused by Storm Dennis, which followed Storm Ciara and affected many parts of the country. I would like to begin by extending my condolences to the families and friends of the five individuals who sadly lost their lives through the storms. I am sure the thoughts of the whole House are with those grieving families today. Our thoughts are also with all those who have suffered damage to their properties as a result of the storms. To have one’s home flooded is an incredibly traumatic experience, and I am conscious that some have been flooded repeatedly over recent years.
Storm Dennis cleared the UK during the course of Monday 17 February. However, this remains a live incident and I urge people in at-risk areas to remain vigilant. We are monitoring the situation closely and most areas are moving into recovery phase. However, rainfall over the last few days is still leading to higher water levels, so we will continue to see the effects this week.
Communities have been affected across our union. We have had an incredibly wet winter. Some areas have already received almost double their average rainfall for February, with others experiencing a month’s worth of rain in just 24 hours. Records have been broken. Some 18 river gauges across 15 rivers recorded their highest levels on record during, or triggered by, Storms Ciara and Dennis, including the Colne, Ribble, Calder, Aire, Trent, Severn, Wye, Lugg, and Derwent. Storm Ciara flooded more than 1,340 properties. The latest number of properties flooded by Storm Dennis stands at more than 1,400. Wales has also seen significant impacts and we are in close contact with the Welsh Government.
The scale of the response has been huge, from setting up temporary defences to knocking on doors and issuing residents with warnings. In anticipation of the storm, we stood up the national flood response centre on Friday 14 February. The Environment Agency issued 348 flood warnings for Storm Ciara and 514 flood warnings for Storm Dennis. On 17 February we saw a record concurrent total of 632 flood warnings and alerts issued in a day; two severe flood warnings, 107 flood warnings and 207 flood alerts remain in place in England. There are an additional 13 flood warnings and 39 flood alerts in place in Wales, and one flood warning in Scotland.
We have been sharing information with the public, so people can prepare for flooding wherever they live. We have deployed over three miles of temporary flood barriers and 90 mobile pumps, and we have been keeping structures and rivers clear of debris. Over 1,000 Environment Agency staff per day have been deployed, with the assistance of around 80 military personnel. In Yorkshire, the military helped deploy temporary defences in Ilkley, and kept the road open between Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge in Calderdale. I would like to record my thanks to all the response teams, including the Environment Agency, local authorities, our emergency services and the military. They are still working hard—over 20 government bodies, local authorities and volunteers, all over the country. The Government acted swiftly to activate the Bellwin scheme to help local authorities cope with the cost of response in the immediate aftermath. On Tuesday 18 February we also triggered the flood recovery framework to help communities get back on their feet.
I am working alongside the Secretary of State for Housing to help households and businesses recover. This includes making available hardship payments, and council tax and business rate relief. Households and businesses will also be able to access grants of up to £5,000 to help make them more resilient to future flooding; a ministerial recovery group is co-ordinating efforts across government. Storms Ciara and Dennis affected thousands of acres of farmland, so we will consider the need to extend the farming recovery fund, once we have all the data.
Investments made in recent years have significantly improved our resilience, but there is much more to do. We are investing £2.6 billion in flood defences, with over 1,000 flood defence schemes to better protect 300,000 homes by 2021. To put this in context, in the floods of 2007 55,000 properties were flooded, but with similar volumes of water in places this year, thankfully far fewer properties have been flooded, and flood defence schemes have protected over 90,000 properties in England this winter. Our manifesto commits us to a further £4 billion in new funding for flood defences over the next five years. Since the incidents of 2015, we have strengthened and improved our system of flood warnings. In 2016 we introduced the Flood Re scheme so insurance cover for floods is accessible for at-risk properties. An independent review of the data on insurance cover will help us ensure that it is working as effectively as possible.
Of course, none of these steps will take away from the anguish of those who have suffered flooding in these storms. Climate change is making the UK warmer and wetter, with more frequent extreme weather events. We need to make nature’s power part of our solution, alongside traditional engineered defences. We are already investing £10 million to restore our peatland habitats, planting enough trees to cover an area the size of East Anglia, with a new £640 million nature for climate fund, and supporting farmers to be part of preventing flooding through our new environmental land management scheme, to reduce and delay peak flows in our landscapes. Later this year, we will set out our policies to tackle flooding in the long term, and the Environment Agency will publish its updated flood and coasts strategy. This country will also lead global ambition as the host of COP 26, urging the world to achieve net zero in a way that helps nature recover, reduces global warming and addresses the causes of these extreme weather events. I therefore commend this Statement to the House.”
With your Lordships’ permission, I would like further to update the House about the situation since this Statement was made yesterday. The number of properties impacted by Storm Dennis now stands at more than 1,500 and there are 106 flood warnings and 156 flood alerts in place in England, with an additional six flood warnings and nine flood alerts in Wales. There are no flood warnings currently in force in Scotland.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating that Statement. We echo his condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives and offer our solidarity and sympathy to all those whose homes have been flooded, particularly those for whom it has become an ongoing trauma. We also pay tribute to the emergency services and the staff of the Environment Agency, who have been battling the effects of these storms for several weeks without let-up. It is a shame that the Prime Minister could not find the time during his holiday to visit these shattered communities, to listen and learn from the voices on the ground as well as offer practical support.
The Minister rightly listed the scale of the challenge, with 632 flood warnings issued in one day and over 200 still in place. This is not a normal winter and these are not normal circumstances. There has never been a starker reminder that our weather is changing, with warmer and wetter winters an inevitable by-product of global warming. This is why, time and again, we have urged the Government to take more urgent and decisive action to address the climate emergency. Does the Minister now accept that the Government’s aim of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 is too little, too late? By then the tipping point will have been reached. Does he accept the evidence from the Committee on Climate Change, which has estimated that there are 1.8 million homes at significant risk of flooding in England? That number will rise unless we hit net zero in the next 10 years.
We agree that harnessing nature and delivering better land management are part of the solution, but we have known this for some time. Does the Minister accept that the promise of a long-term flooding policy later this year is simply layering delay on delay? When will the Government take decisive action to stop any more houses being built on flood plains, an issue we discussed in Oral Questions? It has been reported that there are more than 11,000 new homes planned in areas with high flood risk. This cannot be right. When will the Government put a complete stop to this reckless profiteering by housebuilders or make sure that they take full responsibility for the long-term clean-up costs if flooding later occurs?
Of course we welcome the new flood defences that are being erected, but many areas flooded in 2017 have still seen no sign of improvement. Local authorities continue to protest that the current emergency funding system is not working properly, particularly where the need for match funding is emphasised. Can the Minister explain the proposed annual allocation of the promised £4 billion in new flood defences, and does he accept that it should be front-loaded to deal with the immediate and ongoing threats we now face? Can he clarify how quickly individuals will be able to access the £5,000 flood resilience grant that has been reported? I am sure he recognises that the money needs to be available now, as the clean-up repairs are put in place, to have any real effect.
During the last Statement on flooding, on 10 February, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, about funding for the Environment Agency but did not get a reply. It has said that it needs at least £1 billion a year to provide an effective response to flood risk. Is that money now forthcoming? The Minister also referred to the review of the Flood Re insurance scheme. We accept that Flood Re has provided a solution to many households, but many others are still excluded from the scheme and remain in uninsurable properties. Does the Minister accept that the review is rather urgent? When does he anticipate its conclusions being published and acted on?
I doubt that the communities under threat of flooding will be very reassured by the Government’s Statement today. The truth is that they feel supported by the emergency services and local staff, who are working alongside them day and night to alleviate the threat, but they feel let down by a Government long on promises but short on action. None of the issues we are discussing today is new. The Government have had 10 years to come up with a credible flood defence plan and an action plan to mitigate the impact of climate change. I hope the Minister can reassure us that there will be a more immediate, urgent and responsive plan for the future than we have heard so far.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement and draw the attention of the House to my register of interests, which include being a councillor in Kirklees, which is in West Yorkshire, where there has been significant flooding.
On behalf of the Liberal Democrat Benches, I wish to record my admiration and gratitude for the amazing dedication and sheer hard work of the staff from local councils, the Environment Agency, the emergency services and, of course, the many volunteers.
When the flooding is no longer news and when the water has receded, local people will still be picking up the pieces of what is left of their lives. A resident in my town whose home was flooded is living in a local hotel, where she will be for months. A profitable manufacturing business in the next-door town is to close permanently, with inevitable job losses, because it can no longer afford recovery costs. It is simply not worth its while. My understanding is that due to escalating costs, businesses are not eligible for the Flood Re insurance scheme. Are the Government content to see businesses close by not extending this scheme? If not, will the Minister commit to providing the House with a definitive and—I trust—positive answer to this problem?
The flooding experience has been intensive and devastating. We have heard what steps the Government are planning, but anyone living in a flood-prone place will probably not feel reassured if other places are being protected while they are not. The Government must make flood-water retention a key element of their approach, which currently appears to be more about physical barriers. Does the Minister agree that it is simply not possible to build ourselves out of this regular flooding crisis?
There are alternative approaches which, to coin a phrase, go with the flow. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, who is not in her place, has recounted the success of the Slowing the Flow at Pickering scheme. The peat moors of the Pennine uplands will act like a massive sponge where landowners allow that to happen, and the University of Exeter has reported that beavers on the River Otter have successfully contributed to flood alleviation. Beavers everywhere: what fun that would be. What is so thoroughly disappointing is the Government’s commitment to building defences when natural approaches may well be more effective and enable natural improvements to our environment. Will the Government’s flood alleviation policies include many of these ideas?
I have referred previously to the issue of the number of organisations responsible for different parts of the drainage system. Every part is under considerable stress, which inevitably contributes to flooding. Local authorities are under extreme financial pressure. As part of the flood prevention approach, will the Minister consider government funding for flood-prone councils, so that highway drainage systems can be properly cleared and, if necessary, upgraded?
Finally, there is the thorny issue of development on land at risk of flooding, which the head of the Environment Agency has spoken about today. It is not as simple as that, of course. Local authorities avoid allocating land that is set aside for flood plains, but developers are not required to take responsibility for building on land that will cause flooding elsewhere, and are not required to construct homes that include flood prevention as an essential element. Will the Minister ask his colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to instruct all local authorities to review land allocation to ensure that no such land is in an area with a high risk of flooding? Further, will he request that the necessary regulation are introduced to include responsibility for buildings to be part of the Hackitt recommendations, which the Government have accepted in full? The Environment Bill provides the opportunity to set out a long-term approach. Meanwhile, thousands of people, communities and businesses need the assurance that the Government will provide a significantly more generous financial offer than currently exists, and that the Government have recognised the fact that, once the media headlines have long gone, their needs will not disappear with them.
I thank the noble Baronesses for their questions and statements. I join them in acknowledging the heroic efforts of our emergency response teams and volunteers. That has been an extraordinary endeavour and, in many respects, a success story in terms of the sheer number of people who have stepped up. I of course agree that recent events are yet another wake-up call in relation to climate change. We are seeing records broken, not just in this country but around the world. I sometimes wonder how many wake-up calls we need before we globally agree and accept the responsibility that falls on this generation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to the Government’s target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. I would love us to achieve net zero sooner; I do not think anyone would disagree. But we must be realistic when we set policy and even the Committee on Climate Change has been clear that there is no path to net zero that does not involve a major commitment on tree planting. However, trees do not tend to be able to absorb significant amounts of carbon until they are about 15 years old. If nature-based solutions are to form part of our endeavour to meet net zero, there is no way we can meet that target by 2030. When we legislated, we were the only serious industrialised country to make such a commitment in law and I am proud of that. We are in many respects world leaders in tackling climate change at home and contributing against it abroad.
The question of building on flood plains has been raised numerous times in the debate and will no doubt continue to be raised. It is a legitimate point: we should not build in areas where homes are at risk of floods if there are alternatives. As was pointed out by my noble friend Lady Bloomfield in her answer to an earlier question, I am standing at a Dispatch Box on a flood plain right now—London is largely constructed on a flood plain. It is not possible or realistic simply to have a blanket ban. Equally, we should absolutely ensure that homes are not built in areas that put residents at risk and, where there are no alternatives, that such homes are built to be resilient—with raised floor levels and so on.
We have been asked about the review of the insurance scheme, Flood Re. It is correct that it does not currently extend to businesses. However, there is a review, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, knows, and part of that will look at what answers will need to be provided by government in relation to businesses. I should say that a number of specific mechanisms have been available to local authorities to help businesses following the 2015 floods, such as business rate relief and a broader package, none of which would leave a local authority out of pocket. It is not enough, and there is no taking away from the fact that the lives of people, as well as homes and businesses, affected by floods are turned upside down. There is nothing that any Government can do to make that not the case. However, the Government are reviewing the issue and Flood Re may well be extended beyond its current scope, depending on the evidence that is returned.
I hope that I have covered all the points raised but one final issue relates to working with nature as a means of trying to prevent an increase in this problem in the years to come. That is very much part of our strategy and there is no doubt that if we want to prevent the ever-increasing ferocity of floods, we will need somehow to increase the absorbability of land and slow the flow of water across its surface. We know that planting trees massively increases that absorbability and that, when we restore peat lands, the same effect is true. The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, mentioned beavers. I am a huge fan of the beaver experiment that is unfolding across this country. There is no doubt that where beavers form colonies their activities, not least building dams, enable that particular catchment to hold much more water than it otherwise would. There is some quite strong evidence that where beavers form a colony it reduces the impact of flooding.
As a Government, we are doing a number of things that will ensure that we increasingly put the emphasis on nature-based solutions, not least the new land use subsidy system that we will introduce to replace the common agricultural policy. Instead of paying landowners more or less simply for owning farmable land, we will ensure that those payments are entirely conditional upon the provision of some kind of public good, whether that is flood prevention, biodiversity support or access for people in cities. Equally, we have committed to establish a nature for climate fund worth £640 million. Much of that will be spent to ensure that we deliver on our manifesto commitment to plant trees on 30,000 hectares per year, but it also includes money for restoring our valuable peat lands across the country, among other things.
There is an enormous amount of work to do but, from the commitments that this Government have already made, which I hope we will continue to build on over the coming months in this hugely important year—the super year for nature—it is clear that the Government have taken these issues extraordinarily seriously and are responding to the challenge as they should.
Before this Minister sits down, I have asked this question several times, but so far I have not had a reply, so I will press him on it. It is about funding for the Environment Agency. It has said it needs at least £1 billion a year to provide an effective response to flood risk. I asked the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, about this and did not get a reply and the Minister has similarly not replied. I will be grateful for a response.
My Lords, the Minister mentioned the situation in Wales. He was in the Chamber when the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, referred to initiatives being taken by the Welsh Government in relation to the dangers to households and businesses, and to the danger of coal tips sliding down mountain sides. Can the Minister give an assurance, which the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, was not in a position to give, that there will be additional money for the Welsh Government in order to fund this work?
I thank the noble Lord for his question. I am not in a position to pledge any additional funding from this Dispatch Box, but I can tell the noble Lord that my colleague the Secretary of State is looking closely at this issue and is working closely with his colleagues in all the devolved Administrations.
My Lords, my noble friend listed a number of rivers that have been affected in the recent bad weather. I do not think he mentioned the River Wey, in Surrey, which flows through Guildford. Does he have any information about it, and will Guildford be eligible for any of the support to which he referred?
I thank my noble friend for his question. I cannot provide him with specific information in relation to that river, but I will gladly do so following this exchange. Government support will go where it is needed. There are a number of different supports available centrally and locally for those areas most badly affected.
My Lords, I am from Herefordshire, my wife is from Herefordshire and most of our family lives in Herefordshire. It is a county under an unprecedented amount of water. The short-term clean-up measures announced in the Statement are very welcome, but it goes much deeper than that. The already appalling state of the roads has been made much worse now that they are rivers. They are frankly little more than rubble in some cases. The flooding in people’s homes has been exacerbated by the raw sewage that is coming out of poorly maintained sewers and drains. A big reconstruction job is needed. Will the Minister undertake to recognise the scale of reconstruction required if a place such as Herefordshire is to recover? Will he take the county’s case—my county’s case—to the Chancellor so that when the Budget is announced, there is money not just to clean up but to rebuild places such as Herefordshire? Herefordians need to see that their lives are valued by this Parliament.
I thank the noble Lord for his question. I absolutely make the commitment to take the case of Herefordshire initially to my colleague, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As I said earlier, there is no exaggerating the impact of what happened to the people affected. I can stand here and provide figures showing that the areas affected this time were affected even more so a few years ago. I can provide all kinds of examples of our intervening with conventional flood defences having yielded very impressive results. However, none of that is going to improve the situation for people who have sewage in their homes or whose businesses risk going bust as a consequence of this natural disaster. Yes, I will emphasise the Hereford case when I talk to the Secretary of State later today.
My Lords, absent from the discussion has been farming and the crops lost due to the flooding—not just winter planting but spring as well. What are the Government going to do to provide for our farmers and to counteract any rise in food costs resulting from this natural catastrophe, which has not yet come to an end?
I thank the noble Baroness for her question. The farming recovery fund is specifically designed to provide compensation for loss that is currently uninsurable; it particularly relates to agricultural land that has been damaged. I may be wrong but I believe that it does not apply to livestock, which, on the whole, can be insured. We are not yet in a position to determine how big that fund should be or how it should be deployed, because we do not yet have the data on the damage to farmland. The noble Baroness makes a very important point—this is going to be a priority for the Secretary of State when the data comes in.
My Lords, climate change is a challenge facing all the regions of the United Kingdom. Flooding has occurred right across the United Kingdom, and the Minister referred to the issue throughout the devolved regions. Will he have immediate discussions with the Defra Secretary of State and consider using the vehicle of the British-Irish Council for an emergency summit with ministerial colleagues throughout the devolved regions, in order to address the impact of climate change and to look at new solutions to flooding?
I thank the noble Baroness for her question. The various parties in this House and those who do not belong to any particular party agree that we face a climate emergency; there is already consensus on that. A number of commitments have been made relating to England, and a number relating to the UK. Combined, these are designed to take us towards net zero by 2050. They all involve a major uplift of our focus on nature-based solutions, which have been largely ignored in the climate debate for many years. We should not forget that at the end of this year, Scotland will host COP 26 on behalf of the United Kingdom. We should set ourselves the ambition that that will be the moment when the world finally comes together to move the dial on its collective approach to tackling climate change. There are an enormous number of moments this year where we will be required to work together, both within the United Kingdom and globally, in order to solve this problem.
I thank the noble Lord for his comment. I and the Government are clear that we should not build homes in areas at risk of flooding. That is not to say that there cannot be any building on flood plains. The point was made earlier—I think by my colleague—that a number of important places, not least London, are built on flood plains, so we cannot have a blanket ban. What we can do is have a default position that says, “No building in areas at risk, where there is an alternative”. Where homes are built in areas that are at risk, they should not be built in such a way that makes it hard for their owners to secure insurance. If the new owner of a new home built in an at-risk area is unable to secure insurance through an ordinary route, that, I suggest, is a symptom of planning failure.
Storm Ciara had a devastating impact on Llanrwst in the Conwy valley in north Wales. Homes were flooded, businesses were devasted and our historic Gwydir Castle fell victim to the deluge. I know that residents will find some comfort in the announcement about financial support made today by the Welsh First Minister. However, heavy rainfall is no respecter of devolution. Rain falling on Welsh hills eventually finds its way to English rivers, contributing to the floods that we have seen recently in Shropshire and Herefordshire. To alleviate problems in the Conwy valley and other areas, even in England, what discussions have the Government had with the Welsh Government about guidance on updating catchment management plans in the light of these more frequent and serious events? What guidance will they give to local authorities and other landowners regarding the identification of land to enable them to meet their manifesto pledge of planting at least 30 million more trees every year and to reinstate woodlands, particularly in the uplands?
I thank the noble Baroness for her question. On her first point, there has been continuous dialogue between Defra officials, Environment Agency officials and their counterparts in Wales and Scotland. We have seen an extraordinary coming together of the various agencies—the fire service, the police, the Environment Agency, local authorities and volunteers—and that collaboration and co-operation will clearly need to continue. On her broader point about tree-planting targets, we will be publishing a tree strategy in the coming months and a flood strategy will be published around springtime. We are very keen to ensure that those two strategies are not developed entirely in isolation. Inevitably, part of the answer to the flood strategy will be found in the tree strategy, and it is very important that when we honour that 30,000-hectare commitment, we do so in a way that solves as many problems as possible. We should not aim only for carbon absorption, which is merely one of the benefits of planting trees in the way that we have committed to do.
My Lords, in response to the Oral Question that I asked, in relation to the flood recovery fund for local businesses and households, the Minister said that responsibility for the first 25 houses and an unspecified number of local businesses falls on the local authority. However, will the Government have another look at that? I understand that this new rule has only just come in, but local authorities really cannot be expected to budget for something that has just happened. Furthermore, who is responsible if, as a result of the recent storms and downpours, flooding comes from an active building site because of disturbance to the land? I remind the House that I am a local councillor in Lancashire and I refer to a site in the ward that I represent. Persimmon is developing a site on a steep hillside there and some pre-existing properties, as well as some of the new properties that are occupied on the site, have been flooded. Persimmon is telling the occupiers of those properties that the damage is not its responsibility because it is an act of God. Whose responsibility is it?
I thank the noble Lord for his question. His first point related to the property level flood resilience, or PFR, scheme. He is right to say that this scheme is deployed locally. The view is that local authorities are much better placed and know more about their local areas than central government when it comes to providing the support that is needed. I do not believe that the policy is new, but I am happy to be corrected or to provide a correction if that is wrong. I am afraid that I cannot answer the noble Lord’s question about building sites, so I will have to get back to him about who is responsible in the grey area between development and keys being handed over.
I thank the noble Lord for his question. I am not entirely sure of the relevance of Brexit to this. The Government made a commitment to provide £2.6 billion up to the end of 2021 in every region across the country. The commitment in the manifesto on which the Government were elected was to increase that to £4 billion. That figure is obviously subject to negotiations in the run-up to the Chancellor’s Budget in a few weeks’ time. I do not think that Brexit has had any real impact on this at all, other than allowing us to change the land use subsidy system so that, instead of encouraging flooding, we can introduce measures to reduce the flow of water and invest in nature. In my view, this is an enormous Brexit bonus for nature. Other than that, the record and the commitments made show that funding is increasing, not decreasing. Brexit is just a thing that happened in the middle.
Immigration: Points-based System
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the other place. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the United Kingdom’s new points-based immigration system. Last week, I announced our plans for a radical new approach that works in the interests of the British people. It will be a fair, firm and fundamentally different system in the control of the British Government that prioritises those who come to our country based on the skills they have to offer, not on the country they come from. It will enable the UK to become a magnet for the brightest and the best, with special immigration routes for those who make the biggest contribution. We will create new arrangements for new migrants who will fill shortages in our NHS, build the companies and innovations of the future and benefit the UK for years to come. As this Government restore our status as an independent sovereign nation, we will set out our own immigration standards and controls as an open, democratic and free country.
The Government have listened to the clear message from the British public and are delivering what people asked for in the 2016 referendum and the December 2019 general election. That includes ending free movement through the introduction of a single global immigration system that prioritises the skills that people have to offer, not where they come from, and restoring public trust in our immigration system with a system that truly works for this country. That is what the people voted for and we are a Government who will deliver on the people’s priorities.
We are ending free movement: that automatic right for EU citizens to enter and reside in the UK, which does not apply to people from other countries. Now that we have left the EU, this ambitious Government of action are ending the discrimination between EU and non-EU citizens so that we can attract the brightest and best from around the world. Our country and people will prosper through one system and an approach in the control of the British Government—one that will also deliver the overall reduction in low-skilled immigration that the public have asked for.
Many of the values that define our great country originated from the huge benefits that immigration has brought to our nation throughout its history. People from every corner of this globe have made an enormous contribution to the fabric of our society. This is why at the heart of the new single global immigration system will be a focus on attracting talented people from around the world and on the contribution that they and their families will make, irrespective of their country of origin.
Last Wednesday, I published a policy statement setting out our new UK points-based immigration system, which will start operating from 1 January 2021 and work in the interests of the whole United Kingdom. This will be a single, comprehensive, UK-wide system for workers and students from around the world. Our points-based system will provide simple, effective and flexible arrangements and give top priority to the skilled workers we need to boost our economy and support our brilliant public services. All applicants will need to demonstrate that they have a job offer from an approved sponsor. The job must be at an appropriate skill level, and the applicant must be able to speak English and meet tougher criminality checks and standards.
We have acted on the advice of the independent Migration Advisory Committee to make the skilled workers route more flexible, as businesses asked for. We have reduced the required skill level to the equivalent of A-level qualifications and cut the general salary threshold to £25,600. The threshold for many NHS workers and teachers will be set in line with published pay scales to ensure that our public services do not suffer and we attract the talent that we need. Experienced workers who earn less than the general threshold—but not less than £20,480—may still be able to apply tradeable points to reward vital skills and bring us the talent that our economy needs. For example, a PhD in a relevant subject will earn extra points, with double the number of points for specialists in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Additional points will also be awarded for occupations that struggle to fill vacancies, and I am asking the Migration Advisory Committee to keep its list under regular review to ensure that it reflects the needs of the labour market. The Government will ensure that talented employees from overseas, on whom our great NHS relies, can come here to work and provide high-quality, compassionate care. That means we will prioritise qualified staff who seek to move to the UK to work in our NHS, as well as retaining our own national commitment, through the investments made by this Government, to invest in and train more brilliant nurses, doctors and health professionals in our own country. The new NHS visa system will provide a work visa with a fast-track decision, a larger dedicated advice service for applicants and reduced fees.
Like many other Members, I represent a partly rural constituency. Our commitment to British agriculture is clear. In addition to the reforms that I have outlined, I am quadrupling the size of the pilot scheme for seasonal workers in the horticulture sector to ensure that our farms, and our horticultural sector, continue to thrive. This is happening immediately.
We will continue to welcome international students who want to study in our world-class universities across the United Kingdom, and there will be no cap on their numbers. Those who apply will be accepted, provided they are sponsored by an approved educational institution, have the necessary academic qualifications and English-language aptitude, and are able to support themselves financially once in the United Kingdom. When they have finished their studies, our new graduate route will allow them to stay in the UK and work at any skill level for up to a further two years. Let me also take this opportunity to reassure the House that the immigration arrangements for members of the Armed Forces, musicians and performers are completely unchanged and these routes will operate as they do now.
In line with ending free movement, there will be no immigration route for lower-skilled work. No longer will employers be able to rely on cut-price EU workers. Instead, we are calling upon them to invest in British people, as well as investing in technology and skills to improve productivity, and to join the UK Government’s mission to level up our skills and economic growth across our country. These changes are vital if we are to deliver a high-skill, high-wage and highly productive economy, and, because we have provided certainty in respect of the new immigration system, the economy and businesses have had time to adjust.
The proposals set out in our policy statement are just the start of our phased approach to delivering a new immigration system. We will continue to refine our immigration system and will build in flexibility where it is needed. Over time, more attributes for which points can be earned—such as previous experience and additional qualifications—may be added, which will allow us to respond effectively to the needs of the labour market and economy. However, to be effective, the system must also stay simple, so there will not be endless exemptions for low-paid, lower-skilled workers. We will not end free movement only to recreate it in all but name through other routes.
The world’s top talent will continue to be welcomed in this country. From January, we will expand our existing global talent route to EU citizens, giving all the world’s brightest and best the same streamlined access to the UK. Reforms that I introduced last week will allow us to attract even more brilliant scientists, mathematicians and researchers through that route to keep this country at the cutting edge of life-changing innovation and technology, and the points-based system will provide even more flexibility to attract the finest international minds with the most to offer.
Alongside the employer-led system, we will create a points-based unsponsored route to allow a limited number of the world’s most highly skilled people to come here without a job offer, as part of the phased approach, if they can secure enough points. Our new, fair and firm system will send a message to the whole world that Britain is open for business, as we continue to attract the brightest and best from around the world, but with a system that the British Government have control over. Our blueprint for taking back control will transform the way in which people come to our country to work, study, visit or even join their family. Our new independence will strengthen border security, allowing us to reject insecure identity documents from newly arriving migrants. We will be able to do more to keep out criminals who seek to harm our people, communities and country.
Finally, I am pleased to say that, when it comes to EU citizens already in the UK, the EU Settlement Scheme—the biggest scheme of its kind ever in British history—has already received 3.2 million applications, resulting in 2.8 million grants of status. Through this system we will finally develop a true meritocracy, where anyone with the skills who wants to come here will have the ability to do so. This is just the start of a phased approach to delivering a new system. I will shortly be bringing forward an immigration Bill and radically overhauling and simplifying the complex Immigration Rules that have dominated the system for decades. For the first time in decades, the UK will have control over who comes here and how our immigration system works. I commend this Statement to the House”.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made yesterday in the House of Commons. In their separate policy statement, the Government said that the points system set out in the Statement the Minister has just repeated will reduce overall levels of migration, without telling us what reduction is expected. That leads one to suspect that this policy statement is a continuation of the Government’s policy of talking big, in their eyes, about reducing migration to satisfy their own anti-immigration constituency, when the reality is the exact opposite.
Over the last decade, we have been told by the Government of their determination to reduce net migration. For many years, their objective was to bring it down to the tens of thousands. Net migration actually went up under Conservative Governments over the last decade, even though the Government had control over non-EU migration which, in each and every year since 2010, has been in excess of net migration from EU countries. In 2018 non-EU net migration, over which the Government have control, was in fact three times the rate of net migration from the EU.
Are the Government now telling us that EU net migration—which I believe was about 75,000 in 2018—was made up of large numbers of people who we really do not need in this country? How many people are the Government now saying came into this country in 2018 and 2019 who they now want to stop coming in, first from EU states and secondly from non-EU states, and who will no longer be allowed in under the points system referred to in the Statement?
We have been told that a distinction will be drawn between skilled and low-skilled workers, and that points will be awarded only if a laid-down salary level, skill level and level of ability in speaking English are achieved. The idea is apparently to keep out those whom the Government deem to be low-skilled workers, who appear to include most of those working in care services, retail and hospitality, construction and agriculture, for example. What percentage of jobs in the UK do the Government consider fall into the low-skilled category referred to in the policy statement? Perhaps the Government could tell us in their response.
The Government do not really believe that the jobs they deem to be low-skilled can be filled from people already in the UK, particularly since their claim that 20% of people aged between 18 and 65, who are not in full-time work, are currently available to do these jobs has been somewhat demolished by the facts. Presumably this is why in the Statement there are significant loopholes, such as declaring shortage occupations, to get around the criteria referred to for when the Government inevitably find that labour shortages are damaging the economy and they still need those so-called low-skilled workers, just as we have up to now.
The Statement is less than clear on, for example, the detailed application of the salary thresholds, the position of the families of those coming into the country, the position of those who wish to be self-employed and the criteria for acceptance of degrees under the points system. Presumably, these are issues on which the Government intend to say more later. What is clear, though, is that this points system does not have as its primary objective bringing into the country the people needed to fill the vacancies and shortages that we need to address, as should be the case. Instead, in order to draw this distinction between skilled and low-skilled, an elaborate admissions system will be created in a short time to be administered by a resource-stripped Home Office—a recipe for error, confusion and unfairness, while many people feel somewhat dismayed by the Government’s view of the lack of importance or necessity of the much-needed jobs that they currently undertake.
I suspect the Government will soon learn that posturing with their changed immigration policy will no more work than their earlier posturing over getting net migration down to the tens of thousands. Even this Government will eventually have to recognise that the economic and social needs of the country must take priority in immigration policy. It is for that reason that the evidence suggests that a declared objective of reducing net migration by amounts as yet unstated and unknown will not be achieved by the Government’s intended points-based immigration system, any more than was the commitment to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. Only a reduction in the necessity of recruiting people from outside the UK will do that—something that I have no doubt the Government, in their heart of hearts, already know.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, which included the claim that the points-based system will provide “simple and flexible arrangements”. Can they be both? To me, “flexible” suggests some sort of discretion. Or is that about the tradability of points—something on which I for one reserve judgment?
We may understand just how workable this will be when we have details, so I would like to check with the Minister whether the new arrangements will be incorporated in primary legislation, or will they be part of rules? In other words, will Parliament be able to have a good say on them? Indeed, will it mean primary legislation with wide ministerial powers to make changes? I am just checking; your Lordships understand.
Yesterday in the Commons, the Home Secretary said the Government
“will look at the labour market as a whole across key sectors.”—[Official Report, Commons, 24/2/20; col. 44.]
Was that not done before arriving at the points-based system?
What assumptions have been made about emigration? Can the Minister confirm that there is not a pool of economically inactive people available to take up the low-skilled jobs, about which there has been much discussion? Employers have been told they will have to adjust how they operate. How have they responded?
Much has been and will be said about carers. One of those who have spoken is my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester, who is in hospital at the moment but emailed me this morning saying that she is “absolutely incandescent”, so I said I would quote her email. She says:
“I am absolutely incandescent about the stupid lack of flexibility for care workers … What may not be realised is the extent to which refugee families settled here (for example from war-torn Somalia) have family members scattered all over Europe who now can travel freely here. They are hard-working carers and often regard those they care for as part of their own family. It is just so shaming that we are turning our back on such caring people, labelling them as ‘low-skilled’.”
I am sure she could have gone on, and I am sure other noble Lords can and will.
It is not possible, obviously, to mention today all the sectors that will be affected, but I want to mention the creative industries—performers and so on—because we are told there will be no change to existing routes. However, many agents and promoters have previously engaged EU performers only. They will need to get into the bureaucratic world of certificates, sponsorship and so on, and they are asking: what will be the “right talent”? I put that term in quotes, as it is the term the Government use and want to encourage. All this and more is very relevant to our economy. How easy will it be for UK creatives to work elsewhere? It will be quite reasonable for there to be reciprocity between nations; if we are negative about people coming in, it will not be surprising if others are too.
There has been much discussion about the lack of time to get the new arrangements in place. Is there any confidence, outside Government, that the changes can be coped with by the end of the year?
Finally, the Migration Advisory Committee has been very forceful about the need for good data. Its recent report says:
“Good data and evaluation are vital to ensure that effective monitoring is in place and necessary adjustments are made in a timely fashion. Without it, there is a danger that the UK, unable to learn from the past, continues to lurch between an overly open and overly closed work migration policy without ever being able to steer a steady path.”
Can the Minister comment? Good evaluation is certainly needed if the Government are to begin to counter the criticisms of what I saw yesterday in the press described as the Government’s
“self-defeating tunnel-vision, exceptionalism and xenophobia.”
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for the points they have raised. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, started off by talking about our aspiration, or rather our intention, to reduce overall numbers but not having any idea of what those numbers will be. We have been quite clear that we are not getting into a numbers game, but what we are getting into is a new immigration system where the British people know that the numbers coming in are under democratic control. That is the important thing here.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about low-skilled workers and, more particularly, care workers. We have been clear—and I was clear in the Statement—that we will not implement a dedicated route for low-skilled workers and that UK businesses will have to adapt, upskill workers and not rely on cheap labour from the EU. Care workers can, with an A-level, or the equivalent, be able to come to the UK under our new skilled worker route. The salary levels have reduced as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about loopholes through the shortage occupation list. We have recognised that there is a high demand for certain skills, both in the regions of the UK and in the UK as a whole. I think it is a very sensible suggestion to create that list so that those people can come quickly and efficiently to fill those skill gaps.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about creatives. The system will not change for the creative sector as it is as present. It will be exactly the same system, but she makes the point that EU versus non-EU will now be one and the same: it will just be non-UK.
The noble Baroness also made a good point about the MAC having access to good data. It will give regular opinions, behind which will have to be good data on what it proposes next. I take her point that the effective monitoring of data will be important in informing our future thinking. She also asked whether the new system will be in legislation or rules: it will be both. I hope that answers the question.
My Lords, the Minister will be well aware that this is a massive reform of the immigration system. Does she recall that the Migration Advisory Committee has reported that 16 million UK jobs will be open to new or increased international competition from the whole world? There must therefore be a risk of an enormous inflow of workers, well beyond anything that the Government are expecting. What precautions are the Government going to take against such an event happening, as we saw in the Blair years and when we opened our borders to eastern Europe? It could well happen; precautions must be taken.
The noble Lord is correct to raise this. We have to be careful of the unintended consequences of any new system. In my response to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I said that there would be regular reviews and advice to the Government from the MAC. As with any new system, it will be under regular review. At the heart of what the Government want to do is taking control of our borders and immigration system.
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to suggest that the Government’s policy will not hold. It will certainly not hold in the health and social care sector; it is only a question of when they will be forced to reverse their policy. Does the Minister acknowledge that health and social care has relied on migration ever since it started? The 50,000 nurse target that the Government are committed to depends on thousands of nurses coming to this country. I accept that they can come under this new policy, but what about the care sector? According to the Minister yesterday, in 2018 the ludicrous MAC said that the problems of the care sector should be solved by the sector itself investing in,
“making jobs in social care worthwhile”.—[Official Report, 24/2/20; col. 9.]
Have noble Lords ever heard such nonsense? The care sector is collapsing. There is no resource there—no funding for training and recruitment. The Government are saying that they are prepared to see the whole sector collapse as a result of this ludicrous policy. It is only a question of time before the Minister comes back to tell the House that she will reverse this policy; she will have to.
I am not sure whether or not the noble Lord is agreeing that we should allow more migrant workers in health and social care. He will know that we have had a 150% increase in migration from non-EU countries to health and social care. I am well aware that we have relied on migration for health and social care for many years. It is the reason I am in this country; both my parents are migrant doctors. We are lucky indeed to have them, generally, in this country. I agree with the noble Lord that we have to have the funding to underpin making extra places for doctors and nurses in this country. The Government have announced a huge increase in funding for the healthcare sector. It has always been our intention that, when we leave the EU, EU and non-EU migrants will be treated exactly the same. The competition will be there to get the best and brightest people, from all parts of the world, for our NHS.
My Lords, while I welcome this new development in immigration policy from my noble friend, in particular the flexibility to which she referred, which creates huge opportunities, I believe that this is an important policy that must be controlled and delivered from the centre, from the United Kingdom Government. Nevertheless, there are so many wide variations in different parts of the United Kingdom of a social, economic and demographic nature that it is very important to take this new opportunity that we have with the flexibility the policy allows to take account of these circumstances and to try as fully as we can to meet them. Therefore, will my noble friend consult with the Governments of the devolved parliaments and assemblies to find out the facts that they able to provide and also to test their opinions as to how the Government can best help them in getting a policy that will bind the United Kingdom together?
I thank my noble friend for raising that question. He is absolutely right that we should be mindful of regional variation, regional demand and regional supply. In fact, the shortage occupation list that was drawn up does not look much different in Scotland than it does in the UK as a whole. But he is right to make the point that, in terms of engagement, we should listen to the devolved Administrations and be mindful of what they say. We would not want them to be unable to have the workforce that they need in their areas.
My Lords, I do not understand when the Minister says that musicians, for example, will be treated exactly the same. If they are going to be treated as though they are from non-EEA countries, it will be a massive change; it will not be the same at all. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was absolutely right to mention reciprocity. Of course, what we will do to the EU will be done to us. From the point of view of the creative industries, which are so important culturally and economically, it is hugely disappointing to see in paragraph 25 of the policy statement:
“We will not be creating a dedicated route for self-employed people.”
The effect on our own UK workers will be devastating if there is not a dedicated route, unencumbered by the need for sponsorship and allowing onward movement, among many other things, not only in the arts and the creative industries but in the UK services sector more widely, for which Europe is the major market.
I take the noble Earl’s point on board and I will try to get a fuller answer on the creative industries, because I recognise the point that both he and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, make. As I was on my feet, I was thinking that maybe it was because of the short time for which performers might want to come to the UK. But I will get a fuller answer for the two noble Lords and put a copy in the Library.
My Lords, it is estimated that there are more than 10,000 Indian restaurants in this country, and between them they employ more people than the British coal, steel or shipbuilding industries. During the referendum campaign, Priti Patel launched an appeal urging voters to save our curry houses by leaving the European Union. She then said that it was “manifestly unfair and unjust” that south Asian chefs should have to deal with a “second-class immigration system”. Can the Minister explain how the proposed points system will assist in recruiting chefs from the Indian subcontinent?
I think the point that my right honourable friend was making was that people from the Indian subcontinent were less advantaged when wanting to come to this country than those from the EU, and this now levels out the playing field. Indeed, in this country we have some world-class chefs and people with fantastic skills, who, on the points-based system, I am sure would not only command decent salaries but have the requisite skills to come to this country.
My Lords, most carers are women, which is one reason their work is undervalued and treated as not skilled. According to the Women’s Budget Group, the proposals will discriminate against migrant women generally, because women are underrepresented in privileged occupations and therefore less likely to reach the points threshold. I am sure the Minister will agree that women are just as likely as men to be among the Government’s beloved “brightest and best”. Given that the Government are obliged to have due regard to the impact of their policies on equality, when will they publish an equality impact assessment? If these proposals, as seems likely, demonstrate an adverse gender impact, will they rethink them?
Of course, the Government, in whatever legislation they bring forward, publish an equality impact assessment, as the noble Baroness knows. But I have to agree with her point about how women are adversely affected by policy. Immigration alone will not be the solution to some of the problems that women in the care sector face. The point I made about employers upskilling workers and not relying on cheap labour—I think that would be to the benefit of women in the care sector. I want women to be more valued in the work they do.
My Lords, my noble friend the Minister made reference to the uncapped and fast-tracked global talent visa. It has been widely welcomed by the science and innovation sector, which will be critical for our post-Brexit success. Will she also undertake to look into the problems faced by world-leading experts who are seeking to come to speak at academic conferences and universities in the UK? Such short-term collaborations are critical to scientific knowledge exchange and the UK’s reputation as an innovation nation, and any immigration form that seeks to attract the brightest and the best will have to get this right.
I totally concur with my noble friend. On 20 February—only a few days ago—we launched the new fast-track arrangements, managed by UK Research and Innovation, which enable UK-based research projects that have received recognised prestigious grants and awards to recruit that top global talent. However, as she also says, we want those experts to be able to come and furnish us with the benefit of their knowledge: I will most certainly take that back.
My Lords, will the Minister answer a couple of questions about the impact of this points-based system on the higher education sector? First, she said in the Statement that there would be an English test: is that test to be carried out by the Home Office or by the higher education establishments, which are required to offer a place to a student before they can get a visa? Secondly, I think she said, but perhaps she can confirm this, that the points-based system will not apply to higher education. However, my reading of the Statement is that it will apply. What I cannot understand, for the life of me, is how on earth students coming to our universities can acquire the points that are required. They certainly cannot state that they are going to get a particular income. They are not getting an income at all: they are coming with a large amount of money in their hands to pay to us. Will she answer those two points about higher education, and also perhaps say how we are going to test whether they have enough funds to see them through a three- or four-year course?
A student coming to this country will have to demonstrate that they have the funds to pay for the course and be sponsored by the relevant university or higher education establishment. I think that point has long been clear. As for a student coming to this country having the English language, I have a feeling it depends on the course, but I will check that for the noble Lord and return to him on that point. Of course, the student can now stay for an additional two years after they have qualified in order to find work, which obviously makes the system far more generous than it was before.
My Lords, given that, for more than a century, our catering and hospitality services have been heavily staffed by young Europeans, to the apparent satisfaction of our own people and tourist visitors to the United Kingdom alike, are the Government absolutely confident that the importance of this sector to our economy will in no way be impaired by the new system?
My Lords, we have made it clear that it is incumbent on UK businesses to start to upskill the people who work for them and not to rely on cheap labour from the EU and beyond, as they did before. That is the challenge to businesses, but I take my noble friend’s point—I can hear the tutting—and obviously we will keep the system under review. It is a brand new system and the MAC will, of course, be advising us on it as we proceed.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that the words that she has uttered today will have given little comfort to the many employers in this country who are worried about having enough people to work and do the necessary jobs that they have? The Statement referred to talented employees and she talked about people with A-levels and so on. Is there not a danger that we will simply be denuding key industries of the people we need? Is there not a terrible danger to the health service, particularly in social care? I am not aware of anything in what the Minister suggested that would make us feel that social care is going to work. It is on the point of collapsing anyway, and it will collapse even further if there are no people willing to do the job. Of course, the answer is to have a whacking big pay increase for people in social care, but that is not for this afternoon: it is for another occasion. I implore the Minister to understand that employers are desperately worried about what is going to happen, and they have not had any assurances in what she said.
My Lords, in the coming months, we will engage widely with different sectors and, I hope, allay their fears. It is important to say, though, that employers should be moving away from reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, particularly in areas such as technology and innovation. There are two things that run alongside each other: immigration must be considered alongside investment in, and development of, the UK’s domestic workforce. That includes—and this relates to the noble Lord’s point—valuing care staff and paying them a decent wage.
My Lords, on 19 February, the Government published a new policy statement, to which noble Lords have referred. As part of this, we announced the expansion of the seasonal workers’ pilot, which raised the quota for this year from 2,500 to 10,000 places. It is not designed to meet the full labour needs of the horticultural industry; it is designed to test the effectiveness of our immigration system and to support UK growers during peak production periods, while retaining robust immigration control and ensuring that the impact on local communities and public services is kept to a minimum. It must be said that seasonal workers can stay in the UK for up to six months in any 12-month period.
My Lords, I have made the point before, and the Government have recognised, that our science and innovation sector is world-class. That cannot be achieved without a team, and that includes a lab technician. Yet the Government, through their immigration policy, do not recognise that, although they are skilled workers, they are not paid up to £20,000. Is it not bizarre that we train our own people as lab technicians and pay them less £20,000 but we cannot accept through our immigration system somebody who is paid the same amount of money because it is less than £20,000? The same applies to computer scientists: we have a great shortage in cybersecurity of low-level, trained, skilled people who will, in due course, move up, but initially they do not earn £20,000.
New entrants will receive a 30% reduction on the salary threshold that would otherwise be required for their occupation. Given that the skills level has come down to A-level, I think a new technician entrant would meet the salary threshold.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that only very rich disabled people will be able to afford help? What will happen to all the thousands of disabled people who are not super-rich? Does it not mean that disabled people will be discriminated against?
Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL]
Relevant document: 5th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 1: Financial assistance
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, after “interest” insert “and financial reporting”
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 1, standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Addington. Before I begin, I congratulate the Minister on her prescience in predicting that before this stage of our Committee deliberations, the Commonwealth Games Federation would have found a solution to the issues of shooting and archery. I note that our second group of amendments will give us ample opportunity to hear more details about that.
This group deals predominantly with financial matters, in particular financial reporting, and provides an opportunity for the Minister to update us on the finances of the Games and to address some of the lingering problems. Amendment 1 proposes simply that any government grant, loan, guarantee or indemnity must be subject to the condition that the recipients provide financial reports, which seems eminently sensible.
Amendment 5, in my name and the names of the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Moynihan, specifies that the first such report from the organising committee should be completed within six months of the coming into force of this provision, although I note that the reference to shooting and archery in that amendment may no longer be relevant in light of the CGF’s decision.
Amendment 11, from my noble friend Lord Addington, requires in the same six-month period a report from the Secretary of State to be laid before both Houses. It too covers financial provision alongside consideration of other funding mechanisms such as a local lottery or local tax. This issue is picked up in Amendment 3, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and other noble Lords. Quite sensibly, this too looks for a wider report by the Secretary of State—this time within 12 months—covering not only the issues covered in other reports but how to help raise additional funds, and government support for minimising the impact of the Games on local services and maximising various legacy projects—an issue we will discuss in more detail later.
Reference continues to be made to a hotel tax. I am well aware of Core Cities UK’s enthusiasm for this. As I said in a previous discussion, before we introduce such a thing, we should reduce the VAT on accommodation and attractions, as the vast majority of other EU countries have done. However, I note that this amendment has changed from an earlier version and now refers to such a tax applying only during the Games. That is a period of just 12 days. Given that we were previously told that the estimated income for such a tax over a three-year period would be £15 million, a simple calculation suggests that a hotel tax levied solely during the period of the Games would raise just £160,000. I will leave it to the movers of that amendment to explain the benefits of such an approach.
Is it not a fact that in previous debates, the noble Lord endorsed a hotel tax—a view shared by many of us—quite enthusiastically, whereas his noble friend Lord Addington denounced the whole idea on principle? It is very unusual for Liberal Democrats to disagree on such matters, but for clarification, could he let us know where his party stands on this important issue?
I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord. The entire House is looking forward to a later debate on future signage arrangements around Birmingham New Street station, which he is the world’s expert on. I hope that, before our Committee deliberations are finished, he will offer to lead a team of Games volunteers at the station to guide people, since he knows his way around there better than most.
However, the noble Lord’s suggestion is wrong: at no point have I been a clear enthusiast for a hotel tax. He will note that in many debates in the other place, I expressed on the record grave reservations about such an approach until the issue of VAT had been addressed. There is commonality of agreement with my noble friend on the Front Bench on this issue, but there are a range of views, which we will have an opportunity to hear when his noble friend introduces his amendment.
My final two amendments, 19 and 20, look at the wider reporting mechanism. Amendment 20 calls for an earlier report than the Bill currently provides for. I hope the Minister agrees that on financial and other vital issues, we need early reporting. Amendment 19, from the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, calls for not only earlier reports but far more frequent reports than is currently proposed. That way, your Lordships and the other House can keep abreast of what is happening and hold people to account. The more reports that we have as the Games develop, the better, and it is important that we use them to keep a tight grip on expenditure.
Let me give an example of why there are continuing concerns, and why there is a need to keep a grip and to understand what is meant by the Government’s plans for underwriting the Games. We know from newspaper reports that removing the National Express bus depot in order to create the Games village and subsequently providing 1,400 much-needed homes in the area was initially estimated to cost £2 million. Reports now suggest that the cost will be a staggering eight times higher, at £15.5 million. Will the money that has to be found be additional to the £185 million that Birmingham City Council must find, or will it be covered by the Government’s underwriting agreement with the council? It is important that we find out such details now. We need early and regular financial reports on what is taking place, and that is why I have tabled my amendment. I support nearly all the other amendments, albeit that one needs a slight tweak. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 3 and respond to the noble Lord, Lord Foster. He is right about the need for transparency in the underwriting agreement between the Government and Birmingham City Council. It is not at all clear to noble Lords. The key issue is: who is the provider of funds of last resort if the Games run into financial difficulty? We are entitled to be told at some point during the passage of the legislation. Whether we get that is another matter entirely.
It needs to be repeated that these Games are a fantastic opportunity for the country, Birmingham and the West Midlands. Many characteristics of the Games are very exciting. Now that we have resolved imaginatively the issue of the two sports originally to be excluded, all is set fair for a brilliant competition. However, the problem of finances for a city that is already under some financial challenge is formidable. As we have heard, there is a 75:25% budget split between central government and Birmingham City Council. Birmingham has to find £184 million and it will of course look for commercial opportunities to help with that; but it also has other plans such as the post-Games housing development in Perry Barr. All that means that sources of private funding will have to be found. We must recognise that the city council’s finances are under pressure, which is why this is such an important issue.
I have been interested in a tourism levy because the city council has been. The Core Cities group believes that a levy would be a sensible and fair way in which to raise funding revenue. Scotland is close to implementing such a levy for Edinburgh, and the consultation of the city council there showed high levels of support for it—85% of respondents to the consultation backed a levy of either 2% or £2 per room per night. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, rather unkindly took me to task for the wording of my amendment. We should not take the wording of amendments in Committee too literally. The point that I am trying to make and is clear in my amendment is that we want the Government to look at this matter sympathetically and produce a report. The issue that the noble Lord is right to raise is the length of time for which a levy would operate. I fully accept that important point and it surely would be discussed after review by the Government and the city council.
I entirely accept the noble Lord’s point and that a drafting change can be made, but does he not think it more sensible to adopt the approach proposed in the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Addington, which talks about the Government looking at ways they can help Birmingham City Council raise funds through, for example, a local tax more generally or even a local lottery? There are quite imaginative solutions and to tie it down to one specific mechanism is probably an error.
We already know from what the Minister said at Second Reading that she will say that the decision on a new tax rests with Her Majesty’s Treasury and it thinks that local authorities already have ample means to raise funding. I am sure she will say that again. The noble Lord raises some fundamental points about local government finance, and I am very sympathetic to them. I have been trying to put forward a very simple suggestion: as a tourism levy has been floated by a number of local authorities and we are seeing one implemented soon in Edinburgh, why not use the Commonwealth Games as a way to pilot it—without commitment to any other city or area of the country or that it will be a long-term tax—to see whether it could work?
I understood that, post-election, Her Majesty’s Treasury was looking at changing all the rules of engagement as part of the Government’s new strategy towards local government and to help in some of the more deprived parts of the country. This is a very straightforward way to try something out to see whether it would work, whether it would impact on the hotel economy—a downturn is clearly one risk—and whether it would be a very straightforward way to enable local authorities to raise more resources for sports, leisure and culture in the future. I do not see the problem with having a pilot scheme to allow that to happen.
Is my noble friend aware that the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London intends to fight the mayoral campaign later this year with one of his policies being the right to levy a hotel tax in this city? If the Conservative candidate in London can say that that is what he is going to fight on, that should surely overcome the objections from the Treasury Bench and certainly from the Front Bench today.
This is an interesting group of amendments about the funding of the Games. My initial reaction was that it is an interesting idea, but how does it affect these Games? My initial response to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was that it is an interesting idea but not here and now because the Government told me they have underwritten the Games. We will probably have a little more transparency and more of an idea about how that underwriting takes place in a few minutes’ time, but making these Games a success is the priority in these discussions. We will not solve local government finance in a Bill with this Long Title. It was suggested to me that the department wants us to pass this amendment so that it can fight with the Treasury. I know where my money would be on that one—it would not go beyond three rounds.
What are we going to do about this? We are going to make sure we know what is happening so we can get on and do the Games and do them well. If we get it wrong—remember it is a Bill about the Games—we will lose something that we have built up a huge amount of credit for. We can do these big events well. We have a track record. We are coming in late so we cannot have the schemes and imaginative discussions we had on the Olympic Games. We are the white knights, the rescuers, coming in to make sure the wonderful, second-biggest multi-games event on the planet functions again. We are doing a good thing. If we try and Christmas-tree too many things on it, we will get into trouble. If the Government are making very clear that they are underwriting the Games and Birmingham City Council knows what the relationship is—whether it is a loan or a gift—then we are in good shape. However, we have to know.
My amendment is designed to know what packages can be done. My noble friend described it as imaginative. It is not. It simply uses examples of what we have done before. We used the National Lottery for the Olympics. Do we use some form of lottery now? Do we use something based around it? If we place a series of handcuffs on or stumbling blocks in front of the organising committee, we risk throwing the baby out with the bath water. Let us get on with it. We have come in late. We are doing a good thing. It will not be perfect. We will not have the indulgence of discussing and preparing things like we had for the Olympics, where the Bill was there before we won the bid.
Using tried and tested ideas might be the better way forward. I suggest in future that local government should know what contributions it can make, how much it can raise and what responsibilities it has. Doing a study now will help it in the future because we do not want this to be the last thing to be put on. We do not want something getting in the way of us winning hosting, for example, the soccer World Cup. Let us make sure we have clarity. I hope at the end of this discussion we will have a little more of it.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 5, 19 and 20 in the first group. In so doing, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said: all of us are united in believing that the Games will be great. We already have an outstanding organising committee and there is both political and popular will to ensure that they will be memorable and enjoyable.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, for introducing my amendment so well. I need hardly say anything more, save to underline the fact that the original reporting provision required the first report to be submitted to the Secretary of State as soon as was reasonably practical after 31 March this year. Because of the delay in the legislation, that was put back a full year until after 31 March next year, which is very close to when the Games are going to be held the following year.
In the context of being transparent and accountable, not only to the people of Birmingham but to other taxpayers, it is important that there is a more regular reporting structure to and timetable for your Lordships’ House. That is why I have proposed the amendment that there should be a report, starting on 15 July 2020 and then every six months until the end of the year of the Games, 31 December 2022.
Transparency is critical. Transparency about any overruns on financing will carry the public with us. It will allow all of us to know the exact underwriting procedure, how it will be dealt with, the precise budget, the current expenditure on the Games at any given six months, and the provisions for drawing down on the contingency, which are unclear to me. I do not know if they are clear to the rest of the Committee. It would be helpful if the Minister could outline on what basis the contingency will be drawn down, particularly given that the Games are underwritten by the Government.
With those comments now on the record, clearly the amendment that I tabled about the budget and revenue sources for all Games events, including shooting and archery, has been overtaken by last night’s decision. However, I look forward to the debate that we will undoubtedly have on the second group, when we will look at some of the detail of what was announced yesterday and the consequences for the Games.
My Lords, like many others in your Lordships’ Chamber, I am very excited by the 2022 Commonwealth Games. I am excited for several reasons, not least because the Commonwealth Games book-ended my career, and my last Commonwealth Games signified that I should find something else to do with my life. Also, I lived in Ward End in Birmingham for four years, and I know that the opportunities to use the Games in an incredibly positive way for the city are boundless.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Foster, about the grouping of the amendments being quite sensible. The expectation that people have of the Commonwealth Games is different from the one they have of Olympic or Paralympic Games because they are different types of events. However, the challenge that this country has set itself is for the rest of the world to see how good we are at organising Games, so it is essential that we get the budget absolutely right—that we have enough money to spend, but spend it wisely. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about what happens in coming to this slightly late. As we get closer to the Games, things become more stressful. The amendments would ensure that all the different stakeholders worked together to do the reporting and make sure that the Games are carried on as well as possible.
The reporting of finances is important for a number of reasons—not just because of the Games in Birmingham. Looking to the future, we are much more likely to bid for another Commonwealth Games before we bid for another Olympic or Paralympic Games. I do not want the group of cities and countries that are able to host the Commonwealth Games to become smaller and smaller because of the cost and transparency involved in them; that is why I believe that the reporting is incredibly important.
I totally agree that there should be early and regular reporting. As we get closer to Games-time, those working on the Commonwealth Games organising committee will be looking for other opportunities. We know that there is a group of people who travel from organising committee to organising committee, and they will be looking to join the committee for the next Olympics or Paralympics. We cannot lose that corporate knowledge of reporting, and that is why it is essential that we have very regular reporting. It would also inform what we do in relation to future bids. Whether it is for the World Cup or any other Games, this information is incredibly important.
My Lords, one advantage of putting my name alongside that of my noble friend Lord Hunt is that he has said pretty well everything that needs to be said on the subject. I want to make the much more general point that we need not only to think about the Birmingham-based Commonwealth Games but to reassure cities which host similar events in the future that they will not be put in huge financial difficulties. That is the reason for the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Hunt.
Clearly, the most important thing is the arrangement for underwriting and the relationship between central and local government. However, if any additional source of funding can be identified, through whichever amendment we consider, that would make the possibility of a city bidding for a major sporting event more attractive, then it must be part of the legacy. We need to say to the next group of bidders, “These are ways in which the costs can be met.” I think we all know what the Minister will say. If she wants to give us all serious heart problems, she should say, “Yes, the Government agree with all these amendments.” However, showing some degree of sympathy about the financial arrangements and their importance is a really important message that the Government ought to pass on to the city concerned, and to any cities that look to fund future events of this sort.
My Lords, I want to speak in particular to Amendments 3 and 11. This is a major opportunity for Birmingham to promote itself in an international context, with all the subsequent benefits. I know that Birmingham is a fantastic city and that it has been regenerated with huge imagination, creativity and great ambition. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, it is very important for us here to give other cities the confidence that they can take their ambitions forward, bring huge benefits for the people who live there and demonstrate what fantastic places they are in an international context.
As has been said, these amendments particularly address the demands that are likely to be made on local authorities, as well as the scope for the maximisation of benefits. I have been a city leader myself, and I can only imagine how the city council feels about the Games. There will be huge pride and ambition against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts to council budgets and the anxiety that must come with that. In an international context, they will have to face great pressures.
Amendment 11 would introduce a range of financial possibilities. The amendment is also very timely. I know that there are very many ways that the Core Cities, among others, could advise the Government if they wish to look at alternative funding sources.
The principle of the pilot tourist levy proposed in Amendment 3 is supported by many cities, not just for major events but as part of a programme for greater devolution of powers, including fiscal powers, to our cities and appropriate local authorities. There is an absolute weight of evidence showing the economic potential that could be unleashed in our cities through a more radical devolution of powers. I like to feel that the Government will look at giving powers—not just words of comfort about giving big sums of money—to the constituencies that they have said are being left behind in this country.
Other forms of fiscal devolution and local fundraising powers have been examined and evaluated by many organisations, such as the City Growth Commission, the London Finance Commission and many others. Amendment 11 offers the opportunity for these to be considered at an early stage in the context of these Games. However, having had direct contact over a tourist levy, I would say there will be a strong need to consult on these proposals. We should not underestimate the level of opposition that can be amassed against such things by interested parties, not necessarily citizens. Nor should we underestimate the need for a realistic timetable, because any new measures need that. We need measures to be taken so that they can be smoothly introduced and supported, rather than constantly opposed.
I know that this has all already been said. I was here at Second Reading when the Minister did not accept the principle behind Amendment 3. However, I hope that the Government will consider the opportunities offered by Amendments 1 and 11 to bring forward more detailed proposals so that there are feasible options available to Birmingham or any other city in the future. I also hope that there might be some new thinking on local taxation and devolution to provide cities and local authorities with the means of taking forward their ambitious plans for the future and putting their own cities on the international map.
My Lords, as noble Lords have said, Birmingham 2022 will make us all proud. It will be a huge fillip for the city and for investing in it, alongside all the wonderful things that the Games themselves will bring. Briefly, I support my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on the idea of a tourism tax. I know that you should never ask a government Minister a question that you do not know the answer to yourself, but I will take a risk. Have the Government done any modelling at all on a tourism tax? Have they had any preliminary conversations with the local authority about it? If the Minister would like to tell us, we promise that we will keep it to ourselves.
My Lords, I was not able to speak at Second Reading but I have listened carefully to the debate on this group of amendments. I hope that, when the Minister replies, a number of points that have been raised will be clarified. I support the amendments in this group. In particular Amendments 11 and 3, which broadly cover the same issue of how to raise more income at a local level, should be supported by the Government. The questions that have been asked about a tourist tax, a hotel bedroom tax or a lottery are all about the same thing: how to get more local income raised. My concern is whether the council taxpayers of Birmingham could be faced with a big bill—or else, big cuts in services—if there are difficulties for Birmingham in raising its 25% contribution. I hope the Minister will be able to clarify this; she needs to explain it to the Committee.
I also seek the Minister’s confirmation that the 25% contribution will include all costs that fall to the city council, or other public bodies, outside the formal structure of the governance of the Games—things such as extra street-cleaning, refuse disposal, information services, policing and emergency planning. There is a long list of them; I assume the Government have discussed it with Birmingham and that these matters have been agreed. It is important that the Minister clarifies what is included in the 25% contribution and what lies outside it.
I am sure we all accept that financial and other long-term benefits will accrue to Birmingham, so a local contribution to the cost of the Games is clearly appropriate. However, I have not really understood why 25% is the right figure or what discussion there has been about that. If it is not the right figure, what is the Government’s contingency plan to make up the deficit? As a number of noble Lords have pointed out, in her reply at Second Reading the Minister said that the Government had agreed to underwrite the organisation and delivery of the Games. The critical word is underwrite, but it requires clarification. Does that underwriting include any shortfall on Birmingham’s 25% contribution if the income streams do not deliver the expected sums?
My Lords, I start by sharing the positive sentiments that many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, the noble Lords, Lord Grocott and Lord Addington, and others made about the excitement that we all feel about the potential for the Games and the message that we can send to cities which might wish to host games in future. The Government absolutely share that view.
I turn to the amendments. Amendment 3 calls for the preparation of a report, a key aspect of which includes an assessment of the case for implementing a temporary hotel occupancy levy throughout the Games, the proceeds of which, after costs of administration, would be made available to Birmingham City Council. I understand that Amendment 1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, is to seek clarity on Birmingham City Council’s financial position. As the Committee knows, Birmingham and the West Midlands region will benefit from a £778 million public investment to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The city council is responsible for funding 25% of the Games budget—£184 million—which the council has publicly committed to meet.
The Government have supported the council by agreeing that we will provide the majority of the contributions in capital and profiling its revenue for the final year 2022-23, as the council requested. A number of noble Lords raised concerns about the ability of the council to meet this. The Cabinet approved the council’s financial plan for 2020-24 at its most recent meeting on 11 February, with the funding requirement to be met from partner contributions, prudential borrowing and council-generated funding, such as capital receipts. The council recently submitted a proposal to my department requesting to pilot a statutory hotel occupancy tax, such as that outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. The tax is not necessary for the council to meet its share of the costs and the council’s own figures show that it would provide only a small contribution towards its revenue requirement. In any case, as I said at Second Reading, if the council wants to raise proposals for a new tax, the Bill is not the appropriate vehicle, as it is not a money Bill.
The Government will continue to work closely with Birmingham City Council to ensure that it can deliver on its financial contributions. It might be helpful if I set out some of the processes and assurances in place to ensure that the Games remain on budget. I also gather that that is the thrust of Amendment 5, tabled by my noble friend Lord Moynihan, and I hope it also addresses Amendment 11, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington.
The Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee has been established to deliver the Games, with the UK Government as the primary funder. There is robust financial governance and the budget has been subject to significant scrutiny. Contingency is held by the strategic board, including the Minister, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the leader of Birmingham City Council.
I will cover a couple of additional details, given the number of questions there were on this issue. To reiterate, the budget has a significant but realistic level of contingency within it. As joint funders, it is in both the Government’s and the city council’s interest to keep within the cost envelope. Importantly, it should be remembered that, when Birmingham bid to host the Games, 95% of the venues were already in place, reducing some of the risk around the Games. The Government have also committed to providing Parliament with updates on expenditure during the project.
I note that the intention behind Amendment 5 is to better understand any link between the Games budget and the proposed shooting and archery championships in India. To be clear, shooting and archery are not part of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, but rather a Commonwealth event that will be held in India in 2022, at no cost to the UK Exchequer or Birmingham taxpayers.
On the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on local authority funding for future sporting events, the Government and UK Sport regularly engage with local and regional authorities when it comes to bidding for and staging major sports events. This is clearly successful. Most recently, the UK hosted the 2017 World Athletics Championships, the 2019 Netball and Cricket World Cups, and the UCI Road World Cycling Championships, to name but a few, with a strong pipeline of events in coming years. Local authorities have a range of revenue-raising and fundraising powers to support them meeting the financial contributions associated with such events; for example, through local taxes, such as precepts and business rates. Local or regional authorities may have particular views on how best they can raise funds for such events; I know that the Chancellor keeps the tax system under review and would always welcome representations for improving it. The Government will of course continue to work closely with local authorities to support them in bidding for and successfully staging major sporting events, building on our fantastic track record in hosting such events.
Amendments 19 and 20 seek to bring forward the first period on which the organising committee is required to report, and for these reports to be produced every six months rather than annually. I absolutely understand the desire of the House to be given adequate and timely opportunities, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, explained, to scrutinise the organising committee’s preparations and delivery of the Games. To allay such concerns, I want to be clear that the end of the first reporting period in the Bill, regardless of the date, will certainly not be the first opportunity this House will have to scrutinise the organising committee’s delivery of the Games.
Unlike the London 2012 or Glasgow 2014 organising committees, the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee is a non-departmental public body and already subject to a number of controls and transparency requirements through a management agreement that is available on GOV.UK. As such, the organising committee must publish an annual report of its activities together with its audited resource accounts after the end of each financial year. These accounts must be laid in Parliament and made available online. The first of these reports was published and laid before Parliament on 9 September last year, and we anticipate that the report for the 2019-20 financial year will be published in July and annually thereafter, in the summer. However, I am happy to undertake to write to the organising committee to request that the report includes reference to those areas set out in the Bill and of interest to the Committee, such as accessibility and legacy. I know that a number of your Lordships have already engaged with the organising committee on these topics.
As noble Lords will be aware, the organising committee has already published its social value charter and has committed to publishing both the accessibility and sustainability strategies once they are finalised. It has also committed to publishing a modern slavery policy alongside its modern slavery statement. The organising committee is happy to write to interested Peers once those documents are available, and I know it would welcome any feedback that noble Lords may have.
My noble friend Lord Moynihan’s amendment also seeks to require the organising committee to produce its statutory reports twice a year. It is only right that we give the organising committee adequate time to make and demonstrate progress in the areas set out in the reporting provision and of interest to the Committee. There is clearly a balance to be struck. Updates on Games delivery are already available through a number of channels. For example, information can be found on the Birmingham 2022 website, and the organising committee plans to produce quarterly reports on progress, including relevant updates on key areas such as accessibility, employability, legacy, skills and sustainability. These reports will be made available online; again, the organising committee has offered to issue them directly to those noble Lords who are interested. As we discussed at Second Reading, the organising committee has also recently appointed a dedicated government relations lead, and I understand that a number of your Lordships have already taken the opportunity to discuss the organising committee’s plans in further detail with him, as well as having met the senior figures in the organising committee, including the chief exec and the director of sporting accessibility lead, alongside officials within DCMS.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Commonwealth Games has recently been reconvened and will meet soon to set out its work programme to ensure that Parliament has a good opportunity to engage with the Games. The organising committee is developing an engagement programme, which includes regular updates to such groups.
I hope that these details are enough to reassure your Lordships that there will be adequate opportunities for Parliament to scrutinise the work of the organising committee and about the Government’s commitment to working with Birmingham City Council and the entire Games partnership; to monitoring the Games budget carefully and managing any cost pressures effectively; and, further, to supporting local authorities in bidding for and delivering future sporting events. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Before the Minister sits down, the one issue that she really has not addressed is the nature of the underwriting agreement between the Government and Birmingham City Council. Could she dwell on that and in particular answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt: who is the funder of last resort in the event that things go wrong?
I fear that I may be repeating what has been said in previous debates, but as part of the hosting requirements for the Games the Government have committed to underwriting the cost of the organisation and delivery of the 11 days of sport. There is a very detailed set of scrutiny arrangements for that and arrangements for contingencies and other elements.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I join many of them in expressing my own excitement about the forthcoming Games. I put on record my praise for the organising committee and the work it is doing, particularly, as the Minister has said, the way in which it has been reaching out to parliamentarians to ensure that we have been thoroughly briefed about a whole range of issues.
I thank the Minister for the careful way in which she has answered many of the questions that have been asked. I know that a number of them remain somewhat unanswered, including those asked by my noble friend Lord Shipley about some of the additional costs that will be incurred by Birmingham City Council that are perhaps not directly associated with the organising and running of the Games but which will impact upon the city and the surrounding area. Nevertheless, I am grateful for her explanation of the status of the organising committee as an NDPB and therefore the management agreement that it has, and the need to have annual reports, and, indeed, her pointing out that there will be more frequent reports on a range of individual issues; she referred to access and legacy, two issues to which we will no doubt be returning.
With those remarks, and conscious that we have all said we want to give the Bill a speedy passage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 17, leave out “or” and insert “and”
My Lords, in the spirit of wishing to move the Bill on quickly, I point out to your Lordships’ House that my amendment would simply delete the word “or” and insert the word “and”. It is one of those typical amendments that are used to trigger debate on a particular issue. It was intended to give us an opportunity to look at the point made in Clause 1, which referred to the Games as meaning
“an event forming part of the Games (whether or not a sporting event), or”—
“any other event arranged by, or on behalf of, the Organising Committee”.
That would have given us the opportunity to debate the issue of archery and shooting. As we have heard, the Commonwealth Games Federation has now made an announcement about what it intends shall happen with shooting and archery. It has made it clear that it will be a completely separate event not in any way related to the Birmingham 2020 Games, with its own medals, its own organisation and certainly no financial impact on Birmingham City Council or the Government. Nevertheless, subsequent amendments in this group give noble Lords and particularly the Minister an opportunity to comment on the Commonwealth Games Federation’s decision, about which Noble Lords may have a number of concerns. For example, if we are to have, as we have been told, a combined medal table, with the Indian Games covering archery and shooting and the Birmingham Games covering any other events, what exactly is the status of that table? The question of whether the India 2020 Games will be expected to abide by regulations—social charters and so on—similar to the ones we are adopting will also doubtless be raised. I sense the Minister will say that that is outwith the debate, since it will no longer be our responsibility; however, the medal table will be.
The longer-term issue is whether this is the beginning of what could be a very exciting future for the Commonwealth Games, in which individual countries that may find it difficult to fund the full cost of all aspects of the Games in their country could partner with other countries. There could be some very exciting developments, but questions will be raised. For instance, who will have the right to determine which events are to be part of the Games, or will that suddenly revert to the centre, with the Commonwealth Games Federation handling all the details?
We look forward to hearing from the Minister on these issues, and from others with far greater expertise than I have—not least the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, whom I am sure we are all looking forward to hearing from. I beg to move.
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 in this group, standing in my name. I will speak to them all since they refer to the same item, in view of the decision that was made last night and was announced by the Commonwealth Games Federation.
It is important in the first instance to recognise that all the points that are relevant in this context have been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Foster. I will focus pretty much exclusively, as one might expect, on the sporting aspect of the comments that he has made.
It is important to place on the record the work of the executive board of the Commonwealth Games Federation over the weekend to approve the hosting of the Commonwealth archery and shooting championships in Chandigarh, India, in January 2022—a proposal put to them by the Commonwealth Games of India. This is indeed ground-breaking. It is an innovative approach that the Commonwealth Games Federation is taking in partnership with the CGI, the National Rifle Association of India and the Archery Association of India, and it meets the requirements of all stakeholders, especially the Commonwealth shooting and archery athletes. The International Shooting Sport Federation should also be congratulated on its role. It has facilitated the settlement among the Commonwealth family of what has become the vexed question of the exclusion of shooting from the Commonwealth Games 2022—vexed to the point that there was real concern about India boycotting the Games.
Reference has also rightly been made to the important initial work undertaken by the ISSF on the sidelines of its general assembly—held in December last year in Munich with the Commonwealth Games Federation, the NRAI and the Commonwealth Games shooting federation—on a detailed protocol governing the future relationship with the international federation, working in close conjunction with the Commonwealth Games Federation. If the Minister does not have that protocol to hand, it would be helpful if it could be circulated to interested members of the Committee, or indeed placed in the Library. The decision confirmed, as has been made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, that Chandigarh 2022 and Birmingham 2022 will be two separately organised and funded Commonwealth sports events.
However, then came the unexpected announcement last night, not least the Commonwealth Games Federation’s stating that
“as a further and final legitimate ranking of competing nations and territories from the respective competitions”,
the two will be combined. The results from both will be combined a week later. I warmly welcome the decision in principle: it takes the Commonwealth Games into a new era of recognising the importance which should be attached to countries with a common purpose sharing venues when hosting expensive international sport. It comes close on a number of similar examples, not least in the Olympic and the Paralympic world, when it comes to bidding. Indeed, a bit more recently, five ASEAN countries have come together to talk about jointly bidding for the FIFA World Cup.
Although I fully appreciate that the two events are to be separately organised under separate legislation and separately financed, the final medal table will include results from both: that will be the final results from the Commonwealth Games, as I understand it. It is therefore very important to the sportsmen, sportswomen and, indeed, the competing nations to know what the final medal table will include, because some Commonwealth countries will incentivise their teams according to their position in the medal table when considering future financial support for the training of athletes. Indeed, there may be wider legacy projects: the higher you are in the medal table, the better the ranking and, often, the greater the funding from government. That is a common policy used by UK Sport. As chairman of the British Olympic Association, I was acutely conscious of the medal tally as it was being racked up in London, watching with delight as we moved towards 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze medals, and recognising that that ranking of third was very important to UK Sport and other funding agencies, and indeed to sponsors.
Now we hear that they will be formally combined a week later—but why a week later? The shooting takes place in January 2022 and those results can be made available immediately, at the beginning of the Games. So, when we get to the end of the Games, instead of waiting until an arbitrary seven days later, we can have the actual results and celebrate them. Given the support the Indians have shown by hosting, at their expense, the archery and shooting, we should seriously consider encouraging the organisers to bring the medallists over to participate in the closing ceremony as a great celebration of unity among the Commonwealth Games countries. I expect that as they enter the stadium for that celebration, they will get the loudest round of applause of virtually any athlete who is celebrated for their success. It is beyond me, but it is no doubt understood clearly by the Minister, why it would take a week for this to be made public, or why it is not embodied in the medal table during the Games, given that the Commonwealth Games Federation has stated clearly that the shooting and archery competitions will be among the
“final legitimate ranking of competing nations and territories from the respective competitions.”
That is my key point to the Minister. It is an issue that we really need to clear up, and about which the athletes need to know. Of course, they are separate events and I understand the point about the separate financing. I am sure, therefore, that this legislation cannot in any way, shape or form be relevant to the Indian shooting and archery competitions. However, there will be sadness among noble Lords on both sides of the House that Bisley could not host the shooting and, indeed, that Edgbaston could not host the archery, given Lord’s Cricket Ground’s successful hosting of it during London 2012.
Nevertheless, despite that sadness, there will be widespread support and thanks to our friends in India for the way they have stepped in to give young athletes—who have for decades been part of the Commonwealth Games—the opportunity to excel and to have this great event, which is vital to world shooting and world archery—on their agendas in the future. I also hope that, while much is being made of how the two Games are to be completely separate, there will be recognition of some of the sentiments I have expressed. Our Royal Family are deeply and closely attached to the Commonwealth and it is something we all celebrate, so I hope there will be very high-level representation in India for the shooting and archery. It would only be appropriate to express our gratitude to the Indians, given that we were unable to host those two sports, and I hope that the Commonwealth Games Federation will bear that in mind.
I would be enormously grateful if my noble friend the Minister could explain why we are having this week’s delay at the end of the Games before announcing the actual results table. Everybody will know the result the minute before the last medal is awarded, and it will be in every newspaper in the country. It is a bit like having a general election and saying to everyone in a constituency, “You can all vote, except the shooters and the archers. We will count their votes in a separate election and announce the result a week later, when we give the overall result”. It seems illogical to me, but perhaps there is an excellent and clear answer that my noble friend the Minister can give to the Committee.
My Lords, I am delighted for the athletes involved that there has been a late-night solution to this issue. Bizarrely, when we talk about the Commonwealth, Olympic or Paralympic Games, we rarely talk about the experience of the athletes, although they are at the heart of the Games. It can be very difficult for athletes to be in a position where they do not know whether their event is on or off the programme. Most countries do not support athletes financially or with medical services unless there is an elite pathway. This particularly affects women’s events and also involves media support and sponsorship. Once you are off the programme, you have nowhere to go and it is almost impossible to get funding to get back on it.
Having two different events has lots of implications. On the positive side, it could give us an opportunity to increase the number of events for disabled athletes, although there has been an increase over the years, which is great. In 1990, there were just two demonstration events at the Commonwealth Games; it is lovely to see where we are now. However, my big concern—actually, this is outside our control—is about the challenge that smaller countries may have sending teams to different venues. The bigger teams have a chef de mission, a large core staff and large medical teams. The home countries are fortunate that they are able to support that; some of the smaller ones might struggle to fund it.
This is not without precedent, to some extent. Olympic Games sailing events are held in different parts of the country. In Atlanta in 1996, sailing was held in Savannah. India is considerably further away, but we are looking forward to the Paris Olympics and Paralympics where surfing might be held on the other side of the world. The Commonwealth Games should be congratulated on getting to this stage, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan: why do we not just start the Games with a medal table? Everyone is going to be doing that anyway, regardless of the announcement; it is important for every country to know where it stands. It would make more sense for the TV coverage, for the athletes in the village, and for the spectators, if it was there.
It is also important to make sure that there is an equivalent experience of being at the Games, with countries having the same kit and the same medal ceremonies. We could share the welcome ceremony when you come into the village—not every athlete is able to go to the opening ceremony, depending on when their competition starts, so the welcome ceremony when they move in is important. I had not considered the closing ceremony until the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned it. It is really important that the athletes, team managers, and everyone else, go to this, if there is any way that they could be brought over. It is not without logistical and cost problems. In 2012, we promised that there was a bed in the village for every athlete, so they could come to the closing ceremony if they were competing outside. It would be challenging, but it would be a lovely, positive way to celebrate the final medal table.
My Lords, I shall say one or two words on the principle of what is going on here. This is a good thing. At every Games, there are little rows about which sports take part. When the Games were on the Gold Coast, we had basketball but not judo. Australia likes its basketball; we are good at judo, so we made sure we had it. These deals and negotiations are always going on. You are always going to exclude a group of athletes, for many of whom this is the biggest thing they will ever do. This major international sporting event may be at the end of their career, so there is a good principle behind this.
I have a question for the Minister, the answer to which might make my later amendment unnecessary: how are we going to set a precedent for how this is done in future? Every good idea comes with baggage: how do we make sure we know what this means for the organisation? In principle it is a good idea and has good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with those, I am afraid. What are we doing to get this right? There has always been sporting politics over which events are in. There are lovely books about bitchy back-room deals and people fighting to get their event in. This may be a way of reducing that and making sure that more athletes and fans get the experience. It is a good thing; can we have a bit more guidance on how it will be looked on in future? If the noble Baroness cannot give the Committee the answers, it would be helpful if she could point it at someone who could.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak to this group of amendments, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. He has a distinguished record both as an athlete and as a Minister. Support for his previous careers is shared by both sides of this Committee. I share his appreciation of the fact that this compromise has been arrived at. There was considerable tension between the athletes of our two countries before the participation of Chandigarh was confirmed. I am sure I speak for all from Birmingham and the surrounding area when I say how pleased I am that that tension can now be eased, and co-operation is going to take place.
Like the noble Lord, I am a bit confused by these arrangements, but my understanding is slightly different from his. I understand that there will be two separate medal tables. As the events are being held some time apart, I presume that the Chandigarh medals will be published first, although the noble Lord appears to think that might not be the case. Perhaps the Minister can clarify when the medal table for the events that take place overseas will be published. I understand that, contrary to the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, the medal tables for the events are to be kept separate, regardless of the fact that Chandigarh is being seen as part of the Commonwealth Games. I am not sure why that is, but I am sure that the Minister will tell the Committee when she comes to reply.
On a personal note, relating to the noble Baroness, I was looking through a list of Ministers and their remuneration in the Times over the weekend and found, to my astonishment, that the noble Baroness is one of the few Ministers who is working for nothing. She does not get a salary at all. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has put a series of challenging questions to her, and she should be adequately recompensed if she finds the answers. Speaking for both sides of the House—I hope I can get the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, on board—we should start a crowdfunding appeal on her behalf. I am not sure whether her exclusion from the salaried ranks constitutes some sort of sex discrimination. I am sure it would not be tolerated in most other industries. On this side of the Committee—I speak personally, but I am sure I take my noble friends with me—we would be delighted to assist and do anything to combat the apparent injustice.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Snape, for his generosity and concern about my financial position. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and my noble friend Lord Moynihan for the amendments in this group relating to the shooting and archery championships being hosted by India in 2022. The Government clearly welcome the confirmation, in December, from the Indian Olympic Association that India will be taking part in Birmingham 2022. I share the Committee’s satisfaction that a championship event will give shooters and archers from around the Commonwealth the opportunity to compete at the highest level, but I note the concerns about the cost implications of two venues, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson.
Before turning to the amendments, I will endeavour to answer the questions about the medals and the medal tables and how the system works, and I am happy to put this in writing to all noble Lords so that there is no confusion. The Commonwealth Games Federation has confirmed that each event will issue its own distinct medal table: one for Chandigarh 2022 and one for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The medals will be different. The medallists in Chandigarh will receive Commonwealth archery and shooting championship medals, not Commonwealth Games medals. Then, as my noble friend Lord Moynihan clarified, a week after the closing ceremony, there will be a medal table which will include the results from both competitions. My understanding is that the week’s separation is to reflect that the two competitions are different. Both are extremely important, but there will be an aggregated Commonwealth sport medal table, not an aggregated Commonwealth Games medal table.
My Lords, I understand how we have got to this position, and I sympathise with the organisers, but since the media will obviously combine them together immediately, is it possible for us to go back and gently say: “Do they not need to think about this again?”
I am very grateful to my noble friend, because I know that this is not an easy wicket on which to be batting. Dame Louise Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, stated last night in a letter to a number of your Lordships that the Commonwealth Games Federation executive board agreed a resolution that,
“One week following the Closing Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the CGF shall issue a medal table that includes results from the Chandigarh 2022Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championships, as a further and final legitimate ranking of competing nations and territories from the respective competitions.”
It is very clear that both will be brought together, and therefore nobody in the world of sport will separate them. I appreciate that this will not be resolved this evening.
The suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is an excellent one, as is the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, that if we are going to have this, it is wise to reflect on the best way of presenting it, and indeed co-operating in areas where co-operation would be beneficial to the future of the Commonwealth Games.
My noble friend makes a very fair point, and I am sure that the Commonwealth Games Federation has given enormous consideration to these matters and will continue to reflect on them.
I turn to the amendments in this group. As noble Lords will be aware, the current proposal was announced by the Commonwealth Games Federation only yesterday and was obviously very timely, given the keen interest of a number of your Lordships in this Chamber to see the championship event funded and delivered in Chandigarh by the Indian Olympic Committee and the Government of India. I reiterate what I said in the earlier group that there is no financial operational responsibility sitting with the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee. As this will be organised and funded as a separate event, the organising committee will not be in a position to report on the progress of delivery of the shooting and archery championships, as called for by my noble friend’s amendments. As such, and to address the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, the measures in this Bill apply only to events forming part of the Birmingham 2022 Games or any other event arranged by, or on behalf of, the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee. I do, however, note the intention behind the amendments and fully support the steps taken by the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee to ensure that social values are a key consideration from delivery through to legacy.
In particular, I welcome, together with all noble Lords, the development of the Social Values Charter, which embodies the values of the Commonwealth sports movement and the Transformation 2022 agenda. I agree that the central focus on social values is greatly welcomed and provides another fantastic example to the organisers of other and future events. This has already been touched on this evening. Accordingly, we hope that the Social Values Charter will be a legacy for future Games and ask that the Commonwealth Games Federation considers how the ground-breaking work undertaken by Birmingham 2022 can become a normal convention.
The Commonwealth Games Federation’s Transformation 2022 strategy is clear about how the Commonwealth sports movement places human rights, governance and sport for social change at the heart of its new vision and, indeed, it has already confirmed that, like its host city arrangements for other events, Chandigarh 2022 will be expected and contracted to uphold the highest standards in this regard. Given the clear separation between the two events, but not taking away from the important work that Birmingham 2022 is doing to promote social values, I ask that the noble Lords withdraw their amendments.
My Lords, I thank the disgracefully unpaid Minister for her very careful reflection on the comments made by other noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. If the noble Lord, Lord Snape, is to introduce his crowdfunding scheme, I will certainly commit to sharing the website address with Liberal Democrat colleagues.
The most welcome thing that the Minister spoke about was her willingness to continue discussions with the Commonwealth Games Federation on this issue. I come at this from a slightly different position, which was raised by other noble Lords. I reflect very carefully on what the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, said about the importance of putting athletes very much in our thinking as we prepare any of these things. It seems somewhat strange that people who compete in the Birmingham 2022 Games will be awarded a Commonwealth Games medal, whereas those who compete in Chandigarh in archery and shooting are to be given a Commonwealth sports medal. One wonders whether there will be some view about the status of those not being exactly the same. Indeed, if they are not, the question has to be asked: why are they being put together in a single medal table? When the Minister continues deliberations with the Commonwealth Games Federation, I hope that sort of thinking will be uppermost in her mind. How will the athletes feel about the arrangement that is currently proposed?
However, I recognise entirely that what the Minister said is that all the amendments in this group are now otiose. They are not relevant to this Bill because what is going to happen in India is a totally separate event. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Clause 1 agreed.
Amendment 3 not moved.
4: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Payment of the Living Wage
(1) Within 3 months of this section coming into force, the Secretary of State must direct the Organising Committee to prepare a strategy for ensuring all staff employed—(a) directly by the Organising Committee, and(b) by organisations awarded contracts to deliver the Gamesare paid, as a minimum, the Living Wage.(2) In preparing the strategy under subsection (1), the Organising Committee must consult representatives of businesses and trade unions in the Birmingham area.(3) The hourly Living Wage for the year 2020 is—(a) £9.30 outside of London, and(b) £10.75 inside London.(4) For the purposes of this section, the Living Wage for each year after 2020 shall be the amounts determined by the Living Wage Foundation.”
My Lords, I take part in these proceedings for the first time. I have held a self-abstaining ordinance in previous discussions, since every point I might have made has been made and the Minister has paid proper heed to those points. Just as we have very properly talked about the athletes and their experience, this amendment focuses on those who undertake work to make these Games possible in an organisational and in a fuller sense. I add my voice, however, to those who have already expressed approval and affirmation of the way members of the organising committee of the Birmingham Games have reached out to us. We have got to know them quite well, in fact: they have made it their business to come.
I know from discussions earlier today that there are going to be quite intricate discussions between Members in the other place and people in Birmingham, as well as those who come to reach out to us. The interactions between those organising the Games and this Parliament seem to be excellent and I am grateful for that. The other day I met, for example, someone who has been appointed to look into the whole question of accessibility. We will get a report on that, and in conversation with her I heard some very imaginative and sensible ways of dealing with the points that have been raised in previous debates on that question.
My amendment comes to the question of pay. I have had opportunities to talk with officials on this question, too. It seems only sensible that as we have given our very careful attention to many aspects of the Games that should be honoured—sustainability, accessibility, proper community development, legacy and all the rest—so there should be a high ethical stance and colour to these Games. Therefore, it seems appropriate to ask about the wages of those who undertake labour. We should remember that nearly all of them will be local people; many will be apprentices and so on. There is a very fine programme of employment being rolled out to achieve these objectives and these people should be paid properly. This amendment simply identifies the living wage as the meaning of “properly”.
Members of the organising committee have told me that they will undertake, as employers, to fulfil this obligation, but the arm’s-length bodies that will be competing for pieces of work will have their own standards. It will be a question in the minds of the organising committee as they interview these potential customers or clients—those who deliver services—and the wage they set will be part of the interviewing discussions they have. I think this is fairly uncomplicated. I do not think we need to put it on a par with a hotel levy to raise money, in terms of the complications it might raise, but it might be a very simple and direct thing for us to incorporate in our discussions a commitment to seek to achieve this. That will then allow us, with the members of the organising committee, to have appropriate conversations.
My Lords, Amendments 4 and 18 seek to ensure that all staff employed directly by the organising committee and those employed by organisations awarded contracts to deliver the Games are paid the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended rates. As the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, set out, all staff employed by the organising committee already earn in excess of the voluntary living wage. Of course, all suppliers will be required to pay the Government’s national living wage, which I am pleased to say is set to receive a big cash increase, rising by 6.2% from 1 April this year. The Government also plan to expand the reach of the national living wage. It currently applies to workers over 25, but it will apply to workers aged 23 and over from April 2021 and to those aged 21 and over within five years.
I think the spirit of the noble Lord’s amendment is that we should be ambitious about the opportunities we offer those who offer their labour as part of delivering the Games. I hope I can reassure him that we are doing that, not only through their wages but through wider approaches. We continue to develop plans to maximise employment, training and volunteering opportunities to ensure really lasting benefits for those living and working in the region. In particular, the organising committee is promoting opportunities for local and regional businesses and voluntary, community and social enterprises to ensure that they can bid for contracts as part of the £300 million procurement spend. When I visited the Sandwell Aquatics Centre I saw some of that happening in practice.
For example, Birmingham 2022 is working with the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership on a programme focusing on building the capacity of up to 50 local SMEs from a black and minority-ethnic background to bid for publicly procured contracts across the UK and the Commonwealth. As part of the tender process, organisations bidding for Games contracts will be asked to demonstrate how they support the delivery of the organising committee’s social values charter, which we have already touched on, and there is a clear weighting attributed to this; for example, by promoting local employment opportunities and skills development.
Further, the organising committee is working with the West Midlands Combined Authority to establish a Commonwealth jobs and skills academy with the aim of helping the young and the unemployed gain skills, experience and jobs through the local supply chain. The ambition is that the programme will move people into sustained employment and offer experiences that will be beneficial to their long-term career prospects. I hope that that gives the noble Lord a sense of the progress that has already been made to ensure that the region capitalises on the fantastic opportunities and economic benefits the Games will bring, including through skills development, education, training and increased employment. On that basis I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
Just to be clear, the noble Lord has made a point that is so reasonable that I do not think anyone could disagree with it. Is it expected that subcontractors, et cetera, will meet the living wage? Is it a normal thing that will be expected of anyone who gets a contract? I think that is the essence of it.
Obviously, legally everyone has to meet the national living wage. The Living Wage Foundation’s voluntary living wage will be one of a number of metrics that will be taken into account in delivering on social value, such as, as I mentioned, skills opportunities including people who are further from the labour force. It is a mix, in terms of social aspiration, rather than one single metric.
I believe that the conversations that the organising committee has as it deals with potential suppliers will put that point in the hope of achieving those results. However, the organising committee is not in a position to give a guarantee on that until it has gone through the process. From the good book that I know so well, I believe that the Minister has gone the second mile, and from the context from which I speak I can only say amen to that, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
Amendment 5 not moved.
6: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Sports legacy plan
(1) Within six months beginning on the day this section comes into force, the Organising Committee must prepare a sports legacy plan, setting out how the Games will promote sport participation in Birmingham and across the United Kingdom following the conclusion of the Games.(2) The Secretary of State must lay the sports legacy plan and any subsequent revisions of the plan before each House of Parliament.”
My Lords, in moving Amendment 6 I shall speak also to the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington. In effect, we are talking about three things in these amendments. The first is sports legacy, which we covered in detail at Second Reading and in consideration of the Bill last year. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, has focused on schools, which are critical to sports legacy. Her amendment talks about local schools. I think we may need to broaden that: I hope that the sports legacy from these Games touches schools throughout the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, will talk about future Games’ success strategies. All three seek to embed these into the legislation because it is absolutely critical, if we are going to host the Commonwealth Games, that we have government support for achieving a proper sports legacy from the Games and a clear success strategy for future Games. In my view, nothing is more important than the school sports strategy that should also flow from it.
This is not 100% the domain of the organising committee. I know that it is absolutely committed to having a good sports legacy from the Games, but this is where the Government can help. It is where they can say that the Commonwealth Games in 2022 should be a catalyst for a transformational sports legacy in this country. The challenge, therefore, is to make an outstanding Games great through exceptional performances of athletes from throughout the Commonwealth, but at the same time ensuring that it leads to a step change in sport and recreation opportunities for those inspired by the Games. Strong ministerial co-ordination is essential in this context. We need it through a wide range of departments: the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and ultimately—and most importantly—the Department for Education. In all three, we need to have co-ordination, greater government commitment, and political leadership that can turn a great Games into a great sports legacy.
Schools are the epicentre of sport around the world. The United Kingdom should be no exception. We should learn from the strength of New Zealand sport. It a small country that punches massively above its weight across so many sports. Its facilities are in use 24/7. It has a policy that focuses on making sure that school sports facilities are available to able-bodied and disabled athletes whenever possible and that appropriate coaching is made available through, and with the support of, the schools. They meet the challenges that are historically a problem in this country. These include insurance—schools not making their facilities available for fear of insurance consequences—and the cost of transporting youngsters to and from those schools and of lighting, particularly in the winter months. All these can be overcome if there is a clear direction from the centre, political will, and a recognition among schools—not least independent schools—that they should fulfil their charitable status obligations by reaching out into the community and embracing young people from primary and secondary schools in the area to ensure that all sports facilities are properly used.
It is interesting that in France, before the beginning of the academic year, there is a freshers’ fair equivalent, where all schools welcome sports clubs in the vicinity to encourage young people to take up sport. It is schools, with the enthusiastic support of heads, PE staff, parents and local coaches, that are the vehicles to drive participation rates. No school should be an island; they should work with a multiplicity of local clubs: in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games, but throughout the United Kingdom. I say “throughout the United Kingdom” because I emphasise the point that the Games should be a catalyst for the Government to say that we are going to take sport to a different level. We are going to increase participation. We saw a gradual drop-off in participation figures as a percentage of the population post London 2012. That was one of the saddest reflections on what was otherwise an absolutely magnificent year and a great Games. We must ensure that we learn lessons from that and that Birmingham does not repeat that. I hope that head teachers will be given support from the Government to reflect the demand for giving sport a higher priority in the school curriculum.
The problem is not, however, just on the school side. We need to look at planning laws and how we could change them to protect the playing fields in this country; to make sure that more resources are directed towards Fields in Trust—the national playing fields association—and to encourage Ofsted to take a far more proactive role. Quite frankly, nothing short of a revolution is required to improve the content and time devoted to prepare primary school teachers to work with schoolchildren in physical education. I hope that this wider agenda, which is absolutely critical, is not dissimilar to the recognition by the Government that, if you want to be an author, you learn to read and write first. It is the same with physical activity: if you want a child to become involved in sport, you first need to teach them to run, catch and jump. That is why physical literacy is so important and why it should be part of every child’s school life.
We touched upon the specific aspects of a sports legacy plan for Birmingham at Second Reading. Today we have two excellent amendments, which I fully support, to make sure that we embed these principles into legislation. We encourage the Government to do so by recognising in the Bill that we should be highlighting the importance of not just supporting the organising committee, as we are doing in this Bill, to host an amazing Commonwealth Games in 2022—of which I have no doubt we shall all be proud—but making sure that embedded into the same legislation is a commitment by the Government to make the future legacy very real. It should be a step change from what this country has enjoyed in terms of participation and opportunity for young people who are inspired by watching the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. I beg to move.
Amendment 7 (to Amendment 6)
7: After Clause 1, in subsection (1), at end insert “and support local schools to maximise use of their facilities to engage children and families in sport and physical activity”
My Lords, I declare that I am chair of ukactive, which is listed in the register of interests.
The absolute base thing that we need is a good Games. There is no doubt that amazing sporting performance inspires young people to be active and play sport. That is usually in the summer and then reality sets in in the cold winter nights, and you realise that, actually, becoming the next Jess Ennis or Dave Weir involves training 15 times a week, 50 weeks of the year, and it is slightly different.
We need to think about legacy: it will not happen on its own, whether it is about investment or a change in mindset. It is really important that we think about that. I would love physical literacy to have the same status as literacy and numeracy in school: for me, it is about healthy mind, body and spirit. It is outside the remit of this legislation to look at changing the school day or how we train our PE teachers. That is perhaps for another time, but my amendment is quite simple in what it is asking for. It is about maximising schools’ facilities before, during and after the Games to get the best possible legacy that we can for young people and their families in the area. The good news is that my proposal would require only minimal investment from the Government. However, if they would like to invest more and open it to the whole of the UK, I would be more than delighted.
We have to think differently about how we use our school sites. The reality is that, as much as we have this incredible elite success, today’s children are the least active generation ever. Sport England research in 2018 showed that just one in four boys and one in five girls in England achieved the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. As children lead increasingly sedentary lives, they are at bigger risk of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. That has serious implications for the NHS. We know that children’s fitness declines by as much as 80% over the summer holidays, so when they come back in September they are way behind where they were at the start of the holidays.
Announcing levels of government funding for the Games in June 2019, the then Sports Minister Mims Davies MP said:
“The Games budget is a significant investment in Birmingham and the region. It will deliver benefits to local people for years to come. It will increase participation and encourage more people to get active and stay active.”
But we need to do more. The Games are a key sporting milestone, but we know that post Games there is a spike in participation, but then it drops quickly. If we look at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, there was little increase. The figure was 67% in 2013 and 68% in 2016, so my idea is to discover how we can open schools and use them as community hubs during the summer holidays. Children live on average 2.4 miles away from a school, with the average distance falling as low as 1.4 miles in inner cities, where levels of deprivation are much higher. What I did not realise until relatively recently, which I perhaps should have done, is that 39% of sports facilities in England sit behind school gates. When they shut in the summer holidays, not just young people but anyone who accesses them no longer has the opportunity to do so.
I am already involved with pioneering a model which opens schools in the summer holidays, giving young people two snacks, lunch and physical activity, from 9 am to 3 pm. They run around and are active. Nutritious food is a really important part of that. In 2018, 24 schools across England and Wales hosted holiday clubs for young people aged between five and 15. Importantly, at the end of that first pilot it was reported that the number of children meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for physical activity increased by 29%. The children were not all going throughout the summer holidays; they might pick a week or two weeks, although some went through the whole summer. The programme went from 25 sites in 2018 to 70 in 2019, offering a total of 10,000 free places for children on free school meals. Over 30% of these clubs were located in deprived areas.
Through that pilot we have seen a continual increase in the number of schools the model operates in, working with partners. There is consistent increased participation and we need to do more to look at opening schools in the Easter holidays for children most at risk. This model, if used at local schools before, during and after the Games, would engender a lasting legacy for increased participation, feeding young children into sports clubs if they wanted to go into sport, and helping set them up for the rest of their lives.
This is a really important thing we could do around the Commonwealth Games. At least if we did it around the Birmingham and wider West Midlands area, it would give young children in some quite challenging communities—I lived for four years in Ward End, which is quite a challenged part of Birmingham—a real opportunity to think differently about themselves and education and set them on a positive path. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have been unable to speak in this debate previously but am enthusiastic to have the opportunity to say something on the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. It concerns me that we have talked about sports legacy for a very long time but have never willed the consistent funding and approach to genuinely embed it for generations of young people. I speak as a former convenor of the Commonwealth Teachers’ Group and am therefore actively engaged with teachers across the Commonwealth. I am very excited about the Commonwealth Games.
I am slightly concerned that, when I started teaching in 1973 in the ILEA, we had many sports clubs in schools. It has been a consistent rollercoaster of up and down; sometimes sport is well funded and sometimes it is not. Sometimes Ofsted is keen on it; sometimes Governments are keen on it. If everything that has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is to come to fruition and we are to see that young people in our schools have these serious opportunities in term time and during the school holidays, we must think about the legacy of these Games not just in terms of headlines but hard and long about how we fund all the things we want and need to happen in our schools.
I absolutely believe that there is a commitment from the teaching profession that schools, as the hubs of their communities, should be open more of the time. But that requires resources. It requires that the facilities, which will be used in addition to the time when the schools are in session, be maintained. It requires that there be coaches and other available teachers. It requires that schools work together. In Birmingham, for example, we have a plethora of different types of school, some of which work well together and some of which do not necessarily work so well together. We heard earlier in this debate about the problems vis-à-vis the financial challenges potentially facing Birmingham, and I am sure noble Lords will know that there is currently a significant issue around education funding generally, whether for sport or other issues.
For all the reasons already given in some of these fine speeches, there should be a real legacy that relies on young people having an absolute right to the level of physical activity which we all seek from them. I hope that noble Lords who may have the ear of Government will ensure that this sports legacy is not just a headline but a reality, perhaps initially, as the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, has said, in Birmingham and the surrounding area but spreading out across the whole country—ultimately, so that GB can be a model of the kind of sports legacy to which our young people can aspire and have as an absolute right in their lives, in not just term time but school time. It will result in a healthier school cohort and possibly even more medals.
My Lords, I echo my noble friend’s point that we often debate the use of school facilities and bemoan the fact that they are in use for a disappointing percentage of time in the average week. However, we must face the financial reality that school governing bodies face at the moment. In Birmingham, a lot of primary schools are now closing at lunchtime on Fridays because they simply cannot find any other way to balance the books. The idea that the education system of schools in Birmingham can somehow magic up the ability to open their facilities for hours on end, particularly in the summer holidays, will not happen. I am sure that the Minister’s department wishes very much for schools to do more, but we have somehow to find a way to give them the ability to do it.
I hope also, although the amendments before us do not mention health particularly, that there will be a way to find an opportunity for health bodies in Birmingham to take part in some of the discussions. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, has talked a little about young people’s health and well-being, but I am afraid that Birmingham’s obesity levels are very high. I have always hoped that the Commonwealth Games might be a catalyst for us to try to do something about it. The health service needs to step up to the plate, because its enthusiastic involvement in legacy planning could be very important. Health interests and sport interests do not always mix easily, partly because people in health worry that things such as the Commonwealth Games stress the joy of competitive sport at the expense of everyone. I understand that, but they can sometimes be very precious about it. I still believe that the two can run together, but opening the door to health interests now would be a good way to see whether they can be round the table and proactive in promoting legacy. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, put it so well: this time we should ensure that we get legacy right.
My Lords, I will make a few comments. First, on my amendment, I think we covered part of the international co-ordination and spreading the events in the previous debate, but if the Minister has more to say on that I will of course listen gladly. The main thrust coming through here is represented by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, effectively asking whether the Government will enact their own sports policy properly, which involves the department of health co-ordinating with the Department for Education and local government to make sure we have facilities to get out there and participate in grass-roots sport. Competitive sport is there at grass-roots level; it is just not as well done. I pray in aid my own sporting career. I am afraid that I missed Second Reading because I was playing rugby against the French Parliament. Yes, we lost. I recommend parliamentary rugby to anybody who wants to see the detail of the game, because we are so slow that you do not miss anything.
A good sports policy alone does not create champions. They often come by freak and fluke, and the very lucky get through. A good system will leave a supply of them. A really good sports policy will provide second-team and third-team players for small clubs and address the health problems, et cetera. People saying, “Wow, isn’t he great, let’s look at him on TV”, but then sitting down with beers and chips and saying, “Let’s try another channel” does not help very much. We need to get people out there to take part.
Perhaps we should be set up differently, but schools are a great facility. I started my club career playing on a school pitch that was lent to a small club that had just got itself a ground. We came through after 10 or 15 years of using school pitches. We must not stop that spontaneous growth of sport. We have a tradition of organising ourselves at a far higher level than any other country in Europe. Doing it ourselves means a cheaper facility. We should help and support that, as these amendments would do, enacting a sports policy which says, “These bits of government should come together”. Surely if something as exciting as a Commonwealth Games cannot allow us to do that, we really are missing a trick.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, is 100% right; schools must be involved in trying to ensure the sporting legacy that we desperately seek. There have been financial problems, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. However, there have also been many initiatives over the years to do the most sensible thing: link sports clubs with schools, so that youngsters have an opportunity to try a far wider range of sport and find one that they are interested in. When they leave school, they would then have somewhere to continue participating in that sport. Sadly, we still have dreadful figures about the drop-off rate of sports participation at the end of the school years.
I support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, which has my name attached to it. He rightly points out that although in all the multisport events in this country over the years, we have had a range of very good legacies—buildings, contracts, upskilling and so on—we have failed to develop a sporting legacy from any of them, and certainly not at anything like the level that we hoped for.
I notice that the organising committee’s current legacy plans were on just one page of the Social Values Charter it put out in October 2019, saying that everybody is working together and that it is still in the process of developing long-term legacy plans. As I am sure noble Lords have seen, a number of new appointments have been made to the legacy and benefits committee; I welcome that. It has identified nine key themes for legacy. One of them is what we are speaking about: physical activity and well-being. Against each of the other eight, various organisations are also referenced, but in relation to physical activity and well-being the DCMS is listed as the lead body. The Minister said that it is the responsibility of the organising committee, as an NDPB, to produce regular reports on issues, and we have been assured that legacy will be one of them. But can she tell us what plans the Government have—and her department has—to produce a legacy planning report? It would give those of us who are interested an opportunity to comment, and perhaps collectively achieve for the first time what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is keen for, as am I: a true, lasting sporting legacy from a multisport event.
I also want to speak to the amendment on the legacy of the Games, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Moving away slightly from the issue of sports, I refer to its proposed new subsection (3)(a), where he talks about:
“the impact of the Games on the local community in which it was held”.
One of the key impacts is on capital development. I want to put on record my thanks to the Minister, and the team from Birmingham 2022, who came to talk to me about housing standards, which I raised at Second Reading. Although I will refer to it on the next group of amendments specifically in relation to disabled athletes, I want to make two brief and wider points on legacy.
I mentioned the lifetime homes standard for a very good reason: its category 2 makes just enough provision for an ordinary unit of accommodation to be adapted for less than £2,000, to be suitable for an elderly or disabled person but not somebody living in a wheelchair, whereas it takes in excess of £20,000 to adapt most units of accommodation, for example with slightly stronger walls where grip bars can be put up or slightly larger bathrooms with walk-in showers or baths. I am very disappointed to discover that, of the 1,472 plots on the Perry Barr residential scheme, only 20% will reach category 2, which is “flexible and adaptable”. The vast majority will be category 1, “visitable dwellings”. Hopefully, somebody in a wheelchair can be taken into one of them, but this category still permits steps into the building, which makes it utterly useless. Habinteg, an expert in lifetime standards, says that category 1 should not be used by the Government or anyone else and that category 2 should be the minimum. There are very few units at category 3, which is for those who live in and use wheelchairs. I will come back to why that affects sportspeople on the next group.
Having heard all that, I did some quick research. The Birmingham Mail reports that of the 1,472 units, only 58 affordable houses of family size will be built, despite there being 2,500 families in temporary accommodation in Birmingham. That is a massive missed opportunity. Over 1,000 of these units will be sold, so there will be very few left for affordable use by local communities or housing trusts. This is one lesson we can start to learn already. A large amount of taxpayers’ funding is helping to purchase and build the site—£185 million—yet the legacy of affordable housing in Birmingham has been missed completely.
My Lords, I do not want to say very much—honestly, I do not—but I have grown increasingly impatient with myself as this debate has continued. We need a full-scale debate, rather than one under the rigours of debating a Bill, about why and how the legacy of the Olympic Games did not deliver the ideals that have been mentioned, and why, despite the fine words, the legacy from these Games is just as likely not to be delivered. This involves far more than somebody putting a clause in a Bill. I put a great deal of effort into the two inner-city schools that I have some responsibility for. People can use their facilities any time they like—because we have not got any.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Moynihan’s Amendment 6, and Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, consider the sporting legacy of the Games. I thank them for highlighting the importance of Birmingham 2022’s legacy. I know that they have also taken a keen interest in other areas of Games delivery—my noble friend in the development of the organising committee’s Social Values Charter and the noble Baroness in the organising committee’s accessibility work. I thank them for that.
It is right that legacy and realising the very real benefits of hosting major events, such as the Commonwealth Games, are areas closely scrutinised by Members of your Lordships’ House. As we have discussed, the Games will bring economic growth, through new jobs and business opportunities, accelerate regeneration through infrastructure projects and create new ways for more people to get involved in culture and volunteering in their local community. In particular, I share the enthusiasm of this House for maximising the opportunity that the Games present to promote sport and encourage people to become more physically active. Our plans to promote physical activity will include maximising the impact of the new sporting facilities being delivered for the Games, as well as existing facilities.
The new facilities will include: the redevelopment of athletics facilities at Alexander Stadium, to increase permanently the number of seats from 12,000 to 18,000 post-Games; the creation of a brand new aquatics centre in Sandwell which, in legacy, will provide a 50-metre Olympic-sized swimming pool, a 25-metre diving pool and 1,000 spectator seats for community use; and the addition of new cycle lanes across the city. As my noble friend Lord Moynihan pointed out, the Government have an important role in catalysing the impact of these new facilities. We are therefore working with all the Games’ delivery partners and local stakeholders in the region to develop programmes that will harness the power of the Games to promote sport and physical activity. For example, the Department for Education recently announced £20,000 of funding in Birmingham to encourage more young people to become volunteers and coaches in sports clubs and the local community in the run-up to the Games. This will provide a boost for Birmingham and develop a pipeline youth volunteer workforce ahead of the Games. We will also draw on the evidence from Sport England’s £10 million local delivery pilot investment to promote physical activity among hard-to-reach groups in Birmingham and Solihull.
To respond to the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, we are working with schools across the region to ensure children and young people are able to access all the opportunities to get involved in physical activity that the Games will create. As well as making the most of the new facilities developed as a result of the Games, we will look at how we can make better use of existing facilities. Sport England is already working with the Active Partnerships network to open up school facilities outside school hours, following a £1.6 million funding boost to help schools make better use of their sporting assets. We will continue to work with the network to explore ways in which school facilities can play a part in the physical activity legacy of the Games.
I am aware that a number of the points made by the noble Baroness are broader than simply the potential of the Games, which are a hotspot for focusing on that. However, a lot of work is going on in the department on investment in grass-roots football and a wide range of youth activities. I am more than happy to meet the noble Baroness, if that would be helpful, to discuss how we can use our combined wits to try to make the best of that issue.
A commitment to publishing a legacy plan was given during passage of the Bill in the previous Parliament and I am pleased that we are making good progress on that, with the development of the evaluation framework under way, including learning lessons from previous Games such as London 2012 and Glasgow 2014. As we develop the plan, and in recognition of their experience in this area, I would welcome the insights of my noble friend and the noble Baroness regarding physical activity and sport. I will also ensure that a copy of the plan is placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, asked how the reporting on the plan would take place. That is being done as a partnership. It is a work in progress but I shall make sure that the House is kept updated on it.
The Games partnership is keen on draw on a broad range of insight. Noble Lords touched on this at Second Reading; the Committee may be interested to know that the organising committee recently appointed five influential community leaders to the legacy and benefits committee, a cross-partner group set up to ensure that the city, region and country maximise the benefits of the Games. The new members bring expertise drawn from a range of diverse backgrounds. For example, one of them is the founder of the Beatfreeks collective, which works with creative young people in Birmingham to have a positive impact in the city. She is joined by others with experience based in sport, education and skills, accessibility and the arts. The noble Baroness, Lady Blower, highlighted the considerable task ahead of us to achieve this change, but we are working hard to bring the right people in to help lead on this work.
I turn to Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I am sure that other noble Lords will congratulate him on his participation, not just in interparliamentary rugby but the tug of war between your Lordships’ House and the other place. His amendment would require the Government to lay a report before Parliament on lessons learned from Birmingham 2022 and how lessons have been learned from previous events. With regard to previous Games, the Commonwealth Games Federation orchestrates the formal exchange of information between previous and future hosts to understand successes, lessons learned and areas for improvement. Lessons for Birmingham 2022 have also been taken on board from London 2012 and Glasgow 2014. Not only are there practical lessons from their approach to delivery; we are also learning from the inspirational way in which those events harnessed the community spirit of their host cities.
I turn to the lasting impact of Birmingham 2022. We have been clear that we want the positive effects of the Games to be lasting for Birmingham and, more widely, for the West Midlands. Hosting the Games is already accelerating infrastructure and public transport improvements across the city and region. In addition to the new sports facilities, the Games will act as a catalyst for new housing in Perry Barr—although I hear the concerns raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton—and improvements to University and Perry Barr railway stations, not to mention the infamous Kings Heath station.
The long-term ambitions for the Games are to improve health and well-being, bring people together, be a catalyst for change, put us on the map and help the region to grow and succeed. We are carefully considering how this story is told once the Games end, while working with partners to look at how best to measure and report on the impact of the Games, including the impact on the local community. We will keep this House updated. We are committed to taking forward any lessons learned from the Games into planning for future major sporting events, and confident that effective plans are in place for doing so, which is why such a provision is not required in the Bill.
I hope that noble Lords are reassured that plans are in train to deliver, learn from and report on the benefits that come from hosting the Games. In view of that, I hope that the noble Baroness and my noble friend will be happy to withdraw their amendments.
Amendment 7 (to Amendment 6) withdrawn.
My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this interesting debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, highlighted, this is an area of responsibility for government. It is even built into the documentation for the Games. Quite frankly—I say this with a heavy heart—we should not be funding events if we are not prepared to fund the sports legacies of those events. To give a final example, while pressure is applied to local authority spend the fact is that it is discretionary spend and will always be squeezed first. I hope my noble friend the Minister can take this point away: sport and recreational provision is discretionary spend in England. It is the largest source of funding for sport in this country.
However, until we recognise the importance of sporting opportunity: for the young in educational terms, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blower, said; in aiding the fight against obesity, which was highlighted in terms of health; in providing the only language understood by too many of our young people who find the classroom alien and who, without the medium of sport, would find themselves on an escalator to crime; in overall health terms; in learning teamwork, the mantra of any further education; in management skills from shopkeeping to JP Morgan; and in realising the opportunity of a multibillion dollar industry worldwide, with new media and global social networking access, then the discretionary funding of sport will see sport and recreational facilities, and their legacy, wither and die on the vine of cost savings. With it will go the inspiration awakened by a great Games for so many young people in 2022.
There needs to be a concerted sports legacy policy—not just a plan but a series of policies—to open up our schools to dual use and make the sports legacy a reality. I make no apologies for being passionate about this subject, and I will make the case until they carry me out. But with those words, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 6 withdrawn.
8: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
The Secretary of State must make such regulations in relation to the access of disabled athletes, employees, volunteers and spectators to Games sport venues and sporting events as he or she thinks fit, including in relation to technical specifications, training for accessibility and events requirements, so as to ensure that all venue design and planning as well as sporting events’ operations satisfy the principles of equity, dignity and functionality as further specified in Accessibility Guide - An Inclusive Approach to the Olympic & Paralympic Games, issued by the International Paralympic Committee in June 2013.”
My Lords, I shall make a brief introduction to this amendment because we have covered this in some detail, but that does not in any way take away from the importance of accessibility and of a focus in the Bill on the interests of disabled athletes and anybody with any disability who is associated with the Games, whether a spectator, a worker, an employee or any individual. They should not be in any way discriminated against. Placing accessibility in the Bill should be at the heart of our approach to hosting an international sporting event. We need an inclusive approach to these Games. In my amendment I refer to the International Paralympic Committee, which has done remarkably good work on technical specifications for access, circulation, pathways, ramps and stairways. Those are clearly defined—the IPC accessibility guide has some 250 pages. It has rightly been accepted as a live document; it should improve. It was written in 2013, post London 2012, but it is still regarded as the key document for any sensible and modern approach to accessibility when hosting Games. It covers amenities, hotels, other accommodation, publications, communications, transportation—which we will come to in a much-anticipated contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Snape—and training in accessibility. Training the volunteers about accessibility is really important, as is making sure there is awareness training and job-specific training for hosting Games. Then, there are the Games requirements which we have considered in the past.
Tokyo 2020 has just published its accessibility guide for the Paralympic Games. It is interesting to note that not only does it aim to use the Games to ensure that all the venues, facilities, infrastructure and services provided are accessible and inclusive; more importantly to me, it sees the Games as a catalyst for change throughout the whole of Japan. It has simultaneously published a universal design 2020 action plan, which the Japanese Government are looking to implement to improve accessibility across the country. That is a step forward from the 2013 document, because it states that hosting an Olympic Games or other major sporting event needs to focus on accessibility in all its forms, but it can also be used as a catalyst for change in the country as a whole. All these measures show how vital it is to place disabled athletes and anyone who faces any form of disability on exactly the same basis as any able-bodied athlete or anybody who does not require detailed consideration of their disability. We must improve social inclusion and accessibility. I am looking forward to the highlight of the Committee this evening, when we hear more about the transport plan—and, on a serious note, the importance of accessibility throughout the whole of the transport network. With those brief words, I beg to move.
My Lords, I do not want to delay my noble friend’s tour de force but I want to support the noble Lord in what he said about accessibility. My amendment concerns a small bit of accessibility, but a very important one since many visitors will arrive to see the Games via Birmingham New Street station. New Street is a paradox because it is a wonderfully bright building which is very popular and has fantastic facilities, but it is not really a railway station. It is a retail outlet that was placed on top of a railway station, with no increase in the capacity of the station, apart from the four lounges at the top. I do not know what my noble friends think of those lounges, but they are basically deeply unattractive concrete holding pens to stop people cramming down on to the platform. There is no carpet. They are not like an airport. There is not even rubber matting. They are concrete and cold and miserable and do not do the job.
At Second Reading my noble friend Lady Crawley spelled out the confusing nature of the layout. My noble friend Lord Snape is puzzled by platforms A and B, but there is also the name. Is it Birmingham New Street station or is it Grand Central? There are different signs with different descriptions of what I think is the same building. The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, raised the issue of people with disabilities trying to get through. We go through regularly and see people asking where the taxi rank is. There are two taxi ranks, but they are nowhere near where people leave the station. Both are in the open air because even though the station was designed to have one taxi rank with cover, it was then decided that that was not where you should catch a taxi. If you ask people what they think of the retail outlet—John Lewis and the restaurants—they say it is wonderful; but it is not New Street railway station.
All I am doing is highlighting a real concern that Network Rail needs to get a grip on this and rediscover its role of providing facilities for rail travellers rather than being a retail estate developer, which is essentially what it has become. We need some assurance that the organisers understand this and are going to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find their way to buses, taxis, trams and other facilities. I realise it could be argued that this is a small point concerning an otherwise fantastic Games, but it is actually quite important.