2 Baroness Young of Hornsey debates involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

Mon 3rd Feb 2020
Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard)

Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Hornsey Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard)
Monday 3rd February 2020

(4 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Young of Hornsey Portrait Baroness Young of Hornsey (CB)
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Lords, first let me restate that, as a fan of most sports, I am delighted and excited that we are hosting this festival celebrating dedication to sporting prowess. Once again, I congratulate Birmingham on having landed this major sporting event and on delivering a credible submission in such a short space of time. I hope the Games will in turn deliver for the West Midlands, especially in terms of incentivising sporting activity at a grass-roots level and economic success.

Although I did not participate in Second Reading of the first iteration of this Bill, I supported the amendments in Committee of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, concerning human rights and what might be properly considered as belonging in the Bill. I realise that the Government’s position on this is unlikely to change. However, I want to place on record some of the key issues that deserve fuller recognition as notable challenges for any authority staging large-scale events. I am grateful to Mission 89 for a briefing on some of these issues, particularly those relating to modern slavery and trafficking in and through sport.

I think I am right in saying that the Birmingham Commonwealth Games is the first major international sporting event to take place in the UK since the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The multiple ways in which sport might be implicated in the various forms of modern slavery are beginning to be recognised in the sporting world, but there is still a huge amount of awareness-raising and policy-making to be done, as well as implementation and training to be followed through, as indeed there is across all industrial and business sectors.

In a major advance in thinking and action on modern forms of slavery and sport, the Commonwealth Games Federation has committed to addressing the risk of modern slavery in its workforce and supply chain, and among its athletes, through its human rights policy and modern slavery statement. However, the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill currently considers only the financial, logistical and operational aspects of the Games, along with a general commitment to implement the CGF values.

Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the subsequent discussions that we have had, I argue that this Bill represents an opportunity to bring the commitments to address human rights and modern slavery to the forefront of authorities’ planning of major sporting events in the future by putting those commitments into law, thereby setting a precedent for organisers of future major sports events, such as the men’s and women’s European Football Championships that will be held in the next year or so. Indeed, this Bill could be seen as the start of a process that would ensure that countries and cities bidding to host major sporting events had a statutory obligation to consider and develop strategies to address human rights and modern slavery risks before such events were even awarded. I think that that view is shared by many within the sector, especially by the CGF.

It is important that the Birmingham Games are not seen as an isolated event. They are the culmination of the Transformation 2022 agenda, which the Commonwealth Games Federation has been working on for several years. Transformation 2022 is supported unanimously by all 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth, so this is very much about the movement and not just about this event in 2022 in the UK. Furthermore, the CGF will be applying these standards to all future Commonwealth events, not just Birmingham. Likewise, the UK might want to consider whether those standards should be applied to any event hosted on UK soil, whether it be rugby, cricket, football, the Olympics, athletics or whatever.

The Commonwealth Games Federation should be recognised for its work in raising the bar in that respect. The 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games had a human rights policy, as well as a sustainable sourcing code and grievance mechanism. Furthermore, Birmingham 2022 is the result of its own Commonwealth movement, which, again, is supported by every nation of the Commonwealth.

Although we might like to feel confident that activities around modern slavery and trafficking will not blight the Birmingham Games, none the less we still need to be vigilant, as Birmingham 2022 acknowledges. Although these Games might have a low risk of modern slavery according to its modern slavery statement, it is important that such risks are considered. The Birmingham 2022 modern slavery statement points out that

“no part of our business is immune to the risks of modern slavery”.

That lesson has been learned in a very hard way by many businesses and industries.

I am pleased to note that the Games statement is more thorough than many of the statements we have seen and analysed from the wider business community. Anyone who has done that task will be in despair about some of the transparency and supply chain statements that have been made in other businesses. However, this one goes through the issues in some detail. That is necessary because instances abound of mega sporting events being used in a variety of ways to lure unsuspecting adults and/or their children into being trafficked, especially young people from poorer backgrounds. I have an example from the men’s World Cup, which, as noble Lords may recall, was held in June 2018. Fifteen children were prevented from boarding planes in Lagos, Nigeria, after authorities noticed that they had only one-way tickets. It is suspected that these children had been supplied with World Cup supporter ID cards by their traffickers and that a corrupt police and immigration officer had been part of the scheme. These unaccompanied children were mostly girls. It is suspected that the traffickers had persuaded the parents that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take them out of poverty and to take advantage of the alleged riches on offer in Russia and elsewhere. This is not just an isolated incident.

Although we may feel that such incidents will not be a feature of the Birmingham Games, it is worth thinking about the opportunities offered by the Games to raise awareness among participating athletes and their colleagues. For example, there could be materials that reference how to protect athletes from trafficking, and promotional activities concerning the potential signs of human trafficking and fake agents at the grass-roots level, as well as in supply chains relating directly to athletes. All this could be hugely beneficial to participating athletes. There needs to be much better access to information about the ways in which various interested and criminal parties lure athletes and their entourages into these awful situations. Indeed, the risk of human trafficking in sport should be considered in all measures on child safeguarding.

Moving on from modern slavery, I want to consider the mental well-being of athletes. It is an important human right that athletes should have access to resources and therapeutic measures to address mental health disorders. These disorders are quite common among elite athletes, manifesting themselves in a variety of distressing symptoms.

Although the Bill is designed to fulfil a specific and quite limited function, I feel it would be a missed opportunity not to include more specific reference to the issues that I have outlined. This could build on the excellent work already being promoted by the Commonwealth Games Federation and raise the standards we expect from such events to an even higher level, thus making Birmingham 2022 the new benchmark.

Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL]

Baroness Young of Hornsey Excerpts
Tuesday 9th July 2019

(5 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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I want to back up these visionary and, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said, quite demanding expectations for the worldwide standards that we need to embed in our local communities. I am quite sure that a charter of the kind mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, would express the values that we already try to live up to in Birmingham, Solihull and the region. Similarly, to have the sustainable development goals threading through this will be hugely popular with people of faith—and of no faith—who care about a structure in the world and values that are of universal interest but applied locally. Without them being an extra burden, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, hinted, on the very short timetable for achieving a lasting legacy and a really exciting and fun Games, I hope we will take up the challenge locally to promote and live the values in both that charter and the SDGs.
Baroness Young of Hornsey Portrait Baroness Young of Hornsey (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly in support of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I am pleased to say that I support them all but particularly Amendment 17, to which I will refer shortly. First, I declare an interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights. I am very pleased that the noble Lord is the vice-chair of that group; I have found it a real pleasure to work with and learn so much from him, because of his range of perspectives on these issues. I am just a humble watcher of sports, which I hugely enjoy.

Yesterday afternoon, we had a session of that group with a number of sports bodies, including individuals from different Premier League clubs and so on. It seems that there is a kind of momentum for recognising much more the place of sport in these frameworks that we are addressing, around particularly issues of social value but also the human rights framework. This very interesting movement seems to be happening within various sports bodies and organisations. In the evening, we were fortunate that the Minister for Sport, Mims Davies, could come along. She talked a little about social value, in particular in relation to the Birmingham Games. I think we would all see that these issues regarding accessibility, the environment and so on are clearly of paramount importance if everybody is to feel included and a part of this forthcoming mega sporting event.

We want to be able to delight in that event. What we do not want is to be sat watching and wondering what bad practices have gone on in its supply chains, how many athletes have been exploited or how many local people have been displaced and so forth. We want to enjoy them for what they are—a magnificent spectacle—so we want to know that all goods and services, and all people connected to the Games, have not been scarred by modern slavery or consequential environmental degradation.

The notion of the challenge and burden associated with a charter such as this is interesting, because the same kind of comments were made when Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act was introduced. There was a feeling that it would somehow be too much of a burden on business to report all the time on what their supply chains were, yet so many businesses have said that it has been a real game-changer for them and has produced all kinds of very interesting and important debates, theories and practices in relation to modern slavery and transparency in supply chains.

From what I have seen and heard, the charter consolidates a range of practices, regulations and legislation that we are all working towards anyway. It puts them in one place and makes it very explicit. This makes it a good opportunity for public bodies in relation to the Modern Slavery Act, in which I have a particular interest. As some noble Lords will be aware, public bodies are not included in Section 54 of that Act so are not compelled to write a statement about transparency in their supply chains. This is a good opportunity to produce robust, rigorous modern slavery statements from all the public bodies concerned; to make sure that they are refreshing and addressing the issues that come about through supply chain abuses.

Amendment 17 represents an excellent opportunity for the UK and the Commonwealth sporting family to lead the way in ensuring that countries and cities which bid for these mega sporting events understand and commit to their obligations to celebrate and support the human rights of all concerned, as well as to provide extraordinary sporting spectacles. If people say that this is too much of a burden to put on to organisations, we have to think of the opposite: that we do not care and will let people’s human rights be abused. I do not think any noble Lord would want to be in that camp. I hope that the Government, through the Minister, will be able to support the amendment: it is the way forward.

Lord Coe Portrait Lord Coe (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, for tabling Amendment 5, which elevates the crucial importance of legacy. I am sure that no noble Lord, on either side of the House, would argue with that concept. We share the sentiment that no Games should ever leave a city or community without leaving an indelible footprint on its infrastructure, society, education or economy. I will make one observation to counsel caution, which buttresses the remarks I made at Second Reading. The primary responsibility of the organising committee is to deliver a fabulous Games. The prerequisite for a legacy platform has to be the successful delivery—operationally and otherwise —of those Games. On that occasion I also remarked that if the Games themselves were a damp squib there would be little or no appetite to further the legacy ambitions.

The noble Lord has a proper menu of legacy issues which needs to be addressed. I speak on behalf of the trade union of current and former organising committee chairs who tend to become a slightly persecuted minority over this process. I want to make sure that we are not placing too onerous or burdensome a set of responsibilities on the organising committee itself. The noble Lord pointed out, quite rightly, that there needs to be a proper balance of those legacy responsibilities between local authorities, and their agencies, and the Commonwealth Games Federation. To further the prospect of other bids, it is not in the interest of any federation to walk out of a city without having been quite demanding about what is left behind. I approve of the framework, but the organising committee has the herculean responsibility of getting the operational integration across the line to create an inordinately complex sporting construct in the space of 10 or 12 days. I therefore caution against asking it to focus too heavily on the legacy burden. That has to be shared properly with the local authorities and housing agencies that have that responsibility. Yes, an organising committee can and should, in the way it constructs a Games, always be concerned to maximise legacy and to do things in a way that allows that post-Games legacy consideration to be delivered optimally. Within my general support for the amendment, I want to make sure that we are entirely clear about the very specific responsibility of the organising committee.