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Parliamentary support for the Tour de France in Yorkshire

Julian Smith, Member of Parliament for Skipton and Ripon, has today led a Parliamentary debate on Yorkshire’s victorious bid to host the Tour de France’s Grand Depart.

He was successful in applying for the Westminster Hall session on the decision to award the 2014 race start to the region and was joined by MPs from across Yorkshire for the discussion.

The Sports Minister Hugh Robertson responded for the Government and promised support for Yorkshire to ensure the event is as successful as possible. We need to ensure that this is part of the rebalancing of the economy South to North and that Yorkshire wins in every way possible from this great event.

Julian-SmithJulian said:

I was delighted with the support shown by Members of Parliament from across Yorkshire for the successful bid to host the Grand Depart in the region in 2014.

We got a positive response from the Minister and I look forward to meeting with him and with the Head of UK Sport, along with the Yorkshire bid team, soon.

I am also forming a cross-party Parliamentary group to ensure that support continues so we capitalise on the benefits and opportunities that having the Tour de France in Yorkshire can bring to communities and businesses.


andrewjonesHarrogate and Knaresborough MP, Andrew Jones, who was nominated for the Sports Parliamentarian of the Year award, said:

This has been a great year for British sport. The news that Yorkshire is to host part of the Tour de France is a great way to finish for Yorkshire and with Bradley Wiggins winning Sports Personality of the Year, it has also been an exceptional year for British cycling.

After a hard-fought campaign to win the bid, Yorkshire will certainly notice the positive effects this success will have on tourism and business as thousands of people will flock here to watch the race, with millions watching on TV across the world seeing how great our county is, and I hope it will encourage more people to take up cycling.


Full text of the debate Yorkshire (Tour de France)


Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con):

It is a pleasure to have secured this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Gray, particularly with your strong links to north Yorkshire and my constituency.

Without doubt, 2012 has been one of the greatest years in British sport. We have hosted the Olympic games in London. Our Olympians achieved the best medal haul since 1908—65 medals, including 29 golds. Super Saturday, 4 August, was undoubtedly Britain’s best athletics night. My noble Fried Lord Coe described it as “the greatest day” of sport that he had ever witnessed. It was a great Olympics for Britain and a great Olympics for Yorkshire, as we romped home with the largest number of medals for the UK.

Andy Murray has become the first British man since 1936 to win a grand slam. In golf, there was Europe’s nail-biting Ryder cup win, and Rory McIlroy has had another incredible year. There are many examples of success from across our country and our sports. Most importantly, the 2012 Paralympics were declared the greatest ever. They have had a massive impact on the perception of disabilities in athletics and in our society more generally. This has been a golden year of sport: it has produced not only brilliant results, but Olympic heroes who are inspiring people, young and old, to take part in sport and engage in exercise, which is the best way to stay fit and live longer.

The games have also shown that Britain is second to none in hosting and running great sporting events. Sport opens doors—it did so for me as a junior squash international, and it has done so for Britain this year. It has been the most incredible advert for our nation, character, values, companies and spirit. The Minister was one of the few people who were behind the most incredible games in history. I pay tribute to the work that he has done to ensure that the year 2012 will never be forgotten in world sporting history.

Of all the sporting achievements during this amazing year, cycling success stands out. I am told that the atmosphere in the velodrome was electric, although I could get tickets only for Greco-Roman wrestling. The roll-call of success could go on and on—Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott, to name but three, and of course the man who won the BBC sports personality of the year on Sunday, Bradley Wiggins. He received almost half a million votes, which again shows the popularity of cycling. It was a fitting end to 2012, during which he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France and his fourth Olympic gold. His success has inspired many to get on their bikes. Cycling is well and truly riding high: on the eve of the new year, Britain is at the top of its sporting game and is riding high on a sea of lactic acid and adrenaline.

Against that backdrop, we have had the most incredible news from Yorkshire. Last week, it was announced that the grand départ of the Tour de France, the world’s largest annual sporting event will come to the north of England for the first time. The tour will wend and weave its way across Yorkshire on 5 and 6 July 2014, before coming to London and going on to France. It has been the most monumental achievement to win this event. Welcome to Yorkshire, the region’s tourism body, began working on a bid to host the tour, in partnership with Leeds city council, in 2011. The bid had fierce competition from Scotland, Barcelona, Germany, Utrecht and Florence. Yorkshire has had high-profile support from Mark Cavendish, Team Sky’s Ben Swift and Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy, as well as three key historic Yorkshire riders—Malcolm Elliott, Brian Robinson and Barry Hoban.


Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con):

On Mark Cavendish’s support for Yorkshire’s bid, does my hon. Friend agree with his comment that Yorkshire

“is one of the most beautiful parts of not just England but the world”?


Julian Smith:

I of course agree with my hon. Friend, and I hope to describe that beauty in my speech.


Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab):

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his timing and foresight. No sooner had he secured this debate than we are able to meet here to celebrate the success of Yorkshire’s bid. The people of Leeds and everyone in Yorkshire are really looking forward to witnessing the grand départ from the centre of Leeds during the summer after next. Will he join me in congratulating all those—he has mentioned some of them—who had the audacity and vision to make the bid in the first place? Does he share the hope of us all here that UK Sport, with the Government’s encouragement, will now back the bid, including with a bit of cash?


Julian Smith:

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I shall come on to the Government shortly, but I want to pay tribute to his work and efforts in ensuring that that effort has always been a cross-party one.

As the right hon. Gentleman says, the bid had the full backing of local authorities in Yorkshire, the police, transport companies and the whole business community. A public campaign was launched to encourage people to show their support for the Yorkshire bid, and it has received more than 170,000 pledges. We have had great support from our regional media—the Yorkshire Post, ITV, the BBC, Thomson Press and Ackrill Media. Even French President Francois Hollande backed Yorkshire’s bid to host le Tour following a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition in Paris.

The Government have challenged the country to embrace localism. Yorkshire has taken that challenge and won the most incredible event for the UK and the north. Many people have been involved, and I again pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) and many other right hon. and hon. Members and noble Members of the House of Lords who have shown their support. My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) hosted the Paris organisers of the Tour de France, and anyone who knows him will know that that was a very good evening.

The person who did the deal—it is important to put this on the record—is Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, with his team, and also Tom Riordan, chief executive officer of Leeds city council. When I met Gary Verity and Christian Prudhomme, race director of le Tour, at St Pancras earlier this year, following their whirlwind tour of many of the jewels of Yorkshire, I saw how positive the chemistry and trust between them was. I therefore knew several months ago that we had a good chance of getting the deal. Gary and his team have delivered a great opportunity for Yorkshire, and have again proved that we must ensure that their future and funding is secure.

We do not yet know exactly where the grand départ will be—we will find out in the coming months—but one thing is certain. As my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) has said, the Tour will travel through some of the most beautiful towns and villages in the land.


Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con):

I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate on the world’s biggest bike race. In 2014, its grand départ will be in west Yorkshire, an honour and a privilege of which we are all very proud. Full details of the route will not be announced until next month, but does he agree that challenging cycle routes—such as the UK’s longest gradient in the Calder valley, at Cragg vale—and the many hilltop villages around the Calder valley would be excellent venues for cyclists and would bring huge value to the local economy?


Julian Smith:

I am sure that the Calder valley will be at the top of the short list for the route.

I regularly see cyclists from all parts of the world touring through the Yorkshire dales and Nidderdale, along such world-renowned routes as Greenhow hill outside Pateley Bridge. We could add the starting point in Leeds—Britain’s second financial centre—the industrial heartlands of south Yorkshire, the north Yorkshire moors, the historic cathedral cities of York and Ripon, the gateway to the dales of Skipton and the coastal roads of the east coast. From Harrogate to Selby, Keighley to Halifax, Huddersfield to Masham, the list of places the Tour could go is endless. We could host the whole thing in Yorkshire, not just the grand départ—perhaps, though, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves.

England’s largest county—God’s own—will wow the world and provide exceptional terrain and challenge for the grand départ and the first two stages. With world heritage sites in Fountains abbey and Saltaire and hundreds of homes and attractions, we will entertain the millions of visitors that we expect to receive. In addition to the big attractions, we have thousands of smaller tourism businesses across our region already e-mailing to say that they are getting bookings for early July. Heslaker farm, Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream, Theakstons and Black Sheep will all give a warm welcome to visitors. The Tour stages in 2014, in Yorkshire, will be the best ever.

We also have some of the most passionate sports fans in the country. When the Olympic torch passed through Yorkshire, we had double the national daily average of people watching elsewhere in the country. With millions being invested by the Government in better broadband across north Yorkshire, we are creating the infrastructure to make the event a success. The Government have invested in the Northern Hub, bus services and other transport links. We are even asking our world famous Yorkshire bishops to assist with the weather.

This morning at Westminster, right hon. and hon. Members from across the House are forming a Yorkshire and UK Tour de France all-party parliamentary group to ensure that this place gives all the support that it can. There are 54 MPs from Yorkshire alone, which is nearly 10% of the House of Commons.

Before the Olympic games, people often said to me, “It is great, but it won’t mean much for Yorkshire.” Even the most hardened critic will now admit that they were wrong. I am talking about not just the feel-good factor of the games themselves or the economic boost from people coming to the UK, but the lasting legacy. With the Tour de France win, we will see Yorkshire as the centre of focus for 2014, with other parts of the UK benefiting as well. Less than two years after London 2012, we can look forward to another of the world’s biggest sporting events coming to this country, but this time it is coming to the north.

In 2007, the Tour stages in the south-east of England were worth £88 million. Bringing the grand départ to Yorkshire will be worth more than £300 million. For an area of Britain that has weathered the global economic storm but is finding things tough, the event will make a real difference. Businesses big and small across Yorkshire now need to be on red alert to take advantage of all the procurement and support services that will be needed. As Members of Parliament, we will provide all the help that we can, and I hope that the Government will play their part.

From ice cream to beer, hotel rooms to office support, there will be huge opportunities, but there will broader potential to benefit, too. This is the most watched sporting event, with more than 3.5 billion viewers worldwide. More than 185 countries around the world show the Tour de France every year on 92 different television channels, with the last hour of every stage broadcast live across western Europe.

Yorkshire businesses that currently work abroad or that would like to do so in the future should think of this event as the biggest shop window there is. It will be a great advertisement to companies and people elsewhere in the world who have not heard of Yorkshire and who are looking for a UK base and who want to relocate in the north. It will also be good for the health of our region. We need to get out and exercise more; the Yorkshire Tour will vastly expand the number of bike routes and promote exercise and activity to all.

Yorkshire’s legacy plans are already being discussed and formalised. They include a bike bank, so all children in Yorkshire have access to a bike. There will be more investment in cycle lanes and cycle infrastructure across the county. There will be a cultural festival, too, celebrating both cycling and Yorkshire art and culture. Yorkshire has so much to offer the world, and we now have the chance to showcase that on an unbelievable scale. From literary buffs to entrepreneurs and from couch potatoes to exercise fanatics, le Tour has the potential to change lives.

We are incredibly proud and pleased to be hosting the Tour. There will be a celebratory dinner in Leeds on 17 January to which the Minister has been invited. There is much work to be done over the year ahead to plan the route. As I said at the start, this has been a team effort. Although UK Sport may not have been part of the Yorkshire bid, I was delighted that the Minister for Sport promised to back it 100% if we made it. Yes, Yorkshire has got this far on its own, but to make the very best of the event, we need Government support as well. Will the Minister outline the areas in which the Government will help? How do we get every Department behind this event? How do we ensure that we learn everything from the Olympics and London 2012 and transfer that to the Tour in 2014? How do we ensure that the regional growth fund, skills funding, roads funding and broadband are all right behind the Yorkshire Tour; that UK Trade and Investment makes the most of inward investment opportunities and exports; and, most importantly, that UK Sport, British Cycling and other bodies get behind this win financially?

We want to use this event to help rebalance the British economy, and we need the Government’s help to do so. As one of Britain’s great Sports Ministers, I am confident that my right hon. Friend will rise to the challenge, and I look forward to his response. I urge him to meet me, the bid team and other right hon. and hon. Members this week, and I look forward to his being part of this great event, as he was with the Olympics, showing that this Government are the Government for Sport.

I can already state with confidence that Yorkshire’s Tour de France stages will be a world-beating event. When everyone talked about a lasting Olympic legacy, this must surely be it. I thank London 2012 for setting the bar so high, but if it thought that the world got a great reception from the capital, just wait until it gets the Yorkshire treatment in 2014.


Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD):

I pay tribute to my colleague and neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith), whose constituency I see every time I turn right out of my front door. For me, one of the great pleasures of living in Leeds North West is that it borders both the constituency of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), where this historic event will start, and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon. As he knows, when I stand on Otley Chevin, which is a famous hill for cycling, and look down Wharfedale, I can see the north Yorkshire moors, the white horse of Kilburn, the Yorkshire dales, the Yorkshire wolds and the Pennines—all the incredible and wonderful countryside that Yorkshire has to offer.

Friday 4 December is a special day that many of us will remember for a very long time. To win for Yorkshire the grand départ of the Tour de France has been an absolutely sensational coup and an incredible achievement. I want to add my thanks to the team that secured it for our region and pay tribute to their remarkable energy, grit and passion. In particular, I thank Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire and his team, and Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds city council, and his team. I also want to mention the support from all the councils, the chambers of commerce, the business community, the trade unions and the local people, 170,000 of whom “Backed le Bid” online.

As a Leeds MP, I am bursting with pride at the thought that this world-famous event—the biggest sporting event in the world—will start in our home city of Leeds. It is almost hard to take in. Leeds beat Florence, Barcelona and Edinburgh, and it was chosen because it would deliver a better grand départ 2014. That is quite remarkable.

I was delighted to be asked by Welcome to Yorkshire and Leeds city council to be one of the three MP ambassadors, working with my colleagues, my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon and the right hon. Member for Leeds Central. As has been described, the three of us were asked to play a role in promoting the project here, on a political level, and to show that there was support from all the Yorkshire MPs. The turnout in Westminster Hall today reflects that support.

That is why I am delighted that we are to set up a new all-party group, so that we MPs do everything we can—and not only in Yorkshire; it is important to remember that le grand départ will, of course, go from Yorkshire to London. I noted that the Mayor of London rightly welcomed the fact that the Tour de France’s grand départ will have a stage in London. That is great for the capital, but he should have the grace to remember that it was Yorkshire that won that stage for London. It would be appropriate for him to thank the organisers for delivering a stage of the Tour de France in London, because it was Yorkshire that won this bid, and it won it alone.

Back in July, I went to dinner at the delightful Yorebridge house in Bainbridge to meet a legend, Brian Robinson, the first British man ever to complete the Tour de France—a Yorkshire man. He was also the first British man ever to win a stage of the Tour de France. His passion is still for cycling, and his drive—along with that of the other people who have already been mentioned—was inspiring. The scenery that people travel through in Yorkshire really speaks for itself. For a comparison, we might look at what the Commonwealth games did for Manchester. That is precisely what we believe we can achieve in Leeds and Yorkshire as a result of this event.

I am delighted to have a real cycling heritage in Leeds, which is a city with many cycling clubs. In my constituency, there is the Otley Cycle Club; Otley has developed a reputation as a national centre for cycling and as a famous British cycling town. Of course, that was cemented when the first British medal of London 2012 was won by Lizzie Armitstead from Otley in a road race. She became the first Olympic medallist ever from Otley. There is the Otley annual road race, Otley Sportive and a real sense that cycling is one of the main sports of the town.

Of course, MPs today will all be getting excited about what the route of le grand départ might be, and whether it will go through their constituency. The organisers will have to make the decision based on what works best for the race; that is right and proper. However, I am sure that they agree that it is really exciting to have this speculation, and we are all hugely excited. I have already had e-mails from people saying where the race should be; that is the excitement that winning the bid has already generated in Yorkshire. That excitement will only build as we approach 2014.

I need to ask a couple of questions of the Minister, because it is important to know that this bid was won entirely by Yorkshire on its own. As I said, that was a sensational coup, and as has already been said by Labour MPs—I am sure it will be reiterated by us all—what we want to hear from the Minister, now that the Tour has been won for Yorkshire and the UK, including London, is that the Government, UK Sport and British Cycling will give a full and proper commitment, equalling that of the commitment that would have been made if Scotland had won the bid.

I am sure that the Minister has already passed his congratulations to the team from Yorkshire, and he might suggest to the Prime Minister that he write to the Back le Bid team about their incredible achievement. The Prime Minister may have done so already. I was pleased to see his tweet welcoming the successful Yorkshire bid. As a Yorkshire MP, the Deputy Prime Minister also welcomed it in a statement. Could the Minister share his letter of congratulations and that of the Prime Minister with the new all-party group, because we are keen to see congratulations being rightly given to Yorkshire for delivering something on its own to the UK?


The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson):

Let me clear that one up straight away. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; as soon as the result of the bid was announced at the end of last week, the Prime Minister was quick to add his congratulations, and we put out a press release that afternoon, congratulating the bid team.

Let me address another issue that I think one or two people have quite skilfully ducked around: financial assistance. We will come on to what the Government can do to assist the process in due course, but just be aware that the money—the £1.7 million—that was committed to the Scotland bid is national lottery cash. It is not within the gift of Government to allocate that money directly, because that would break the additionality principles under which the lottery was set up, and under which it has operated under successive Governments. It falls to the Government to set the general parameters. We were able to ask UK Sport to increase the amount of money in the major events pot, which it has done very successfully; now £27 million resides there. It is not up to the Government to allocate that funding directly.


Greg Mulholland:

I thank the Minister; that is very helpful. I thank him again for his role in securing the funding for the rugby league world cup, which is the next major international sporting event on these shores. I am sure that, in his role and with his passion for sport, he can assist in securing such events. However, a lot of that is about having the formal backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, of the Government and of UK Sport.

I have one question to put gently to the Minister. When it was clear that the Yorkshire bid was an absolutely superb one, and as it emerged that it had a real chance of success for 2014, why did DCMS and UK Sport not decide to say, “We think this is looking very positive, and perhaps we should now look at supporting it publicly”? There are perhaps lessons there for the future.

However, what is important now is to go forward. I urge the Minister to use his role to speak with UK Sport. Some of its officials’ recollections of the meetings with Welcome to Yorkshire do not exactly tally with those of Welcome to Yorkshire officials, and it is important that we clarify that matter, so that we can find a way of using both organisations, because in the end this is a huge opportunity, as the Minister knows, for UK sport, for British cycling, for the sport of cycling, and—as my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon has already said—for the economy of Yorkshire and the UK. Of course, a lot of that is to do with legacy. Legacy has already been mentioned; it is incredibly important. I believe that there will be a festival of cycling for Leeds at the time of the grand départ, which is a thrilling prospect; there will also be the bike bank. There is a huge opportunity, and we need to put that legacy plan in place now.

I will conclude, as I know that other colleagues wish to express their delight and add their congratulations on this historic win. I just want to put this in perspective: this is the first year that a British man has ever won the internationally famous blue-riband event that is le Tour de France. It was a remarkable achievement. For a team from Yorkshire to then secure the first ever staging of the Tour in the north of England, and only the second ever staging in the UK, in the same year is a remarkable and historic achievement. We want to make this event as big a success as possible, in terms of sport, health and the economy. We look forward to working very closely with the Minister, with UK Sport and with British Cycling, to ensure that this incredible event achieves everything that it can, and that we know it will.


Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con):

Thank you, Mr Gray, for calling me to speak.

It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. May I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on having his crystal ball to hand when he applied for this debate? It is great news that one of the world’s greatest sporting events will be starting in our county in 2014.

When I first heard that Yorkshire was going to bid for the grand départ, I thought to myself, “Mais non! C’est pas possible!” However, I did not reckon on the guile, the craft and the salesmanship of Welcome to Yorkshire. Everyone at our tourism body deserves credit for winning the bid. We have singled out Gary Verity, who did a fantastic job leading the bid, but I would also like to mention Peter Dodd, who did a fantastic job supporting Gary along the way. They should be rightly proud of what they have done; they have turned a rank outsider into a winning bid, and they should be congratulated. Welcome to Yorkshire has a history of delivering success, winning the award for the world’s leading travel marketing campaign three years running and winning the award for Europe’s leading travel marketing campaign twice. They beat worldwide brands such as Expedia and Thomas Cook, tourism organisations such as Visit London, and countries such as Spain and Denmark.

It was only when I met Gary, Peter and their contacts from France to discuss the bid that I reckoned that Yorkshire had a serious chance of securing it. However, I was disappointed to receive a straight bat from the Government when I raised the prospect of supporting Yorkshire’s bid in the House before the summer. I was a little more disappointed that UK Sport did not appear to want to engage with the bid, not even with a supportive letter. Well, it looks like UK Sport backed the wrong horse.

The 5 and 6 July will be fantastic for the north of England, and particularly for Yorkshire, as Leeds will host the grand départ. Two stages of the Tour will need to go somewhere, and I hope the Amaury Sport Organisation, the race organiser, is listening to the debate; indeed, I am sure it is. I want briefly to make the case for part of the Tour to come to my area.


Julian Smith:

In French.


Nigel Adams:

I thought about giving the whole speech in French, but I decided, for reasons of expedience, to deliver it in English.

Selby has a fantastic cycling history. It also has links with France going back more than 950 years, and I will list a few. Members will be intrigued to hear that the town of Selby was founded by a French Benedictine monk—in fact, it was Benedict himself—in about 1067. The fourth son of William the Conqueror, who was French, of course, would go on to become King Henry I, and he was born in Selby, becoming the only English-born Norman monarch. Selby abbey’s patron saint is St Germain, who was based in Auxerre, and evidence suggests he visited Selby.


Julian Smith:

Was St Germain a cyclist?


Nigel Adams:

I do not believe he cycled, but the name of Garmancarr lane, which is in the village of Wistow, is a corruption of Germain’s carr. As I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, carr means low-lying washland. The lane’s name therefore suggests that St Germain held land in the Selby area.

The scientist Smithson Tennant was assisted in discovering two chemical elements in 1804 by two French chemists. Cochrane’s shipyard built many of the ships and supplied some of the barge men for the D-day landings, which made the liberation of France possible—mind you, we also built the ships that helped us defeat the French at Agincourt.


Mr James Gray (in the Chair):

Order. While I am hesitant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman’s speech, which I am very much enjoying, it might help hon. Members to know that six or seven Members still hope to speak. Therefore, it might be courteous if Members could keep their remarks as short as they reasonably can.


Nigel Adams:

Mais oui, Mr Gray.


Mr James Gray (in the Chair):

No, not maybe—definitely. [Hon. Members: “No, ‘Mais oui.’”] Ah, mais oui.


Nigel Adams:

The Tour de France last visited the UK in 2007, when London hosted the grand départ. It is estimated that the Tour brought £90 million to the capital and the south-east. It has been suggested that Yorkshire could benefit to the tune of over £100 million, and perhaps much more with the Government’s backing. As we have heard, the bid had the backing of local authorities, MPs from across the parties, the business community and the area’s people, 170,000 of whom signed the bid. The legacy plans are already being discussed. As we have heard, we are looking at delivering a bike bank and at improved investment in cycle lanes and infrastructure. I hope the Minister will take away the message that, having won the bid, Yorkshire could benefit from financial support in the run-up to the Tour. Although no funding was forthcoming during the bid, I can assure him that any help received now will produce an outstanding return on investment.

This is Yorkshire’s opportunity to welcome the world, and we will do it properly. With the recent success of British riders such as Bradley Wiggins, who became the first Briton to win the Tour, the popularity of cycling has never been higher. I myself have recently dusted down my old boneshaker, although I do not aspire to wear the yellow jersey. I am confident that this fantastic event will inspire more people to take up cycling and that millions of people will cheer on the champions of world cycling in our great county.


Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con):

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing it. I feel something of an intruder, as a Lincolnshire yellow belly, although my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), who has one foot in Lincolnshire, has also come along to the debate.

On being elected to the House, I never anticipated that I would make a speech in favour of the Tour de France passing through Lincolnshire, so this is somewhat bizarre. The ideal route to get out of Yorkshire, should any of my colleagues wish to do so, is over the Humber bridge. That iconic construction would make a fantastic advert for the civil engineering skills of British industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon mentioned that good things come out of Yorkshire, and I have to admit that that is occasionally true, as my wife is from Sheffield. In fact, she comes from a cycling family, and our recent research into our family history indicates that a great or a great-great-uncle—we are still working on it—cycled in the Olympics in the early 1920s, so there is a family connection to cycling.

As I mentioned, the ideal route for those heading south after the delights of the Yorkshire countryside would pass over the Humber bridge. It would then head to the winner of Britain in Bloom, and the east coast’s premier resort, Cleethorpes. From there, the beauty of the Lincolnshire wolds opens up—an area of outstanding natural beauty with magnificent landscapes. The route would then head towards the county town of Lincoln, with its magnificent cathedral high on the hill—it is perhaps even greater, dare I suggest, than York minster.


Julian Sturdy:

I, like my hon. Friend, will make the case for my area. York is a great, historic city, and York minster will make an amazing backdrop for one of the stages of the Tour de France. However, the important thing across the region is not where the stages will be held, but the economic benefit to the north of England and, dare I say it, the country. Even Lancashire might benefit slightly—[Hon. Members: “Oh.”] I say that with a bit of trepidation. However, the important point is the economic benefit the Tour will bring across the region and the country, and I urge everyone, including the Government, to back it.


Martin Vickers:

I welcome my hon. Friend’s intervention. He knows the glories of Cleethorpes, having travelled there only a few months ago in support of my local party, so he can testify to the town’s magnificence. He is quite right to draw attention to the fact that the Tour is a great opportunity to boost our local economies, and I urge all the agencies—tourism boards, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships—to get together and to work closely with the Government and sporting organisations. This is a tremendous opportunity to give a much needed boost to some areas of northern England.

If we can pull this off and get the tour to pass not only through the great county of Yorkshire, but down into Lincolnshire, that will again emphasise the closeness of their links. I urge the Government to co-ordinate every possible agency to work on that, so that we can benefit the whole economy.


Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con):

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing the debate, so that we can celebrate the success. It is excellent news that in 2014 we will welcome the grand départ into Yorkshire. It is a wonderful end to a wonderful sporting year. I also add my congratulations to Gary Verity and the Welcome to Yorkshire team, on the work they did to secure the bid.

The tour is one of the great sporting spectacles of the world, and it is a real coup for it to be coming to Yorkshire. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) that we started the bidding process as outsiders. I know that the tour has visited other countries for its grand départ before, but it has not been in the UK since 2007, and it will be the culmination of a wonderful year for cycling in the UK. The success will bring our county significant benefits in three areas: business, tourism and sporting opportunity.

As to business, huge numbers—predicted to be in the millions—will come to watch and stage the event, which will provide huge inward investment. For tourism the opportunity is slightly longer term. I am a proud Yorkshireman and I know that we have the most beautiful county in the country. We are not called God’s county for nothing. The landscape of Yorkshire will provide a spectacular backdrop for the varied racing: great climbs and sprints, and the great TV that the tour always makes, which the organisers are adept at providing. I am sure, also, that that showcase will add to tourism demand well after the peloton has moved on. We also have a great sporting opportunity—to encourage people to start cycling, to highlight our area for cyclists, to create more cycle routes and to show that cycling is both good for you and fun. There are not many things that that can be said about.


Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) (Lab):

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman speaks of cycling as he does, because it has led the way, in the context of how sports are viewed. Cycling was going nowhere, but it has now become a fantastic competitive sport that we do wonderfully well at, across the gamut, and people enjoy all forms of cycling. The point is well made.


Andrew Jones:

I agree that cycling presents fantastic opportunities to participate at an elite or social level. It is a spectacular sport for people to get involved in. The question now is the route that the tour will take. The correct answer is of course through Harrogate before heading off to Knaresborough, and then Boroughbridge and various other villages. We have a great claim to be part of the route because Harrogate and Knaresborough is one of the spiritual homes of cycling in the UK. You may not realise, Mr Gray, that the Cyclists Touring Club was founded in Harrogate, and a plaque in the town centre commemorates that event. It was founded as the Bicycle Touring Club on 5 August 1878, before being renamed the Cyclists Touring Club a few years later, to accommodate tricycles. Beryl Burton, who I am sure hon. Members will know was five times world champion for individual pursuit, used to race for Knaresborough.

Cycling in Harrogate and Knaresborough has grown almost exponentially in the past few years, with groups such as Wheel Easy leading some of that demand. I hope that the winning of the bid will mean that we take the opportunity to increase investment in cycling, by giving it more weight in transport planning and giving more encouragement to younger cyclists. We need improved cycling facilities to be built into plans for major development—especially commercial ones and expanding transport hubs. We have the opportunity to make a lasting difference to cycling across the county and the country.

The competition for the grand départ was extremely intense. Le bid was a great piece of work. We owe thanks and congratulations to all the team who delivered it. Let us hope that it will inspire future generations. Part of that will be the encouragement of future success through participation in cycling. That will be the legacy of this win.


Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con):

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Gray. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) for securing the debate and for the work that he and others have done on the bid. I pay tribute, too, to Welcome to Yorkshire, which I believe is the only tourism body in the UK that receives no Government funding. It does a fantastic job for our county and region, promoting them both within the UK and internationally. We have heard in the past few minutes how successfully it has done that.

I want to echo my colleagues’ call for the Government to get behind this race now, because potentially it will have a dramatic impact on the local economy. We certainly need that now. I look forward to welcoming the race, wherever it goes in Yorkshire. However, it would be wrong of me not to extol the virtues of the beautiful East Riding of Yorkshire—and, indeed, north Lincolnshire, as I have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) said, a foot in both camps. I live, however, in the East Riding of Yorkshire—not that I favour either, of course. We would love a stage of the race to come to the East Riding of Yorkshire, and, indeed, within a few minutes of the announcement, I was e-mailed by people asking whether we could get the race to our area. Councillors John Barrett and Caroline Fox, who represent the Snaith, Airmyn, Rawcliffe and Marshland ward, in my constituency, put to me a detailed plan of how the route could come from Selby via the A19, the A645 or the A1041 down into Snaith.


Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con):

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the riders went in that direction they would miss the opportunity to come to the Pudsey constituency? Despite the danger of turning the event into the Tour de Yorkshire, I must point out that they would miss the opportunity of seeing the home of real Yorkshire fish and chips, which was of course Harry Ramsden’s based in Guiseley—now run excellently by Wetherby Whaler.


Andrew Percy:

I think, as we say in Parliament, the hon. Gentleman has made his point.

As I was saying, I received a detailed proposal about how, coming from Selby, the race could come through Snaith into Goole. We had a fantastic day when the Olympic torch came to Goole. As my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon mentioned, the crowds in Yorkshire were twice the size of those in the rest of the country. On the morning that we welcomed the torch to Goole, I could not believe how many people had come to support the event. The race could come down and across into the beauties of the rest of the east riding and over the wolds. My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), who cannot be here today because he is chairing the Select Committee on Education, supports that idea. The route could then go across the Humber bridge, which is free to cycles—and £1.50 for cars. It used to be £3, but the Government provided the cash to halve that, following a strong campaign by me and my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes. Then it could go across and round Scunthorpe, and back into south Yorkshire—although my hon. Friend did a wonderful job of trying to steal the entire race for Lincolnshire.

Those are a couple of proposals, but as other hon. Members have said, wherever the route goes in our region, the race will be well supported and a huge success. If it does not come to my constituency or our area, we will get behind it just the same. When we put the press releases out for the petition, several residents contacted me to say they would sign up and get behind the cause. We are all on the same page in our region on the matter. It is a fantastic region and everyone has said how beautiful it is; I do not need to repeat that. I thought that we were going to have a gradient argument earlier, about which area had the biggest. Sadly, I cannot win on gradients, representing as I do the former marshland of Brigg and Goole, but we have a mix of wide open spaces, the coastline, rolling hills and the steep hills of the Pennines. We have got all we need to make the event successful.

I congratulate everyone behind the bid on their work. It is staggering in many ways that it was done by volunteers, and I hope we get Government support. Having made a bid and a pitch for my own patch to be part of the event, I hope that, if not the Tour de France—perhaps it should be the Tour to t’France if it is coming to Yorkshire—future events that we would hope to attract to our region could come to the Brigg and Goole constituency.

I look forward to hearing how the Minister will get behind the event and get full Government support, with perhaps even a bit of cash as well. Being Yorkshire folk, we are a bit tight with our own money, so we would like some from the Government. The event will be fantastic for our region—I think we all agree that its impact on our economy will be pretty big—and I again pay tribute to my hon. Friend for securing the debate.


Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con):

It is an absolute honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing this important debate and on being instrumental in forming the all-party group, which will massively support this exciting venture. I add my thanks to Gary Verity, Peter Dodd and all the team at Welcome to Yorkshire, and also to Tom Riordan. They have had amazing vision, and determination to win the bid, against all the odds, for Yorkshire. This really is an exciting time for our part of the world.

I am not surprised by the interest shown here this morning. There are, I think, a dozen coalition Back Benchers here, and it is amazing to see so much support. The support and interest are not surprising, however, because we all know that cycling is the new rock and roll, and on Sunday evening I had a quick chat with its current lead singer, Bradley Wiggins, at the BBC sports personality of the year awards. I raised the prospect of his cycling in Yorkshire on the Tour in 2014. I will not repeat exactly what he said—we have to remember, of course, that he comes from Lancashire way—but he indicated that he is really looking forward to cycling in Yorkshire.

We have a great history and heritage of cycling in Yorkshire. For example, did Members know that the first British stage winner of the Tour was the now 82-year-old Brian Robinson from Mirfield near Huddersfield? When I announced to some people last week that the Tour de France was coming to Yorkshire, a number of them said, “Tour de France, coming to Yorkshire? How can that work?”, but this will not be the first time that it has come to the UK. The Tour has already visited England three times, and each time the event has got bigger and better. It all started in 1974 with one stage on the Plymouth bypass. In 1994 there were two stages on the south coast and, as many Members have already mentioned, the grand départ came to London in 2007, with a time trial plus one road stage. We now have the grand départ coming to Yorkshire in 2014. It is estimated that Ken Livingstone invested £3.5 million in the 2007 bid, and London got a financial return in excess of £85 million.


Greg Mulholland:

I want to reiterate a point I made earlier that ties in perfectly with that. London will once again host the event, but it has not put a penny in. That is fine, because Yorkshire won the bid, but if that is not an argument for Yorkshire getting some investment from central Government in London, I do not know what is.


Jason McCartney:

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When we talk about investing money, the issue is the kind of return we will get, and that is why I made that point. The event will be excellent value for money. For each pound put in, the multiples that we can get back for the local economy and tourism will be amazing.

Yorkshire could gain—we have heard this figure already—in excess of £300 million in direct revenue, plus masses of media exposure and subsequent tourism benefits. Some 3.6 million people in Britain watched the live coverage of Bradley Wiggins’ historic win on the Tour this year. With more than 1,500 hours broadcast in more than 160 countries and an estimated TV audience of 2 billion viewers worldwide, the Tour de France has reached truly global proportions; that is what Yorkshire can look forward to in 2014. As well as benefits to tourism resulting from spectators, teams and the whole tour entourage coming here, there will of course be the focus of the world’s media from now until 2014, and the opportunity to highlight our area as a place for cyclists to come to and ride in, either on their own or on organised rides.

We have yet to have the route confirmed, but I will continue to bang the drum—as many colleagues have this morning—for the route to sweep through my constituency, the beautiful Colne Valley. We have a gruelling gradient—the picturesque hill climb up to Holme Moss on the Pennines—and TV cameras would relish the opportunity to show off that picturesque Pennines panorama to the world. Holme Moss has already featured in the Tour of Britain and the Leeds classic road races. I remember standing outside the Red Lion pub in Jackson Bridge, where I lived with my family, watching the peloton swish past on the Tour of Britain in the 1990s. After the demise of the BBC’s “Last of the Summer Wine” TV series, which brought tourism to the Holme valley, this exciting and now prominent sport can help to re-energise the local tourism economy in my constituency.

My area has booming cycling participation, helped in no small way by the series of “pedal for pounds” charity bike rides organised by Huddersfield Town football club. Last year, I joined 168 charity cyclists in raising £200,000 for the Yorkshire air ambulance and the Huddersfield Town youth academy, as we cycled the 300 miles from Huddersfield to Brighton over three days. This year, even more cyclists took on the challenge and cycled from Yeovil back to Huddersfield.

My constituency is ready and all fired up to help to make the 2014 Tour de France grand départ just as successful as this year’s Olympic games, if not more so, and to leave a lasting legacy of participation and investment in the local Yorkshire community and the Yorkshire economy. Vive le Tour, and vive le Yorkshire!


Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab):

It is a pleasure to join in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing the debate. As has been said, congratulations are due all round, including, obviously, to Yorkshire for pulling off a coup in winning the bid from under the noses of British Cycling and UK Sport.

I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) that it should not be forgotten that although the event will end in London—and the Mayor of London has welcomed that—this is very much Yorkshire’s bid and Yorkshire’s success. It is an example of what sport can achieve in generating economic activity away from the south-east. It is an enormous opportunity for Yorkshire—and the surrounding areas, as we have heard—to benefit from sport and bring in business, tourism and economic investment. Members who have spoken so far have shown no shortage of determination to achieve that, on the back of the bid.

Congratulations are due to Gary Verity, and to the chief executive of Leeds city council, who must be extraordinarily pleased that his city will host the grand départ of the Tour in 2014. I welcome the fact that there will be an all-party group, because the sporting event will gain enormously from Members of this House working together to maximise the benefits that the Tour can bring to Yorkshire and the surrounding areas. I hope that the group will be based on the Tour, rather than on Yorkshire, so that Members who want to participate and put their case can do so.


Greg Mulholland:

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. My colleague, the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith), and I had a meeting before this debate. As soon as the Tour details are announced on 7 January, we absolutely want people from all around the route to get behind the Tour being in the UK.


Clive Efford:

I am grateful for those comments, which are reassuring. I assumed that that would be the case, and that we would all want to make the most of this tremendous sporting event, which comes on the back of not only an incredible year for British sport—I could spend the next half hour listing the successes in British sport in this golden year of 2012—with the Olympics and Paralympics, but outstanding success for cycling. Over the past decade, cycling has shown the way for other sports, as regards not only how to succeed at the élite end, thereby inspiring participation at all levels, but how to create a base of participation at grass-roots level.

In the Active People survey published two weeks ago, the figures for cycling stood out because of the success in steadily increasing weekly participation over a sustained period. Nearly 2 million people a week participate in regular cycling activity, which is a phenomenal achievement for cycling. Quite rightly, cycling has been recognised for that achievement in Sport England’s allocation of money, which was announced this week: there is to be a substantial increase to £32 million. That allocation recognises that cycling can deliver. Cycling has not only been successful in the past; the process of allocating money through Sport England is about what cycling intends to do in the future. The allocation is very much about all sports’ plans, and cycling clearly has something to contribute in the future, as regards increasing participation.

We have heard from hon. Members about the bid for the Tour to go to Yorkshire, and part of that bid was the proposal that cycling banks be set up across the community. I have been involved with a group that has got together entirely on its own initiative. In my constituency, people are enthusiastic about cycling, and the group will set up a cycling bank so that young people—indeed, people of any age—who do not have access to a bike can go cycling. More importantly, they are providing bikes adapted for people with disabilities, so that they, too, can enjoy the sport—sometimes with the assistance of other members of the club, cycling for them—on bikes that are specially adapted to take wheelchairs. Cycling is a growing area of sport, physical activity and community participation, and I am sure that the cycling banks played a significant part in the success of the Yorkshire bid.


Andrew Percy:

The hon. Gentleman reminds me of something I forgot to say in my speech. He is right that the number of young people getting involved in cycling is growing massively. A couple of days ago, I hosted a meeting with 11-year-olds Rory Kershaw and Ben Lapish, who have come up with a proposal for expanding the trans-Pennine cycleway to our area. That demonstrates that many young people are passionate about cycling as a result of our recent victories.


Clive Efford:

I am glad that I gave the hon. Gentleman that opportunity to finish his speech, and I am sure that the young men are grateful for his comment. I say that in the spirit of today’s debate.

I will not go through the list of colleagues who have spoken, because I am sure the Minister will want to mention every contribution. There were many questions for him to answer. The bid was entirely independent of UK Sport and British Cycling, and with that in mind, I sincerely hope that all parties involved can come together to discuss how we can get the best for the UK out of the significant, fantastic sporting event that is coming our way. UK Sport has an enormous amount of experience in organising and running major international sporting events, and its contribution will be significant. I am sure that UK Sport is willing to put behind it any differences there may have been over which preferred bid should have been supported, and to discuss the event with the organisers to ensure that it goes forwards. I know that is the same for British Cycling. As many of our top British cyclists supported the Yorkshire bid, I am sure there will be a swift coming together. Regardless of whether there was any significant difference of opinion, everyone will now be moving in the same direction and seeking to ensure that the event is an enormous success.

I cannot resist referring to the intervention of the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), who extolled the virtues of fish and chips from his constituency; I assume that they will now be known as fish and French fries. I am sorry, but the temptation was just too great.

I sincerely wish every success for the event. Every one of us will work together to make it an enormous success, and not just for Yorkshire. The event is a well deserved success for Yorkshire, and it is an enormous shop window, as were the Olympics and Paralympics, to show off the UK. With London 2012, we successfully encouraged more visitors to come to the UK and more people to consider the UK as a place to do business. A survey published today by the British Council suggests that that is one of the major successes of 2012. A major international sporting event on the scale of the Tour de France, starting in Yorkshire and travelling south towards London, will be another enormous sporting event for this country, and hopefully it will be the start of an event that brings even more sporting success for this country. I am sure that all of us, working together, will achieve that success and bring benefits to the UK that will be sustainable in the long term.


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