COLUMN: Reporting Back with MP Julian Smith

The MP for Skipton and Ripon reports back from Westminster reflecting on the past month.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and wish all readers a very happy new year.

The end of 2012 was an exciting one for Yorkshire as the county pulled off a brilliant coup and won the bid to host the Tour de France’s Grand Depart next year.

I am delighted the organisers chose to start the race here in 2014.It is something I have been supporting for some time and was pleased to be able to meet the race organisers when they visited the UK over the summer.

It will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase Yorkshire to the world, bringing yet another world class sporting event to the UK.

With a global audience of over two billion people watching the Tour de France every year, the backdrop is vital. In Yorkshire you could not ask for more. Some of the most iconic roads and scenery in the country, if not the world, are here.

Yorkshire and the UK has beaten many eminent world cities and countries and everyone in the region is now starting to prepare to ensure the event is a brilliant success. I led a parliamentary debate on this subject on December 18.

During the debate, I said: “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 Depart—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 Depart 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, Theakston’s and Black Sheep will all give a warm welcome to visitors. The Tour stages in 2014, in Yorkshire, will be the best ever.”

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

I have already had discussions with UK Sport on what assistance they can give and have requested meetings with the Business Secretary Vince Cable and Lord Heseltine.

2012 was an amazing year of sport and success. Succeeding in bringing the Grand Depart to Yorkshire means that we can now look forward to keeping our amazing area in the worldwide spotlight.