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Olympic Games

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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8.

If she will make a statement on the Government's policy on a London bid for the Olympic games. [113833]

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I made a statement to the House last Thursday announcing the Government's wholehearted backing for an Olympic bid to bring the games to London in 2012.

I welcome that and I think that we are all looking forward to a successful Olympic bid, but there will be huge opportunities across the rest of Britain, as countries competing in the Olympics will need training camps. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that those camps are spread across the UK? May I recommend Herefordshire and Worcestershire as excellent places where they may be situated?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Had he been in the House for my statement last Thursday, he would have heard me say that we want the whole country to benefit from the Olympics. One of the practical ways in which the whole country can benefit is to locate training camps in different parts of the United Kingdom for athletes before the games, which will benefit their communities afterwards.

May I inform my right hon. Friend that not all Members are jumping for joy at the idea of an Olympic bid? Many of us are concerned that areas such as the north-west will lose out because of the bid, so can she assure me that sports funding will be maintained in those regions during the course of the bid?

The opinion polling that the Government undertook before announcing the Olympic bid showed a wide measure of support, including in the north-west, for bidding for the Olympics. However, my hon. Friend has underlined the important point that although the games would be held in London they must be games for the whole United Kingdom. That is why, in our costing of the Olympics, we took care to ensure that, in addition to the development of elite facilities in London, all parts of the country would benefit from facilities for their grass-roots sports.

May I reiterate the support of the Conservative party for the bid? Can the Secretary of State say anything further about the cross-party ministerial group that I suggested to her some weeks ago? Is she prepared to authorise briefings to shadow Ministers about the bid, and when does she expect to introduce legislation specifically to provide for a new lottery game? If the House gave its support to such a game, that would demonstrate to the country and the world at large that our bid is a serious one.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We will introduce at the earliest opportunity legislation for a new lottery game, some details of which Camelot have announced today. The hon. Gentleman or one of his hon. Friends raised the issue of a cross-ministerial group with me on Thursday but I am sure that he accepts that in the intervening three days I have had a heavy reading load, provided by the Treasury, of 18 studies on the euro. However, as a matter of priority, I shall certainly turn my attention to the important issue of ensuring that cross-party support for the Olympic bid is maintained as much as possible.

I am delighted that we are going ahead with the bid, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her decision. Given that we have the only royal harbour in the country and also have expertise in hosting world championship sailing events, can she assure me that she has already pencilled in Ramsgate for the sailing?

In the event that the Secretary of State has not yet done that, how will decisions be made about the ancillary events? Will that be done behind closed doors or will there be an opportunity for the public to express their own ideas and for local communities to make bids?

I thank my hon. Friend, and am struck by the number of hon. Members who have world-class sailing facilities in their constituencies. I am sure that my hon. Friend will ensure that the facilities in his constituency are considered, when the time comes, as part of the array of Olympic facilities that will have to be put in place. He made an important point about the transparency of decisions, which will be an important part of ensuring that the games are not just for London but involve the constituents of right hon. and hon. Members across the country.