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Olympic Games

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

The candidature file set out the key costs of staging the games. Since then, it has become clear that, in certain areas such as security, there are cost pressures. We are seeking to mitigate those pressures wherever we can, by cost reductions and by maximising the value of the Olympic site itself. That work is continuing.

Given last month’s confusion over the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games—LOCOG—budget, will the Secretary of State provide the House with an accurate estimate of the Government’s contribution to infrastructure improvements in the east end? How much of that is specific to the Olympics, and how much would have been done anyway? Will the Secretary of State consider moving more of the events to places outside London—where facilities either already exist or could be provided more cheaply—such as Much Wenlock in my constituency, which is the home of the modern Olympiad, as she knows?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has been a champion of bringing Olympic benefits to his constituency. I shall be taking part shortly, along with colleagues on both sides of the House, in the Olympic roadshow, which will be travelling around the country between 6 and 27 July. I am quite sure that Much Wenlock is on our itinerary, as it should be. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the benefits of the Olympic games—which will be considerable in economic terms—should be felt around the country, and that is the overriding purpose of the Olympic tour.

In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s first question, I am sure that he will understand that the answer will depend on the conclusion of discussions and negotiations about the balance between the publicly funded parts of the Olympic park and those that might be funded by the private sector. It will be easier to give him an accurate answer when the Olympic Delivery Authority publishes its corporate plan in the autumn.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an important part of the Olympics involves ensuring that funding is directed to the next generation of sports stars? Will she therefore look into the reasons why The Northern Echo newspaper in the north-east, which wants to raise funds for youngsters as part of its Olympic Dream campaign, has been blocked by the 2012 Olympic organising committee from using the word “Olympic” in the campaign? This public-spirited campaign has a lot of support in the north-east, but it is being blocked by bureaucratic nonsense.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I suspect that similar questions will come up quite often between now and the opening of the games. There are two elements of which he needs to be aware. The first is that the legislation precludes any kind of commercial association with the Olympics unless it is borne out by financial sponsorship. That protection has been established by the International Olympic Committee to address some of the issues that my hon. Friend raised in his first question.

That said, however, I am absolutely determined, as is my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, to ensure that young people from right around the country benefit from this unique opportunity to take part in sport, glorified by the Olympics. The UK school games has already been established, and we will work with colleagues on both sides of the House to ensure that the legislation required by the IOC is interpreted properly and proportionately and does not put off young people or key local sponsors from taking part in the Olympics.

I wish the Secretary of State well in her efforts to mitigate any costs overrun, but can she give some clarity as to who will pay for any overrun? I represent a London seat, and my constituents already face a substantial bill over a long period. Can she assure me that the costs overrun will be borne nationally, not just by the people of London?

No, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. He knows that the agreement that was signed, which is part of the candidate file, made it absolutely clear that there was a budget that would fund the infrastructure for the Olympic games and that any costs beyond that would be met on the basis of a shared agreement, as at that time unspecified, between the lottery, the council tax payer and, ultimately, the Exchequer. It is worth reminding him that the costs of the Olympic games, again as a requirement of the IOC, are ultimately underwritten by the Exchequer.

The hon. Gentleman and his Front-Bench colleagues will know that the overriding consideration is to keep the cost of the Olympic games down, to maximise the benefit of the legacy and to maximise the benefit to young people in communities in every constituency in the country.

My right hon. Friend is aware that the rest of the UK will benefit from the 2012 London Olympics, but can she advise the House, given that other cities will benefit, whether other, devolved bodies will be expected to make any financial contribution towards the London Olympics?

There is no assumption that any direct funding will come from any of the devolved authorities. Obviously, the lottery will be a major contributor to the costs of the Olympics, and funding the Olympics means that there will be some diversion from other good causes, so indirectly there will be a consequence for the devolved Administrations. The funding formula for the Olympics has been clearly set out and the Olympic lottery is doing very well—better than we expected—but, no, there is no intention that, other than through the lottery, there should be a direct impact on any of the devolved Administrations.

The Secretary of State will be well aware that the £625 million already agreed as London taxpayers’ burden for the Olympics includes £50 million for cost overruns such as she has described as possibly occurring. Will she then at least agree to cap London’s burden at that £625 million, given that an overrun is already included in that figure?

As well as being Secretary of State, I am Member of Parliament for a London constituency. My constituents are as concerned as those of the hon. Lady about the impact on the council tax. It is our responsibility to ensure that the council tax burden is minimised. We have had here and in another place many debates on whether the ultimate amount should be capped, and the reasons as to why not have been clearly set out.

The Secretary of State has said that her constituents, like mine in Uxbridge, are concerned about the cost and the legacy of the Olympics. Is she aware that in the London borough of Hillingdon we have plans for a 25 m pool ready to go ahead, but we are just waiting for a little more investment from either Sport England or the Government to make it a 50 m pool, which would be a superb legacy for the swimmers of west London? A 50 m pool is desperately needed in west London, so can she give us a little hope that her Department will look into this matter a little more seriously?

I am delighted that a new pool is planned for the young people of Hillingdon. The decision on whether it will be a 25 m or a 50 m pool should be made by Sport England, and should be made in the context of proper distribution of 50 m pools—which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are the standard facility required for competitions.

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman conclusively at this stage whether Hillingdon is the prime location for a 50 m pool, but I am sure that the pool will be a much-used facility if it measures 25 m. I suggest, however, that on behalf of his constituents the hon. Gentleman should arrange to meet representatives of Sport England, and representatives of UK Sport if necessary, to discuss the distribution of pools and whether Hillingdon is the right place for one.

Obviously my right hon. Friend will be considering funding issues, but does she recognise that Lancashire can play a role in the Olympics too? I am thinking particularly of Chorley, which hosted the mountain biking and road cycling events in the Commonwealth games. Could my right hon. Friend find funds to support a sporting village in the Chorley constituency?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will raise that with me on many occasions between now and 2012.

Our intention and hope is that a combination of increased Government investment in sporting facilities and the activities of local clubs, local authorities and the private sector will produce a substantial rise in the number of facilities not just in my hon. Friend’s constituency, but throughout the country. I look forward to having many more discussions with my hon. Friend, and support his advocacy of a sporting village in his home town.

The question of how we empower young people through sport remains the one wholly uncosted element of the entire Olympic equation. Given that the amount of lottery funding for sport has fallen from £390 million in 1998 to £264 million last year, and given that the proposed big lottery fund has only £19 million earmarked for it, how will the Government finance the key Singapore commitment to empowering young people through sport?

I would not rely only on lottery money, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is spent principally on facilities. Some 2,000 new facilities have been or are being developed on the strength of lottery funds. The programme is not yet complete; it will be complete next year.

The hon. Gentleman should incorporate in his sums the money that is being invested in school sport—some £500 million a year—the money being invested in coaches, the money being invested in the talented athlete scholarship scheme and, of course, the money being invested by the Chancellor in the development of elite sport, as announced in the Budget. It will help participation to ensure—and this will be done by 2010—that every child engages in at least two hours of sport each week in curriculum time and has the opportunity to take part in sporting activity outside school, and that there is competition in schools for young people.

The hon. Gentleman must accept that the money that has been invested over the past three years is now producing results. It is producing results for one specific reason: this Government are wholeheartedly committed to sport being part of every child’s life, and we have provided the means for that to happen.