Skip to main content

2012 Olympics (Lottery Costs)

Volume 459: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

4. What assessment her Department has made of the likely effect of the cost increases for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games on lottery good causes funding for grassroots sport. (131507)

I obviously gave careful and close consideration to the impact on community sports clubs and facilities, and would like to set out clearly the assurances I have given them. First, there need be no impact on current lottery-funded projects, so secondly, no current lottery-funded community sport project need lose its funding. Thirdly, I remind the House of the commitment I have entered into with the Mayor of London: after the games when the land is sold there will be a profit-sharing agreement which will mean that the first call, after the London Development Agency has been repaid, will be that the lottery, too, will be repaid. Those are the commitments. I understand the concern in community projects, but my message to them is that we have addressed those concerns.

I thank the Secretary of State for her reply. Obviously, we all want the Olympics to leave a positive legacy for sport in our communities, but Sport Scotland has reported that the recent spiralling costs of the Olympics will lead to a further £7.3 million cut in funding for grassroots sport in Scotland. How can the Secretary of State talk about real benefits from the Olympics for grassroots sport when owing to her budgeting incompetence grassroots sport will face real cuts?

Presumably the hon. Lady subscribes to the manifesto on which she and her colleagues are standing in the Scottish election and which bears directly on the question; it welcomes the opportunity of the Olympics to boost participation through investment in community sports. That is precisely what the Government are ensuring.

In 1908, we introduced gold medals for culture in the Olympics. Can my right hon. Friend reassure us that there will be no cuts in the cultural part of the Olympics and that over the next four years we shall still be able to innovate?

The answer is definitely yes. My hon. Friend frequently comes up with imaginative and innovative ideas, and I hope that he will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and I continue to have the benefit of his thoughts on this issue. It is important to view the Olympics not just as a great opportunity for sport, but as a great national and international opportunity for arts and culture. The cultural Olympiad begins next year, when Liverpool is the capital of culture and we become the host city after the Beijing games—it is a great opportunity for the whole country.

The Secretary of State has assured us that there will be no cut in current plans for lottery expenditure as a result of the Olympics, but can she give me her assurance that there will be no cuts in promised lottery funds, which might withdraw the funding for really important community projects, including the Stonehenge visitor centre?

I cannot give the same sort of categorical commitment because the whole purpose in establishing agreement on lottery funding as we did was to ensure that present commitments were met. What will be affected—but not until 2009—are prospective commitments and future plans. However, because of the safeguards that I outlined to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), those matters will be revisited once the lottery is repaid in 2013. It would not be convincing for me to give a categorical and blanket assurance, but I would expect that the vast majority of commitments currently entered into by the lottery will be seen through, regardless of the take in 2009 that will affect future commitments and future plans.

Will the Secretary of State pay tribute to those unsung heroes in sport—namely, local volunteers such as my constituent, Martin Devlin, whose boxing gym is bursting at the seams? Would it not be ironic if the greatest sporting spectacle that this country will ever have seen—the Olympics—were to deprive that boxing gym of its much needed extension? Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss the matter further?

I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend, for two reasons. First, I hope to hear more about the community boxing club in his constituency, which is obviously providing an invaluable service; and, secondly, in order to underline the important potential for boxing as a sport—a particularly underestimated community sport—for young men. More broadly, I would like to provide reassurance that the lottery contribution to the Olympic special cause is not bought at the price of excellent community projects such as the one that my hon. Friend mentions.

Essential local services in my constituency, such as NeighbourCare and Speakeasy Advocacy, provide important and fundamental services to the elderly and people with learning difficulties, but they are already finding it difficult to secure lottery funding. What assurances can the Secretary of State give me and the people of Basingstoke that that situation will not get worse if there are further miscalculations about how much the Olympics will cost us?

There have been no miscalculations about how much the Olympics are going to cost. The budget has been set and it will be kept to. I would say to the hon. Lady that it is completely unrealistic to ask for the sort of categorical assurance that every single lottery application will be met. It depends on whether it meets the criteria for the lottery distributors and so forth. What the Government have done is to assemble an Olympic budget that will stand the test of time and deliver a legacy for this country. What we have not yet heard is what the Opposition’s alternative might be.

I hear what my right hon. Friend says about lottery-funded schemes, but will she comment on the suggestion that Sport England is to divert £26 million from the sort of schemes mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn) into the Olympics? Can she give us the same sort of reassurance on that front?

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend the same sort of reassurance. I do not recognise the figure that he mentioned, but as ever, I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend or help him to meet the chairman of Sport England in order to put his mind at rest about that.

Between now and 2012, the total cut in the lottery funding budget for grass-roots sports amounts to nearly £500 million. How does the Secretary of State square that with seeking to persuade the House that there will not be a reduction in participation for grass-roots sports? The Minister for Sport may say that Mr. Derek Mapp, who has been much quoted already, is wrong to suggest that the cut to Sport England is a cut too far. Is the Secretary of State therefore surprised that Sport England is now reducing its target for people participating in sport by nearly 200,000?

I simply do not recognise the claim of a cut of £500 million. That is the kind of financial probity that we have come to expect from the Liberal Democrats, which is why I am afraid that—[Interruption.]

Although I welcome my right hon. Friend’s assurances so far about current budgets, I received over the Easter recess several lobbies from grass-roots sports clubs, so the message is not getting through—something encouraged in some cases by what one might call mischievous local election candidates. Will she consider giving a written assurance or a co-ordinating body an assurance, so that local organisations will get the message properly?

My hon. Friend has done an enormous amount for her constituents in trying to get the message out clearly and to win community sports facilities, both through the lottery and other sources, for her constituents. Yes, I will certainly take any suggestions that she thinks might be helpful to overcome some Opposition Members’ misrepresentations.

In her statement to the House last month on the revised 2012 budget, the Secretary of State gave the broad headings for the new figures, but since then has failed to supply a more exact and detailed breakdown of costs. When will she provide an open, honest and transparent budget as a matter of urgency?

The Olympic Delivery Authority will publish its budget, which will be set out in full. At every turn, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have been open and transparent in ensuring that the Opposition have access to the figures and, as importantly, that Londoners and people who will be affected also have access to them.

That will come as some news to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson), who is still waiting to hear from the right hon. Lady about this precise matter.

We have seen speculation in the media in recent weeks and in off-the-record briefings that the Chancellor is set to remove responsibility for the Olympics from the Secretary of State’s Department. If that were to happen, what does she think it would say about her handling of the games? Would she not take that as a personal failure and a humiliation for her Department?

One of the jobs of government is to deal with issues, problems and challenges as they arise, rather than being diverted by some of the rather fanciful speculation in the papers.

May I ask my right hon. Friend to ignore the whinging by Opposition parties, which were quick enough to jump on to the bandwagon for the Olympic games and now want to criticise? But may I go back to something that she said in her original answer about the knock-on effect of moneys going to other areas? In Scotland, we would very much like to see some of that money, particularly in Glasgow for our bid for the Commonwealth games in 2014.

As my hon. Friend knows, we expect to make a formidable and very important bid, and we will do precisely the same if it is one for Glasgow as we did for the Commonwealth games for Manchester. Of course, as I have said many times from the Dispatch Box, it is absolutely vital that we ensure that the whole country has the opportunity to benefit, as the people of the country have given such strong support for the Olympics.