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Departmental Reorganisation

Volume 463: debated on Monday 23 July 2007

21. How she expects the recent departmental reorganisation to affect the delivery of London 2012; and if she will make a statement. (151115)

As I have said, with five years to go, the Olympic programme now moves into the next phase of delivery. It will require intense ministerial oversight and scrutiny of the building programme, as well as an increased focus to ensure that the resources of the whole of Government are mobilised and focused on delivering on the five legacy promises that were announced last month. These games are arguably the most ambitious in terms of legacy—a point commented on by the International Olympic Committee, which said that the legacy ambition of the London Olympics would serve as a model for future games. That is why it is important to have a dedicated Minister for the Olympics and why I am delighted to be that Minister.

I congratulate the Minister on her new appointment and thank her for her kind reply. A recent Public Accounts Committee report said that it was important that her Department had a plan of

“what needs to be decided, when and by whom.”

Does she share the concern of many people that the reorganisation in her Department has blurred the lines of responsibility, and what does she propose to do to allay those fears?

I do not accept the fears that lie behind a perfectly legitimate question. The important thing is to set out clearly the facts and how the divisions of responsibilities will work. I am responsible in Government for the Olympic games. There is a large level of public investment—62 per cent. of the overall provided-for budget will come from the Exchequer—and it is important that that is properly safeguarded. The division of responsibilities is clearly established and was set out last week in a written answer. We have very much followed the precedent of other successful cities in ensuring proper Government engagement at the proper level of ministerial oversight.

First, I welcome my right hon. Friend to her renewed responsibility for the Olympics. Whatever the framework within the Department, which rightly has to oversee the project, it is crucial to recognise that she has, in the Olympic Delivery Authority and in the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, absolutely first-class teams of professionals who are well capable of delivering an exemplary Olympics. Will she ensure that they are allowed to get on with the job so that we are the success that most international commentators believe that we are, and will she not be swayed by the frankly unfocused and sometimes rather outdated criticisms that we hear from the Opposition and from certain quarters in this building?

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. It is entirely legitimate to question and challenge the progress of the Olympic games, but it would not be right for people to lack confidence in the team in place at the ODA, who are widely recognised as world class. Unlike many of the armchair commentators and more sceptical contributors to the debate, they have built towns and cities, whereas those armchair commentators have probably not even built a garden shed.

I was about to start by welcoming the right hon. Lady back to her old job in the new Ministry. As she is aware, the Olympics enjoy cross-party support, and we wish her well. However, may I take her back to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara)? Could she explain to the House, very simply, why the Government think that it is more efficient to put the budget holders and civil servants in one Department and the Minister in another than to put them all in the same Department together?

We think so for two reasons. First, realisation of legacy is absolutely critical to the wider responsibility of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and secondly, it is one of the aspects of the Olympic bid that defined our programme as being different and more ambitious, whether in relation to the scale of the cultural Olympiad or, as mentioned in earlier exchanges, the sporting legacy.

It is not just a matter, as most countries recognise, of becoming a world-class sporting nation in terms of elite performance, but in terms of participation and of sport in schools. Those arrangements are within the custody and oversight of the DCMS, but there is a further aspect to the legacy ambition that relates to transport and other infrastructure. There are issues relating to security and the use of health services during the games. That dual reach—