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Budget (Essex)

Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

1. What estimate she has made of the proportion of the budget for the 2012 Olympic Games which will be spent in Essex; and if she will make a statement. (172189)

Weald country park in Essex will host the mountain biking at the Olympic games. There will be enormous opportunities for the people of Essex and the rest of the UK to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities, the chance to volunteer and the cultural events that will form part of 2012. I also draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the statement that I issued this morning confirming that, following a detailed review, the baseline budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority remains at £6.1 billion, with a contingency of just over £2 billion, within the total Government funding package I announced in March of £9.325 billion.

I am grateful for that answer, but I still have no real information about how much of the budget will be spent in Essex. Most of the county is within an hour of the Olympic site and, in order for it to partake in the construction and the service industry that will make the games the great success that they must be, and for Essex people to go and enjoy the games, we need our infrastructure upgraded. Will any of the money be spent on improving our roads and railways so that we can contribute to the games?

There will be substantial opportunities for businesses in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to compete for the thousands of contracts that will be let over the next few months. He should ensure that all businesses receive electronic alerts to let them know that contracts are becoming available and he should encourage his constituents to volunteer for the games. There will also be opportunities in relation to training camps and so on. The initiative lies with Essex because the Olympic opportunities are available.

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport about the need to sort out the parlous junction of the A13 and M25 just north of the Dartford-Thurrock crossing before the Olympic games? Unless that is addressed, many visitors to the Olympics will be frustrated. I want to see joined-up government, because we need some movement on that issue.

Certainly, transport infrastructure investment is an important part of the Olympic legacy, in the area around the Olympic park in London and elsewhere. I am happy to write to my hon. Friend about the junction he refers to.

A year ago, in relation to the Olympic budget, the Minister told the Select Committee:

“I want to be absolutely sure that nobody draws any conclusion that ‘programme contingency’ translates inevitably into ‘additional cost’.”

Now that the chairman of the ODA and the permanent secretary have both suggested that it is likely that it will all be extra cost, can the Minister say whether she expects that any of the programme contingency will remain unspent?

Let me answer the hon. Gentleman’s question with two points. First, as he is well aware, the contingency provision that is available to the ODA, at just over £2 billion, is net of £500 million that has already been allocated through the internal government funders committee to the ODA. Secondly, it is important to be clear that the money drawn from contingency is to meet risks that may be encountered as the development proceeds. Over the next six months, some £5 billion of projects related to the Olympic park will be commissioned and will begin. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that contingency meets risk, and, no, it is not certain that the whole contingency will be drawn down, but the chairman of the ODA is absolutely right: we will be clear about that only when the games are over. However, the probability assessment, which confirms the robustness of the budget, gives us grounds for optimism that not all the contingency will be used.