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Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

2. If she will make a statement on the opportunities and procedures for volunteering in relation to hosting the 2012 Olympics. (172190)

The London Organising Committee estimates that 70,000 volunteers will be needed for the 2012 games. Since we won the bid, some 160,000 people have registered their interest in becoming volunteers for the games. We hope that, beyond the 70,000 who will be recruited to work in the Olympic park, there will be opportunities for people around the country who wish to volunteer, so that the good will and enthusiasm is all used.

I thank the Minister for her reply, but what would she say to my formidable constituency secretary, Marjorie Ramsey, who could probably organise the London Olympics single-handed, who telephoned to offer her services and was told that she was too old? What will the Minister do to ensure that the London Organising Committee operates an equal opportunities policy?

I would say that that was a shocking and no doubt wholly unintended offence. Perhaps on the strength of the publicity that Marjorie Ramsey’s application has been given, she will phone again.

I understand that, when people put their names forward to be volunteers, they are told to go off and do some volunteering activity. Does my right hon. Friend think that we need to have something more coherent and planned in relation to volunteers to ensure that they are properly equipped and trained to do the job when it comes up?

My hon. Friend makes some important points. This is an opportunity to engage not just people in the Olympic park, but some of the most disadvantaged people across the 11 London boroughs, who will have their first opportunity to learn skills through volunteering that could get them the job that they have never had. There are many opportunities, and volunteering as a way of acquiring and developing skills is one of the great legacy opportunities for the Olympics which we intend to realise.

Given that it will encourage even more people to volunteer for this wonderful project if the financial arrangements are sound, can the Minister not only guarantee that the budget will be transparent but answer the question dodged by the Secretary of State and guarantee that the London Olympic precept will not be raised by the current Labour Mayor?

May I thank the right hon. Lady for the briefing that her Department gave me this morning?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) said, volunteers are key to the delivery of the pledges on mass participation that were such an important part of London’s bid in Singapore. Given that the budget announced this morning confirms that only £290 million is available for very specific sports tasks related to the Olympics, and, of course, that the national lottery is being hit further to pay for the Olympics themselves, how on earth will the commitments on mass participation in sport be met?

I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the birth of his son, James, who will probably be a bit too young to be a volunteer, even in 2012.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point in that there is certainly provision in the budget—some £290 million—to cover the cost of not only some elite sport, but some community sport development. However, outside and beyond the Olympic budget, which will regenerate the park and build the transport and venues, there are the Olympic opportunities that will be met right across government and will boost participation in both sport and physical activity. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has clearly described, that will be one of the important ambitions that will be realised, and the detail will be set out when we publish the legacy action plan next year.