Skip to main content

Costs Estimate

Volume 473: debated on Monday 10 March 2008

The cost of the games remains within the overall funding package of £9.325 billion that I announced in March 2007. As the House will no doubt recall, that was confirmed in my written ministerial statement on 10 December 2007, which provided further details of the Olympic Delivery Authority’s baseline budget. The overall cost of the main venues remains broadly in line with the bid book that we submitted in support of our bid, taking into account the difference in time between the submission of the bid book and the games and therefore allowing for inflation, VAT and the provision of contingency consistent with industry best practice.

I thank the Minister for that comprehensive answer. However, it was recently revealed that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is spending an average of £1 million a week on consultants. My constituents are naturally concerned about that figure. Will the Minister assure me and the rest of the House that we are getting value for money from those consultants and that the budget will not spiral any higher because of increasing consultancy fees?

I do not recognise the figure that the hon. Gentleman quotes, but I am happy to write to him on the issue. Certainly, in the early days of the Government Olympic Executive, consultancy was used while the unit’s capacity was being established, but recruitment has now delivered high quality staff who have a key responsibility for making sure that the public investment in the games is safeguarded.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that a significant amount of money in the Olympics budget is devoted to making sure that volunteers from across the country can come to London and take part in the running of the Olympics? It would surely be unfair if a young person from the Rhondda found it more expensive to help out than a young person from Kensington and Chelsea.

Let me answer that question in two parts. Certainly, the Olympics will act as a catalyst for an enormous increase in voluntary activity right across the country; that is clear. We want to support that and to support communities in doing it, whether through schools, clubs for elderly people or sport clubs. There is also the issue of the 70,000 volunteers that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will require for the games. I join my hon. Friend in underlining the importance of recruiting those volunteers from across the country; that is consistent with our message that the Olympics are the UK’s games in London.

As both a London MP and the Minister for the Olympics, the right hon. Lady is well aware of the current controversy about the closure of local authority swimming baths and the lack of 50 m pools in London; it has much fewer than any other capital in western Europe. Will she confirm to the House today that she will be able to draw on lottery cash when she puts together her plans for the Olympic sporting legacy, and that she intends to put swimming at the centre of that sports legacy?

The hon. Gentleman will know that last week, the schedule of over 600 venues for training camps, approved by international federations, was published by the organising committee. The camps are all over the country, which is a mark of the very high standard of facilities in the UK. On his specific point about swimming, there are risks in making generalised commitments about the retention or otherwise of individual swimming pools. I am sure that he and I share the aim of ensuring that more young people—and indeed people of all ages—take part in swimming. We know that modern facilities and coaching are the best way of attracting people to take up new sports. I do not think that we should necessarily hang our hats on the retention of every swimming pool, but we should continue the drive, which has been so successful since 1997, to refurbish and increase the number of facilities. That is why more children and young people are playing sport.

The Minister rightly says that one of the important reasons why we are expending so much money on the Olympics is to ensure the legacy, and not just deliver the games. However, a far greater amount has now been taken from the lottery to meet the costs. The amount is equivalent to a £1 million cut in every single right hon. and hon. Member’s constituency. That will seriously damage the ability to provide support for grassroots arts, culture and heritage, and to provide the necessary legacy. Will she tell the House what she personally has done to persuade the Chancellor, in his Budget on Thursday—[Hon. Members: “Wednesday!”]—sorry, Mr. Speaker; Wednesday—to change the taxation of the lottery, so that more goes to the Treasury and back to good causes?

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that discussions are under way. At the time of the Payments into the Olympic Lottery Distribution Fund etc. Order 2008, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), made it clear, without pre-empting the outcome, that there was a commitment to looking at gross profits tax as an alternative tax regime. In addition, the new lottery licence is expected to increase the income available for good causes. The hon. Gentleman has been thoroughly briefed on the issue, so he will know about the efforts that were made, successfully, to ensure maximum protection for good causes. I know that, like me, he will recognise that between now and 2012, the Olympics is a legitimate, additional good cause. Nothing will impel young people to take up sport in quite the same way as the Olympics in London in 2012.