I shall be meeting the new Mayor of London on Wednesday to discuss our preparations for the Olympic games. I welcome the fact that he shares the great priorities of his predecessor: to ensure a positive legacy, and to minimise any further cost to the London council tax payer.
Just as I worked closely with the last Mayor, I shall work closely with the new Mayor, who will co-chair the Olympic Board. However, I am sure that the whole House will want to take this opportunity to record its gratitude and appreciation for the long service—eight years—of Ken Livingstone as Mayor. He brought enormous distinction to the first mayoralty of London and great wealth and benefit to London, which included his playing a key part in London’s securing the Olympic games.
I am enormously grateful to the Minister for her reply, particularly her reference to the last Mayor’s ability to keep the Olympic budget down. As she will know very well, he recently said:
“I decided to bid for the Olympics…because…it was the only way of getting any government…to invest billions of pounds in rebuilding the East End”.
When he was told that that made it sound like a con trick, he said “Literally, absolutely!” Given that it was a con trick, is the Minister pleased that the new Mayor of London, with whom she will co-chair the board, is a much more serious politician, who will be an asset to London and to the Olympics?
I think we have gone beyond the point at which campaign insults can usefully be traded across the Dispatch Box. The Government made the clear decision that if we secured the Olympics, they would be used to drive the regeneration of the east end of London. That was not a con trick, but a clear commitment by the Government to bringing new homes and jobs to one of the most deprived parts of London.
I firmly believe that my right hon. Friend is well placed to hold discussions not only with the Mayor of London, but with all other people who are determined to make the games successful. Will she be sure to oversee such matters as transport, so that my constituents can get the very best out of what I expect to be fantastic games?
Of course. The opportunity to upgrade London’s transport infrastructure is one of the great legacies that the games will leave, while the Olympic transport plan will enable my hon. Friend’s constituents and those of other Members to travel to them safely and easily.
In a recent article in the Manchester Evening News, Lord Coe said he regretted that London’s sporting facilities lagged 30 years behind those of the great northern cities. Given that enabling young people through sport was one of the key commitments of the London bid, what will the Minister be doing—both as Olympics Minister and as London Minister—to correct that?
There are two issues. It is still true that too many of our sporting facilities are too old to be attractive to young people, but over the past seven or eight years some 4,000 new facilities have been built, many with lottery money and increasingly as part of Building Schools for the Future. Hosting the Commonwealth games was a great driver of sport regeneration for Manchester and the north-west. The hon. Gentleman has already heard this afternoon about the remarkable achievements of the school sport programme, which is transforming sport for young people in schools. It will continue to build an element of the great legacy towards 2012 in ensuring that a generation of young people’s lives are transformed through sport.