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Site Landscaping

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

Before I answer the hon. Lady’s question, I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate Team GB on its extraordinary performance in Beijing in the summer, where it came fourth in the medal table, and also to congratulate the really amazing and uplifting performance and achievement of our Paralympic athletes, who came second in the medal table—a foretaste of what is to come in London in 2012.

As for the landscaping of the Olympic park, the total budget for landscaping the site is more than £240 million. The Olympic Delivery Authority announced in late September that Edmund Nuttall would be the contractor to manage the delivery of the northern section of the Olympic park. That firm will procure and manage a large number of specialist subcontractors and suppliers, which means that there will be many further opportunities for businesses around the country, through the CompeteFor network, to bid to be part of landscaping the Olympic park.

May I echo the Minister’s remarks, and may I also say that the investment and foresight of John Major in creating the lottery for the purpose of the Olympics has been vindicated many times over? Is the Minister aware that the landscaping contracts are subject to environmental constraints—such as all materials needing to be brought to the Olympics site by barge—and does she not think it perverse that a German company is being allowed to contract for the landscaping project in preference to Johnson’s of Whixley in Vale of York, and other British companies?

On the hon. Lady’s point about the achievement of investment in sport, yes, the lottery has certainly played an invaluable role in funding our athletes, but so too has the sevenfold increase in the funding of Sport England since 1997. On the detail of the contracts that she has raised, and particularly on her specific constituency interest, I shall be very happy to write to her.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that David Higgins and his team in the Olympic Delivery Authority have done a magnificent job in the preparation of the Olympic park, including the environmental work and the soil cleaning, and that it is essential that they should have the maximum freedom to award contracts in a way that will deliver most cost-effectively and successfully? That kind of political interference—suggesting that contracts should be awarded by individual Members of Parliament—is entirely inappropriate to the successful running of the Olympic games.

As I am sure that every Member of the House will recognise, being an advocate for businesses in their local area is entirely legitimate, but my right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that value for money and timeliness will be the criteria by which the award of contracts will be judged.

May I associate colleagues on this side of the House entirely with the Minister’s congratulations to our Olympians and Paralympians? She will be aware that the ODA has spent a lot of time touring the party conferences over the past three weeks, warning of the necessary increases in the budget to deal with the current economic situation. However, the landscaping contract, among others, must also be subject to pressures in the opposite direction. Building cost inflation is now lower than it was, and the labour market has eased. Will she arrange for the ODA to present a statement to the House, following her report in July, to show which costs have gone down, as well as showing those that have gone up?

The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the reporting arrangements that apply, as well as the level of transparency, the three-monthly reports and the regular briefings that are provided to members of the Opposition parties. There is ample opportunity to examine those figures in the way that he suggests, including through the Select Committee, without placing a further burden on the ODA, which is getting on with the job of delivering the Olympic park on time and on budget, and doing it very well.