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Volume 486: debated on Monday 19 January 2009

The Minister for the Olympics was asked—

Private Sector Partners

1. How many private sector partners for the London 2012 Olympics had been secured at the latest date for which figures are available. (248291)

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games has secured 12 private sector sponsors from each of the three tiers by value for London 2012. In addition, there are a further nine worldwide partners secured by the International Olympic Committee. LOCOG has raised about two thirds of the domestic sponsorship that it needs in order to stage the games, and it is worth recording that this is an unprecedented achievement at this stage. In spite of the challenging economic environment and the reported difficulties faced by Nortel, three new sponsors have been announced since last week: Adecco, Boston Consulting Group and Atkins.

I am grateful to the Minister for that response, and everyone wants the Olympics to be a great success, but what price success? What reassurance can the Minister give to the people of London, as well as to my constituents in Shropshire and people nationally, that tax will not rise and they will not have to face yet another tax bombshell because of a lack of planning by this Government—and, dare I say, maladministration—irrespective of whether the Government are using the credit crunch as an excuse?

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the budget for the Olympics of £9.325 billion—for the construction, security and so forth—is the same now as it was when I announced it back in March 2007. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman’s Front-Bench colleagues will accept, they have unprecedented access to the figures and they are properly briefed—as, indeed, they should be. Delivering this project on budget and on time is a discipline that prevails every single day, which is why all the venues are on time and, apart from some of the current equity difficulties in the private sector, they are also on budget.

Further to that answer, can the Minister give more detail on how expenditure is being rescheduled and what that change in scheduling might be if there is any increased spending at this stage to deal with any shortfall in private money?

As the House has been told on many occasions, the baseline budget for constructing the park of £6.1 billion also has access to a contingency of £2 billion. The budget is subject to regular scrutiny not only by the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Olympic Executive, but by the funders’ group, and all the judgments are that the budget is adequate and will come in within contingency. Let me make a final point: we also recognise that this is a £6 billion shot in the arm for the UK economy, and we are making sure that the contractors deliver apprenticeships and provide young people with skills in order that they can not just get jobs in the Olympics, but have jobs for the rest of their lives.

Can the Minister confirm what led the Prime Minister when he was Chancellor in 2006 to believe that the private sector would want to contribute £100 million towards elite sport? Were any fundraising targets set at the time, and at what point will the Government admit that this money will not, in fact, be raised from the private sector?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport have set out very clearly the programme whereby our elite athletes will, between the Beijing cycle just ended and London 2012 in three and a half years’ time, have access to more money for their training, development and equipment than they have ever had before. That is this Government delivering for the success of our elite athletes and the country.

Last Friday, there was an event at the Olympic park to celebrate the halfway point to London 2012 and the contribution made by many of the private sector partners mentioned by my Conservative colleagues, but, unfortunately, only Labour Members of Parliament were invited. Although I appreciated the call from the Minister on Friday, given the importance placed on cross-party working by the International Olympic Committee and, until this point, herself, why did that situation occur and will she assure us that it will never happen again?

I find the hon. Gentleman’s intervention on this matter, when there are so many other things to raise, very surprising. The Olympics will be a great national occasion, and it is right and proper that the Prime Minister be part of celebrating that. I invite the hon. Gentleman to endorse the announcement that we made last Friday of an increase in the number of apprenticeships in the Olympic park from 100 to 350, making the Olympics work for the people of this country, getting the country out of the downturn and, as I said, providing a shot in the arm to the UK economy, not only in London, but in the rest of the country. [Interruption.] Of course, cross-party working is important—one needs no reminder of that. Let me also make it clear that the Mayor of London was invited and, unfortunately, had to withdraw.

Shooting Events

2. What plans she has to ensure that the shooting events of the London 2012 Olympics leave a lasting legacy. (248292)

First—[Interruption.] We welcome the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) back to rescue a floundering Front-Bench team.

Following last year’s KPMG’s review to evaluate the plans for temporary venues, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and the Olympic Delivery Authority are undertaking further work to assess the venue for shooting in 2012. That includes consideration of the deliverability of shooting at Woolwich, the cost and the provision of a legacy, and the final decisions will be made by the Olympic Board. I fully appreciate the scale and extent of interest in this issue on the part of the hon. Gentleman and others.

Can the Minister confirm that using Woolwich will not leave any lasting legacy and will be very expensive? That might be excusable if there were no alternative, but does she accept that there is a perfectly viable alternative at Bisley? It has world-class facilities, it is quite near London, it would offer far better value for money and a small capital investment there would leave a lasting legacy.

The hon. Gentleman has fought a very doughty campaign on behalf of Bisley. It was not designated as the venue for the Olympic shooting precisely because the International Olympic Committee asked that we reconsider the original proposal to locate shooting there. The KPMG study, the terms of reference for which I have set out, was set up precisely to give us the assurance that if public money is invested in temporary venues, it will be well spent and will have the prospect of leaving a legacy.

When does my right hon. Friend expect the Government and the Olympic partners to determine a lasting legacy use for the Olympic stadium? When does she expect a statement to be made to that effect?

We are very actively engaged in discussions with a number of organisations, sporting ones in particular, which will be based in the Olympic stadium in the long term. There are those that have already said firmly that they intend to be based there, but there are a substantial number of potential tenants and as soon as the negotiations are concluded, I shall be delighted to inform the House.

I very much hope that the Minister for the Olympics can bring a smile to my face this afternoon on the issue of Bisley. As she knows, Bisley is on the edge of my constituency, and the Minister with responsibility for sport had a wonderful visit there recently. Bisley has terrific facilities, it is the home of shooting, it has a history of expertise and it can deliver everything on cost. Everybody in Surrey is keen on this, so can she just give me a bit of encouragement that Bisley, which has a wonderful claim, may be chosen?

At this point in Olympics questions, I think that I am simply the warm-up act for the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, I am sure, will put a smile on the hon. Gentleman’s face.


3. What steps she has taken to encourage former British Olympians and Paralympians to become ambassadors for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games; and if she will make a statement. (248293)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I know that he has a specific constituency interest in the subject. Yes, we expect every medal winner from the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic games to act as an ambassador for 2012, inspiring young people not just to take up sport but to compete and to continue to play sport throughout their adult lives. A long and distinguished list of Olympians have been the most fantastic role models for young people up and down the country and we owe them a debt of thanks.

Order. I call the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement—[Interruption.] There is a supplementary question—my apologies.

The British people are proud of retired Paralympians and Olympians who have cycled, jumped, run, rowed, swum and thrown for this nation in past decades: people such as my constituent Barry Jackson, a teenage 400m relay finalist in the 1960 Rome games. It is all very well for them to be ambassadors—that is fine—but does the Minister not believe that the body of fine sports people from the past years should have special consideration when it comes to access to the games and, in particular, should have complimentary entry for their discipline?

I think that that proposal would find a lot of support and I am sure that the organising committee is planning on that basis.