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Volume 493: debated on Monday 8 June 2009

The Minister for the Olympics was asked—


1. How many (a) apprenticeships and (b) other training opportunities she estimates will be available on the main Olympic site. (278218)

I certainly am.

In January this year the Olympic Delivery Authority announced that an additional 250 apprenticeships would be created on the Olympic park, bringing the total number of apprenticeships there to 350. That will be achieved in a number of ways. Critically, the ODA will mandate that apprentices should make up 3 per cent. of project work forces for the remaining £500 million worth of contracts that are still to be tendered for; it is worth underlining the fact that that level of apprenticeship investment represents three times the industry average for London and the south-east. It increases the ODA’s overall target for trainees, apprentices and work placements to 2,250. That is an important and ambitious target in ensuring that the legacy of the Olympics will be a local population that is more skilled and qualified to stay in work.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer and for the Government’s continuing commitment to providing apprenticeships and training on the Olympic site. However, given that the Olympics are a fairly time-limited project, and that Crossrail and the development along the lower Lea valley is coming up, will she assure me that the apprenticeships and training opportunities currently provided on the Olympic site will be rolled out into those new development and construction opportunities?

I thank my hon. Friend. I should like to place on the record my recognition and gratitude to her, and other Members with constituencies in the Olympic borough, for their advocacy for this level of investment in apprenticeships and skills. I give her the assurance that she seeks. The skills academy, which is currently training apprentices for the Olympic park, will continue its work. London’s construction industry is an ageing one. We are recruiting new young apprentices who will be able to transfer to other major infrastructure projects such as the Crossrail programme, on which construction is to start shortly; that is another example of the Olympic legacy.

How satisfied is the Minister about the security clearance and immigration status of all the apprentices and everyone else working on the Olympic site?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that, as the Border and Immigration Agency is embedded in the Olympic Delivery Authority, regular checks are undertaken to ensure that not only apprentices but everybody who works in the Olympic park is entitled to do so.

I welcome what the Minister says about apprenticeships. However, the depressing news of the election of two BNP members underlines the importance of targeting apprenticeships, training and employment opportunities on the main Olympic site at local people. Does the Minister regret that there has been a drop in the proportion of local people employed on the Olympic park, can she confirm whether there has been a similar drop in the number of apprentices and trainees from the local area, and what action is she taking to redress that problem?

The hon. Gentleman is correct that the recent figures show a reduction from 23 per cent. to 20 per cent. in the proportion of local people working in the park, but he should also recognise that the actual numbers of local people working there have increased. In fact, when I looked at the apprenticeship figures, I saw that they mirrored that. About 20 per cent. of young apprentices are from local boroughs, but 50 per cent. are from London. The five Olympic boroughs are among the most diverse communities in London. They are optimistic and committed to the Olympics, and in everything they do as part of the Olympics they are a powerful argument against the hatred and racism of the BNP.

Contracts (Scottish Companies)

Just over 2,000 businesses registered in Scotland have registered on the CompeteFor network. To date, 13 businesses registered in Scotland have been awarded contracts by the Olympic Delivery Authority, which is 1.4 per cent. of the total number awarded. However, those figures do not include subcontractors, of which Scottish Enterprise, which is doing an extremely good and vigorous job in selling the potential of Olympic contracts, recognises another 15, with more to come. Of those, two contracts were awarded to suppliers registered on the CompeteFor network. In order to continue to press the business opportunities not only at the construction phase but beyond, the ODA has hosted events in Glasgow, Dunfermline and Edinburgh to ensure that all local businesses in those areas, and across Scotland, are aware of the commercial benefits that they can gain from the Olympics.

I welcome what my right hon. Friend says. Indeed, I know that businesses in my own constituency have won contracts from the ODA. However, may I invite her to speak to the Scottish Government to urge them to play a more active role in encouraging businesses in Scotland to take opportunities provided by the Olympics in London? I am afraid that their record has not been very good as regards co-operation with the UK Government, and I urge her to speak to them to ensure that they redouble their efforts to try to get businesses in Scotland to take full advantage of the opportunities arising from the Olympics in 2012.

Yes, I am happy to do that. Indeed, I hope that the message goes right round the country that the contracts that will be let are commercial and business opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, not just in Scotland but across the United Kingdom.

The Minister has given some rather disappointing figures. I would not wish in any way to take anything away from London—and neither, I am sure, would she, as a fellow London Member. However, it is important to recognise that these are national games, and we would not wish any part of the United Kingdom to miss out. In the run-up phase beyond the construction phase, which she rightly mentions, can she ensure that we do more to promote the national element of the games? Particularly given the cost and the controversy that has surrounded the London Olympics, nothing would be worse than to give the impression that they are just for the capital city, because they are something of which everyone in the UK should be proud.

The hon. Gentleman should accept that every Member in this House can have a responsibility in that respect. Every day I make the point that these are the UK’s games in London. That is why we have been so successful in ensuring that about half the contracts for the construction of the Olympic park go to businesses outside London. The advocacy of Government is one part of delivering this sense of shared opportunity, but the initiative can also be taken by Members of Parliament, local chambers of commerce, small business support services and so forth. All around the country the opportunities are there to be seized. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we must be able to show at every turn that these are the UK’s games in London.

Construction Programme

Any day.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) for his question. All the major venues on the Olympic park are either on schedule or ahead of schedule. [Interruption]. I thought that he would like some good news today. The International Olympic Committee’s co-ordination committee, during its visit in April, described progress to date as “nothing short of astounding”. We will be very happy to facilitate a visit to the Olympic park for any Member.

Some 34.1 per cent. of the Olympic Delivery Authority’s programme is now complete. Construction has now commenced on all five major venues, and construction of the Olympic stadium is now one year in and remains ahead of schedule. Excellent progress is being made on the aquatics centre, and the roof that will form the gateway to the games is already taking shape in the skyline. Construction has also begun on the international broadcast centre, the main press centre and the velodrome.

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. During the riotous celebrations that followed Labour’s victory over the Conservatives in Ealing last night, my thoughts naturally turned to the Olympic construction programme. Ealing is an olympian borough, if not an Olympic one, and we are acutely conscious of the legacy of the infrastructure that she is building. Will she please keep foremost in her mind the fact that future generations, including generations unborn, will look to the physical legacy of the Olympics to progress Britain’s sporting supremacy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Additional money is being invested in the legacy purposes of all the Olympic venues, so that they will be the preferred training place for young people and local communities for many years to come.

The only venue yet to be constructed that continues to cause controversy is the shooting venue. I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) would have raised that issue had there been time to call his question, which is next on the Order Paper. The key issue is clearly cost. The shooting authorities make the claim, which was repeated in the House of Lords at the end of last week, that it would be £10 million cheaper to build the venue at Bisley. The Olympic Board clearly rejected that at its meeting last month, saying that it would be considerably cheaper to build it at Greenwich. At the previous Olympics questions the Minister undertook to publish a full set of costings so that we could all make a judgment. Is she in a position today to say when that will be, so that we can all make a judgment one way or the other?

No, I am not in a position either to publish the figures today, or to say when we will. [Hon. Members: “Terrible!”] It is not terrible at all; the figures are subject to sensitive commercial negotiation. When we are in a position to publish them, I shall do so. There was wide consultation leading up to the Olympic Board’s decision last month. That decision has now been taken, and I hope that we will be able to proceed to develop the venue at Woolwich as decided.