[Miss Anne McIntosh in the Chair]
I am grateful to have secured this debate on the last possible occasion in 2010. I want to set out some concerns, on behalf of the community that I represent, about the legacy of the 2012 Olympics. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), in whose constituency the Olympic stadium is located, had wanted very much to attend the debate, but her Front-Bench commitments have kept her away. I am grateful that the Minister is here. I am conscious that I shall of necessity touch on some topics beyond his brief, and I am grateful for his willingness to respond.
The 2012 Olympics are a huge opportunity for London and for Britain—and in particular for the regeneration of east London. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) is in the Chamber. She led our effort to secure the games for London, and the impact of her success will be etched on the economic geography of London for generations to come.
We are already seeing important benefits in east London. When the economy has been in poor shape in the past—for example during the period of cuts under the last Conservative Government in the 1980s—east London has been hammered. I am fearful about the impact on rising unemployment of the Government’s programme of cuts during the next four years. Last week’s unemployment figures have, I fear, given us a foretaste of what is to come.
In east London, however, we shall be buttressed to some extent by the fact that £9.2 billion is being invested in the Olympic games. Today, more than 900 residents of Newham, my borough, are working on the construction of the Olympic park and Olympic village, and there are 2,300 from the five Olympic host boroughs as a whole. I am pleased that the great majority are being paid at least the London living wage, and I particularly commend efforts such as those of Bovis BeOnsite and Newham council’s Workplace initiative with Jobcentre Plus, which have successfully targeted local unemployed people to work on the project.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Westfield Stratford—the stunning retail development alongside the Olympic park, which will be the largest urban shopping centre in Europe when it opens next September, providing jobs for 12,000 full and part-time staff. At the moment, there are 70,000 jobs in the borough of Newham, so 12,000 new ones will be an enormous boost. The idea of that centre was around before the decision to bring the games to London, but given the form in which it has been realised and the speed at which it has been implemented, it is a very important element of the Olympic legacy. I vividly remember the dismay locally when Marks & Spencer pulled out of Stratford in the 1980s—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) remembers as well, so the return of Marks & Spencer to Newham when Westfield Stratford opens will be a welcome boost.
During the next year or two, it will be very important to ensure that people who live in the Olympic host boroughs enjoy their full share of the employment and other opportunities that are created. I shall mention just one idea that I have been talking about to people. Newham is home to people with roots in every country of the world. In too many cases, people are unable to find work. During the games, we shall be hosting visitors from literally every country in the world, and I hope that we shall be able to establish a location where people living locally can set up stalls for modest restaurant businesses to provide cooked food from their home countries, which would help to make visitors to the games feel welcome and create new jobs for local residents. I hope that we can establish that food court in good time for the games and that it can become a permanent feature of the area. There are a number of locations where it might be established.
I want to refer to a particular issue that will be addressed early in the new year: the future of the Olympic stadium. I was present last night, together with the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood, at the ceremony to switch on the lights in the Olympic stadium for the first time. It was an opportunity to admire the splendour of the stadium now that all the seats have been fitted and to appreciate—it was certainly the first time that I had been able to do so—what an extremely impressive venue it is, even when it is covered in snow.
I support the proposal submitted by West Ham United football club, together with the London borough of Newham, for West Ham to take over the stadium after the games. For more than 100 years, since not long after the club was established—it emerged in 1900 from the Thames Ironworks football club—the club’s ground has been at Upton Park in East Ham, in my constituency, rather than in West Ham. Of course, if and when it moves, we in East Ham shall miss it, but I am convinced that that is the right solution. I appreciate that the Minister has no formal say in the matter, but I hope that he will agree that the West Ham solution is the right one for the Olympic stadium.
I shall suggest three reasons why the West Ham solution is right. First, it honours our obligations to the Olympic movement and fulfils the commitment to a strong sporting legacy, which was the basis on which the London bid was successful. Secondly, it offers the best opportunities to the community in east London in which the stadium is located. Thirdly, it is a financially robust bid based on a sound business case.
I shall start with our obligations to the Olympic movement. The Minister will have seen the recent open letter from Olympic and Paralympic medallists, with more than 40 games medals between them, calling for the retention of the athletics track in the stadium. West Ham is committed to retaining it to secure a national athletics centre; the alternative bidders, Spurs, would remove it.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that although there has been some confusion about the athletics legacy, it clearly is the strong viewpoint of the athletics industry, the international Olympic movement and everyone associated with this venture that athletics will continue at the stadium?
My hon. Friend is right. That view is strongly held by the International Association of Athletics Federations and UK Athletics. Also, when the bid was submitted, a promise was made—it was a significant element of the bid—to retain athletics in the stadium beyond the games, and that promise will be broken if the track is removed. It is very important that we do not let that happen. My hon. Friend is right to underline how strong feelings about that subject are.
An open letter from the athletes sets out their position. They said:
“One of the most compelling aspects of our bid back in 2005 was the promise of an athletics legacy in the form of a world class stadium. This promise made the idea of legacy real. It showed that the Games would continue to touch the wider community long after the Olympics and Paralympic spectacular had left town.”
The letter was signed by a bevy of famous names, including Steve Cram, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Kelly Holmes and Daley Thompson. They are right—we should not break the promise that has been made. The provision of a world-class athletics track in the stadium after the games was one reason why the UK bid secured the crucial support ahead of the 2005 decision of Lamine Diack, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, and it is why the West Ham-Newham bid has the support of UK Athletics as well.
The proposal offers additional sporting benefits. It has the support of Essex county cricket club, which wants to be able to use the stadium, too. It will also be used for rugby. The bid is also being supported by Live Nation, the world’s biggest live events company, which describes the stadium as
“a superb venue for hosting major concerts and other events”.
Secondly, the bid represents the right solution for the local community, which is why the local authority is supporting it. The stadium will inspire learning and achievement, with thousands of local young people visiting each year to make use of its facilities. The university of East London and Newham college of further education will also have a role. The stadium’s legacy will include a studio school focused on sport and leisure, and the West Ham Playing for Success centre will relocate there.
West Ham has a thriving community sports trust involving 3,700 local people a week, and that will be strengthened further by a move to the Olympic stadium. Its training and mentoring scheme has produced 36 fully qualified coaches, all of whom were recruited from the borough. It has delivered PE at key stage 2 of the national curriculum to more than 50,000 pupils at the club’s Beckton training centre. The Minister has visited the centre, after which he rightly praised it for
“empowering young Londoners to take responsibility through sport and education”.
West Ham’s Asians in Football project engages with more than 36,000 youngsters a year and has been recognised and acknowledged by the Football Association as a national example of effective integration practice. Its multi-sports project delivers 14 sports in addition to football across the borough, and multi-sports coaching is provided to a wide range of people with disabilities. The British Heart Foundation recognises the men’s health project at West Ham for its engagement of men in a fitness and exercise programme.
There are discussions about using the stadium to widen cultural activities in Newham—the CREATE festival, arts development for local residents, and concerts and community music events—and it potentially has rehearsal space for local groups such as East London Dance. Such a full link to the local community would strengthen the potential for the health element of the proposals on the Olympic polyclinic. The bid’s success will boost jobs locally. Half the 1,000 hospitality and safety staff at Upton Park on a match day are from the local area, and that number is likely to grow if the bid is successful.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the West Ham bid largely involves the use of much of the existing stadium, while the alternative bid from Tottenham Hotspur involves dismantling the stadium? I know that he has immense Treasury experience, so does he think that destroying £500 million of taxpayers’ money to set about something new can be good value for money at this time of fiscal austerity?
I think that it would be a tragic waste of the investment that has been made and of the superb facility that we saw last night. It would be tragic if the facility was there simply for the brief period of the games. My right hon. Friend is right to underline the importance of retaining what has been achieved, which is impressive.
One thing that struck me at last night’s ceremony was the strength of local support for, and engagement with, what is happening in the Olympic park. Tessa Sanderson was there with a group of local young people who are training at her academy to compete in the 2012 games, and other local interests were also present. I hope that that local commitment will be harnessed to make the most of the stadium’s future with the existing building. We should not tear it down and start again, and the West Ham bid is best placed to achieve that.
West Ham’s Upton Park ground is in my constituency, and, as a local resident, I will be sad to see it go after more than 100 years. However, access to the new venue will be much better, especially by public transport, and the existing site could be redeveloped in a way that would strengthen the local community and the neighbouring shopping centre in Green street. The site would be very restricted if the club envisaged further development.
Thirdly, the West Ham bid makes business sense. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) pointed out, it does not involve tearing down a structure built with substantial public investment. The capital costs that the project would entail would be met from a combination of the funding made available by the Olympic Delivery Authority, the receipts from the disposal of the current ground at Upton Park and a loan facility provided through Newham council—not a grant, as has been suggested in some quarters, but a loan. The club has been able to show how it will meet its continuing liabilities, even in the highly unlikely event that its recent run of poor results continues and it spends next season in the championship, which I hope will not happen. For all three reasons—honouring our Olympic commitments, achieving a local solution and because the bid makes business sense—I hope that the West Ham bid for the future use of the stadium is successful.
Finally, I want to comment on the sporting legacy of the Olympic games, and the partial U-turn we saw from the Government yesterday when they reinstated at least some of the funding for school sport partnerships. We all agree that inspiring and supporting young people to be active in sport should be—must be—one of the biggest prizes from the 2012 games. It is welcome that the Government will not withdraw the funding entirely, following protests from schools and sports people, but it looks as though there will still be a drastic cut in funding for school sports—I have heard suggestions of an 80% cut.
If I get the opportunity to catch your eye, Miss McIntosh, I will comment on the right hon. Gentleman’s earlier remarks, but on the school sport partnerships, does he accept that he might be slightly misrepresenting the situation? He has failed to take into account that by removing the ring fence that was applied to school sport partnerships, some of the money that was originally there has gone into schools, and, therefore, will still be available for them to buy into the network. We all agree that it was right to preserve the funding in the form that it is now in.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s last point about the importance of retaining the partnerships, but I do not and cannot share his confidence that the funding will be used in the way he suggests. The Minister might be able to shed some light on this, but I gather that funding for some specialist sports, such as judo, boxing and fencing, may be removed altogether, which would substantially reduce the choice of sport available to young people. The concern that I put to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) is that confidence has been damaged because the funding is not secure. I am told by schools in my area that the confidence in the arrangements has been quite badly undermined, and it is not clear that yesterday’s announcement will repair it. I hope that it will, at least partially, but it is not clear that it has.
The co-ordination resource for the network of more than 1.5 million young people involved in sports leadership and volunteering appears also to be under threat. It is impressive that the number of sports volunteers almost doubled in the past three years, thanks to policies that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood put in place, but it is hard to see how what has happened can do anything other than constrain that important element of the Olympic legacy.
I have been speaking to the head teacher of Langdon school in my constituency, which is a successful sports specialist college that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood knows. Ten years ago, it was a pioneer for the school sport partnerships, and a large group of young people from that school was part of the London bid team at the meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Singapore in July 2005. My right hon. Friend will acknowledge that their youthful enthusiasm, showcasing the diversity of today’s young London, played an important part in winning the games for the United Kingdom. Today, Langdon is part of a thriving sport partnership of seven secondary schools and 30 primary schools. The benefits of the partnerships are not just sporting in nature; there is close work with feeder primary schools to support children in their academic work, particularly in the primary to secondary transition. The partnership also strengthens the ties between the schools and sports clubs in the community. It supports inter-school competitions. I have heard some criticisms that the partnership has not supported inter-school competitions. The partnership to which I am referring certainly has a large number of competitive inter-school events as part of it. It has coaching programmes to help senior students to gain skills and qualifications for future sports leadership roles.
The head teacher of Langdon, Dr Tabassum, wrote to the Prime Minister 10 days ago, making the point:
“As for the Olympic legacy, we can only fully realise the potential of London 2012 and the inspiration it offers by maximising the development systems that we have been creating and developing over the past decade through our established Schools Sports Partnerships.”
Of course, the school welcomes the reinstatement since that letter was written of some of the funding, although it is not yet clear to it how much of the activity can be retained. Dr Tabassum makes the point that announcing a complete withdrawal of funding was very damaging to the confidence in schools—primary and secondary—in what they had been doing and was damaging to their commitment.
The Olympic games, in 18 months’ time, present a huge opportunity for the UK. It is particularly important that their potential be harnessed to create new opportunities for people living close to the park in east London. In that light, I hope that the West Ham bid for the stadium is successful and that it will be possible for the school programmes, which can underpin the future sporting legacy for the UK, to be sustained after the raid on them over the past couple of months by the Minister’s colleagues in the Department for Education.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) on securing the debate. I am sure he is excited at the prospect of the Olympics being held in his backyard—a much-deprived part of east London that he has represented with great distinction over the past decade and a half.
Financial concerns were always at the heart of the issue for those of us who expressed some doubts, prior to 6 July 2005, about the wisdom of the London bid for the Olympics. Those doubts have not been entirely assuaged by the passage of time. We should face facts: we have the Olympics and we have to make the best of it. There is no doubt that, with all the planning in place, it will be a great, spectacular three-week festival in August 2012. However, that should not be at the expense of the legacy. When £9.2 billion of public money is being expended on the Olympics games, there ought to be a long-term physical legacy of interest. I shall touch on that in a moment.
The right hon. Gentleman understandably talked much about the future of the stadium. I very much share his views and concerns about what might happen. As vice-chairman of the all-party group on football, I believe that it would be right for West Ham to have the stadium, rather than it going further afield to Tottenham Hotspur. I understand many of the concerns expressed by the right hon. Gentleman and by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on this matter. In 1997, I was my party’s candidate in Enfield North, where I reckoned at least two-thirds of the football fans were Spurs, rather than Arsenal supporters. I remember that in the Lea Valley area of the constituency there was a great passion for and pride in Tottenham Hotspur. For many football fans across the country, the notion of Tottenham Hotspur moving 4 or 5 miles away might seem to involve a small distance, but in the context of the villages that make up London it is very important. People would quickly forget the long-term history based around White Hart Lane.
I am sure that, as an expert on postcodes, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, although one might ask, where does east turn to north? We will not go down that route, but he makes a good point. It would be encouraging for Twenty20 cricket in particular if Essex used that stadium. It is a tragedy that Essex have not regularly played cricket at either Valentine’s Park in Ilford or at Leyton, which still has a beautiful historic 1930s pavilion, for 20 or 30 years. It would be great to see the stadium being used for that purpose.
The right hon. Member for East Ham hit the nail right on the head in relation to the short-term issues that affect West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. It would be a great shame to look at this matter just in the context of where the two clubs are at the moment. I fear that I may be less of an optimist about the Hammers’ chances over the next four or five months, as they might well end up a championship club with financial problems in the very short term by the time the season ends in May. Tottenham Hotspur are having one of their most successful seasons since 1960-61, when they won the double. They now understandably regard themselves as a champions league team: they are in the last 16 and may well qualify as of right for the champions league next season. Therefore, there would be great passion for the idea of having a big stadium, not just because the Olympic stadium has a capacity of 60,000—well above the 37,000 to 38,000 at White Hart Lane—but because it will be seen as iconic. However, I strongly believe that that would be a short-term decision made with the facts of December 2010 and 2011 in mind, rather than the long-term historical perspective pointed out by the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes).
I want to say a few words in passing about the commitment we are making to the Olympic movement with our bid. The right hon. Members for East Ham and for Tottenham, and the Minister, will have seen the well-researched, quite provocative article in The Spectator of 11 December, “The true cost of the Olympics”. Following a number of freedom of information requests, Ed Howker and Andrew Gilligan went into some detail about the precise nature of the commitment that we have made to the International Olympic Committee. We are now in a very different era—an era of austerity—from that we were in five and half years ago when we won the Olympic bid. The article identified some ludicrous situations: the money to be spent on having some 40,000 hotel rooms booked for IOC flunkies over three weeks in August 2012; the somewhat absurd brand-protection rights that are being insisted upon, not just in the Olympic stadium, but within a large, well-defined curtilage in that part of London. As Mr Howker and Mr Gilligan put it, there will almost be a “state within a state” in London during that month in 2012.
I firmly believe that the very scarce financial resources that we have for the Olympic games must not be used simply to placate the desire of a vast International Olympic Committee quangocracy. I want to see a much bigger and a proper legacy for the locality, particularly in that part of east London.
Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the injection of £6.1 billion into the UK national economy at a time of downturn was valuable? More than 1,000 small and medium-sized businesses around the country have benefited from that. The costs in relation to Olympic hospitality that Mr Gilligan refers to will be borne not by the taxpayer, but by the organising committee, a private company whose funds are privately raised.
That is fair as far as it goes. As the right hon. Lady says, funds have been raised privately through a lot of Olympic sponsors, but there is still a defined amount that the sponsors will put into the Olympics. In the era of austerity in which we live, I have to question whether some boondoggle for the IOC is the right place to put this, rather than the long-term physical legacy for the east end. We have perhaps not discussed that in as much detail in this debate, although I know there will be other opportunities to do so during the next 18 months.
It would be a crying shame if we were not to have a strong physical legacy. We have looked at other Olympic games—whether it be Athens in 2004 or Sydney in 2000—where, I am afraid and whether we like it or not, the Olympic villages were built in relatively impoverished areas and ended up being something of a white elephant. If that happened in London it would be a tragic waste.
In fairness to the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), she made great steps forward, particularly to ensure that a proper transport infrastructure is in place, bringing the Docklands light railway right into the heart of the Olympic village. I hope that that will ensure that the same does not come to pass in this country in the aftermath of August 2012.
However, it is vital that we see a proper and fully fledged regeneration. The right hon. Member for East Ham knows that on many statistical analyses his borough of Newham is one of the poorest in the UK. He and I no doubt share the view that if one walks down East Ham high street or through bits of Upton Park, there is a sense of vibrancy with people wanting to sell things. The borough is not poor and impoverished in terms of ambition and aspiration, which is a positive way forward.
I hope that we will focus our attention—not just in the next 18 months, but, probably more importantly, in the few years after 2012—on ensuring that that area of London becomes very desirable. It will inevitably be a mixed area, with both private estates and social housing. I hope that it will become a tremendously successful area for the future. In my view, the real test of the success of the Olympics is where we will be in 10 years’ time, not in 18 months. If we can see that that area has been entirely regenerated, and is vibrant and thriving with a desirable residential sector, a retail park, which we will see with Westfield in Stratford, and many small thriving businesses—dare I say it, particularly in the high-tech area where there will be a knock-on effect from what we already have in Shoreditch—that will be the real success of the Olympic games, rather than just the short-term spectacle, which will, I am sure, be a tremendous success and a tremendous credit to this country and our city.
I welcome you, Miss McIntosh, on what I think is your first time in the Chair in Westminster Hall. It is good to see you. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) for bringing this important debate to the Chamber today as we approach Christmas and for illustrating that what lies behind sport, whether it is athletics or football, is hugely important to some of the poorest areas of London and of this country. I also want to thank the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) for his remarks on the West Ham and Spurs bids.
Let me go back to 6 July 2005 when we won the bid to host the Olympics. I will never forget that weekend. As Minister for Culture, I was very fortunate to be in Trafalgar square as the results were announced. I had a wonderful few years working with my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), my very good friend, when she was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. I saw the huge preparation that this country put into that bid and, I might say, fantastic leadership from my right hon. Friend. Many others provided leadership, too, but I was working closely with her at the time.
That weekend was a very poignant, because the day after the Olympics announcement London faced the most terrible atrocity—the London bombings—in which I lost a very dear friend. That weekend reminded us about the importance of multicultural London.
I remember also the Inspire video that was very much part of that bid. It was a wonderful production—I am sure it is still available on the web—that was directed by Daryl Goodrich. In that video, we see the fantastic sight of young people from across the world. Hon. Members will understand that, representing Tottenham, I felt very close to those young people because many of them make their way through different refugee channels or immigration routes to our great city, so somehow they were connected to that aspiration. We won that bid on a vision of very poor young people from across the world. I particularly remember the visions of Africa and Asia, dreaming and aspiring for something special in relation to the Olympics. We also won the bid because we were committed—particularly to young people in the east end and in communities such as mine—to setting a vision of what the Olympics and athletics could be about. It was on the back of those two things that we won this great prize. I remember when the word “London” was said and we secured the bid.
At the time, when I stood there feeling tremendous pride in the fact that sport brings opportunity to communities such as mine, I could not have imagined that, five years later, I would be participating in a debate about my constituency potentially being on the brink of losing one of its great beacons—our football club, Tottenham Hotspur. I say that as someone who grew up in Tottenham. I was always aware that when someone left the N17 postcode area and went much beyond it, either in this country or abroad, two things might be mentioned: the Tottenham riots—our shoulders sink at that and we feel a bit uneasy—and that wonderful vision of our football club.
I remember 1981, when Spurs won the FA Cup against Manchester City. Ricky Villa scored two goals and Garth Crooks scored another. I was a young nine-year-old born to West Indian parents from Guyana. Ricky Villa is from Argentina, so we adopted him as a South American, and Garth Crooks, one of our pioneering black footballers, scored a goal, so I felt tremendous pride. But that was against a backdrop in Tottenham of unemployment, serious grief, anguish and problems in relation to the police, and then, sadly, there unfolded some of the worst atrocities that we saw on the streets of London in our 20th-century history.
In our community, Spurs and football allow us to dream of what is possible. They bring us close to excellence and dedication. We see the commitment that young sportsmen and women put into becoming elite sports people, and that connects us with a standard that is not just local, but national and international. That is why it is so important that, when we consider the broader ecology of London, we do nothing that benefits one part of the city and, frankly, dumps on another part.
Northumberland Park is one of the very poorest wards in London. Unemployment there is just below 12%. Life expectancy is 10 years lower than it is 5 miles away in the other part of Haringey, Muswell Hill and Highgate. It is a ward with much deprivation. I am talking about not just Northumberland Park, but Edmonton, which borders it, and the London borough of Enfield. Hon. Members will understand that, because Tottenham rubs up close to that other, much smaller and less distinguished north London club, Arsenal, many Tottenham supporters hail from the London borough of Enfield.
Tottenham is not a club that one would greatly associate—I say this very gently—with some of the racism that has dogged other clubs in the premiership and in this country. The history of our bit of north London is very much a united history. The club includes West Indians who made their way to this country in the 1950s. There is a strong Jewish community, which is largely situated around Stamford Hill, although it stretches across to Golders Green, Finchley and parts of Enfield. There is also a strong Irish and white working-class community. All those groups have stood at White Hart Lane—very much in solidarity, always honouring and celebrating multiculturalism.
That is very special about Spurs, and probably about the north London tradition of football, which also includes teams such as Arsenal, Barnet and Enfield Town. We are very proud of that tradition, and it, too, is a symbol that we offer our young people. I think particularly of Northumberland Park school, which is just next door to Spurs on the site. The school has struggled with immense challenges. Some 40% of its young people get five good A to C grades. I also think of a school such as St Thomas More, just across the way in Wood Green. It has made sport its specialism, so how important it is to the school that Spurs is among the community.
It is important that I pay tribute to the work that Spurs have done while I have been the area’s Member of Parliament. The Tottenham Hotspur Foundation is a beacon in the premiership. The commitment that Spurs have shown to the wider community—not only in Haringey, but in Enfield, Barnet and Waltham Forest—is tremendous. The club is working not only with young people in our schools, but with pensioners and the disabled, and it is getting match funding. It is making a huge investment in local people and stretching the reach of elite sport deeper and further, so that we can lift up our deprived community.
The area represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham is identical to mine, so when he spoke of the Olympic stadium’s proximity to, and relationship with, his constituency and the schools within it, I completely understood how important the future of the stadium is to West Ham and to East Ham, up there in east London. I understood the vital role that it will play.
I have worked with Spurs; indeed, I worked on setting up the foundation. I have supported the club, as a constituency MP does, in the many immigration cases involving footballers coming into and going out of the country. The club also wanted to build a training ground in Enfield, and I was very supportive of that. In addition, it has exciting, truly exceptional plans to redevelop its stadium in Tottenham, and one can see those plans on the club’s website. The club put its planning application in to the local authority in May, it was approved in September and the Mayor has signed it off. We therefore have plans for an exciting new stadium in Tottenham, and those plans are supported by the local community. We have a new vision for a new period, building on 111 years of history.
Hon. Members will therefore understand how confused, upset and concerned my constituents were when they found out just a few weeks ago that the club was running a parallel track and also putting in for the Olympic stadium. I have spoken to the club’s chairman about that, and he has explained to me that it is important that he look at the Olympic stadium and consider its importance in relation to the club’s shareholder value. I have to recognise that, but it is my responsibility as the custodian of the community to remind the club and the politicians—in the end, they will make the decision, and here I look to the Minister—that sport does not come out of nowhere.
Tottenham folk have funded the club for 111 years. Also, it is always a great honour to bump into people who, although they may not have funded the club themselves, had grandparents who lived in Tottenham. Indeed, Lord Triesman’s grandparents lived in Tottenham, and there are always stories like that. Although someone might not live in Tottenham, they travel there because they have a connection to the area, and it would be a tremendous wrench if that were to be yanked from them.
When we look at the future regeneration and ecology of sport in London, it is our responsibility—I direct these comments also at the Mayor—to recognise that there is much to do in the east as regards the Olympic stadium and the West Ham bid. The future of athletics is also hugely important in that regard. However, we must also acknowledge that there is still a tremendous amount to do in my constituency and in the Enfield constituencies. That is why I have campaigned for many years with my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr Love) for improved transport links. I wanted a Victoria line extension to link us up in a much bigger way—not only for the sake of the club, but for regeneration in my very poor part of London. I remind hon. Members that my constituency is the second poorest in London. That is hugely important.
What will be the prospects for Tottenham, Edmonton and Enfield if the club makes this drastic switch? Such a decision would also be a great shame for West Ham over the next decade, because it would clearly cause the club great financial harm. That would be a real tragedy for the ecology of the premiership.
The Government face a very big decision, and I hope that they will reflect very hard when they get the recommendation from the Olympic Legacy Trust. It does not make sense to spend taxpayers’ money on a stadium—obviously, as a Minister in the Department at the time, I know that the amount involved was in part disputed, although I suspect that it is not any longer—and then destroy it four weeks later. That would resurrect real concerns about value for money. I suspect that the National Audit Office would want to look into it, and colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee certainly would.
At this time, when MPs such as I are seeing cuts to education maintenance allowance for our young people, the extension of tuition fees, cuts to housing benefit, hikes in unemployment and cuts to the future jobs fund, it cannot make sense to dismantle a stadium in that way. I must put that in the strongest possible terms.
It is also important that the Minister listen to fans and not just the club’s current custodians. I have seen the club change hands twice in my period as an MP and four times in my lifetime. Tottenham fans are already concerned about what is happening, and well over 4,000 have signed a petition. It is true that most think this will not happen. Most Spurs fans think, “Oh, this is a try-on, it can’t be serious.” Well, if it is serious that would be a great travesty.
I want to ask the Minister two questions. First, will he say something about the timetable for the decision? I am informed that the Olympic Legacy Trust board will meet on 28 January and hopes to make a recommendation to him after that. Will he confirm that the decision will be his, alongside the Mayor and the appropriate Minister from the Department for Communities and Local Government? Who else will make that decision? Will he also confirm that he would expect the club to pay a bond, deposit or guarantee in the event of it winning, so in that sense the decision would be final? For example, West Ham would not be able to win the bid and say a few weeks later, “We’ve changed our minds and we want to stay at Upton Park,” and Spurs could not win and say a few weeks later, “Oh, we changed our mind and we want to stay at White Hart Lane.” That would make this a moment of urgency for both clubs as they reflect on their future. I am grateful for the opportunity to put those remarks on the record.
Order. I am going to try to give everyone who wants to speak an opportunity to do so. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) informed me in advance that he would like to speak, so I shall try to fit in the last two speakers in the 10 minutes after he has spoken.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) on securing the debate and on introducing the important topic of the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. It is important to stress that both are included; often the Paralympics are overlooked.
The issue of the legacy is crucial because, as the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) said, the Olympics are not about a few exciting weeks of sporting and cultural extravaganza in London and a few other places. They are about the legacy that can come from the work that is being done and has been done; as the hon. Gentleman said, the real judgment about whether we have succeeded will be made in 10 years’ time. I was lucky enough to be in Singapore, and I saw the brilliant work that Seb Coe and his team did in inspiring the world to get behind us, support our bid and ensure our success, when Jacques Rogge pulled London’s name from the envelope—it took him an interminable time to do it. The fact that I and the Minister—who at that time was the Opposition spokesman—were there showed how from the very beginning support for the Olympics and Paralympics has been cross-party. It is important to recognise that although I may have disagreed with the previous Government in some matters, broadly speaking everyone has worked together.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), who in her role as Secretary of State and Olympics Minister did a huge amount of work to drive forward the preparation for the games and to build up the plans for a lasting legacy. The one area that rarely gets touched on, although it featured heavily in the bid—in the inspiring videos referred to by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy)—is the issue of inspiring the world. Everyone will remember how we made a commitment to use the games to inspire the world to get involved in sporting activity and all the benefits that come from it. The right hon. Lady deserves huge credit for her work in establishing the International Inspiration scheme, which has been so successful, and which helps our work in the aid programme in many places around the world. I have been particularly impressed by something with the awful acronym ICES—the International community Coach Education Standards—which has brought people from all around the world together to share expertise in developing coaching skills. That is part of the legacy that is often forgotten.
The right hon. Member for East Ham put forward a powerful case for the West Ham solution for the future of the stadium. His arguments about the business case and the huge business benefits for his community and the surrounding area were very powerful. However, the most powerful argument of all is the simple one concerning the commitment made at the time of the bid, that there would continue to be an athletics track there, and opportunities for an athletics centre of excellence. The decision is with another body, not the Government, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be successful and that that is the solution that will be reached. It is interesting to hear two Members supporting major football clubs who have both reached the same conclusion, despite representing very different parts of London. The right hon. Gentleman’s case is powerful, but of course we shall have to wait and see. It will be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say.
While we are inspiring people around the world, it is interesting to note that we are still inspiring people in this country. Tens of thousands of people have already given their names as potential volunteers to help during the Olympics and Paralympics. That is very encouraging. Two million people have already registered on the tickets website, which shows that there will be very significant take-up by people from within the UK, who want to come and enjoy the games. However, the legacy is about many things. Of course it is to do with the issue that the right hon. Member for East Ham raised about buildings and what is happening in the east end of London, but we must not forget that there has been regeneration elsewhere as well; for example, in Weymouth, the centre for sailing. That is very important. Also there will be a legacy from the significant improvements being made to transport systems in London. The right hon. Member for Tottenham may have wanted even more, but let us not forget that those improvements will produce a significant legacy.
There will be a real legacy in business and employment, as has already been mentioned. Huge numbers of contracts have gone out through the Olympic Delivery Authority for building the Olympic site and the Olympic village, which in turn will provide the legacy of more affordable housing—urgently needed in that part of London. There are opportunities still to come, even though the site is nearly complete. There will be opportunities in the contracts to be awarded through the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. In the next 12 months there will be £250 million of contracts, for everything from seating to whistles and DayGlo vests and there will be job opportunities from security to ticketing; the list goes on. There will be a large number of opportunities. What is pleasing is that well over 50% of the £450 million of LOCOG contracts that have already been awarded, or that are being finalised, have gone to small and medium-sized businesses, many of which are in London. That is of real benefit to those businesses. Very pleasingly, 95% of the contracts have gone to organisations, businesses and companies in the United Kingdom; it has been a real opportunity. I was interested to see that even the Royal Mint has got in on the act, with the contract to provide the 2,700 medals that will be needed for the games.
There are a couple of areas of concern. The first is to do with the legacy that we hope to get from tourism. We all understand that we are in financially difficult circumstances. I do not want to argue about who is responsible for that, but we all know the situation. It is understandable that budgets and funding, even to tourism organisations, have had to take their share of cuts. However, there is one thing I am particularly concerned about. The Government, rightly in my view, propose to end the regional development agencies and replace them with local enterprise partnerships. Those will in many cases—they will decide—have responsibility for tourism. Unfortunately, however, we will have a gap between the ending of the work that is being done by the RDAs and the work that will begin to be done by the local enterprise partnerships. In that gap of up to two years, tourism may lose out if action is not taken.
In my region, the South West of England RDA established South West Tourism, which did a lot of important work to promote tourism in our region. However, the contract for that work cannot be renewed and it comes to an end on 31 March 2011, even though the RDA does not end for another 12 months after that. Because the contract cannot be renewed, that work will finish. The South West RDA maintained one responsibility in-house, which was for marketing, including tourism marketing, but because all marketing by the RDA has already ceased, tourism marketing in the south-west has already ceased, too.
There is a real problem with the gap between the ending of the RDAs and the formation of the local enterprise partnerships. What will happen during that gap in respect of tourism, which seems to be crucial in the run-up to 2012?
The other area where I have some concern is the school sport partnerships, although I am delighted that there have been some recent announcements about them, which were referred to by the right hon. Member for East Ham. I am very supportive of the coalition Government, but I stood up in a debate on the Floor of the House to point out that I was deeply concerned that while money was to be transferred to schools through the ending of ring-fencing—something I very much welcome—there was still a problem, in that schools did not know what their budgets were. Therefore, they did not know whether they could use any of that money to support sporting activity, and we would have had a situation where the framework of support provided by the SSPs would have disappeared long before the schools could decide whether to put money into them.
As I said on the Floor of the House, it seemed absolutely critical that we maintained a framework that would enable schools, when they knew what their funding allocation was, to determine whether to put money into SSPs; if not, clearly we would have to look for other solutions anyway. I am pleased that a decision was made to find a way of maintaining that framework.
However, I put it to the Minister that we can still go further to make the network more secure; I genuinely believe that we can do that. The other organisations that are already operating very successfully indeed are the county sports partnerships. In some cases, the SSPs are already linked to the county sports partnerships and it seems to me that we could strengthen the framework for schools to bid into by examining ways of more effectively merging the activities of the county sports partnerships and the SSPs, to enable them to do their incredibly valuable work. More work needs to be done in that regard.
I want to be brief, so I shall end by saying just one more thing. Very often, when we talk about legacy, we do exactly what I have just done; we refer to “legacy” in different pots, whether it is building legacy, transport legacy, tourism legacy or sporting legacy, but very often, the truth is rather different—they are all interlinked. The work that we have been doing in the west of England, where I have the honour to be the co-chair of Team West of England, involves finding ways of integrating all the legacy issues. For example, we have got the British Paralympic Association to use the wonderful facilities at Bath university as their training ground. That has not just been good for Bath university; it has been good for local businesses, hotels and bed and breakfasts, and many other service industries in the area. That project is bringing all these things together.
In the same way, when the very first training camp deal was done by Bristol university to bring the Kenyan team in, the university had a 10-point plan, of which the Kenyan team coming to train in Bristol in the run-up to the 2012 games was the last item. The other items were much more about developing links between Bristol and places in Kenya, including schools links, business links, professional team links and so on. Those are the sorts of things that we can still do and that we need to do much more of. However, I am very optimistic that we shall have a great legacy from what will be a fantastic set of Olympic and Paralympic games in 2012.
Thank you, Miss McIntosh, and may I welcome you to the Chair?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) on securing the debate. Unusually, I make a declaration. It is not in the register, but I have to declare an interest as a Tottenham fan, although my focus in this debate is on what is in the best interests of supporters.
I have only three minutes to speak, so I will restrict my remarks. I agreed with much of what has been said in the debate today, particularly that there needs to be a long-term legacy; it is not just about what happens in the short term.
As I see it, there are four issues in relation to the legacy of the Olympic stadium. First, we need a world-class stadium; secondly, the stadium needs to combine community use with athletics; thirdly, it needs to provide diversity, by staging other types of events, including concerts, and fourthly, of course, the issue of viability has come to the fore. We know what has happened in previous instances with other Olympic games. Indeed, I was interested to see that, at the short-listing for the bidding, the chair of the company said that the company was obviously looking for an anchor tenant, but that it was interested in mixed use and that there should be a legacy for athletics. Those will be important considerations.
First of all, we need a world-class stadium. The contentious issue is whether the track should be retained. We have arranged our bid on the basis of commitments to the International Olympic Committee; indeed, the athletes’ letter, which was mentioned earlier, talked about that issue. Of course, the legacy company reaffirmed that.
In relation to athletics events and community use, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham ticked all the boxes as far as West Ham is concerned. The real concern is the decision by Spurs to demolish the stadium and replace it with an exact replica of the one they intend to build in Northumberland Park. In order to address the issue of the athletics legacy, Spurs has come up with the idea of refurbishing Crystal Palace. I do not have time to go into the details, but the reality is that it is not in the most deprived part of London, where the original commitment was given. We need to continue to reaffirm that commitment. Currently the proposal does not match the criteria.
The importance of other sports and cultural uses goes without saying. How do we ensure that schools and others can use the stadium in the future? There are real difficulties. The Spurs bid is very commercially oriented and I worry about how that would fit with the other types of events that are being suggested for the stadium.
Finally, on viability, the Spurs bid is viable; that is clearly the case and I am sure that, as has been suggested, the West Ham bid is also viable. However, we need to take account of the fact that it is very much option B for Spurs. Option A is the new stadium in Tottenham. That proposal has been cleared by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Mayor of London and the planning authority. It is also supported by Spurs fans, not only the “We are N17” group but supporters in N18, N9, and EN3 in my constituency and indeed in the whole of Enfield. There are long-term historical ties; the club would not be Tottenham Hotspur if it was not in Tottenham. Those are important considerations for the club.
However, in the interests of time, let me end by saying that I hope the Minister will indicate how the committee responsible for choosing the successful bidder is looking upon the different bids.
I, too, begin by declaring an interest. I am desperate for West Ham to win at Fulham on Boxing day and then at home to Everton and at home to Wolves. I have been a season ticket-holder in the Bobby Moore stand for many years. I have supported the club for 50 years and I know that there is a long tradition of fans being attached to our current ground. Indeed, there are some West Ham fans who do not want West Ham to move to the Olympic stadium either.
However, the fact is that if West Ham moves to the Olympic stadium site, it will fulfil not only the commitment made to athletics, but for the reasons that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) has given, it will be a commitment to the regeneration of east London and to the priorities of the community there.
If Tottenham Hotspur moves, it will be like Milton Keynes Dons; presumably, the team will rebrand itself as the “Stratford Spurs”. It will become a peripatetic football team, losing its roots and traditions. By contrast, if West Ham moves, it will still be a team from the east end, a team in the borough of Newham and a team with roots in the community, proud to have the claret and blue flying over the Olympic stadium in Stratford and proud to serve the community of east London, including the community in Ilford, where I live and where my constituency is located.
There are a few Tottenham fans in Ilford—not many—but I have not found a single Tottenham fan who wishes to travel to Stratford to go to football matches. I believe that Spurs fans should continue to travel to N17 and West Ham fans should continue to travel to the east end, to grounds in the communities from which they come and which represent their values for the future. One real winner will come from the West Ham bid: the legacy. That is why it is important that West Ham and Newham council’s bid is successful.
I join others in welcoming you to the Chair for this debate, Miss McIntosh.
It was an enormous pleasure to be at the stadium yesterday as the lights were turned on and to see the spectacle of the virtually complete stadium. We saw the structural evidence of progress and had conversations with many of the work force who built the stadium. They took pride in having the opportunity to be part of it and to do something much more than just going to work. The Prime Minister made the point well yesterday that the whole country has built the stadium. The steel came from Bolton, the steel for the aquatic centre came from Newport, some of the planting came from Norfolk and the steel cabling came from Doncaster. Businesses all over the country will reflect with pride on their contribution to the Olympic park. Equally importantly, their order books have been kept busy during the downturn, and they have not had to lay off staff; in many cases, due to the mandate that supply chain contractors must build the skills of their work forces, they have hired apprentices whom they might not otherwise have hired.
The London that will greet the world in just over 18 months will perhaps be different from the stereotypes. It will not be a London of Beefeaters and well-recognised historic monuments but the London reflected in part in the Olympic bid that won us the games. Those young people from Langdon Park were the face of London, representing 20 nationalities and speaking 22 languages. The London that welcomes the world will be a creative London of diversity and tolerance. We will also be proud that businesses around the country have benefited from the investment.
I challenge the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field): I think that scepticism is always a good discipline in relation to such a big project. We won the bid because we said that these games would be the legacy games. We must be kept true to that ambition, which will continue to be realised long after the games are over. We will achieve things that we would never have achieved but for the Olympics and the scale of the ambition that has been unlocked: to be fourth in the Olympic medal table and second in the Paralympic medal table. Our two big legacy ambitions are to transform a generation of young people through sport, and to regenerate east London. Another is, through the Paralympics, to change for ever attitudes toward inclusion, the entitlement to a full place in our society and opportunities for disabled people.
The big and immediate challenge, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) said clearly, is to reshape east London’s economy. This debate has been supported by many right hon. and hon. Members for whom that is a burning concern. I welcome the fact that the Olympic Park Legacy Company has taken a strong lead that can give us all confidence in the commercial future of the Olympic park. The ambition is that the Olympic boroughs, in which too many have been workless for too long, will become the digital equivalent of the square mile in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster, and that the economic heart of London will broaden to incorporate the entrepreneurial and creative talent of Hoxton and Shoreditch and the new studios and workshops of Hackney Wick. It is encouraging that there is already commercial interest in investing in the park. It demonstrates the lasting impact of the Olympics: the hard legacy of the park and the soft legacy of a local population better skilled to take the new jobs brought by the new investment.
Two years before the games, the private sector is already responding, even at this difficult time. Canadian pension funds are investing in Westfield Stratford City, which would not have happened without the games investment. Nine world finance groups are bidding for the athletes’ village, and we have heard plenty about the two remaining contenders for the Olympic stadium.
The important point is that the OPLC will decide whether the eventual winner of the competition provides good value for money in the broadest possible sense. It is also important that whichever club wins the prize, it does not crowd out or put at risk the potential for other investment. It is important that the stadium be reopened rapidly after the games, that the proposal be financially credible and that the community will not be bystanders pressing their noses against the plate glass that excludes them. They are entitled to be full citizens enjoying the park’s facilities. If the OPLC approaches the decision in that way and builds on the commitment to the legacy of jobs, the promise of the legacy will continue to be realised.
Will the Minister reassure us that there will be a continued drive to develop skills and new jobs despite the Government’s proposal to abolish the London Development Agency? Will they realise, as hon. Members have mentioned, the full impact of the tourism legacy?
On school sport, we welcome the second major legacy promise. Will the Minister assure us that in the context of an 80% reduction, the number and range of sports offered will not be reduced, that competitive sport will continue to increase and that the Government will move towards the target that we set in government of 60% of young people participating in at least five hours of sport a week?
The challenges are great, and it is right that there is a clear cross-party commitment to running the Olympic games. I conclude by paying tribute to the Minister and to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), who speaks for the other part of the Tory-led coalition, for the way they sought to ensure, certainly during my time as Secretary of State, that we maintained that spirit, because London deserves it.
I join other Members in congratulating you on your debut appearance in the Chair in this Chamber, Miss McIntosh. No one has mentioned it, but we all ought to congratulate the hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) who has just been elevated to the Privy Council.
I add my personal thanks to the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) for the extraordinarily constructive and inclusive way she managed the process when she was in charge. The past six months must have been difficult for her; to start a project of that sort, be as closely involved as she was and then, for reasons beyond her control, see it pass to someone else must have been difficult. I simply say that I am grateful to her for everything she did and for the way she has conducted herself since. I also congratulate the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) on securing the debate and on the way he made his points.
Given that time is short, I will try to answer the various questions that have been asked as best I can, rather than read the prepared speech, which I suspect might be rather familiar to the right hon. Lady. The right hon. Member for East Ham should have no fear about the political aspect, if that was a worry behind anything he said. The Olympic Park Legacy Company, chaired by Baroness Ford, is doing a fantastic job. She was appointed by the Government in which the right hon. Gentleman served and is a Labour peer—I think she may be a Cross Bencher now—so he should have no worries on the political front.
The right hon. Gentleman asked some good questions about jobs on the site. There are currently 10,333 people working either on the park or the village, of whom 25% and 29% respectively come from the six host boroughs. Genuine employment opportunities have been created, even before the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games brings forward its opportunities, or Westfield starts to recruit for the Stratford City development, which I am told will bring another 20,000 jobs to the area. If those forecasts are correct, the position looks reasonably promising. I enjoyed his suggestion about local residents and a local food court, and hope that he will manage to persuade his borough to take that up.
I absolutely take on board the right hon. Gentleman’s points about school sport. I think that we are all much happier with the position we are in now than the one we were in a week ago. To be fair to the Secretary of State for Education, it was a difficult decision. He had a budget that was subject to a 10% cut and had decided to hand the budgets over to schools, as the hon. Member for Bath noted. Once he had done that and given the schools a 0.1% increase above inflation, he was left with a very small pot, out of which he had to make his 10% cross-departmental cut. At the same time, he was trying to fund the pupil premium, which I guess will benefit many young men and women growing up in the borough of the right hon. Member for East Ham. It was an extremely tight financial settlement, and although I take on board the many points that have been made by the sports lobby, not a single one of them came forward and said, “Save this and cut the other”; it was all, “Save this spending”. Anyone who has had to go through a major deficit reduction plan will know the difficulties involved.
The stadium was the major part of the right hon. Gentleman’s speech. He made a powerful case for West Ham, but I hope that he will not be offended if I say that it was not the first time I have heard that speech, or indeed the counter-offer from north London. He is absolutely right to say that I visited the West Ham community scheme about a year and a half ago when I was in opposition. It is a powerful scheme that does fantastic work in the community, and I pay tribute to it again, as I did at the time.
We are currently in the middle of a legal process, so I am unable to say a great deal more about that now, but I will come on to the dates and who is making the decisions in a moment. Clearly, it is massively to the benefit of the public purse that two extremely good and competitive bids are going forward. If I were to comment in too much detail one way or the other, however, I would open myself up to judicial review. Having been a distinguished Minister in the previous Government, the right hon. Gentleman will know that landing the Government in the High Court is not normally a role for junior Ministers, so I will leave it at that and simply say that the process is ongoing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) talked about the financial aspects. On the village, I can assure him that there are nine high-quality bids, as the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood said. I do not think that I am breaking any confidences when I say that that was considerably more than we expected. There is a great deal of interest in what is being built on the park, and almost everyone who goes there is—to use a nasty, modern phrase—blown away by it. There is considerable investor interest in large parts of it, so I hope that my hon. Friend will be reassured. The right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood is right about the hotel rooms; they are not being paid for from the public budget, and many of the bodies occupying them—the international federations and the rest—are simply billed for them. It is not some great state-sponsored beano in which people will be living at the Dorchester at huge public cost.
In a very good speech, the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) spoke of his passion for the bid. I was lucky enough to be with the hon. Member for Bath and the right hon. Lady in Singapore at the time, and I thank the right hon. Member for Tottenham for the role he played. He made a powerful speech about Tottenham. I hope he will be impressed to know that I have also visited the Tottenham Hotspur community scheme; indeed, he will be doubly impressed to hear that I did so during black history week. There were many people in the stadium at Tottenham studying the very first black player to play for Tottenham.
The very man. They had all drawn him, were learning about him and putting that into context. Crucially, I was told that there was a reading skills course, which I think had been running for seven weeks when I visited, and the average literacy age increased by 18 months over that period. It is a fantastic scheme, and the right hon. Gentleman is right to pay tribute to it.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about the time, but he will appreciate that the remarks I made earlier apply to what I can and cannot say about the process. He is absolutely right that the initial decision will be made by the OPLC board on 28 January. It will then be confirmed, and eventually due diligence will start. I am absolutely sure that some form of deposit or bond will be taken from whichever preferred bidder emerges from that stage, and the decision will then come back to the founder members of the OPLC board—the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Mayor of London. Those three bodies will take on that scheme, and that arrangement was set up under the previous Government. I hope that answers all the right hon. Gentleman’s questions about the process.
The current timetable, all being well—clearly that depends on due diligence and the various things that have to be gone through with the preferred bidder—is for the decision to be announced by the end of the financial year, so by the end of the first quarter of 2011. I would imagine that 1 April 2011 would be a good planning date. Like all decisions, it will be a balance; value for public money, the legacy and promises that we have made will all be considered.
The hon. Member for Bath made a customarily good speech. With regard to tourism, he is right to identify the gap between the ending of RDAs and the start of LEPs as a concern. We are looking at that process with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. I absolutely take on board his remarks about county sports partnerships. One of the things that has come out of the slightly tortured process of the past three months is the question of whether we are making enough use of CSPs, which tend to vary in quality, depending on the area in which they are sited, who is in them and who is running them. There is certainly room to bring the two closer together.
The hon. Gentleman also touched on international inspiration, which has not formed part of the debate. I do not know how many Members picked it up, but we were able to confirm the full funding from the Department for International Development for the remainder of the International Inspiration scheme, which is a considerable step forward.
I thank the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr Love) for his contribution. He made the case for Spurs to remain at White Hart Lane. I am probably in danger of overreaching my brief, but I am not sure that that is an option B, as all the information I have seen indicates that Spurs is pursuing that option very seriously indeed. The hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) made a powerful case in favour of West Ham, and I wish him well for the Boxing day fixture. Time is running out, so I thank all Members who have spoken in the debate for their contributions, particularly the right hon. Member for East Ham, and wish everyone a happy Christmas.