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Olympics and Paralympics (Funding)

Volume 541: debated on Monday 27 February 2012

[Relevant Documents: The oral evidence taken by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 14 and 21 December 2010, HC 689-i and -ii, 17 May 2011, HC 689-iii, 15 November 2011, HC 689-iv, and 24 January 2012, HC 689-v.]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the year ending with 31 March 2013, for expenditure by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport—

(1) resources, not exceeding £2,705,167,000, be authorised, on account, for use for current purposes as set out in HC 1756,

(2) resources, not exceeding £390,871,000, be authorised, on account, for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) a sum, not exceeding £2,660,065,000, be granted to Her Majesty to be issued by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, and applied for expenditure on the use of resources authorised by Parliament.—(Mr Dunne.)

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to debate the funding of the Olympics and Paralympics, although I hope that you will be generous in allowing us to examine the wider benefits that will flow from the funding of the Olympics.

It is now nearly seven years since the day on which it was declared that London would be the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and I suspect that almost everyone will remember where they were and their reaction when the news was announced. It was undoubtedly fantastic news for Britain, and it was rightly celebrated, but I think that quite a lot of us also thought, “Oh dear, what do we do next?” One of the things that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, decided to do was to hold regular sessions to monitor and scrutinise the work being done to prepare for the greatest sporting event that this country has held. Over the past seven years we have held annual sessions with the chairmen and chief executives of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport—first the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) and now my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt).

It is worth observing at this point that one of the striking things about the policy towards and preparation for the Olympics is that not only did London’s bid enjoy cross-party support from the start, but in all the time since it was announced as the host city, despite occasional, small differences across the Chamber, which were inevitable, in the main both parties have worked well together. Certainly, I believe that my party did what it could to support the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood when she was Secretary of State, and since then she has worked with us to ensure that the preparations go ahead smoothly and are not marred by partisanship or political point scoring. We have now—[Interruption.] I am reminded by a cough that that applies not just to the two main parties. I pay tribute to the support and work throughout the entire seven-year period of the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), who has been a stalwart on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

We are now only 151 days away from the start of the games, so it seems an opportune moment to debate the progress that has been made and how close we now are and to focus, in particular, on what we hope to achieve by hosting them. Inevitably, attention initially focused very much on questions of funding and how we would afford to pay for the games. Indeed, there was some anxiety about whether we could finish the work in time for the games—something that has caused concern for previous host cities.

One of the concerns, if not of many Members of the House, then of many people outside it, is that very little attention seems to have been paid at the beginning to how much this would all cost. Various figures were bandied around at that juncture, and £2.5 billion was suggested as the cost of the overall package. I accept that it is good that we have the games and that there is unity across the House about that, but it is equally important that there is an open debate on funding and other related issues, particularly the question of whether there will be the legacy we all hope for in that part of east London, which we will not have a definite answer to for at least another decade. One of the concerns at the outset—of course, that was a very different economic time—was that there was very little scrutiny of the whole funding issue.

Order. Notwithstanding the fact that the hon. Gentleman speaks for two cities, as opposed to a smaller area, a degree of economy when intervening from now on would be appreciated.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I do not want to disagree with him, but although he may well be right that perhaps insufficient attention was paid to funding outside in the wider world, I can assure him that the Select Committee paid close attention to it. I will deal with that in more detail, as it is the prime focus of the debate.

The previous Select Committee, on which I served, spent a great deal of time trying to examine the finances and on one specific issue: transport in London. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that many people in London will be extremely irate if the special lanes that are set aside for International Olympic Committee and Olympic traffic are used by Ministers and others seeking to have an easier time of it in a very difficult city and that it would be best if people avoided such conflicts of interest?

I agree that transport is going to be one of the great challenges, and it is one to which I shall refer and about which, I suspect, other Members will want to talk. I agree also that the reserved lanes have the potential to cause a great deal of irritation to people sitting stationary in traffic jams next door to them. I am sure that it is something my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, too, is keenly aware of, and he may wish to speak about it when he responds later.

On that related point, sensibly most people recognise that there are huge security issues around the Olympic games that mean that Heads of State and Ministers will need to be looked after. The bigger concern that I have, unlike the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), is that a whole lot of flunkeys, hangers-on, junior people with the International Olympic Committee and sponsors are going to get that VIP treatment, when there is no necessity for the security to which I refer.

My hon. Friend brings up the other issue that is causing some anxiety, security, which I am sure we will discuss as well. To a certain extent, the IOC rules, which have proven to be quite challenging in several different aspects throughout our preparation for the games, dictate some of the issues, but again I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will want to discuss that.

The Public Accounts Committee examined all the finances. People do not mind so much the cost or the special lanes; the thing that really irritates them—what they are fed up with and I am fed up with—is that we applied for tickets but none of us got any bloody tickets! They are all going to the flunkeys and corporate people, so what is the Minister going to do about that?

The third issue, besides transport and security, that I was going to and, indeed, still intend to come on to, is ticketing, which I understand has caused some irritation as well. In that particular regard, however, LOCOG was in an appallingly difficult situation, which I shall come to in greater detail in due course. It was going to be criticised almost whichever way it played the situation.

Without wishing to pre-empt a fourth issue, which may come up as well, I just want to say briefly on security that we all recognise that events within 24 hours of our winning the bid in July 2005 meant that the security situation was going to be very different. Although I have, and have long had, concerns about the burgeoning funds for the Olympic games, I recognise equally that we are in a different security position, which therefore inevitably has a cost implication well beyond that which we anticipated back in July 2005.

One of the extraordinary things about how much has been achieved in preparation is that the world is different in quite a number of ways from that of 2005. My hon. Friend is entirely right that the security picture has changed enormously and, I am afraid, for the worse, so it has required much more attention, but the other big change is the economic climate, and many funding issues have been influenced by the fact that the Olympic facilities have had to be built in the teeth of a severe global recession. That has also proved very difficult. One thing that we discovered in talking to previous organisers of Olympic games was that several could not have done so had their work coincided with a recession as deep as the one that we have experienced.

I commend the work of the hon. Gentleman’s Committee over several years. He knows that 10,000 athletes will be guarded by 40,000 police officers and security agents, but during his deliberations was he satisfied that the 23,000 private security agents who are going to be involved had been properly trained to deal with the situation?

My understanding was that 23,000 was the figure for the number of security personnel, of whom a substantial proportion will be from the armed forces, but the Minister may be able to explain.

I shall clear that one up straight away: 23,700 is the total man-guarding number. That comes from four sources: one is an additional commitment from the military here—from our own armed forces—of about 7,500; there is a contribution from the private sector, from G4S; there is a contribution from volunteers; and, finally, there is a contribution from a scheme called Bridging the Gap. That solution—let me give the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) complete assurance on this issue—was felt to be much less risky than looking for the entire balance from the private sector, and that was one of the key drivers behind the announcement that we made in December.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for putting the precise position on the record. However, I am sure that we will come on to debate security at great length, and I want to say a little more about the cost of the games and how it is to be met, which is the area that we focused on to begin with.

The candidature file that was submitted to the IOC originally stated that the cost of staging the games would be £1.5 billion, and once inflation was taken into account that figure increased to an estimated £2 billion. That has largely remained unchanged. The current budget for staging the games is £2.16 billion, 36% of which will come from the IOC, 18% from sponsorship, 20% from ticket sales and 12% from official suppliers. The budget has just about been raised in its entirety, and there is left within it a contingency of £93 million, with risks identified of £88 million. The headroom left in the budget is pretty small; indeed, it was described by the chief executive of LOCOG as being very “finely balanced”. Nevertheless, the Government have so far indicated that they hope that the cost will come in within that figure—understandably, since they will have to fill the gap should it overshoot.

How much will be spent on the two opening ceremonies and two closing ceremonies, and how many billions of people around the world does the hon. Gentleman estimate will watch them on television?

We examined the Secretary of State on the fact that the Government have doubled the budget for the opening ceremony. That has been subject to some criticism, because these are not easy times and a substantial amount of money—£80 million, I believe—is being put in. Nevertheless, as the hon. Gentleman rightly observes, the occasion will probably achieve almost the greatest global television audience ever recorded, and all those people will be looking at London. This is a huge opportunity for us, and I therefore think it right that we should put on a pretty good show.

It is also important to recognise the contribution of partnership organisations. In Medway, the Olympic training centre for two countries cost £11 million, and its funding process will be supported by the university of Kent, the council and Sport England.

My hon. Friend makes a good point in indicating the benefits to his area. One of the challenges, which we have spent some time considering, is how the benefits of our hosting the games can be felt outside London, as the whole country should gain from it. His example of what is happening in Medway is a good illustration of that.

Returning to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell), does the Chairman of the Select Committee agree that spending roughly £80 million on a total of four major events—two opening and two closing ceremonies—will be seen by 4 billion people around the world as good value for money? Is he aware that Martin Sorrell has said that were we to pay for that sort of advertising, it would cost £5 billion?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. As I said, although perhaps not as eloquently as he did, that is my view as well. This is a unique opportunity. The alternative—that we put on a poor show that was watched around the entire world—would be so damaging that it is right that we invest in it and make sure that we get it right. I am confident that, under the leadership of Danny Boyle, that is exactly what we will achieve. As I said, the budget for the staging of the games will be tight, but I hope that it can be achieved without cost to the taxpayer. Our initial hopes proved to be rather less accurate as regards the cost of building the facilities. The original candidature file put the cost of preparing for the games at £3.4 billion, of which £2.375 billion was to be spent by the Olympic Delivery Authority. In March 2007, the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood came to the House and said that the public sector funding package would actually be £9.325 billion.

The hon. Gentleman will also recall that when I came to the House in May 2005, before we went to Singapore, I made it clear that in the event of our winning the games, a complete review of the budget would have to be undertaken because of a number of uncertainties, such as the VAT status, the degree of contamination at the site and the extent of our regeneration ambitions. We made that review between 2005 and 2007. The budget as I published it in 2007 remains the budget.

Indeed it does. I was not seeking to criticise the right hon. Lady, but merely making an observation. She is right that one of the two main reasons given for the increase was that, rather surprisingly, VAT had been left out of the original calculation and there was some uncertainty over that.

May I just deal with that point, which is tediously technical? When we compiled the budget, the status of the delivery organisation had not been settled. The definition of status could have placed the delivery authority on one side or the other of liability for VAT. If it had been, in effect, a local authority, it would not have been liable for VAT. It was judged not to be a proxy body for a local authority and was therefore liable for VAT. That was not clear until, having won the bid, we were able to nail down the role and function of the delivery authority.

I recall having that debate with the right hon. Lady in the Select Committee at the time.

The other element that increased the budget dramatically was the inclusion of the programme contingency. The Select Committee spent some time examining that, because we discovered that the £2.7 billion programme contingency came on top of the contingencies that were built into each of the individual projects. That resulted in an overall contingency within the £9.3 billion budget of £3.5 billion. We observed that that was extraordinarily large. As it happens, it will almost all be spent.

To some extent, the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood was correct in setting, right at the start, the budget with a substantial contingency, which we all hoped would not be spent, rather than having to come back and increase the budget each time. There is no doubt that there would have been far more adverse publicity if the budget had gone up every single year. The then Government decided—I do not criticise them for this—to set a substantial budget with a large contingency right at the beginning, with the expectation, I imagine, that there was no possibility that it could be overrun. As it is, it will be pretty close, but I hope that the budget will be met.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Although it is not for me to defend the previous Government, it is worth balancing what he says by saying that the money that was expected to come from the private sector for the athletes’ village and the broadcast and media centre was not forthcoming because of the financial situation. Despite the fact that everything he says is correct, it should be balanced by the fact that the Government are already in receipt of money for the sale of the athletes’ village and will, I hope, in due course be in receipt of money for the broadcast and media centre.

My hon. Friend anticipates me. I was going to say that the clear reason why the contingency has been spent to a far greater extent than we had originally hoped was that the private sector contribution to the athletes’ village and the media centre simply failed to materialise and had to be met from the public purse. Recouping some of that money through future sales is still an issue of some interest to us, and I hope that the Minister might be in a position to say more about it.

There was always a degree of controversy about the extent to which the financing of the facilities would have to be met out of national lottery funding, and the impact that that would have on the lottery’s ability to fund projects in the rest of the country. We were always very clear that if the lottery was to meet a substantial part of the bill for hosting the Olympics, it would inevitably be less able to fund a lot of worthwhile projects elsewhere, and that some causes would therefore not get the funding that they otherwise deserved. For that reason, we expressed the hope that should the contingency not be fully spent, it could be given back to the national lottery. As it transpires, that will not be possible.

I still very much hope that even though the National Audit Office has expressed concern, the funding package will prove just about sufficient to meet all the costs. I am sure the Minister will want to say a few words about that if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr Speaker. I believe it is fair to say that it will be very tight. The NAO’s last estimate identified a residual risk of something between £127 million and £999 million, with the most likely risk being £318 million, to be met out of the remaining contingency of £354 million. That would leave 0.39% of the budget unspent, so I am afraid the national lottery will not get much from that source.

The Committee identified that future receipts from land sales could be used to compensate the national lottery, and the Government included such a provision in the funding agreement. That is still intended, I hope, to raise £675 million. Perfectly understandably, the Minister is reluctant to give a firm guarantee about that, given the uncertainty about the price of land, but I hope he shares my hope that that can be achieved.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the House should not regularly follow the precedent of sequestering money from the national lottery, since it is not general taxation, and that the lottery should be independent of the House? Does he therefore agree that it is important that the lottery is recompensed as much as possible for the funds that it put into the project?

Yes, I basically do agree with my hon. Friend, but the financing of the Olympics seemed to me a legitimate use of lottery funding, because it is a sporting event and that was one of the four good causes that the lottery was originally established to fund.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the area of east London that the money in question is helping to regenerate was in desperate need, and that if we had not had the Olympics, the regeneration of that area may have taken decades more? Does he agree that the economic development of an area that was quite blighted is a wider and possibly more important issue than reimbursing the lottery?

I completely accept the hon. Lady’s point. Indeed, that was one of the principal motivations for making the bid in the first place, and the Olympics will plainly have a dramatic effect on the area. A number of members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee visited the Olympic park in January, and it is absolutely extraordinary. The sporting facilities are world class, and I hope that they will have a lasting benefit and bring up the whole area in the way that she describes.

As the then Sports Minister, I was able to go to Beijing, and one thing that concerned me was whether London could compare with what went on there. Having visited them, I know that the aquatics centre and velodrome are fantastic facilities. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that they are perhaps better than those in Beijing, so I believe that we have got value for money for the investment that was put in.

I do not know whether Beijing has ever published a final figure of the amount that it spent, but I think it is safe to say that it was rather greater than the amount that we will spend. That makes the hon. Gentleman’s point even stronger. I agree with him that some of the facilities that we saw when we went to the park are just as good as, if not better than, anything in Beijing. I heard the figure of £20 billion rumoured as the cost of the Beijing games, but I do not know whether that is entirely accurate.

While we are still talking about funding, I should like to endorse what the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) said. It would be a missed opportunity if, in an effort to reimburse the national lottery fund, we were to lose moneys that would otherwise go to regeneration. That is their raison d’être in that part of London for the next 10 years.

May I say to the hon. Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) that the independence of the lottery has long since been lost? The Big Lottery Fund, which was introduced under the previous Government, means that lottery funding goes, to a large extent, outside those main causes. It is also true that we put a significant amount of money into the millennium fund in advance of 2000. In many ways, that head was transferred into Olympic funding.

Indeed, although I would hope that one achievement of my hon. Friend the Minister will be restoring the lottery to its original purpose and putting the proceeds to the original good causes rather than to some of the causes that my hon. Friend rightly identifies.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is being very generous with his time. Surely he recognises the unhappiness that exists in places such as Perthshire and poor places such as inner-city Glasgow at the diversion of lottery funding and at the siphoning off of money from grass-roots sports organisations and good causes. This was probably not the best day for the national lottery or the best way to pay for the Olympics.

Mr Whittingdale: I believe that about 20% of the budget is coming from the lottery, which is a reasonably small amount. I also believe that that is a legitimate use. It is not fair to say that Scotland will receive no benefit—there will be benefits around the country. We can also look forward to the Commonwealth games, which I hope will be beneficial to Scotland in due course.

I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) and then to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath, but I probably should make progress at some point.

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way to me a second time. Does he agree that the initial costs could prove in the long term to be a saving to the state, because the sports legacy of the Olympics could deal with health inequalities?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in his aspiration, although he identifies probably the hardest challenge for the Olympics to achieve.

I apologise to the Chairman of the Committee for intervening a second time. Will he ensure that we have very clearly on the record the situation regarding the take from the lottery and good causes? He will recall that the previous Government initially wanted to take around £1.5 billion from the national lottery. There was a lot of concern about that, but they later requested a further £675 million. Many people were concerned about that further request, and it was agreed that that the additional £675 million would be returned. Will he therefore remind the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) that £1.5 billion of lottery money has gone in to help him and will not be repaid?

My right hon. Friend is entirely right and I am grateful to him for spelling out the detail. That is exactly why the £675 million was identified.

It has rightly been said that legacy is the most important issue facing us. In the course of the Committee’s monitoring of preparations, we have visited a number of previous Olympic cities. In the past seven years, we have been to Athens, Barcelona, Seoul, Munich and Beijing, and have talked to the organisers of the Sydney and Los Angeles games. It is fair to say that none has achieved a successful, lasting legacy. Some cities have achieved some aspects, but the challenge for London was always to succeed where other cities had not.

The first challenge, which is obviously of interest to the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), is on the facilities in east London. The Secretary of State told the House recently that six of the eight facilities now have identified tenants and uses, which leaves two. They are the two that have proved the most difficult—the stadium and the media centre. I suspect that we cannot yet say any more about how those two facilities should be used, but obviously the stadium is an extraordinarily expensive facility, and it is important that it is not just used for the Olympics and Paralympics and that we find future uses for it. All the members of the Committee who went to Athens and saw the grass growing out of the tarmac in the Olympic stadium came back determined to avoid such a thing here. I hope that the Minister will talk about that.

The other issue, which my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham rightly raised, is the harder task of creating a sporting legacy. Seb Coe, when he originally made the pitch, concentrated on the need to use the Olympics to inspire young people across the country to want to take up sport. The Government have not sustained the 1 million target, but nevertheless I welcome the Places People Play programme and the extra funding given to it. We are most anxious that when young people, watching inspirational sportsmen winning medals in whatever discipline on the television, think, “I’d like to take up that sport”, they should find it easy to do so. It is terribly important that we support local sports clubs, schools and sporting facilities right across the country, so that those facilities are there and we can get that immediate benefit from the inspiration that the games will undoubtedly bring to people.

I will quickly touch on three areas that my hon. Friends the Members for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) and for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), in particular, have mentioned. As I suggested to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough, ticketing was always going to be difficult. LOCOG could either have pitched ticket prices at such a level that anyone who wanted one would have been likely to get one, in which case it would have been criticised for setting prices too high, or it could have done what it did, which was to set prices at such a level that they were within the reach of most people, but as was entirely predictable, I suppose, demand massively outstripped supply.

As my hon. Friend will be aware, ticketing raised £527 million up to December 2011, and could have raised considerably more had it been based on a free-market approach. Given that the model of secondary ticketing has been banned in the Olympics and given the inspirational nature of the Olympics and other cultural and sporting events, does he agree that the same model should be considered for other events too?

My hon. Friend tempts me on to another topic that has occupied the Select Committee for hours and on which I could speak for some time, but I suspect that you might interrupt me, Mr Speaker, if I strayed too far from ticketing. However, my hon. Friend makes a valid point.

I was not making that point. I said that the public do not understand—I am sure that my hon. Friend can reassure me on this—why, given that the taxpayer has paid for it all, so many tickets are being taken by the corporate people. That is what we cannot understand.

One reason is that financing and staging the games, which was not a cost to the public purse, required the attraction of sponsors, in which we have been very successful. However, that required that the corporate sponsors derived some benefit, and that was always going to include tickets.

Of the tickets available, 75% across the piece were available to the general public. That is a far higher percentage than has ever been available at any other games. Of the remaining 25%, 8% are available to sponsors, in their many different forms—corporate and government. In return, the private sector has provided more than £700 million of private sponsorship. That is a pretty fair deal.

I am grateful to the Minister for supplying the figures that I did not have but which strongly demonstrate why this was necessary. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough that the 20,000 people who applied in the first and second rounds of ticket sales but failed to get any will be given priority over the remaining 1 million tickets about to go on sale. If he happens to be one of those who has been unsuccessful, he stands a good chance should he apply again.

I may come to regret giving that guarantee.

I understand that this issue is a cause for concern, but LOCOG has done as much as it can to ensure that everybody who really wants to attend the games will have the opportunity to do so.

I do not want to spend a great deal more time speaking. I shall merely note the two big challenges, which have already been raised. The first is security, which we have talked about at some length. Obviously the climate has changed since the original budget was set, but the issue will always be a matter of some concern, and I am sure that the Minister will want to say something about it. The second challenge is transport, which I know has occupied the attention of the Government; indeed, it has also caused some concern to the Committee. Even if we achieve the target of reducing journeys on the part of commuters and businesses by 20% on the busiest days—asking people to change their habits to that extent is quite a demanding target—that will still, we are told, lead to half-hour delays in getting on tube trains at certain stations. That is a measure of the difficulty that the issue has caused. Indeed, if there is one issue that is causing the most anxiety to those responsible for preparing for the games, it is transport, so I am sure that the Minister will want to say a bit more about it.

I should say that I am off to a European Committee shortly, so I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the opportunity to get in quickly on the issue of transport. One of the biggest issues—which we are yet to resolve—for the community living around the stadium is which roads will be open and what special arrangements will be made for that community. Resolution of this issue is now desperately needed, and I hope that this afternoon’s debate might shed some light on that.

I am sure that the Minister has heard the hon. Lady’s point and will attempt to shed some light on it, if possible.

My hon. Friend is very generous. Obviously there are concerns about what will happen with transport in July, August and September. However, it is also worth putting on record that it is greatly to the credit of the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) and my hon. Friend the Minister that we have placed a lot of focus on getting the broader transport links in the area right. I hope that will augur extremely well for the legacy that we all wish for. There will be new docklands light railway stations and better transport in the area. I accept that there will be massive congestion during the Olympics, but those developments will stand us in good stead for the future.

I think what my hon. Friend says applies more generally. We hope not only that the London Olympic games and Paralympics will be a fantastic event that will be celebrated and enjoyed across this country and around the world, but that we will secure a lasting legacy that will certainly benefit east London and, I hope, people right across the country.

The Select Committee has inevitably concentrated on the areas of concern. We have identified where we think there could be problems and I hope we have done so in a way that has allowed them to be tackled. However, I congratulate the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood and her party, the right hon. Member for Bath—whom I could not leave out—and my colleagues on the Front Bench on the work that they have all done. In particular, I also congratulate both the Olympic Delivery Authority, which has done a fantastic job in building such world-class facilities on time and, we hope, within budget, and LOCOG, whose main job is still ahead, but which has nevertheless done a huge amount of impressive work. I look forward to the rest of the debate, but I look forward even more to a fantastic games in July and August.

On 27 July, many if not most of my 90,000 constituents will join the 4 billion or so people around the world who will be watching the Olympics. Brighton, with its strong heritage of culture, media and sports, will be particularly pleased that the world’s eye will be on London and Great Britain as a whole. To those who do not welcome the additional investment, I say this: what kind of opening ceremony should we produce? Should we produce a substandard one for the rest of the world to see? Or should we do our absolute best and ensure that London and Great Britain are put firmly on the map?

I congratulate the whole Olympics team and my right hon. and hon. Friends on delivering the games on budget and on time—a remarkable achievement, which I very much welcome.

My hon. Friend congratulates the Government and other bodies on bringing the games here, but will he pay tribute to Sport England—an excellent and fantastic organisation, which has provided facilities and opportunities to some of the athletes who will be representing our country at the Olympics? At this point, I declare an interest as a parliamentary fellow for Sport England.

I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to what is an outstanding organisation.

I welcome the additional investment, and the UK can be proud of its success to date—and there can be no doubt that there has been considerable success to date. We can proud of what I am sure will be a fantastic games and proud of the legacy that the games will leave behind.

These Olympic and Paralympic games represent remarkable value for money, generating both financial benefits and other perhaps less tangible ones as well. The opening and closing ceremonies will be worth potentially £5 billion to the UK. When it comes to global promotion of our great capital city and our great country, this legacy of brand awareness will increase tourism and foreign business investment, which will sell the UK as a destination for many millions of people around the world. We have an interest in students from overseas looking at this brand—and I have to say that brand GB is great product and we should do all we can to sell it. Brand GB will have a huge knock-on effect for years to come. VisitBritain estimates that an additional 4.6 million visitors will visit this country over four years, creating 60,000 extra jobs and a spend of an additional £2.3 billion —a fantastic achievement.

Another part of the games legacy will be a physical legacy, with economic regeneration much needed in this part of east London. Jobs, businesses and money will be created, and the post-Olympic games has the potential to be every bit as exciting as the games themselves.

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way once again. He mentions the benefits for east London, but does he recognise that one of the great benefits of the Olympics will be through the sports centres that are being developed as training centres around the country? In Medway, for example, we have Medway park, where Senegal and the Republic of the Congo will be training. This is a socially and economically deprived area, so children from different backgrounds will be inspired to take part in sport.

As usual, my hon. Friend is right, and I suspect that very few parts of the country will be unaffected by the games. Many young people in Brighton and Peacehaven are involved with sport at a grass-roots level, and I believe the Olympics will act as a catalyst to increase participation and improve health up and down the country.

Does my hon. Friend agree that just the sight of the torch going through places such as my constituency of Hove will inspire people?

I agree. I am sure the torch will light up Hove and act as a beacon for the Brighton and Hove area.

Incidentally, I spent some time this morning at the Meridian school in my constituency in connection with Brighton and Hove Albion’s excellent Albion in the Community project. Sport has always had an ability to reach across barriers and to communicate in a way that few things can equal. It is able to resonate with people of all ages. I welcome that aspect of the games, and of the funding that we are discussing.

Must we not ensure, however, that the inspiration and the benefits of the Olympics are experienced by every region of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland?

I am sure that many people in every part of the United Kingdom will enjoy watching the games, either in person or on the television, or enjoy the economic benefits that will no doubt be experienced throughout the country. However, the hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point.

We should be very proud of our Olympics, because they are our Olympics. We should be proud to fly the flag for our country, and to advertise our nation. It was said in days gone by that the sun never set on the British empire. Our Olympic and Paralympic games will, I am sure, be a huge success, and their influence and impact will also shine around the world. These games will celebrate sport, they will celebrate competition, and, perhaps most important of all, they will celebrate our great country—as a great place to visit, a great place to invest, and a great place to study.

It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Simon Kirby), who—like, I hope, many other Members—has been supporting the Olympics and the Paralympics, but in particular ensuring that his own constituency has an opportunity to gain a lasting legacy from them.

The Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), began his speech by saying that we probably all remembered exactly where we were at the moment when Jacques Rogge tore open the envelope and said “London”. I can tell the hon. Gentleman—in fact, he already knows—that I was in Singapore at the time, enjoying the celebrations. Even before we had won, there was a genuine cross-party consensus supporting first our bid, and subsequently all the work that has been undertaken to ensure that we experience—as I am absolutely certain we will—the most amazing cultural and sporting extravaganza in the Olympics and Paralympics later this year.

The reason the Liberal Democrats were especially keen to support the bid, and the work that has followed, was not particularly to do with a cultural and sporting extravaganza that would last for a few weeks. Our support was due to the fact that we truly believed that putting on such a fabulous show would provide a lasting benefit for every single part of the country, including Northern Ireland. I have often spoken in the Chamber about some of the things that have happened in the Olympics, but I want to say something now about the important work that is being done in Brighton and in many other places where local committees, under the umbrella of the Nations and Regions Group, have been planning activities that will ensure that there is a lasting legacy in their own communities.

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend can remember where he was when that announcement was made. So can I: I was in my office in the Upper Committee Corridor North.

If the Olympic games are to be the success that we wish them to be in all four nations of the United Kingdom and in the regions, they must, from the opening ceremony onwards, be more than London-centric.

I disagree with my hon. Friend. He says that that should be the case from the start of the Olympics, but I believe that all parts of the country should be benefiting from them now, and should have been benefiting from them for some years. I am sure he is aware of the opportunities that have already been provided for building and other contracts, and of the opportunity for schools to benefit through the Get Set programme. He will also be aware of the opportunities offered by the volunteering programme, and of the opportunities for cultural organisations and activities in his constituency and elsewhere to get the Inspire mark. I entirely agree that it is important that the benefits come not only to London but to all parts of the country, but we should also make the point that these benefits should have already started and that we hope they will continue for a long time.

Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I endorse all those points, but it is essential, in the opening ceremonies, that the nations of the United Kingdom believe it is their Olympics, not just London’s.

I am sure Mr Danny Boyle is listening with great interest to the entirety of this debate and that he will have taken on board my hon. Friend’s comments, with which I entirely concur.

The quarterly report of the Olympic and Paralympic games is due to be published tomorrow, and I am optimistic that the figures will show that we continue to be on course to ensure we are within budget and that the building work will be completed on time. LOCOG and the ODA have already done a fantastic amount of work, not only in building the theatre, but in getting the show ready to be put on.

The hon. Gentleman talks about the Olympics and Paralympics. Linked to that, we also have the British transplant games this year, which allow people with transplants to take part in sporting activity. Competitors will be using the excellent facilities in Medway park. We can therefore see the benefits of the legacy, as everyone will have a stake in such facilities.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on drawing attention to that important additional sporting event. The Special Olympics and a number of other important sporting activities are also taking place, ensuring that we give people from all sorts of backgrounds the opportunity to become involved.

Last week, I attended a British transplant games event. These games make people aware of the benefits of organ donation, as they can see transplant recipients participating in sports.

I am sure all Members are grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the importance of that event and the wider issue of transplant donation.

The figures to be published tomorrow will only show what has been spent on the national endeavour. They will not include the great deal of money that has been spent up and down the country in ensuring there is a legacy. For example, in my Bristol-Bath area I had the privilege of establishing Team West of England, now jointly chaired by me and the chief executive of the British Paralympic Association, Tim Hollingsworth. We have now been working for five years, with the support of our local councils and various businesses, to maximise legacy opportunity in our sub-region. As a result, in 2008 we were able to bring the UK school games to Bath and Bristol, thereby injecting £2.5 million into the local economy while also enthusing many businesses and schoolchildren. We have been able to ensure far more opportunity for inter-school sport competition. We have been able to provide taster sessions, enabling youngsters to find out about sports they did not know much about, and perhaps find one that truly excites them. We have also been able to engage large numbers of people, getting them involved in volunteering and providing them with training to give them the opportunity to become, perhaps, one of the games makers.

We have ensured that many businesses have developed the skills to be able to sign up for the CompeteFor website and, more importantly, to go on and win contracts with LOCOG and the ODA. We have helped to develop links with various national bodies, too. For example, the British Paralympic Association will locate its training camp at the wonderful Bath university sports facilities. The first deal done after we had won the Olympics was between Bristol university and the Kenyan Olympic team. It involved a 10-point plan, of which only one was that the training camp would be held in Bristol. That demonstrates the importance of legacy, because the deal included business links, other forms of sporting links, educational links between schools in Kenya and in Bristol, cultural links and many other things. Lots of things are happening locally in addition to the work that is going on nationally.

The right hon. Gentleman speaks movingly of the legacy being put in place, particularly for young people in schools. As he mentions the Paralympics, does he agree that it is fantastic that, for the first time, Paralympic sports are being offered in schools as part of the legacy programme? That will offer unrivalled opportunities to disabled children, who in the past have not had such opportunities.

The hon. Lady tempts me into a long peroration about the Paralympics. This country is the home of the Paralympic movement, and I am delighted that so much emphasis is being placed on it. The national media coverage by Channel 4 of those events will shine so much excitement into our homes, and I suspect that many Paralympic sports of which most people are currently unaware will become firm favourites in years to come. I often give a particular mention to the Paralympic sport of goalball in these debates, because I believe that many people will be talking about it in a few months’ time. She correctly says that it is all right having things done at the elite national level, but what is really important is making sure that our children with physical disabilities have an opportunity to participate and excel in sport, and to have competition in which they can demonstrate their excellence. That is why it is so good that the Olympic-style school games that has been developed by the Government includes Paralympic sporting activities. She is absolutely right to raise that issue.

Nationally, lots of legacies will flow from the games and from the funding that has been spent, and the high-profile ones have been adequately discussed by the Chair of the Select Committee. We have heard of the concerns about the security budget, which has increased significantly, but all hon. Members are well aware that the circumstances changed dramatically the day after we heard that we had won the bid, with the tragedy of 7/7. A more detailed analysis of the needs has shown that we now require 23,700 security people instead of 10,000, so the budget has inevitably increased. Everybody would welcome the fact that we have a team of people who have done fantastic work to ensure that these games are the safest they can be given the difficult circumstances, and most people would recognise the importance of providing that necessary funding.

As I mentioned in an intervention, the other thing that seems to be causing much concern, although I genuinely do not understand why, is the £41 million increase in the funding for the four ceremonies—the two opening and two closing ceremonies. That seems an awful lot of money, but we must bear in mind that 4 billion people will be watching, so we have an opportunity to showcase this country and there are potential benefits for tourism and business investment. As the Chairman of the Select Committee said, we can all imagine how disastrous it would be if we got those four ceremonies wrong. So that is money well spent, and I welcome the decision to increase the funding.

We need to ensure that we have legacy benefits in the areas of sport, culture, business, tourism, education, volunteering, transport and regeneration. I am confident that there will be benefits in every one of those areas, not only in London, with the huge development and regeneration of part of east London, but in all parts of the country. If we look at any of those in detail, the House will see that real benefits are set to come. Let us consider, for example, the sporting legacy. Of course I expressed disappointment in the early days of this Government about the decision to reduce the funding for the school sport partnership scheme. That had the potential to damage the sporting legacy we could hope for from the 2012 games. Since that time, with the development of some of the other initiatives—not least the school games—we have made up lost ground. I welcome the fact that there are a stack of schemes to ensure that there is a legacy.

It is worth remembering that we have made a commitment as a Government that after the games we will continue to fund elite sport at a high level—the first Government ever to do so following a games. I welcome the fact that we have so many schemes to ensure that there are improved sporting facilities for our local communities, including the Places People Play programme, which I very much welcome, and the London 2012 Changing Places programme, and I also welcome the way in which so many schools have embraced not only the school games but the educational Get Set programme.

One thing that is rarely mentioned but deserves to be is something for which the former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), deserves a great deal of credit as she, more than anybody, pushed for the international inspiration scheme. As well as funding activities in this country, we have been funding work around the world. When we were in Singapore, as I mentioned, the now chairman of LOCOG, Lord Seb Coe, said that we would

“reach young people all around the world and connect them to the inspirational power of the Games so they are inspired to choose sport…improving their lives as a result”.

Already, 12 million children around the world in 19 different countries have actively participated in sport, physical education and play as a direct result of that scheme, many of them for the first time; nearly 80,000 teachers, coaches and young leaders have been trained to lead sports and physical educational activities; and 21 legislative changes have taken place around the world influenced by the work we are doing.

These games are important, not just because they will be a fantastic sporting and cultural extravaganza for a few weeks in London and one or two other places, but because they will benefit every part of the country, providing a lasting benefit to our generation and to future generations. The money has been well spent.

It is a great pleasure to be called to speak in this debate, particularly because it is rare in politics to find a topic on which one can speak with unbridled enthusiasm. This being an imperfect world, almost everything has its caveats, but that is not so with the London 2012 Olympics. I was privileged to be part of the inquiry undertaken by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport into the Olympic and Paralympic games—considering both the games and their legacy—and I can honestly say that in my brief time in this House, I have not come across anything else in politics so wholly impressive, unless it be the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), who is over there in the corner.

The revised £9.3 billion budget, as set by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), was sensible and sober and it remains intact. It is a slight pity that the right hon. Lady cuts an elegant but solitary figure on the Opposition Benches—although I am sure that, like Horatius, she will be able to hold the bridge against the ravening hordes on this side of the House, especially as there is so much good will towards her over the Olympic project.

With a project of this size and complexity, it is a fact that not everything will go right all the time. LOCOG practically doubled its security budget, adding £271 million to take that budget to just over £500 million in total. As we have heard repeatedly, the opening and closing ceremonies have also approximately doubled their budgets, adding £41 million to the cost. I would say that they are cheap at the price. The deal that had been in place for the Olympic stadium collapsed after legal wrangles, including a complaint about too much state aid being made to our wonderful partners in the European Commission, and a leasehold solution is now being sought, with either a football or non-football option. Tenants have not yet been found for the media centre—I am sure that the Minister will have something to add on that Subject—but the Department and the Olympic authorities are confident that some will be found in due course.

Although those budgetary revisions make the headlines in the papers and are the subject of frothing documentaries by Sky and articles in The Daily Telegraph, the enormous savings achieved by the Olympic Delivery Agency do not—surprise, surprise—cause so much comment. Since 2007 the ODA has managed to save out of its projected budget a total of £910 million. That is one reason why the overall budget envelope of £9.3 billion for the Olympics remains intact. Indeed, in the few months between July and September last year the ODA achieved £42 million in savings. Hon. Members with keen memories will note that that is £1 million more than the additional funding provided for the opening and closing ceremonies. Like a good housekeeper, the ODA is successfully managing its budget; perhaps my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will call on it to give him some advice on the difficult task before him next month.

The esteemed Chairman of our Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), who has rather heroically remained in his place after his extended speech, in which he skilfully steered us through the inquiry on the Olympics, has said to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, with the typical forthrightness that is his hallmark:

“If it goes wrong, you are dead.”

Although the National Audit Office has said there is a “real risk” that more money will be needed, I am certain that the Secretary of State can sleep soundly in his bed. Everything our Committee has heard from LOCOG, the ODA and the legacy company indicates that the 2012 Olympics will be an unmitigated triumph—and, furthermore, that they will deliver a successful, sustainable community in Stratford, which will be of immense benefit to London, and indeed the entire country.

From the first tendering of our bid there has been incredibly successful management. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr Foster) has just mentioned the bid for the coverage of the Paralympic games, and many people were surprised that the preferred bidder was Channel 4 rather than the BBC. However, Channel 4 is another public service broadcaster—many people do not realise that—and with its edgy brand and appeal to young people it will really be able to showcase the Paralympic games as they have never been showcased before. As has been mentioned, six of the eight legacy venues have been disposed of before the games have even commenced. To put that in context, no other country that has delivered an Olympic games in modern times has come anywhere close to disposing of six out of eight legacy venues before the games even started. Currently the focus is on the disposal of the media centre and the Olympic stadium, but that is because they are the last two venues, and the two most difficult, of which we have to dispose. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was accused of being a “glass half full” person, he responded, quite rightly, that the glass was three-quarters full. I think we have to pay tribute to the legacy company for the incredibly successful way in which it is delivering the Olympic legacy.

I believe—I am prepared to stick my neck out on this right now—that our Olympics will be something that our country perhaps has not been used enough to in the recent past; a textbook case of our getting everything right. Rio de Janeiro is already looking at how we are doing things, and I believe that future hosts of the Olympics will come to Britain and ask how we did it successfully, on time, under budget and with a proper sustainable legacy that will carry us right through to the end of the legacy period in 2016 and beyond.

Hon. Members might remember the surprisingly strong reaction in this country to the London fireworks that opened 2012. There was surprise that for once we had done something really well, and—I hope the House will forgive my language—stuck it to Sydney by producing the best fireworks around the world. Although it was just for one night, there was a great sense of surprise and pride in our nation. Something as short as 12 minutes of fireworks on new year’s eve managed to achieve that, and I give all credit to the Mayor of London, for whom I am happy to be campaigning later this week, for delivering those fireworks. I am prepared to bet that the period of the Olympic and Paralympic games will deliver, on a much larger scale, that same glow of national pride —and perhaps slight national astonishment—that we have managed to pull the event off, as I believe we will.

Here we are, on an estimates day, talking about the cost estimates for the Olympics. In a way they are a difficult subject for us to debate, although it is easy to measure hard metrics, such as the economic benefits, direct and indirect, that will be brought to the country. For example, the Westfield Stratford shopping centre, which opened in September and is one of the largest shopping centres in Europe, would never have been built without the impetus created by the Olympic games. The centre is a fantastic facility for London in general and the people of Stratford in particular. We can measure that type of hard metric far more easily than we can the soft metrics such as happiness, and national and local pride.

In Corby and east Northamptonshire, which I have the privilege to represent, we are massively proud of our local contribution to the Olympics. Our Team GB gymnast, Daniel Keatings, who opened our international pool in Corby, will represent our country in the Olympics, and hurdler William Sharman is in training to qualify. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Simon Kirby), I am delighted to be able to say that part of my constituency, Corby, is to be a host venue for the Olympic torch. We look forward to hosting the Olympic flame on 2 July, when the whole town will be out on the streets to welcome it. We plan a cheerleading and swimming display at our international pool, and any Member of the House who wishes to attend is welcome to do so. In the more rural part of my constituency, east Northamptonshire, inter-school games are marking the event. As a community, we have no doubt that although the games are located in London, they will bring their benefits to the heart of Northamptonshire, the rose of the shires.

When I intervened on my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath, I mentioned that although Sport England’s 1 million figure may have been a little unrealistic, the amount of additional sporting participation that has been achieved is greatly to be welcomed. I especially welcome Sport England’s introduction of Paralympic events into schools. For far too long, our disabled children have felt left out of school sports, they have not had role models to aspire to emulate, and they have not felt part of the national conversation. The one-two punch of investment in school Paralympic sports and Channel 4’s no doubt innovative coverage of the Paralympic events will make a real difference.

We have not yet touched on the Cultural Olympiad, which has also been running since 2008. It has already involved more than 16 million Britons either as participants in workshops run by the Cultural Olympiad or as audience members, and will culminate in the London cultural festival in 2012.

The Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon, mentioned how concerned we were to urge the Government to ensure that the opportunity is not lost to drive home the message at grass-roots level. The Committee has urged the Government to look at so-called red button technology, so that when a particular sport is being shown on the Olympic broadcasting channel and networks, people will be able to press the red button on their remote control to find clubs for that sport in their area. Someone watching volleyball, for example, can press the red button to see where and how they can get involved in the sport locally. Every year after Wimbledon, we see a surge in the number of young people enrolling in tennis clubs. It may not last long, as we tend to be eliminated in the quarter finals—I am sure that will change any minute now—but we do see that upsurge in tennis participation. Perhaps the Minister will say in his closing remarks how the Government intend to seize the opportunity to drive home the message about the opportunities that exist up and down the country for participation in sports that may not normally get their moment in the sun.

Although we have heard today about concerns about ticketing, I suggest that they are yet another metric of how successfully the Olympic games are being run. The fact is that there is massive demand for Olympic tickets, even for events where there is normally little demand.

That leads me neatly to a comparison between our games and those in Beijing. As we watched the television coverage of those games we saw vast swaths of empty seats during the various stadium events. The tickets had been given away to corporate sponsors who were not particularly interested in the games, or in some cases to people in provinces and regions of China who found it too difficult to travel into Beijing to attend the games.

I pay tribute to the London Olympics authorities for the way in which they have managed the ticketing. They are trying to make it as fair as possible and to give everyone a chance, but the fact is that demand for Olympics tickets outstrips supply. Neither the Government nor the nation should be upset about that; it is something that we should absolutely celebrate. I should also like to mention the innovative and imaginative way in which the Olympics authorities are trying to ensure that as many people as possible get to see their favourite Olympic sport on the day. They are going to copy the highly successful ticketing system introduced at Wimbledon last year, and anyone leaving the Olympic stadium will be able to hand in their ticket stub, enabling their place to be resold at face value to anyone who wishes to enter. That will ensure that there are no empty seats.

The Olympic authorities have also imaginatively targeted the people who are most likely to be interested in particular sports. For example, they have approached local hockey clubs first to ask whether their members would be interested in tickets for the hockey events. They have thus ensured not only that the seats will be filled during the Olympic games, but that they will be filled by genuine fans, rather than by people who have purchased tickets at vastly inflated prices from ticket touts. This is yet another metric of how well we are doing. If some, like myself, have not been fortunate enough to secure Olympics tickets—

I share my hon. Friend’s disappointment. I, too, did not succeed in my repeated bid for tickets. Does she, however, share my excitement at the prospect of up to 1 million tickets coming to those of us who failed on the first two occasions?

I do share my hon. Friend’s excitement, and I hope that she and I will be fortunate. If we are not, however, I suggest that that will be a small price to pay for having a well-ticketed, well-attended Olympics that genuine fans can get into. If there is some disappointment, it is only because these Olympics are being run in an absolutely fantastic manner and because the whole country is engaged with the desire to see and participate in them.

Marketing Week has estimated that during the entire 11-year period from the build-up to the end of the designated legacy period in 2016, the gain to the country as a whole from the Olympics will be £36 for every man, woman and child. I almost hesitate to read out the figure for those living in London: the gain to them will be £787 per person. In pure hard cash terms, that is a phenomenal return on investment. However, many right hon. and hon. Members have said that we cannot measure the success of the Olympics in bread, or money, alone.

These Olympics represent a chance in a lifetime for our great capital city and our country as a whole. More or less every penny of that £9.3 billion will be money well spent. The House and the nation are already looking forward to celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee earlier in the summer, and I can honestly say that when we couple the diamond jubilee with the Olympic and Paralympic games, this is going to be a great summer for Great Britain.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate on the Olympics estimates. It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Louise Mensch). I read her contribution to the Select Committee debate—it provided interesting research material for today’s debate, which has been interesting so far.

I congratulate the previous Government not only on securing the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games but on setting a realistic estimated budget for the delivery of the games. Their announcement, in March 2007, of an increase from the initial estimate of £2.3 billion at the time of the bid to £9.3 billion attracted unwelcome and negative comment at the time, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) said, it is probably much better to announce a large increase in one go than to announce incremental increases over time, and we welcome the fact that they did so.

However, even with the cost savings announced in May 2010 and the recent increase in the security allocation, the estimated budget looks about right. That is important, because previous games have ended up two or three times over budget and in these times of financial constraint it is essential that British taxpayers do not feel that they have overfunded a sporting event.

What is clear—this is why it is important that we welcome the realistic setting of the funding package—is that, although we must not overspend on what is essentially a sporting event, we must not underfund it either. The Olympics are not just any old sporting event; they are the world’s greatest sporting event. More than 200 nations will compete in some form of Olympic game and the event will be watched by a global audience of billions. The 2008 Beijing Olympic games had an estimated global audience of 4.7 billion, which was significantly higher than the 3.9 billion achieved in Athens in 2004. I see no reason why London 2012 will not achieve something around the 4 billion mark, so the world will literally be watching our ability to stage the games. It is therefore essential that we do not fail. Much of the viewing total will be clocked up at the opening ceremony. With 80,000 spectators and 130 heads of state expected to be in the stadium, more than 1 billion people are expected to watch the ceremony on television. Again, an important balancing act must be achieved between providing good value for money for the British taxpayer funding the ceremonies and showcasing the country to the world.

The Secretary of State is right that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think that everyone acknowledges that our ceremonies will not be as extravagant or expensive as those in Beijing, but we must grasp the opportunity while we have it, because if it succeeds the taxpayer will benefit, but if we fail not only will it be a financial disaster, but it will be the Government who get the blame.

I completely endorse everything my hon. Friend is saying, but I put it her that, although the ceremonies might not be as expensive as those in Beijing, I have good reason to believe that they will be every bit as extravagant and just as good, if not better.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Indeed, she demonstrated in her speech that we can put on a good event, as the new year fireworks demonstrated this year—as she so eloquently put it, they put Sydney to shame—so we can certainly do this.

It is important that we get the balancing act right for the taxpayer. Of course, if financial tightrope walking was an Olympic sport, all of us here today would be willing the Minister into the gold medal position. Arguments will take place over funding for specific aspects of the Olympics, such as security, ticketing, ceremonies and so on, but I believe that the most important part is the bit that we probably cannot put a price tag on: the legacy of London 2012. For many youngsters, these will be the first Olympic games they remember, and it is here on their doorsteps. I vaguely remember watching the 1980 games while sitting with my dad on the sofa, but it was the 1984 Los Angeles games that really began to penetrate my memory, with Coe, Ovett and Cram becoming instant playground icons.

I share my hon. Friend’s happy memories. In fact, my friends and I were so inspired that we soon dashed out in our quest to become mini athletes, admittedly at varying levels of success. Clearly our Olympics have the potential to inspire a generation, so does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that we all support the Government’s plans for the school games?

I certainly agree. I am lucky to share a county with the Minister, who has been a strong advocate of encouraging people to participate in sport and the games. We would encourage not only greater participation, but inter and intra-school competitiveness, which I think is hugely important.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the legacy of the Olympics for young people is not just about individual sports, but about the importance of competition within those sports, because competition is such an important part of succeeding in this world?

I completely agree. For too long we have had an “everyone should have prizes” culture, and the great thing about sport is that it does encourage competitiveness. Competitiveness is right at a particular age: it is important to ensure that young people at an early age engage in sport, but as they get older competitiveness becomes a hugely important part.

Returning to the 1984 LA Olympics, I only remember the track events to be perfectly honest, perhaps because that is all television showed at the time. There was no red button to switch from the popular track and field events to others.

I am enjoying my hon. Friend’s recollection of the Los Angeles Olympics. Hockey was given a terrific boost as a result of the success of the men’s team, who won an unprecedented bronze medal at the time. Interest in the sport was given a huge boost.

I completely agree, and my hon. Friend will be aware that there are three Kent players in the GB team, so we look forward to an increase in people’s participation in hockey, although my memories of it, at a girl’s school in his constituency, fill me with horror sometimes.

With the advent of multi-platform broadcasting, I am excited for our younger generation, who will be able to watch almost any event live in their front rooms and be awed or inspired by the athleticism of our British competitors. Medway, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) said, will host various teams in the run-up to the Olympic and Paralympic games, including the Portuguese gymnastics and trampolining squads and the Barbados Paralympic team.

The Olympic torch will come to Chatham, as it will to other towns, giving local people a real sense of participation in the games. I learned recently that I have a former Olympian living in my constituency. Frank Sando ran the 10,000m in the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, finishing a respectable 5th in Helsinki but 10th in Melbourne. He was, however, a dominant force in international cross-country for most of the ’50s, and I am sure that he will act as an inspiration to many locally, who may go on to join Maidstone Harriers, a popular athletics club.

Does my hon. Friend agree that her being able to cite people in her constituency who go back to the 1952 games shows the real long-term legacy of the Olympics? People write themselves into history, and the rest of us—in this House and everywhere else—remember them. I am therefore absolutely certain that holding the Olympics in this country is the right thing, and that the legacy will go well beyond £1 billion, or however it might be quantified in monetary terms.

I completely agree, and it is not just about the people, but about the clubs that help prepare the athletes to reach major sporting events such as the Olympics. Our investment in that legacy will show a huge return in the long term.

As a Kent and Medway MP I am delighted that we, as a county, have a number of locally born and bred athletes taking part in this year’s Olympics. The county will join the country in being 100% behind each and every one of them in whatever sport.

As the House knows, I remain involved in girls football, and the 13 and 14-year-old girls I see every weekend, and their friends, will be able to watch someone such as the world’s number one trampolinist, Kat Driscoll, who grew up in Chatham and went to the same schools as them, compete for an Olympic gold medal; and she can serve only to inspire and encourage them to remain active. We have an opportunity nationally to showcase Great Britain to the world, and I hope that Kent and Medway athletes will play their part.

My hon. Friend refers, as I did, to an Olympian in her constituency. Does she not agree that that is part of the answer to those who say that the Olympics are too London-centric? We all see in our local areas, whether through the Olympic torch, schools sports or the Olympians who come from our constituencies, that the games are touching, and providing a legacy to, the whole country. London is merely the location, but the Olympics are held in all our hearts.

I completely agree, but let us remember that there are several sporting events in the Olympics and not all will take place in London. Such factors will encourage people from all over the country to go to the Olympics, but the Olympics themselves will be spread far and wide across the nation.

The estimated budget, as supported by today’s motion, was realistically set by the previous Government and has been managed excellently by this Government and by the delivery organisations. I appreciate that it sounds like a lot of money to spend on a few weeks of events, but the benefits, economic and otherwise, of ensuring that we have the world’s greatest, most historic sporting event far outweigh the downsides. I am sure that the whole House will join me in praying that London 2012 runs smoothly and without incident and that we can provide a strong Olympic legacy to benefit many people for years to come.

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), who is known, among other things, for being an able sportswoman herself. Sadly, I am no athlete but, like many Members and residents of the country, I will be looking forward enormously to the Olympics.

I must stress that I am not an athlete either, which may come as a surprise to Members of this House, but we have a Sports Minister who, when he was at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, got colours in three separate events. I reckon that that is pretty special, so well done the Minister.

I thank my hon. Friend for that interesting intervention and for further reason to respect the Minister.

There are many different ways for us to celebrate the Olympics. There will be the huge and exciting drama of the opening ceremony, the actual competition—

One of the great things about the Olympic opening ceremony this time is that the people of Tunisia will have there a Head of State who is elected by them, as will the Libyans, who will be represented by a Head of State in whom they have confidence, unlike in years before.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing to the important political front of house that goes on at the Olympics. It is interesting to remark on that, because we tend to focus on the sporting and cultural elements.

Unfortunately, like many other Members, I did not get tickets. I am hoping to get them in the next round; otherwise, I will be glued to the television at particular points of the event.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the abject failure of Members of this House successfully to apply for tickets shows what an open, honest and transparent system it was?

I can concur with that, disappointing though the outcome may have been for most of us.

The element that I am particularly excited about is the torch relay, which is taking part throughout the country and is an excellent way of bringing the games to the whole of the United Kingdom. The budget for the torch relay is part of the operating costs for the running of the games and is administered by LOCOG. It is expected to be £3.8 million, which is a small fraction of LOCOG’s overall budget of £2 billion, and I am happy to say that it is being met almost entirely from broadcast rights, sponsorship and ticket sales.

The torch relay will start in Land’s End on 19 May and will then showcase the diversity of the UK by visiting over 1,000 communities. I learned earlier in the debate that the torch is visiting Hove and Corby. That is very good news for those places, but I am afraid that I have to say that the great news for my constituency is that the torch is not only visiting Hastings but spending the night there; it is a very lucky torch indeed. We are planning some fantastic events for that evening to attract more tourists and visitors and to make it a truly spectacular occasion for the residents of Hastings, for those visiting the area, and for the torch’s escorts. I am delighted that we will play our part in this historic occasion, which will provide an excellent opportunity for the whole community to come together to celebrate the Olympics. Lots of my constituents were, like me, disappointed not to be successful in the ballot for tickets, but they are looking forward enormously to the special moment on 17 July when we have the torch in the town and are able to celebrate the Olympics in that way.

I know my hon. Friend’s beautiful constituency of Hastings and Rye very well, having lived next to it before I was so fortunate to be selected for Corby and to move to my natural home in the rose of the shires, and it is steeped in history. In Hastings, as in Corby, people will no doubt line the streets to see the Olympic torch and participate in local events to celebrate its passage through their towns. The torch relay is one way for the Olympics to visit us, given that we cannot all go to London. If not everybody can go to the Olympics, the Olympics can go to an awful lot of people around the country.

Order. May I remind Members that they should face the Chair when making interventions? That is not just so that I can look at your wonderful faces but so that you are speaking into the microphone.

I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. She is well known for having a way with words, and today is no exception.

The Olympic torch relay represents peace, unity and friendship, as the flame is passed from one torch bearer to another. The torch relay in 2012 will give everyone in the UK the chance to be part of this historic occasion. The torch will go to almost every corner of the UK. LOCOG has achieved its ambition of taking the flame to within an hour’s journey of 95% of the population. We should applaud and congratulate it in achieving that endeavour.

The torch and the relay are not innovations. They were important elements of the cultural festivals surrounding the Olympic games of ancient Greece and they are just as important to us in 2012. The torch relay will spread the excitement of the games across the UK and mark the final countdown to the games.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Lord Bates, who has just completed his Olympic walk from Greece to London to raise awareness for the Olympic pledge of peace that will hopefully reign when the Olympics take place?

I am delighted to join those congratulations. It is always encouraging and exciting when there are new initiatives to draw attention to the Olympics.

Traditionally during the games, a sacred flame burned continually on the altar of the goddess Hera. In addition, heralds were summoned to travel throughout Greece to announce the games, declaring a sacred truce for their duration. Our heralds in 2012 will be 8,000 inspirational people, who have been nominated by their local communities to have their moment to shine. I am sure that many Members have been involved in nominating torch bearers. The focus will be on the nation’s youth, with a large percentage of the torch bearers being 18 years old or under. Even today, a precise ritual for the lighting of the flame is followed at every games. It is lit from the sun’s rays at the temple of Hera in Olypmia in a traditional ceremony among the ruins of the home of the ancient games.

On looking back at the torch relays over the years, one appreciates how important the Olympic torch has been. In the modern games, the Olympic flame represents the positive values that man has always associated with fire. The purity of the flame is guaranteed by the way that it is lit using the sun’s rays. When the UK hosted the games in 1948, the torch delivered a welcome message of peace in a Europe sorely afflicted by the aftermath of the war.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is being very generous in giving way. With regard to the positive values of the Olympic games, one of the great things that we will see is that some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, will send women to take part for the first time. That will empower women and spread positive values around the world.

I thank my hon. Friend for that interesting point. I agree that if the Olympics can contribute to the emancipation of women in other countries, it will be a further benefit of what we are doing.

My hon. Friend is being very patient. I was inspired by her repeated references to white-armed Hera, the consort of the gods, who was well known for her jealousy and envy. Does she agree that the process of submitting bids for heroes and heroines in our communities to be torch bearers, despite many people not being successful, has brought the country together? While the torch bearers will be the spearheads of the Olympic effort, their efforts will be replicated by the volunteers who will be games makers and ambassadors for the Olympics. The good will that is derived from the Olympic spirit has spread throughout the community.

My hon. Friend is right. The Olympics are about so much more than the competitors. My remarks focus on the torch relay, but the games are also about the volunteers. These are ways of engaging the whole country, young and old, in the excitement of the games.

If I may, I will finish my little anecdote about 1948, when the Olympics were here. The first runner, Corporal Dimitrelis, symbolically took off his military uniform before carrying the flame, commemorating the sacred truce observed in ancient Greece.

I return to Hastings, where we have the great excitement of the torch staying overnight. I ask the Minister to see whether he can possibly get me some assistance in a negotiation with LOCOG upon which I and my local council are trying to embark. We are very excited about the journey that the torch will make. It is due to come along the coast road, but we are trying to persuade LOCOG to make a small change to the route so that it can go to the William Parker sports college.

If that small diversion can be made, we can ensure that possibly 1,000 or 2,000 young people, who will be meeting for their annual sports event, are present. It would be impossible to get all those young people together in a safe environment on the sea front, where the torch is due to go. That small diversion could have a dramatic impact on them. I wrote to the Minister about that point in January, and he kindly referred me and our initiative to LOCOG. The borough council is now working with LOCOG on the matter, but I would be very grateful for the Minister’s intervention and assistance in making the case to LOCOG.

As we know, there has rightly been much talk about the investment in the Olympics and the legacy that we want from them, but what will be the greatest legacy of all? It will surely be in the minds of the young people who are inspired to take up competition and sports. In that way, the truly life-changing legacy that we hope to get from the Olympics can come to the young people of Hastings.

It may come as no surprise to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that, unlike Members such as the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), I have absolutely no sporting prowess whatever, and there is none in my family.

My hon. Friend is very modest, but will he be inspired by the Olympics to take part in a sport afterwards?

In another life, perhaps.

My sporting achievements are somewhat limited. In fact, it is fair to say that even a sprint would be out of the question, and a marathon to me is a former name for a chocolate bar. As far as the high jump is concerned, it is quite clear that with the exception of certain moments in the Whips Office, it will never be open to me. However, I believe that the Olympic games and their legacy are absolutely critical for this country and everything that we stand for.

I know that there has been a lot of discussion about cost overruns, arguments about corporations and sponsorship being involved, people saying, “It’s not like it used to be” and all that sort of thing, but a country such as ours has to have its turn at hosting such tremendous events. For example, we hosted the G20. We hosted the World cup, and I hope we will win it again. A country that depends so much on its international prowess in sport, commerce and trade, and that is one of the leading nations for foreign aid and many other things, must have the Olympic games every so often. I am delighted that we will do so in my lifetime, and I am pleased to hear Members on both sides supporting what we are doing.

My hon. Friend has mentioned other sporting events, and one of our fantastic, well-loved sports is cricket. We had the cricket world cup here, and we won the World Twenty20. On the legacy of the Olympics, does he support the excellent work of Sport England in putting more than £30 million into its Sportivate programme to get 16 to 24 year olds into sport in the long term?

As I have learned to say in the trade, my hon. Friend makes a very good point. I know he has done a lot of work on the subject.

When I consider the legacy of Olympic games and the other great events that have happened in this country, I think of the museums that came out of such events in the 19th century—the empire exhibitions, or whatever they were. We had the Victoria and Albert museum, the Science museum and the Natural History museum. More recently, in the last century, Wembley, which has become a national institution, was the legacy of the Empire exhibition following the first world war. I am certain that some of the buildings and institutions that will come from this Olympic games will be remembered a long time after current Members of the House are no longer with us—I do not just mean electorally—and for many generations to come. Those are the real legacies of Olympic games.

More of those buildings will have private names following this Olympics and will be sponsored by Sky, Vodafone and whatever. I agree that that is a difference, but it simply reflects how society has moved on. Private enterprise is involved in such huge international events in most countries far more than it ever was—I gave examples previously.

Watford is normally the hub of the universe—it can certainly compete in its own right with Beijing, Manhattan or wherever—and it gives me no pleasure to report that the Olympic torch is taking a wide diversion down the M1 and will not stop there. There are no Olympic events in Watford, but I am a fanatical supporter of the Olympic games and the effect they will have on Watford. Daniela Sposi, for example, is trying hard to get into the British handball team. Everyone that she has known from her schooldays onwards is inspired by the hope that she will get into the team.

Hundreds of schools in Hertfordshire have taken part in the Hertfordshire school games, which the Secretary of State launched not so long ago. A constituency or town, therefore, does not have to be a destination for the Olympic torch. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) spoke about her impressive and excellent town, but those of us who were less fortunate with the Olympic torch route have a lot to play for, and many things will come from the Olympics.

Watford has embraced the Olympics in other ways. We have developed a fitness and play area—the Sports Legacy Zone—which was inspired and opened by two famous Olympians, Steve Backley and Roger Black. We have volunteers rushing to help in the Olympics. Only on Friday I met a young man who had graduated in chemistry from Oxford university who is organising his career so that he can take time to be an Olympic volunteer. There are so many things, other than the Olympic flame and stadiums, that every person in this country and every constituency can take from the games.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He touched on the matter of private sponsors for the Olympics, which some in the House and elsewhere have decried. Does he agree it should be a matter of great pride for the Olympic Delivery Authority that it has managed to attract such private support for the games, which means that we can deliver a games that will be successful, sustainable and under-budget? Does he also agree that private sponsorship is not necessarily bad? For example, regrettably, there were very many deaths and injuries in the hurried construction of the Olympic stadium in Beijing, but there have been no deaths, and I believe a grand total of one injury, in the construction of our Olympic stadium.

I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend, and the criticism that she cites is typical of many journalists and detractors in this country. It is easy to criticise, because the Government and the Olympic authorities cannot win. On the one hand, they would be rightly criticised if the vast sums spent were all public money, but when private money is so intelligently brought in, people say, “In that past this was all provided for the public.” It is a no-win situation. The attitude that the authorities—the previous Government and this one, and the Olympic authorities—have shown in bringing in a reasonable amount of private sponsorship is a credit to both the public and the commercial sectors. The detractors and those who criticise are the kind of people who would criticise anyone. They do not have to take the decisions themselves or live with the responsibilities. They just criticise.

Not at all. My hon. Friend is being exceptionally kind in giving way. Having prosecuted for many years as a barrister at Harrow Crown court and knowing Watford well, I think that he does a fantastic job, and if he wants to make an application to the Minister for the torch to go through his area, I would be more than happy to support it.

I am more than usually grateful to my hon. Friend. There might be a secret plot to divert the torch at the last minute but I do not think it will come to anything. My point is that although it would be nice to have the torch, there are many other ways in which Members can support the Olympics. For me, that is the most important thing.

Here am I, probably the least qualified of the 600-plus Members to take part in any Olympic event, except possibly for the ladies’ shot put, for which I was once told I had an ideal physique.

My hon. Friend is, as ever, being unduly modest. I am sure that he must have shown great fitness to achieve what he achieved in other walks of life prior to entering the House. I have never done so

To sum up, I think that the Olympics are fantastic. I am extremely proud that I will be in this country and the House when the Olympics are taking place. Despite the griping about the money, the legacy will be fantastic and something of which we can all be proud.

It is a pleasure to follow the Members who have spoken in this debate, particularly my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), who spoke with great eloquence about Hastings’ plans for the Olympic torch and the torch relay. I hope that they do not wear it out too much because it is due in my constituency the following day, and it sounds like there will be a full and arduous programme in Hastings.

I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to accompany the torch and visit his constituency to ensure that they maintain the high standards that we will set in Hastings.

My hon. Friend has an excellent idea —perhaps we can hand it to each other on the Camber road and wish it well on its way. I am sure that my constituency, which will see the Olympic torch on 18 July, will put on some spectacular events as well. It will truly be the part of an Olympics that inspires the whole country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Louise Mensch), who is a fellow member of the Select Committee, said, it is an opportunity for the games to go to the country as well as for the country to come to the games, which it will do when they are staged in London.

As a fellow Kent MP, does my hon. Friend agree that we in Kent are very proud of our colleague, the Sports Minister, for doing such a fantastic job on the Olympics?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and fellow Kent Member. It would be churlish of me not to agree with him. All of us in Kent are extremely proud of the role that my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Hugh Robertson) has played, as Sports Minister, in steering the Olympic games safely through the final development of the facilities and planning. He has been ably supported by an excellent team at LOCOG and the ODA, which have done a terrific job in ensuring that the games will be ready on time, We can all be proud of that as we look forward to their happening.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) referred to how the Olympic games will inspire young people across the country. They are a major sporting event. One of my first sporting memories was probably of Sebastian Coe winning his gold medal in Moscow in 1980. The 1984 Olympics were an inspiration to my generation of school children across the country not only for the great variety of sports on the athletics track but for the hockey, which I mentioned earlier. We know that children will take a great interest in it and find it very exciting. Their memories of the London Olympic games will be a defining moment of their young lives, and might inspire them to take up a new sport or pursue an existing interest in sport. The legacy is difficult to quantify at this stage, but we all have faith that it will be an important part of the games.

It crosses my mind that the Olympic games will be an inspiration to women worldwide. When the games are broadcast, people across the world will see that it is not possible to take women out of the Olympic games. They will be involved, and women who are not normally allowed to take part in sport in some countries will see that women in London can do so. That will be one of the huge inspirations of our London Olympic games.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I think of Kent and the inspiration of Kelly Holmes, as one of our great Olympians, to young people right across the county. Many streets throughout the country, including in London, are named after famous Olympians. I believe there is a road in south London named after Tessa Sanderson, after she won the javelin gold medal at the LA Olympics. The great athletes of our country, men and women, will be inspirations to generations to come, as they have been in the past, and an important part of the Olympic movement.

I want to touch on some of the local aspects of the Olympic games. The torch relay comes to Hythe, Sandgate and Folkestone on 18 July, before making its way to Dover for its next overnight stop. That is something the whole community can celebrate and enjoy, giving people a chance to see and touch part of the Olympics. It is also an excellent way of building up the excitement and anticipation of the events.

The school games are an excellent initiative, led by my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, and schools across the country will actively participate in them. The application rate has been incredibly high. Schools such as the Marsh academy, the Harvey grammar school and St Augustine’s primary school in my constituency will be taking part in the games. It will be an inspiration to students that the staging of the games will involve some of the major Olympic facilities in the Olympic park, such as the aquatics centre and the Olympic track. Indeed, some of the first competitive events involving British athletes using those facilities will be at the school games, rather than the main Olympic games. What a fantastic message that sends out about the great importance we attach to developing school games. [Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend want to intervene?

I will be glad to step into the breach. My hon. Friend and colleague on the Select Committee was with us when we visited the aquatics centre. Does he agree that it will also be a great inspiration for local people to know that after the games, the centre will be available for their use and the use of the people of London? It will provide the community with a phenomenal swimming facility where none currently exists and where one is sorely needed.

I completely agree. The aquatics centre is not only a stunning and iconic building, but a venue for elite athletes to compete where one is badly needed. That will benefit not only people in east London, but communities with good access to the Olympic park. My constituency of Folkestone will be only 55 minutes by high-speed rail from the Olympic park, so athletes there will also benefit. However, there will also be a community aspect. The fact that parents can take their children swimming at the aquatics centre at the Olympic park after the games is a wonderful way not only to encourage young people to start swimming, but to inspire them through their surroundings, as they will know that they are swimming in a pool where some of the greatest swimmers in the world have competed. When the Select Committee visited Munich, as part of our inquiry into football governance last year, we saw that the aquatics centre from the Munich games is still used even now, more than 30 years later, by the people of that city as an important and cherished community facility. That is a vision for the future of what the aquatics centre in the Olympic park in London could be like.

Does my hon. Friend agree that initiatives such as free swimming for the under-11s and over-65s in Medway is a fantastic way to benefit communities and promote participation in sport, linked to having sports centres such as Medway Olympics park, which also help people to take part in those sports?

My hon. Friend is a great advocate for Medway and everything it strives to achieve, and I am certainly happy to congratulate it on that excellent initiative.

Earlier, my hon. Friend also touched on the work of Sport England. I would like to add my thanks to Sport England, for its support for sporting facilities in my constituency through the Places People Play fund. I was delighted to join the fund in presenting cheques to the Folkestone sports centre and the Hythe sports pavilion, which have received combined funds of £60,000. That money is being spent now, and those facilities that are being refurbished will be ready before the Olympic games, so that those who are inspired to take part afterwards will have newly refurbished facilities ready and waiting for them. It is good not only that the money has been made available, but that it is being committed and that those facilities are being improved.

The Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), mentioned the sporting participation target and the Government’s decision not to keep to the target of 1 million people increasing their active participation in sport. I think we would all hope that the long-term legacy is indeed a greatly increased participation, but it is difficult to know now exactly what that increase will be, over what period it will happen or even whether we could exceed that target. The Minister and the Government should look, and continue to look, at how targeted intervention through sporting programmes for particularly needy young people could be an effective part of the legacy of the games.

Let me say a little more about that. If money is left in the contingency for the Olympic games by the time the games are staged—I appreciate that there will be many demands on it—perhaps the Department could look at the possibility of using it to help those people. We know from a number of excellent sporting initiatives—the Premier League’s Kickz programme, the Rugby Football Union’s Hitz programme and its Second Chance programme run in young offender institutions—that sports can play a dramatic role in changing the lives of people living in challenging circumstances, particularly young people. These programmes are often delivered at very low cost and are exceptionally good value for money, but the programmes delivered so far are often relatively small projects in relatively few neighbourhoods around the country.

I believe that the research done so far suggests that these programmes can have an excellent impact. An excellent report, “Teenage Kicks”, produced by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, focused on a project delivered by the Kickz programme run in partnership with Arsenal football club at Elthorne park in London. It showed that within a one-mile radius, there was a 66% reduction in youth crime. If the project were responsible for only 20% of that reduction, it would have demonstrated a return on investment of £7 for every £1 spent.

I mentioned the Second Chance programme run by the Rugby Football Union. A report was recently produced based on the pilot at the Portland young offenders institution. It followed what happened to those youngsters who had engaged in the sporting programme. It found a reoffending rate among the young men of about one in five. That might sound quite high, but if we consider that the average reoffending rate for young men in that institution is one in two, this shows a dramatic transformation in their fortunes.

As so many of the facilities already exist in young offenders institutions to provide sporting programmes, it is simply a question of bringing in the coaches and support to deliver them. They can be delivered at low cost. It has been estimated that if one of these sporting programmes stopped just one young person from reoffending and from being recommitted to a secure centre, that success could pay for the delivery of the entire programme within that single young offenders institution.

Some excellent work has been done in this area, but we need a proper study, sponsored by the Government, to see how to deliver these sporting programmes both within the community, targeting vulnerable young people in areas of relatively high crime and antisocial behaviour, and within the young offender institutions themselves. We need to ascertain what rules we can devise from the work done so far and work out how to plan these schemes and projects on a much bigger scale. We also need to work out what incentives we could provide to companies and sporting organisations to run and fund more of these trials.

This could be an incredible legacy of the Olympic games. A study with the backing and weight of the Government to demonstrate how best to run these programmes and the success they could bring would be a worthwhile achievement and pave the way for more programmes like this in the future. It would be excellent if we could use sport to touch the lives of more people in some of these hard-to-reach communities. It would require a piece of major research, preferably led by the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, and a unified approach across Government.

The Government have with the aid of lottery money supported the Olympic games, and I believe that hon. Members of all parties are united in their admiration for the start of the process—it was begun by the previous Government and has been continued subsequently with the support of Members across the House. The value of the investment is widely acknowledged. It would be excellent if the Minister could use his position and stature as the Minister responsible for the Olympics to take a lead on understanding how these sporting programmes could work to benefit people throughout the country and if he could work with colleagues in other Departments, particularly with the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Education. The Government have a strategic interest in sport across a wide area of government, and it would be good to see a co-ordinated approach, which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport could lead.

My hon. Friend has praised sports centres in deprived areas. In Medway, in north Gillingham, £11 million has been invested in the Medway park centre. There is a difference of seven years between life expectancy in that area and life expectancy in the other part of the constituency. Training centres of that kind perform the important function of inspiring people in socially and economically deprived areas.

My hon. Friend is right. Such facilities are often most needed in harder-to-reach economic areas. Sporting provision in those areas need not be expensive. The success of the midnight basketball leagues, which have been operating in major urban centres in the United States, is one example. Programmes like that are not expensive to deliver, and they can do a huge amount of good.

So far the debate has not focused on the business legacy, and I want to record my admiration for the initiative to create a business embassy at Lancaster house. Corporations and business people from all over the world will come to London to be part of the Olympic games. It is excellent that there is a venue where they will be able to learn more about what this country has to offer in the long term: about the resources and facilities that exist here, and about the businesses that are ready to take advantage of their being in London and demonstrate, for instance, the way in which we can develop our trade routes and interests around the world.

I note that two days of the session at the business embassy will be dedicated to the creative industries, in which the Select Committee takes a particular interest. We should all be proud of that, because it reinforces the message that the Government are sending in their campaign to market everything that Britain has to offer the world in the run-up to the games. Of course the games themselves will be a great showcase for the United Kingdom and London, but we also want a legacy that will last for many years after they have ended. We want them to serve as a massive advertisement for everything that the country has to offer.

A couple of Members have described themselves, most self-effacingly, as “not a great sportsman” or as “not having much to do with sport,” but will not the legacy of the Olympics also cover the cultural Olympiad, to which those Members might feel themselves to be more suited? As my hon. Friend has said, there are marketing and tourism opportunities, and opportunities for the creative industries. The Olympics do not exist in a vacuum. Their impact on our whole economy will be enormous, and people will be able to involve themselves in many activities besides sport.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. A fantastic programme of cultural events has been organised to coincide with the games, such as the Damien Hirst and Picasso exhibitions at the Tate. A huge variety of theatre and outdoor performing arts events will form part of the cultural Olympiad, and I think that people will really enjoy those.

Like many other Members, I have not succeeded in obtaining tickets for the Olympic park. I must admit that when I was first elected to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, a number of my constituents came up to me and said, “I suppose you will be all right for Olympics tickets now.” They have been devastated to discover not only that I have no tickets for myself, but that I have none to pass on to them. That has been a great loss. The fact remains, however, that many fortunate people from all over the world will come to London to be part of the Olympic games. They will enjoy their time at the Olympic park and other Olympic venues, but they will also have an awful lot of time to spend in London and elsewhere in England. They will spend some of that time in the centre of the city, enjoying the cultural activities that take place here. They will enjoy shopping in our shops, eating in our restaurants and drinking in our bars, and that will be good for the whole economy of our country. I hope that they will also spend some time touring England, and seeing what we have to offer in such places as Northamptonshire and Kent.

As I have said, the Olympics should serve as a great advertisement for what we can put on. It will encourage future tourism, and I hope that initiatives such as the business embassy will encourage new business investment, export links and further things that we can celebrate. In our constituencies there will be a direct sporting legacy from the games, a legacy of interest stemming from the Olympic torch relays. There will be business benefits, especially in Kent. Most tourism companies are expected to have full books during the games, including campsites and hotels that currently have vacancies, and small regional airports such as Lydd in my constituency are likely to experience a substantial increase in business.

Indeed, a variety of business benefits will be seen during the Olympic year. Admittedly there will be some transport difficulties, and it will be harder to get around. It will certainly not be business as usual, and all of us—as Members of Parliament and as members of the Select Committee—will devote special scrutiny to the implementation of the detailed transport plans. Nevertheless, there is a huge amount for us to be excited about as we enter the final three months leading up to the Olympic games. None of us can truly appreciate what it will be like for Britain, for the first time in the modern era, to host a sporting event that will be televised globally and will reach all parts of our country and all parts of the world. We should all be very excited to be associated with that event this year.

It is a great pleasure to take part in the debate. Members will have to forgive me if, rather than delivering a wide-ranging speech, I concentrate on the specific issue of the Paralympics. They have featured here and there in the debate so far, but not as much I should have liked. It is a bit difficult to separate them from the Olympics, because only one Olympic venue, Eton Manor, has been booked separately—for the wheelchair tennis event—at a cost of £2 million. However, I think it crucial, when we talk about the Olympic legacy, for us to consider the benefits of the Paralympics as well.

I remember Euro 96. I will not try to sing the theme tune, but it contained the words “Football’s coming home”. Indeed it was, and in 2012 the Paralympics are coming home. It was in 1948 that the noted neurologist Dr Ludwig Guttmann first used his expertise in spinal cord rehabilitation for wounded servicemen. He organised a competition between different hospitals and sports clubs at the same time as the London Olympics, and the Paralympics emerged from that. When I was doing my research for the debate, I was surprised to learn that as recently as 1984 the Paralympics were taking place, half in New York and half in London, while the Olympics were taking place in Los Angeles. We have come a long, long way very quickly, and 2012 in London will of course be of a vastly different order of magnitude from what happened in 1948.

Early in the debate we heard a few intimations of concern about the possibility that not everyone in the country was fully imbued with the Olympic spirit. It was thought, for instance, that the games might be considered rather costly. I ask all who have doubts to try to fix their minds on the fact that for a few weeks this summer the entire nation will be transfixed, and not just by the spectacle of sporting prowess. Plenty of us are intimately acquainted with the rules applying to various minority sports, but many more people will be interested in the human dimension represented by people such as Tom Daley and Baroness Grey-Thompson, who face challenges all of which will be relevant and interesting to those who are watching their televisions during this sporting festival.

The last Paralympics event, in Beijing, was an unparalleled success for the United Kingdom. I do not think we celebrate often enough the fact that we came second in the medals table, and out-performed the UK main Olympics team. There were some inspirational individual performances. Young Ellie Simmonds was only 13 when she won a gold medal, and in Blackpool we were able to celebrate the achievement of our multi-medal-winning wheelchair athlete Shelly Woods. We all praise the cycling team in Beijing, but the Paralympic cycling team won 17 out of 31 gold medals, believe it or not. That almost puts the main Olympic team to shame, although they did just as well. We should regard the Paralympics as a fantastic opportunity to put out some positive news stories about the abilities, skills and triumphs of disabled people more generally. At a time when some in the third sector seem to be busy trying to narrow our horizons, I believe that this year’s Paralympics will offer us a chance to give people a vision of the future.

Numerous Members have said today, “I am not an athlete,” or, “I have no athletic prowess at all.” It may surprise Members to learn that I have a track record in disability sport. I have competed at national junior level in dressage with the Riding for the Disabled Association. Indeed, at the age of about 12 I was entered in two classes in the national dressage championships at Stoneleigh. I was thrilled to be able to perform. I came last and next to last, which I thought was a wonderful achievement, so when I hear athletes saying, “It’s an honour just to be here,” and, “I feel I’ve achieved something,” I sympathise with them. More importantly perhaps, that experience taught me the lesson of the school of hard knocks; it taught me that success is not guaranteed and that failure is something we all have to deal with in life. It also gave me confidence. I had to go along there every week, often so unwillingly that my mother would have to drag me into the car saying, “You will go, whether you like it or not.” I was not always keen to go; I was a teenager and, like many other teenagers, I was grumpy. Yet I went along and it gave me confidence.

It also showed me how much commitment so many families put into enabling their children to benefit from sport. At Lymm riding centre we had young people with Down’s syndrome and many with muscular dystrophy. I saw the immense amount of care and effort that families put into such children, and it was awe-inspiring.

Now, as MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, I see similar things on the ground in my constituency. Christine Anderson from Thornton-Cleveleys has, just in the past year, set up a wheelchair sports club called the Cheetahs. Out of nothing, she has managed to generate passionate enthusiasm among a core group of parents. They have dragged in Paralympians and sponsorship from here, there and everywhere, and they have even got me playing wheelchair basketball. I had no idea it was such a violent and frightening experience. My hands were bleeding by the end; it was not pleasant. I have also seen how sport can inspire people who might otherwise be at the margins of society. As my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) said, they may not feel as if they could play a role in society, but through participating in sports they can start to do so.

There are other organisations like the Cheetahs in my constituency, and they do fantastic work. Just down the road from where I live is Moor Park swimming pool, where Blackpool Polar Bears engage in all sorts of aquatic sports. My local Sainsbury’s has been supporting it as its charity of choice for the past year. Many other such organisations are based at Blackpool leisure centre in Stanley park.

Young people with disabilities across Blackpool and the wider Fylde coast area will be inspired by what they see on their television screens day after day this year. In the coming months they will be able to see people with disabilities performing at the highest levels and achieving in ways that are, perhaps, more meaningful than winning “The X Factor”, which represents the avenue of choice for so many youngsters these days: they think they can win fame and fortune.

In common with my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), I did some research ahead of this debate. I read the report of the Minister’s evidence session, for instance. My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) suggested that when the Minister next talks to the BBC he should raise the idea of getting details of local provision to flash up whenever viewers press their red button. The Minister might have had that conversation with the BBC by now, and I also urge him to raise the idea with Channel 4, so we can ensure that viewers of the Paralympics have as much access to that information as Olympics viewers.

I commend Parasport. Its website enables people to discover the sports to which they might be best suited. In the international Paralympic classification, I qualify as CP8, which is “impaired, yet fully standing”—and given that I currently have a cracked rib and find sitting down uncomfortable, it is especially true today that I am “impaired, yet fully standing”. Through the Parasport website I discovered that as someone classified as CP8 I might be particularly suited to Nordic skiing, so the Whips Office may want to prepare for some requests to miss votes in the coming weeks. I have no idea how I might do at Nordic skiing, but I can try.

Legacy has been discussed a lot, but I sometimes get concerned that we focus too much on physical infrastructure and on who will take control of facilities after the games and what will happen to the buildings, because I believe that the legacy in cultural attitudes to sport and to disabled people more widely is more important. Recently there have been some negative images of disabled people, and it is said that there has been an increase in disability hate crime. I therefore hope that in the coming months we will see more positive images of disabled people—of them achieving things and having powerful life stories to tell—and that that will help to reverse that trend.

I am chair of the all-party group on young disabled people. We have been looking at the suitability of venues such as leisure centres, in the hope that we can enable more disabled young people to get involved in sport. We found that, for instance, many community swimming pools do not have the necessary hoists or ramps to allow children who use wheelchairs to get into the pool and get swimming. Young disabled people are sometimes unable to access hydrotherapy sessions, too. I therefore welcome the “places people play” fund. It has made a great difference in many constituencies. I cannot yet find an example in my constituency—the nearest is half a mile outside it—but I shall keep trying.

I also welcome the youth and community sport strategy, which was launched in January. I hope that some of the £1 billion will trickle down to local and constituency level, and in particular to the disability sports clubs that are being set up and the many special schools that are trying to develop a sporting aspect to their provision. I welcome the recommendation that schools should be able both to use their facilities throughout the year and to link with community sports clubs. Special schools must also be included in that.

I also want to pay tribute to an event that is not taking place in London: the Special Olympics. They are for people with an intellectual disability, whereas the Paralympics are aimed more at those with physical disabilities. In London there will be some participants with an intellectual disability, but nowhere near as many as I would like. Those who know their Olympic history will be aware that there was an unfortunate experience in 2000. One team was found not to be as intellectually disabled as it claimed to be, and that has queered the pitch somewhat. I am glad that those with intellectual disabilities have been brought back into the Olympic tent. I also commend the Special Olympics for trying to secure health care for those with an intellectual disability. The Special Olympics does not just organise a sporting event; it also campaigns on public health messages.

There is a website that encapsulates all the points I have been trying to make. It is called www.encourage Young Omar Haddad is from Widnes in Cheshire. He is a Special Olympics gymnast who won five gold and three bronze medals in Athens last year. His website is a participatory website. In order to watch Omar’s routine, people have to show encouragement to him. There is a volume slider that must be manipulated, and if he is not given enough encouragement he goes back into the changing room; the film rewinds. If he is given enough encouragement, however, he concludes his routine and gives everyone a big smile. When I got to the end of that three-and-a-half-minute video, I began to understand the power of the Paralympics and to realise that we all must give encouragement to these disabled athletes, and that what they are doing matters to us. Their endeavours are not a sideshow that we can ignore or dismiss because they are shown on Channel 4. Instead, they are an integral part of our Olympic experience this year. If we can all give as much encouragement to Omar as we give to all the other people who are participating, I truly believe that in 2012 we will see a much brighter dawn for disability sports in this country.

It is always a great honour to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard). He is clearly taking the clever man to Cleveleys, as well as demonstrating a greater degree of passion for disability sport than any other Member. Like him, I have a poor record as a dressage performer; I frequently lost my horse from the arena and was eventually demoted and finally fired from the team. I was a much better jockey—but I was not that brilliant a jockey either, as I broke 19 bones, which hurt a great deal, and ended up in hospital more times than I care to name.

A feature of this debate has been that Members of Parliament have attempted to do two things. First, they have attempted to persuade their constituents that they do not have any Olympic tickets. I, too, can assure my constituents that I have no Olympic tickets, despite having made great efforts. I can find nobody who has tickets—[Interruption.] Except my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). People should write to her on a regular basis for her tickets, which are doubtless for the football, as she is a keen Liverpool fan. Other hon. Members who, like me, have no tickets have attempted to assure our constituents that we are people who are well capable—

I take it that that refers not to my hon. Friend’s tickets but to other Olympic tickets. I wish to assist her, because I know that she was not referring to her tickets.

Secondly, all of us have tried to show an Olympic discipline in which we could be proficient. I was very impressed by the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Richard Harrington), who is, sadly, no longer in his place. I understood his description of how for him a “marathon” was a large bar of chocolate to be eaten regularly. I once ran the New York marathon for Children with Leukaemia. Most people experience “the wall” during a marathon. Some reach it at 10 miles, but I did so at 20 miles. When I hit the wall and approached the point where I felt like stopping, I was told by a gentleman in the Bronx, “Don’t stop there man. They’ll only steal your shoes!” Nothing could have encouraged me more to start sprinting at that stage.

I am pleased to discuss the north-east tonight, as it is seeing a great deal of the Olympic torch and of the Olympic movement. I agreed with almost everything that the Chair of the Select Committee said, but at one point he said that the eyes of the world will be on London. I accept that that the eyes of the world will largely be on London and its surrounding regions, but if London is the hub, the spokes of the Olympic wheel are going to various other parts of the nation. There is no question but that the north-east will participate in a great deal of the work in terms of the Olympic flame.

As we know, half the world’s population will be watching the Olympics; 83% of our schools are involved in the Get Set programme, with 508 schools games taking place thus far; 40,000 journalists—we greatly welcome them all—will be covering the games and would expose every one of the Minister’s errors but for the fact that none will be made; and the torch relay is to cover 8,000 miles around the country. I greatly welcome the fact that Newcastle will host nine football matches, including the men’s quarter final. I can assure hon. Members that that will take place at St James’ Park, not in some place that none of us have heard of called the “Sports Direct arena”, although we gratefully accept the sponsorship of the Sports Direct brand.

However, this is not all just about sporting events. Obviously I will be cheering people on, as will my constituent Steve Cram, the man who started the Kielder marathon—a man who has won Olympic medals and now lives just up the road from me in Hexham. We will be cheering on Matt Wells and other members of the Hexham community who are in the Olympic squads. But we must celebrate not only the sport but the business element, about which many have spoken.

I stress that it has been a fundamental feature of both the previous Government’s approach—to their great credit—and the present Government’s approach to buy British and to support local organisations. I pay due tribute to: Sotech in Durham, which has provided the roof cladding for the aquatics centre; Hart Door Systems Ltd, which has provided the roof shutters for the Olympic stadium; Hathaway roofing in County Durham, which has provided roof cladding for the international broadcasting centre, keeping all those 40,000 journalists nice and dry and warm; and International Paint in Newcastle, which has supplied the paint for aquatics centre.

The other good thing is that the north-east will see the torch almost more than any other region. We will have it for five days, when it will take in things such as the angel of the north in Gateshead, the Penshaw monument in Sunderland, and Hadrian’s wall. Friday 15 June will be a spectacular day—I recommend this to people above all else—because the torch will travel from the Tyne bridge to the quayside by zip wire. I have doubts about this, because I am nervous that the torch might fall into the water or get otherwise extinguished. However, I am sure, as the organisers have assured me, that that will not happen. That will be a memorable event, and then on Saturday 16 June, I and many of my constituents will be welcoming the torch—indeed, many of them will be carrying it—as it travels across the Hexham constituency and down into County Durham.

We will also have the great benefit of the hundreds of cultural events, which will be based not only in London and the regions around it but in the north-east. I welcome the fact that the north-east band Folkestra, which I heard play fantastically well when the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport came to Newcastle on 26 January, will be playing as part of the cultural Olympiad. I respectfully submit that that is another wonderful example of making the regions part of the main Olympic movement.

The long and the short of all this is that there has to be a wider element, and I wish briefly to discuss the business impact on tourism, which will be huge. I understand that approximately £39 million is being spent on the advertising campaign that will promote Britain as a tourist venue. That is an excellent thing, because we have the chance to showcase this great country. Although the Olympics and the Paralympics will last for just six weeks, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase Great Britain. I warmly welcome what the Government and the previous Government, to their great credit, have done in this respect.

We also need to play our part in supporting tourism, because with the 20.12% discounting scheme and the 2012 tourism initiatives this is surely the year, above all others, when we should be “staycationing”. I shall be walking the entire 270 miles of the Pennine way, starting in Edale, in the great county of Derbyshire. We will travel all the way north through South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Durham and into the great county of Northumberland, where we shall journey the Pennine way through my constituency for five days and then finish up in Scotland. We will be doing that for charity, but on the way I will take advantage of many bed and breakfasts, restaurants and, of course, the odd pub or two. We should all invite our respective organisations to “staycation” and to support tourism in the best way they can, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I shall finish by making a couple of brief points now, because I am conscious that the great sage of Colchester is waiting to enlighten the House. Pre-Olympic training camps are coming to the north, so we will welcome, for example, the Sri Lankans and the Colombians to Newcastle and the north-east. We will also be in a position to have our own games, as multiple local schools are holding multiple local games, and I wish to urge the Minister on this one issue. My sole criticism of the whole Olympic organisation is related to the fact that, as he will know, efforts have been made by lots of local organisations to run their own games. I entirely understand that the word “Olympics” cannot be used in the titles of those games, because of branding and all manner of other issues that would take too long to explain, but it is difficult to promote those games.

I am a big supporter of the East Tynedale games, which are organised by the chair of Wylam parish council and various other organisers in the Prudhoe, Wylam and Bywell region, but they are having great difficulty trying to organise events. For example, when the members of the Women’s Institute of Wylam tried to organise the “Wylimpics”, based on things that the Women’s Institute does, they were disappointed to be told that they were prevented from doing so. I urge the Minister to send out edicts to the organisers and guardians of such matters to be as flexible as it is possible to be within the meaning of the law, so that organisations such as the Women’s Institute and local communities that want to hold events can do so.

For my part, I welcome the games—and I now bow humbly to the sage of Colchester.

Numerous speakers have quite rightly praised the previous Government for winning the Olympic games for this country and the coalition Government for taking them forward. Let me be the first Member of this House for many years to say, “Well done, Tony Blair,” as I believe that it was the presence in Singapore of the then Prime Minister that swung it. Indeed, on the Front Benches this evening we have three of the participants in that great achievement in Singapore on the parliamentary podium.

I would say, however—and I intervened on my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr Foster) earlier to do so—that my concern is that if we are not careful the games will be viewed throughout the United Kingdom as a London-centric Olympics. I think that the opening ceremony will be key, and if the nations and regions of the United Kingdom do not feature, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other parts of the regions of England will feel cheated. All of us who have spoken tonight are anxious to promote this as a UK Olympic games, but as a historical footnote let me point out that for more than 1,000 years Stratford was in the county of Essex. Indeed, until it was annexed when London moved eastwards, it was a proud part of that county, so these could have been the Essex games. I am delighted to say that the mountain biking will take place in Essex and it is my hope that as many as six people from the borough of Colchester will take part in the games if they are successful in the qualifying.

I should place on record my appreciation not only to the people in the Olympic movement in this country who are delivering the games but to the people—more than 40,000 of them—who have worked to deliver the games. I pay tribute to the professionalism and skills of them all, whether they are in the offices or on the building sites that we have seen materialise in east London. I repeat the important point, however, and I hope that the Minister will take this message back with him, if it has not already been received: it is crucial that the opening ceremony, with the greatest global TV audience the world has ever registered—more than 4 billion people—reflects the fact that these are the United Kingdom’s games and not just the London games.

I am delighted that Britain’s oldest recorded town and the first capital of Roman Britain will welcome the torch as one of the 1,018 places that the torch will visit, and I pay tribute to the 8,000 people who will eventually be chosen as torch bearers. We do not know the precise route, but—let me get this plug in—I hope that the route will go past the largest Norman keep in Europe and down the oldest high street in the country, as Colchester High street follows the line of a Roman road. If any countries are still looking for a base for their team or for elements of their team, I can nominate my constituency, a mere 40 minutes away by direct rail link between Colchester main line station and London Liverpool Street, stopping off at Stratford. The university of Essex, Colchester garrison and the town itself house numerous sporting facilities and, in addition, tourists and visitors to this country would be well advised not necessarily to stay in London but to move a journey of 45 minutes to one hour to the east, where they will be warmly welcomed.

I want to mention two other points. It is disappointing that it would appear that a large number of the Olympic souvenirs will not be made in Britain. Even at this late stage, I would like to ask those responsible for souvenirs to take the view that the British Olympics should have British-made souvenirs.

Last but not least—I tried to raise this issue at business questions on Thursday and have been raising it for nearly two years—we know that the games will be a great showpiece for this country. The Olympic village and stadium and all the other sporting venues are fantastic and some visitors will travel to Stratford on the overground line from London Liverpool Street, which is a wonderful example of Victorian Britain and of when we used to be able to build and design things well. I am delighted that we have done that in the 21st century with the Olympic games set-up. Unfortunately, the track from London Liverpool Street to Stratford is arguably the most neglected to be found anywhere in the United Kingdom. There are shabby and derelict buildings along the trackside, graffiti-splattered walls, rotting vegetation and general neglect and decay. Anybody who has travelled into London Liverpool Street will know that because, unsurprisingly, as one approaches a terminus the train goes very slowly and the graffiti can be read. I cannot get anybody to take responsibility for ensuring that that bit of the Olympic area is given the attention it should receive. To my mind, it would be nice to see walls painted with the flags of the nations that are competing and with sporting murals.

I welcome the Olympics, and welcome the fact that this is the third time that London has hosted them. Here is a little challenge: I wonder whether those who are organising the games could find somebody who was born when the games were held here in 1908. There must be somebody of 104 who was born at the time of the 1908 Olympics.

In conclusion, I tell the Minister that these are Britain’s Olympic games. They might be titled the London Olympics, but if the opening ceremony is London-centric and ignores the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, from day one we will have lost it.

I welcome this debate and the enthusiasm of the many hon. Members who have spoken, as well as their determination to ensure, particularly when the torch makes its tour around the UK, that the towns, villages, cities and communities of Great Britain lead the celebration. We can be very confident on the basis of what we have heard today.

This week will mark 150 days to go until the opening ceremony when, as so often mentioned in the debate, half the world’s population will be watching the Olympic stadium in London. We must all feel a special tingle of anticipation at the prospect of what lies ahead.

I listened carefully to all the speeches and, although he is not in his seat, I would like pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard). He captured, certainly better than I could, the spirit of “One Vision” and the equivalence between the summer Olympics and the Paralympics. Indeed, many of the Paralympian wags will say that the summer games are simply a test event for the main event that follows—the Paralympics.

This is a moment to take stock, under the watchful eye of the Chair of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), at whose mercy I have spent many hours in the past 10 years. It is a moment to focus again on why we decided to invest £9.3 billion of public money in seeking to host the greatest sporting event in the world. The term “legacy” is used very loosely, but it is important to pin down precisely the legacy commitment we made. It was twofold: first, that an Olympic games would drive the regeneration of east London and, secondly, that an Olympic games in London would transform a generation of young people through sport. As we consider the use and value to the public of that enormous investment of their money, let me set out briefly the achievements regarding each of those legacy promises.

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way and I join others in commending her for her role in securing the Olympic games for us. One of the legacies of the games is that they are going to be the ethical Olympics. Does she still share my concern about their sponsorship by Dow Chemical, especially given that the Indian Government have today launched a formal protest because of evidence that Dow and Union Carbide used private investigators to spy on activists who were supporting the Bhopal victims?

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. We have shared considerable concerns about the risks of that particular sponsorship and its investment in providing the wrap for the Olympic stadium. We have to be realistic about the degree and fundamental nature of change that the Olympic games alone can achieve, but they provide a moment to shine a bright light on continuing injustice in the world. We should never forget the suffering of the up to 25,000 people who died in the wake of the Union Carbide disaster. Neither should we forget that Saudi Arabia is the only country that will not be sending a team that includes women, flying in the face of the International Olympic Committee commitment—the Olympic commitment—to gender equality. Nor should we forget the stories about the exploitation of children, which I am glad to say were rapidly acted on by LOCOG. The Dow sponsorship will remain controversial, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend has raised that issue.

Let me return briefly to the two central commitments on legacy. First, on the regeneration of east London, many have rightly paid tribute to the outstanding work of the Olympic Delivery Authority, led by David Higgins, Dennis Hone and, of course, Sir John Armitt. They have done something that nobody believed possible when we started on this long course nearly 10 years ago. That work is a fantastic advertisement for a bold, confident UK plc and for the work force of the UK and I very much hope that the benefit of that investment—the expertise that been so carefully developed—can be traded around the world after our games.

This has been Europe’s largest public sector construction project and, possibly, the most ambitious exercise in regeneration. We have had many arguments over the Dispatch Box about the Olympic budget. When Labour was in government, we increased the scale of the ambition. Yes, we could have put what was called a flat-pack games on a contaminated site, but if we had not undertaken the regeneration of the site we could never have built homes there or built the polyclinic for which my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) has campaigned so hard. Neither could we have had the venues with legacy use for our elite athletes of the future and for the young people of the communities in the six Olympic boroughs. Of the money spent on constructing the park, 75p in every pound has been spent on regeneration—on cleaning the soil, decontaminating the site, getting rid of the waterlogging and installing the wetland area that means that Canning Town will be protected from flooding. That is real regeneration in action. Some 90% of the material derived from demolition at that site was taken to be recycled.

As the hon. Member for Corby (Louise Mensch) rightly said, however, we have to measure the legacy in terms of more than just physical structures. For example, there has been a recreation of opportunity in the lives of the people who have worked on the park and in the lives of people in that part of east London, which houses two of the most deprived boroughs in the country. Of the 40,000 people who have worked in the Olympic park, 20% have come from the six boroughs and 13% were previously unemployed. There has been special focus on apprentices, with three times the regional average working not only in the park but on the construction of the village and at Westfield, where there are 10,000 permanent jobs and a retail skills academy.

There has also been a story around the country, which has been referred to by hon. Members, of contracts being let at a time of severe economic anxiety for small and medium-sized enterprises. The fact that such businesses have won 1,500 contracts means that we can tell a story of the Olympic park—of the steel for the aquatic centre coming from Neath, of the turf in the field of play coming from Huddersfield, of the steel for the Olympic stadium coming from Bolton and of the plants coming from Thetford. So, there has been investment in creating opportunities in the lives of a population who would not have had those opportunities were it not for the Olympic games.

Let me speak briefly about the second commitment—transforming a generation of young people through sport. That is a commitment not only for this country but for others around the world. The whole House can feel proud of the international inspiration programme now going on in 20 countries, which the organisers of the Rio games have agreed to take forward. In Bangladesh, 80,000 children have been taught to swim, and in north-west Brazil there have been leadership programmes. Magic Bus, which I know well—I have the bracelet—is a child development programme that uses sport to engage children in education.

All that has been achieved against a background of absolutely solid cross-party support, but there has been one decision that was incomprehensible: the dismantling of the organisation of sport for children in primary and secondary schools under which every child was doing two hours a week of sport. Those children were competing and had a choice of being involved in up to 14 sports. In the spirit of collaboration that has been such an important part of this process, I am prepared to wait and see how the Government’s plan unfolds, but I think the abandonment of school sport partnerships and of sport and physical activity for children in primary school and for younger children in secondary school is a terrible, missed opportunity. However, I do not hold the Minister or the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport responsible for that.

Many thanks are due: the plaudits for LOCOG will be endless, but we also celebrate the world-class excellence of, the ODA and the fact that it has achieved so much. We thank Sir Charles Allen, who has given life to the nations and regions programme, so that we will see all of the UK celebrating and creating its own experience of the Olympics. The Olympic Park Legacy Company has taken an extraordinary lead. The hon. Member for Corby was right to say how extraordinary it is that seven of the eight venues already have long-term tenants. We can be confident that the site will be a great social, commercial and sporting centre for London in the future.

Will the right hon. Lady join me in thanking the private companies that have over a number of years invested in our athletes, but that will get nothing from the Olympic games, perhaps because they are not official sponsors? Aviva, where I worked before entering Parliament, has sponsored elite athletes; British Gas has sponsored swimmers, I believe, and other companies have sponsored gymnasts. They have helped our athletes to perform the best they can at the forthcoming Olympics.

I am delighted to support everything the hon. Lady says. Through UK Sport, our athletes have been the beneficiaries of unprecedented funding to enable them to do their very best in front of the home crowd, but this is quintessentially a public-private partnership. I know the support that athletes have received from their sponsors has been indispensable, as has the sponsorship by some of our great companies of the games themselves.

I was remiss in not mentioning this in my speech, but although the right hon. Lady is correct in saying that it is a public-private partnership and we should be grateful to all the private sector bodies that have sponsored and become involved, the one part of the public sector that is often missed and not thanked is local government. My local authority, Bath and North East Somerset council, has put in an enormous amount of effort and money to ensure that we get a lasting legacy.

Again, I am delighted to join the right hon. Gentleman —my right hon. Friend for the purpose of Olympic business—in welcoming that work. I met a number of London local authorities last week to hear from them directly about their plans and the efforts they are undertaking. The commitment of so many local authorities is inspirational.

Many references have been made to the importance of cross-party support, which has been fundamental, first, to the stability of the delivery of one of the riskiest programmes imaginable; and, secondly, to maintaining public confidence. In particular, I thank the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) and the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport for the way in which they have maintained that cross-party solidity, from which lessons can be drawn, I believe, for other aspects of public policy that require long-term commitment.

There is a point at which we will hand the games over to the initiative, the passion and the enthusiasm of the British people, because there is only so much that Government, LOCOG and the ODA can do. There will be a moment in the middle of May when, as many hon. Members have said, the Olympic torch is lit and it begins its tour around our country. That will be the moment when the whole country wakes up to the certainty that the Olympic games—the UK’s games—will be held in London in a matter of 30 or 40 days.

Today, there are 151 days to go and the good news for the whole House is that the construction is now 96% complete and we are on track to deliver within the much-discussed £9.3 billion funding package. Of the original £9.3 billion, more than £500 million remains as uncommitted contingency, with the ODA holding just over £100 million and the Government about £400 million. The details will be released to the public, as they always are, tomorrow morning.

I thought the best way to wind up the debate would be to go through the various contributions made, the first of which was from the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale). As we have come to expect from him, he made a typically sensible, informed and balanced speech and, I am delighted to say, he acted as a lightning conductor for all the early questions, thereby saving me some trouble.

My hon. Friend was right to point out that when the budget was moved from the bid budget to the delivery budget, it contained considerable contingency funding. It is a fair point that, as a result, we have been able to absorb the lack of private sector investment in both the village and the international broadcast centre/main press centre.

My hon. Friend rightly praised the ODA. I believe that the ODA has recalibrated Britain’s reputation abroad, as we saw clearly during the world athletics championship bid at the end of last year. Put simply, we are now trusted to deliver what we promise. That is the real achievement of the ODA. He rightly pointed out that the LOCOG operating budget is finely balanced. Set against that, it has done extraordinarily well both in ticketing revenue—for all that that has given rise to one or two other issues—and in gaining private sponsorship.

My hon. Friend rightly drew attention to the repayment of the national lottery, in fulfilment of an undertaking given by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) at the time the new budget was set in March 2007. It will be reimbursed by land receipts. It is also worth pointing out that the national lottery is doing much better now than it was in 2005, and the amount of money that sport receives from it is due to increase from £1.3 billion in 2010 to £1.8 billion by 2016-17. In part, that is because of the change in the shares and the Olympic levy dropping out, but it is also because lottery ticket sales are rising. I believe that when people see lottery cash being spent on projects to which they can relate, they buy more tickets. The Olympic project has a part to play in all that.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) is no longer here. He attacked the Scottish position, but as many in his party do, he forgot that the increase in lottery shares and in cash going to sport, the arts and heritage benefits organisations in Scotland just as it does organisations south of the border. Sport in Scotland will benefit precisely when he wants it to—around the time of the Commonwealth games.

I cannot say much about the legacy of the stadium, because we are in a contractual moment. There were 16 expressions of interest in the stadium, which is rather more than we expected, and the process is continuing. We will know at the end of March how that has gone.

My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon said that two challenges remain. In a sense, for Government there are three main challenges relating to the Olympics: security and transport, which he mentioned, and legacy, which everyone who has spoken in the debate referred to. If we get those things right, everybody will concentrate on the sport and forget about us, which is probably the ideal situation.

The Minister will know that I wrote to him earlier this month about local transport issues in the area and the need to let local people and local businesses, particularly my small and medium-sized businesses, know about our plans. Will he address that matter with some urgency?

Will the Minister give the House a commitment that the legacy will include working outside the London area? He and I have already discussed the fact that the national lottery has designated an iconic site in my constituency for post-Olympic development. Can we ensure that the Government back that up?

Of course we can. A number of Members have mentioned the Places People Play legacy scheme, which involves £135 million worth of funding from Sport England precisely to try to regenerate sports facilities that, for various reasons, have fallen out of previous funding rounds. That has been so successful that Sport England plans to bring forward another £100 million worth of funding in the next cycle. Close to £250 million worth of funding is therefore going into the renovation of grass-roots sports facilities, so I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s scheme will have as good a chance as any other, provided that it meets the criteria.

The Minister referred to security. Is he aware of the Public Accounts Committee hearing of 14 December and of subsequent letters expressing real concern about the escalation of security costs and, in particular, the trebling of the cost of the G4S contract?

Yes, I am. I am not absolutely sure that the G4S contract will treble, in the end. That judgment was probably made before the re-division of the security numbers—the man-guarding numbers—at the end of December. Let us not pretend that this is not a tricky question, however. The responsibility of every Government is the safety and security of their citizens, and of all those who attend the Olympics, so if it takes a doubling or tripling of the budget to keep people safe, that is what we will do. It is very easy to throw bricks, but it is extraordinarily difficult to get an accurate figure that can act as a comparator. Normally, with events such as these, we would look at the previous games. However, it is very difficult to draw meaningful security comparisons with the Beijing games, or with the Athens games, which took place in the immediate aftermath of a number of terrorist outrages. We therefore use the Sydney games in almost all cases when we need a comparator. They took place before the birth of the modern terrorism age, however, and it is extraordinarily difficult to get this absolutely right. I am as confident as I can be at this stage that the re-division of the security budget that took place at the end of last year will meet the challenge that is being presented to us, that the plans now being put forward are extremely robust, and that the combination of some military presence and some G4S—although not as much as originally envisaged—along with volunteers and the filling-the-gap scheme will produce the right de-risked mix of security that will enable us to deliver a safe games.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Simon Kirby) rightly talked about the effect of the opening ceremonies on the national economy. The GREAT campaign is designed precisely to make use of those opportunities. Through him, I would like to congratulate Brighton and Hove Albion, a club with which I have had dealings in the past, on its community work.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr Foster) spoke about the use of local committees to ensure benefits. Like him, I want to pay tribute to the work of Team West of England, which is an excellent example of what can be done. Two other Members made points during his contribution. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne) mentioned the work being done in Much Wenlock, the original home of the Olympics, and the major exhibition that is to start there. My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) talked about the good work that he and Sport England have done to bring about the events that will take place in Medway park.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bath also made some excellent points about the four opening and closing ceremonies. When we have these debates, it is worth remembering that two of those will be Paralympic ceremonies, at which we will celebrate the contribution that this country has made to Paralympic sport. He also rightly mentioned the legacy of increased funding through the lottery, which has allowed us to fund the school games and the Places People Play scheme. He was also absolutely right about international inspiration. All of us who have seen this project from the inside regard that, in some ways, as the great untold success story of the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics. Twelve million children in 19—soon to be 20—countries have been touched directly by London 2012.

My hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Louise Mensch) was right to praise the work of the Olympic Delivery Authority. She was also correct to highlight the work of the Olympic Park Legacy Company on securing legacy uses for six of the eight main venues. The Westfield shopping centre in Stratford has also been a fantastic success. I think I am right in saying that it has broken every record by getting more than 1 million people through its front door in the first seven days.

My hon. Friend also talked about participation, and it is worth saying a few more words about that. We have set ourselves the most extraordinarily difficult task in trying to increase participation, which the national lottery has failed to do despite almost a decade of funding. It is akin to trying to turn round a super-tanker. Australia, with all the great advantages of a sporting nation—a warm climate, lots of outdoor space and so on—failed to do it on the back of the 2000 games.

There are several reasons why we have thus far failed to make much of an impression in that regard. The 1 million target was not, in itself, unrealistic, but the measurement system by which it was assessed almost certainly was. Asking people to record three separate incidents of sport a week in order to contribute to the target rather overlooks the fact that most people who play sport one level below national or international level probably train once a week and play at the weekend. That is certainly what I was doing when I was playing hockey at a reasonable level. Such people would fail the Sport England measurement target. Dave Brailsford, the performance director of British Cycling, is widely respected as a high-performance coach and a mass participation expert. He believes that cycling alone has gained 500,000 participants since the Beijing games, but that the problem is that they do not meet the target of three separate incidents a week, because most people take out their bicycle at the weekend.

It is therefore extraordinarily difficult to increase participation. Allied to that, I do not think that the governing bodies really worked out how to do it, in the early stages of whole sport plans. A lot of consumer-related work needs to be done around the subject, and many of the bodies did not realise what was involved in influencing consumer behaviour. My hon. Friend also made a good point about red button access, and I shall pursue that matter with the BBC later this week.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) is my constituency neighbour and a prominent footballer. She was absolutely right to pay attention to the part played by Olympians in inspiring young people to take up sport. It was also great to hear the plans put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) for the torch relay when it stops overnight in Hastings. I will look into the question of the William Parker sports college. The problem is that, since the torch relay route was announced, she is about the 15th or 16th Member to press me to divert it just a tiny distance to take in some well-meaning group or other. I will look into her request, but such diversions almost always have a knock-on effect somewhere else; if we divert the relay to a particular school, for example, we have to take it away from somewhere else, because those days are incredibly congested. I will, however, have a look at the matter for her.

My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Richard Harrington) was unnecessarily modest about his sporting talent. He rightly stated that many of the venues constructed for London 2012 will be iconic. Indeed, many of them already are. The velodrome has already won a number of architectural awards, as has the stadium, and the aquatic centre will undoubtedly do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) talked about the benefits of the torch relay to his constituency. He was also absolutely right to mention the inspirational effect of Olympians on young people. Representing the county of Kent, we both know about the work being done by Kelly Holmes, as well as younger athletes such as Georgina Harland and Lisa Dobriskey from Ashford, who have done a huge amount in that regard. He was also right to point out that the Places People Play scheme has been designed to refurbish sporting facilities on the back of London 2012. I absolutely take his point about the effect of sporting programmes on reoffending. The Home Office will no doubt lead on that issue—I am looking along the Bench to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) as I say this—but we will ensure that that work is undertaken.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard)—the House’s dressage expert, as he is now to be known—made some powerful points about the Paralympics. Britain is of course the home of the Paralympic games; they started here in 1948. There is an interesting parallel involved here. We started the Paralympics in that year precisely because we had so many injured servicemen coming back from the second world war, and when I look at the Paralympic teams that I see training up and down the country today, it is extraordinary to see how many servicemen and women who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding a new future for themselves through Paralympic sports. My hon. Friend was also right to mention the Special Olympics.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) spoke powerfully about the benefits of the Olympics for the north-east. I have been up there twice in the past month, including a visit last week to Durham, where a new sports centre is being opened on the back of the Places People Play programme. He was right to emphasise the tourism benefits for a region such as his, which has so many great cultural and tourism opportunities. Having seen what I have seen on both my visits in the past month, I am sure that this will be a wonderful moment for the region, and that it will definitely make the most of it.

Let me deal with this business about Olympic brands, which is sometimes as frustrating for the Government as it is for organising committees. We were keen to have a schools Olympics but were not allowed to do so. This rule can be infuriating, particularly when we see it applied to flower shows and all the other things that get caught up. However, without it sponsors would not have had the security they needed to commit to the games in the way they have done. I hesitate to make this direct connection, but I think that it is very unlikely that we would have raised £700 million of private sector sponsorship from big firms if it had not been through the security they got through the original London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, infuriating though it is for many small societies and organisations.

I absolutely take the point made by the hon. Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) about London-centric games, which I think we are all very aware of. I cannot say too much about the opening ceremony, but there is a clue in the title revealed two weeks ago—Isles of Wonder—which does not necessarily suggest anything too London-centric. I think that he will find that his concerns have been met. Of course, the train line between Liverpool Street station and Stratford can be picked up through the “Look of London” funding, so I think that that should be possible.

Finally, I thank the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood for not only her contribution, but her ongoing work as a member of the Olympic Board and everything she has done up to now. She was right to lay out the legacy for the bid in two ways: the regeneration of the east end and the ambition to energise young people through sport. I think that we are now in as good a place as we possibly can be to try to meet that. It remains to be seen whether we can do that and then record it in a meaningful way that allows us to show that it has been done. I think that we are at last really beginning to understand what needs to be done to achieve that very laudable aim. I thank her once again for the cross-party support and the way she has dealt with this in government and in opposition. She is absolutely right that, without that, we simply would not have the public confidence in this project.

We have had a good debate today. I thank the Chair of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon, for all the work that he and the Committee have done. We are on track, on time and just under budget to deliver a great games. Tomorrow, with 150 days to go, we will be in a position to reveal that, of the original budget, over £500 million remains in unused contingency.

Question deferred till tomorrow at Ten o’clock (Standing Order No. 54).