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Olympic Games 2012: Security

Volume 693: debated on Thursday 28 June 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

In view of the comments made by the assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the annual conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers, what assessment they have made of the adequacy of the Olympic security preparations; and whether they have proposals for legislation on this subject.

My Lords, the Government are committed to supporting the police and other agencies in providing a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. The Home Secretary has appointed an experienced assistant commissioner to co-ordinate the development of the security arrangements for the Games. Planning and preparations are proceeding. Plans will change and develop over time in response to changes in the security situation. At present, there are no plans for an Act of Parliament specifically on Olympic security.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. Has a decision yet been made on the budget figure for the security provision? Will he confirm that the organisation that takes responsibility for overall security provision will have total control of, and accountability for, the budget?

My Lords, Tessa Jowell announced on 15 March that the overall budget for the Olympics includes an allocation of some £600 million for wider security issues. The current allocation is subject to continuing oversight and scrutiny in the light of developing security assessments made by the Government and the Olympic Security Directorate.

My Lords, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur said that a new Act of Parliament may be required to deal with security at the Olympics. It is not a question of simply waiting for the Olympics; what happens between now and then is very important. Is the Minister satisfied that existing legislation is adequate to deal with the security situation? If not, will he arrange cross-party consultation so that we can co-operate in trying to bring forward legislation that will bring the security question high up on the Government’s agenda?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his offer of co-operation on this matter. This is something in which we all have an investment. Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has made it clear that, if the Metropolitan Police requires new legislation, that would be discussed with the Government and proposals would be brought forward. At this stage, the advice is that it does not think that we require additional legislation, but we need to keep these things under continuous review. As soon as views are made known on that, we will bring them forward and make announcements as appropriate to this House and another place.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that at the Athens Olympics NATO played a major part in securing the arrangements? Is he also aware that when I made inquiries of NATO within the past month about what discussions had gone on with regard to the 2012 London Olympics I was told that there had been no discussions or approaches whatever? Is this not a rather dilatory omission?

My Lords, I do not know that it is a dilatory omission and I cannot agree with the noble Lord’s assessment. I am sure that at the appropriate stage, if the assistant commissioner thought that it was right to involve broader security forces, he would make that advice known and available to the Home Secretary. We keep these matters under review at all times. If it is appropriate to involve other forces or to go through NATO in the way that the noble Lord suggests, then we will.

My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned the £600 million that has been announced by Tessa Jowell as an allocation for extra security measures. Will that money come from the general taxpayer, will it come from the council tax payers of London or will there be a further raid on the lottery fund?

My Lords, I am sure that it is within the current allocation, which comes from several sources, as I am sure the noble Lord knows.

My Lords, will the Minister also commit this process to consider the needs of the local communities in which the Games are set? I am thinking of not only their security needs, but also the need in some of the youngest and most vibrant communities in our country for young people to have good access to the Games. Will these things be borne in mind?

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate’s last point is important and it is part of the overall Olympic and Paralympic project. I cannot talk at great length about that, as it is not my field of expertise, but it is part of the process. The right reverend Prelate is right to draw attention to the importance of ensuring that the community in which the Olympic Games take place feels safe and secure, and part of the resilience programme will address that issue. I am sure that it is at the forefront of Tarique Ghaffur’s thinking.

My Lords, following the right reverend Prelate’s question, can the Minister tell us how much of the £600 million will be made available to local authorities for security issues that they deem important?

My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord a breakdown of the use of the £600 million. As I explained, that sum of money was announced only in March this year and Tarique Ghaffur is drawing up a detailed plan. Some of the thinking will have to address the security needs and interests and the policing needs of the local authorities. Careful liaison is going on with regard to that through the Mayor’s office and through contacts with the London boroughs.

My Lords, on the cost and so on of the Olympic Games, what preparations are there and what consultation has there been with, say, the Underground system in London to get those who are disabled in any way, particularly those involved with the Paralympics, to the Olympic sites?

My Lords, transportation is something for Transport for London to consider. I know that discussions are going on to ensure that there is maximum access to all the sites and locations where different parts of the Games will take place. Disabled access on the Tube system is an issue, as we all know. It is something that Transport for London, the Mayor’s office, the Olympic Board and the organising committees are taking fully into consideration.