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Olympic Games 2012: Lottery Funding

Volume 694: debated on Wednesday 18 July 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What has been the average time taken between a request by the Olympic Development Authority to the Olympic Lottery Distribution Fund via its distributor for release of funds and the receipt of those funds by the Olympic Delivery Authority.

My Lords, the Olympic Lottery Distribution Fund has committed to releasing grants to the Olympic Delivery Authority within 10 working days of the receipt of a compliant request. This allows for the proper appraisal of requests and the administration of payments. In practice, the average time between receipt of a compliant request and payment has been approximately four working days.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Does he recall the House being warned that, if this circus is to come to town in 2012, there could be a very severe danger of bombs, bullets, boycott, blackmail and bloodshed, to say nothing of the case about bogus budgets, which has already been well and truly made? Does he accept that, while some funding delays are acceptable, those that go through the Olympic projects review group are not acceptable and there is a danger of bumbling bureaucracy being added to the list?

My Lords, we have learnt the lesson from the Dome. We have set up two organisations: the Olympic Delivery Authority, to deliver the infrastructure and to create the park, and LOCOG, the co-ordinating committee, to mount the Games. The two bodies work in close consort. It is an efficient structure, sufficiently so to win us plaudits from the International Olympic Committee.

My Lords, is there now a reasonably firm budget for the whole of the Olympics; and can the Minister enlighten us on whether we have yet to solve the problem of inclement weather in this country, and on the provision of cover for those who watch from the stadium?

My Lords, the Government have not solved the problem of inclement weather, but the Olympic authority will provide a roof for part of the stadium.

My Lords, can the Government confirm that we have a process at the moment that meets international standards for the distribution of funds, one that has been applauded throughout the system? When it comes to a roof for the stadium, it is quite normal for people to get soaking wet at athletics meetings.

My Lords, that may be, but the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, pressed me on whether there would be any roof at all. I can assure the House that that is the intention for the main Olympic stadium. On the overall position, of course we have to watch the issues carefully, because very big sums of public money are involved, both from the Exchequer and from the National Lottery, which is also a form of public money. We therefore need clear structures in place to ensure proper, efficient delivery and accountability and it is on that that we have been commended.

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that a clear set of milestones has been established and that a clear set of milestones for the delivery of the authority has been laid out for the future?

My Lords, that is certainly the case, but there is no cause for complacency, because this is a very complex operation. The House will recognise that the crucial issue for the Games is that everything has to be in place on a prescribed and definitive date. At the moment, we are proceeding satisfactorily.

Not the competitors, I fear, my Lords. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, it is common for athletics to be conducted in the open air, but there will be cover in the stadium. How far that will extend and to which categories of spectator I am not able to define precisely at this moment.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, mentioned the question of security—bombs and bullets, I think he said. Does the Minister agree that Tarique Ghaffur, the assistant commissioner in charge of security, is more than happy with the arrangements being made at present?

My Lords, I can attest to that statement. The substantial increase in the budget included a very hefty sum for the necessary security to guarantee, as best we are able, that the Games are carried through peacefully.

My Lords, what financial return do the Government expect to secure from their investment in the Olympic Games?

My Lords, it was London that bid for the Games, not the Government, and it did not do so on the basis that this investment would reap huge financial rewards. It will certainly bring extensive rewards in the prestige of staging the Olympics; after all, it is almost 60 years since we last had that honour. However, we are quite clear that the development of the land in east London will bring returns, which we are confident will help to restore resources to the lottery, for instance, some of which have been concentrated on the Games.

My Lords, when the Minister cited the Dome as an example of financial efficiency, did he have in mind the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on it? It said:

“It is also clear that the task of managing the project has been complicated by the complex organisational arrangements put in place from the outset, and by the failure to put in sufficiently robust financial management”.

My Lords, I did not say that we are paralleling the organisation for the Dome but that we had learnt lessons from it. I said that, in splitting the responsibilities between the two main bodies concerned with delivery of the Games, we had taken on board a crucial lesson from the Dome: to avoid mixing up the objectives and thereby causing difficulties.