Previous SectionIndexHome Page

11 Jun 2003 : Column 269WH—continued

London Olympic Bid

2 pm

Mr. Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley): Mr. McWilliam, I am delighted to be able to discuss the London Olympic bid.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. John McWilliam): Order. Personally, I do not mind references to Mr. McWilliam, but in this Chair, I am Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Stringer : My apologies, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am delighted to have the opportunity to discuss the London Olympic bid in the context of what it means not only for regional policy, but for national economic policy. There is an assumption that being successful in the bid for the Olympics is both good for the country and good for the regions. That is a sister assumption to the expression that is often used that what is good for London is good for the country. As I develop my speech, I hope to show that while sometimes that is true, it is not necessarily always so.

We live in a country with huge regional disparities. I shall not rehearse all the statistics that show them, but the gross domestic product per head in London and the south-east is between 50 and 80 per cent. higher than elsewhere in the country. London and the south-east is the richest region in Europe, and every other region in England is below the European average. That is not a happy state of affairs. Life expectancy is longer in London and the south-east. Mortality and morbidity rates are higher in the regions than they are in London and the south-east. That is not something that has happened in the past two or three years. It has been a problem for a century or more.

In the north-east, the north-west and Yorkshire and Humberside, levels of unemployment have been running for a considerable period at twice the level that they are in London and the south-east. I do not believe that that is unrelated to some of the figures on public expenditure, or to the fact that 80 per cent. of public expenditure on transport is spent in the south-east of England.

I refer to a startling statistic; the overspend—not the cost—on the Jubilee line was more than the total expenditure on transport elsewhere in the country. Trying to disaggregate the figures for public expenditure is a difficult task. It is not straightforward, because that is not how the Treasury keeps the books. However, on average, a third more is spent on public services in London and the south-east than in the regions.

That is bad enough, but if we take the latest statistics—I am assured by the Library that they are to be found in the White Paper, "Your Region, Your Choice"—it is clear that the gap is not getting narrower, but growing, on all those figures. That is leading to an unhealthy vicious circle, whereby there is larger and faster growth in the south-east and higher unemployment in the regions, so there is migration into the south-east, which is leading to problems such as houses being built on greenfield sites where people do not want them. That is leading to a crisis in, and—in some cases—a collapse of public services.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge): Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the higher

11 Jun 2003 : Column 270WH

public spending of which he speaks does not necessarily translate into better quality public services in London and the south-east? Certainly, my constituents, and those of many of my hon. Friends with constituencies in the south-east, would argue that the services delivered there are inferior to those in many other parts of the country, where costs are lower.

Mr. Stringer : I would accept that there is no simple and straightforward equation. What the hon. Gentleman says is right in some respects, but in some cases there are better services as a result of the higher levels of expenditure in the south-east. We are getting into a vicious circle; because of the increase in expenditure in the south-east, pressure is growing on those public services on which more money is spent, and as a result even more is spent on them. They get not better, but worse. I partly, but not completely, accept the hon. Gentleman's point.

Of course, overall, the issue is not simple, and I am not saying that if we evened out the public spending we would even out the regional disparities. There is no getting away from where London is, physically. It is closer to the major markets of Europe and has the City of London—one of the greatest generators of wealth in Europe, if not the world—at its centre. It has a marvellous heritage and is one of two, three or four great world cities depending on how we define that. Even if we evened out the spending issues, London would do well.

Government policy should be directed at ameliorating, not exacerbating, the problem of regional disparities. In the White Paper, "Your Region, Your Choice", there are some fascinating tables. Many of us who live and represent constituencies outside London believe that there are too many civil servants working in London and the south-east who could easily be relocated in the regions. The White Paper shows that although in the first couple of years of the Labour Government the number of public servants dropped in all regions, including London and the south-east, in the last year for which figures are quoted, there were more civil servants in London and the south-east than there were in 1997, and fewer in the regions. That is fascinating.

It is extraordinary that numbers of civil servants are increasing at a faster rate in London than elsewhere in the country. I do not necessarily think that lower-paid public servants and their jobs should be moved out of London, but we would probably have different policies if some members of the First Division and some policymakers saw what life was like for those living in Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and other parts of the regions. Government policy should be focused on trying to deal with that unfairness.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): I have listened to the hon. Gentleman's remarks on the civil service and the possibility of it moving some of its jobs out of London and the south-east. Does he not think that devolution to the English regional assemblies will have that effect? I have sometimes heard him speak against that sort of model. Would he be in favour of that, or does he want to move the civil service out in other ways?

Mr. Stringer : The hon. Gentleman will have me shooting into his open goal. It was interesting that the

11 Jun 2003 : Column 271WH

first impact of setting up the regional development agencies—two of the regions were not getting assistance—was to redistribute money to London and the south-east, because no extra money was put in. If I genuinely believed that regional assemblies could reverse some of the effects that I am concerned about, I would agree with the hon. Gentleman and his party. The evidence is that they could not, and that that argument camouflages the problems that we are talking about.

I want to use the London Olympic bid, and how it was arrived at, to examine how major national projects have ended up not doing very well because of the way in which decisions were taken. Let us consider Picketts Lock. Some of us in this Room, and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), had meetings with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and there is no doubt that if the Government had not been obsessed with having a stadium in an unsuitable place, we could have held the world athletics championships in a slightly larger stadium than that in which we held the Commonwealth games. Manchester City would have had a slightly larger stadium—I am not sure that I approve of that, as I am not a Manchester City supporter. For some reason, however, officials and members of the Government insisted on taking that decision.

I do not know whether there are Members present who represent Birmingham constituencies, but there is no doubt that Birmingham's bid for the dome was sound and would probably have led to a better and more accessible project for most people in the country than the one in Greenwich on the other side of the river. As a country, we were saddled with a project, the contents of which nobody was clear about, in a difficult-to-reach part of London. That resulted in overspend on the Jubilee line, which was greater than transport expenditure elsewhere.

We could have a debate on the national stadium. Manchester was cheated out of it when the Football Association turned from judge to competitor; Birmingham, too, was fiddled out of it. We now have a project that has trebled in cost and has not yet delivered. I could continue listing large projects, the decision-making processes for which seem to demand holding things in London, which exacerbates the problems of the region.

Today's debate is about the bid to host the Olympic games in 2012. It is an excellent example of my thesis because it reveals a flawed process that has led to a flawed bid. There will be repercussions for us all. Let us think what process should have taken place in a rational world. We are engaged in the toughest international competition in the world: hosting the Olympic games. Many cities want to do it, and it is as tough a competition as one gets. It is not always clean, and some cities might bribe and cheat.

A rational process that examined the benefits for the economy and the region would have questioned why we wanted the Olympics. Is it because we want a great festival of sporting activity? If it is, bidding for the Olympics is an extraordinarily expensive way of going about it. It amount to billions of pounds worth of

11 Jun 2003 : Column 272WH

expenditure and resources. More money could be put into sport by not holding the Olympics. That debate should have been heard, but it was not.

If the real reason for bidding was regeneration, a serious case needs to be made for that, because there are some sad stories of relatively good Olympic and other multi-sport games that have not brought the regeneration that was expected. Sydney has a stadium that is not used; the investment and regeneration that was expected to follow did not happen. Kuala Lumpur, which hosted the Commonwealth games in 1998, has a host of empty facilities. Atlanta got little regeneration benefit; it has failed to provide basic facilities. There are two multi-sport events that led to real regeneration. First, the Barcelona games in 1992 turned the city around, opened up the sea front, regenerated the area, improved transport and brought genuine benefits to the people of Barcelona. Secondly, the Manchester Commonwealth games was integrated into a process, with an after-use for both the sporting facilities and everything else. Thus it has started to regenerate east Manchester.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his good fortune in securing the debate. Will he acknowledge that the newly emerging entente cordiale between Manchester and Liverpool, which started with the Commonwealth games, and which has appeared more recently with the capital of culture bid, for which Liverpool was successful, does not mean that our position on the Olympic bid is anti-London and the south-east? Will he also accept that he has made a cogent, closely argued case for the appropriateness of the site, or the location, rather than making a point that is anti-London and the south-east? It is simply a matter of where is the most appropriate place and where the most benefits could be located.

Mr. Stringer : I would be delighted to support an Olympic bid from any city in this country that was capable of hosting it, whether that was London, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham or Glasgow, that had gone through a proper, fair process of evaluation and competition. I was pleased to support Liverpool's bid for city of culture. People laughed when I said that, but it was true. Of course, Manchester was not bidding. Although I represent a Manchester constituency, I was delighted to support that bid, as I would support other cities. Sometimes cities compete, but if they are not competing, it is sensible if they co-operate. That is what happened between Manchester and Liverpool.

Mr. Hammond : The hon. Gentleman has argued that bidding for the Olympics is not an efficient way of spending money to generate improvements in the quality of British sport, or even to generate improvements in regeneration activity. Why did his early-day motion 134 call on the Government not to support the bid until a competition between all cities in the UK had been held? That suggests that the hon. Gentleman's position is based a little bit on the fact that the bid is coming from London, rather than Manchester. Can he allay that concern?

Mr. Stringer : I am sorry if I am not being clear enough. I am saying that a competitive process would

11 Jun 2003 : Column 273WH

enable the country to determine the reasons for the bid. If they were for sport, a cost could be put against that; if they were for regeneration, one could work through whether or not the arguments for that were sound. I shall come to that later. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will bear with me.

I have mentioned two cases in which real regeneration has happened after major multi-sport events. However, in a larger number of cases, local people have been disappointed, because regeneration has not taken place and they have been saddled with a large bill. Getting such things right is complex and difficult, otherwise more cities would have done it. A competition should have determined the relevant issues; an evaluation would then have taken place.

What actually happened was different. In 1995, about 18 months after Manchester failed to win the bid to host the 2000 games, the British Olympic Association said that in future it would only support London. That is the association's own business. However, about seven years later it came to the Government and said, "That is our position: it is based on a survey of members of the International Olympic Committee that we took at the end of 1994. Will you support us?" Eventually, the war in Iraq intervened. After a Select Committee report, the Government said yes. That is a flawed process, because we have not been able to examine the issues in an open competition, and that has consequences.

I remind hon. Members that London tried and failed twice to be the Great Britain and Northern Ireland nominee to host the Olympic games—once against Birmingham, the other time against Manchester. It tried to be the host city for the Commonwealth games in the Queen's jubilee year of 2002, and it failed against Manchester. It is not a virgin in such competitions—it has tried and failed.

That reminds me of the Arsene Wenger philosophy of life: it does not matter what the results are on the park because we are still the best team. That is the approach that the Government and the British Olympic Association have taken to the bid: it is rather like if an organisation—a development corporation or a housing association—had said, "We want to build these houses, and we have got a mate who is a builder who will build them all, so we will not bother with a tendering process." What would the Government have said about that? That organisation would have been in administration or taken control of very quickly if it were a public body, and if it were a private body, the shareholders would swiftly have had something to say about that.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): Does my hon. Friend not think that the process that he outlined earlier of the concentration of many civil servants and national authorities in London is itself part of that vicious spiral that leads to a failure to assess the potential of other cities—in the midlands, the north or anywhere else in the country—for major projects because of lack of knowledge of what those areas have to offer?

Mr. Stringer : My hon. Friend is right: there are civil servants who came to Manchester during the Commonwealth games to see the facilities that were provided whose jaws are still dropped. They often said, "We did not realise anything like this was happening", which was slightly surprising, as their responsibilities covered sport.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 274WH

It is wrong not to have a competitive process. Nobody—no member of the IOC or journalist—has ever been able to predict what members of the IOC will do when it comes to vote, because they lie—obscure is the politer term. They do not tell the truth about which way they are going to vote. It is part of their business not to tell people what they are going to do, so the outcome is nearly always a surprise. Nobody predicted that the 1998 winter Olympics would be in Nagano: everybody assumed that it would be in Salt Lake City. Everybody was wrong, including members of the IOC.

Something else has not been taken into account that is revealed in the Select Committee report. Craig Reedie, IOC member and chair of the BOA, told the Select Committee that the current policy of the IOC is to go for smaller cities rather than large cities. About half the cities chosen over the past 50 or 60 years are capital cities. However, it is now the IOC's policy to go for smaller cities, I assume that is why Germany has chosen Leipzig over Berlin. All these factors could have been taken into account.

Jim Knight (South Dorset): If our Olympic bid is successful, South Dorset is lined up to host the sailing events in Portland harbour, and that is regardless of whether the bid comes from London, Manchester or anywhere else. I try to approach this matter objectively, because we have the best sailing waters in the country.

Given that the decision has been made to go for London, and given how difficult it is to persuade the International Olympic Committee to back a bid, should we not take the opportunity, after letting off steam, to unify behind the bid? We should try to make the most of it for the regions, through training camps, staging football events and by making the most of the chance that it gives us, as a unified Parliament and a unified country, rather than trying to knock it down—a rather British disease—as a result of which none of us gets anything.

Mr. Stringer rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I remind hon. Members that interventions should be short.

Mr. Stringer : I hope that my hon. Friend will follow my arguments in the last 10 minutes or so of my speech. I suspect that the bid will not be successful because of the way it was put together. Had there been a competition, London would not necessarily have beaten Manchester or Birmingham—they and other cities have enormous strengths, which should have been tested—but it would have brought Londoners together.

As a close participant, my view of the bids for the 1996 Olympic games was that the best bid by far was Toronto's. Toronto lost because of a local campaign called Bread not Circuses—a good slogan. The organisation wrote to every IOC member saying, "Don't come here." The fact that London did not compete meant that the bid did not involve the whole community. From the appendices of the Select Committee report, one can see incipient bread-not-circuses groups. The environmental forum was one such group. Without competing, we do not get that support.

My hon. Friend noted that the regions are alienated. It is difficult enough representing seats in the regions, with all their problems and successes, without a process

11 Jun 2003 : Column 275WH

being unfair. However, I was in Newcastle last week talking to business people, local government leaders and academics, and I sensed their anger at the way in which national decisions are taken on major public spending projects.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): Would my hon. Friend agree not only that the process causes alienation, but that it will cost regions such as the north-east money? I refer to a question that I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about predictions that an initial 4 per cent. of lottery funding, possibly rising to 11 per cent., will be diverted to the Olympic bid. That is bound to have a direct effect on regions such as the north-east and north-west, as they will not be able to get lottery funding for sporting activities.

Mr. Stringer : My hon. Friend makes precisely the same point. The bid has split support within the sports world and within London. I was about to say that funds will be diverted not only from other regional lottery projects but from grass-root sport. The problem applies mainly to athletics, but it also affects other sports; it is the lack of support for athletes between their leaving school at the ages of 16, 17 or 18 and becoming elite athletes, and doing well in international competition.

The way in which the decision was taken means that such people are less likely to get support. It is a bit like the London community: splitting the regions splits the sporting community. It is not a good way to bid; it is not the way to be successful. It should be about uniting people. It is therefore unlikely that we will win. Even if we lose, however, as we lost the World cup bid, we can still do well both for our country and our city—and for our sports.

I understand that the bidding process will not help the regions, but we should consider the benefits had London been successful. One of the weakest comments in the Ove Arup report—at least in those parts that we were allowed to see; I understand that it was doctored because officials realised how silly it was—was that London's image would be improved by hosting the Olympics. London is a great world city. Wherever in the world one goes, people know what London has to offer. London is the one place in the United Kingdom that does not need to have its image improved.

We are likely to end up—this will annoy everybody and therefore unite the country—having had an odd competition for a national stadium that resulted in something that was not to the original specification, with two stadiums, one of them in east London, where it will be difficult to find a use for it. West Ham has been mentioned, although I understand that it has not been approached. London will have two stadiums, although the rest of the country will think that it should not have had one.

It is said that benefits will come from tourism. Those who say that tourism will increase during the Olympic games have only to study what happened in Los Angeles. The easiest time in the past 20 years to get a hotel bed in Los Angeles, other than after an earthquake, was during the 1984 Olympics. During any

11 Jun 2003 : Column 276WH

Olympic games, nobody who is not on Olympic business goes near them. One does not take the children to Disneyworld if one expects to get caught up in Olympic traffic. The chances are that tourism to both London and the regions, London being the gateway to the regions, will drop during the Olympics. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) is smiling. I ask him to consider whether the evidence of what happened nearly 20 years ago in Los Angeles bears out what I have said.

Mr. Hammond : I was smiling because I wondered whether the hon. Gentleman was going to suggest a Government initiative to encourage Londoners to go out during the Olympic games and sample the delights of Manchester and other parts of the English regions.

Mr. Stringer : The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, although I am not sure whether he intended to. They are always welcome.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside): The hon. Gentleman might like to examine the situation and example of Australia. During the last Olympic games there were great complaints from the rest of the states that Sydney got all the business and there was no tourist traffic outwith the metropolis.

Mr. Stringer : I know less about Sydney, because I did not go there, but the hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Because much of the Ove Arup report has remained secret, it is difficult to work out whether this is a regeneration project. I have heard estimates—it does not matter if we divide them by 10, they are such extraordinary figures— that the cost per job created is £6 million. I am not making that figure up; there are people involved in the Olympic decision who say that a small number of permanent jobs will be created. If we divide them into the billions of pounds that will be spent, that is what each job created will cost.

I am not sure which hon. Member represents the lower Lea Valley. It is not an area that I have been fortunate enough to visit. However, going by the reports that I have read, it might well be that the uncertainties caused by an Olympic bid—plans are changed and land values go up with hope—will delay the development of the Lea Valley rather than helping it. I can see that that is probable if the plans are not integrated and thought out. I understand that the area needs more houses and better infrastructure, which would help the housing situation in London. However, it is likely to get delay and uncertainty and a stadium that could be of no use—except for a fortnight or so—because nobody is sure what it is for.

We shall be left with a situation in which the south-east overheats again. I shall not repeat the arguments that I advanced earlier. There will be a drag to the south-east that will add to the vicious cycle. Many amazing claims have been made for the bid. It is said that the games will improve everybody's health and will increase tourism and bring regeneration. If one examines the situation, as it should have been examined in a competition, most of those claims fall apart.

When we debated the matter on the Floor of the House, I said that if London was the answer to the question, it was a very strange question. I believe that it

11 Jun 2003 : Column 277WH

will go some way to worsening the regional disparities that we are so concerned about. When one reads what is sometimes said in the nastier parts of the south-east press about cities that have been through difficult times—such as Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester—it is said that those cities have a handout culture. What could represent more of a handout culture than saying a city can have the Olympics without any competition, or saying that a city can have two stadiums, while the rest of the country goes without? A city that could not deliver on Picketts Lock is told that it should have had the World Athletics Championships, and will get it next time, even though Birmingham is more accessible. What could be more of a handout culture than that?

I do not believe that we have regional disparity solely because of public expenditure. Public expenditure should be part of the solution. Nor do I believe that it is because people in the regions are feckless and are not working. It is because we do not have a level playing field, and there will not be one until London stops receiving benefits that it does not need. The bid will not be beneficial to the country, or to the regions.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, I remind everyone that the purpose of the debate is to enable the hon. Member who secured the debate to hear a reply from the Minister. I will be calling for the winding-up speeches no later than 3.25 pm. Members' contributions should be very brief.

2.36 pm

Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): I am delighted to be taking part in the debate and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) on securing it. I take the opportunity to pay tribute to him and his fellow hon. Members for Manchester for their success in securing the Commonwealth games.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but it seems I cannot count. My eyesight has let me down. I shall be calling for the winding-up speeches at 2.55 pm.

Mr. Thomas : Thank you for telling me that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was paying tribute to hon. Members who represent Manchester for their success in securing the Commonwealth games. I also congratulate them on the way those games were organised, which facilitated the redevelopment of the east Manchester area. The games were particularly successful in achieving that core objective.

I do not believe that the Government are wrong in their approach to regional strategy. The policy of implementing regional development agencies, and of examining the concept of regional assemblies—where they are wanted—is the right way to tackle many of the disparities to which my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley alluded. He will not be surprised to learn that I do not share his views on public expenditure, although I congratulate him on his continuing advocacy for the north-west. He will not be upset to learn that he is notorious among hon. Members who represent London for his advocacy of his region.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 278WH

The Government were right to back a London bid for the Olympics. My hon. Friend alluded to the decision of the British Olympic Association, taken after consultations with members of the International Olympic Committee. That came after three non-London bids from the UK in 1992, 1996 and 2000 had failed. Many of the issues that hindered past bids were areas around transport and governance. It is fair to say that the governance issue has been resolved and that the transport issue is on the way to being resolved. It will certainly be resolved by the time of a 2012 Olympics.

One of the keys to the 2012 Olympics, should we be successful, must be to ensure that they are a people's games. My hon. Friend alluded to the success of the Bread Not Circuses group in preventing Toronto from winning its bid and that sends a powerful message to those involved in preparing London's bid. We must have a people's games—one that pulls in volunteers from not only communities in London but the regions of the UK. It must be a people's games in terms of the ticket pricing and in the sense that people in London and the regions can participate in designing its legacy. We must use the next two years, as we work out the bid's design, to ensure that we maximise the benefits of a successful Olympic games for the whole United Kingdom, not just for London.

We must recognise that the bid would be for the whole UK, even though the games would be based in London. Most events would be held there, although some would have to be staged outside London. My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight) alluded to the fact that the sailing events would be held outside London. Many matches in the football tournament would be held elsewhere in the country, although the final would clearly have to be at a rebuilt Wembley stadium. Clearly, Manchester and Liverpool, with their excellent stadiums, would play a key role in staging parts of the games.

It is also worth bearing in mind that more than 190 nations take part in the games. They need training camps in the run-up to the games to allow their athletes to acclimatise. There would, therefore, be considerable opportunities for cities and towns throughout the UK to prepare bids to host teams.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough): Obviously, Loughborough would be a prime consideration. We already have excellent facilities and we would look to host one of the major teams. In that respect, the legacy of the games is not just a matter of the excitement caused by having a major team in the town. It is clear from the experience of the British Olympic Association on the gold coast, in Australia, that the Olympics have a lasting legacy, which is about more than the people involved for the short period of the games. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Mr. Thomas : I do. The British Olympic Association is highlighting the revenue that it is generating for the economy of Cyprus, where the British team for next year's games in Athens will prepare. Clearly, Loughborough, with its excellent sports facilities, will be able to make a powerful case for hosting one of the leading teams in the run-up to the games.

There would therefore be a regional dimension to the football tournament, the training camps and one or two other events, which would have to be held outside

11 Jun 2003 : Column 279WH

London. A further reason why a London Olympic bid would be a bid for the whole UK is that London is a vital gateway to the rest of the country. It remains true that when London prospers, the UK as a whole prospers. Estimates show that London makes a net contribution of £20 billion a year to the UK economy and London's GDP represents about 20 per cent. of the UK's total output. We are also a key gateway in terms of tourism, and 75 per cent. of all international visitors arrive in London. A conservative estimate suggests that the UK tourism industry would get a £500,000 million boost from hosting the Olympics. Furthermore, more than 4 million jobs in the rest of the UK depend on London's demand for goods and services. Jobs and revenues that were delivered into London in the context of the Olympic games would, therefore, have a direct benefit by creating jobs and revenue streams in the rest of the UK.

London is the best chance that we have of winning an Olympic bid. That is the view of the British Olympic Association, which is the body that determines whether we bid. London also has the benefit of history. It is therefore important that we continue to invest in the infrastructure, such as transport and housing, that London will need for its bid to be successful.

On the area of London that has been earmarked for the games, other hon. Members will no doubt stress how prosperous London is and point out that its economy is growing fast, but it is also worth mentioning the fact that London is a city with some stark inequalities. London is home to some of the most deprived areas in the country: some 20 of the 88 most deprived local authority districts in England are in London. The boroughs in which the games would be staged—Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham—are not famed for their tenants' reputation for prosperity. That sub-region of east London is in need of both investment and resources, and the cultural and sporting boost that the games bring.

Just as the Commonwealth games delivered significant regeneration for east Manchester, those of us in London, although not necessarily those representing the part of London affected, hope that the Olympic games would help to drive and facilitate the regeneration of east London. I do not share the view that an Olympic bid would damage the regeneration of the Thames gateway area and neither do the London Development Agency, which is responsible for much of the preparation of that strategy, or any of the local authorities in that area.

Our Olympic bid offers opportunities not only to regenerate east London, which is a part of the country that has been crying out for investment for some time, but to spread the benefits of such a great sporting festival around the country. On Monday, an all-party group was established to consider such issues and I hope that the hon. Members who take part in this debate will also participate in the work of that group, so that we can maximise the benefits that a successful Olympic bid would bring to the whole of the United Kingdom, not just to London.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 280WH

2.47 pm

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West): I congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) on a thoughtful yet at times pessimistic speech about the prospects for the bid. I also congratulate him on giving an opportunity to Members who represent constituencies outside London to debate the effect that the Olympic bid could have on their constituencies.

Scotland could and should play an important and integral part not only in the bid but, if it is successful, in the event itself. I am not a lone Scot in that regard: the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association has got behind the idea that Scotland should play a part in the Olympics. Furthermore, a recent ICM opinion poll showed that 82 per cent. of people in the United Kingdom support the principle of a bid, whereas 89 per cent. of Scots support the idea of a bid and the same proportion recognise the economic benefits that the Olympic games could bring. A successful Olympic bid would give us the opportunity to showcase to the entire world the whole of the UK, not just London, where the focus of the games would be.

Much has been made of the increase in the number of visitors to the country that the Olympics would bring. Important though that is, the argument is not only about bringing tourists and their money for the duration of the games, but about showing the world when its eyes are upon us what we have to offer visitors to our country. Anyone who is involved in tourism will say that some of the most effective methods of advertising the country are through television and simple word of mouth. Boosting the numbers visiting Scotland and the UK during the Olympics would give us the opportunity to send millions of visitors away with a positive experience, eager to tell their friends and families about it. As one who represents a constituency in a city that is heavily dependent on tourism, I believe that that is very desirable indeed. We in Edinburgh share the experience of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley of helping to host the Commonwealth games some years ago. However, I realise that games can have their ups and downs—like the Sheffield student games, the games in Edinburgh had one or two problems at the time.

Improving the profile of the country is one important aspect, but there are other issues worth raising. The distance between Scotland and London might be thought a problem, but during the Sydney games, which received credit as one of the most successful ever, the football tournament was held in several cities and spread between Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra. The players taking part in the tournament and the spectators in Brisbane were more than 400 miles from Sydney, and in Adelaide they were more than 700 miles away from the main Olympic village. Edinburgh is only 320 miles by air and 400 miles by road from London.

Transport infrastructure would have to be seriously considered. I am sure that the Minister will discuss it with the Secretary of State for Transport, who represents the Edinburgh constituency in which the excellent Murrayfield stadium, the home of Scottish rugby, is located. I hope that will be given priority in any successful bid and that other Scottish Members who are Ministers—the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths), who has responsibility for small businesses,

11 Jun 2003 : Column 281WH

and the Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Clark)—will both promote the interests of the city they represent and pursue wider Scottish interests in the Olympic bid. Edinburgh, Glasgow and the rest of Scotland have much to offer the Olympics.

I am keen to hear what discussions the Minister has had with representatives of the Scottish Executive about Scotland's role in the Olympic bid. Before the recent elections, the then Scottish sports Minister, Elaine Murray, spoke positively about Scotland's role not only in football but possibly basketball and even rowing, although we cannot guarantee good weather. As she said, there are excellent facilities in Scotland and we should try to maximise the benefits for the Scottish economy and encourage the dispersal of a number of events throughout the UK.

I understand the concerns that some hon. Members have raised. They rightly do not want money allocated for regeneration projects and poverty reduction in their area to be pushed aside to make way for the bid. When meat is added to the bones of the bid, the Minister would do well to take note of those concerns and give their views proper consideration.

I am a realistic optimist and I believe that there is enormous potential for the Scottish and UK tourism industry and the economy to benefit from the bid if we play things right. The prizes are there to be won and all parts of the country can and should gain from them, but we need the Minister and the Government to ensure that it is a genuine UK bid and not a London bid, so that the whole country can benefit from it.

2.52 pm

Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) for securing this important debate, which affects all the regions in Britain.

Time is short, and I shall be brief. I am not anti-sport, anti-Olympics or anti-London, but although the north-west and other regions are not anti-London, it is clear that London is anti-regions. When it was announced that Liverpool would be the city of culture, the London Evening Standard attacked the people, the buildings and the cultural base of Merseyside. People from the north-west and Merseyside are not anti-London—it is the other way round—but we do want to know why major events always have to be staged in London.

The dome and the national stadium could have been outside the capital, yet they ended up in London—as has the Olympic bid. They have something else in common, too: they have been a financial disaster and a disaster for regional policy. For 18 years under the Conservative Government, there was no regional policy; the strange thing is that now we have such a policy, the funding is not following it. Although the Government continue to make the case for a stronger regional policy, the funding streams—as shown in recent announcements on housing and transport—shift more resources from the north-west and other regions to the south-east and London.

It is not surprising that the gap in GDP between the north-west and other regions and London is growing wider. Unless the Government starts to address the issues, the economy will continue to diverge. That divergence damages the south-east and London and the

11 Jun 2003 : Column 282WH

rest of the country: it means massive house price inflation, shortages of skills and major congestion problems in the south-east, and unemployment, lower GDP than the European average and under-investment in the regions. London and the south-east therefore need real funding streams to follow the policy.

It is useless for the Government to keep restating that they are in favour of regional policy and of bridging the GDP gap between the north and the south unless they put their money where their mouth is. The bid was another opportunity for them to invest in other parts of the country and make a real difference. However, we know from the announcement that even more resources will be taken away from the north-west and given to the lottery.

The national lottery did not expand its budget when it introduced its last game. There was less money for sport and culture, not more. If we introduce a new game and ring-fence the funding for the Olympic bid, there will be a reduction in funding for my area and, I suspect, for most parts of the country. My area has already been refused two lottery grants because there is now less money available for good causes. The decision and the way in which it will be financed means that there will be even fewer resources for sport.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley made several arguments in favour of the scheme being introduced elsewhere. It is crucial that the decisions that we take are open and even-handed. We must know what the rules are and how we can compare one bid against another. I do not see any of those factors in this Olympic bid. As I said, I am not against the Olympic bid, but I do not believe that people can be moved around London unless there is major investment in public transport. Hon. Members who represent London constituencies have said that they expect the Government to follow their announcement with a major investment in public transport. There will be less money for the regions if that major investment is made.

The imbalance must be addressed. The Government need to back up their regional policy by ensuring that funding streams follow. Will the Minister assure me that regions such as the north-west will not lose out because of the Government's decision? Will he confirm that the current level of funding given to the regions will be ring-fenced and that the Government will make up for any reduction in sports funding because of the lottery? It is crucial for the whole country that those assurances are given today and that the Government's response is positive.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) has risen, but I shall call him if he promises to take only five minutes. Otherwise, I shall not.

2.58 pm

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The north-east has the disadvantage of having Scotland to the north, with its financial, political and democratic advantages. It also suffers from the north-south divide, to which my hon. Friend the Member for

11 Jun 2003 : Column 283WH

Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) referred at the start of the debate. The Olympic bid may well exacerbate that divide. That fear motivated me to table early-day motion 1254, which now has the signatures of 74 hon. Members. The Minister may try to assure us today that the Olympic bid will not have a detrimental effect on the regions, but some of us in the north-east believe that the bid is already having such an effect.

The Minister will be aware that the previous Conservative Government introduced the concept of a sports academy, which was to be based in Sheffield with satellites spread around the region. Gateshead was to be the north-east regional satellite. The Labour Government modified the concept to the institute of sport, but it remained as it was and Gateshead remained the north-east hub. The original plan was for £150 million of capital expenditure to be distributed around the 10 hubs. Some hub sites have developed. Sheffield, Loughborough, Bath and Manchester are hubs as a result of the spin-off from the Commonwealth games.

Gateshead has done some serious planning, and was about to enter a detailed study and design stage when Sport England announced a moratorium on projects funded by lottery money. Gateshead could not take the financial risk, and immediately had to put its plans on hold. Sport England announced that it was to undertake a stocktake of all lottery-funded projects, and told Gateshead that there was a distinct possibility that Sport England would de-commit—an interesting word—from some projects, including the sports academy hub site plan. The decision on that was expected on 14 April. It was then deferred to May, and deferred yet again on 3 June. We believe that the Olympic bid is already making Sport England rethink its distribution of funds throughout the country. The Olympic-sized pool that Newcastle city council was hoping to develop now seems to be in jeopardy, and Sport England is unwilling to commit itself to funding.

We are concerned that the Olympic bid will further exacerbate the situation, and we cannot stand idly by and watch that happen. If the Olympic bid is being pursued on the basis of prestige for London and the development of east London—which I accept is much needed—but at the expense of developments in other regions, it will not be in the interests of the country as a whole. Will the Minister reassure us that that will not be the case?

3 pm

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): I shall begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) on securing today's debate. I shall surprise him by saying that I agree with him on at least one or two points.

First, the hon. Gentleman's savage attack on his own Government's handling of the choice is fair comment. It was valid to point out that the Government delayed the process for so long that it could not be competitive. He drew out some of the disadvantages of the lack of competitiveness in the process. I agree that the Government will take the blame if the bid fails.

Secondly, he was right to highlight the need to tackle regional disparities, and to refer to the various tables in "Your Region, Your Choice", which showed those

11 Jun 2003 : Column 284WH

disparities clearly. The Government have not addressed that problem. I criticised the Deputy Prime Minister when he announced the sustainable communities plan, because it put four times as much money for housing investment into one region as it put into the five northern regions together. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Government as a whole are failing to tackle those issues.

Many London Members want to share London's prosperity with the rest of the country, because our problems of overheating would be helped if there were greater regional balance. I hope that in supporting the bid, the Government will ensure that the rest of the country will benefit as well if London is successful. Investment in regional airports is one example.

The Liberal Democrats strongly support regional devolution and, unlike the hon. Gentleman, we believe that it is the surest way to remove the anti-regions bias that some people feel exists in Whitehall. I want some Departments to be broken up and merged, with civil servants and their power pushed down to the regions to provide long-term dynamic energy for tackling regional disparities. That is an ambitious agenda, and I know that the hon. Gentleman shares some of our views. However, he made a false link between the issues and London's Olympic bid, and failed to address some key questions.

The most important question that would have faced the Cabinet when it eventually got round to discussing the bid was the question of which city could win. The hon. Gentleman skirted over that by saying that London lost in competitive bids against Birmingham and twice against Manchester, and he seemed to assume that if there had been a competitive bid this time, it would have lost again. He is wrong. The Birmingham and both Manchester bids lost badly in the final round, with the second Manchester bid getting just as many votes from the International Olympic Committee as the first. [Interruption.] Well, the briefing that I had was that Manchester received 11 votes on both occasions. I regret that and wish that Manchester and Birmingham had won, but unfortunately the experience of bidding by those cities is not a happy one.

The Government were also faced with the fact that the British Olympic Association said that, from talking to the people who would make the decision, the only city that they should back was London. Faced with that message and the experience of previous bids, the Government had no choice but to back London. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will work to ensure that London's bid is successful and—I am more than happy to work with them on this—that other parts of the country share in London's success if it wins.

As the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) said, London is much better placed to win. Now, compared with the three previous times, when it was up against Birmingham and Manchester, the governance issue is settled in London. I am delighted that we have a Greater London Authority that is in a position to lead the bid successfully. Obviously, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) will be leading that GLA bid in due course.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 285WH

I think that the rest of the country will get behind the bid. The ICM poll mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) showed huge support in all the regions when people were asked, "Do you think that a bid should be made for London to host the 2012 Olympics?" Interestingly, in the north-west region, 84 per cent. felt that London should make the bid.

Mr. Watts : Often the result depends on the question asked. Does the hon. Gentleman think that, if the same people had been asked whether they were happy for their sports funding and the public expenditure on their transport system to be reduced to pay for an Olympic bid, they would have given a different answer?

Mr. Davey : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport published that finding, so no doubt he will take it up with a colleague in that Department. However, I understand that London council tax payers, quite rightly, will be asked to bear some of the cost. Much of the rest of the money will come from the IOC or the lottery, so it is not helpful for people to suggest that money will be taken out of the mouths of babes in Liverpool or wherever else. However, it is important that we ask the Government tough questions on how that money is to be found. It should not come from the education budgets in the north-west, but that is not an argument against the whole process.

I shall conclude my remarks shortly, because I want to give the Minister plenty of time to answer the criticisms from his own side. However, before doing so I remind hon. Members that London is not homogenous. My constituency is not homogenous. I represent a relatively prosperous constituency, but one or two wards have a great deal of poverty. In 1991, one ward was the poorest ward of any outer London borough, although the situation has changed slightly, with the different indices. Poverty can be found in many places. London is the home of real poverty. The hon. Member for Harrow, West was right to say that the proposal to site the games in the poorest part of London—indeed, the poorest wards in the country—has some logic in terms of regeneration. Whether the Government decide that the process is about regeneration or sport, the decision on where to site the games seems sensible.

I remind hon. Members from other parts of the country that the poorest in London are the poorest in the country. Why? Their benefits have no regional top-ups or London weightings. Income support is the same in Hackney, where people face the cost of living in London, as it is in Manchester. Pensioners in London do not receive a London top-up, but they face much higher costs and prices. We should remember that when we talk about regional expenditure and poverty.

We need to know about Crossrail. People who support either the London Olympic bid or the Crossrail scheme do not want to make the tie-together too strong, but Crossrail is crucial to this capital city. It is crucial to the sustainable communities plan—which the Deputy Prime Minister introduced—to the long-term economic well-being of the capital and to securing all the development in the Thames gateway. I think that Crossrail would be a crucial factor in winning the bid.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 286WH

When I asked the Secretary of State for Transport about how he was progressing Crossrail at Transport questions two weeks ago, his answer was bizarre. He seemed to suggest that he and his colleagues had never been shown a proper proposal for Crossrail—that it had not been properly planned or the finance had not been properly put together. If that is the case, what are the Government doing about it? They have been in power long enough and they talked enough about Crossrail in opposition. Why have they not been pushing for that vital plan to be drawn up, properly costed and properly put together? It is essential as much for the regions of the UK as for London. I hope that the Minister will tell us that his Department will put pressure on the Department for Transport and the Treasury and will talk to the Prime Minister to ensure that the Crossrail project happens, which will help to ensure that the London Olympic bid succeeds.

3.10 pm

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge): I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) on securing this debate. He is a diligent advocate of the interests of his city and region as he sees them, although I am not sure that in this case his analysis of what would be good for Manchester is correct.

It is interesting that the fault lines in the debate this afternoon appear to be regional rather than political, and run deeper than some of our more superficial political divisions. Yes, the grass is always greener, but I suggest to the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley that although the statistics that he reeled off gave a superficial impression of a rather lop-sided Britain, the reality is slightly more balanced. I have lived in his region, and in the east midlands region, and my perception is that the gap in quality of life that people experience is not as great as the crude statistics suggest, because of the horrendous pressures, problems and costs that my constituents, and those of the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), suffer in London and the south-east.

The essential premise of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley is that the Government should somehow alleviate the unfairness that the Olympics coming to London would represent. I suggest to him that the Government do not have the power to deliver that. However, my hon. Friends and I recognise that it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that, if the Olympic bid is successful, it is a success for the UK as a whole, and that the benefits are dispersed as far as possible throughout the country.

We support the bid. Indeed, we supported it before the Government did—they are latecomers to the process. Some of what the spokespeople for the Government have said in the past has not been helpful. The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton said that it was not helpful to suggest that money spent on the London Olympics was money taken out of the mouths of babes and orphans in the north-east. However, that is more or less what the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport suggested on 14 January. She said that

11 Jun 2003 : Column 287WH

If the Secretary of State says that in the House of Commons, I can understand the concern of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. It will be incumbent on the Minister to show that matters are being so organised that that will not be the case.

Mr. Watts : The hon. Gentleman rightly says that the decision has all-party support. May I remind him that the last major scheme that had all-party support was the dome, which had many supporters at first, but became a financial disaster, and had no friends in the end?

Mr. Hammond : If the politically correct had not got hold of the content, the story of the dome might have been very different.

In its dreams, every city would like to believe that it could host the Olympics, but, as other hon. Members have said, the reality is that if the UK is to stand a chance of winning the bid, it must be London. Several of the colleagues of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley, who represent northern constituencies, freely recognise that, although I will not detain the House by reading out their quotes.

It is tempting for people in the regions to assume that there is always a choice between London and somewhere else but, as is often the case with inward investment, that choice is not really available. Expert opinion suggests that that would also be the case with the Olympic bid. Inward investment that is directed away from London and the south-east will not go to the north-west or the north-east, but to the Pas de Calais, the Brussels region or the area around Stuttgart. With the Olympic bid, we shall be competing on a pan-European scale. We must recognise that fact, and that London has unique attractions on the international market.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley called for a competition between British cities for the privilege of bidding to host the Olympic games. That is interesting in theory, but it would be a pyrrhic victory if the winning city were to have a significantly lower chance of securing the Olympic games for Britain than a London bid. All expert opinion suggests that that is so. However, the issue is more complicated than merely a choice between London or another place. London can carry the bid with its headline international status and its world city characteristics, which the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley recognised, yet the benefits can be secured for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Whether the hon. Gentleman or those of us who represent the area like it or not, London and the south-east is an economic powerhouse for the whole of the United Kingdom. We heard some comments earlier about transport expenditure in London. I assure hon. Members from all regions that, if London's transport infrastructure snarls up and London becomes an impossible place in which to do business, the whole of the United Kingdom economy will suffer. London is the locomotive that helps to pull the whole UK economy. I am glad that the Government, after a shaky start, seem to have recognised that fact.

If the Olympic games were held in London, it would have a general beneficial effect. Furthermore, the Government could take specific action to ensure that, if

11 Jun 2003 : Column 288WH

they were held in London, it would not have a negative effect on the rest of the country, which is what the Secretary of State suggested in January and what other hon. Members have suggested today. In fact, it could have a positive effect.

One of the problems of speaking at the end of such a debate is that most of the points that need to be made have already been made. However, I shall quickly summarise my remarks. Will the Minister confirm that, if a London bid were successful, the Government would encourage and support the holding of some events outside London? Do the Government have specific policies on the dispersal of events, such as equestrian events, shooting, water-based sport and football? Have they measured how much of the total economic impact can be diverted to other parts of the country simply by ensuring that those events are staged outside London?

We will have the right to stage the Paralympics if we win the bid for the games. Are those games held in the same city as the Olympics, or could they be staged in another city, such as in the Commonwealth games facilities in Manchester? Will the Minister confirm that the Government have had discussions with the British Olympic Committee about ensuring that training facilities are dispersed properly throughout the country? My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) noted in the debate on 14 January 2003 that

could be created, with 100 training camps located throughout the UK, in

That is a real opportunity to ensure that some of the money is recycled back into genuine, lasting community facilities.

If London were successful, there would be real regeneration opportunities in one of the most deprived areas of our capital city. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the combination of London's status as an international city and the proximity of areas in the east of the capital that are in desperate need of regeneration and investment presents a real opportunity for the bid to succeed. Only if it succeeds, can it benefit any part of the United Kingdom.

3.19 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Christopher Leslie): It will be a pleasure to answer a debate in which there has clearly been so much harmony and camaraderie between the many regions and nations of our country. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) on securing the debate. It has been illuminating and lively. In the short time that remains, I shall try to answer as many points as I can, but I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I have to speed through some of them.

My hon. Friend focused on some of the economic disparities that have existed over a long time between the different regions of England, in particular. I shall talk about them in some detail later in my speech. I can assure him and other hon. Members that, as the only hon. Member from Yorkshire present in this Chamber today, I have no axe to grind on behalf of the capital or

11 Jun 2003 : Column 289WH

anywhere else. I feel strongly about some of the points that have been raised, from the point of view of my own constituency.

At the outset, it is important that we do not neglect the obvious. If Britain is to succeed as a whole in an economic sense, we must make sure that every part of the country and every corner of the United Kingdom can secure its fullest potential and not only share in the success, but drive it as well.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) raised some specific points about the role of Scotland in the Olympics. He was right to highlight the potential benefits of this country hosting the Olympic games. It is a genuine UK bid and he was right to point that out. He asked about the dialogue that there had been between the Scottish Executive and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The dialogue is ongoing. High-level dialogue is taking place at a sports Cabinet Committee, which brings together Ministers with responsibility for sport from the devolved Administrations. I assure the hon. Gentleman that those discussions are under way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) referred to the role of Gateshead in the sports academy hub plan and the fact that the town is still awaiting a decision from Sport England's funding review. I shall convey to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport the comments and concerns of my hon. Friend. However, I am assured by officials that the review is not driven by or directly connected with the Olympic bid and that Gateshead will not be at a disadvantage.

Mr. Reed : Loughborough, my constituency, is one of those areas that has benefited from the UK Sports Institute. It has received some £30 million pounds worth of facilities. I assure hon. Members that the decision by Sport England to reduce its funding at this stage or to stop funding is not related to the Olympics, but to an over-commitment to the existing sports budget, which has reduced considerably over the past four to five years.

Mr. Leslie : My hon. Friend obviously knows a great deal about the matter and his comments will go on the record. I am grateful for his attendance at the debate today. Given Loughborough's sporting history and involvement in sports policy in general, some of the issues that have been debated today will be relevant to his constituents.

Mr. Watts : Can I be clear that the Minister is saying that if the scheme will be funded from the lottery and the introduction of the new game leads to a reduction in overall amounts of money available for sport outside the Olympic games, the Government will ring-fence them and put in more money to make sure that areas such as the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley and my own are not disadvantaged by the Olympic bid?

Mr. Leslie : My hon. Friend should know that it is not the intention of any Government to see a bid for the Olympic games or any sporting occasion disadvantage any part of the country in any way. A great deal of attention has been paid to the package of funding put

11 Jun 2003 : Column 290WH

together for the Olympic bid. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the bid was backed by the UK Government on 15 May, she put in context the history of the UK's position. She mentioned the bid for Birmingham for 1992, for Manchester for 1996 and 2000 and why London was backed. That was because of people's drive and decision, with the support of the British Olympic Association. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), who had to leave early, said that the International Olympic Committee's views and the feedback received from it was a crucial factor in the decision. That is one of the reasons why the Government decided to back the BOA's position.

The area covered by the bid is around Stratford and the Lea Valley—the heart of east London. The public funding will come from a specific hypothecated Olympic lottery game, as agreed by the Mayor of London, and will be shared by council tax payers. The Government will provide a guarantee for a degree of underwriting for some of the bid finance.

The cost of the bid will be relatively lean—between £15 million to £30 million—and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will lead for the Government on all related matters. A bid company will be established and a high-calibre chair, supported by an Olympic team in Government, will lead off on some of those matters.

Mr. Hammond : Can the Minister give any clue about when the high-calibre chair, to whom he referred, is likely to be appointed? I understood that it was going to be last Friday, but so far I have not heard about it.

Mr. Leslie : My understanding is that that appointment is due some time over the early summer. I do not have a specific date to hand, but I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's concern that that should be undertaken as swiftly as possible.

I must make some progress on transport. Transport for London and the bid company will consider a transport plan. By 2012, the modernised tube—the Jubilee line—and the completed channel tunnel rail link will be in place, along with the international station at Stratford and the docklands light railway extension to City airport.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) spoke about Crossrail. Although that is not in my portfolio, I understand that the Department for Transport is supportive of the scheme in principle. However, it needs confirmation that the business case and the finances stack up. That process is being undertaken as swiftly as possible.

There are major benefits for London—that is clear. There are also benefits for the whole country, not just in terms of raising the nation's profile or boosting UK tourism, but also in leaving the nation a rich sporting legacy. My hon. Friends the Members for Harrow, West, for Loughborough (Mr. Reed), for Manchester, Blackley, for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Lynne Jones), for South Dorset (Jim Knight), for North Durham (Mr. Jones), for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts) and the hon. Members for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond), for Edinburgh, West, for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) and for Kingston and Surbiton

11 Jun 2003 : Column 291WH

mentioned other events taking place outside the capital. For example, some of the football tournaments will tour the UK, and there is talk of the regions hosting specialist events, such as sailing off the Dorset coast, which my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset mentioned. Other regions are playing host to athletes, training camps, and so forth.

There is a massive need to regenerate parts of east London. We should not neglect that. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton raised that point. The index of multiple deprivation in 2000 suggested that Tower Hamlets and Newham were ranked the third worst. Those boroughs have specific needs, but that is not to say that other parts of the country are not also in need of regeneration.

Much is going on in the north-west. Many hon. Members from that region spoke today. The Northwest Development Agency is setting up the urban regeneration company in east Manchester and it is working on the £39 million Ashton canal corridor. We have heard about Liverpool's city of culture bid and the

11 Jun 2003 : Column 292WH

project in Manchester that is looking at derelict buildings, and so forth. There was also the experience of the Commonwealth games, which was a significant event in east Manchester that directly reclaimed 146 hectares for the site. Some £127 million of investment in sporting facilities is now going into community uses. There is no reason why the same thing should not take place in an Olympic bid in a general sense.

In wider Government policies there is much going on in terms of trying to reduce the economic disparities between the different regions of the UK. There is a public service agreement target for that, regional development agencies are investing a great deal and other policies across Government, whether they are to do with housing or neighbourhood renewal, and the new deal for communities, contribute a great deal to that.

I come back to the ultimate point about today's debate. London's Olympic bid is the UK's Olympic bid, and all regions of the country must get behind it, so that it succeeds. Yes, each region has specific needs, but much work is being done by all Departments to make sure that regional prosperity is enhanced as fully as possible.

11 Jun 2003 : Column 291WH

11 Jun 2003 : Column 293WH

Next Section

IndexHome Page