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Tessa Jowell: London 2012 will be the first legacy Olympics. We made two pledges when we won the games in Singapore: to transform a generation of young people through sport, and to regenerate east London. On sport, 10 years of investment will mean that by 2012, 60 per cent. of young people will spend five hours a week on sport and competing, up from 23 per cent. doing two hours of sport a week in state schools in 2002. The regeneration of east London is there for all to see, so those are two legacy promises made and two legacy promises delivered.
Mr. Evennett: I thank the Minister for her response. In my borough of Bexley, we are all passionate supporters of the London Olympics. Regrettably, however, no Olympic events are to be held in my borough. What does the Minister see as the lasting legacy for outer-London boroughs such as Bexley?
Tessa Jowell: Some 350 apprenticeship places will be created on the Olympic park and village by 2012- 3 per cent. of the work force, and more than three times the industry norm for the south-east. The latest figures show that there were 150 apprentices on site in December 2009, 56 of whom were from the host boroughs. The Olympic Delivery Authority and its partners are on track to increase that number to 180 apprentices in 2010.
Tessa Jowell: Those apprenticeship places are a very important part of contributing to the skills legacy for the Olympic park-the 350 places will represent 3 per cent. of the work force at its peak, as I indicated. We also welcome the fact that the construction skills academy, which is now relocated at Beckton, will continue after the games, providing a young, skilled work force, including increasing numbers of women, to the construction industry in London and beyond, which is important once the Olympics are completed and as we move towards the construction of Crossrail.
Tessa Jowell: I hope I have dealt with the question of the lessons learned from the Vancouver Olympics, both on construction and legacy. As I indicated earlier, a full report will be prepared in due course.
Mr. Hollobone: One success of the Vancouver games appears to have been the provision of large screens in public parks, whereby very large numbers of people could watch the activities taking place on the slopes. What lessons will the Government draw from that successful experience for London 2012?
Tessa Jowell: The lessons will be to have-right across the country-large screens, live sites, volunteers, and activity locally through the Cultural Olympiad, sporting events and so forth, so that there really is a sense of Olympic celebration right across the UK, and so that people are able, wherever they live, to have first-hand experience of the games.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport made an accusation that I took orders from Sky and Murdoch. That is a most extraordinary accusation. I have been in Parliament for five years, and I have never taken orders from anybody. I would have hoped that the Secretary of State would apologise, but he did not take the opportunity to do so. Can you suggest how I pursue an apology, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He has placed his views and concerns very firmly on the record, and I listened carefully to what was said. Although I was mindful of our prohibition on imputing false motives, I think that in this case it was a matter of taste rather than of order.
The Secretary of State is here. If he wishes to respond- [ Interruption. ] Order. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to respond, he is free to do so- [ Interruption ]-but he is under no obligation to do so.
Mr. Speaker: The Secretary of State does not wish to apologise. So be it. [ Interruption. ] Order. The House is getting a little over-excited. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) is getting very worked up, and I am quite worried about him. I do not want his health to suffer by him getting overly worked-up-that would be bad for The Wrekin, bad for the House and bad for the nation. We do not want that to happen, so we will move on to the next point of order, which comes from Dr. Spink.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many hon. Members will have to fight an election soon in which tainted Ashcroft money has been used, perhaps unfairly, to buy votes against them. Are you aware of any opportunity for the House to debate that very worrying matter, which hits at the very heart of our democracy and the concept of fair play?
Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of the House, and he knows that the scheduling of business, the timetabling of debate and the question of which debates take place are not matters for me. He is a perspicacious fellow, and he knows that he can of course raise the matter at business questions if he wishes to do so. As for the issue being debated, although what we have just heard certainly did not represent a full-scale debate, the hon. Gentleman has left his constituents in no doubt about his views on this important matter.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last Tuesday you made an important statement about new rules for petitions, beginning today. I will have the honour later this evening to present the first such petition, organised by Cassian Horowitz on behalf of hundreds of staff against the closure of Bellamy's bar. In your statement, you said:
"The right to petition Parliament is one of our oldest and most cherished...traditions. The changes...will refresh and improve an important democratic mechanism."-[ Official Report, 23 February 2010; Vol. 506, c. 163.]
It has been drawn to my attention, however, that the departmental Communications Officer of the Department of Facilities sent an e-mail to staff on Friday saying that they should express their views through their line manager-and, by implication, not sign the petition. Please, Mr. Speaker, will you confirm that the democratic right to petition Parliament extends to all the staff working in Parliament, and that they are free to sign the petition without fear of victimisation?
Mr. Speaker: This is not a proper matter to be aired extensively on the Floor of the House. I will make inquiries, but what I will say to the hon. Gentleman-I do not think that he has ever accused me of ducking a matter, and I do not wish to give him the opportunity to do so on this occasion-is that he has made his point extremely forcefully- [ Interruption. ] Order. I stand by what I said about the right to petition. I will look further into this matter and the very particular charge-or criticism-that he makes, but it is perfectly proper that he should air his concern. Now is not the time for a general debate about it on the Floor of the House.
Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I remind you that the very first recorded petition to Parliament came from my constituency? It was dropped from a horse and found on Salisbury plain. It was eventually brought to the House of Commons, where it was considered by the House-and burnt.
Mr. Speaker: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is in his 27th year as a Member of the House. He will therefore know that what he has just said is most certainly not a point of order, but it would be widely regarded as a point of enlightenment, and we are grateful to him.
Hywel Williams presented a Bill to make provision about the registration of births and deaths where particulars are given in Welsh and English; to permit certificates of particulars of entries of registers of births and deaths to be in Welsh or English only in such circumstances; and for connected purposes.
That this House expresses its continued support for HM armed forces personnel and their families; notes that over 440 service personnel have been killed on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001; further notes that the armed forces have operated over the original planning assumptions for years; regrets that there has not been a Strategic Defence Review (SDR) since 1998; believes that the 1998 SDR was never fully funded and failed to provide proper equipment for the Iraq war; recognises that the Government failed to plan for post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq; further recognises the cut to the helicopter budget by £1.4 billion in 2004; is concerned about the cuts to the frigate and destroyer fleet from the 32 recommended in the 1998 SDR 23; is further concerned by the failure to provide the Royal Air Force with a modern troop transport and air-to-air refuelling fleet; believes that the Government has presided over a failed procurement process; further believes that the Government has failed properly to fund the armed forces for wartime operations; and calls on the Government to acknowledge its failure to honour the Military Covenant.
At the beginning of this debate, our thoughts and prayers are very much with the families and friends of Sergeant Paul Fox, Rifleman Martin Kinggett and Senior Aircraftman Luke Southgate, who have all given their lives in the service of their country in the past week. The sadness that we share with their families is mixed-correctly-with pride in their courage and devotion to their country.
With the 1998 strategic defence review, new Labour got off to a relatively good start with the armed forces. The 1998 SDR was a well-respected document. Moreover, it used a foreign policy baseline, not a Treasury baseline, as many of its predecessors had done. That was, and is, the right way of conducting such a review. However, the failure to have a review for more than 12 years means that our armed forces-as well as Government across Whitehall, for that matter-have failed fully to adapt to the increasingly changing global security situation.
The events of 9/11 fundamentally changed the international security environment, while the aftermath of Iraq made the planning assumptions of the SDR largely obsolete. Looking back, we can also see that the review's ambitions were never fully matched with funding. That has meant that for 12 years our armed forces have been operating well beyond what they were resourced to do. The truth is that the current Prime Minister as Chancellor was never willing fully to fund Tony Blair's wars, and that same sad story has been retold time and time again during the Chilcot inquiry.
"there was quite a strong feeling"
"was not fully funded,"
"in the subsequent CSR programmes we asked for significantly more money than we eventually received".
In one of his many moving farewell speeches, in one of the final pieces of spin of his premiership, Tony Blair said that defence spending had remained broadly stable, at 2.5 per cent. of GDP, if we take into account Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, much of the burden of the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan was being carried by the core defence budget. The truth is that the Ministry of Defence was effectively fighting two wars on a peacetime budget.
The Treasury's unwillingness fully to fund the MOD's 1998 SDR meant that there were big losers across defence and a degradation of our capability. Let us look just at the Royal Navy. Time and time again since the 1998 SDR, the Navy has been blackmailed into accepting cuts to its fleet, to ensure the eventual addition of two new carriers. During the 1998 SDR process, the Navy agreed to cut its fleet of 12 attack submarines to 10, and its fleet of 35 destroyers and frigates to 32, in return for the promise of the two carriers. A decade later we find our Navy with only eight attack submarines, with a possible future reduction to only six or seven, and 22 -an astonishingly low number-of destroyers and frigates. Maritime commitments have not decreased since 1998 but have risen, at a time when our Navy has been slashed, mothballed and, in some cases, sold off. There is a similar pattern to be found across all three services, including the reserves.
The Government's failure fully to fund their SDR is only one item in a long litany of failures. The true story behind the invasion of Iraq is now being told. I am sure that the whole country is looking forward to the Prime Minister's evidence this Friday, but what we already know is quite shocking. Not only did the Government fail to plan properly for the post-conflict period in Iraq, but it is now well known that what most of us suspected all along is true: that troops were sent into Iraq without proper equipment. We now know that during the early planning phases of the Iraq war, the then Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Boyce, was blocked by the then Defence Secretary from organising crucial logistics, in case it sent the wrong political message: that we were preparing for war. In the words of Lord Boyce,
"I was not allowed to speak, for example, to the Chief of Defence Logistics-I was prevented from doing that by the Secretary of State for Defence, because of the concern about it becoming public knowledge that we were planning for a military contribution which might...be...unhelpful in the activity...in the United Nations to secure"
Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): I understand that Opposition parties have to try to point out shortcomings, but does the hon. Gentleman accept that defence, like other public expenditure, is a matter of choice, that as the world changes the choices have to change, and that if we want to spend more on things such as unmanned aerial vehicles and intelligence, we have to think about what we are going to spend less on?
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