HC Deb 30 June 2003 vol 408 cc5-9
6. John Barrett (Edinburgh, West)

What discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive regarding the 2012 Olympic bid.␣[122081]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

I discussed the London bid to host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 with Scottish colleagues at the sports cabinet earlier this year, and they were supportive of our intentions. That is the body that brings together the four home country Ministers with responsibility for sport. My officials have also had various discussions with their Scottish Executive counterparts. This is an important issue, and in order to build on the cross-party support, as well as support in the other home countries, it is my intention to arrange regular briefings for representatives from Opposition Front Benches, to keep them abreast of developments.

John Barrett

Given that Scotland has some of the best football fans in the country, and some world-class stadiums, will the Secretary of State ensure that the nations and regions of the country are involved in the bid, so that sports such as football can be played north of the border in the Olympics?

Tessa Jowell

Yes, of course, and I have said on a number of occasions that it is my great hope that, right across the United Kingdom, there is support for the Olympic bid, and there will be participation in building local facilities and ensuring that the bid, which we hope will bring the games to London, will truly reflect the sporting ambition of the whole of the UK.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

As hon. Members will be aware, I am stepping down from the Front Bench today after six years, three of them in this brief, which I have much enjoyed—although, subject to the approval of the House, I hope to have an important role to play in the scrutiny of the forthcoming gambling Bill.

The Secretary of State will know that I have been unswerving in my support for a London bid for the Olympics. I welcome what she said about cross-party support and briefings for Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen, for which I asked her, but does she not agree that it is absolutely vital that there be leadership from the very top of Government if the bid is to succeed? While the appointment of Barbara Cassani, albeit only on a two-and-a-half-day week, is generally welcome, I believe that the Government need to do more to convince the House and the wider public that there will be leadership from the very top, because without it I fear we may fail.

Tessa Jowell

First, I wish the hon. Gentleman well in his next enterprise and thank him for his support for the Olympic bid over the past few months.

We went through months of deliberation about the case for bidding precisely so that we could provide that leadership and support for Barbara Cassani, our bid chair, and the whole bid company. They deserve nothing less. They have our 100 per cent. support, as I made clear to Barbara Cassani when I met her last Friday.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside)

The Secretary of State will of course be aware that the vast majority of the cost of the London Olympics will come out of national UK lottery funding, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the charities that lottery money supports. In her discussions with the Scottish Executive, has she made an assessment of the cost to Scottish charities if the London bid is successful?

Tessa Jowell

The answer is yes. We have received from the lottery regulator an assessment of the impact on good cause income of introducing the dedicated Olympic game. In the first six years, up to 2009, the impact will be slight, at around 4 per cent. of lottery income. After that, depending on the success of the Olympic game, the impact may be greater, and may extend to about 12 per cent. of good cause income. Yes, all the lottery distributors, including those relating to the devolved Administrations, are aware of the situation, but I should underline the fact that this bid involves the whole UK. The lottery is a UK lottery and all are aware of that. Support for the bid echoes right around the UK.

8. Angela Watkinson (Upminster)

How school sports facilities will benefit from the Olympic bid. [122084]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)

We want the whole of sport, including school sport, to benefit from the focus on, and the energy generated by, our bid for the Olympic games. Should we win that bid—as I hope that we shall—more state of the art facilities will be available for use by children, which will complement the new and refurbished facilities already being developed through the investment of some £500 million of New Opportunities Fund lottery money. Just over 2,000 individual schemes will be coming on-stream in about three to four months' time.

Angela Watkinson

As all London taxpayers will be obliged to contribute to the cost of the Olympic games, will the Minister ensure that consideration is given to upgrading the sporting facilities in schools in outer London boroughs such as Havering? Many competing teams, especially from smaller countries, would benefit from training in smaller facilities such as those provided in schools. And of course, such a development would also be of lasting benefit to the schools.

Mr. Caborn

That is absolutely true, but the point is not predicated simply on the Olympic bid. Since this Government took office in 1997, we have tried to focus on investment in sports facilities, particularly through schools, and in the communities. That approach will continue in years to come. It is very important that we continue with such investment; indeed, some £750 million is currently being invested. The Olympic games bid provides a platform through which one can argue forcefully for the role of sport in our wider communities. I agree entirely with the hon. Lady—we need to continue with that argument, including in respect of schools in her own constituency.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

I recognise the importance of the Olympic bid and of ensuring that, as the Minister said, we have the necessary facilities in schools, but will he make sure that schools in outposts in Lancashire get their fair share of money and their sporting facilities upgraded?

Mr. Caborn

Very much so, and through the allocation of the New Opportunities Fund we have tried to remove some of the competition. We have also asked local authorities to look strategically at how they will develop sports facilities. As my hon. Friend knows, we have just revised PPG17—planning policy guidance note 17—which now requests that all local authorities make a needs assessment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make an announcement at a sports summit that we are holding on 14 July, and we are developing a Domesday book that will, for the first time, provide a complete inventory of all of the sports facilities in this country. So we are making some significant advances in how we develop sports facilities—in both the public and private sectors.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford)

But does the Minister accept that school sports will benefit from the Olympics only if the schools have playing fields to play on? Despite the Government's clear pledge in the Labour party sports manifesto to stop the sale of such fields, the latest figures from the National Playing Fields Association show that the number of applications to build on playing fields rose to 1,325 last year. Does the Minister agree with the NPFA's director, who said that these figures are disastrous and show that we have a Government who have lost their way?

Mr. Caborn

I do not agree with the NPFA's comments and I shall give an example of why. The school on which the NPFA's director descended with the BBC and Sky TV on Friday—its headmaster was not very pleased about that—has just secured an £11.6 million deal with the local authority and a builder. It will have a modern, state-of-the-art school building; a new all-weather hockey and football pitch; a new five-court sports hall; a new hard-court multi-games area consisting of five tennis courts that can also be used for netball, basketball and five-aside football; and a new school gymnasium. A far greater number of young people, both from the school and from the wider community, will use those facilities. It is about time some people stopped living in the past and joined the modern age.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford)

One of the key drivers promoting education and sport has been the specialist schools programme in sports colleges. I greatly agree with my right hon. Friend's point about improving facilities. Unlike under the previous Government, schools now have the capital to make improvements. However, will there be liaison between the Minister's Department and the Department for Education and Skills, so that we can build on the specialist sports colleges and ensure that the schools can gain access to facilities for the Olympic bid?

Mr. Caborn

Very much so, and as I said, I hope that the Olympic bid will bring this country's focus on to sport. As we roll out the 400 sports colleges, about seven secondary schools and 20 primary schools are linked in with them, along with 3,000 school sports co-ordinators. I remind the House that that means a teacher—backed by another teacher—having two to three days off a week to devote solely to sport. It is part of a commitment to give every child from the age of five to 16 two hours of quality physical activity or sport every week. That is a real commitment to ensuring that young people are not only well educated but fit: we believe that the two things go hand in hand. The Olympics will help us to deliver that and involve young people. I do not believe that this country has made such an investment in sport, in respect of individuals or facilities, for many years.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

We all hope that the next generation of schoolchildren will be inspired by the Olympic bid, and I know that the Minister shares my view on that. We all want to work on an all-party basis with the new bid leader, now that the name has been announced, but does the Minister not recognise that many of us and our constituents are rather concerned that the Government were unable to find a British bid leader who would work full-time on the project? Would not a British leader have inspired schoolchildren more? Does the Minister accept that it is inconceivable that the French, Spanish or Americans would have failed to appoint one of their own nationals as a bid leader?

Mr. Caborn

I do not accept that. Let us consider the England football team, tennis players, or swimming— Bill Sweetenham is the senior swimming coach, for example. Sport is international. What we have done is secure the best person for the job, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that. East London is probably the most cosmopolitan area in the world, so I do not believe that nationality means anything. I hope that the whole House and everyone in the nation will get behind the Olympic bid led by Barbara Cassani—a first-class person who has been here for 19 years, whose kids were born here and whose husband is English. Quite honestly, I do not think that we could have secured a better person to head the bid. It is a break with the past. Some people in the Olympic organisation said that they expected a Lord or someone in a grey suit to lead the bid, and the break with tradition has shocked some people. However, we now have someone leading the bid who is dynamic, who knows the business and has proved that she can bring her past achievements to the Olympic bid.

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