HC Deb 02 February 2004 vol 417 cc582-8
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con)

I beg to move amendment No. 9, in page 17, line 6, at end insert— '(4A) For the purposes of subsection (4)(b)(ii) the Mayor of London must have regard to the equal importance of the Olympic Bid 2012 and the regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley area'. We now turn to the Bill's provisions on the Olympics and the new Olympic lottery. It is appropriate, as we turn to the sporting elements of the Bill, to have a sports fan such as yourself in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should also say, as a great racing fan, that I strongly support what my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) said about the racing aspects. We have worked together as a team and I am pleased to have seen such strong support for our views on both sides of the House—including, most recently, in the speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale).

Conservative Members completely support the Olympic bid for London 2012. The Minister and I—and, indeed, the ho0n. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster)—are wearing our London 2012 Olympic bid badges. We hope that, on the day after London has won the Olympic bid in 2005, all Members and people throughout the country will want to wear those badges to demonstrate the whole country's support for the Olympic bid and for staging the Olympics in London in 2012.

We sought to improve this part of the Bill in Committee. There were three big issues for Conservative Members, two of which my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire will return to on Third Reading and my noble Friends, led by Lord Moynihan, will pursue in another place. We believe that, in order to bring in the maximum amount for sport in general and the Olympics in particular, the Olympic lottery game should start at a time when interest in the Olympics will be at its height. I raised that matter with the Secretary of State earlier this afternoon at Culture, Media and Sport questions.

Secondly, we believe that the Government should show their commitment to sport—it is what I call the acid test—by agreeing to forgo what would otherwise be the tax take from the new Olympic lottery game and instead giving those moneys to sport.

The third big issue is dealt with by amendment No. 9. We want to avoid any Olympic bid being in some way hijacked by the present Mayor of London. In Committee, we recognised that the regeneration of the lower Lea valley area in east London would be an important side effect of a—hopefully successful—Olympic bid. However, we have been concerned that in many of his public statements, the Mayor has afforded regeneration greater importance than the Olympics. In Committee we sought to deal with the problem in a slightly different way from the present amendment No. 9, but I am indebted—as are we all in the House—to the Clerks for their advice on finding an acceptable alternative way of presenting the issue to the House this evening.

As the whole country will remember, the Prime Minister bitterly criticised the present Mayor when he first stood as a mayoral candidate

The Prime Minister predicted that the Mayor would be "a disaster for London", but because it has become clear in the past few months that there is absolutely no chance of a victory for another Labour candidate, the current Mayor of London has suddenly become the Prime Minister's new best friend.

We hope that there will soon be a new Mayor of London—a Conservative Mayor. When the Mayor is consulted on future decisions about the Olympic bid, it would be helpful if the Bill stated that in responding to the consultation the Mayor must take fully into account the interests of both the regeneration of the lower Lea valley and the London 2012 bid. The amendment is a straightforward attempt to improve the Bill, which we sought to do with all our amendments in Committee, for the sake of both sport and the Olympic bid. We hope that the Government will accept it, if not today then in another place.

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab)

I do not want to detain the House, but the amendment is frivolous. There is no conflict between the London Olympic bid and the need to regenerate the area where the games will primarily be based.

If the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) thinks that there is a conflict, he has not examined the proposals from other cities. To allow the necessary space not only for new stadiums but for all the ancillary facilities such as parking, new public transport infrastructure and especially houses for athletes, the Olympic village cannot be located in an area such as Hyde park or the Bois de Boulogne. If a major city is selected—we recognise that the International Olympic Committee will go for a major city—the Olympic village must be located in an area that is currently not used for very much. It therefore makes sense to look for a regeneration project as part of the Olympic bid, so I cannot see the conflict.

Mr. Hawkins

Like me, the hon. Gentleman visited the potential sites with the all-party Olympics group. I agree with him that there should not be a conflict, but concern has been expressed that the current Mayor of London has talked almost solely about regeneration. We want to see both the necessary regeneration and a concentration on the bid in any work done by the Mayor of London—whoever that may be. Our amendment seeks to ensure that the Mayor will consider both matters in any consultation.

Mr. Henderson

Like the hon. Gentleman, I learned a lot on the visit to the Lea valley and saw exactly what is proposed. I cannot see how there is a conflict. The Mayor of London is responsible for promoting the redevelopment of the Lea valley, as he is responsible for promoting the redevelopment of other areas. The best way—perhaps the only way—currently to redevelop that area is to do so on the back of the Olympic bid.

The Mayor of London knows how crucial the Olympic bid is for London, and I say that as a Member of Parliament from Newcastle. I support the London Olympic bid because I know that Britain will not get the Olympics unless they go to London. It is hugely important, particularly for young people throughout the country, that we take our best shot at obtaining the Olympics. The Olympic village must therefore be located in a redevelopment area. I cannot see a conflict and will be interested to hear what the Minister has to say, but I am not sure that an amendment is necessary to make the point.

7.15 pm
Mr. Don Foster

On Third Reading, we may have an opportunity to say a little more about our support for the Olympic and Paralympic bid. Liberal Democrat Members fully support the bid and would not want to take any action that might reduce the chance of success. Anything that drives a wedge between any of the component parts of the bidding process will clearly not be helpful.

Sadly, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) attempted to suggest in Committee that the Mayor of London, whoever he or she might be, should not even be consulted on how lottery funds raised through the new Olympic lottery game should be spent, which was clearly a bad mistake on his part. Equally, it is a bad mistake to suggest that the Mayor of London, or anyone else involved in the bidding process or the arrangements to distribute lottery funds, would not take into account the wide range of important interests.

All hon. Members want to see a successful Olympic bid and want to ensure that all parts of the United Kingdom benefit from a successful Olympic games. If people did not take that view, it would be pointless to suggest an Olympic lottery game. People from across the country are hardly likely to play that game if they do not see that, as well as the chance of winning some money, it will benefit their part of the country, whether it be Bath, Bangor, Belfast or even Banff.

All parts of the country should benefit, but it is clear that London will undoubtedly benefit, not least through the regeneration of the lower Lea valley, which is vital. Hon. Members surely know that London has the highest unemployment of all regions in this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), who apologises for not being here, pointed out earlier that 13 of the top 20 constituencies in the unemployment list are London constituencies. Vital regeneration, huge support for sport in this country and other benefits will flow from a successful Olympic bid.

I am sure that the Mayor of London wants to be involved in the deliberations, not least because he, on behalf of the people of London, is making a significant contribution—not only a contribution to funding the cost of the bid, 50 per cent. of which will come from London, but a contribution of £500 million towards the cost of staging the Olympics if the bid is successful. Londoners will contribute an average council tax increase of some £20, and will rightly expect to benefit, not least from the regeneration.

I say to the Minister in passing that during regeneration account should be taken of the needs of businesses currently located in the lower Lea valley that may need to move to other locations. I hope that every effort will be made to ensure that new premises can be found for them within the locality, so that they, too, can benefit from the Olympic bid.

I find it strange that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath, who moved the amendment, wants to ensure that only one of those who will be consulted must take a balanced approach to regeneration and the other benefits of the Olympics. Why should not the National Lottery Commission or the National Olympic Committee equally be expected to consider both factors?

The amendment is clearly a pop at the current Mayor of London. It shows that the Conservative party has very little faith in its candidate for the mayoral election, Mr. Steve Norris, which is understandable since my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey will occupy that position in the near future.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con)

I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members' Interests, because I have given a certain amount of environmental advice in relation to previous Olympic games, and to those who sponsor them.

I remind the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) of the election addresses of both the Labour party and the Liberal party, and the criticisms that they made of the current Mayor of London. Both his assertions about who the next Mayor will be were wrong; he is wrong to say that we are anything other than wholly convinced that Mr. Norris will be elected and his prognostication of the likelihood of his candidate winning is about three, if not four, places out.

I think that he is also wrong because he does not understand the seriousness of the issue.

I realise that it would be embarrassing for the Minister, but if I were to quote—although I shall not—the comments that have been made by Labour party members about the trustworthiness of the present Mayor of London, he would understand why it is so difficult for him to defend that Mayor. I am not too worried, as by the time the provisions have a real effect the present Mayor will no longer be Mayor, so we shall not be inconvenienced. As I represent a constituency outside London, and as I was the Minister responsible for negotiating and trying to win the bid for the Manchester Olympics, I want to underline the point made by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson): if we are to have the Olympics at all, we need to have them in London. London deserves the Olympics and I am wholly in favour of them coming to the capital.

The Olympics are a potent means of regeneration—without it we would have no possibility of achieving the needs and demands of the International Olympic Committee. The committee demands that the Olympics should have a regeneration effect, especially in an area such as the Lea valley, which has been bypassed by time but where there is still the residuum of past glories. The bid offers an important opportunity to do something about the Lea valley. I speak as a former Secretary of State who, to some extent, started the Lea valley improvements, so I am pleased that the area has been chosen.

It is important to keep things in parallel. The amendment is useful, although I imagine that my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) will not press it to a Division. It merely puts down a marker, but I hope that the Minister will take it seriously. It is saying that the Olympic organisation demands that we keep together a series of things. Of course, the crucial thing is that we get the actual Olympic games right as a great athletic enterprise, but regeneration is a part of that. Helping the nation to rediscover its enthusiasm for sport, throughout the nation, is another aspect. Ensuring that the whole nation not only backs the bid and fights for us to get the games but also that we make them best that we can achieve is a further part of the process. In addition, the games should be a focus for environmental improvement and sustainability. Thank goodness, that is also part of what the Olympic movement now demands, but it is sometimes forgotten.

It is timely, therefore, to remind those who are making the decisions of the range of things they need to hold together. My sadness is that there is already a tendency for all sorts of people to try to claim bits of the Olympics for themselves. Perhaps, we should see the amendment as a means to remind everybody that if the Olympics are to be a success they must be seen as an expression of the national will to do better than anyone else, not just in running, jumping, swimming and all the other sports, but in the actual staging of the games. We should show that they are a means of regeneration, an example of sustainability and environmental concern, a challenge to a nation to rediscover its sporting prowess and a remarkable exposition of the abilities of those who are disabled.

The games offer a remarkable opportunity and I hope that we shall not allow the predisposition of the present Mayor for self-publicity to get in the way.

Mr. Caborn

Listening to the right hon. Gentleman, it was obvious that he had not actually read the Bill carefully, because we have already taken on board the sentiments that he expressed. For example, clause 31 deals with distribution policy; there is a requirement for a distribution strategy, which can be reviewed. Clause 30 sets out the conditions for the distribution of the money and subsection (1)(b) of clause 31 is a requirement to review and revise the policy". Thus all the safeguards for which the amendment asks are already in the Bill.

In response to points made by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), we take the responsibilities of the distributor of lottery money very seriously indeed and clauses 30 and 31 give all the reassurances that are needed.

We can knock about the party political stuff in the Chamber, in Committee and elsewhere, but as we move towards July 2005 we must be careful. We must be clear that one of the things that has really impressed the International Olympic Committee to date is the unity of purpose that we have demonstrated. Across parties and across the nation, we have shown that we are very serious indeed about winning the bid in 2005. I gave the Standing Committee an example of the extent of that unity of purpose when I described my visit to Greenwich just before Christmas. I was talking about tourism and, obviously, the Olympic bid formed part of that discussion. The London boroughs have come together, especially on planning issues—probably nothing but the Olympics could have brought them together in that way—and I was told, "If Barbara Cassani wants planning permission on Christmas day, she only has to call and we'll make sure she gets it". That is symbolic of people's real desire to come together, across party, across borough and across nation. The devolved Administrations, too, have given their full support.

We should take lessons from that and not allow a situation in which the press will be writing about splits over Ken Livingstone. Indeed, on this particular issue, we could not have received more support from the present incumbent of the Mayor's office. The Government have worked closely with the British Olympic Association and the Mayor's office to ensure that we have a robust funding package. Indeed, the IOC remarked on that fact; it said that our approach had been properly managed and that we had come to sound and well-informed decisions in terms both of logistics and of the robust financial package that we put forward.

I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) will not press the amendment to a Vote and that we all heed the lesson about unity of purpose. If we do, both 2005 and the games in 2012 are well within our grasp.

Mr. Hawkins

The debate has been short but useful.

I welcome the comments of the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson). When he responded to my intervention, he referred to the visit that we had made to the lower Lea valley. He is right about the need not to set up conflict, and our amendment would not do that, as I made clear to him. We want the Bill to include recognition that the regeneration programme and the Olympic bid should be equally scrutinised and supported.

I am grateful for the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). Speaking from his great experience both of helping to start the work in the Lea valley and of his work on the Manchester Olympics, he is right to say that regeneration plays a crucial part when the IOC considers bids. He is also right to say that the amendment was designed to put down a marker.

The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said that we need to take into account the businesses that need to relocate. He may be interested to know that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) and I raised that matter with the London Development Agency during the visit of the all-party Olympics group—in which the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North also took part. Although of course one wants to support the Olympic bid, one must not ignore the interests of local businesses that may need to be relocated, of which there are many, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal knows.

I am grateful for what the Minister said about the IOC's welcome for the all-party support for the Olympic bid. However, he will recognise that as Bills such as this go through Parliament it is the responsibility of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition and other parties to do a genuine job of scrutiny. I know that he would not decry the importance of parliamentary scrutiny.

Although, of course, we totally support what Barbara Cassani and her team are doing with the Olympic bid, we must be constructive in our scrutiny. My noble Friend Lord Moynihan and others in another place will continue the Bill's scrutiny and will raise matters that deserve debate as its passage continues.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) and I made it clear, the Bill is not hugely partisan. We have raised the points that we wished to put on record. We were slightly worried that an individual could try to hijack this specific part of the bid process, but we have debated that. In those circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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