HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1285-8
1. Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)

If she will make a statement on progress on infrastructure in the Thames gateway in respect of London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. [174891]

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

A master plan prepared earlier this year by the London Development Agency set out plans for the lower Lea valley. They are designed to accommodate staging the Olympics in 2012. Outline planning permission is being sought for those proposals.

Mr. Love

May I, on behalf of the House, add to the congratulations to the bid team on making the shortlist? May we also thank Barbara Cassani for her leadership and congratulate Lord Coe on taking on that mantle for the future?

The International Olympic Committee's report expressed concern about transport infrastructure. I know that the Government are about to invest £600 million in the Thames gateway; indeed, we were told earlier this week that they have earmarked £17 billion for transport infrastructure in future years. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that she will be working with her Ministers to ensure that the poor state of London's transport highlighted in the report will be dealt with?

Tessa Jowell

Yes, of course, there is close co-operation across Government on all aspects of the bid, including those that relate to transport for the Olympics. It is worth making the point that, by 2012, £17 billion will have been invested in London's transport. We will have the channel tunnel rail link during the Olympics, the dedicated link from King's Cross down to Stratford, a 45 per cent. increase in capacity on the Jubilee line and no fewer than 10 railway lines serving Stratford station, so we have a lot to be proud of in the transport infrastructure that we will be in a position to offer visitors to London when they come to the Olympics in 2012.

One final point, Mr. Speaker. I know that my hon. Friend has been very concerned to ensure that the regeneration effects benefit his constituents. He will therefore welcome the investment that the lower Lea valley regeneration intends to make in a retail park, for the benefit of jobs in his constituency.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con)

In echoing what the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) said in paying tribute to Barbara Cassani and her work with Lord Coe, does the Secretary of State recognise that while all Members on both sides of the House want the Olympic bid to succeed, we want to see progress with the City of London in terms of the business support that it can give to the infrastructure? Does she recognise that that has perhaps not been given sufficient priority? Does she also recognise that there is concern among people in east London that there is a shortage of facilities, particularly in terms of swimming—a sport in which I have a personal interest, as she is aware? Does she acknowledge that that too can helpfully be addressed?

Mr. Speaker

Order. No one is going to win any Olympic prizes for the length of their questions.

Tessa Jowell

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would obviously like to join in what Members on both sides of the House want, which is to congratulate and thank Barbara Cassani, who is still very much part of the bid team, but also to welcome Seb Coe's leadership. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: swimming facilities will be an important benefit of the bid, and the aquatic centre will be one of the first Olympic facilities to be developed. On business support, I met the CBI just two weeks ago. He is absolutely right that London's businesses want to support the bid and they have already made a handsome contribution to the cost of it. That is to be welcomed.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham) (Lab)

My right hon. Friend knows that many facilities for the Olympic games are located in my constituency of West Ham, where there is enormous support for the bid. The legacy use of those sports facilities, if they are built, is pretty crucial, particularly that of the 80,000-seater Olympic stadium. What discussions has she been able to have with the football clubs of London that could use it, such as West Ham, Tottenham and perhaps, given its ambitious plans, Chelsea?

Tessa Jowell

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I know that some preliminary discussions have been held with a number of football clubs that might take on the responsibility for and the tenancy of the main Olympic stadium, but I also want to underline the welcome that his constituents give to the prospect of the Olympics. For this purpose, the world divides into those who want to win and those who want to whinge. His constituents want to win, and if we work together, pull together and realise the possibilities that the Olympics can bring to London we will win, but too many people are whingeing on the sidelines. They will damage our bid.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con)

We on the Conservative Benches would like to begin by offering a warm welcome to Lord Coe as chairman of the 2012 bid. We also want to pay tribute to Mrs. Cassani for putting together an excellent technical bid and an excellent team. But we wonder why, given Lord Coe's past as a British Olympian, the fact that he is well known in the international sporting arena, and that he is a politician, he was not the first choice. However, he now has a very important job to do. Notwithstanding the first response that the Secretary of State gave to the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love), will she come to the Dispatch Box, bearing in mind the International Olympic Committee's criticisms of our transport arrangements, and guarantee that the east London line will be constructed in time for the Olympics, and that the upgrade of the Jubilee line will take place in time, too?

Tessa Jowell

On the hon. Lady's question about the east London line, feasibility studies are currently under way, both by the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London. The outcome of those studies will be considered as part of the spending round, so there will be no decision on funding for the east London line until the summer. We have always made it absolutely clear that the east London line would greatly enhance the hosting of the Olympics, but it is not essential to a first-class transport plan for the Olympics.

From memory, although I stand to be corrected, Lord Coe did not submit his name first time around. What we have, however, is Barbara Cassani's legacy, which was to set up the team, and now Lord Coe, who we hope will take us past the winning line in July next year.

Miss Kirkbride

I am sure that the 2012 bid team will have noted what the Secretary of State says about transport links, but there were other criticisms in the IOC report that she might also wish to address. For example, on Government support, we came eighth out of nine among the bidding cities, and on public support, we came ninth out of nine. The Secretary of State might like to consider whether she should stop whingeing about the whingers, and the Minister for Sport and Tourism should stop telling Londoners that they need to be disciplined about their attitude to the British Olympic bid and start winning the hearts and minds of the British public for a London bid for 2012.

Tessa Jowell

Of course, the 2012 bid team and all those who have a role to play, including Members on both sides of the House, will examine carefully what the International Olympic Committee said about the London bid. It is a constructive intervention, not one that should deter us. It is also worth recording that London came from nowhere and is at the moment standing third. There is little distance between the first three cities. In fact, we scored better than Paris on environmental conditions, we are equal with Paris on accommodation, finance and Government support, and we are better than Madrid on safety and security. There is an awful lot going for the London bid, and I hope that at every opportunity she will talk it up, not talk it down.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab)

I invite my right hon. Friend to look at the Order Paper, on which she will see that the question relates to the Thames gateway and infrastructure, and I invite her to consider that the boundaries of Greater London are wholly artificial and ridiculous, and that they relate to 1963. The Thames gateway includes Thurrock, where there is room to breathe and people are enthusiastic about the Olympic bid. Not only do we want a slice of the action but it would be in her interest, and that of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), if she were to look eastwards rather than just to the few miles round the centre.

Tessa Jowell

I take seriously my hon. Friend's advocacy for Thurrock.[Interruption.] Exactly. I greatly look forward to visiting it next month.

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