HL Deb 15 May 2003 vol 648 cc371-82

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend Tessa Jowell. The Statement is as follows:

"I am delighted to be able to inform the House that, following discussion at Cabinet today, the Government have decided to give their wholehearted backing to a bid to host the Olympic Games and the Paralympics in London in 2012.

"This morning, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has telephoned Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, to inform him of our decision. He has told Mr Rogge that the Government will back to the hilt the efforts of the BOA, to whom I would like to pay tribute, alongside the GLA, the LDA and, of course, the mayor and others.

"The bid will be a huge stimulus for élite sport. Lottery investment in our athletes helped us to our best medal haul for decades at Sydney; a London bid allows us to build on that and raise standards and aspirations even higher.

"But our Olympic bid will also rest on a growing commitment to grassroots sport. It will be central to our efforts to increase physical activity and identify, nurture and develop talent in our young athletes.

"We want to harness the power of sport to inspire people and address some of the key issues our nation faces—health, social inclusion, educational motivation and fighting crime. We want to spread the benefits all around the country: promoting tourism and business for the whole of the UK; staging a four-year cultural festival; investing in community sports facilities to offer to visiting teams to prepare and train here; and holding the football competition, as part of the Games, and other events outside London.

"I warmly welcome the pledge from all parties to support the bid. That cross-party support is important because it gives us the very best chance of winning and of making the games a resounding success.

"I have previously set out for the House four tests which an Olympic bid would have to meet before the Government could agree to give their backing. Those tests were: can we afford it, can we win, can we deliver a strong bid and a high quality games, and what legacy would a games leave behind?

"We have spent the last few months applying those tests rigorously. I believe on the basis of thorough scrutiny, that a London bid passes those tests on every count. I would like very briefly to take the House through each one.

"First, the cost. We estimate the cost of bidding will be in the region of £17 million. Business, the LDA and government will bear that cost. If we win a bid, the cost of the Olympics should be borne at least in part by those who would benefit most. So I have agreed with the Mayor of London a funding package of £2.375 billion, which includes a 50 per cent contingency. Of that, £875 million will be borne by London through a £20 increase in council tax for band D properties and a contribution of £250 million from the LDA.

"But the biggest contribution comes from the lottery. Contributions from the existing sports lottery, and a new Olympics Lottery game would raise an estimated £1.5 billion. We will review the package in 2005 in the light of what by then will be firmer and more detailed estimates of the costs of staging the games.

"The next test is whether we can win. Other confirmed bidders for 2012 include New York, Leipzig, Madrid and Havana. No doubt, others will emerge in the coming weeks. That is a strong field, but London has many advantages over these other cities, and our bid will be the equal of any.

"The third test was whether a bid could really he delivered. As the jointly commissioned ARUP report shows, we can deliver a high quality and competitive bid based around an Olympic zone located in the Lee Valley.

"Lastly, legacy. The games will bring great benefits to London. The economy will benefit; tourism will benefit; and the lower Lee Valley will benefit from new facilities and regeneration.

"So the work starts now. I am perfectly realistic about the work involved and the risks that lie ahead. I know that public opinion will ebb and flow in favour of the project.

"We will set up a dedicated organisation to develop and market the bid, with the very best people from both the public and private sector and with strong leadership. The bid team will act at arm's length from government. But all of us will pull out all the stops to bring the Olympic Games to London. 2012 is a prize well worth the fight and is also the diamond jubilee year of Her Majesty the Queen.

"We are bidding because we believe it will be good for sport, good for London and good for the whole of the UK. It is a declaration that we are proud of our country and confident of our ability.

"London is bidding for the Olympic Games. We believe it should host the greatest games on earth. Now we have two years to prove to the world that we deserve to be given that chance".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.35 p.m.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, before responding to the noble Baroness, I must declare an interest. I am still a member of the Millennium Commission, which is chaired by the Secretary of State, Tessa Jowell.

First, for those of your Lordships who remember the debate in December, it goes without saying that I am delighted to stand here thanking the Minister for the Statement and congratulating the Government. They already know that they have this party's support in making the decision. I welcome the decision, per se, but I welcome one part in particular. The Minister said: We will set up a dedicated organisation to develop and market the bid, with the very best people from both the public and private sector and with strong leadership. The bid team will act at arm's length from government".

I believe that I said in December that that would be vital. I still believe that it is vital. The only way that the Government and the nation will win is with a brilliant, charismatic, highly intelligent and highly experienced leader.

There are several questions that I wish to ask, but I must make one more point. It is important to the nation that the Government as a whole are seen to support the bid. The Minister's Statement must be followed quickly and backed up by both the Prime Minister and the Treasury and the Chancellor. Given the way that life is in the press these days, we need to see that the whole of government—policy and money—is behind the bid. The Commonwealth Games was a great success that followed one or two failures. Let us hope that failure in sporting events are in the past.

The first phase of the project is to sell London to the Olympic movement world-wide—the small nations, as well as the large ones. Huge attention to detail will be required to win the bid. Will the noble Baroness say when she hopes to announce the bid leader, the person who will lead the team, and how he or she will be selected?

To be successful, the bid must be supported nationally. For that to happen, the public must have a sound and transparent understanding of the costings and, more important. the expected return and the legacy. Those of us who have been involved in Olympic Games know that that is where the money goes. Olympic villages serve their city well for many years after those games are forgotten.

Although I support the use of lottery money, I would like the noble Baroness to explain the likely effect on current lottery beneficiaries. A successful Olympic bid will benefit the whole country. I also said that in December.

Can the Minister explain how the £20 increase in council tax was arrived at? Is it a one-off flat rate? It is important for everybody to understand that the method of paying for the Games is fair. Can the Minister furthermore explain where the democratic accountability comes from for this £20 and how? Do the Government consider that London Transport is adequate for the job, or will be? Do they believe that a London Olympics is feasible without the completion of Crossrail?

I realise that these are serious questions. So often on these occasions the devil is in the detail. I sincerely hope that we, as a nation, have the capability to sort out the detail to get a superb bid and win.

3.40 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, first, I congratulate the Government on taking this step. This bid is what the country deserves and, indeed, what the capital deserves. We have already had the arguments and it must be the capital, but Manchester has shown the way forward in staging the Commonwealth Games. I was lucky enough to attend part of the games. If the huge benefit to that city and the feeling of goodwill generated could be replicated and expanded on for London, that would bring immense benefits to the whole country.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and I seem to he singing from the same hymn sheet. Therefore, I shall not take long with the rest of my remarks. However, I shall begin at the point where the noble Lord finished. Crossrail and, indeed, the entire transport infrastructure are vital to the success of the bid and this is an area where the Government must take the lead. The noble Lord rightly spoke about the Olympic bid being run independently of government, but that cannot be said of the transport infrastructure. The Government must lead, be seen to lead and must make a public commitment that everything will be in place.

One of the problems and fears raised by people not so keen on the idea of bidding for the Olympics is lottery money being transferred away from existing projects. Can the Government give an assurance that although they will undoubtedly be planning to co-ordinate projects around the Olympic bid, they will make a conscious effort not to sacrifice the smaller community-based sports initiatives which are so vital to public health and for public participation in supporting a successful Olympic Games? The inspiration of élite athletes will come to nothing if we do not have the infrastructure for youngsters to train to become competent athletes. The Government should state clearly and boldly that this is the case. There is a danger that we could have a wonderful games, and then nothing more. That would be a major flaw in the scheme.

Finally, provided that the Government have the will to push forward the bid, we shall give our wholehearted support. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, we must ensure that the details are correct and that government leadership is unified, loud and does not leave any room for doubt. It is in the detail, and lots of it, for the devil has a lot of room to get in.

3.42 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am enormously grateful for the support from both Front Benches for the Government's decision to bid for the Olympic Games in 2012. I hope that I can give both Front Bench spokesmen, and that they can accept, the reassurance that the Government are completely behind this bid. There should be no doubt about that. The Government have taken a little while to decide because they have carefully gone through all the pros and cons. They have thought about this deeply. They have done as much preliminary investigation as could possibly have been expected prior to making a decision. Having done that, we shall give the bid our wholehearted and complete support and will be enormously grateful for support from right across your Lordships' House.

I should like to add that the Prime Minister has already spoken to the President of the International Olympic Committee and has stated just how passionately he will be supporting this hid. I am also grateful for the support of the noble Lord. Lord Glentoran, for the structure that we are putting in place to support the bid with an independent group of people working at arm's length from the Government. I hope, as does the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that the bid will be led by someone of enormous quality, with a team behind him or her also of the highest quality. We hope that we shall be able to announce the name of the bid leader within a few weeks and certainly by late June or early July.

Questions were asked by both Front Bench spokesmen about transport. Of course, they are right to raise these questions. It is vitally important that we have a transport infrastructure in place that can deliver what is needed to host such an enormous event. I should like to make it absolutely clear that we shall be able to do this without the completion of Crossrail. We could not give a guarantee that that would be completed by 2012, but a number of other improvements will be made to London Transport. These include improvements to Stratford and Bromley-le-Bow stations, a dedicated road from central London to the stadium and significant enhancement of links to motorways. I believe that with the investment already planned, we shall see sufficient improvement in the transport system of London to ensure that adequate transport is in place to transfer people to and from the stadium and elsewhere.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked about lottery money. We are absolutely clear that there will be a new lottery game. Given the very high support for an Olympics bid—polls have indicated that more than 80 per cent of the population are strongly in favour of a bid—I imagine a new lottery game will produce substantial amounts of money. It is, of course, the case that there will be some switching from support of existing lottery schemes. The current estimates suggest that up to 2009, that switch could lead to an approximately 4 per cent reduction in money for other good causes. After 2009, it might lead to a somewhat higher 11 per cent reduction in support for other good causes. Of course, at present, these can be only estimates.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked about council tax. That is a matter for the Mayor of London, who is, indeed, elected. I know that he will want to explain to the people of London the very many benefits that the Olympics would bring the capital in terms of improvements to its infrastructure and the creation of up to 5,000 new jobs. I suspect that on learning of the large number of benefits that will derive from the Olympics, the people of London will be willing to pay a small amount more, which amounts to about a 2.2 per cent increase for band D council tax payers.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, rightly pointed out that Manchester had shown the way forward. As he said, there was a huge amount of goodwill in Manchester for the Commonwealth Games. I believe that we shall see that goodwill in London, too, should the bid be successful. However, I believe that there will also be goodwill from the whole country. The noble Lord asked for an assurance that small community-based sport would not suffer as a result of the bid. I should like to reassure him that the impact on grass roots sport will not be negative; it will he positive. There is no question of any wish to reduce available support. Indeed, the Government hope that a decision to bid for the Olympics will encourage more people to participate in grass roots sport with all the benefits that that gives rise to. I think that I have answered all the questions raised by the Front Bench spokesmen.

3.50 p.m.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, I regret to say that I speak as one who will not shed a tear if the bid fails. Can the Minister explain why it is wise to spend a lot of money on a bid when, given the politics of the matter, it is most unlikely that two out of the next three Olympic Games will be held in Europe?

Does the Minister recall an answer that she gave to me on 27th February in which she pointed out that the 1972, 1980, 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games were bedevilled by bloodshed and boycott? Can she say how much has been put into the contingency sum to deal with such matters, which, as she made clear in her answer, the Government fully recognise?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I disagree with the initial statement of the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, that he hopes that the UK will not win the bid. I hope that he is in a small minority in the House in taking that view.

As to whether our chances of winning the bid will be diminished because the next games are to be held in Athens, I do not believe that to be the case. The following games, in 2008, will be held in Beijing. I do not believe that the principle of different parts of the world taking turns to stage the games any longer applies. Europe will have a reasonably good chance.

As to security, it is of course vital in preparing for an event of this kind that everything possible is done to minimise the security risks. Certainly substantial commitments will be made, and extra funding applied, to achieve that objective. At this stage I cannot say how much that will be, but, once we have won the bid, we will have a more detailed prospectus of how the games will be costed.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, I agree with the Government in supporting the bid and I am gratified that they have decided to do so. On the other hand, I regret the Minister's attitude towards Crossrail. Will she think again on this matter because without a solid public transport route into London from the north-west and the west we shall not be able to get the right number of people into the stadium.

A spectacular link is being formed already by the Channel Tunnel rail link, which is on course to be finished by the time the Olympics take place. I urge the Minister to talk to her government colleagues and to think again about Crossrail. In particular, I urge the Government to consider doing for Crossrail what they did for the Channel Tunnel rail link—namely, to guarantee loans. It was that security which enabled that huge project—which is much bigger than Crossrail—to go ahead.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her support for the bid. I cannot give her the guarantee she is asking for in regard to Crossrail. An enormous amount of thought has been given to whether Crossrail could be completed by 2012; the answer is that it cannot be. The amount of preliminary work that still has to be done to make it happen is simply too great. It would be foolish to make a promise and a commitment to achieving it and then to find in 2010 that it will not be ready for the Olympic Games.

It is better to focus on improvements to other parts of the transport infrastructure in London to ensure that, as the noble Baroness rightly said, people can get not only to the stadium in Stratford—if that is where it is going to be—but to events elsewhere in London. Modernisation and increased capacity on the Jubilee Line will be completed by then; the Channel Tunnel rail link, including the international facilities at Stratford, will be completed; and the Docklands Light Railway extension to City airport will also be completed. They are but three important examples of the way in which we are committed to ensuring that transport in London is significantly improved in order to support the bid.

Baroness Billingham

My Lords, this is the most wonderful news. I welcome it. If I could still manage cartwheels I would turn a couple in the Lobby. It is tremendously good news. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, we had a fantastically positive debate on the issue. It is good to see that a number of noble Lords who took part in that debate are in their places today.

The Minister said that the Lee Valley would be the principal venue for the games. However. I understand that other aspects of the games will be hived off to other parts of London and to outside venues. That is very important because we want to share the good news. I know that it is early days, but can the Minister give the House further information on that aspect?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her welcome. Perhaps we shall see her playing in a veterans' tennis game at Wimbledon. We should perhaps introduce a special veterans' section into the Olympics. This would enable a number of Members of your Lordships' House to take part. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, could participate in the bobsleigh; the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, could run; and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, can certainly play rugby—although, unfortunately, it is not an Olympics event.

It is intended that the athletics stadium, the athletics village, the aquatic centre and the media centre will be located in the southern end of the Lee Valley in the Stratford/east Hackney area. Although I cannot give any precise decisions—they have not as yet been made—events will take place in other parts of London and elsewhere in the country. Football will take place right across the UK as well as at Wembley and shooting will take place at Bisley. The assessment carried out by ARUP looked at the possibility of hockey being staged at the Charlton football club; the modern pentathlon at Crystal Palace; rowing at Enfield; tennis at Wimbledon; and so on. So there will be activities all over London and elsewhere in the country, not only in the East End.

Lord Higgins

My Lords, as it is well over half a century since I took part in the last London Olympics I certainly agree that it is time London put in another bid. Does the Minister agree that while it is true that what is important in the Olympic Games is not the winning but the taking part, that is a view best taken after the event rather than before and we should go into the bid with great determination to win?

More specifically, does she agree that, following the Pickett's Lock affair and the decision not to have a permanent athletics track in Manchester, it is a scandal that we still have no full-sized British athletics stadium? As an indication of our determination on this bid, should we not proceed with such a structure at the earliest possible moment?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, yet again, I greatly appreciate the welcome given by the noble Lord. It is particularly appropriate to thank him as someone who took part in the 1948 Olympic Games. As to the issue of a new athletics stadium, it is unlikely that the Government will commit to one at this stage. Our efforts should be focused on the Olympic stadium, which will of course be primarily for athletics.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, my noble friend will recall that when we debated the Olympics on 18th December on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, there were 14 speakers, one of whom was herself. The other 13 noble Lords who took part in the debate were unanimously in favour of the British Government making a bid for the London Olympics of 2012. So there will be very widespread support for the decision that she has announced today.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, who says we have not got a hope, I think many people will reject that view. They should ponder the words of Mr. Rogge when he was interviewed by the Evening Standardin December. He said: I would he very happy to have a well prepared, well-organised London bid. Definitely London would be a front runner, given a good technical file. There is no doubt about that. But Government backing is a vital determining factor". The fact that we now have government backing, which is clear and wholehearted, makes the case very strong indeed.

I wish to ask my noble friend about the legacy, a subject I raised in the debate on 18th December. Can she confirm that it remains the Government's intention that the Olympic village will become affordable housing in a part of London where there is clearly a great need for housing of that sort for young professional people who find property prices in the South East prohibitive? Can she say anything about the thinking for the future of the stadium which will be built there? One of the successes of the Commonwealth Games bid in Manchester is the fact that the stadium is to become the new home of Manchester City next season. Can some similar arrangement be put in place for an Olympic stadium in the east so that it has a long life and does not become a white elephant?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I well remember the debate that took place last year when every speaker spoke strongly in favour of an Olympic bid. We listened to the debate. I can confirm that the Olympic village will provide 4,000 extra affordable houses for people in the East End of London.

On the future of the stadium, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and my right honourable friend the Minister for Sport have spent quite a lot of time over the last six months travelling to the venues of previous Olympic Games in recent years and those where they are going to take place to see what lessons we can learn with respect to the legacy so far as stadia are concerned. One of the advantages this bid will have is that the stadium will he right in the centre of a huge city, unlike Sydney, where the stadium is some way away. It has therefore proved much more difficult to use it, and use it on a regular basis. So we take the legacy issue very seriously.

Lord King of Bridgwater

My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of the ExCeL exhibition centre at the Royal Victoria Docks and add our name to the people pledging full support for this Olympic bid. Mindful of what the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said, and the experience, following the World Cup, of Japan, which appeared to be left with a large number of white elephants, as the great stadia it had built were of no further use afterwards, it is obviously extremely important from the point of view of value for money that we see a positive benefit in low-cost, affordable housing and particularly in transport.

In that connection, the Minister's answer regarding Crossrail is extremely disappointing. She will not stand up and pledge herself to that: it is a lot of money and many Ministers will be listening to what she says. But it is critical for London, irrespective of the Olympics, to have better communications, and this must be the opportunity. If we do not do that, I think it will seriously prejudice our chances on the bid.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, perhaps I should have mentioned that ExCeL, on whose board the noble Lord, Lord King, sits, may well be one of the venues used for a London Olympics for badminton and 10 or 12 other Olympic sports. I hope that the noble Lord welcomes that.

I do not have anything to add to what I have said about Crossrail, but I accept the importance of trying to create an improved infrastructure and regeneration through this bid. I believe that a very large area of east London, which has been a pretty miserable brownfield site for a very long time, will be greatly improved as a result of the investment that the bid will lead to.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, does the Minister feel that London will have the graciousness and humility to seek at least a little advice from Manchester on how to do these things successfully? In particular, can she give an assurance that those who were involved in the organisation of those games are already associated with what is happening over the London bid?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am all in favour of both graciousness and humility. Speaking as a Londoner, we should never be anything other than gracious and we should certainly take into account the successes of other cities around the country. As I said in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, Manchester and the Commonwealth Games was an object lesson on how to go about a project of this sort. We are certainly involving people who were key to that enormous success and will get advice from them in pursuing the London bid.

Lord Monson

My Lords, may I press the noble Baroness further on the prospective council tax increase if the bid is successful? Is the 2.2 per cent increase for hand D payers that she mentioned a one-off, as the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, asked, or will it be levied year after year over a number of years?

On a totally different note, will small-bore pistol shooting once again be permitted, or will that event have to take place on the Isle of Man or even on the continent?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, the extra council tax will be levied each year—it is not just a one-off, one-year requirement. But, as I said earlier, there will be huge benefits to London from hosting the Olympics. I did not mention tourism, for example. It will help people in a range of industries and will benefit their employees as well as people who run tourist attractions of one kind or another. I cannot answer the noble Lord's question on small-bore pistols. I am extremely sorry about that; I shall write to him.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I am delighted to speak for Hackney on this occasion, because I am Lord Clinton-Davis of Hackney. Will my noble friend tell the House what discussions are envisaged between the Government and the London borough of Hackney regarding this matter? Is she aware that transport links as far as Hackney is concerned are absolutely appalling?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, my noble friend is Lord Clinton-Davis of Hackney; I am Baroness Blackstone of Stoke Newington, which is part of the London borough of Hackney, so I share his interest. I accept that a great deal needs to be done to improve transport links from some parts of Hackney to the rest of London, but a successful Olympic bid would achieve just that. I am sure that those who are involved in taking this bid further will be having extensive talks with not just the GLA but all the London boroughs involved.

Baroness Pitkeathley

My Lords, I join in the general rejoicing, but as chair of the largest of the good cause lottery distributors, your Lordships will perhaps understand that I am a little less enthusiastic about the proposal, particularly in view of what my noble friend said about the lessening of the lottery receipts. Can she give a further assurance that in the understandable commitment to winning which goes with the Olympic Games or even a bid for the Olympic Games, the Government will not lose sight of the extremely important part which school and community sport play in society and the huge contribution being made by the New Opportunities Fund, together with my colleagues in Sport England?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords. we remain committed to the development of grass-roots sport. As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, our decision to bid to host the games will not divert any of our attention or our funding away from this terribly important area. I hope that my noble friend will reassure others with whom I know she is in touch who benefit from lottery funding for community sports facilities that the Government are absolutely committed to making sure that all young people and, indeed, all adults who want to participate in sport are able to do so and that the facilities for them are improved.