HC Deb 30 March 2004 vol 419 cc388-410WH

2 pm

Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk, West) (Lab)

I want to speak about the bid to bring the 2012 Olympics to the United Kingdom. A lot has been said in this place and in the main Chamber about the bid, and that is quite right, because it is of great significance in itself. If successful, it will have implications that will keep this place and the main Chamber busy for many hours from now until 2012 and, no doubt, beyond. I have read previous speeches on the subject and will endeavour to avoid repeating points that have already been raised.

I believe that if the state is to commit itself to hosting an event such as the Olympic games, it must do so on the basis that all parts of the UK must benefit, directly or indirectly. The games must, of course, be held substantially in one place, although some events can be dispersed. Rowing, for example, will be held at the world-class Eton Dorney facility, and football will be held across the UK, including in Glasgow and Cardiff. Much of the benefit will, of course, come to the London area, but it is important to note that there will be significant spin-offs across the UK for tourism, building contracts, extensions to building contracts and the whole chain that relates to the games.

I want mainly to talk today about the sports communities—not just in competitive sport, but those existing in all communities—that would benefit considerably from a successful bid, providing that those responsible for managing it proceed with sensitivity to the need to spread the benefits as widely as possible. I am glad to hear from London 2012 Ltd., the company responsible for putting the bid together, that such sensitivity to the reliance of the bid on taxpayers across the whole UK is to the fore in its mind.

Mr. Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend accept, in the nicest possible way, that the title for this debate is technically a misnomer, because the bid is in the name of London and the British Olympic Association and not the United Kingdom? Does he agree that, in order to obtain the support of the whole UK, the British Olympic Association and the Government should had followed the practice of other countries of opening the nominations for the British competitor city to the whole UK? Not having done that has divided the country in many ways, because people think that something given to London, without allowing other cities to compete, is unfair.

Mr. Joyce:

I recognise entirely what my hon. Friend says: he is extremely knowledgeable on the subject. My understanding—I shall say more about this later—is that the criteria drawn up by the International Olympic Committee are such that London is the only city in the UK that is likely to succeed. Although I recognise that other hon. Members whose constituencies are in large cities would naturally want to argue for their cities, I must recognise that Falkirk is unlikely to be a successful bidder for the 2012 Olympics. That is a harsh fact of life, and I must resign myself to it.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham) (Lab)

May I confirm what my hon. Friend has just said? The IOC made it clear that the only bid city from this country that it would entertain was London. Manchester and Birmingham have tried unsuccessfully before, and the BOA made it clear it would only put forward a London bid. It is not a bias towards the metropolis; it is a fact of life that the IOC would only entertain a London bid, and we must accept that.

Mr. Joyce:

I agree: it is simply a fact of life and we must proceed from that position. That is where we find ourselves now; sadly, the Falkirk Olympics remain on the theoretical books—

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

On hold.

Mr. Joyce:

On hold, for a little longer, until we expand the town.

The bid team is establishing a nations and regions support group, which will meet for the first time this May. That is an important development.

Mr. Stringer:

As ever, I have been listening carefully to my hon. Friend and following the logic of his argument. However, he should consider the cities that have hosted the Olympic games since the second world war, the slight majority of which have not been capital cities. Furthermore, I have never found an official statement from the International Olympic Committee saying that it will accept a bid only from London. He said that there will be many debates on the subject, so will he bring us that categorical statement of IOC policy either today or in another debate?

Mr. Joyce:

I cannot bring that categorical statement. I proceed from the assumption that the bid is being made in the name of London, and that is just the way it is. The evidence may be given in future debates, and I strongly suspect that that will happen, but it is not something that I can do today.

Each nation and region will nominate someone from the business world and another from the sporting world to represent it on the support group. The group will be chaired by Charles Allen, who is the vice-chair of London 2012 Ltd. and one of this country's leading business people. The group will advise on how best to link the bid to regional businesses and sports networks, and it will create a new platform to develop the ways in which the UK as a whole can benefit from bringing the games to London. That will include exploring opportunities for commercial contracts, for locations such as universities to benefit by providing bases for pre-Olympic training camps and for venues to attract major sporting events in the run-up to the games.

As far as I can see from its remit, the nations and regions support group will not consider the knock-on effects of the games, but some benefits will accrue. A successful bid will lead to world-class facilities, which we could reasonably expect many sports to take advantage of for years to come. In addition, a successful bid may assist Glasgow's chances of staging the 2014 Commonwealth games, in which the city has declared its interest. Its councillors are meeting today with a view to developing the bid. Not that anyone would want it, but even an unsuccessful Olympics bid could bring advantages. Manchester's unsuccessful bid for the Olympics led to an enormously successful Manchester Commonwealth games, and similarly, if the council decides to go ahead, a Glasgow bid for the 2014 Commonwealth games could benefit.

I understand the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer), but if not in name, the bid is effectively by the UK as a whole—it is a Great Britain and Northern Ireland bid.

Chris Bryant:

One difficulty with the legacy is that it will all be in London, although there may be earlier benefits elsewhere. Another point is that the IOC has a habit of making exaggerated demands on countries that hold the Olympics. For instance, Athens has been told that it must have a legacy stadium of 10,000 seats for baseball and basketball, two games that are hardly played in Greece.

Mr. Joyce:

That is interesting, as I was not aware of that. However, I cannot quibble with the criteria laid down by the IOC because I do not know enough about the detail. It is inevitable that a substantial proportion—if not the majority—of the economic, developmental and regenerational benefit will accrue to the largest conurbation in the country. That is a fact of life. If we want to bring the Olympics to the UK, there are some things that go without saying, and that is why it is important that we spread whatever benefits as widely as we can. I suspect that there will be upgrades to sporting facilities such as football stadiums, and we must consider that they will be of significant benefit to the communities affected.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op)

Places such as Loughborough university will benefit from the location of one of the major sporting teams because of the facilities that we already have and the extra income that will be generated. Some of the facilities will need upgrading by then, and the legacy will not be coincidental: it will flow from ensuring that places outside London play their part. Many of my constituents will be very interested in volunteering, and I hope that my hon. Friend will address that as well.

Mr. Joyce:

Indeed. I will come to that in due course. My hon. Friend is taking most of my speech away, so I will not reply to him immediately or I will run out of words and deliver it in the wrong order. He is right: there are many ways in which the rest of the country can benefit. Those of us who represent constituencies outside London must consider ways in which we will benefit, rather than concentrate too much on the fact that the largest conurbation will be a significant beneficiary.

The Government and the British Olympic Association made it clear that the criteria set by the IOC mean that London is the only city that could be a successful British bidder. Even then, we know from coverage of the subject in the press and elsewhere that competition will be very fierce.

Political, business and sporting leaders from across the UK have been vocal in their support of the London bid. Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, has confirmed his support for the 2012 bid. In doing so, he noted that Scotland would benefit in many ways from a successful bid.

The bid may attract additional tourists who would be likely to attend part of the Olympics and take in some other part of the UK while they are here. They could do no better than to visit the Falkirk wheel, one of Scotland's most visited and excellent tourist attractions. It is increasingly the reason why many people visit Scotland, and by remarkably good fortune, it happens to be in the middle of my constituency. It has been suggested that the high diving could take place from the top, which is 130 ft high, but I suspect that the canal at the bottom is too shallow for that.

In confirming his support for the Olympic bid, the First Minister also drew attention to the first-rate facilities that already exist in Scotland, to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) has already alluded. Those facilities include the swimming centre of excellence at Stirling university. It is not in my constituency, but it is only 20 minutes away and a place of work and study for many of my constituents. Other facilities include the national rowing academy recently opened at Strathclyde Park. They could readily be used as pre-Olympic training camps.

Scotland would of course host Olympic football events. I realise that Members may wish to challenge this point, but it would seem odd if Scotland were to host an Olympic football event and there was no UK team involved. It is a contentious issue, and the Scottish Football Association, the Football Association and the British Olympic Association have proposed various ways round it: one would be that the winners of a home international represent Britain. I am not sure about that. Another would be a select UK team. There are several ways of dealing with it, but it would be peculiar not to have a UK team. That is not to force the idea on the FA and the SFA, however, because I believe that the last time it happened was 1960.

Chris Bryant:

As a Welshman representing a Welsh seat, I wholly concur with the view that there should be a UK football team. I am sure that there will be a football match in the millennium stadium, which is a fine stadium—probably the best in the land. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that we should go in that direction rather than in the direction that some wild, woolly nationalists have argued, namely that we should have separate Welsh, Scottish and English teams for athletics, cycling, swimming and everything else.

Mr. Banks:

The IOC would never accept that.

Mr. Joyce:

I agree entirely. There are separate football associations and identities for international football, but that would not be acceptable to the IOC.

Scotland, much like other parts of the United Kingdom, has a proud history of welcoming visitors from around the world with warmth and friendliness and I am confident that athletes and spectators from participating Olympic countries would find Scotland an excellent place for preparation and tourism. Politicians in Westminster and in Scotland have expressed Scotland's desire to welcome athletes, although we recognise that it would be a matter of competing with locations not simply in England but in sunny places such as the south of France where African athletes might find it more pleasant to be in the run-up to the games. Nevertheless, we have the facilities and we must ensure that that is on the record.

I want to mention the effect of a successful Olympic bid on sport in and around my constituency, which is in Scotland's central belt. I am aware that many issues concerning sport are devolved to the Scottish Executive and that anything concerning the national lottery is, theoretically, reserved. There is a danger of getting into a mire if I go into too much technical detail about particular sports, but sport is as much a part of Scottish national life as it is a part of Welsh national life and, I am sure, of English and Irish national life. It is fair to flag up the importance that sport plays in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK.

In many respects, the important impact of sport in our constituencies comes from the community effect, not from the high-level competing. Many people in our constituencies take part in sport daily and look to the highest level of performance for their inspiration. Many Olympic sports are essentially community sports.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will start to discuss how the Olympics will be financed, which will be from lotteries. Does he share Scotland's concern that its slice of £41.8 million to pay for the London Olympics will set back the regeneration of sport in Scotland by 20 years?

Mr. Joyce:

I shall come to funding presently, although I realise that time is ticking on. The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with him, but I do not necessarily disagree with all that Sport Scotland says, and I recognise that there will be a burden on taxpayers. I shall try to respond to his comment in context, if I may.

Community sports that are also Olympic sports include gymnastics, judo, hockey and basketball, and one can find people taking part in those sports in sports halls in our constituencies on any night of the week.

I shall speak about judo, which has a noble history in the Olympics. In Scotland, it is run under the auspices of Sport Scotland, but it is a BOA sport and ties in with the British Judo Association. In fact, it delivered one third of all the medals that Scotland won in the last Commonwealth games. Scotland and the UK are becoming very successful in that sport, and its main base is its many community clubs throughout the UK.

In Scotland, there are 110 judo clubs, and the 10,000 members, the majority of whom are children, and their parents, keep the sport alive. Volunteers usually work for nothing, and the officials who run judo organisations usually do so for very modest reimbursement. As young people grow older, there is a trend for them to be attracted away from their particular sport, and from sport in general, by more sedentary activities. That is a pity for national life, and one of the benefits of holding the Olympic games in the UK is that the exciting, flashy side of sports, which may rarely be seen, is brought into their own backyard. That will encourage people to stay in sport, particularly in my sport, in which there is a serious drop-off rate before people reach early adulthood. More countries are members of the International Judo Federation than of the United Nations. That should remind us of the effect that sport has in connecting people from different countries and communities. It makes people in our constituencies, who might not normally think about international issues, more aware of what is going on around the world. That is another reason why community sports should be at the forefront of our minds.

Sport Scotland, in common with its regional counterparts in the UK, has said, as the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) said, that an Olympic bid could draw resources away from other areas of sport in Scotland—the Minister may wish to respond to that. I think that, in return for the benefits to the UK and to Scotland of holding the Olympics in Britain, we should all take an element of the risk and cost. All sports would benefit, to the extent that it justifies their taking an element of the risk that will be largely borne south of the border.

Pete Wishart:

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman. Surely, with an ever dwindling pot, the money should fund community resources, proper sporting tuition and a community infrastructure so that young people participate in sports, especially given the lifestyle and obesity problems in Scotland. That money should not go into infrastructure projects in London. The Olympics may make people interested in sport, but would the money not be better spent on community resources?

Mr. Joyce:

I think that the hon. Gentleman has a particular agenda—his raison d'être is to stress the importance of independence and separation and he thinks that decisions on funding should be made on that basis. I think he finds it difficult to swallow not that the Olympics might be staged south of the border—he probably views that in the same way as if they were staged in Paris or elsewhere—but that many athletes will compete with enormous pride wearing a Great Britain and Northern Ireland vest, shirt or swimsuit, and that millions of people, north and south of the border, will proudly support them. I think that it sticks in the craw of Scottish and Welsh nationalists that people are enormously proud to be British on these occasions. That is a fact of life, and all is can say to him is that he might be happier if he switched political parties.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD)

Is not the answer to the concern of the hon. Member for North Tayside that however much additional funding we would all welcome for community sport, it is largely run by volunteers? As a result of holding the Olympics in this country, the enthusiasm, interest and participation of young people in those community sports activities will be massively boosted. That will help to tackle the obesity problem that he referred to.

Mr. Joyce:

I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman's wise words.

The UK is undoubtedly the spiritual home of the Paralympics, which are a wondrous display of physical and mental determination in sport, and we probably say too little about them in debates such as this. Although the UK is a leader in the development and promotion of sport for the differently abled and in the medals haul, holding the games will lead to UK Paralympic athletes garnering a larger than usual haul of medals—there is evidence that holding the Olympics leads to winning more medals. It will also provide additional inspiration to those of differing abilities, who sometimes feel that participating in sport is beyond them. In short, I believe that the UK and its Paralympic athletes deserve the opportunity to showcase the advancement of Paralympic sport in 2012.

I shall conclude by repeating my key points for my right hon. Friend the Minister, and I hope that she can respond to them in her winding-up speech. I want to be confident that the bid team and the Government are making a major effort to ensure that the benefits are, wherever possible—we must recognise that there are limits—spread throughout the UK and our community sports. I would also like the Minister to comment on university sport, which I have not mentioned, but which feeds into the mainstream and is sometimes a little underfunded. We have heard of marvellous facilities at Loughborough, Stirling, Bath and Sheffield, but in other parts of the country, university sport is not always as well funded as it might be. I also stress the role of the Paralympics, which are sometimes a bit of a Cinderella issue in these debates.

2.26 pm
Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Joyce) on securing what I think is the third debate in as many months on what I will refer to as the London Olympic bid, which is a much more appropriate description. I have managed to speak in most of the debates, although I concede that my contribution has not been the most popular or well received one. That is probably because I have been prepared to challenge the cosy consensus that suggests that a London Olympics will be good for London and for the rest of the United Kingdom. That contention is at least challengeable. The Olympic bid will be good for London because—

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con)

As the hon. Gentleman says, those of us who are fans of sport are used to his relentlessly negative comments on behalf of his party. May I put a challenge to him? If another Olympic country suddenly announced that it wanted to use his constituency of North Tayside as its training base, would he suddenly appear in all his local newspapers saying that he had always been in favour of the 2012 Olympic bid?

Pete Wishart:

If any Olympic country were prepared to come to Pitlochry, Dunkeld or Forfar, I would be delighted to answer the hon. Gentleman's question, but that is not the point that I have been consistently trying to make in these debates, as he will appreciate.

I have been prepared to challenge the cosy assumption that a London Olympics will he good for London and for the rest of the UK. We know that the Olympics will be good for London, because the Government commissioned the engineering consultants Arup to consider the issue. The benefits for London will be substantial and significant. I do not know what the impact will be on the rest of the UK but, when I assess the losses and gains on the balance sheet, I see more losses than gains.

It would take more than the first round of an unlamented football competition and the possible use of some of our facilities by international teams to convince me otherwise, because the loss is quite significant and quite tangible. It is all about the way in which it is proposed to pay for a London Olympic games. They will be paid for with £1.5 billion of lottery funding, but lottery funding is for the good causes, charities and grass-roots sports in each and every one of our constituencies. That is an unacceptable way to pay for a London Olympics.

I feel vindicated in questioning that approach, because I have read the interesting report by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that comes to the same conclusion. In fact, it goes further than I have ever gone in a speech about a London Olympics. It states: We regard the £1.5 billion earmarked by the Government as the Lottery's overall contribution to the Olympics as a straightforward raid.

Chris Bryant:

As a member of the Select Committee, I should perhaps explain exactly what we meant by that statement. We are earnest supporters of the Olympic bid, but many of us would like the country to pay through taxation rather than the lottery. That does not mean, however, that we believe that Britain should not be saying yes to a London bid.

Pete Wishart:

I appreciate that that is the sentiment of the Select Committee, but a straightforward raid is a straightforward raid. I hope that the Minister listened to the hon. Gentleman's intervention, because what he mentioned would be a much more appropriate way to pay for the Olympics. It is unacceptable that the good causes, charities and grass-roots sports in my constituency should pay for infrastructure projects in central London.

The Select Committee's report is very interesting, balanced and rounded, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) on being a member of it. It is worth telling the hon. Member for Falkirk, West—this applies to his constituency as well as to mine—that the report states that funding the 2012 Games, should the bid be successful, constitutes a potentially huge drain on the total funds available for the existing good causes, including grassroots sport (especially outside London where expected legacies will presumably be less). The games will have a greater impact on the far-flung nations, regions and constituencies than on constituencies closer to London.

The Select Committee is entirely right. Paying for the London Olympics out of the money that would ordinarily go to grass-roots sports, charities and other good causes is wrong in principle and contrary to what the lottery is supposed to be about. It is wrong for the nations and regions of the UK, which the Select Committee rightly identified as the biggest losers in this grand lottery raid.

For what reason will the lottery fund be raided? The odd football game in Glasgow. We are told that holding the Olympic games in London will create a massive incentive for people to become interested in sport, that all of a sudden they will get off their couches and get involved in sporting activities. How does that square with the speech of the hon. Member for Falkirk, West, who mentioned Sport Scotland's comment that, because of the way in which the Olympic games will be funded, the regeneration of sport in Scotland will be set back by 20 years? It is worth pointing out exactly what Sport Scotland said: If we lose over £40 million from lottery funds because of the London Olympics we'll need to end whole programmes which provide support to grass root and elite sport in Scotland… There is a terrible irony in the fact that bringing the greatest sporting show on earth to the UK could devastate the regeneration of sport in Scotland and set us back 20 years. We must take such comments seriously.

Mr. Reed:

I have not been too disparaging of the hon. Gentleman's comments in the past. I have listened to the same speech on each of the three occasions that he has given it.

I support some of what the hon. Gentleman is saying, in that my support for the Olympics has always been on the basis of the least impact on grass-roots sport. However, does he accept that the games are not just about a two or three-week event? If we win in 2005, there will be a seven-year build-up to the games. If we were able to utilise all that energy and excitement, perhaps the lottery would generate even more money rather than less. There is a great deal of work to be done, but we should get behind the games and make them work in such a way that grass-roots sport across the United Kingdom, including in Scotland, is not affected.

Pete Wishart:

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that useful intervention, because we must get this right. We cannot allow good causes such as charities and grass-roots sport to suffer, which Sport Scotland envisages will happen. Taking £41.8 million, as it currently stands, from good causes in Scotland is unacceptable. We must try to find alternatives and a means of dealing with the situation.

Chris Bryant:

The hon. Gentleman is making a mountain out of this issue. In fact, much of the money that will, as he puts it, go from good causes to the Olympics will be spent before 2012 by the bid committee and the good causes on things that good causes might well have done anyway. Their projects will be realigned to work with the Olympics. Resources will not be directly taken away from them. In many cases, there will be an effort to bind everything in the sports strategy for the UK into the single bid for the Olympics.

Pete Wishart:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I hope that that is the case, but he should speak to the volunteer organisations in his own constituency or the national organisations in Wales, as I have. They have real fears and concerns about the impact on their lottery funding. They are looking for reassurances, which I hope the Minister will be able to provide.

The simple and obvious fact, regardless of what the hon. Gentleman says, is that it is inevitable that grassroots projects will suffer if money is diverted from them to large infrastructure projects in London—we all accept that. We have heard the Government say that they accept that grass-roots projects will suffer, and our constituents are aware of that.

There are massive health and lifestyle problems in Scotland. Unfortunately, for much of the population, including children, obesity is increasing. Most of the people do not participate in any sporting activity. I do not believe that that will be addressed by a London Olympic games. It will be addressed only by facilities and proper sporting tuition, and by investing properly in our communities and by building the sporting infrastructure. We need investment in grass-roots sports projects, not in massive infrastructure projects in London.

Our team sports are in decline. We have nothing in the way of a youth academy with facilities. It will not have passed hon. Members by, but Scotland secured the wooden spoon in the Six Nations rugby on Saturday, such is the condition of team sports in Scotland. If a pot of money is available to be diverted, it should go to youth academies and grass-roots team sports to try to reverse that worrying trend.

I have a sensible solution to the matter, which will satisfy London Members and those from the more far-flung regions: as the wealthiest and most prosperous city in Europe, if London wants the Olympic Games it should pay for them. London will get all the benefits and legacies if its bid is successful. It will secure 3,000 jobs, the regeneration of east London, the £70 million benefit of the fiscal impact of growth in the local economy and the extra income generated by the growth in tourism, which it is estimated will be between £280 million and £507 million. London has wealth way beyond what those in the regions and the other nations in the United Kingdom can imagine, and good on London for that. But it must pay for the Olympics.

It is estimated that Scotland will lose £41.8 million from the national lottery's good causes if London succeeds in its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. That will inevitably lead to long-term damage to Scotland's charity work. A small amount of money in a small community makes a huge difference and a lot of good work can be done with £41 million in small grants. I do not know how much of a feel-good factor there will be if London gets the Olympic Games, but that amount would certainly help charity work in Scotland.

I hope that London will be successful in securing the games, but I do not want the good causes, charities and grass-roots sports in Scotland and the other nations and regions of the UK to pay for them. If London wants the Olympic Games, London should pay.

2.37 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham) (Lab)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Joyce) on securing not only this short debate but others, too. I trust that he does the lottery, as he is clearly a lucky sort of fellow.

The insular, negative approach of the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) was very depressing. When the curling team, which was effectively from Scotland, won the gold medal, the whole nation rejoiced; I did not complain about the lack of curling facilities in London or anywhere else, because that victory unified the whole country. It might be at the centre of his complaints that the Olympic games are such a unifying force, because that is not something that the Scottish National party welcomes. It is not just about London.

When the Minister winds up, she will no doubt tell us more about the costs. A successful Olympic games will make a profit, which will benefit sport throughout the country. The mere impetus to people who participate in sport will generate income down the line. Thanks to the Mayor's levy, Londoners will pay for the project for about seven years, so it is not the case that they will make no contribution.

An Olympic games, whether it succeeds or fails, will reflect on the whole country; there will be tangible benefits, not just for London. There will be sports events and training camps for Olympic teams from other nations around the country and an enormous amount will be spent on them. Athletes in the different disciplines from the four home countries will participate in the games; it will be an enormous boost for the country as a whole. London has to be the location, because a city has to be nominated. We must check whether an official statement has been made on the matter, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer). When I was Minister for Sport, it was made clear to me by the then president of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, that in no circumstances would a bid other than London's be acceptable to the IOC; the BOA has consistently said so, too. A proper statement on the issue would clear the air, because it is being used as a diversion. Manchester and Birmingham made brave efforts and failed quite badly in terms of the number of votes that they got from the IOC. I think that the entire country should close ranks behind the London bid.

I declare a constituency interest. The heart of the bid centres on my constituency. In the east end, we are delighted. I say to the hon. Member for North Tayside that London may be a wealthy city in its totality, but if he comes to the east end, I will show him levels of poverty, unemployment and deprivation that rival anything in Scotland or elsewhere. That is not the only reason to hold the Olympic games there, but it is an important spin-off. The regeneration of the east end of London in Stratford and the lower Lee valley would be of enormous benefit. I hear many Scots accents in my area, so it is not as though the jobs will go only to the English. Unfortunately, decrepitude alone will rule me out from being at the opening ceremony in 2012 as the Member of Parliament for West Ham, but in the meantime I will give the bid all my support.

I enter a small personal note. I realise that I am personally tainted by the failure of the 2006 World cup bid. We did our best. We had a great bid that was well organised. However, external factors determined that we were not to be successful. One of those, of course, was the gentlemen's agreement, of which we knew nothing when we set out on the bid or when the Tories launched it in 1996. The crowd violence at Charleroi and Brussels in Euro 2000 was the final nail in the coffin.

I say to Ministers that if we had been successful in that World cup football bid it would have been put down to the charisma and inspired leadership of Bobby Charlton, but because we failed we blame the politicians. That is the way it goes, and I hope that Ministers in the Department will take that as an object lesson. There is no fear of crowd violence at beach volleyball spoiling our bid for the 2012 Olympic games.

The trouble is that we live in a country where the blame culture reigns supreme. According to the press, when we attempt anything we are either the best in the known cosmos or we are the pits. There is no in between. This is a competition, and we must accept that, in a competition where there are so many cities going for it and giving it their best shot, we could lose. That does not mean to say that we are contemplating losing. We must give it our best shot, but of course there is a risk. The competition is fierce and there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. There will be setbacks during the process.

All bids go through those setbacks. Sydney did so last time and Athens is now going through the problems of putting in place the infrastructure and getting it all together. There are the added problems of terrorism and security needs. I do not suppose that Beijing will have many problems with construction. Anyone who can run tanks over their own people in Tiananmen square is not likely to be held up by a bunch of construction workers. However, we will run into difficulties, and one must always be aware that, at the time that we announced that we were going to go for anything, we found large numbers of fair-weather friends. We must ensure that we maintain the political will to overcome the obstacles and problems that we will, no doubt, encounter along the way.

We mentioned the question of legacy. We must ensure that there are legacies to the bid. I mentioned some of them, including how the country will be united and extra money will come into sport following a successful Olympic bid. In my own area, Stratford and the lower Lee valley, we need to know what will happen to that Olympic stadium. It can be put only to a football use. West Ham is a possibility, Tottenham Hotspur another and, judging by the ambitions of Mr. Abramovich, perhaps Chelsea might like to transfer to the east end. I am not sure how my constituents would view that proposal. I, of course, would be delighted.

My last point is about my early-day motion 786, which is about a British Olympic football team. That is a principle supported by the IOC and the BOA. Indeed, FIFA has made it clear that, were we to enter a Great Britain football team, that would not jeopardise our position with respect to the four home nations at FIFA. We can believe that if we want to—it is certainly the public statement.

I have been pushing the idea of a Great Britain team for many years—as a Minister, and before I was a Minister. The existence of four nations in the World Cup is not only a remnant of imperial arrogance—it is self-defeating. No other country would be mad enough to divide itself into four bits to make it easier for other countries to defeat it. I know that people will say that only English players would be in the team, but that is nonsense—it is a snapshot. I can think of a Great Britain team that would have had Greaves, Law and Best in it. We were never given the opportunity to see that.

I believe that the Olympic games would give us a chance to see how the country reacts to a Great Britain football team. It would introduce some of the Olympic spirit into our professional game, which would not be a bad thing. I hope that the Minister will give her support today to the principle of a British Olympic football team, although if she does I suggest she first buy a tin helmet.

2.46 pm
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):

I was not sure whether that was an intervention or a peroration; clearly the peroration defeated the intervention. I had not intended to speak this afternoon, but I was inspired when the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) intervened with his nationalist urge for us to dismember the United Kingdom yet again and to encourage an element of resentment against the bid on behalf of the capital city of the United Kingdom.

I have always been a supporter of the Olympic concept, ever since 1972 when, on holiday with my family in Spain, I was ill. I was not allowed to go out in the sun and I sat and watched every moment of the Olympic games and noted in a notebook every outcome—every runner's speed and each element of the results. That shows that I have an obsessive personality. I am obsessively supportive of the London bid, despite the fact that my constituency will not receive many direct benefits from it. I believe, nevertheless, that the indirect benefits will be substantial. For a start, it will provide to a significant extent the inspiration that we need in this country, encouraging more young people to see sport not just as something happening in a distant country, or something that other people do, but as something that people here pursue with phenomenal ability.

I should like every young person in the Rhondda to watch the television and see the Olympics in the UK, perhaps after a run-up to the games in which some of the athletes will have trained in south, west or north Wales. I should like those young people to have an opportunity to come into contact with them and to come to believe in the possibility that they could achieve as well as anyone else if they became involved in sport.

The Manchester Commonwealth games provided, to an extent, just such inspiration for sportspeople in the United Kingdom. There was a resurgence in certain sports. Rowing, cycling and swimming, in particular, have undergone a resurgence in the past few years that has fluctuated with the success of United Kingdom sportspeople in major international tournaments.

There will also, I believe, be significant tourism potential to be gained for the whole of the United Kingdom from holding the Olympics in London. It is a simple fact that London will fill up pretty quickly with tourists, even at that time of year. An important role for the London tourist board is as a gateway for the rest of the United Kingdom.

The National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament have spent quite a lot of money trying to market Scotland and Wales on the west coast of America and elsewhere. I think that that is a mistake. We should do better to market Britain, because it is only by flying to London airport that people will go to Cardiff, Ceredigion or other places in the United Kingdom.

I am reminded of the fact that when Charlotte Church sang before the recently elected George W. Bush he asked her where she was from; she said she was from Wales and he said, "What state is that in?" She said, "Terrible." The likelihood of many people in the United States of America going to Wales is relatively minor, unless they understand that they are coming to the United Kingdom. That is why I believe passionately that this is a key opportunity for the British tourist organisations to ensure that they get the Olympic tourism issue right. People coming into London will see only a tiny part of Britain if they visit only London, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. We need them to travel throughout the UK.

I am in favour of the Olympics coming to London for the simple reason that London will stage them phenomenally well. The opening and closing ceremonies in nearly all such events around the world are run by British people. We will probably do it better on our own home territory than anywhere else. I believe in the Olympic spirit. It is good for sport around the world and for international relations. That spirit was formed in the original Olympics in ancient Greece as an attempt to bind people together. I hope that Britain, through running the Olympics in 2012, will provide a similar stimulus, because we will do it better than any of the other countries.

One of the indirect benefits, which might become a direct benefit for every part of the country, will be the number of volunteers that it will take to run the Olympics in London. London alone will not be able to provide all the volunteers. What better opportunity could there be for a young person, whether they are from Edinburgh, Swansea, Newport or Stratford-upon-Avon, than to come to London and spend three weeks helping in a major international sporting event? They will be able to see major sporting heroes and heroines at close quarters. The experience of recent Olympics—we are already seeing this happening in Athens—is that those volunteers are often the next generation of sporting heroes and heroines. I hope that we shall see that happen in the event of a successful London bid.

Pete Wishart:

I agree with most of what the hon. Gentleman says, but I hope that he will deal with the key issue of funding. Given that he has spent so much time on the Select Committee taking evidence, will he join me in encouraging the Minister to think again about how the London Olympic bid will be financed by the London Olympic lottery game?

Chris Bryant:

I will say something about the financing. I believe that it is right that London is paying a significant proportion of the money. I would prefer the Exchequer to pay the rest of the money rather than the lottery, but one of the best reasons why London should have the Olympics is the fact that the whole of the UK supports it. The hon. Gentleman is way out of step with the people of Scotland and Wales, or the majority of the people in the UK. The Welsh support the bid coming to London more than the people of London do—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is waving the Select Committee report at me, but I believe that everyone in the country wants it to happen.

As the lottery binds together the different elements that comprise the £750 million that will go towards the bid, it needs to ensure that it is not chucking the baby out with the bathwater by making it more difficult for elite athletes to do well and for grass-roots athletes to get started. I will be encouraging the rugby clubs in the Rhondda to send volunteers to the millennium stadium and to London. That will be just as good an impetus and support for those clubs as any money they have had in recent years from the lottery. For that matter, they have not had much money from the lottery. If the Minister wants to respond on that point as well, I will be grateful.

Another reason why I have supported the bid for a long time relates to one of the reasons why we will do it better than anyone else: we have the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC as a broadcaster of sport is sans pareil. No other broadcaster does it better. The BBC has been more innovative and has found new ways of showing sport, enlivening it and making it exciting. It has explained sports that people might not be used to watching and given them a platform. The BBC will do a phenomenal job as chief broadcaster of the Olympics in 2012, which is another good reason why they should come here.

Last week, the Select Committee went to Athens, and we noted significant issues that we need to bear in mind, including security. The atrocious events in Madrid a couple of weeks ago mean that we are bearing international terrorism in mind, but it is not only now that that will be the case. I suspect that the Olympics will face the problems of international terrorism this time round, next time round and certainly in 2012.

It is interesting that much of the international advice for the Athens Olympics has been provided by the United Kingdom. We have played a leading role in providing security support and recommendations. That puts the UK in a strong position for a bid for 2012. I know that some people have said that Britain should not host the Olympics because we are a more likely terrorist target than elsewhere, but I believe that we have the strongest network of intelligence services and that London would do a better job than many other places in the world because we have had to face terrorist threats for many decades. I hope that that would be seen not as something that tells against us, but as something that if anything tells in our favour.

On transport, having been to Athens last week and having sat on the bus for quite a long time going from one part of the Athens site to another, I know that large distances will have to be travelled in Athens in the middle of the summer. The transport issues will feature in any London bid. However, the truth of the matter is that the London bid is remarkably compact. The vast majority of athletes will not have to travel any distance at all, nor will many journalists, which is probably even more significant. There will be 22,000 journalists at the Athens Olympics. That beats the number of athletes by some 2,000 people, which is particularly interesting because only a few months ago it was expected that there would be only 15,000 journalists. It is important that we get the accommodation right first and foremost for athletes and the Olympic family, but also for all those who want to attend the events.

We should ensure that we get the transport aspects of the Olympic bid right, but we should not be too troubled. Compared with many other major cities in the world, we probably have—and certainly will have by 2012—the most compact bid and the best organised public transport system. The process of improving the infrastructure in east London between now and 2012 could only be good, for all the regeneration reasons that have already been advanced by other hon. Members.

Having seen Athens last week, I want to make the point that if we win the bid next year, it is vital that we do not leave starting to build the infrastructure and putting the events together for any time. We cannot even take the summer months off afterwards. Once we win the bid, we must kick-start the process immediately. We want to ensure that people do not write negative stories about the UK Olympics just before they have happened, and that everything is up and running and ready early on.

I will end with a point that has been mentioned by several others: I desperately hope that we will have a UK football team. Football is not my sport particularly, and I am aware that I am wearing a Burberry tie, which, when talking about football, is not necessarily thought of as a good combination. However, if we can have a UK team in rugby union, where there is a long tradition of the home nations playing against each other, there is no reason why we cannot have a UK football team. It would be a terrible dereliction of duty by the football authorities, and probably by the political and cultural class, if we did not ensure that there was a UK team winning in the millennium stadium as a great finale to Britain's successful bid for the Olympics in 2012.

2.59 pm
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD):

I congratulate the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Joyce) on securing the debate, one of a number that he has held on this issue. I welcomed the vast majority of what he had to say and his positive support for the bid for the 2012 Olympics. I have only one small criticism of the hon. Gentleman and of all who have contributed to the debate so far: there has been no mention of the fact that this is a bid not only for the Olympics but for the Paralympics. That is a crucial component of the bid. [HON. MEMBERS: "He mentioned it."] In that case I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

We should always remember that this is a linked bid. The fact that this country was the home of the Paralympics is an additional reason why I hope we will be selected. Indeed, there are many reasons why our bid stands a good chance of being successful. We have hosted the Olympics on only two previous occasions. We did so in 1908, at very short notice, when we took over from Rome because of its problems with a significant volcano, and in 1948 after the 1940 and 1944 Olympics had been cancelled because of the second world war. It is about time that we had another bash at it. We are much better prepared these days than we were in the past.

A point rarely mentioned is that we are one of only a few countries that have participated in each of the modern Olympics, alongside Australia, France, Greece and Switzerland. The bid team have already put together an exciting and imaginative bid. I want to touch on some of the security points raised by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). His contribution and those of the hon. Members for Falkirk, West and for West Ham (Mr. Banks) were in stark contrast to the huge negativity of the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart). I am told that this is not the first time that he has made his speech. I have not heard it before so I cannot say whether it has improved. One thing is true: it was extremely negative and unnecessarily so. It was also based on a string of false premises, and I shall touch on some of those in a minute.

I am happy to be party to the cosy consensus, as the hon. Gentleman described us, of those who support fully and absolutely our bid for the Olympics and the Paralympics. London was the right city to put forward, but we must ensure it is not only London that benefits from a successful bid. Huge benefits will accrue to the rest of the United Kingdom too, although greater benefits will accrue to London. We have already heard of the money that will be spent on regeneration and on improving the transport infrastructure. We have heard about the jobs that will be created and the benefit that the games will bring to an area of London that is suffering from high levels of deprivation and unemployment. The Olympics coming to London and the rest of the UK is an exciting prospect. There will be millions of visitors. An estimated 3.7 billion people watch the Olympics. What a huge boost that will be for tourism in London and the other areas of the country featured in the TV coverage, which, as the hon. Member for Rhondda said, the BBC will no doubt provide extremely well.

There will be huge benefits outside London, too. Some 200 competing countries will come here looking for training villages all around the country. I urge the Minister to ensure that the British Olympic Association and the Government provide support to all regions to enable them appropriately to package information for the visiting countries so that they know of the wide range of opportunities that exist throughout the UK. Various events, such as football, will take place in different parts of the country.

The hon. Member for North Tayside is fundamentally wrong to say that this will have a detrimental impact on sport in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or any other part of the UK. As I said in an earlier intervention, I believe that there will be a huge benefit to sport. We should consider the impact of major sporting activities that have taken place outside the UK in which the UK has competed. Most recently, our success in rugby has had a huge impact on the take-up of rugby, both in playing at all levels and in spectating. There will be a huge boost to the take-up of a wide range of sports by young people and others as a result of the Olympics coming to the UK. That, I believe, will be far superior in its impact to spending a bit extra on supporting community sports activities, although we all want to see that money spent.

Normally, my party is reluctant to suggest that the Government should impose their will on how lottery money is spent. We opposed the establishment of the New Opportunities Fund because we believed that it breached the principles of additionality. However, there will always be exceptions to the rule, and because of the huge benefits—in sport, regeneration and tourism—that the Olympics will bring to London and the rest of the UK, we argued that this was one of those exceptions, and supported the use of lottery money as part of the package of funding to underpin what I hope will be a successful bid.

Pete Wishart:

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Foster:

I will in a minute. The hon. Gentleman gave the impression—others outside might misinterpret what he said—that all the lottery money going to the Olympics would come from funding for existing good causes. As he knows, it is intended that there will be a new, exciting lottery game specific to the Olympics, and that at least 50 per cent. of the lottery funding will come from that rather than be taken from the other good causes.

The hon. Gentleman will also know, because he will have done his homework, that those who worked out how much money would be generated by the new Olympic lottery game and how much would need to come from the other good causes may have been too pessimistic. He will know that recent figures show that, for the first time in a number of years, the amount of money coming into the national lottery has levelled out. He will also know that the European game that is being planned is likely to increase the revenue from the lottery, which may mean that the loss to the other good causes will be far less than was originally predicted.

Pete Wishart:

It is estimated that —1.5 billion will be lost from the lottery to pay for the Olympic games. In Scotland that will be £41.8 million. The hon. Gentleman should speak to the sports and other volunteer organisations in his constituency to gauge their anxieties about those suggestions. There will be an impact on grass-roots sports, and I wish that the hon. Gentleman would come to that conclusion. We must balance whether the Olympics are worth having with the impact on, and costs to, grass-roots sports facilities and organisations in our constituencies. I would like the hon. Gentleman's views on that.

Mr. Foster:

My views are quite simple—the hon. Gentleman is factually wrong. I have no doubt that the Minister, who will have more time to speak than me, will give the figures correctly. The £1.5 billion that will come from the lottery includes the money taken from existing causes plus the additional money that will be generated through the new Olympic lottery game. As I suggested, the hon. Gentleman bases his figures on a false premise.

I say to the hon. Member for West Ham that I entirely support his proposal for a British Olympic football team. On Saturday, I went to watch Charlton Athletic play at the Valley and, although they lost, they demonstrated that it is possible to bring together people from several different countries who speak several different languages and to play extremely well. It would be far easier to bring together people from just four countries who speak the same language to create a successful football team. I was disappointed, however, to hear him announce—for the first time, I think—that by 2012, he does not expect to be a Member of this House.

Mr. Banks:

I will be dead.

Mr. Foster:

I am sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman say that. Finally, the hon. Member for Rhondda is right to draw attention to concerns about terrorism, and to the fact that the London bid proposes one of the most compact Olympic bids, with a large proportion of the major sports to take place in a small area, with a compact Olympic village. I hope that that will be taken on board. We fully support the bid, and we hope that it will be successful, as we know that it will benefit not only London, but the whole UK.

3.11 pm
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con):

I congratulate the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Joyce) on securing the debate, which has given us an opportunity to speak again about matters that many of us feel passionately about. I particularly congratulate him on what he rightly said about the Paralympics, which the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) unfortunately failed to observe. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Falkirk, West about that. I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting many of our Paralympic athletes over many years. The Paralympics began in this country, and we should be proud of that.

As the hon. Member for Bath correctly said, it is a bid for the Olympics and the Paralympics, and we should not forget that. I was talking to some of the leaders of the British Paralympic Association at the official launch at the Royal opera house, and I am sure that everybody will remember the contribution that the association has made, and continues to make. I know that we will win a great many medals at the Paralympics in Athens, as I hope we will in the main games. Seeing what Paralympic athletes can do inspires generations of young people to overcome their disabilities. Going back to the origins of the Paralympics at Stoke Mandeville, one can only admire the work that has been done over many years.

I referred in previous debates to the fact that my constituency is likely to be a beneficiary of a successful bid in 2012, so I declare that interest. The one site that we know will inevitably be part of a successful bid will be Bisley in my constituency. In fact, the National Rifle Association's headquarters straddles the boundary between my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins). We already benefit from huge numbers of visitors to the area during international shooting competitions.

The answer to some of the negative comments made not only by the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart), but in interventions by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Stringer) is that the whole country can benefit from international competitions, as we saw from the successful Manchester Commonwealth games. The fact that the only site for the Manchester Commonwealth games in the south of England was in my constituency—the shooting had to be there, and I had the privilege and pleasure of being asked to present medals there—is another example of how the whole country can share in and benefit from any international sporting event.

Mr. Banks:

Would I be wrong in suggesting that the hon. Gentleman might like to see some members of his Conservative association used as targets for shooting?

Mr. Hawkins:

I am not going to respond in any way to my good cross-party friend, the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks). However, I echo the hon. Member for Bath in hoping that the hon. Member for West Ham will continue to be an hon. Member in 2012. I. was amazed when he talked about the risk of decrepitude, because he is still young and vigorous. I am certain that he will have the opportunity to present medals in his own constituency in 2012; I had the good fortune to present medals in mine during the Commonwealth games.

On a more serious point, there are some issues about funding, to which I hope the Minister will respond, which I hope will deal with some of the negative aspects of the contribution by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West. The Conservatives have said that we completely support the Olympic bid and will continue to do so. However, there are a couple of issues to which we think the Government have not yet paid sufficient attention. We have repeatedly said that it would be good for the Olympic lottery game to start when interest in the Olympics is at its height—this summer, to coincide with Athens. The Government originally suggested that that was not possible under BOA rules but, when we pressed them about it, they admitted that it was allowed under BOA rules but they were not going to do it.

There is still time for the Government to change their mind, and I hope that they will because the earlier the Olympic lottery game starts, the greater the opportunity for other good causes not to be adversely affected. I do not believe that they will be adversely affected because, like the hon. Member for Bath, I believe that there will be such an explosion of interest that the Olympics games will be able to make even greater earnings if they are handled correctly, as I hope and believe they will be.

One funding lesson learned by the Olympic movement worldwide after the success of the Los Angeles games and the work of Peter Ueberroth was to bring the private sector more into the picture. As yet, the Government have not placed enough stress on the importance of the private sector. I know that Barbara Cassani and her team are doing a lot of work with not only the City of London but businesses nationwide and internationally, and I want to do all that I can to encourage that.

If we are right in believing that there will be an explosion of enthusiasm after we win the bid, there is every opportunity to prevent adverse effects on the funding for grass-roots sport. That is what the hon. Member for North Tayside claims his concerns are all about, but his repeated comments that it is a London bid and that London should pay for it reveal the attitude of his party. Any other concerns are window dressing to reinforce what is really a campaigning approach by the Scottish nationalists that I deeply deplore.

I strongly support what the BOA is doing under the splendid leadership of Simon Clegg, and Barbara Cassani has a very good team behind her. When we win the bid, as I am confident that we will, I hope that we will see opportunities for sports generally—not only Olympic sports—to spread their message more widely. As the hon. Member for Bath said, the winning of the rugby world cup has proved an inspiration, with many more young people volunteering to start playing rugby at every age. That can happen in every sport, and I hope and believe that it will. As has been said often, we have seven years for that explosion of interest to happen. It is crucial to recognise that sport is a way of taking young people away from dangers such as the drugs subculture, and of making them aware of the importance of health and fitness. I know that the Minister agrees with me about that and that those objectives are shared across parties, so we must use the Olympics for that. I was inspired by the example of competitive swimmers. In his robust contribution, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) spoke about how he was ill during the 1972 Olympics and so watched it all on television. One performance that he will have seen was that of the then captain of my swimming club, Brian Brinkley, who is just about to finish coaching Northampton swimming club to go back to our club, the Bedford Modernians.

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman remembers, Brian Brinkley made the freestyle final at the 1972 Olympics. Young competitive swimmers such as I were inspired by having people such as him in their small home-town club. Bedford had great links with rowing and rugby but, until the existence of the Bedford Modernians under the coaching inspiration of Charlie Wilson, who was our national squad coach for the 1972 Olympics, we did not see Bedford as a hugely important sporting town. Suddenly finding that the captain of our swimming club was leading the British team was fantastically inspirational to me and to all the other teenage swimmers in the club. That will happen throughout the country to young people with the 2012 Olympics.

We must recognise the huge benefits and not start nitpicking in the way that the hon. Member for North Tayside wants to do. I shall do a deal with him: after we have won the bid, if I meet any members of the IOC in my capacity as deputy chairman of the all-party group on sports, or as shadow spokesman on sport and they ask me where in the UK would be a good place to have a training base, I shall suggest Pitlochry and Dunkeld. If I manage to convince some countries to have their training camps there, perhaps the Scottish nationalists will give up their relentless negativity. All other parties are united and every other hon. Member who has spoken in the debate has supported the Olympic bid. I believe that we can win it, and I certainly hope that it will inspire a generation of young people to get involved in sport. It would be a wonderful thing for the UK and we should do all we can to support the Olympic bid.

3.20 pm
The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris):

It may be the third or fourth time that hon. Members in the Chamber have debated the Olympics but it is my first. I promise you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism has not avoided the debate so as not to have to listen to the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) repeat his speech—he is in Liverpool on ministerial business.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. In response to the direct question from my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), I add my personal support—I join the cosy circle of support—for the Olympic bid. It is a good bid, and it is important that we are united; we will not win the bid if the country is not seen to be behind it. Therefore, I know that my hon. Friends will understand if on this occasion I thank the hon. Members for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) and for Bath (Mr. Foster) for the support that their parties have given. They both spoke forcefully, and well understand the importance of sport to the nation and what the games will bring to all of us if the bid is successful.

There is a real issue about how the regions would be affected. I am a Mancunian by birth and my constituency is in Birmingham, so perhaps I have more reason than most in the Chamber to groan about the inability of cities other than London to compete successfully for the Olympics. That time is past. We are behind London as the United Kingdom city that is bidding. I have no doubt that the rest of the United Kingdom will benefit, but the effort has to be made. There will be no benefit if no one makes the effort, and we will benefit most by being enthusiastic and getting behind the bid. As constituency MPs in whatever area of the country, we owe to it to our constituents and our regions to shout up for them and to explain how that region can contribute and gain.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Joyce) on securing the debate and I support what he said about the nations and regions support group's work travelling around the country to ensure that there is a regional legacy. That was an important move and it was important to make it early in the life of the 2012 bid. The senior team on the bid has already visited several countries and regions, including Scotland last October, when Barbara Cassani herself led the team to listen and to ensure that there is a legacy.

I remind hon. Members that the £340 million that the sports councils are putting in is to ensure that the Olympic games have a legacy. It is an important funding stream to ensure that, in getting the bid together and hosting the games, we see a legacy in every region possible.

I will not pretend that it would be right or possible to spread the Olympic venues across the country. Several hon. Members have mentioned that one attraction of the bid is the proximity of the sites to each other. It means that most athletes, with some exceptions for specialised sport, will not have a long way to travel, and that journalists, who we know do not like travelling outside Westminster, let alone the confines of the M25, will not have far to travel either. Ironically, one attraction of the bid is that it is centred in one geographical location.

Hon. Members have mentioned that training camps could be anywhere in the United Kingdom. If one looks at where the UK has chosen to base its training camps, it rarely stayed close to where the Olympics took place. Teams want to be away from that fevered atmosphere and to train in privacy and in a quieter atmosphere. There is a lot to be gained if an Olympic team trains away from London. If football matches were held outside London, that would help that to take place. I support my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham in saying that it would be good for us to have a football representation. That is a matter for the sporting bodies but, if it can be progressed, I am sure that no one would take exception. The next point that I wish to make goes to the heart of the points that the hon. Member for North Tayside made about finance. It concerns the atmosphere that will be created for sport in the United Kingdom. I think that the mistake that he makes is often made not just in sport but in other areas of life. He is forcing us to choose between excellence and access, which are old things that people pit against each other and cite as enemies. I see the Olympic games as a celebration of excellence in sport. That is not to say that we do not treasure access, or continue to put money into access. I think that access is more successful if people can see excellence in practice. Excellence motivates people to participate in sport.

I do not have figures on the matter because it is not my area of ministerial responsibility, but I have been interested and participated in sport throughout my life and still do. When Britain is no longer very good at one particular sport, general participation tends to fall. The reverse also happens: when someone does well and succeeds, general access increases. I do not take away from our obligation and from the necessity of investment of resources and effort at grass-roots level, but the hon. Member for North Tayside must accept that having the Olympics in the UK will encourage access.

Pete Wishart:

I do not want excellence at the expense of access. I would rather have both. I am appealing to the Minister to reconsider the way in which this will be financed. Let us not take finance from the lottery. Let us have access and excellence.

Estelle Morris:

The point I make is that the Olympics is the best way of showing excellence that I can think of, not just in one sport but in many. Do not forget that most people in the United Kingdom will never see an Olympics live but see it only on television. Hosting the games would give millions of people a chance to see live performance.

I come on to the financing. I disagree with the hon. Member for North Tayside that it should come from tax. People from Scotland will not necessarily pay less if it comes from general revenue rather than from lottery contributions. I did not follow the logic of that point. We anticipate that £1.5 billion will come from the lottery, £750 million of which will be from the Olympic lottery and £340 million from the Sports Lottery Board. On top of that, £625 million will come from London council tax payers and £250 million from the London Development Agency. I think that that is a good funding package. That is only the public sector funding package—money will also be raised from television rights, from ticket sales and through the private sector.

If a profit is made, that money will go back into sport at the grass roots. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman will say if we invest to get a return not only in excellence but, potentially, in money to the grass roots.

I wish the bid well. It is the best thing that we can do for sports. People in this country are proud of their country of origin but they are also proud of being UK citizens. This gives them an opportunity to celebrate that at the same time as celebrating sport.