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14 Jan 2003 : Column 606continued
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): This debate is indeed well timed, and I am grateful to the House for this opportunity to set out the arguments for and, indeed, against London bidding for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics and to hear the arguments of right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House and with constituencies across the country.
The debate is well timed because the Government have undertaken to take a decision on whether to support a London bid by the end of this month. Only the British Olympic Association can make a bid on behalf of a British city to the International Olympic Committee. The association must indicate its intentions to the IOC by July this year at the latest, and it can bid only if it can show that all costs will be underwritten and that it has full Government support.
To give the association sufficient time to prepare for July, we feel that a Government decision by the end of January is necessary. Just mounting a bid is a two-and-a-half year marathon. By January next year, applicant cities must reply to the IOC's questionnaire. That reply is then examined by the IOC, and it will announce its shortlist in June 2004.
The final assessment will be completed by May 2005, after visits by the IOC evaluation commission. The final vote will take place in July 2005. To have any chance of success, a British bid would have to be wholeheartedly supported by the Government. If the Government decide to back the bid, we will back it to the hilt, and we will expect similar commitment from the other stakeholders.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) for convening sessions of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport today and tomorrow to take evidence and hear views on the prospects for a London Olympics. Today's debate and the Select Committee hearings will help to inform the deliberations of the committee, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, that will consider the Government's position on the Olympics, for this decision has to be taken by the whole Government, not by one Department.
We must take the decision with our eyes very clearly open and it must be tested against four clear criteria, the first of which is affordability. Can London and, indeed, the nation afford the investment needed? The second criterion is deliverability. Can the necessary infrastructure be defined, designed and built in time and to standard? The third criterion is the legacy. Will the games infrastructure leave behind a sporting legacy and a regeneration legacy that are worth the very considerable cost? The last criterion is winnability: however good and however credible a London bid can be, the question is whether it has a good enough chance of winning and is worth the expenditure of the many millions of pounds which mounting a bid would cost.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): Why is it assumed that the only successful bid that could be mounted would be by London? A very successful Commonwealth games was organised in Manchester. People in the north-west feel that they have been betrayed, given that, after organising such a successful games, there is no prospect of an Olympic bid by Manchester being organised and supported.
Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman's point will be received with some sympathy across the Chamber. The British Olympic Association, however, has made it clearin discussion, I presume, with the International Olympic Committeethat London is the only credible UK city for a bid. As he will know, both Manchester and Birmingham have bid unsuccessfully in the past 15 years.
Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North): As someone who had grave reservations about the development of Wembley as an international football stadium when better opportunities existed around the country, I take a completely different view of the Olympic games. I do not believe that any other part of Britain can bid successfully for the Olympic games, which would bring great benefit to our young people and to sport in general. Those of us who represent northern constituencies recognise that if Britain is to make a bid, London must be the city.
Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention. In assessing whether to bid, we have drawn on the lessons to be learned from the management of big projects in the past in which the Government have been involved, such as Wembley stadium, which have led the Government to commit more money than was originally intended.
Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North): Will my right hon. Friend also consider the impact that a successful bid would have on other regions? Would they lose resources that would have gone to them if the bid were not made?
Tessa Jowell: That is an important question. Clearly, any bid, if one is to be made, will be made for a London Olympics. As the Sydney Olympics showed, however, investment in training facilities prior to the Olympics can lead to new facilities in different parts of the country. Part of our assessment of the economic benefits of the Olympics would be to ask precisely my hon. Friend's question: how dispersed are the benefits, and will the rest of the country benefit?
Tessa Jowell: In relation to assessments of winnability, we have sought advice from the British Olympic Association and UK Sport, from which we have commissioned a report. My departmental officials have also made an assessment, and this Friday I will meet Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, in Lausanne, to discuss the matter further. I will say more about that as I develop my argument to the House. The first three criteria of affordability, deliverability and legacy are more measurable than winnability, which is more of an art than a science. However, we have to make an important judgment before we commit a substantial sum to making a bid. We also have to assess whether the expenditure of time and effort across the Government and beyond will be worth it.
Let me be the first to say that a powerful sporting case has been made for bringing the games to London. A successful bid would bring sport to the centre of our national life for a decade between now and 2012. It would motivate and inspire the young athletes who are beginning to enjoy the new facilities, opportunities and additional coaching provided by the lottery and directly by Government investment. It would also intensify the focus on elite sport, so that our athletes have the best possible chance of winning in front of our home crowds. The evidence of previous Olympics makes it clear that countries win more medals when they host the games.
The world of sport understandably relishes the prospect of a London games. Its only concern is that the expenditure needed to stage an impressive event and to prepare the UK athletes should not be at the expense of existing expenditure on sport. It understands that investment in sport at the grassrootsin talent identification and development, and in facilities and coaching to bring sporting opportunities to every community and school in the UKshould not suffer if we bid for the games. However, it is not unreasonable of others to suggest that if the Olympics games are of such high importance to the world of sport, it should be willing to reorder its spending priorities accordingly. The impact of any potential diversion of resources from within sport is one factor that we will weigh carefully before taking the final decision.
Tessa Jowell: To some extent the hon. Gentleman is right, but he should remember that if we decide to bid for the games and win, every pound spent on developing Olympic facilities in London is a pound that will not be spent on schools, hospitals or grassroots sporting facilities in other parts of the country. We are confronting a tough set of choices and I welcome the debate as way of informing those choices.