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14 Jan 2003 : Column 616—continued

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Greenway: I shall give way to the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) first, then the hon. Members for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), but that is all.

Mr. Banks: I join the hon. Gentleman in hoping that we will bid for the 2012 Olympics, not least because many of the facilities will be in my patch of east London. As he has talked about the Ove Arup report, will he tell the House whether he agrees with its cost estimates? He has rather brushed over that, but I am sure that he will come back to it. My instinct is that the report grossly underestimates the cost of mounting the Olympics.

Mr. Greenway: I intend to come to that in a moment. I will give way to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), whom I am going to mention in a minute.

Mr. Gareth Thomas: I am grateful for that advert. Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that if Arup has underestimated the cost of bidding for and staging the Olympics, it has probably also underestimated the benefits of the games? It admits to using the relatively conservative figure of #610 million for tourism income, when Sydney benefited to the tune of #2 billion, and Barcelona estimates that the net economic impact of its games was #11 billion.

Mr. Greenway: The hon. Gentleman has, as ever, anticipated precisely what is in the text that I have prepared for the House. I will give way to the hon. Member for Leigh.

Andy Burnham (Leigh): The hon. Gentleman mentioned the public subsidy that would be required. It will be significant, as we have heard. We also know that the Conservative Front Bench is committed to a 20 per cent. cut in public spending. In that context, is the hon. Gentleman absolutely clear from which budget he would take the money required to stage the Olympic games?

Mr. Greenway: I shall address that issue as well. The Conservative party is committed to ensuring a viable and strong economy, and the Olympic games would provide a huge opportunity for wealth creation and job creation, and for more revenue, not less, for the Exchequer.

I want to finish my assessment of sport, then I must make some progress. New facilities need only be permanent when that is essential, and when a long-term future has been identified. We accept, as the Secretary of State said, that the future use of a new main stadium to host the games remains to be settled. It is important that

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we face up to that. We do not, however, believe that that is an intractable problem, as the initial 80,000 capacity could be reduced, depending on its future use. The Secretary of State mentioned two such possible uses.

Sport will not be the only winner at a successful Olympics. This debate gives us the opportunity to highlight the significant wider benefits of staging the Olympics in London. The benefits from social change alone that a successful Olympic bid would secure would include a more fit and healthy generation, less crime and vandalism, and the regeneration of a wide area of deprivation in east London—the constituency of the hon. Member for West Ham. Those gains would, in themselves, justify hosting the Olympics here in Britain.

I also suggest that all the interests for which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is responsible would benefit from a successful Olympics bid; not just sport, but tourism, culture, art, heritage, the media and broadcasting. All would be major beneficiaries of a UK-based Olympics in London. The English Tourism Council has said in a letter to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that

in the world—

The ETC goes on to give examples of how tourism in the north-west of England benefited from the Commonwealth games, bringing in some 300,000 additional visitors and more than 6,000 new jobs. I well remember visiting the British Tourist Authority office in Dublin when it launched its campaign for more people to come to the north-west from Ireland, both in association with the Commonwealth games and more generally.

The Arup report estimates up to #610 million from additional tourist revenue but points out, as the hon. Member for Harrow, West mentioned in his intervention, that Sydney benefited by some #2 billion from new inbound tourism. I would like to suggest to the House that London is a bigger attraction with a much larger hinterland for potential visitors from the near continent. The inbound tourism sector—a major growth area—includes events, conferences, meetings and incentive travel, and would also be expected to experience a significant increase in associated activities if the Olympic games were held here. The British Tourist Authority estimates that, on current trends, business tourism could account for as much as 45 per cent. of inbound tourism expenditure by 2010. In opposition, the Government agreed with that and the sports-tourism link. The document to which I referred earlier states that international events provide a major boost to the earnings of our tourism and hospitality industries and the Exchequer. I agree with that.

As the Secretary of State knows, the Athens Olympics will revive the cultural Olympiad, and United Kingdom arts organisations will participate in those events. There is a great opportunity for us to do the same in London. The world would spend 16 days being reminded through television of our unique heritage that is unrivalled in so

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many ways. More than 3 billion viewers watched the Olympic games in Sydney. Our broadcasting media will have the opportunity to demonstrate what we know: they are the best at covering major international events. One has only to compare the coverage of English or British teams overseas with that in Britain to appreciate the difference.

Can we succeed? The British Olympic Association recently said:

I understand the Secretary of State's desire to ensure that a bid has a good chance of success—her Xwin-ability test"—and I agree with her analysis. However, we should not ignore the positive benefits of the bidding process. The bid that Manchester submitted helped to stimulate regeneration in that city and in the north-west and put the area back on the map.

News coverage of the bidding process, especially the visits of leading athletes and sports administrators and the International Olympic Committee, would encourage interest in sport, provide significant media opportunities and help those who promote tourism to the UK, especially to London. Positive promotion of London and Britain during the bidding period would support the process and the chance of winning.

Public support and cross-party unanimity are vital. It is rumoured that more than 75 per cent. of those polled by ICM for UKSport said yes to the games. Will the Secretary of State or the Minister tell us whether that is accurate? When do they expect to publish the results?

It is important to be open and candid about costs and the significant challenges of delivery. The point has been made that it is easy for the press to be on side now but off side when bad news arrives. Let us therefore have the whole truth. We would have liked the Ove Arup report to be published in full, but we understand that parts of it are confidential and could give competing bidders an advantage.

Nevertheless, more of the report could have been published, thus helping to confirm the quality of the study, and the advice and conclusions given to Ministers and other members of the key stakeholders' group. Will the Minister confirm that the Ove Arup study represents the most thorough in-depth analysis in advance of an Olympic bid and that no major city that wanted to stage the Olympics has had the benefit of such a detailed, location-specific analysis?

In an interview in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, the Minister said:

He has made that point previously. However, surely any long-term strategy should be ambitious and aspirational. If we want our athletes and our teams to win more often in international competition, the strategy for sport should include the aim of hosting international events such as the Olympics, World cup and so on. Again, I pray in aid the Labour party's pre-election document—[Interruption.] I believe that it was written by a first-class parliamentarian who is a good friend and now in the other House. The document states:

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There it is—it could not be clearer, and one could almost describe it as an election pledge. The public need to ask the Government to think about realising that pledge, notwithstanding the fact that, as I accept, challenging problems do exist.

The Minister for Sport also said:

We certainly agree with him on that, but if we want to learn the lessons of these problems, we must first understand that they occurred under this Government. We also need to decide what we think is more important. It is perhaps tempting to argue that we should not make promises and enter into commitments that we cannot deliver on, and that is certainly one lesson of the bid for the 2005 world athletics championships. [Interruption.] The Minister is agreeing with me, but it was his Government who made that promise.

Arguably, the real lesson is to understand more clearly the role of the Government. They cannot adopt an arm's-length approach, just dipping in and out when it suits them. A successful Olympics would require strong leadership at the highest Government level, and—I say this with no disrespect—probably not even within the right hon. Lady's own Department. Someone must be able to ensure prompt and decisive action across Government Departments, but that did not happen with Wembley, as those of us members of the all-party group on football who took part in the various meetings with the planners of Brent quickly discovered.

The key stakeholders group represents a good start. Ironically, of all its members only the Government have yet to make clear their position, or to voice any real enthusiasm for the bid. We also need to engage a fourth partner: the business community.

On costs, Ministers have challenged some of the conclusions of the Ove Arup report, and they now suggest that the cost of hosting the games could be as much as #5 billion. A different figure seems to be given every time that a statement is made, and we shall have to read tomorrow's Hansard carefully to find out the exact figure that the right hon. Lady quoted. However, the Arup consultants do not accept that their original costings of #1.8 billion were wrong to anything like the extent suggested. Having re-examined all their costings—they based them on 2002 prices, as the key stakeholder group asked them to do—they believe that the new figure should be no more than #1.9 billion.

On a like-for-like basis, the Arup figures are robust, but if the Treasury were to use inflated prices on costs, and if no account were taken of the increased revenue that the same inflation costings would generate, it would not be surprising if a higher figure came out at the end. The calculations must be made on a like-for-like basis. There is a real suspicion that costs are being loaded just for the sake of it, and the Government seem determined to adopt a Xmore than worst case" position in their deliberations, over-egging the contingency to take account of other failings such as the millennium dome.

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