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14 Jan 2003 : Column 619—continued

Bob Russell rose—

Mr. Banks: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway: No, I will not give way. I know that many Members want to speak, and I am getting close to the end of my remarks.

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If we want to learn a lesson from the millennium dome, it is to have a clear view on whether the investment under consideration is likely to deliver value for money. I suggest to the House that an Olympics bid, with all the advantages that I have outlined, is far more likely to deliver long-term, lasting value for money than the millennium dome. Whatever figure is arrived at, the total cost is not the cost to the Government. The cost to Government is much less because of grants from the IOC, sponsorship and inward investment.

The hon. Member for Harrow, West got it exactly right when he said in the Westminster Hall debate of 26 November that he sponsored:


I agree with his analysis. Having commissioned the Ove Arup report, the members of the key stakeholder group need to show more support for its conclusions.

It is argued that the money could be better spent on hospitals and schools—the philosophy of despair advanced by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) in an interview the other day. That approach misses the point completely. It ignores the benefits for health, education and the fight against crime that would accrue from increased sporting activity among young people. The Government's own performance and innovation unit confirmed as much: the news may have been slipped out on the last day before Christmas, but the unit confirmed that those would be major benefits.

The approach that I have described also fails to recognise that a London-based Olympics would be the engine of increased economic activity, especially through tourism and regeneration. That would lead, in turn, to more jobs and more revenue. That potential was instantly recognised by the Conservative party and it underpins our enthusiasm for the project.

A London Olympics would be the inspirational catalyst for the realisation of many worthy and vital public policy objectives. For us, it is inconceivable that the Government should say no unless they can demonstrate some deep-seated and major practical obstacle that is not apparent from the Arup study. A lack of political will would not be tolerated by the public at large as the only reason not to go ahead.

In her closing remarks, the Secretary of State said that Britain was a Xcan do" society. There is no better way to prove it. I urge Ministers not to be afraid of failure, but instead to recognise the enormous benefits that our nation, not just our capital, would derive from success. Ministers should recognise the tremendous feel-good factor that a successful bid would bring. Above all, they should recognise that a country with the fourth largest economy in the world, which gave so many sports to the rest of the world and which has a capital city still widely regarded as one of the world's finest, ought to be capable of hosting the world's biggest sporting event. If Athens can do it, why cannot London?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Before I call the next speaker, I remind the House that Mr. Speaker has placed a 10-minute limit on all speeches by Back Benchers in this debate.

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5.12 pm

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport is conducting an inquiry into the potential Olympic bid. I am Chairman of that Committee, and I speak today in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the Select Committee. In the near future, the Committee will publish its report, by which I shall be bound, whatever it says.

Considerable reference has been made to The Daily Telegraph, which yesterday published an interview with Matthew Pinsent, a member of the International Olympic Committee. He asked a series of questions to do with who, where and how: he wanted to know where the village was going to be, how the transport would work, and so on. This afternoon, I want to ask a series of questions to which we need precise answers. Those answers must cohere if a bid is to be justified. Regardless of my personal opinion about whether a bid should be lodged, I believe that a bid will not be tenable if the questions that I am about to ask are not answered in that way.

I hope that my questions can be answered at the end of the debate by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, or when Ministers come before the Select Committee tomorrow. If not, I hope that they can be answered pretty soon, as I think that the country has a right to the information.

The first question has to do with costs. So many different estimates have been made of the cumulative costs of staging the games that it is impossible to be sure about the matter. The hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) quoted the Ove Arup report, but only a short time ago the Financial Times said:


We must be clear that the cost of any public sector project will be higher than originally estimated—and probably a lot higher. The building of the British Library cost seven times the original estimate, and took 30 years rather than the estimated five. The costs of such projects tend to balloon, so it is important for us to know them.

I want to know the cost of the projected stadium in east London. Can it be built? Can planning permission be obtained? What is the timetable, and can the stadium be built on time? If not, it is not worth building.

I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) is present. The whole basis of Sport England's support for a rebuilt Wembley stadium, and the whole basis on which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State eventually agreed to Government support for it, was dual use: the stadium was to be used for athletics as well as football. This morning, the Select Committee heard that there would be a new stadium for athletics, and that Wembley would be used for football and for nothing else. What, then, was the point of that laborious process involving Wembley stadium?

Then there is the question of the village. Where will it be? How much will it cost? What about planning permission? What is the timetable? Moreover, several swimming pools are to be built, of which one, apparently, is to be retained. Where will they be, what

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will they cost, and can they be built on time? We need to know those things, or we shall walk blindfold into a morass.

There is also the utterly bewildering question of transport. The Ove Arup report assumes that although Crossrail is not due to be completed until 2016, it will be available in time for games that will take place in 2012. The Mayor of London—whose main contribution to transport has been to make the west end static for months on end—says that he hopes for Government approval of Crossrail very soon. He says:


In its submission to the Select Committee, however, Transport for London says:


Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman: If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I will not.

So there are three different attitudes to Crossrail, which is the key link to a stadium in the east end of London. We must also bear it in mind, even if the timetable is accepted, that such projects are not necessarily delivered on time. The Jubilee line extension to North Greenwich was supposed to be ready at least two years before the opening of the dome, but it was ready only a few days before that—and the budget was so enormous that Mr. Tunnicliffe of London Underground did not even know what it was. We cannot operate on the basis of huge blank cheques being signed by our constituents, as taxpayers, without knowing what will happen.

It is all very well for the hon. Member for Ryedale to say that there is huge public enthusiasm for this in 2003. Of course there is—The Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard are running campaigns—but what will happen in 2005 or 2006 if things start to go awry, as the track record shows they will? The Government will be about to be re-elected or will have been re-elected, and all the people who are now saying that we should bid for the games will regard this target as an Aunt Sally. That is what happened with the dome, which the Conservatives started. Indeed, under the Conservatives, #120 million was given by Sport England for Wembley stadium. It does not stop them being opportunistic.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Kaufman: No, because I have only two minutes left.

There is also the question of organisation. Huge tributes are paid to the success of the Commonwealth games. The only reason they were a success is because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister appointed my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) to create a structure for the

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Commonwealth games that had not existed before. That enabled the athletes and volunteers to achieve their superb successes.

We have no such structure now. Instead we have a concordat whereby a bevy of organisations all put their oars in. If we are to bid for the Olympic games, we must have a Minister in charge. The New South Wales Minister for Sport, for example, was in charge of organising both the games in Sydney and the transport.

It is not negative to ask these questions, it is essential. Unless the answer to every one of them is yes, our constituents will say that spending #5 billion or #6 billion—$12 billion was spent on the Barcelona games—


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