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14 Jan 2003 : Column 623—continued

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

5.22 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): I welcome the opportunity for this debate. I am proud to sport my Team GB tie. I admit that it is not very subtle—in fact, it makes the ties of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) look positively anaemic. However, it has the advantage of making Liberal Democrat support for the bid clear from the outset.

Our reasons for supporting the bid have been well rehearsed, and the Secretary of State set out many of them in her opening remarks. The bid is not London-centric. There is no doubt that other towns and cities would benefit, whether from holding camps, football competitions or the resulting increase in tourism. The Secretary of State referred to Barcelona. Between 1991 and 1997, Barcelona witnessed an increase in overnight stays of 70 per cent. That is the sort of increase that we could hope for in tourism in London and beyond. She spoke about the need to spread the benefits of tourism and to export it to other parts of the country, which we support.

We should support the bid for reasons of regeneration. Parts of east London have objective 2 status and clearly need regeneration. The bid could act as a catalyst for transport projects such as Crossrail. Even if Crossrail were not completed, having a portion of the line up and running would contribute significantly to increasing capacity in London, which would benefit the games. Furthermore, it is possible that, as happened in Greece, EU grants might be available to assist with some transport projects.

A further reason for supporting the bid is the fact that Londoners back it, as other Members have said. The Government pushed ahead with something that Londoners most certainly do not support—the part-privatisation of the tube. Why do they not push something that Londoners actually support? The issue does not affect only Londoners. Disparate bodies such as the Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, the Mayor and the London chamber of commerce and industry agree on their support for the bid, as do many London Members of all parties.

Sport has an impact on health. If the Olympic games took place in this country in 2012, it would act as a strong motivator to our children. The health of many children is at risk because of our sedentary lifestyles and the games would give them something to aim for. Ten and 11-year-olds who turn away from sport as they

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become interested in other things might focus on the date of the Olympics, perhaps because they want to compete or because it would make them realise the importance of keeping fit.

The Secretary of State referred to the competing demands on funding—for example, for hospitals or schools. However, when the costings are being drawn up, I hope that she will take into account the effects on health that could result from motivating a generation of youngsters to participate in sport and, we hope, to maintain that participation.

I understand that Arup's presentation to the Select Committee was not entirely convincing, but if there is more confidence in the figures, we ought to support the bid. As the Cabinet will discuss the matter on 30 January, we have written to all its members asking them to back London's bid; we want them to be lions rather than chickens. As Members will have noticed from my tie, the lion is part of the British Olympic Association logo. The Government must trust our capital city and the entrepreneurial skills and drive that exist there and throughout the country—the can-do culture—to deliver on this important project.

There are as many reasons for opposing the bid as there are for supporting it, as the Secretary of State outlined so even-handedly. There is the problem of overrun that we have experienced in many sporting projects. Surely, however, the Government and the private sector have learned their lesson and we can complete projects on time and to cost.

There is a risk that we might lose money if the bid is not successful. One cannot really deny that. However, the Government push local authorities to bid for specific grants or pots of money. If they are encouraging local authorities to do that, should they not do the same?

When the Minister for Sport sums up, I hope that he will confirm that the overriding reason for the Government refusing to back the bid is not their concern that the Mayor and the Government cannot work together. That would be a great pity. If that is one of the Government's reasons they will, in effect, have been hoist by their own petard. They were scared to give the Mayor a full range of powers, so they have been left in a situation where neither party has sufficient power to push the matter through. I hope that the Minister will confirm that that will not stop the bid going through.

What is needed from the Government? First, we need the Government to state their full support for the bid. We have heard a series of very mixed messages. Obviously, the media will spin what Ministers have said to a certain extent, but today's Evening Standard quotes the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport as pouring cold water

She is also quoted as saying that Ministers had not yet made up their minds. Yesterday, The Times said that the Secretary of State was going to argue that there was

for hosting the Olympics. Such messages do not give us a clear picture as to where the Government stand on this important issue, and her remarks have not clarified matters further. When the Minister sums up, perhaps he will make the Government's position a little clearer.

We need a clear statement from the Government on what they expect the costs to be. Arup has said that the Treasury might have to contribute about #500 million,

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but the Government suggest that #2.5 billion of public subsidy might be required. We need to know how they arrived at that figure. What does it include and how much is for projects such as transport that are necessary but that have been brought forward? How much could be described as Xwasted"? If the research commissioned shows that the bid has a significant chance of success and that the games will make a small surplus, as Arup have suggested, or will require a costed and controlled financial contribution from the Government, I hope that the Minister will be able to guarantee that the Government will come out in favour of the bid.

As a country, we are capable of sending, at just weeks' notice, an armada to the other side of the world. Our scientists are working with other European scientists to land a space probe on a comet—in 2012, as it happens. A rocket will have to be launched in the next couple of weeks and a probe will loop round Mars and twice round the earth before it slingshots to make contact with the comet in 2012. However, it seems that the Government's prevarication and poverty of ambition are such that we could, as a country, be deprived of the opportunity to bid for and host the world's greatest sporting event.

5.33 pm

Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston): Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), I am a member of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. I will not prejudge the issue; I will listen to the evidence tomorrow and to this debate. However, I am also chair of the all-party football group, one of the vice-chairs of the all-party sports group and joint secretary of the Lords and Commons cricket team, so I should at least express an opinion. It will not be surprising if I say that I support the bid. [Interruption.] Attack is usually the best form of defence, and I shall leave it to my hon. Friends to determine when I find time to enjoy myself.

The Olympics have a special value for me. I may not look it but, in 1948, I was old enough to be taken by my father, who was a racing cyclist, to Herne Hill to see the sprinting. We had the disappointment of seeing Reg Harris being beaten by the Italians in that event and in the tandem sprint. I also have a special memory of Windsor great park. Among the only 12 words in French that I remember are, XAllez, allez, allez".

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): Only nine left then.

Alan Keen: I obviously know another nine words. The hair still stands on the back of my neck when I picture the scene. One of the French team had blown a tyre and his whole team stopped while he changed it. When he got back on his bike, the call was, XAllez, allez, allez". I can remember being greatly inspired by the Olympics when I was a kid. They were drab days, of course, in 1948, after the war, and the Olympics made a big difference to everyone. I can remember the atmosphere in London and being taken to Harrods to see the special display that was then in that shop. Those games were an inspiration to many people.

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If we bid for the Olympics in 2012 and our bid is successful—I expect that it would be—the games would also inspire many young people and show those in my constituency and the four London boroughs that would be the main hosts of the 2012 games that the world is multicultural and that the fact that they exist in a multicultural community is just as things should be.

The world may not be so drab now, but it is pretty drab for those who live in housing that is not of an acceptable standard and whose jobs are not as good as they would want them to be. The Olympic games can make a big difference to people. They can teach young people that it is well worth living healthily. The Olympics inspired me to work hard and keep free of crime—at least until I was elected to the House in 1992, anyway. Let us hope that the games will have that effect on many young people, especially those in east London. We want people to aspire not only to be world champions, but to look outside their own lives and realise what they can achieve if they set their minds to it.

I want to give one or two examples to illustrate what sport can do. Again, I very well remember the 1966 World cup, when Middlesbrough, which I still regard as my home town, hosted the North Korean side that played three first-group games and knocked out the favourites, the Italians, in the first round, probably helping England to win the 1966 World cup. Hon. Members should bear in mind the fact that that was only a few years after the Korean war, yet the people of Teesside took the North Koreans to their hearts and supported them. Thousands travelled to Liverpool to watch the North Koreans play at Everton's ground in the quarter-finals.

That friendship still exists today. The North Koreans from that original team came over here, and Mr. Speaker entertained them in his apartments. We took them to Middlesbrough, and there was a special dinner for them. The man who scored the goal against Italy was led out on to the pitch at Riverside and allowed to put the ball into the back of the net, as he did way back in 1966. Sport can cement friendships. On the day the North Koreans arrived here, we heard the first announcement that North Korea was not going to get rid of its nuclear weapons programme, but friendship through sport can overcome many difficulties.

It is worth talking very briefly about the Manchester experience. We members of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport were lucky enough to attend the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games, and I attended the first day of athletics the following day. I stayed in one of the hotels at the airport and travelled on public transport and then on the special buses out to the stadium. The Manchester people were absolutely thrilled and proud of their city on that day. The athletics were good and the opening ceremony was brilliant, but what I remember was that the hair on the back of my neck stood up—sport often causes that—as I listened to the conversations on the train and on the buses. People were really inspired; they were proud of their city.

More than anything else, what came out of the Manchester experience for me was the fact that those on the volunteer scheme—I met a lot of the volunteers, and they had given up work to do the job or had already retired—were so proud to be part of something. Many of them realised that they were able to give something,

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probably at a time in their lives when they thought that they were past it. Again, we should build on that example.

I do not want to digress too much from sport, but we are all concerned about the future of the nation's health and social care system. As fewer people work and more are retired, how will we look after people? A controlled, co-ordinated and supported voluntary system will probably help to get us through the next half a century, when public services cannot get the funding that is needed because the working population is getting smaller and smaller. Apparently, 50,000 people have already volunteered for the Greek Olympics, and what we learn from such volunteer schemes can be applied outside the sporting world.

We are 10 years away from the 2012 Olympics, and if we set our minds to it, we can win this bid. I put out a call to those who are much higher up in politics than me: if we put our minds to it, we can use the Olympics as an example, and if we really work at it, the only conflict in the world in 2012 could be the competition at the Olympic games in London.

Before I finish speaking, I want to thank those who have already worked hard, such as the BOA and others, to advance the case for London. I hope that we make the bid, and that we are successful, because I believe that much more will come from that outside the world of sport.

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