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14 Jan 2003 : Column 639—continued

Mrs. Lait: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wyatt: No, I will not give way.

In the next couple of weeks, an education paper will be published. Many of the university colleges in London are in a mess, and many do not have student accommodation. The need to provide accommodation in the event of a successful Olympic bid gives us the opportunity to give Imperial college, University college, or Queen Mary college a new campus site. After the games, students could use that accommodation. We would need to find a working campus after the games, and the greatest legacy that we could provide would be to give Imperial college university status, and the chance to be as good as the great Massachusetts institute of technology.

We cannot do these things in two weeks. We cannot bully the Government into saying on 31 January, XOkay, we are going to bid." We need to look rationally at the alternatives and the costs of the investment.

How do we cost the bid? I have a couple of ideas. In July 1997, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor created what he called a domesday book. What is in it? I could probably find #1 billion by privatising Channel 4, and another #4 billion by privatising BBC 1. I am sure that the book contains 10 properties worth at least #1 billion.

The Wall street market is up 20 per cent. this week. It is said that if that market rises in the first week of January, it will end the next year another 20 per cent. higher. The City of London is recovering too, so the price of projects from the Chancellor's domesday book would be higher than what could be achieved at present. I should like some of what is listed in the book to be costed.

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Who will own the games? As I said, a bid from north Kent would mean that there was only one owner. That should be taken into consideration.

Finally, the Select Committee noted in its 1999 report on international events that such events require a Minister of Cabinet rank. That is most important: we used to have half a Minister acting in that role with the present Minister for Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney), and he did a fantastic job. We need someone else to do the same job.

I want us to bid for the Olympics. I do not think that we have an alternative on 30 or 31 January, but we must be careful about rationalising the costs and looking at the opportunities open to us.

6.31 pm

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Both personally and as deputy chairman of the all-party sports committee, I am totally and unequivocally in favour of a 2012 bid. I was delighted by the passionate speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and by the support that he received from all the Conservative Members who have spoken. As my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) said, that contrasted strikingly with the downbeat way in which the Secretary of State read from her brief. She accentuated the negative: if that was her being enthusiastic, I should hate to hear her damn something with faint praise. If she is meant to be a champion of sport, I am fearful of what the Cabinet will do.

I want to accentuate the positive in my speech. Hon. Members of all parties know of my passion for sport. I was never fortunate enough to be able to compete in an Olympic games, but I was lucky enough to do quite a lot of competitive swimming in my teens, including at international level. My coach was Charlie Wilson, who took the British swimming team to the 1972 Olympics and who remained involved in international swimming through 1976. I was lucky enough to host him at this House only a few weeks ago, after his recent recovery from a stroke. He is long past normal retirement age, but still coaches swimmers.

The captain of my swimming club, the Bedford Modernians, was the captain of the British Olympic swimming team at the 1972 games. I have seen what Olympians can do, as have all those in the House and outside it who have worked with them. I have seen the enormously positive effects that sport can have in turning around people's lives. That cannot be measured on a balance sheet. One cannot measure the positives accruing to the Australians from the success of their Olympic games.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Before that Committee has started taking evidence, he has already told The Daily Telegraph that he opposes a UK bid. It is beyond me to know how he can separate his role as Select Committee Chairman from his personal opinions. It is scandalous that so much doom and gloom should come from leading Labour Members.

The Government have set certain tests. I hate the word Xwinnability", which is an abuse of the English language, but the Government are right to say that there

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would have to be a legacy from the games. We must also look at the financing that would be necessary from now on.

The Government say that they do not want to bid unless they can win, and that they cannot fix the result. The Prime Minister is the antithesis of Bob the Builder—with him it is not, XCan we fix it? Yes, we can", but, XCan we fix it? No, I don't think so, so let's not go in for it." The Prime Minister should not approach the matter in that way. He is worried about his place in history, but if the bid were made and won, the games would not be held until long after his time. He is really worried about making an unsuccessful bid in what may well turn out to be an election year.

All Members must be very conscious of the fact that far more people in this country care about sport than about politics. None of us should forget people's passion for sport and the good that it can do in turning the young away from the drugs subculture, encouraging them to keep fit, reducing obesity and saving money for the health service. Such benefits cannot be valued in the Red Book. It is vital that we give proper weight to those factors as well as so-called winnability.

In the few moments I have left now that our speaking time has been reduced, I want to mention extra ways in which funds can be raised. I said in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale that we should think of Olympic successes, starting with Los Angeles, and the amount of additional money that has been put into tourism as a result. The hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) said that the costs always go up and the income figures always prove to be inflated, but that is not true: although the costs tend to increase with inflation, estimates of the income generated by recent Olympic events have been too low.

Various commentators have drawn attention to sources of income that have not even been considered in the Government's report. The possibility of re-energising the lottery through money provided by a successful Olympic bid should not be underestimated. The columnist and distinguished former editor, Donald Trelford, has pointed out that, unfortunately, the lottery has lost #1 million a week because of controversial—and, in my view, wrong-headed—decisions that allowed the community fund to provide grants for things that were not worthy of grants. But if we said that the lottery would support a successful British Olympic bid, it could indeed be re-energised.

There is a lot of business support out there. The London bid for 2012 has already received support from the London Business Board, a coalition consisting of CBI London, the London chamber of commerce and industry and London First. Unprecedentedly, those bodies have sent the Prime Minister a joint letter pointing out that the bid represents a Xunique opportunity" for London. They say:

A DCMS official spokesman has told the press, XWe are worried. What the Government is keen to avoid is starting with a low figure and then seeing it rise

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dramatically so people end up thinking, 'Oh Christ, where is the money coming from?'" Apart from the fact that that is a disgraceful thing for a Government spokesman to say to the press, I think that we can give answers on where the money is coming from. It can come from business and from re-energisation of the lottery.

Let me end with a constituency point. Only one venue would be the same in the 2012 Olympics as it was in 1948. The only place where the Olympic shooting event could happen is Bisley, a range that is partly in my constituency and partly in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins).

It is vital that we take at face value the words of the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt). An Olympic bid can help the whole country, including my constituency, which would be one of the venues. I unequivocally support the bid; I only wish the Government showed real signs of doing so as well, but I do not think that they do.

6.38 pm

Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): Like the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), I am enthusiastic about the bid, but I think the hon. Gentleman did its prospects no favours with his weasel words attacking my right hon. and hon. Friends for the way in which they have conducted the debate and the discussions in Government. I think they were entirely right to visit countries that have hosted the Olympics in the past and to assess the benefits, and I also think they have been entirely and consistently clear about the criteria they would use to decide whether a bid should go ahead.

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt), I do not support the case for north Kent or indeed the case for Manchester. I am a passionate supporter of the case for London, which would accelerate the regeneration of east London—so long the poor relation of our capital. It would stimulate new investment in housing, which London and the south-east desperately need. It would also stimulate new investment in transport capacity and sporting facilities, which the Commonwealth games helped deliver for Manchester.

Before the last election, the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport published an excellent report on the decline of swimming in the United Kingdom, highlighting the decline in the number of swimming pools in London. Holding the Olympic games here would help generate investment in grass-roots sporting facilities, which London is crying out for.

Above all, the case for holding the Olympic games in London rests on the prospect of huge benefits to British business, from engineering and construction to tourism and conference industries. It would provide a powerful opportunity to stimulate new pride in London and Britain and to foster a new sense of ambition for many of the communities that would benefit directly from the Olympic games.

I recognise that the case for a London bid is finely poised and that the most obvious argument against it, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, is the cost. There are a number of estimates—will it cost #1.8 billion,

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#2.5 billion, #4.5 billion or even #5.4 billion, which I saw flagged up in The Sunday Times only this week? The one financial appraisal made, which has been conducted by Arup, estimates that the net cost of holding the Olympic games here would be half a billion pounds. I am not an accountant, and I am not an advocate for Arup. Its figures may be underestimated, but those who criticise the Arup report should publish their assessment of why Arup has it so badly wrong. If Arup is wrong about the costs, it may also be wrong about the benefits of the games. As I said in my intervention on the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), Sydney benefited from #2 billion-worth of in-bound tourism and the net economic impact of the games on Barcelona was some #11 billion.

It is worth stating that Arup did not carry out its analysis in an ivory tower but before a reference group, which included some hard-headed civil servants from the Treasury, no less. Its analysis includes considerable cost overruns in the last three years when most of the construction work would take place. It is also worth highlighting the fact that the highest costs will inevitably be for the infrastructure—the stadiums, the swimming pools and warm-up tracks that will be necessary for the Olympic games to take place. However, those facilities offer a benefit long before and long after the Olympic games take place.

Some people, thinking of Picketts Lock and Wembley, fear that London cannot get its act together and deliver the games. However, London agencies regularly work together to deliver ceremonial and sporting events, and proper facilities for our tourists. To be fair to Manchester, the fact that the games held there were so successful is a powerful reminder that Britain could bid successfully for and deliver the Olympic games.

I agree strongly with the point of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton and of my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey. We need a Minister for international events, of Cabinet rank, to organise the bid and work alongside Ministers in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Manchester showed, albeit on a smaller scale, that the UK can be appealing.

The worst argument that I have heard against an Olympic bid is the suggestion that London—and, implicitly, Britain—does not need the Olympics. We are, after all, one of the world's great cities already and, unlike Sydney, we do not need to use the games to advertise the benefits of our city, because tourists flood here already. According to this argument, east London needs regeneration but the Olympic games would simply confuse or delay the plans that are already in place. Proud Londoner that I am, I think that such an argument reeks of complacency about our city. In a global culture, where information, money, jobs and business are moving in and out of countries ever more easily, the idea that we should pass up the opportunity to showcase our capital and our country to a massive international audience at their time of maximum receptiveness to the case for London and for the UK seems little short of lunacy. The Government could make no greater statement of intent about the case for regenerating east London than to launch a bid for the Olympic games.

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There are people who say, rightly, that we might not win the bid and that New York may stand a better chance, given the emotion generated after 11 September, and the financial case that could be made. Paris, too, may have a better chance than us. The competition will certainly be tough. We may not win but we have a realistic chance of doing so; no less a figure than Jacques Rogge, the head of the International Olympic Committee, has made that clear. We may not start as favourite in the bidding competition but, given the British media's love of building a pedestal for its favourite projects or people and then tearing it down, perhaps that is no bad thing.

We need to be realistic with the people of Stratford, London and the wider UK about the prospects for an Olympic bid. A well planned, albeit unsuccessful, bid could still help to accelerate investment and regeneration in a part of the UK that has been crying out for that for much of the past 30 years. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will succeed in persuading the Cabinet to back the bid.

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