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Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford): I do not wish to dwell on the previous exchange, but I can confirm that the Secretary of State rang me at 12 o'clock and I thank her for that courtesy. She will also recall that I did at that time ask for a copy of the statement.
I wish to move on to the content of the statement. First, I wish to make it clear that we welcome the Government's decision to support a London bid for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Indeed, we have been calling for it for a long time. We strongly believe that a London Olympic games will bring incalculable benefits to this country in terms of investment, tourism, regeneration and, most of all, to British sport.
The Secretary of State will be aware that we were originally promised a decision by the end of last year, but that it has been repeatedly postponed. Of course, we understand why that was necessary, but does she agree
Does the right hon. Lady also agree that one lesson of our failure to win a World cup bid is that we need a high-profile figure to lead the bid and tour the world to make the case for London? When does she expect to announce that appointment? Why does she appear to have rejected the strong recommendation of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that a Minister, located at the heart of Government, should have overall responsibility for co-ordinating the bid? Has not the absence of such a Minister plagued other projects and will it not make it harder to achieve the cross-departmental co-ordination and agreement that will be vital for a successful games?
Does the Secretary of State accept that, if the bid is to be credible and command public support, it must be seen to have been fully costed and that, as far as possible, a thorough risk assessment has been made? So far, even the original Arup report has not been published in full. Instead, we have merely seen what the Select Committee described as an anaemic 12-page summary. Will she undertake to make available the full costings for the bid, including a breakdown both of the necessary expenditure and of the income that a successful games is likely to generate?
We shall want to study in detail the proposals for how the costs of the games will be met, but we support the principle of using the national lottery to meet at least a part of those costs. The Secretary of State will be aware, however, that the lottery is badly tarnished and its income is falling. It thus becomes all the more important that she act quickly to restore public trust. Will she tell us what estimate she has made of how much of the money from the lottery will be taken from the amount that would otherwise have gone to the original good causes? Will the Government consider reducing that impact by giving up the share of the proceeds from a special Olympics game that they would otherwise take in tax?
Does the Secretary of State agree that not only London but the whole UK will benefit from the Olympic games being held in the city? The burden should not, therefore, fall exclusively on Londoners. We shall want to study carefully the detail of her proposal for a council tax precept and how that figure was arrived at, but will she immediately tell us how long the £20 council tax increase will last? Does she accept that it is only fair that those who have the most to gain from a London Olympics should make the greatest contribution to the cost? Will she tell us how she expects to justify a council tax supplement for those living in boroughs on the other side of London from the Lea valley, who will receive nothing like the same benefit? Does she agree that it would be unacceptable for the Olympics to be used as an excuse for further tax increases for either London's hard-pressed businesses or its residents, and that any additional liability must rest with the Treasury?
Does the Secretary of State agree that if a bid is to be successful, we must demonstrate that the necessary improvements in the transport infrastructure will be in place? Does she think that that should include the
Will the right hon. Lady say more about what the Government intend should be the legacy of the games? By then, London will already have a brand new stadium at Wembley. Is it the intention that, after the games, there will be two major stadiums in London, one of which will be exclusively for athletics, or will another purpose be found for it?
If our bid is successful, the games will come to London in nine years' time. By then, we could be in the second term of the next Conservative Government. The Secretary of State has accepted that the attitude of the Opposition is an important factor for the credibility of a bid. Earlier this year, she said that she would consider our suggestion for a cross-party ministerial group. Is she willing to establish such a body or, if not, what mechanism does she propose to set up to ensure that all parties can participate fully in the preparations for a bid?
It has taken a long time for us to get off the starting blocks, but the Conservatives are delighted that the Government have finally committed to a bid. We look forward to working with them and the British Olympic Association over the coming months to maximise the chances of its success.
Tessa Jowell: Having listened carefully to the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) saying that he is in favour of the bid and supports it, I wonder what his questions would have been if he had been against it. I have never heard 12 such sceptical questions. He even finds it difficult to take himself seriously when he talks about the prospect of a Conservative Government.
I shall deal first with the question about timing. The hon. Gentleman shows some ignorance of the Olympic process. It is clear that Paris took longer than London to decide whether to announce its bid. When the president of the International Olympic Committee spoke to the Prime Minister this morning, he commended the Government on the rigour of our approach and said that he could not fault it. We have made a decision based on all the necessary and available evidence.
The hon. Gentleman asked when we would appoint the bid chair. There is urgency about that. He and the House should be reassured that work continued to proceed during the period when we were considering the case for a bid, and I hope that it will be possible to make an announcement about the key appointment of the bid chair in the next few weeks, and certainly before the end of June.
It is important to remind the hon. Gentleman that, first, the proposal has been fully costed and, secondly, that it has been subject to preliminary analysis by the Office of Government Commerce to assess risk. He received a briefing on the Arup costs from my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport.
Instead of carping and talking down the national lottery, I wish that the Opposition would talk up the lottery as the Government do. There is a difference between public money and the public's money. The public's money is lottery money, which will come from people living all over the country, inspired by the prospect of the Olympic dream.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the impact on good causes. We have taken that analysis very seriously indeed. The figures show that between now and 2009, there is likely to be an attrition of 4 per cent. to other good causes through the introduction of a new dedicated lottery game. That impact is validated by the National Lottery Commission. For the three years between 2009 until the games, the impact could be greaterup to 11 or 12 per cent. All the decisions are subject to review, depending on the performance of the lottery and so forth, because all the assessments have been made at the prudent end. The council tax precept will run for 25 years, on the basis that borrowing extends to £625 million.
On transport, we have always made it clear that a decision to bid for and host the Olympics is not dependent on Crossrail. As the Secretary of State for Transport would say, if he were in the Chamber, even if Crossrail got the go-ahead tomorrow it would not be ready in time for 2012.
On the legacy, we are absolutely determined that an Olympic stadium will not become a white elephant, as other Olympic stadiums have. That is why, as the hon. Gentleman must be aware, we have already begun discussions about a potential anchor tenant.
I hope that I have done justice to the hon. Gentleman's questions and that we can count on the unequivocal, unswerving support of his party, because that will substantially reinforce and strengthen the chances of our winning in 2005.
Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on an excellent statement and pay tribute to her thoroughness in the promotion of a bid. I believe that our bid will be stronger for the time that we have taken to prepare for the statement today.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that among the issues that must be at the heart of the bid team's work from now on is how an Olympic bid can be used to drive up participation in sport; to improve our sports facilities, many of which, especially in London, need renewal and refurbishment; and to develop our most talented athletes to be medal winners in 2012? If an all-party group of Back-Bench Members were formed to explore those and the other challenges facing the bid team, would she be willing to work with it?