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4.31 pm

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): I shall confine my remarks exclusively to the part of the Bill that deals with the Olympic lottery fund, but I wish first to thank the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), who is unfortunately no longer in his place, for previewing my press release so significantly. I am sure that members of the press are already poring over every word after his thrilling preview.

I have no problem with London hosting the Olympic games. In fact, I hope that London secures the games for 2012. That would be great for London, but my problem is that I do not believe that the rest of the nation should pay such a significant part of the cost of the games. We certainly should not pay through our good causes and our charities, but that is exactly what will happen if the Bill becomes law.

Mr. Page: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that people have a choice about whether to buy an Olympic ticket? If they do not agree with the bid, they can buy an ordinary lottery ticket. His argument does not stand up.

Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but I do not agree that people buy lottery tickets

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on the basis of the type of game. They buy tickets because they want to play the lottery. Money will be lost, as we have already heard from the Government, and an assessment of the amount has already been made.

If London wants the games, London should pay for the games. It is not as if London is short of a bob or two. It is the most prosperous city in Europe. It has more millionaires per square mile than anywhere else in Europe. In the City of London, it has the most dynamic and prosperous financial market outside New York, and it can more than afford to pay its way. In gross domestic product alone, it outstrips anything in the regions or nations of the UK. It even outstrips some of our allies in Europe. For example, the GDP of London is more than that of Austria, Sweden, Finland and Belgium. Nor is London short-changed in the public money that it already secures. For example, 80 per cent. of all public spending on transport is in London and the south-east. The cost of extending the Jubilee line was £3.5 billion and the overspend alone on that project was more than the spending on the transport infrastructure in the rest of the United Kingdom that year.

Mr. Love: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that London makes a net contribution to the rest of the United Kingdom of some £20 billion a year and it is proposed that Londoners should make a specific contribution to any successful Olympic bid through their council tax. Is he asking for even more?

Pete Wishart: The short answer is yes. As London is the most prosperous city in Europe, I maintain that it can more than afford to pay for the games. Londoners will pay, but London will accrue benefits from the games.

London's claim that it does not receive its fair share of public expenditure was knocked on the head by Professor Maclean of Oxford university, who found that Londoners received £5,177 per head, compared with £4,724 for people in Yorkshire, and that is only identifiable public expenditure. When we enter the realms of non-identifiable public expenditure—the amount spent on Departments, Whitehall, the BBC, the quangos and the headquarters of many large multinationals—London does very well. That money is unnoticed and unaccounted. Why should the rest of the UK pay for an Olympic games that London can more than afford to finance?

The proposal is based on the spurious assumption that the games will be good both for London and for the rest of the UK. I have no idea on what that assumption is based although I have no doubt whatever that the games will be very good for London and the south-east. However, it is debatable whether there will be benefits and advantages for the rest of the UK.

The Government have already commissioned the engineering consultants, Arup, to assess the benefits of the games for London. Arup concluded that the regeneration of east London would create 3,000 jobs. There would be a further £70 million benefit from the fiscal impact of growth in the local economy, and as much as £507 million extra could be generated from tourism for London.

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I have seen no quantifiable study of the benefit of the London games to Scotland, Wales and the rest of the UK regions. So far in Scotland, all that has happened is that Barbara Cassani has been running around our chambers of commerce and attending business breakfasts telling us that the games will be good for Scotland, so we had better get our finger out or we will lose out. She made the spurious claim that Queensland did very well from the Sydney Olympics, yet she failed to mention that the other Australian states were extremely unhappy and lamented the loss of so much tourist traffic during the Sydney Olympics.

We are also given the sop that Scotland may host the football games if the Olympics are held in London. Well, whoopeedoo, Madam Deputy Speaker. Unless the Olympic football tournament changes into something remotely interesting between now and 2012, it will not be worth a hill of beans. A local derby in my constituency between the mighty Brechin and the mighty Forfar would be a bigger draw than Azerbaijan versus the Cayman Islands. We do not even have a United Kingdom football team, although I am pleased about that—a United Kingdom football team would be no good at all for us in Scotland. I can just imagine the UK team in their Union jack strips running on to the pitch at Celtic park. What a raucous response they would get.

The total funding package for the games is to be £2.375 billion; £875 million of that will be borne by London through a £20 increase in council tax and there will be a contribution of about £250 million from the London Development Agency. However, half that money will be paid by the rest of the nation, through our good causes and charities. True, London will pay extra council tax, but we shall pay through our good causes and that is an unacceptable way to pay for the London Olympic games.

It is estimated that Scotland will lose about £41.8 million of lottery funding for its good causes and charities. That will inevitably lead to long-term damage to Scotland's charity work. A small amount of money goes a long way in a small community, and a lot of good causes can benefit from £41 million. I do not know how the feel-good factor from the London Olympics will help charity work in Scotland.

Voluntary organisations in Scotland have expressed massive concern about what is being suggested. The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations stated:

I hope that answers the point made by the hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page). There are huge concerns about the effects of a London Olympic bid on our good causes and charities.

In the past few months, we have learned that not only will we pay for the Olympic games through our good causes and charities but also that the UK taxpayer will have to underwrite the total cost—to any amount. We shall have to underwrite the games at any cost, even if it exceeds £2.375 billion.

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In the DCMS response to the paper on the London Olympic bid, the Government said that, in the unlikely event of the games needing more than £2.375 billion, the extra burden should be shared between the Mayor of London, through the council tax precept, and the lottery fund. Now, all of a sudden, we find in an internal memorandum that was rushed through just before Christmas that the UK taxpayer will underwrite the total cost. When was that decision taken? Why has the underwriting of the Olympic games changed? The Minister owes us an explanation because, for example, the New South Wales government, not the Australian taxpayer, underwrote the Sydney Olympics. There is no obligation to make the national taxpayer pay for the games. According to the IOC rules, a city government could do so and London should therefore be the authority that underwrites the Olympic games.

The Government tell us that the cost is unlikely to exceed £2.375 billion. I am a Scottish Member—it might surprise hon. Members to learn that fact—and when the House decided that the Scottish Parliament would be assembled disastrously at the Holyrood site, we were told that the cost would not exceed £40 million. It is now £450 million. We also have the example of the disastrous millennium dome. The UK taxpayer is still paying for the mistakes of that massive white elephant that sits by the Thames. The simple fact is that our recent history on large infrastructure projects is not very good. Surely, if London gets the games and it all goes pear-shaped financially—there is a very good chance of that happening—the general taxpayer will, once again, have to bail out London.

I return, however, to the basic, central premise, which is that the games will be good for the whole UK. We are told, for example, that the games will boost sports at local and grass-roots level, but the simple and surely obvious fact is that, if the money is diverted from our grass-root projects supported by lottery funding into large infrastructure projects in London, those grass-roots project will inevitably suffer. I can see no other consequence.

In Scotland, we have massive health and lifestyle problems. Much of our population is obese and, unfortunately, many of our children are obese, yet for years we have been selling off community and school recreational facilities throughout our land to bolster our public finances. Money needs to be invested in our grass-roots projects, not in massive infrastructure projects in London. Our team sports are in decline. We have nothing in the way of youth academies. We do not invest in community sports facilities. Again, I maintain that, if money goes into the London Olympic bid, it will take money away from good causes and charities in Scotland and, once again, those Scottish charities will be damaged.

I conclude by saying that I hope that London is successful. I wish London all the best—[Interruption]. I mean that most sincerely. I really do hope that London secures the bid, but London is the most prosperous city in Europe. London can more than afford to pay for the games. If London wants the games, London should pay. Unfortunately, if the Bill suggests anything other than that, we will have to oppose it.

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