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Mr. Walker: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be nice if we took the Olympics across the country and perhaps had dedicated sports centres and training centres that would allow the whole country to join in the Olympic year. Is that the sort of thing he is considering?
Derek Wyatt: It will not be for me to consider, but last week we had a debate in Westminster Hall on elite sport and, when the Minister for Sport and Tourism replied to the debate, he said that that evening he was seeing Charles Allen, who was in charge of the nations and regions part of the Olympic bid. We are all trying to understand how we can participate. For example, I think that my constituency has the second-best windsurfing in the world, in Sheerness, but of course we do not have a hotel facility for 80 people. Even if we built a hotel for 80 people, we would not be able to use it as a hotel once the windsurfing teams had gone. We do not want a white hotel. We want some system that will help us understand. If we want windsurfing, we must approach the international body first, then the British Olympic Committee and the British windsurfing organisation. We do not have the experience or expertise to understand the decision-making process, nor do we have the money. We are trying to understand what we can do. I hope the Minister will say in his winding-up speech that there will be a one-day conference so that all our chief executives, not just of the RDAs and councils, but of sporting bodies, can reach a better understanding of how we can participate.
It would be good if the RDAs could be challenged to do an Olympic audit. It would be instructive to know how many swimming pools, tennis courts or equestrian centres we have that are of Olympic standard. If they are not suitable, our councils must find the money to build them so that we can attract those sports. If we do not do that, Paris will, and so will Brussels, Hamburg and Berlin. We are competing for overseas teams not just inside the United Kingdom, but across western Europe. Hon. Members will remember that our Athens team took accommodation in Cyprus and our team to the
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Sydney Olympics took accommodation in Brisbane for two years. That is big business and we need to understand how best we can participate.
The Olympics could be a huge catalyst for sport. There are three things that we do not have in the UK: there is no sports think-tank, there is no archive of every piece of sports film ever shot, and there is no sports museum. If there is some way that we can lasso the Olympics system in order to upgrade sport to the prominence that it should have but has never had, this is the one opportunity to do that. With regard to sport archive development, will the Minister convene a meeting with the British Library to ask it to serve as the digital infrastructure for the United Kingdom and make the Olympics its first priority so that we can gather all the films that have been made about sport in the United Kingdom? Because the British Library is the best in the world, perhaps the project could be extended to garner sports film from the whole world.
As I have said before, the film of the 1948 Olympics, which was made on nitrate, is three hours long and has never been shown on televisionI am still praying that BBC3 or BBC4 can find the timewas saved and digitised only because two people spotted it in a can about eight years ago in the British Film Institute library. We must not lose such material.
Another aspect that has not been discussed because it is not entirely covered by the Bill is the legacy that we leave the world from the games. Those of us who celebrated the millennium remember 300,000 people in Pall Mall. Why can only 80,000 go to the opening ceremony? Why can the celebration not take place all over London? Why should it not be celebrated in every football stadium? Would it not be wonderful if, like the opening of the millennium celebrations which started with Sydney harbour bridge being lit up with fireworks, we lit up all the cities around the world that have hosted the Olympic games, sharing an opening ceremony with all those cities and bringing a family of cities into the Olympic movement?
We should leave something so that people could say, "Ah, yes, London did that", much as we did in 1908 when we created the marathon. We also created the winter games in London in 1908 by freezing a swimming pool in the middle of the athletics pitch and skating on it. That eventually led to the winter games of the Olympic movement. In 1948 we introduced the photo finish and starting blocks. We have contributed many things as legacy, but they are tiny. It would be good if we contributed something major.
When de Coubertin set the marker for the games in 1896, it was for sport and arts. There were gold medals for poetry and music. We have a Nobel prize for literature, and it would be great if we could return to some aspects of the creative part of the Olympics. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham said that 120 nationalities would participate. Would it not be spectacular if there was some way in which we could celebrate their cultures and our culture together, beyond just sport?
Once again, I commend everyone who has made this possible. It is the most exciting thing that will ever happen in my time. My son called me from school to say,
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"Dad, dad, we can go." He is only 13, and we do go to lots of sporting events. I said, "Son, I am not going to take you, I am going to watch you."
Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech to the House today. First, I add my congratulations to London on its successful bid to host both the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2012. I am sure that London's Olympic bidding team must have taken great encouragement and inspiration from Manchester's tremendous success in hosting the Commonwealth games back in 2002. Members from across the north-west region will surely agree that those games were not just a great sporting spectacle, but succeeded in bringing together communities, including my own, in a way that few other events can do. The residents of Cheadle made up a considerable proportion of the vast army of volunteers whose selfless contributions made the Manchester games such a success. The community spirit and enthusiasm shown three years ago by my constituents is typical of the local population, whom I am privileged to represent.
It is also an immense privilege to succeed my friend and colleague, Patsy Calton, as Member of Parliament for Cheadle. Hon. Members will no doubt recall the courage and determination that my predecessor demonstrated only a matter of weeks ago in this very House. Having known Patsy for many years, I know that her qualities as a person and as a Member of Parliament were not defined only by the bravery and commitment that she displayed throughout her illness. She was an inspiration to, and a great servant of, the community in so many other ways. The drive and tenacity that she showed when assisting her constituents was matched only by her attention to detail and her sharp mind, which she employed in the House and in Committee. Her sheer work rate on behalf of the people of Cheadle will be celebrated for many years to come within the constituency and beyond. She came closer than most to bridging the gap between being a champion of the local community and a politician of national standing.
Let me take a moment or two to explain a little more about the constituency of Cheadle. It is located on the southern tip of the Greater Manchester conurbation, and many local residents consider their area to be part of Cheshire, as the constituency historically was. Even the briefest tour of my constituency amply demonstrates why residents feel this way. The word "leafy", used frequently to describe the constituency, simply does not begin to do justice to Cheadle. We are blessed with magnificent, award-winning parks and nature reserves, such as Bruntwood park and Gatley Carrs, and tree-lined streets throughout the local area. I would advise any hon. Member fortunate enough to be visiting the area that there are few better days out to be had than taking a trip to Bramhall hall, a magnificent 14th-century manor house and its surrounding park.
A number of hon. Members have probably visited my constituency over the past few weeks, and I hope that they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did. However, I assume that Members of the party to my right are unlikely to be putting in an appearance again for some considerable time.
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It is not just the precious green belt and open space that make our area so special. We have a number of district centres, all with unique characters, which serve to provide a network of villages and community centres across the constituency. Cheadle village, Cheadle Hulme and Bramhall are all distinct local centres with a range of amenities but which also face constant challenges from out-of-town retailers and other pressures.
Cheadle is considered a prosperous area and the statistics appear to bear that out. An initial assessment would show that local people, in general, are highly educated, highly skilled and relatively highly paid, particularly in a regional and sub-regional contexta typically affluent suburb, some might say. That broad-brush approach, however, does not tell the whole story. It does not, for example, take account of the large number of pensioner households in every part of the constituency. Nor does it take account of the pockets of deprivation that can be hidden from Government funding formulae. It also fails to recognise the needs and expectations of the community.
The dire funding arrangements for local services are the topic of debate locally. As leader of the local council for the past three years, I can say that there is a certain grim predictability about the financial settlement for local government every year. It leaves the council that is responsible for so many vital local services in an unenviable position, as both a low grant and a high council tax authority. It means that a two-pensioner household in Heald Green can end up paying more council tax than, say, a Cabinet Minister is expected to pay in a different authority area, although our council spends less per head than any other Greater Manchester authority. Moreover, all the evidence suggests that the situation is likely to be exacerbated by council tax revaluation.
A pupil at King's Way school in Gatley in my constituency is funded at around £1,000 per year less than a pupil at a school just over a mile away, in neighbouring Manchester. Local schools already achieve excellent results, but so much extra potential could be released if we benefited from a fairer funding regime. All the signs suggest, however, that the inequality will only get worse unless something is done.
The position is replicated across a range of local services. Indeed, not long ago my predecessor had to fight tooth and nail to retrieve £1 million of funding for Stepping Hill hospital that was rightfully its money. As for crime and antisocial behaviour, we are all familiar with the raft of legislation that has emanated from the Chamber in recent years. The sad reality is that, during the same period, my constituency has seen the closure of one police station and the failure to establish a long-promised police post in Cheadle Hulme to replace it. There is no shortage of legislation, but there is a pressing need for more police officers to enforce the law. The principle of fairness underpinned the Liberal Democrat election campaign in May, and I intend to pursue it in respect of the funding of local services in Cheadle.
I am sure I am not the only Member whose constituents need and deserve a vastly improved transport network. Fortunately, my constituency has a coherent strategy as part of the south-east Manchester
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multi-modal study. The strategy includes completion of the Manchester airport eastern link road, as well as construction of the Poynton bypass and the A6 Hazel Grove bypass. The current road network, involving the infamous "road to nowhere"the airport link roadonly serves to funnel traffic on to suburban roads in the Heald Green, Woodford and Bramhall areas, where the infrastructure is totally unsuited to coping with the volume.
I am not the first Member for Cheadle to refer in a maiden speech to the importance of delivering the A555 relief road scheme, but I hope for the sake of my constituents, and indeed neighbouring constituents, that I am the last.
While I intend all those serious issues and many more during the time for which local people allow me to serve in this role, I consider myself one of the most fortunate Members in the House in being given the opportunity to represent such an attractive, confident and cohesive community. It is therefore with sadness for the loss of my friend, but also with immense pride, that I have the privilege to serve the people of Cheadle. The constituency has seen some of the benefits that a major sporting event such as the Olympics can have for a community, in so many different ways. Other Members have said the same this afternoon. With careful planning, I hope that London can repeat that success in 2012 not only for the capital, but for our country as a whole.
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