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Laura Moffatt (Crawley) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller), who is entirely right in saying that this is the beginning of our opportunity to scrutinise this Bill and to celebrate. I hope that, as a Member from outside London, I can demonstrate in my contribution that we in Crawley are truly delighted that the Olympic games is coming to London and to the UK.
Most of my friends and family will find it hilarious that I am supporting a sporting activity, given that I object to walking 15 yd to the car, but I have to say that I have been completely enthused by the whole process. I am glad to say that I have form on this issue, in that, as early as the beginning of last year, I was asking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State what the Olympics will mean to towns and cities outside London. I suspect that I was flying a few kites, without really being certain that the bid would come to anything. However, I am delighted that there is evidence in Hansard that I was interested in the issue then. I remain interested in it, and committed to ensuring that not only Crawley but the rest of the UK benefits from the fantastic opportunity presented by the Olympics and Paralympics coming to this country.
It is completely fortuitous that Crawley happens, in a few weeks' time, to be opening one of the best sports facilities that this country will see. It includes a fantastic running track, a leisure centre that will be the envy of the country and a 50 m pool. The pool has been provided for the people of Crawleyit was their money, and they built it. But we can see that there are fantastic opportunities to enthuse and engage with young people.
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I am glad that my political history lies in an enlightened Labour council that has always provided first-class facilities. To see that matched now by the Government's commitment to making sure that the games come to the United Kingdom is to see something extremely special to us all.
When we were building the facilities, we were worried we would not have enough money, and I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism received a delegation from Crawley to hear about the benefits the development would have. We began then to be a bit more excited by the idea that there might be opportunities for us in our part of the world to be able to contribute. And we believe that that is what we are doing in Crawleymaking a contribution to the tremendous bid. It is not just about getting our name on the map, but about contributing to ensure that the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics will be the most successful ever, and I firmly believe that they can be.
Part of the Olympic bid involved diversity, and many hon. Members have mentioned that. For a town with almost 15 per cent. of its people coming from different ethnic minority groups, it is important that we deliver an Olympics that truly encompasses all the fantastic diversity that we have in the UK.
There are several other reasons why we are very keen. I have mentioned the enlightened approach of Crawley borough council, which has delivered fantastic athletes to the UK. Not a Member will not be aware of Daley Thompson, the fantastic decathlete who won gold in 1980 and 1984an Olympic gold medallist who came from Crawley. He was offered free facilities, in Crawley, to make sure that he was able to achieve his magnificent wins. The same goes for Mick Jones, the hammer thrower, who won gold at Manchester in 2002 and who continues to compete. A woman I am particularly proud of and know well is Jane Blackburn, who won gold for archery at the last Paralympics. The House can see we have a fantastic history of not only contributing facilities but making sure that people are developed from those facilities and will be encouraged to be able to take part in what will be a fantastic games.
I have some questions for the Minister. I am keen that Crawley plays its part, but I firmly believe that we need an orderly collection of towns and cities able to contribute and that things should not be done simply by saying, "We have better facilities, so it should be us." We should be able to look to the ODA to assess properly the facilities and opportunities that towns and cities can offer and to ensure that they are recognised in such a way that we feel secure about having been offered an opportunity.
I firmly believe that would leave a good legacy for many years. I have spoken with people who were involved in the Sydney bid, and I have family members in Sydney who are involved in the volunteer programme, which continues to this day. People are continuing with the volunteering habit that they developed in the Olympic games, and that has to be a tremendous spin-off, which we need to accept and develop, and we have heard from other hon. Members just how that can be done.
We have fantastic links. Gatwick airport is in the Crawley constituency, and we are developing plans for a university campus to offer accommodation. Having
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said all that I have said about a co-operative approach, I do not think that there can be a better town than Crawley to contribute to this fantastic games. That is precisely what I am saying to my right hon. Friend the Minister, to ensure that we are considered and that we make this truly a magnificent time for the United Kingdom.
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Con): I very much agree with what the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) had to say about the opportunity that the Olympics, as a celebration of sporting excellence, can offer us, not only in fostering sporting excellence across the United Kingdom and identifying sports people who will win medals for us, but in taking the fullest advantage of the sports facilities that different communities can offer. For London, this celebration of sporting excellence is important. We shall see many facets of sport across greater London and the games will bring many nations together. With so many different people, London offers such diversity.
One matter that has not been mentioned so far is that the bid was successful because it offered the prospect of being the greenest Olympics. Public transport will be used to allow people from across the whole of London to reach the games. It is important, especially for my constituents in south London, that the Government's very good promises to invest in the East London line and extend the trams across south London, particularly to Crystal Palace, will provide support for good green travel plans.
I am pleased that much reference has been made to the accountability of the Olympic delivery authority on the potential for cost overruns, especially in the context of the role that the Greater London Assembly has to payhas to play, but also potentially payin holding the Mayor to account and scrutinising the power given to him by Parliament to restrict that budget if he has a two-thirds majority in favour of doing so.
I made an intervention earlier in the debate about the great reluctance of the Mayor, the London Development Agency and members of the Olympic bid team to present themselves before the London Assembly when its members recently had questions to ask about the efficacy with which the bid would be taken forward. It strikes me that there will be a conflict in the procedure if the ODA refuses to appear before the Assembly when it has a role in restricting the budget that may be made available for this important initiative for the country as a whole. A sensitivity has been created by the tremendous gearing towards the London taxpayer when only 8 per cent. of the GLA's spend is funded from London council tax payers.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): Transparency is fundamental in ensuring that the finances are robustly controlled. Does my hon. Friend agree that a good way to create transparency is to allow scrutiny by Londoners and separate out the Olympic precept on council tax bills in the same way as the London Mayor's precept is spelt out?
That is a helpful suggestion. It might also be helpful to require the ODA to appear once or twice a
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year before the Assembly for scrutiny. That might be a way to facilitate understanding, rather than create potential conflict, which would not be helpful to progressing this important initiative.
I am also concerned about how the ODA will proceed on issues such as decontamination of the land, burying the power lines and any problems left over from the small nuclear power stationthe GLA raised that issue recently. All those issues have the potential to cause significant cost overruns, so it is important to have transparency on them.
The role of the London Development Agency has not been mentioned positively so far in this debate, but the agency and the GLA should be congratulated on the positive role that they have played so far in the success of the bid. The LDA will have a significant role to play in the future and I shall be interested to see what the relative roles of the agency and the GLA will be, as laid out in the schedules to the Bill. Significant powers will be given to the GLA, and on balance that should be seen as a positive development.
It is important that the LDA should also be required to report frequently on its performance with regard to the Olympic process. As someone who used to sit on the LDA board, I have noticed the significant transfers of spending from other parts of London that are not close to where the Olympics will take place, even areas of great social deprivation. Such developments should be closely followed.
In conclusion, the Olympics offer the prospect of sporting excellence, but it is also important to ensure the greatest excellence in the way in which they are delivered, because London taxpayers cannot afford any kind of cost overrun when the gearing in the London tax schemes is so high.
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