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Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): Does not my hon. Friend agree that as Londoners are sharing the risk of overruns, a portion of the revenue gains that eventually come to the Treasury ought to flow back to London to cover Londoners' investment in the games? The Treasury is a winner, but it ought to be willing to share some of that win and cover London's costs, too.

Mr. Foster: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, but answering it would be beyond my pay grade. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) might have a few comments to make in respect of that proposal, and I suggest that she take the issue up with him, rather than persuading me to risk his ire by responding.

One thing is absolutely clear: London council tax payers still have a mechanism to exert that financial pressure and to keep the costs as low as possible. The Government, who are currently not making a contribution, but will gain considerable revenue as a result of the games, also demonstrate that they, too, will exercise pressure to keep the cost down. That is shown by the welcome decision by the Secretary of State, the London organising committee for the Olympic games and others to reject the proposals for the swimming pool complex. Evidence therefore already shows that measures are being taken to keep the price down.

It would be wrong, however, to put ourselves in a position whereby London council tax payers are left in uncertainty about their financial responsibilities. They are rightly being asked to contribute to the cost of the games because of the significant benefits that London will gain, but it is equally right, as the new clause proposes, to cap the contribution so that London tax payers know what they are paying for and for how long. That should be the end of the matter.

Chris Bryant : I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). However, I noted that he referred to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) as an especially fine former mayoral candidate but did not describe the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) in the same terms. I do not know whether there is some split in the Liberal Democrat party or whether the hon. Member for Bath is trying to curry favour with his president.
 
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As the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) said, the new clause is predicated on the belief that there will a cost overrun. He gave various reasons for that, such as land values and added security, and argued that those factors have not yet been properly costed. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) denounced his nation's sporting prowess in declaring that there would be an overrun.

If one considers every other country in the world that has held the Olympics, one realises that, when Opposition politicians tried to make political capital by starting to talk about overruns, they made them a political inevitability. The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport examined all those countries in detail and found that that was the case. I therefore hope that the debate will not perpetuate the canard that the games must necessarily overrun. The bid model was put together on an extremely robust financial basis and tight analysis was made not only of security and land value issues, and how they might change, but—perhaps most significantly—London Transport's financial needs.

At one point, inadequate provision had been made to ensure that public transport needs in London would be met, but, following the first IOC visit, when its members commented on that, substantial and sufficient adjustments were made.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): I accept the hon. Gentleman's point, but if there is an overrun, how would he feel if the people of Rhondda were asked to chip in to pay for it?

Chris Bryant: I was about to deal with that point. I suspect that there would not be much support in the country for taking more money out of lottery funds in the case of an overrun, not least because, if we have no decently funded Olympic athletes, there is not much point in holding the Olympics in this country. I hope that Rhys Jones, the grandson of my predecessor but two, Alec Jones, will be an Olympic athlete in the triathlon in the 2012 Olympics. I hope that there will be a proper funding stream for elite athletes, including those in the Rhondda and the rest of Wales, in Scotland and in Bath. That is why I do not support raiding the lottery.

I do not want a significant extra amount of money to be charged to the taxpayer in the case of an overrun. However, it is wrong to establish a fixed figure as the fair share, which the hon. Member for Bath mentioned, that the London taxpayer should pay as opposed to a share—in other words, a percentage. If there is an overrun, I believe that London taxpayers should pay a fair share of it, rather than a fixed amount, which is proposed in the new clause.

I say to the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent that it is, I think, the first time that I have heard an amendment spoken to on the basis that the other place will implement it anyway. That is an undemocratic and rather strange way to proceed with our business. It is an important principle that we have our debates in this place first and resolve them, and then subsequently reflect on what the other place decides to do or not to do.
 
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We have heard several times since the general election that the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats say that all the previous conventions on how we do business between this place and the other place have been swept aside. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was slightly more sweeping today.

Hugh Robertson: I was simply making the point that if there is not some movement, and bearing in mind that there is cross-party support, there is a danger that their lordships will overturn that which is proposed. Bearing in mind that there has been cross-party support throughout the Bill's passage, I seek to avoid that opportunity.

Chris Bryant: I still think that the hon. Gentleman is coming remarkably close to threatening that whatever happens in this democratically elected Chamber, the Opposition will seek to overturn the will of this Chamber in another place. That is unfortunate. The argument has not been made for the new clause and I hope that it will fall.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) and agree with what he is trying to achieve through the new clause.

Many of us who are sports lovers in London have faced the difficulty of the half-hearted and perhaps lukewarm support for the Olympic bid. I was delighted to see the scenes on 6 July, but I have expressed concerns over many years about the costs of the Olympic games. I have always felt that the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is likely to issue a blank cheque. I put that proposition to the Secretary of State a year or two ago, and it was pooh-poohed, but I fear that that will be the reality.

Overall expenditure is supposed to be £2.375 billion. A robust case was made by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) that there will not necessarily be an overrun. He is right to say that we should not start in a negative frame of mind, but experience shows that there have been significant overruns. Clearly, we hope that there will be great commercial gains, which will ensure that quite a lot of money comes into central coffers, but we should recall that Sydney's cost overrun increased almost threefold from £1 billion to £2.8 billion. That must be of great concern to us all—Londoners and everyone else in the United Kingdom—because it is in all our interests not to have an overrun.

The big issue is that, in essence, London council tax payers will be subject to a massive multiplier effect. The overall costings of £2.375 billion presume £1.5 billion of lottery funding. I entirely understand what the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said but I do not necessarily share his reluctance to see the cap lifted.

At present, it is suggested that £250 million could come from the London Development Agency and £625 million from the London council tax payer. If the overall cost is not £2.375 billion and is, let us say, £3 billion, that will in essence be equivalent to a 100 per cent. multiplier effect on the London council tax payer. That is how the additional £625 million will be raised.
 
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It is to be hoped that we will not have a Sydney-type massive cost overrun of perhaps £2 billion, because that additional £2 billion would fall on London council tax payers to pay. That would be entirely unacceptable. London council tax payers would effectively be paying for the blank cheque to which I referred in the House only about 18 months ago.

5.15 pm

Richard Ottaway : May I assist my hon. Friend with his figures? The back of a fag packet calculation that I have done is that an overrun of £0.5 billion would add £140 to the bill for every band D household.


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