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Mr. Foster: I shall leave the Minister to comment on the Government amendments and concentrate on amendment No. 15.

All hon. Members will be aware that from the beginning we have wanted every nation and region of this country to participate in and benefit from the Olympic and Paralympic games of 2012.

We appear to have done much business in Committee on 18 October, as every reference I have made to Committee has been from that date. It is therefore appropriate to cite the Minister's comments on this issue:

We all agree with that. In Loughborough, Bath and Sheffield, we are all looking forward to all the nations and regions benefiting from the games. For those of us who live in England, the regional development agencies will have a crucial role to play in helping to facilitate the participation of the regions and sub-regions. Therefore, nobody would be surprised to see that clause 35 states:

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That is right and proper and I am delighted that it is the case. However, hon. Members who have studied the Bill will note that the clause also states:

In other words, the RDAs, which should play a key role in helping the regions and sub-regions to prepare for the Olympic games, will be able to do so only if they are authorised by the ODA. The ODA will have an iron grip on RDAs' ability to prepare for the Olympics.

7.45 pm

The RDAs have become increasingly concerned by clause 35, largely because—I confess—I kept drawing it to their attention and asking what they thought about it. They believe that it could limit their scope in preparing for the games. They are concerned about the possible confusion over the relative powers and leverages of the respective parties involved. They are concerned about the perceived leadership role given to the ODA over regional involvement in the games, instead of a co-ordinating role. The RDAs are also concerned about the potential funding consequences if the ODA asks them to do things outside their normal corporate plans or funding limits.

I have no doubt that the Minister will assure me that the RDAs need not be concerned, but I hope that he will spell out in some detail how he sees the relationship between the RDAs and the ODA operating. We already know that the RDAs are working actively to promote participation and involvement in the games and I hope that the Minister will reassure me that that work will not be put in jeopardy.

If the RDAs are to be in some way limited by a body, should it be the ODA? The ODA is largely responsible for the major infrastructure work and transport plans, and in some parts of the country the RDAs will be involved. The South West of England Regional Development Agency, for example, will be involved in the infrastructure in Weymouth, where the sailing will take place. It may also be involved in work around the beautiful city of Bath, because of our potential involvement. But the RDAs will want to be involved in far more than the necessary structural work.

LOCOG is the other body with a crucial role to play and hon. Members who did not have the chance to participate in our deliberations in Committee may not know where it fits in on the wonderful diagrams that we received from the Minister. LOCOG will have a nations and regions sub-committee, led by Charles Allen. We all admire the work that he did in helping us to win the bid and I am sure that we will admire the work that he will do chairing that reinvigorated and reformed nations and regions sub-committee.

It is interesting to note that when the sub-committee had its first meeting recently, it described its remit. At its inauguration, Charles Allen said that

According to a media release, the sub-committee then discussed issues including how best to engage people across the UK in the bid; how the business and sporting benefits could be put in reach for everyone, including
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tourism, jobs, contracts, sporting events and more; links with the arts, culture and education; auditing the regional facilities available for use in the run-up to the 2012 games; and providing practical advice on applying for and running preparation camps for the games. That is the remit of a LOCOG sub-committee, yet those things sound remarkably like many of the areas of responsibility of RDAs.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Wellingborough sees the Olympic games as a great opportunity, especially from the tourism point of view, and I welcome our success in having the Olympics in the UK. My concern is that the RDAs do not know where Wellingborough is, as we are right at the edge of one, so will the hon. Gentleman explain whether we would be better off in Wellingborough with the ODA or the RDA deciding how we should prepare?

Mr. Foster: I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was going to ask me to explain where Wellingborough was; if he had, I should have been highly embarrassed. I am delighted that he did not.

A large number of organisations will play a part in ensuring that we deliver the best-ever Olympic and Paralympic games in 2012. The RDAs will have a crucial role, as will the ODA, LOCOG and many other organisations. The amendment is trying to tease from the Minister not which organisations should be involved, but whether we have got right the relationship between them. Although I am deeply concerned about the ODA's apparent iron grip on the RDAs, if there is to be an iron grip, should not it be the responsibility of LOCOG? I look forward to the Minister's response and hope that he will be able to tell the hon. Gentleman where Wellingborough is.

Mr. Andy Reed: Strangely, a consensus is building across the Chamber. I agree with many of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster). As he knows, in Committee I asked what the structure for the nations and regions would look like. In the east midlands, we had a chart that showed our suggestions for part of that. For the reasons that he outlined, it looked quite complicated because it included the supporting blocks, such as tourism, sport and economic regeneration.

I understand the problems of Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. I was European officer for the region, so I know only too well that those counties find it hard to regard themselves as part of the east midlands. I hope that over time they will come to love the rest of the east midlands as much as we love them.

I look forward to the Minister's response, as my understanding is that—as the hon. Member for Bath suggested—all those groups should feed directly into the RDA as the sole representative, so that we have a single point of contact. But there are dangers. As I have been involved with the Bill and taken some interest in it, people from all over the region have been asking me what they should do and how to get the process started. Over the past few months, part of our remit has been to encourage people to have ideas but to slow down until the organisation is in place, so that we can co-ordinate them, through the RDA and the nations and regions sub-committee, into LOCOG.
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The hon. Gentleman rightly highlighted the slight contradiction in subsection (2)—that the ODA, which, I understand, is really the delivery agency for building the infrastructure, mainly in London but also in Weymouth and other Olympic venues, is a different body. I look forward to an explanation, as I am concerned to ensure that there is a single route and that we do not complicate it so much that none of us knows how to proceed, as happens in other areas of the sporting world. This is a golden opportunity to lay clearly on the line who is responsible and who has the final say, so that all the people who have great enthusiasm for the Olympics know how to co-ordinate all their fantastic ideas—such as those I have heard about from people in Leicestershire—and how to get a yes from the nations and regions group, so that we can deliver between now and 2012.

Hugh Robertson: I have a parochial concern relating to my Kent constituency that is also shared by Essex. Both counties are geographically next to the Olympics in the east end and feel constrained by having to work through a regional sports board, which, in the case of Kent, is diametrically on the opposite side of London. The Minister is aware of those concerns and has kindly agreed to fix a meeting with the chairman of the nations and regions sub-committee, and I thank him for that.

I shall leave amendment No. 15 entirely to the Minister and comment on Government amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 27. The Minister warned us in Committee of the need for the amendments and included them in his briefing to Opposition parties a fortnight ago. They streamline the process of compulsory purchase for special land for the Olympic park, and clarify the fact that special land can be built on for Olympic purposes. They also allow RDAs to purchase compulsorily Crown land for the 2012 Olympics.

Clearly, if we are to meet tight construction deadlines, it is vital to remove possible delays from the process. Provided the Minister is happy to undertake today to write to us laying out the exact basis on which that will be done, and the process that will be used, I am happy to signal my party's consent.

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