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Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Given all the building work in London, the extension of the East London line, all the work being done in preparation for the Olympics, and the fact that many projects in the early waves of the building schools for the future programme are in London, does my right
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hon. Friend share my concerns about the tremendous need and drive for more skills in London? Is she sure about the planning for 2012, because many of us believe—and this was suggested in evidence to the Select Committee on Education and Skills, which I chair—that there will be dreadful skills shortages in construction if we do not act fast?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for his work on the subject. The creation of a more skilled work force, particularly in east London, is an important part of the legacy of the Olympics and is a prerequisite for ensuring that all the infrastructure for the Olympics is built within budget and on time. I am sure that he will commend the work of the London employment and skills task force, which addressed that subject specifically and linked it to the commitment to using local labour from the east end wherever that is possible, so that local people can build what will be their facilities.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): The Secretary of State will appreciate that 2012 provides a focus for a number of regeneration projects in central London. However, I would like her to give thought to not just phase 2—and if it is to be delayed, let us make sure that it takes place as soon as possible after 2012—but a number of other regeneration projects, particularly those around King’s Cross, which have been put on hold pending the Olympics, often for the reasons that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) mentioned, namely, a lack of skills. Will she ensure that we take a proper look at regeneration, both looking to the decade beyond 2012 and focusing on the short term?

Tessa Jowell: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman accepts that regeneration and legacy are fundamental justifications for holding the games. The decision has been taken to go ahead with the major ticket office project at King’s Cross. He will know that the channel tunnel rail link will convey passengers in seven minutes from King’s Cross to Stratford. We will arguably have the best public transport facilities of any Olympic city ever.

National Lottery

5. Paul Holmes (Chesterfield) (LD): What recent discussions her Department has held with national lottery distributors on the potential impact of the funding for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics on lottery good causes. [111453]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): I am responsible for lotteries, and lottery distributors, like Members of the House, strongly support the 2012 games. That includes paying some of the costs from the lottery. Since we first announced our intention to bid way back in May 2003 we have kept distributors informed and will continue to do so.

Paul Holmes: The lottery will provide £1.5 billion for the Olympics, but there is already a £900 million overspend. If that sum, too, is taken from lottery funds, it will have a devastating impact on spending across the country. The Big Lottery Fund alone would lose
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£450 million, which would result in every constituency in the country losing £500 million-worth of local projects in the next five years. Will the Minister give us a guarantee that there will not be any further Olympic smash-and-grab raids on lottery funds?

Mr. Caborn: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave a full account of the budget to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. When the previous Select Committee conducted a hearing in June 2003, at its request the documentation included an appendix on the memorandum of understanding between the Mayor’s office and the Government explaining how any overshoot would be funded. The Government expect to discharge that responsibility through shared arrangements, to be agreed with the Mayor of London, and by seeking additional national lottery funding in amounts to be agreed at the time. Government discussions on the overspend are under way, as my right hon. Friend told the Select Committee.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): There is no doubt that the Paralympics and the 2012 Olympics will benefit every part of the UK, but does my right hon. Friend accept that there are genuine concerns that good causes could be affected if increased funding is to be provided by the lottery? Will he assure the House that that decision will be made after full consultation with the Scottish Executive so that they can express their views on the effect on good causes in Scotland?

Mr. Caborn: We have received fantastic support from Scotland for the 2012 Olympics and have been in dialogue with the Scottish Executive on all the issues, without exception. We will continue to hold that dialogue, as we have received first-class support, and we will discuss any decisions that are made.

Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): I am sure that the Minister will accept that many good causes that receive lottery funding help to alleviate the burden on the state in various ways—the South Warwickshire carers support service in my constituency is a good example. Does he therefore accept that if some of those good causes lose lottery funding, the state will bear the burden and that that would be completely unacceptable if it were the result of further overspending on the Olympics because the Government got their sums wrong?

Mr. Caborn: I am not prepared to answer hypothetical questions at the Dispatch Box. I have said very clearly that discussions are under way between the Government and the Mayor’s office on how we can deal with that overspend. Until those decisions are made, such questions are hypothetical.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Does the Minister agree with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the director of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland that good causes and grass-roots sports could be threatened to the point of closure if the lottery is further plundered? Is it not absurd and unfair that homelessness projects and children’s care groups in Scotland should lose out to pay for the redevelopment of London’s east end?

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Mr. Caborn: We have heard all that rhetoric before from the hon. Gentleman on a number of issues connected to the Olympics. May I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Jeremy Wright) about hypothetical questions? Decisions on funding the £900 million overspend, which was discussed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the Select Committee hearing, have not yet been made. Until they are, such questions are hypothetical.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Perhaps I could ask the Minister a question that he will not regard as hypothetical. According to the Big Lottery Fund, the voluntary and community sector will lose more than £300 million if the lottery is used to make up the current £900 million Olympic budget overrun. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will be concerned to learn that that would result in an average loss of up to £700,000 to charities and good causes in every constituency. What assurances can the Minister therefore give charities up and down the country that face closure if, as a result, their lottery funding is axed?

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman knows that that was part of the agreement for funding the Olympics. It is not just the Big Lottery Fund but across the spectrum of the lottery—

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): That makes it worse.

Mr. Caborn: I hear from a sedentary position that that makes it worse. The decision to provide £1.5 billion to fund the lottery was not opposed by the Opposition. The Scottish National party—and I have answered its objections—made it quite clear that it does not want the Olympics, full stop. That is on the record, and I remember it being said. Let us park that on the side, as that is an honourable position from Scotland. The SNP may not want the Olympics—that is fine. However, the point is that there was all-party agreement about funding. The memorandum of understanding was put to the House via the Select Committee and was not challenged at the time. We have done no more and no less than what we set out in the memorandum of understanding with respect to the funding of the 2012 Olympic games.

Mr. Swire: It would help if the Minister confined himself to answering questions that he had been asked, rather than questions that he has not been asked. We, like other hon. Members, have been contacted by dozens of good causes that face a bleak future owing to the Government’s reckless raiding of the lottery. It is worth remembering that the Olympics were won on the basis of cross-party co-operation, but regrettably the Government are keeping us all in the dark about the new budget and the impact that it will have on the lottery. Is it not high time that the Secretary of State and her Ministers admitted that she has lost control of the figures and opened the books up to full public scrutiny?

Mr. Caborn: If there was any substance to the hon. Gentleman’s questions, he might lose the tag “rent-a-quote”, because that is what we increasingly hear from
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the Opposition, particularly from him. There is no substance behind his questions, and we see that also more and more in the newspapers, especially on a Sunday morning. I say again that we have done nothing more with the lottery than was agreed by the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson), who is giggling like a public schoolboy. We have done nothing more than was stated in the memorandum of understanding that was presented to the Select Committee and reported back to the House. The sum of £900 million is still under discussion in Government and will be discussed with the Mayor’s office. When we have reached a decision, we will report to the House and to the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government.

Olympics 2012

6. Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): When the revised Olympic budget will be published; and if she will make a statement. [111456]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority for the next financial year will be finalised in March. The overall budget is under discussion in Government and with other stakeholders, and will be published in due course.

Andrew Rosindell: With the huge increase in the cost of the Olympics, will the Secretary of State assure people in my constituency and throughout London that the cost will not be borne by the London taxpayer? The games are a United Kingdom event, so will she undertake to ensure that the costs are spread across the country, and are not paid just from the pockets of people in London?

Tessa Jowell: My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport has set out clearly the agreement that was reached and signed up to by all parties in the memorandum of understanding, which defines how any cost overrun for the Olympics will be met, so, at a point where we are discussing the apportionment of responsibility for paying for any increase, I will not rule anything out. This is an example of politics at its worst. The Conservatives support the Olympics publicly, but then, in a narrow and populist way, seek to undermine every reasonable attempt by the Government to ensure a proper and sustainable budget.

Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): Last summer, I had the pleasure of visiting the Sydney Olympics site, and was heartened to hear there that London was ahead of the game on transport and environmental aspects. Can my right hon. Friend assure my constituents that, when she is helping to set the budget for the Olympics, her eye will be closely and firmly on the ball of sustainable development—from water and transport, all the way through—which is a big concern, and that we will not lose sight of that?

Tessa Jowell: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. These will be the most sustainable games ever. Ambitious targets were set for a reduction in carbon emissions and especially for the use of
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waterways for transporting materials, and there are very demanding targets that exceed those of the Government generally for the disposal of waste. Sustainability was fundamental to the bid and will continue to be a driving discipline in achieving the games in 2012.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): As the existing budget excluded VAT when it was signed off by the Cabinet, what has changed?

Tessa Jowell: If the right hon. Gentleman would like to look at the bid document, he will find that the status of the Olympic Delivery Authority, which at that time did not exist and had not been legislated for, has now been established. There continues to be a discussion within Government about VAT and its recovery, but as the Chancellor has made absolutely clear, that is not an issue for the taxpayer, but a question of managing where the responsibility sits for VAT and its payment.

Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): Teachers in my constituency are telling me that there is genuine enthusiasm among young sportsmen and women and that the thought of the Olympics in London in 2012 is a real motivation for them. That is not just the case in my constituency, but throughout Scotland. Would my right hon. Friend enlarge on any other benefits to Scotland and the rest of the UK from holding the Olympics here in London?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. We will see more and more young people taking part in sport as part of their school day and competing through the establishment of inter and intra-school teams, and the pursuit of real excellence not just as part of the legacy, but in the years in the run-up to the games. We can congratulate all our young athletes who recently did so well and did their country proud in the youth Olympics in Australia.

Of course, Scotland will be a beneficiary not only of investment in sport but of increased tourism, and I hope that we shall see Scots from throughout the country offering to sign up as volunteers. In addition, Scotland will no doubt be looking at the commercial and business benefits that it can derive from the enormous increase in inward investment and visitors that will arise from the games.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Is not the Secretary of State concerned that everything is still under discussion? After all, in relation to VAT, is it not the case that the Government signed off a bid document that said that taxation would not be a problem, and is it not bizarre that the Treasury now wants a 60 per cent. contingency? Specifically in relation to announcements she made earlier about London council tax payers potentially having to pay more, does she recall that on 6 November last year, the Prime Minister said about the Mayor of London:

Was the Prime Minister wrong to have said that?

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Tessa Jowell: The Prime Minister was expressing his view very clearly indeed, but I am involved in negotiation in Government about the fair and proportionate way in which we cover the costs. It is important that the House remembers that this is the biggest public construction project in Europe. It is like building two terminal 5s, but in half the time.

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): The right hon. Lady is in charge.

Tessa Jowell: Precisely. I am in charge of a project where we are years ahead of where Sydney or Athens were at an equivalent stage. Sydney did not conclude its budget until two years before the games. Beijing has promised a revised budget, but the games are next year and that has not yet been published. As far as we can discern, Athens never published a final budget. We intend to proceed by ensuring that the money is there, that the costs are controlled and that we, in time, host the best games ever: a great tribute to the young people of this country.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): A number of Members on both sides of the House have asked about the memorandum of understanding. The Secretary of State drew it up. Will she confirm now whether the Mayor does indeed have the power to block any future increase—yes or no?

Tessa Jowell: The responsibility for any further increase in council tax would sit with the Greater London authority, which would have to approve it.

Hugh Robertson: I think that we can take that as a yes.

The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has just produced a highly critical report of the Government’s management of the Olympic budget. When the London Olympics Bill was going through this House, the Minister for Sport said:

Does the Secretary of State stand by that, and if so, whose failure is it?

Tessa Jowell: Look, the Select Committee did not criticise the financial management of the games. Such quoting is highly selective. That is the trick that the Conservatives are now trying to play, and people see through it. The Conservatives pick away at specific criticisms while saying publicly, “We are right behind the games.” They are seeking to undermine public support for the games, which has remained remarkably robust throughout this period. On the specific point made by the hon. Gentleman, we will study the Select Committee’s recommendations closely. It was a very balanced, authoritative and measured report and its conclusions are not at all surprising. I am proud of the progress that has been made with the Olympic games and I think that the Opposition should stop talking the Olympic games down.

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7. Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): On how many occasions her Department provided advice to members of the public on the nomination of individuals for honours within her Department’s areas of responsibilities in the last 12 months. [111458]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): The Department regularly provides advice and guidance to members of the public on all aspects of the honours process, including how to nominate someone for an award. We do not keep a record of the number of occasions on which we have provided information to members of the public.

Mr. McGovern: I thank my hon. Friend for that response. He may be aware that more than 1,500 people have signed a petition asking the Queen to grant Ringo Starr a knighthood. Despite my grave misgivings about the honours system—in fact, my opposition to it; I regard it as anachronistic—it appears that at least some members of the public take an interest in who receives the awards. With that in mind, does my hon. Friend agree that it might be an idea to open up the honours system to greater democratic accountability, rather than having the fairly obscure, opaque system that we currently have?

Mr. Lammy: I hope that my hon. Friend will acknowledge that there has been progress on the honours system since the new committees were set up. In effect, they have a panel of experts who can decide who merits an honour on the basis of comparing candidates. My hon. Friend will also appreciate, I suspect, that popularity is just one indication of merit.

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