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Unfortunately, the situation does not look much better for training, about which there has been a lot of talk. The training programmes designed to get local people into Olympic jobs have not had much success. A programme called Personal Best was piloted in Hackney, and 50 local residents graduated from it. But out of those 50, only two have secured employment whilst eight have been taken up as volunteers. The Olympic Delivery Authority scheme aimed at getting local people involved with the Olympics has put only eight Hackney residents into employment. As for local businesses, business suppliers to the Olympics total 600 at the moment. Out of those 600 businesses, only 77 are based in the Olympic boroughs and only 13 in Hackney. That means that Hackney businesses have just 2 per cent. of the business tenders available so far. That is simply not good enough and it would not be surprising if local people began to think that all the
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talk about them benefiting from this huge billion-pound extravaganza was simply talk.

The Olympic Delivery Authority’s equality and diversity strategy sets out the ODA’s aims—widening participation and opening up the construction industry to under-represented groups such as women and black people—and claims that they can be achieved by following a fair recruitment process and adhering to equal opportunities. That is admirable, but in reality a fair recruitment process and adhering to equal opportunities are the bare legal minimum, and what we should expect of any company or organisation. They are not proactive ways of increasing diversity; if anything, they are simply ways of maintaining the status quo.

The Department’s annual report does not focus much on local employment. Instead, it talks of the aim of local participation in cultural and community activities and volunteering. I have been there before. When billions of pounds were being spent on the Dome, I went to talk to those who were running the project about jobs for local people in Greenwich. All I heard about was volunteering. In the end, local people and companies did not benefit from the Dome as they should have, although there is now a fabulous building there, in south-east London.

I do not dismiss the benefits of voluntary work, but I do not want efforts to secure volunteers to detract from the crucial need for local people to be given paid employment. It strikes me as somewhat patronising to suggest that the residents of the Olympic host boroughs will remain compliant as long as they are thrown some cultural activities or volunteering work. If the Olympics are to have an impact on levels of unemployment, deprivation and social exclusion in the east end, they must focus on the employment issues.

I do not think that those who talk of employment for local people have got to grips with a proactive strategy. The ODA tells me that it aims to employ 10 to 15 per cent. of people in the Olympic park construction work force from the five host boroughs. It says that that is the average number of people currently employed on a typical work site in London, but I say that it is a pitifully unambitious target. The public have not spent billions of pounds on the Olympics only to achieve that level of employment. The Olympic project should be raising the stakes. It will have no sustainability if local people see 85 to 90 per cent. of jobs going to outsiders.

I am concerned about the low targets, and about the lack of a proactive strategy not just to make the Olympic park reflect employment realities now, but to make the Olympic park, Olympic construction and Olympic development show the way towards what can be done to employ and give opportunities to local people. I am sure that the Department is not merely cashing in on the image of London as a multicultural city, or on the idea that the Olympics will take a deprived region out of poverty—whereas, in reality, few local people have Olympic jobs or contracts—but that is how things look at present.

It seems to me that if the Government, the Mayor and the ODA are to make good the promises made to the east end three years ago, we need a much more proactive and urgent strategy both to put local people into jobs and training and to give local business,
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particularly small business, access to the tendering process. The current targets appear to admit defeat before even trying to increase local employment. There is a danger that some of the big employers will get away with making token gestures rather than doing the sort of work that was done at the time of the Atlanta Olympics, which represented a huge stepping-stone for black business and jobs for local young people because the necessary political leadership was there.

I remain as thrilled and idealistic about the Olympics as I was when I first heard that our bid had been successful. I bow to no one in my respect for the people, including my right hon. Friend the Minister, who were the architects of that successful bid. However, if we are not to see deepening disillusionment in the east end over this major project, we must deliver both the practical and the political meaning of the promises that were made about regeneration.

I would not like the change of Mayor to lead to a slackening of the emphasis on economic regeneration and jobs for local people. It is not enough to have meetings and working parties. It is not enough to draw out strategies on paper. It is not enough to recruit highly paid persons with supposed responsibility for these issues. The stakeholders involved in 2012 must raise their game and achieve concrete targets for local employment and local regeneration.

2.50 pm

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) on securing this important debate. I agree with almost everything she has to say—both in terms of her analysis and her challenges. She is right that when we made our bid to host the 2012 Olympics the then Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and I were absolutely clear that were we to win, it would accelerate the regeneration of east London by 10 to 15 years and on a scale that would be unimaginable if we did not win. I wish to take this opportunity to place on record the Government’s recognition of the enormous contribution the previous Mayor made both to our winning the Olympics and to securing those regeneration ambitions.

My hon. Friend is right that it has been envisaged that the legacy of the games will take two forms. The first is the structures, including the venues, the approximately 10,000 new homes by 2020 and the largest urban park anywhere in Europe for 150 years. The park will be a destination for not only the five boroughs, but the whole of London, and it will be populated by not only new environmental features but world-class venues, each of which is being designed with two objectives. One of them is community use and the benefit of the local community—there must be no local people longingly pressing their noses against the window because they are excluded, as that would be a travesty. The other objective is to provide the world-class venues that London has lacked for too long. It is worth reminding my hon. Friend that of the £8.1 billion—£6.1 billion plus £2 billion of contingency—that is available for the development of the park, 75p out of every pound spent will go on regenerating the wasteland that disfigures those boroughs following generations of neglect.

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My hon. Friend eloquently described the second part of the legacy: the increased skills in five of the most deprived boroughs in the country. I shall deal in detail with the points she made. Our ambition always exceeded simply hosting the Olympics and Paralympics—and I should underline the extent to which our ambition goes further, and is being realised more quickly in practice, than in any other Olympic city.

As my hon. Friend knows, economic activity in the five boroughs is well below that of London and the rest of the UK: 40 per cent. of the working-age population are unemployed, 40 per cent. of the residents of the host boroughs are black and ethnic minority, and 22 per cent. have no educational qualifications. My hon. Friend has raised some sharp challenges for the work being undertaken by the Olympic Delivery Authority.

My first response to those challenges is to say that we must see the progress that has been made—which is by no means the extent of the ambition—in the context of generations of neglect in developing the skills and potential of so many of the people who live in the five boroughs. The Olympics and Paralympics provide unprecedented opportunities for those individuals and for local business. In providing those opportunities, we are rising to a challenge that sits at the heart of the Government’s ambition to raise the bar and to see the increase in the skill level as an essential driver of economic growth.

Two objectives in the bid and the staging plans for the 2012 Olympics are to regenerate east London socially and economically, and to regenerate it physically. We want to give new opportunities to people, particularly those who are furthest from the labour market and have absolutely no educational qualifications, thus creating opportunities for people in those circumstances to get into work and training and breaking the cycle of unemployment and deprivation.

I should say a word about apprenticeships, of which Hackney has fewer than 100. A commitment has been made through the skills academy that has been established for the Olympic park, focusing specifically on construction skills. The commitment is for 2,000 apprenticeships and work experience work placement opportunities, which will transform the entry point opportunities for people in the Olympic boroughs.

The Olympic Delivery Authority is responsible for overseeing the construction, and I wish to discuss its employment and skills plans. Its job, more than anything else, is to deliver the games on time and on budget, but, in doing so, to create a legacy of better trained workers with the prospect of better careers. My hon. Friend has challenged what she sees as the timidity—that is my word, rather than hers—of the ODA’s figures, and I should put that into context.

The ODA’s target is for 10 to 15 per cent. of the total work force to come from the local boroughs. The industry norm, which we must accept is a baseline, is between only 3 and 5 per cent, so the ambition is considerably greater. A second target is to ensure that 7 per cent. of the work force is made up of people who were previously unemployed, which compares with an industry norm of between 3 and 5 per cent. and a figure of 22 per cent in respect of those who come from Hackney. I accept my hon. Friend’s point that when things are translated into specific numbers, the
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numbers involved are small. The strategy focuses on getting people into training and employment, reflecting the skill levels in the area.

I recognise that Hackney’s local labour figure is low, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the ODA and the London Development Agency—my discussions thus far with the new Mayor give me no reason to believe that he will resile from this commitment—are working to address the low level of Hackney residents getting jobs on the park. The LDA is granting Hackney funds to build the capacity of its job brokerage scheme, and the ODA is working with it directly to analyse what more needs to be done to increase the number of Hackney residents gaining jobs on the site. By our deeds, rather than by our good intentions, shall we be judged, and that was the thrust of my hon. Friend’s speech.

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There are early successes. The Personal Best scheme, to which my hon. Friend referred, is working with people who are as far as it is possible to imagine from the labour market. Every graduate of that scheme who gets into work is a story of hope in a context—for those people—of hopelessness and complete lack of ambition.

Time is short, and I hope that there will be many other chances to go through with my hon. Friend the many opportunities that will be provided. If we fail, we will have betrayed the great ambition we have for the Olympics in east London. We will not fail and, with my hon. Friend’s advocacy, we have an even greater chance of success.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Three o’clock.

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