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One new idea has been proposed: free swimming for under-16s and over-60s. Of course we welcome anything that encourages swimming, especially because it comes top of the list of sports that people say they would be interested in taking up. However, local councils say that not nearly enough money has been put aside to finance the plan. I would like to mention a matter that I brought to the Secretary of States attention during the last Culture, Media and Sport questions. He received a letter from the Labour leader of Stevenage councilin the Minister of States constituencytelling him that the average cost for a district council of implementing the scheme for the over-60s alone would represent a 2 per cent. increase in council tax. Is this really the
timewhen families up and down the country are strugglingfor the Department to fund its schemes by bludgeoning its councils into back-door rises in council tax?
Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): I introduced free swimming to the London borough of Newham when I was head of its culture department. We found that it did not increase our overheads or costs, because it brought in people who had not swum there previously. It also had the knock-on effect of advertising and promoting the other services available in the leisure centre that otherwise would not have been seen by that client group. Furthermore, those people spent additional money on food, drink and other services available in the centre, which subsidised some of the fixed overheads of the swimming pool.
Mr. Hunt: In that case, will the hon. Lady speak to the Labour leader of Stevenage council, who has a very different view about the cost of the scheme? Will she also condemn the decision announced by Newham council on 14 October to cancel its plans for a leisure pool as part of the Olympic legacy, which will come as a huge disappointment to its residents?
Information that we have just received about the under-16s part of the scheme identifies the fact that the funding that the Government have put on the table accounts for less than half of the schemes total likely cost. The Secretary of State calls it a challenge fundthe only challenge is for councils to decide whether to cut services or raise council tax to fund it. That is an example of the Government over-promising and under-delivering at its worst. Even Labour councils are up in arms over what is happening.
Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): I chaired the recent county sports partnership meeting in Leicestershire. We have asked all our local authorities to work together to ensure that we put together a Leicestershire-wide bid, rather than individual ones. The figures that came back varied enormously and had no basisliterally, they were almost made up. I fear that, in some circumstances, the hon. Gentlemans figures come from people just flying a little kite. Will he join me in expecting much more detailed work from local authorities, rather than the usual scare story that local authorities need more money?
Mr. Hunt: I welcome the hon. Gentlemans involvement in county sports partnerships, which are extremely positive initiatives. I got my information from a freedom of information request. We received responses from hundreds of councils about the expected costs.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham):
The hon. Gentleman has again displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of what we seek to achieve through the free swimming scheme. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) said, it began in local government. Councils were doing this themselves using funds at a local level, from primary care trust and council funds. We have put in place a national fund to help an initiative that began in local government. The logic of the system now in place for
local government means that councils can set their own priorities. Eighty councils have selected the sports participation indicator as a priority. This is entirely in keeping with the system of priority setting in local government, at local level. The hon. Gentleman seems repeatedly to fail to understand that point.
Mr. Hunt: If it was a partnership with local councils, why was it spun to the media when the announcement was made as a promise that the Government would deliver free swimming for the over-60s and under-16s? That was the message in all the headlines.
The best comment on the Governments legacy action plan came from Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the Central Council of Physical Recreation. In a statement issued this morning he said that, apart from the swimming proposals,
The rest of the proposals
are little more than existing plans which have been re-badged...there has been a real poverty of ambition about the Governments thinking.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Before the hon. Gentleman leaves his point about swimming, does he agree that although we would all support opportunities, if properly funded, to get those who can swim to do more of it, the plan seems to have forgotten about getting more people to learn to swim? Would not the money have been better targeted at more swimming teachers and ensuring that swimming pools are available at times when pupils can learn to swim, rather than filling them up with those who can swim already outside those times?
Mr. Hunt: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I do not think that any of the schemes can work in isolation. The coaching and teaching is very important. I completely accept that making something free can excite public interest. We do not criticise the principle of local councils deciding that they want to boost swimming participation by making it free; we criticise the fact that it was announced as a big Government initiative to make it free for the over-60s and under-16s, when in fact that tab is being picked up through the back door by council tax payers.
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): Is not the fundamental point that this is a cobbling together of initiatives that would have existed already, at a national level? Only London government under the Conservative administration has recognised that if the legacy issues are not dealt with, we risk losing support for the whole Olympic project in London, particularly in south London where my constituents are becoming strongly opposed to the Olympics because there is no prospect of a legacy. For example, places such as Crystal Palace are not being invested in at all.
Mr. Hunt: My hon. Friend makes an important point. One of the first things that the new Mayor of London did was to set up a legacy board of advisers and ring-fence money from the London Development Agency to be used for creating an Olympic legacy, boosting participation in sports and increasing money for coaching. The Conservatives are interested in action, not words.
Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Although encouraging people to swim is vital, a swimming pool in my neighbouring constituency of Ilford, South has just closed down for health and safety reasons. Does my hon. Friend agree that it might be beneficial for the Government to help replace that swimming pool to ensure a true legacy? It could also be used as an Olympic training facility.
Mr. Hunt: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. People have also been concerned about the cloud of misinformation about the number of swimming pools open. The Government have released figures that included swimming pools at private clubs among those considered open to the public.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I understand completely why my hon. Friend emphasises swimming and the sporting legacy, but he will know from his other responsibilities that many people are fearful that one of the legacies of the Olympic games, because of the diversion of resources, will be leaking cathedrals, crumbling churches and other cultural assets being put at risk. Will he briefly address that point?
Mr. Hunt: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing the Houses attention to an extremely important consequence of the appalling budget miscalculations that the Government made with regard to the Olympics, which meant that they had to dip into national lottery funds, with an appalling cost to lottery good causes. I agree with him. We do not want this to be a legacy just for the Olympics, and that is why the Opposition have a proposal to return the lottery to its original four pillars, which will restore that much-needed money to the arts, heritage and charities sectors, which are also extremely important when it comes to the overall legacy of 2012.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Can we concentrate on the positive? I had a lot to do with the 2002 Commonwealth games in Manchester. One of the outstanding successes in the legacy of those games was the velodrome in Manchester. I believe that the recent success of our cyclists in the Olympic games in Beijing was based on that legacy. I have two constituents who between them won five gold medals for cycling in the Paralympics. To my mind, the example set in the Olympic games can produce that legacy. Surely the Government should concentrate on allowing people to use the facilities that will be built in order to stage a grand and successful Olympics. Is that not the way to proceed, rather than expressing the negative attitudes that are coming from both sides of the House about what the Olympics in 2012 can achieve for the UK?
Mr. Hunt: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I entirely agree with him. The example set by people such as Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and Rebecca Romero is very inspiring. I believe that since those successes, the sales of bicycles have doubled. My hon. Friend will also be interested to know that 73 per cent. of the funding for our top cyclists came not from the Government but from the national lottery. That is why the national lottery plays such an important role.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con):
My hon. Friend has been very kind about the Select Committee, which, as I am sure he will agree, is ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford
(Mr. Whittingdale). Does my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt) agree that it is not just crumbling churches that have suffered as a result of the lack of control over the Olympic budget? Grass-roots sporting organisations are having their funding taken away from them. The sporting legacy will not be delivered by the people watching the Olympics on TV, as most people will do. It can be delivered only by organisations such as those in my constituencyif they continue to receive lottery support for grass-roots sport, so that kids get involved in the first place.
Mr. Hunt: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Since the Government came into power, 80 per cent. of the funding for grass-roots sport has come not from the Government but from the lottery. Ministers consistent raids on lottery funds for their pet projects have meant that the amount of lottery money going into grass-roots sports has declined from £397 million in 1997 to £209 million. It has nearly halved, so my hon. Friend is absolutely right.
Let me draw my hon. Friends attention to another responsibility of the Select Committee, which is tourism. There is virtually nothing in the report about the tourism legacy. It is true that the Government have never prioritised tourism, and it is worth reminding the Secretary of State that it is an £85 billion industry that employs 2 million people.
Last year, we were promised a four-year marketing campaign that would welcome the world to Britain. What has happened? The VisitBritain budget has been cut by 18 per cent. over the next three years, and our tourism market share, which has gone down by 10 per cent. since the Government came to power, continues to decline. We are missing a golden opportunity to set the tourism industry right and to allow it to embrace the huge opportunity offered by the fact that the eyes of the world will be focused on this country and this city in 2012.
Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is even more important that we have a good legacy for tourism? Those whom I represent in my part of Warwickshire are unlikely to receive a direct legacy from the sporting events and are unlikely to see a significant increase in grass-roots sports. They might see an increase in tourism from those who come to London and are then persuaded to leave London and to visit the rest of the country. If they do not see that legacy, it will be harder to persuade them to get fully behind the Olympic ideal, as we would all wish them to do.
Mr. Hunt: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course the challenge of the Olympics, as far as tourism is concerned, is that in the year of the Olympics it is not necessarily the case that more visitors come to the country. Sometimes, people are put off because they think that everyone else is coming, and it will be difficult to get flights and hotels. In fact, in Beijing this year hotel bookings were significantly down compared with last year because of the Beijing Olympics. My hon. Friend is right, and that is why we have to ensure that we identify the opportunities offered to showcase the whole of Britain to the world, grasp the bull by the horns and do something to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That is not happening.
Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): Since my hon. Friend mentions the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I am sure that in his wide-ranging and impressive speech he will be planning to cover the cultural legacy, which is an important feature of the Governments proposals. They are short of ideas. Does he agree that an outstanding idea from the Opposition, which I hope the Government will take away, would be to recognise the important contribution that this country has made to the Olympics by choosing a suitable site in the Olympic park to recognise the contribution of Dr. William Penny Brookes and the Wenlock Olympian Society to the origins of the modern Olympics?
Mr. Hunt: I thank my hon. Friend for that important contribution, and agree entirely that we need to do more to recognise the Wenlock Olympian Society. The cultural Olympiad must be an important part of what London offers the world in 2012.
Let me return to what my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) said about the way in which the performance of our top athletes can inspire people to take up sports. It is not just sales of cycles that have doubled. Sales of swimwear at Tesco have doubled since the success of Rebecca Adlington. Athletes need financial support, so will the Secretary of State explain why his Department has virtually broken the promise made in 2006 to raise £100 million from commercial sources to support our top athletes? Is it not the case that when the Government made that commitment they totally failed to understand what they could and could not raise from sponsorship? Is it not also the case that they failed to do anything for two years when economic conditions were much more favourable, and that now that the economic tide has turned there is a risk that that money will not materialise?
How different the Governments approach is from that of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, which is organising the games and last week signed up Cadbury as a tier 2 sponsor. The committee has to raise a lot more money, but it has already managed to raise two thirds of the money that it needs, four years ahead of schedule. Paul Deighton, the chief executive of LOCOG, said:
If ever a strategy of going early was borne out its now.
The Government, who had to raise only £100 million, sat on their hands. Three Culture Secretaries later, not a penny has been raised. Once again, they failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining.
The Secretary of State knows the power of British sporting performance in inspiring grass-roots participation.
The hon. Gentleman is being extremely generous in giving way. I have listened patiently to him and I am afraid that his argument is a long way away from my understanding of the impact of the Olympics. I represent a constituency 200 miles away, near Liverpool, yet our local authority has applied for funding for the Olympics, and has received it. Our health authority is introducing a huge number of initiatives on the back of the Olympics programme. We are feeling the benefit, and we are miles away. We feel really excited about the programme. We do not get any of the big buildings, but we have seen the development of community centres, swimming pools and an integrated health plan
to support health. I wanted the hon. Gentleman to know that, because it is my experience, and I would guess that it is not unique.
Mr. Hunt: I want the Olympics to inspire every schoolchild in every school in Crosby. That is a vital part of our Olympic legacy. That is why we are having this debate. We are concerned that what the Government have published does not amount to anything substantive. It is because we are concerned that there will not be a substantive legacy for the schoolchildren in her constituency that we are having this debate.
Let me tell the Secretary of State that the failure to understand the critical role of the national lottery is an essential factor in why it has been so difficult to secure an Olympic legacy. This January, the Government were forced to raid another £675 million from lottery money for good causes. That was described as a cut too farnot by us, but by Derek Mapp, the chairman of Sport England. He was promptly sacked, presumably for what he said, and that created turmoil in the very organisation charged with boosting mass participation in sport.
The Governments amendment asks us to welcome the reform of Sport England, but will the Secretary of State confirm that no successor to Derek Mapp will be appointed until well into the new year? If so, that would mean that that critical organisation will be without a leader at one of the most important times in its history.
Andy Burnham: The hon. Gentleman began by saying that he would not break any cross-party consensus on the Olympics, but he has gone on to make a series of what I would call nit-picking points. Can he say, at that Dispatch Box, what he would have done differently on funding the Olympics?
Mr. Hunt: Yes, I can. We would have returned the lottery to its original four pillars, which would have meant much more money going into legacy. We supported the Olympic budget, but this debate is about the Olympic legacy. One way that we could secure much more money to create a sporting legacy is to return the lottery to its original four pillars.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): In Scotland, we are set to lose up to £200 million of lottery spending, and that will have an impact on good causes and grass-roots sports in every constituency. We are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, so does the hon. Gentleman think that there is a case for us getting back some or all of that money to pay for our legacy in Glasgow?
Mr. Hunt: I think that creating support for a sporting legacy is as important for the Commonwealth games as it is for the Olympics. Returning the lottery to its original four pillars could create an extra £400 million for grass-roots sport in the decade following 2012. That would mean that more money would go into sport in Scotland, Wales and every corner of the country.
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