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But there appear to be some problems. The Olympic aquatics centre was to have had a community leisure and fitness facility built next to it and linked to it. The London borough of Newhamand, to a lesser extent, the London borough of Tower Hamletshad pledged financial support to build this important community
facility. Such a centre would provide local communities with additional access to much-needed sport and fitness facilities. But I understand that these proposals may have been dropped, and that this legacy proposal, with the potential to improve the health of the local community and widen its access to sports facilities, appears to have been abandoned.
The aquatics centre, which was intended to be the landmark Olympic venue, is now to be the only swimming pool of its size in the western world in recent memory to have been built without community use as part of the scheme. Sadly, it has also emerged even more recently that the health centre will not materialise. Instead of a permanent athletes medical centre, we are to receive a temporary facility, to be built for the games and demolished afterwards. And the stadium! This field of dreams still does not have any post-2012 tenants who can work with the community to provide affordable multi-use facilities. Unfortunately, it now seems too late for it to benefit from the interest expressed many months ago by an excellent local premier league side[Hon. Members: Hear, hear!] Thank you.
The international broadcast and press centre, a key legacy commitment to boost a growing telecommunications and information technology industry, also appears to be facing an uncertain future. Potentially, this project has the scale and impact to deliver a legacy promise of transformation. It would be an immeasurable loss of opportunity if it were not retained to be used as a catalyst for sustainable high-tech industry. Just as ominous are the indications not only that the athletes village is being further downsized, with more athletes sharing fewer apartments, but that the private sector financing for this key part of the project now seems to have dried up. Government funding now seems crucial to the project.
In Newham alone, we have more than 20,000 families on the housing waiting list, and more than 5,000 families housed in expensive temporary accommodation, often making it impossible for people to work and to pay their rent, as they are reliant on benefits to keep a roof over their heads. I would like to press the Minister to consider intervention to ensure that after the games, we use the athletes village to alleviate some of the desperate housing need in the area, and to provide a genuinely mixed-use development of family homes. It would be a very positive move if the new Homes and Communities Agency could take an active role in the funding and design of the Olympic village to ensure community benefit from a significant build of new and potentially affordable housing on site.
There are other legacy opportunities that are not building-based, and I congratulate the Government on investing in the local employment and training framework, which has provided skills and employment to thousands of people. I am told that 24 per cent. of workers employed on the Olympic park site now originate from one of the five host boroughs.
Does my hon. Friend agree that although the Government are to be congratulated on what they have done so far, the number of people from the Olympic boroughs employed on the Olympic park remains regrettably low, however much that fact may dismay contractors and their representatives? One way in which the big contractors are getting round and massaging the figures for local labour is by bringing labourers from all
over Europe into the Olympic boroughs and putting them in hostels. Those labourers are then counted as local people, but in fact they have been shipped in from all parts of Europe. To provide a lasting legacy in boroughs such as Hackney, which have high crime rates, we need to offer our young people real opportunities to work.
Lyn Brown: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What concerns me about these figures is that we have no method of monitoring whether these are truly local people or simply workers temporarily resident in the local area in order to obtain employment. My community has a rich history of welcoming people from all over the world, but the one thing that they ask of such people is that they stay and become part of the community so that they contribute to the fabric in which we live. Unfortunately, some people are coming in and living temporarily or hot-bedding in small domestic homes, creating difficulties in local communities, and they will leave as soon as the work has finished. What we need is a methodology able truly to track whether the people counted in these surveys are indeed local people.
It is also sad to note that only an estimated 6 per cent. of those currently working on Olympic sites have arrived through apprenticeships or Olympic training programmes. Given the high unemployment in Newham and surrounding areas and the documented lack of formal training and skills owned by members of those communities, I urge the Government to do all they can to increase these figures for the long-term economic future of the borough.
The legacy of the Olympics is more than just the sum of its partsdespite my contribution today, I know that. It is also more than the buildings. The motivation that fuels those of us who, despite these problems, very much support the games in London, is the potentially transforming nature of those games for communities. The hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt) rightly mentioned the record levels of volunteering, the interest and investment in sporting clubs and coaching infrastructure. That shows that the games are not just about the physical side, but about the development and evolution of new and existing communities in a sustainable manner, which requires long-term planning, and, I believe, immediate action.
Harry Cohen: My hon. Friend is making a very good speech, raising many pertinent points. She started out by talking about poverty in the east end, but povertyand child poverty, in particularis not just about money and housing, but about poverty of experience. One proposal put to meand, I suspect, to my hon. Friend and other east London MPscame from the Field Studies Council. It proposed having an outdoor learning centre that could bring children in from areas across London and throughout the country so that they could benefit from nature studies and associated activities. Would my hon. Friend support that proposal for post-2012?
Lyn Brown: I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution, and I support that proposal. Being a local girl who grew up in Newham, I recall benefiting from a field study trip to a little place called Maldon in Essex. It was my very first time away from home, at the age of 10, and I can say that it was a life-changing experience. I have not often been back to Essex since, but perhaps I should go.
It seems to me that the current Olympic budget is modest for an event that would help to improve the life chances of the poorest Londonersthe 40 per cent. of Londons children who live in poverty. It is modest in view of the relief it could bring to thousands of families living in temporary accommodation; modest in that it could upskill millions of citizens in London and its neighbours, creating prosperity for communities; modest for improving the health of a community of people who die earlier than their neighbours; and modest for re-energising the nation in 2012, boosting young peoples interest in sport and reminding the globes travellers of what an amazing place London is to visit.
The Government and the Olympic Delivery Authority have worked tirelessly to ensure that the budget is managed and remains at a sustainable level. The Government are right to be mindful of the need for responsible spending, particularly at a time of financial difficulty. With the UK suffering the effects of the global economic downturn, it is clear that the budget may have to be reviewed, along with the precise design and make-up of the Olympic park and venues. But this review has to be balanced.
To host the second London austerity games, as some are already suggesting, would betray not only the ethos and vision of the Singapore bid, but the vision and the hope that is based on the opportunity to regenerate east London and its surrounding areas. By correctly implementing the regeneration ethos of the Singapore bid, east London can be changed from an area of relatively poor health and high unemployment to a community based on skills, aspiration and healthy activity. The Government have worked hard towards achieving that goal to date, but I would urge them to redouble their efforts and approach the current funding difficulties with the same vigour and determination as my constituent, Christine Ohuruogu, at the finish line in Beijing.
My constituents, who continue to endure the disruption that the seven-day-a-week construction inevitably causes and who have seen local residents and businesses forced to relocate, not only deserve legacy commitments in exchange for that disruption and for their enthusiastic support for the project, but need them to be delivered to allow them to break free of the deprivation that holds back the dreams of so many. They should be allowed the new housing, new sports facilities, cleaner and greener environment and the wider increased job opportunities that the legacy has the potential to offer.
I end my contributionI do not often do thisby quoting a passage from one of my own speeches made a couple of weeks after the Olympic bid was won. I said that if the Olympic games failed to benefitbenefit, not displacethe people I have just spoken about, the games would have been a failed opportunity and a failed investment. I believe that that statement has stood the test of time.
Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con):
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown)not just because we learned of her life-changing experience when she visited my constituency, but because she made some important
points. I shall return to one or two of them later. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt) on organising this debate. It is good to see so many Members wishing to participate; I shall endeavour not to detain the House for too long.
The Olympic games have been an easy target in the past and there has been a lot of negative coverage in the media. I hope that that is now changing. I have to admit that, as the Secretary of State pointed out, the Select Committee was unduly pessimistic about our chances in Beijing. I acknowledge that we got that wrong and I send my congratulations to all our athletes on a magnificent performance in Beijing. I would also like to congratulate the Chinesesomething that happens less often in this placeon putting on a fantastic Olympic games. They set a standard that we will have to work very hard to reach. As the Mayor of London told my Select Committee a few weeks ago, we may not be in a position to spend quite as much on the games as the Chinese, but we are endeavouring to produce a cosier games. That is something that we can look forward to.
I have no doubt that the games will be a great success. They will provide a fantastic spectacle for people in this country, and a further platform for our athletes to demonstrate their prowess. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey pointed out, the real objective on which we should focus is the legacy, and that will be very hard to achieve. Not many previous games have achieved great success in legacy terms.
The Select Committee visited Seoul, which hosted the games some years ago. The facilities there were wonderful, but most stood empty. There was a vast swimming complex where just a few people were swimming up and down the lanes, and there were running tracks that were barely used. We also visited Athens, which, if anything, was even more depressing: weeds were growing on the running tracks, and some of the sites were in an appalling state of disrepair. The Greeks were frank with us, admitting that they had been so fixated on completing the work in time for the games that they had not really thought about what would happen to the facilities afterwards. As the Select Committee has said, and as I think the Government have recognised, it is essential to take account of legacy use right from the start, when the facilities are being planned.
The Committee concluded in its most recent report that both the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and the Olympic Delivery Authority were doing pretty well. They are, I believe, further ahead than previous organising committees have been, and the International Olympic Committee has been impressed by the amount that has already been achieved. As for the legacy, I want to discuss three aspects of it: the hard legacy, sporting participation, and tourisma subject whose importance my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey rightly stressed, although in my view we are falling far short of what is potentially achievable.
The hard legacy was always going to be difficult. We are building a flagship Olympic stadium at a cost of half a billion pounds. In other Olympic cities, such venues have subsequently become national stadiums where national football competitions take place: they become the prestige venues. Of course, we already have one of those, on the other side of London, and it is unrealistic to believe that the Olympic stadium will be
able to compete with Wembley. I must say, thoughwithout wishing to upset the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen)that it is disappointing that no premier league club has said publicly that it is at least willing to consider the Olympic stadium as its future home. That would transform it. We shall have to work very hard to ensure that it continues to be used as it should, given the amount of money that is being invested in it. Perhaps more thought should have been given at the design stage to how that was to be achieved.
The hon. Member for West Ham rightly referred to the aquacentre. At a cost of £300 millionalthough the candidate file predicted that it would cost £73 millionit will be the countrys premier swimming competition venue. That will be terrific, but it is disappointing that more has not been done to ensure its leisure use. It is all very well for national swimming competitions to take place there, but I suspect that the constituents of the hon. Member for West Ham would rather have a pool where their children could enjoy themselves at weekends. If leisure facilities are being cut back, that is a shame, and poses the danger that the aquacentre will not be used as we would all like it to be.
I am also concerned about another project mentioned by the hon. Member for West Ham, the establishment of an international broadcasting centre and main press centre. We have not been told exactly how much that will cost, although we fear that it too may prove to be more expensive than initially forecast. However, it does provide an opportunity.
This is not just a vast warehouse; it will be a highly technologically equipped warehouse, with a potential for later use by the creative and media industries. I know that the mayor of Hackney and others in that part of London have ambitions for it, believing that it could become a media centre bringing income and employment to the area. I was reassured when the Select Committee was told that it was not true that it was likely to end up as a supermarket distribution centre. We have also been told that reports that it will be a temporary venue to be dismantled later are not correct. Again, I hope that thought will be given to its future use, and that the ambitious plans for its appeal to the media industries will not be dismissed. It would be a great shame if it, too, became a vast empty building sitting in east London.
My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey mentioned shooting. It is probably too late to revisit the debate about whether Bisley was a possible venue, although I still find it extraordinary that a world-class shooting centre should be ruled out on the basis that the road might not be good enough for the spectators, or that it was a bit too far away. The Select Committee was disappointed about that.
I was delighted to hear from the right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) about the inspiration gained by the young people of Greenwich from knowing that they are engaging in sport on an Olympic site. I do not discount that; I am sure that it is a motivating factor for them to know that they are playing in the place where an Olympic competition will shortly be held. Nevertheless, it is extremely disappointing that all the shooting facilities that will be built in Greenwich will then be taken down, and that there will be no real trace of evidence that shooting ever took place there. The Select Committee continues to hope that every
thought will be given to how we can use the Greenwich facilities to ensure that there is a legacy to benefit shooting, perhaps not in Greenwich but in other places.
The real target, although it is harder, is not the hard legacy but the soft legacy: sporting participation. As far as the Committee can see, no country has achieved a permanent increase in participation as a result of hosting the Olympics. That is not to say that we should not try to be the first to do so. The Government, and indeed our original bid, laid great stress on that being the real prize if we could pull it off. However, having examined the preparations that are being made with the aim of achieving increased participation in sport, the Committee concluded that, although Sport England is apparently to invest £183 million in multi-sport community projects, it would probably have supported such projects in any event, and they would merely be rebadged in order to be associated with the Olympic games.
The Secretary of State spoke of his ambitions for free swimming, and the money that the Government were providing, but he also said that that was always going to be a locally driven project.
Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that had it not been for the 2012 London Olympics, we would not have the UK school games every year? Earlier this year, 1,600 of our young people competed at the highest possible level in Bath and Bristol as a direct result of our winning bid, and that will continue well beyond 2012. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) attended the opening ceremony, and was instrumental in bringing the event to Bath and Bristol. Would not its continuation be a fantastic legacy, given that it will ensure early participation in sport among young people of school age?
Mr. Whittingdale: I am happy to agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that. I am delighted that the UK school games have been so successful. I shall say a little more about school sport in a moment, but let me say first that my local district council, having sat down and looked very closely at the figures, concluded that the introduction of free swimming for the over-60s would result in a significant increase in council tax, because the Governments money would not go nearly far enough. That is why many people think that, as in other trumpeted Government schemes such as free transport for the over-60s, local councils might end up having to pay the bill, because the Governments words exceed by a wide margin the amount of money they are prepared to put into them.
The ambition to increase the amount of time for school sport to five hours per week is a noble one and I would be delighted if it could be achieved, but I remain concerned that we do not really know how the Government intend to go about that. If part of that extra time for sport is to come out of the school day, what will have to be dropped? If it is not to come out of the school day, but is to take place after school, we will rely hugely on the community and amateur sports clubs to deliver that. I was going to talk about the evidence my Committee received yesterday during our inquiry into licensing, but the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster)who I am delighted to learn is paying such assiduous attention to our proceedingshas already made the point that licensing is just one example of the burdens on community sports
clubs, which are threatening the existence of many of them. Therefore, if the Government are to look to community sports clubs to deliver their ambition, it will be necessary for them to provide further help to enable them to do that.
The third plank of legacytourismis incredibly important. It was recognised by the Government as a legacy that could benefit the whole of the UK, and not just the east of London. In order to deliver that, we need to promote Britain. When the Government published their strategy for tourism, they said that VisitBritain would be the body tasked with delivering the tourism legacy. We therefore still find it inexplicable that the Government should choose this moment to cut VisitBritains budget by 40 per cent. I hope that the Government will reconsider that and give greater priority to tourism than they have done to date so that we achieve the full tourism legacy.
I do not, however, wish my speech to be entirely negative. I think that a great deal has been achieved. I pay tribute to LOCOG and the ODA. I have no doubt that the Olympic games will be a great success, and I hope that they will deliver a lasting legacy to this country, but if that is to be achieved, there are areas in which we should be doing more.
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