Tessa Jowell: Perhaps uncharacteristically in this place, we do not intend to press the new clause to a vote, subject obviously to the Minister providing satisfactory

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assurances on the points raised. The most important thing is that he raises them with the relevant authorities and that we find a solution to the growing concerns of Londoners about the prospect of Olympic lanes. This is but one example of very many that we will face in the weeks—47 now, I think—before the games. We have to be vigilant and focused on helping the relationship between the huge festival that is the Olympics and the daily lives and convenience of Londoners and London businesses.

In conclusion, I hope that I have—fairly briefly—made clear our concerns, which are reflected by Members who represent London constituencies on both sides of the House. I have had some helpful discussions with the Minister, and I am sure that we will listen eagerly to this reply.

Mr Chope: It gives me great pleasure to support the new clause tabled by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell). She said that she was not going to push the matter to a vote, but she might change her mind when she hears what has happened in my constituency over the so-called consultation—or lack of—on part of the Olympic network.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as was indicated by Madam Deputy Speaker earlier, I tabled a series of amendments and new clauses that, owing to a glitch, did not appear on the Order Paper, but which reflected the spirit of the right hon. Lady’s new clause. One of my amendments would have required that no road closure or restriction be operated outside the London Olympics period as defined in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. I tabled that amendment because we, in my constituency, are concerned about the disruption that will be caused to local residents and businesses well before the games start by the execution of improvement works at the Canford Bottom roundabout.

The right hon. Lady and others will recall that we discussed this matter on Second Reading on 28 April. I make no apology for returning to the subject today, however, because on that occasion I said that clause 4 would be helpful because it would enable the authorities to impose restrictions on side roads and local authority roads, thereby avoiding the need for the Canford Bottom improvements to be pushed through in defiance of local public opinion before the Olympics. That is how it was left on Second Reading.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke) and I then went to see the Minister with responsibility for roads, who was extremely helpful and accommodating, and said that there must be a proper public meeting and public exhibitions of the proposals, which was not what the Highways Agency originally proposed. Unfortunately, the exhibitions and the public meeting did not take place until the last week or two of July. What concerned my hon. Friend and me at the public meeting was that even at that late stage the Highways Agency had not produced the data about the impact of the closures and the works on local people and local businesses. That meeting took place after the House had gone into recess, but to give due credit to the Minister, he intervened and said that he would not allow the contract for the works to be let straight away, because it was important that the data, which had been promised for months if not years, should be made available to my hon. Friend and me and to the local highways authority.

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Two weeks later we got a letter saying that the data were now available—they had been put up on some website. Unfortunately, that same day, before the data had been examined by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole or me, or by the other people to whom it had been sent, we were told that the Minister was going to authorise the letting of the contract because he needed to be able to deliver the Olympic route. Under the terms of the Bill, it would not be necessary for him to have those works carried out at the Canford Bottom roundabout in advance of the Olympics, because he would have the power to restrict the local roads at the time and thereby compensate for any other traffic jams that might arise. We therefore faced a situation where the Minister, by his own admission, was contradicting what he had told my hon. Friend and me when we went to see him, namely that the issue of the improvements to the Canford Bottom roundabout was totally separate and apart from the London Olympics route network. It has now become apparent that the Olympic authorities are dictating the terms of the process and riding roughshod over local public opinion. They are also ignoring the representations made by the local highways authority, in so far as it has received sufficient information to enable it to make such representations.

This is a very serious issue. Many Members might not be familiar with the Canford Bottom junction, but it is on the main A31 trunk road where the road changes from being a dual carriageway going west, and it is subject to significant congestion and delay, particularly at peak times. It seems that it is the purpose of the Highways Agency and the Olympic Delivery Authority to ensure that the A31 runs fine, but in so doing to ignore the needs of the other users of that roundabout. When I say that more than 60,000 vehicles a day use that roundabout, I hope that that puts the situation into context for hon. Members. We are not talking about some local roundabout; a roundabout taking more than 60,000 vehicles a day is an extremely busy roundabout. Indeed, it may surprise Members to know that at peak times, two thirds of the vehicles using the roundabout are not using the A31 in both directions, but are using the minor roads going off the roundabout. That means that at peak hours in the morning, when 4,500 vehicles an hour use the roundabout, some 3,000 of them are using the local roads—that is, they are either coming in from one of the four local roads or egressing along one.

What is going to happen to those vehicles? The Highways Agency and the Olympic Delivery Authority are now saying that in order to construct the hamburger junction, which will involve more than 70 traffic lights—[Interruption.] I knew that my reference to the hamburgers would get the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) excited again, as it did on a previous occasion.

3 pm

Mr Foster: For the avoidance of doubt, the hon. Gentleman will well recall that I asked him to give a definition of a hamburger junction on the last time he raised it. I fully understand, as will all Members, what a hamburger junction is, so we do not need it repeated today.

Mr Chope: Absolutely. I cannot remember whether you, Mr Deputy Speaker, were in the Chair last time, but in the course of the discussion the right hon.

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Gentleman was guilty of making some rather poor-quality jokes about whether or not hamburgers were going to be sponsored in the Olympics and so forth.

This hamburger junction construction is a really significant issue. I am delighted to see that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) is now in the Chamber. He will, I hope, come down and visit this part of the network. If he does so, he will realise the implications of the prospect of total closure of all the side roads off that junction, day after day during five weeks when all four sections will be closed off. That will mean that in the peak hours, 3,000 vehicles an hour that use that junction now will not be able to use it. The consequences in terms of disruption to local businesses and local residents are absolutely beyond comprehension.

Last week, there was an incident on the road between West Parley and Longham—one of the side roads that leads ultimately into the Canford Bottom roundabout—as a result of which that road was closed. The traffic chaos, which extended well into the Bournemouth conurbation and had repercussions as far away as Poole, was enormous. There was a great deal of local anger, yet that was a closure that lasted only a few hours. What we are talking about now is a closure for 12 continuous weeks.

If this were happening in your constituency, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would have done exactly the same as me—raise the matter with the local highways authority. I put the point that if we can keep the main parts of the roundabout for the A31 running during working hours, why cannot we allow the side roads to operate—at least during peak periods or during the working day. The highways authority, Dorset county council, told me that it had been presented by the Highways Agency with some 10 different options for the construction of this hamburger junction. Those options ranged from closing off all the roads completely for 24 or 48 hours and doing the construction quickly, thereby minimising the expense and duration of the works but maximising the disruption to all traffic to, at the other extreme, closing none of the roads at peak times, with the works taking longer and perhaps costing a bit more.

As a result of the pressure of the ODA and the imperative to get this junction improved before the Olympic games—as I say, it is unnecessary, but it has now apparently been imposed on the roads Minister by his counterpart, the Minister for Sport and the Olympics—local businesses and local residents will suffer an enormous amount of disruption. In my submission, that is not consistent with the avowed intent of the Government, as expressed in paragraph 84 of the Bill’s explanatory notes, according to which:

“The Government’s aims in providing for, and enforcing, traffic restrictions required for the 2012 Games”


“to minimise the impact of the 2012 Games on local businesses and residents going about their everyday business.”

I have to tell my hon. Friend the Minister, and my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for roads, that those words ring extremely hollow in the Christchurch constituency, and in the neighbouring constituency of Mid Dorset and North Poole. I am sure that, in due course, when the residents of the Poole constituency, as well as the constituencies of Bournemouth East,

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Bournemouth West and North Dorset, realise the disruption that will be caused, the clamour for something to be done will become even greater.

In my view, prevention is better than cure, and it is not too late for the Government to intervene. They could say either that the construction works should not be carried out until after the London Olympics, or that they should be carried out using a different method that would enable the local traffic to flow, especially during peak periods. The consequences of the total closures to which I have referred will be completely disproportionate.

I have no doubt that if local people had known in advance about the data, which were supplied by the Highways Agency at the insistence of my hon. Friend the Minister only in the middle of August, there would have been uproar. They would have said that the plans were intolerable. Indeed, local businesses were not told about the proposed closures until the middle of August. They have now been told by EnterpriseMouchel, which works for the Highways Agency, that there will be road closures for 12 weeks from the middle of February 2012 until the beginning of May. That obviously includes the Easter period. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) is looking at me with incredulity at the prospect of major roads being closed for that length of time.

It is impossible to over-emphasise the gravity of the situation. I do not think that the Highways Agency or the Olympic Delivery Authority have any notion of the anger that is going to be generated when people see what is happening on the ground and realise that there was, and still is, an alternative. This is not like when a motorway has to be closed following a fatal accident, which is an act of God—or perhaps not. We know that this is going to happen, and we ought to be able to plan for it and bring in the necessary traffic management measures to ensure minimum disruption to the local traffic. However, because of the imperative of getting the work done before the Olympics, local businesses and residents are going to be put through an enormous amount of inconvenience.

I cannot even get an answer on whether it will be possible for pedestrians to cross from one side of the junction to the other during the course of the works. A detour of perhaps four or five miles will be required for motorists, through congested urban conditions. That will add hours to people’s journeys and do immense economic damage to the locality. When we discussed this on Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Minister said that that was the first he had heard of the problem. I hope that he will now look into the matter again. His Bill enables him to say that the works should be half-completed or curtailed before the Olympics. They do not have to be finished until after the games, and if that is the price of enabling local people to go about their normal lives without disruption, so be it.

Another point relates to the substance of whether the junction improvements are valid. Only when we obtained the data did the position become clear. Although the Highways Agency and others had asserted that everyone would be better off when the improvements had been completed, it was clear from the small print that, even during peak hours, vehicles coming off the eastern part of Wimborne Road West would experience greater delays

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than they do at present, and that the same would apply to Wimborne Road West in the evening and Ham lane in the morning.

As for off-peak periods—and, of course, much of the day is off-peak, given that the peaks are defined as two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening—it is clear that, contrary to all the assertions, delays on the local roads will increase. That too was not made clear during the consultation, and the Highways Agency—perhaps in the knowledge that the consequences of declaring openly what was going to happen would be adverse to it—did not communicate the effects to local people. This is a serious example of the need for consultation with the local highways authority, but either there was no such consultation or, if it did take place, the highways authority has not been listened to.

When I raised the matter with the traffic manager at Dorset county council’s environmental directorate, he told me that the proposals considered with the Highways Agency included 10 different options for dealing with the traffic. The issues that they took into account were disruption to the network, buildability, and value for money. I asked what the county council thought, and at that stage it became rather difficult to engage with it. I asked a specific question: did the council believe that the proposals to block access and egress from all four local roads for such a long period was reasonable, or did it place a disproportionate burden on local residents and businesses? I also asked it to look at the 10 possible scenarios, but I am sorry to say that I did not receive a very clear answer from the highways authority. I am not sure whether its members had really got their heads around the gravity of what is proposed. The area contains many major businesses, including aerospace manufacturing, and those businesses—not to mention people going about their own ordinary daily business—will be greatly inconvenienced.

If my amendments had been printed and selected, it would have been possible for the Bill to include the commitment made by the Minister earlier and repeated by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead—who is responsible for road traffic—that the disruption to local businesses and residents would be minimised. It is clear from what has happened so far in relation to the A31 and the Canford Bottom improvements that that commitment is not being fulfilled.

I hope that the Minister will relent between now and the beginning of the disruption that is due to start in February. As was established on the last occasion when we discussed the matter, any competitors or officials wanting to go to the Weymouth site will need to be there in good time. They will not want to risk a delay to their journey at the Canford Bottom roundabout, which, in any case, is probably a good hour and a half’s drive from the Olympics venue. Officials and media people may want to bear that in mind.

3.15 pm

I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole is now in her place, and I hope she will join in the debate, in order to emphasise that this is not a party political matter, but rather a constituency matter of the highest order. We do not have the luxury of having any motorways in Dorset, and we do not have many trunk roads either, but we expect those that we do

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have to be managed and dealt with in a way that is much more friendly towards the needs of the local people than seems to be the case at present.

I said I would not speak at length and I have resisted quoting from much of the extensive correspondence I have had with the Minister and officials. I hope this debate—and, perhaps, the protests that will follow if the Government do not relent on the proposed 12-week closures—will bring home to them the fact that local people take this issue very seriously.

Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I endorse the points that are being made. The Olympic games are a wonderful opportunity for this country, but the impact on our area is beginning to be very considerable, and some of it is causing a great deal of resentment and fear among local businesses. In respect of these road works, due consideration must be given to our local economy and the way of life of local people.

Mr Chope: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her intervention and her support for our line; we have been operating on this issue together. We have been in the dark for quite a lot of the time, but we have worked hard to try to cast some light on the issue.

There is much talk about the Olympic legacy, and perhaps the Minister will refer to that in his summing up. I fear, however, that the Olympic legacy in my constituency will be people saying, “The Canford Bottom roundabout should have had a proper improvement, but instead a half-baked hamburger junction has been incorporated that will not on any view solve the long-term traffic problems. That was the price that had to be paid for the Olympics.”

I think it is too high a price, and it is also an unnecessary price, because there could have been a little more consultation and rational thought about this matter. We could have delayed the improvements until after the Olympics and thus ensured that they would deliver real benefits to local road users, as well as to national road users using the important A31 network.

Mike Freer (Finchley and Golders Green) (Con): I rise to make a few brief remarks on new clause 2. I urge the Minister to ignore the siren voices calling for yet more consultation as we near the Olympic period. While the Opposition will not press their amendments to a vote, I fear that the Minister might choose to acknowledge their sentiments and take on board what they propose.

I am not generally a great fan of Transport for London, but I have to say that its consultation on the Olympic network has been exemplary. Phase 1 addresses the A12 Leytonstone to Redbridge roundabout. Although it is not in my constituency, it is an important London junction, and TfL has written to every resident and business within a certain distance, informing them of all the changes and proposals. It has also held three drop-in sessions, and that procedure has been repeated for every phase.

Lyn Brown: I represent the constituency in which the Olympic park is based, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I have a small but very significant postbag from residents who are not aware of things that are happening on their doorsteps and that affect their everyday lives, such as whether or not they can go down certain roads,

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which roads are closed and how much noise, inconvenience and dust will be created. Although I hear him saying on behalf of his constituents that the good people of Finchley are not in need of further information and consultation, the good people of Newham would be very grateful to be kept properly informed of everything that will happen over the next year and more that will affect their quality of life.

Mike Freer: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. I cannot comment on the ability of her constituents to absorb information, nor on the ability of mine to do so. What I am saying is that this new clause is unnecessary. It is not for primary legislation to dictate to Transport for London or the ODA exactly how and when they should consult. They are consulting on the major phases extensively and, unusually, TfL is doing that quite well. Members of the public and Members of this House may feel strongly about the consultation, but the consultation for phase 1 in central London is still open, and it will remain open for another week. All I am saying about this new clause is that the Minister needs to be careful not to burden the ODA with a raft of consultation and information requests that are ill-defined and will, at some point, allow people to say—

Lyn Brown: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mike Freer: No, I am just making a general point about the quality of consultation on the priority route networks.

Under Mayor Johnson, TfL has been exemplary on this occasion. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) made a powerful case about consultation, and perhaps we should extend the purview of Mayor Johnson to Christchurch, as that might improve the level of consultation on my hon. Friend’s local council.

Mr Chope: My point is not about the lack of consultation by the local council; it is about the lack of involvement of the Highways Agency.

Mike Freer: I stand corrected. My general point is that the new clause, whether or not it is pressed to a vote, asks the Minister to take on board a raft of additional consultations. It asks us to consult and inform ad nauseam, yet it is ill-defined.

Lyn Brown rose—

Mike Freer: I have already said that I am not going to give way further on this, as I am making a general point. The Minister needs to be careful not to burden the ODA and the relevant authorities with ill-defined requests, ad nauseam, for information. Thus far, TfL has been exemplary and the Mayor of London has done an excellent job, and I urge the Minister to ignore the siren voices.

Hugh Robertson: With respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, and with the permission of the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), I shall deal with Canford Bottom roundabout first and then return to her new clause.

Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): Bottom up then, is it?

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Hugh Robertson: It is actually the military principle of securing one’s rear before one advances. There will be an unfortunate double entendre, if we are not careful.

It is a well-defined principle of the Olympics, or it certainly has been in the 15 or 16 months of our work on the Olympics, that issues lie where they fall. Thus, despite the fact that my Department—the one that the right hon. Lady presided over before the election—has primary responsibility for the delivery of the Olympics, where detailed issues arise they lie with the Department that is primarily responsible for them. So anything to do with the management of overseas dignitaries lies with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, anything to do with Olympic security lies primarily with the Home Office and anything to do with transport lies primarily with the Department for Transport. So I feel a little bit like a duck caught in the shooting gallery this afternoon.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) raised a great number of his concerns on Second Reading, and I undertook then to ensure that they were correctly raised with the Department for Transport. The note that I have been given assures me that that has been the case and, indeed, I believe that in his submission my hon. Friend acknowledged that the roads Minister has been closely involved. I suspect that the problem is that we have simply hit a brick wall, in that my hon. Friend does not want this particular scheme to happen but the roads Minister has given authorisation for it to proceed. There has been agreement that the work can proceed, and I believe that it is due to start imminently. The note that I have received states that the highways authority simply does not believe that there is a viable alternative.

I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch that I went to Weymouth to have a look at the test event at the beginning of August, when representatives of Dorset county council and the local authority were present. I did not get the opportunity to get held up at the Canford Bottom roundabout. The right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood will be delighted to learn that I set a good example and travelled by train, and so I did not have a chance to see this important roundabout. I must tell my hon. Friend that nobody in and around Weymouth, including Dorset county council, raised this with me as an issue in any way.

Indeed, if one problem came out of that visit—the regatta itself was brilliantly organised and the local authorities are doing everything that they possibly can to deliver a successful regatta at Olympic time—it was the worry that on the super Sunday in the middle of the games, when Ben Ainslie stands a chance of breaking the record for sailing medals at the Olympics, most of the south-west will decamp to Weymouth, thereby gumming up roads for miles around. It was for precisely that reason that they needed to make improvements to the road network. As my hon. Friend knows, one of the reasons why Weymouth will be a great venue is that it is a fantastic amphitheatre, but the town, which is small and has small roads, has a capacity of about 8,000, I was led to believe. Their concerns are rather the reverse and that we should do everything possible to increase access.

I simply do not know what more I can do at this point. It is not within my power as the Olympics Minister to halt these works and it never has been.

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Mr Chope: The roads Minister told me that it was not necessary to go ahead with these works prior to the Olympics, but he has effectively told me in a letter that he has now been ordered to go ahead with them because they form part of the Olympic route network. If my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and the Olympics can do nothing else today, will he confirm that as far as the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Olympic route network are concerned, it is not necessary to proceed with the Canford Bottom construction and improvements before the Olympic games? The route could be secured using the powers in clause 4.

Hugh Robertson: I shall certainly check that for my hon. Friend and, if he wishes, write to him, but the information that I have in front of me is clear—inasmuch as I can read it—that these improvements are required to deliver the Olympics. It is as simple as that.

Mr Chope: Why are the improvements required? How will they make a difference? At the moment, my hon. Friend’s powers under clause 4 would enable all the other sides of the roundabout to be closed off, for example. Indeed, local people have said that they would prefer that. They would prefer to have all the roundabout closed off to local traffic during the Olympic games than to have to put up with this disruption and the construction of what seems to be a white elephant project.

Hugh Robertson: My hon. Friend will know, as he was a Transport Minister in the previous Conservative Government, that what local people want is not always the best traffic solution to achieve what people are trying to do on a national scale. We are committed to an Olympic route network—we will come on to that in a minute—and that was a commitment given at the time of the bid. As the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood has said, many of us are nervous about this, but it was a commitment we made when we signed the host nation contract back in 2005, and it is one that we are contractually obliged to deliver. We have taken advice from the experts—in this case, the Highways Agency—and I have a briefing from it among my notes. I have just received a copy of the letter that was written to the right hon. Lady by the Transport Minister. Both the briefing and that letter confirm that these works are necessary and that they will go ahead. I am sorry that my hon. Friend is so unhappy about it, but I do not see that there is a great deal that I can do.

Mr Chope: Of course, my hon. Friend has to answer for the roads Minister, too, because that is the way this debate is going. My hon. Friend the Minister says that these works are necessary, but does he not agree that if we apply common sense we can see that it is possible to construct such a major new junction without closing the local roads for 11 weeks continuously?

Hugh Robertson: The short answer is that I simply do not know, because I have not seen this roundabout. I am an amateur, not a traffic professional, and I think that even if I went there and had a look, I would not necessarily be sure that I would get it right. That is why we have agencies such as the Highways Agency to give us advice. That advice has been examined and tested by my hon. Friend the roads Minister, and he has written

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accordingly. I am afraid that I have no option—and would not take any other up—than to accept his judgment and advice. I am afraid that that is where we are. I accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch does not like it, but I am afraid that that is the way it is going to happen.

Mr Chope: Will my hon. Friend confirm that he has overruled the roads Minister in insisting that this project go ahead?

Hugh Robertson: No; absolutely not. I have not overruled the roads Minister in any way. I do not have that power, which does not exist.

Annette Brooke: Does the Olympic Delivery Authority have the power to instruct the Minister to give the go-ahead to the road?

Hugh Robertson: I would have to check the requirements of the Act. The ability to set out an Olympic route network was laid out in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, which the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood, the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) and I were involved in passing five years ago. As the right hon. Lady has said, the power was introduced because there was complete traffic chaos at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, in which competitors missed their events and officials failed to turn up at the right time because the city became gridlocked. That has been a feature of every Olympics since.

3.30 pm

It is a requirement of the host nation contract to have an Olympic route network between all the key venues. That was given statutory effect in the 2006 Act, so the measure will almost certainly have its origin in that Act. There is a process of consultation between the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Highways Agency about how these things are to be enacted. According to the evidence before me today—the briefing that I have been given—that consultation has been done and a conclusion has been reached. I am very sorry that the two local Members—my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Annette Brooke)—do not like it, but it is one of those simple situations where there is a difference of opinion between local Members of Parliament and those trying to design the scheme. Given that the roads Minister has considered all this, having had countless meetings, and come to a conclusion, I do not see much point in prolonging this further because the decision has been made. The only advice that I can give to those Members if they wish to pursue this further is to do so with the roads Minister via an Adjournment debate.

On the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood, let me say at the outset that I entirely appreciate that the thought process lying behind it involves trying to minimise the impact of the Olympic route network on people living and working in the areas concerned. I am very grateful for her confirmation that she supports the general principle. All of us who have been involved in this process, either at the time of the bid or subsequently, recognise why this has to happen, but none of us is enormously enthusiastic

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about it, because we know exactly what the impact will be. However, it is a necessary safety measure to ensure that the London games are not afflicted by the sort of scenes we saw in Atlanta, with competitors missing the start of their competitions and officials not being able to get there to oversee them.

The importance of this issue was brought home to me at the weekend, when I visited the rowing squad out in Slovenia during the world rowing championships. It is very easy for us to minimise how important these events are to the athletes—the young men and women who are competing for us—but in many cases they have given up other careers and put themselves through an almost monastic existence for the four years running up to events. We owe it to them to make sure that this moment in their lives is as well organised as possible.

Before I address the four points that the right hon. Lady made, let me pick up the point that the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) made about the operation of the Olympic route network. I categorically assure her, on the record, that the network will not operate for 100 days—it absolutely will not. It is expected to operate for a couple of days in the lead-up to the games and for a short period after they finish to allow for the arrival and departure of athletes. It then will not operate between the Olympics and the Paralympics, and then the same thing will happen again. The horror stories about 100 days of chaos are very wide of the mark.

Lyn Brown: I welcome the Minister’s answer very much, but the figure of 100 days is in the ether, so to speak. A constituent wrote to me about this matter, quoting the ODA website. That is at the back of my mind, although as I stand here I do not have access to the letter, and certainly do not have access to the ODA website. I would be grateful if the Minister’s aides considered looking at the website to see how my constituents might have misread the information that they saw in front of them.

Hugh Robertson: I expect, without knowing, that the hon. Lady’s constituents misread the information, because in some quarters it is being presented very badly. That is not a criticism of the ODA, although we will certainly look at what she says, but there is a certain amount of mischief making in all this. Many people who write and commentate on the games know that the measure will be extremely unpopular and unwelcome in some quarters, and are making the most of it. A lot of the 100-day scare stories come from that, which is partly why I am happy to put the record straight today.

Bob Blackman: Londoners in general are concerned that we might witness the horrible spectacle of queues of traffic sitting in proper lanes while International Olympic Committee officials are whisked past them in rapid-fire lanes at times when people are not going to the Olympics but are going about their normal, law-abiding business. We can all agree that in the area around the Olympic park there will be a lot of publicity and, therefore, understanding, but in the wider area of London there will be less understanding and less appreciation. Will the Minister assure us that he is doing everything possible to minimise not only the number of days, but the times when the Olympic lanes will operate, so that the inconvenience to Londoners is minimised?

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Hugh Robertson: Indeed, my hon. Friend can have that guarantee from me. There can be no better guarantee than the fact that, whatever we signed in the host nation contract, we all know that these measures have the capacity to cause considerable annoyance and irritation at a time when we would like the whole country to come together to celebrate a London Olympics, with the possible exception of the residents in and around the Canford Bottom roundabout.

We are determined to ensure that we operate the network with the minimum possible disruption to London residents. It will operate for only a couple of days before the games and a couple of days after to facilitate entry and exit to the city. It will operate during the games themselves only when the competition schedule is in place.

The final thing that is worth saying is that the Olympic route network occupies only a tiny proportion of the London network. I can give my hon. Friend the absolute assurance that we will do everything possible to ensure that the effect is as small as possible, commensurate with keeping to the obligations to the IOC that we undertook in signing the host nation contract back in 2005.

Let me run through the four points made by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood. I agree that communication is vital and that this is not a question of one, straightforward leaflet drop. As we know, there are all sorts of reasons why such a thing could go adrift. The process has to be constant and ongoing—probably rather like a point in politics: only when one is heartily sick of hearing it is there any chance of its getting through. I agree that it is vital that we not only go through the consultation process, which we are doing at the moment, but back it up, back it up and back it up.

If it would reassure the right hon. Lady, and in keeping with the agreements we have over the scope of the project, I am happy to arrange for her to have a briefing from Transport for London, which I presume she sees as part of her shadow ministerial responsibilities, and from the Department.

Mr Foster: To offer further reassurance, will the Minister tell the House whether I am correct in my belief that many aspects of the Olympic route network will require traffic regulation orders to be passed, and that passing a traffic regulation order requires consultation with the local public—an additional level of consultation?

Hugh Robertson: The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Indeed, had I read the speech that was prepared for me, I would have covered that point—I decided instead to try to be clever and go al fresco across the right hon. Lady’s contribution.

The right hon. Lady’s second point was about encouraging everyone to travel by public transport. It was made clear in a powerful part of the bid we put in to the IOC that these were to be a public transport games. As she will know, as a Minister I always travel by public transport and certainly will in the run-up to the games. Indeed, even now public transport is by far the quickest way to get to Stratford. I managed to travel from the west end to Stratford international station in 18 minutes the other night. Slowly but surely that point is getting through in Lausanne. I had some discussions

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on that when I attended the world rowing championships. The IOC members probably form a spectrum in that regard; many will use public transport, but some will probably take some more persuading. We will do everything we can to encourage them to use public transport.

A consultation on pedestrian crossings is going on at the moment. The detailed plans on changes to pedestrian crossings are being adjusted wherever possible in the light of representations that have been received. It is our intention to ensure that there is minimum disruption, not that a “safety first” approach is carried out. I can absolutely assure the right hon. Lady that that will be done.

The right hon. Lady’s final point was on taxis, and the Mayor said yesterday that he was looking at that very carefully. We are seeing what can be done at one end of the spectrum, by creating pick-up and drop-off points along the Olympic route network that will allow taxis to operate more efficiently. Information packs are already being prepared that will cover the ORN venues and other details about the games. They will be distributed to drivers to help them to operate as efficiently as possible and make the most of the commercial opportunities that will be available to them through the games.

Lyn Brown: I am once again grateful to the Minister for his point about black cabs, but I emphasise the point about private hire cars from local businesses around the Olympic site—certainly those that operate with a licence and are of good repute.

Hugh Robertson: The hon. Lady makes the point well. The best thing I can do is offer her a guarantee that I will bring her remarks to the attention of the Mayor. It might be sensible for her to write to him as well, but I can certainly give her that assurance.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I have often resisted intervening on issues relating to the London taxi industry, but on this occasion I cannot. It is the only fleet of transport vehicles in London that is fully accessible to disabled people. It is an essential part of making it easy for people with disabilities to get to the Olympic site. When the Minister is discussing that with the Mayor, would he please emphasise that point and perhaps allow those vehicles carrying people with a blue badge or some form of identification that shows they are registered disabled to enter the Olympic priority network?

Hugh Robertson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It is a point well made. As he knows, it is international Paralympic day today—there is not always a direct correlation with the term and I know that people do not always like it. One of the commitments made at the time of the bid was to make this the most disabled-enabled games ever. This country, of course, is the home of the Paralympic movement. It is absolutely our intention to do everything possible to make the experience for disabled people attending both the Olympic and Paralympic games as easy and pleasurable as possible. The hon. Gentleman’s point about the London taxi fleet was well made. I agree with him entirely and will certainly raise it with the Mayor.

I will finish by thanking the right hon. Lady not only for her new clause, but for the spirit with which she tabled it. I absolutely agree with the thinking behind it.

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Indeed, had we been having this debate 19 months ago I would probably have done exactly what she has done today.

I hope that in my remarks I have been able to reassure the right hon. Lady that we will do everything possible. As I have said, certainly in the House, not least because all Members receive constituency postbags, we are all aware of the potential for the situation to cause very considerable unease, anger and disappointment at games time. We gave a commitment at the time of the bid, and we must carry it out, but it is absolutely vital that it is carried out in a common-sense and, dare I say it, minimalistic way, so that the impact on an already very busy and congested city is kept as small as possible. I hope that with that reassurance she will feel sufficiently reassured to withdraw her new clause.

Tessa Jowell: I thank the Minister for his constructive response, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn .

New Clause 3

Police resources

‘(1) Section 6 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (2) insert—

“(3) Any consultation under subsection (2) shall include a request from the Authority that the Commissioner or relevant chief constable provide an estimate of the number of police officers required to be deployed in order that the Olympic Delivery Authority may effectively exercise its duties under subsection (1).”’.—(Tessa Jowell.)

Brought up, and read the First time .

3.45 pm

Tessa Jowell: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The security operation for the games will be the largest peacetime security operation ever mounted in the UK, and it will place tremendous demands not only on the Metropolitan police, but on all police forces, as officers will be drawn from forces throughout the country. Of the 330,000 police shifts that are likely to take place during the games, about 70,000 are likely to be covered by officers from outside London.

In the wake of the disturbances that swept across London—when, similarly, we had officers from outside London supporting the Met—and other parts of the country, we have learned not just how important the number of police can be, but how vulnerable parts of the country and, indeed, of our city can be when there are simply not enough police on the street.

By the time the games come to London, London and national police forces will be significantly diminished. The Government’s gamble with police cuts means that there will be fewer police on the streets, putting the security operation and other police functions at risk.

By March 2012, the Metropolitan police will have 940 fewer officers than it had two years before, and throughout the country two thirds of the budget reductions will have taken place by the run-up to the games, meaning that there will be as many as 10,000 fewer officers available.

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The Police Federation has raised concerns that forces outside London are struggling to find the finance and the man and woman-power to send officers to the capital, and that could heap further pressure on an already stretched Met.

In the light of last month’s events, what reassurances can the Minister give the House that the Met police force will be able to cope not just with the Olympic security operation, but with any public order disturbances that may come its way? Can he assure the House that police forces outside London will also have sufficient numbers to offer support to the Met police operation and to respond to disturbances that might occur at the same time in their own area?

If the Minister cannot with confidence give those assurances, will he undertake to meet ministerial colleagues to review policing capacity and capability in order to ensure that there is a sufficient number of police officers to fulfil the extensive commitments of summer 2012, remembering that the Olympics are preceded by the celebration of the Queen’s diamond jubilee?

The most important task of any Government is to ensure the safety of the people whom they serve, and next year presents an unprecedented security challenge, one that will have been made significantly harder by having fewer police on the streets of London. I ask the Minister to reassure not just the House but London that the security strategy, which enjoys cross-party support, can be delivered even with that reduced capability.

Stephen Pound: I do not want to tempt the Minister too far away from the core subject, the wording, the irrefragable basis of this marvellous, exquisitely crafted new clause. However, he is well known for being a man of great charm, decency and keenness to accommodate all views in the House—a characteristic that will almost certainly guarantee that he does not become Prime Minister for a few years, but that he will have a great many friends.

The point that concerns me very much on the issue of policing was raised in reference to the Olympics on the Floor of the House on Monday in connection with the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill. I understand that we are not talking about TPIMs, but the Olympics. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) has raised the issue of police numbers and the potential shortfall.

As every right hon. and hon. Member in the House will know, the abandonment of the relocation principle was voted through the House on Monday night, although I have to say that all Opposition Members voted to maintain public safety and relocation. One consequence is that some of the most dangerous and potentially lethal terrorists in this country will be allowed to return to their home areas, which will often be in the heartlands of the Olympics. As we heard on Monday night, that will require enhanced police activity and oversight. Whereas under the relocation principle such people could be relocated away from their homes, they will now return to areas where they know people, in many cases where they were brought up, and where they have friends and family.

Understandably, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire) did not go into a great

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deal of detail on Monday, but he did point out that there would have to be deeply enhanced police oversight. Whether that will be provided in any force other than the Met, we do not know. Logic suggests that it will have to be done by the Met. The Met is the only force that can draw down this sort of specialist oversight operation. If that happens, the demand from that draw-down on police officers from January and February next year, right the way through the diamond jubilee and the Olympics, will become intensely significant.

It is not the purpose of this debate to rehash all the TPIMs arguments. However, it is a shame that the hon. and gallant Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) is not in his place—he was here earlier—because on Monday, he pointed out that, having come to the issue completely open-mindedly, he could not understand why any Government would not wish to have this vital tool in their armoury. However, on the occasion the vote was lost. I ask the Minister whether he will speak to his colleagues in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice specifically about the additional police numbers that will be required to oversee the operation of TPIMs in east London in particular and in the whole of the M25 area.

The Minister has military experience. He is the sort of young officer whom many of us would follow into the jaws of death itself. I imagine him on the bridge of some storm-tossed corvette, heading straight into the roaring sound of gunfire, while we plucky matelots gather astern to support him. On this occasion, I would like to see him lead the good ship of state into the safe haven of public security and away from the threat and danger that may be attendant upon east London, the Olympic area, the Olympic dream and the Olympic ideal.

Hugh Robertson: Follow that! I should probably confess that the only time I ever went into the heat of battle on the back of a vehicle was in a tank with the lid firmly screwed down, so there is rather less chance of that than the hon. Gentleman suggested.

I will come to the hon. Gentleman’s points in a minute, but may I start by saying that I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) for tabling the new clause? As she is absolutely aware, having had this responsibility herself, the safety and security of games venues, the supporting infrastructure and the wider public environment next summer is a paramount priority for the Government and for everybody involved in the Olympic games movement. I should certainly, at the outset, place on the record my gratitude for the work that she did during her time in office to ensure that the security plan is in the position that it is today. I am happy to say to this House, as I have said outside, that I am as confident as one can be at this stage that we can deliver a safe and secure games.

In response to the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), I point out that we had the opportunity in Committee to question the assistant commissioner who is responsible for policing and security around London 2012. As I think we all agreed, he was probably the standout witness we saw. He was extremely persuasive and, as one would expect, well informed. There is no

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doubt that the fact that the security plan, operationally, is in such a good place is largely due to the work that he and others have done. I can absolutely assure the hon. Gentleman that there has been no question, either formally or informally, of the Metropolitan police raising the sort of concerns that he has just raised with me. In as much as it counts, I hope that he will accept that reassurance.

Mr Foster: I apologise for interrupting the Minister, but I should like to place on the record—perhaps this will reassure the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound)—the fact that I too have the utmost confidence in Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison, who was not only an expert witness but gave every one of us who questioned him real confidence that he takes these concerns deeply seriously and also has the ability, the competence and the skills to ensure that the solutions are delivered.

Hugh Robertson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that.

Stephen Pound: I apologise for intervening again; this is not ping-pong. That is not even an Olympic sport; if it were, it would be called whiff-whaff, I am sure. I take second place to no man in my admiration for AC Allison, but the point is that he was talking about the situation then. Since Monday night, the rules have changed and everything is different. We now have the potential for the body to be infected by a virulent bacillus. Even Lord Carlile, who is not of my party, has said that these are potentially lethally dangerous people. The weather has changed, and we have to take that into consideration, despite the admiration that everyone in this House has for AC Allison.

Hugh Robertson: I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. However, the events of Monday night did not suddenly come out of a puff of smoke. The police have had the opportunity to prepare for this, and they also have the ability, through their intelligence services, to look forward. On that basis, I can reassure him that neither formally nor informally, at any stage, has anybody in the Metropolitan police service raised this with me as a potential problem.

Lyn Brown: I thank the Minister for his good words, which go some way towards helping us to feel more secure. However, will he take back and ask directly the question about whether the relocation issues are now of concern to the Metropolitan police with the forthcoming Olympic games ahead of us?

Hugh Robertson: I will certainly go back and ask the question. I am not sure that this will necessarily reassure the hon. Lady, but I would be absolutely amazed if I were the first person who had asked it. It is absolutely inconceivable that it was not asked by the Home Office during the preparation of the Bill. This has been a long time in the cooking, and there would have been ample opportunity for the Metropolitan police to say, at any stage during the process, that this was a problem.

Stephen Pound: This will be the last time that I seek to intervene on the Minister. I entirely take his point. However, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Osborne, a

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person of similar standing who is the co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, said in evidence to this House that relocation is by far the most effective mechanism. The Met is therefore considering it, and for the one person the Minister prays in aid, we can pray in aid a DAC who says quite the opposite.

Hugh Robertson: At the risk of splitting hairs, I am not sure that there is a contradiction here. Whatever the DAC may or may not have said about what place he sees for relocation in the tools available to him, the fact is that it has gone now, post Monday night. The police have known that it was going for some time before this—and crucially, knowing that it was going, nobody has said that that will present us with an insuperable problem, or in my case, any form of problem, around London 2012.

Bob Blackman: One of the concerns expressed to me by individuals in the Metropolitan police is that since the London riots, in many London boroughs the police have been continuously working 12-hour shifts, with no rest days and no allowance for annual leave. That is at the current operational policing level. Given that the Olympics are coming up, will the Minister verify the position with the Met? My understanding is that it is cancelling all annual leave for the duration of the Olympics and gearing up for a similar operation during that time, and that will put great strain on the resources available to it not only in the Olympic areas but across London. That must give rise to a potential security problem.

4 pm

Hugh Robertson: I say to my hon. Friend that we should be careful, because I would be very nervous about saying anything that suggested that there was in any way, shape or form a security problem around London 2012. The messages that we give out here are followed in places beyond here, so one could get into quite dangerous territory. I am not without experience in this area—I spent just over 10 years in the armed services and know how to read a security briefing—and I say again that given the nature of the subject that we are dealing with, I am as confident as I possibly can be at this stage, 10 months out from the Olympics, that we can deliver a safe and secure games. Inherent in that is the necessity of striking a balance between keeping this city and those games secure and recognising that they will be a fantastic public spectacle that we want people to be able to move in and out of and enjoy to the maximum extent.

I will come to the precise police numbers required to police London 2012 in a moment, but the Metropolitan police have been involved at every stage of the planning and are confident, as I am, that the plan is deliverable and that the result will be a safe and secure games.

Bob Blackman: I think we can be confident about the security level of the games. Having inspected the park and the security arrangements, I think we will deliver a superb games. One of the concerns of Londoners, however, is the potential for criminals and others to promote their activities in the time leading up to and during the games, which could affect the police’s operational capability in London in that period. Has that been taken into account?

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Hugh Robertson: The short answer to my hon. Friend is that it has absolutely been taken into account. As I said, I will come on to the police numbers in a moment, which I hope will give him some reassurance, but I can give him further reassurance. He took part in the debate on Second Reading and has been closely involved throughout the Bill’s passage, so he will be aware that one clause in the Bill is the specific result of police intelligence and a request from the police. The maximum fine for ticket touting has been increased on the basis of intelligence received from Operation Podium. There is a constant process of updating legislation as required.

New clause 3 would require relevant police authorities, in such consultations with them as the Olympic Delivery Authority considered appropriate, to provide an estimate of the police deployments required to enable the ODA to fulfil its responsibilities under section 6(1) of the 2006 Act. I would say two things about the new clause. First, there have been and continue to be extensive discussions between all concerned parties—the police, the Home Office, the ODA, the Department, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and a great many others—on planned police deployments at London 2012 venues.

The right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood will also be aware, most practically because she has done this job, that as under the previous Administration the Government have pursued a policy of maximum transparency in communicating the look and feel of the safety and security of the London 2012 games. That includes public statements from the police on the expected requirement for policing the games, which at current estimates is up to 9,000 officers in London and 12,000 nationally on the peak days during the Olympic games. Naturally, those numbers will be flexed up or down as necessary in response to changes in intelligence and the threat environment.

The second point is much more technical—I am slightly more nervous about making it, and I hope the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood will take it in the way that it is meant. The proposed purpose of new clause 3 is out of step with the transfer of a wide range of games-time responsibilities, including security, from the ODA to LOCOG. At the Olympic park, that handover will be complete in January, so there is a technical problem with new clause 3, because by the time the measure has ground through the other place, it is likely that in any event, the security responsibility will largely have been handed over. In practical terms, if the new clause becomes part of the Bill, it would have either a very short shelf life or possibly no shelf life.

Accordingly and in conclusion, I once again thank the right hon. Lady for all the work that she did in government in drawing up the original security plan. I absolutely reassure her and other hon. Members that keeping the games safe and secure remains the Government’s overriding priority. A lot of things are important in and around the games, but security is the No. 1 priority.

I offer the right hon. Lady the opportunity to raise those and other concerns with Home Office officials as part of her routine briefings on the subject, as I did in respect of her previous proposal. As we discussed at Question Time this morning, I am aware that she has a meeting next week. If anything comes out of that that she feels has not been addressed satisfactorily, I hope

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she knows that she can come back to me, and I will do everything possible to ensure that she gets the right answer. On that basis, I hope that I can persuade her to withdraw the clause.

Tessa Jowell: With those very helpful assurances, and on the basis that the House will want to keep these matters under review between now and the end of the games, which will be a year tomorrow, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1

Removal of infringing articles

Hugh Robertson: I beg to move amendment 1, page 1, line 2, in clause 1, at end insert—

‘( ) In section 21 of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (offence of contravening advertising regulations), omit subsection (4).’.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment 2.

Hugh Robertson: I think everybody will be relieved to know that these are two minor and very technical amendments—I see nods all around the Chamber at that.

Amendment 1 repeals a redundant provision in the 2006 Act. Section 21(4) provides that a person convicted of contravening the advertising regulations may be ordered to pay the ODA’s or the police’s reasonable enforcement expenses. The provision is redundant, because other sections of the Act—sections 22(9) and 28(7)—already allow the ODA and the police to recover their enforcement costs from people who contravene the advertising and trading regulations.

Amendment 2 amends the advertising and trading provisions as they apply in Scotland, so that they remain largely as operated by the 2006 Act but more closely follow the model of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008. The amendment has been requested by the Scottish Government, who consulted the police and prosecuting authorities in Scotland.

Although the amendments will result in a small and technical variation in the operation of the advertising and trading provisions in Scotland as opposed to England and Wales, they are not likely to cause significant differences in practice. Indeed, I hope that all hon. Members recognise that Scotland’s legal system is different from the one in England and Wales.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment made: 2, page 6, line 15, leave out subsections (9) and (10) and insert—

‘(9) In section 37 of that Act (Scotland), omit—

(a) subsection (6), and

(b) subsection (11).

(10) At the end of that section insert—

“(12) In section 22, subsection (6) has effect as if there were substituted for it—

(6) An article that is held by a constable (having been removed by or delivered to the constable) shall be returned when retention is no longer justified by a matter specified in subsection (5)(a) to (c), unless—

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(a) in the case of a perishable article, the article has ceased to be usable for trade, or

(b) the court orders the article to be forfeited under Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995.

(6A) Subject to subsection (6), the article shall be treated as if acquired by the constable in the course of the investigation of an offence.

(6B) An article that is held by an enforcement officer (having been removed by or delivered to the officer) shall be dealt with in accordance with sections 31A to 31E.”

(13) In section 28, subsection (4) has effect as if there were substituted for it—

“(4) An article that is held by a constable (having been removed by or delivered to the constable) shall be returned when retention is no longer justified by a matter specified in subsection (2)(a) to (c), unless—

(a) in the case of a perishable article, the article has ceased to be usable for trade, or

(b) the court orders the article to be forfeited under Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995.

(4A) Subject to subsection (4), the article shall be treated as if acquired by the constable in the course of the investigation of an offence.

(4B) An article that is held by an enforcement officer (having been removed by or delivered to the officer) shall be dealt with in accordance with sections 31A to 31E.”

(14) In sections 31A, 31B and 31D, the references to a magistrates’ court are to be read as if they were references to the sheriff.

(15) Section 31A has effect as if—

(a) in subsection (4), “before the end of the relevant period” and “at the end of that period” were omitted,

(b) in subsections (5) and (6), “before the end of the relevant period” were omitted,

(c) in subsection (6), in paragraph (b), for “section 143 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000” there were substituted “Part 2 of the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act 1995”,

(d) in that subsection, paragraph (c) were omitted,

(e) in subsection (8), “or (6)(c)” were omitted, and

(f) subsection (10) were omitted.

(16) Section 31E has effect as if subsections (5) to (10) were omitted.”’.—(Hugh Robertson.)

Clause 9

Commencement and duration, extent and application, and short title

Amendments made: 3, page 14, line 34, in clause 9, leave out ‘8’ and insert ‘[Goods vehicle operator licences]’.

Amendment 4, page 15, line 1, leave out ‘and 2’ and insert—

‘, 2 and [Goods vehicle operator licences]’.—(Hugh Robertson.)

Third Reading

4.9 pm

Hugh Robertson: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I wish to start—I mean this genuinely—by thanking all those involved in the passage of the Bill. I thank Members on both sides of the House who served in the Bill Committee. It has been a reasonably pain-free Bill, and the discussions that we had in Committee were constructive and genuinely improved the Bill. I would therefore like to put on the record my thanks to all Members who played a part in that.

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I say a particular thank you to the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), who has played a unique role, as I have said on a number of occasions, in the winning of the London games and their subsequent delivery. She continues to be a great servant of the process—if she does not mind my using that term—through her work on the Olympic Board and across London promoting the games. It would have been easy for lesser people following the general election to have felt that they were not involved in the way in which they wished and to have left the process. It is greatly to her credit, as a person and a politician, that not only has she not done that, but she has put her shoulder to the wheel so enthusiastically. She has made a great many friends by doing that—she had a great many already—and earned the gratitude of many people on both sides of the House and across the Olympic movement.

I also thank, as always, the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster)—the third of the holy trinity involved in the process from the beginning—for his help and support. Finally, I thank the officials of the House, the parliamentary counsel and the officials in all three Departments concerned. Although there is cross-party support for the principle of the Olympics, a lot of difficult, technical issues are involved in laying on the world’s greatest sporting event, and it is not always easy for officials to bring it all together. Throughout this process—I am sure that the right hon. Lady would say the same about the 2006 Act—we have been extraordinarily well served by our officials. I am grateful to them for their work.

Joseph Johnson (Orpington) (Con): I thank the Minister for his kind words of thanks to the Bill Committee members. It was the first Bill Committee of which I have been a member, and I enjoyed it very much. He has alluded to the technical difficulties that officials must confront, and I want to bring to his attention a set of technical difficulties relating to the sharing out of media accreditations to the British media. It is a cause of great concern to me that local media, particularly in London—the city on whose good will the success of these games depends—are being shut out. Will he join me in calling on the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport to look closely at the decision by the British Olympic Association to deny media accreditation to such fine local London papers as the News Shopper?

Hugh Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. He speaks from a powerful position, not only as a London Member of Parliament, but as a former journalist. As he is aware, responsibility for the accreditation of local media outlets lies with the BOA. In the short time between now and his raising this with me in the Lobby during the previous vote, I have checked the current position. I suspected that accreditation is massively over-subscribed, which is what he indicated to me. That said, I understand the logic of giving as many passes as possible to the international media and national news outlets, but he is right that it has to be balanced with local media outlets, many of which have been extraordinarily supportive of the games and on whose doorstep they are taking place. There is a possible second channel for non-accredited media, and considerable provision is being made for those who cannot get formally accredited. The Mayor of London has done an enormous

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amount to help that take place. The best thing that I can do now is to give my hon. Friend a promise to write to the BOA about the matter. I will particularly investigate the position regarding London media, because this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. I will come back to him with an answer.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): I want to second the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson). The BOA seems to assume that local journalists granted accreditation will attend every event. Obviously, there is a limit on overall capacity, but clearly our local papers just want to cover the events in which athletes from our boroughs are competing. It ought to be possible to arrive at a flexible arrangement that enables our local London papers to do that. I would be grateful if the Minister were to take that point on board.

Hugh Robertson: Suffice to say that the point has been well made. I can only say to my hon. Friend that I will give him the same undertaking that I have given to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson)—that I will write to the BOA to take that precise point up and see what I can do. The only minor caveat is that because this is a London games, the demand for media accreditation spots is vast. There will be a level of public interest that I do not think we have remotely started to get our minds around. Spots will be tight, but I will absolutely do all that I can.

Lyn Brown: Let me assure the Minister that there is cross-party support for the points made by the hon. Members for Orpington (Joseph Johnson) and for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell). I know that the Newham Recorder will be watching Christine Ohuruogu with interest as she races towards the tape in the final for her gold. It would be a great pity if the local press were not allowed to be there to cover such an event. As local newspapers, they frankly do not have the capacity to attend every event and would have to be clear and specific about the events that they could give time to.

Hugh Robertson: As always with this process and, indeed, protest in this case, the cross-party support is evident, and I shall reflect that in the letter that I write to the BOA.

As I set out on Second Reading back in April, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 gives us the overarching legislative framework needed to deliver the games successfully. This Bill simply provides a number of technical refinements to the 2006 Act, ensuring that we can address the few minor and technical issues that have arisen as games-time planning and preparation have become increasingly sophisticated. The general principle behind the Bill remains the same as in the original 2006 Act, which is to deliver a great games.

The Bill amends the 2006 Act by giving the ODA the power to store articles that have been seized for contravention of the advertising and trading regulations, subject to a number of carefully framed rules set out in the Bill, and we are freeing up police resources so that they can be focused where best needed. As we have heard today, we have also sought to ensure that the process works equally well across the different policing regimes in England and Wales, and in Scotland. The

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provisions that we are passing today will also allow us in exceptional circumstances—and only in exceptional circumstances—to alter advertising and trading regulations more quickly.

We have also increased the maximum penalty for the touting of games tickets from £5,000, as set out in the 2006 Act, to £20,000 on the specific advice of the police. We believe that that strikes the right balance. The traffic management provisions in the Bill will ensure that the transport plans covering the Olympic route network and the areas around games venues can be delivered and effectively enforced. I also confirm that I have clarified the role of the Mayor of London when it comes to agreeing penalty charge levels for Olympic-purpose road traffic contraventions. Last week, I formally directed the ODA to consult relevant traffic authorities—in as far as it has not already done so—on the penalty charge levels for Olympic contraventions, and in doing so have sought to address the points made by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood in Committee.

The final group of provisions that we are enacting addresses the concerns expressed by Transport for London about the relaxation of licence conditions for operating centres. That said, the key point that has come through in every stage of the Bill’s progress is the way in which these measures will be applied. I confirm to the House today that it is absolutely the Government’s intention to take a proportional and reasonable response to the enforcement of all the powers contained in the Bill.

In conclusion, it is fitting that today’s debate coincides with international Paralympics day, which takes place in Trafalgar square—we may just be able to catch it. This is the first time that the event has ever been hosted outside Germany, although we have a great tradition of pioneering Paralympic sport in this country, dating back to the original Stoke Mandeville games in 1948. Today’s event in Trafalgar square will give the public a great introduction to the 20 Paralympic sports, with demonstrations from elite athletes. As I said earlier, I hope that as many hon. Members as possible will show their support for this fantastic event.

Every time the United Kingdom has hosted the Olympics, we have left the Olympic movement stronger than we found it. That is not just something that it is easy for Ministers to say; if one looks back at the history, one will see that it is genuinely the case. The original bid that we put before the International Olympic Committee promised to deliver a deep legacy for the games. This will be the first Olympics where we plan the event and the legacy as one.

Right across the country, in many different schools and communities, much is happening. The east end of London is being transformed and social change is being delivered through volunteer programmes and Olympic-themed community projects—a promise that we made to the country and the world back in 2005. Being in the middle of delivering a show like this, it is sometimes easy to concentrate on things that do not go as well as they could, but there is a huge amount for this House and this country to be proud of as we begin the final run-up to these games.

I firmly believe that this Bill gives us the powers to proceed on a strong legislative footing—one that I do not think has been equalled in any previous games—and

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I would particularly like to thank this House for the role it has played in what I believe will be a truly great and, I hope, outstanding Olympic games.

4.20 pm

Tessa Jowell: I begin by expressing our strong support for the Bill and, very particularly, our gratitude to the Minister for his handling of it with characteristic open-mindedness, receptiveness and a sense of the shared passion that comes from involvement in this incredible project. This is a technical Bill that builds on the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, but it has done much more than that. I believe that it is has been enriched and shaped by our consideration in Committee and on the Floor of the House. It has been enriched by something important—the fact that we are all representatives of the communities that we serve. We might come from different political standpoints, but we share a belief in the power of communities to act for good, and we have a shared ambition for the people whom we represent. I believe that the proposals on advertising and trading standards in the 2006 Act will be implemented, because we know and understand, as representatives, the importance of proportionality.

We have seen an increase in the maximum penalty for ticket touting, which is very much an expression of the fairness that is a prerequisite for people across London and across the country to feel that they are part of this great Olympic event. I think that all Labour Members—we seem to be rather diminished, but we count the quality for the purposes of a debate like this one—are grateful to the Minister for his response to the points we raised today about the Olympic route network. He reflected his understanding, as did other hon. Members, because we are all representatives of the people whom we serve.

This is a staging post on a journey that will see many major hurdles needing to be negotiated before we get to the closing ceremony of the Paralympic games in a year’s time. What the Olympics reflects, in a rather unique way, is a choice that the Government made. It is a choice between remaining in the comfort zone by staying away from controversy, difficulty, bad headlines and all the risks that the Olympic games can bring or rising to a once-in-a-lifetime challenge—even though that is a rather over-worked phrase.

I feel extraordinarily proud to have been involved in different ways throughout the whole process, and the Minister, too, has been involved for most of that process. I am grateful for the way in which the Government have taken over the responsibility for this greatly cherished project and have continued the tradition of openness and collaboration.

We have all been privileged to work with some of the best people in the world, who have delivered under the leadership of John Armitt, David Higgins, Dennis Hone and Godric Smith. All those outstanding people have seen the Olympic park transformed from a contaminated wasteland with corrugated iron huts into the largest urban park to be created in Europe for 150 years. The fact that this has been delivered a bit below budget and a bit ahead of time is a really wonderful advertisement for UK plc. Everyone who has taken part in that can be proud of their achievement to date, including the people who cleared the ground, the people who carried out the demolition and the people who ensured that 99% of the resulting materials were recycled rather than going to

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landfill. Every one of the 40,000 people involved, including the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) and other Members here today, can be proud of those achievements.

It has always been our ambition that the Olympic games should be about more than 60 days of Olympic and, in particular, Paralympic sport. The focus has been on the legacy, and we can now see it out there in Stratford. Many of us will go to the opening of the Westfield shopping centre, which will bring desperately needed jobs and inward investment to that area. It will begin to change the economy and the prospects of the constituents of my hon. Friends who represent the six Olympic boroughs.

We can also see the legacy in the wonderful venues that will provide state-of-the-art competition venues and facilities for the local community for decades to come. Less visible is what we hope will be the other part of the legacy: communities that are more optimistic and ambitious about their future and that have a greater belief in the possibility of their own achievement. In the long run, the Olympic Park Legacy Company will have an important job in safeguarding the structural legacy and ensuring the commercial investment, both of which will deliver opportunities for local people in those boroughs, whose experience must be measured as part of all this.

In our own ways, we are all inspired by the 2,000 young athletes who are now training hard for 2012. There are 2,000 of them, because not all the teams have yet been selected, and a large pool is being drawn from. Their dedication, their ambition and their willingness to get up at all hours, make the journey and focus their lives on the possibility that they might just make it into the 2012 team should be an inspiration to us all.

This project has been beyond party politics. All of us who have been involved in it have been privileged to hold that responsibility as guardians for the nation. I am enormously grateful for the generosity of the Minister, the Secretary of State and the Mayor in including me and my party in the planning for the games. We can be confident that that cross-party tradition has been very well continued. It is now only a matter of months before the games kick off and, although that might not provide such unalloyed pleasure as the conclusion of today’s debate, we are all up for it.

As the Minister has said, today is international Paralympic day, and until 8 pm there will be a series of demonstrations in Trafalgar square involving Paralympians and young would-be Paralympic athletes. One of the Paralympians said to me this morning, “Just remember, when people talk about the Olympics, we mean that it is the test event for the Paralympics.” Let us make sure that we go and give the Paralympics all the support that they deserve.

4.30 pm

Mr Foster: I am conscious that many Members are anxious to get to Trafalgar square, so I shall be very brief.

This is in danger of becoming a cross-party love-in. I entirely agreed with the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) when she praised the Minister and the Secretary of State, and I also agreed with the Minister when he praised the right hon. Lady. We have done the same on a number of occasions, and it has been justified.

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Above all, the right hon. Lady can be proud of having genuinely ensured that the debate was beyond party politics from the outset. As a result, there has been detailed consultation across the parties in both Houses, and many of the tensions that could have arisen have not done so. That has enabled the bodies which we have given the task of building the stage and putting on the show—the ODA and LOCOG—to get on with the job, and, as the right hon. Lady said, to do it phenomenally well, delivering below budget and ahead of time.

I am absolutely convinced that, in less than a year’s time, this country will put on the most fantastic sporting and cultural extravaganza that there has ever been, and what is so good about the Bill is that it has provided yet another opportunity for parliamentarians in both Houses to engage with that exciting prospect. I hope that, in a few final remarks, the Minister will remind all parliamentarians that there is still a great deal that they can do to help to ensure that we deliver something else that is critically important: not just a fantastic extravaganza, but a legacy for businesses, tourism, education and culture as well as a legacy for sport.

When the Minister discusses press accreditation with his colleagues, he may wish to talk to the Secretary of State for Scotland, who I know has concerns about accreditation for Scottish newspapers. He could also remind people that newspapers seeking accreditation can do themselves a lot of favours by promoting activities relating to the Olympics and Paralympics in their local areas. I know that the British Olympic Association is looking at the amount of coverage of local activities in particular newspapers, and I think that more could be done in that regard.

I believe that we will deliver not only a great extravaganza and the legacy of which we have spoken in this country, but something that is never, or at least hardly ever, mentioned in our debates: a legacy for other countries. One of the important elements of our bid was the overseas work that we proposed to do. It is amazing to read the statistics showing how many people have been able to train as coaches in other countries, and how many young people throughout the world have been able to engage in sport, because of the Olympics that will take place here.

I am delighted that we have had an opportunity to debate the Olympics and Paralympics yet again. I am also delighted that this country’s Paralympic team is training in my constituency, where two weeks ago I saw some fantastic young people doing amazing things. My only regret is that goalball—which has become my favourite Paralympic sport—will not be demonstrated in Trafalgar square tonight, but I encourage any Member who has never seen it or heard of it to have a look at it. It will be the top best-seller when the tickets go on sale, as indeed they have just done.

4.34 pm

Mr Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): As the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) pointed out, there is a danger of this debate—and, indeed, other similar debates—becoming a bit of a love-in. In the 10 years that I have been in this House, I have always been a great believer that Members must work together with other Members. My constituency neighbours have tended not to be from my political

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party, but I have worked closely with the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) and the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) on a range of issues. However, I always have some concerns when there is a little too much consensus in this House on particular issues, not least because the very essence of politics should be choice. In the current debate, it is important that certain aspects of the scepticism felt by many millions of Britons outside this House are also put on the record.

As the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) will remember, I shadowed her when she was Minister for London in 2004, before we got the Olympics on 6 July 2005, and I was somewhat sceptical about the benefits that the Olympics were expected to bring to our city. Since then, there has been a tumultuous change in the global economic outlook, which has only served to reinforce some of my concerns, especially in respect of the escalating costs of this project. In advance of our getting the Olympics, we were told it would cost about £2.5 billion. That sum has now risen to some £9 billion. In light of those particular statistics, some of the boasts that have been made about working within budget are, in my view, somewhat hollow.

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman might like to refer to the Hansard of May 2005, where I made it absolutely clear that, were we to win the games, the budget to build the venues in the park that had been submitted as part of the bid book would have to be revisited. We did increase the budget, because our ambition for regeneration was much greater after we won the games. Some 75p in every £1 spent on building the park was spent on regeneration. The site would have been contaminated waste land in perpetuity had we not won the games. We have accelerated regeneration. In six years, we have done what would otherwise have taken 60 years. That has brought benefit to London. It has brought jobs to London and has been good for the economy of London, way beyond just having 60 days of Olympic and Paralympic sport.

Mr Field: As a courtesy to the right hon. Lady, I will obviously look at the Hansard for that time, but there is no doubt that this was sold on a very different financial basis, and it will cost not only the general taxpayer, but the London council tax payer, a significant sum of money for some decades to come.

I share the widespread view that the Olympics are a great opportunity to showcase the city that I love—I am very proud to represent the heart of the city—and that they will be a spectacular success. Both the Olympics and the Paralympics shortly afterwards will be a wonderful show. I do have concerns about the issue of the legacy, however, and I suspect that similar debates to that which we are currently having were held in the Greek Parliament in advance of the Athens games in 2004, the Australian Parliament in advance of the 2000 games, and other Parliaments and Federal buildings before other Olympiads took place.

We all know that it is very easy to have great ideas about the legacy going forward. I am well aware of that; I walked through the site where the Olympics will take place before we even won the bid, and I recognised that

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there were tremendous opportunities for regeneration. I am concerned, however, about whether we will be able to sell that legacy and whether it will be achieved in the way that we have in mind. We will not know that when we look back in the third week of September next year; we will not know the answer until 2020 and beyond. I therefore hope we in this House continue to address the possible prospect of our having a white elephant of a site out in east London. That would be a crying shame not just because of the amount of money being spent on it, but because of the opportunities that might be missed.

I hope that we will ensure that this debate does not end today and that we will not draw a line under things after the Olympics have finished. It will be incumbent on all London Members of Parliament to hold future Administrations very much to account to ensure that that proper legacy, which is the raison d’être for holding the Olympics in London, is put in place.

Hugh Robertson: May I give my hon. Friend some reassurance on this point, because it is very dangerous if the idea he alludes to is allowed to take root? There is absolutely no chance of our being left with white elephants on the park after the Olympic games. The single biggest frustration in my life at the moment is that two London premier league football clubs and one in a lower league are competing to take over the stadiums after the games. That represents an entirely different situation from those in Beijing, Athens and Sydney. The aquatics centre, wonderfully designed by Zaha Hadid, will provide an Olympic-sized swimming pool in a part of London that has simply never had one before. We have just concluded an amazing deal, at more than half a billion pounds, to sell off the private sector part of the athletes village. The public sector part has already been sold to Triathlon Homes. The velodrome, probably the most iconic building on the park—we did not spot that at the beginning—will become a new home for British cycling, which is one of our most successful sports.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I understand that the Minister wants to get his points on the record, but we have to be careful here. He is making an intervention, not a speech.

Hugh Robertson: I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I offended you, and I absolutely take the point you make. I shall simply say that the broadcast media centre is out for contract at the moment and there is fantastic interest. We have the largest new urban park in Europe and a half-a-billion-pound shopping centre. This is a pretty convincing package.

Mr Field: I accept that it is a convincing package. The Minister will be aware of what happened in my constituency with the somewhat missed opportunity of the redevelopment at Paddington basin. A huge amount of work has not resulted in a great success; it has not been the iconic place to live and work that it might have been. I therefore hope that all hon. Members will recognise that the end of the Paralympics is the beginning of the story. Making a great success of the legacy will be in everyone’s interests, not least of those in the constituency of the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), given where it is located, and of people who live in the constituencies directly affected.

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Clive Efford: I was a Greenwich councillor when we first had the idea to redevelop the local peninsula, which eventually led to the building of the Greenwich dome. Without these iconic projects and without public money—people often forget that we got a lot of investment from Europe to decontaminate the site at north Greenwich—it is sometimes impossible to regenerate very expensive contaminated sites. However, once we take the brave decision, as we did in east London and in Greenwich, the regeneration takes place, and we now have one of the most iconic entertainment centres in Europe.

Mr Field: I accept that, although in many ways the hon. Gentleman makes my point for me. There was a sense in the immediate aftermath of 1 January 2000 that that area was going to be a white elephant and it was the private sector, in the form of the group belonging to Philip Anschutz, which had the vision to drive that area forward that made a difference. But it took some years for that to fall into place, which is why we need to keep an eagle eye on exactly what happens on the Olympic site from next September to ensure that 2013, 2014 and 2015 are not wasted years. They need to be years when we ensure the continued improvement of that site to make it an attractive place to live and work, and, potentially, an entertainment destination site well beyond that for West Ham United fans. One hopes that it will also be used for other athletics events and perhaps as a large-scale entertainment site, given the transport links in place.

I wish briefly to discuss the elements of the Bill that have been debated, about which I have expressed some of my reservations. We have had a useful debate about policing. This is a matter for not only the Metropolitan police, but the intelligences services, which are playing a huge role in this field and will continue to do so. One should not underestimate that in the context of the security implications of these Olympics. Equally, as my hon. Friend the Minister pointed out, we could learn from elements of previous London Olympiads, particularly the 1948 games—the austerity Olympics. We are living in a time of greater austerity and one hopes that some of those lessons for a cost-effective games can also be learned.

I have publicly expressed my concerns about some of the issues to do with the large number of people who will be transported from the hotels in Park lane in my constituency to the Olympic village and the fundamental

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impact that that will have on traffic during late July and August next year. One accepts that for Heads of State and leading individuals there are, of course, security implications and they will need to be ferried in such a way, but it seems that many thousands of people will be getting this sort of treatment—a whole lot of hangers-on in the IOC and the sponsors. I would like to see the Minister playing a role in trying to pare down that number to the basic minimum that takes account of security implications.

Stephen Pound: May I assure the hon. Gentleman that the 1948 games may have been the austerity games, but people were able to find their own amusement in those days? The fact that my parents clearly did so—I was born in the middle of them—shows that life may have been austere, but there was a little bit of fun to be had in Fulham.

Mr Field: If the hon. Gentleman was born in the middle of those games, it says something about the gestation period in that part of SW6 during 1948.

I did not want to be overly negative, but as Members of this House we have a platform and, according to anecdotal evidence, at least, a lot of Londoners are increasingly rather lukewarm about this Olympiad in spite of the relentless publicity and propaganda being put out by the BBC, as the preferred broadcaster, and by the ODA, and it is important that those issues are put on the record. None of us wishes not to have a highly successful games. We signed up for them and it is right that we should make them a great success, but given the austerity period in which we are living, I do not think that every last i and t of the contract we signed with the IOC needs necessarily to be adhered to exactly. We potentially need discussions slightly to renegotiate elements of it, particularly the rather lavish hospitality package for quite a few individuals coming to the city, especially if they are going to disrupt the day-to-day life of those living here.

I, like everyone else, wish the games to be a great success. It is good when we can work together on such a basis, but it should not crowd out the idea that concerns about the games are being expressed by many Londoners and many people outside London. Let us make sure that we make them a spectacular success and focus on the legacy for the decades to come.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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Sentencing (Cameron Ross)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Angela Watkinson.)

4.48 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): I am extremely grateful to Mr Speaker for going out of his way to grant me this important debate, and I would be grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you could convey my thanks to him.

This case has had significant repercussions for the family of the victim, Mr Daryl Stevens, and particularly his mother, Mrs Jacqueline Stevens, who has worked tirelessly on Daryl’s behalf to secure justice for her son.

On a wider point, in the aftermath of the riots last month, the issues of sentencing policy, the consistency of sentencing and confidence among the general public in sentencing decisions have attracted considerable debate. I fully appreciate the notion that politicians make the law, police enforce the law and judges interpret the law. I also understand the inherent risks in politicians passing opinion on whether a sentence is too harsh or too lenient. However, it is entirely reasonable for this House to express its views on sentencing and as a Member of the House I am determined to represent the concerns of my constituent.

Before I mention the specifics of the case, I want to outline the theory and principle behind the concept of undue leniency. I appreciate that the Solicitor-General is a man of considerable legal distinction and he is far more aware than I am of the concept of an unduly lenient sentence, which is a sentence that is not strong enough for the seriousness and circumstances of the crime that has been committed. When someone has been found guilty of a crime in a court of law, the judge decides what sentence they should serve. In some cases, if interested parties, whether that is the Crown Prosecution Service or, in the case of my constituent Mr Stevens, his mother, think that the sentence is not severe enough, they can contact the Attorney-General to ask him to consider referring the case to the Court of Appeal within 28 days of the day after sentencing. If he decides to refer the case, it is then for the Court of Appeal to decide whether the sentence is unduly lenient.

Let me refer to the specifics of the case. My constituent, Mr Daryl Stevens, was 17 years old at the time of the attack. He was attacked by Cameron Ross with a broken bottle on 22 April 2011. Ross had been drinking prior to the attack, which appeared to be unprovoked, and at his trial he could provide little explanation for why he had attacked Mr Stevens. Ross had been released on licence but had breached this licence by being arrested for a serious violent assault, allegedly involving a baseball bat, for which he had been charged. He had then been released on bail despite the obvious breach of the licence. Mrs Stevens is rightly concerned that had Ross’s breach of his licence terms led to an automatic return to prison, he would not have been free on the streets to commit the assault on her son.

During the attack, a bottle was smashed into Mr Stevens’ head, the back of his neck and his face. He underwent a four-hour operation in which surgeons removed glass from his body, finding shards and splinters close to his spinal cord. His family were told that he had been millimetres from permanent paralysis or even death.

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Frankly, Daryl Stevens is lucky to be alive today. He was helped by the skills of NHS surgeons, but he is permanently scarred and will have to face the physical and psychological repercussions of the attack for the rest of his life.

At the trial, Ross pleaded guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. That is a very serious offence, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Ross was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment—the lowest conceivable sentence for somebody found guilty of this offence. Sentence was passed on 1 June. Mrs Stevens e-mailed me on 6 June to express her concerns about the sentence and the following day I wrote to the Attorney-General outlining the case and asking him to consider referring the case to the Court of Appeal. On 28 June—the last-but-one day on which this could be done—the Solicitor-General replied to me stating that in his opinion the sentence was not unduly lenient. He said that he had looked closely at the range of sentences that the judge could have passed and did not consider that the sentence was outside that range.

The Solicitor-General also replied to Mrs Stevens on the same day, conveying the same message. His letter to her consisted of five short paragraphs and gave no real explanation as to the reasoning behind the decision not to refer the case to the Court of Appeal. Mrs Stevens was particularly upset by a line in the opening paragraph of the letter which said:

“The hours you spent in the hospital waiting for news must have been dreadful but I am sure the trauma of that terrible experience will fade in time”.

Let me stress that I think the Solicitor-General, who is on the Treasury Front Bench, is a decent and civilised man, and I know that he did not wish to cause Mrs Stevens additional distress. In his subsequent correspondence to me, it is very clear that he was horrified that his comments might have caused offence to my constituent. I raise the comments in the House tonight not to cause embarrassment to the Solicitor-General but to point out to him that the short letter to Mrs Stevens—to the point of callousness and abruptness in her view—and that particular comment, which she felt to be insensitive and patronising, reinforced her view that nobody was listening to her concerns.

One of Mrs Stevens’ concerns was her belief that crucial medical evidence was not provided to the court during the original trial, or at least was not seen by the judge. In his letter to Mrs Stevens, the Solicitor-General stated:

“As I am sure you will appreciate the Crown Prosecution Service is in a better position than I am to deal with this issue.”

In subsequent correspondence to me, the Solicitor-General concluded that CPS staff had met Mrs Stevens to discuss the issue and that she had found the meeting satisfactory, but that is far from being the case. Mrs Stevens told me that the CPS has stated that it is not able to provide answers to many of her questions regarding the medical reports. This has left her feeling that agencies are not talking to one another and that communication with important parties such as the victim’s family in order to answer questions and resolve difficulties are not being given sufficient priority. She also feels that there is little transparency and communication as to how medical records and other evidence are used to come to particular decisions.

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I received a very considered, thoughtful and detailed letter from the Solicitor-General dated 16 August 2011. In that letter, he set out, with commendable thoroughness, details of the case, information that was provided to the judge and consideration in the case of the relevant sentencing guidelines. I found it very helpful that the Solicitor-General outlined in his letter the four sentencing ranges for offences of grievous bodily harm with intent, with the judge and both prosecution and defence counsel all in agreement at the trial that, on the evidence provided, the appropriate range to use was that of four to six years’ custody, with a starting point of five years.

The letter gave a very clear view of information provided in the court and elements of the Solicitor-General’s thinking as he considered referring the case to the Court of Appeal, but my point is this: why did we not get something similar to that first time round? Why did it take a complaint from Mrs Stevens, channelled through me, and the prospect of this debate in Parliament, to ensure that better communication and some greater transparency in the decision making process occurred?

Mrs Stevens has felt let down at every stage of the judicial process and I suspect that, given what is in her view a light sentence, nothing would comfort her regarding her wish to see justice being done—that is thoroughly understandable—but I suggest that if she had been involved and if an open dialogue on what was decided had been promoted, the case might not have escalated to this stage.

Successive Governments have stated that victims should be at the heart of the criminal justice system. With this case in mind, will the Solicitor-General therefore resolve to improve communication with relevant parties, particularly victims and their families, and ensure that, at the earliest possible stage, as much information as possible is provided? I think that that would help to reassure parties such as my constituent and make victims feel that not only should they have their day in court to see justice done, but that they can feel sufficiently important and valued within the system, and can be comfortable as to the decisions that are made.

I mentioned that it was considered appropriate in this case to use the range of four to six years’ custody, with a starting point of five years. I suspect that, at the very least, a five-year custodial sentence would have allowed Mrs Stevens and her family to believe that justice had been better served. Mrs Stevens has expressed concern to me that the sentence was excessively reduced due to such mitigating circumstances as Ross’s young age—he was 18 at the time of the attack—his status as a notional first-time offender and his early guilty plea. However, there is a case for stating that Ross was an adult, and was able to stand trial as an adult, so therefore age had no real bearing.

I also understand from Mrs Stevens that Ross did not plead guilty at the earliest possible opportunity, which could conceivably have been a mitigating factor, but denied the offence when he was arrested, taken to the police station and charged, and changed his plea only at court, during the trial.

My main concern, however, is the failure to recognise the breach of the licence. I would say to the Solicitor-General in general terms that the public will have no confidence in the judicial system if offenders who have breached the terms of their licence do not have that taken into account during sentencing. It should be a major factor that increases the severity of the sentence.

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Ross had breached the terms of his licence, and had been released on bail after being charged with violent offences. That allowed him to attack Mr Daryl Stevens in such a brutal and life-threatening fashion. Why did the Solicitor-General not take that into account when considering whether to refer the case? Why did he not pay particular attention to the sentencing guideline in relation to this offence, which states that other aggravating factors, which could increase the length of a custodial sentence, would include commission of an offence while under the influence of alcohol, which happened in this case, and—particularly relevant to the case—the fact that the offence was committed while on licence? Why was that not given sufficient regard?

I reiterate in the strongest possible terms to the Solicitor-General that the public will not have confidence in sentencing if such factors, set out clearly in the guidance, are not seen to be used when passing sentence.

In the time remaining, I want to raise a general point in relation to the process for considering sentences unduly lenient. I have mentioned that the Attorney-General can take 28 days to consider whether a case should be referred to the Court of Appeal. I suspect that most cases would take up all that period, as files need to be obtained and reviewed, and matters need to be considered properly.

It does mean, however, that there is little scope for representation. I was hoping to have a meeting with the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General to discuss the case and, in particular, the fact that the decision was made and communicated with only one day to spare. I appreciate that there is a tension and trade-off between thoroughness and swiftness, but does the Solicitor-General think that there is any merit in extending this strict 28-day period to ensure that the fullest representation possible can be made from hon. Members as well as interested parties?

As I stated earlier, Mrs Stevens does not feel that authority has been on her side following her son’s assault. I hope that the Solicitor-General will use the opportunity available to address the points I have raised and help ensure that the horrific experience that Mrs Stevens and Daryl, as well as their family, friends and neighbours, have unfortunately faced will lead to a better and more responsive criminal justice system for victims and their families.

5 pm

The Solicitor-General (Mr Edward Garnier): I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) on initiating the debate so that we can discuss these important and highly sensitive issues. He has, very properly, brought his constituents’ concerns to the Floor of the House. In responding, I will say something about my role as Solicitor-General with regard to both unduly lenient sentences in general and this case in particular. He should not be in the least concerned about causing me embarrassment. If embarrassment is warranted, it is his right and duty to embarrass me. I am accountable to Parliament and willingly appear to answer for my role as Solicitor-General. He should have no inhibitions in that regard. Indeed, he should be praised for vigorously pursuing the interests of his constituents—mother and son—with such attention.

Before I respond to the points the hon. Gentleman has outlined, let me focus on the horrific crime with which we are concerned. As he said, it was an offence

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contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which deals with one of the most serious non-fatal offences of violence on the criminal statute book. There is no doubt that the offence committed against Daryl Stevens last April caused great physical and emotional suffering. The victim and his family live with the consequences of the crime day in, day out, and as the hon. Gentleman has said, the impact on their daily lives has been considerable. Nothing I said or wrote earlier in the summer, either to the hon. Gentleman or to his constituent, was intended to underestimate the impact upon Daryl Stevens or his mother. I do not think it did.

On the day of the attack, Daryl Stevens, then aged 17, was doing what many young people do: spending time with friends and having a good time. He was in Chicago’s Pizzeria in Hartlepool about to order some food when he was viciously attacked in public by a drunk who glassed him—he struck him several times in the head and neck with a broken glass bottle. The attack caused a 3-cm laceration to the back of his scalp, a 3-cm laceration to his left cheek and a 2-cm penetrating wound to the back of his neck. A fragment of glass, among many others, was found very close to his spinal cord. The culprit, Cameron Ross, was later caught and, after pleading guilty, sentenced to three years’ detention in a young offenders institution. The sentence took into account the timing of his plea and the mitigation advanced on his behalf, to which I shall return.

Nothing I say today, and nothing I have written to the hon. Gentleman or his constituent, can eradicate the hurt caused by this dreadful offence, but I hope that what I say today will go some way towards clarifying my role in relation to the case and the way the Attorney-General and I exercise our powers on unduly lenient sentences generally. I understand that the senior prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service with responsibility for the case met Mrs Stevens in late July to explain the prosecution process and discuss matters further. My impression was that she left that meeting satisfied, but the hon. Gentleman clearly has a different assessment. Unfortunately, neither of us was at that meeting, but none the less there is an issue that we unfortunately cannot resolve. But, the meeting was held, and at least it indicates a willingness on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service to make sure that victims and families are treated properly following hideous crimes such as this.

Of course, many people may consider the sentence of three years’ detention to be too low, and other judges might have given a longer sentence while others might not, but sentencing is an independent judicial function, carried out by judges and magistrates within a framework set by this House, for which the Justice Secretary has responsibility within the Government. That framework provides for statutory sentencing guidelines to be issued and followed by the courts, and for sentences for certain offences that the Law Officers consider to be “unduly lenient” to be referred to the Court of Appeal to consider whether they should be increased.

The offences within the unduly lenient sentence scheme are limited by statute and, unsurprisingly, are the most serious ones, including grievous bodily harm—commonly called GBH—under section 18 of the 1861 Act. We must also refer cases within 28 days of the sentence.

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That is the statutory time limit, and if it is to be extended, it will need the Justice Secretary to amend legislation, but, in my experience and that of my officials, Treasury counsel and the Crown Prosecution Service, that period provides plenty of time for the case to be fully thought about, as it was in this particular instance.

The Attorney-General and I referred about 100 cases to the Court of Appeal last year. We appear in court ourselves to argue them on occasion, and indeed we have done so on more occasions than our recent predecessors, such is our interest in the matter that the hon. Gentleman has brought before the House.

It is, however, the Court of Appeal—not we as Law Officers—that decides what constitutes “unduly lenient”, and it has stressed on many occasions that increasing a sentence already passed on an offender is an exceptional remedy. Sentences will not be increased unless they are significantly below what the judge should have passed. In the Attorney-General’s reference No. 4 of 1989, the Court of Appeal said:

“A sentence is unduly lenient, we would hold, where it falls outside the range of sentences which the judge, applying his mind to all the relevant factors, could reasonably consider appropriate”.

As Law Officers, the Attorney-General and I exercise our own discretion in accordance with the way in which the law has been applied by the Court of Appeal. The unduly lenient sentence regime is not simply a general right of appeal against a low sentence or an opportunity for the prosecution to have another bite at the cherry; it is an exceptional remedy for exceptional cases, and when we refer cases to the Court of Appeal, we do so not as political Ministers or politicians, but in our capacity as independent guardians of the public interest.

There is a further aspect to the unduly lenient sentence regime that I should mention. The Court of Appeal will review the sentence imposed only on the basis of the information available to the sentencing judge in the Crown court at the time. It will not take into account material that might be thought now to provide grounds for a sentence to be increased if it was not available to the sentencing judge at the time of the sentence. In accordance with those principles, I considered whether the sentence imposed on Cameron Ross was unduly lenient, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I concluded that it was not.

The relevant sentencing guideline—the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s definitive guideline on assault and offences against the person—provides four sentences ranges for this particular offence, reflecting different categories of seriousness. The sentencing judge, along with prosecution and defence counsel, considered that the appropriate sentencing range specified by the guidelines was four to six years’ custody, with a starting point after a contested trial of five years, and I agree that that sentencing range was the appropriate one.

The guidelines state that the types of assault offences that fall within the four to six-year range are as follows:

“Victim suffered a very serious injury or permanent disfigurement; or Pre-meditated wounding or GBH; or Other wounding or GBH involving the use of a weapon that came to hand at the scene.”

The offender in this case, Cameron Ross, had previous convictions and committed the offence while on licence. Those were aggravating factors. That said, he was young, being 18 years old at the time of the offence, and that was a factor that took the sentence towards the lower

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end of the sentencing range. In addition to detailing his antecedence, the pre-sentence report prepared by the probation service set out the offender’s personal mitigating factors, which the judge took into account. He will also have taken into account defence counsel’s submissions on Ross’s behalf.

As I wrote in my letter to the hon. Gentleman on 16 August, to which he referred,

“I understand from the transcript of the sentencing remarks that the judge did have Daryl’s statement and saw photographs of his injuries. In his statement Daryl reports exactly what he was told by doctors at the James Cook hospital. The judge will have been aware that doctors told him that he was lucky to be alive as glass was only one millimetre away from his spine, that the wound in his cheek was through to the bone and had just missed a nerve which may have left him paralysed on one side of his face, and that he would require a further operation to remove glass from his head.”

I went on to say that I noted from the hon. Gentleman’s letter that Mrs Stevens’ concerns related also to the fact that Cameron Ross had apparently breached his licence before committing the offence against her son, and that she believed that he

“should have been detained as a result of this earlier breach.”

The problem is that that issue is about how offenders suspected of a crime should be dealt with by the bailing court and is not a matter for the Court of Appeal, nor for me, through an unduly lenient reference. As I informed the hon. Gentleman, I also understand that Ross had not been convicted of these matters at the time when the sentence that we are concerned with was handed down, so they could not be taken into account.

Sentencing is an art, not a science. I know that from observing the process as a barrister over the past 35 or 40 years and as a Crown court recorder who, since 1998, has passed a good many sentences. It is the role of the judge to look at the aggravating and mitigating features of the offence and the offender, and to reach a conclusion that reflects the interests of justice in the case as regards the victims, the offender and society generally.

In this case, the sentencing judge considered that the appropriate sentence after a trial would have been four and a half years. The defendant had pleaded guilty at what the judge considered—not what I considered—to be the earliest available opportunity and so was awarded full credit for doing so via a discount of a third off his sentence, bringing the final figure to three years’ imprisonment. There is another debate to be had about

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what is the proper public policy behind discounts for early pleas, but that is not one that I can enter into today.

It is not my role as Solicitor-General simply to conclude that a higher sentence could have been imposed or that the sentence was lenient and could have been more severe, and that therefore it must be referred to the Court of Appeal. I have to be persuaded that the sentence was unduly lenient—I underline the word “unduly”. In this case, the sentence fell squarely within a proper application of the guidelines and for that reason I did not refer it to the Court of Appeal.

It is not always appropriate for this House to engage in a detailed discussion of the merits of an individual case, although our criminal justice system is of course as open to public criticism as any other area of public interest. As I said, the hon. Gentleman has quite properly advanced his concerns and those of his constituents about this case. I hope that I have explained the approach that I took and that I take, and that that is of some help to him. I appreciate that his constituent, the victim’s mother, was naturally distressed by what happened to her son and wanted quite properly to be assured that justice was done. However, in my view it would not have been fair to take the case to the Court of Appeal and thereby give her and her son false hope, only for them to be disappointed.

On the provision of information to Mrs Stevens, I am sorry that she did not get what the hon. Gentleman feels she should have got as quickly as she wanted. It was certainly not my intention to withhold information that ought to have been, and I hoped had been, candidly given to her. If she is still upset, I repeat my apology.

Towards the end of his remarks, the hon. Gentleman mentioned the point about the breach of licence, and I hope that I have provided an explanation in relation to that.

I conclude by saying that the hon. Gentleman has done his duty to his constituents and to this House, and I thank him for doing it. I hope that he will recognise that I, if perhaps with less enthusiasm than he might be prepared to accept, have done mine.

Question put and agreed to.

5.14 pm

House adjourned.