Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Addington: Perhaps I may be allowed to speak briefly—at least in comparison to the previous speech. A series of questions are raised by the amendment. Can the Minister inform the Committee reliably whether there is any reason why the course of action proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is impossible?

The scenario created sounds very plausible: if we collect the money in early we will have the money available, and that will make the long-term raid on the good causes fund less drastic. Every project taken over by the National Lottery is always at the mercy of people buying tickets. It is a long-term problem, especially as we are in a downward spiral of ticket sales and we do not know when it will bottom out. So an early start to the Olympic lottery may help with the long-term planning for other good causes.

Can the Minister say why this should not happen even under a gentleman's agreement? It is a very important issue. If he can give a good answer as to why it should not happen, I will be happy. If he cannot, the Government will have a case to answer.

As the sole representative of the Liberal Democrats present, I should mention our participation, following the several plugs given to the Conservative Party in the noble Lord's speech. We believe that we should be given some indication of the Government's thinking. The Minister will no doubt have an interesting argument. It is right that we should try to pull it apart now and find out exactly where we stand.

2.45 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: I supported the nub of the amendment at Second Reading. I feel that I need to reiterate that point and to make a couple of others.

First, I understand there are some technical problems raised by the IOC which may prevent an early start to the Olympic lottery. However, I do not believe that it is not within the wit and power of the Government, if they so choose, to work their way round those problems. It is a purely practical point and there is no reason why the early start should not happen.

Secondly, I believe it extremely important that we should start to wise the British public overall up to the fact that we are hoping and attempting to win the 2012

6 Apr 2004 : Column GC576

games for London and the UK. It will be a London bid but they will be the UK games. I have made that point before in my speeches in the Chamber.

Thirdly, the amendment would be an extremely strong signal to the IOC and those concerned that Britain is serious about the bid; that Britain will do everything it can; and that Britain will start early to get its population seriously on board. Starting the lottery at this time is appropriate because the Athens Olympics makes a wonderful launch pad.

Furthermore, revenue from the lottery has been falling—not dramatically, but by 2 or 3 per cent. This is an opportunity to arrest that and to divert the focus. Putting forward perhaps an uneasy political point, under the new legislation no fund will have 50 per cent of the good causes money to distribute. That will be done in the way the Government want it to be done. It will not be in response but through the body's initiatives, which will be prompted by all kinds of people including government Ministers.

I can see no better prompt or mission for the expense of a new lottery fund than the Olympic Games. I make the point now—we will return to it later on some of my amendments—we could be equipped to handle the fund now. In order to be successful, Olympic athletes and sports in this country need strong revenue support leading into the games. There are many sound arguments, outside the straight financial ones that my noble friend made, to support an early start to the games.

Lord Jopling: I apologise for arriving a few seconds after my noble friend Lord Moynihan began his remarks. I begin by reminding my colleagues that when the announcement was made on the Floor of the House that the Government would support a bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, I was the only Member who voiced the thought that I would not shed a tear if the whole thing failed.

I have felt that for a long time. I hesitate to say so in the presence of two Olympic medallists, but years ago when I was a representative in another place, I was the only Member in north-west England who refused to back Manchester's earlier bid for the Olympic Games. I believe that to have the Olympic Games here is a sure-fire recipe for bombs, bullets, bloodshed, boycott, blackmail and bogus budgets. I am unenthusiastic about the whole proposal.

After I made my remarks on the Floor of the House, I was astonished by how many Members from all sides said how much they agreed with me. During the weekend, I spoke to three Members of your Lordships' House and repeated my beliefs to them. They all said that they agreed with me, as did another in the Bishops' Bar not half an hour ago.

Members of the Government—certainly the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, who moved the Second Reading—and my noble friend, have a habit of saying, "This bid, which we all support", but that is not entirely accurate. A large number of people do not share those views.

6 Apr 2004 : Column GC577

I have always found it difficult to understand in the financing of the Olympic Games, if we should succeed in the bid, the fairness of imposing on the good citizens of London such a large proportion of the costs, which amount to about 652 million. The temporarily budgeted costs amount to 2.375 billion. I cannot understand why the citizens of London should be burdened with that huge extra cost, about which I tabled a Question for Written Answer in June last year. The annual expenditure for London ratepayers will vary between 13 and 40 a year, which is no doubt a low estimate. When Londoners are faced with these charges, there will no longer be a stony silence, which we have witnessed since the bid was announced. I believe that there will be a good deal of resentment.

During the past year or so, I have tabled a number of Questions. Only this week, I asked what consideration has been given to London residents receiving preferential access to tickets for the Games in the event of a successful bid. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was kind enough to reply extremely promptly, for which I thank him. He stated:

    "There are no plans for London residents to benefit from a preferential ticketing policy".

There was then an extraordinary further sentence in which he stated:

    "However, a number of events such as the marathon, road cycling and triathlon are likely to be able to accommodate large numbers of local people watching free of charge".—[Official Report, 5/4/04; col. WA 215.]

In fact, they will have paid a lot for that. I cannot believe that more than 20 per cent of the citizens of London will see in the flesh any part whatever of the Olympic Games. The other 80 per cent, who will have to pay, will see whatever they want to see on the television. That will put them on the same level as everyone else in the rest of the country.

In January this year, I asked the Government, in the event of a successful bid:

    "What steps they propose to take . . . for local taxpayers in areas outside London where events might take place to have similar levies put on their local taxes as has been proposed for local taxpayers in London".

Again, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, replied, stating:

    "The Government have no plans to increase council tax payments for staging the Olympic and Paralympic Games in areas outside London. Almost all the events outside Greater London will take place in existing or already planned facilities at comparatively limited additional cost".—[Official Report, 29/1/04; col. WA 56.]

It seems that here again there is an unfairness. Where events take place out of London, the local people will be in much the same position as the citizens of London, yet they will not have had to pay.

If the bid is successful, the money ought to be raised in an infinitely fairer way. There ought to be a set levy on everyone in the country. Noble Lords on both sides of the House are ratepayers in London and outside, and it will not make much difference to us. If the tax were extended, we should have to pay somewhere else as well as London, but it would be much fairer.

6 Apr 2004 : Column GC578

I was most struck with the introductory speech of my noble friend, in which he produced convincing evidence that the estimated budget was likely to double to 4.75 billion. I asked a Question about that and it was kindly answered by the Minister only yesterday. I asked:

    "What would happen if the estimated cost of 2.375 billion required to stage the 2012 Olympic Games, in the event of a successful bid, overran; and whether the Government would cover the deficit".

The Minister's Answer is quite extraordinary. He said:

    "On current contingency plans, the Government would expect to discharge this responsibility, should it arise, in a sharing arrangement to be agreed as appropriate with the Mayor of London and for their part seeking additional National Lottery funding. These expectations will be further reviewed in summer 2005".—[Official Report, 5/4/04; col. WA 215.]

From that answer, it seems to me that in the event of an overrun the Government will go back to the Mayor with their hands stretched out in order to raise another huge sum of money. If the overrun doubles and is, as my noble friend suggested, 2.375 billion, an additional amount of money must be raised. The Government are now talking about a sharing arrangement to be agreed as appropriate with the Mayor of London, and for their part seeking additional National Lottery funding. If my noble friend's estimate is right, the Mayor of London and the National Lottery funding must between them find a further 2.375 billion.

At the moment, the Mayor of London is expected to raise 6.25 million and the London Development Agency 250 million. However, it seems—and I quote from the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, at Second Reading—that,

    "new Olympic lottery games, as provided for in the Bill, would generate an estimated 750 million towards an overall 2.375 billion".—[Official Report, 2/3/04; col. 555.]

A total of just under 1.4 billion will already have been raised. If my noble friend is correct in his estimate that the cost could double, a further sum in excess of 1 billion will have to be raised by the joint efforts of the Mayor of London—meaning the poor old ratepayers of London again—and a national lottery. Whether a national lottery would be able to begin to raise such sums in the event of an overrun I do not understand.

I suggest that the Government's plans for funding a successful bid for the Olympic Games are in a state of total chaos. It is uncertain what will happen. The Government have not said that they will put their hand in their pocket for a single penny if the cost should overrun. This is an extraordinary state of affairs and we are going into a black hole in financing a successful bid. I eagerly await what the Minister has to tell us.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page