November 30, 2005
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I shall speak briefly, Mr. O’Hara. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) on having secured this important debate. I know that she has been trying to do so for some weeks and that one opportunity clashed with a sitting of a Standing Committee of which she was a member.
I start with a confession. I had very grave doubts about whether London should even have bid for the Olympic Games and, until that wonderful day on 6 July, I felt that our chances of winning were limited. It was a great achievement, particularly on the part of Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Prime Minister and Lord Coe, that we managed to squeeze out the last few votes and win the chance to host the games. My concerns were not about sport?I am a great sports fan and it will be a marvellous opportunity for sport to be showcased in our capital city?but about cost and about whether there is sufficient commitment to turbo-charge the transport links to which we have heard reference to ensure that London gains real benefits.
My concerns about cost remain. The hon. Lady referred to some £20 per head per annum. The figure that was quoted in this House in early June was some £30 per head. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) has said that he is going to table a new clause to the London Olympics Bill to try to cap the cost for Londoners to the £625 million that was agreed at the time of the bid. That reflects a grave concern of many Londoners. After all, the games are a national, not a London, event. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Battersea (Martin Linton), many in the capital see it as an east London event. We have heard reference to five rather than the remaining 28 boroughs, which will have their part to play.
My other fundamental concern is about other redevelopment and regeneration projects. The Kings Cross phase 2 redevelopment, which is worth some £250 million to £300 million, has effectively been put on hold indefinitely. We also have concerns about the Thames gateway. The Mayor of London’s projection of two or three years ago for the coming 15 years to 2016 envisaged massive redevelopment in the east of the city, adjacent to the Thames. That would, of course, take place not only through London, but into Kent and Essex. As all the focus?the sexy focus?will understandably be on the Olympic games, we are concerned that many other important regeneration projects in other bits of east London and other parts of the capital will be put on hold indefinitely.
We are worried about what will happen in respect of Crossrail, given the disruption that would be caused if it were built in the period up to 2012?for example, Shaftesbury Avenue in my constituency would have to be closed for about 18 months. A number of projects will have to be delayed. One hopes that they will only be delayed, and that the funding will still be in place. Some concerted thinking needs to take place within London governance?I suspect that the London governance I am thinking of will be the Mayor of London and the Olympic Delivery Authority. Those organisations need a timetable that goes well beyond 2012 to put in place all such infrastructure projects, which are of great importance to London, but which may or may not be of importance for 2012.
The hon. Lady highlighted the importance of legacy, and it was interesting that she took a more broad-ranging view of the definition of that term than many would. One of the greatest disappointments in respect of what happened in Greenwich almost six years ago and the Greenwich millennium village is the failure of the legacy that we were all promised at that time. The right hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford) shakes his head, and he perhaps has more direct knowledge of this matter than I do. However, many of us are concerned not only that the dome was a white elephant, but that much of the development that could have taken place to create a real sense of community in the GMV has not happened to the extent that many would have hoped. Apart from anything else, it would have been useful to link up Woolwich?which I often think of as being a bit like a northern town on the banks of the Thames?with the centre of Greenwich and into the docklands light railway network. I know that plans have been afoot, but there was a tremendous opportunity, and it has not been entirely fulfilled.
Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab) rose?
Mr. Field : Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put me right about something I have said.
Mr. Raynsford : Before the hon. Gentleman digs himself further into the hole he is in, I put it to him that without the investment in the regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula and the millennium dome, the extensive regeneration that is taking place in the peninsula, the GMV, the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich and elsewhere would not have happened. It is happening because there was investment in infrastructure, the Jubilee line and the millennium exhibition. We must do exactly the same in respect of the Olympics legacy.
Mr. Field : I beg to differ with the right hon. Gentleman about Greenwich, and time will tell which of us is right. However, it is important that focus is placed on the architectural legacy.
The other legacy to which the hon. Lady rightly referred is in respect of human capital. One of the great current disappointments in London is that it is impossible to go to any bar, restaurant or pub without being served by someone who comes from outside the UK. There is an enormous inflow of people coming to work in London?many are young people who work on a short-term basis, to make their way and earn some money before heading back to Poland, Lithuania or wherever. That is an exciting part of London living. However, there is also a very large residual unemployment rate in London. I am greatly concerned that many of the 7 per cent. of people who are unemployed are almost unemployable, and the hon. Lady is right to identify that we need to focus part of the legacy on some of the poorest London boroughs and on trying to ensure that young?and, indeed, middle-aged?people have sufficient skills not only for the 2012 Olympics but for the time ahead.
I wish to end by mentioning the environmental legacy in the Lea valley. I again run the risk of treading on a Member’s ground?the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love) might have cause to disagree with what I have to say. The lower Lea valley site requires major redevelopment. I walked there in March because I was aware that debates such as this one were likely to take place. There is Marshgate lane, and a plethora of goods yards and canals. It is clearly an area that is worthy of significant redevelopment, not least because of its proximity to central London. However, the upper Lea valley should also be considered. Only a fortnight ago, I walked to the Springfield park area in the north of the borough that the hon. Lady represents. I know that Springfield park is not in her constituency but in that of her neighbour, the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). Tremendous work has been done at Springfield park and marina. It is important that those great benefits to the environment are translated one, two or three miles further along. I hope that all parts of the Lea valley will be integrated. In a post-industrial world, it offers a tremendous opportunity for great benefits in the years ahead.
Again, congratulations to the hon. Lady, who made a good speech. I hope that the junior Minister is able to answer the questions, and that his private office has been in touch with her in the past couple of days, as important and specific questions need to be asked and answered.
Obviously, we all wish everyone involved in the Olympics God speed at the earliest opportunity. There is little doubt that work must begin now. Nothing would be worse than for us to twiddle our thumbs or perhaps engage in internal disagreements in the next 12 or 18 months and then find ourselves in a mad rush in the run-up to an event that is taking place in only six and three quarter years.