Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012 — Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:55 pm on 14th June 2010.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 6:55 pm, 14th June 2010

I am very grateful to my noble friend for that correction. I had not picked that up from the website. However, the point is still there. There has been a £400 million grant from the contingency fund to Lend Lease. When the noble Lord responds, will he explain whether the building contract was put out to competitive tender, because many of the building contractors whom I have talked to say that they could have done the job for many millions less if it had gone out to competitive tender? It is another example of things that get rushed when one is up against a deadline. I do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, to be able to answer this evening, but it would be useful if we could have a letter setting out progress on the total budgets of the Olympics from the date the decision was made to bring them to London, the total revenues as the project has gone on, how they have changed and the outturn costs. That will help us to monitor the costs in future.

The other issue I need to raise follows on from the statement by the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, that the Games are a good example of sustainable construction. That is interesting because the ODA report, which I suspect most noble Lords have been given, mentions very little about sustainability apart from the fact that 300 trees have been planted. That is clearly a good thing, but there is not much else about sustainability. I think that the design will probably be good, but as I have mentioned in previous debates, I question the procurement policy's failure to use rail or water for transport and deliveries-here I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group-which has resulted in a probable 800,000 extra trucks delivering to the Stratford site during the construction period. One might say that that does not matter much, but it is a serious issue for both the Government and the mayor.

It appears that the so-called sustainable Olympic Games are going to be held in air that exceeds EU limits for PM10s, which are the small particulates-NOx and SOx-and for which the Government may well be fined £300 million in the next year or so. I want the Olympics to be a success and for them not to be compared with the Games in Beijing in terms of air quality because we ought to do better than that. I talked about this in a debate held on 5 January-I see that the previous Government applied for an extension to the time limit to comply with the PM10, which is the most urgent one-to 2011, but even as we were debating the issue in January, the hourly legal standard for ambient nitrogen dioxide for a whole year was breached in London, exactly as I predicted it would be. We will have more breaches and threats from the European Union unless we sort this out. The coalition Government's comment on air quality on page 17 of their programme is that:

"We will work towards full compliance with European Air Quality standards".

The Liberal Democrats did rather better by saying:

"We will aim to fully meet European air quality targets by 2012".

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, in his Front-Bench role as the coalition spokesman, can make sure that happens. We need an answer on when the Government are going to meet these limits.

The Mayor of London has, frankly, not done very much over the past two years, but he has admitted that 4,300 premature deaths in London each year are due partly to long-term exposure to dangerous airborne particles. It is time that this issue was tackled at a very high level. It is important to discuss the solutions because, while I can go on explaining the problems, it is the solutions that we need to talk about because there are some. The problem with PM10s comes from older diesel engines that do not comply with the latest technical standards, and involves most vehicles that are more than four years old: lorries, buses, taxis, cars et cetera. It is interesting to note that in Paris there is now a plan for all diesel lorries to be banned within the Périphérique and replaced by electric vehicles. The French Government and the mayor of Paris can probably make changes like that more easily than we can, but it certainly would be possible for the Mayor of London to ban diesel vehicles.

Another solution would be to say, "Right. None of these vehicles will be driven around London for the month before and the month of the Olympics", which I believe is what they tried to do in Beijing. We should do better than Beijing, and it is time to take urgent action. We cannot be compared with the air pollution found in Beijing because that is hardly the showcase for London that we want. I know that the mayor is keen to pursue this-the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said that he is-but we need action both from the Government and the mayor to get these levels of pollution down.