Regeneration (Tottenham)

– in Westminster Hall at 1:26 pm on 11th January 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham 1:26 pm, 11th January 2011

Thank you, Mrs Riordan, for allowing me to have this debate, which comes at such a crucial time for my constituency, wider north London and the upper Lea valley. This is one of the first times that I have had the opportunity in the House to give a speech that surveys my entire constituency. I do not think that I have spoken in this way since my maiden speech 10 years ago. I said then that we have to invest in the souls of Tottenham people as well as their skills.

The decision before us would rip the soul out of my constituency and wider north London, and affect the entire upper Lea valley. I will explain why that is so in relation to regeneration. Three things make being the MP for Tottenham particularly special: one is our history, which is wrapped up in our football team, but also in our special part of north London. Tottenham is on the A10 corridor and the old Roman road that ran from Bishopsgate to Lincoln, York and the north. It is historically part of Middlesex and the home of the Somerset family. Tottenham, and the London Borough of Enfield, is a part of London that people have come to from all corners of the world to make their home, because of the nature of its housing stock and its position near places where people could find jobs.

That point brings me to the second special thing about the constituency, which, of course, is its people. In the past 50 or 60 years of Tottenham's history, they have been people working in the rag trade, Jewish refugees from violence and prejudice in Europe, and immigrants from the Commonwealth who came to make a new life. Those immigrants included my father, who arrived in this country in 1956. Tottenham is where I grew up. I went to primary school there and I know the streets, so this debate is personal. It is an important opportunity to raise these issues.

The third special thing about my constituency is that it is always wonderful to represent a seat with a top premiership club. It is important to think about the history of the club. Spurs was started 120 years ago by local schoolboys from the Hotspur cricket club, and played in Northumberland park. The team was first brought together by a bible teacher from All Hallows church in Tottenham, and was represented by heroes from the community, many of whom were born and brought up in Tottenham. Successive generations have supported the team for 120 years, paying for tickets and supporting the team throughout its highs and lows.

During the dark days of the 1980s, we saw some of the worst violence that we have ever seen on the streets of this country, but not long afterwards, Tottenham won the FA cup and there was cheering that lifted my spirits at a bleak time. Regeneration of communities such as Tottenham, Moss Side in Manchester, Toxteth in Liverpool and the Gorbals in Glasgow also regenerates our country. Our country's success is guided by the poorest and the weakest in our communities, so this debate and the decision that may lead to the football club leaving one of London's poorest communities is grave. Who allowed that to happen? Whose bright idea was it to encourage Tottenham Hotspur to bid for the Olympic stadium on the other side of London, which would leave one of the biggest regeneration holes in London that we have seen for a generation? There are rumours that the Mayor encouraged Spurs to bid, which seems an absurd and ridiculous decision in the context of the regeneration of one of the poorest communities in the country.

At the turn of the 21st century, Tottenham was a town that the Government had forgotten in a part of London that too often failed its residents and especially its young people. When I became the MP for Tottenham, more young people there were going to prison than to university. Tottenham was still scarred by unemployment, with levels of more than 20% in the 1980s and 1990s, and in some communities it was higher than 40%. Some housing estates and communities experienced unemployment of more than 50%.

Imagine what that meant for hundreds of young people growing up without work, and for their families. Imagine the legacy that we still live with because of that unemployment. I need not name the headlines about Tottenham, because they were national headlines that usually involved vulnerable children who were knifed or who died in other ways-I am thinking of Victoria Climbié and Baby P. Much of that poverty relates to that legacy, and the decision on regeneration is one of the most pressing that faces the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is my job to remind the Department of that, and to ensure that plans exist for Tottenham if the team leaves.

The community has faced enormous tension and unrest and has been stigmatised, as have others in the past, but over the last decade it has begun to mend. More young people now go to university than ever before in our history. Schools have been rebuilt, and some are now national beacons of success. I am thinking of Gladesmore community school where the head teacher has been recognised by the Queen for all that he has achieved. I am thinking of the accident and emergency department at the Whittington hospital, where I was born, and the North Middlesex hospital, which have been largely renewed and rebuilt. I am thinking of the £50 million that we received in the new deal for communities, to which I am sure the Minister will refer. All of that lifted hopes and aspirations-unemployment was falling back a bit, but is now on the rise again-and happened over the recent period in order to renew the community. Housing estates have seen their housing stock renewed and rebuilt. Prior to the economic downturn, there was a period of hope for the community, but clearly, a decade to achieve all that we wanted to achieve against a backdrop of such disadvantage was always not going to be long enough. That is why we stand at a crossroads-do we march forwards or backwards? That is the decision that lies ahead. The story is not yet finished.

Tottenham still has the highest rate of unemployment in London, with more than 6,000 people currently out of work or on benefits. Tottenham still has one of the largest numbers of households living in temporary or emergency accommodation, with more than 5,000 families in Haringey having no fixed place to live. Four in five children born in Tottenham are still born into poverty, one of the highest rates in the country. It is clear, Mrs Riordan, that although things have got better, we have a long way to go if we are to ensure that every child in Tottenham grows up in a decent home, free of poverty, and in a community in which work is the norm, not the exception.

That brings me to the third factor that makes Tottenham special-Spurs. Since I have been the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, I have worked closely with three successive chairmen and owners of the club. The first was Alan Sugar-he has since been knighted-of "The Apprentice" fame. The second was David Buckler who came in for a brief period after Alan left to stabilise the club and led the way to the current owner, Daniel Levy. Before I became an MP, Spurs was not doing much in the community relative to other clubs. I am thinking particularly of clubs such as Sunderland in the north-east-I will not mention our near rivals, although I see that my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn has taken his seat and he may mention the name of that other north London club. Spurs was not doing much in the community, but there has been a transformation.

I worked with Daniel Levy to establish the Tottenham Hotspur foundation as a model, and it is now a beacon in the premiership. It was established with £4.5 million of funding, and enables thousands of young people throughout north London to take part in projects. It is transforming their lives and attracting match funding, and not just in sport. There are wonderful things happening with disability groups and pensioners, not just in Haringey, but in Enfield, Barnet and Waltham Forest where the foundation is making a huge difference.

The club has attracted a succession of top-class international players, such as Freddie Kanoute, Mido, Berbatov, who was with us for a while, and Wilson Palacios. My office assisted them and many others with work permits, and immigration requirements to enable them to come to the community. Despite opposition from some local councillors, I strongly supported the application by Spurs for a new training ground in Enfield, and permission was duly granted despite that opposition.

The club is an immense source of pride for my community, and the young people in it. In what can feel a parochial, mundane and sometimes hostile and discriminatory atmosphere, it is a permanent badge of excellence. It shows people that they can achieve sporting excellence on the doorstep, and that reads across not just to sport, but to every area of life.

That is why I am so angry about what is taking place without proper public consultation with either the fans or my community. Those young people, whose hopes were lifted when we won the Olympic dream, are now to be dumped on from a great height because of this irresponsible decision to rip excellence from the constituency. It is unacceptable. Someone is responsible, and it is not just the club, which is being encouraged to ignore its history and its community, but local, regional and, potentially, national politicians. I want answers about how this has come about, and why this is to happen to one of the poorest communities in London.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

My right hon. Friend knows that I represent Islington North and am a very proud supporter of Arsenal, the other club in north London. The relocation of stadiums is a difficult issue. Arsenal and Islington worked very closely to ensure that the new stadium was built in Islington without any public subsidy. The presence of Arsenal has meant that there is a very large number of jobs at the stadium, with all its related facilities, and a huge local community programme with more than 1 million hours spent on community training in football.

It is a badge of honour for the kids in Islington and from nearby to be supporters of Arsenal, and to be part of that community, and the same applies in Haringey, where I used to be a councillor. If we do not retain Tottenham Hotspur there, not only do the jobs and facilities go but the whole heart of the community goes with them. I strongly support and endorse what my friend is doing to try to ensure that Spurs remains at White Hart Lane, and to ensure that we can carry on being north London rivals, a rivalry of which I, of course, represent the better half.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

I am very grateful for what my hon. Friend has said, but he knows that he actually represents a south London club, and that is why this is even more important. All those years ago, the club moved from Woolwich, but at that time it was not of the size that we see now, making the kind of contribution that both Arsenal and Tottenham make to this very, very poor part of London. I challenge anyone to visit parts of my hon. Friend's constituency, in Holloway, parts of mine, or the constituency of our colleague my hon. Friend Mr Love and say that these clubs are not making a huge contribution. Things would be considerably worse were the clubs not there.

That is why we welcome Spurs' plan for a new 56-seater stadium in Tottenham, why I supported the club in overcoming problems with English Heritage, and why I brokered meetings with both the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and Haringey council. Historically, relations with Haringey council have not always been at their best, but we got planning permission in record time, and in a shorter time than Arsenal. As my hon. Friend has said, it is nonsense to suggest that Arsenal received state aid, and Spurs would never have done so. However, the club is right to say-and so am I-that we need more investment in this constituency.

I have not witnessed in my constituency the kind of transformation that we have seen in cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, and that we are witnessing now in the east of London. So, is Tottenham the next big regeneration challenge for this Government? It ought to be. The people deserve it to be, and the club rightly wants to see that. The plan was that off the back of the redeveloped stadium at White Hart Lane, which has received the approval of Haringey council and the Mayor, we would get further investment from Europe and from the Government, so that yes, we would see a new supermarket, yes we would see new housing, but we would also see the new stadium. As Daniel Levy has said, the stadium has

"the potential to act as a real catalyst for the much-needed, wider regeneration of the area."

I am disappointed, of course, that other members of the Tottenham board, such as the director Keith Mills, have said that moving to the Olympic stadium is better because

"it's closer to Canary Wharf and to the City; and it'll attract more sponsorship".

I have also been very concerned about internet rumours of Spurs' owners selling up to Qatari investors and seeking planning permission at White Hart Lane and the Olympic stadium so as to sell the club on and make more money. When Mr Levy says to me, "I'm acting in the interests of shareholders," it is my job to remind him that he owns 70% of the shares. So, who will profit ultimately from the decision? This is important.

It is also important to recognise the entire ecology of London, and in so doing it is also important that we say, "Can it possibly be fair that Tottenham's legacy from the Olympics is for the largest private employer to be allowed to leave the constituency?" Let me reiterate, if Spurs is allowed to leave, this Government's legacy for the constituency with the highest unemployment in London will be to have removed the largest private employer. That cannot be right.

Is it also the case that the Olympic Park Legacy Company should take note of the entirety of London and not just regeneration in the east of the city? In my constituency, unemployment is running at 11.2% and incapacity benefit claims are at 11%. Those are some of the highest levels in London. Life expectancy is lower than in the Olympic borough. Mortality rates for women in my constituency are lower, and unemployment is higher, than in the combined Olympic boroughs. Right across the sweep, the statistics suggest that Tottenham is finding it harder than the combined Olympic boroughs, and I am sure that the Minister is aware of that.

Does the Minister believe that it is acceptable to secure a legacy in east London by condemning an area of north London to become effectively a dust bowl? Does he believe that it is fair that the largest economic project in my constituency for a generation may be sacrificed-a brand-new stadium demolished just to build a new one with a supermarket attached? The Olympics were meant to bring a unique experience to the doorsteps of ordinary Londoners. Should Spurs leave, the experience will leave a particularly bitter aftertaste in N17. Who encouraged Spurs to make the decision? What leverage are the Minister and his Department placing on the Mayor as that decision is reached? I am told that the Olympic board will reach the decision on 28 January; what consultation is going on with Haringey council and with us on a decision that is now imminent and pressing? Does the Minister not believe that consultation with my constituents by the Olympic legacy body is absolutely mandatory? Is he concerned that there has been only one phone conversation with the company and with Haringey council? Spurs owns 20 acres of site on the north side of Tottenham high road that has now been blighted. How can due diligence be done on the Spurs bid if only one conversation on the planning application has been had with the local authority?

I hope that the Minister understands that this matter is urgent; that is why I have taken the time to put it on the record for the House, and for others who are listening and watching. This is the most important thing that could have happened in relation to economic regeneration in my constituency in the past decade.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government 1:48 pm, 11th January 2011

It is good to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Riordan, and to respond to Mr Lammy.

I first want to acknowledge the passion and knowledge that the right hon. Gentleman brings to this issue, and to acknowledge how he has forthrightly stood up for his constituents. He has outlined the problems, the progress and the opportunities for his constituency and for the borough, and has, with very considerable force, made clear his views about his premiership football club; about its record of success and its community involvement, which, as he has said, has been developed for the better over the past few years and, most important, his views about its future. I think I heard him talk about a plan for a 56-seater stadium, but I am sure that he meant 56,000.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman has arranged a meeting with my colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport so as to raise these issues with them. A number of the points that he mentioned, whatever their merits one way or the other, are matters for discussion with that Department, rather than the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind too much if I say something about the broader approach to regeneration taken by the Government, and perhaps I can give him some assurances. On his specific questions about how we got to our current position and where we are going, let me remind him that for the most part, those decisions are not the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

Will the Minister confirm that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is a member of the Olympic board and that ultimately, the decision of the company will come to the Olympic board? Is there a seat for the Mayor, for DCMS and for DCLG to stand up for regeneration in London?

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

The Secretary of State certainly has a role in the matter, and I do not seek to avoid that. However, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman understands fully that the lead Department will be the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Perhaps I can put a broader perspective on the way the Government work. We think it is important to ensure that local businesses, of all scales and whatever the business, have the opportunity to thrive. We want to support economic growth and regeneration, and we have made it clear that areas such as the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, which are behind in the economic race, need to be given support. We want to see that done by giving power and the capacity to take decisions back to local councils and to London collectively, and not by having micro-management from Whitehall on every aspect of business delivery.

We have a strategic and supportive role to play, and it is important to get the macro-economic situation right. We must provide incentives, remove barriers and provide access to targeted investment. Despite all the financial pressure faced by the Government and the country, we have given the green light to some important and significant infrastructure projects.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Let me take the Minister back to the question asked by my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy. I understand the philosophy behind the future planning arrangements, but in the immediate term we have two bids going in for the Olympic stadium-from West Ham and Spurs. West Ham is a local club that would essentially seek to develop the Olympic stadium for the continuation of local activities as an east London club. Spurs is in Tottenham and is an important part of the local economy. Surely the Government have a duty to take into account the effect on the local society and economy of Haringey should the transfer of Spurs to the Olympic stadium be approved, rather than if the club continues where it has been for a long time and where it is, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, a major part of the local economy.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

I understand the concern that was raised by the right hon. Member for Tottenham and brought to my attention again by Jeremy Corbyn. Of course it is an issue of controversy that the shortlist contains those two clubs; I understand that. The Olympic Park Legacy Company is negotiating with each club, and expects to have reached a settled position on the legacy by the end of the financial year. I was not aware of the specific date that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned a moment ago. It would not be right for me to comment on the progress of that bidding process or on the state of those negotiations, and neither would it be right for the Government to seek to interfere with that. As the right hon. Gentleman says, at some further point the decision will come back for endorsement by the Olympic Delivery Authority, and no doubt points of view will be taken into account when that decision is-or is not -signed off.

Perhaps I can return to the broader picture. It is important to ensure that the Olympic investment and legacy benefits the whole of London; it is not intended to be a one-shop stop. An intrinsic part of the bid put forward by the previous Government and supported by all parties in the House, was that the value of the Olympic bid would be in the legacy that it would bring not only to a geographical area but to young people, by providing opportunities to promote excellence far into the future. All parts of that legacy programme are still in play as far as the present Government are concerned.

We must also recognise that we are devolving powers. We are taking powers out of Whitehall and passing them down to the Mayor of London, the London boroughs and the London assembly. Proposals have been published in the Localism Bill, and they will be considered by the House.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

Does the Minister expect the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to meet with me to discuss this matter prior to any decision?

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

The progress of the legislation means that if the timetable I have referred to is maintained, and the decision is taken by the end of the financial year, that will precede the Localism Bill coming into force. The decision will be made in the context of the current legislative framework, and the roles and responsibilities are those already set out.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

A decision is being made that has a once-in-a-generation effect on my constituency. I am the elected representative of my constituents, but they have not been consulted. The Mayor has fixed a date for a meeting with me on 24 February, but that is unacceptable given that the Olympic board will consider the issue on 28 January. As the Minister responsible for regeneration in this country, will he urge the Mayor to meet with the elected representative of Tottenham and its constituents? Will he urge his colleagues to think carefully about their responsibilities to my locality through their elected representative?

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Communities and Local Government

I undertake to ensure that this debate and the views of the right hon. Gentleman are clearly drawn to the attention of the Mayor. The Government certainly hope that there will be proper discussions with the democratically elected representatives of communities, but it is for the Mayor to decide what processes he will follow to achieve that.

Ensuring that the Olympic legacy delivers on what was offered in the bid is an interesting and challenging project. The Olympics will come after a period of economic retrenchment. Ensuring that the legacy is delivered, that the benefits are not frittered away, and that we can look back in 10 years' time and see that the games were not only a success in themselves but that the legacy has endured, is an important and significant challenge for the Government, the Mayor and the London boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman has made a strong plea that the borough of Haringey should not be left out of that. I assure him that as our proposals for localising economic growth come to fruition, we will ensure that the borough of Haringey and Tottenham are not left out.

If we are to achieve success, we must ensure that the economic and financial framework facing the country is put right. That must be our top priority and that is why we have been working so hard at a national level to deliver on the financial programme. It is also why it is important to take the responsibility and powers for decision making on regeneration issues out of Whitehall, and give them back to the regions and communities where they need to be.

Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(11)).