London Olympics 2012 (Supplementary) [7]

Session date: 
July 20, 2005
Question By: 
Mike Tuffrey
Organisation: 
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Turning to the environmental aspects, you will be aware that London's sewerage system cannot cope with regular usage plus storms. Just a couple of weeks ago, we had a million cubic metres of raw sewerage pumped into the Thames. In Athens, I think there were 1.6 million extra tourists. Part of the case for the Olympics is to showcase London. Now, I am sure you will agree, it is not exactly good for London to have raw sewerage floating down the centre of London and past the Lower Lea Valley during the Games.

When I asked you last year about this, you expressed your support for the interceptor tunnel and said that you were talking to Elliot Morley (Minister of State for Climate Change and Environment) about it and were confident that preparatory works would start. Can you update us as to whether the interceptor tunnel is going to be built in time?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for London Olympics 2012 (Supplementary) [7]

Answer for London Olympics 2012 (Supplementary) [7]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

I met with Margaret Beckett (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) since the general election and made the case that Londoners really want this. Londoners are prepared to make a contribution to their water bills, though not to bear the whole cost of it. There is no way, even with a decision this month, that the whole thing can be built by 2012.

There is a good chance that if we had a decision to proceed before the summer recess, the eastern part of the scheme could be ready by 2012. Therefore, the whole scheme cannot physically be done by 2012. Of course, this would be more of a problem if we were having the rowing on the Thames.

[Mike Tuffrey (AM):] Quite so.

[The Mayor:] As we are not, we may get away with it. We want to do everything we can in mitigation to try to avoid the situation that whilst the whole eyes of the world are on us, there are lots of contents flowing down the river that we would rather not see.

[Mike Tuffrey (AM):] Quite so, but you are saying that no decision has been taken to do that. When Joanne (McCartney) wrote to the Minister ' Elliot Morley ' as a result of a scrutiny that we did here in the Assembly, part of the recommendations was that the funding of this major capital infrastructure project be considered and shared out, and he replied, saying, `No, no, no.' He considered it right that Thames Water customers ' i.e., Londoners ' should pay the costs of the improvements, so he is washing his hands of the matter.

[John Biggs (AM)]: Probably not in the Thames, though.

[Mike Tuffrey (AM)]: Quite so.

[The Mayor:] We did an opinion poll last year which asked Londoners whether they would pay another £20 a year on their bills ' and it actually might end up being nearer £40 ' in order to do this. We noted a remarkable 91% said they would, because Londoners just think it is completely and utterly unacceptable to have raw sewage floating down the River Thames.

Therefore, there is a willingness there for Londoners to contribute. The trouble is, as I have found, trying to get the Government to a point where it will make a decision on billions of pounds of expenditure is a painfully slow process. I have not the slightest doubt, without the discipline of the 2012 target for the Games, we would never have had the Government agree the undergrounding of power lines this summer. We most likely would have had another year of haggling and debate about it.

Certainly I will use the issue of the Games to try to push this up the agenda, because it just has to be done. If it cannot be done in time, we have to look at what other remedial measures we can put in place until it is done.