The economy could be damaged by traffic restrictions and disruption during the London Olympics, according to Tory former cabinet minister Lord Patten.
Transport issues could spark “perhaps the greatest controversy during the Olympic period by far” and cause an “Olympic dip”, he said.
The Government had received “clear and weighty advice” on the potential problems, he said during a second reading debate on the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Bill. However, Lord Patten said “other voices” in London and “possibly also from other parts of the Olympic movement” had hit an “unhappy note” by saying: “You’d better lump it and stay away from London for six weeks and work at home.”
“This sort of thing is totally wrong and does harm to the Olympic movement,” said British Olympic Association advisory board member Lord Patten. “People have an absolute right to come to work in the capital, which is the powerhouse of the UK economy. Their employers have an absolute right to expect them to do so.
“We shouldn’t in the current low growth economic environment wish to be seen to be actively encouraging what might be portrayed as an Olympic dip in the gross domestic product of this country during the six weeks of the Olympic period,” he added.
Concerns have been raised over the fast-tracking of athletes and officials through the capital’s streets during the Games, so the Bill will allow traffic authorities to introduce temporary controls on traffic during the event. The new powers should only be used if absolutely necessary, said Lord Patten.
The worries about the creation of “Games lanes” have been echoed by Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones, who says the restrictions on the Olympic route network “stuck in the throat” of many people living in London.
Lord Clement-Jones said: “Employees have already been advised to stay away from central London transport during the Games. That means whatever form of transport we take there will be congestion. Does everything have to grind to a halt during the Games? London employers, and I am one, are very apprehensive about the impact on their businesses. Aren’t we gold-plating the provision of transport for Games officials and others?”
The transport plans of those connected with the Games could feature more public transport, said Lord Clement-Jones, adding: “Surely these were meant to be the green Games.”
Baroness Garden of Frognal, a Government spokeswoman, said the Bill’s line-by-line committee stage would offer more analysis of the Games’ transport issues.