The Government will not provide any direct public funds to support Yorkshire’s staging of the first stages of the 2014 Tour de France, the Culture Minister has confirmed despite pressure from MPs on all sides of the Commons.
Hugh Robertson said yesterday that decisions on funding for major events can only be made by UK Sport, a quango which hands out lottery funds on the Government’s behalf.
There has been no indication so far that UK Sport will offer any funding to Yorkshire, having previously backed a rival - and unsuccessful - bid from Scotland.
Yorkshire MPs from all three parties gathered in Westminster Hall yesterday to pay tribute to the success of the region’s bid, and to call on Ministers to back their success with some hard cash.
Julian Smith, the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, said: “Yorkshire has got this far on its own, but to make the very best of the event, we need Government support as well.”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said the Government could be confident investing in Yorkshire’s event would be money well spent.
“When we talk about investing money, the issue is the kind of return we will get,” he said.
“The event will be excellent value for money. For each pound put in, the multiples that we can get back for the local economy and tourism will be amazing.”
Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams was one of several local politicians to highlight the public funds poured in by the Mayor of London on the last occasion that Britain hosted part of the Tour.
“The Tour de France last visited the UK in 2007, when London hosted the grand départ,” he said. “It is estimated that the Tour brought £90 million to the capital and the South East.
“It has been suggested that Yorkshire could benefit to the tune of over £100 million, and perhaps much more with the Government’s backing.”
Mr Adams said he discussed the possibility of Yorkshire’s bid receiving public funds earlier in the year, but was given short shrift.
“I was disappointed to receive a straight bat from the Government when I raised the prospect of supporting Yorkshire’s bid in the House before the summer,” he said.
“I was a little more disappointed that UK Sport did not appear to want to engage with the bid - not even with a supportive letter.”
Referring to the quango’s financial support for the rival Scottish bid, he added: “It looks like UK Sport backed the wrong horse.”
Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy quipped that “being Yorkshire folk, we are a bit tight with our own money - so we would like some from the Government”.
But Culture Minister Mr Robertson said lottery money has always been distributed at arm’s length from the Government, and that the final decisions rest with UK Sport.
“As it is lottery money, it does not lie within the Government’s remit to allocate it directly,” he said. “We can tell, and have told, UK Sport to increase the amount of money available (for major events)... but it does not lie in this or any other Government’s remit to then allocate that money to specific projects.”
Mr Robertson said he accepted Yorkshire has so far received little help from Westminster in its bid to host the 2014 Tour, but said that now the battle has been won all sides must pull together.
“I genuinely say this... I congratulate Yorkshire wholeheartedly on pulling off the bid,” he said.
“To me it does not matter whether people wish to engage with the Government when making bids; what matters is who wins at the end. I absolutely, 100 per cent congratulate Yorkshire on a stunning triumph.
“I may not have helped Yorkshire very much - I think my sole contribution was nearly standing on a Yorkshire terrier on the Champs-Elysées in July - but it was clear then, and in the way the bid was conducted, that Yorkshire was on to something that others possibly had not picked up.
“I wholeheartedly congratulate Yorkshire on that achievement.
“I will absolutely ensure that UK Sport engages proactively with the bid team. Now the bid is won, it is time for everybody to come together.”