Chewing gum litter louts could leave London looking "an awful mess" as the Olympic Games come to Britain, a Birmingham peer has warned.
Lord Rooker, an Environment Minister and former MP for Perry Barr, revealed an official Chewing Gum Action Group was looking for ways to get chewed gum off the streets.
Britain's Olympic plans have already suffered a major setback after the former head of the body in charge of creating the venues warned they were in danger of coming in late and over-budget.
American businessman Jack Lemley, who quit last month as the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, said he feared the entire project would fall prey to soaring costs and interfering politicians.
Lord Rooker's concerns may be more down to earth, but they were taken seriously by peers during a discussion about chewing gum in the House of Lords. He said: "It lasts, I am told, on the street for something like three or four years. It is expensive to clean. Some local authorities have used people on community service orders to try to clean it up. It is unsightly if it gets on clothes and shoes.
"It is a very anti-social way of disposing of something that one has purchased. Ninety-one per cent of our high streets are affected, according to samples.
"It is a serious issue, and it is going to look a right mess, particularly all over London, as we go towards the Olympics."
Lord Rooker was asked by Lord Selsdon, a Tory peer, to inspect three pieces of chewing gum had been left in the entrance hall of the ornate Lords debating chamber. But he replied: "Certainly not".
Lord Hoyle said the gum problem might be encouraged by the sight of football managers chewing it on television, asking: "What kind of message does that give to young people who are watching?"
Lord Rooker told the House of Lords that the Chewing Gum Action Group – which is chaired by Ministers – would ask gum manufacturers to sponsor special rubbish bins. Asked to reveal exactly which Minister chaired the group, he said: "I hope that I do not chair it."
The Government yesterday insisted London’s Olympic venues will be ready on time.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that there was no danger that the venues would not be ready in time for the 2012 Games. But with the Government’s #2.4 billion public funding package being re-examined by the DCMS and Treasury, officials acknowledged that planned costs would rise.
Since the original budget was agreed, the Olympic Park has undergone a re-design while security requirements are also being revised in the light of the July 7 bomb attacks in London.
"This is a sensible and prudent measure to make sure that we get the very best value for the public-funding package," a DCMS spokesman said.
In an interview, Mr Lemley complained of the "huge amount of local politics" that he was forced to contend with.
"I went there to build things, not to sit and talk about it, so I felt it best to leave the post and come home," he said.