§ [Relevant documents: First Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 2001–02, on Unpicking the Lock: the World Athletics Championships in the UK, HC 264; and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Annual Report 2001, Cm 5114.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That resources, not exceeding £1,489,011,000, be authorised, on account, for use during the year ending on 31st March 2003, and that a sum, not exceeding £1,488,290,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, for the year ending on 31st March 2003 for expenditure by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.—[Mr. Caborn]
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
I thank the House for the opportunity to debate so soon after its presentation to the House the first report produced by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport in this Parliament. I thank all my hon. Friends on the Select Committee, meaning Members on both sides of the House who are Committee members, for their work on the report and the fact that it was unanimous, as has been the case with almost all our reports. I should like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to a former Select Committee member, David Faber, the former Member for Westbury, whom we miss on the Committee and who contributed remarkable knowledge and expertise, particularly to our consideration of the subject that we are debating this afternoon.
The report, "Unpicking the Lock: the World Athletics Championships in the UK", is the fourth in a series of reports published by the Select Committee in the past three years. Our first report was published in May 1999; the second in March 2000; the third in March 2001; and the most recent, which we are looking at this afternoon, was published last month. As we said at the start of the report, it threads its way through a "sorry and convoluted" saga and assigns responsibility for what it calls a "mess". I wish to make it clear that both the main parties in the House of Commons have responsibility for that. Under the previous Government, the English Sports Council which, for a reason that escapes me, now calls itself Sport England, launched a competition and assigned £120,000 in lottery money, with which we deal in detail in our report.
The process and the mistakes began under the previous Government and, to the Committee's regret, continued under the present Government. We assign responsibility for the mistakes to a number of participants in the saga, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which, in the Committee's view, involved itself beyond its locus and vires in decisions, first, on the national stadium, then in attempted decisions on an athletics stadium that the Government were never going to finance and for the building of which they had no responsibility. The Department then involved itself in a compensation deal—the repayment of £20 million of the £120 million 740 advanced under the lottery funding agreement—which was in no way the Government's business, then championed a new stadium at Picketts Lock, without saying where the funding would come from or how the infrastructure would be provided.
Our report assigns responsibility to Sport England, which handed out £120 million to the Football Association for a stadium which, purportedly, was to be built at Wembley. However, planning permission for that stadium had not even been sought. Today, I have received a 40-page document from a well known member of the dramatis personae in these events, Mr. Ken Bates. He has provided me with a document entitled "Wembley National Stadium: A Project Overview 1998-July 2001", which was compiled by Mr. Bob Stubbs, the former chief executive of Wembley National Stadium Ltd.
I shall not quote from the document at length, as I do not believe that it would be fair to do so. Mr. Bates makes a robust case, but it is conceivable, on past experience, that that case might be challenged by others. However, the document is important, and what is clear from it and, I believe, cannot be challenged is what Mr. Bates or Mr. Stubbs states at the beginning, under the heading "Project Genesis":The project arose directly from the establishment of the National Lottery.Sport England was therefore the organisation primarily responsible for the initiation of the national stadium project.
On page 11 of the document, Mr. Bates or Mr. Stubbs states:Up to July 2001 progress had not been in line with the conditions of the lottery funding agreement. Sport England had, on a regular basis, varied the agreed timetable to ensure default did not occur.It is entirely at Sport England's discretion whether an extension of time should be granted. Should an extension not be granted, default would occur and if the default was not rectified, the only real remedy available to Sport England would be to seek recovery of the grant, leading to the project aborting.Sport England therefore has considerable responsibility in the matter, which I do not believe it would deny, although it might well argue about the nature of its responsibility. Indeed, I received a two-page letter—private and confidential—from Mr. Trevor Brooking which, as might have been expected, absolved Sport England of all culpability in the episode.
It is indisputable that after the money had been assigned to Wembley stadium, Sport England watched supinely as the then Secretary of State came to a deal with the Football Association for the repayment of £20 million of the lottery money—a deal which violated the lottery funding agreement. The details of the lottery funding agreement are examined in our report and in the new document provided by Mr. Bates. Sport England made no public protest of any kind and no objection to the deal, which invaded its own responsibilities. It watched the FA flout the deal and the lottery funding agreement, and did nothing whatever about it.
Although the report that we have published is, in general, supportive of the actions of the current Secretary of State, it must be said that with regard to the refunding of the £20 million, Mr. Patrick Carter is apparently involved in negotiations, although he has no legal vires to be involved in the matter, either.
The Football Association took the £120 million. It made no positive move to build the stadium, which had become its responsibility. It did not tell the Secretary of 741 State that building the stadium or cancelling the stadium was its responsibility in consequence of the lottery funding agreement, and was not within the remit of the Secretary of State. However, what the FA has done and shows every sign of continuing to do is to hold on to the £120 million lottery grant, as if it were stuck to it like flypaper.
Buzzing around the mess like flies was a host of bodies, hardly any of which had any money, power or responsibility, but all of which demanded to be listened to and, heaven help us, were listened to. That added to the complications and contributed to what I do not like to call, but what can only be called, the fiasco that we are examining this afternoon. In addition to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England, the FA and its offshoot, Wembley National Stadium Ltd., we know that the British Olympic Association, UK Athletics, Ellerbe Becket architects, UK Sport, the Lee Valley regional park authority, the council of the London borough of Enfield, the Government Office for London, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London, London 2005 and the Wembley taskforce were involved in this series of bizarre events. Uncle Tom Cobbleigh may have been absent, but Fred Karno was definitely on parade.
The process of building the stadium—or, as it turns out, the process of not building it—if it can be dignified with the epithet "process", was aimed at providing either one stadium that would house football and athletics, or two stadiums, one for football and the other for athletics. The objective for one or both was to stage the world cup and the world athletics championships of 2005, and potentially the Olympic games if a bid was made. However, we have ended up with no stadium, rather than one or perhaps two, no world cup and no world athletics championships in this country. To date, according to criteria advanced by the British Olympic Association, from which I received a visit only a few days ago, there is no basis for making an Olympic bid. Meanwhile, the city of Paris has a stadium that staged the 1998 world cup final and was the venue for the 1999 rugby union world cup. It will also be the venue for the 2003 world athletics championships and is suitable for staging the Olympic games.
With regard to our not hosting the world athletics championships, I should mention a statement published today in the Financial Times. It was made by Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations. The accuracy of the statement may be challenged, but whether it is accurate or not, it displays the view of that association on the miasma with which it was faced in considering the allocation of the games. Mr. Diack said that it was faced with the prospect of hosting the world championshipsin Wembley in 2001, then Wembley in 2003 and 2005, then Twickenham or Crystal Palace in 2005, then Pickett's Lock in 2005 and finally Sheffield in 2005.What unites all those venues is that the world athletics championships are to be held in none of them. Our international reputation cannot have prospered as a result of that confusion.
§ Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the situation is even worse than that? Wembley stadium was rejected because the 742 sightlines were thought inappropriate for Olympic athletics events. Is he aware, however, that the very same platform that was to be provided for Wembley stadium is now being purchased in the United States, and that the International Olympic Committee has said that the sightlines are ideal and that there will be no bar on holding any Olympic event in the American stadiums?
§ Mr. Kaufman
I am only too aware of what the hon. Gentleman says. The world-class expert on sightlines is Mr. David Faber, who enlightened the Culture, Media and Sport Committee a great deal during our discussions.
The Select Committee has the right to hold firm views on these matters. There is no point in being modest about the fact that we have been right on the main issues from the beginning. On the purported athletics stadium at Picketts Lock, the Committee gave detailed reasons against the project on the basis of six challenges, all of which were vindicated by Patrick Carter's report and have been accepted by the current Secretary of State. If we had been heeded, between our two reports, 15 months would not have been wasted on consideration of a venue to which only one person doggedly adheres today. All the reasons that we advanced have since been accepted as valid and accurate. As I said, they have been fully accepted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
On Wembley stadium, as the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) indicated, we recommended a convertible stadium capable of housing both football and athletics. That recommendation in our report was rejected instantly by the then Secretary of State, but is now recognised as an appropriate solution by all knowledgeable authorities.
§ Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton)
Given that hosting athletics at Wembley has been rejected not once, but twice, by Wembley National Stadium Ltd., and if we agree with reports published in The Observer and other newspapers at the weekend stating that if the stadium now goes ahead, it is unlikely to include athletics, why do the Committee and its Chairman believe that athletics will occur there in future?
§ Mr. Kaufman
To say that I had confidence about anything that is related to this issue would be to exaggerate my strength of character. None the less, it must be accepted that many of the organisations that are now involved in the matter believe that a convertible Wembley is the solution. What must be said—my hon. Friend is certainly right on this point—is that there is no possibility whatever of it being available for the 2005 world athletics championships. Nobody would argue with that. As I said, the Committee recommended a convertible Wembley stadium and the proposal was rejected instantly by the then Secretary of State. It is now accepted by knowledgeable authorities. If we had been heeded and the project had proceeded, London would now be all set to host the 2005 world athletics championships, which have instead been lost to this country.
It would be easy but futile for the Committee simply to play the game of saying, "I told you so." All of us, in the Committee, the House and sporting organisations, must draw what lessons we can from this debacle. Lesson one is for the FA. It is to say, "Don't be greedy, but be efficient. If you want a stadium, raise the money and get planning permission. Don't hold out the begging bowl for 743 public money; get on and build it. If politicians try to interfere, tell them to keep their prying noses out and their meddling hands off." If that sounds phantasmagoric, I advise hon. Members to look at today's newspapers and consider what happened yesterday with regard to the new Arsenal stadium. Arsenal decided that it wanted to build the stadium and found ways of raising money. It did not ask for a penny of public or lottery money. It got planning permission yesterday and will now go ahead with a project that will not only result in a shining new stadium, but be a factor in urban regeneration in the area. That is a model of what can be done and what the FA could have done if it had been so minded.
The second lesson is for Sport England. I say to that body, "The lottery money that you dispense is not your pocket money to spend on impulse purchases. It is a public trust, which you have violated by being, in the words of our report, 'slack and negligent', and by what we describe in restrained language as a 'cavalier and egregious use of public funds'." Last week, in the Select Committee's current inquiry into swimming, Sport England stated that it had devoted £220 million of lottery funding to swimming throughout England in the five years from 1997 to September 2001. Swimming faces a funding crisis. Sport England provided it with an average of £45 million a year, compared with £120 million for a Wembley stadium, which is still on the drawing board according to the most optimistic assessment. I stress that point to my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love).
Sport England should have acted long ago to prise the money from the rich Football Association's greedy fingers. If the FA makes a new decision to build a Wembley stadium, it should have to undergo the whole process of bidding for lottery money again because the project would not be the same as that for which it received the money.
Lesson three is for the Government. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is present. However, I tell her that if she wants to build a national stadium, she should draw up the plans, determine its uses, decide on the site, obtain the money and get on with it. If she does not intend to do all that, I tell her with the utmost courtesy to keep out and shut up; it is none of her business. Governments of both parties have poor records as building contractors, from the British Library, which took 30 years to build, to the subject of today's debate. I should be happy if my hon. Friends on the Front Bench got on with work on the national health service, education and law and order and left building to contractors and project managers.
In the Select Committee's view, my right hon. Friend has made the right hands-off decisions so far. She has disentangled herself from the tar baby that constitutes the project. I hope that it is not true, but I read in the press that she may get involved in a new process and even launch a competition. She knows the regard in which I hold her, and I tell her that she would be crazy to do that. Having got out of one mess, it would be a serious error to get into another.
Lesson four is for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. This country has come to grief over a series of events. They include the millennium dome, for which both parties bear responsibility; the world cup bid; and the world athletics championships bid. There has never 744 been a co-ordinated policy under Governments of either party, and there is no such policy on the Olympics. The only exception is the Commonwealth games because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister acted on the recommendation of the Select Committee report in May 1999 to appoint a Minister to co-ordinate and progress them. Consequently, a structure exists that can make the Commonwealth games a success.
The May 1999 report recommended the same approach, including appointing a Minister of events for Wembley. However, we were ignored. We made the recommendation again in the report that we published in March 2000 on Wembley national stadium. Again, we were ignored, and the shambles that we are considering today ensued.
The new report also recommends that the Prime Minister appoint an events Minister. I hope that, in view of the series of sagas, he will listen and act. Otherwise, it would be sensible to abandon pretensions to staging complex events in this country. If we do not have the structure, we should not make the effort.
§ Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)
My right hon. Friend and Chairman of the Select Committee has been a little coy in his remarks so far. I recall that the Select Committee and the report was somewhat more critical of the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport over the decision to pull the rug from under a Wembley stadium that would have included athletics. If that fundamental decision had not been made, we would not be worried about £120 million and the refund, or the lack of venue for the world athletics championships. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell hon. Members a little more of what we said about that.
§ Mr. Kaufman
My hon. Friend is well aware of the report's contents because she participated in drafting it and the personal references that it makes. Perhaps if she catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, she can amplify her comments and quote from the report more fully. However, I am conscious that our time is limited and I do not want to take up too much of that of other hon. Members, who I am sure have useful and interesting comments to make.
Last week, representatives of international swimming, such as Anita Lonsborough, Sharon Davies and Duncan Goodhew, attended the Select Committee meeting. We have also met many other athletes during our inquiries. This country has the talent and our sports people have the commitment to make it an illustrious world centre. If the episode that the report considers means that a salutary lesson has been learned, it may not have been in vain.
§ Nick Harvey (North Devon)
I welcome the opportunity to debate such important matters this afternoon and to consider the Select Committee's excellent report, which was described in characteristic style by the Chairman.
The background to the debate is the failure of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to provide a long-term strategy for sport in this country. The Government's withdrawal of Picketts Lock as the venue for the world athletics championships should not have come as a surprise to anyone who has studied the Department's performance in recent years. It merely represents another missed opportunity for British sport.
745 The first aspect to note about the handling of the bid for the world athletics championships is the damage that it has done, not only to the Government and their Ministers, past and present, but to this country's sporting future. The United Kingdom's failure to recognise sport and make it an integral part of the country's culture, health and social fabric is laying waste all sorts of opportunities to promote sport and fitness in this country.
Our failure to provide a venue in London, thereby sacrificing the 2005 championships, was not only embarrassing for Ministers but harmful to many others. It has almost certainly jeopardised any bids that this country makes in the foreseeable future. The world athletics championships are the third biggest sporting event in the world. London would have hosted 3,000 athletes and officials, and the event would have been broadcast across the world to an audience of millions. We should make no mistake: London is more than capable of staging such an event, given the right planning and preparation. Manchester is successfully preparing for the Commonwealth games next year. The relatively small Canadian city of Edmonton held the last world athletics championships, and Kuala Lumpur hosted the last Commonwealth games.
London is larger and more populous than both Manchester and Edmonton, and more economically successful than Kuala Lumpur when it held the Commonwealth games. It can arguably harness a bigger and more enthusiastic sporting audience than any of those cities. If London's bid had been coherent and well thought through, I have no doubt that it could have been successful.
However, if we are now an international laughing stock, judged incapable of holding the world athletics championships—the third biggest event—we have surely lost any chance of hosting the Olympics or football's world cup finals. The Department's actions have not only injured the Department itself but flattened any hopes that the British Olympic Association or the Football Association might have had of hosting either tournament.
The withdrawal of Picketts Lock has also been damaging to the country's athletes. A home venue gives athletes a competitive advantage, and the world athletics championships would have brought significant financial benefits to our sports people. However, those unique sponsorship and training opportunities have been denied to them by inept organisation and, if the report is to be believed, by deals struck in smoky kitchens.
The most fundamental problem is that the loss of the championships has robbed the country of the chance to witness something spectacular and inspirational, and robbed us too of a generation of sporting heroes. School playing fields continue to be sold off, and the two-hour mandatory minimum for school physical education is missed in three age groups out of four. Our children lead more sedentary lives than ever before, yet the opportunity has been missed to present sport in its best light—as competitive and healthy and as an inspiration.
The failure to stage an event of such importance is indicative of a greater failure to provide an overarching sports strategy for the country as a whole. On the one hand, Ministers hope that this country will be able to support Olympic and football world cup bids. On the other 746 hand, however, they do not believe it to be Government's responsibility to co-ordinate, back or underwrite them. As recently as last week, an answer from the Minister for Sport indicated that the responsibility for such matters resided with the governing bodies of the individual sports.
The message is therefore divided: we want the events, but it is down to individual cities, regions or sports bodies to take responsibility for organising them. Surely the lesson to be learned from this fiasco is that in the future it must be central Government's responsibility to take matters by the scruff of the neck. They should decide whether serious bids are to be made and, if so, to see them through.
We have been told that the money saved from the abortive bid—it is not really money saved at all, but money lost and time wasted—will be ploughed back into athletics. Yet we are also told that the demands on Sport England must now be met from an ever-decreasing pot of resources. Our ambitions for the future must be matched with greater resources, and they will probably have to come from Government.
A decision must also be made about our priorities. Do we want high-profile world events, or should we concentrate on grass roots development? With Sport England's pot declining from £325 million a couple of years ago to a projected £180 million in 2003, we cannot, at the current rate of progress, attempt to do both.
The Minister for Sport described last week how disappointed he was that the IAAF had rejected the offer to hold the championships in Sheffield, which he said would have provided an outstanding venue for the 2005 championships. However, that invites the following question: if Sheffield was such an ideal location, why did the Department throw its weight behind an expensive but seemingly superfluous facility in London? Either Sheffield was adequate as a venue, or Picketts Lock would have been another expensive white elephant. It would have followed other white elephants such as the millennium dome, which was also the Department's responsibility, so perhaps the Department should consider establishing a zoo.
The flawed bid to hold the championships at Picketts Lock was, we are told, likely to have cost between £90 million and £120 million. That was before Carter reported on problems with transport, location and accommodation.
The hastily prepared bid to hold the championships at Sheffield—where many of the facilities already exist, and where the greatest cost would have been increasing seating capacity to 43,000, compared to 60,000 at Edmonton—would have cost about £25 million. In either case, there is no doubt that such events cannot be solely supported or underwritten by Sport England.
The chairman of Sport England, Trevor Brooking, said last week that he saw no way this country could ever bid for an Olympics or a world cup without the Government being involved directly and financially. I agree that there is no way that the most recent Olympics in Sydney could have passed off so successfully without the backing of Australia's central Government.
§ Nick Harvey
It is neither fair nor sensible that individual cities or regions—or individual sports 747 governing bodies—should bear the sole and exclusive financial risks of hosting one of the three big multi-venue events. As the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) noted from a sedentary position, the high cost of the Olympics has affected the profitability of the stadium company, which is now bankrupt. However, no gains could have been made if the Australian Government had not been willing to accept the risk and the liability throughout the duration of the games. They will have to oversee the legacy, which—for now—is a bankrupt stadium.
It is true that some of the benefits that such tournaments bring—improved infrastructure and a wider range of facilities—accrue solely to the city that hosts the event, but there are many other aspects of holding big international events that benefit the profile and economy of the entire country. That is why it is right for central Government to adopt a hands-on approach and take responsibility for such ventures. However, what this Government have done is to make the Football Association a gift of £120 million, instead of investing the money in a national home for athletics.
That sum has gone to the country's richest sport, which reaps huge rewards and profits from television receipts. Moreover, if the report is to be believed, the terms of the deal were altered fundamentally at a private meeting in the house of the former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), at which no appropriate civil servant was present.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as he has referred directly and inaccurately to me. A meeting did indeed take place between Mr. Ken Bates and me. A civil servant was present and took a full minute of the meeting. The record rests in the Department.
§ Nick Harvey
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification. I do not know whether he is specifically contradicting the report's account of where the meeting took place, but I am grateful to him for commenting.
There seems to have been no viable, credible or coherent business plan in place to support the Wembley project. At the very least, we can say that Sport England should have made that a precondition for agreeing to any grant. We are not yet privy to the Carter report on Wembley, which needs to be placed in the public domain before we can arrive at absolute conclusions about this saga.
In addition, it is clear that no further money has been invested in athletics, either at its grass roots or its apex; so football has £120 million of lottery players' money gathering interest in its coffers. That money was given on the basis of fulfilling criteria that were initially flawed, later changed and recently removed altogether.
§ Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)
I wish to clarify one point. The £120 million is not sitting in a bank account somewhere. The scandal is that the money has been used to buy the land, which has just been left unused. That is one of the important points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
§ Nick Harvey
The hon. Gentleman is right, and that is shameful.
748 The decision to remove athletics from Wembley was, in my view, disastrous and should never have been agreed. That flawed decision set in train the sequence of events that culminated in the sad, embarrassing but probably quite correct decision to pull the plug on Picketts Lock. While Carter's report remains in the hands of his team and the FA, this House has no idea how the £120 million of good causes cash is being accounted for at the moment.
§ Michael Fabricant
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has had the chance to read the transcript of the evidence given to the Select Committee, but is he aware of what the Secretary of State—who is in her place at present—told the Committee? She said that although shewould not hold the IAAF to this",her feeling was thatthe possibility of a non-London option was not one on which the door was firmly closed.In other words, as late as 23 October, the Government still believed that the international athletics games would go to the Don Valley.
§ Nick Harvey
Had the Government had some disastrous reason to go to the IAAF in the months preceding a tournament that was supposed to have been held in London and said that, owing to an explosion or some unforeseen circumstance, they had to offer another city in London's stead, they could reasonably have expected a sympathetic hearing. However, it was over-optimistic in the extreme of them to make such an offer four years in advance of the tournament. One of the other lessons worth reflecting on is that the competition to hold the games was never exactly hot. That should have told the Government something.
As the saga has gone on, however, the goalposts have not only been moved but have been taken away along with the ball and the teams. If the FA is going to keep the £120 million of lottery money, it should also be bound to meet the terms on which the grant was originally based. If, on the other hand, the plans do not include provision for athletics—as seems to be the case—at the very least the £20 million that it seems to have been agreed should be returned must now be returned.
However, I suspect from the lack of clear answers to written parliamentary questions of late, and from looking at the weekend's press, that we can anticipate a Wembley rebuild being completed—if we are to believe what we read—by the summer of 2005, in time to hold either the FA charity shield, which normally takes place in early August, or even an England friendly game shortly before that. In other words, that would be only a month or so after the world athletics championships would have taken place in London.
The lesson that we have to draw from that is that if the Government had not spent three years dithering over what to do, who to get to do it, and how to change it all once it had been agreed, we could have had a stadium fit for athletics, football and rugby ready within the required time frame, as well as a lasting legacy for all those sports.
§ Andy Burnham (Leigh)
A moment ago, the hon. Gentleman said that the decision to remove athletics from the Wembley proposal was wrong. Is he suggesting, 749 therefore, that the FA would have found it easier to raise the money through the City for a stadium combining athletics and football?
§ Nick Harvey
It is not possible to build a world-class athletics stadium that would be economically viable in its own right, because it simply would not generate sufficient gate receipts. The perfectly sensible proposal implicit in the original plan was that the FA would raise the bulk of the money for the football stadium, and that public money would be in place to graft athletics on to the project, which would be given its viability principally by having a regular football crowd in, as that is the only way to provide a sustainable revenue at the gate.
That was a perfectly viable option. Even now, it is estimated that the £14 million cost of putting in place an athletics platform and the £6 million for a warm-up track would not exceed the £20 million that was set aside to bring athletics into the equation. Now, the country has lost the world athletics championships, so we have the chance to draw breath and sort this out once and for all.
It is ironic that delay upon delay over the past three years has got us into the dreadful situation in which we now find ourselves. We have missed the boat for the 2005 championships, yet everyone suddenly wants to do everything in a great rush, even though there is no longer any time pressure on us.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us precisely where this £6 million warm-up facility at Wembley was going to be?
§ Nick Harvey
The proposition to buy the entire Wembley site would probably, originally, have made such a project feasible, although clearly not as a long-term fixture or fitting. It would, however, have been possible to create such a facility in reasonable proximity to the stadium as a one-off.
The questions that we must now address are whether the terms of the initial grant to the FA have been met, whether they can be met and, if not, whether that money should be given back and, as has been suggested, the issue of support from Sport England should be revisited from scratch. This country needs an economically viable facility for holding world-class athletics meetings that could be part of a future world athletics championships or Olympic bid. Even with full backing from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and underwriting from central Government, it is proving unlikely that two separate facilities could be built. It will be too late to consider plans for an integrated venue if we go ahead now with the football-only solution. If we do that, we shall miss the opportunity to pursue the possibility of a venue for both sports.
Since Carter has considered other venues as possibilities for siting a football stadium, he would almost certainly be the best placed person to consider the merits of those venues as sites for multi-purpose stadiums. The FA still has at least a £20 million stake in providing a multi-purpose venue—a not insubstantial sum, which would reduce the cost to itself and any other financiers.
Without a coherent plan for the provision of all sports, we will simply be talking about stadiums this time next year, at a time when the Government and their agencies should be getting on and building one.
§ Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Perhaps it is worth starting by reminding ourselves why it is beneficial to the country to host a world athletics championship. In my view, it is beneficial in two ways. One is in relation to the international sporting profile that can come from such a major event. After the Olympic games and the football world cup, the world athletics championship is probably the third most important international sporting event. More than that, hosting a championship is important for the impact that it has on the thousands of young people who see an event taking place in their country and are inspired to take part in sport, and to become sportsmen and sportswomen themselves. That double effect of international sporting importance and of encouragement to grass-roots sport is an extremely important reason why it was right to seek to host the world athletics championship in the first place.
I regret the decision taken by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport not to proceed with the Picketts Lock scheme. I entirely respect the decision that she took, and I know that two issues in particular weighed in her mind. However, developments subsequent to the general election changed the picture on both those issues to a certain extent.
One was the transport link, relating to the enhancement of the rail link on the Stansted line from Liverpool Street to Picketts Lock, and to the proposed new station immediately beside the stadium. The second issue related to the Middlesex university campus accommodation that had been intended to form the athletes' accommodation. On both those issues, delays appeared to set in. My view was that those problems could have been solved. None the less, the decision was taken, and I respect that fact.
Let us remind ourselves what we could have gained if Picketts Lock had gone ahead. It would have been not only a stadium dedicated to athletics for the world championships, but a continuing facility for future athletics use, linked directly to a high-class indoor performance centre and a practice throwing field and track, all side by side and able to provide a long-term legacy for athletics, not only at championship level but for community and school use across the capital and the south-east.
§ Michael Fabricant
The right hon. Gentleman will have read this report. Before Picketts Lock was being considered, we were, of course, considering Wembley stadium. Will he tell us honestly, with the benefit of hindsight—although no one can possess that gift—whether he regrets moving the contest from Wembley stadium to Picketts Lock?
§ Mr. Smith
That was not the precise nature of my decision at the time. I do not regret the decision that I took, and I shall enlighten the hon. Gentleman as to why in a moment.
The long-term legacy, particularly for athletics, from the Picketts Lock stadium would have been a permanent facility for the future—something for which athletes such as Denise Lewis have argued passionately.
The Select Committee report drew attention to a number of issues and difficulties. I have responded to some of its colourful specifics in public on a number of occasions, but it may be worth putting one or two points on the record.
751 The Committee's Chairman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), described the range of organisations involved in any stadium project and, in particular, in the Wembley and Picketts Lock proposals—somewhat unflatteringly, I thought—as "Fred Karno's army". What such a designation ignores is the plain and simple fact that any large project of this kind inevitably involves a large range of organisations. It would have been ridiculous to try to create a stadium in London without involving, for instance, the Government Office for London, the Mayor and the London borough concerned—together with the Lee Valley authority, which happened to own the land and to be in the driving seat. My right hon. Friend's designation was, perhaps, a trifle unfair on organisations that were rightly involved.
The Select Committee report, and Members who have spoken today, suggest that the decision to recommend the removal of athletics from the original Wembley scheme—the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) raised this point in particular—was made because of the difficulty involving sightlines, and advice from, in particular, the British Olympic Association about the potential unsuitability of Wembley stadium for hosting the Olympic games. That was a consideration, but it was not the main consideration.
The decision was not made by the Secretary of State; it was urged on Wembley National Stadium Ltd., the Football Association and Sport England. It was made for two principal reasons. The first was based on practicality and value for money. It was proposed that, for the hosting of the world athletics championships, a concrete platform should be constructed in the middle of Wembley stadium. Construction would cost not £14 million but some £20 million, and would take six months. The platform would be used for a 10-day championship, and taking it down again would take another six months. There would be no permanent legacy for athletics, and in the meantime Wembley stadium would be unusable for 12 months. It was on grounds of practicality and value for money that I first had serious doubts about whether this was a sensible way of proceeding.
The second reason was the absence of warm-up facilities. I challenged the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) on that. The land that had been purchased, with the stadium on it, did not include land for such facilities. Any international athletics event must offer a warm-up facility as near as possible to the main stadium
§ Mr. Smith
My hon. Friend makes his own point strongly. I was faced with a decision based on the facts as they confronted me then. The creation of a warm-up facility adjacent to the stadium would have meant the identification of land that was not then owned by Wembley stadium or the Football Association. It would almost certainly have required compulsory purchase procedures involving a number of owners, and it would have been extremely expensive.
752 The two major problems that we encountered were the lack of practicality of the concrete-platform solution, and the lack of any easy way of identifying a warm-up facility. In the circumstances, I thought it sensible to look at other possibilities for the hosting of athletics championships.
§ Mr. Smith
Almost certainly not. I was coming on to my third point, which is that at the heart of any major stadium project of this kind lies the difficulty of marrying a stadium for football with a stadium for athletics. A really good football stadium requires seating close to the pitch. It requires the best possible atmosphere, with spectators crowded in on the action. In the best football grounds, that is precisely what happens. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton mentioned last night's decision by my local authority about the Arsenal stadium scheme. That desired atmosphere is precisely what Arsenal's project achieved.
§ Mr. Smith
Not for the moment. This is an important point.
An athletics stadium, however, needs spectators to be further from the ground. A wider "footprint" is also needed, so that there can be a running track and space in the middle for throwing events, and spectators need to be placed in a rather different way so that at all stages they can see not just the athletes' heads but their feet as they go round the tracks.
It is possible to aim for a compromise. The Stade de France in Paris probably represents the best international attempt to achieve such a compromise: it has retractable seating at the lower levels. It is still not perfect for either sport, because the spectators are still some distance from a football game, while retracting the seating for athletics events produces a cliff around the athletics track before the seating starts. It is none the less a workable compromise. That was not on offer at Wembley: what was on offer there was a stadium that was tight around the pitch and therefore good for football, but with a concrete platform to transfer it to athletics mode.
§ Michael Fabricant
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the additional information he has given. Has he read the evidence given by Mr. Rod Sheard, to whom he spoke at the time? That evidence distinctly contradicts the information he has just given about the time it would take to remove the removable platform and restore it. Does he not now think—again with the benefit of hindsight, and given Mr. Sheard's evidence—that that would have been a workable compromise, and would not, in fact, have meant that Wembley could not be used for long periods between athletics and football events?
§ Mr. Smith
I understand that claims have been made that technology has moved on since December 1999, when the decision was taken, but that does not change the fundamentals of the picture. It would still take a 753 considerable time to construct and deconstruct the platform. It would still cost a substantial sum and there would still be no permanent facility left for athletics.
I hope that Wembley as a national stadium for football and rugby league can now proceed. The history, tradition and sentiment that surround it are much more powerful than that elsewhere.
§ Bob Russell (Colchester)
The right hon. Gentleman's ministerial brief included culture. Is he aware of any other country that has demolished such an important monument to its sporting past as an Olympic stadium? Wembley is also the home of England's greatest sporting triumph, so surely the Wembley towers at least should remain.
§ Mr. Smith
The problem with the hon. Gentleman's argument is that the Foster design for the new Wembley, as proposed in 1999, meant that the twin towers would have ended up in the middle of the pitch, which did not necessarily make for the best possible stadium. We wait to see what emerges from the FA in the next few weeks in relation to any redesign it may be considering, but I suspect that the problem persists. The other beneficial aspect of Wembley is that there is a definite need for regeneration across north-west London, so siting the new national stadium there would make a strong and positive contribution to that task.
If Wembley is to proceed it should not be at the cost of additional sums from the public purse. Shortly before the general election, the FA asked the Government for an additional sum of some £150 million to enable the Wembley project to proceed, but I rejected the proposal. I believe that I was right to do so, and it is worth putting it on record that the £120 million of lottery funding made available to the FA for the Wembley stadium becomes legally repayable if it does not proceed. I hope that Sport England will stand firmly by that.
I remind the FA that there is an agreement, minuted and followed up in correspondence, to return £20 million to the lottery in recompense for removing athletics from the scheme. That money is outstanding, and the FA should think seriously about starting to pay it back. While we are at it, let us learn the lessons of the Cardiff Millennium stadium, which was built for £126 million, including the purchase of the land. It hosted the FA cup final earlier this year, and everyone who went said what a good game it was and how good the stadium was. The Cardiff stadium is one for which I can claim a little credit as chairman of the Millennium Commission, which made a substantial sum available for it.
I applaud the Government's continued emphasis on grass-roots sport, because sports policy needs a combination of the encouragement of that and the objective of international excellence. The hon. Member for North Devon failed to acknowledge that this year, next year and the year after, the sport budget from the Exchequer will double. I negotiated that money, and I was proud to put it in place. Also, 1,000 school sports co-ordinator posts will be created to facilitate, encourage and enable sport to take place in our schools and school playing field sales have already declined from an average of 40 a month under the previous Government to about three a month.
754 We have put major initiatives in place over the past four years and I am pleased that they are being carried forward by my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department to encourage and facilitate grass-roots sport. Of course, there will be no medal winners tomorrow without mass participation among young people today, and we will not generate enthusiasm for participation among those young people if they have no heroes to emulate or international success to aspire to. The two go hand in hand.
For all those reasons, let us hope that the Government take the Select Committee's entertaining, but somewhat flawed, report with a small pinch of salt and stick to their determination to promote excellence and foster community spirit.
§ 6.7 pm
§ Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton)
It may be worth reminding the House of some of the beginnings of the sad and sorry fiasco that leaves our country without a national stadium for football, rugby league and, in particular, athletics. I take hon. Members back to the fact that Wembley stadium was owned by a fairly shaky plc called Wembley plc. Advisers to the deal tell me that, originally, one idea was for the lottery to get the stadium free for 50 years while the plc moved from being an owner to being the operator of a vastly improved stadium.
The £120 million grant was to be matched by finance raised in the City and a new stadium built for about £250 million. Although it was always touted as a multi-sport venue, there was always a dominant partner—soccer. With respect to this debate, a better way to put it is that there was a much weaker partner—athletics.
A certain football club in north London, namely Arsenal, has been referred to. I remind the House that, back in 1997, rumours were floating around that the club was interested in buying Wembley, lock, stock and barrel, and was threatening to bid for Wembley plc. The upshot of that would have been the scuppering of the nascent plans to hold the world cup in this country, which appears to have completely spooked the Government, who panicked and exerted pressure on Sport England to abandon the original plan under which it agreed to allocate £120 million of funding.
To bid for the World cup, the Government needed a national stadium, and it appears that they went out and bought the stadium outright for about £100 million. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps we can say that that is the slippery slope at the bottom of which we now find ourselves. Four years on, with the last game played there over a year ago, the decaying stadium and the surrounding area are worth nowhere near the £100 million paid for them; they are worth closer to £30 million. That is a real shame and a dreadful waste of public money.
How did that sorry state of affairs come about? It appears to have been because the Government could not keep their interfering paws off. The lure of being associated with the so-called venue of legends was just too much for a spin-obsessed Administration—they could not leave it alone. It seems that all the meddling was at the behest of the Prime Minister himself, who had, it was claimed, "thrown his weight behind it".
755 To bring matters up to date, a Football Association insider quoted in the Financial Times said:We want Government to be supportive, but absent from the actual process. We need a pledge that the Government will not interfere!Sadly, the Secretary of State still fails to grasp that salient point. She told the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, on which I have the honour to sit:I do not think it is the role of Government to build and manage big stadia, but to pretend that these big projects can be delivered with the Government holding back is naive".Yet we have reached the end of 2001 with no national stadium and no athletics stadium—a litany of meddle, muddle and complete mismanagement. To put it another way: no world athletics championship, so no need for an athletics stadium.
That sorry state of affairs has arisen because the Government overstepped their own brief four years ago and, worryingly, seem intent on doing so again. In May, in their manifesto, the Government promised that they would host the 2005 world athletics championships with first-class facilities. That is no doubt a laudable aim. However, there was no mention in that document of Picketts Lock, Edmonton or even London—despite the fact that London was the city to which the championships had been given.
It appears that the Government never, ever asked themselves why we even need big stadiums in a televisual world when millions can watch events without having to stand on cold terraces. At the end of August when Patrick Carter, the Government's sports troubleshooter, issued his report, which sounded the death knell for Picketts Lock, he noted that heremained unaware of any policy or strategy which set out why the United Kingdom ought to stage major sporting events".However, the absence of such a strategy has not stopped the Government meddling.
There are good reasons for having a national stadium that are as true today as ever they were. The first is to secure home advantage for British sportsmen and the second is—as the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) pointed out—to act as a facilitator for wider sports policy and to achieve greater grass-roots involvement. The final reason is to enhance the way in which Britain is seen internationally.
None of those factors gives the Government or any Minister a reason to get involved and to abuse public money in the way that has happened. The problem appears to have started with the concept that there should be a national stadium for three sports—football, rugby league and athletics. That was downsized by the football-loving hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks). Suddenly, the "right type" of stadium for a world cup bid, rather than the previously agreed multi-use stadium, was all the rage.
Having undermined the three-sports stadium concept, the DCMS had to turn its attention to finding a home for its displaced athletics idea.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham)
May I correct the hon. Gentleman? The new Wembley stadium was in no way conditional on our winning the 2006 world cup bid. In fact, there was some surprise that the FA and Sport England, with the support of the Government, were actually going to demolish the old Wembley stadium in order to construct a new national stadium. Unlike 756 Germany and other countries which were bidding and which planned to build a new national stadium if their bid was successful, we were already going to build one. There was no link of the kind suggested by the hon. Gentleman with the 2006 world cup bid.
§ Mr. Flook
Obviously, I did not have the benefit of being at the discussions. I could only read recent reports.
Of the original £120 million, it has been agreed that £20 million is to be repaid if the athletics track is never built at Wembley. Judging by the last few years, who knows whether that will ever happen? In short, the Government appear to have given £100 million to the richest sport in the kingdom for a ground that it could easily have afforded itself.
§ Mr. Flook
I stand corrected. None the less, although it is not taxpayers' money, public money has been given to the richest sport in the kingdom.
In December 1999, athletics was eventually pulled from the venue of legends following a report written by some consultants who spent all of three weeks looking into the proposed design that kiboshed the suggested set-up. However, I remind the House that the Select Committee report, published on 30 March last year, disagreed and found the proposed solution of a three-sport stadium "commendable and innovative" and concluded thatthe Government should go ahead with it".Indeed, since then—to contradict the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury—major stadiums throughout the world have proposed the use of the same sort of construction for athletics. We noted in our report that New York is planning to adopt such a system. Yet, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out, the then Secretary of State rubbished the report within half an hour of its publication—hardly a considered opinion.
The report highlighted a number of challenges for Picketts Lock. There was no underwriter for the event. The stadium was not of the highest quality. There were transport and infrastructure issues. Time was short—that was in March 2000. What would happen to the stadium in the long term? There was a capital shortfall.
There was always a funding shortfall with the Picketts Lock proposal. The outline cost in March 2000 was for a stadium that was going to cost up to £120 million, when only £60 million had been earmarked as available from the lottery and £20 million of that was unlikely ever to be released. So, there were shortfalls for funding for the building as well for long-term revenue. In short, what does one do with an expensive building stuck in north-east London that has little use other than as an athletics stadium?
To quote another report from the Select Committee, the Government were following a "perverse and bizarre" course of action in promoting an economically unsustainable athletics stadium—having rejected their own earlier proposals, after taking into account a hastily written report that took all of three weeks to put together. After their meddling, the Government have lost this country the right to stage the world athletics championships in 2005. They have probably cost us much 757 more embarrassment than that, in that we are unlikely to be in a position to bid for any major sporting event for many years.
The Government's alternative proposal of Sheffield, charming city though it probably is, was not even discussed by the International Amateur Athletics Federation. That shows what the federation thought of the proposal.
The Government continue to meddle. They seem desperate to be munificent in this season of good will, and now appear to be offering £40 million of Sport England's money—public money, albeit not taxpayers' money—all over the place. When will they learn that the £40 million is lottery money, and not Government money to throw around?
The Select Committee's report may well have "castigated" the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, but several issues remain pertinent for the current crop of Ministers. We need assurances from the Government that they will heed the insider at the FA and leave the association to get on with it and build Wembley. What about the £20 million that seems to have gone missing? We are constantly given assurances, but where is the second annual instalment?
According to the Evening Standard, the FA isnow ready to build a National Stadium with £100 million of their own money and they only need tacit support from the Government to help them get funding from the City.That seems to be rather a kick in the face for all those earlier but perhaps rather unhelpful efforts.
As the Secretary of State suggested when she appeared before the Committee, with a little luck, if a review of major events policy is undertaken and the subject is kicked into the long grass of the performance and innovation unit of No. 10, there is perhaps an outside chance that something might be able to happen at Wembley without Government interference.
There is no denying, however, that Britain's reputation abroad has been damaged. It is also likely that we will not have a mega-event for quite some time. More importantly, there is still no lasting legacy of athletics to help us do better in track and field events. Bearing in mind the fact that the original £120 million has been turned into an investment that now consists of a dilapidated building in north-west London that is worth about £30 million, and that the Government are scrabbling round to spend £48 million of public money, it worth asking once again what will become of the £20 million.
Last week, in an attempt to break the power and control of the so-called blazer brigade—although his statement more pertinently exposes the Government's handling of the national stadium—the Minister for Sport told The Guardian thatIn this day and age, you need to have people with skills to run sport. Public money is given out and we do not even know what we get back.That is absolutely correct. I could not have put it better myself.
§ Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and the Select Committee on two or three years of very 758 hard, detailed work on what they themselves have rightly called a saga of events. Their detailed scrutiny has been very helpful indeed. I think that anyone who reads the report—even those who, like me, do not agree with all its recommendations—cannot fail to see the truth of its overall conclusion that the way we run sports and major sporting events and build national stadiums is a shambles. Without saying so, the report also expresses my view that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is a dysfunctional Department. That is what it has been from the beginning and that is what it continues to be. It is perhaps fortunate that we have a Select Committee that is not dysfunctional; if it were dysfunctional we would not have received this type of report.
Although I realise that the Select Committee is very busy doing a wide variety of reports, it might be a very useful exercise if it were to use its considerable background knowledge and expertise to consider the overall issue of the way in which we handle sport in this country. We have to examine issues such as the increasing number of quangos, the fact that no one can take decisions, and the fact that the Government immediately handed over all our money for sport to Sport England, which is a huge quango employing 500 people; whereas I think that, when I was Minister for Sport, I had 26 people working on sport.
It is clearly nonsensical when the Minister for Sport and even the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport do not truly have the power to take decisions. So many matters are handled by various quangos that drop the ball whenever difficulties arise.
§ Michael Fabricant
The hon. Lady has made a very interesting and powerful point by saying that the Department is dysfunctional and inviting the Select Committee to investigate the Department's sports operation. I ask her, a former Minister, to tell us the point of a Select Committee's making recommendations to a Department when, in at least one example, the Secretary of State rejected the report within 30 minutes of its publication. There are many other examples in which Secretaries of State have rejected Select Committee recommendations that, as hindsight has shown, were subsequently proved correct.
§ Kate Hoey
The Government make their decisions on individual Select Committee reports. Although I do not want to go over old ground, I should make it clear now that I fundamentally disagree with the Select Committee recommendation to which the hon. Gentleman refers—to oppose removing athletics from Wembley. I believe that the original lottery money was provided for a national sports stadium. There is absolutely no doubt that, at some point in the early months of 1999, the national sports stadium project was hijacked by football. The FA and Wembley National Stadium Ltd. hijacked the project and ignored both athletics and the British Olympic Association.
Those bodies were able to do that because at that time we were making a world cup bid. As the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook) said, for the first six months to a year in which I was the Minister for Sport, and in the final year of the previous Minister's tenure, the world cup bid hung over everything that was happening in the Department. Absolutely nothing could stop, prevent or 759 attack anything to do with our world cup bid. That was the most important sports issue as far as the Government were concerned.
One of my disappointments with the report is that the Select Committee never analysed what went wrong with Wembley. I agree with the Committee that the £120 million should not have been provided so quickly without planning permission. Like all hon. Members, I have sports clubs that have received no lottery grants or only small grants because they have not had planning permission. Nevertheless, Sport England gave £120 million for a plan that had not yet received planning permission. The request succeeded because the plan was about the world cup bid, making it crucial that it succeeded. I would therefore have liked it if the Select Committee had examined the issue.
I know that pressure was put on Sport England to deliver that £120 million, which had to be delivered in time to prepare and submit the bid. It is all very well blaming Sport England and its officials, but it is difficult for anyone when permanent secretaries are ringing up and asking when a lottery bid will go through.
§ Kate Hoey
I absolutely agree that that was in our manifesto. However, our manifesto also contained many other things. I agree, too, that we want to fulfil our manifesto commitments so far as possible. However, I do not think that we should fulfil one manifesto commitment at the expense of other commitments. We should not override other commitments, take shortcuts or fail to monitor properly. We should not seek to do something very quickly indeed when it is not necessary.
The £120 million was provided for a multi-sports stadium such as the Stade de France, and that is what we should have been building. It then became a football-only stadium, designed to include a platform. We need not go through all the costs of the platform proposal, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) has made it clear that it was nonsense to propose a platform that was a one-off arrangement that would leave no legacy for athletics. It was a sop to athletics and an attempt to get round the fact that WNSL had received £120 million.
We could not go back on that decision because Downing Street did not want it to happen. At that time, no one wanted to go back and say to Sport England, "You have mucked up. This scheme should be returned and you should be redesigning it as a proper national stadium, which is what the lottery grant was for." That could not happen because we could not sacrifice our world cup bid.
§ Mr. Bryant
I agree with my hon. Friend on her point about athletics being removed from Wembley stadium. However, does she think that the whole £120 million should be returned, or merely the £20 million?
§ Kate Hoey
I was coming to that. We do not know what the decision on Wembley will be, but the football authorities clearly know that if a national stadium is not built at Wembley they will definitely be legally bound to 760 return the £120 million. My view, which I shall continue to proclaim, is that if Wembley ends up being a national football stadium—with some rugby league involvement, although rugby league is enjoying having its games at different places—the whole £120 million must be returned.
Great demands are already being placed on the sports lottery fund. Just recently, Sport England gave £30 million from the sports community lottery fund to ensure the success of the Commonwealth games. We want those games to be a success, but that was an extra £30 million which had not been budgeted for. The decision to give £30 million was split—it was not unanimous. However, £30 million of community funding has now gone to the Commonwealth games. I do not want there to be a football-only stadium without the need to pay back the £120 million. Twickenham was built without public lottery money. Cricket does not get £120 million, so why does football, which is the richest sport? If the stadium is football-only, the entire £120 million must be repaid.
§ Michael Fabricant
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way to me a second time. I take her point about the £120 million. However, what about the £20 million, which also needs to be repaid? She may be aware from the evidence given to the Select Committee that, on 19 January this year, the former Secretary of State said in a letter that the £20 million might be repaid if Wembley stadium went ahead, and that if the project did not proceed, it would not be repaid. Later, on 5 April, he said that the final payment of the £20 million would be made in December 2004. Later on, the present Secretary of State said that this was being discussed in camera. Can the hon. Lady shed any light on any timetable that might exist for the repayment of the £20 million?
§ Kate Hoey
I can shed no light on that, other than what is in the formal public documents. I was not involved in any meeting with Ken Bates over the £20 million, thank goodness. That sum should definitely be repaid because that was agreed by the then Secretary of State and Ken Bates, who was supposedly speaking on behalf of football. I am after the rest of the money because I do not see why football should get it.
Our reputation in international sport has been badly damaged by this decision. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury that Picketts Lock had problems, but it could have been made to happen. We gave a commitment, as a country, to host the world athletics championships. We gave that commitment not just at ministerial, Secretary of State or UK athletics level, but as a country, with a letter from the Prime Minister saying that we would provide a wonderful stadium in London for the world athletics championship in 2005. We reneged on that commitment and broke our promise. It has damaged us, because members of the International Amateur Athletics Federation are also involved with the International Olympic Committee.
I sat next to Istvan Gyulai, chief executive of the IAAF, just a few weeks ago at the athletics writers' dinner. I will not repeat the conversation, because it was private, but he told me exactly what had gone on in the meeting with the Minister for Sport and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. I would not repeat in the Chamber the words he used about what happened at that meeting.
761 We have let ourselves down badly, although there were problems. We must congratulate the Lee Valley and Enfield council, the local Member of Parliament and all who worked so hard on the basis of commitments and promises. The very least we can do is make sure that the Government reimburse the council for its costs. Despite all their good will, the Government reneged on the commitment.
Our reputation abroad has been badly damaged. It was made even worse by telling this international body that we would be hosting the event in London one minute and then saying the next minute, "No, we would like it to be Sheffield." I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport would not have dreamt of being patronising, but that is how it was taken. There was no understanding of how international sport worked. That has damaged us even more than if we had told the IAAF that we were really sorry but we had messed up and could not do Picketts Lock. In the event, we said that we could not do Picketts Lock, but offered Sheffield instead. Wonderful though Sheffield is, that was nonsense. We have a lot of hard work to do to mend our reputation. I will not go into detail about our bid for the world cup, because that would provoke the wrath of my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks).
I have a suggestion for my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton about future Select Committee reports. I am sure that he understands the difficulties regarding the way in which Sport England works. It might be useful to take a strategic look at how the Sports Council works and the lottery spend, taking into account value for money. Even with someone in the Cabinet who is responsible for events, unless we completely change how we run sport in this country, by restructuring and streamlining it, we will never punch at our true weight.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife)
The debate that the hon. Lady mentioned in her opening remarks and to which she has now returned is hardly new. It began in 1964 when Denis Howell was appointed the first Minister responsible for Sport. The question arose—it has never properly been resolved—as to whether the Minister for Sport should exercise executive responsibilities. If the hon. Lady is saying that, she will find a great deal of support for that view, not just in the House of Commons but throughout the sporting world in the United Kingdom.
§ Kate Hoey
I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The people involved in sport will say that there is no real understanding of how sport works. There is no strategic authority and nobody to carry things through from the top. Sue Mott in The Daily Telegraph wrote eloquently about it recently. She talked about everyone holding a package, passing it to someone who takes a little out of it and passes it on to someone else who does the same; and when the going gets tough, everyone wants to drop it. That is how we run sport. We can never aspire to be an international power in sport or be in touch with the grass roots if we do not look at what we are doing.
This Mr. Carter seems to be running sport in this country. He was brought in just before I finished as Minister for Sport to look at the Commonwealth games. 762 I did not meet him, although I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury might have. The reports show that he has met some people and not others—he seems to have chosen whom to meet. Whenever anyone in authority in the Government talks about Wembley or Picketts Lock and is asked a difficult question, they refer to the Carter report. I wonder whether Patrick Carter actually exists, because I have not seen him anywhere.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)
Order. I remind the hon. Lady that we are discussing the Select Committee report, not the Carter report.
§ Kate Hoey
I know, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the Select Committee report refers to Patrick Carter a number of times. I know that he exists, because he gave evidence.
In conclusion, the Select Committee has done sport a service by producing this detailed report, although it does not make very appetising reading. Indeed, it makes very sad reading, and we have many lessons to learn.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham)
I have not met Mr. Carter either, so perhaps he does not exist. Who knows? Perhaps the Minister for Sport can enlighten us.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) said something that a number of people have mentioned in the debate. She referred to the rich sport of football. Well, that is true of one part of football—essentially, the premier league, where a lot of money is sloshing around, as we know. However, when we are talking about the development of the national football stadium, we are talking about the Football Association. Although richer than probably any other national sporting body, the FA should not be confused with the premier league. Let us not forget that the FA is responsible for something like 42,000 affiliated clubs, so there is not a vast amount of money sloshing around in the new building at Soho square. We need to differentiate between the FA and the premier league, even though it has a significant say in the FA.
I have just been told that I have five minutes, and I always want to try to obey the Whips. If they try to beat me up, I will definitely join the Liberal Democrats.
§ Mr. Banks
No. Nothing that I say in the next few minutes is said with the benefit of hindsight. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) on the Select Committee report. He is right to say that the Select Committee has been consistently right. I have given evidence to the Select Committee on several occasions, and it has been consistently right. We all want to put our own spin or interpretation on those events. When the national stadium was proposed for football, rugby league and athletics, it was clear that the British Olympics Association and UK Athletics would very much have liked a permanent running track there, visible all the time, but that simply was not on.
When I was Minister for Sport, I was not prepared to support that proposal. I tried to get funding for the proposal on retractible seating, as at the Stade de France.
763 I tell my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall that I was told that there would be no money for that from the Treasury, nor any additional money from the lottery. So in the end the deck solution was proposed. I thought that solution appropriate, given the money available. Let us be clear that when I was a Minister there was a lot of Government interference, but no Government money.
I sympathise with those who say, "Unless the Government put money in, the Government should stay out of it." That goes as much for Ministers now as when others were sitting in their places. I have enormous regard for my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), and I was always totally loyal to him when he was Secretary of State, but when the deck solution for the national stadium was launched in July 1999, he described it as a stunning design.
§ Mr. Chris Smith
In fact, at the time of the press conference at which I described the overall scheme as a stunning design, the deck solution was in no sense part of that scheme. The details of the deck solution became evident only subsequently, and I began to have serious doubts about it.
§ Mr. Banks
No, hang on a second. I happen to think that the proposal was acceptable, simply because rugby was contributing nothing and athletics, which was also contributing nothing, would want to use the stadium only for the world athletics championships or for the Olympic games, and there was no guarantee that we could get either. So it seemed to me to be perfectly appropriate to bring in something on a temporary basis. There is an argument about how long that proposal would disable the stadium, but it was perfectly acceptable to football. I thought that it was acceptable to my right hon. Friend, and it seemed that that was the way forward, given that we would not have a permanent track or retractible seating there. I shall not keep going over why things have now changed, but we got into all sort of problems as soon as it was decided that the July 1999 design was not acceptable.
There is some confusion about the world athletics championships. I remember when the late Primo Nebiolo—one of the great barons of world sport—was offered the championships to London. When we were sitting in the Cabinet room in Downing Street, we described the construction of the new Wembley stadium, and he said, "Well, the first event that you can have in it will be the 2003 world athletics championships." I said, "Well, Mr. President, we'll discuss that later." When I discussed it with him later, I found out that he had made exactly the same offer to the French Minister for Sport, Madame Buffet, with the result that she and I had to reach a conclusion, and we decided that London would bid for 2005, rather than 2003 because two cities were going for the 2003 championships.
I wanted to make a few more points, but other hon. Members want to speak. The solution proposed would have fitted everyone. I feel that the role of the BOA needs 764 to be criticised because it was clearly not happy with the deck proposal, but I warned Simon Clegg, the BOA' s general secretary, that it was the best thing that it was likely to get. If the BOA did not go for that, it would end up with nothing. Well, nothing is precisely what it has ended up with, so it should have listened to that advice.
§ Mr. Banks
No, I have got to sit down—I am very sorry. All I would say is that, if we are to learn something from what has happened, we need Governments to be involved, but Government involvement does not just mean interfering to tell sport what it should be doing. It means getting in there, paying for it and doing it ourselves, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall. As a Minister, the thing that frustrated me—clearly, it frustrated her, too—was the way that we were continually handing over decisions to fractured bodies all over the place, using the so-called arm's-length principle.
I stood at the Dispatch Box and said that I did not agree with the arm's-length principle. If we are to get involved in organising events or in reorganising sport, we have got to do it ourselves, in an executive fashion. In that way, I am more of a Stalinist than a socialist, and stand firmly by that view. If the Government are going to get involved, which they should, and the Select Committee has made several recommendations, the Government must pay. If the Government are not prepared to pay, as the Australian, French, Spanish, Japanese and South Korean Governments have done, they should stay out of it, because all they do is confuse sports.
§ Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough)
It appears to be my role to have three minutes at the end of every debate in which to try to summarise the 20 minutes-worth of notes that I have prepared, but I should like to endorse everything that my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) has said so passionately at the end of his contribution. I have lots of notes and wanted to talk about the decisions and some of the things in the Select Committee report, but we have heard lots of that rehearsed in this debate, and in the couple of minutes that I have available, I want to return to what my hon. Friend has just said—we as a nation have to decide how serious we are about sport.
I have been very lucky since being elected; not only have I been able to spectate at some of the world's great stadiums, but I have been able to play in some of them because of the parliamentary football and rugby teams that we run. Those of us who have been in the changing rooms at Wembley know that they are a disaster and that the stadium is a disgrace and needs replacing as quickly as possible. I have also seen stadiums in places such as Japan and Australia, and great finance has gone into them.
However, we always return to the point that my hon. Friend was just making—people are serious about sports. We have to make a decision in the next year or so, and if we are serious about sport we need to get it right at every level. We need to ensure that there are school sports for children to take part in for at least two hours. I would prefer that to be part of the curriculum, but I would be happy if children played sport for two hours. That would make a real start.
765 We then need to make the link between schools and clubs. I play for a very junior rugby club. I have mistakenly called it on radio the worst club in the country—I actually meant that it was in one of the lowest leagues. It is not the worst club, but we have not had many wins this season. We struggle because there are no links between ourselves and the school. We are an old school club, yet rugby has not been played at that school for 15 years. Unfortunately, because we do not have the people to help to coach at the school to develop players, I am now one of the youngest players that we have, at 37. At 35, we technically become a veterans' side, but we still play in other leagues. That is an anecdote, but the Minister will know that that is a serious problem right across the country. If those links do not exist, people do not have places to play.
The next thing that we need to ensure is that, when we have achieved that mass participation, there are routes for people to find their way through. That includes not only coaching, but the UK Sports Institute, and I am proud that Loughborough is playing a key role in it. The swimming pool is coming along fine, as are the hockey pitches. We can provide the best sports science. In fact, with the UK Sports Institute up and running in the next couple of years, we will be able to find our elite athletes. However, if we do not get the mass participation right in schools, we will have no one to pick. That is why such decisions are crucial.
If I had a £100 million to spend on athletics, would I spend it on a national stadium, or would I spend it trying to give Charnwood athletic club some better facilities and allowing more people in my constituency to participate in sport? Ideally, I would like £200 million so that we could do both, but sport has not had the political kudos that it should have had. I am sure that all the hon. Members present believe that sport should have that priority, but we only have to look at the sparse attendance in the Chamber to realise that we need to convince many more hon. Members and the general public that sport has an important role to play. If I had to make the choice, I would prefer to see the £100 million spent on the grass roots and future athletes.
I have read the section of the report on the question of home advantage. Yes, we probably would win more gold medals, but in this television age it is even more important to ensure that the events are on terrestrial television. Children need sporting heroes, but the success that we had in Sydney is just as important as seeing those heroes perform in Lee Valley or Picketts Lock. These days, it is easy to develop sporting heroes and ensure that people want to watch them.
The debate has been a long-running sore and difficult decisions have had to be made. Twenty:twenty vision hindsight is a wonderful thing and it is great to see that the Select Committee has highlighted a few suggestions. It was slightly contradictory when it suggested that the Government needed to keep their hands off but at the same time to appoint a Minister responsible for events. We must decide which one of those suggestions we will follow.
Now is the time, following this debacle, to decide whether we are interested in running international events. If the Olympics would cost us £3 billion or £4 billion, do 766 we really want those games or could we spend the money on developing first class sporting facilities? Hon. Members will have seen in their constituencies the crumbling tennis courts and sports halls. There is much more that could be done in our constituencies with the money rather than its being spent on the glory of a 10-day or two-week event.
§ Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)
I have several sporting interests registered in the book, including being a trustee of Oxford University rugby club. It is 20 years to the day since I got my blue and I have just been paged to tell me that we have won three times in a row for the first time, and that my 1981 team is waiting to have dinner with me outside, so I am a happy man. I share the warmth expressed towards David Faber by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) and it would be nice if we could see him in the other place as Lord Sightlines.
I remind the House yet again that there are more nations in the IOC and the IAAF than in the United Nations. We do not understand how important sport is. I say that each time I rise to my feet in the Chamber, but it is true. We just do not get it. The way sport is run in this country is a shambles. The Wembley and Picketts Lock affairs are indicative of that shambles. We are the people who can change that, and it is time that we did so.
We got the Wembley issue back to front. The infrastructure is terrible, so why did we not buy the thing first before we put the infrastructure in? It does not take a brain surgeon to work that out. It was a shocking decision to buy only that site. It took the Select Committee only 20 minutes to work out that we needed to buy the whole site if we were to hold world events there. If it took us that long, why did it take the chief executive of Sport England and the former sports Minister so long? The Picketts Lock affair took us even less time, but I shall not go into that.
I have several conclusions to offer. First, if we are serious about sport we have to have a Secretary of State for sport. I suggest that sport and health education are combined. We have to get school sports sorted out and it should not be separated from other sports matters. We now have a myriad more initiatives in schools and another set of administrators in the new opportunities fund for sport. That is crackers. We must bang some heads together to achieve a return to sanity. Secondly, and as important, we need to appoint an ambassador for sport at our French embassy. We need to be represented in IOC, FIFA and IAAF meetings by a permanent diplomat who will let us know what is going on. With our reputation in tatters, that is even more important. I know the man for the job, and he lives in Paris.
Thirdly, the Minister for Sport must chair UK Sport. We have heard from two former Ministers for Sport who say that that cannot be done, but we love sport and it is time that we took charge. Then we would be responsible and have the executive authority. We would go to the Treasury for more money, not some quango. Until we achieve that representation, sport will not grow up politically. Fourthly, we must evaluate the senior team at Sport England—I hope that the new chief executive has that on his agenda—especially those who made the original decision on Wembley. It was shocking that they made that decision without investigating the requirements for a world class event.
767 Fifthly, we need an audit of the international needs of our best sports, whether they are Olympic sports such as rowing, our best sport, and judo, which is outstanding, or international sports such as rugby, which is coming to the Olympics. Lastly, to pick up the comments by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed), we need a public service sports television channel, including coach education, philosophy and sports medicine, and the BBC should be made to pay for it.
§ Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester)
I shall luxuriate in the four minutes left to me. It is fascinating that the Tories initially wanted a whole day's debate on this issue, because they have hardly bothered to take part in it at all. I am grateful to them for the time that I have. It gives me great pleasure to take part in the debate, not just as a Member of Parliament but as a big sports fan. Since entering the House, I have been lucky enough to be able to raise sporting issues on several occasions. Sport is a matter of great pride and importance to our constituents, and we certainly saw that during Euro 96 and a few weeks ago when Owen hit that great hat-trick in Munich—except for our Scottish colleagues, perhaps.
The situation is not all doom and gloom. We have a proud record of hosting sporting events in recent history, not least the reconstituted rugby league world cup, the FINA swimming world cup and the cycling world track championships, as well as the stuff that we do every year with great quality, such as Wimbledon, the six nations rugby and the British grand prix. It is only when events do not happen, such as when the Cheltenham gold cup was cancelled in my county last year, that we realise how important sport is. The effect of foot and mouth on sport and the local economy made us realise the contribution that sport makes.
To hold world-class events we need viable stadiums. In answer to a question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan), the Minister for Sport replied:I have made no specific assessment of the viability of dual use stadiums."—[Official Report, 5 November 2001; Vol. 374, c. 65W.]Well, I was lucky enough to bump into that sporting institution, John Motson, at the weekend, and we talked about the dual-use stadium in Saint-Denis in Paris, which several hon. Members have mentioned. Much has been made of that stadium, its quality and the fact that it can host athletics and football. I asked Mr. Motson how good it is for football—he should know because he has commentated on a world cup final there. He said that it was poor for events such as rugby and football. However, in the technological age we live in, it should not be impossible to bring athletics and football into the same stadium.
The key is public perceptions. The public want gold medal performances from the likes of Denise Lewis and great free kicks from the likes of David Beckham, but they want to see those right here in this country. We have a choice of whether we wish to continue to invest in the grass roots or to invest in the grass roots and find the money for adequate sporting facilities. We must try to do both.
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk)
I am delighted that the House is debating this timely and comprehensive report. It has been a high-quality debate. There is much expertise about sporting matters in the House and much of it has been on display. I pay particular tribute to the speeches of the two former Ministers for Sport, the hon. Members for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and for West Ham (Mr. Banks). Even though they were not always in harmony, they made powerful contributions. The hon. Lady was also very frank.
I enjoyed the contribution of the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) although I much regret the news that he brought to the House about the third consecutive Oxford victory this afternoon. Looking at him, I find it difficult to believe that it was only 20 years since he represented the university. However, I consulted "Dod's Parliamentary Companion" and I discovered that he was a postgraduate student and already in his 30s at that time.
I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Flook), who is one of the newer members of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. He made a thoughtful speech. In particular, however, I congratulate the Committee's Chairman, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who has led the Committee for four and a half years. It has produced a series of remarkable high-quality reports. Although I have had a long-term lay interest in the subject, I come fairly new to the issues and I have read the reports with great interest and found real insights into the sporting and broadcasting worlds.
I welcome the Minister for Sport to the debate. I am sorry that the Secretary of State did not stay for the remainder of the debate, but that is a creeping case of Byers syndrome in which a Secretary of State responsible for a Government policy attends part of the debate but does not wait for its conclusion. After all, the Secretary of State's decision 10 weeks ago put the final nail in the coffin of London's bid for the world athletics championships, the latest in a series of Government-sponsored sporting disasters. Labour's attempts to bring a major sporting event to Britain have been wrecked by a total lack of vision, an abject failure of leadership, grossly incompetent management and a pattern of broken promises.
In the past four years, Ministers have made Britain a laughing stock in international sporting circles. They have denied sports fans here the chance to see top athletes perform on British soil and they have effectively thrown away Britain's chances of hosting a major international event in the foreseeable future.
London's bid to host the world athletics championships degenerated steadily from the start in January 1999, although all appeared to go well to begin with. Launching the new Wembley stadium concept in July 1999, the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), who has apologised for his absence from the Chamber for the winding-up speeches, said that the new stadiumwill be a magnificent venue for athletics as well as for football".I listened in vain to his speech today for any explanation of why only four months later he changed his mind about 769 something that he had thought so splendid in July 1999. His views had changed to such an extent that he said:the stadium as designed—or in any similar configuration—cannot readily provide the central venue for an Olympic games bid for London. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that it could provide an appropriate venue for the world athletics championships.That decision was rightly condemned in an earlier report of the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Yeo
I have little time, so I regret that I cannot give way.
The Secretary of State has suddenly left London without a venue for the championships, but the Government's commitment had been confirmed at the very highest level. In a letter of January 2000, the Prime Minister said:The Government is pleased to give its full support to this bid by UK Athletics to bring the World Athletics Championships to Britain … World Class facilities will be ready, our athletes will be ready and our people will be ready.I draw the attention of the Minister for Sport to the particularly significant final sentence which reads:We look forward to welcoming the world athletics family to London in 2005.Perhaps the Minister will do his homework before he intervenes again.
By the time the IAAF council accepted London's bid, Picketts Lock had been identified as the venue for the championships. The bid was accepted on the condition that UK Athletics could demonstrate that clear progress had been made on the stadium by October this year. No Minister, then or subsequently, can have been in any doubt about what was needed if the Prime Minister's promises were to be honoured. Alas, no Minister, then or subsequently, did what was needed to honour those promises.
Despite Ministers' failure to act, however, they did not lose confidence. On 21 March 2001, the former Secretary of State said:I am absolutely confident that we are properly on track.The Prime Minister himself acknowledged that the Government had a responsibility for sporting decisions. When questioned in the House about the Wembley project, he said:I regret the fact that it has fallen through, and we must now sit down and work out a way through it so that we have a proper national stadium."—[Official Report, 2 May 2001; Vol. 367, c. 841.]It is worth noting that seven months later the current Secretary of State still seems to be dithering about the national stadium. The Government originally decided that there should be a national stadium at Wembley with athletics; then they decided that there should be a national stadium at Wembley without athletics; now they simply do not know whether there should be a national stadium at all, whether it should be at Wembley or whether athletics should be part of it. I hope that the Minister for Sport will shed a little light on the matter, because the only decision that the present set of Ministers has taken is not to publish the advice that they have received from 770 Patrick Carter, who the hon. Member for Vauxhall has established actually exists. However, like her, I have not met him.
On the world athletics championships, this year's Labour party election manifesto stated:We will maintain the elite funding we put in place for individual athletics with a first-class athletics stadium for the World Athletics Championships in 2005.Despite that, doubts about Picketts Lock grew, and after the general election the Prime Minister sacked all the Ministers who had been trying to carry out his policy and to do his bidding. The new team faced a situation which, if it called for anything, required prompt and decisive action. However, the Secretary of State dithered. Instead of making a decision, she appointed a consultant—the ubiquitous Mr. Carter.
At this point, Sheffield suddenly appeared on the scene. The city has featured prominently in the Government's sporting policies before. In December 1997, the Government announced that a UK Sports Institute would be built there and, in the Government's mind, that project came to fruition splendidly. Their annual report for 2000 stated:this year saw the opening of the UK Sports Institute, providing world-class facilities, coaching and support in Sheffield
§ Kate Hoey
I wish to place on record the fact that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, of which I was a member, and the former Secretary of State asked for a formal change to be made to that document. When the draft came round, they saw that it was wrong. The fact that it was not corrected was not down to what I described as the dysfunctional DCMS but to someone, somewhere who produces these wonderful Government reports.
§ Mr. Yeo
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that clear. The fact that the spanking new facilities did not actually exist and were a figment of the imagination of the report's authors represents one of the most remarkable examples of unjoined-up government. The authors were not even aware that an announcement was made in 1999 to say that the Sports Institute would be situated in London. The only explanation for how the report turned from fact to fiction on sporting matters must be that the Prime Minister wrote the introduction.
The Prime Minister is known for his flights of fancy when it comes to sport. He claimed that, as a youngster, he sat watching Jackie Milburn at St James' park. The seats turned out not to exist and he was watching a player who had long ceased to play for Newcastle by the time the Prime Minister was a school boy.
While the Government waited for the consultant's report, the Minister for Sport went to Edmonton and to this year's world athletics championships. According to The Standard, he was still quite keen on London as a venue for 2005. On 8 August, it reported that he reaffirmed the Government's commitment to staging the world athletics championships in London in 2005. The article reported him as saying:This is a commitment from the Prime Minister down and is not considered negotiable. We will meet all the deadlines set by the IAAF.Four weeks after that report, Patrick Carter's recommendations were delivered to Ministers. Five more damaging weeks of dither followed before the Secretary 771 of State finally bit the bullet and told UK Athletics that Picketts Lock was not viable, reneging on every promise given by the Government, from the Prime Minister down.
However, the curtain on this ministerial farce had still not come down. One act remained to be played. Ignoring the fact that the IAAF had awarded the world athletics championships to London, a city, and not to Britain, a country, Ministers took up the cause of Sheffield. A good case could have been made for that city had it been submitted at the proper time, two and a half years ago. Sheffield has a fine sporting tradition. The Don Valley stadium could have been helped to stage the championships, but the last-ditch attempt to divert attention away from the disastrous handling by Ministers of the London bid merely dragged Sheffield humiliatingly into the fiasco.
Among those who were not impressed was the president of the IAAF. The Select Committee Chairman, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, quoted the Financial Times. The president of the IAAF wrote to his council members after he met the Secretary of State and the Minister for Sport on 5 October. He said:the IAAF had received numerous guarantees that London would host these championships and that the IAAF Council granted the event to the city—even though there was no actual stadium—in good faith. Since the first news that the rebuilt Wembley Stadium would become Britain's 'new' National Stadium capable of hosting major events in 1996, the IAAF had been approached to host its World Championships in Wembley in 2001, then Wembley in 2003 and 2005, then Twickenham or Crystal Palace in 2005, then Pickett's Lock in 2005 and, finally, Sheffield in 2005.I declared that this was not acceptable and explained that if London formally withdrew before the deadline of 26 November, the IAAF had no alternative but to open the bidding process again.That letter was circulated to the IAAF council on 12 October, a week after the president's meeting with Ministers.
The extent to which Ministers were living in a fantasy world is demonstrated in the Secretary of State's press release, issued on 4 October. At the time of her meeting, she said that Labour hadacted decisively to put in place a first class alternative in Sheffield, which will deliver the Games … as a long term legacy for athletics in the UK.The Minister for Sport told the Select Committee on 23 October:Can I say that what was said by the Secretary Generalof the IAAFwhen we came out was very important, bearing in mind I was with my officials. He said, he wanted the best for the Games and he wanted the best for London. We believe we have actually delivered that for the IAAF.The effects of the U-turn by Ministers are far-reaching. The International Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge, said:Of course the Picketts Lock situation was a very serious one. A country not being able to fulfil its pledge to host a major competition is not a trivial matter.Simon Clegg, the chief executive of the British Olympic Association, said:we will have deprived British athletes of competing in the world's third largest sporting event on home soil with all the competitive advantages that this entails … we will have lost the opportunity of demonstrating to the world that we have the ability to stage major sporting events. Coming so soon after the Wembley fiasco it further damages our … sporting reputation".772 No new facts emerged to justify the U-turn. Every problem that arose from London's bid was well known to Ministers for many months before they made their decision. Their actions in relation to London and their absurd last-minute attempt to switch the championships to Sheffield—an attempt abandoned ignominiously less than two months after it was unveiled—could hardly have done more damage to Britain's reputation than if they had been designed to do so.
The report contains many recommendations that the Opposition strongly support and others that deserve further discussion, but it contains nothing to alter the basic conclusion that Labour has let down British sports fans and British sportsmen and women. No matter what excuses Ministers concoct to explain their actions, it will take years for our reputation to recover.
I recognise the Minister's predicament. He is the man entrusted by the Prime Minister with the task of persuading this country and the world that the Government are interested in sport and that they bring some passion to the pitch. Alas, he is also the Minister for Sport who went to Wimbledon to announce that he did not like tennis. If the Government accept the Select Committee's recommendation for a dedicated Minister for events, I invite him, in the interests of the country, not to apply for the job. I urge him to abandon his usual bluster and admit that the blame for the series of disasters lies fairly and squarely with the Government.
§ The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is in her place listening to the end of the debate. I do not know where the shadow Minister for Sport is, but I thought that he would be here to listen to this important debate.
I welcome the opportunity to debate the Select Committee's timely report. Our discussion went slightly wide of the report's contents and considered some serious flaws in the structures for sport. I acknowledge those, and they give much food for thought on which the Government will reflect.
I was disappointed that the IAAF did not accept the offer of Sheffield. Whatever has been said to my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), the offer was made in good faith, and I know that Sheffield would have put on a first-class championship, as good as, if not better than Edmonton. In 1991, the previous president of the IAAF, Primo Nebiolo, then president of the world student games, opened those games at Sheffield and commended it as a fine facility which would leave a lasting legacy for sport.
When we decided that there needed to be a review of Picketts Lock, my right hon. Friend Secretary of State informed the IAAF of the terms of reference before we released any information to the outside world. My officials and I followed that up with a one-hour meeting in Edmonton with UK Athletics officials, at which we discussed the difficulties with Picketts Lock.
We told the IAAF before we made the information available to the public that we were revisiting the whole idea of Picketts Lock and that we would have to find an alternative. That was a long time before the meeting at Heathrow airport, at which we explained in great detail why we had withdrawn from the project. We made it clear that we were very sorry and that what we were doing was 773 in the best interests of the IAAF and, indeed, of this country. Had the project gone ahead, knowing the situation with transport and accommodation, we could have been left with a disaster much closer to 2005, and that would have been a real embarrassment for the UK and the IAAF. That is reflected in the report. Our action was correct at the time, even though it created consternation.
§ Mr. Caborn
No, I must continue.
Given the IAAF's position, UK Athletics, Sport England, UK Sport, Sheffield city council and the BOA concluded that there was little prospect of a successful bid by the UK if we made one after the IAAF had made its decision. The Government agreed with them on that basis. I must tell the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) that it is not the Government who make the bid, but the governing bodies. It is then up to the Government whether they support it.
When I became Minister for Sport in June, it was my intention to ensure that the Government's priorities for sport placed proper emphasis on the need to invest in grass-roots sport, on which there seems to be universal agreement among hon. Members, to increase participation in sport in schools for young people and to ensure that there is lifelong participation among adults. I also wanted to place emphasis on the need to improve coaching and talent identification, to refurbish community facilities, to ensure that there is adequate maintenance of existing facilities, and to provide better support for our top athletes. I believe that we are making good progress in delivering those objectives by investing £130 million in primary schools for the space for sport and arts programme. Through the new opportunities fund, just under £600 million is now being invested in PE and sport facilities through schools and local education authorities.
The Exchequer has doubled its contribution to sport in this country. That means that, along with the lottery, there is now in excess of a third of a billion pounds being invested year on year. As hon. Members have said, there is also investment in people in sport through the school sports co-ordinators. We now have some 400 of those up and running, and working with 1,700 primary schools, and we aim to have 1,000 of them by 2003–04. We are also investing heavily in the volunteer programme.
We believe that major events have a role to play in our strategy. However, a fundamental flaw, not only under this Government but under previous Governments, is that we have been event led, not strategy led. We need to conduct a review of how we proceed, with governing bodies, to act on major events. The Select Committee report makes recommendations about that. The Committee, and its predecessor in the previous Parliament, has been focused on major sports events, and I make no criticism of that, but I genuinely welcome its recent work on the state of swimming facilities. We need to focus on those issues and make sure that we invest in existing, as well as new, facilities.
I suspect that some of the blame must be placed on the way in which the introduction of the lottery raised tremendous expectations about national stadiums, the 774 World cup and the Commonwealth games, but those matters were discussed in a strategic vacuum. There was no discussion of their long-term delivery or of how they could add value to the sporting infrastructure.
It is interesting that nearly five years ago, on 17 December 1996, the then Sports Minister, lain Sproat, said in a press release:The decision to back Wembley as the venue for the English National Stadium and to invest heavily in facilities for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester should be seen as an exciting prospect for sports fans all over the country. Both cities are winners".He went on to say:Never before have we seen so much progress in such a short space of time. These really are exciting times for sport.The then Conservative Government were deeply involved in plans for the facilities which we are now bringing to fruition. With hindsight, the wrong focus was placed on a number of the developments of major facilities, and we want to revisit that. We indicated to the Select Committee that we will do that in the coming months through the performance and innovation unit.
As I said, sports governing bodies take the lead in these matters, and if they want a national showcase stadium to stage events, the Government can and should play a part in that, provided that the proposals are sound and have been demonstrated to be affordable, deliverable and capable of adding to the nation's sporting infrastructure. However, many mistakes have been made, and the world is littered with white elephants that stand as testimony to false expectations. Many are familiar with the stories of Montreal and Barcelona.
The Stade de France has been cited as an example that we ought to consider following, but I point out to the House the investment necessary for such a stadium. Some £580 million was invested, and the stadium now has a revenue cost of £7 million a year to keep it in operation. We must decide whether that is the right investment to come out of sport's budget. Stadium Australia has rightly been cited as the great feature of the Olympics, but even the president of the IOC said, on 7 August, that it is a white elephant and too big for any legacy use. He said that cities have to be protected from themselves when it comes to such ventures.
We need to define the roles of the Government, UK Sport, Sport England and governing bodies if we are to go ahead with the construction of stadiums. The governing bodies must lead the development plans for their sport, not only for stadiums, but for participation, talent development, elite sport and the facilities that they require. The Government's role is to facilitate the governing bodies' plans for sport. We are doing that in a positive way by engaging with the governing bodies.
I pay tribute to colleagues who are former Ministers for Sport and Secretaries of State, because we are now building up a significant infrastructure to deliver what many of the governing bodies want. That includes capacity building for sport at all levels, including within the governing body itself. The Government have invested some £7 million of Exchequer funding in UK Sport so that it can lead a modernisation programme for the governing bodies, which they welcome. We have invested the largest amount for many years in helping to modernise and develop sports facilities for the community and for elite athletes. Lottery-funded programmes are investing 775 over £40 million a year in the development of elite sport through the world class performance programmes. We are demonstrating a real commitment, through governing bodies, to investment in sport.
Where a sport identifies a need for national facilities, whether for training or competing, the Government stand ready to play our part. We are creating the UK Sports Institute, which already has centres in Scotland and Wales. Despite the derision of the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), Sport England has committed £120 million from lottery funding to develop more than 80 built facilities, and to date almost £80 million of that has been allocated to specific projects. Over £60 million is being awarded to projects in Sheffield and at Loughborough university and the university of Bath.
I therefore welcome very much the Select Committee's suggestion that a more co-ordinated approach to major events is needed. That fits broadly with our approach, which will put a strategy first, rather than being event led. The PIU will put flesh on the bones of that approach, and we hope that we will be able to return to the House with proposals that respond positively to the points made in the Select Committee report. Whether that will include a Minister for events remains to be seen.
Turning quickly to other issues arising from the Select Committee's report, my right hon. Friend will make an announcement on a national stadium before the end of next week, bringing the position up to date. We are making it clear that the FA is in the lead, and there is no more public money for a stadium. We shall place Patrick Carter's report in the public domain before the House goes into recess. I hope that we will be able to have a thorough debate, as we did with Picketts Lock, because we put that information into the public domain and neither the Conservative nor the Liberal Democrat Opposition said that we should have proceeded with Picketts Lock in light of Patrick Carter's evidence. I promised to leave the last two minutes of debate for the Chairman of the Select Committee, so I conclude on that point.
§ Mr. Kaufman
With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I should like to thank the House for an excellent debate. I hope that we can now leave behind both self-justification and recrimination, and concentrate on getting these things right for the future. I am encouraged by what the Minister for Sport said twice in his winding-up speech about the need for a structure for events. Our Select Committee has a full programme, and we hope that we will not have to return to these issues in the near future, but if we have to, we will. In that case, this show will run and run, even if, sadly, our athletes will not on home ground.
§ Debate concluded, pursuant to Resolution [26 November].
§ Question deferred, pursuant to Standing Order No. 54 (4) and (5) (Consideration of estimates).