HC Deb 01 February 1999 vol 324 cc578-9
2. Mr. Ivor Caplin (Hove)

What progress has been made on the development of the new national stadium. [66759]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Tony Banks)

I am pleased to confirm that Wembley plc and the English National Stadium Development Company have exchanged contracts for the sale of Wembley stadium. That is good news. I hope that things can progress quickly, so that we can start building what will be one of the world's finest stadiums. A new Wembley is at the centre of our plans to host major international sporting events such as the world cup in 2006, the Olympics and the world athletics championships. The Government are determined to place Britain right at the heart of international sport, and a new national stadium will help us to do just that.

Mr. Caplin

I thank my hon. Friend for those encouraging remarks, especially about the rebuilding of Wembley stadium and its importance for 2006. Does he agree that today is a black day for football, because of the ridiculous and outrageous comments by the England team manager, which I hope will be heartily condemned on both sides of the House? Will my hon. Friend comment on the importance of regulation in football, because in the past few months we have had many instances that suggest that if we are not careful the bubble will burst? If so, we will not be able to bring the world cup here, because football will have had its time in this country. As a football supporter, I hope that I am wrong and I trust that my hon. Friend can reassure me on the issue of regulation.

Mr. Banks

My hon. Friend demonstrates by the scale of his supplementary question the feeling that sport has become one damn thing after another. On the point about Mr. Glenn Hoddle, there have been times this week when I have wondered what dreadful things I must have done in a previous life to end up as the Sports Minister in this one. I can only conclude that I was probably Vlad the Impaler and I have certainly felt all my impaling instincts coming back to me when I have surveyed the sporting scene. The words of the Prime Minister on television this morning are clear. He said that if Glenn Hoddle did make the comments as reported, it would be very difficult for him to stay. That is a matter, of course, for the Football Association and meetings are taking place. I suspect that we will get an announcement tomorrow, if not today.

Football is on a roll at the moment and many people feel that the good days will never end. However, football must bear in mind that it must build new supporters in generations to come, and taking money out of football as if there were no tomorrow is a foolish thing to do. The final report of the football task force will consider commercialisation and merchandising and, of course, the idea of a football regulator. My Department has set up a new independent body, the quality, efficiency and standards team—or Quest—to consider the rules of governing bodies that receive public support, and we hope that that will be one of the new mechanisms that will modernise British sport and take it into the next century.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

First, the Minister will know that all hon. Members who have worked with disabled sportsmen and women over the years will understand and share the views that he has just expressed. However, to return to the matter of the national stadium: does he agree that there is one item in his "one damn thing after another" list that might help the campaigns—spported by hon. Members of all parties—to bring major international sporting events to this country and to stage them in the national stadium, when it is completed? That item is the current scandal in the International Olympic Committee. Is it not likely that our reputation for being one of the incorruptible nations in world sport will make it easier for British bids to be accepted by a new, cleaned-up IOC, and that, as a result, the national stadium will host major world sporting events in the future?

Mr. Banks

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments and for the support that he gives to sport in this country, especially to disabled sports. He is right to say that it is important that we present a united front in making bids for international sporting events.

This week, I shall attend the anti-doping conference in Lausanne, at which we shall discuss the question of cleaning up the IOC. I am sure that, when that clean-up is complete, cities in this country will be in a much stronger position to bid for future Olympic games.