HC Deb 22 November 1999 vol 339 cc331-2
6. Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

What recent discussions he has had with the football authorities about the world cup 2006 bid. [98972]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey)

The Government are providing the fullest support for the Football Association's bid, and will continue to do so between now and the decision by the FIFA executive committee next July. It is an excellent bid, and discussions with the footballing authorities are on-going.

Mr. Pike

Is it not a fact that the Government's 100 per cent. support for the bid, in accordance with the manifesto commitment, has played a significant part in the way in which the bid is proceeding? How does my hon. Friend assess the visit of the FIFA inspection team which I believe was here last month?

Kate Hoey

The FIFA delegates who visited England last month to inspect the facilities pronounced themselves satisfied with all that they had seen, and described England's bid and its stadiums as outstanding. Whether I can assess how likely we are to be successful is another matter. Certainly, we have an excellent bid, and FIFA's technical inspectors have said so.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

The Minister will know that all of us who are interested in sport, from all parties, are committed to supporting the 2006 bid, and have fully supported it in this House and elsewhere. However, does she accept that there is a problem regarding Wembley's involvement in that bid? Although we recognise that the new Wembley will be a vital part of a successful bid, there appears to be considerable confusion over the suitability of the newly redesigned Wembley for athletics as well, a factor that will also be relevant to the 2012 Olympic games bid.

Can the hon. Lady confirm that her predecessor, the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), should have been aware of the athletics concerns way back in the early stages of the Wembley redesign, as this is not a new issue? Will she confirm that although we want both bids to succeed, it is important not to jeopardise the bid for the 2012 olympics and the concerns about athletics while trying to win the 2006 bid? As the hon. Lady put it, she cannot redesign the project, but she was quoted in the papers as saying that she would if she could.

Kate Hoey

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that we await the independent report commissioned by the United Kingdom Sports Council on suggestions for designs that would put Wembley in the running for the Olympic games in 2012 or 2016. We shall receive the report within a week to 10 days and shall report to the House when we have considered it.

Mr. Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Is my hon. Friend aware that for 70 years, football fans at Wembley have been 60 yd from the goal if they are sitting behind it? As 95 per cent. of the revenue for running costs of the new stadium will come from football, not athletics, it would be disastrous if that mistake were repeated. Surely the Olympic games will come to the UK only once every 50 years, and will be attended by 80,000 only on the opening day. The proposed design of Wembley with a capacity of 67,000 would be ample for athletics. Is it not time that the football fans who go to Wembley, and who pay for the stadium to be run and maintained, have a decent view?

Kate Hoey

I am convinced that the new Wembley will give all football supporters a wonderful view. It will be a stadium that we can all be proud of. We want to be sure, however, that it is a national stadium, and that it will be possible both to hold the world championships there in 2005 and to consider the possibility of a later Olympic games bid. That is why we have commissioned the independent report, which will shortly be with us. I assure my hon. Friend that all football supporters who go to the new Wembley will be able to enjoy a world-class stadium.