HC Deb 24 June 2002 vol 387 cc603-4
11. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle)

When she expects the new national stadium at Wembley will be able to stage its first football match. [61228]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

The Football Association, whose project this is, has made it clear that the construction contract lasts for 39 months. Construction can start as soon as the financing deal is in place. There has been no change to the FA's estimate, which I set out in my statement to the House on 23 May, that it would take up to 10 weeks from signing heads of agreement to reach financial close.

My officials remain in close contact with the FA and Wembley National Stadium Ltd. and good progress is being made by the FA on its commercial negotiations. We will continue to give the FA all the support that it needs to deliver the national stadium at Wembley and to ensure that the public interest in the project is suitably protected.

Gregory Barker

Sadly, on this occasion, despite the heroic efforts of our team, the World cup will not be coming home. However, if the same level of risible skill and effort had been displayed by our England team that has been characteristic of the Government's handling of the national stadium, it would not have made it even to Japan. Can the Secretary of State give the House a firm commitment that we will be in a position for London to bid for the 2014 World cup? Indeed, what comfort can she give the House that this supposedly athletics-capable stadium will be able next year to bid for the 2012 Olympics?

Tessa Jowell

While our team was away competing in the World cup, the heads of agreement on the Wembley deal were signed, evidence that the Wembley project is closer to reality than at any other time in its history, which has lasted about eight years. That is an achievement. Hon. Members on both sides of the House should recognise that progress has been made and that the project has made more progress in the past year than it made in the previous six years.

In relation to decisions on an Olympic bid, that is a matter for separate discussion with the key interests and governing bodies, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.