HL Deb 19 December 2001 vol 630 cc301-14

6.25 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to report in the form of a Statement the Answer to a Private Notice Question given by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The Answer is as follows:

"I welcome the opportunity to make a Statement informing the House of the state of progress in the Government's discussions with the Football Association on the national stadium.

"I have today published the interim report of Patrick Carter's review of the English national stadium. I should like to place on record my gratitude to Patrick Carter and the rest of the review team for their considerable efforts over the past six months and for the co-operation which they have received from the Football Association, Sport England and others putting forward proposals for the stadium.

"His key recommendations are as follows. The only way forward is to invite the promoters of the World Stadium Team proposals—based on a modified version of the Foster design—to present final proposals which contain fully committed funding, final design, cost and procurement details. Should those proposals not be delivered within a reasonable timescale, Birmingham should be actively considered.

"No commitments should be made by any party until such time as final agreements have been reached as regards funding and procurement. The Government must be satisfied that all aspects of the stadium's procurement meet government standards of propriety and regularity.

"Patrick Carter's report recognises that the leadership of this project must rest with the FA whose final decision it will be on what stadium to build and where. Its preference, on grounds of the greater return which it will make for its investment, is to go ahead with a modified version of the Foster design stadium at Wembley. It has accepted that should that fail, the strong proposals from Birmingham should be taken forward. At the same time it accepts, as do the Government, that it remains a possible outcome that no national stadium at all will be developed.

"As the FA has made clear, it does not believe that this project can move forward without government support. But any further financial support is conditional, limited to covering non-stadium infrastructure costs and the Government's interest is also to protect the £120 million of lottery money already invested.

"There is a great deal of work to be done before there can be a final decision on the national stadium. A timetable for that must be set which is fair to all those with an interest in the outcome. Patrick Carter's report describes the many uncertainties which need to be resolved. Any government support for infrastructure would not be committed until all those uncertainties were dealt with. I must also alert the House to issues concerning the proposed procurement at Wembley which will need to be fully dealt with as part of this work.

"The House will he aware that I had intended to make an announcement on Monday 17th December about the national stadium. I should explain the reasons for the delay. It came to my attention at the end of November that concerns had been expressed that Wembley National Stadium Limited had not adhered to best procurement practices or corporate government arrangements in relation to the new Wembley stadium. I was told that those complaints did not involve suggestion of any fraud taking place but implied a lack of transparency in part of the process and a failure to deal properly with actual or potential conflicts of interest. I was told that an investigation into the complaints was under way for Wembley National Stadium Limited and that a report was expected any day.

"On 13th December I asked about progress with this report and was given oral assurances that there was no identified impropriety but that the chairman of Wembley National Stadium Limited would contact my permanent secretary the next day.

"Officials discussed the report in draft on Sunday 16th December with the FA, Wembley National Stadium Limited and its authors and asked that the report be finalised and made available to the Government for our consideration before the Government made any decision on going forward with the national stadium project.

"A final version of the report was received yesterday. I have suggested to the FA and Wembley National Stadium Limited that they should make it available to the public. I have also asked that they make the report available to the National Audit Office.

"The final report confirms that there have been a number of serious concerns. WNSL has today made a statement outlining the principle conclusions of the report and I quote: 'no evidence whatever had been found of any criminality or impropriety at any stage of the process; the report was critical of the procurement process up to September 2000 and recommended specific steps to be taken by WNSL for the close monitoring of the project going forward; the review addressed issues relating to value for money but found that there was a sustainable argument that best value today was likely to result by enabling WNSL to proceed through Multiplex to build a new National Stadium; the report recommended WNSL to review certain aspects of corporate governance'. "Patrick Carter has alluded to these concerns in the covering letter to his report in which he recommends that I satisfy myself, 'as to the achievement of Government value for money in procurement standards and any associated accounting issues'. "I have said to the FA and WNSL that should they continue with the Multiplex contract they must set in train an independent assessment of the value for money which it represents and to ensure that corporate governance and procurement arrangements hereafter represent best practice before the Government will proceed with any further support to the project, financial, moral or otherwise.

"There are in essence four points that must now be addressed by the FA and WNSL. They are these. First, an independent value for money assessment needs to be commissioned into the proposed contracts with Multiplex, conducted by an appropriate company with no previous or likely future involvement in the project.

"Secondly, I will ask WNSL to ensure that the papers relating to the matter are made available to the Comptroller and Auditor General to decide whether he wishes to look into this matter further.

"Thirdly, confirmation will be sought that corporate governance changes will be completed to achieve a management structure capable of delivering a complex project within procedures acceptable to the public sector.

"Fourthly, confirmation will be sought that the financial support is adequate and fully committed after taking into account all relevant factors in a process of 'due diligence'.

"Finally, I would like to explain the position with regard to athletics. Sport England and the FA will look at this during the next stage of discussions. Sport England believes that a different platform solution can be developed more cheaply and without the disruption associated with the original proposals.

"I will be asking Sport England to commission a detailed technical evaluation of the proposals to ensure that they meet in full UK athletics and IAA F technical criteria. I have also asked them to prepare a proper cost benefit analysis which compares the new proposals with those made in 1999.

"In short, the Government will work with the FA to resolve these issues. The end result we all want is a national stadium. But the four fundamental points must be addressed first. Then we will have a national stadium we can all be proud of".

My Lords, that concludes the Answer.

6.34 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer given in another place by her right honourable friend in response to a Private Notice Question tabled by my right honourable friend Tim Yeo.

This is a serious matter. The Government seem now to distance themselves from decisions about Wembley. They talk about working with the FA but say that a decision about whether there is a national stadium and where it is built is for the FA and the FA alone. That is a somewhat different measure.

The Government seem to have a short memory. They seem to have forgotten that the Prime Minister made the following commitment after previous failures with the Wembley project. At col. 841 of the Official Report of another place of 2nd May 2001, the Prime Minister said that, we must now sit down and work out a way through [the problem] so that we have a proper national stadium". It is a matter of record that at first the Government agreed 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. It was, after all, the previous Secretary of State, Chris Smith, who pulled the plug on athletics at Wembley. The Government could not then decide whether there should be a national stadium and whether athletics should be part of it. Today we seem not much further forward.

My questions are as follows. The Government sound as though they have set a deadline for the final proposals to be put forward by the World Stadium Team. Or have they? The Minister quotes the Carter report's recommendation that Birmingham should be actively considered if the World Stadium Team is unable to present its final proposals within a reasonable timescale. What is "reasonable"?

The Minister says that a timetable must be set which is fair to all those with an interest in the outcome. That is quite right; I welcome it. But what is that timetable? If we are not told now, does the noble Baroness agree that it would be unreasonable to expect the main players to work on without being given a steer as to the timetable.

The Minister says that further financial support for the project is conditional, limited to covering non-stadium costs. What are those costs? Has a ceiling been set by the Government? If so, on what basis? Will the Minister give an undertaking that no more public money will be committed to this project until the contracts are finalised?

The Minister says that the Government's interest is to protect the £120 million of lottery players' money—the public's money. I welcome that commitment. But how will the Government protect that money? Why should the FA continue to hold on to those funds when we still have no commitment about the position of athletics at Wembley? The noble Baroness will recall that the lottery grant was made in the first place only on the basis that athletics, alongside rugby, would have a home at Wembley—a home suitable for world class events. Will the FA hand back at least £20 million of the lottery grant until we find out whether athletics will be given more than a token presence at the national stadium—if there is one?

Noble Lords will be as disturbed today as I was to hear the Minister's statement about the failure by Wembley National Stadium Limited to adhere to best procurement practices or indeed to corporate government arrangements. I am relieved to learn that there is no evidence as to criminality or impropriety at any stage of the process. That is indeed an important matter.

However, is the Minister aware that the revelation today of this failure by the company to adhere to proper standards will do little to encourage investment in such a project? Will she accept that it is not enough for those involved in this nationally important project to be honest? They have to be competent too. The Minister says that she has suggested to the FA and Wembley National Stadium Limited that they should make the report available to the public. What was their response to the suggestion?

I welcome the Minister's insistence that the FA and WNSL should commission an independent assessment of the value for money issue. That is a practical and proper way forward. Will that independent report be available to the public? The tail end of the Statement refers briefly to the vexed issue of the status of athletics at Wembley or Birmingham. Last night Members of this House were led by my noble friend Lord Glentoran in a debate on the future of athletics. The Government will have been left in no doubt of the importance which noble Lords attach to the need to ensure that athletics has a venue for international events.

In another place the Secretary of State said today in answer to a question that Wembley must be an "athletics capable stadium". I found that a curious description. How does the Minister define that—capable of doing what? What guarantee do we have that the athletics facilities at Wembley will be such that we can make a proper bid in future for the World Championships or athletics events of similar international stature?

I began by saying that it is a serious matter. Indeed it is. It is a matter of national interest and national pride. It is vital for the future of our sporting reputation, but particularly for the future hopes and dreams of our sportsmen and sportswomen, that the right solution is found soon.

6.40 p.m.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, we on these Benches thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Answer to the Private Notice Question of Mr Tim Yeo in the other place.

The noble Baroness read out the Answer confidently and clearly, as one would expect. However, the tone of the Statement does not reflect the confidence with which she delivered it. Rather, it is as though one had taken a number of close friends to a restaurant for an important occasion and the mâtre d'hôtel had said, "Your meal will not be delayed for very long. We will soon put out the fire in the kitchen". This has been a stop and go year—mostly stop—which has resulted in a fairly big mess. I do not believe that the Statement today will reassure many of those who have closely followed these events.

On behalf of these Benches, I have previously said that the argument about whether or not we should have a national stadium was not properly exercised by the Government. If we were to have a national stadium, surely the Government should have taken the leading role in ensuring that a national stadium project was carried out. Instead, the Government passed the buck to the Football Association, which was willing to take the lead on what we call a national stadium but was unable to do so. It was unable to raise the money in the city. Mr Ken Bates was unable to raise the £40 million or £50 million required. In due course he retired and was replaced by his successor, Sir Rodney Walker. Sir Rodney Walker also met with difficulties in raising the money. More significant was the Football Association's failure to persuade the Government—the Government were right to stand firm on this point—to fund £300 million of the estimated cost of this project. At a later stage, of course, they produced half that amount.

It seems that we now have a patching-up exercise. I shall not be so rude as to suggest, as some newspapers have, that it is a face-saving exercise. However, I believe that the Government and the Football Association have got themselves into a fair mess over this matter, and I am not sanguine about them getting out of it. If I represented a large organisation faced with the prospect of being sold this bill of goods, I do not believe that I would be confident about supporting it. That is because I do not think that it will happen. I believe that we shall again face the same problems in terms of raising the money.

We now have a contractor in place. There is a very interesting article in today's Guardian—noble Lords may not consider articles in the Guardian to be interesting, but they are from time to time—which refers to the difficulties of the Australian company, Multiplex. I do not believe everything that I read in newspapers—in fact, I rather like their slogan, "Well built Australian"—but some fairly Les Patterson-type remarks were made by the chairman of that company, who, when asked whether the stadium would be finished in time for the FA Cup final in 2005, replied, "You can come and thump me if it isn't". I like that kind of direct speaking, but it does not exactly fit with the kind of tone that we expect for a national stadium. He also admitted that he has not the slightest interest in football. He said, "I haven't got a bloody clue about the offside rule", which does not inspire much confidence.

On a more serious note, we must begin to find answers to a number of questions. In my view, the question of the £120 million of lottery money has been tagged on to the Statement as a kind of appendix. Because we all read the newspapers, we know that the National Audit Office is taking a very close interest in what happened to the £20 million. Is that the reason for so many delays in recent weeks? Is that the reason the Government and the FA, apart from deciding what kind of bidding practices should be employed in the competition between Birmingham and Wembley, found themselves in difficulties?

On the subject of Wembley, as a very frequent visitor over the years, I can say that the traffic congestion is a nightmare. It was a nightmare in the 1960s, when I used to watch boxing matches there. Now it is a real nightmare. With the best will in the world, the £17 million or so that the Mayor, Mr Ken Livingstone. suggests he will contribute to improving the road access to Wembley will not be enough. In addition. we read that IMG has been awarded the contract to run the corporate side of what is called the national stadium, which apparently will raise revenue of £30 million per year. I shall believe that when I see it.

I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether what we are talking about is a national football stadium, not a national stadium. I am, and always have been, in favour of a national stadium located in London. However, with the crowds that it will attract, especially if corporate entertaining becomes a reality, a national football stadium will require an enormous road infrastructure around it, which will cost well in excess of £17 million.

In my opinion, we are talking about a national football stadium, not about athletics or any other sport. A national stadium is a national enterprise, for use not only for football, our national game, but also for other large sporting events, such as athletics. God forbid that we should have an event such as that in the United States when a memorial was held in a stadium for the terrible disaster that took place there. We need something of that standing—a national monument, which advertises to the rest of the world our confidence to have a national stadium. That will not happen. If this proposal goes ahead, we shall have a national football stadium, probably in the wrong place. I believe that a national football stadium should probably be in Birmingham. I am a betting man and prepared to bet that at the end of the day we shall have a national football stadium in Birmingham, but that. In the interim period we shall see a lot of money go down the drain, in addition to the £50 million that has already gone.

Because I speak on these DCMS matters, I should be grateful if the noble Baroness would address my concern about the £120 million that has already been passed to the Football Association. How do the Government propose to recover that money? On what has it been spent? How long will the National Audit Office take to report back on that matter? Are the Government prepared to move before the National Audit Office provides us with full details relating to the spending of the £120 million? Those are a few of my questions. I could continue asking questions all night but I do not intend to do so. In conclusion—let us not mince words—will the Minister kindly confirm that this is a national football stadium, not a national stadium?

6.49 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I start by responding to the last point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. I cannot confirm that this will be a national football stadium, because it will not be. The noble Viscount has completely forgotten that it will be a stadium for rugby league, a very important sport at least in some parts of the country, if not in those parts where the noble Viscount spends his time. Moreover, the future of athletics in the stadium is still open, as the Statement made clear.

I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the Government have made it clear that it is for the Football Association to take the project forward and that the Government's role is to act as a facilitator.

The noble Baroness asked why my right honourable friend Chris Smith, the previous Secretary of State, decided to pull the plug on athletics. The answer is that the scheme that was proposed at that time was not viable. It would have cost £40 million to include an athletics platform in the proposed design. It would take six months to remove the platform in order to restore the stadium for other sports and six months to put it back again. That scheme clearly did not make much sense.

The noble Baroness asked about timetables and deadlines. Several complex issues still have to he resolved in that regard. In the end, it is for the FA to come up with a timetable, and I have every expectation that it will do so quite soon.

The noble Baroness also asked about further government funding and whether there was a ceiling on further government contributions. The answer is "yes". The Government have today stated that they will put a further £20 million into the project for infrastructural development—for non-stadium spending. That has to be subject to the assurances that the Government want—they were set out in the Statement—before agreeing that the present project should go forward.

The noble Baroness wanted to know whether the FA was going to hand back the £20 million if athletics was not going to go forward. The answer is a clear "yes". The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, asked what had happened to the original £120 million. Of that sum, £106 million was spent by the FA on purchasing the freehold of Wembley, which it did not previously own, and £14 million was spent on design work for the new stadium. The £20 million is not, as it were, being handed back as unspent money; it is being provided by the FA voluntarily if it does not have to continue with athletics at the stadium. I hope that I have clearly explained the position.

The noble Baroness also asked about the publication of the report by WNSL. We have not yet had a response from WNSL about that, but the Secretary of State has made it absolutely clear that she believes that it should be published. However, it is not the Government's report and the matter is obviously for WNSL, which commissioned the report.

Athletics is a matter of great interest to the House, as was witnessed in our debate on an Unstarred Question last night, which was responded to by my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham. It is important for Sport England to carry out a full technical assessment of the feasibility of including athletics and to ensure that UK athletics and the international federation are completely satisfied with any proposals that might be pursued. We have to have an arrangement that is feasible and which makes sense. These are highly technical questions.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, also asked about Multiplex. He said that he does not believe everything that he reads in the papers; neither do I. And I am afraid that I am not an expert on the offside rule, either. However, I am not sure how far being an expert on the offside rule is a significant and important qualification in relation to the contract that Multiplex might be taking on in building the stadium.

The noble Viscount also discussed the traffic and infrastructure around Wembley. The Government entirely accept that it is important that we have proper access to the stadium and that there should be good transport links to and from it. The noble Viscount was perhaps putting too much emphasis on the roads; it is equally important to have proper rail and Tube connections to Wembley. For that reason, some extra funding is being provided by the Government—it was announced today—to go towards infrastructural costs. Other partners, besides the Mayor, are involved, including Brent and other interests.

I believe that I have answered all of the questions. If some remain unanswered, I shall write to the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

My Lords, have not the FA scored a spectacular own goal by ignoring seven out of 10 fans and 55 out of 64 premier and league football clubs? They wanted the game that is at the heart of the nation to be sited at the heart of the nation, through the Birmingham Solihull bid. Will the Minister spell out precisely the extent of the Government's financial commitment and make it clear whether that would, in any circumstances, go beyond the £20 million that was announced today? How does she realistically rate the chances of the FA doing in 15 weeks what it is signally failed to do in the past six years?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am well aware of my noble friend's big commitment to having the development in Birmingham, and I understand the disappointment of people in Birmingham and the West Midlands that both the FA and the Carter report favoured Wembley. It is for the FA to make a final decision on that matter, and it should take into account the views of the football community across England. I believe that it has done so, and I understand that there are commercial advantages in choosing Wembley.

On my noble friend's other point, I give a clear commitment that the Government are not intending to put any further funding into the project, other than the £20 million that we announced today and the £120 million that has already gone into the project from the lottery.

Lord Fowler

My Lords, I contest that answer. For the first time in 25 years, I find myself in entire agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Corbett. There will be grave disappointment in Birmingham and the West Midlands about the way in which the decision appears to be going. It is the second time in succession that the natural decision was for a project to come to Birmingham and the West Midlands, but it has gone to London and the South East. I speak as a long-standing opponent of the Dome going to Greenwich, under either government. By any definition, much public money will go into the project—lottery money, government money and development agency money. In those circumstances and with that financial influence, Ministers can surely do more than they are currently doing to ensure a better and fairer spread of such national projects around the country.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I cannot add a great deal to what I have already said. Again, I understand the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, to Birmingham and the West Midlands. He represented a constituency there for a very long time in another place. However, these issues have been examined in great depth by a completely independent commentator, Patrick Carter. He supports the position taken by the FA, which is that, on balance, there are advantages in the national stadium being sited in the capital at Wembley. At the same time, he has made it clear that, if for one reason or another that does not happen, Birmingham will be a very acceptable alternative.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Statement that she has repeated today has more holes in it than a sieve? If she examines the detail of the FA's financing, she will realise that it is not acceptable to put such a financial position before your Lordships' House. It is not adequate that this House should be given a Statement suggesting that the FA will be engaged in a kind of voluntary process in returning £20 million of our money when it will have acquired the freehold of Wembley Stadium.

The Statement is a failure if it pretends that Birmingham is being treated fairly by being given a chance to bid if London fails. That shows how skewed and biased the decision-making process is. Does my noble friend accept that the Statement that she has been forced to read to your Lordships today shows a lack of fairness, equity and transparency? Certainly it shows a total lack of a level playing field when it comes to making essentially national rather than London-centric decisions.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, again, my noble friend is a very forceful pursuer of the interests of Birmingham and the West Midlands. As I said in reply to the noble Lords who asked the previous two questions on this matter, I understand the disappointment. However, I believe that my noble friend has gone a little over the top in some respects. I stand by the Statement that has just been made. I do not believe that it is full of holes. In many ways I believe that we are now moving forward towards a national stadium of which we can all be proud. Of course, further issues must be resolved. But I also say to my noble friend that, if the project does not go ahead, the £120 million will have to be returned to the Government. That has always been fully understood. That was the basis on which the money was provided, and I hope that my noble friend will accept that.

Lord Monro of Langholm

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that this is quite the most disappointing Statement that I have ever heard in all my parliamentary life? Is she aware that the whole country was geared up to hear an announcement today about what was going to happen? But here we are, two years later, with £50 million down the drain and with no decision having been taken. It may be another two years before a decision is made. Is she aware that the Government have scored the most awful own goal today? The announcement is totally disappointing, and everyone will want to know why it has taken so long to reach this position. Is she aware that this puts the Select Committee's condemnation of the Government entirely in its proper light?

However, can she go further in relation to the £120 million? It was given by Sport England to the FA—very foolishly, I believe—because of the involvement of athletics. But there is no involvement of athletics and nor will there be. The configuration of athletics in a 400-metre stadium is simply not on. Had the noble Baroness read the report of our debate on the subject last night, she would know that we explained that. The total £120 million should be handed back to Sport England to distribute through the lottery system to good causes in sport generally in the United Kingdom. That is absolutely essential; otherwise, the £120 million will simply sit there for the FA to make money out of when it has no right to it at all.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I believe that there is some misunderstanding on the part of the noble Lord. The £120 million is not simply sitting there. As I have already explained, that money has been used both to purchase the freehold and to undertake the extensive and expensive design work that must be carried out in relation to a major project of this type. That is why the lottery and Sport England decided to hand over the money. As I have already said, if die project does not go forward, the money will be returned.

I also believe that the noble Lord has misunderstood the situation when he says categorically that there will be no involvement of athletics in the project. I have made it absolutely clear that there are now new technical ways in which to build athletics into a stadium of this type. Because I am not an expert—nor, indeed, is anyone in this House—I cannot say whether that new approach will be viable. That is why it must be examined by all the experts, including the international federation and the UK board of athletics. That makes absolute sense. Therefore, I believe that the noble Lord is being over-dismissive before it is appropriate to be so.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, I start by declaring an unpaid interest as a local authority-nominated public interest director of the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. That stadium was built on time and on budget for £140 million with only £46 million of Millennium Commission grant. I have some sympathy for my noble friend and for the Secretary of State. The one aspect of the Statement which I consider to he absolutely right is that which insists that the match should go into extra time.

The concern expressed by Mr Carter over corporate governance and the procurement process as it relates to the Multiplex company seems to me to be entirely justified. The noble Viscount referred to this morning's Guardian. If he had looked at tonight's Evening Standard he would find more revelations about Multiplex—the company responsible for building the west stand at Chelsea Football Club—in relation to an investigation carried out by an Australian Royal Commission into corruption in the construction industry. I believe that those issues must be resolved. The role of Multiplex in this project and, indeed, in other football projects in this country also needs to be examined carefully before that company is allowed to take part in this new project.

I want to ask another question about the return of the £20 million of lottery funding. In tonight's press, Mr Trevor Brooking, the chairman of Sport England, is apparently quoted as saying that the Wembley scheme complies with lottery funding requirements and will be eligible for a £120 million grant; that is, with no return of the £20 million. On the other hand, there is a reference to the view of the Secretary of State. It is said that Tessa Jowell is understood to be firmly of the opinion that the money should be repaid. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport hotly disputes reports that it has already agreed that the FA should keep the £20 million. I wonder whether my noble friend can clear up that matter and tell us whether the Secretary of State or Mr Trevor Brooking is right on that.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, perhaps I may comment on the first set of issues raised by my noble friend. It is because of the concerns of Patrick Carter and, indeed, the report carried out for WNSL that the Secretary of State has made it absolutely clear that answers are needed to a number of questions. It is for those reasons that an independent value-for-money assessment needs to be commissioned into the proposed contracts with Multiplex. It is for those reasons that confirmation is required that corporate government changes will be completed in order to achieve a management structure capable of delivering a complex project within the procedures that are acceptable to the public sector. And it is for those reasons that confirmation is required that financial support is adequate after taking into account all the relevant factors in a process of due diligence.

However, my noble friend asked again about the return of £20 million of lottery funding. I believe that, again, I need to make it clear that the whole £120 million has already been spent. Therefore, it is not a matter of returning lottery funding in that sense; it is a matter of the Football Association fulfilling its agreement to pay £20 million for its release from a commitment to athletics in the national stadium. If athletics do not take place in the national stadium the Football Association will pay back the £20 million. If athletics do take place, that extra money will be available to put into athletics. I hope that I have made that clear.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, what lessons have the Government learned so far from the national stadium story?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I am a little surprised by the tone of the question posed by the noble Lord. Today's announcement demonstrates that the Football Association is committed to developing a national stadium. It has indicated that Wembley is its preferred option—I know that that disappoints some, but it pleases others—and it has reaffirmed its financial commitment to the project. Today the Government have made a commitment, in principle, to put in a further £20 million towards the infrastructure. The Statement contains many positive aspects, but the noble Lord appears to see only the negative.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, along with many other noble Lords, I find the Statement particularly depressing. I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said about Wales. I declare an interest as a millennium commissioner and I have been one since the conception of the commission under my noble friend Lord Brooke.

However, paragraph 15 of the Statement depresses me. It states that, confirmation that corporate governance changes will be completed to achieve a management structure capable of delivering a complex project within procedures". After what we went through with NMEC and the Dome—I sat on the finance committee of the Millennium Commission during a most incompetent, mismanaged major project—the Government have still not learned what they should do to look after our lottery money, and to ensure that proper corporate governance is in place. Clearly, on this point such corporate governance is not in place. The Secretary of State has said that there is no sign, at this stage, of fraud. But, judging by what happened with NMEC, there is fraud somewhere and misappropriation.

I would like confirmation from the Secretary of State in reference to the purchasing of the property by the FA. Can she assure the House that the grant, contracts and the directions associated with the grant are totally in line with the controls on the expenditure of lottery funding? I find it hard to believe that an organisation like Sport England was able to give the FA £120 million to buy a property with no ties? Where has the money gone?

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I believe that I have already explained where the lottery money has gone. The confirmation of adequate corporate governance applies to the project as it develops over the number of years taken to build it. It is extremely important that in any contract for a huge and complex project of this kind that corporate governance should be adequate. Having seen the signals from a report commissioned by WNSL, the Government are taking the right steps to ensure that that happens. If there are any lessons to be learned from the history of the Dome—I am not clear to what the noble Lord refers when he talks about fraud on a large scale as I do not believe that there is much evidence of that—the Government are doing exactly what needs to be done to ensure that all the right procedures are followed and that we have proper propriety in the pursuit of this project in the future.

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