HL Deb 02 May 2001 vol 625 cc737-50

5.35 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

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

"The Football Association's announcement yesterday that it could not deliver its plans for Wembley was very disappointing news. It was all the more so given the repeated assurances given to Sport England and the Government over the whole of last year by the Wembley project team that everything was on track. The Government have consistently supported the concept of a national stadium and this has been on the basis of continued assurances from football that the project would be delivered.

"It was in 1996 that the then GB Sports Council decided that Wembley should be the location for a national stadium. From 1998 onwards, the project has been one led by the Football Association via a wholly owned subsidiary, Wembley National Stadium Ltd.

"From that point it was the Football Association and its subsidiary that drove the project forward in terms of negotiation with Wembley plc over the acquisition of the land, agreement with Sport England over the terms of the lottery funding for that acquisition, the design issues and, most importantly, securing the necessary financing to make the project viable.

"Wembley National Stadium under its chairman, Ken Bates, consistently assured everyone that all was well with the project. This has proved not to be the case. The first occasion on which this was demonstrated was in the autumn of 1999, when it became clear that the needs of athletics could not sensibly be met by the WNSL scheme.

"That was a result of the costs of creating and dismantling the concrete platform for athletics; the costs of acquiring the necessary land for the required warm-up track, and the fact that there would he no lasting legacy for athletics at the national stadium.

"I therefore decided that athletics should be removed from Wembley and subsequently the Lee Valley athletics stadium has been chosen by UK Athletics as the national centre for athletics and the venue for the 2005 Athletics Championships. That decision has been vindicated by subsequent events; and work is now well advanced on the designs for the Enfield stadium.

"The second occasion on which WNSL's assurances that all was well with the project proved to be misplaced was in November last year when the loan syndication to finance the whole project failed. The principal reason the banks were reluctant to provide finance was that they had doubts about: the WNSL business case, and in particular the ambitious projections of hospitality and premium seat income. Let us not forget that this was a project that had escalated in estimated cost from a little over £300 million to a total of £650 million.

"The banks were also concerned that the FA stood to gain from the project but carried little or no risk. At that point some much needed realism was injected into WNSL and the Football Association's thinking on the project.

"Following the failure of loan syndication, the FA replaced Ken Bates with Sir Rodney Walker as chairman of WNSL and took a much closer interest in their project. The FA made clear its intention to address the banks' concerns that the FA itself was not taking its share of risk in the project. Regrettably, Government learned last week that the Football Association did not feel it could do this without a further significant injection of funds. The FA initially requested up to £300 million from government. I am afraid this is simply not on, especially when the current costly design of the new Wembley is on the scale it is due to the needs of the commercial interests in the project.

"In the light of the FA's announcement yesterday, the Government will review all the options for a national stadium. To assist in that process we have asked the existing ministerial group looking at the cross-governmental issues around the Commonwealth Games to look at alternative solutions. I should stress at this stage that no options are ruled out. Therefore it may well be that a solution can be found to carry forward a new-build—or a refurbishment—solution at Wembley. Other alternatives may be considered. We want to play our part, as government, in securing a good, affordable and sustainable national stadium for England. That is what we will now do".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.40 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement which was made in another place by his right honourable friend. It is indeed dismal news today. It seems that instead of gaining a national stadium we are facing national disgrace.

I am disappointed with the Statement. The Government have sought to heap the blame totally on to the FA and Wembley National Stadium Limited without taking any responsibility for their own actions. Does the Minister recall how effusive the Secretary of State used to be about the selfsame Wembley plans?

I might remind him that in a press release on 29th July 1999, the Secretary of State said: Trying to match a stadium as legendary as the current Wembley was a daunting challenge but Norman Foster and his team have come up with a stunning design. Wembley will be the centre-piece of our campaign to attract the world's premier sporting events to this country. It will be a magnificent venue for athletics as well as football". Despite saying that, he later admitted that he had doubts about the plans all along. When being questioned by the Select Committee in another place, the Secretary of State said: I was unhappy about the proposals. It was only as we tested the detail in the following weeks that the difficulties became clear". Today the Government say that they had repeated assurances from the Wembley project team that all was well. Did they take those assurances at face value without further detailed consideration? What monitoring have the Government carried out of the Wembley proposals since 1999 when, according to their own statement, they saw that there were faults in the plan? Throughout there have been many stories in the press about the problems, but I believe that we have the right to expect that the Government have kept themselves properly informed.

The Minister referred to action taken by the Secretary of State when he questioned and scrapped the plans for a combined football and athletics stadium. Surely, that action dealt a massive blow to confidence in the project. Is that not the reason why potential City backers have decided not to put money into the scheme?

Today the Minister referred to the replacement of Ken Bates by Sir Rodney Walker as chairman of WSNL. Does he recall the statement by the Secretary of State in another place as recently as 26th March this year that: I have confidence that Sir Rodney and his team will deliver the goods"?—[Official Report, Commons, 26/3/01: col. 673.] Where is that confidence now?

Can the plans be adapted for a cheaper version of a national stadium still at Wembley? The Minister properly referred to the escalating costs. This morning on television the Secretary of State in an interview fuelled speculation that Wembley may be abandoned as the site for the national football stadium. The NEC site outside Birmingham has been mentioned as a possible alternative. Is that indeed on the Government's agenda?

The whole House will want to see the Wembley project back on track. But if it cannot be revived, what will happen to the £120 million of National Lottery money given to the FA for the purpose of purchasing the Wembley site? Will it be repaid and, if so, at what stage?

The Secretary of State's handling of the Wembley project has been dismal. The Prime Minister decided yesterday to put the Home Secretary at the head of an existing committee which we are told will suddenly change its job. However, his decision to do that is the clearest sign yet that he has lost any confidence he had in his Secretary of State. Why else really would the Home Office be asked to clear up the problem of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport?

Finally, the vital question of interest to everyone in this country, whether or not we are sports people—it is of interest to everyone around the world—is: when will the report by the Home Office group be made available? All of us will be waiting to see what happens next.

5.44 p.m.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, we on these Benches thank the Minister for repeating the Statement today. Its content and import are, as the noble Baroness said, dismaying to say the least. They are dismaying not only to Members of this House but to the public at large because the media have already taken up the topic on radio and television. As one would expect, a great deal of criticism is already flying about regarding personalities. That is not necessarily very helpful.

Anyone who like me was lucky enough to go in 1966 to Wembley to see England beat Germany in the final of that year's World Cup will regard the event as a moment in their lives which they will never forget. Many noble Lords will have been to Wembley on other occasions, not necessarily relating to sport. It is in that respect that the whole project has gone wrong because a national stadium is not only about football and sport; it is about national prestige.

The Stade de France, which was backed with utter commitment in France, not only holds great national sporting events but is a theatre for international artists. It has been an enormous success. It was hoped that the excellent design of the new Wembley Stadium would achieve the same success. However, the problem is that again the Government wanted to be involved in what they saw as a large national project but they were not prepared to put in money or commitment.

It was a mistake that the Government should have gone to the Football Association. I do not believe that the association can be blamed because the project was beyond the scale of what they were able to deliver. The costs have now risen to £660 million, with running costs of £50 million per annum. The business plan which the FA put forward to the banks on the basis of income against investment did not meet the banks' criteria. The FA should never have been put in this position.

Now the Government are able to say that they have been let down by the Football Association—or, to be more precise, Wembley National Stadium Limited. I do not want to blame personalities—I shall leave that to the media—but we in this country have not taken seriously and thought through what should have been a major enterprise in this country to support our national prestige.

Football is very important, but a national stadium is extremely important. To some developing countries it is more than an airport and is something which they point to and wave their flags for. It provides enormous stimulus not only to a country's reputation abroad but to its morale at home. That was shown in France with its Stade de France. France has been lucky enough to have an excellent national football team and has excelled in other sports and we could do the same.

In my view, the project began to look shaky when it was decided that the new stadium could no longer accommodate an athletics track. There were good commercial reasons for that; the costs of rebuilding the foundations and the cost of acquiring the necessary land for warming up, as described in the Statement, were outside the possibility of the financial plans.

I am not sure what is meant by the statement that there is no lasting legacy for athletics at the stadium. If I understand that modern language correctly, it means that athletics beyond 2005 will take place at the new stadium. In the Statement, the Government brightly state that everything in regard to the new athletics stadium is going extremely well and it will be a huge success. But how much greater success we would have had had we made a commitment to Wembley Stadium, done the sums properly and not thought in a parochial way merely about football or sport. We should have seen the whole potential of the project and the international prestige that we would have gained and made a commitment financially and philosophically to a project which would have held us in good stead in this country for many years to come. As it is, the project is a mess. We have had messes before, for example further down the river, and I hope that this will not be the same. We also have a situation similar to the one down the river, because the stadium at Wembley is now almost derelict and unkempt, although I understand that several hundred people make sure that it does not deteriorate to the extent that it is completely unusable or unsaleable. There is a cost to that while all of these things take place.

Many people must be dismayed—I am sure that the media will make something of it—that yet another government task force is to look at it and make recommendations. I do not blame Chris Smith. I have been longing for the opportunity to say that in this country it is nonsense to have a department of state which deals with culture, media, sport and tourism. To blame Mr Smith, who has been very successful in some areas but not in others, for this matter is to forget that it is hard enough for someone on these Benches in this House to be expected to cover these four topics. I enjoy it, but the remit covers a wide area.

I believe that in a modern country there should be one department which deals with culture and another department to deal with sport. Sport is very important and it is not adequate to deal with it in this way. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would deal with the remit more than adequately. He is one of the great performers at the Dispatch Box who can deal with anything, even if he has seven or eight matters to cover at the same time. However, I believe that the burden on Mr Smith is intolerable. If I was talking to a betting man, I would hazard the guess that in the near future there will be a reshuffling of these responsibilities, with the possibility of a new department. I hope that that happens. Sport requires a department of state to handle it. If we had had such a department we would not be in this muddle.

A national stadium is not about football but national status and how we stand in the world and relate to other countries, not only through sport. We act as hosts for international stars. For heaven's sake, the Pope has been at Wembley; and Madonna has also appeared there, if that is not an unhappy conjunction. As in other countries, various international music stars have appeared at Wembley.

If the Government get to work now and form a body which can produce a sensible business plan to go ahead with Wembley, I am absolutely sure that it will be a success, assuming it is run by the right people. I have the greatest possible admiration for Birmingham, which has stepped in with great energy, as I would if I were involved in anything in that city. To have a stadium in Birmingham is an excellent idea, but it should not be the national stadium. The national stadium deserves to be here in London; this is where we and the world expect it to be. Football teams used to chant "We're on our way to Wembley". Wembley has a history and culture that cannot be ignored.

It is a sad day when we have a derelict site at Wembley with the prospect of a hiatus and, at best, if the Government get their act together, the provision of a national stadium to compete with the best stadia in the world in the next five or six years. The Statement is necessarily low key, but I believe that it is a very sad day.

5.53 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, in many ways I share the emotional feelings of both noble Lords for Wembley. I first went to that stadium to attend the Olympic Games in 1948. Afterwards, I was even known to go from school to speedway racing at that stadium, although that is perhaps not so politically correct given what has happened to Wembley more recently. We must maintain a sense of realism about this matter and address the issues as they are rather than with wishful thinking.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, suggested that there was some conflict in our support as expressed in 1999 for Lord Foster's stunning design of Wembley Stadium. We did support what is still a stunning design, but we never indicated that we would support it with a blank cheque of taxpayers', or even lottery players', money. I do not believe that the Conservative Party seriously suggests that we should do that now. I notice that both the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and Mr Ainsworth in another place held back from such a suggestion.

The noble Baroness asked whether the Government believed in the assurances given by the Football Association and whether we had monitored the Wembley proposals. The test of the Wembley proposals and their financing have come to the fore very much in recent months with the failure of the loan syndication issue. Right up until yesterday J P Morgan, one of those institutions that had been approached for financing, indicated that it would still be willing to participate in the financing of Wembley Stadium if the Football Association took some share of the risk. The FA indicated to government some weeks ago that it would be so willing. The news now is that it has changed its mind and it is not willing to take a share of the risk. In those circumstances, I do not believe it can be said that the Government have been in any way irresponsible in its consideration of these issues.

The noble Baroness also appeared to suggest, although I am not entirely clear that she really meant it, that somehow the removal of athletics from the stadium was a contributory cause of financial failure. I am not quite clear whether the Conservative Party supports the athletics proposals. Those proposals consisted of an £18 million concrete platform which would take six months to assemble and dismantle on each occasion. Contrary to the removal of athletics having complicated the financial problems, the truth is that it has simplified it and enabled us to look for a better solution for athletics somewhere else for the 2005 games. I believe that, on reflection, all sides of the House would agree that that was the right thing to do.

The noble Baroness suggested that somehow the Government had changed their attitude to Sir Rodney Walker. We are not responsible for the chairmanship of Wembley National Stadium Limited. However, when it was suggested that Sir Rodney, as chairman of the UK Sports Council, should also be chairman of that company, we expressed our continued confidence in him; and we still hold that view. But it is a matter for the company, not the Government.

The noble Baroness also asked whether the Government were giving serious consideration to other sites as well as Wembley. Yes, certainly we are. That includes consideration of sites in Birmingham, Coventry or other places. The advantage of Wembley is that Wembley National Stadium Limited owns the site. We have put £120 million into the acquisition of the site and design costs. The noble Baroness asked me what had happened to that sum. That money is returnable if no new stadium is built at Wembley. If, for example, there was simply a refurbishment of the stadium the £120 million would no longer be available and no doubt there would have to be some negotiations on that point. However, the money is for that purpose and is in principle returnable.

The noble Baroness asked about the Cabinet committee. The ministerial group to which the Statement refers is not a new group but already exists under the chairmanship of the Home Secretary, and it is entirely rational that it should take on this additional responsibility. That shows no disrespect for, or lack of confidence in, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. It will report as soon as possible. It has been asked to report quickly, but it must consider the whole range of issues described in the Statement.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, drew a contrast between the support of the French Government for the Stade de France and our support for a national stadium in this country. I remind him that the French Government's support for the Stade de France is approximately £125 million, which is comparable with our support from the lottery to Wembley and the cost of the entire Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

I do not want to comment in more detail on the relationship between the Football Association and the banks, except to repeat my response to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that, if anything, the removal of athletics from the stadium made its financial planning considerably simpler and more hopeful. It is unfortunate that it has not occurred. But the failure of Wembley Stadium cannot be assigned to the governmental failures ascribed by noble Lords opposite.

6 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester

My Lords, I declare an unpaid interest as a director of the Cardiff Millennium Stadium, nominated by Cardiff County Council to protect its public interest responsibility as special shareholder and as guardian of the Millennium Commission's grant of £46 million for the stadium.

Today's sad Statement repeated by my noble friend will not come as a surprise to many of us who have followed this issue over the past few months. As long ago as December 1999 we were aware that something was amiss with Wembley's costings. The managing director of the stadium company told the All-Party Sports Group that the cost per seat at the new Wembley Stadium would be roughly the same as Cardiff. However, the correct figures are £1,650 per seat for Cardiff and £7,200 for Wembley. That makes Wembley well over four times more expensive than Cardiff.

Is my noble friend aware that there will be general understanding why the FA's request for the additional £300 million of public money could not be granted, particularly given the FA's unwillingness to accept a share of the risk? Can the Minister give an assurance that when all the options are looked at they will include not just Birmingham and Manchester—both those places have strong support—but the possibility of refurbishing the existing Wembley on a more modest scale or the option of having no national stadium and following, let us say, the Italian example and moving major matches and events from one ground to another around the country? There are enormous sums of money at stake. It is possible that the games concerned, not just football, could benefit substantially if that money was not sunk into a national stadium.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am glad to have my friend's support and description of the financial situation of the Government and, above all, the Football Association. Yes, I can confirm that the reason why matters have gone wrong with Wembley is, first, that the Football Association has not been willing to take any share of the risk, although it previously indicated that it would; and, secondly, there has been this vast increase in the costs, and, as my noble friend said, in the cost per seat. A significant part of that increase is new provision for commercial or semi-commercial uses. It is exactly for that reason that it would not be appropriate for taxpayers' money to be put into the Football Association's proposals for Wembley.

My noble friend asked me whether we are genuinely going to consider other options. The answer certainly is yes. Those options include refurbishment at Wembley. They also include the Italian possibility of moving major events around the country. That is what has happened since Wembley closed. The experience is—even the Football Association would agree—that it has worked rather well. Moving to Anfield and to other grounds has not only been successful and popular but has probably saved the Football Association a great deal of money. So, indeed, we shall also be looking into that option.

Lord Greaves

My Lords, is it not the case that Wembley, even within the context of London, is a bad location for a major sporting centre because of its poor communications and transport links? While it has a huge amount of history and nostalgia, as detailed by my noble friend on the Front Bench, its future—if it has a future in football or sport—should perhaps be as a museum and a major national training and coaching centre.

There is no reason why a national stadium has to be in London. That is simply the normal arrogance of people who think that London is the only really important place. Birmingham in the West Midlands has a very good case. That does not alter the case that greenfield sites or fresh sites in areas of good communications in the north of England might be considered, particularly as association football, and especially the professional game, have their historic roots in Lancashire and Yorkshire, which remain the powerhouse of the game in this country, as we have seen tonight in the Leeds United game. May I therefore urge the Government to think Wigan or perhaps Warrington, Wakefield, Crewe or even Doncaster, but above all to think River Trent, north thereof?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it is certainly true that the planned use for a national stadium was always going to be football and rugby league. Your Lordships can draw their own regional conclusions from that.

What Wembley has going for it is very simple: we paid £120 million for the site and for the design work. It starts ahead on those grounds. But it does not start ahead on the grounds of any presumption on the part of government that a national stadium, if we are going to have one, has to be in Wembley or London. Our minds are genuinely open on that point. We think north of the River Trent as well as south of it.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I declare an interest as a millennium commissioner. The right honourable Secretary of State, Chris Smith, is chairman of that commission. This is not one of his finest hours, although I have a great deal of respect for him as chairman of that commission.

I have a number of points, some of which have already been made. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, well made the point that in a short space of tine the New Millennium Stadium in Wales was successfully built by a joint group led by the Welsh Rugby Football Union, the banks, the devolved assembly in Cardiff, the local authority and the Millennium Commission, but without interference from central government.

Is the Minister aware that the same situation is true of the Hamden Park of Dreams? That was also a major project and cost about the same as the Millennium Stadium in Wales. Each stadium cost in the region of £120 million. In today's context I may say "only £120 million". They are both capable of multi-use, but not of staging athletics. Is the Minister aware of how long the argument has been going on in sport and with those promoting sport about whether one can successfully run an international athletics circuit within a football stadium? I first had that conversation with Jimmy Hill probably 20 years ago. In those days it was absolutely clear, and Jimmy was clear, that one could not do both, even in a 9,000-seater stadium, let alone in a 70,000-seater.

I know the Minister will not agree with me, but I believe that there has been a considerable amount of muddled thinking. I am concerned, having sat and watched the mismanagement of the finances of the NMEC by the government department. I feel that there has been mismanagement of the project by government departments in this country not paying enough attention to the detail of business plans.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that there are valuable lessons to be learnt, particularly from Cardiff, but also from Hamden Park. Those lessons are very much before the ministerial group which is now considering the matter.

With regard to the problem of athletics in a football stadium, Chris Smith, in his Statement which I have repeated, made that clear. There are problems of size and sight lines and problems, in particular in the original proposals for Wembley, with this concrete platform. That is very expensive and difficult to move. In contrast to some of the responses to the Statement, I adhere to the view, and the Government adhere to the view, that, by taking out athletics from the Wembley project, we have both simplified it and made the financial prospects better. Some way has to be found of making use of that lesson. I am glad to know from the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that it has been known for a considerable period of time. What we have here is an example of the pursuit of the best at the expense of the good. That is often a dangerous thing to do.

Lord Hoyle

My Lords, the Statement omits one important point. The problem is not just the geographical location of Wembley but the infrastructure cost. Can my noble friend say what sum would be involved in improving the infrastructure? I join other noble Lords in asking for consideration to be given to projects other than Wembley. I can tell my noble friend that we are applying for a new stadium at Warrington. We could hold up the plans and make them even grander if we thought that the national stadium was coming up there.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I shall not risk my life by saying anything antagonistic towards Warrington or indeed Wigan. I confirm what I have already said. Options north of the Trent, including Warrington and Wigan, will not be neglected. My noble friend asked about the infrastructure at Wembley. The issue is complicated. Wembley National Stadium Limited bought land from Wembley plc but it did not buy all the land. In particular, it did not buy enough land to have both adequate car-parking and the kind of warm-up track that would have been necessary for athletics there. There are all kinds of restrictions on the site—it is owned by Wembley National Stadium Limited—which create difficulties. Those considerations will have to be taken into account when we are seeking a successful conclusion to this problem.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, as a rugby fan, and a Welsh rugby fan at that, I intervene to make a suggestion. One of the problems of all national stadiums—it will eventually be a problem at Cardiff—whether used for one sport or two sports, is that they have a very limited income. Not only has the initial cost to be borne in mind but also how to generate income. If only international matches are held at a national stadium, the income is limited. One could, on the other hand, have a rotating system for football internationals. There are so many fine stadiums available in the country which have large attendances for home matches anyway and can generate a large income. An international match would add to that income and add to the geographical spread for so many soccer fans. Should not the idea of a rotating system between the top clubs in the country attract a good deal of attention?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, those are all valid and interesting points. I certainly take the noble Lord's point that to have restricted, occasional use of an expensive building is a poor use of financial resources. One of the possibilities that cannot be ruled out is whether one of the London football clubs might wish to relocate to Wembley. That, again, will be taken into consideration.

Lord Palmer

My Lords, will the Minister clarify the position with regard to the £250 million that has already been spent? If I understand him correctly, if Wembley is not redeveloped, that money will be repaid to the Government. Is my understanding of the position correct?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the figure is not £250 million; it is £120 million; and it is not from the Government; it is from the lottery. That commitment of £120 million is legal only if a new stadium is built at Wembley. If nothing is done at Wembley, the money has to be repaid; if there is only refurbishment at Wembley, the money has to be repaid. The money has not of course been spent; but it would not be paid out.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, my noble friend has referred to looking at all alternatives. Has he looked at the alternative of perhaps converting the Dome into a national stadium? After all, that might solve two problems at the same time.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it slopes the wrong way, I should have thought.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I do not think that criticism can be levelled at the Government for the way that they have handled this difficult situation. It is unfair to blame the Secretary of State, who has tried his best. My criticism of the Government is that they are involved in media, culture and sport at all. It would be much better if they left those alone. People are appalled at the escalation of the cost of this project from £300 million to £700 million—six times the cost of the Cardiff stadium. People will want reassurance—I certainly want reassurance—that no further public money will go into this project. People will be appalled when they see the money that is thrown about in football generally, in salaries of £3 million a year paid to players and £19 million transfer fees. Football is well able to finance the stadium itself and through private borrowing. I sincerely hope that my noble friend can give us an absolute assurance that no further public money will be invested in this or any other such project.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I shall gladly convey to Chris Smith my noble friend's expression of confidence in him. I shall consider whether I want to convey to him my noble friend's more fundamentalist view that the Government should not be involved in culture, media or sport. That is rather more radical. I do not say that in a critical way. My noble friend is a radical. But it is a rather more radical view which I do not think will find much support in the House. My noble friend asks for an assurance that no more public money will be spent. The position is that £120 million of lottery money has been spent. It has been spent in acquiring the site. Of that £120 million, £14 million is design costs. I hope I have made it entirely clear that if there is no new stadium at Wembley the Football Association will have to repay that money; and it will have to repay that money from its own resources. The whole impact of the Statement is that no more public money is available for this purpose.

Lord Northbrook

My Lords, what contribution did the Government expect from the Football Association? What asset base does it have to enable it to contribute to the project? Did the Government have a ballpark figure in mind?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, that has not been a matter between the Football Association and the Government. It has been a matter between the Football Association and the banks. As I understand the position, the banks—to me entirely reasonably—said, "Here is the Football Association. It is a rather rich body. It is a commercial body and not a purely charitable body. But it does not appear to be willing to take any of the risks in this project, from which it would be taking all the benefits in future". The banks did not think that that was a very good idea. I do not either; but it is a matter for the banks and for the Football Association.