HC Deb 14 March 2001 vol 364 cc257-78WH

11 am

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

This is an important subject that relates to the Commonwealth games in Manchester. It is desirable that Britain succeeds in bids to host major international sporting events. Hosting an event inevitably encourages a nation's people to be enthusiastic about sport, and we should all approve of that. It also has huge economic benefits, and increases a country's chances of winning at the event.

If sports bodies can persuasively argue the case for a national bid, it is vital that the Government offer firm leadership. Sadly, while Labour has talked a good game, it has characteristically failed to deliver. It has succeeded only in causing chaos, instead of offering leadership and encouragement. It has alternated between interference and head-in-the-sand indifference.

Nowhere has that attitude been more evident than during our 2006 World cup bid. Labour promised in its April 1997 manifesto: We will provide full backing to the bid to host the 2006 football World Cup in England. The Prime Minister was quoted in campaign literature as saying that he was fully behind that project. However, the first sign that all was not well was the decision to appoint the former Minister for Sport, the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks), as a special envoy. That was a puzzling decision, given that he had tabled an early-day motion in support of South Africa's bid to host the tournament. Labour was content to talk up the project for as long as it appeared politically expedient. At the first sign that our prospects were bleak, it wanted nothing more to do with the bid—it hung the bid team out to dry.

Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

May I assist my hon. Friend? In the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, I questioned the hon. Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) about his endorsement of South Africa's bid. His response was that what one says in opposition is separate from what one does in government. That is indicative of the Government's attitude.

Mr. Day

Indeed. My hon. Friend could have been referring to many Labour policies, and its promises before the election and lack of delivery afterwards.

Nelson Mandela went to Zurich for the announcement of FIFA's decision, while the Prime Minster stayed at home. The hon. Member for West Ham has unapologetically admitted: I knew that if the Prime Minister came out, and we lost the bid it would have been portrayed as 'Blair's humiliation'. I could not guarantee we would win and for that reason I couldn't recommend he travel. Such important bids require the attention of the country's leaders. Whether the Prime Minister attends should not depend on what publicity might result. That says everything about the Government's attitude and how they operate. Days after the bid was lost, the current Minister for Sport said: We never had a chance of winning". The situation at Wembley has been quite a saga. Thanks to the Government, the World cup bid has given very little help to our chances of hosting future events. The Wembley fiasco has damaged our efforts even further. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) will provide further details, but I will briefly rehearse what has happened.

In July 1999, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said that Wembley, complete with athletics, would be the centrepiece of a future Olympic bid". In November 1999, the Minister for Sport said that she would scrap the design if she could, because it was the wrong kind of stadium". The following month, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport took the capricious, and much criticised, decision to scrap the design that he had praised so warmly He later explained that the Government believed that they could secure our aim—the best long-term deal for football, rugby league and athletics—only by removing athletics from Wembley. It is strange, then, that Sir Rodney Walker, who took over from Ken Bates as chairman of Wembley National Stadium Ltd. in December 2000, has said that architects are examining design solutions for accommodating athletics". That is a history of contradiction and indecision, and all the chaos and confusion have thrown into grave doubt our hopes of hosting a future Olympic games.

A more immediate concern is the need to deliver on a national pledge to host the 2005 world athletics championships. The Government say that that will happen at Picketts Lock, but there is no design, and transport concerns have not been properly addressed. We face a race against time to get things ready by the necessary date. More crucially, there is a large question mark over the funding of a stadium at Picketts Lock. I will leave it to my hon. Friend to explain that further, but the Government's claims do not tally with what Sport England has said. As happened with the dome, officials might be made scapegoats for a fiasco created in Whitehall.

Can the Minister shed more light on the proposals to base an Olympic bid around a stadium in east London, at Stratford? Do the Government support them? Is it true that a feasibility study would cost £300,000? Is it also the case that the British Olympic Association cannot afford to pay for that and that neither her Department nor UK Sport is willing to pay for it?

Manchester is nearer to home for me, and also for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Our fantastic success at the Sydney Olympics bodes well for our hosting of the 2002 Commonwealth games. Preparations are progressing well. The games will he based around a £90 million stadium, with a running track, built on an earth infill. The venue will hold 38,000 spectators. After the games, it will be converted for football use and become Manchester City's new home. That will please many of my constituents, a fair proportion of whom support City. An extra tier of seating, which will increase capacity to 48,000, will be built beneath the existing two tiers.

Sport England has made £114 million available for the games. The Manchester Commonwealth 50 pool, which is the swimming pool that will be used in the games, received £22 million in May 1997. Eastlands SportCity, which incorporates the Commonwealth games stadium and the UK Sports Institute north-west network centre, received £92 million in March 1999. Central Government have pledged to meet the expected £10.5 million cost of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Local people are still worried that there will be a £20 million funding gap, which I understand—although it will help if the Minister explains the situation—will be passed on to the Manchester ratepayer. I presume that that means the people of the city of Manchester rather than Greater Manchester, but I would like her to clarify the point.

A Commonwealth games official stated that there is a real concern that there is going to be a £20 million hole and it is going to be very difficult to reduce that. The organisers have not attracted enough well known multinational companies. I am confident that the organisers could raise £30 million, but the problem is going to be where the other £20 million is going to come from. Local people in my area, and especially those who live within the city of Manchester, are worried. The reluctance of companies to come forward is a result of many of them getting their fingers burned with the dome. The dome disaster has reached up to the north-west and caused a lack of funding from private finance. The promised Commonwealth games will be the biggest multi-sporting event in Britain since the 1948 Olympics, and the whole country is looking forward to it, but we need more than empty rhetoric, because the games will bring massive economic benefits to the Greater Manchester area, but will also bring economic concerns unless it is made clear what is to lie done about the potential gap between the available money and the cost.

I would like the Minister to assure me that, although Manchester city council has said that it will underwrite the games, that will not involve the whole of Greater Manchester and especially not my borough in Stockport. A shortfall would be a disaster for council tax and business rate payers in the city of Manchester, but there would be extreme concern were it to be spread to other local authorities beyond the borders of the city. I hope that she will clarify the situation.

You share my interest in transport issues, so you will understand my concerns, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Because the Commonwealth games is coming to Manchester, I hope that the Minister will make representations to her ministerial colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to complete the Manchester airport eastern link road. The central section has been built, but it is not connected to the airport. I know that the eastern section—the Poynton bypass—is of especial interest to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it will link the central section with the A6. It would also be nice if we could have the Hazel Grove A6 bypass in time for the games. It would be helpful if the Minister made representations on behalf of the numerous constituencies along the route so that the link road is built in time for the games. That is now unlikely, because the Government made the mistake of cancelling it.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended that the Government review the finances of the games, so that the scale of central Government support could finally be decided. The most worrying factor is the uncertainty, at the heart of which is the Government's lack of clarity about what will be their level of real—as opposed to rhetorical—support. The Committee also suggested that the Government should involve themselves more closely in the strategic management of the games. Manchester's ratepayers will not have been reassured, thus far, by the Government's silence on these fundamental issues.

If nothing else, the debate gives the Minister the opportunity to set the record straight, and I look forward to hearing her do so. I hope that she will be able to reassure us about this important issue. I thank hon. Members for listening. Finally, although I am grateful to be able to raise such matters in any forum in the House, they should be debated in the main Chamber of the House of Commons, not in this mock Chamber.

11.16 am
Mr. Ivor Caplin (Hove)

I am pleased to see you in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It would be strange to have a Wednesday morning without seeing you, as I normally would in the Modernisation Committee.

I came here this morning intending only to listen, but I am afraid that the final comment by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) has forced me to my feet. It implied that Conservative Members do not accept parliamentary democracy as we do. The House decided that Westminster Hall was a good idea.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that it is precisely because Conservative Members believe in parliamentary democracy that we believe that debates such as this should be dealt with in the traditional way in the main Chamber of the House of Commons? Perhaps 30 or 40 Members would then have been present, not five or six. If—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Nicholas Winterton)

Order. The debate is about the staging of international sporting events, not whether there should be sittings in Westminster Hall—although on that subject, I am happy to tell hon. Members that last night the House took a decision, for which I am grateful, officially to reappoint myself and three colleagues as additional Deputy Speakers. That was long overdue.

Mr. Caplin

I fear that I am straying into business of the House matters, which is not allowed. Suffice it to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that with your guidance we now debate four times as many Back-Bench issues as before. That is why we have the time to debate this important matter.

I start where the hon. Member for Cheadle finished—in Manchester. I was fortunate enough to visit Manchester in January with several colleagues and the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins). I do not recall seeing the hon. Member for Cheadle there. Of course, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are a vice-chairman of the all-party Commonwealth games 2002 group, in which I am happy to be the token southerner.

Mr. Hawkins


Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that this is relevant.

Mr. Hawkins

On a sporting matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman may have forgotten that I am also an officer of the group, as the Member of Parliament whose constituency includes the only southern venue in the Commonwealth games—Bisley, where the shooting events will be held. He and I are the two very much more than token southerners of the group.

Mr. Caplin

I was never much good at geography.

During my visit to Manchester, I was astounded by the way in which preparations for this important sporting event are progressing. The swimming arena was first class, and we should have many more like it. I know that that is the plan of the Amateur Swimming Association. The design of the arena is superb, and it was in full use on the day that I was there. I have asked people in the city of Brighton and Hove to consider the development of the seafront area, which has some old, out-of-date swimming facilities. I hope that that will be possible.

The swimming facility in Manchester is first class and worthy of a visit from anyone. I was hugely impressed when I went to the main stadium arena. It was possible to gain the impression, even though the grass and track had not been laid, of a stadium that would be really something, not just for Manchester but for the whole country. The Commonwealth games are a celebration not just for the north-west but for the entire United Kingdom. The event will be a coming together.

The hon. Member for Cheadle rather talked down the city of Manchester, which was unfortunate. The people and politicians of Manchester have made good progress in developing the stadium and the facilities that they need. A comparison can be made with major sporting events in other countries, and they are way ahead in their preparations.

Mr. Day

I was not running down the city of Manchester. I think that I praised the preparation work so far. The uncertainty comes from the Government, not the city of Manchester. If anything I was standing up for the people of the city of Manchester and Greater Manchester, who may—although I hope not—be presented with a large bill. We need clarity about the Government's attitude.

Mr. Caplin

The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I allow my hon. Friend the Minister to deal with those issues. She and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, who has been leading the Government's task force on the matters in question, are much closer to them.

I accept what the hon. Gentleman said. I found Manchester first class. I had the impression of a city that was ready to stage the Commonwealth games. As soon as I arrived at the airport I encountered marketing and advertising about the games. When I talked to ordinary people, I had the impression that they were ready to host the Commonwealth games in summer 2002, and looking forward to it. I, too, look forward to attending.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Wembley. I was one of those who vigorously lobbied my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about whether athletics should be included at Wembley stadium. My view is not a secret: I wanted athletics out. I believe that Wembley should be primarily a football stadium, able to hold rugby league and rugby union events as well. That is also the view of the all-party football group, of which I am an officer. We have strong views about it, which we made clear to my right hon. Friend at the appropriate time. I argued in favour of the decision to remove athletics from the plan. I thought that athletics confused the issue and would delay the project.

I have no problems with respect to the team that is now running the project. Wembley National Stadium Ltd. has a good project to pursue. However, Wembley is a football arena, and has been for 80-odd years—since it was built. To include international athletics would be difficult. There is no space for the additional facilities that are needed. As a local example, it was possible in Brighton this year to stage, for the first time in 30 years, the south of England athletics championships. That was possible because the athletics stadium had been improved, so that, ironically, football could be played there, but also because warm-up facilities had been attached. Those are a requirement in international athletics.

I know the stadium area well and it would clearly not be possible to provide the type of facilities that my hon. Friend the Minister saw in Sydney, about which a great deal has been said. I was delighted with the Secretary of State's decision. It was right. The challenge for Rodney Walker and his team is to rebuild Wembley so that it is ready for business as quickly as possible.

I shall work backwards through the points made by the hon. Member for Cheadle. The World cup bid was worthwhile; we will not be regarded as a serious player if we do not say that we want to stage such events. The outcome was interesting: it was decided not by Governments but by FIFA. The hon. Gentleman's accusation that the Labour party did not support the bid was futile. It was clear that we did support the bid. When I arrived in the House in 1997, I understood that the 2006 World cup bid was supported not just by the Labour party but by the Conservative party. Now that the bid has been lost, coats are turning.

Mr. Fraser

I have just come from the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, where the same subject is being discussed. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the comment by Simon Clegg of the BOA that the Government and the Prime Minister should have been involved throughout, and that we might have missed an opportunity to stage the Olympic games in 2012? The inference is that the Prime Minister did not get behind the hid.

Mr. Caplin

I have been playing football, which I find healthier than attending Culture, Media and Sport Committee meetings, so I cannot comment on what Simon Clegg said, although I have met him many times, including in the week before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made his decision about Wembley. I told him at that time—before what has happened in the past 36 hours—that I could not see how the BOA could produce a proper plan to stage the Olympic games in London. I accept that events have since moved on, but at that stage no progress had been made on Wembley, so the decision was right. There are now new ideas, and I hope that the BOA can make progress, as I would like the Olympic games to be staged in London, if possible.

Like many others, I believe that the Manchester Commonwealth games will be a huge success. I hope that all political parties will maintain their backing and support for the people of Manchester and the north-west for the staging of this important international event, which will be seen in perhaps 50 or 100 countries. As politicians, we should say what we believe. That is what the Labour party has done with regard to sport. We backed the 2006 bid and lost. That is how it goes. We backed 2002 in Manchester. It will be a success. I hope that there will be a future bid for the Olympic games that we can also back.

11.28 am
Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

The hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin) has a passion for football. The Conservative party would like to give him the opportunity to spend all his time playing football in the next few months, so that he can take up some of the issues that he has mentioned this morning. I shall report his views about the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to his colleagues on that Committee, who are discussing this subject. I have heard more talk of sport in the Palace of Westminster this morning—both in that Committee and in this Chamber—than I have heard from the Government since the 1997 election. That is a sad indictment of this Administration.

The debate is timely. In May, Cardiff will host the FA cup, having already hosted a very successful Worthington cup final. Although football has been thrown out of Wembley stadium, we are no closer to knowing what to expect in 2004 The millennium stadium in Cardiff cost £120 million and has already been host to world and major domestic events, yet estimates of the cost of the proposed new Wembley stadium are between £475 million and £660 million—I am sure that the Minister will confirm those figures today. The latter figure would make it the world's most expensive sporting venue. That cost compares badly with the £260 million paid to build the Olympic stadium in Sydney, which I visited with the Select Committee—we were impressed with what was achieved with that sum—and with the Stade de France in Paris, which hosted the most recent World cup final, and the cost of which was also estimated at £260 million.

Not only does Wembley appear incredibly overpriced, but it has changed its concept. The original concept was for a multi-purpose stadium to stage athletic events. The bottom tier of seats would have been retracted and a running track inserted above the pitch. The Secretary of State explained: It has hitherto been the desire of this Administration—and, indeed, of the previous Government—that England should have a stadium able to stage a wide range of the world's major sporting events. As the House knows from previous debates and questions, the consistent aim has been to design a new national stadium that can stage the premier events of football, rugby and athletics. However, there were serious reservations about the feasibility of the design. One of the main causes of contention was that the reduced capacity following the insertion of the athletic track would have been below the 65,000 required by the International Olympic Committee for an Olympic bid.

A report prepared by sports architects DLA Ellerbe Becket raised serious doubts about the stadium design for international athletics events. The Secretary of State explained the report's findings by saying: In any likely configuration, the sightlines for large numbers of spectators would be poor, and in some cases could fail Olympic requirements; the seating space for individual spectators would be far from ideal; the roof would cover some lanes of the track and not others; there would be no portal for people and equipment to gain access to the deck; the east-west alignment of the track would be detrimental to athletes; and, for any Olympic games, the deck would have to be constructed and in place for at least a year in advance, which could render the stadium unusable for international standard football for more than two years. He said: My reluctant conclusion from the Ellerbe Becket report is that the stadium as designed—or in any similar configuration—cannot readily provide the central venue for an Olympic games bid for London.

Mr. Hawkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that one concern that we repeatedly expressed—not during the time of the current Minister—was that this Government made the mistake of going for the trendiest, most fashionable architects and ended up with an appalling design that, when it was presented to hon. Members, was clearly seen to have all the failings that it took the Secretary of State so long to appreciate?

Mr. Fraser

One need only look at the dome to realise that one does not design a sweet wrapper without knowing what the sweet inside will be.

The Secretary of State continued: Furthermore, it seems unlikely that it could provide an appropriate venue for the world athletics championships, for which we hope to bid in 2005. It will, however, be able to provide the best venue in the world for the 2006 football world cup."—[Official Report, 1 December 1999; Vol. 340, c. 305-6.] Three weeks later, the Secretary of State made a further statement, which is worth repeating, because it is important that we consider what he said. He said: Since my Statement to the House of Commons on I December, we have made considerable progress in resolving the difficult issues raised by the DLA Ellerbe Becket report…while WNSL have successfully addressed many of the concerns highlighted by Ellerbe Becket, it is widely accepted that the proposed stadium is not the ideal for athletics. There is general agreement therefore that, subject to the satisfactory conclusion of further detailed discussions among the interested parties, Wembley should be the focus of a world class stadium for football and rugby league and that alternative arrangements should be made for athletics…In the light of the prospective agreement between Sport England, the Football Association and WNSL on a revised Lottery Funding Agreement based on the new Wembley Stadium being focused on football and rugby league, the Football Association has proposed that £20 million of the existing Lottery grant be returned to Sport England. He explained that the return of this money to Sport England together with the sums Sport England had earmarked for financing the conversion of Wembley to athletics mode for covering any loss of revenue while in athletics mode and for the purchase of land and construction of the athletics warm-up facility, will give Sport England scope to consider alternative options for an athletics venue in London. The situation is complicated, but that was worth putting on the record, because an awful lot has happened. The overriding problem of the complete mess is that a venue is required so that London can host the 2005 world athletic championships, because a successful bid was announced on 3 May 2000. That is fantastic for London, Britain and British athletics, but the nub of the problem is whether a feasible and worthy venue can be provided.

In a statement in December, the Secretary of State suggested:

Since 1 December, Sport England has together with UK Sport, UK Athletics, the British Olympic Association and my Department undertaken further work on the non-Wembley options for staging international athletics events in London. In this context, I particularly welcome the proposal from the Rugby Football Union that Twickenham be used for such events. Constructive initial discussions have taken place between the DCMS, Sport England, the RFU and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Sport England is taking forward further immediate work to establish the viability of this and other possible sites as the venue for the World Athletics Championships in 2005 and a further announcement will be made once this work has been completed. This work will be carried out in close co-operation with UK Athletics, and the Government will wish to do everything possible to assist a bid for the 2005 event. Sport England will also assess the extent to which possible venues can be readily upgraded to accommodate Olympic requirements. The Government remains committed to supporting a viable UK Olympic bid and is continuing its discussions with the British Olympic Association, UK Sport, and Sport England on the possibilities of a London bid for the Olympic Games. On 25 March last year, UK Athletics chose Lee Valley park in north-east London ahead of three other contenders, including Twickenham, as the preferred site to stage the 2005 championships. In response to a parliamentary question, the Secretary of State said: UK Athletics selected Picketts Lock as the site on which to base their bid for the 2005 World Athletics Championships following extensive discussions with Sport England, UK Sport, the Government Office for London, a number of local authorities and with my Department. Since the success of the bid, the Lee Valley Stadium project team comprising the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and UK Athletics have commissioned consultants to advise on the optimum design for the stadium and on business planning options. On the same day, the Minister for Sport said: UK Athletics are required to give the IAAF a progress report on the staging arrangements, including the development of the venue, by the middle of next year."—[Official Report, 30 October 2000; Vol. 355, c. 327W.] That is this year, so I would like to hear a full progress report this morning.

Questions have also been raised about the suitability of the proposed venue. My hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Faber)—alas, he is not present, as he is currently quizzing the Sports Council and others about similar issues in a Select Committee meeting—asked how many of the seats at the proposed Lee Valley stadium would be provided on a temporary basis for the world athletics championships in 2005. The Minister for Sport replied: According to the current design concept developed by Drivers Jonas as part of the feasibility study for the Lee Valley Stadium, between 15,000 and 20,000 of the 40,000–45,000 seats available for the World Championships will not be included in the long-term legacy stadium."—[Official Report, 30 October 2000; Vol. 355, c. 326W.] It is unclear how the stadium will attain the 65,000 seats needed under International Olympic Association guidelines for the hosting of future Olympic games. That is one of the main difficulties with the design for Wembley, although I accept that it is not the only one.

My hon. Friend also asked what assessment the British Olympic Association had made of the suitability of the proposed Lee Valley stadium as a venue for track and field athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies of a London Olympic games. The Minister replied: I have received no such assessment. The British Olympic Association are involved in discussions about the possible future uses of the stadium and attend meetings of the Lee Valley Stadium Forum. We know that the BOA has since made an assessment of the feasibility of London hosting the Olympics in 2012 or 2016, but we are not allowed to see it.

My hon. Friend asked whether it was Government policy that the proposed Lee Valley stadium should be capable of being upgraded to act as the venue for track and field athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies of a London Olympic games. The Minister said: The main priority for the project partners involved with the development of the new National Athletics Stadium is to provide a world class facility capable of hosting the World Athletics Championships in 2005 which is also capable of ensuring that athletics have a national centre for the future development of the sport. No decisions have been taken which would rule out the possibility of the stadium being used as a venue for a future Olympic Games."—[Official Report, 30 October 2000; Vol. 355, c. 326W.]

Mr. Caplin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fraser

No. You have had your say. Perhaps you can intervene when the Minister sums up.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have not had my say at all, although the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin) may have had his say. Perhaps the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mr. Fraser) could use parliamentary language correctly.

Mr. Fraser

I am always interested in what you have to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If I had not been so rudely interrupted by the hon. Member for Hove, I could have finished my speech and allowed him, you or any other hon. Member to say what they wanted.

Mr. Day

Had you had an opportunity to have your say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you certainly would not have let it pass without mentioning the Poynton bypass.

Mr. Fraser

Now I will have my say. I am sure that the hon. Member for Hove can speak later if time permits.

We do not know the cost of Wembley stadium or what progress has been made, yet it is set to begin hosting sporting events in 2004. We do not know how much the proposed Lee Valley stadium will cost or when progress will be made towards its development, yet we are assured that it will be ready to host the 2005 world athletics championships. In addition, we do not know whether those plans will aid or hinder a future Olympic bid for London. We do know that the Department and the Government have presided over yet another fiasco. We thought that things could only get better after the dome, but sadly they have not.

Ken Bates, who was at the time chairman of Wembley National Stadium Ltd., accused the Minister of "interfering" in the redevelopment of Wembley football stadium and of "constantly undermining" him. He also said that her period of office had been characterised by ignorance. I have an awful lot of respect for her in many other spheres, but I should like her to respond to that point made against her by Ken Bates. Appearing before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, on which I serve, he said that it was more in sorrow than in anger that he contrasted the "mess over Wembley" with the success of the Australian Olympic stadium. He said that there had been nothing but criticism and undermining based on nothing but ignorance… The Government should have been on the sidelines cheering us on but instead spent 19 months knocking the project. He commented: We only know what she thinks when we read the newspapers". I am afraid that that is nothing new. In fact, it would be interesting to see that in the first line of the Labour party manifesto, because we know what is happening on so many matters only when we read about them in the paper and not when they are discussed in this place.

Several questions need to be answered. How much will the new Wembley stadium cost? What progress has been made towards its development? Will Sport England get its £20 million back, and how did the Government arrive at that figure? Is the Lee Valley stadium a suitable venue for an Olympic bid in 2012 or 2016 and will it be ready in time for the championships in 2005, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) asked? Does the Minister believe that the fiasco over which the Government have presided throughout their term of office has made Britain more or less viable as a venue for international sporting events, including the Olympics?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Before I call the next speaker, I point out that this is a very important debate and I want the shadow Minister and the Minister for Sport to have adequate time to reply to all the questions. Is the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) present as a Back Bencher or as the spokesman for his party, as the office of the Chairman of Ways and Means gave me notice that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Jones) was supposed to be present to reply on behalf of the Liberal Democrats?

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

My hon. Friend was not able to be here. I wanted to come because Sheffield has a great interest in international sporting events. I am wrapping up the two functions, as it were.

11.46 am
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your reappointment.

While I share the strong views expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Cheadle (Mr. Day) and for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mr. Fraser) in their criticisms of the Government, I do not propose to attack the Minister. As she knows, and as has been said, we respect her as an individual. We believe that she was handed a poisoned chalice, and while 1 do not agree with everything that she says on sport, she has done her best to support athletics and sport in general. I wish to concentrate on serious issues and problems that arose before her time and that she, as a junior Minister, has perhaps not been able to sort out.

Where I make criticisms of the Government, they are targeted on the Minister's predecessor and on the Secretary of State. Opposition Members, and especially those of us who are passionate about sport—as I have always been—often get extremely irritated by his pathetic attempts to paint himself as a sports enthusiast when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole said, he has presided over a series of fiascos in which his lack of attention to and interest in sport to back up the hype have been only too evident.

There are many positive aspects to sport in this country. I pay particular tribute to the work of Sport England, which, led by Trevor Brooking and Derek Casey, has done a fantastic job in the past few years, not least in delivering the vision originally set out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) when he was Prime Minister. As I have said, it would be appropriate if in due course the national lottery became known as the Major lottery. There is no doubt that without my right hon. Friend's decisions, we would not have had the huge injection of capital for sport and the development of sporting facilities.

In considering recent political history, and my right hon. Friend's term of office—indeed, his whole political career—one of the biggest tributes to him will undoubtedly be the fact that he created the lottery. It was not universally popular at the time. Indeed, it was roundly attacked by many Labour Members in opposition: they said that it would never work and would be a fiasco and they doubted that it would provide what we consistently said it would in terms of sporting facilities. Now that they are in government, they of course behave as though it was their idea all along but those of us who were here in the previous Parliament remember the bitter debates about the concept of the lottery, and the savage criticisms that many Labour Members made of it. I remember in particular the attacks on my right hon. Friend when he said that it would provide huge amounts of new money for sport.

The Government have been ready to claim credit for sporting success—not least that of our Olympians, who produced the best performance by a British Olympic squad for 80 years. Much of their success—and the Olympians acknowledged it—was due to lottery funding, particularly of elite sportsmen and women. Without the drive and determination of my right hon. Friend, and the Ministers and Back Benchers who supported him, there would have been no lottery funding.

Mr. Caplin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hawkins

I will in a moment.

I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway). He and I were Conservative Back Benchers in the previous Parliament and we regularly spoke in sporting debates to support my right hon. Friend and to back up his vision of lottery support for elite sportsmen and women leading to Olympic and international sporting success.

I now give way to someone whose sporting achievements should be recognised—he has scored some extraordinary goals for the parliamentary football team—even though I passionately disagree with him about politics.

Mr. Caplin

I served on the Committee considering the National Lottery Bill in 1998 when changes to the new opportunities fund were bitterly opposed by the Conservatives.

Mr. Hawkins

The hon. Gentleman is right. I did not serve on that Committee, but my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole did. We felt that the Labour Government were wrong to take money away from sport by the creation of this so-called new opportunities fund, because it completely undermined what Labour Members had said in the previous Parliament—the hon. Member for Hove was not then a Member of Parliament—about the National Lottery etc. Act 1993.

I clearly recall from debates in the House that Labour Members constantly insisted on no substitution, or no use of lottery funding for matters generally funded out of taxpayers' revenue—especially health and education. Labour Member after Labour Member declared that lottery moneys should never be used to supplement health or education spending, which should always be funded through general taxation. What did the Labour Government do when they came to power? They introduced the new opportunities fund, so that resources could be diverted to health and education. They attempted to explain the U-turn by claiming that only specific projects within health and education were affected. Without doubt, however, as a result of the creation of the new opportunities fund, fewer resources were directed to sport. The lottery was hugely more successful—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hesitate to intervene, but I have advised hon. Members that we should stick to the subject of our important debate—the staging of international sporting events. I want to ensure that those who have not yet spoken—not least, the Minister—have the opportunity to do so. I would appreciate it if the hon. Gentleman would direct his remarks to the specific issue before us.

Mr. Hawkins

I am sorry, but I was tempted too far down that road by the intervention of the hon. Member for Hove.

I have already mentioned Sport England, which emphasised the benefits to the whole country of hosting major international sporting events. I am fortunate that part of the Bisley shooting ranges—the only southern venue for the Commonwealth games in 2002—lies within my constituency. The boundary between my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) crosses the shooting ranges. I have always taken a personal interest in all sports, and I am proud to represent the village of Bisley. I hope that my constituents will benefit hugely from the staging of the Commonwealth games in Britain.

Sport England is right about the substantial economic impact of international sporting events. Infrastructure developments required to stage events remain for the benefit of the public after the event is over, and there are other longer-term gains. The Euro 96 football championship attracted 280,000 visiting supporters who spent more than £120 million in the eight host cities.

The Minister and I agree about the importance of sporting tourism. Sadly threatened by the tragic foot and mouth epidemic, tourism is the fastest growing industry in the UK. When that problem is behind us, sporting tourism will once again become a significant economic generator of income and jobs. The additional expenditure by visitors to Euro 96 was estimated at £195 million, with a further £64 million paid in taxation. The Barcelona Olympics in 1992 also provide a good example of the long-term economic benefits that major events can bring to a country. That event certainly put Barcelona on the tourism map. We all know about the huge economic impact of the 2000 Olympics on Sydney.

There is no doubt that governing bodies use major events to build on existing sports development. One of the sports that I am passionate about is cricket. The efforts of the England and Wales Cricket Board surrounding the 1999 World cup included employment of numerous cricket development officers, £120,000 of funding from Sport England, and promotion of the event as a carnival of cricket. Despite the fact that our test side had not yet undergone its recent welcome rejuvenation and success, the country as a whole benefited. The enthusiasm for cricket, especially among children, was hugely beneficial. World cup matches were taken all around the country, particularly to areas with large ethnic minority populations, and considerable efforts were made to attract younger supporters.

Many of us have talked about the vital importance of covering international sporting events that are held in this country on terrestrial television. I feel strongly that youngsters who participate in sport are far less likely to get into trouble with crime, and drugs in particular, because sport is a healthy activity. To encourage them into sport, youngsters should be able to see sporting events and their heroes on television. Unfortunately, the families of many youngsters in inner-city areas cannot afford satellite television, so it is vital that international sporting events are shown on terrestrial channels. I hope that that will always be possible.

I could say a great deal more about social regeneration and the Commonwealth games in Manchester. I was among the Members of Parliament and of the European Parliament who visited the Manchester Commonwealth games venues. I wish that tournament every success, and not only the shooting events that will be held in my constituency. I agree with what the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin) said about the superb swimming facilities. Competitive swimming was by far my best sport when I was young. I was fortunate enough to swim at county and area level—I was not quite good enough to get into the national squad—and I have always been passionate about sport. I believe that Britain has a great future in developing its sporting facilities and hosting international sporting events.

My final point is about an article in today's edition of The Daily Telegraph by its chief sports writer, Paul Hayward, a journalist whom I respect. I read it on my way into the House this morning. He is savagely critical about the lack of infrastructure, and especially transport. He directed his remarks to the Select Committee hearing this morning and asked how this country can make a credible bid for the 2012 Olympics if we cannot solve our infrastructure problems. I believe that we can host the Olympics. I am not sure whether that will happen in 2012—the competition has not yet been held—but I will support this country whenever it bids for international sporting events. However, I think that the journalist was right to say that we must get our act together. Sometimes we run ourselves down too much, but the article raised serious issues.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) will continue his commitment to sport. I believe that the Minister will do her best for sport, even though she represents a Government who have made many mistakes in that respect. I wish that she did not have to cope with the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, who have done a huge amount of damage to the country.

11.58 am
Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

I was moved to participate in the debate because of Sheffield's experience. This year is the 10th anniversary of the World student games, staged in 1991. In many ways, Manchester is dealing with similar issues.

I should declare an interest: I am an unremunerated director of Sheffield City Trust, which is the charitable company that was set up to manage the sporting venues after the World student games events were staged. My agenda is not to pick over the bones of what happened in 1991; it is about making things work now, as best we can. That is why I want to draw hon. Members' attention to our experience of a major event in Sheffield 10 years ago.

I am disappointed at the business plan's over-optimism about the sponsorship and cost of the event in Manchester. That is a recurrent theme in international sporting events. As the Select Committee report on Manchester showed, people are left scrabbling around at a late stage trying to plug financial holes. In the case of Sheffield, the hole was not plugged and the people of Sheffield are still paying for events that cost more than the original projections. That is a particular problem when local authorities are leading the events.

One of the most important recommendations of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee is that national Government should take the lead, with local authorities acting as partners, because acting as the lead agent is too great a financial risk for local government. I hope that local citizens in Manchester do not have the same problems in that respect as those in Sheffield.

By contrast, Euro 96 was a good experience for Sheffield because it was a national event. The Danes moved in and, true to their stereotype, managed to drink the city dry, yet there were no problems whatever. The event was a great boost for Sheffield. We should learn the lesson that it is better to accept the full cost of staging international sporting events at the outset, rather than trying to put together a business plan that will fall apart later.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee report stated that Government strategy should set out clearly the rationale for public support for and investment in sport. The rationale is important in international events. We may have to accept that the financial hole created by an event will not be plugged by sponsorship and that it will cost the Exchequer £10 million, £20 million or even £50 million, and justify that cost in other ways, rather than making a plan that is intended to cover the cost, but finding later that the Exchequer ends up paying, either directly or through the local taxpayers.

People should not be able to justify or attack a project on the basis of their own partisan considerations. That happens in all parties: the Labour opposition in Sheffield attacks the Lib Dem administration when it dedicates council funds to support sporting events , just as the Lib Dems did when they were in opposition and Labour was in power in the city. There will probably be similar rows and recriminations on the political scene in Manchester, not when the event is going on, as people tend to pull together then, but when it is over. After the event, no one has the facts to be able to confirm that the event brought in the promised funds, or to say how that money was spent.

The Select Committee report makes a worthwhile recommendation that research into the matter should be a priority. We should have a more objective understanding of the costs and benefits of a sporting event rather than leaving it to partisan political operatives to find the facts that suit their case.

In considering the subsequent benefit from major events we should look at the role of sporting bodies in the United Kingdom. I am something of an outsider in these matters, as sport is not my specialty. I became involved by working with sporting venues and I was shocked at the bidding to hold events at sporting centres. I was told recently about events for which Sheffield was bidding. The city felt that it was being used to bid up the amount that the winning venue would receive. The bidding wars are ridiculous enough at national level; at international events they are appalling. I hope that the Government will use their weight to persuade international bodies to take action to stop "beauty contests" and ridiculous amounts being spent.

There is insufficient clarity or accountability in the processes at national level, too, and with more venues coming on stream all the time, the situation can only get worse. Cities throughout the country will be asked to bid for events. They will feel that they must go cap in hand to bodies that they do not believe are accountable to try to secure events to keep their venues open. Missing out on events can cause financial ruin. I hope that the Minister will say that the Government favour a stronger voice for cities and regions that try to hold events, rather than leaving them alone to go cap in hand.

The UK Sports Institute was intended to assist the strategy of creating centres of sporting excellence and to boost our ability to stage events. Sheffield will play a major part, and we are grateful to the sporting bodies for their investment. However, we are still disappointed that we did not get the headquarters, despite the fact that we felt that our bid would have reduced the overall costs of the institute. The decision to go for London was unimaginative and part of a London-centric perspective, which we as outsiders feel still pervades sport. We heard the argument that people from abroad would not want to go outside London. That is depressing, particularly given that we have a major centre of excellence in Sheffield, with two universities doing work in sports medicine, science and nutrition and events research. We have no trouble attracting people from throughout the UK and around the world to Sheffield, yet some sporting bodies do not support and invest in our area as much as they could.

I finish with a plea to the Minister to respond to the helpful report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by opening up the process of sports event decision making. Most funding is public, through central or local government grants and lottery money, but I do not believe that the stakeholders—the cities and regions of the UK—have a sufficient voice. We should have a national strategy that holds the debates on bidding for events in a public and accountable forum among the various cities and regions involved. If we had such a debate, we could accept the decisions, but as it is, individual sporting centres feel powerless in the process, which does not appear to be democratic or open. I hope that the Government will realise that, if they want a successful sport strategy, we need a national framework, so that event organisers in Sheffield or Manchester, for example, can take part in the process, rather than simply in the bitter and recriminatory cycle of finding that they have not been as successful as they expected.

12.7 pm

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) on securing the debate. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mr. Fraser) have already discussed Wembley and Picketts Lock, and many people are anxious about whether those prestigious projects will be completed as originally intended or in the appropriate time scale. We must not lose sight of the fact that Wembley was meant to be a national, multi-purpose stadium. It will not be such a stadium, which I believe represents a failure of public policy.

As long ago as July 1999, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said that the new design for Wembley would make it the finest arena in the world". It was to be an arena for athletics, as well as for soccer and rugby, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle reminded us, the centrepiece of an Olympic bid. We have come a long way since then and the Secretary of State might think that he is right to kick athletics out of Wembley. I do not want to go into that argument again except to say that, as recently as December, the Minister said in a Radio 4 interview following the appointment of Sir Rodney Walker that athletics might be reinstated, renewing speculation that that was the Government's preferred option.

We also know that Wembley National Stadium Ltd. has always been willing to stick to the original design of the stadium so that major athletic events could be held there. That will now not happen, which focuses attention on where we will host the 2005 world athletics championships. It is now abundantly clear from what Sir Rodney Walker has said that Wembley cannot possibly host the athletics championships in the nightmare scenario that the proposed Lee Valley national athletics centre at Picketts Lock is not ready. That is what the Minister must face up to. The event must be held at Picketts Lock or it cannot be held in London at all. It is vital that Picketts Lock goes ahead so that it can host those 2005 world athletics championships and to honour the Secretary of State's obligation to the International Amateur Athletics Federation to provide a suitable venue in London.

Before I raise some questions about Picketts Lock, we should pause to think about a few matters relating to Wembley. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole rightly drew attention to the comparative costs of Wembley and other new stadiums, including the marvellous Olympics 2000 stadium in Sydney that we all saw on our television screens. It was built for rather less money and it may have been less ambitious. The scale of Wembley has created problems.

The events this week have highlighted just how important the Wembley project will be to provide again a major venue for soccer in London. With Wembley awaiting demolition there is nowhere in London to host the semi-final of the FA cup between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur—a match in which the Minister and I share an interest. I am fascinated to know why Chelsea's ground at Stamford Bridge was not thought suitable. Equally, football supporters generally have not been given an adequate explanation why Twickenham, which is one of the finest stadiums in the world, is not considered suitable for football.

Mr. Caplin


Mr. Greenway

The hon. Gentleman may be right. I know that this is not the subject of the debate and I crave your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should like to take this opportunity to say that the decision to host the match at Old Trafford at 1.30 on a Sunday afternoon is crass and shows that the interests of football supporters are not being considered. All that matters is the television schedule. I suspect that many fans who might have gone had t he game been held in London will not now do so.

Can the Minister clarify the situation with regard to Wembley's commitment to repay £20 million of its £120 million lottery grant? Many outside observers think that that has been done, not least because the Secretary of State has made clear his intention that the £20 million should be used towards the cost of Picketts Lock. Is not the truth that the money has not been repaid? I wrote to him before Christmas and in a reply dated 14 January he said that the agreement that has been renegotiated will not give effect to the repayment of the £20 million until— this is very important and I do not think that it has come out in public as yet— the successful completion of Wembley's loan syndication. Can the Minister confirm that that means that the money has not been repaid and that it is conditional on Wembley being able t o raise through loan syndication the money that is necessary for the Wembley redevelopment to go ahead?

We know that the £20 million is crucial to funding the development of the proposed Lee Valley national athletics centre at Picketts Lock. We are told that it will cost £95 million. I am grateful to the Minister for placing in the Library the minutes of the Lee Valley stadium forum meetings. That has helped us to monitor the progress on the project. The minutes of the 16 January meeting state that Mr. Shaun Dawson, speaking on behalf of the Lee Valley regional park authority, reminded the forum that the feasibility studies completed in November estimated that a new stadium would cost approximately £95 million and that there was a funding gap of £23 million. Does the figure of £23 million refer to the £20 million that is to be paid back, or does the £72 million that is secured include the £20 million? If that is the case, there is still a funding gap of £23 million, and £20 million may still not come back.

I understand that the Secretary of State attempted a few weeks ago to give an assurance to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that the funding for Picketts Lock was secured, but the briefing note for this debate from Sport England says that the conclusions of the feasibility studies will help the panel make an informed decision as and when it receives an application for the proposed Picketts Lock stadium to receive Lottery funding. That shows that there is no commitment as yet from Sport England to fund the project, although I am sure that it will treat the matter sympathetically.

As the Minister knows, I have tabled questions to her regarding the timetable for Picketts Lock, and I note the progress that she outlined in the Lee Valley stadium forum report. However, many questions remain unanswered. What time is allocated for the design brief, consultation over planning, and completion of the planning application? Will the Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions be required to determine the application? Will a public inquiry be necessary? What proposals are there for transport infrastructure including a new railway station and a road link to the M25, the construction of 3,000 units of residential accommodation and warm-up facilities and the demolition of the existing centre including the indoor bowling facilities, which will not be replaced under present plans?

What proposals are there for the tendering process to secure the contract cost and for the funding gap? We all know that that must be done, but we seek from the Minister a little more candour and a sense of urgency about the mammoth task associated with the project. As Sir Rodney Walker has said, the development of Wembley is at least two years ahead of Picketts Lock. If Wembley will not be ready by autumn 2004, how can anyone be confident that Picketts Lock will be?

I wish to stress, yet again, that the Minister must get a grip of the problem. If the Picketts Lock project fails, the Government of the day could have a major embarrassment on their hands. Who would then trust us to host a major international sporting event in the future? Our reputation is at stake. As the Minister knows, these issues have been repeatedly articulated in the national press. I will be charitable, and not refer to some of the things that have been said. However, regarding the current discussion of an Olympic bid, we are, quite frankly, miles away from being in a position to launch such a bid. We should first make a success of the Manchester 2002 games. I have been there and seen the stadium under construction, and I believe that the games will be successful.

We must also ensure that we honour our obligation to show what we can do in hosting the 2005 international athletics championships. That is the real task facing the Government—not only this Government, but the Government who will replace them after the general election. It is only then, when we have made a success of those two great events, that we should turn our attention to hosting an Olympic bid.

If the 2002 games and the 2005 championships are successful, the rest of the world will want to come to Britain, and will treat with urgency and respect the possibility of the Olympics coming to this country.

12.19 pm
The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) on securing the debate. It is normal to say that such a debate is timely, but on this occasion it is untimely as it clashes with this morning's Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting on the same subject. That is unfortunate, because I know that many hon. Members would have liked to attend. I look forward to the Select Committee's detailed report. Many questions have been asked today, and I will not be able to answer every one, but I undertake to write if specific questions are not answered.

I emphasise that the Government and the country support the staging of international events and recognise their importance. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman about that. The events bring a feelgood factor to a country, as seen by the effect of the Sydney Olympics on Australia. They also help the economic state of the country in aspects such as regeneration and improvements to transport infrastructure. I assure him that I will pass on his comments about transport links to my colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

The staging of international sporting events gives our elite sportsmen and sportswomen the opportunity to appear on the world stage in their home country. That is why the Commonwealth games will be important, and we are determined to make them a success. The games will be important not only for Manchester but for the north-west and the whole country. One of the Select Committee report's suggestions was that a Minister should have overall responsibility for such large events. That is why the Prime Minister gave my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office that responsibility. He has ensured that all factors work together. The games are not only about sport but about bringing together other aspects of the event. That is why a huge amount is being invested in the festival side of the games.

The support that the games have received through Sport England has been mentioned. Everyone is confident that the facilities will be wonderful and that those that are yet to be completed will be completed on time, and will bring great credit to the country. However, other Government support will be given, which shows that everybody must work together towards such an event. The Department of Health, at substantial cost, is appointing an assistant medical director over two years. The Department for Education and Employment is funding a range of education projects linked to the games. The Department for International Development is giving a grant for education to the Commonwealth Institute. A range of arts facilities will be provided for the spirit of friendship festival, which will receive £1 million of lottery funding. People say that lottery funding is not Government funding. It is not Exchequer funding, but public funding that comes from people who spend money on the lottery.

The hon. Member for Cheadle was right to point to the funding gap, but that potential gap will remain only if sponsorship money is not received. At present, all those involved in the Commonwealth games are confident that the money will be raised. The games organisers are clear that they are ahead of sponsorship expectancy and further announcements are expected soon. The revenue target of £62 million is ambitious, and it is true that people who wish to win a bid are sometimes overly optimistic—that was the experience of Sheffield. However, the organisers have already attracted £30 million of commercial income, which places them ahead of any previous games at this stage of preparation. People said right up to the last minute that the Sydney Olympics would be a disaster or would fail to raise as much money as they were supposed to, but they were subsequently declared the best games ever.

Manchester city council gave a commitment to underwrite any shortfall. I know that the hon. Gentleman wanted to hear that. His constituents outside the city of Manchester will not be liable. The Government are working closely with the council and hope that no further support will be necessary, because we are determined that the games will be successful. I am optimistic, although I think that a danger sometimes exists in that, as the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) said, we as a nation have a capacity for playing the country down and saying that we cannot do things, rather than having a can-do approach.

The Lee Valley stadium will be built and will provide a terrific centre for the 2005 athletics championships. I point out to those who have referred to Wembley that there is no definite date for Wembley to reopen, so we cannot be confident that that complex will host the 2005 championships. In the next few days, the next stage of the Lee Valley stadium will occur, and the designs will be made public. That project has been criticised by the media, but more people now seem to understand it. It is good to hear that the hon. Gentleman is pleased that we are putting the relevant minutes into the Library. I am keen to have as much transparency and openness as possible and have asked that after every meeting of the Lee Valley project team we give a press briefing. There is nothing to hide, and we should not be afraid of putting the facts to the public.

The Olympic games bid is at an early stage. Hon. Members who have just come from the Select Committee will have heard the statements of the British Olympic Association. I am not privy to what Simon Clegg said this morning, but we put our commitment in the manifesto and clearly stated that we want to support a viable Olympic bid. However, any decision on that will have to come from the BOA first. It will need to say which location is preferable. The association has presented its first assessment to us of what is required for a possible London bid, and last week it met the Mayor of London and presented the bid. DCMS will convene a meeting of all the stakeholders.

We are still at an early stage. A successful and viable Olympic bid will require huge amounts of money. We will have to take a decision as a country on whether we want the Olympics to happen here, taking into account all the national and sporting interests. As Minister for Sport, I am committed to ensuring that the process is as transparent as possible, that we have the debate in public and that there is nothing to hide. People must want to support the bid if huge amounts of money are to be spent on it.

I shall not answer any questions about Mr. Bates or Wembley. However, I shall make some points about Wembley stadium in the Select Committee. At this stage, in the last minute of my speech, it would not be worth while to try to address the many erroneous comments made by the former chairman of Wembley National Stadium Ltd. The project is football-led and under the direction of Sir Rodney Walker and WNSL, although we are working closely with them. The £120 million initially invested was provided primarily for the purchase of the land and there is agreement to return £20 million. Of course, it will not be given back until the parties involved have obtained their loan syndication. If they do not obtain it, there will not be a new Wembley stadium in any case. Sir Rodney Walker has already talked about other alternatives.

We could spend a lot of time speculating about what might happen, but it would not be helpful. I give my best wishes to the hon. Member for Cheadle and everyone in Manchester in their desire to stage the Commonwealth games, which is important for this country.