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Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart): Given that one English football team has just spent almost £20 million on one player, and given the enormous sums that both the Premier League and the FA obtain from television to show football, would it not be totally wrong for the British taxpayer to subsidise the building of a national football stadium? If the Government have such money available, would it not be much better spent providing facilities and coaching for the many youngsters who want the play the game of football, rather than simply watch it?
Mr. Smith: We already provide substantial funds for precisely the purpose of coaching, training and educating young people across the board in sport, and that includes large amounts for the sport of football.
My hon. Friend is right that we need to be prudent in our use of taxpayers' money, which is why, when a specific request came to us last week for an immediate Government injection into the project, particularly given the scale of the project, which is far in excess of the estimated cost of any other stadium anywhere else in the world, we did not feel able to agree to it.
The Secretary of State reeled off a list of great successes, but he seeks to deny any responsibility whatever for the Wembley fiasco. Surely he will not claim that what happened yesterday came as a surprise. Six months ago, the national media and the City warned us of what was likely to happen, and it happened yesterday. There is cross-party support for early-day motion 1, which, in case the Secretary of State has not read it, I will put on the record.
Mr. Russell: The right hon. Gentleman will know that the cost of the scheme was £660 million and rising. What is the point of destroying arguably the most famous stadium in the world, the scene of our most successful English sporting triumph, and replacing it with a McDonald's arch?
The right hon. Gentleman also has responsibility for tourism and heritage, and he knows that the demolition of Wembley is not helpful to football. As has been pointed out, we need to look again at whether Wembley is the right place for such a stadium. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that even a new Wembley stadium will still be accessed by inadequate rail, road and air
Mr. Smith: I must tell the hon. Gentleman that six months ago I publicly expressed alarm at the way in which the figure was escalating, as a result of which the FA took a much closer interest in the project, under the leadership of Adam Crozier. It put in Rodney Walker to try to sort the matter out, and he did a valiant job of trying to make the figures work, but, at the end of the day, he was not able to do so to the FA's satisfaction.
Refurbishment of the existing stadium has to be an option. It would impose constraints on the number of people who could be accommodated in the stadium, but it is something that we need to consider carefully and seriously.
Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): Does the Secretary of State share my incredulity that the FA, which, during the past two years, has had an income stream of £1.8 billion, and which, only on Monday, announced £48 million in sponsorship from Barclaycard for the Premier League, will not put up the money to adopt an equity stake in the project to the tune of £125 million? Does he also share my concern that £170 million worth of infrastructure projects that are already under way, such as the stadium corridor, the refurbishment of Wembley Park, Wembley Central and Wembley Stadium stations, are put in jeopardy by the decision taken by the FA, and that regeneration projects to the value of £620 million in north-west London submitted on the back of the stadium development are also in jeopardy? I welcome the Government's assurance, as well as the assurance that he gave earlier, that Wembley is still the preferred location, but will he ensure that the voice of local people and the importance of regeneration to the local community are among the prime considerations of the Cabinet Committee when it considers the issue?
Mr. Smith: I can indeed give my hon. Friend that assurance. The regeneration aspects of the area surrounding the stadium, on which the Wembley taskforce, under the chairmanship of Sir Nigel Mobbs, is working hard, are extremely important for the whole of north-west London. We will bear those issues very much in mind as we now look as rapidly and sensibly as we can at the various alternatives.
Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield): The Secretary of State says that he will review all the options for the national stadium. I hope that he will learn from experience and remember the disaster of the dome at Greenwich. Above all, I hope that one of these national projects can be situated north of London, preferably in Birmingham, where the transport is in place, the land is available and public support is absolutely assured.
Ms Claire Ward (Watford): Does my right hon. Friend accept that now is an appropriate time, given the review of Wembley stadium, to consider the future of Picketts Lock? As £120 million of public lottery money was originally put into Wembley stadium and a deal has been done for part of that money to go to Picketts Lock, is not it time, as we are going back to the drawing board, to consider the whole future for a stadium that can serve all our sports?
Mr. Smith: I am afraid that I cannot agree with my hon. Friend on that point. The 2005 world athletics championships have been bid for and won by London, and we must ensure that we provide a high-quality stadium for that event. The Lee Valley stadium at Picketts Lock is in the design phase. It is an extremely good design that gives us an opportunity to provide not only a good venue for the 2005 championships, but a high-class performance centre in perpetuity and very good community facilities for the whole of north and east London. That is a prize that is very much to be won, and we want to ensure that we win it.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): The Secretary of State will recall that the Prime Minister gave his personal support to the millennium dome and endorsed the view that it would form the first paragraph of his party's next election manifesto. He will also recall that the Prime Minister took personal charge of the foot and mouth crisis, and turned it into a disaster that has devastated rural communities. As football is rather important in England, will he give the House an assurance that the Prime Minister will not seek to take personal charge of the Wembley stadium?
Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision taken to establish an athletics stadium in the Lee valley was absolutely right? When the athletics championships come to this country, many people in north, east and other parts of London will recognise that the Government made a wise decision.
On the future of the football stadium at Wembley, does he recognise that a large number of clubs in London, which are looking for new grounds, might be persuaded to reconsider moving to a new facility if the plan goes ahead?
Mr. Smith: I can wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend's endorsement of the Lee valley option for the 2005 world championships. As I said, work is well advanced. I am proud that we will have a purpose-built, dedicated athletics facility for those championships. One of the reasons why we were so successful in winning IAAF approval for the proposal in Paris last year was the fact that that facility would be designed and built specifically for athletics. We want to stick to that.