Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 450 - 459)

WEDNESDAY 21 MARCH 2001

THE RT HON CHRIS SMITH MP AND KATE HOEY MP

Chairman

  450. Secretary of State and Minister, in welcoming you here today I ask if you will allow me to conduct a little domestic business in public first. First of all, on behalf of the Committee I would like to give a birthday card and wish many happy returns to Llin Golding. Secondly, we know no more in this Committee than anybody else outside 10 Downing Street as to whether there is going to be an election fairly soon, but if there is to be an election then this is likely to be the last public meeting of this Committee of this Parliament. That being so, I want to take this opportunity of paying tribute to four colleagues who are retiring from Parliament whenever the General Election comes, and to say how much we shall miss them: David Faber, who, among his many other talents, brought an extremely acute focus to bear on sporting matters; Ronald Fearn, who has his local government experience and has great knowledge of tourism coming from representing a seaside resort and has seen during this Parliament, perhaps partly because of our efforts, a Lottery grant for Southport Pier; Llin Golding, who is extremely knowledgeable on many matters, including sporting matters, and if angling ever gets properly recognised it will be pretty well a single-handed achievement, as well as a reform of the gaming laws to which she has devoted herself. I would like to pay particular tribute to John Maxton, who has served with me not only on this Committee but on the National Heritage Committee during the last Parliament too and has brought huge knowledge of sporting matters and also of matters relating to communications technology and content and so, on behalf of the Committee, I would like to thank those colleagues and wish them well for the future. Could I also thank the other members of the Committee for the work that we have co-operated on during this Parliament and the Clerks and their staff too who have given us extraordinary support. We have had our ups and downs on this Committee and if it were analysed I suppose that we have had more recommendations rejected or ignored than have been accepted, but on the other hand we can look back on a number of things in which we can take pride, including work we did on the Royal Opera House, work we did which is resulting in legislation on the looting of works of art and antiquities, the work we have done on funding of film and other matters and, although it may well be that John will raise an eyebrow here, our single most famous achievement, namely the saving of HMS Cavalier from the scrap yard. Having delivered that commercial, Secretary of State, I think that you want to say a word before we launch into questioning.  (Mr Smith) Chairman, if I may can I join with you in paying tribute to the Committee over the course of the last four years, its members and its staff, and particularly to those colleagues who are standing down, perhaps at an election shortly to be called. Can I also say that I trust that our record of accepting and implementing Committee recommendations is getting better as the years go by.

  Chairman: Thank you, Secretary of State. I should of course mention that relevant to this very inquiry we were gratified by the response of the Prime Minister in appointing Mr McCartney, from whom we had evidence yesterday, to co-ordinate the work on the Commonwealth Games. After that smug aura of self-congratulation we have all been involved in we will now return to business

Mr Fearn

  451. Good morning. We were in Manchester yesterday and of course we got a lot of questions fielded at us as well as we fielding questions ourselves, one of which leads me to my first question. The Government has not given any funding guarantee to the organisers of the 2005 World Championship Athletics. The Mayor of London will not sign the staging agreement. Sport England and UK Sport cannot sign it. Why then have you given Mr David Moorcroft an assurance that the event will be underwritten by a third party?  (Mr Smith) We believe it is very important that we hold a truly successful 2005 World Athletics Championships in this country. It is an objective that I think everyone has endorsed, Sport England, UK Sport, the Government, UK Athletics, in seeking to have the Games here in 2005. We are working very closely together with Sport England and with UK Athletics in ensuring that we can have a very good stadium in order to host the Games, a smooth process of running the Games and that everything will be put in place between now and 2005 to ensure that that happens. I am confident that that will happen because all the fundamentals are right. The location has been identified, the feasibility work on the design is well advanced and hopefully tomorrow we will hear from the architects with the public unveiling of the design and the costs. Already substantial areas of funding are earmarked. Of course there is some further work to be done. That would be unusual if at this stage that was not the case, but I am absolutely confident that we are properly on track.

  452. The City of Manchester have put £20 million in so far but that £20 million has expanded to £40.75 million already. On top of that, of the sponsorship that has come along, out of the 50 they were hoping for at this time only 30 has been received. Is the Government underwriting it? Mr McCartney could not answer the final question but certainly Manchester City did confirm that the figures had jumped from 20 to 40.  (Mr Smith) And indeed it was the case at the outset of the bid for the Commonwealth Games, which of course took place under a previous administration, that at the time of that bid the City of Manchester did accept that if there were funding difficulties they as the City would be prepared to underwrite it. One of the issues in relation to London of course is that the Greater London Authority does not have the resource base that a city authority like Manchester has and that is why I completely understand the view which the Mayor of London has taken that it would be very difficult for him to act in the same way as guarantor. In the light of that, which is an entirely understandable decision on his part, we are looking, together with a range of other bodies, at what alternative steps can be taken.

  453. It is going to be one of the major events worldwide, I would think, and certainly the biggest Commonwealth one that we have had. At the moment there seems that uncertainty within the finance which follows from here on and that is why I was trying to find reassurance for the North of England, for instance, in that London does not seem to bother too much about these Games but it is the Commonwealth Games for the whole of the Commonwealth and we are very proud from what we saw yesterday; it was superb. Can you tell me who will sign the staging agreement then?  (Mr Smith) For the Commonwealth Games?

  454. Yes.  (Mr Smith) The City of Manchester have, right from the outset, accepted that they sign the agreements. It is their Games to host. The Government of course is already doing what it can to assist. There is £131 million worth of investment in the sporting infrastructure for the Games, there is the £10.5 million of Government expenditure on the opening and closing ceremonies which is in the budget and guaranteed. There is also some £30 million of private sector contributions already secured as well as Manchester City's own contribution, so the funding is very well advanced. There are of course some further steps to be taken and I think, as Ian McCartney will have explained to the Committee yesterday, the Government is working together with a number of different departments who are involved to see whether there is further help that can be given.

  455. So it will be Manchester City who are the signatories in the final agreement?  (Mr Smith) They always have been from the outset as far as I understand it in relation to the Commonwealth Games.

  456. Are you confident that those will be signed very soon?  (Kate Hoey) At the moment we have had no approaches from Manchester City Council to ask us to look at ways of meeting any financial deficit and I think that was probably made clear yesterday by Richard Leese.

  457. Has not Mr McCartney briefed you on that? No?  (Kate Hoey) I am aware that at the moment the sponsorship has not reached what they would like it to but we are still some 500 days, over a year, away and I think you will know that right up to the last minute in Sydney there were all sorts of scares and rumours and problems. I am perfectly confident that we will have a wonderful Commonwealth Games which will be terrific for Manchester, for the North West and for the whole country and that the country will join in and really want to celebrate, particularly as it is in the Jubilee Year which gives us an extra dimension to being a really fantastic Games. The facilities are superb; you have seen them yourselves. Clearly, in any major project like a stadium, there are always problems that may lead to slide over costs but there is nothing at this stage that we should feel we cannot among us all, including the City Council, work through.

  458. It was probably because of this Committee and especially the Chairman that Mr McCartney was appointed to that position and he certainly seems to have cracked the whip as it were and things are popping very nicely. Do you have hands-on on the whole situation? Does he report to you frequently? How many times have you been to Manchester?  (Kate Hoey) I have been about five times to Manchester in the last year, either to events or to see round and look at all the different facilities. I attended the World Championships in the Velodrome so I saw it in use as well, having seen it not in use. I talk to Mr McCartney the way one talks to anyone who would be in a position where he is trying in a very good way I think to pull together the various strands. First and foremost of course it is a sporting event but it is not a sporting event in terms of how we run it because you cannot run a successful Commonwealth Games without practically every department in government being involved and it would not be possible for someone who does not have the clout to be able to go through and around and deal with all the departments to pull it together and that is what he has managed to do.  (Mr Smith) I have just had a note passed to me from my officials saying that we think Manchester have signed all the agreements but I will of course check and write to the Committee if by any chance that is not the case.

  459. Who will sign the 2005 World Championship Athletics?  (Mr Smith) That, as I indicated, is a matter still for discussion about who the most appropriate body would be. There is no immediate urgency about this. It has to be done within a relatively short period. I will be meeting with the President of the IAAF early next week and will discuss this matter further with him then.  (Kate Hoey) And I am having dinner with him so I am sure we can sort out something.


 
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