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Tessa Jowell: I welcome the hon. Gentleman's practical and sensible approach to the financing of the project. I will not make any predictions about the probability, and so forth. This is a matter for negotiation between the FA and the lead bank. I have made it clear that the money that the Government have offered for non-stadium infrastructure is on the table and will remain there while the process of negotiating the deal to a close takes its course.

On the allegations, it is important to be clear that the allegations made by David James in his report became known to me and my Department in December, although there was certainly a belief before that that there had been some impropriety in the procurement of the contract—it had been known to Patrick Carter. Progress has been secured since that time. The focus on the allegations now should not cloud the progress that has been made in the intervening six months.

Finally—as I have said too many times to repeat, but I shall say it one more time—the decision on the location of the national football stadium is a matter for the FA.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West): Will my right hon. Friend assure me that, in her future consideration of

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this issue, she will not be swayed by the anti-London hysteria that is being whipped up by Conservative Members against the Wembley option? Will she also assure me that she recognises the fundamental importance of a rebuilt, modernised Wembley stadium to many businesses in my constituency and to the wider north-west London economy? When does she expect that we can have some confidence in the FA's ability not to be completely and utterly incompetent at building national stadiums again?

Tessa Jowell: Well, first, the Opposition's attitude is opportunist, rather than particularly anti anything at all. Secondly, yes, of course the national football stadium will be a very important source of regeneration in a part of north-west London that badly needs such investment and regeneration, and I welcome that fact. As for the time scale, I have made the position clear.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Several years on, there is still no real plan or clear way ahead. Is not this whole saga a classic example of the syndrome of paralysis by analysis? Now, the Secretary of State's latest wheeze appears to involve four key tests. If those four key tests are met, can we have a referendum?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman has worked hard on that one, hasn't he? [Interruption.] I suspect he has been practising all day. There are two worlds in all this: the world of the FA, the Government trying to make things work, the lead bank negotiating on due diligence and the other stakeholders making the project happen; and there is the world of the Opposition, who are increasingly irrelevant.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): I thank my right hon. Friend for the clarity of her statement and the seriousness with which she has approached this issue of national importance, in marked contrast to the official Opposition's absurd responses. I endorse her concerns with regard to regenerating a part of north-west London that needs it and, indeed, sustaining that economy in London for the future, but when she is being firm about there being no public money in addition to that already stated, will she consider the fact that there are serious concerns about how fans would travel to Birmingham if the plan were moved to the midlands, as it would be almost exclusively car based?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend. Obviously, the benefits if the national stadium proceeds at Wembley will be felt by her constituents as well. I have to say with the greatest respect that, at the moment, I am more focused on how fans will travel to a national stadium at Wembley than on any of the other options, which is why I welcome the announcement of investment by London Transport and the Mayor in upgrading Wembley Park tube station. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) for his advocacy and determination in securing that improvement for his constituents.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): To say that the attempt to provide a new national stadium at Wembley has been a sorry saga rather understates the case, but will the Secretary of State confirm that she said in her statement on 19 December that she had asked the FA to

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deal with four points? Those four points, which she listed in her statement today, have all been dealt with and the heads of agreement between the banks have been confirmed. Although the detail has to be sorted out, surely the only choice now is to conclude those negotiations successfully and build a new stadium at Wembley, which will come sooner than any alternative, generate more income and, in fact, be cheaper. It is now absolutely essential, after the farce of Picketts Lock, that the decisions be taken and the infrastructure put in place so that north London's economy can be regenerated.

Tessa Jowell: I welcome that unexpectedly sensible intervention from the Opposition Benches. I am not wholly satisfied that all the conditions have yet been met. I have made clear the work in progress in relation to the financing of the project, and I wait to be assured that all the corporate governance changes necessary, as identified by the James report and others who have examined the project, are in place and are secure. I will ask Patrick Carter, who has had an independent and advisory role in relation to this matter, to advise me that the four conditions have been met and that the Government can have confidence, when investing the £20 million to which I have referred, in allowing the project to proceed. That is the proper and prudent way to approach the matter, and that is what I intend to do.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (North Warwickshire): Wembley is—in my right hon. Friend's words—not yet a done deal. If the west midlands option can therefore be revived, will she confirm that the £20 million from the Government will still be on the table? What will happen to the £120 million from Sport England?

Tessa Jowell: I have, I hope, made the position absolutely clear in relation to the Birmingham bid—it is an option that the FA will consider if its preferred option of Wembley fails. I spell that out because I do not want anyone to be in any doubt about that. I made it clear in December, and it remains the case, that if the Wembley project fails I would ensure that the £20 million that would be made available for infrastructure there would be made available for the Birmingham project. I have also made it clear on several occasions that, in the event of failure in relation to Wembley, I would expect the lottery grant to be repaid. That would be a matter for further negotiation between Sport England and the Football Association, but that would be the clear expectation.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): May I congratulate the Secretary of State on not setting a deadline today? Is it a coincidence that she represents a London constituency, her predecessor represented a London constituency, two of the three people who have held the job of Minister for Sport represent London constituencies, and the present holder of the job represents a Sheffield constituency? Is that why Birmingham does not stand a chance? Why does she not say so?

Tessa Jowell: No.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East): In case the point gets lost in this debate, the majority of football supporters would welcome siting the national stadium in Birmingham. Equally, the majority of football

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clubs would welcome siting it in Birmingham. Many Labour Members are very concerned about the way in which the FA has handled this situation, for many reasons. In particular, we do not want to find, at the end of this period, that our Government cause the opprobrium and embarrassment to rest with us and not the FA.

What is the Secretary of State's or her Department's judgment of when we shall get to the end of this saga of the FA and Wembley? The negotiations continue. What is her estimate—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I wonder when the hon. Gentleman might get to the end of his question. There are quite a number of other hon. Members to fit in.

Mr. Turner: What is the Secretary of State's estimate of the final outcome of these negotiations?

Tessa Jowell: I am well aware of the level of popular support and support from hon. Members on both sides—my hon. Friend made this clear—for the Birmingham option. However, as I have done on a number of occasions, I remind him that the decision about the location of the national stadium is a matter for the Football Association. It is not a matter for me.

In my opening remarks, I set out the indicative time scale that the FA has notified for the next stages in relation to banking. That is the best indication that we have. I have also made it clear to the House today that the Government's offer remains on the table while the negotiations proceed. However, I do not know by precisely what date they will conclude.

I pay warm tribute to my hon. Friend for his unfailing advocacy of the west midlands and its bid. I wish him well in his continued pursuit of his cause.

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