Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



  220. Secretary of State, I repeat, I cannot fault, from my personal point of view, the decision that you made, but with regard to what you just said, you said that your predecessor made the decision he did having taken advice?
  (Tessa Jowell) I think I said I assumed he had taken—

  221. I recommend to you, Secretary of State, since it is not a previous government you presumably have access to the internal documents within your Department, that you take a look at them, because on as recently as 3 August, the month before last, at a ministerial level within your Department Picketts Lock was being talked up. The advice that you were getting from within your Department was favourable to Picketts Lock, Carter came out with his report, which you accepted. It does seem to me that from your own point of view it is very important, indeed, that you look at the advice on this so that you know whether the quality of the advice that you have been getting on this issue is sufficient?
  (Tessa Jowell) Can I add very briefly to that and say that when I was looking at this for the first time in the middle of June the advice I received at that time, indeed I made clear in the press conference that announced the Carter Review of the Picketts Lock Project that the option of returning to the platform at Wembley was no longer viable, because the advice was that, it simply could not be delivered for 2005, so it failed my first important test of deliverability. We did not revisit the possibility of that because also the Wembley project was by then, as you we all know, back in the melting pot.

  222. I am sorry to labour this, sorry to take up your time, let me clarify this, it was perfectly clear, and it was made clear by the WNSL people who came last week, that by the time you took office the Wembley option was no longer available. I am not crawling over the decision that was made on that basis, certainly I am not asking or suggesting that you should have visited the Wembley option at that time, although I think the reaction to our report, I am not saying it is proprietorial it just so happen that large numbers of people with authority now say we were right on that. The point I am making is this, I am not saying that you should not have revisited Wembley what I am saying is that there is a prima facie case for saying that within your Department the opinion well into the summer of this year was that Picketts Lock was still a runner, and it was only the Carter Report, which is an external report, that either decided the view or reinforced the view you had already. I am simply saying this, it does seem to me that unless Mr Smith made that decision totally off his own back that the quality of advice that was available in your Department right through to this Summer was advice that is something that you should look at because you need assistance from your Department, every secretary of state does.
  (Tessa Jowell) Ultimately every secretary of state, minister, particularly secretary of state, is responsible for the decisions that they make. I want the Committee to know that since I have been appointed I have been served in a first class manner by my civil servants, I have impressed by the quality of their judgment and by the quality of advice and no doubt I will stand and fall by the good sense, or not, that I have in applying their advice to the judgments I have to make. The same goes for any secretary of state.

  223. Absolutely, it is in my book, "How to be a Minister".
  (Tessa Jowell) That is probably where I first read it.

Michael Fabricant

  224. Tell me, would it have been the same civil servants who on 19 January drafted the letter for Chris Smith to John Greenway when he says regarding the £20 million, which you will know is exercising this Committee at the moment, quite rightly, that the repayment of the £20 million is contingent on the successful completion of the Wembley loan syndication. That is on 19 January, and yet just a few months later on 5 April he changes his tune completely in a Parliamentary written answer to John Greenway when he then said regarding the £20 million, "under the agreement the final payment is due to be paid by December 2004", which is a new date which suddenly appears out of the blue. Firstly, or really I would simply ask, when exactly is this £20 million going to be repaid? Was Chris Smith right on 19 January when he said it might be repaid if Wembley Stadium goes ahead, if it does not go ahead it will not be repaid or was he right on 5 April when he says the final payment of that £20 million is going to the made by December 2004, contingent on nothing?
  (Tessa Jowell) Can I say two things about that, first of all I do not know whether whoever drafted those letters is still in the Department or not. At the end of the day we as ministers are responsible and I know that Chris Smith, or any other secretary of state, accepted that wholeheartedly as his responsibility. I think it is important not to try to divide ministers from their civil servants but to recognise that as ministers we take the responsibility.

  225. It is your responsibility, when will it be repaid?
  (Tessa Jowell) That it will be repaid is recognised by the Football Association, they accept that the money will be repaid and it will be repaid to Sport England. When it will be repaid is a matter which is, at the moment, subject to discussions in camera, and I hope with as much radio silence as possible, between Patrick Carter and the FA about the future of a national football stadium. I will, of course, or would in camera amplify that further but I am very keen to ensure that those discussions have the opportunity to proceed to whatever conclusion so that the repayment of the £20 million is not in doubt, in the words of the Football Association. The timing will be clarified when those discussions between the FA and Patrick Carter are finalised.


  226. Our Report on this inquiry will be published some time in the first half of next month, probably, that gives you two parliamentary months in which to reply, are you confident that in your reply you will be able to clarify the date on which the repayment will have to be made?
  (Tessa Jowell) In the light of the outcome of the discussions between Patrick Carter and the Football Association I will do my best, depending on the outcome of those discussions, to provide the certainty that we all want about this, not least Sport England.

Rosemary McKenna

  227. As a new member of the Committee I am interested in how we take this forward. It may very well be that 2005 is abandoned, that we just cannot deliver. It may very well be the decision that you would come to because everything is up in the air at the moment, from what I can gather. One thing I would like to see is how much of an intent there was by UK Athletics' very reasonable approach to the whole issue when they gave evidence to this Committee, they are the ones who have lost out most by this and they have accepted it in the spirit of taking things forward. You said, and I start from the premise that sport is absolutely crucial to the health and well being of the nation and from what we have heard so far it would appear there is very little joined-up thinking across government in terms of how sport can help in that agenda. How do you see your Department being able to develop that throughout Government, working with all of the various organisations so that we can support our young people and eventually be able to host the kind of events that we do very successfully?

  (Tessa Jowell) Thank you very much, indeed. If I can just begin with the first part of your question about the games being abandoned, the games will not be abandoned or the bid for the games will not be abandoned. The position is that we have told the IAAF we cannot proceed with Picketts Lock and we have provided them with Sheffield as an alternative, that offer is on the table and I am satisfied that it is a deliverable and affordable alternative. It is now with the IAAF to respond to that proposal. The second point is a point about fragmentation across government and across the various sporting bodies, that is a view that I have a lot of sympathy with. Within Government my department is the lead department on sport but, of course, we cannot deliver the programmes with the very substantial commitments we have for instance to reintroducing sport to the life of every child in the country, delivering the sporting entitlement, without working very closely with the Department for Education and Skills. There are also very important benefits from close collaboration with the Department of Health, there is the vexed question of playing fields, which brings us into dialogue with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. If I might just think aloud about this for a moment and share with you thoughts which have not yet had any formal discussion. I do think that there is a need for better co-ordination across Government. We have the Sports Cabinet, which is a way of pulling together all of the key bodies, but I have also asked Richard Caborn to look at ways in which we can improve the efficiency of our delivery at a grass roots level by improving the level of co-ordination across Government. I think that we in some respects spend too much on the administration of the money before it actually gets out. I am not satisfied that there is a short enough distance or a quick enough time between the money being spent and the results being achieved. This is, I think, the most important challenge that we have to address over the next few years.

Miss Kirkbride

  228. First of all, congratulations on your new appointment, and we look forward to doing business with you on this Committee. Can I ask about the national stadium, can you give us your views or your thoughts about the site of the national stadium for football and rugby?
  (Tessa Jowell) I really do not want to be difficult but I would just like to be clear to the Committee that discussions following my receipt of Patrick Carter's Report on the national stadium are at a sensitive stage and I think it will be some weeks before I am in a position to provide the Committee with a further update on that. I would rather go no further than any of the statements that have already been made on that.

  229. You have received the report?
  (Tessa Jowell) I have received the report and I have studied it very carefully.

  230. You cannot give us something of an overview. There is a great deal of concern in the West Midlands that we are being reconsidered as a site in Birmingham for the national football stadium, are there any views that you have that we would be interested in hearing?
  (Tessa Jowell) The position is this, following my receipt of the National Stadium Report I asked that Patrick Carter engage in further discussions with the FA about the options that he had examined, and are developed quite fully in the Report. He expects to give me his report on those discussions at the beginning of November. This is an area of policy where it is I think important we lower the temperature, we reduce the level of speculation and as far as possible, in what is a pretty frenzied environment in which this discussion takes place, we proceed with care and on the basis we are sure about where we are going rather than being driven by events.

  231. Is it possible to say roughly when you will be announcing the location of the national football stadium and where the new stadium will be built, whether it will be at Wembley or elsewhere?
  (Tessa Jowell) The FA are at the moment in discussions with Patrick Carter about his report and, as I think they have made clear, they are looking at all the options which, as you know, include Wembley, but also include the West Midlands and also include the option of not proceeding with a national football stadium. The decision about a national football stadium is a decision for the FA, the FA must take that decision in the first instance. It will then be, if the FA decide they want a national football stadium, for Government to help with its delivery.

  232. So how will you be involved in the decision? You will endorse whatever the FA and Patrick Carter decide?
  (Tessa Jowell) I am taking this discussion a stage at a time. The stage we are at at the moment is Patrick Carter is in discussion at my request with the FA. I expect to receive his report of those discussions, from which we will discuss the proposals for the next steps, in the earlier part of November.

  233. But you will take the decision? It will be your Department which announces the location of the national stadium when these decisions come to a conclusion?
  (Tessa Jowell) We are a long way from that. The decision first of all is about whether or not to proceed, and that is a decision for the FA, it is not a decision for Government.

  234. But in proceeding and choosing a site, that will be a matter for your Department?
  (Tessa Jowell) The first decision which has to be taken is whether or not the FA wish to proceed with a national football stadium.

  235. Yes, but on the basis they do, I want to be clear who then takes that decision.
  (Tessa Jowell) No, there has been far too much speculation about what happens next in the context of this project. I am going to take it a stage at a time. I will receive the report of the discussions with the FA and we will then make a judgment about the next step if there is to be a next step.

Mr Doran

  236. Can I welcome the announcement you made earlier, Secretary of State, about the review by the PIU into the events which obviously you are looking into. They have a very good track record particularly in innovative thinking and cost-cutting in Government, so I think that is particularly important. It does seem to me in the way you have presented the announcement that they are being asked to look at how we should proceed in future attempts to win the four major world sporting events for this country. I think it is fair to say that in some of the discussions we have had and the evidence we have heard that I do not think all of the witnesses we have heard would agree that that is the only thing we should be looking at. In some respects there is a choice to be made before we get to that stage, and the choice is really that it could be argued in the context of world sport as it is today we are perhaps well-meaning amateurs and we should forget any ambitions we have to attract world-ranking events; the four major tournaments. Alternatively, the other part of the choice is that we go ahead, we put the proper resources in and we become much more professional in our approach, and we have had a lot of evidence about the lack of focus, lack of co-ordination, et cetera. First of all, do you accept that is a valid choice and will the PIU be considering the possibility we do not in future make any bid for these world-class events, the four major tournaments?
  (Tessa Jowell) If I can begin with the first part of your question about my announcement of the PIU review, the terms of which are in the process of being discussed, I think that it is commonly accepted across Government that the machinery of government lacks the necessary capacity to deliver big projects, not only big projects in the sporting field but there is clearly a read-across in that sense. It happens a number of these very big projects, very high profile projects, sit within the responsibility of my Department and I want, with my ministers, to make sure we do everything we can in the future to get these right. I think there are a number of ground rules that I hope the PIU report will address by way of guidance for Government. The first of these is, a point my Rt Hon friend frequently makes, that we have to make sure that decisions about major sporting events are, if you like, strategy-led rather than events-led. The end in itself is not to get the big stadium, the end in itself is to enrich sport in the UK. So the first question is, what are we going to get from this. Then there are a number of other operational issues which need to follow from that: an awareness of the infrastructure obstacles and problems with infrastructure, the cost of infrastructure, the timing of infrastructure delivery, ahead of a point where a bid has been secured and we are racing against time, which was the case with Picketts Lock. So I think we need, through the PIU, and I have pretty clear views on this, to develop a sort of template which sets out the way in which we approach proposals for these bids in the future. Very critical to that is the role of Government in this. I do not think it is the role of Government to build and manage big stadia, but to pretend that these big projects can be delivered with the Government holding back is also naive. So what we need to have is a proper relationship between the managing body that is bearing the responsibility for delivering the project and Government, which is an enabler helping the project to deliver. To some extent we need to approach this on a case-by-case basis but, that said, I think the ground rules that I have begun to set out and would be developed by the PIU inquiry will put us not just in my Department but across Government in a much stronger and less nervous position about big projects. The minute the Government gets nervous and ambivalent about a big project, it will turn round and bite you. I think the other point to remember is that we are, above anything else, serious about delivering to grassroots sport, growing and building the champions of tomorrow. If we keep being blown off course by big projects that over-run, that grab all the headlines, that discredit what we are trying to do, we are never going to be able to do that.

  Mr Doran: That is very helpful.

Derek Wyatt

  237. Good morning. Rodney Walker said he would have liked to have driven this project but was never asked, yet he is the chairman of UK Sport. If the PIU is now going to do this, what is the point of UK Sport? They have Events Co-ordination run by Adrian Metcalf.
  (Tessa Jowell) UK Sport clearly has a role in procuring the Games and in the successful bid that was approved in April last year when the IAAF awarded us the Games. The discussions since the commissioning of the Carter Report have been very much about the practical delivery of the Games and therefore have focussed on the local relationships—Enfield Borough Council, Lee Valley Partnership and of course Sport England and my Department as the principal funder. So that is the main reason why the focus has shifted. If the other part of your question is, should UK Sport have been involved in this discussion, then I think it is fair to say they should.

  238. I think the Sports Minister was at Edmonton, did you have an opportunity to meet with President Diack of the IAAF?
  (Mr Caborn) I did.

  239. Did you confirm Picketts Lock was our choice?
  (Mr Caborn) No, I did not confirm that. The Secretary of State had already indicated in July that we were holding an inquiry under Patrick Carter and because I was at Edmonton I thought we could give an update of what was taking place, which I did. UK Athletics and my officials were at that meeting as well. We just said that Patrick Carter was proceeding but there were real difficulties as we saw it with Picketts Lock at that time. As the Secretary of State has already said, we had deep concerns, we had heard reports of Picketts Lock and indeed had read the Select Committee Report as well. That is the action we took. Can I say that what was said by the Secretary General when we came out was very important, bearing in mind I was with my officials. He said, he wanted the best for the Games and he wanted the best for London. We believe we have actually delivered that for the IAAF.

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