Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport First Report



We have noted the referral of UK policy on major events to the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) in the Cabinet Office for review. This may be of some benefit. Certainly the PIU is in the right place to assess how well the different elements of the Government machine are co-ordinated so as to face in the same direction on something like the staging of a major sporting event.

The Cabinet Office was the base for the Minister with special responsibility for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Mr Ian McCartney MP. Lord Macdonald, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, now jointly chairs the new Ministerial Group on those Games alongside the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. We note that competing for this Minister's attention are a range of other cross-cutting issues and day-to-day responsibilities on the overall delivery of public services; regulation; and e-government. The Cabinet Office was the preferred location for the "Minister for Events" recommended on a number of occasions by the previous Committee.[142]

To result in something useful, the PIU needs to take account of a number of key matters. However, before setting out our list of priorities, we believe that the first task is a political one. As the Secretary of State put it in evidence, "what are we going to get from this?"[143] We believe that the Government must decide, and state clearly, whether or not it wishes the UK to be a host for the larger sporting events: to secure home advantage for UK athletes; as a facet of its wider sports policy, including the encouragement of grassroots participation; and as an element of the way the UK is perceived internationally. UK Athletics wrote that "Fundamental agreement ... must be reached as to whether major events are actually wanted in the UK or whether the emphasis should be placed on wider sports development initiatives".[144] The organisation went on to assert that the two are not mutually exclusive as UK policy-makers have sometimes suggested.[145] UK Sport called for a co-ordinated world class facility strategy for the whole of the UK to underpin any bids for international events.[146]

In looking specifically at the larger events, however, we believe that the Government must also decide whether it is prepared to fund such ventures to a realistic level. We understand the point made by the former Secretary of State in a previous inquiry whereby a too explicit commitment of Government resources may prevent private money being involved.[147] However, it is no good making fanfare commitments to host events from a reducing Lottery fund with a presumption that private sector support will bridge the gap. Experience has shown that this approach simply does not work. Either unplanned expenditure has to be committed or projects have to be abandoned. The 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games has benefited from £60 million of additional revenue funding from the Government and Sport England, as announced in July 2001;[148] but, as we have seen, Picketts Lock was cancelled after many stated commitments and a protracted period of development and feasibility work.

After these fundamental questions have been tackled, we believe that the PIU review will have the greatest chance of success if it tackles the role of Government in delivering projects to which the UK commits itself.

The arms-length principle which operates in respect of Lottery funding for such projects, by definition, leaves them just within reach of Ministers. This can create an ambiguous area where the prospect of Government support to bridge any gaps, but no specific commitment, can bedevil clear and timely judgements on projects which are the proper responsibility of the Sports Councils. In short, it is not right that major projects, which have merited substantial Lottery grants, be held hostage while Government dithers over whether to commit funding. The relationship between Lottery funding and direct Government support must be the subject of a clear framework setting out respective responsibilities and, on a case-by-case basis, a clear timetable for decisions.

We therefore agree with the Secretary of State when she said "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". She went to say "The minute the Government gets nervous and ambivalent about a big project, it will turn round and bite you."[149] Our concern is that the Government's partners in these projects also get 'bitten' and are less able to sustain such injuries.

However, the question remains as to who should be responsible for delivering these projects. UK Athletics told us that nobody had the necessary clout within the present reliance on—we would say muddle of—local agencies, sports governing bodies and funding Councils.[150] Sir Rodney Walker, Chairman of both WNSL and UK Sport said that what was currently lacking was "an organisation or individual with the power and authority" to drive major projects forward and their costs down.[151] UK Athletics criticised the multi-agency approach, calling for a stream-lining of decision-making and funding regimes for events on the scale of the World Athletics Championships.[152] This was supported by the recommendation of UK Sport for a single agency with access to the appropriate funds and the ability to sign contracts on behalf of the Government including the underwriting of events.[153] Mr Patrick Carter said that the UK should "establish a major events group ... which establishes a process to make sure the right questions are asked at the right time, ie, early enough. What seems to be the picture in all these major events is we start them, we do not cost them properly, events develop, the nation gets embarrassed, the Government pays or chooses not to pay."[154]

We think that Mr Carter has the right approach but the wrong solution. We believe that the case for a dedicated Minister for Events, with the responsibilities and resources identified by the previous Committee, has grown yet more compelling. The same approach should be applied to all major events, sporting or otherwise. We recommend that the Prime Minister gives serious consideration to the conclusions of the previous Committee on this subject when he studies the outcome of the review of major events policy to be undertaken by the Performance and Innovation Unit.

142  HC 286-I, 2000-01, para 184. Back

143  Q 236. Back

144  Ev, p 42. Back

145  IbidBack

146  Ev, p 35. Back

147  HC 286-II, 2000-01, Q 463 Back

148  DCMS, 198/01, 7 February 2001. Back

149  Q 236. Back

150  Ev, p 42. Back

151  Q 151. Back

152  Ev, p 43. Back

153  Ev, p 35. Back

154  Q 92. Back

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Prepared 20 November 2001