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Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, have not the FA scored a spectacular own goal by ignoring seven out of 10 fans and 55 out of 64 premier and league football clubs? They wanted the game that is at the heart of the nation to be sited at the heart of the nation, through the Birmingham Solihull bid. Will the Minister spell out precisely the extent of the Government's financial commitment and make it clear whether that would, in any circumstances, go beyond
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am well aware of my noble friend's big commitment to having the development in Birmingham, and I understand the disappointment of people in Birmingham and the West Midlands that both the FA and the Carter report favoured Wembley. It is for the FA to make a final decision on that matter, and it should take into account the views of the football community across England. I believe that it has done so, and I understand that there are commercial advantages in choosing Wembley.
On my noble friend's other point, I give a clear commitment that the Government are not intending to put any further funding into the project, other than the £20 million that we announced today and the £120 million that has already gone into the project from the lottery.
Lord Fowler: My Lords, I contest that answer. For the first time in 25 years, I find myself in entire agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Corbett. There will be grave disappointment in Birmingham and the West Midlands about the way in which the decision appears to be going. It is the second time in succession that the natural decision was for a project to come to Birmingham and the West Midlands, but it has gone to London and the South East. I speak as a long-standing opponent of the Dome going to Greenwich, under either government. By any definition, much public money will go into the projectlottery money, government money and development agency money. In those circumstances and with that financial influence, Ministers can surely do more than they are currently doing to ensure a better and fairer spread of such national projects around the country.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I cannot add a great deal to what I have already said. Again, I understand the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, to Birmingham and the West Midlands. He represented a constituency there for a very long time in another place. However, these issues have been examined in great depth by a completely independent commentator, Patrick Carter. He supports the position taken by the FA, which is that, on balance, there are advantages in the national stadium being sited in the capital at Wembley. At the same time, he has made it clear that, if for one reason or another that does not happen, Birmingham will be a very acceptable alternative.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Statement that she has repeated today has more holes in it than a sieve? If she examines the detail of the FA's financing, she will realise that it is not acceptable to put such a financial position before your Lordships' House. It is not adequate that this House should be given a Statement suggesting that the
The Statement is a failure if it pretends that Birmingham is being treated fairly by being given a chance to bid if London fails. That shows how skewed and biased the decision-making process is. Does my noble friend accept that the Statement that she has been forced to read to your Lordships today shows a lack of fairness, equity and transparency? Certainly it shows a total lack of a level playing field when it comes to making essentially national rather than London-centric decisions.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, again, my noble friend is a very forceful pursuer of the interests of Birmingham and the West Midlands. As I said in reply to the noble Lords who asked the previous two questions on this matter, I understand the disappointment. However, I believe that my noble friend has gone a little over the top in some respects. I stand by the Statement that has just been made. I do not believe that it is full of holes. In many ways I believe that we are now moving forward towards a national stadium of which we can all be proud. Of course, further issues must be resolved. But I also say to my noble friend that, if the project does not go ahead, the £120 million will have to be returned to the Government. That has always been fully understood. That was the basis on which the money was provided, and I hope that my noble friend will accept that.
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that this is quite the most disappointing Statement that I have ever heard in all my parliamentary life? Is she aware that the whole country was geared up to hear an announcement today about what was going to happen? But here we are, two years later, with £50 million down the drain and with no decision having been taken. It may be another two years before a decision is made. Is she aware that the Government have scored the most awful own goal today? The announcement is totally disappointing, and everyone will want to know why it has taken so long to reach this position. Is she aware that this puts the Select Committee's condemnation of the Government entirely in its proper light?
However, can she go further in relation to the £120 million? It was given by Sport England to the FAvery foolishly, I believebecause of the involvement of athletics. But there is no involvement of athletics and nor will there be. The configuration of athletics in a 400-metre stadium is simply not on. Had the noble Baroness read the report of our debate on the subject last night, she would know that we explained that. The total £120 million should be handed back to Sport England to distribute through the lottery system to good causes in sport generally in the United Kingdom. That is absolutely essential; otherwise, the £120 million will simply sit there for the FA to make money out of when it has no right to it at all.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I believe that there is some misunderstanding on the part of the noble Lord. The £120 million is not simply sitting there. As I have already explained, that money has been used both to purchase the freehold and to undertake the extensive and expensive design work that must be carried out in relation to a major project of this type. That is why the lottery and Sport England decided to hand over the money. As I have already said, if the project does not go forward, the money will be returned.
I also believe that the noble Lord has misunderstood the situation when he says categorically that there will be no involvement of athletics in the project. I have made it absolutely clear that there are now new technical ways in which to build athletics into a stadium of this type. Because I am not an expertnor, indeed, is anyone in this HouseI cannot say whether that new approach will be viable. That is why it must be examined by all the experts, including the international federation and the UK board of athletics. That makes absolute sense. Therefore, I believe that the noble Lord is being over-dismissive before it is appropriate to be so.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I start by declaring an unpaid interest as a local authority-nominated public interest director of the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. That stadium was built on time and on budget for £140 million with only £46 million of Millennium Commission grant. I have some sympathy for my noble friend and for the Secretary of State. The one aspect of the Statement which I consider to be absolutely right is that which insists that the match should go into extra time.
The concern expressed by Mr Carter over corporate governance and the procurement process as it relates to the Multiplex company seems to me to be entirely justified. The noble Viscount referred to this morning's Guardian. If he had looked at tonight's Evening Standard he would find more revelations about Multiplexthe company responsible for building the west stand at Chelsea Football Clubin relation to an investigation carried out by an Australian Royal Commission into corruption in the construction industry. I believe that those issues must be resolved. The role of Multiplex in this project and, indeed, in other football projects in this country also needs to be examined carefully before that company is allowed to take part in this new project.
I want to ask another question about the return of the £20 million of lottery funding. In tonight's press, Mr Trevor Brooking, the chairman of Sport England, is apparently quoted as saying that the Wembley scheme complies with lottery funding requirements and will be eligible for a £120 million grant; that is, with no return of the £20 million. On the other hand, there is a reference to the view of the Secretary of State. It is said that Tessa Jowell is understood to be firmly of the opinion that the money should be repaid. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport hotly disputes reports that it has already agreed that the FA should keep the £20 million. I wonder whether my
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