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Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill): When did my right hon. Friend and her Department become aware of what she has described as a theoretical commitment by the Football Association to continue to use Wembley even if the plan for a new stadium fell through?
Tessa Jowell: That was part of the staging agreement that formed part of the lottery agreement that settled the payment of the money from Sport England to WNSL. In January 2000, the Select Committee was informed by Sport England of the existence of the staging agreement.
Ms Debra Shipley (Stourbridge): I draw the attention of the House to those parts of the Secretary of State's statement that deal with the FA's comments to the Select Committee. It was in response to my questions in the Select Committee, especially those addressed to Mr. Coward, that it was revealed that, in the worst-case
Tessa Jowell: That is a very good question. The Foster design has attracted both support and admiration. Ultimately, the choice of architect and design is a matter for the Football Association, and it wants to stick with the Foster design for the reasons referred to by my hon. Friend.
I hope that I have made clear to the House the position regarding the staging agreement. I believe that the chief executive of the FA clarified the position in his letter yesterday. The staging agreement between Sport England and WNSL would clearly have to be renegotiated, but we must add to the fact of its existence the fact that after the agreement was settled, the stadium was closed in October 2000, and as Patrick Carter's report makes clear, it would cost an estimated £40 million to reopen it. In those circumstances it would be fit probably for about five years, after which a further substantial sum would have to be paid. Those are the sorts of complexities that would have to be addressed in the event of the Wembley project failing and the money being due for return.
Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, and I concur, probably for the first time in my life, with the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside). As a Scot, I believe that Wembley is important to the whole of the UK, not just England. I also have a personal interest because for many years I have bored my family and friends with a video of me scoring a goal at Wembley, and when I start to bore my grandchildren, I want it to mean something to them.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the project is now making progress not because of the FA but in spite of it? Does she also agree that the Tropus and James reports confirmed that the FA acted in a cavalier and arrogant manner, and one of the lessons that we should learn from the whole experience is that lottery funding agreements must impose much more robust standards on the recipients of funds, and, even more importantly, that those standards must be enforced?
Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): Does my right hon. Friend agree that although there might be differences of opinion about Wembley and Birmingham, Coventry, which has been mentioned today, meets the criteria? It is a brownfield site, it has planning permissionunlike Birminghamand it has been well costed, despite what the Secretary of State may think.
Tessa Jowell: As my hon. Friend knows, Patrick Carter, with the FA, considered the Coventry bid. The FA has decided to go to Wembley, and, as I have made clear, it is a matter for the FA. However, I know that that is a disappointment for my hon. Friend.
Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): The Secretary of State has conducted herself impeccably in the course of this difficult matter, and the fact that we are now closer to starting the construction of a new national stadium at Wembley is very much due to what she has done in the past 12 months.
Mr. Banks: And indeed the WelshThey have all managed to construct magnificent stadiums and to organise big international events, but it is mainly because their Governments were prepared to take over the projects and to run them. In this country we have the worst of all possible worlds for such projects: minimum Government financial contributions but maximum Government interference. On my right hon. Friend's part, of course, that has been highly constructive. It is about time that we looked at these projects and decided that the arm's length principle simply does not work. If we are going to run national projects, and the Government are going to start taking the blame for some of the things that go wrong, they should run them from the outset. I look forward to the point at which we can get on and stop nitpicking, so that my right hon. Friend can echo the famous words of Kenneth Wolstenholme in her next statement.
Tessa Jowell: I join my hon. Friend in saying that now, I hope, is the time to move forward. He is right that claims about the success of stadiums in other countries sometimes bear closer scrutiny. Stadiums funded by the commercial sector that fail become a burden on the taxpayer. I am determined that that will not be the case with this stadium.
Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Has the Speaker had any indication from the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions that he wishes to come to the House to make a statement to correct previous statements to the House on the timing of his decision to put Railtrack into administration? The Secretary of State has made numerous references in the House to the fact that he made that decision on 5 October. For example, on 5 November last year, he said of the decision:
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): The short answer to the hon. Lady is that Mr. Speaker has had no such indication of an impending statement. The Chair has no power to require a member of the Government to make a statement to the House. I am sure that the hon. Lady will find other ways of pursuing the matter, which she has now put on the record.
Norman Baker (Lewes): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Following yesterday's exchange during Prime Minister's Question Time about the allocation of responsibilities and the confusion about referendums, I want to draw to your attention to another confusion and ask for guidance on how to proceed.
When I asked how I should pursue a matter relating to a royal issue, the Table Office said that I should pose a question to the Lord Chancellor's Department. I duly did so on 15 April. On 19 April, the answer to my question on its duties in relation to royal issues came back"None." I then asked the Prime Minister on 22 May which Department had lead responsibility for royal matters, and he answered: