Wembley Stadium

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 26 March 2001.

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Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Conservative, Arundel and South Downs 2:30, 26 March 2001

If he will make a statement on the future of Wembley stadium.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The Government fully support the efforts of Sir Rodney Walker and his team to develop a world-class stadium for football and rugby league. I understand that the Football Association and Wembley National Stadium Ltd. are currently holding discussions with their financial advisers on the process of loan syndication. The timing of that is entirely a matter for the FA and Wembley National Stadium Ltd.

Photo of Mr Howard Flight Mr Howard Flight Conservative, Arundel and South Downs

Will the Secretary of State admit that there seems to be a little bit of a difference between his policy and that of the Minister for Sport with regard to Wembley? Those of us in the outside world consider that things are slightly chaotic. Is it intended that Pickett's Lock stadium should have the capability to host football and the Olympics or will it be used only for athletics? How do the Government plan to fund it? Those are important matters, but there is a perception that two policies are emanating from the Government.

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman's question seems rather confused to me. There is no difference of opinion or of fact whatever between me and my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport. The issue is perfectly clear: Wembley will be a stadium primarily for football and rugby league. It is a Football Association project and we wish it all the very best in putting the funding together.

Pickett's Lock at the Lee Valley stadium in Enfield will be the stadium for the 2005 world athletics championships. The designs for it were announced a few days ago and they have been broadly welcomed. Sport England has already earmarked £60 million of its budget to assist in the construction, and a further £12 million is already earmarked for the project. I have every confidence that it will now proceed on time to deliver a wonderful setting for the world championships.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Labour, Chorley

Is it not time to admit that Wembley is a complete shambles? Is it not time we threw the existing committee out? It is the fault of those who are on the committee that we have ended up with this absolute disaster. Is it not time the Government got hold of the project themselves and ensured that we have an opening date for the people's stadium?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I have to say to my hon. Friend that this is not a Government project; it is a Football Association project and it is up to the FA to take it forward. I was very pleased last December when the FA decided to take much closer control over the project and to put Sir Rodney Walker in as chairman of Wembley National Stadium Ltd. I have confidence that Sir Rodney and his team will deliver the goods.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Does not the Secretary of State realise that the chairman of Sport England, Trevor Brooking, has had to write to Mr. Kaufman, the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, to make it clear that the Secretary of State's evidence, given only a week or so ago, was inaccurate? He told the Select Committee that £60 million had been pledged--when it cannot have been, as Mr. Brooking has made clear, because no application has yet been made. Is not that yet another example of our being unable to believe the Secretary of State on any issue whatever?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

No. The evidence that I gave the Select Committee was crystal clear: it was that £60 million has been earmarked in Sport England's budget. That decision was taken by the Sport England lottery panel, and was confirmed in the minutes of the organisation's council meeting. That is what I told the Select Committee, and it remains the case.