Millennium Stadium

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 5th November 2001.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West 2:30 pm, 5th November 2001

What proposals she has to encourage the use of the Millennium stadium for major UK events.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Mr. Francois should withdraw the remark about air miles made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. That statement was quite disgraceful.

The millennium stadium in Cardiff is an outstanding sporting arena and a fitting home for Welsh rugby union and football. Decisions about the events that are held there lie with the stadium operators and event-holders. Given the popularity of the stadium among fans and event- holders alike, there is no need for anyone, least of all the Government, to become involved in attracting events to it.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

I am grateful for that reply, but following the great success of events held in the millennium stadium, should not it now be regarded as the natural home of international and national events for England and Wales and as the premier stadium in the British Isles? When my right hon. Friend searches for an alternative to Wembley and Picketts Lock, will he examine the claims of Birmingham, Coventry and every other town in the midlands and in the rest of the United Kingdom? I hope that the process will not be rushed. It should be measured and leisurely because the millennium stable—[Interruption.]—the millennium stadium will be available for decades to come to host such events.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I have heard of a multi-purpose stadium, but never one that was a stable as well. I am sure that my hon. Friend knows that we have asked the International Amateur Athletics Federation to consider Sheffield for an international athletics stadium. I have been taking advice on some of the activities at Cardiff and my hon. Friend—who, as everyone knows, is an expert on rugby union—tells me that if the Welsh team aspired to the performance that the stadium demands, Wales could be even more successful than it is now.

Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Does the Minister believe that Britain needs a national stadium, and, if so, where should it be?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

That decision will be made by the Football Association and it is with the FA now. Let me update the hon. Gentleman. I think that he knows that just before the election the FA, which had already received £120 million of lottery money, asked for another£300 million of lottery money. We brought in Patrick Carter to carry out a review; he has been responsible for the Commonwealth games financing, which he reviewed for us, and for Picketts Lock. He has done as we asked and discussions on the Carter review with the FA and Sport England are continuing. I repeat, it is an FA project and the FA takes the lead. The FA and Sport England are currently discussing Patrick Carter's report.

Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The House will know that although Patrick Carter's report has been paid for by the public, it has not yet been seen by the public: it remains a secret document. Is it not now clear that the Picketts Lock fiasco has so damaged Britain's reputation that any chance we had of hosting either the Olympic games or the world cup has gone for the foreseeable future? Despite squandering millions of pounds of public money, the Government's incompetence and their failure to honour undertakings given by Ministers from the Prime Minister downwards will deny British fans the chance to see the world's top athletes perform on British soil. Does the Minister agree that the last-ditch attempt to replace London with his home city as the venue for the world athletics championships was merely a shabby attempt to conceal the damage that the Government have done to our reputation in sporting circles?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I remind the House that the issue of Wembley stadium started in 1996 under the Conservative Administration, and it was not resolved under that Administration. As for Picketts Lock, as soon as Sheffield became a potential contender, under the ministerial code I was removed from any decision making. I hope that the hon. Gentleman was not implying that I was involved in that decision. Furthermore, contrary to the hon. Gentleman's comments, Patrick Carter's report was put into the public domain at 5 o'clock on the Thursday that the decision was made. Everyone has been able to read it and arrive at their own judgment, and a considerable number of people have told my Department that the right decision was made. It is not in the interests of British sport or the British sports industry for the hon. Gentleman to continue to talk down our very good facilities. Our country probably runs more international sporting events than any other European country.