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Mr. Banks: I agree with my hon. Friend. I can assure him that if I had not previously been convinced of that point, the serried ranks behind me would quickly have concentrated my mind on it. Of course the public interest must be protected. After all, £120 million not of Government money, but of public money, will be involved.

One needs to safeguard public money, but there is a--perhaps marginal--qualitative difference between lottery money and straightforward Exchequer grant money; in the latter case, there is an obvious, direct and deliberate connected ministerial responsibility. I have to follow--we all do, as this is lottery money--the arm's-length principle, but, if anything went wrong, Ministers would be held to account, you can bet your life on it, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That being so, I do not want to get the sharp end of the stick poked in my eye at some future date; I want to ensure that things go smoothly.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) that Sir Rodney Walker's involvement in the negotiations until now has convinced me that, whatever else one says, he is not the type of person one can easily walk over, either. Some pretty tough cookies are involved in the negotiations. I understand that absolute priority is given to preserving public funding while ensuring that this development goes ahead.

It is important that we ensure that there is proper regeneration of the entire area around Wembley stadium. I understand, of course, that Brent council is committed to making the new stadium a success, and is developing positive working relationships with all parties involved in bringing about a transformation of the stadium and areas around it.

Making Brent a priority area for the Greater London authority seems to be a development which we can look forward to. I return to the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North about London--as Wembley is the national stadium, it is, naturally, located in London. I say "naturally" because London is where people want to make such big investments. If such people come to the United Kingdom, they want to come to London. Speaking as a London Member rather than as a Minister, I think that that is right.

The recent White Paper contained proposals for new regional development agencies which, working in partnership with central and local government, businesses and other key regional interests, will bring greater coherence and a sharper regional focus to the public resources available to promote development and regeneration. Our plans for London differ from the national picture--reflecting the influence, importance and uniqueness of our capital city--and impact on the proposals for Wembley. As endorsed by Londoners, there will be a directly elected mayor and a separately elected assembly, and any decisions on priorities for funding will eventually be for the mayor and the assembly to take.

I know that hon. Members are concerned about progress with Brent on the planning brief, and I am aware that there are difficult issues, which need careful

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consideration. That is why we have asked the Government office for London to chair a working group, to establish the principles of the planning application connected with the Wembley site. It will aim to facilitate agreement between the English National Stadium Trust development company and Brent. One of the specific issues on which it will focus is the best way of achieving an integrated public transport system.

I know that accessibility by public transport will be central to the new stadium's success. The public transport factor has been reflected in the focus of the Government office for London. We are also in regular discussion with transport operators, with a view to improving the three main stations serving the stadium and bus penetration into the Wembley complex.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North asked some specific questions about timetabling. I understand that, on 6 to 7 July, the English Sports Council will consider the grant application for the next phase--by which time all key agreements and project structures will be in place, and the feasibility studies on planning, funding and development issues will be concluded. I am therefore expecting that to happen in the next week.

In July 1998, contracts will be exchanged with Wembley for site acquisition. Also in July, design team appointments will be confirmed. In November to December, planning applications will be submitted. In April to May 1999, planning consents and the section 106 planning obligations agreement will be completed. In September 1999, secured partnership funding will be completed. Also in September, site work will start. The site work will be completed by the spring of 2002.

That is the timetable, although I expect that there will probably be some slippages in it. Such projects tend to happen that way. I expect also that there will be some movements on the budgeted figures. However, I come back to the original point: Wembley will be the national stadium. Therefore, there must be greater national involvement, particularly in determining the planning infrastructure context for Wembley.

It is important that we make a success of the project. I do not want it to turn into the equivalent of Blue Streak. Was it Blue Streak?

Mr. Wyatt: The opera house.

Mr. Banks: No, I think that the opera house is going quite well. I do not want it to turn into one of those great English disasters. It has to work. As hon. Members have said, a new Wembley is crucial to the United Kingdom securing the great international sporting events that the Government have pledged themselves to go for. It is necessary to support the British Olympic Association in a potential Olympic bid, and to secure the world cup in 2006.

Going back to the original point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South, we are all hoping that tomorrow we shall see England secure a great victory over Argentina. I predict that the score will be 2-1, with Michael Owen scoring both our goals. Then we can move on to greater sporting success, with a new Wembley.

Question put and agreed to.



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