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Division No. 111
[12.22 am


AYES


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Caplin, Ivor
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheerman, Barry
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wallace, James
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Robert Ainsworth and
Mr. Clive Betts.


NOES


Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Gray, James
Hunter, Andrew
Jenkin, Bernard
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
St Aubyn, Nick
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Andrew Lansley and
Mr. Dominic Grieve.

Question accordingly agreed to.

16 Mar 1999 : Column 1027

DELEGATED LEGISLATION

Criminal Legal Aid (Fixed Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 1999

Ordered,


16 Mar 1999 : Column 1028

National Stadium (Northern Ireland)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Clelland.]

12.32 am

Mr. John Grogan (Selby): St. Patrick's day has begun and I am delighted to begin this national day of celebration by advocating the creation of a new national stadium in Northern Ireland to host great sporting occasions, pop concerts and other large events.

I start by outlining the role of sport in Northern Ireland society. During the past 30 years, sport has provided, throughout the troubles, moments of relief and joy for all, such as in the triumphs of Mary Peters in the Olympics or Barry McGuigan in the boxing ring. Northern Ireland still apparently claims to hold the home nations football championship, because it won the last championship to be held before England stopped playing. England had previously claimed that it would no longer play in the championships because it always won.

At the best of times, playing and watching sport have provided a common currency between the different communities--at times, perhaps the only common currency. The power of sport to transcend boundaries was demonstrated to the world recently in the rugby European cup triumph of Ulster against French opposition at Lansdowne Road, Dublin. The capacity crowd attracted the widest possible range of Unionist and nationalist politicians. More important perhaps, 60,000 ordinary people from Northern Ireland wanted tickets when only 28,000 tickets were available. As the Deputy First Minister commented,


Sport has also managed to help the economy going through difficult years, employing 12,500 people. According to opinion poll evidence, 80 per cent. of people in Northern Ireland believe that sport can help to build positive links between people of different communities.

At a grassroots level, the Sports Council for Northern Ireland has pioneered programmes such as Youth Sport, which has been widely copied elsewhere. Youth Sport seeks to integrate the school, the club and the community, keeping school sports facilities open until late at night. It aims to get more people to play the sport of their choice, regardless whether that is the traditional choice of their school or community. The Sports Council recently launched a public awareness campaign under the slogan "Participate, celebrate and tolerate".

It is worth noting that Northern Irish sport at a local level has benefited from the fact that, unlike England, Scotland or Wales, sport is a statutory responsibility of local councils, and has been since Stormont days.

Sport led the way on creating all-Ireland bodies long before the Good Friday agreement. There are 35 sports organised on an all-Ireland basis, of which perhaps rugby is the most notable. In a move underscoring the case for all-Ireland sports bodies, the Northern Ireland Athletics Federation recently ruled that its athletes would compete for Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth games, and, if they chose, for the Irish Republic in the Olympics.

16 Mar 1999 : Column 1029

The Irish and Northern Ireland Sports Councils co-operate closely. Recently at the Omagh leisure centre a Sport for All programme which covers the border counties of Ireland between the north and the south was introduced.

At the worst of times, sport has emphasised the most bitter sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland. Nelson Mandela observed that normal sport is impossible in an abnormal society. Even today, members of the security forces are not allowed to participate in Gaelic sports. A change in rules is as long overdue in that case as it was in regard to the admission of women to the pavilion at Lord's cricket ground.

The beautiful game, the world game of soccer has faced many problems in Northern Ireland, perhaps because, uniquely, it has been loved in equal measure by both communities. Soccer has perhaps never fully recovered from the bitterness left by the sectarian violence that occurred after the Boxing day derby match in 1948 between Linfield and Belfast Celtic in front of 33,000 spectators at Windsor Park. A post-match riot led to a horrific mob attack on 20-year-old Belfast Celtic centre forward Jimmy Jones, who had accidentally earlier fouled an opposing player. Jones survived, but the club folded in the aftermath of the incident.

Jimmy Jones was saved by a goalkeeper from Ballymena, Sean McCann, who single-handedly fought off scores of attackers. Jones recently told The Daily Telegraph:


Almost exactly 50 years later, there are renewed signs of hope in soccer. Glentoran and Linfield played a match around Christmas time 1998 watched by a crowd of 13,000, compared with about 4,000 in recent years at the same fixture. That is the sort of difference that the peace process can make to life for ordinary people, who can simply feel more confident about doing the normal things in life, such as going to watch a soccer match over Christmas.

In 11 days--or probably 10 days now--Northern Ireland play Germany in a European championship qualifying match at Windsor Park. The capacity, I understand, is only about 13,000. The chairman of the Sports Council, Mr. Allen, recently commented:


That is one argument for creating a new national stadium. It would symbolise a new beginning for Northern Ireland by creating a venue at which everyone would feel comfortable.

Northern Ireland lacks top-quality international facilities to complement its network of leisure centres at grassroots level. The rugby ground Ravenhill seats only 2,500 people, with space for another 5,000 or 6,000 people standing. The state of the soccer grounds, which were not covered by the legislation following the Taylor report, is a disgrace, which will be highlighted by the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) in an Adjournment debate tomorrow.

16 Mar 1999 : Column 1030

Northern Ireland is in danger of being left out. London will soon boast the revamped Wembley and Twickenham; Cardiff Arms Park will host the rugby union cup final; Scotland has Hampden, Ibrox, Murrayfield and Meadowbank; Manchester will soon have an array of indoor and outdoor facilities to host the Commonwealth games; and in Dublin the new Croke Park will soon sport an estimated capacity of 81,000, ready to host the all-Ireland senior football and hurling finals of 2001.

With regard to the national lottery and the pools, more money is spent per head of the population in Northern Ireland than anywhere else; yet the Football Trust spends almost nothing in Northern Ireland. Money from the national lottery for sport is distributed on a population basis. In Northern Ireland, that figure is 2.8 per cent. of the national total. That will never provide enough capital to help fund a large one-off expenditure, such as a national stadium, which would cost at least £50 million.

The vision of a national stadium is the subject of discussion between Whitehall, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland, the Sports Council, and some of the potential users. A high political priority needs to be given to assembling a financial package, perhaps including money from the lottery, the Government, the European Union and the private sector. If ever there was a special case, it is Northern Ireland.

Football, rugby and athletics are perhaps the most obvious potential users of a national stadium. The possibility of including Gaelic sports must be further examined. The dimensions of the pitch would need to be enhanced and the cost would inevitably increase. But the prize of regularly hosting an all-Ireland Gaelic football final or a hurling semi-final would be well worth aiming for if the sporting politics could be overcome.

The potential for other events is boundless. Last year, 40,000 young people turned up for an outdoor concert in the Botanic gardens. The right event can generate tourists from far and wide. On the same weekend as the Germany versus Northern Ireland football match, the world cross-country championships will bring athletes and enthusiasts from many countries to Belfast. Cheap, frequent and quick transportation is opening up the island of Ireland, and already the two-hour catchment area includes parts of England and Scotland and most of the population of Ireland.

There are various possible sites for the new stadium. One is in Belfast, adjacent to the Waterfront hall and the new arena, within a few hundred yards of the railway station, with a boat stopping outside and City airport minutes away. I understand that there are other possible venues as well.

In opinion polls, 94 per cent. of people rarely agree on anything, but that is the level of support in the telephone poll on a national stadium conducted by the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year. That poll generated far more calls than any other that the newspaper has previously undertaken.

I referred earlier to Jimmy Jones, the Belfast Celtic striker. Now a grandfather of four, he concluded his recent interview in The Daily Telegraph by referring to the site of the old club's stadium. He said:


16 Mar 1999 : Column 1031

Jimmy Jones's grandchildren, and all the children of Northern Ireland, need a new stadium, a stadium where they will all feel safe, a stadium that will inspire them and make them proud to come from where they come from, a stadium that will give them a stage in their own backyard where they can witness the excellence of the world's greatest entertainers and sportsmen and sportswomen, a stadium that will give them memories to last a lifetime.


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