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Mr. Smith: I touched on both my hon. Friend's central points in my statement. I have asked my officials to undertake a thorough analysis of the process of decision making that has brought us to this position. The national lottery funding agreement might well need to be modified if what we end up with is not that which was specified in the original agreement. To be fair to Sport England, none of the bodies concerned was able to address the specific difficulties of putting an athletics mode into the stadium until we saw the detailed stadium designs in July this year. Since then, we have put the necessary work in hand to ensure that we get the right answers.

My aim is to ensure that we get a grip on the project, make decisions in the next two to three weeks on how we will take it forward, and then get on and do it.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): The Secretary of State will recall that I raised concerns about Wembley at Culture, Media and Sport questions on Monday of last week. My fellow officers of the all-party sports group and I are among the many who have been concerned about the subject for some time. The right hon. Gentleman acknowledged the catalogue of concerns in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth).

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the press is accurate to describe the current position as a fiasco? It is not acceptable for him to say that the BOA was repeatedly writing to his officials, who were repeatedly passing on those concerns. We are left with the impression of his Department as a rudderless ship with nobody at the helm. Is it not inevitable that the buck must stop with him? When he was told by his officials that the BOA was raising concerns, month after month, he should have taken some action.

The previous Minister for Sport, who is very concerned about football and is the Government's representative in the 2006 bid, surprisingly is not in the Chamber this afternoon. He should have insisted on going to the meetings and checking that athletics was being incorporated in the designs. Why did he not do so? Would it not be better for the Secretary of State to apologise for the huge delay and the huge waste? He and the new Minister for Sport--who, to her credit, has at least taken the issue seriously since she was appointed--should play a far more active role in future.

Mr. Smith: I am afraid that I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman's characterisation. However, I recognise all too well the lack of any constructive approach in his comments. The first concrete detailed analysis from an independent source that has been available to enable us to take firm decisions is the Ellerbe Becket report, which we received on Monday of this week.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): In view of the Manchester Commonwealth games configuration of our major stadium--which, of course, is

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laid out for athletics--is it now too late to bid for the 2003 world athletics championships for Manchester? Is it too late, in the reordering of that bid, to give it to Manchester city and so stop our athletics track being taken out? It would provide a solution for the games.

Whereas very few world cup games would be held at Wembley--they are held throughout the whole of England--the world athletics championships are committed only to Wembley. However, there is no space for a proper warm-up track. In Atlanta, that track was three miles from the main ground--people warmed up, warmed down and got cold on a bus, which then got lost going to the ground. There is not the infrastructure at Wembley to support the world athletics championships, so surely it is timely to look at this matter again

Mr. Smith: Through Sport England, we are putting £90 million into the construction of the new stadium for the Commonwealth games at Manchester, which will be an excellent stadium for those games. It is up to UK Athletics to decide whether it wishes to bid to host the world athletics championships, and where. Its favoured proposition, in everything that it has revealed to us, is that London is the city with the best chance of getting agreement from the International Amateur Athletic Federation. However, that decision is up to that organisation.

My hon. Friend is right about the warm-up track. In order to have either an Olympic stadium or a stadium capable of hosting the world athletics championships, there must be a warm-up track--if possible, immediately adjacent to the stadium or not far from it--of exactly the same size as the main track. That is possible at Wembley, although it would require the acquisition of land which is not in Wembley National Stadium Ltd.'s ownership. However, that is possible to achieve, given the right circumstances.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): What does the Secretary of State think will be achieved by 15 December--which, if I heard him correctly, is the date on which he wants a report back from the further inquiries? What does he expect to happen between now and then--just two weeks time? Is not the reality of what he has told the House today, both in his statement and in the answers that he has given, that he has conceded that the Wembley stadium proposal will not work as both a football stadium and an athletics track?

In that case, the sooner a decision is made, the better, because clearly part of the reason for the huge£475 million cost of developing Wembley--which, from what the right hon. Gentleman has said, will be just a football and rugby stadium--is the attempt to incorporate an athletics track. How much time is there left to Wembley and those trying to redevelop it to decide to have only a football and rugby stadium at a lower cost, while not affecting the world cup 2006 bid?

Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman says that the sooner a decision is made, the better. I entirely agree. That is why I have given a strict time scale of 15 days for Wembley National Stadium Ltd., in particular, to come back with any answers it might have to the concerns raised in the Ellerbe Becket report. It may be that it has a magic solution in its back pocket that answers Ellerbe Becket's criticisms--but as I said in my statement, I doubt it. If it

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does--and it must be given that opportunity, as that is only fair and proper--we may be back on track for Wembley to do both. If not, at that point we need to make a firm decision on whether Wembley goes ahead just for football and rugby and we look for somewhere else for athletics.

Mr. Ivor Caplin (Hove): I very much welcome the fact that we are coming to the point of decision. I believe firmly that Wembley is the right place for football. I do not share others' qualms about investing £120 million of lottery money in sport at Wembley--we have just invested £250 million in the Royal Opera house. I do not object to that, either, but sport is entitled to its share of the lottery provision.

As someone who has had the privilege of playing at Wembley, I know that the conditions there for players, spectators and visitors are appalling. The sooner we get it upgraded, the sooner we will rightly win the bid for 2006.

Mr. Smith: The one thing on which I would disagree is that although the total global cost of the Royal Opera house is £240 million, the investment from the lottery is about £80 million. However, my hon. Friend's point about the importance of upgrading the existing facilities at Wembley and ensuring that we have a truly world-class modern stadium is extremely important.


Child Support, Pensions and Social Security

Mr. Secretary Darling, supported by Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Straw, Mr. Secretary Blunkett, Mr. Secretary Reid, Mr. Secretary Murphy, Mr. Secretary Mandelson, Mr. Jeff Rooker, Mr. Hugh Bayley, Angela Eagle and Jane Kennedy, presented a Bill to amend the law relating to child support; to amend the law relating to occupational and personal pensions and war pensions; to amend the law relating to social security benefits and social security administration; to amend the law relating to national insurance contributions; to amend Part III of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 and Part III of the Family Law Act 1986; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 9].


Mr. Secretary Prescott, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Straw, Mr. Secretary Byers, Mr. Secretary Reid, Mr. Secretary Murphy, Mr. Keith Hill and Mr. Chris Mullin, presented a Bill to make provision about transport: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 8].

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European Union

[Relevant documents: Minutes of Evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 30th November 1999 (HC 68-i); First Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, on EU Policy and the Environment: an Agenda for the Helsinki Summit (HC 44); and the White Paper (Cm. 4531), Developments in the European Union, January-June 1999.]

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

4.6 pm

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): This debate gives the House its customary opportunity to discuss the issues before the forthcoming European Council in Helsinki. This is the second European summit under the Finnish presidency. The successful first summit at Tampere stepped up co-operation between member states on access to justice and the fight against crime. Britain left Tampere having secured all our major objectives.

We secured agreement to give British citizens easier access to courts on the continent. The measures that we set in hand at Tampere will be of practical benefit to the millions of British citizens who travel to the continent and the tens of thousands of British business men who do business there.

We agreed on joint action to reduce the flow of illegal immigration and bogus asylum seekers, including programmes to reduce the pressures for migration in the countries of origin, and we secured agreement to proposals by Britain for enhanced co-operation in the fight against organised crime and the prevention of juvenile crime.

In short, the first Finnish summit took some sensible measures that will provide practical solutions to real problems in the lives of our citizens. At Helsinki, we will also consider issues of immediate relevance to European citizens. For example, we will start the preparatory work for the special summit next spring on economic reform, in which Britain is making a leading contribution by arguing for a more open, flexible European economy, better able to compete in the globalised economy.

We expect Helsinki to update the employment guidelines and to adopt a paper on the information society in Europe, both of which measures serve Britain's priority in developing a skilled, flexible labour force and a knowledge-driven industry.

Helsinki will also consider a presidency report on some long-standing negotiations on tax. Britain has chaired the working group on a code of conduct on harmful taxation and we broadly welcome its proposals, which will enable British industry to compete without being disadvantaged by unfair tax breaks to its competitors.

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