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Mr. Smith: No.

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North): My right hon. Friend's friends in the north are fed up with projects being directed to the southern part of the country. We cannot prevent the private sector from investing where it wishes. However, in the case that we are considering, the private sector has decided that Wembley is not viable because of the additional costs that such a location incurs. If any public money, including lottery money, is to be used, can we have value for money by considering options in other parts of the country? They include refurbishing existing football stadiums and spreading international football and rugby league matches throughout the country. Other countries, such as Italy, do that.

Mr. Smith: As I have already said, we are prepared to consider other options, and I will bear my hon. Friend's comments in mind. I am delighted that major projects under the Department's umbrella will go to the north of England. I am especially pleased that the Baltic flour mills and the Gateshead music centre are well under way.

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove): I welcome the Secretary of State's comments about keeping options open. He mentioned the Commonwealth games in Manchester in 2002. They will be the first big international sporting event in this country after the foot and mouth crisis and will afford great opportunities for regenerating international tourism. Will he assure hon. Members that he will bear regeneration in mind when he considers the stadium, which could properly be located in Greater Manchester?

Mr. Smith: I agree with the hon. Gentleman's endorsement of the importance of the 2002 Commonwealth games, which constitute a major sporting event. They will draw people from all around the world and we can use them in our campaign to boost tourism in the sad aftermath of foot and mouth disease. The announcement that we made this morning of an additional £12 million for the British Tourist Authority's promotion budget will help in that task.

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North): I welcome my right hon. Friend's work to try to find a solution. Football is our national spectator sport, and it is therefore essential to find a long-term, sustainable solution. We want not a stadium that will cost people far too much to visit, but a venue that ordinary football fans and their families can afford. I welcome my right hon. Friend's

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decision not to rule anything in or out at present. I ask him to consider all the options. If Wembley cannot be refurbished, will he consider the principles of environmental sustainability in, for example, the distances that fans travel to and from football matches? Will he consider the possibility of a Wembley of the north, or even of the midlands?

Mr. Smith: We will consider all the options. I agree with my hon. Friend that is essential to find a good solution. We want a national stadium in England, and it is demonstrably possible to achieve that. The Millennium stadium in Cardiff was built for £126 million, a fifth of the estimated cost of the current Wembley project. Let us learn some lessons from the enormous success of that project and apply them to a national stadium for England.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): Today is the fourth anniversary of the Labour Government, and what an appalling birthday present the Secretary of State has given the nation. Wembley stadium was world famous for all the right reasons, and the dome is world famous for all the wrong ones. If the new Wembley project had been a great success, the Government would have claimed credit for it. Now that it is an appalling fiasco, they are rubbing their hands and not taking any of the blame. In the dying days of this dreadful and appalling Government, will the Secretary of State--who obviously has a problem with the word "resign"--at least come to the Dispatch Box and say that he is sorry?

Mr. Smith: The one thing on which I can agree with the hon. Gentleman is that this is, indeed, the fourth anniversary of the election of this Government. I look forward to many more such anniversaries.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): My right hon. Friend will know that I have asked questions consistently on this subject over the past 10 years. Indeed, I had a question on it on Monday's Order Paper, which, unfortunately, we did not reach. I have always supported the need for a replacement Wembley. Wembley stadium, as it was, was not up to standard for the 21st century. We need a replacement that will provide good facilities for the majority of the crowd--ordinary people--and it need not cost £400 million. This is not the Government's fault, and they should tell the FA to get itself sorted out. We need a new national stadium, and I believe that it should be in London, and at Wembley. The FA needs to sort this out, because there is enough money in football to do so.

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend has, indeed, been consistent in pursuing the need for a national stadium that will offer considerably better conditions than the rather dilapidated ones at the existing Wembley. We wish to see a national stadium, but we must get this right and we must not break everyone's bank in the process.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): Will the Secretary of State accept that it was a terrible decision to take Wembley out of service before plans for a new stadium had been agreed? Will he also accept that he has totally underestimated the affection that the British public have for the old Wembley stadium? I say that as one who was lucky enough to go there with his father, on 30 July 1966, to watch that great World cup final. Is not the solution for

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the Secretary of State to make good as best he can the circumstances at Wembley, and to take up the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) and build a new stadium and all its ancillary facilities in Birmingham--in the heart of the midlands--to give the midlands a little? Is not it a fact that this problem is a national humiliation, and that it is happening on the fourth anniversary of this Government?

Mr. Smith: The decision to take Wembley out of service was taken by Wembley National Stadium Ltd. As I have already said, we shall consider a range of options to see what is most affordable and sustainable, both environmentally--as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) mentioned--and economically.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I find myself in a minority here. May I say, as a socialist, that although the Secretary of State's job is to promote sports and to provide all the academies, providing an affordable and sustainable--to use his words--national stadium for the industry of soccer is not core Government business, bearing in mind the critical issues now facing us in this country? In my view, it is good that the Government should try to facilitate and encourage this project, but not with public money or with too much energy.

As a socialist, I think that market forces should prevail in this case. We should call the bluff of the Football Association, because the money is there, and the FA will provide it and refurbish Wembley stadium. The one condition that I would like to lay down is that the towers should not be removed. Where else would a heritage building be allowed to have such features removed? I will tell the House why that is happening. It is because of the disproportionate clout and influence of the football industry. That needs to be curtailed, and the industry's bluff needs to be called.

Mr. Smith: I believe that it is the job of the Government to facilitate a good and sustainable solution to this matter. The twin towers are, indeed, deeply loved across the country, and that is why we will, of course, consider refurbishment as well as new-build options. We need to assess the aesthetics, the heritage, the football and the economic case for the various options in front of us.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): In the past few weeks, the Prime Minister has wrested control of foot and mouth away from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and taken it on himself. Now we hear that control over this fiasco has been taken away from the Secretary of State and given to the Home Secretary. Given that, and the stinging criticism made by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport of the Secretary of State's intervention in 1999 and other issues, how does he feel about his stewardship of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport over the past four years?

Mr. Smith: Very confident.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield): Does it remain the aim of the Government to ensure that the new national stadium will cater for sports other than association football--in particular, of course, the great game of rugby league? My right hon. Friend was at Twickenham on

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Saturday, with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Sport, for the rugby league Challenge cup final. For one or two of us--certainly those of us who are banned from rugby union for life--it was a rather uncomfortable experience. Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that we will not have to go there again? He will be a popular man if he can ensure that rugby league is not played at Twickenham again.

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