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Mr. Smith: The location for the rugby league cup final is a matter for the rugby league authorities, not for me. I suspect that my hon. Friend has influence in that quarter, and he may wish to make his views known there. However, his central point is important. It has always been envisaged, and should still be envisaged, that a national stadium should cater for football and for rugby league.
Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): To prevent the project from collapsing altogether, what is the maximum expenditure of lottery or taxpayers' funds that the Secretary of State is prepared to endorse?
Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): I wonder whether my right hon. Friend might ask the FA whether it might like to buy Picketts Lock. Rugby union, the sport with which I am familiar, rebuilt two thirds of Twickenham 10 years ago, based on the premise of debenture tickets and media sales of television rights. Am I right in thinking that debentures were ruled out completely for Wembley? If so, who made the decision?
Mr. Smith: The decisions about the methods of financing for the Wembley project were made by the FA and Wembley National Stadium Ltd. I am pleased that my hon. Friend has drawn attention to Twickenham, which represents an extremely good example of a sport deciding to reconstruct its stadium and doing so successfully by raising the money itself.
Mr. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): It is a pleasure, albeit a rare one, for me entirely to concur with the views of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler). I seek a categoric assurance from my right hon. Friend: if Birmingham is able to show that it
Mr. Smith: We shall consider any proposals that are put to us completely fairly and completely openly. We shall make an assessment based on what would provide the best stadium for football and rugby league and the most affordable cost.
Mr. Derek Twigg (Halton): Towards the end of last year, a deal to move the Wembley towers to Widnes in my constituency, where they would have formed part of the new national rugby league museum, was all but completed--the ink was nearly dry on the paper. If another opportunity to move the towers arises, will my right hon. Friend give his support for that?
I welcome my right hon. Friend's decision to take a fresh look at the problem of Wembley. We have heard nonsense from the Tories, who have put nothing of substance on the table today. It is right not to rule out other locations and my right hon. Friend might consider the north-west of England, where he will find the best rugby league and soccer teams in the country. Building a national stadium in the region would save supporters money as they would not have to travel back and forth to other venues.
Mr. Smith: There is a practical difficulty with moving the Wembley towers, because of the nature of their construction. However, if ingenious methods of moving them can be found and if the finance for the operation can be put together, such an option may be considered. I note my hon. Friend's bid for the north-west of England to host a national stadium. So far, we have had bids from Wembley itself, the north-west, the north-east, Birmingham and other parts of the midlands. Indeed, if market forces are operating, perhaps such competition is the best possible way to secure a good stadium at an affordable price.
Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Was it not chronic and perverse metro-centricity that left the national showcase for the national game in a shabby stadium in an inaccessible, expensive and congested north-west London suburb when decades ago it could have been moved to the midlands or the north? Will my right hon. Friend look carefully at the potential of the east midlands to provide a home for the national game that is accessible, affordable and closer to the real supporters of football?
Mr. Smith: One of the good aspects of the Wembley project so far has been the commitment of all parties--the single regeneration budget panel, the Wembley taskforce and the mayor of London--to improving the accessibility of the Wembley area, and the regeneration of that area is one of the benefits that have been sought. I reiterate, however, what I have said to others: we will look at all the options, and we will consider alternative locations. We want to do the right thing and ensure that we end up with the best possible national stadium.
On 27 March I tabled two questions to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to which I have received no substantive answer. Let me briefly explain. I asked the Minister from which countries whose standards of animal welfare, health or hygiene were lower than those of this country we were importing meat or poultry or their products. Neither question was difficult to answer--I should have thought that the Minister already had the information--and answering would have been neither time-consuming nor expensive; yet, 36 days later, there is still no answer.
The only reason I can think of for the fact that there has been no answer is that providing such an answer would be politically embarrassing. The Government are too embarrassed to admit that British farming has been put at a competitive disadvantage by the Government's failure to take action to ban products from countries whose standards are poorer than ours. The Government understand that products in those countries--
Mr. Sayeed: May I finish, Mr. Speaker, very briefly? Can you confirm that my two questions were in order, and that it is unacceptable for a Government to delay answers deliberately just because those answers are politically embarrassing to them?
All hon. Members are entitled to timeous replies, but it must also be appreciated that the Department to which the hon. Gentleman referred is under a great deal of strain. Members should realise that, and exercise some patience. I put it on record, however, that the hon. Gentleman is entitled to a timeous answer.
During that Question Time, Mr. Speaker, you will have heard a great many cries of "Disgraceful" from Conservative Members. I am sure you will accept that they were aimed not at the Chair but at the conduct of the Prime Minister.
It is indeed disgraceful that the Prime Minister has changed the rules of the House: instead of coming here twice a week, he now deigns to come only once a week. His constitutional duty is to answer questions from Members in all parts of the House, but particularly from the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that, in response to very serious points that were made by my right hon. Friend about Wembley stadium, the dome and so on, the Prime Minister was gratuitously abusive to my right hon. Friend, referring to