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Mr. Kaufman: I am only too aware of what the hon. Gentleman says. The world-class expert on sightlines is Mr. David Faber, who enlightened the Culture, Media and Sport Committee a great deal during our discussions.
The Select Committee has the right to hold firm views on these matters. There is no point in being modest about the fact that we have been right on the main issues from the beginning. On the purported athletics stadium at Picketts Lock, the Committee gave detailed reasons against the project on the basis of six challenges, all of which were vindicated by Patrick Carter's report and have been accepted by the current Secretary of State. If we had been heeded, between our two reports, 15 months would not have been wasted on consideration of a venue to which only one person doggedly adheres today. All the reasons that we advanced have since been accepted as valid and accurate. As I said, they have been fully accepted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
On Wembley stadium, as the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) indicated, we recommended a convertible stadium capable of housing both football and athletics. That recommendation in our report was rejected instantly by the then Secretary of State, but is now recognised as an appropriate solution by all knowledgeable authorities.
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton): Given that hosting athletics at Wembley has been rejected not once, but twice, by Wembley National Stadium Ltd., and if we agree with reports published in The Observer and other newspapers at the weekend stating that if the stadium now goes ahead, it is unlikely to include athletics, why do the Committee and its Chairman believe that athletics will occur there in future?
Mr. Kaufman: To say that I had confidence about anything that is related to this issue would be to exaggerate my strength of character. None the less, it must be accepted that many of the organisations that are now involved in the matter believe that a convertible Wembley is the solution. What must be saidmy hon. Friend is certainly right on this pointis that there is no possibility whatever of it being available for the 2005 world athletics championships. Nobody would argue with that. As I said, the Committee recommended a convertible Wembley stadium and the proposal was rejected instantly by the then Secretary of State. It is now accepted by knowledgeable authorities. If we had been heeded and the project had proceeded, London would now be all set to host the 2005 world athletics championships, which have instead been lost to this country.
It would be easy but futile for the Committee simply to play the game of saying, "I told you so." All of us, in the Committee, the House and sporting organisations, must draw what lessons we can from this debacle. Lesson one is for the FA. It is to say, "Don't be greedy, but be efficient. If you want a stadium, raise the money and get planning permission. Don't hold out the begging bowl for
The second lesson is for Sport England. I say to that body, "The lottery money that you dispense is not your pocket money to spend on impulse purchases. It is a public trust, which you have violated by being, in the words of our report, 'slack and negligent', and by what we describe in restrained language as a 'cavalier and egregious use of public funds'."
Last week, in the Select Committee's current inquiry into swimming, Sport England stated that it had devoted £220 million of lottery funding to swimming throughout England in the five years from 1997 to September 2001. Swimming faces a funding crisis. Sport England provided it with an average of £45 million a year, compared with £120 million for a Wembley stadium, which is still on the drawing board according to the most optimistic assessment. I stress that point to my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love).
Sport England should have acted long ago to prise the money from the rich Football Association's greedy fingers. If the FA makes a new decision to build a Wembley stadium, it should have to undergo the whole process of bidding for lottery money again because the project would not be the same as that for which it received the money.
Lesson three is for the Government. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is present. However, I tell her that if she wants to build a national stadium, she should draw up the plans, determine its uses, decide on the site, obtain the money and get on with it. If she does not intend to do all that, I tell her with the utmost courtesy to keep out and shut up; it is none of her business. Governments of both parties have poor records as building contractors, from the British Library, which took 30 years to build, to the subject of today's debate. I should be happy if my hon. Friends on the Front Bench got on with work on the national health service, education and law and order and left building to contractors and project managers.
In the Select Committee's view, my right hon. Friend has made the right hands-off decisions so far. She has disentangled herself from the tar baby that constitutes the project. I hope that it is not true, but I read in the press that she may get involved in a new process and even launch a competition. She knows the regard in which I hold her, and I tell her that she would be crazy to do that. Having got out of one mess, it would be a serious error to get into another.
Lesson four is for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. This country has come to grief over a series of events. They include the millennium dome, for which both parties bear responsibility; the world cup bid; and the world athletics championships bid. There has never
The May 1999 report recommended the same approach, including appointing a Minister of events for Wembley. However, we were ignored. We made the recommendation again in the report that we published in March 2000 on Wembley national stadium. Again, we were ignored, and the shambles that we are considering today ensued.
The new report also recommends that the Prime Minister appoint an events Minister. I hope that, in view of the series of sagas, he will listen and act. Otherwise, it would be sensible to abandon pretensions to staging complex events in this country. If we do not have the structure, we should not make the effort.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): My right hon. Friend and Chairman of the Select Committee has been a little coy in his remarks so far. I recall that the Select Committee and the report was somewhat more critical of the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport over the decision to pull the rug from under a Wembley stadium that would have included athletics. If that fundamental decision had not been made, we would not be worried about £120 million and the refund, or the lack of venue for the world athletics championships. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell hon. Members a little more of what we said about that.
Mr. Kaufman: My hon. Friend is well aware of the report's contents because she participated in drafting it and the personal references that it makes. Perhaps if she catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, she can amplify her comments and quote from the report more fully. However, I am conscious that our time is limited and I do not want to take up too much of that of other hon. Members, who I am sure have useful and interesting comments to make.
Last week, representatives of international swimming, such as Anita Lonsborough, Sharon Davies and Duncan Goodhew, attended the Select Committee meeting. We have also met many other athletes during our inquiries. This country has the talent and our sports people have the commitment to make it an illustrious world centre. If the episode that the report considers means that a salutary lesson has been learned, it may not have been in vain.