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7.15 pm

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is in her place listening to the end of the debate. I do not know where the shadow Minister for Sport is, but I thought that he would be here to listen to this important debate.

I welcome the opportunity to debate the Select Committee's timely report. Our discussion went slightly wide of the report's contents and considered some serious flaws in the structures for sport. I acknowledge those, and they give much food for thought on which the Government will reflect.

I was disappointed that the IAAF did not accept the offer of Sheffield. Whatever has been said to my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), the offer was made in good faith, and I know that Sheffield would have put on a first-class championship, as good as, if not better than Edmonton. In 1991, the previous president of the IAAF, Primo Nebiolo, then president of the world student games, opened those games at Sheffield and commended it as a fine facility which would leave a lasting legacy for sport.

When we decided that there needed to be a review of Picketts Lock, my right hon. Friend Secretary of State informed the IAAF of the terms of reference before we released any information to the outside world. My officials and I followed that up with a one-hour meeting in Edmonton with UK Athletics officials, at which we discussed the difficulties with Picketts Lock.

We told the IAAF before we made the information available to the public that we were revisiting the whole idea of Picketts Lock and that we would have to find an alternative. That was a long time before the meeting at Heathrow airport, at which we explained in great detail why we had withdrawn from the project. We made it clear that we were very sorry and that what we were doing was

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in the best interests of the IAAF and, indeed, of this country. Had the project gone ahead, knowing the situation with transport and accommodation, we could have been left with a disaster much closer to 2005, and that would have been a real embarrassment for the UK and the IAAF. That is reflected in the report. Our action was correct at the time, even though it created consternation.

Mr. Bryant: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Caborn: No, I must continue.

Given the IAAF's position, UK Athletics, Sport England, UK Sport, Sheffield city council and the BOA concluded that there was little prospect of a successful bid by the UK if we made one after the IAAF had made its decision. The Government agreed with them on that basis. I must tell the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) that it is not the Government who make the bid, but the governing bodies. It is then up to the Government whether they support it.

When I became Minister for Sport in June, it was my intention to ensure that the Government's priorities for sport placed proper emphasis on the need to invest in grass-roots sport, on which there seems to be universal agreement among hon. Members, to increase participation in sport in schools for young people and to ensure that there is lifelong participation among adults. I also wanted to place emphasis on the need to improve coaching and talent identification, to refurbish community facilities, to ensure that there is adequate maintenance of existing facilities, and to provide better support for our top athletes. I believe that we are making good progress in delivering those objectives by investing £130 million in primary schools for the space for sport and arts programme. Through the new opportunities fund, just under £600 million is now being invested in PE and sport facilities through schools and local education authorities.

The Exchequer has doubled its contribution to sport in this country. That means that, along with the lottery, there is now in excess of a third of a billion pounds being invested year on year. As hon. Members have said, there is also investment in people in sport through the school sports co-ordinators. We now have some 400 of those up and running, and working with 1,700 primary schools, and we aim to have 1,000 of them by 2003–04. We are also investing heavily in the volunteer programme.

We believe that major events have a role to play in our strategy. However, a fundamental flaw, not only under this Government but under previous Governments, is that we have been event led, not strategy led. We need to conduct a review of how we proceed, with governing bodies, to act on major events. The Select Committee report makes recommendations about that. The Committee, and its predecessor in the previous Parliament, has been focused on major sports events, and I make no criticism of that, but I genuinely welcome its recent work on the state of swimming facilities. We need to focus on those issues and make sure that we invest in existing, as well as new, facilities.

I suspect that some of the blame must be placed on the way in which the introduction of the lottery raised tremendous expectations about national stadiums, the

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World cup and the Commonwealth games, but those matters were discussed in a strategic vacuum. There was no discussion of their long-term delivery or of how they could add value to the sporting infrastructure.

It is interesting that nearly five years ago, on 17 December 1996, the then Sports Minister, Iain Sproat, said in a press release:

He went on to say:

The then Conservative Government were deeply involved in plans for the facilities which we are now bringing to fruition. With hindsight, the wrong focus was placed on a number of the developments of major facilities, and we want to revisit that. We indicated to the Select Committee that we will do that in the coming months through the performance and innovation unit.

As I said, sports governing bodies take the lead in these matters, and if they want a national showcase stadium to stage events, the Government can and should play a part in that, provided that the proposals are sound and have been demonstrated to be affordable, deliverable and capable of adding to the nation's sporting infrastructure. However, many mistakes have been made, and the world is littered with white elephants that stand as testimony to false expectations. Many are familiar with the stories of Montreal and Barcelona.

The Stade de France has been cited as an example that we ought to consider following, but I point out to the House the investment necessary for such a stadium. Some £580 million was invested, and the stadium now has a revenue cost of £7 million a year to keep it in operation. We must decide whether that is the right investment to come out of sport's budget. Stadium Australia has rightly been cited as the great feature of the Olympics, but even the president of the IOC said, on 7 August, that it is a white elephant and too big for any legacy use. He said that cities have to be protected from themselves when it comes to such ventures.

We need to define the roles of the Government, UK Sport, Sport England and governing bodies if we are to go ahead with the construction of stadiums. The governing bodies must lead the development plans for their sport, not only for stadiums, but for participation, talent development, elite sport and the facilities that they require. The Government's role is to facilitate the governing bodies' plans for sport. We are doing that in a positive way by engaging with the governing bodies.

I pay tribute to colleagues who are former Ministers for Sport and Secretaries of State, because we are now building up a significant infrastructure to deliver what many of the governing bodies want. That includes capacity building for sport at all levels, including within the governing body itself. The Government have invested some £7 million of Exchequer funding in UK Sport so that it can lead a modernisation programme for the governing bodies, which they welcome. We have invested the largest amount for many years in helping to modernise and develop sports facilities for the community and for elite athletes. Lottery-funded programmes are investing

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over £40 million a year in the development of elite sport through the world class performance programmes. We are demonstrating a real commitment, through governing bodies, to investment in sport.

Where a sport identifies a need for national facilities, whether for training or competing, the Government stand ready to play our part. We are creating the UK Sports Institute, which already has centres in Scotland and Wales. Despite the derision of the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), Sport England has committed £120 million from lottery funding to develop more than 80 built facilities, and to date almost £80 million of that has been allocated to specific projects. Over £60 million is being awarded to projects in Sheffield and at Loughborough university and the university of Bath.

I therefore welcome very much the Select Committee's suggestion that a more co-ordinated approach to major events is needed. That fits broadly with our approach, which will put a strategy first, rather than being event led. The PIU will put flesh on the bones of that approach, and we hope that we will be able to return to the House with proposals that respond positively to the points made in the Select Committee report. Whether that will include a Minister for events remains to be seen.

Turning quickly to other issues arising from the Select Committee's report, my right hon. Friend will make an announcement on a national stadium before the end of next week, bringing the position up to date. We are making it clear that the FA is in the lead, and there is no more public money for a stadium. We shall place Patrick Carter's report in the public domain before the House goes into recess. I hope that we will be able to have a thorough debate, as we did with Picketts Lock, because we put that information into the public domain and neither the Conservative nor the Liberal Democrat Opposition said that we should have proceeded with Picketts Lock in light of Patrick Carter's evidence. I promised to leave the last two minutes of debate for the Chairman of the Select Committee, so I conclude on that point.

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