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Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Would the Secretary of State care to comment on the role of Mr. Ken Bates in this fiasco? Will she also satisfy the House that she believes that all public funds have been properly accounted for?

Tessa Jowell: No, I do not wish to comment on the internal affairs of WNSL. I have outlined the report's conclusions and the action that will be taken in the light of that report.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that the decision on the financing and siting of a national stadium is the business of the FA. However, if the decision is taken to site it at Wembley, surely it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that the desperately needed regeneration of an area that was grossly neglected during the 18 years of Conservative Government is properly served by a truly integrated public transport system. Surely that means that Wembley Park requires more than just regeneration.

Tessa Jowell: Let me separate out two issues. First, I refer my hon. Friend to my earlier remarks on the necessary capacity of the tube to support the demand placed on it by spectators travelling to and from the stadium. Secondly, I entirely endorse her remarks about the blight in that part of London as a result of 18 years of neglect, indifference and failure to invest under the previous Government. One very important gain of a development such as this, whether it is in Birmingham or Wembley, is that the regeneration of the area means benefits for local people.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire): Is the right hon. Lady not embarrassed about the fact that in the years since the Taylor report, clubs the length and breadth of the country from Livingstone to Blackburn to Arlesey in my constituency have developed wonderful stadiums without any of the fuss that she has been through? Is she not embarrassed about the fact that on being given the World cup to host, the French developed a superb stadium at the Stade de France to cater for their national needs? Why on earth were those plans not simply picked up and implemented?

Is the right hon. Lady not further embarrassed that the Government of a country that can produce the perfection of Michael Owen and David Beckham can make such a Horlicks of producing a national stadium in which to display their talents?

Tessa Jowell: I am not remotely embarrassed about gripping a difficult issue on which decisions will need careful handling so that we reach a conclusion that is in the interests of sport and spectators. The Stade de France was extremely expensive. We should consider the experience of the development of stadiums throughout the world. I recommend that the hon. Gentleman do that so that he might understand more fully than his question suggested the complexity and difficulty that face us. I want to make it clear that this is football's national

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stadium. It is the sport's project, for which it seeks help and support from the Government, and I have set out the conditions under which that will be forthcoming. Yes, there are those—members of the FA and fans—who take the view that no national stadium is necessary because England are doing better travelling around the country than they have done for many years.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): The Secretary of State mentioned the lottery agreement. Is she aware that a substantial part of that dealt with the proposal that the national sports stadium should be suitable for the Olympic games? Has the FA—not the Government—consulted the British Olympic Association during the past six months about its views? Will she please take my advice, even though she may not want to do so? Having been fooled by the FA before, it is important that she ensures that the FA does not call the shots on this project.

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend should accept that the FA also recognises the importance of transparency and public confidence in the project as it moves forward. I hope that I have also made it clear that decisions about athletics and the capability of a proposed stadium to host sporting events other than football and rugby need to be assessed with the relevant governing bodies. They would obviously include the British Olympic Association, which is meeting Sport England and UK Sport to consider the feasibility and desirability of an Olympic bid. Those discussions will have a part in any future decision about the place of athletics at Wembley.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Does the Secretary of State expect a national stadium to be built and if so, when?

Tessa Jowell: I refer the hon. Gentleman to what I have already said. I set out the position in some detail.

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North): Is not the concept of a national football stadium, as envisaged at Wembley, a relic of the past in an over-centralised Britain? Should not a Government with an intelligent regional policy tell the FA that it is time to use the excellent grounds in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and even Sunderland?

Tessa Jowell: There is extensive representation of interests outside London in the FA as a body. In the context of the broad regional and national spread of its membership, the association has reached the conclusion that it wants to proceed at Wembley. It is the FA's decision and, in that respect, a matter for the association.

David Burnside (South Antrim): Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a time in life and in politics to cut and run, and that it is time to cut and run from this national disaster associated with not only her own Government but the previous one? Why will she not consider taking ownership of the site around that other national disaster, the millennium dome, and making that the site for the national stadium? Why does she not enable Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, to be given Home Office authority to raise private sector funds to finance such a national stadium and maintain it in London—the

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capital of England? I would rather have a national stadium in the capital of England, just as I would rather have one in Belfast than in my home town of Ballymoney.

Tessa Jowell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his advice. I am certainly not cutting and running, so I reject that part of his proposal. In relation to the remainder of his remarks, I think that he makes his point, but it is not advice that I intend to pursue.

Derek Twigg (Halton): While the national stadium will be a very important issue in my constituency, the bigger issue is what will happen to the twin towers at Wembley. Before the last debacle, there was a prepared proposal on the table that the twin towers should come to Halton to front the new national rugby league museum in Widnes. There is no reason why that should not happen, if the decision is as we heard today. Will my right hon. Friend do all that she can to ensure that the twin towers come to Widnes in my constituency?

Tessa Jowell: I am sure that my hon. Friend recognises that matter needs to be addressed and settled between the two relevant authorities: the Rugby League and the FA.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): The Secretary of State will understand that all members of the all-party sport and leisure group, of which I am one of the vice-chairmen, have been very concerned about the saga of disasters connected with this matter. She will also recognise that just about every commentator outside this place has ridiculed all the disasters since she and her team took over from a previous Secretary of State who was sacked after agreeing to mishandle £20 million of public money on a handshake in a private house—a scandal that was successfully exposed by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. Will the Secretary of State not recognise that, to paraphrase the words of a former Prime Minister, this has been a fiasco, wrapped in a shambles, surrounded by disaster, and that it is her fault?

Tessa Jowell: We have an Opposition in full rant this afternoon. I am not sure what that adds—it adds nothing to the necessary decisions and serious work in hand to deliver a national stadium.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston): While I appreciate that the Secretary of State has the difficult task on her hands of bringing this matter to a successful conclusion, may I tell her that although those in Birmingham will appreciate the positive remarks in her opening statement, they will find it extremely difficult to understand what more they have to do to be given a chance to confirm their extremely good track record? We have built an international convention centre and an international exhibition centre. We have been able to deliver where other people have simply made empty promises, and to us what is happening seems like asphyxiation by procrastination.

Tessa Jowell: I give some advice to all my hon. Friends who have deployed their advocacy for Birmingham, and that is to lobby the FA because, as I have made absolutely clear, the Government hold a neutral position on the location of the stadium. The decision on the location of the stadium—[Laughter.]

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Again, we see the pointlessness of the Opposition, as they behave pathetically. The point is that the decision about the location of the national stadium is a matter for the Football Association.

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