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Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South): Does the proposal have the required agreement of the Mayor of London, who may well have a final veto in the matter?

Tessa Jowell: The Mayor of London has certainly been engaged in preliminary discussion about the development of the stadium, but that is a matter for the Football Association. As the hon. Gentleman will see if he studies the fine detail of the Carter report, the London development agency has offered up to £20 million in the event that the stadium proceeds in London.

Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): Given the number of qualifications in my right hon. Friend's statement, does she realise that, not just in Birmingham but throughout the country, people will be mystified as to how she and the faceless wonders at the FA can have any confidence in these proposals?

May I put two simple questions to my right hon. Friend? First, can she say categorically that this is an FA project and that the Government are not partners in it, as certain people in the FA are claiming? Secondly, what will she do if the investigations reported in Australia into the activities of Multiplex reveal further damning condemnations of the activities of that company?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend, but there are two Birmingham clubs in the FA—Birmingham City and Aston Villa—and they should be taking part in the debate in the FA, because it is a decision for the FA. I do not propose to comment on the newspaper reports to which he referred. I have set out very clearly the action that the FA proposes to take, and I would not add to that.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): I have listened carefully to the Secretary of State's answers, and I appreciate the great problems that she has inherited and what she is trying to do to sort them out, but does she agree that this is a national stadium and, therefore, that the Government should have more say than they have apparently had to date? I strongly support locating the stadium in Birmingham because of that city's location and infrastructure, particularly its transport infrastructure, but will she not accept that a lot more people should be involved than just the FA, given that it is a national stadium? Will she consider suggesting that the FA and others should consult Manchester city council and the others who have been involved in producing some wonderful facilities for the Commonwealth games in Manchester next year?

Tessa Jowell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks, and I am glad that, unlike his colleagues, he recognises the complexity of this issue. I reiterate the points that I have made about the representations to be made to the FA about the stadium's location. He asks whether a national stadium is a decision for the Government, and the answer is no. In a democracy, not every decision that affects our nation is taken by the Government, and this decision on a national stadium is being taken by the FA, assisted and facilitated by the Government. He is right to draw attention

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to the preparations in Manchester for next year's Commonwealth games, which, I hope, will make people throughout the country feel proud and do an enormous amount for sporting morale here.

Andy Burnham (Leigh): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the problems with the Wembley project was the pressure created by false deadlines for events that had not been secured? Anyone would think that the Conservative party was blameless, but does she also agree that the commitments to stage the World cup, the Olympics and the world athletics championships were first given by the Conservative party when it chose Wembley as the site for the national stadium?

In endorsing the cautious approach that my right hon. Friend has announced today, I urge her to consider the wider issues raised by the Wembley saga. The truth is that the project has taken off in a way that it should never have gone—it was too extravagant, it was based on an experimental design and there was far too much commercial development. Will she consider the arm's length principle in the handling of sports funding? Will she also consider reviewing the outdated decision-making functions of some of our major governing bodies of sport?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend very much for his remarks. He is right that false deadlines can create more problems than they solve. I have made it very clear this afternoon that this project should proceed, but, as I told my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), it is important to establish a time frame to create discipline. I also agree very strongly with his point about the importance of protecting the public interest. I do not for a moment underestimate or undervalue the significance of the fact that £120 million of lottery funding has already gone into the putative Wembley project. That money was raised by the public for the causes that they hold dear, and we have a special responsibility to ensure that that money is properly safeguarded, which is the whole driving purpose of the approach that I have outlined to the House this afternoon.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker: Order. Only a few hon. Members remain to be called. If they each ask one brief question, I shall be able to call every one of them.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): When I and my constituents have had the chance to study Patrick Carter's report, are we likely to be convinced that my right hon. Friend's announcement is the logical outcome?

Tessa Jowell: Yes.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough): Does not the business case for Wembley revolve around the fact that the FA already has £120 million of lottery money? Will the report into the feasibility of the stadium hosting athletics be carried out independently? It is obviously in the FA's interests to ensure that there is a favourable report that suggests that the stadium can host athletics, because that would mean that the FA could hold on to £20 million.

Tessa Jowell: First, the business case is certainly influenced by the fact that £120 million has already been

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spent on acquiring the Wembley site. Secondly, I hope that I have made it clear that the further work that needs to be done on the practical feasibility of holding athletics at Wembley involves a further investigation that will take time, but that needs to be carried out with the governing bodies of athletics. They will be the real judges of whether a potentially athletics-capable stadium can host athletics events.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): For people not just in Birmingham but throughout the regions, today's decision by the FA will send out an appalling signal. They will regard the FA's decision as having—I must say this—sweet FA logic.

Given that Birmingham put forward a bid that was costed, that was ready to go and that had the support of the fans and the clubs, just how long will Wembley have to come up with something that is viable? It has not come up with anything viable so far. Although I appreciate what my right hon. Friend says about deadlines, if she is saying that there is a time frame, what will it be? In Birmingham, we are ready to go and want to get on with the job.

Tessa Jowell: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his efforts to maintain the case for Birmingham, but he must refer his remarks to the FA. In due course, the time scales for the decisions at the next stage and for the completion of the work that I have outlined will be published. However, the important point is that the project moves ahead with public confidence and with the confidence of those whose support is essential to securing it.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): I am a Burnley supporter who has always supported the Wembley option, but will my right hon. Friend assure us that we will now see an end to the talking and that the stadium will be built? Can we be assured that the transport links will be brought up to the standard that we need and that there will not be too many seats for the snobs and executives—and more for the fans who support the game throughout the length and breadth of this country?

Tessa Jowell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just insisted that I remind the House that the national stadium will not go to Burnley. I can inform my hon. Friend that the lottery agreement sets out terms and conditions in relation to the balance of seats that he describes, and the material fact that led the FA to conclude that Wembley was more commercially viable related to the level of premium seat income. However, such matters will be judged more closely over the next few months as final decisions are reached.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that this is known as the national embarrassment stadium. She has inherited these problems and we all want them to be resolved, but I believe that Birmingham has a strong case and we should not rule it out or string along the people involved.

Rugby league has not been mentioned, but is my right hon. Friend aware that Wembley is the national home of rugby league as well as of football? As a Bolton Wanderers fan, I recall the white horse final when Bolton beat West Ham.

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