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Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): Does the Secretary of State know whether the value for money report, which she describes as satisfactory, took into account the £120 million of lottery money and the £20 million of public money? Surely the root of the problem is that, so far as Birmingham is concerned, there is not an even playing field. The £120 million was intended to provide a multi-sport national stadium. The FA has to decide whether it prefers Wembley or Birmingham, and in my view, if the stadium is to be used only for football, it should be in Birmingham. The reality is that football will get £120 million and there will be no multi-sport use. A football ground such as Millwall's could be made athletics-capable, but who would pay for the necessary work, if ever it were needed? Are we not witnessing yet another example of the richest sport in the country getting money that it does not need and should not have? The whole £120 million should be ploughed back into community sport.
Tessa Jowell: I know that my hon. Friend has strong feelings about the lottery grant, and I shall certainly let her know how the matter was dealt with in the context of the value for money report when I have further studied its detail. However, all the indications are that, if the stadium is funded to proceed, it will be multi-purpose, providing facilities for rugby league, football and athletics. In doing so, it will largely meet the terms of the lottery agreement on which the £120 million was originally awarded.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West): Every time that I have heard a statement on this issue, it has been reported that the FA and WNSL have been making progress. Given the fact that we have already had two deadlines that were not so dead, it would have been reasonable for some sort of conclusion to have been reached. Will the Secretary of State talk to the FA and WNSL, assess the position and give them a non-negotiable deadline, with transparent criteria, for them to complete, with the exercise of due diligence, all financial and contractual matters?
Tessa Jowell: It is important to make it clear that the FA has secured an outline offer of finance from the financial institution with which it has been negotiating. However, the timetable for completing the negotiation is not wholly within the FA's control. The timetable is set by the financial institutions and, to a great extent, the FA simply has to comply with it. Therefore, it would not be reasonable to set an irrevocable date at this point, but I have already told the House that I will make a further statement on progressand the status of Government supportbefore the House rises for the Whitsun recess.
Bob Russell (Colchester): Does the Secretary of State agree that whatever transport improvements are made in and around Wembley they would still be inadequate for the purpose? Bearing in mind the success of playing international matches at stadiums around England, does not she agree that that might be a better way forward? Given the possibility that 30 football clubs might go out of existence because of their financial problems, would not the £600 million be better spent on retaining a nationwide network of professional football clubs?
Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): I entirely support my right hon. Friend's decision. The English national stadium has to be at Wembley. It would be absolutely crazy of my right hon. Friend to pull the plug on a deal that looks as though it is almost complete. Let me say to my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in Birmingham and the west midlands that I am not opposed to Birmingham. My family comes from Birmingham; I used to go on holiday in Birmingham[Laughter.] Well, it was because we were so poor. If we are ever to attract international events to this country, the stadium has to be in London
Finally, despite the talk about the lottery money that was used to purchase the old Wembley site, the majority of the money for building the new national stadium must be subject to the FA's decision, because the FA is raising £460 million on the money markets to do it. Therefore, it is a matter for the FA, and perhaps we should have less Government interference rather than more.
Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): The right hon. Lady represents a south London seat, but I wonder whether she realises the adverse effect that this sorry saga has on the economy of north London. We lost Picketts Lock as the national athletics stadium; there will be no football at Wembley for at least five years, probably seven, which will affect the local economy; and the need to take infrastructure decisions is now urgent. It seems obvious that we must have a world-class multi-sports stadium at Wembley, and we should get on with it as soon as possible.
Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston): As a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, I have been as frustrated as anyone else over the past two or three years. However, is it not true that the decision is very simple? It is a question not of where the stadium should be but of whether my right hon. Friend will allow a few more weeks so that the right decision is reached rather than blowing the project out of the water straight away. Anyone who has ever worked in the private sector knows about flexibility. I am sure that my right hon. Friend agrees that she is being flexible today for the very best reason.
Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden): The site of the proposed alternative bid is in my constituency. Does the Secretary of State accept that her description of "disappointment" as characterising the feelings in the west midlands is a serious understatement? We await this decision because of the related key strategic decisions on expanding the airport and widening the M42. It is not so much disappointment as hair-tearing frustration that is felt at this endless prevarication.
Tessa Jowell: I am very surprised by the hon. Lady's newly discovered support for the alternative site, as the correspondence that I have seen suggests that she opposed at every turn the prospect of a national stadium in Birmingham.
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): My right hon. Friend will know that I have always supported the case for Wembley, so I support the extra time that she is asking for today. As well as the transport and infrastructure improvements, which are crucial, does she accept that the fans who pay to go through the turnstiles week after week are concerned
Tessa Jowell: The answer to my hon. Friend's first question is that the investment in infrastructure will obviously improve access to the stadium and will offer regeneration to a part of north-west London that badly needs it. Secondly, the FA's proposal is for a 90,000-seater stadium; 18,000 will be so-called corporate seats, but 15 per cent. of the seats will generate 75 per cent. of the money for the stadium's ongoing funding. So there will be more space in Wembley for ordinary fans paying ordinary prices than in any other stadium in the country.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): The right hon. Lady will be very aware of the anger and disappointment in the west midlands about her statement today of her failure to make the FA stick to its 30 April deadline. A few moments ago, she said that she was not prepared to give an irreversible deadline, but surely she owes that to the people of the west midlandsat some point she must be prepared to pull the plug on Wembley. What is the point of her office if she is not prepared to take executive decisions?