Examination of Witnesses (Questions 87
TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2001
Chairman: Mr Carter, thank you very much
indeed for coming to see us with your colleagues. We are particularly
appreciative of the fact that due to factors outside our own control
you agreed at such short notice to come here. We are very grateful
to you indeed. Derek Wyatt?
87. It was no real surprise to us that you found
against Picketts Lock because that was our view as a Committee.
What I am interested in is why does it require an outside person
to come into a Department to tell them the hard facts of life?
(Mr Carter) I think partly because the
circumstances did change over time. If you look at the main reasons
why we were not in favour of Picketts Lock, it was to do with
infrastructurethe transport to the site was not good and
the athletes' accommodation was unproven. I think there was a
hope when this was originally set in train that the transport
infrastructure, particularly the Liverpool Street to Stansted
Line, would be upgraded and therefore more people would be carried
to the site. As it stands the excess capacity on that line is
about 300 people an hour at the key time it is needed and for
that reason really I think it could not go ahead. I think it is
a change of circumstances.
88. That is not an answer really. Do you mean
to say that inside the Department with, I do not know, 100 civil
servants with joined-up government between the DTI and DCMS on
many projects, that there was not the core competency anywhere
in any one of those Departments to do an infrastructure assessment
and say, "I am sorry, Secretary of State, before you make
the announcement, this is not going to work"?
(Mr Carter) It is slightly difficult
for me because I do not have the detailed knowledge of the Department
to comment on that. I came to it and I was able to do it. I had
help from the Department but actually what the resources of the
Department were I really could not comment on.
89. Can you understand that the Olympic athletes
and the world-class athletes that we have are in despair that
our own Government, my Government cannot get its act together
and cannot make these decisions quickly enough and cannot see
the bigger macro picture? We are a laughing stock on this thing
and it is deeply disturbing.
(Mr Carter) I think there is a strong
case for putting this right. Clearly, there is not a good process.
90. So what would be your main recommendations
so that this never happens again?
(Mr Carter) I think we need to have a
review of how major events are conducted.
91. But we had that review, we suggested there
should beand in fact Ian McCartney was namedin the
Cabinet Office one single decision-maker who could have real focus.
He was taken away. Fortunately, we have resolved the Commonwealth
Games, much of it our doing on this Committee, but the fact is
he was not focused in the Cabinet Office on that any more than
on Picketts Lock.
(Mr Carter) That is right. Whether what
has been done to date is effective enough obviously is a question.
Clearly somebody has to do something if we are to compete for
major events effectively and not mount bids that are not properly
costed and thought out and where the consequences are not really
in the public domain early on.
92. We spend something like £25 million
on sporting administration. I am not sure that UK sport even has
that sort of money to spend. We also have these committees who
are supposed to have core competencies. It seems to me that there
is something fundamentally missing in our sporting structure.
What are your main recommendations going to be?
(Mr Carter) We have to establish a major
events group, or whatever it is, which establishes a process to
make sure the right questions are asked at the right time, ie.
early enough. What seems to be the picture in all these major
events is we start them, we do not cost them properly, events
develop, the nation gets embarrassed, the Government pays or chooses
not to pay.
93. But, Mr Carter, how do you think Picketts
Lock was alighted upon in the first place? Do you think they got
a great map of London and using methods the Americans are doing
to try to find Bin Laden had criteria for a satellite to look
down and decide where a stadium would be? If so, I hope we have
better luck with Bin Laden.
(Mr Carter) I think after the decision
was made to take athletics out of Wembley there was this search
of London locations. It is quite hard, first of all, to find a
big site in London. London is very dense and much of it is brownfield
land that has contamination problems or there are greater planning
issues, particularly surrounding the green belt. It is difficult
to find a big site as they found last time. Picketts Lock was
the best of a bad bunch of sites to look at. I think it was the
least worst rather than the best.
94. You have got a remit, Mr Carter, with regard
to Wembley as well and there we are, there is Wembley, it exists,
it is a site which has got problems, okay, and the original proposal
(which is why they got £120 million of lottery money) is
you would have a football stadium where athletics could also be
staged. It may well be that you have had a chance during your
work to glance at the reports we have done. What justification
in your mind is there for the Government's outright rejection
of our proposal? Your predecessors and other witnesses have said
that if our proposal had been adopted it would be in time for
2005. What justification have you found of the Government's outright
rejection of our proposal that Wembley should be built with a
deck solution as a football and athletics stadium, which is what
Sport England wanted in the first place?
(Mr Carter) As you know, I am looking
at Wembley and national stadium issues and I do not want to get
drawn too closely into that because clearly it is a sensitive
time. As regards athletics in or out of Wembley that really all
occurred before my time. As I have come up to do these reviews
I have considered Picketts Lock separate to Wembley and Wembley
really as a football stadium. Whether athletics can go back into
it and the timing of that is of course something we will continue
to look at. When the Wembley review is announced we will have
some views on it.
95. Let me ask you another question that I also
asked the Wembley people. You have been appointed by the Government
because the Government has become involved with this project and
has got entangled with it rather like a tar baby. Do you think
governments should be involved in this?
(Mr Carter) In Picketts Lock?
96. No. You have been given this remit. You are
looking into Wembley and you are looking into Picketts Lock. You
made a recommendation which the Secretary of State, in my personal
view, very wisely accepted, but now that you have studied these
mattersand it has not been your previous area of expertise
which is why, in my view, it is a very good thing that you have
done itthat being so, and as a general question, not related
to either of the areas that you are looking into, do you think
that governments actually ought to involve themselves, particularly
in this detailed way, in the building of sports stadiums?
(Mr Carter) No, I believe not. I think
there should be agencies or an agency that has that responsibility.
There does seem to be some confusion as to where that responsibility
rests and one of the interesting things, particularly if you look
at Sport England, is the grounds on which it can give money but
also what it can do after that to make sure its involvement or
grant is properly protected. I think that is a relatively unsatisfactory
area. I think that implementation of these things should be through
some recognised body.
97. Without wishing to influence the outcome
of your consideration of Wembley, may I put it to you that there
is a serious lesson involved in this for governments, namely,
that governments are there to provide health services and education
and law and order and all these other things, and they are not
building contractors, and whenever governments get involved in
building, ranging from the shambles of the British Library that
was due to take five years and cost £74 million and took
30 years and cost £511 million, to the Millennium Bridge
across which nobody can walk, if you look at all the other building
projects in which government has been involved directly, is there
not a very good lesson for New Labour in its second phase (I do
not ask you to take on the party political aspect of what I have
said) to say, "Okay, that is the end of our involvement in
building things. If people want to build things and they get planning
permission, let them go ahead, but not us any more"?
(Mr Carter) It is important to try and
distinguish between things that can stand alone commercially and
things that cannot. If you look at the proposed Picketts Lock,
it could never have gone forward without some form of public money,
whether that is public money defined as lottery money or public
money defined as government money, but I think it is a choice
the Government will have to make because these things cannot move
forward without it. So I think that is part of the strategy of
whether they wish to support the development of sports infrastructure
and through which organisations they do it.
98. In that case the question is why should public
money be involved in any of these things?
I give you the example of Bridgewater Hall in
Manchester. It was not built with Government money at all. It
got certain aspects of public funding and it was built and completed
with the stipulation by Manchester City Council that it should
be self-sustaining, that Manchester City Council would not subsidise
it in any way whatsoever. It may well be the European Union gave
some money to it and other things have gone in as well, but is
it not about time that governments kept their noses out of these
(Mr Carter) I think the Government will have to decide
if it wants to create sporting infrastructure. It is very hard
to see, without some form of public money, how it could be done.
Whether it is the Government or some other organisation is a question.
Without some public involvement it is quite hard to see how it
can be done. I cannot see examples in any other countries where
some form of public involvement has not been there. In the United
States of America most of the big stadiums have been built on
the back of bond financing guaranteed by government. Whether they
part with the cash is a matter of whether the scheme works or
not but all around the edges of sporting infrastructure you can
feel the hand of government. It is a choice of whether we want
that infrastructure or not.
99. Again the question arisesand you are
extremely well placed to consider itto what extent do we
actually need these places? If Picketts Lock had been built what
would have happened there apart from staging the World Athletics
Championships? This Committee went to Kuala Lumpa to look at an
enormous stadium originally planned for 80,000 spectators but
on the whim of the Prime Minister (their Prime Minister, not ours)
it was expanded to 100,000 and once they had held the Commonwealth
Games there they have not the faintest idea what they are going
to do with it. What would have happened to Picketts Lock if it
had been built in time and all of these factors that led you rightly
to recommend that it should not go ahead? We have got a dramatically
beautiful stadium going up in Manchester for the Commonwealth
Games but it is going to be handed straight over to Manchester
Football Club. Why do we need these places?
(Mr Carter) The answer must be unless
there is a really enduring legacy where these buildings get used,
clearly one-time use is not justifiable. On that point you just
have to look around the world for half-used stadiums or failed
stadiums or failed sporting events. I think one has to be incredibly
careful and look beyond the immediate announcement of securing
some world class-events to what happens afterwards. That is why
the Manchester thing is such a good deal because there is a proper
use for it. In the case of Picketts Lock the legacy benefit of
Picketts Lock could be met by a much lesser involvement. Often
one gets these things mixed up and what we attempted to do in
the review was to distinguish between how much you were spending
for a legacy and how much you effectively would be spending for
a ten-day event in 2005.