Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
BROOKING, CBE, MRS
200. You do stand to gain quite a bit, because
the Birmingham Stadium would not cost you anything like the amount
of money that Wembley would cost. Therefore, you would have more
money for other projects.
(Mrs Simmonds) That would obviously be a good thing.
201. I have been astounded, as a relatively
new member of this Committee, by the poor quality of the processes
by which decisions have been made. We have heard already this
morning David Moorcroft who said that the strategy and policy
discussions took place after we got into all these things rather
than before. It seems to me that the primary role of government,
which has been expressed by everybody, is that there are two things
required: one is leadership and the other is to formulate strategy
and policy. There seems to have been a complete vacuum on both
counts. How do you feel you have dealt with ministers on this?
What improvements would you like to see in the way that ministers
behave in these matters in future?
(Mrs Simmonds) I think we have been very consistent.
We constantly wrote to the last Secretary of State and made clear
our views, and made clear our views on which we were not consulted
about the decision to remove athletics from Wembley. I think what
I said before is right, that we want government involvement and
support and what we do not need is interference. It is up to the
expertise that the sports have within our organisations to take
these projects forward.
202. Can we see that?
(Mrs Simmonds) Yes, you can see that.
203. You say you do not want interferencefair
enoughbut, at the same time, other bodies are saying they
want leadership. If you want leadership you are going to get a
certain degree of interference, clearly. What I am pressing you
on is whether you feel that the ministers responsible in the Department
of Culture, Media and Sport have actually served your purposes
and are actually delivering leadership and strategy?
(Mrs Simmonds) I think we saw very clearly that when
Dick Caborn was appointed, within three days, he came to the council
of Sport England, which was meeting almost immediately, we had
a long discussion about his support and his understanding of what
we were doing and it is absolutely essential that we see the DCMS
as our champion. They have got to champion our cause throughout
government, and there is lots we can do. As I said before, in
answer to an earlier question, we need to change the structure
of getting us all involved at an early stage on deciding on these
bids for international events, and then sticking to the decisions
(Mr Brooking) I have got to say that in recent weeks
the current Secretary of State and the Minister have involved
us much more in the discussions. You have to remember that everything
went great up until July 1999; everyone was on board, and we went
to a stage at which we had been involved in everything up until
then. Then you had a report, there was no discussion of the report
and then for three weeks we were totally left out of any discussionthe
agreement to take athletics out and handing back the £20
million, how that figure was arrived at, how it was to be repaid.
After that we were asked to pick it up. You cannot continue in
something like that. We are picking up a vacuum that we know nothing
about. Then different parties said "No, that is not what
was said." How do we know what was said because we were not
there for three weeks? You cannot deliver on something like that;
you have to be involved in the whole process and be given the
authority to carry that through, and then sink or swim on those
decisions. You cannot do that if you are not involved in all the
204. The lesson for you is that government does
have to give leadership and have a strategy in advance, and then
you know within what framework you are working.
(Mr Brooking) Particularly on the major events and
major funding issues. You cannot keep looking to a diminishing
Lottery pot to bail everyone out, you have got to have dedicated
Exchequer funding additional to that in order to go forward.
205. Have you ever seen a piece of paperis
there a piece of paper to your knowledgeon which the FA
have committed themselves in writing to paying you back the £20
(Mr Brooking) No, I think you will findagain,
this is what we were toldthe actual agreement during those
three weeks was almost a handshake between the Secretary of State
206. A handshake for £20 million of public
(Mr Brooking) There is no written evidence, or whatever.
207. Do you not think that is absolutely disgraceful?
(Mrs Simmonds) It makes it very difficult. The difficulty
we now have is that
(Mr Brooking) There is no legality.
(Mrs Simmonds) There is no legality for us to seek
the return of that £20 million, because with our Lottery
funding agreement the decision on the £20 million was made
by a third party outside that agreement. So that severely restricts
our legal position on the return of the £20 million, although
we were very encouraged to hear Sir Rodney and the Football Association
say that they were
(Mr Brooking) Morally they have got that commitment.
There is no legal right to claim that money back. We have to rely
on their goodwill.
208. Goodwill! Twenty million pounds of public
money, for which you are responsible, which you handed them, which
they have no conceivable right to, because there is not going
to be athletics at Wembley and you say you rely on their goodwill
for them to pay back £20 million to which they have no conceivable
(Mrs Simmonds) I will say it is possible we still
could have athletics at Wembley. If they go ahead with the project
in its current form you could still have athletics at Wembley.
I think we had two positions: the first position is we are very
keen for the project to go forward there and, therefore, we were
very keen to support it. So we did not want to be making so much
fuss about returning this £20 million immediately. Our second
position is our legal one.
(Mr Brooking) The fact is that we have consistently
been writing to request that £20 million back. The fact that
the project is in limbo at the moment would be the reason that
that has not been carried forward any further. The fact is because
there is no legal binding to it we have to rely on that, but when
it is decided what is going to happen to the project then the
£20 million issue will be resolved, we hope. Again, perhaps
you can include that in your next inquiry, which you have just
209. We want to know about it in this inquiry.
You are custodians of that money. You paid it out, it is your
pot. Brigid Simmonds said (and I took her words down) "Our
pot is not big enough." Your pot is £120 million short
because you paid it out. There is this vague chimaerical, extraordinary
commitment that nobody can clarify, nobody can put a time to,
a date to or anything, for £20 million back. You could give
that £20 million to the Robinson's Sport College in my constituency
where they would actually use it properly for a new community
sports hall, yet it floats around. I amwell, I am not speechless.
(Mrs Simmonds) I am not sure it is a question for
us, Chairman, because
210. It is for you. It is the money you were
in charge of. That is money you paid out. You said before that
you made an independent decision.
(Mrs Simmonds) Yes.
211. The verb could be conjugated, could it
not? I am independent; you are unaccountable, he is irresponsible.
Twenty million pounds of public money for which there is no clear
line of responsibility. This House of Commons, if it is here for
anything, is to take account of how public money is spent.
(Mr Brooking) Then it does relate back to the decision
that was taken in December 1999, because we have not got the legal
claim to enforce that £20 million. What it would do is come
under the umbrella of the £120 million if the project did
not happen at Wembley. But, if it goes forward at Wembley, then
that separate £20 million, as you say, is an issue and a
moral commitment but no legal commitment. That was a decision
outside our influence.
212. Thank you very much.
(Mr Brooking) You are speechless, Chairman.
213. We are going to have a little break, and
then you can all come back and listen to Tessa Jowell explain
how she is going to get that money back for you.
(Mr Brooking) Thank you very much.