Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
MP, RT HON
MP AND PHILIPPA
220. Secretary of State, I repeat, I cannot
fault, from my personal point of view, the decision that you made,
but with regard to what you just said, you said that your predecessor
made the decision he did having taken advice?
(Tessa Jowell) I think I said I assumed he had taken
221. I recommend to you, Secretary of State,
since it is not a previous government you presumably have access
to the internal documents within your Department, that you take
a look at them, because on as recently as 3 August, the month
before last, at a ministerial level within your Department Picketts
Lock was being talked up. The advice that you were getting from
within your Department was favourable to Picketts Lock, Carter
came out with his report, which you accepted. It does seem to
me that from your own point of view it is very important, indeed,
that you look at the advice on this so that you know whether the
quality of the advice that you have been getting on this issue
(Tessa Jowell) Can I add very briefly to that and
say that when I was looking at this for the first time in the
middle of June the advice I received at that time, indeed I made
clear in the press conference that announced the Carter Review
of the Picketts Lock Project that the option of returning to the
platform at Wembley was no longer viable, because the advice was
that, it simply could not be delivered for 2005, so it failed
my first important test of deliverability. We did not revisit
the possibility of that because also the Wembley project was by
then, as you we all know, back in the melting pot.
222. I am sorry to labour this, sorry to take
up your time, let me clarify this, it was perfectly clear, and
it was made clear by the WNSL people who came last week, that
by the time you took office the Wembley option was no longer available.
I am not crawling over the decision that was made on that basis,
certainly I am not asking or suggesting that you should have visited
the Wembley option at that time, although I think the reaction
to our report, I am not saying it is proprietorial it just so
happen that large numbers of people with authority now say we
were right on that. The point I am making is this, I am not saying
that you should not have revisited Wembley what I am saying is
that there is a prima facie case for saying that within
your Department the opinion well into the summer of this year
was that Picketts Lock was still a runner, and it was only the
Carter Report, which is an external report, that either decided
the view or reinforced the view you had already. I am simply saying
this, it does seem to me that unless Mr Smith made that decision
totally off his own back that the quality of advice that was available
in your Department right through to this Summer was advice that
is something that you should look at because you need assistance
from your Department, every secretary of state does.
(Tessa Jowell) Ultimately every secretary of state,
minister, particularly secretary of state, is responsible for
the decisions that they make. I want the Committee to know that
since I have been appointed I have been served in a first class
manner by my civil servants, I have impressed by the quality of
their judgment and by the quality of advice and no doubt I will
stand and fall by the good sense, or not, that I have in applying
their advice to the judgments I have to make. The same goes for
any secretary of state.
223. Absolutely, it is in my book, "How
to be a Minister".
(Tessa Jowell) That is probably where I first read
224. Tell me, would it have been the same civil
servants who on 19 January drafted the letter for Chris Smith
to John Greenway when he says regarding the £20 million,
which you will know is exercising this Committee at the moment,
quite rightly, that the repayment of the £20 million is contingent
on the successful completion of the Wembley loan syndication.
That is on 19 January, and yet just a few months later on 5 April
he changes his tune completely in a Parliamentary written answer
to John Greenway when he then said regarding the £20 million,
"under the agreement the final payment is due to be paid
by December 2004", which is a new date which suddenly appears
out of the blue. Firstly, or really I would simply ask, when exactly
is this £20 million going to be repaid? Was Chris Smith right
on 19 January when he said it might be repaid if Wembley Stadium
goes ahead, if it does not go ahead it will not be repaid or was
he right on 5 April when he says the final payment of that £20
million is going to the made by December 2004, contingent on nothing?
(Tessa Jowell) Can I say two things about that, first
of all I do not know whether whoever drafted those letters is
still in the Department or not. At the end of the day we as ministers
are responsible and I know that Chris Smith, or any other secretary
of state, accepted that wholeheartedly as his responsibility.
I think it is important not to try to divide ministers from their
civil servants but to recognise that as ministers we take the
225. It is your responsibility, when will it
(Tessa Jowell) That it will be repaid is recognised
by the Football Association, they accept that the money will be
repaid and it will be repaid to Sport England. When it will be
repaid is a matter which is, at the moment, subject to discussions
in camera, and I hope with as much radio silence as possible,
between Patrick Carter and the FA about the future of a national
football stadium. I will, of course, or would in camera
amplify that further but I am very keen to ensure that those discussions
have the opportunity to proceed to whatever conclusion so that
the repayment of the £20 million is not in doubt, in the
words of the Football Association. The timing will be clarified
when those discussions between the FA and Patrick Carter are finalised.
226. Our Report on this inquiry will be published
some time in the first half of next month, probably, that gives
you two parliamentary months in which to reply, are you confident
that in your reply you will be able to clarify the date on which
the repayment will have to be made?
(Tessa Jowell) In the light of the outcome of the
discussions between Patrick Carter and the Football Association
I will do my best, depending on the outcome of those discussions,
to provide the certainty that we all want about this, not least
227. As a new member of the Committee I am interested
in how we take this forward. It may very well be that 2005 is
abandoned, that we just cannot deliver. It may very well be the
decision that you would come to because everything is up in the
air at the moment, from what I can gather. One thing I would like
to see is how much of an intent there was by UK Athletics' very
reasonable approach to the whole issue when they gave evidence
to this Committee, they are the ones who have lost out most by
this and they have accepted it in the spirit of taking things
forward. You said, and I start from the premise that sport is
absolutely crucial to the health and well being of the nation
and from what we have heard so far it would appear there is very
little joined-up thinking across government in terms of how sport
can help in that agenda. How do you see your Department being
able to develop that throughout Government, working with all of
the various organisations so that we can support our young people
and eventually be able to host the kind of events that we do very
(Tessa Jowell) Thank you very much, indeed.
If I can just begin with the first part of your question about
the games being abandoned, the games will not be abandoned or
the bid for the games will not be abandoned. The position is that
we have told the IAAF we cannot proceed with Picketts Lock and
we have provided them with Sheffield as an alternative, that offer
is on the table and I am satisfied that it is a deliverable and
affordable alternative. It is now with the IAAF to respond to
that proposal. The second point is a point about fragmentation
across government and across the various sporting bodies, that
is a view that I have a lot of sympathy with. Within Government
my department is the lead department on sport but, of course,
we cannot deliver the programmes with the very substantial commitments
we have for instance to reintroducing sport to the life of every
child in the country, delivering the sporting entitlement, without
working very closely with the Department for Education and Skills.
There are also very important benefits from close collaboration
with the Department of Health, there is the vexed question of
playing fields, which brings us into dialogue with the Department
for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. If I might just
think aloud about this for a moment and share with you thoughts
which have not yet had any formal discussion. I do think that
there is a need for better co-ordination across Government. We
have the Sports Cabinet, which is a way of pulling together all
of the key bodies, but I have also asked Richard Caborn to look
at ways in which we can improve the efficiency of our delivery
at a grass roots level by improving the level of co-ordination
across Government. I think that we in some respects spend too
much on the administration of the money before it actually gets
out. I am not satisfied that there is a short enough distance
or a quick enough time between the money being spent and the results
being achieved. This is, I think, the most important challenge
that we have to address over the next few years.
228. First of all, congratulations on your new
appointment, and we look forward to doing business with you on
this Committee. Can I ask about the national stadium, can you
give us your views or your thoughts about the site of the national
stadium for football and rugby?
(Tessa Jowell) I really do not want to be difficult
but I would just like to be clear to the Committee that discussions
following my receipt of Patrick Carter's Report on the national
stadium are at a sensitive stage and I think it will be some weeks
before I am in a position to provide the Committee with a further
update on that. I would rather go no further than any of the statements
that have already been made on that.
229. You have received the report?
(Tessa Jowell) I have received the report and I have
studied it very carefully.
230. You cannot give us something of an overview.
There is a great deal of concern in the West Midlands that we
are being reconsidered as a site in Birmingham for the national
football stadium, are there any views that you have that we would
be interested in hearing?
(Tessa Jowell) The position is this, following my
receipt of the National Stadium Report I asked that Patrick Carter
engage in further discussions with the FA about the options that
he had examined, and are developed quite fully in the Report.
He expects to give me his report on those discussions at the beginning
of November. This is an area of policy where it is I think important
we lower the temperature, we reduce the level of speculation and
as far as possible, in what is a pretty frenzied environment in
which this discussion takes place, we proceed with care and on
the basis we are sure about where we are going rather than being
driven by events.
231. Is it possible to say roughly when you
will be announcing the location of the national football stadium
and where the new stadium will be built, whether it will be at
Wembley or elsewhere?
(Tessa Jowell) The FA are at the moment in discussions
with Patrick Carter about his report and, as I think they have
made clear, they are looking at all the options which, as you
know, include Wembley, but also include the West Midlands and
also include the option of not proceeding with a national football
stadium. The decision about a national football stadium is a decision
for the FA, the FA must take that decision in the first instance.
It will then be, if the FA decide they want a national football
stadium, for Government to help with its delivery.
232. So how will you be involved in the decision?
You will endorse whatever the FA and Patrick Carter decide?
(Tessa Jowell) I am taking this discussion a stage
at a time. The stage we are at at the moment is Patrick Carter
is in discussion at my request with the FA. I expect to receive
his report of those discussions, from which we will discuss the
proposals for the next steps, in the earlier part of November.
233. But you will take the decision? It will
be your Department which announces the location of the national
stadium when these decisions come to a conclusion?
(Tessa Jowell) We are a long way from that. The decision
first of all is about whether or not to proceed, and that is a
decision for the FA, it is not a decision for Government.
234. But in proceeding and choosing a site,
that will be a matter for your Department?
(Tessa Jowell) The first decision which has to be
taken is whether or not the FA wish to proceed with a national
235. Yes, but on the basis they do, I want to
be clear who then takes that decision.
(Tessa Jowell) No, there has been far too much speculation
about what happens next in the context of this project. I am going
to take it a stage at a time. I will receive the report of the
discussions with the FA and we will then make a judgment about
the next step if there is to be a next step.
236. Can I welcome the announcement you made
earlier, Secretary of State, about the review by the PIU into
the events which obviously you are looking into. They have a very
good track record particularly in innovative thinking and cost-cutting
in Government, so I think that is particularly important. It does
seem to me in the way you have presented the announcement that
they are being asked to look at how we should proceed in future
attempts to win the four major world sporting events for this
country. I think it is fair to say that in some of the discussions
we have had and the evidence we have heard that I do not think
all of the witnesses we have heard would agree that that is the
only thing we should be looking at. In some respects there is
a choice to be made before we get to that stage, and the choice
is really that it could be argued in the context of world sport
as it is today we are perhaps well-meaning amateurs and we should
forget any ambitions we have to attract world-ranking events;
the four major tournaments. Alternatively, the other part of the
choice is that we go ahead, we put the proper resources in and
we become much more professional in our approach, and we have
had a lot of evidence about the lack of focus, lack of co-ordination,
et cetera. First of all, do you accept that is a valid choice
and will the PIU be considering the possibility we do not in future
make any bid for these world-class events, the four major tournaments?
(Tessa Jowell) If I can begin with the first part
of your question about my announcement of the PIU review, the
terms of which are in the process of being discussed, I think
that it is commonly accepted across Government that the machinery
of government lacks the necessary capacity to deliver big projects,
not only big projects in the sporting field but there is clearly
a read-across in that sense. It happens a number of these very
big projects, very high profile projects, sit within the responsibility
of my Department and I want, with my ministers, to make sure we
do everything we can in the future to get these right. I think
there are a number of ground rules that I hope the PIU report
will address by way of guidance for Government. The first of these
is, a point my Rt Hon friend frequently makes, that we have to
make sure that decisions about major sporting events are, if you
like, strategy-led rather than events-led. The end in itself is
not to get the big stadium, the end in itself is to enrich sport
in the UK. So the first question is, what are we going to get
from this. Then there are a number of other operational issues
which need to follow from that: an awareness of the infrastructure
obstacles and problems with infrastructure, the cost of infrastructure,
the timing of infrastructure delivery, ahead of a point where
a bid has been secured and we are racing against time, which was
the case with Picketts Lock. So I think we need, through the PIU,
and I have pretty clear views on this, to develop a sort of template
which sets out the way in which we approach proposals for these
bids in the future. Very critical to that is the role of Government
in this. I do not think it is the role of Government to build
and manage big stadia, but to pretend that these big projects
can be delivered with the Government holding back is also naive.
So what we need to have is a proper relationship between the managing
body that is bearing the responsibility for delivering the project
and Government, which is an enabler helping the project to deliver.
To some extent we need to approach this on a case-by-case basis
but, that said, I think the ground rules that I have begun to
set out and would be developed by the PIU inquiry will put us
not just in my Department but across Government in a much stronger
and less nervous position about big projects. The minute the Government
gets nervous and ambivalent about a big project, it will turn
round and bite you. I think the other point to remember is that
we are, above anything else, serious about delivering to grassroots
sport, growing and building the champions of tomorrow. If we keep
being blown off course by big projects that over-run, that grab
all the headlines, that discredit what we are trying to do, we
are never going to be able to do that.
Mr Doran: That is very helpful.
237. Good morning. Rodney Walker said he would
have liked to have driven this project but was never asked, yet
he is the chairman of UK Sport. If the PIU is now going to do
this, what is the point of UK Sport? They have Events Co-ordination
run by Adrian Metcalf.
(Tessa Jowell) UK Sport clearly has a role in procuring
the Games and in the successful bid that was approved in April
last year when the IAAF awarded us the Games. The discussions
since the commissioning of the Carter Report have been very much
about the practical delivery of the Games and therefore have focussed
on the local relationshipsEnfield Borough Council, Lee
Valley Partnership and of course Sport England and my Department
as the principal funder. So that is the main reason why the focus
has shifted. If the other part of your question is, should UK
Sport have been involved in this discussion, then I think it is
fair to say they should.
238. I think the Sports Minister was at Edmonton,
did you have an opportunity to meet with President Diack of the
(Mr Caborn) I did.
239. Did you confirm Picketts Lock was our choice?
(Mr Caborn) No, I did not confirm that. The Secretary
of State had already indicated in July that we were holding an
inquiry under Patrick Carter and because I was at Edmonton I thought
we could give an update of what was taking place, which I did.
UK Athletics and my officials were at that meeting as well. We
just said that Patrick Carter was proceeding but there were real
difficulties as we saw it with Picketts Lock at that time. As
the Secretary of State has already said, we had deep concerns,
we had heard reports of Picketts Lock and indeed had read the
Select Committee Report as well. That is the action we took. Can
I say that what was said by the Secretary General when we came
out was very important, bearing in mind I was with my officials.
He said, he wanted the best for the Games and he wanted the best
for London. We believe we have actually delivered that for the