Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240 - 255)



  240. Other witnesses today have said that it is written in some sort of stone apparently that you have to have capital cities now for future bids. I am just saying that other witnesses have said that. If that is the case, and they say they got this from the president of the IAAF, is there any purpose in getting more egg on our face by making the Sheffield bid our bid?
  (Tessa Jowell) Over the last 12 years certainly—and I can give you chapter and verse on this —

  241. This is subsequent to Edmonton, which was the last one apparently.
  (Tessa Jowell) In 1995 the Games were held in Gothenburg, in 1997 in Athens, which is a capital city, in 1999 in Seville and in 2001 in Edmonton. So it is not the case, or it has not been the case, that the Games have always been held in a capital city. The IAAF have not to my knowledge said to us that they have changed policy so that they will now always be held in a capital city, certainly Sheffield has experience of hosting major sporting events and major sporting events with a degree of success, which is why we believe that Sheffield is a viable alternative to Picketts Lock.

  242. On London sites, did you think about any of the football stadia like Chelsea? Did you consider the Legal & General site near Northolt or the chalk pits at Dartford?
  (Tessa Jowell) The process of examining London sites was really done in two stages. First of all, there was, I understand, a pretty exhaustive scan of London site possibilities before Picketts Lock was finalised as the venue. Yes, Northolt was looked at. I cannot off the top of my head tell you whether Chelsea was looked at, but certainly the advice to me was that all the available possibilities had been looked at. The Carter team, when Picketts Lock began to look uncertain, also looked at other London venues and concluded that the risks associated with them were as great if not greater than the risks associated with Picketts Lock.

Mr Flook

  243. Secretary of State, Mr Doran spoke of the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU), and I am not necessarily sure I welcome the decision to subject the decision-making process to the long grass of the PIU but I suppose it is at least an admission of failure of Government. Why would the PIU insight change the basic lack of courtesy shown to UK Sport not to be contacted about the decision to move the Games from Picketts Lock to Sheffield, which is what Mr Callicott said earlier this morning?
  (Tessa Jowell) If UK Sport feel there has been a lack of courtesy, I would apologise wholeheartedly to them because no lack of courtesy was intended. I hope I made clear in relation to my earlier comments the rationale for focussing the discussion about moving from the reassessment of Picketts Lock and then identifying Sheffield as a discussion which focussed on Sport England and the local partners who were responsible for delivering Picketts Lock. Nor do I accept that to seek the help of the PIU is an admission of failure. If every time we ask for advice in order we do things better it was castigated as an admission of failure, we would be in a pretty sorry and sad position. I want us to be in a position to proceed with confidence and certainty in a way which does justice to the ambitions of our sports men and women up and down the country. The reason that the PIU review in this area is so relevant is the weaknesses in project management of big projects, and I think this ambiguous relationship which needs to be sorted out between Government and these projects applies not only to sporting projects but a range of other projects as well. I think it is a good thing that we are willing to learn and apply that good advice.

  244. Now that we have lost all credibility for those major events, what might be the catalyst or driver to put anything the PIU say into practice?
  (Tessa Jowell) I also do not accept that we have lost all credibility with these major events. We are looking forward to hosting the Commonwealth Games next year, we are looking forward to hosting the World Indoor Athletic Championships after that, and we have a record of a dozen first-class world events which have been hosted in the last three years. I do not think you should talk UK Sport or sport in the UK down by saying we have lost confidence. I do think that the IAAF and UK sporting bodies are disappointed and frustrated by this decision but I hope what I have made clear to this Committee is that I believe it is the right and only decision to be taken. I hope that in the years to come when we look with Sport England and UK Sport and UK Athletics at the development of the Legacy programme, in the event the Games do not go to Sheffield, in time athletics will recognise that they got something out of this and that to us is very important indeed.

John Thurso

  245. Secretary of State, you said a few moments ago that Britain should not be in the business of building big stadia, from which I take it to mean that the Government should not be in the business of building big stadia and I take it you mean funding. Last week Mr Sheard in his evidence said, and I quote, "Britain has actually had a long history of not funding stadiums whereas most other countries have had a long history of building stadiums." He went on to explain that virtually all Continental countries and America and Australia all fund their stadiums using some form of either local, state or national funding. Does your comment mean that we can look forward to not having stadia in this country? Do you think that is right?
  (Tessa Jowell) No, absolutely not, and I am glad you have clarified your earlier point about distinguishing between Government and Britain. I hope Britain will both refurbish, redevelop and build new sporting facilities on a number of different scales. What I hope I have also made clear is that these very big projects do rely on the support of Government in order to deliver them, because where you have major rail infrastructure, road infrastructure or planning issues, then Government cannot stand back from that, Government has to get engaged. Once a decision has been taken that the project is to proceed and Government is engaged with it, public money is put into delivering that infrastructure. So to suggest that I have said that public money should not go into these big projects is not the case. To some extent we have to take a case-by-case position. We have to be quite clear that where these big projects are approved there is a clear legacy, that they are in the mainstream, of rather than a diversion from, our bigger strategy for sport, and that they are not going, by over-spending and under-performing, to derail or discredit that bigger strategy. But the role of Government is an important one. There will be an expectation of public resources, whether from local authorities or from Government or from the Lottery, in order to make these projects happen, but what I am quite clear about is that we need to look at the gross costs rather than the net costs and we need to be clear that the gross costs can be met and that those who are responsible for providing the money are signed up to deliver them.

  246. Forgive me, Secretary of State, but if the Government is to effectively stand back and it is others who are to fund these—and the evidence was that hardly a stadium has been built without Government money—you have effectively the Government standing out of that and sport coming as a supplicant to Government saying, "Here is a lovely idea, we would like to do this", and then Government says, "Maybe we will, maybe we will not, yes, we will support you", and you actually have the fundamental root cause of the whole problem we have gone through. We either need to take a policy decision that Government does not want to see these things and we do not try, or we take a policy decision that Government will lead and be at the forefront of it, and it is one or the other, we cannot have a middle road.
  (Tessa Jowell) No, I do not accept that. I think Government needs to be alongside these projects. The formulation I have described is a healthy one. It is Government as the enabler of these projects and, undeniably, in many cases being the only available funder for the key infrastructure which makes a stadium or a sporting venue sustainable. But before these projects are signed off at the planning stage we have to go much further in ensuring their deliverability and affordability than has sometimes been the case in the past.

Ms Shipley

  247. As a Black Country MP I have to ask you is there any reason our second city should not be the location for the national stadium? The other thing I want to go on to say is that I was so pleased to hear you say "strategy led" because from this morning's discussions, strategy seems to be missing, particularly with the Legacy programme and world events. We heard this morning plea after plea from almost every person who spoke to us that they wanted a leader at Cabinet level preferably, certainly at political level, to drive things through, so once a decision has been made to drive it through and make it happen. Would you consider yourself that person given the problem of interdepartmental decision-making and you have mentioned yourself health, education, environmental issues, and how you see that working?
  (Tessa Jowell) Yes, I do see myself as the champion in Cabinet for sport and the development of sport. I have also indicated that we may well want to look at ways of strengthening the interdepartmental relationships in order to ensure a degree of seamlessness and momentum and priority that sport should have.

  248. Could I ask you about the second city question as well? Given what you have just said, why is it that every single speaker has said that that was lacking? Why has someone to drive through the decisions been lacking, literally the power to drive them through? Where would you locate that problem?
  (Tessa Jowell) I do not know. I did not hear the earlier speakers and I do not know what evidence they were drawing on. We are now where we are. I am Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, I am responsible in Cabinet for securing the resources and then driving through the delivery against the criteria for which the money was given. I am determined we are going to do that.

  249. I think a lot of people will be very pleased to hear you say that. Is there any reason why our second city should not be the location for the national stadium?
  (Tessa Jowell) At the risk of being tedious and trying the Committee's patience, I have nothing further to add beyond what I have already said.

Alan Keen

  250. One very simple question, I understand your caution but you did say in answer to a question in the last half an hour or so that if the FA decides it does not want a national stadium, that is the end of it all. That cannot really be the case, can it? Surely you should be going to the FA saying, "Please build a national stadium, we are giving you £100 million towards it through the Lottery"? Because if you do not, athletics is fatally doomed forever never to have the Olympic Games because you would have to build a £300 million stadium to use once every 20 years. Should you be leaving it to the FA to say, "We are very happy going to Old Trafford or St James's Park or Riverside"? Should you not be going to them and saying, "This is in the interests of the UK and athletics and staging international sporting events"?
  (Tessa Jowell) What is clear is that for a national football stadium to succeed it must have the support of and be wanted by football; it is football's asset. It is for that reason I have been absolutely clear that the decision about whether or not there is a national football stadium is first and foremost a decision for the FA.

  251. Should you not encourage them? Otherwise we will have no national stadium into which we could put a platform and will never have a major athletics events.
  (Tessa Jowell) I have given in the clearest possible terms my position about this, and particularly in view of the sensitivity of the discussions which are currently underway with the FA I have nothing more to add.

Mr Bryant

  252. For what it is worth, in relation to a national football stadium probably Cardiff is quite happy for there not to be one. We are quite happy having everybody coming down to Cardiff, it is a very good place to be and it is quite a good capital city as well. I wonder whether you would comment, Secretary of State, on the comment made earlier by UK Athletics that Australia, following the Montreal Olympics, made the decision when they got no Olympic medals—I am not sure if that was no golds or no Olympic medals at all—that the most important thing was first of all to spend money on getting their athletes and their grassroots athletics in place before they contemplated going into the market of trying to stage enormous events.
  (Tessa Jowell) I would be quoting the words of a past member of your Committee who said that perhaps we should look to increase the number of athletes who win medals in other people's stadia rather than increasing the opportunities for people to win medals in our stadia. I think that is a view with which a lot of our athletes have a lot of sympathy. I do believe that the most important thing is to invest in the training, coaching and facilities that enable our athletes, our sports men and women generally to become world beaters. When you stand at the top of the winner's podium, you do not particularly mind which city it is when you are draped in the Union Jack. I intend to have discussions with our athletes about precisely these choices, how to get the balance right, and at the end of November we will be addressing their conference. I think this is a very important dilemma and let me be clear with the Committee, for me the risk is this, that every large stadium that over-runs is many millions of pounds not being spent on making inner-city football pitches good enough to play on, providing modern tracks for kids who aspire to be great athletes, building our coaching programme and investing in our, if you like, human sporting capital for the future.

  253. Or indeed on Fearndale Rugby Football Club, of which I am patron. One other issue: the announcement you made at the beginning about the review which is to be made, as I understand it, it is just about big sporting events, is that right?
  (Tessa Jowell) No, it is about big projects.

  254. So would you include perhaps Welsh Assembly buildings being built and Scottish Parliament buildings being built?
  (Tessa Jowell) I think those would be regarded as devolved decisions.

  Rosemary McKenna: Absolutely!

Mr Bryant

  255. Other arts buildings as well?

  (Tessa Jowell) Yes.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, Secretary of State. With the benign spirit of John Maxton hovering over the Thatcher Room, I declare this session closed. Thank you and Richard for coming.

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