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18 Dec 2000 : Column 140

National Lottery

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): It may be for the convenience of the House to take motions 6 and 7 together.

Hon. Members: No.

11.23 pm

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): I beg to move,

Two closely connected orders are before the House this evening, and I should like to begin by describing what the first does. The Millennium Commission (Substitution of a Later Date) Order 2000 extends the Millennium Commission's funding life until 20 August 2001. After that date, the commission will continue to operate as a grant-giving body, but we propose that it will receive no further direct income from the national lottery.

The Millennium Commission was established by the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. Its purpose is to fund projects to mark the year 2000 and the beginning of the third millennium. Under the 1993 Act, the Millennium Commission would stop receiving funding on 31 December this year. However, the Act recognised that that date might have to be extended and allows that to be done by order.

The decision to extend the funding life of the commission was made by the previous Administration. The then Secretary of State for National Heritage quoted a statement made by her Department on 18 January 1997. It said:

The reason for that decision was to cover variations from the estimates in the millennium exhibition's business plan without prejudicing the commission's existing grant programme. This Government reaffirmed that commitment.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): I want to be absolutely clear. Does extending the date to 20 August 2001 enable the commission to receive a grant in the period from 31 December 2000 to 20 August 2001 that it would not otherwise have received? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that no further funding will be made available to the commission in that period?

Mr. Smith: The right hon. and learned Gentleman's question confuses the commission with the exhibition. The answer to the first part of his question is that the extension that we are now debating is an extension of the income life of the Millennium Commission. That means that the commission will receive extra income from the national lottery for the period from 31 December this year through to 20 August next year. I shall explain shortly exactly what the expected figures for that will be.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman also appeared to allude to the grant of money by the Millennium Commission to the New Millennium Experience Company, which is running the dome. If he is referring

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to that, I can tell him that it is not our expectation or intention that any further funds will be made available by the Millennium Commission to the dome.

Mr. Hogg: Expectation and intention are not the same thing as an undertaking. Would the right hon. Gentleman now care to give an undertaking?

Mr. Smith: I can go further than that. I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that none of the funding that is being debated in the order relates in any way to any additional funding for the dome. I will come to that point more explicitly in a moment or two.

The Government reaffirmed the commitment that had been made by the previous Government about the protection of the existing programme of the Millennium Commission. The order extends the Commission's funding life to 20 August 2001. We estimate that that will mean that the Millennium Commission will receive £2,286.5 million of income from the national lottery. After that date, we propose that the commission will receive no further income from the proceeds of the national lottery. I should point out that the previous Administration had proposed an extension until the end of 2001. Our proposed extension is clearly shorter than that.

Let me say a few words about how we arrived at the new figure of £2,286.5 million, which is an increase--this answers the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point--of £269.5 million on the previous announced total of £2,017 million. The purpose of the increase is twofold. First, we agree with the view of the previous Administration that the Millennium Commission's other projects should not be adversely affected as a consequence of additional grants to the dome. This accounts for £198 million of the increase--£179 million of grants and £19 million of lost interest on that amount.

Secondly, there are some additional worthwhile activities that we believe that the commission should undertake within its lifetime budget. Those account for the remaining £71.5 million of the increase.

The additional £71.5 million will enable the commission to do a number of things that would not have been possible under its previously agreed income ceiling. It will be able to put £6.5 million towards the cost of new year's eve 2000 celebrations. A further £10 million will be available to support projects reflecting the achievements and aspirations of the black communities in the UK. An additional £30 million will be available to support the commission's existing £3 billion programme of projects, many of which are still being completed. With that funding, the commission will be able to ensure that its capital projects have a solid foundation on which to build for the future.

The order also allows the commission to use £25 million to support science centres. The commission is minded to set up an endowed fund to provide resources in a few years for refurbishment work on the network of science centres around the UK which the commission has funded. As well as being interesting to visit, science centres are playing a key role in informal education, both for schoolchildren and for adults. It is increasingly important that people have the opportunity to widen their knowledge of science, technology and medicine, as these will have a major impact on all our lives.

I am pleased to say that the Wellcome Trust, the world's largest medical charity, which has also made a major contribution to science centres across the UK,

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has agreed to consider working in partnership with the commission and providing funds to increase the value of the endowment that we propose. That fund will enable the centres to maintain their attractiveness both as visitor centres and educational resources.

All those are extremely worthwhile initiatives, and I am pleased that the commission will be able to support them if the order is approved.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): May I take the Secretary of State back to the £30 million for projects that are not yet complete? If those projects did not go ahead, for reasons unconnected with the Millennium Commission funding--such as a failure to find partnership funding--would the money then revert to the commission to be spent subsequently?

Mr. Smith: That is correct. That happened with the third phase of the Earth centre project near Doncaster, which will not now proceed. The money that the commission had earmarked for the third phase of that project has returned to the commission's fund and has been used for other projects.

Of course, there are projects that are proving to be extremely successful and which are incurring additional expenditure, for various reasons that are not necessarily the fault of those running them. For example, the Eden project in Cornwall, which is well known to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), has run into cashflow difficulties. That is an excellent project, which is proving to be extremely popular with visitors even before it is fully open. To assist the project, the commission has decided to make available modest additional funding. Such problems are arising in a variety of extremely worthwhile projects throughout the country, and this funding will enable the commission to tackle them sensibly and rationally.

Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): On the subject of money returning to the Millennium Commission, would my right hon. Friend tell us how much, if any, of the sums that are to be paid by Legacy in respect of its purchase of interests in the New Millennium Experience Company and the Greenwich site will find its way back to the commission?

Mr. Smith: First, it is not for me to speak about the precise details of any arrangement with Legacy, because I have not been involved in any of the direct discussions. Furthermore, the matter is not yet finalised: Legacy has been declared to be the preferred bidder and negotiations with the company are continuing. Until those negotiations are complete and I, with other Members of Parliament, know the exact terms of the deal that has been concluded, it would be premature of me to answer in a specific fashion the question asked by my hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Marshall-Andrews: May I press my right hon. Friend on that point? I phrased my question deliberately: I did not ask how much money would come, but how much the commission anticipated would come. The commission is like any other board of trustees or company board of directors; it must anticipate some funding. Is it anticipated that any money will return to the commission as a result of the Legacy bid? Is only a small sum

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anticipated? Can my right hon. Friend give a ballpark figure for the sum that the commission anticipates it might have to spend?

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