(HANSARD) in the third session of the fifty-second parliament of the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland commencing on the seventh day of may in the forty-sixth year of the reign of
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
VOLUME DCX FOURTH VOLUME OF SESSION 1999--2000 House of Lords
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, every school in the UK is eligible to apply for up to 100 free tickets to the Dome under the New Millennium Experience Company's education tour scheme. Up to 1 million free tickets will be allocated over a series of ballots. The costs attributable to this scheme, including its administration, the tickets themselves and the management costs of implementing it throughout the year are being met by the New Millennium Experience Company from the millennium experience project budget.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his reply. I recognise that the Government must now concentrate primarily on paying visitors to the Dome. What was the Government's reaction to the reports in the press earlier this month of the disappointment of children and their teachers at not being allowed into more than three specified zones--the duller ones, apparently? As regards the education contribution of the Dome, when will it be reclassified from being an exhibition to being a museum?
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that my grandchildren went to the Dome, had a perfectly lovely time and could not have enjoyed it more but were extremely disappointed that so many of the things they wanted to examine or play with were out of order?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for saying what a good time her grandchildren had. I suggest, with respect, that most adults and children who attend the Dome say they have had such an experience. The visitor attraction has been operating since 1st January. It now receives probably more visitors than any other visitor attraction in the whole country. It is not perhaps surprising that glitches occur that need to be sorted out. We are in the process of doing that and as every day goes by it gets better and better.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, with the greatest respect that is an unfair comment. It is not in the least surprising that things need maintenance in a visitor attraction which attracts literally in excess of tens of thousands of visitors every day. They are being maintained.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord accept that my children's toys rarely last more than two days? Does he also accept their comment that they enormously enjoyed their visit to the Dome but felt that there was a lot of room for additional educational content? At many exhibits, for instance, the body zone, there was little explanation of what was going on. Their visit would have been more enjoyable if there had been something else to learn from.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, some people say that there is not enough educational content; some people say that there is not enough fun content; and some people say that there is not enough inspirational content. I think that the best course is to leave it to the management to determine the right balance.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, does the Minister feel that the "Black Adder" film is appropriate for children to see? It is certainly not something that I would have expected my grandchildren to see. Will he use his influence to ensure that something more appropriate is shown? It is a great wasted opportunity.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not know how old the noble Lord's grandchildren are. If my children were told that they could not watch "Black Adder" because it is too mature for them, they would be extremely surprised.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as a general rule, the information in letters from Ministers to Members and other papers deposited in the Libraries of the House should be released by departments on request. Public authorities should make documents in the public domain available to those who request them.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as the noble Lord did not draw my attention to the matter beforehand I have no idea of either the context or the detail of what was stated. As regards letters placed in the Library of this House as a result of questions put to Ministers, in the ordinary course of events the information in those letters should be made available by the relevant departments who have placed the letters there to members of the public who request it.
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that it does to some extent devalue Hansard not to have a full reply printed in it, because Questions that are put down are often nowadays increasingly siphoned off with the words, "I am referring it to someone else to reply in a letter"? The information does become available, of course, in the Library, but subscribers to Hansard are denied the information which is often of general interest.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the question of what is published in Hansard is a matter for the parliamentary and Hansard authorities, not for the Government. Noble Lords are shaking their heads, but the question of what should be in Hansard and, in particular, the question of whether accompanying correspondence should be included--which is the issue raised by my noble friend--are matters for Hansard to decide, because from time to time the department would not wish Hansard to be filled with too much correspondence.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the issue in relation to Written Questions is whether accompanying correspondence is to be included, which is a matter for Hansard. The question for the Government is whether they should aim to include the bulk of a response in the body of the Written Answer itself rather than in the accompanying correspondence, to which the answer must be yes, one should try as much as possible to give a clear reply in the body of the Written Answer.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, as Written Questions appear in Hansard, is it not appropriate that wider publicity should be given to the Answers and that, even if they are not published in Hansard, they should at
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