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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, my Lords. My noble friend is absolutely right to point out the enormous public service undertaken by the nearly 600 members of the review tribunals. I also accept my noble friend's point in regard to the desirability of appointing a president to provide the right kind of leadership identified by the report. That would require primary legislation. We shall of course consider this matter as we come to a view on possible new mental health legislation. In the meantime we are encouraging the four regional chairs to work together in order to give as much collective leadership as possible in the current circumstances.

Millennium Dome: Funding

3.11 p.m.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, no taxpayers' money has gone into the Dome; no taxpayers' money will be going into the Dome. The Dome has been funded by the lottery, sponsorship and commercial revenue. The

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New Millennium Experience Company is confident that it will deliver the project within its lifetime budget of £758 million. This confidence is based on the steps it is taking in relation to cost efficiency and revenue generation, and the expectation of proceeds from the legacy sale. As sole shareholder of the New Millennium Experience Company, I shall continue to ensure that Parliament is kept informed of developments in the operation of the company.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, as the Minister is the sole shareholder of the company, can he give the House an assurance that the Dome will not require a further injection of cash in order to remain solvent until the end of the year--yes or no? Will the expected receipts from the sale of the Dome be equal to or greater than the £399 million initial lottery grant and the subsequent £126 million grant?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as I indicated in my Answer, the New Millennium Experience Company is confident that it will deliver the project within its budget. So far as concerns the grant from the lottery, it was never envisaged that the full amount of £399 million or the subsequent amount would be repaid in full.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that the constant attacks on the Dome cause great distress to those who work there? Prior to working in the Dome they did not have employment in the area because they live in one of the most deprived boroughs in London. As a resident of the area, perhaps I may ask my noble and learned friend whether he agrees that, rather than emphasise the attacks on the Dome, it would be better to emphasise the great rejuvenation that has taken place, not only in the Greenwich peninsula but in the Thames gateway and beyond?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am aware that a large number of people are working very hard and in a committed way at the Dome to make the project a success. What they have achieved so far is a project which is now the most popular pay-to-visit attraction in the United Kingdom. It has satisfaction ratings of 85 per cent among the people who visit, and 90 per cent expressed particular satisfaction with the way in which the staff operated. The staff are utterly determined that the Dome should succeed, both as a pay-to-visit attraction and as something which has brought regeneration to the fifth poorest borough in England. That is a prize worth fighting for.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the criticism is not of the employees--who, no doubt, have done a good job--but of the board?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, my noble friend asked in her supplementary question whether the criticism in the press had the effect of demoralising the staff. That is the question I answered.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, have Her Majesty's Government considered what the cost of a

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new royal yacht would have been when compared with the cost of the Dome? Would not a royal yacht have been far more effective in promoting this country's interests?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I have not made a comparison. I think that the Dome has achieved a great deal. It is estimated that more than 30,000 jobs will be created in Greenwich over the next five years.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, without in any way wishing to undermine the great achievements in relation to the Dome, is the Minister aware that, in answer to a Question a year or two ago, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, indicated that, at 1998 prices, the Great Exhibition of 1851 would have cost a total of £30 million, as distinct from £850 million for the Dome at 1998 prices.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I was not aware of the figures. As to the Dome's achievements, if in the years to come one looks at the permanent regeneration of the Thames gateway, it will be regarded as money well spent.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, perhaps the Minister will answer my noble friend's Question in regard to the viability of the Dome for the remainder of this year. Will there be an extra input of money to keep it afloat? Will whoever buys it be required as a part of that sale to put down an early deposit in order to keep the Dome open?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the terms upon which bids have been sought are set out and are public knowledge. I repeat: the New Millennium Experience Company is confident that it will deliver the project within its lifetime budget of £758 million. That confidence is based upon revenue, costs and the legacy receipt.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has not answered my Question: will the Dome require a further injection of cash in order to remain solvent until the end of the year--yes or no?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, in order to survive it needs revenue, the proceeds of the legacy and costs that match that. It will achieve that.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, can the Minister answer the Question of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch? He has ducked and dived like Muhammed Ali on a good day. He has not answered the Question.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, with respect to the noble Earl, I have answered the Question. The noble Baroness asked whether the project will get to the end of the year and whether it will require an injection of cash. As to whether it will get there, I have made it clear that I sincerely believe that it will. It will depend upon the revenue, the costs and the proceeds of the legacy.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, given that the extent of the mismanagement and chaos at the Dome has seen the resignation of the chief executive and chairman, when can we expect Ministers to take responsibility for this? When can we expect to see a Minister resign, given the huge losses of public money that have occurred?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as I have indicated, this is a cross-party scheme supported by both sides. It has created the most successful pay-to-visit attraction in the UK, with very high satisfaction rates. It has contributed substantially to the regeneration of the Thames gateway. That is a prize well worth fighting for. The Government remain fully behind it.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum were all built from the profits of the 1851 exhibition? Can he tell the House what he hopes to build from the profits of the Dome?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the result of the building of the Dome is a regenerated north Greenwich peninsula. Before the Dome was built, Greenwich was a peninsula in east London which was so contaminated that it could not be used for anything. The effect of building the Dome was, first, that the area was decontaminated; then the Dome was constructed; then followed further housing, industrial and retail development. The prize of the building of the Dome is the regeneration of the area and 30,000 jobs. I regard that as a prize worth fighting for.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, is it correct to use that amount of lottery money for the regeneration of such an area?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes, my Lords, it is. One can see the good that the lottery has brought to that area and to areas throughout the country through such projects. For example, there is a project in the centre of Bristol that is bringing jobs and regeneration to areas that were previously derelict. I regard that as a very worthwhile expenditure of lottery money.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, when does the noble and learned Lord think he will be in a position to be able to inform Parliament as to the future plans for the Dome; when the sale will be completed; and what the financial arrangements will be until the end of the year? Will the noble and learned Lord be able to answer the question before the start of the Summer Recess?


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