|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, in answer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, it was always clearly stated within the commission's raison d'etre that part of the reason for undertaking this project was the regeneration of Greenwich. That element was very much a part and parcel of the argument and debate as regards where the exhibition should be held. I walked about the Greenwich site in gumboots and a hard hat when it was a nasty, smelly former gasworks. A great deal of work went into the site. Throughout this project, I have been comforted by that effort. From day one, I was not one of those great believers that the exhibition would be the howling success that it has now not proved to be. However, I did believe in the legacy.
This afternoon, I should like to put that argument to one side. As I understand it, and speaking for my colleagues, although obviously I cannot vouch for them, I do not believe that another penny will move from the Millennium Commission to NMEC or anywhere else. We have a programme of which we are intensely proud. We have spent something in the region of #1.3 billion of our own, which has generated one-and-a-half times that of public sector money right across the country on 190-odd projects on over 3,000 sites, as well as distributing around 34,000 Millennium Awards and many other activities. The projects about which we are excited are not only the big ones. Having said that, re-linking the River Clyde to the River Forth with a fantastic piece of engineering in the form of a huge caisson wheel to take the place of six locks which will not be reinstated, was a tremendous success. From the Dome to the Eden Project, everyone has heard about these.
If this order is not passed, nearly all of those projects will suffer to some extent. Some of them may well fail. I stand here as a Millennium Commissioner, speaking for myself--with some passion, I know. I truly believe that this order should be passed. Furthermore, I can assure noble Lords that, to the best of my ability, not another penny will pass from the Millennium Commission to NMEC.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, if the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will allow me, perhaps it would be better if I commented on the succeeding contributions and then finish by referring to the words of the amendment that she has moved. However, I cannot do so without saying, first, how grateful I was for her support for the science centres and other good causes. That support has been echoed in the debate by a number of other noble Lords.
Perhaps I may turn to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. I am grateful for his general response to the order and for his support, in turn, for the good causes. He asked me a specific question as regards when further information on decommissioning costs will be available. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, made a point on the same issue. A budget for decommissioning is in place. It will enable NMEC to carry out its decommissioning to the level to which it is legally obliged to carry out such work, but any further decommissioning required as a consequence of the Legacy plc deal or, indeed, a deal struck with any other buyer--the Legacy deal is not sewn up--is a matter for discussion between Legacy or another buyer and the competition team. It is therefore not possible to give him an answer at this time as regards the final decommissioning costs. We do not yet know what will be the level of decommissioning. For that reason, there have been and may well continue to be different costs for decommissioning because it is a moving target.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, commented on an increase from the August figures. A part of that was due to the need to take into account the PricewaterhouseCoopers figures, but, in his own calculations, the noble Lord does appear to be putting PWC figures alongside NMEC figures. I do not think that it is possible for that to be done in quite the way followed by the noble Lord.
I do not think that I should interfere in any dispute that might have taken place between the noble Lord, Lord Cocks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about Bristol. That is not a city I know as well as I would wish to know it.
The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, asked a number of specific points which I shall attempt to answer. He asked for the latest figures for the number of paying visitors to the Dome. My understanding is that 4.7 million people have already visited and that bookings are very good until the end of this month. Indeed, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and I have just given advice to the Clerk of the Parliaments, who intends to visit on Sunday. We said that he ought to purchase tickets in advance for himself and his family because it is likely to be full--as I found when I visited three weeks ago. Indeed, although I paid the full price for my tickets, I had to pull strings in order to get in because it was full on the day that I went. That was because 20,000 Girl Guides were visiting the Dome on that day. That was Xfun", as well.
The noble Lord went on to ask me about the budget. The total budget stands at #798 million as compared with the original budget figure of #758 million. NMEC is confident that it can achieve solvent liquidation within this figure.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I have in front of me the NMEC forecast for October 2000. The figure that has just been given, #798 million, is set down under the heading, XAugust forecast post-PWC report". The current forecast is #801.6 million. Those figures have been placed in the Library of this House and are dated 25th November. My complaint here is that the Government keep referring back to the budget of previous months. Surely we are entitled to the latest figures?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure that a difference of something considerably less than 1 per cent of the total--#3.5 million on #800 million--is one which needs to be continually reported to this House. However, if I am wrong about that, I shall be glad to write to the noble Lord. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, also asked me whether the figures given by Janet Anderson in the House of Commons were correct. I can confirm that the figure of #50 million on completion from Legacy, and a total assessed figure of more than #100 million, is correct. However, negotiations are of course still continuing. At this time, Legacy is only a preferred bidder. Until the negotiations are completed, there will not be and could never be a final figure.
I believe that I now have an answer to the difference between the #798 million and the #801 million. The #801 million includes the London New Year's Eve event, to which I referred in my opening speech.
The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, quite rightly said that an income and expenditure account is not the same as an asset and liability statement, although she referred at different times to that and to a cash-flow figure. Again I have to give the same answer: until the negotiations with Legacy or any other buyer are complete, it will not be possible to give a final balance sheet or cash-flow figure.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. The NAO report referred to an estimate of assets and liabilities being made available by the end of November. Can the Minister say whether that has been received and will be made available to the House?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we are not aware of any such commitment being given that it should be made available to this House. I can give the noble Baroness a commitment that as soon as any estimate of the assets and liabilities is received and can be made available to this House--in other words, it can be released from commercial confidentiality provisions--it will be made available to the House. I undertake to ensure that the noble Baroness is made aware of its availability.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, for his sterling service on the Millennium Commission over a period of nearly seven years and for his reminder of the longer-term regeneration benefits of the Dome project. I can confirm that he is right in his response to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, that the regeneration effect in east London has been an objective of the Dome project from the very beginning; it was contained in the original press release. I am also grateful for the noble Lord's description of the achievements of the Millennium Commission.