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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, does it not strike the noble Lord as being rather odd that in this age of spin doctoring, carefully contrived messages and masses of paper, there is still very little understanding throughout the country as to what will emerge in the dome at the end of the day? For example, is there to be any sign or token of the anniversary which it commemorates; or alternatively, will there be in any way a stage to show British skills? So far, little is known on those subjects?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure from the noble Lord's question whether he deplores spin doctoring or asks for more of it. It has always been planned that the details of the content of the dome will be made public over a period of time. We do not want to have everything known more than a year in advance.
Lord Elton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a dome has been marking the birth which this dome celebrates since the Great Fire of London in the building of St. Paul's? It would be more fitting if, instead of looking like a giant mushroom, the new dome, like the old dome, had a cross on top of it.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord is entitled to his aesthetic and architectural judgments. Many other people who have seen the dome--which, strictly speaking in architectural terms, is not a dome--are very excited about it.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I thought I had answered that question. The spirit zone within the dome is being developed in consultation with the Lambeth Group which is chaired by the personal chaplain of the Archbishop of Canterbury and includes representatives of all faiths in this country. In addition, the noble Lord may be aware of the announcement made earlier this month about the candle ceremony which is planned for the beginning of the new millennium. It is to be observed all round the country and at the dome.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, yes, I can give that assurance. We have confirmation that the work on the Jubilee Line extension, which is planned to take 60 per cent. of visitors to the dome, will be completed in good time for the millennium. As I said, the park-and-ride facilities which are necessary are going ahead as planned.
Baroness Ludford: My Lords, is it not the case that even if the Jubilee Line is completed--and we all hope that it is--it is totally distorting the investment priorities of London Transport and therefore other tube lines are being totally neglected? On the Northern Line and other lines, people are travelling in appalling conditions.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as a user of the Northern Line, I agree that it leaves much to be desired. Of course, the Jubilee Line extension was planned a long time before the suggestion of the
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, in view of pending competition inquiries involving Sky Television, British Airways and the Ford Motor Company, all large donors to the Millennium Dome, does the Minister not agree with me that there is a potentially serious conflict of interest between the role of Mr. Peter Mandelson as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and his role as chief fund raiser for the dome? Does the Minister not agree further that the prospects for the dome would be greatly enhanced if it were declared a Mandelson-free zone?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have indicated already in answering questions on the dome that I do not propose to intervene in other noble Lords making jokes on the subject. However, the noble Lord made two serious points which I shall answer. First, the shareholder, Peter Mandelson, is not involved in the detailed negotiations or indeed in the negotiations in principle on sponsorship within the dome. That is the responsibility of the New Millennium Experience Company. Secondly, the noble Lord asked about possible conflicts of interest. I assure the noble Lord that on each occasion that matters concerning sponsors of the dome have arisen in his department, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has taken proper advice. So far he has been advised that there is no conflict of interest, but if he were advised that there were a conflict of interest, he would certainly not take part in anything which would give rise to such a conflict.
We understand that the train operator consortium is simultaneously considering the feasibility of a Heathrow service. It is intended that a statement regarding the reviews will be made to Parliament before the end of the year.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that extremely interesting Answer. Is he aware that part of the consortium carrying out that study is British Airways which naturally wants the set of trains to go to Heathrow? The same set of trains are required to go north of London. Would it surprise the Minister if it were demonstrated in that study that north of London services would not be viable without a subsidy? He is probably aware that Virgin trains, the Labour Party's special friend at Blackpool, has offered to operate a service north of London without subsidy. Will the company be given an opportunity to operate that service if the subsidy request is zero as opposed to the other request which may be higher?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am aware that British Airways, along with National Express Group, SNCF and SNCB--the French and Belgian railways--are party to this consortium. However, I welcome the involvement in an integrated transport sense of British Airways in surface transport. The feasibility studies will be objective and they will reach a conclusion which I should not like to pre-empt or predict today.
Virgin has run a campaign saying that it will run regional services north of London without public subsidy. Quite what that means when it says that it will have to have the regional Eurostar trains, which are the same trains that the consortium is considering, I am not sure. It is not the only option for running a service to Heathrow. Clearly, if the north of London service proves feasible, we shall move on from there to consider the operators of that service.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Deputy Prime Minister made his view clear on that matter with regard to Virgin and other operators. Clearly we wish to see some improvement of the current operators, but we want also to look at options for improving and extending the Eurostar service. That is what the consortium is considering and I hope to make a Statement before the end of the year.
Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there will be grave discontent in the north of England and in Scotland if regional services are delayed in order to let the Heathrow services go ahead first? Is he also aware that considerable track improvements need to be put in place before the Heathrow service to Paris and Brussels--however desirable it may be and I agree that it is desirable--can
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there are track aspects and track difficulties in both the north-south route and the Heathrow route which Railtrack needs to address and which need to be involved in the feasibility study. The first question is not timing, but whether either of those services is feasible. That is what the current study is designed to find out.
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