in the second 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
THIRD VOLUME OF SESSION 1998--99
The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, the construction of the millennium dome at Greenwich is on time and on budget and I am confident that it will remain so. I remind noble Lords that the Millennium Experience project also incorporates an extremely impressive and comprehensive national round of activities, which are well under way. These include Tesco's SchoolNet 2000; Voices of Promise; and Children's Promise. I am pleased to report that your Lordships continue to lead the way in pledging support for the Children's Promise campaign.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware of my great anxiety that he will take this great opportunity to enhance the splendid reputation that he enjoys in your Lordships' House for intelligence and common sense? Will he seize that opportunity and undertake on behalf of his colleagues to produce a document which will make clear to members of the public the Government's plans--I am sure the Government understand them--for the cost of the project, its contents, access, parking and traffic, whether generated by the
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as to costs, the Government have made clear that part of the money to finance the dome comes from the lottery and the other part comes from commercial sponsorship and the face-value costs of admission to the dome. As to traffic, the Government have made clear their proposals in relation to road, rail and underground traffic. As to the people of Greenwich, I was in Greenwich last week and I can tell the House that the people of Greenwich are very pleased that the dome is there. The north Greenwich site has been decontaminated; the building of the dome has created 2,000 jobs; and there will be jobs for 5,000 people during the running of the experience. There will be commercial regeneration of the whole of that part of London, and people are pleased about that.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there is no projected deficit; it is forecast that the project will at least break even. During the course of the autumn, accounts will be published showing the position. The project is looked at overall, not at a particular time. In June 1997, when the Prime Minister agreed that the project should continue, he pledged that no public money would be put into the project.
Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware that I may have the most up-to-date information on the millennium dome? Is he further aware that the flight path into Heathrow today from Edinburgh passed right over the top of the millennium dome? Two hours ago I was passing over the top of the millennium dome in an aeroplane that was half full of Welsh rugby supporters. A chorus came from the Welsh rugby
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I can understand the disappointment of the Welsh. I can also understand that they were spiritually lifted, as is everybody, to see the dome as they flew into London.
The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I think the feeling of the House is that we should hear the right reverend Prelate first. I am sure that there will be plenty of time for the noble Lord, Lord Harris, afterwards.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, can the Minister lift our spirits further by putting a little flesh, if that is the right word, on the prospects for the content of the spirit zone, given that the marking of the Christian era is central to the whole celebration of the millennium and has been formative of the history and institutions of our country over many centuries?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate knows, in preparing the contents of the dome we are very concerned to appropriately mark that this celebration is a Christian one. As the right reverend Prelate also knows, the Lambeth group has approved every step that we have taken in relation to the spirit zone. It is satisfied that the zone accurately and properly represents the Christian spirit in the dome.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, does the Minister recall that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, suggested that there might be some form of government publication in regard to the millennium dome and the Government's plans for it? If the Government proceed with such a publication, will the Minister guarantee that they will pay adequate tribute to the work of the Ministers in the previous Conservative Government who were so keen on this idea?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the project was started by the previous government. We want the project for the nation and we want all political parties to support it. We are looking for success not for the party, not for the Government, but for the nation as a whole.
Lord Luke: My Lords, I am very pleased to hear what the Minister has just said because the project is an all-party one. I am also glad to hear that the project is on budget and on time. Does the Minister agree that the New Millennium Experience Company is doing a first-class job in keeping it on time and on budget? Does he also agree that perhaps there has been too much secrecy in the past? The idea of the noble Lord of publishing a briefing
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am happy to join the noble Lord in complimenting the management of NMEC, the company that is building the dome. It has done a first-class job. There is some way to go but I have every confidence that it will be able to produce in the future the same quality of management and service as it has produced in the past. The noble Lord asked about openness. I do not accept that we have not been open in the past, but we are now reaching the stage in the project where, as the dome is built and the contents become known, more and more will be known. I should say, however, that I will not tell everyone what is in the dome because I believe there has to be an element of secrecy. I want people to go down and see for themselves what is in the dome.
Lord Montague of Oxford: My Lords, if my noble and learned friend has it in mind to publish the document, will he make mention of the fact that 350 acres of derelict ground have been recovered as a result of this great and important venture and that the cost forecast originally of £750 million has, by way of income which the company is gaining from sponsorship, already fallen to £491 million? Does my noble and learned friend agree that it looks as though we are going to have an event which will be a source of great pride and a great success for our country?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I endorse what my noble friend said about the recovery and regeneration of the land. There was never going to be £750 million of lottery money; the figure is only £449 million. The rest is coming from commercial sponsorship and money made while the dome is there. I entirely agree that it is a first-class project for the nation.
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