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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I have been there on a number of occasions since 1st January 2000. My experience is that the vast majority of people who go there have a truly fabulous day out. But noble Lords need not take just my word for it. Let us consider the polls conducted by a number of media publications and organisations; for example, the Sunday Times, the Daily Mirror, ITN and the Independent. Some of those organisations have not been altogether favourable to the Dome since 1st January. However, the polls carried out by all of those organisations show satisfaction percentages in the high 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, indicating a high level of satisfaction on the part of those who have been there.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, at the moment we have a shortlist of 10. We have made clear the criteria to be met in order to move on to the shorter shortlist. All of those who move on to the shorter shortlist must satisfy the Government's criteria.
Lord Elton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the fact that money will not be the only criterion means that the site may eventually be sold at a loss? If I am right in believing that the sole shareholder of the New Millennium Experience Company is the Government, how will that loss be met?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am proud to say that I am the sole shareholder in the company. As I made clear in answer to an earlier intervention, money is not the only consideration. We have also made it clear that no taxpayers' money of any kind will be used in relation to this. Obviously, that is an important factor in considering the bid.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that the Dome is not a development to be bought and sold as a piece of property but an exhibition, and that in most commercial organisations the cost of an exhibition is written off against the cost of attracting people and doing all the other things that an exhibition is meant to do? Does my noble and learned friend agree that that is the way it should be considered?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree in substance with what my noble friend says. As regards the successful bidder, consideration will be given not only to the property transaction but also to many other factors.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, as Wembley cannot accommodate track events, why could not the Dome be turned into a super-sports stadium at which track events, boxing, tennis, and any sport one likes to mention, could take place?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, one of the 10 bidders on the shortlist proposes something called the "sports dome" which includes a wide range of sports. I fear that it could not be a large enough open-air stadium for an Olympic bid. However, if there were an Olympic stadium somewhere else, it could complement it for other sports.
Baroness Hogg: My Lords, does the Minister accept that a considerable sum of public money has been spent on the Dome? It is included under the Government's own totals of public expenditure in the Pre-Budget Report.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, £399 million worth of the Millennium Commission's money--that is, money which comes from the lottery--has been spent on it. No person in this country is compelled to buy a lottery ticket.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the next licence to operate the National Lottery will be awarded by the National Lottery Commission and will, other things being equal, go to the bidder likely to raise most money for the good causes. The Invitation to Apply published by the commission includes changes to remove obstacles to competition including possible additional contributions to the good causes from profits and the extent to which bidders have transparent remuneration arrangements and the highest standards of corporate governance.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Can the noble Lord confirm that the licence was awarded to Camelot for the sole reason that it offered to give a higher proportion of the funds to good causes than any of the other bidders, including the consortium which included Richard Branson?
The second half of my question relates to distribution of National Lottery funds. It comes somewhat appropriately after the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, that £399 million of lottery money went into the Millennium Dome. Is there not an increasing danger that Ministers see the lottery as a new pot of money for them? If they cannot get their project past the Chief Secretary will they not try to dip their fingers into the lottery pool? Does that not go totally against the principle which we as a Conservative government established that the allocation of the lottery money for good causes should go directly to independent expert bodies like the Charities Board and National Heritage? The decision as to where it was then spent would be up to those bodies. Does not that principle have to be revived and maintained if the lottery is to continue to be the success that it has been?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in response to the noble Lord's first question, for reasons he will understand, the thinking behind the previous government's conclusion in favour of Camelot has not been made available to Ministers of this Government, although I understand that they claim that Camelot produced the best result for the good causes.
In response to the noble Lord's second question, there is a danger of confusion. I think that he is really saying that somehow expenditure on heritage, arts, sport and charities is inherently independent of government sticky fingers (as he puts it) whereas the New Opportunities Fund is not. I can assure him that the arm's length principles which apply to the original
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have given assurances about the percentages up to and including the end of the present Camelot concession. Decisions about future allocation of lottery funds will be made public in due course and of course will be subject to public consultation.
Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, having said in a debate in this House in which he also took part that the lottery is basically a tax on the working classes, I was bombarded with literature by Camelot? However, the one thing it would not tell me was how much was contributed by each of the registrar general's socio- economic groups.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not aware of the literature with which my noble friend was bombarded by Camelot. It did not have the courtesy to tell me about it. However, I sympathise with him in his frustration at not getting the information he requires. Perhaps if he receives it he will inform the House of what he has learnt.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the delays experienced by some guests in getting to the Dome via Stratford Underground Station on 31st December were unacceptable. I have apologised and the New Millennium Experience Company's chief executive is writing to all who arrived via Stratford on new year's eve offering them a free visit to the Dome. Overall, however, the celebrations at the Dome were a huge success.
Secondly, can the Minister tell us why it was necessary to reserve part of the Jubilee Line for the Prime Ministerial party on new year's eve?
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