HC Deb 04 March 1996 vol 273 cc6-7
5. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if she will list the projects in Wales which will be considered by the Millennium Commission before the end of March. [16355]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The Millennium Commission has considered applications for funding for the Welsh national stadium in Cardiff and the Middleton botanic garden. The Millennium Commission awarded grants of £46 million and £43 million respectively to those projects. The commission does not expect to consider any further applications until April.

Mr. Griffiths

Is it not true that, after the Cardiff opera house fiasco, the Millennium Commission never had any other intention but to award the national stadium to Cardiff? Consequently, the Bridgend proposal was strung along to the extent that, on the day that the announcement was made, Jennifer Page, the chief executive of the Millennium Commission, wrote to the Bridgend consortium saying that its proposal was insufficiently developed and, without the backing of the Welsh Rugby Union, would not succeed, while a Millennium Commission projects officer wrote on the same day to say that Bridgend's project was under initial consideration and that all projects would be reviewed by the end of April.

Will the Secretary of State commission an inquiry into why Bridgend was deliberately misled by the Millennium Commission? Will she release a copy of the report given to the Millennium Commission and a transcript of the proceedings, which I believe were fixed? The Bridgend proposal was never going to be considered by the commission.

Mrs. Bottomley

If the hon. Gentleman had had his way, there would not have been a lottery in the first place. Along with 41 Opposition Members, he voted against the national lottery. If he had had his way, there would be no national stadium in Cardiff and no botanic gardens. Some 23 per cent. of the Millennium Commission's money has gone to Wales, but not a penny of it would have gone to Wales if Opposition Members had had their way. The Millennium Commission looks carefully at each application. The decisions are never easy; I can say only that the commission takes great care and great trouble. I believe that the stadium in Cardiff will be a magnificent place to accommodate the 1999 Rugby world cup.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my right hon. Friend suggest to the Millennium Commission that, when it considers projects in Wales, it should consider that some in Wales want not to celebrate, but to destroy our national heritage by making Britain a republic?

Mrs. Bottomley

I entirely agree. As Secretary of State for National Heritage, I believe strongly in protecting the institutions of this country. Those who flirt with republicanism are likely to get the result achieved by the Labour party in Australia.

Mr. Fisher

What is the Secretary of State's policy towards millennium fund projects in Wales and elsewhere whose grants lead directly to an increase in the profits and capital assets of the private sector companies that happen to own the sites in question? How will she ensure that the public benefit from, and share, the huge profits and increase in land values that British Gas is likely to gain if the millennium exhibition goes to its site in Greenwich? What lessons are there more generally—

Madam Speaker

Order. The question relates entirely to Wales. If the hon. Gentleman relates his supplementary question to Wales, it is acceptable; otherwise it is not. The question is specifically about one area of the country.

Mr. Fisher

I was asking what lessons there were for millennium projects in Wales from the actions that the Secretary of State intends to take in Greenwich.

Mrs. Bottomley

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's question; it is an important matter which needs clarification. On all occasions, the Millennium Commission seeks to get value for grants. If the Millennium Commission had such a project in Wales, it would ask somebody of the calibre and ability of Sir Peter Levene to ensure that any grant that it invested in a project delivered the best possible return for the people.