HC Deb 21 July 1997 vol 298 cc673-4
3. Mr. Skinner

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much has been allocated by the Millennium Commission to projects to mark the millennium. [7498]

Mr. Chris Smith

The Millennium Commission has allocated £993 million to 111 capital projects and a further £19 million to 13 partner bodies making millennium awards to individuals. In addition, a grant of £400 million has been agreed for the new millennium experience at Greenwich, giving a total allocation to date of £1.4 billion.

Mr. Skinner

Why has the proposal for Cresswell Craggs in my constituency not been allocated any money? It is the northernmost part of the hemisphere that relates back to the ice age. Can we really expect to sustain an expenditure of £400 million for the polystyrene dome at Greenwich? It will probably cost double that before it is finished, now that we know that a tube station has found its way into the middle of it. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that he may not be able to find money for hospitals and other things that would mark the millennium in a much more decent fashion for millions of people around the country? He should remember the song about the folly of years gone by, in which the man who had once built a tower to the sun asked: Brother, Can You spare a Dime?

Mr. Smith

As I suspect that my hon. Friend knows, the Cresswell Craggs application was made to the heritage lottery fund and not to the millennium fund. There are a number of problems outstanding in connection with that project, not least of which is the fact that the land was privately owned and on a short lease. If my hon. Friend wishes to discuss the prospects for that project further at any stage, I shall be delighted to meet him to do so. I should point out to him, however, that decisions on such matters are the responsibility of the distributory bodies and not of the Government.

In relation to my hon. Friend's point about the millennium exhibition at Greenwich, I simply point out that about 2,500 new jobs will be created during construction and a further 5,000 during the life of the exhibition. In addition, the British Tourist Authority has estimated that some £500 million of overseas revenue will be drawn into Britain as a result of the exhibition. That estimate is almost certainly very low.

Mr. Collins

Might not one appropriate way to mark the millennium have been to include the word "tourism" in the Department's new name, as tourism is the largest industry for which the right hon. Gentleman now has direct responsibility?

Mr. Smith

I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to a press release issued by the British Hospitality Association, one of the major representative bodies in the tourism industry, in which the association says that: a name is only a name. What is far more important for the association is that we have such good relations with the Department, which we are determined to build on". I whole-heartedly agree.