HC Deb 16 February 1998 vol 306 cc762-5
35. Mr. Baker

If he will assess the possibility of creating a worthwhile millennium dome project at a significantly lower cost. [27619]

Mr. Mandelson

The Government undertook a thorough review of the project immediately after the election. That concluded that it was not possible to create such a unique, once-in-a-lifetime project at lower cost. Only half the cost is being met from lottery money, and the cost includes the national programme, which will start a year in advance of the opening of the dome.

Mr. Baker

Can the Minister explain why the millennium project is costing £758 million, when the former creative director, Stephen Bayley, said that something stunning could be created for £100 million?

Mr. Mandelson

I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that I do not think that Mr. Bayley's advice on that aspect is any better than he was qualified to offer on any other aspect of the millennium dome, which is why he is not still with us.

Mr. Mackinlay

Will the Minister reflect on the fact that there is growing unease among the constituents of many hon. Members that the millennium dome might become a monument to Mammon, and that we might lose sight of the fact that part of the purpose of themillenniumis—coincidentally, it would seem—to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ? Should there not be some reflection of that in all the celebrations, and particularly in the millennium dome?

Mr. Mandelson

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The millennium project is not a monument to Mammon. It is an opportunity for people to take stock, to pause and to reflect on the nature of our society in all its dimensions—spiritual as well as any other—and to consider what sort of country and society we want to live in as we enter the new century and the new millennium. In that sense the project will be inspiring and challenging, as well as enormous fun.