HC Deb 27 July 1998 vol 317 cc14-5
31. Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

If he will make a statement on progress in attracting corporate sponsorship for the millennium experience. [50799]

The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Peter Mandelson)

The New Millennium Experience Company is to be congratulated on the significant progress that it has made in attracting private sector sponsorship. As I reported to the House earlier, more than £100 million has been secured thus far, including contributions from British Telecom, BSkyB, Manpower, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, British Airways and BAA plc. The company is well on its way to meeting its target of £150 million by the end of the year.

Mr. Bercow

I am grateful to the Minister for that informative answer. Exactly how many of the corporate sponsors of the millennium experience come from the manufacturing sector of industry, for the devastated state of which he has today accepted responsibility?

Mr. Mandelson

For pure brass neck and nerve, that probably takes a large biscuit. The hon. Gentleman will not be disappointed to find leading British manufacturing companies represented in the dome because they are providing considerable sponsorship, as will be reported to the House shortly.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does my hon. Friend's answer mean that with the corporate sponsorship each zone of the dome will be open exactly as planned and completed in the way predicted a few months ago?

Mr. Mandelson

Yes, not only will the dome be completed on time to a very high quality, but I am glad to say that, following the Prime Minister's visit to the dome for the topping-out ceremony, when he described it as too good to pull down", the Government are inviting expressions of interest in its use after 2000. They will be drawing up the criteria against which bids will be judged. We have in mind three sets of criteria: financial criteria ensuring that English Partnerships recoups the money spent on clearing up the site; environmental criteria to ensure that any proposal is sympathetic to wider development of the Greenwich peninsula and the Thames gateway; and criteria to ensure that fitting use is made of the dome, given its unique national status. That is a change from the policy of the previous Administration, who intended to pull the dome down a year after building it, but I am sure that the change will be welcomed throughout the House.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

May I, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, congratulate the Minister on his advancement? I hope that he will be successful in his new role in encouraging sponsorship, not only for the millennium experience, but for the arts and millennium experiences in other parts of the country, as many of the companies that he has said are involved at Greenwich have a presence the length and breadth of Great Britain.

Mr. Mandelson

I am grateful for the comments by the right hon. Gentleman. The millennium dome will feature not only the first-class design for which the United Kingdom is becoming famous, but many of our applied arts, too. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that the millennium celebrations will mean not only the dome and the associated national programme, but a £100 million nationwide sporting, cultural, heritage and artistic festival that will allow the entire country to have an excellent year-long new year's eve party.