HC Deb 17 May 1999 vol 331 cc633-4
31. Kali Mountford (Colne Valley)

What progress is being made with plans to market the millennium experience across the country. [83439]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

The New Millennium Experience Company's marketing strategy incorporates a number of means of promoting the millennium experience, and its associated national programme, across the United Kingdom and worldwide. Among the initiatives currently being undertaken are the development of the "Our Town" story programme, to enable towns across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom to tell their story in the millennium dome; proposals to ensure that 1 million school children will be able to visit the dome for free; and the negotiation of special packages of travel combined with entry tickets, to ensure that people are able, at the cheapest possible price, to get to the dome and the millennium experience.

Kali Mountford

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, and particularly for its focus on children. I do not know whether he has seen a copy of the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, but I hope that he has, as it states that although children are very enthusiastic about the millennium experience, their parents and grandparents are less so. Will he ensure that the millennium experience marketing strategy will examine the effects of that varying enthusiasm, and perhaps focus more attention on encouraging parents and grandparents to help those enthusiastic youngsters to attend?

Mr. Smith

It just so happens that I have, indeed, seen the Huddersfield Daily Examiner report to which my hon. Friend refers. I was extremely interested to see that pupils at Spring Grove Junior, Infant and Nursery school, in Springwood, all agreed it would be a wonderful experience. The article also helpfully points out that the £57 pound charge for five people on a family ticket—including at least one adult and four children—is less than the £59 that it costs for four people to go to Alton Towers, in Staffordshire.

We shall be ensuring that the new millennium experience puts specific emphasis on the marketing strategy to attract families. The millennium experience will be a major opportunity for families to have an enjoyable and challenging day out in 2000.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is very important for the Government to show some restraint in marketing the millennium experience, and that, by launching the contents at The Peoples Palace—where the Labour party celebrated its general election victory—they have caused great concern to the many people who believe that the millennium celebration should not be party political and that it certainly should not be regarded as the launch pad for the Labour party's next election campaign?

Mr. Smith

On our part, there is no intention or wish at all to make the celebration party political—which is precisely why the former Deputy Prime Minister sits on the Millennium Commission and is intimately involved in the development and detailed proposals for the dome itself.