HC Deb 13 November 2000 vol 356 cc709-57
Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal)

Before I call the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) to move the Opposition motion, I should inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.26 pm
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey):

I beg to move, That this House deplores the financial mismanagement of the New Millennium Experience Company; notes with concern that the cost to Lottery funds has exceeded the budget by £229 million; believes that this represents a serious waste of public funds; and regrets that Ministers have neither apologised nor accepted responsibility for the failure of this national project

The House last had an opportunity to debate the dome on 21 February. On that occasion, the House approved a Government amendment that expressed the view that the millennium experience represented an excellent celebration for the people of this country and a tangible and enduring legacy for future generations The Government majority also welcomed the announcement that the New Millennium Experience Company team will be introducing improvements which deliver even greater value for money both to the paying visitor and to the Millennium Commission.—[Official Report, 21 February 2000; Vol. 344, c. 1348.] That is what the Government required Labour Members to support, and they duly did so, making themselves look absurd.

Tonight, we are offering those Members the chance to redeem themselves by supporting our motion, which reflects both the facts and the vast body of public opinion.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ainsworth

I suppose so.

Mr. MacShane

The hon. Gentleman—so gracious and courteous—was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the former dome Minister, Virginia Bottomley—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that he should refrain from using the name of any Member to whom he refers.

Mr. MacShane

When pulchritude and the name go together, I dare make a mistake, Madam Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley) is a former Secretary of State for National Heritage. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) was her PPS at the time when she promoted the dome and when the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague)—now Leader of the Opposition—crawled on his knees to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—then Leader of the Opposition—to ask for our support. If the hon. Member for East Surrey has problems with the dome, will he confess his own involvement in it and apologise for it?

Mr. Ainsworth

That was hardly worth giving way for, but I am delighted to have the pivotal role that I played in the past Conservative Administration recognised at last.

One of my proudest memories is that I had the honour to serve as Parliamentary Private Secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley). If the hon. Gentleman has followed matters at all, he will know that I was indeed—I confess it freely—an enthusiast for the dome project at that time. Unlike Labour Members, however, I am quite prepared to admit that the whole thing has been an unmitigated failure and to express my regrets about that

. Some £628 million of lottery money has been wasted. The Ministers responsible have, at least in the eyes of the public, been disgraced. A lot of water has flowed under the closed millennium bridge since we last debated the dome, and hundreds of millions of pounds worth of lottery money with it.

The original lottery funding was £399 million; about a year ago, the project received an extra draw-down facility—repayable—of £50 million; it received £60 million in February; £29 million in May; £43 million in August; and an extra £47 million in September. That is the shameful record of the dome's miserable year.

Getting to the truth about what went wrong with the project has been a slow and painful process.

Mr. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green)


Mr. Ainsworth

The hon. Gentleman rises on cue.

Mr. McCabe

The hon. Gentleman tells us that he is convinced that the dome has been an unmitigated disaster. Did he support his former boss, the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), when she extended the life of the Millennium Commission in order to cover the funding because the Conservatives knew that their financial projections would not hold up?

Hon. Members

That is a good question.

Mr. Ainsworth

It is a very silly question, because no one in their right mind could have imagined that, under Labour, the project would have cost an extra £239 million.

Getting to the truth about the project has been slow and painful, but one by one, like rotten teeth, the facts are beginning to be extracted. It was not the fault of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport but an indictment of Ministers that, after numerous inquiries, last summer the Committee was forced to admit that it has been virtually impossible to ascertain the precise budgetary position of the New Millennium Experience Company.

We have pointed out previously that the whole scheme was characterised by a lack of candour that ill befits a major public project. The problem began with the appointment of the man who is now Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), as sole shareholder—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] We should have realised that trouble was coming because, when the right hon. Gentleman was appointed, he complained to the Select Committee about the "excessive accountability" of the dome. The Government do not like accountability. But the public will hold them accountable.

The report of the National Audit Office, which was published last week and which is to be the subject of detailed consideration by the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday, at last revealed something of the truth. In clinical prose, it charted the decline and fall of new Labour's flagship project and shed light on a sordid tale of expediency, vanity, half-truths and evasions.

The Minister who has been responsible for the dome for the past 23 months is not in this House—indeed, Lord Falconer is not accountable to this House. When the right hon. Member for Hartlepool was forced to resign his former ministerial position—in short-lived disgrace—we urged the Government to appoint a non-controversial figure in his place: someone with relevant operational skills, who knew something about running a visitor attraction. Instead, we got a man whose only previous claim to fame was that he once shared a flat with the Prime Minister and had apparently had something to do with a May ball at Cambridge.

Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman recall the comments of his right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who, in the most offensive terms, castigated Labour Front-Bench spokesmen in opposition for rubbishing the dome for cynical political gain? Is that not exactly what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do?

Mr. Ainsworth

Absolutely not; I am trying to give the House an opportunity to express a verdict on the dome. No doubt it will do so later.

Lord Falconer's responsibilities for the dome are helpfully set out in the NAO report. Those responsibilities include setting the strategic direction of the company and monitoring it in terms of cost. That failed. Lord Falconer had responsibility for content—failed; for national impact—failed; for legacy—failing; and for effective management—pull the other one.

The report makes it clear that, since August last year, Lord Falconer attended 16 of the 22 board meetings and was represented at two. He must have known what was going on, but when PricewaterhouseCoopers produced its report on the dome in September, with damning evidence of the sorry state of the project's finances, he wrote—on 21 September—that he was "shocked" by its findings. Despite his assiduous attendance record as a shadow director, was he the only person who did not know how bad things had become?

On 20 February, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport wrote to Lord Falconer stating that It seems possible that the board failed to take decisive action until after a date when the company became technically insolvent. What did Lord Falconer think about that? On 25 May this year, after the dome had been granted a further £29 million of lottery money, why did he think that the directors had lined up to ask for indemnities for any wrongful trading actions brought against them by creditors? Did he think they were making that application for fun?

How did Lord Falconer respond to the letter from the chairman of NMEC of 14 July informing him that the finances had further deteriorated, or to the information that the commission's view was that the company might run out of money within two weeks and might require an additional £45 million? Did he think that it was all a storm in a Chianti bottle?

In the light of what Lord Falconer must have known, how truthful was it of him to tell the House of Lords on 17 July that the company was trading solvently? Six days after the warnings about the need for additional funds, he told Parliament: I repeat: the National Millennium Experience Company is confident that it will deliver the project within its lifetime budget of £758 million.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 20 July 2000; Vol. 615, c. 1162.] How truthful was that?

How did the Secretary of State feel about those bland reassurances? What action did he take to the set the record straight? As chairman of the Millennium Commission, he has acted as banker to the project for the past three and a half years. Twice, his accounting officers advised that granting the dome extra money would not represent a proper or prudent use of public funds. Twice, the Secretary of State has been party to overruling that advice.

The Government claimed that it was in the national interest to bail out the dome. It was not. It was in the interest of the Labour party and, in particular, of the Prime Minister in whose image the whole project was fashioned by his cronies the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Lord Falconer.

What use are reassurances from the Secretary of State in any case? When he replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), who had rightly inquired about the additional grant of £60 million that had just been made, the Secretary of State said: I strongly point out to the hon. Gentleman that such funding will and must be repaid.—[Official Report, 31 January 2000; Vol. 343, c. 764.] Will the right hon. Gentleman repeat that clear assurance? Will the money be repaid? The right hon. Gentleman will not answer because—like the remainder of the £230 million overspend—the money will not be repaid.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon)

My hon. Friend sets out a damning indictment of the stewardship of Lord Falconer and of the Secretary of State. However, might not Lord Falconer say that what was really wrong with the dome was the rubbish that was put inside it—the trite content? Is that not entirely the fault of the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland?

Mr. Ainsworth

My hon. Friend is entirely correct. The content of the dome is a serious disappointment; it is a bossy mish-mash of reproving statements, improving statements and childish gimmicks. If the content had been half way decent, there would not have been such a problem with visitor numbers.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Does my hon. Friend recollect that the taxpayer had to pay for the visit to the United States of the right hon. Member for Hartlepool so that he could see how the Disneyland attractions were run because he had sole charge of the design of the dome's contents? Did we receive any value for that money? Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman could not run an attraction as well as Mickey Mouse.

Mr. Ainsworth

My right hon. Friend is right. The visit to Disneyland showed clearly the right hon. Gentleman's involvement in the content and his responsibility for its failure.

Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham)

If the content of the dome is so bad, will the hon. Gentleman comment on the fact that 88 per cent. of visitors said that they were very satisfied with their visit and with the content?

Mr. Ainsworth

The hon. Gentleman raises a sensitive point. Clearly, if the number of people attending the dome had gone half way towards expectations, the Government would not have this problem now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] If Labour Members will give me a chance, I will answer. It is not that difficult to have a good day out with the children. One can have a good day out with the children in Hyde park, but it did not cost £400 million or £600 million to develop Hyde park so that people could have a decent time there.

Mr. Paul Clark (Gillingham)


Mr. Ainsworth

I shall not give way just yet.

The Secretary of State's failure to answer my question about whether any of the money will be repaid has been noted by the House. In answer to a question asked by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), the right hon. Gentleman said that he had made it clear to the New Millennium Experience Company that it must operate within the budget now set for it. I was delighted that Mr. Gerbeau has confirmed on a number of occasions that he will not be returning to the Millennium Commission for extra funds.—[Official Report, 10 July 2000; Vol. 353, c. 612.] Well, £90 million pounds later, we know the value of that assurance.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)

I have listened to the hon. Gentleman, and I must say that the words "pot" and "kettle" come to mind. Will he consider the comment of the National Audit Office: By June 1996 it had become clear that the private sector would not accept the risk associated with mounting the exhibition …? On mature reflection, does the hon. Gentleman not think that that might have been the right time at which to pull the plug on this deplorable effort so that we would not incur further enormous liabilities?

Mr. Ainsworth

No. The hon. Gentleman—who, as far as I am aware, has never been responsible for running anything—is talking nonsense. If he is patient, I shall come to the point about who is responsible for the failure of the project.

A little space should be found in the hall of shame for the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting, who is sitting on the Front Bench smiling. In May, she told the House: The investment in the millennium dome has a huge halo effect round the country.—[Official Report, 8 May 2000; Vol. 349, c. 486.] In July, when I asked her whether anyone in the Government would apologise, she said: There is no need to apologise.—[Official Report, 10 July 2000; Vol. 353, c. 608.] Her tone was a little different last week when she said: The Government are the first to acknowledge that the dome has not been the success for which everyone hoped—[Official Report, 6 November 2000; Vol. 356, c. 9.] Despite that, we have yet to hear an apology from any member of the Government for the deplorable waste of public funds that have been sunk into the dome. It has been obvious to everyone that the project has been a disaster from the opening night, if not before.

Mr. Paul Clark

The hon. Gentleman asks for an apology, but I have yet to hear him refer to the Opposition's record. I want to give him the opportunity to confirm something for the record. Will he confirm that his right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), the Leader of the Opposition, was a member of the GEN 36 Committee, the Cabinet Sub-Committee that was involved in the planning, financing and co-ordination of the millennium dome?

Mr. Ainsworth

That was another rather silly point. There is no secret about the fact that the dome project was conceived under the Conservative Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah !"] Labour Members think that they have discovered something new, but it is utterly risible to suggest that we are trying to pretend that we had nothing to do with the conception of the project, which none the less suffered a hideous trauma between its conception and its birth under this Government.

Mr. Andrew Reed (Loughborough)

On that point, can the hon. Gentleman name the date by which Conservative Members suddenly thought that the project had become a disaster? Will he also tell the House exactly how much private sector money the previous Government had managed to raise by 1 May 1997?

Mr. Ainsworth:

The hon. Gentleman is clearly unaware that, after the general election in 1997, and throughout 1998, my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and I were constantly approached by Ministers, including Lord Falconer, begging for our support for the project. The one thing that I seriously regret is that we did not urge the Government to cancel the project while there was still time to do so—although I doubt very much whether they would have taken our advice.

Everyone knows that the project has been a disaster for at least the past two and a half years. We warned Ministers that it was going wrong, but they did not heed our advice. The Deputy Prime Minister once famously said: If we can't make this work we're not much of a Government. He was unaware that things were going wrong. In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), the right hon. Gentleman said in his inimitable prose: On the right hon. Gentleman's point about my comments on whether the dome would be a success and that that should be a measure of the Government's competence, I happen to believe that it has been a success.—[Official Report, 24 May 2000; Vol. 350, c. 965.] The Deputy Prime Minister said that midway through the year, when the dome had already received two injections of extra lottery funds. By then it had consumed an additional £139 million.

The Government's attempts to portray the dome as a success have been farcical, but not as farcical as their latest attempts to pin all the blame for everything that has gone wrong on the previous Government. Their first reaction to the project's failure was to go into denial. After all, in the words of the Prime Minister, it was to be the first paragraph of my next election manifesto. After the Prime Minister had said that, the Government knew that they could not allow the dome to fail. But they did allow it to fail and, when all the spin and the hype were overwhelmed by the cold sad truth of squandered money and wasted opportunity, they turned like cornered rats and said that it was all our fault.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would have had to be a pretty good project to attract people to London from the north-west of England? It would cost families quite a sum of money to make such a visit. I have only spoken to five people from my constituency who have been to the dome. Is it not natural that they should compare the money that has been wasted on the dome with what could have been achieved for schools, education and law and order in the north-west?

Mr. Ainsworth

My hon. Friend makes a good point. If the content of the dome had been up to scratch, people would have travelled from far and wide to see it.

Mr. McCabe

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ainsworth

No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman has already had his chance.

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

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will answer the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) and tell us whether he will scrap the new opportunities fund, which puts money precisely into health, education and the environment?

Mr. Ainsworth

The Secretary of State goes on and on about that point. He will have to be patient: we will announce our policies at the appropriate time.

Nobody believes the Government on the subject of the dome: nobody believes them when they say that it is a success and nobody believes them when they try to blame us. What people see is a Government who are prepared to take the credit for everything and responsibility for nothing.

We know from the National Audit Office report that, after the election, the Government reviewed the entire project. We know that they reviewed the visitor number forecasts and that they ignored the advice of Deloitte Touche and of Millennium Commission officials. The Government decided on a forecast of 12 million visitors. The Government are responsible for the visitor forecast and they are responsible for the content, for the budget and for the decision by Lord Falconer to insist on 1 million free school visits against the advice of the board. That blew a huge hole in the dome's finances. The Government have also been responsible for the appalling media relations: both before and during this year, the dome has been a public relations nightmare.

Mr. Efford

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ainsworth

If I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to put his hand up and admit responsibility for the gross financial mismanagement of the dome, I would be willing to give way, but I suspect that he is not going to do that.

We also know why the Government decided to go ahead with the project. The Prime Minister himself ordained that they should go ahead at the fateful Cabinet meeting on 19 June 1997. Despite the misgivings of a majority of the Cabinet, the Government went ahead with the project. Despite the Chancellor's rather ludicrous suggestion that the project should meet five key tests—we have heard that somewhere before—the Prime Minister announced the same day that the project would proceed. He said: In the year 2000 all the eyes of the world will be on Britain— Would that they might avert them now! He continued: This is our chance to make a statement of faith in our capacity to do things bigger and better than anyone else.

The Government's attempts to blame the Conservatives for their own failings are undignified and would be laughable were they not so contemptible and cowardly. Indeed, the Prime Minister's antics have become frankly comic, although his behaviour is more akin to that of Alan B'stard than to that of Jim Hacker. We now know that Lord Falconer has not resigned because he is acting as a human shield for the Prime Minister.

The Foreign Secretary summed up the position when he said on 19 June 1997: We can always blame the Tories if we stop now. If we go ahead we'll have to take the blame if the whole lot goes wrong.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

Exactly right.

Mr. Ainsworth

Indeed, but that does not say much for the Foreign Secretary's political morality.

The future of the dome is yet again uncertain. Doubts have persisted over whether the proposed deal with Legacy will go ahead. The task facing the Government is to ensure that, by selling the dome, they achieve a maximum return to lottery players and a maximum national gain in terms of long-term jobs and regeneration on the site. It is not possible to understand how that will be achieved by engaging in a hole-in-the-corner discussion with a single bidder which happens to have donated large sums to the Labour party and the Secretary of State's constituency association.

The site's future should be thrown open to fresh competition. Retaining the dome itself should not be a condition of the sale. Most people would rather have some of their money back after this dreadful year than see the dome retained as a symbol of a Prime Minister's vanity. As it is, there is a real risk that in the coming months the dome will stand idle and empty, a mute but powerful reminder of the cynicism, cronyism, arrogance and wastefulness of an incompetent and discredited Government. The right hon. Member for Hartlepool said that the closing ceremony would reflect the full breadth and success of the celebrations that we have planned.—[Official Report, 20 April 1998; Vol. 310, c. 473] How right he was for once. On 31 December, someone will quietly switch off the lights for the last time—but the memory of the dome's one appalling year will stay fresh in the public's mind and they will not forgive this Government.

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

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof welcomes the publication of the National Audit Office report, which gives a detailed account of events at the Dome; agrees that politicians of all parties involved in the project share responsibility both for the successes in regenerating this depressed part of South East London and its failings to reach its original visitor estimates; and deplores the decision by Her Majesty's Opposition not to support the original bi-partisan nature of this national project.

I begin by offering you, Madam Deputy Speaker, my warm congratulations on the assumption of your august office. I am sure that every hon. Member would join me in that. May I also say that, as ever, I am pleased to have the opportunity to debate the dome on the Floor of the House.

I was somewhat surprised that the Opposition decided to pre-empt the Public Accounts Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday. I very much regret that they are effectively undermining the PAC deliberations by tabling a motion that asks the House to anticipate the PAC.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

The Secretary of State makes a fair point. Will he guarantee us another Opposition day before Christmas?

Mr. Smith

The allocation of Opposition days is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Their precise content is entirely a matter for the Opposition

The Government have already welcomed the National Audit Office report, which gives a detailed and accurate account of the origins of the dome and of the events during its year of operation. We welcome the PAC's inquiry and we will work fully with it.

We recognise the problems that the dome has faced. In particular, it is a matter of great regret to all of us who had high hopes for the project that the original visitor target will not be met. That has been at the root of all the dome's problems this year. It has led to a 65 per cent. drop in visitor revenue and the consequent need for additional lottery funding. It has placed enormous strain on NMEC as it sought to attract visitors by introducing better marketing and developing the product on offer.

Mr. Redwood

When Ministers said at various times throughout the year that no more money would be available, were they misleading the House or was the company trading when it was insolvent? Which is it?

Mr. Smith

It is neither. When I informed the House of the comments made by Mr. P-Y Gerbeau in July—the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) referred to this—I was reporting exactly what Mr. Gerbeau had said about his intentions and hopes for future visitor numbers.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth

In that case, was Mr. P-Y Gerbeau misleading the Secretary of State?

Mr. Smith

We now know with hindsight that Mr. Gerbeau was wrong. That is public knowledge.

In the conclusions to the NAO report, the Comptroller and Auditor General said: it is clear that the main cause of the financial difficulties is the failure to achieve the visitor numbers and income required

Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

Mr. Keith Bales, a former senior Disney executive, told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 1997 that no one on the board of NMEC has ever run, managed, designed or promoted in any way whatsoever a major international leisure attraction. He went on to say that he did not believe in the visitor numbers. Why, therefore, has it taken the Government three years to go cap in hand back to Disney to get professional help to sort out the problems? Was it because the Government were so arrogant that they knew best? Does the Secretary of State think that he should have gone to Disney sooner?

Mr. Smith

No, but that is the first sensible point that the Opposition have made this evening. There is a genuine issue about whether it is right for the Government to seek to run, or to be involved in the running of, a visitor attraction. We have recognised for some time that we got that wrong. We have accepted that. Bringing in Mr. Gerbeau in February this year was almost certainly bringing him in too late. We now know that. One lesson that we have to learn from the story of the dome is that, with a project of this size and scale, we need to ensure that the experts are brought in to run it from an early date.

Mr. Ainsworth

May I take the Secretary of State back to the inaccurate information that he says P-Y Gerbeau gave to him. If P-Y's information was wrong, are we to take it that the company was trading insolvently, albeit without P-Y Gerbeau's knowledge? If that is the case, what does it say about the competence of Lord Falconer, who is the shareholder and Minister responsible?

Mr. Smith

The issue of trading insolvently is appropriate only if a company has no reasonable expectation of being able to trade itself out of insolvency. Each time Lord Falconer and others came to Parliament on this matter, there was every expectation either that the issue of inadequate funds was about to be resolved or that it had just been resolved. That is the point that the hon. Gentleman needs to take into account.

Mr. Redwood

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

No, I must make some progress

I agree with the Comptroller and Auditor General's conclusions. He is right to identify the reduction in visitor numbers as the main source of the dome's difficulties, although there were other issues, to which I shall come in a moment or two.

It is of course very disappointing that the dome will not meet its original visitor target of 12 million. Since the Millennium Commission set out its guidelines for a national exhibition in 1995, many Members on both sides of the House have shared its aspirations for an exhibition to rival those of 1851 and 1951. Those guidelines suggested that the millennium exhibition should attract between 15 million and 30 million people. That was a laudable ambition, but one which, with the benefit of hindsight, we know to have been seriously over-optimistic. We must all—on both sides of the House—put up our hands and admit that we got it wrong. I am happy to do so. Indeed, all of us on both sides of the House need to accept that there were things about the project, especially the visitor number projections, that we simply got wrong.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Smith

Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, I remind him that, in 1995, the Millennium Commission, chaired by the then Secretary of State for National Heritage, the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), set an aim of 15 million visitors; that in July 1995, the aim had become between 15 million and 30 million visitors; that on 18 January 1996, the target was 10 million visitors; that in February of that year, the target was between 10.9 million and 16 million visitors; and that, by 11 December 1996, the target had become 13.5 million visitors. That is the story of expectations throughout that period, so we shall take no lessons from the Conservative party about the mistakes that were undoubtedly made. Members on both sides of the House were responsible for getting it wrong.

Mr. Gale

Having come from "We'll take the credit" to "Let's please share the blame", the Secretary of State should be referred to page 4 of the National Audit Office report, which we are in effect debating. Referring to May 1997, paragraph 16 states: At that stage, however, final decisions had not been made on the Dome's contents, on ticket prices, on marketing strategies, and on whether there would be access to the area by car for the purposes of dropping off and picking up. In other words, every major decision, other than the decision to have the spiked hut, was taken by this Government. if there were a shred of honour left in the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and for Culture, Media and Sport, or in Lord Falconer, all three would resign.

Mr. Smith

I hesitate to point out to the hon. Gentleman that the decision to build the dome was taken under the previous Government; that the decision to build it at Greenwich was taken under the previous Conservative Government; that the original chairman and chief executive of the dome company were appointed by the previous Government; that the corporate structure was decided by the previous Government; that the use of lottery money to support the project was decided under the previous Government; and that the role of the shareholder was created under the previous Government. The hon. Gentleman's intervention is simply unworthy of his usual high standards.

Mr. Maples

The long list of things that the Secretary of State said were decided by the previous Government omitted the content of the dome. I took my family, along with another family, to the dome very early in January. We all thought that we would have had a lot more fun at the local fair and learned a lot more at the science museum. The problem with the project is not the concept, the space or the wonderful tube ride to get there but the trite content. Nobody blames the Secretary of State for that; he is much too civilised to have passed off such rubbish as appropriate content. It is surely the fault of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and he ought to be answering this debate.

Mr. Smith

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is a fan of the science museum and that he can now take his children to it for free following our decision. His experience differs markedly from 88 per cent. of visitors to the dome, who come away saying that they have had a really enjoyable time and would recommend it to their friends.

In the context of the history of the project, I find the attitude of the hon. Member for East Surrey and his party leader pretty unedifying. One—the hon. Member for East Surrey—was the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for National Heritage, and the other sat on the Cabinet Committee that decided to take forward the exhibition under the previous Government. When the previous Government set up that Committee, the then Secretary of State announced on 28 February 1996 that, in order to ensure that the Government's participation in that significant national event was well planned and co-ordinated, she had asked the First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister to convene a ministerial group. The Leader of the Opposition was a member of that ministerial group from the outset; the public record confirms it. I do not think it unreasonable, in the light of the Opposition's comments in this debate, to point out that they were in it from the start.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Smith

No, I want to make some progress.

Now we have an Opposition, including the hon. Gentleman, who engage in what I would call not so much shuttle diplomacy as shuttle expediency: when something is going well, one goes ahead with it, giving it all one's support and praising it to the skies; but when it turns out three months later to be unpopular with the media, here are the Opposition going in the opposite direction, saying that the project is a complete disaster and was nothing whatever to do with them in the first place.

I remind the hon. Gentleman of what he said, not in 1995 or 1996 but in the middle of 1999: I enjoy visiting the dome, and I have seen a major transformation on that site since it was a barren wasteland.—[Official Report, 18 June 1999; Vol. 335, c. 674-75.] Not to be outdone, the Leader of the Opposition said of the dome on 23 December 1999: I think it's now the job of all politicians to make a success of it. So we shall go there and join in the party. Perhaps most significant of all, the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey, said when presenting to the House in December 1996 the decision to go ahead with the dome: we believe that the potential for tourism is important, not only nationally—15 million visitors are expected—but internationally.—[Official Report, 28 February 1996; Vol. 272, c. 888-90.]

Mr. Ainsworth

The Secretary of State is merely reiterating the point that the Conservatives had the original vision for the dome. He knows perfectly well that we did not want this thing to be the failure that it has become. We warned the Government that, if they went ahead as they were going, it might be such a failure. It is their fault that the project has become a failure. At least we can recognise that, now that it has.

Has the Secretary of State read the National Audit Office report? If he looks at paragraph 1.27, he will see that all his points fall away. It states clearly: The then Official Opposition agreed to these arrangements, but reserved the right to review every aspect of the delivery of the project if elected to Government. The new Government undertook such a review The figures were the Secretary of State's; it was the Government's decision.

Mr. Smith

Not only the original concept but the structure of the company, the decision to go ahead with it and the original visitor number expectations, which are at the heart of the NAO report, were put in place by the previous Government.

The hon. Member for East Surrey has spoken about my noble Friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton. The previous Government recognised the national significance of the project by appointing a Minister the sole shareholder in the operating company. We retained those arrangements because we believe that it was right that a national project of such scale should be subject to ministerial accountability. As an NMEC shareholder, Lord Falconer is accountable to Parliament through the other place for the Millennium Experience. That means that he needs to take an active interest in the project's development and progress along the critical path. However, that is very different from interfering in day-to-day management, which is the responsibility of NMEC's board.

I especially deplore the cheap political point scoring to which the Opposition have sunk—

Mr. Redwood


Mr. Smith

Right on cue, here is the right hon. Gentleman to make more cheap political points.

Mr. Redwood

The Secretary of State gave an interesting answer earlier: he said that the company was not trading when insolvent because it had a reasonable expectation of getting more money—and, as we know, the money came from the Millennium Commission, the taxpayer and the millennium fund contributor. Is he not telling us, therefore, that the Minister was saying one thing to the company to reassure it that money would be made available, and another to Parliament, which was told that no money would be made available?

Mr. Smith

No, I do not agree with that analysis.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey):

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

Yes, because it is the right hon. Lady, but this must be the last time.

Mrs. Bottomley

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that all the public servants who have worked on the project bitterly resent the degree to which the Labour party has tried to party politicise the dome events? It tried to make it a glorious Sheffield rally by imposing Labour party imagery and ideology on the project—even launching it at the People's Palace, where Labour celebrated its campaign victory. A million free tickets for schoolchildren were given away in the face of advice from those within the organisation. The Labour party lost public support for the project by trying to turn it into a Labour party legacy.

Mr. Smith

No, if any party is trying to make party political capital out of the dome, it is the Conservative party.

Lord Falconer sets the strategic direction of the dome and monitors NMEC's progress against the criteria that we set it. He has been tireless in his defence of the dome and in his work to raise awareness of its achievements. He has shown leadership in standing by the dome's loyal staff, in visiting it regularly and in monitoring its progress through turbulent times. His job is an important one and he is doing it well in the teeth of enormous difficulty and flak. It is certainly not in the interests of the British people that he should resign.

Lord Falconer has never lost sight of the good things about the dome, and nor should we. Despite the undeniable problems identified by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the dome is a remarkable achievement. For a start, it is a stunning building, recognised as a great construction achievement and a triumph of British engineering for which the engineers, Buro Happold, won the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert award, which is Britain's premier prize for engineering.

Greenwich council, which has supported the project from the outset, is proud of what it has meant to one of London's poorest boroughs—and so it should be. In less than four years, the largest track of derelict urban wasteland in Europe has been transformed into a busy, attractive place—one where people want to live, in one of the new homes in the millennium village; a place where they want to shop, in Sainsbury's new store, which has just won a national award for environmental sustainability; a place where they want to stay in the new hotel and come to enjoy themselves at the millennium dome.

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

Given his enthusiasm for the structure, which I share, will the Secretary of State guarantee that the millennium dome will not be bulldozed?

Mr. Smith

I very much hope that the dome will not be pulled down, but the ministerial team—which, of course, does not include me—that will determine the future legacy of the dome will have to take into account the iconic nature of the structure, the regeneration effect that it can have and the best possible return to the lottery player and taxpayer. Those considerations must be carefully balanced by the team.

The construction phase of the dome and other developments on the peninsula have created employment for 8,700 people, and 5,500 are employed in the operation. Greenwich council predicts that 30,000 permanent jobs will be created in the borough within seven years as a result of the investment on the peninsula. The council is right to be proud of all that has been achieved.

The people who work at the dome are also proud of what they have achieved. They know that they are doing a good job because people tell them so: as I said, in a recent poll, 88 per cent. of visitors said that they had enjoyed their day at the dome and 94 per cent. that they had enjoyed the millennium show. Those satisfaction ratings are something of which to be proud, as is the fact that the dome has attracted more visitors this year than any other paying attraction in the UK: the dome's 4.5 million paying visitors to date mean that, after only 10 months, it has attracted almost twice the yearly total of visitors to the next most popular attraction, Alton Towers.

I am also proud of the dome work force—not only because of the way in which they have stood up to the trials and tribulations of the operating year, but because of the unfailing courtesy, good humour and professionalism that they have displayed throughout. Other people are also proud of the dome. Let me give just one example. Pat Nunn of Ossett in Yorkshire wrote to The Guardian on 28 October to say: I went to the Millennium Dome expecting rubbish— she had been listening to the hon. Member for East Surrey too much— but what I found was impressive. If there was a gold medal for knocking things, we British would win every time. I'm no flag-waver, but I felt proud of what I saw and experienced

We must remember that the millennium celebrations are not only about the dome. The vision for celebrating the millennium includes not only capital projects, but more than 1,000 large-scale community projects throughout the UK under the umbrella of the millennium festival, and more than 12,000 awards for all so far distributed to community arts, sports, heritage and charity projects in every part of the UK. Of the 180 capital projects funded by the Millennium Commission, 90 are now complete, and two thirds of the 3,118 umbrella projects have now opened. Recent openings include "Turning the Tide", which is a wonderful project restoring England's only stretch of magnesium limestone coastline in Durham—restoring the beaches, removing coal waste and derelict structures and creating new cycle paths and walkways to enhance the area's accessibility. ECOS at Ballymena is a new 57 hectare town park and environmental visitor and education centre, which will house the Northern Ireland environmental information centre. The national wildlife centre in Liverpool is a centre for creative conservation, promoting the use of wild flowers in the wider process of regeneration.

None the less, we all need to learn the valuable lessons about the assessment and management of capital projects that the dome project has taught us, some of which are set out in the National Audit Office report. I identify four key lessons. First, adopt a clear management structure. An alternative structure to deliver the exhibition from the outset might well have achieved a different outcome. The tight time frame meant that no acceptable alternative was available for the dome, but, for the future, we know that a less complex, more directly accountable structure is probably better.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

My right hon. Friend mentions the tight time frame. Is it not absolutely remarkable that the dome building was ready on time and open when it needed to be open, on a fixed timetable? By contrast, we have the disaster of the British Library project, whose cost doubled and exploded and the building was not nearly ready on time—and that happened under the Conservatives.

Mr. Smith

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the remarkable achievement whereby the millennium dome was completed and made ready for opening. Everyone knew the time frame that had to be adhered to.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

The second lesson is to bring in the experts. Managers with experience of running large-scale visitor attractions should have been engaged by NMEC for the operational year. All parties acknowledged that when the project was reviewed in February this year, and undoubtedly we should have recognised it.

Mrs. Bottomley

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Smith

I said to the right hon. Lady that I was giving way for the last time, but because she is so persistent, I will allow her to make another intervention.

Mrs. Bottomley

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. Does he feel able to pay credit to Jennie Page?

Mr. Smith

Yes, I am delighted to pay credit to Jennie Page for having achieved the construction of the dome by 31 December 1999 in the very efficient way in which that was done.

The third lesson is to make prudent estimates at the outset. We have already acknowledged that the initial visitor number estimates of 12 million were too high, although experts said at the time that the figure was not unrealistic. We have learned from that, and I am pleased to say that now, for every major capital project, the Millennium Commission examines the business plan and the operational expectations in detail and tests carefully whether they are correct.

The result, I am pleased to say, has been enormously successful. The Eden project is now 70 per cent. over its visitor number target. The Lowry in Salford is 54 per cent. over its target. Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh is 32 per cent. over its target. The national botanic garden of Wales is 26 per cent. over its target. The Big Idea in Irvine is 17 per cent. over its target, and @, Bristol is 11 per cent. over its target.

The fourth lesson that we need to learn concerns risk assessment and risk management. We have always recognised that the dome project was risky. My Department is now working hard to improve our performance—everyone's performance—on risk analysis, to ensure that everything possible is done to minimise risks similar to those that have arisen during the Millennium Experience project.

What I have said will, I hope, help to redress the balance of what the hon. Member for East Surrey laid before the House. I also hope that it gives him some pause for thought. It is easy and cheap politics to knock a project which his previous boss described in 1996 as Britain's shopfront as we go into a new century.—[Official Report, 16 December 1996; Vol. 287, c. 607.] We shared that vision. We are, of course, sad that the visitor numbers have been lower than hoped for, but pleased that those who came have enjoyed themselves. The regeneration benefits will be felt in the area for years to come.

What we do not want to do is engage in the tawdry hypocrisy of praising something one year, damning it the next, pretending that it is nothing whatever to do with us, and failing to address the serious wider issues of governance and risk management that are genuinely thrown into the public domain by this project and by what has happened. That serious task is one that we are taking forward and will continue to take forward.

8.23 pm
Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)

I can claim to be the only Member who has been involved in every stage of the Millennium Commission and the saga of the dome. Indeed, in a rather unusual circumstance, I was the Deputy Prime Minister who negotiated many of the arrangements of government that have been discussed today.

As a millennium commissioner, on the change of Government I was consulted by the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), and as a result of that was asked whether I would remain in something of the same position as I had held in government, in order to preserve the continuity of the decision-making processes that had been established and were under way.

Consequently, I have seen the inside story. With hindsight, all of us would do things differently. One thing that I would not do differently in any way was the decision to attempt to replicate the great historic successes of 1851 and 1951. Nor would I change the decision to use the opportunity for the dome investment to regenerate one of the poorest parts of the London borough of Greenwich.

I feel particularly strongly about that because in 1979, I made one of the more regrettable decisions of my career: I left out the sites at Greenwich and Lewisham from the decision that we took to take over land in the five London boroughs to the north of the river. Fifteen years later, the Greenwich site was as derelict as on the day I left it out

I have thus seen matters from the inside. It would, I suppose, be possible for me not to participate in this debate, which is inspired by my political party, but it would, I think, be less than frank and honourable to the House, which is entitled to hear the views that I have developed.

I shall keep the House for only a moment or two, and explain, as the Secretary of State said, that if the accounting officer of the Millennium Commission is to appear before the Public Accounts Committee in the next few days, and if the accounting officer for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is to report on events for which I had responsibility, it is incumbent on me not to make their task more complicated than it is bound to be.

There are three issues on which I shall speak: first, the all-party, non-party atmosphere in which the project was conceived and delivered; secondly, the decision about the 12 million attendance; and thirdly, the after-use of the Greenwich peninsula.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon(Mr. Major), when he was Prime Minister, asked me to become a millennium commissioner. He named a number of colleagues with whom I have worked over the years. Some of them have gone and been replaced, but the one certainty about the decision that he took is that the commission would be non-party, all-party. To this day, I could not tell the House in all honesty which way members of the Millennium Commission would vote in a general election.

I know that the late Lord Montague—Michael Montague as he was then—was appointed to the Millennium Commission as a nominee of the Labour party, so from the earliest days, clearly, one of our members was appointed in order to ensure that the Labour party believed in and was on side with all the decisions of the commission. He became a Labour life peer before his premature death after the election.

I now know, of course, that Patricia Scotland QC has become a Labour working peer, but when she initially became a member of the Millennium Commission, I did not know that she was a member or supporter of the Labour party.

Listening to the comments in the commission, I could guess at the political affiliation of one or two of my colleagues, but certainly not all of them. I can never remember any stage, in any of our discussions from that moment to this, when party politics or party allegiances played any part whatever in the decision-making processes in which we engaged.

When we faced a significant hurdle in the life of the dome—that is, the general election campaign—I became preoccupied with the uncertainty inevitably created in the circumstances. There was a moment—I have been critical of this matter in public—when I thought that the Labour party would stand back from decisions of which it had clearly been aware and which it had supported—decisions made after consultations with those on the Labour Front Bench.

So preoccupied did I become by the damage that this was doing to the dome project that I asked to see the then leader of the Labour party, the present Prime Minister, and put to him as strongly as I could the fact that his party had been committed to the project from the first stage. Labour knew all about it, and had complete access to all the information and figures. In those circumstances, a sudden decision by the Labour party to abandon the project would have been—at least—a major breach of integrity.

Hon. Members have referred to the reappraisal that took place. The new Government decided to proceed with the project, and I remained part of a working team that met almost every Tuesday afternoon. The plans were unfolded at those meetings. My colleague from the Millennium Commission, Simon Jenkins—again, of no known political affiliation—took an equal part in those decisions.

My second point is about the projected 12 million attendance. I have spent much of my commercial life launching projects. I have never known one yet that was certain, did not carry an element of risk and did not involve consultants who said, "It can't be done."However, the Millennium Commission took the best evidence that it could about possible numbers. It was ultimately down to the commissioners, not the Government, to decide whether to proceed on the basis of figures that were high but not unreasonable. I vividly remember the meeting when we made that decision. I shall not say that my views were uninfluenced by my judgment of consultants—I have used many consultants. The late, great Charles Clore said: My accountant is right 99 times out of a hundred. The other time, I make a fortune An element of that applies to consultants.

The other profound influence on my views was my experience with the Liverpool garden festival. When the plans were put to us, I was told, "Secretary of State, we are forecasting 3 million visitors. We'd like you to endorse that figure." I said that I would state that I was advised that we were expecting 3 million visitors; I was not prepared to endorse the figure. I felt ashamed of that later because 3.6 million visitors went to the garden festival on Merseyside in six months.

When I took part in the decision-making process on the dome, I remembered that 3.6 million visitors had come to Merseyside in six months. I knew that the dome would be a national endeavour, sited in London, that it would embrace a huge number of tourists, and that it would carry all-party support and massive private sector financial support and all that went with that. It therefore seemed reasonable to back expert advice that around 10 to 12 million visitors were possible.

The precise moment at which everything appeared to go wrong does not accord with my memory of the reporting of the dome endeavours from the mid-1990s onwards. I have been engaged in the development of many controversial public projects, but I have never known one so undermined and vilified by the national press from the moment that it was announced. Of the many reasons for not achieving this, that or the other target, one reason for not gaining the private sector financial support that we might have expected, was that every time we endeavoured to raise money from the private sector, our attempts were met with massive contemptuous dismissal from the national press.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

Did I misunderstand my right hon. Friend, or did he imply that it was his intention from the start that the project should go to London?

Mr. Heseltine

I personally was inclined that way. I appreciate the persuasive battle that my right hon. Friend fought for Birmingham. I was open-minded, but I had an instinct that we were considering a national project for the capital city. I shall outline the factors that determined that the project went to Greenwich, and influenced my other colleagues on the commission, who spoke for themselves.

My right hon. Friend can at least give me credit for being one of the national exhibition centre's most frequent visitors. However, we did not believe that it offered the opportunity for a spectacular architectural innovation; we believed that the Greenwich site did that. Secondly, we did not believe that the national exhibition centre offered the same incredible regeneration opportunities—opportunities that were not so desperately needed on the NEC site as they were in Greenwich.

Mr. McCabe

If regeneration was such a central criterion for the right hon. Gentleman, why was it not mentioned in the original competition that the Millennium Commission announced? Why were the Birmingham NEC group and the city council told that they could not use regeneration arguments to support to their bid?

Mr. Heseltine

I would have to look back at the relevant documents to ascertain whether I agree with the simplicity of the hon. Gentleman's case. Let me put a counter-argument as it occurs to me. We divided the competition into two parts: proposals for building the dome and proposals for a site. With hindsight, the Millennium Commission had no power to organise the dome. We could only ask others to present proposals. We were preoccupied by the risk that we might have got a fantastic site in, for example, Birmingham and a wonderful proposal for, for example, Derby. We had to decide how we would cope with that. We therefore decided to split the competition between the organisation and the site. Birmingham had incomparably the best proposal, which was presented by Gary Withers of Imagination. However, the problem of the site remained.

There was also a powerful additional argument for Greenwich that I had not deployed before the hon. Gentleman questioned me. In Birmingham the motorways were a problem. The NEC would have been a car-served site.

Sir Norman Fowler

There is a railway.

Mr. Heseltine

Yes, but an enormous number of people would have travelled by motorway. They could not have been stopped. The NEC is served by cars. For many of us who travel along the motorways of the west midlands on a Thursday or Friday, the idea of injecting an enormous extra flow of private transport into that area was perceived as a disadvantage at the time. Those are broadly the arguments that led us to Greenwich. Again, with hindsight, I would not rely on public transport. There is a psyche attached to the use of the car and the way in which families entertain themselves that imposed a serious liability on us as we tried to achieve our targets.

My third point is about the after-use of the site. We are all agonising about the regrettable way in which the project has worked out. No one feels that more strongly than me. From the experiences of the London Docklands development corporation, I am aware that none of us really knows how regeneration projects will work out. Nobody would have believed me if I had stood at the Dispatch Box in 1979 and proclaimed the success of Canary wharf, City airport and Excel. I would have been laughed to scorn. Yet that was the beginning of an extraordinary phenomenon.

do not know what will happen in Greenwich, but I know that there is a remarkable building there. It would be a tragedy if, in the short-term aftermath of the collapse of public confidence in the project, we tore down the building as an act of contrition. I hope that the Government and the Millennium Commission, which will be consulted and of which I am a member, will keep its nerve. I hope that when considering the £10 billion of lottery money that was raised through the foresight of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon, hon. Members will bear in mind that the expenditure—far more than we ever wanted—is still to be seen in the context of the most remarkable creation in a generation of expenditure on culture, heritage and the arts that this country has ever seen.

8.40 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and I have known each other for a long time, going back to our undergraduate days. It is 20 years since we faced each other regularly across the Dispatch Box. We argued about a great many things. As he is not standing again at the next general election, perhaps we shall not speak again in the same debate in the House. That being so, I pay tribute to him for the regenerative work that he did when Secretary of State for the Environment. I differed with him a good deal about some of it but he did a great deal. I thank him for the money that he put into Moon Grove in my constituency. We had a bitter argument in the Chamber, and behind the Chair he agreed to put money into my constituency, with no conceivable political gain for himself. I pay tribute to him for that and for his honest and honourable speech this evening.

The right hon. Gentleman has cause to be proud of the dome as an icon of the United Kingdom. Coming into the country from the air, it is a great landmark. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that we shall be able to keep it for a long time, as it fulfils an honourable function.

If the official Opposition had conducted the debate in the manner adopted by the right hon. Gentleman, it would be a different occasion. I know that too many Conservative Members are beyond shame, but I hope that when they listened to the right hon. Gentleman they felt some shame about the way in which they are seeking to make cheap party capital, which they will fail to do, over what was intended to be a national project. It was intended to be a non-party project, and it should have remained so. Had that happened, it might well have achieved more of the visitor numbers which the right hon. Gentleman and Labour Members wanted.

The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), the former Secretary of State for National Heritage, paid tribute to Jennie Page, who is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, for the way in which she delivered the dome on time. It is extremely difficult to deliver a huge building project on a specific day, one day beyond which would have been regarded as a catastrophe. She is a remarkable woman. I said to her face that her determination and single-mindedness made Margaret Thatcher seem humble. She took that in good spirit. As we said in a recent Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report, I hope that she will be able to do further valuable work in the public sector.

We now know, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said and as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at the Labour party conference last month, that a serious error was made, which was to believe that Governments or public bodies know how to run visitor attractions. The Select Committee, of which I am Chairman, had a relevant witness at its first hearing and first inquiry three years ago. If it was an error, and it was, that is because Jennie Page, with all her extraordinary virtues, did not know how to run such an attraction. That is no discredit to her. However, if we had known that, things might have been very different.

It is all very well for Conservative Members to sneer and talk about Mickey Mouse. The Disney organisation knows how to run visitor attractions, but Disneyland Paris was a catastrophe when it first opened. It is now the only visitor attraction in democratic Europe that has more paying visitors than the millennium dome. However, it got it all wrong to begin with. With its incredible wealth, it had to bail everything out and start again. A huge commercial organisation that knows how to do things, has huge experience and has a brand name unrivalled in the world could not get things right. It is regrettable that the Conservative party started to make cheap political capital out of the dome, and discreditable even to it.

Mr. Gale

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kaufman

No. I shall proceed.

We have only to look at the history. I am making no excuses for my right hon. Friends. They are the Government, and they should take responsibility. Let us remember, however, that the Government had been in office for only six weeks when they decided to continue with the dome. Most of my right hon. Friends in the Cabinet had no experience of government and had never sat on the Government Benches. I thank the right hon. Member for Henley for saying that they decided bravely to continue it. It had started under a party which had been in government for 18 years. We were told that it was the party of business.

I do not think that we can blame a fledgling Labour Government, after 18 years in opposition, for believing that the Government who had been in office before them knew what they were doing. The timetable can be traced in the report which the Select Committee published in August. In June 1994, the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), as the first chairman of the Millennium Commission, talked about the idea of a Millennium Festival with an Exhibition as its centrepiece

In February 1996, the Millennium Commission selected the Greenwich site. With great respect, I believe that it was right to do so. There was the road transport factor along with regeneration and the symbolism of the meridian line, which I believe was extremely important. The commission did that long before the general election. At the beginning of 1997, it set up the New Millennium Experience Company and appointed Jennie Page as the chief executive. It decided, a policy which the Labour Government continued, to appoint a Minister as sole shareholder, rightly believing, as did the previous Government, that in the end the matter came back to the House, or in the case of Lord Falconer, the other place. [Interruption.] There is no point the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) giggling about the House of Lords being a House of Parliament. When Harold Macmillan became Prime Minister, for a time he had a Member of the House of Lords as his Foreign Secretary. It is a House of Parliament, and the Conservatives dominate it, so they had better not sneer at it quite so much as they do.

I do not criticise the Conservatives for doing all that. It is easy with hindsight to say that the big error was the estimate of visitor numbers. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in a non-contentious manner, gave the history of the estimate of visitor numbers. The Select Committee has conducted a series of inquiries into this matter. Its eighth report published in August contains a memorandum submitted by the Millennium Commission on 24 May 1995, which is nearly two years before the Labour Government came to office. It said: The Commission agrees site selection guidelines which set the "brave but defensible" aim of a minimum 15 million visitors … For site selection purposes, in particular regarding maximum site capacity, guidelines remark that a figure in excess of 30 million visitors unlikely But 15 million was considered likely.

A memorandum in July said: The first set of guidelines to potential operators issued by the Commission included in the site criteria the indicative target of achieving between 15 and 30 million visits over the year In February-May 1996, a year before the general election, a memorandum said that the commission explored the feasibility of an Exhibition with an attendance target of 10 million or more, an arena for 12,000, and a three-year national programme On 16 May, it said: Commission adopt a more modest plan involving temporary buildings, with no arena or national programme and a visitor target of 10 million In January 1997, it said: MCL business plan revised by MC staff. Visitor assumption reduced to 10 million. Indicative budget approved by Commission 13 January

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Henley are absolutely right to pinpoint the fact that those, as it turned out, highly over-optimistic projections are at the root of the financial problem. All the overhead factors were built in on the basis of that visitor number. Once they were built in, they could not be built out again. We could not change the building. We could not suddenly reduce the number of staff. As my right hon. Friend said, the staff are wonderful. Their sheer courtesy and kindness help to make this visitor attraction a great experience for those who go to see it.

Let us be clear about this. The hon. Member for East Surrey said that we should have realised long ago that the dome would be a failure. It is a failure in relative terms: it is not a failure as a paying visitor attraction—it is an amazing visitor attraction.

Members on the Conservative Front Bench—not the few grown-ups left in the party, such as the right hon. Member for Henley—have dissociated themselves from this project. I was on the underground train on the night of 31 December last year with my niece and her husband. They had come down from Leeds to join me in the celebrations. She has a proud picture taken with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on the underground station. He was there that night. He did not dissociate himself from the dome that night. He was part of it. It would be greatly to his credit if he remained part of it. He is doing his party no good, because the electorate are not fools. A Gallup poll in The Daily Telegraph today shows that 42 per cent. of the electorate blame the last Conservative Government for the present rail chaos, and 15 per cent. blame the present Labour Government.

One of the reasons why the Conservatives will be trounced at the next election and why their chances of returning to office at any time in the foreseeable future are small is that they have contempt for the electorate. Eighteen years in opposition at least taught me not to have any contempt for the electorate. I learned that the voters know what they are doing.

Mr. Gale


Mr. Kaufman

I shall give way to the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale).

Mr. Gale

The right hon. Gentleman is courteous as always. He chided us for making party political points, and since then has done nothing but make party political points. Does he realise that some Conservative Members believed passionately that the regeneration of Greenwich was a good idea? They believed that to put the dome, as a fine building, as close as possible to the meridian line was the right idea, and that the concept of my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), and others was right. It is because of that and because we had a sense of national pride that we now feel a burning sense of national shame and anger at having been let down by what went into the dome, by its mismanagement and by the fact that people have been unable to get to it.

Mr. Kaufman

I do not know of any national sense of burning shame and anger. As the right hon. Member for Henley said, people criticise the large sums of lottery money that are spent on the dome, but the Conservative party decided to do that. People say, "That money should have gone to the national health service and schools," but that was not the view of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) nor is it the view of the Conservative party today. It does not advocate spending money on the national health service or education, but simply wants more of the same—spending on the five sectors that were decided on by the Conservative Government and championed by the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey.

I hope that the Government will revise the categories, and I believe that there is a good argument for spending large sums of lottery money on the NHS, education and other core services. However, the Conservative party, not the Labour party, decided on the additionality principle, although it will get angry with us if we do not continue that approach.

Mr. Fraser

I, too, sit on the Select Committee. During the production of our report, which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, there were several departures, in particular by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Stephen Bayley and Eric Sorensen. What is the right hon. Gentleman's opinion of that? At that time, the general public felt no confidence in the project. That should be coupled with the opinions that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley put to the Select Committee. He said: If you cannot answer the question about the contents, you cannot get somebody to sign up for the money. There was prevarication during that period, and resignations, and a consequent lack of confidence. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman agrees.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman knows that I hold him in high regard. He also Knows my view on that matter. Cameron Mackintosh is a highly successful theatrical producer, but he has made terrible mistakes, too. The successor to "Miss Saigon" flopped and had to be closed and re-opened, and "Moby Dick", which he absolutely adored, was a catastrophe. As for Stephen Bayley—a more trivial person it would be difficult to find, even on the Conservative Benches. The hon. Gentleman knows how fond I am of him, but on this occasion we have to differ.

Interestingly, despite all the electorate's feelings of burning anger and all the rest of it, building the dome was right, even though, given the chance, I believe that they would have said, "No, let's build some hospitals and new schools." The regeneration of Greenwich is an extraordinary achievement, and would not otherwise have occurred. As the right hon. Member for Henley said, it was one of the most polluted areas in Europe, but it is now proud and regenerated, and thousands of new jobs have been created.

It is a pity that even the Conservative party should conduct itself in this way, but, on the whole, I do not particularly mind. When the Labour party suffered a blip in the polls a couple of months ago, there appeared to be a possibility of the Conservative party winning the next election. However, the electorate's sheer revulsion at the prospect led to the Labour Government's return to popularity. I say to the Conservative party, "Go on like this, please, I beg of you." I have increased my majority at every general election since 1970 and, with the help of the Conservatives, I shall do so again.

9 pm

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

It is odd, given that the Conservative party called this Opposition day debate, that more Liberal Democrats than Conservatives have been present throughout. It seems that the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) is not shared by colleagues who are not giving him the proper support from behind.

Before the typically interesting speech of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), we heard a rather predictable exchange between those on the two Front Benches. We heard from the Conservative side that everything was the fault of the present Government—that the Dome had been left in pristine condition in 1997, and that everything had gone terribly wrong since then. We then heard from the Labour side that it had been a disaster from the start—that in 1997 it had been impossible to save it from its present fate, and that it was all the fault of the Conservatives. Finally, there was the "let's hug each other" arrangement, whereby the parties agree to blame one another and say that that is a bipartisan approach. This is a very interesting lesson in politics.

I think I can safely say with hand on heart that we have not been part of the "bipartisan approach". We are not represented by any MPs on the Millennium Commission, although it contains two Ministers and an Opposition Member, and we have not been involved in discussions in that context across the Chamber. It is, in a way, interesting to sit here on the sidelines listening to Conservative and Labour Members blaming each other for the Dome. Our amendment points out that it is not all the fault of either Labour or the Conservatives—that there are faults on both sides. To be frank, I suspect that had we been in government a bit of blame would have attached to us—although perhaps not as much as has attached to the Government or the Conservative party.

It is true—it is clear from the National Audit Office report—that there were serious faults in the way that the whole dome project was established. There were faults in terms of assessment of visitor numbers, for instance. I heard the comments of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman); but, according to the NAO report, visitor numbers were assessed without reference to the contents, without reference to the prices, and without reference to the marketing strategy. That does not strike me as a very sensible way of proceeding. There is also the highly complex management structure referred to in the NAO report. That was set up by the Conservatives, but inherited and continued by the present Government.

There was also what could be described as a culture of secrecy, which has not been mentioned so far. Members of Parliament were unable to obtain information, especially when the then Minister without Portfolio was in charge of the project. I am sorry that he has not seen fit to grace the House with his presence, unlike the right hon. Member for Henley, the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley)—a previous Secretary of State—and others on both sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has been the one absentee. It is a pity that he has not turned up to give his views—but then he was never very keen on coming to the House for that purpose. He had to be dragged here kicking and screaming for a five-minute session, after the House had been sitting in the present Parliament for six or nine months. He does not treat the House with much respect in regard to these matters.

Let me concentrate on the good points—for there are good points, which have been mentioned by Members on both sides of the House. First, we should admit that many people have enjoyed themselves. Secondly, there has been a much-needed regeneration of Greenwich. It must be said, however, that that objective did not seem to rate particularly highly until recently. It has now been dragged out as something that was always there in the beginning, but has somehow moved to centre stage as other, unsuccessful objectives have fallen.

The millennium dome has good staff, and I feel sorry for them. They have been let down by the dome's management, and by Ministers in both this and the previous Government. The structure of the dome is a wonderful architectural achievement, and I hope very much that it is saved. I agree with the right hon. Member for Henley about that. It would be a pity if it were not saved, because I do not think the structure is at fault. No one seems to have criticised the structure, although there has been criticism of the contents, the management and everything else. Although many people want to erase the dome from their memories as a bad dream, the structure should not be erased.

Last week or the week before, I asked the Secretary of State whether he would list the dome, because I thought that that was a way of securing its future as a building. He declined to do so, which gives the nod to the possibility, at least, that it will be demolished, which would be a pity.

Mr. Chris Smith

It does no such thing, but follows existing practice that buildings less than 10 years old are simply not listed.

Mr. Baker

I appreciate that that is normally the position, but the Culture Secretary could, if he wished, list the millennium dome, although he chose not to do so. Given the fact that the land is worth more without the dome than it is with it, it is possible that the dome will disappear, especially if the discussions with Legacy do not reach a satisfactory conclusion later this week. However, the tube station is a fantastic achievement, which no one has mentioned tonight. The Culture Secretary referred to the lessons that had been learned, which will be helpful in future. I agree that we can lay blame in different quarters, which I do as much as anyone else. However, we all need to learn lessons, and there are lessons to be learned, as the NAO report clearly set out.

It is a little hypocritical of Conservative Members to say that it is all the Labour Government's fault and that everything is terribly wrong. Presumably, had Conservative Members still been in power, everything would have been all right—at least that is the implication of what they have been saying in the press. The hon. Member for Watford (Ms Ward) told the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport: It is a little like Cadbury's developing a wrapper without actually deciding what the chocolate bar is going to be. I think that Conservative Members are guilty of that and are responsible for the culture of secrecy that enveloped the dome.

For goodness' sake, when the Labour Government came in, several Cabinet Ministers were sceptical about the scheme. They had a review, and, given the poor management structure, the ambitious visitor targets and the culture of secrecy, I fail to understand why they did not conclude, calmly and logically, that it was not sensible to proceed.

Mr. Efford

Visitor numbers were revised on several occasions before 1997, but not once did visitor projections go down below 10 million. The scheme proceeded on that basis, and, in that respect, everyone has been consistent in their approach to the dome.

Mr. Baker

I am happy to accept that visitor numbers were adjusted before the election, as others have said. However, the adjustment of visitor numbers appeared to take place in a vacuum, without the benefit of knowing what was in the dome, without a proper marketing strategy and without a clear indication of what the prices would be. One cannot set visitor numbers without a decision on such matters.

According to The Mail on Sunday, a thoroughly reliable paper that I always read, the Chancellor said in June 1997: I have a series of worries. It's public money—if anything goes wrong it will all come back to us. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment allegedly said: I am deeply against it, frankly. We ought to be honest and say it would cost £450 million. Of course, that was an underestimate, as the dome cost considerably more than that. The Secretary of State for International Development said: I'm vehemently opposed. This will be a political disaster. The then Secretary of State for Health, the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), said: I'm against. Public money and lottery money are indistinguishable in the public mind The then Leader of the House, the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), said: We could be spending more on schools and hospitals instead.

Senior Cabinet Ministers clearly held the view that the project should not go ahead. With all those views against it, how on earth did it go ahead? Will the Culture Secretary or the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting in her winding-up speech tell us whether there was a vote in Cabinet to proceed with the project? Or did the Prime Minister simply decide that it should go ahead, and the rest of his Cabinet Ministers were wheeled in behind? I accept that in those early days the Labour Government were new and did not have the previous Government's experience in office, as the right hon. Member for Gorton said. However, they should have been even more careful, given the scale of the project, and the possible use of public funds, including lottery funds.

Lord Falconer has been mentioned briefly. There have been persistent calls from a number of sources for his resignation. I do not believe that he is the only person who has made mistakes on the project, but he certainly has made mistakes. Even from the point that he took over, serious mistakes have been made with the dome. For example, a bewildering succession of people have been in charge of the dome, even in the past 12 months. They seem to come and go; we cannot keep up with it.

There has been a bewildering succession of pleas for more money for the dome, most of them in the parliamentary recess, when it was impossible for Members of Parliament to hold the Government to account. One of the pleas was made in August, immediately after the House went into recess, when I am sure that information was known.

There are questions about the financial management of the dome, which clearly involve Lord Falconer. Paragraph 2.44 of the NAO report says: In the light of the advice received from the Company's solicitors, the Company's Chairman notified the Shareholder on 25 May that the Board members would have to "consider their personal positions" if the Government did not provide indemnity against any wrongful trading actions brought against them by creditors It goes on to talk about insolvency, but paragraph 2.45 shows that, about a month and a half later, Lord Falconer gave evidence to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport and said: the position would not be reached where the Dome was insolvent. It has always been monitored extremely closely and we have only proceeded on the basis that the Dome can continue successfully to the end of the year 2000 Those two facts offer something of a contrast. Lord Falconer should explain that contradiction. He has not done so, so he is implicated in the events of this year. He has not yet answered his critics.

It is equally the case that, going back to the history of the current Parliament—I can speak from personal experience only about this Parliament; obviously, I was not in the previous Parliament—we were sceptical as a party from the beginning: from early 1997, when I took over as spokesman on the issue. I remember in 1998 warning the Minister without Portfolio, as he was then: Many people think that it — the dome — is a total waste of money, and that …it has been badly handled, and has failed to capture the public's imagination. I set out steps that I believed needed to be taken at that point—two years ahead of opening—which would have turned the dome into less of a failure, if you like, or more of a success than it has turned out to be. I was shot down for that. I was told that I was being disloyal, I was talking Britain and the dome down, and it was going to be a fantastic success, yet it has not turned out that way.

Instead, what did we hear? We heard from the Minister without Portfolio: Spending is within budget, costs are firmly under control … The millennium company is performing highly competently.—[Official Report, 28 January 1998; Vol. 305, c. 276-81.] We also heard something about surf ball. I am not sure what that was, but it seems to have disappeared from the agenda, too.

Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Critics of the dome are sometimes accused of exercising hindsight, but in June 1997 the Millennium Commission staff produced a written appraisal of the company's business plan. They expressed concern then that the plan lacked detail on commercial, operational and pricing strategies and that there was no substantive information in the plan on …the content of the Dome. It is a question not of hindsight, but of people not listening at the time.

Mr. Baker

I entirely agree with that intervention. The hon. Lady has been clear about her views from the beginning. It is a pity that members of the Government did not listen to her, too, rather than just shrugging off any criticism of the dome from Members on both sides of the House, saying that they were being disloyal to the dome. Lord Falconer therefore has some responsibility for this year's events. He has criticisms to answer about financial management.

There is another matter to be addressed. There is a tradition in British politics that people take responsibility for something that goes horribly wrong. With the best will in the world—I am sure people have the best intentions—this has gone horribly wrong. There is no point denying that.

Of course, the visitor numbers are there, but let us look at the cost: £628 million of lottery money—what a cost. The public in my constituency and elsewhere are appalled at the amount of money that has been spent on the dome. Irrespective of whether they think its contents are good, they are appalled at the amount of money that has been spent. They feel that it has been mismanaged.

There have been continual claims for more and more money. The management has changed constantly. It is inconceivable that there can be mismanagement on such a scale and that no Minister is prepared to take responsibility for it.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

Does my hon. Friend recall that the last senior Minister to resign on a point of principle, although it was no fault of his own, was Lord Carrington over the invasion of the Falklands? Since then, not even after the BSE bombshells that were presented to the House has any Minister taken personal responsibility for a disaster on this scale.

Mr. Baker

My hon. Friend is right, and it is a pity that that tradition seems to be ending.

I do not often make such statements, but I think that Lord Falconer should go—not because he is responsible for everything that has gone wrong at the dome, which he is not, but because someone has to be seen by the public to be taking responsibility for the situation and to accept that both the previous Government and the current Government got it wrong. Lord Falconer happens to be in post at the moment.

Mr. McCabe

Does the hon. Gentleman think that it is appropriate that the person who has what may be called the misfortune to be the incumbent should take all the responsibility, whereas, as the hon. Gentleman's own speech makes clear, the origins of the problem go back much further?

Mr. Baker

As the Liberal Democrats' amendment to the motion states, responsibility lies with both the previous Government and the current one. People should be prepared to acknowledge that.

The public feel cheated and believe that huge sums have been wasted. In those circumstances, the Government have to take responsibility, as does the Minister who is currently responsible for the dome. He is in post. When the music stops, the person left standing has to go. In this case, that is Lord Falconer.

My dictionary defines a dome as a "self-supporting structure", but that is far from true in this case. Indeed, the "millennium tent" in Private Eye is probably a more appropriate description of the dome. Nevertheless, I admire the building, although its content requires huge sums.

What about the future? Legacy is in negotiations with the Government, although it is not the Government's first choice. Dome Europa is long gone, and we are now dealing with the Government's second choice and plan B, which puts Legacy in a very strong position to lay down the terms that it wants and to threaten to walk away if it does not get them. One Sunday newspaper described that as the "dark dome" scenario in which the dome sits empty because no one can take it over and it is too embarrassing to demolish it—although that has not been ruled out in this debate. It would be an unfortunate end to that building and to this episode of British politics.

Today, we need a statement from the Minister telling us where we are with the Legacy negotiations. Is it true that Legacy has laid down terms to which the Government have to agree by Friday? Will the Minister undertake to come to the House to make that statement, so that hon. Members do not have to hear about it on the "Today" programme? Are not the Government over a barrel in negotiations with Legacy? It is a sorry end. I hope very much that the dome's structure will survive and that lessons will be learned, as the Secretary of State says must happen. He has outlined some of those lessons.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker

I shall not; I am almost finished.

A lesson in modesty might also be in order for politicians who are in charge of Governments and of the Departments with responsibility for the dome.

9.18 pm
Mr. Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Canning Town)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate. The dome has been a target since its inception and that criticism has intensified. It is always easy to denigrate and to write knocking copy, and there has been something of a bandwagon in dome criticism—which must surely be the most ironic and hypocritical attack coming from Conservative Members, who initially established the project. These days, Conservative Members are taking a swipe at the dome although they were the ones who laid its foundations. That is no more than blind opportunism of the kind that might have been expected. If the dome's future is a great one, the Conservatives will undoubtedly rediscover its Tory roots and reclaim it as their own. It is true that we said that the dome would be the first paragraph of our general election manifesto, but one thing is for sure: it is the last word in Tory hypocrisy.

Let us be quite clear about it at the outset: as we have already heard, the dome is the most popular paying attraction in the United Kingdom. Although one would never know it from the opprobrium that has been heaped on it, particularly by the media, the dome is not the least popular attraction in the United Kingdom.

It says something about the remaining vestiges of snobbery and elitism in the United Kingdom that the Royal Opera house in Covent Garden can receive large cash injections to be renovated and promoted, whereas the dome, in east London, is regarded as the embarrassing lowly cousin. As I have said on many occasions, over the past few years, businesses, institutions and companies have been moving eastwards in London. The centre of metropolitan gravity has been pulling in the direction of that part of London—an area which has, historically, suffered deprivation and poverty, of which it still has more than its share. New opportunities have opened up with the regeneration of east London, and we are now beginning to see how local communities can benefit from positive changes in the area's economic and social environment. No longer is it the case that people are excluded; they are getting the jobs now. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) in respect of the Thames gateway.

The dome has been part of that change. Far from being a folly, it has regenerated an area that was previously derelict and a rather sad spectacle—and thousands of jobs have been created. These days, when I look across the strip of the Thames between my constituency and the dome across the water, the view is spectacular—a real credit to the area and no longer the wasteland of pre-dome days. Once the decision had been made to create the dome, the local environment began to improve dramatically. The site was decontaminated, and plans for vastly improved transport connections were drawn up. The idea that the Greenwich peninsula could have a new, vibrant life had its doubters. Given its location and the condition of the site, its regeneration was always going to be a massive undertaking—especially given the relatively short time in which the work had to be completed for the millennium eve celebrations.

Mr. Sheerman

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the site was the greatest area of contaminated land in the south of England and that it was a massive—and massively expensive—job to clear up the contamination?

Mr. Fitzpatrick

The right hon. Member for Henley said that he recognised the mistake that he had made by not including the area in the London docklands development area when he designated it 15 years earlier.

The efforts of all those committed to the project deserve a congratulatory mention. The dome remains an amazing achievement in terms both of size and of quality of construction. We often hear talk of how much this country needs to promote the value of engineering. Here we have a triumph of engineering that some people do nothing to salute. It is time that those people recognised the significance of the achievement, instead of diminishing it. Thousands worked on its construction; thousands more, of course, have been employed to service this huge visitor attraction.

Forgetting the critics for a moment—if only we could—local people and local businesses were generally quite positive about the project and its ability to revolutionise the profile of the area. Once again, that is something that is not often trumpeted. The dome symbolised the way in which so much potential could burgeon into something impressive and of benefit to the whole region and to the United Kingdom. Why should it not symbolise that potential in the future? It is a stunning building. It is hard not to be impressed with it when you see it. It is a feat of architectural splendour to be proud of.

The dome is unique, and has won the MacRobert award, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said. Visitors like it; 88 per cent. of the 4.8 million interviewed said that they enjoyed the experience, and 94 per cent. that they enjoyed the spectacular show. But the dome is more than a day out enjoyed by its visitors—pleasing though that may be. It is also about participation, and I would like to say a few words about that important part of the dome's work.

McDonald's has been involved with the dome from the early days, and one way in which it has interacted with the dome is in the McDonald's "our town story" programme. "Our town story" involves the whole of the UK in the year 2000. Local education authorities across the UK are participating in the programme, and each produces a show at the dome involving up to 100 young people from local schools. These shows dip into the history and present-day life of their region, town or village. They also take a look at what the future may hold for their home town. The shows are inclusive, and children of varying abilities and experiences get involved. My latest experience, Newham's "our town story" day at the dome, was last Friday. I spoke to Stephen Hall, the McDonald's community affairs manager, and his colleague Victoria Hague. They advised me that they had invited 210 local education authorities to participate, expecting a reasonable response. All 210 local education authorities had said yes, and Jersey had applied to be included, making 211. The programme has involved around 20,000 students across the country in one small aspect of dome activity that cannot be costed and quantified.

In Canning Town, the regeneration partnership ran a painting competition not long ago for school students with the theme "What's good about Canning Town?" Of the 50 shortlisted finalists, every one showed Canary wharf, the dome and London City airport. None of them are actually in Canning Town, but all of them can be seen from Canning Town. If the new exhibition and conference centre, Excel, had been built then, I know that it would have been featured. Those visual images of the dome showed that the structure was and is part of our landscape in east London. These young people, aged from five to 18. were saying, "This is our town. These are our buildings. This is our future."

The dome is an important marketing tool for London abroad. It is one of our best known modern features, ranking with Canary wharfs 1 Canada square and the London Eye, as well as historic buildings such as this place. Tourism is a key part of our future and the dome must play an important part in that. Once this year is over and the errors of judgment fade, we will still have the Jubilee line extension. The Greenwich peninsula will remain decontaminated and I hope that the dome's structure will be there to play its part.

Finally, I commend the dome's staff. They have had to put up with the most outrageous attacks over the past 11 months, but on each occasion that I have visited, they have been first class—positive, motivated and professional. I hope that they see out their contracts; it is disappointing that they will not have the collective end-of-season party they deserve, but I am sure that they will make their own arrangements to celebrate their efforts.

Despite the errors, the dome should stay and be used to help promote east London, this great capital city and the United Kingdom throughout the world. It would be an act of vandalism for it not to remain.

9,26 pm

Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)

I shall keep my comments brief because I know that other hon. Members would like to speak.

We have heard it said several times this evening that the millennium dome was conceived by the previous Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) described the purpose of the project in the evidence that he gave the Select Committee in 1997. He described the legacy that the previous Government had hoped the dome would leave as an image of the country at the forefront of cultural, artistic, engineering and scientific activity and attainment. It was to have a sense of unity, bringing the nation together and, of course, regenerating a derelict and contaminated area of London. That was his vision and it was ours. However, it was destroyed when the Millbank machine took control. When the Labour party decided to make the millennium dome a symbol of new Labour, it took that vision away.

It is easy to point to the Conservative party and say that it was our idea, but the tragedy of the dome is not its design but the Government's shameful hijacking of the nation's project for its own ends. Quite simply, people do not want to see what the Government have presided over. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) said: those looking for fun might prefer a theme park, and those hoping to learn something might do better to visit the Science museum. However, it is not surprising that it is so unappealing; the man in charge of overseeing its contents in 1997 said: it must be a mixture of exciting and serious stuff. That is not particularly appealing when the Government are trying to attract sponsorship and want people to go to the dome in the first place.

Mr. Gale

Does my hon. Friend also accept that when this vision was dreamt of, there were people in the House—on both sides, to be fair—who believed that the millennium dome might just have something to do with the millennium, as a celebration of the birth of Christ, which has not been mentioned tonight?

Mr. Fraser

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that comment. In evidence to the Select Committee, Ministers could not even decide whether the dome should have a faith zone. I refer back to that evidence, which makes interesting reading.

The failure of the dome comes down to visitor numbers. The business plan was based on the assumption that it would attract 12 million visitors. However, the figure was arrived at before the contents of the dome were decided. The ticket prices had not been decided and the decision not to allow cars near the dome had not been made. Those are contributory factors to the lower than expected visitor numbers. I go back to what I said earlier to the Secretary of State about what Mr. Keith Bales, the senior Disney executive, said to the Select Committee about the visitor numbers and the people in charge of the dome. The Secretary of State did not answer that point and I hope that the Minister will do so in her reply.

There was great scepticism about people on the board and great scepticism about the numbers. The Government had three years in which to talk further to Disney, but they did not. They went cap in hand only at the last moment. We can look back at the figures I have jotted down. By November 1998, it was estimated that 8.74 million people were "likely" to visit the dome and that a further 3.65 million "could he persuaded" to do so. However, as the report states, those surveys excluded education groups and potential overseas visitors. The company considered that that provided comfort for the overall projection of 12 million visitors.

Such figures may have provided comfort until the Prime Minister announced that a million schoolchildren would be allowed to visit the dome for free. I do not object to that in principle, but the business plan should have revised given the direct revenue cost of about £7 million. That did not happen, and decisions were taken in the light of the knowledge that the company saw risks that the dome would not be a priority for many overseas visitors, who would be more likely to visit the Tower of London or Buckingham Palace … However, despite that knowledge, the dome was still allowed to open with little idea of what would happen if the number of visitors fell below 12 million.

The NAO report states: in essence … the strategy had been to draw on the cost contingency and to plan on the expectation of receiving proceeds from the sale of the Dome. We know that even that issue is unresolved. We are reaching the end of the year, but we do not have answers to those important questions.

The Government cannot claim that no one foresaw the problem of visitor numbers. The NAO report states: the Commission's staff had recommended that the Company's business plan be based, for the sake of prudence, on the figure of eight million visitors which was the "worst case" of the estimates provided to the Commission by its consultants, Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group.

On 28 January 2000, the New Millennium Experience Company revised its forecast down, as we heard from my right hon. and hon. Friends. It is important that those figures decreased week after week, month after month, while the number of cash handouts was increasing. The Millennium Commission awarded £60 million in February; £29 million in May; £43 million in August; and £47 in September, bringing the total grant funding to £628 million, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey has said.

Mr. Sheerman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fraser

No. The hon. Gentleman wasted my time and that of the House when he tried to intervene on me during a previous debate, and I shall not give him that privilege this evening.

When leaving the sinking ship, the Minister then responsible, who is now the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, told the Millennium Commission: It is not public money, no. It is lottery money The people of this country will not be pleased to read what was written down by the Committee on which I am proud to serve on occasions when we reach decisions that are worthy of the House. In the 1997 report, the Committee said: in the context of accountability, this is a distinction without a difference. It is not money raised by taxation and it may be excluded from certain public expenditure definitions, but it is still taxpayers' money. and expenditure which must be held to account in the same way as money paid in taxation, whether directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, the Government ignored that.

The project has been mismanaged by the Government, who tried to take it on and use it for their own political advantage. What the Prime Minister has said beggars belief. He said: we will say to ourselves with pride: this is our Dome, Britain's Dome. And believe me, it will be the envy of the world. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman regrets saying that now.

The Government have made a mess of the dome, with the politicisation, the over-hype, the interference and the insistence on filling it with politically correct nonsense that no one wants to see—but there is a vital component missing: accountability. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey has said, Lord Falconer has talked about what has gone on at the dome but has not apologised. The Government have not apologised, and tonight they should come forward and say that they have made mistakes. To help them on their way, I remind the Secretary of State that the then Minister told the Select Committee: I will come on any occasion to meet any of my colleagues in Parliament and provide them with any information on a public or confidential basis…in order to make sure that people like you are satisfied that we are acting in a proper and transparent way. You have that undertaking from me today. I look forward to the Minister's winding-up speech, but I doubt very much that we shall get much from the Government.

9.35 pm
Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham)

I congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker, on your elevation to the Chair.

A comparison of the contributions made by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and his Front-Bench colleague the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) makes it clear why the Conservatives will not be trusted by the people and will not win the general election. Their shabby opportunism and the shallowness of their debate on the dome have shown the shifting sands beneath them as they try to duck responsibility for the decisions that they took in the past. They do the House no credit.

The overriding matter affecting and undermining the dome has been its visitor numbers. We all accept that the estimates were not realistic. Although revisions were made several times by both the previous and present Governments, at no stage did estimated figures fall below 10 million visitors. We shall never know the full effect of what the right hon. Member for Henley called the vilification and undermining of the dome project. How many visitors were prevented from going to the dome because of negative publicity and the sniping that it has consistently endured?

The dome represents a major regeneration achievement. The Royal Arsenal used to employ 80,000 workers not far from the Greenwich peninsula, but that figure had fallen to 6,000 by the beginning of the 1990s. As a former Greenwich councillor, I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Henley and his colleagues who heard our pleas for redevelopment of the site. It is not true that it was not included in docklands development because the previous Government made a mistake. In fact, the private sector was not prepared to take on the huge cost of decontaminating the site. The commercial return on investment would have taken too long to be realised. Only a scheme on the scale of the millennium experience, underwritten by the Government, could ever have resulted in regeneration that would bring the site back into use. No private investor was prepared to carry out that regeneration. I hope that the dome remains, because, now that decontamination has happened, I am sure that people will be lining up who would like to get their hands on that prime piece of real estate on the river front.

We should consider the benefits of the dome. The halo effect for job creation was projected to be 25,000. There are 5,700 operational jobs at the dome, and 2,300 employ people who live in Greenwich, a borough that was the 14th most deprived in the country when the scheme was conceived. Some 300 acres of derelict land have been decontaminated, and there are 50 acres of new park,

including ecological park and terraces. There are 1,004 new homes in the millennium village, of which 266 will be for rent. There are two miles of river walk and cycleway. There is a new, 160-room hotel, and a 14-screen multiplex. All that, plus new schools and health centres, is happening on the millennium peninsula because of the investment that came in around the millennium project.

Is the Conservative party seriously saying that it would have turned its back on all that regeneration in south-east London?

Mr. Greenway

indicated dissent.

Mr. Efford

Without the millennium dome, none of it would have been possible, which is the fact that the hon. Gentleman must recognise and cannot get away from. Without the investment generated by the project, none of that would have been possible.

Mr. Greenway

indicated dissent.

Mr. Efford

I have just explained all that, and I am sorry that I do not have the time to repeat it all so that the hon. Gentleman may understand it.

I am not surprised that the Conservatives do not care one jot about the jobs that have been created, nor that the people who work at the dome might have profited from some continuity of employment had it not been for the fact that the scheme has been so undermined that the future of the dome is in doubt. However, that is the reality that we face.

There have been 5.4 million visitors to the dome; it is the second most popular paying attraction in Europe. We should not decry the scheme; we should celebrate it. Disney did not achieve that when EuroDisney opened—that theme park was a disaster and had to be relaunched. The dome is a remarkable achievement; that should be acknowledged on both sides of the House and we should all celebrate it.

9.40 pm
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

Once again, the Opposition have given the House the opportunity to debate the dome. It is clear that Members on both sides of the House hold strong views on the subject. Those Members with a constituency interest have rightly voiced their concern on behalf of their constituents.

Our motion reflects the fact that the debate on the dome needs to move on from the sterile arguments about whether it should have been built. We believe that it was right to build the dome. The hon. Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) rightly pointed out that it is a fine engineering achievement. We agree.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)explained why the dome was built at Greenwich. The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) has rightly put a constituency point of view as to what was achieved there; we, too, support regeneration in Greenwich.

However, Parliament's concern should be the issues raised by the National Audit Office report, which we outline in our motion. It is clear that some right hon. and hon. Members have not read the motion, which cites the financial mismanagement of the New Millennium Experience Company. The dome has not been a financial success. Why has an additional £229 million of public money been wasted? Above all, why is no Minister willing to accept responsibility and take the honourable course and apologise—or, better still, resign?

Of course, it suits the Government to blame someone else, but the facts show clearly that the blame for mismanagement rests fairly and squarely with them. Before the election, the Millennium Commission—not the GEN 36 Committee, as some right hon. and hon. Members suggested—had agreed to build a dome at Greenwich with lottery funding. The Labour shadow Cabinet supported that view, conditional on a review of the decision if they won the general election.

Everyone knows that the review took place in June 1997 and that the Prime Minister not only backed the dome—overruling most of his Cabinet, we gather—but took credit for re-launching the project. The press release makes it clear: "Blair rescues millennium dome". The way in which the Prime Minister responded to concerns about the future of the dome and dealt with most of his Cabinet does not leave much doubt as to his claim to ownership of the project.

The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) says that the project should have been non-partisan. However, he must answer the question: why did the Prime Minister try to claim the project for himself and new Labour? The right hon. Member for Gorton referred to Disneyland in Paris. Yes, that project was a flop initially, but it did not receive £600 million of public money.

Those who try to blame the Conservatives—as the Liberal Democrats appear to do—are saying, in effect, that the dome was bound to fail from the start. That is the politics of despair. Clearly, the Prime Minister did not agree; on the contrary, he wanted to claim the credit for a successful dome. Nor did the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; when he appeared before the Select Committee, he would not even countenance the idea that there could be fewer than 12 million visitors. Furthermore, the sponsors did not think that the project would fail. More important, paragraph 16 on page 4 of the National Audit Office report points out: Final decisions had not been made on the Dome's contents, on ticket prices, on marketing strategies. All those crucial matters were decided by this Government.

More crucially, the original vision for the exhibition was drastically altered. Indeed, the Prime Minister's press statement said: Mr. Blair demanded a number of changes. It added: The current concept being worked upon until now is not good enough and has to be changed. There we have it—the Prime Minister wanted the concept of the dome to be changed. When Labour Members seek to discover why there was mismanagement, they must face the fact that it was their Government who changed matters considerably. The scale and detail of the mismanagement is there for all to see in the NAO report.

On the key issue of visitor numbers, Ministers must explain why a 12-million visitor target was adopted when they inherited a target of only 10 million from the Millennium Commission. Indeed, the commission subsequently recommended that only 8 million was a feasible target.

Visitor numbers were inextricably linked with the exhibition's likely content and how that could be marketed. Ministers constantly interfered in the content, so they must shoulder responsibility.

Mr. McCabe

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Greenway

I will not give way, because there is no time.

Ministers must shoulder responsibility for the NAO's finding that the dome's content had not been sufficiently explained or promoted. The hon. Member for Lewes(Mr. Baker)said that the public had not been inspired. There was no marketable coherent vision beyond the Prime Minister's constant rhetoric about cool Britannia. The public simply did not know what the dome was for, and £20 a time, plus all the travelling costs, was perceived to be too high a price for such an uncertain experience. The travel arrangements also acted as a disincentive. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley acknowledged, it was a mistake not to provide a car park or even a drop-off and pick-up facility.

All the problems arose as the direct consequence of decisions taken by Ministers and NMEC. They led directly to the financial crisis that overcame the dome in the first few weeks after it opened for visitors. The scale of the mismanagement was quickly picked up by the Secretary of State in his now famous letter to Lord Falconer in February, when he complained about a lack of leadership and serious failures of financial management, and concluded that the company was already technically insolvent.

Earlier in the debate, the Secretary of State said that P-Y Gerbeau was wrong. We take that to mean that the dome was insolvent, so ministerial statements were inaccurate and Parliament was misled, however inadvertently. The record needs to be corrected. The dome has never recovered from the financial crisis caused by the clear failures of management. As a result, and to save face, more and more public money has been poured into the project. Ministers have still not explained why more than £200 million was wasted in that way.

The board clearly knew that the game was up because, as early as May, it sought and was granted financial indemnities. The Millennium Commission's accounting office twice sought a ministerial direction to pay grants that he could not justify on value—for—money grounds. When, on 22 August, PricewaterhouseCoopers declared the company insolvent—a fact that must have been obvious to NMEC directors—the Secretary of State and the shareholder, Lord Falconer, must have known months before that that was the case. Yet no apology has been made and no one sees fit to resign. The indictment stands not on speculative guesswork by the dome's critics but on information that was well known to those responsible and which the NAO report now confirms. Some £229 million has been wasted and, even by the Chancellor's definition, that was public money.

It is no wonder that people throughout Britain were so incensed every time another bundle of money was found to bail out this failing project. Can the Minister tell us that not a penny more will be granted? The Secretary of State could not say whether the money will be repaid. Labour Members know full well that their electors agree with every word of our motion, and it is up to those Members to explain themselves if they choose riot to support it.

9.50 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Janet Anderson)

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said at the beginning of the debate, we welcome the National Audit Office report. It is factual and accurate, and it will provide useful material that will enable the Government and, I hope, politicians of all parties to learn the lessons of the millennium experience. We shall be happy to work with the Public Accounts Committee in its inquiry into the dome's operations. We have done all that we can to co-operate with the NAO on this complex inquiry, and we will co-operate equally with the PAC.

There used to be a similar spirit of co—operation between the political parties on this issue. The right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), who is not in her place, said I welcome the Labour party's constructive approach …I have no wish for the exhibition to become the subject of party political disagreement.—[Official Report, 18 November 1996; Vol. 285, c. 680.]

I very much regret the Opposition's breach of convention in insisting on holding a debate about an NAO report—they made it plain that the report would be the subject of the debate—immediately after its publication and before the PAC has held its hearings. Their action is highly irresponsible. It is a long-established convention that the Government do not respond in detail to recommendations in NAO reports until the PAC has completed an inquiry and a formal response has been made

I will not be in danger of breaching convention if I point out some of the report's important findings. We have tonight heard a lot of bluster about the dome, and as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, there has been a deplorable unwillingness on the part of Opposition Members to acknowledge their role in many of the key decisions at the outset. We have heard serious points and not so serious points.

The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) is well known for his commitment to regeneration, and I thank him for his contribution. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who pointed out that the right hon. Member for Henley is one of the few grown-ups on the Opposition Benches. The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) asked about negotiations with Legacy. He will know that those negotiations continue and that they are commercially confidential, but I assure him that any decision will be communicated to the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Canning Town (Mr. Fitzpatrick) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford), in whose constituency the dome lies, made important points about regeneration. The Minister for Housing and Planning has attended the whole debate and has always been a keen supporter of the dome.

I shall try to answer some of the points made by the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), but some of them did not make much sense. The detailed points about the management of the dome during its year of operation will of course be considered by the PAC. The NAO report's finding—with which the Government entirely agree—is that the bulk of the difficulties associated with the dome are the result of the lower than expected number of visitors. We have heard much this evening about forecasts. Opposition Members have lined up to demonstrate their hindsight and show off their wisdom after the event. Yes, it is disappointing that the dome will not receive 12 million visitors; yes, the Government recognise that that means that the dome has been less of a success than everyone hoped. However, I remind Conservative Members, who are always keen to jeer when it suits them, that under the previous Government, the estimates of visitor numbers varied widely. Indeed, those various different estimates have been referred to in the debate. I remind the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) that he admitted on 9 November 1996 that the numbers were all over the place.

Mr. MacShane

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Janet Anderson

No, I will not give way, if my hon. Friend will forgive me. I do not have much time, and the Secretary of State gave way a great deal.

Yes, it is true that the Government looked at the estimates and agreed a business plan that was intended for 12 million visitors, but we will not take lectures from Conservative Members about forecasts for visitor numbers. The target of 12 million was always ambitious, but we believed that it was achievable, the Millennium Commission believed that it was achievable, and when they were in government, the Opposition believed that it was achievable.

Such a figure was not unprecedented. We must remember that the dome is a national celebration, for one year only, of a once-in-a-thousand-years event. Moreover, it is a national celebration of international importance: celebrating the millennium in the home of time, on the Greenwich meridian. Yes, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the figure was too challenging, but the Conservative party agreed and endorsed it. As the NAO report shows, the figure was the key issue. Many of the problems that the dome subsequently faced stemmed from the fact that it received fewer visitors than forecast. So, of course, it received income less than forecast.

I want to dispel another myth about the dome. A number of Conservative Members have accused the Government of doing nothing to help the dome as difficulties emerged. That is simply not true. When it became apparent soon after the dome had opened that changes needed to be made to its day-to-day operations, changes were made. The board took decisive action in February to bring in new management with enhanced skills in the operation of visitor attractions. The dome was made more welcoming, queues were managed better and a greater variety of ticketing options was introduced, including the ability to buy tickets on the door.

Later in the year, when the dome needed a marketing push, the company produced a new marketing plan and the Millennium Commission provided additional funds specifically to support it, which helped to attract more visitors to the dome. In the summer, when NMEC's board was able to gain a fuller picture of the company's financial position, it took firm action again, bringing in an experienced specialist in company rescue, David James—the ideal man to give the company firmer management for the remainder of the year.

No one would pretend that this has been an easy year or that the dome has been as great a success as we all hoped it would be, but we have been constantly active in monitoring its progress and in encouraging it to take action to improve. It would be tragic if this debate ignored the benefits. Many of the regenerative benefits for the peninsula have been referred to. Let us not forget all the good things about the dome.

The dome is the most successful paying visitor attraction in Britain. By the end of the year, getting on for 6 million people will have been there and enjoyed it; 87 per cent. say that they enjoyed their visit to the dome. Of course we must learn the lessons that the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have to teach us, but for those millions of visitors, and especially the millions of children who have visited the dome, it provides an amazing and unforgettable day out. I am confident that they and many others will deplore the Conservative party's attempt to exploit the matter in a partisan way. We know that the Tories are so desperate that they cannot see a bandwagon without jumping on it. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 182, Noes 304.

Division No. 328] [10 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David Collins, Tim
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Cormack, Sir Patrick
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Cotter, Brian
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Cran, James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Curry, Rt Hon David
Baker, Norman Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Baldry, Tony Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Ballard, Jackie Day, Stephen
Beith, Rt Hon A J Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Bercow, John Duncan, Alan
Beresford, Sir Paul Duncan Smith, Iain
Blunt, Crispin Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Boswell, Tim Evans, Nigel
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Faber, David
Brady, Graham Fabricant, Michael
Brand, Dr Peter Fallon, Michael
Brazier, Julian Fearn, Ronnie
Breed, Colin Flight, Howard
Browning, Mrs Angela Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Foster, Don (Bath)
Burns, Simon Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Burstow, Paul Fox, Dr Liam
Butterfill, John Fraser, Christopher
Cable, Dr Vincent Gale, Roger
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Cash, William Gibb, Nick
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Bamet) Gidley, Sandra
Gill, Christopher
Chidgey, David Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Chope, Christopher Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Clappison, James Gray, James
Clark, Dr. Michael (Rayleigh) Green, Damian
Greenway, John Paice, James
Grieve, Dominic Pickles, Eric
Gummer, Rt Hon. John Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Prior, David
Hammond, Philip Randall, John
Hancock, Mike Redwood, Rt Hon John
Harvey, Nick Rendel, David
Hawkins, Nick Robathan, Andrew
Hayes, John Robertson, Laurence
Heald, Oliver Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Rowe, Andrew
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Ruffley, David
Horam, John Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Sanders, Adrian
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Sayeed, Jonathan
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Hunter, Andrew Shepherd, Richard
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Jenkin, Bernard Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Soames, Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Keetch, Paul Spring, Richard
Key, Robert Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Steen, Anthony
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Streeter, Gary
Kirkwood, Archy Stunell, Andrew
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Swayne, Desmond
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Syms, Robert
Lansley, Andrew Tapsell, Sir Peter
Letwin, Oliver Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Lidington, David Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Taylor, Sir Teddy
Livsey, Richard Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Tonge, Dr Jenny
Llwyd, Elfyn Tredinnick, David
Loughton, Tim Trend, Michael
Luff, Peter Tyler, Paul
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Tyrie, Andrew
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Viggers, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne Walter, Robert
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Wardle, Charles
Maclean, Rt Hon David Waterson, Nigel
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert Webb, Steve
McLoughlin, Patrick Wells, Bowen
Madel, Sir David Whitney, Sir Raymond
Malins, Humfrey Whittingdale, John
Maples, John Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Mates, Michael Wilkinson, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Willetts, David
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Willis, Phil
Moss, Malcolm Wilshire, David
Nicholls, Patrick Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Norman, Archie Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Oaten, Mark Yeo, Tim
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Öpik, Lembit Tellers for the Ayes:
Ottaway, Richard Mr. Stephen Day and
Page, Richard Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
Abbott, Ms Diane Beard, Nigel
Ainger, Nick Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Allen, Graham Bennett, Andrew F
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Benton, Joe
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Bermingham, Gerald
Ashton, Joe Berry, Roger
Atherton, Ms Candy Betts, Clive
Atkins, Charlotte Blackman, Liz
Austin, John Blears, Ms Hazel
Banks, Tony Blizzard, Bob
Barnes, Harry Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Barron, Kevin Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Battle, John Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bayley, Hugh Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Godsiff, Roger
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Goggins, Paul
Burden, Richard Golding, Mrs Llin
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Butler, Mrs Christine Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Grogan, John
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hain, Peter
Caplin, Ivor Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Casale, Roger Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Caton, Martin Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Cawsey, Ian Healey, John
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Chaytor, David Hepburn, Stephen
Clapham, Michael Heppell, John
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hesford, Stephen
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hill, Keith
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hinchliffe, David
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Clelland, David Hoey, Kate
Clwyd, Ann Hood, Jimmy
Coaker, Vernon Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Coffey, Ms Ann Hope, Phil
Cohen, Harry Hopkins, Kelvin
Coleman, Iain Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Colman, Tony Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Connarty, Michael Howells, Dr Kim
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cousins, Jim Humble, Mrs Joan
Corston, Jean Hurst, Alan
Cox, Tom Hutton, John
Crausby, David Iddon, Dr Brian
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Illsley, Eric
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland) Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Darvill, Keith Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Keeble, Ms Sally
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dean, Mrs Janet Kemp, Fraser
Denham, John Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobbin, Jim Khabra, Piara S
Donohoe, Brian H Kidney, David
Doran, Frank Kilfoyle, Peter
Dowd, Jim King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Drew, David Kumar, Dr Ashok
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Lammy, David
Edwards, Huw Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Efford, Clive Laxton, Bob
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lepper, David
Ennis, Jeff Leslie, Christopher
Field, Rt Hon Frank Fisher, Mark Levitt, Tom
Fitzpatrick, Jim Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna Linton, Martin
Flint, Caroline Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Flynn, Paul Lock, David
Follett, Barbara Love, Andrew
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McAvoy, Thomas
Gapes, Mike McCabe, Steve
Gardiner, Barry McCafferty, Ms Chris
George, Bruce (Walsall S) McDonagh, Siobhain
Gerrard, Neil McDonnell, John
Gibson, Dr Ian McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Mackinlay, Andrew Rowlands, Ted
McNamara, Kevin Roy, Frank
MacShane, Denis Ruane, Chris
Mactaggart, Fiona Ruddock, Joan
McWalter, Tony Ryan, Ms Joan
McWilliam, John Salter, Martin
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sarwar, Mohammad
Mallaber, Judy Savidge, Malcolm
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Sawford, Phil
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Sedgemore, Brian
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Shaw, Jonathan
Martlew, Eric Sheerman, Barry
Maxton, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Merron, Gillian Singh, Marsha
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Skinner, Dennis
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mitchell, Austin Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Moffatt, Laura Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Soley, Clive
Moran, Ms Margaret Spellar, John
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Squire, Ms Rachel
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon) Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Mountford, Kali Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mudie, George Stoate, Dr Howard
Mullin, Chris Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Stringer, Graham
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Stuart, Ms Gisela
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan Taylor, David (NW Leics)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Temple-Morris, Peter
O'Hara, Eddie Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Olner, Bill Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
O'Neill, Martin Tipping, Paddy
Organ, Mrs Diana Trickett, Jon
Palmer, Dr Nick Truswell, Paul
Pearson, Ian Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Pendry, Tom Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Perham, Ms Linda Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Pickthall, Colin Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Pike, Peter L Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Plaskitt, James Walley, Ms Joan
Pollard, Kerry Ward, Ms Claire
Pond, Chris Wareing, Robert N
Pope, Greg White, Brian
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wicks, Malcolm
Prescott, Rt Hon John Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Prosser, Gwyn Wills, Michael
Purchase, Ken Winnick, David
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Quinn, Lawrie Wood, Mike
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Woodward, Shaun
Raynsford, Nick Woolas, Phil
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Worthington, Tony
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Wyatt, Derek
Rogers, Allan Tellers for the Noes:
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Mr. Don Touhig and
Rooney, Terry Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 31 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 300, Noes 174.

Division No. 329] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Ainger, Nick Darvill, Keith
Allen, Graham Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy Dean, Mrs Janet
Atkins, Charlotte Denham, John
Austin, John Dobbin, Jim
Banks, Tony Donohoe, Brian H
Barnes, Harry Doran, Frank
Barron, Kevin Dowd, Jim
Battle, John Drew, David
Bayley, Hugh Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Beard, Nigel Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Edwards, Huw
Bennett, Andrew F Efford, Clive
Benton, Joe Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bermingham, Gerald Ennis, Jeff
Berry, Roger Fisher, Mark
Betts, Clive Fitzpatrick, Jim
Blackman, Liz Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Blears, Ms Hazel Flint, Caroline
Blizzard, Bob Flynn, Paul
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Follett, Barbara
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Gapes, Mike
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gardiner, Barry
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Gibson, Dr Ian
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Burden, Richard Godman, Dr Norman A
Burgon, Colin Godsiff, Roger
Butler, Mrs Christine Goggins, Paul
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Caplin, Ivor Grocott, Bruce
Casale, Roger Grogan, John
Caton, Martin Hain, Peter
Cawsey, Ian Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Chaytor, David Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clapham, Michael Healey, John
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hepburn, Stephen
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Heppell, John
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hesford, Stephen
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clelland, David Hill, Keith
Clwyd, Ann Hinchliffe, David
Coaker, Vernon Hodge, Ms Margaret
Coffey, Ms Ann Hoey, Kate
Cohen, Harry Hood, Jimmy
Coleman, Iain Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Colman, Tony Hope, Phil
Connarty, Michael Hopkins, Kelvin
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Corbett, Robin Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Corston, Jean Howells, Dr Kim
Cox, Tom Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Crausby, David Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Humble, Mrs Joan
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hurst, Alan
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland) Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Illsley, Eric
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Dalyell, Tam Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian Palmer, Dr Nick
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Pearson, Ian
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Pike, Peter L
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa Plaskitt, James
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Pollard, Kerry
Keeble, Ms Sally Pond, Chris
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Pope, Greg
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kemp, Fraser Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Prescott, Rt Hon John
Khabra, Piara S Prosser, Gwyn
Kidney, David Purchase, Ken
Kilfoyle, Peter Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Quinn, Lawrie
Kumar, Dr Ashok Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Raynsford, Nick
Lammy, David Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Laxton, Bob Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Lepper, David Roche, Mrs Barbara
Leslie, Christopher Rogers, Allan
Levitt, Tom Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Rooney, Terry
Linton, Martin Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Rowlands, Ted
Lock, David Roy, Frank
Love, Andrew Ruane, Chris
McAvoy, Thomas Ruddock, Joan
McCabe, Steve Ryan, Ms Joan
McCafferty, Ms Chris Salter, Martin
McDonagh, Siobhain Sarwar, Mohammad
McDonnell, John Savidge, Malcolm
McGuire, Mrs Anne Sawford, Phil
McIsaac, Shona Sedgemore, Brian
Mackinlay, Andrew Shaw, Jonathan
McNamara, Kevin Sheerman, Barry
MacShane, Denis Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mactaggart, Fiona Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McWalter, Tony Singh, Marsha
McWilliam, John Skinner, Dennis
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mallaber, Judy Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Soley, Clive
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Spellar, John
Martlew, Eric Squire, Ms Rachel
Maxton, John Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Steinberg, Gerry
Merron, Gillian Stevenson, George
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mitchell, Austin Stoate, Dr Howard
Moffatt, Laura Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stringer, Graham
Moran, Ms Margaret Stuart, Ms Gisela
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon) Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Mountford, Kali Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Mudie, George Tipping, Paddy
Mullin, Chris Trickett, Jon
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Truswell, Paul
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Norris, Dan Twigg, Derek (Halton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
O'Hara, Eddie Walley, Ms Joan
Olner, Bill Ward, Ms Claire
O'Neill, Martin Wareing, Robert N
Organ, Mrs Diana White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan Woolas, Phil
Wicks, Malcolm Worthington, Tony
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wills, Michael Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Winnick, David Wyatt, Derek
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C) Tellers for the Ayes:
Wood, Mike Mr. Robert Ainsworth and
Woodward, Shaun Mr. Don Touhig.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Allan, Richard Gray, James
Amess, David Green, Damian
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Greenway, John
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Grieve, Dominic
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Baker, Norman Hammond, Philip
Baldry, Tony Hancock, Mike
Ballard, Jackie Harvey, Nick
Beith, Rt Hon A J Hawkins, Nick
Bercow, John Hayes, John
Beresford, Sir Paul Heald, Oliver
Blunt, Crispin Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Boswell, Tim Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Horam, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Brady, Graham Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Brand, Dr Peter Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Brazier, Julian Hunter, Andrew
Breed, Colin Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Browning, Mrs Angela Jenkin, Bernard
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul Keetch, Paul
Butterfill, John Key, Robert
Cable, Dr Vincent King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Cash, William Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Chidgey, David Letwin, Oliver
Chope, Christopher Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Clappison, James Lidington, David
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Collins, Tim Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Cotter, Brian Llwyd, Elfyn
Cran, James Loughton, Tim
Curry, Rt Hon David Luff, Peter
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Day, Stephen McIntosh, Miss Anne
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Duncan Smith, Iain Maclean, Rt Hon David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Evans, Nigel McLoughlin, Patrick
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Madel, Sir David
Faber, David Malins, Humfrey
Fabricant, Michael Maples, John
Fallon, Michael Mates, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Flight, Howard Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Moss, Malcolm
Foster, Don (Bath) Nicholls, Patrick
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Norman, Archie
Fox, Dr Liam Oaten, Mark
Fraser, Christopher O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Gale, Roger Öpik, Lembit
Garnier, Edward Ottaway, Richard
George, Andrew (St Ives) Page, Richard
Gibb, Nick Paice, James
Gidley, Sandra Pickles, Eric
Gill, Christopher Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Prior, David
Randall, John Taylor, Sir Teddy
Redwood, Rt Hon John Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Rendel, David Tonge, Dr Jenny
Robathan, Andrew Tredinnick, David
Robertson, Laurence Trend, Michael
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Tyler, Paul
Ruffley, David Tyrie, Andrew
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Viggers, Peter
Sanders, Adrian Walter, Robert
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Waterson, Nigel
Shepherd, Richard Webb, Steve
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Wells, Bowen
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Soames, Nicholas Whittingdale, John
Spicer, Sir Michael Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Spring, Richard Wilkinson, John
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Willetts, David
Steen, Anthony Willis, Phil
Streeter, Gary Wnterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Stunell, Andrew Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Swayne, Desmond Yeo, Tim
Syms, Robert Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton) Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Mr. Peter Atkinson and
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the publication of the National Audit Office report, which gives a detailed account of events at the Dome; agrees that politicians of all parties involved in the project share responsibility both for the successes in regenerating this depressed part of South East London and its failings to reach its original visitor estimates; and deplores the decision by Her Majesty's Opposition not to support the original bi-partisan nature of this national project.