HL Deb 31 January 1994 vol 551 cc1167-82

6.36 p.m.

Lord Howell rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what are the principles upon which the Millennium Fund, created by the National Lottery, will be distributed.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. Perhaps I may say at the start that I am an unrepentant supporter of the National Lottery, both in and outside government. I am not opposed to the principle of the Millennium Fund but I have a growing apprehension in regard to issues which are now arising and I shall ask the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, a number of questions which it is essential should be clarified.

First, the Millennium Fund will be a goldmine and a honey pot. Therefore, its purpose, its use and its integrity are matters of the highest importance, which is why I sought leave to debate those matters tonight. If we assume that half the takings of the National Lottery will go in prizes; 12 per cent., which I regard as being too high, will go in tax, and 15 per cent. on administration, the Millennium Fund will receive one-fifth of the residue over the five or six years after it is established and will have at its disposal an estimated sum of £70 million a year—that is, between £420 million and £450 million by the turn of the century.

That considerable fund is to be distributed by two Secretaries of State (one who is to be the chairman) and one Opposition appointee, with six so-called independent commissioners, presumably appointed by the Government. That leads me to the first question about the people who are to be in control of such a large sum of money. What is the principle that will be applied in their selection? I suppose it is too soon to ask who they will be. The only clue that we have so far is the statement by Helen Wilkinson —a principal in the Department of National Heritage—who said, The 6 will give the Commission its flavour … We want some new names, some young names, a reasonable spread. They have to be absolutely top class". I await the choice of those paragons of virtue who are to be put in charge of over £420 million of public money. As the Act gives them absolute discretion on how to use the money, how can we ensure some degree of public examination as to their sensibility?

I turn to projects that are already lining up to be considered. For example, on the arts side I refer to the Royal Opera House. Lord Salisbury and Vivien Duffield have stated that they will raise £45 million if another £45 million can be raised from public funds. The Secretary of State, Mr. Peter Brooke, has written to the chairman of the Royal Opera House in the following terms: Your scheme for refurbishment and development is certainly the kind of capital project to which the lottery is relevant". Does the noble Baroness believe that the public £45 million to match the private £45 million should come from the Millennium Fund or from the Art Council's £420 million, which will be a one-fifth share? There is a total blank about these matters in public discussion, yet when the Secretary of State commits himself in those terms in writing I believe we are entitled to ask from where he believes that kind of money will come. What are the principles which will govern that decision? That raises the question—discussed many times in this House, but not satisfactorily—whether all of this lottery money is to be spent on capital projects, and certainly the Millennium Fund? I know that there are a lot of capital projects—probably more from the Millennium Fund than other aspects of this funding—which will need to be financed. I repeat what I and other noble Lords have already said and what everybody in the arts and sport is saying. There are very many capital projects around the country but not enough revenue to sustain them. It is no good building more white elephants if we cannot finance their operations. As I well know, it is easier to build projects than to get bodies to continue to finance the losses which most sports stadia and theatres create. The relationship between capital and revenue has to be thought out afresh, especially in respect of new projects financed by the Millennium Fund.

I turn to the question of sport. Not only are there projects lining up for expenditure from the Millennium Fund but from what I have read, and if we are to believe what we are told, millennium money has already been spent. I feel, therefore, that 11 should raise a number of questions. I can give many examples but will confine myself to the launch last week by Sir Robert Scott of an attempt to obtain money to build a stadium for his Commonwealth Games bid. That is based on Manchester, but my understanding is that there is no commitment or involvement in money terms from Manchester City Council. According to the Financial Times, last week, his bid for the new stadium is based on £70 million of Millennium Fund money. I have with me the document issued by Sir Robert Scott and his colleagues in AMEC, a private enterprise developer. They call their stadium the Manchester Millennium Stadium. They say that they have the money and have named the stadium, the cost of which will be £70 million or more. That is public money which they are committing at this moment. I quote from that document: Costs for the stadium and associated development will be approximately £187 million. A sum of £72 million has already been committed through acquisition of the site, relocation costs for existing businesses, site clearance, construction of the velodrome and the initial infrastructure". I pause to say that all of that money has already come from the Government, not the private sector. The document continues: Of the remaining £115 million stadium construction costs, £75 million will be the subject of Manchester's bid to the Millennium Fund and the National Lottery, while the remaining £40 million will come from private sector equity and sponsorship". It is also said that AMEC will design, build and operate the stadium, for which they require £72 million from the Millennium Fund. I say good luck to them, but they must not lay claim to having the money before it is allocated to them. This is a vitally important principle.

I ask the Minister, have any private, of public, assurances been given to AMEC or Sir Robert Scott, or is there any understanding that they will be given £72 million from the Millennium Fund? That is what they are saying. It is a matter of crucial public importance, as I shall illustrate. The Millennium Commission has not yet been established. We do not know who the members will be, nor have its policies for the distribution of money been determined. Therefore, I would expect the noble Baroness to reply that certainly no undertakings have been given for the simple reason that any such undertakings would have been illegal. It would be illegal either to spend or to promise money from the Millennium Fund before the commission had been established and the money was available. Yet people are making claims to the effect that they have such money. The reason why I raise these matters in the House tonight is that people in those quarters are saying, with a nod and a wink, that the money is in the bank.

There is another very important reason why I ask the Minister to clarify the issue. The English Commonwealth Games Federation has to decide this week on which of the three bids before it will be chosen to represent England in an endeavour to have the Commonwealth Games held in this country in the year of the Queen's Jubilee. I am sure that all of us hope that that will come about. The federation has to know whether the stadia in which to hold the games are already built and in place or, if not, whether the money to build them is assured. I am sure noble Lords will appreciate that we must know whether the £72 million which has been stated to be available to one of the bids is assured. We need to know what has been said privately or publicly about the availability of millennium money.

I turn to other considerations. Here I declare an interest. I happen to be a director of Wembley Stadium. I refer to the question whether millennium money will be used to create stadia which will be in competition with stadia already built and operating either in the public or private sector. In the public sector cities like Birmingham, Sheffield, Gateshead and Edinburgh have all built stadia paid for by their ratepayers or with money raised by the city and guaranteed by the ratepayers. None of those cities has received a penny piece from the Government in the establishment of their facilities. They have to make a surplus, of course, or under existing legislation they are rate-capped, handicapped and penalised. Therefore, these cities are saying to me "We need to know: are we to find ourselves competing with stadia which have been paid for largely by the Government and where there are no loan charges outstanding? That could represent unfair competition against us when we seek to get these very important events to our cities". It is of considerable importance to those cities to have the answers to those questions.

I turn now to the private sector where, as I have said, I declare an interest. The position is even more remarkable because Wembley Stadium, and other stadia and places which hold such events such as Earl's Court and Olympia, are privately owned and have to raise their money on the open market. They have to make a profit and be answerable to their shareholders. Therefore, it is very important for them to know the terms on which they will be competing. Again, as I know from talking with my fellow directors and others concerned in this area, they believe that it would be grossly unfair if they are expected to make a profit and be answerable to their shareholders and find themselves competing with a project financed largely by the Millennium Fund, which has not had to be raised on the market and where there are no interest charges involved. That is a very important consideration and one of the reasons why I ask that the principles on which the Millennium Fund money will be distributed have to be spelt out to this House and to the public. What are the principles that will apply?

I have one final point to make to the people making claims to this money. They must not forget the due process of democracy. It may well be that by the time this money is available another party might be in government. Indeed, to be fair, the Secretary of State, the right honourable Peter Brooke, made that point himself in earlier statements in the other place. If that were to be so, it is possible that these thoughts or private nods and winks will not operate. I cannot say what another government will say if that happens. That is more for my noble friend Lord Donoughue on the Front Bench. Having some knowledge of the matter, and having followed these matters through, I can say that a Labour Government would certainly wish to hold the ring fairly as between one city and another. They do not believe that this ring has been held fairly so far, when cities like Sheffield which put all its money into building facilities to stage the world student games—an act of great courage which cost it a great deal of money —might now find itself at a further disadvantage if the claims of Sir Robert Scott and his colleagues are correct.

Therefore, I hope the House will appreciate why I felt it right to raise these questions today and to have this short discussion at an early stage, particularly so that questions on whether money is available can be cleared up by the noble Baroness whom I thank for being in her place tonight.

6.54 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for bringing forward this Question tonight. I know that he speaks with a great deal of knowledge on the subject of sport, having been a Minister responsible for Sport. I believe (although I am not sure) that he is still acting as a football referee—

Lord Howell

My Lords, not at my age!

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, during the passage of the Bill the Millennium Fund was described as a far-reaching and visionary body which would be of interest to the entire nation. It is certainly of interest tonight. However, I fear that until a millennium commission is set up and the spoils of this golden honeypot are spent, very little interest will be expressed in it, although I am sure a great many people will make claims to what the Millennium Fund should be spent on.

During the passage of the Bill I was given the title of "spoilsport", as one who actually objected to the Millennium Fund being set up at all. However; since it will shortly come into existence, I wish to put forward some of the principles under which it should be run. However, I fear that when the millennium commission is set up one grave disadvantage will be that there will be only one Opposition appointee rather than two from the two Opposition parties.

I would like to make some constructive suggestions towards the Millennium Fund. There are many very valid projects on which the money could be spent. We are not talking about a vast sum of money. One point should be underlined and it is the major principle behind the Millennium Fund—namely, that regionalisation should be the key. The lottery tickets will be bought by people throughout the country from Penzance to John o' Groats. During the passage of the Bill and discussions afterwards the large projects talked about were often London-orientated. Great schemes are always put forward which are sometimes London-based. An opera house has been mentioned which I presume would be built in London.

The lottery should benefit everybody in the country and should not be based purely in London. The Olympic Games were mentioned. I know that many noble Lords share my extreme disappointment that Manchester was not chosen for those games. I am very grateful to the Government for funding large works in Manchester, a city deserving of such spending.

One of the underlying principles behind the Millennium Fund is that it will take place at the end of this millennium and at the beginning of the next. Can the Minister say when this millenium will end? Does it end on 31st December 1999 or 31st December 2000? That would be an indication of when the money stops being paid into the fund. I know that there is sonic debate about when that will take place.

Acknowledging that the Millennium Fund is at the end of this millenium and at the beginning of the next, one of the principle areas in which money should be spent is youth. One project which the fund could finance —we are not talking about vast sums of money taken out for large capital projects—is the provision of youth clubs across the country. It could fund travelling theatre and music groups. It could actually fund most of the outdoor activity groups. All those areas of youth activity have been drastically cut during government and local authority cuts in spending. That has been one of the first areas to suffer. Would it not be a fitting way to start the next millennium by considering the youth of tomorrow?

In this area I would also wish to add proper funding for the British Youth Council whose grant is threatened at present. It has been estimated that the amount of money involved is close on £0.5 billion. I know that there was talk in Committee about having an enormous party. I have to declare an interest. I own a pub arid I think that a party would be an excellent idea. However, we must remember that New Year is usually a great disappointment. Although I cannot remember a great deal about last New Year, usually it is spent standing around in a town square with everybody doing hundreds of different countdowns according to the different times on their watches.

If capital projects are to be undertaken, the question of the date by which they are to be completed is of considerable importance. Returning to my question about when the millennium starts, it would seem strange to have the Millennium Fund set up and yet for some of the capital projects not to be completed until towards the end of the first decade of the millennium. I think that it would be more fitting to spend money on smaller projects around the country at the beginning of the millennium.

7 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, although my name is not on the list of those wishing to speak to this Unstarred Question, I understand that it will be in order for me to make a short contribution. Although I disagreed with much that he said, and felt that he was a little premature in asking the Government to explore certain issues, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has raised these matters this evening because it is right that we should start thinking about 'how the important National Lottery etc. Act will work, especially the Millennium Fund.

One matter of interpretation arises in connection with Section 22 on which I have no doubt that my noble friend Lady Trumpington is clear in her mind or at least has been well advised. I should be grateful if she could confirm this point which is of great importance. Section 22 sets out the way in which the money is to be apportioned from within the distribution fund. Section 31 refers to deducting expenses, as is natural. Section 22(3) refers to five matters: the arts, sport, national heritage, charitable expenditure and, expenditure on projects to mark the year 2000 and the beginning of the third millennium". We have a rule of interpretation of statutes which is very important and relevant to this matter. When different expressions are used in the same statute, each of them is assumed to have a different meaning and effect. Therefore, one must assume—it is on this point that I would welcome clarification—that none of the projects to mark the year 2000 or the beginning of the third millennium should be concerned with the arts, sport, national heritage or charitable expenditure. It is very important, as a foundation to all our thinking, that we understand that. What I am saying about Section 22 is most certainly endorsed by the way in which Section 23 refers to separate arrangements by the distributing bodies in connection with those five matters.

It would seem to follow that the £45 million for the Royal Opera House, to which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred, could not come out of the money that is to be spent on the millennium projects because an opera house would come under the heading of "the arts". I should have thought that point requires no answer from the Government because it is manifestly plain.

That is the only matter to which I wish to refer. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend Lady Trumpington has to say about it.

7.4 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, many people will be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say on that matter because it is a critical question. From the conversations that I have had, my experience is that the majority of people who are involved in the arts or with sport assume that money from the Millennium Fund is to be available for their areas. I do not know what the experience of my noble friend Lord Howell has been on this point. In other words, those involved in the arts or with sport are assuming an overlap or a "double bite", especially for the bigger projects because they believe that is the only way in which a national stadium for Wales, a big opera house in Cardiff or something similar for Scotland can be achieved. If the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is correct in his interpretation—and on my observation, he is too often correct for our present comfort—a major landmine lies ahead. Therefore, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I have nothing to say to rank with what he said in terms of worrying the Government.

I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Howell for tabling this Unstarred Question. Although in one sense he is premature, I do not think that now is too early to discuss the matter because the important questions about the principles of distribution and the membership of the commission have to be raised and one would like reassurances that the Government are clear in their thinking before they embark on the final stage.

We on these Benches welcome the lottery and the Millennium Fund in principle although I expressed some scepticism on Second Reading. Overall, we welcome the fund because of the shabby state of arts and sports facilities in Britain. We welcome it on the assumption that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, is not entirely correct in his interpretation. As we discussed last week, our theatres are crumbling. Wembley, our great national stadium, is now 70 years old and is virtually the oldest national football stadium in the world. The Millennium Fund will provide British architects with opportunities for some grands projets in the French style, which I think would be exciting.

We should like the projects to cover a geographical spread and, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, mentioned, not to be metropolitan-centered. However, I would not want an overbalance the other way. We must not neglect London, which is the artistic capital of Britain. In fact, despite good work by the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, London's cultural infrastructure is definitely crumbling. One obvious example is the South Bank where one is in danger of being "clobbered" by falling concrete or whatever other appalling materials were used. That is in urgent need of refurbishment. I mention the South Bank also because the political driving force behind it was Herbert Morrison, who was a great politician and a great Londoner—I was honoured to take part in writing his official biography—and we should like to remember him. The South Bank was established in 1951 to celebrate a great centenary. I think that its refurbishment would be appropriate at a time of further celebration.

My noble friend Lord Howell raised the important question of the balance between capital and maintenance revenue. The lottery was originally presented in terms of capital. That was what made it different from the distributions of the Arts Council or the Sports Council. Since then, there has been mention of using endowments to pay for maintenance. This is a critical question, especially in the light of the big cuts that we have suffered in arts expenditure. I should like to ask —again, for clarification—what is the position on the millennium projects? How will those great buildings be maintained satisfactorily in financial terms?

There is a real danger that by the end of the century we shall have a mix of riches and rags in this country: a few big, impressive and expensive projects which great politicians can open and for which they can claim credit, absorbing huge funds, while at grass roots there will be terrible poverty and no money to maintain and provide for the current costs of the network of British local arts and sports. We need some clarity and reassurance on that point.

On the subject of commission membership, which my noble friend mentioned, we should like to be reminded who appoints those people. I believe that we know the answer, but we should just like to hear it. We should like to hear also when we can expect those appointments. It was speculated last year during the Bill's passage that we would hear them in January or February. We are there now. We should like to know how the matter is going on. Except for the politicians on the commission, to whom are its members accountable? They have draconian powers. I should like to be clear to whom they are accountable in executing them.

I should like to raise the issue of the composition of the commission. I have never been clear why it needed two government and one opposition member on a commission which was specifically stated to be independent. Why do the Government need a majority? The Labour Party has accepted that proposal. With characteristic generosity it has blessed that body with itself having only minority representation. Some of us might not have been as easy going, but my right honourable friend the leader of the party is well known for being a soft touch on such things. But I still do not see why the Liberal Democrats are not represented. I speak up for them on this subject, if not on much else.

As to the independent members, we want to be reassured as to how independent they will be. We can assure the Minister that we shall scrutinise the list closely, looking, of course, for various Conservative association chairmen and financiers of the party who have cropped up so regularly on bodies right down to hospital committees. We need genuine independence. We want to avoid the nightmare of scores of projects cropping up in Conservative marginals.

On the background of those independent members, I noticed that when speaking to the lottery Bill on 25th January 1993, the Secretary of State said that he wanted the six members to have available a wide range of experience. He mentioned business, finance, heritage, architecture, education and the environment. He also said that they should have a balance of age, gender and ethnic origin—truly politically correct people—and represent all four countries in the UK. It will prove testing to find all those qualities among only six people. They will have to be the paragons of virtue that my noble friend mentioned. I feel that one might have to look to the Labour Party to find people to meet all of those qualifications. Perhaps there should have been nine independents.

I reinforce one or two other questions asked by my noble friend. I was struck, and quite shocked, as perhaps were others, by what he said about the Manchester application; that it is already, apparently, using the name the "Manchester Millennium Stadium". Assumptions are being made about it receiving large sums of money. I love Manchester as much as anyone, and I follow Manchester United fairly carefully, but people must not go too far in these things. Will the Minister reassure the House that no discussions have taken place. I am sure that she will feel able to say that no guarantees or assurances have been given to any Mancunians. But will she tell us that no discussions have taken place between the department and any representatives of that great city?

I wonder how people can use the millennium name, on the assumption of receiving millennium money, when the Millennium Commission has not yet been appointed. I am sure that the House is confident that nothing was promised when Sir Robert Scott was so privileged to be included in that small group of people attending the Prime Minister's private new year's party.

The location of sports stadia or arts houses in competition with existing facilities will be an important question for the commission to decide. It is important that we do not have duplication in some areas. especially if we subsidise competition—-that would be unfair—while other areas may be left with no facilities.

There has been mention of two kinds of millennium activities —the grands projets and smaller local projects. Do the Government have any feelings on the ratio or balance to be struck between the two? Some important questions have been asked. Large sums of money are at stake. The majority of people taking the decisions are appointed by the Government and appear not to be directly accountable. Therefore, the principles for determining the distribution are important. I look forward with great interest to hearing the Minister's reply.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I understand that this procedure comes under the same heading as a Report stage.

Baroness Trumpington:

My Lords, no.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, it is an Unstarred Question.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, it is an Unstarred Question, and I am afraid that my noble friend has missed the gap.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, therefore I shall adhere to the rules.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for giving the House the opportunity to express its ideas on the uses to which the proceeds of the National Lottery might be put in marking the millennium. I should like to say how much I have always admired the things that he has clone for sport both nationally and as an umpire. I should like him to know that I, too, in my time, have a modest claim to fame in so far as I once kicked off for Cambridge United.

Before I turn to the principles upon which the Millennium Fund will be distributed, it may be helpful to your Lordships if I describe briefly the purpose and background of the Millennium Fund. The National Lottery etc. Act 1993 provides for 20 per cent. of the net proceeds of the National Lottery to be allocated by the Millennium Commission for expenditure on projects to mark the year 2000 and the beginning of the third millennium. It is that share of the proceeds of the lottery which is commonly referred to as the Millennium Fund. The Millennium Fund will receive income from the lottery until the end of the year 2000. Thereafter, the Millennium Fund's share will be redistributed to the other sectors the lottery has been established to benefit —sport, the arts, heritage and charities. We estimate that the lottery might raise at least £75 million a year for each of the good causes it supports, giving the Millennium Fund a total income of around £450 million: I am aware that other estimates have put the income for good causes much higher, but I prefer to keep my feet on the ground. Funds are likely to begin to flow into the commission in early 1995.

In answer to my noble friend Lord Renton, the Government hope that the Millennium Commission will support imaginative and large-scale capital projects which celebrate the millennium and add to the inheritance we leave for future generations. I heard the plea for youth made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will take note of what he said. We hope that people across the United Kingdom will seize the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our age, and that the Millennium Commission will support projects which lift the spirits of the nation in the same way as did the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival of Britain a century later.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, touched on the membership of the commission. It will have nine members appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. Two of the members will be Government Ministers, one of whom will chair the commission. One member will be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and the remaining six will be independent and distinguished figures. I do not believe that their political affiliations will be relevant—so the Liberal Party may still be in with a chance! The commission will not be a part of government; its status will be akin to that of non-departmental public bodies such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Arts Council and the Sports Council, which will also be distributing the lottery proceeds.

The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, asked about the accountability of the Millennium Commission. It will be directly accountable to Parliament. Its accounts will be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Under the National Lottery etc. Act 1993, it must report annually to Parliament.

The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, asked about discussions with those in Manchester. I shall pop that in now and return to the subject later. A member of the Manchester team discussed the Millennium Commission with a member of the Department of National Heritage. No undertaking has been given. He was seen on the same basis as anyone who asked to discuss the broad purposes of the Millennium Fund. Your Lordships are free to do so.

The noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Donoughue, asked about the selection criteria. The Secretary of State has stated that the six independent members should be distinguished and disinterested. The commission will need to draw on a wide variety of skills and expertise in, for example, dealing with large capital projects. Representatives of individual organisations or interests will not be appointed, nor will anyone who has already advocated backing for a potential millennium project.

The Millennium Commission has not yet been appointed. We hope that appointments to the commission will be announced within the next few weeks. It will decide its own policy on the type of project that it wishes to support and make its own decisions on applications for funding. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, asked about the principles upon which the Millennium Fund will be distributed. We cannot say what the commission's intentions towards the fund will be, but I can describe the broad framework within which the commission must operate.

Section 26 of the National Lottery etc. Act provides for the Government to issue directions to all distributors of lottery proceeds, including the Millennium Commission. The directions have not yet been issued and all the lottery distributors will be formally consulted before they are finalised. Section 26 directions will take two forms; first, broad policy directions concerning matters which the commission must take into account in determining applications for funding and, secondly, financial directions which might be complied with to secure the proper management and control of money paid to the commission.

The broad policy directions issued by the Secretary of State will be the starting point for the Millennium Commission in determining the principles upon which it intends to distribute grants to projects. They will encompass the basic principles upon which the national lottery is based and which were made clear during the passage of the legislation. For instance, I would expect them to cover the priority of capital rather than revenue projects. This would not prevent the commission from supporting an endowment fund to secure a project's long-term maintenance or from using a smaller proportion of its income for other projects such as a bursary scheme.

I am anxious to give your Lordships as much information as possible in order that we need not bring up the subject until something controversial occurs once the whole thing is up and running. It has always been the case that the national lottery will support capital projects rather than running costs. That means that the lottery will make a lasting improvement to this country's cultural facilities. It will also help to distinguish lottery proceeds from normal public expenditure. It is on that basis that the National Lottery etc. Act was passed by Parliament. The Millennium Commission can, where it considers the case to be exceptional, contribute to an endowment fund to support the maintenance of a project and will be required to ensure that the project's long-term viability is secured before it makes any funding commitment. There is no reason why partnership funding should not contribute to the running costs of a project.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked whether the Millennium Commission will be able to support a bid in respect of which there is no demand which jeopardises the future of other similar facilities elsewhere in the United Kingdom. First, I cannot comment on the merits of any potential application to the Millennium Commission. Secondly, any reports in the press relating to the funding of any stadium or any other project are pure speculation—

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend but she has touched on a crucially important point and has not answered the question asked by my noble friend. She referred to the possibility of a cultural activity being funded by the Millennium Fund and referred to the possibility of sports being funded. She also referred to the 1851 exhibition which embraced the arts. Will my noble friend assure the House that the Millennium Fund is not excluded from supporting an arts, a sports or a national heritage activity, which was the question posed by my noble friend?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, until the commission is in being I cannot comment on that aspect in more detail. I do not wish to pre-empt its right to decide on the projects. I have gone as far as I can in this matter. As I said, the commission has not yet been appointed. I have no doubt that it will wish to avoid funding any project which may turn out to be a white elephant. That is hardly the kind of legacy to the nation which the Government had in mind when they introduced the legislation to establish the Millennium Commission.

The commission is likely to be directed to ensure that a project's future running costs and maintenance are provided for before it grants any application and it will want to be assured of the long-term viability of a project. The commission will wish to take the advice of appropriate expert bodies when making that judgment, and that is something we shall be encouraging. However, it will be for the commission to consider each application on its merits. There can be no question of the Government or anyone else saying at this stage that such and such a project will not be contemplated.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked about the Royal Opera House and he mentioned the figure of £45 million. The Secretary of State said that the money could come from the national lottery but it was not for Ministers to say from which distributor. There is no question of a guarantee of funds from the 'national lottery or elsewhere. It will be for the Royal Opera House to decide where to apply when distributors announce their guidelines—

Lord Howell

My Lords, the noble Baroness is giving an extremely helpful reply to the debate. From what the noble Baroness said, can I say categorically that nobody in the world of the arts or sport can make any assumption at this stage as regards receiving any money from the Millennium Fund? That will be a matter for the commissioners in due course when they have been appointed. Therefore, people should not make promises and prognostications which are totally unjustified.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I believe that I have already answered the noble Lord. I referred to "pure speculation". It is quite wrong for those stories to be announced before the commission is even sitting.

As the noble Lord said, the commission is not yet established. Therefore, no undertakings have been given with regard to guaranteed funding for the Manchester stadium. I cannot give the noble Lord a stronger assurance. No one should be misled about the Millennium Fund having already been spent because at the moment, there "ain't none", and none of it has been spent.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked whether the millennium commissioners will support small-scale initiatives. There is nothing to stop the commission having smaller schemes alongside major capital projects. I am sure that the commission will be interested in the noble Lord's suggestions.

Another important principle behind the use of lottery proceeds is that applications should include a measure of partnership funding from the public or private sectors or from voluntary organisations. The degree of partnership funding sought from applicants is likely to be a matter for the commission to determine. Other directions are likely to include a requirement to treat each application on its merits—not to prime any particular application—and to use the proceeds of the national lottery primarily to promote the public good or charitable purposes rather than private gain.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked also when capital projects will be completed. I hope that some will be completed by the millennium but it is not possible to say that with regard to capital projects. It really depends on their scale. I am sure that the commission will have regard to the noble Lord's point on the timing of smaller projects. The financial directions which the Secretary of State will make under Section 26(3) of the National Lottery etc. Act will cover such matters as the accountability of the Millennium Commission to Parliament, the proper financial management of the commission and grants made by it, and the minimum information upon which applications should be judged and conditions of grant determined. The Government's intention in setting those financial directions is to put each of the lottery distributors on a similar, if not identical, footing in regard to the handling of applications and distribution of lottery money and to set out the standards of financial management and propriety expected of organisations handling the public's money in the shape of lottery income.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked whether the Millennium Commission will discriminate between applications from organisations which are publicly funded and those which are privately funded and whether profit-making organisations will be prevented from applying or be otherwise disadvantaged in competing for a share of lottery money. I assure the noble Lord that the Government do not intend to rule out applications from privately-funded organisations. The Millennium Commission will be obliged to give any privately-backed application the same consideration as an application from a local authority or voluntary body. However, in creating a national lottery the Government do not intend that the proceeds should be used for the benefit of shareholders. We should expect the Millennium Commission to satisfy itself that any profit raised by a project deriving in whole or in part from the use of national lottery proceeds is not distributed to shareholders. The steps which the commission might take to ensure that would depend on the nature of the individual project. I am sure that the commission will take account of the input of other contributors when considering the issue. It will not disregard any costs or risks incurred by private organisations or individuals in backing a project.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked me when the old millennium ends. It is worth putting that on the record. The historically correct date on which the new millennium will begin is 1st January 2001. But the Government recognise that many people in this country will wish to celebrate the millennium as we begin the year 2000. That is why the National Lottery etc. Act refers specifically to celebrations which mark the year 2000 and the beginning of the third millennium.

Many people have suggested that the Government are trying to stop people celebrating in the year 2000. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is not for the Government to tell people when they should or should not be celebrating the millennium. Indeed, we have an excuse here, if anyone is looking for one, to celebrate for a whole year. I hope that it will all be a huge success.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I join with my noble friend in thanking the noble Baroness for the very full and helpful way in which she has replied to the Question. Perhaps I may revert back to the critical intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. What he suggested is possible; namely, that there is a gap between what the Government have said about the Act, what we believe about the Act, and the legal drafting of it. Will the noble Baroness assure us that Ministers and officials will look at the noble Lord's intervention and relate it to the drafting of the Bill? Perhaps the noble Baroness will then write to all noble Lords who have intervened in the debate to tell us what her reflections are. We do not expect a reply to that this evening.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Renton will understand my difficulties as regards interpreting something in an Act which relates to a body that has not yet been formed. I welcome the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. I shall take legal advice and write to my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue.

House adjourned at twenty-three minutes before eight o'clock.