Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Film Industry

3. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): How many Indian-produced films were made in the UK in the last 12 months for which figures are available; what benefits accrued to the UK film industry; and if he will make a statement. [119874]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): Two Indian-produced films were made in the UK in the last 12 months. The UK film industry benefits directly from the production budget spent on the use of UK crew and facilities.

Mr. Prentice: That was an interesting reply. However, my hon. Friend will be aware that Bollywood annually produces about 600 films, rivalling Hollywood. Given the creativity and talent in Britain, what can the Government do to encourage the growth of our indigenous film industry?

Janet Anderson: I assure my hon. Friend that the Film Council, which was established by the Government and launched last Monday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the greatly respected director Alan Parker, will do much to help. Of course, the Government introduced tax breaks in 1997 and a new definition of British film, making it much more attractive to film in the UK.

That said, the British Tourist Authority and the British Film Commission have recently visited India to learn more about the Indian film industry, which produces about 900 films every year, and encourage the making of Indian productions here.

Tourism (Millennium Projects)

4. Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): What assessment he has made of the impact of millennium projects on the tourism industry. [119876]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): Evidence so far is encouraging: for example, Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh has already attracted more than 440,000 visitors, far exceeding expectations; the millennium stadium in Cardiff was the centrepiece of the Rugby world cup; and Tate Modern, which opens this week, has attracted enormous international interest. In addition, the huge number of new

8 May 2000 : Column 485

environmental projects, such as the Sustrans millennium cycle way and the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, are proving attractive components of the BTA's latest marketing campaign, "Green Britain".

Mrs. Williams: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. However, is he aware that £390,000 of Millennium Commission money has helped to fund the restoration of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru centre for young people in Glanllyn, Bala, which can cater for 9,000 young people every year? Although I welcome the news about the National Botanic Gardens of Wales and the millennium stadium in Cardiff, will my right hon. Friend tell the House how such major projects, which are so far away from tourist areas such as my constituency, can help us?

Mr. Smith: I am aware of the vast number of smaller, local projects that the Millennium Commission has helped to fund in many parts of the country, including, I am pleased to say, in some parts of north Wales. The siting in Cardiff of the millennium stadium was a decision taken by the Welsh rugby authorities, not one imposed on them by the Millennium Commission, but it would have been difficult to understand if the site of Cardiff Arms Park had not been chosen to be the new national stadium of Wales. However, we need to ensure that north Wales, especially the tourist areas, benefit as much as possible, not only from Millennium Commission money, but from lottery money in general. Through the directions that we have issued to the lottery distributors, we shall ensure that that occurs.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the Herriot museum in Thirsk on being nominated for a tourism award? Will he support attempts to attract as much millennium funding as possible for tourism projects that are sited outside capital cities, such as London or Cardiff?

Mr. Smith: I join the hon. Lady in congratulating the museum on its award. Many of the millennium projects that are being supported are located outside capital cities. There are 14 or 15 landmark projects, receiving many millions of pounds from the Millennium Commission; they are not located exclusively in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh or Belfast--although each of those cities contains major millennium projects--but are spread around the country, and I am pleased about that.

Mr. Syd Rapson (Portsmouth, North): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having a first-class team around him? I am grateful for the recent visit made by my hon. Friend the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting to Portsmouth to see our magnificent Gunwharf scheme, which will regenerate the economy and create more than 3,000 jobs. Although we have not yet got a tower built, we hope that my right hon. Friend will do all he can to assist us. I also hope that I will be joined by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock) in promoting the city, not denigrating it, as he has done on many occasions.

Mr. Smith: The millennium project in Portsmouth is an excellent one: much of it is already under way and is beginning to show fruit. The Portsmouth scheme would

8 May 2000 : Column 486

have been a perfect example to cite in connection with the question asked by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh): it is located, not in a capital city, but in a major city that can benefit from its regenerative effect. I look forward to the tower taking its place in the scheme, and we all hope that that will happen.

Millennium Dome

5. Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): How many visitors there have been to the millennium dome to date; and by how many the visitor numbers have varied from the original estimates. [119877]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): As the hon. Lady knows, the New Millennium Experience Company produced a revised annual target of 10 million, following reassessment of the business plan in late 1999-early 2000. Actual attendance achieved to date is 2.1 million.

Miss Kirkbride: The Minister's answer shows how difficult it is for Ministers to put a new Labour spin on the disappointing number of visitors that the millennium dome has attracted, despite the £750,000 million that has been spent on the project. As she knows, the industry's estimates are that the dome will attract only between 6 million and 7 million visitors this year, yet the business plan projects 10 million. How will those people be attracted to the dome? Can the Minister guarantee those figures by the end of the year?

Janet Anderson: As the hon. Lady may recall, the project was started by her party when it was in government. However, I do not share her scepticism. The dome received its two millionth visitor on 28 April, and by June it is expected to beat the 1999 visitor attendance record for all UK paying attractions. That means that the dome is the most popular tourist attraction in the country, and we are very proud of it.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister is aware that our town, Bolton, is visiting the dome in force this Thursday, and that she is welcome to join us. Is it not important that the children and people of Bolton visit the dome, to see the superb steel superstructure that originated in that town, and one of the largest turntables ever manufactured in this country, which is being used in the dome? Has my hon. Friend calculated the impact that the building of the dome has had on local economies, such as that of Bolton? I mention as an example the fact that the children and parents will have to be transported to the dome.

Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend is right. The investment in the millennium dome has a huge halo effect right round the country. I believe that the steel that was used in the construction of the dome came from my hon. Friend's constituency--from Watson Steel of Bolton. I am glad that he is taking an interest and supporting the dome, and I am sure that his constituents will have as good a day in the dome on their town day as I did when

8 May 2000 : Column 487

I was at the dome on bank holiday Monday. I wonder how many Opposition Members have taken the trouble to visit the dome to give it their support.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): No amount of spin can hide the fact that the dome is an embarrassing fiasco. Bearing in mind that it is already £100 million over its published budget, what guarantee can the Minister give the House that the dome will not need further money in the future? If and when another bid for cash is made, will she have a word with her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State? We need to establish what role he will be playing--will he be the chairman of the Millennium Commission, custodian of lottery players' money, or will he be in the role of Labour Minister desperate for political reasons alone to keep the dome afloat?

Janet Anderson: I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman should use the House once again to denigrate the dome. He refers to it as an embarrassing fiasco. On the one hand, he pretends to support it, and on the other, he uses such language. He knows that every application to the commission for an increase in grant is considered on its merits, according to the commission's policy and criteria. The management of any project that has applied for an increase in grant will tell him that it is not an easy process.

I remind the House that in response to an application from NMEC--the New Millennium Experience Company--in early February, the commission agreed to provide a further grant of up to £60 million to assist the company with its cashflow requirements, subject to detailed appraisals and to the company demonstrating to the commission's satisfaction the need for those funds. To date, £55 million has been released by the commission, following such appraisals. Grant made to NMEC is subject to repayment from any operational surplus or asset disposal achieved.

Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow): Does my hon. Friend the Minister recall that in the weeks preceding the general election, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who was then Deputy Prime Minister, begged and beseeched the Labour party to commit itself to the millennium dome--a project that the Conservative party had initiated? Does not that put into perspective the tosh and brazen opportunism that the Conservative party employs on the issue? Instead of willing the dome to fail, Conservative Members should highlight the fact that 80 per cent. of those who visit it believe that it constitutes an extremely good day out. Having been to the dome, I can vouch for that.

Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend is right; 84 per cent. of people have been satisfied with their visit and 70 per cent. believe that the dome is good value for money. I was there on bank holiday Monday, when almost 35,000 people visited. I saw a family whose daughter pleaded with her father to bring her back as soon as possible. That does not sound like failure. It is high time that Conservative Members got behind the national project and supported Great Britain plc.

8 May 2000 : Column 488

Next Section

IndexHome Page