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Heritage Lottery Fund

16. Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): If he will make a statement on the role of the heritage lottery fund in purchasing important works of art. [R] [102010]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The heritage lottery fund has so far committed about £59.9 million to support the purchase of works of art by museums and galleries throughout the UK. Heritage lottery fund trustees have agreed to set aside £10 million a year to support museum and gallery acquisitions of all kinds, including works of art, which will add to the enjoyment of visitors and encourage an increase in their numbers.

Mr. Brooke: Although I am aware of some notable contributions by the heritage lottery fund--notably for the Botticelli in Edinburgh--there has been some unpredictability in the fairly recent past. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the decision of the heritage lottery fund in making so firm an announcement?

Mr. Smith: I do indeed. I also very much welcome the grant that made possible the purchase of the Botticelli, thus saving it for the nation. By contrast, I note that the annual report of the National Art Collections Fund for 1994--a year that the right hon. Gentleman may recall--stated:

That is something that we are trying to put right.

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National Lottery Licence

18. Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): If he will make a statement on the rules and specification for the renewal of the national lottery licence. [102012]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The new national lottery licence will be awarded by the National Lottery Commission. The commission published its invitation to apply on 30 November, which sets out what bidders for the new licence are required to do.

Sir Sydney Chapman: I thank the Secretary of State for that information. Would he prefer the licensee who operates and administers the national lottery to do so without profit, or does he hope that the operator will be the person who brings in the maximum revenue to the Exchequer and good causes? Alternatively, is he keeping his fingers crossed and hoping for both?

Mr. Smith: We have consistently said that we would welcome a good, not-for-profit bid for the running of the lottery. However, the prime test must be the amount of money raised for the good causes. The best way to secure that is through strong competition between potential bidders.

Millennium Dome

20. Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East): What assessment he has made of the extra visitors to and money to be spent in London and the UK next year as a result of the millennium dome. [102015]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): The British Tourist Authority has estimated the number of overseas visits to the UK in 2000 at 27.5 million. Of these, the New Millennium Experience Company foresees that 2.5 million will visit the dome.

Ms Prentice: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but I wonder whether she would expand on it. Given the success of yesterday's exercise, in which local people saw and experienced the dome and its contents, does she agree that, as there is a debate about not only a north-south divide but a regional divide in this country, the experiences of the local people in Greenwich and Lewisham will be greatly enhanced by the extra money that will come into the area?

Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend is quite right. The British Tourist Authority has estimated that, as a direct result of the millennium experience, an additional £300 million to £500 million of overseas tourist revenue will be brought into the UK economy as a whole, but that the halo effect of those activities could double that figure.

I invite Opposition Members to join us in--in the words of the Prime Minister--celebrating a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness and excellence over mediocrity, and to get together with us to celebrate something that has become the international symbol of the millennium.

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The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked--

Church Investments

29. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): What steps he is taking to increase the proportion of Church investments in the world's poorest countries. [101985]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): The Church Commissioners have a small number of investments in emerging markets but risks are obviously higher in those areas and their duty as trustees constrains them to concentrate on the better established and more liquid markets.

Mr. Prentice: I think I heard my hon. Friend say that the Church had a small number of investments in the poorest countries. That disappoints me. After the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the weekend that Britain will extinguish the debt of 25 of the poorest countries, surely we could capitalise on what the Church did so magnificently with the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

I understand that my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Development are to meet Christian Aid and other Church leaders on Tuesday--tomorrow. Would not it be a magnificent tribute for the Church to tell the Chancellor that it was going to re-balance its very large portfolio to benefit some of the poorest countries?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that Christian Aid and the Church were in the vanguard of seeking to have third-world debt wiped out. We are very grateful that the Chancellor of the Exchequer followed the lead of the Church in that matter.

As far as our investments are concerned, the Church Commissioners are always conscientious concerning issues that relate to not only environmental performance but human rights. We are sensitive to the communities and the countries in which they operate.


30. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): What initiatives the Church Commissioners are taking to mark the millennium in a permanent way. [101986]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): The Church has concentrated its efforts on making a permanent impact on people's lives rather than on material objects. This is encompassed under the NewStart banner: NewStart with God, with the world's poor and at home.

Hon. Members may like to know that the national gallery in Trafalgar square will mark the millennium by the Seeing Salvation exhibition, which will explore how the figure of Christ has been represented in the western tradition.

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In addition, the Open Churches Trust is giving encouragement for every church bell in the land to be rung on new year's day, followed by a short time of prayer.

Mr. Hughes: That is welcome. In 12 days' time we begin the celebration of the millennial year. Sometimes people suppose that the millennium is 1 January, but the millennium is actually Christmas day next year, and the whole year builds up to that. May I ask the hon. Gentleman to put to the Church Commissioners a proposal that might be a bit more permanent? Will he suggest that they invite the leaders of the Church around the world to address the following question: how will they follow the command,

The Church is very wealthy, and much of that wealth should not be held by the Church. How can Church leaders put it towards winning people for Christ, instead of keeping themselves in finery for the next 100 years?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for quoting the scriptures and for referring to one that I like very much. The other one that I like is to the effect that we should not store up treasures where dust and moths may consume them. However, let us leave dust and moths aside for one moment, as I deal with the hon. Gentleman's question.

The millennium and the Christian celebrations of it will be a year-long and not simply a one-day wonder. Faiths throughout the world have recognised fully that it is a very important Christian event; it should be supported by Christians and respected by other faiths. As the hon. Gentleman said, we, as Christians and members of other faiths, should all come together to alleviate poverty throughout the world.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): Does my hon. Friend accept that most people would very much welcome his statement that it is much more important to spend money on tackling real problems in the world than it is to build an obelisk or a memorial that would be a total waste of money?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The Archbishop of York wrote an interesting article in a Sunday newspaper in which he said that the millennium dome was important, but that the dome at St. Paul's was equally important. When it comes to spending and investing money, the responsibility of the Church Commissioners is to pay the stipends and the pensions of the clergy and bishops, and even the bishops' expenses.

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