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Lord McIntosh: Actually, my Lords, it says, "Spirit Level", but the noble Baroness is right in saying that it ought to be Spirit Zone.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, the Spirit Zone will depict our spiritual heritage, and that is fine. But it is not enough. An exhibition within the dome can be visited or not visited on a "pick-and-mix" basis and most visitors might not even visit it. But every visitor has to go through the entrance, and it is there that I would want to see the symbol of our Christian heritage. The millennium offers us a new opportunity to return to our religious background, and I hope that the dome can be an outward and visible symbol of that.

In party political terms, this side instigated the dome and now that side is entrusted with the task of seeing it to completion. The arguments of whether we should or should not have a dome are irrelevant and time-wasting; but we have a superb opportunity to influence the manner in which the dome is used to continue the Christian tradition of this country.

4.31 p.m.

Lord Annan: My Lords, with the usual vanity of old age, I still picture myself as someone who throughout his life has welcomed the new, tried without success to get institutions to reform themselves and enjoyed putting drawing pins on the seats of the pompous and the mighty. And when the National Lottery was set up I spoke in the House in favour of giving a tranche of money to celebrate the millennium. But when I am asked to praise the dome, I do find myself in great difficulty. So I expect that I am yet another old curmudgeon incapable of empathising with the generation now in power.

I do not agree with those who say that the money would be better spent on the National Health Service or better education--those two insatiable suppliants, like the poor, are always with us. But I do think it is fitting that our country should make a statement about the future: indeed a permanent monument to itself. In France, every president, like the Roman emperors, commemorates himself. There is the Centre Pompidou, which was designed by the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, or La Defense for M. Giscard D'Estaing, or M. Mitterrand's third Opera House at the Bastille. Germany is rebuilding the old centre of Berlin to celebrate reunification. What have we got? We hoped to be singing an oratorio but instead we have a gig.

We got more than that over 40 years ago. The Festival of Britain had its gimmicks, like the Skylon that symbolised nothing, and there were other temporary landmarks which were later destroyed. But the festival had a real theme. It was centred upon the Festival Hall and the promise of galleries, theatres and concert halls to come and which now fill the South Bank. During the war there emerged a passion for reading and enjoying the arts, and Keynes's creation of what became the Arts

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Council was the bureaucratic expression of this desire to respect and encourage the arts: indeed, modern art. That was coupled with hostility to the old guards' philistinism and a determination to get rid of anachronisms like the Lord Chamberlain's censorship of the theatre.

The festival was a lot of fun, but it also had a purpose and a message; and so indeed 100 years previously had the Great Exhibition. The theme of the Great Exhibition in 1851 was domestic peace, British trade and British products and technology. Paxton's Crystal Palace in Hyde Park was so admired that it was re-erected in south London. Can the Minister tell us: will it be possible to re-erect Lord Rogers' dome and, if so, where might it be? Surely, considering the expense of designing and erecting it, it would be deplorable if in the year 2001 it was demolished and sold for scrap.

Will the Minister today be able to lift a corner of the veil to reveal some of the mysteries that the public will see inside the dome? I ask because every revelation so far makes one fear that the contents are going to be an extension of Disneyland. The visitor, it is said, is going to move from what is called "an experience" on to the next "experience". I do hope that the Minister will be able to dispel the impression one gets from the media of infinite triviality. For instance, we have been told that there will be a Christian dimension within the dome; but what form is it going to take--a tabernacle for each branch of the Christian faith--or will it be, as I rather hope from what the right reverend Prelate said, an historical survey of 2,000 years of worship and doctrinal development?

That having been said, I feel it is only in our cathedrals and our churches that the great expression of Christian welcome and thanksgiving for the millennium should take place. It does not seem to me good enough for the Government to repeat that the dome is to be a symbol of "New Britain", "Cool Britannia" and all the other slogans which have now become cliches. My mind goes back to the time of that other great cliche, when Britain was to be transformed by the white hot technological revolution. It is too much like the "I'm Backing Britain" campaign in 1968. The other day Mr. Francis Wheen reminded us that the most memorable suggestions among the 100 cranky suggestions for helping your country were then that children should agree to forgo milk at school and adults should drink British mead. What does the Prime Minister expect the Panel 2000 to come up with? The comparable committee which was formed 30 years ago to boost Britain came up with zilch.

I hate being a wowser. I hate the role of "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells". I sympathise with the Prime Minister's desire for informality, for openness and to override class and ethnic distinctions. But the case that the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, deployed against the dome doing anything to give effect to these desires and to illuminate the future was certainly devastating. Yet I hope that he and I are going to be, despite the omens, surprised and delighted when the day dawns.

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4.38 p.m.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, upon my way here this afternoon I stopped at the John Simon Hair Salon at the other end of the Palace of Westminster. That, incidentally, is a facility available to all Members of this House, whether hereditary or life peers, in answer to a point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. I asked the young lady who was cutting my hair whether she had ever been to Greenwich to see the Millennium Dome being built. She said that she had. I asked her what she thought about it. She said, "Wow, amazing!". Like the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, I recently visited the dome with my wife. My feelings, too, were in the "Wow, amazing!" category.

Those inverted spider legs pointing towards the sky have the potential of being part of a remarkable building. The newly opened visitor centre was impressive. In the visitor centre we were told of the range of things that there would be available to look at and discuss in the Millennium Dome. For example, "Where in our solar system would human beings be likely to be living by the end of the next century?". What would be the role for oil, now seen as a great environmental pollutant? What would be the role for oil in transport in the next century?". Those are intriguing subjects.

It is clear, too--I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, on this--that the building of the dome is a great spur for the rehabilitation of Greenwich itself. I have long thought that with the Naval College, the Maritime Museum, the Painted Hall and the observatory, Greenwich has the potential to be the London rival to Versailles, which so far it never has been. Of course, transport by railway, tube and river has to be developed. That will come as the dome takes shape.

But I agree with the worry expressed by my noble friend Lord Peyton and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, about the temporary nature of the structure; it is ephemeral, and unlike what was done in 1851 when, after the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition, the great museums in South Kensington were built, or the exhibition in 1951 which gave birth to the buildings on the South Bank, the dome will make no permanent contribution to the advance of Britain.

I agree, too, that the Government seem to be dangerously absorbed in the quick message--the ephemeral, the strapline, the 10-second soundbite and the "Cool Britannia" message rather than in the content. I have no wish to be a killjoy. I think of the £100 billion party there will be around the world during the year 2000, but what at the end of the day will be available? The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is looking at me---

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would care to move to another microphone.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, is that better?

Noble Lords: No.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I will shout. I am very sorry if my precious words have gone

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missing. I was saying that I have no wish to be a killjoy, but I fear that at the end of the year 2000 about £100 billion will have been spent around the world and there will be little to show for it except for a hangover.

In that context, I was struck--again this goes back to something said by the noble Lord, Lord Annan--by the piece of paper I received about Panel 2000 from the FCO just the other day. What are the emphases behind Panel 2000?

    "To produce a strategy for the public presentation of Britain worldwide ... to review, and where necessary, modernise the instruments ... for projecting Britain overseas; to engage Government Departments ... in promoting the same messages; to modernise the style and means of the FCO's public communication".
That is all fine as public relations, but where is the beef? Where is the real content? I hope that from now on the Government will concentrate less on the spin and more on the ongoing substance of what can be done with the millennium lottery money to ensure positive progress in Britain.

When I was Minister for the Arts when the millennium concept was started, I was keen on the idea that it should concentrate on our island's story. I thought that our precious waterways could be done up and our canals restored to provide cheap transport. Riverside warehouses could be repaired so that they could be used as video sites. New housing could be built on the brownland near our harbours. At the same time the appropriate sports could be developed: fishing, sailing, canoeing and so forth.

The idea was not favoured by the Millennium Commission, and, of course, as my noble friend Lord Peyton said, the finger of time has now moved on. Perhaps I may put a second thought. I hope the Minister will not mind if I take a further minute as I was more or less silenced for a minute or two.

My second thought is that the millennium lottery money should continue but that it should be used to develop programmes for Food for All in the 21st century, because it is surely extraordinary to think that, as we approach the new millennium, 750 million people go hungry in a world where food is plentiful. Surely there could be no greater challenge for the millennium than the transformation of agriculture in a way which stresses conservation as well as productivity. We should design "better" plants and animals, develop alternatives to inorganic fertilisers, improve soil and water management and enhance earning opportunities for the poor in the least developed countries.

If we in the rich countries do not do that, the numbers of poor and hungry will grow to perhaps another 2.5 billion in 25 years' time. If we play a creative part, we will have done something remarkable. We should remember Christopher Wren's son's words about St. Paul's Cathedral:

    "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice".
The Prime Minister or Mr. Mandelson will never use those words about the dome, however much fun it is. But it would be a different story if Britain were able to help solve the interconnected problems of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. The Government could then use those words.

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4.46 p.m.

Lord Sefton of Garston: My Lords, I do not know what happened to the last speaker. I wear a deaf aid and I had a loud noise in my ear. We are debating the Millennium Dome at Greenwich. It reflects time. We have had the Christian religion for 2000 years. I would not like to argue about whether Christ was a man or divine. We are talking about religion in an historical context. I wonder how many people there are who have been persecuted by those of the Christian faith? If we are to be honest, a very great many. That is a matter of belief and faith. We should be honest. We do not want the dome being used as a method of propagating a certain religion. If we examine that religion and its effect on our civilisation we find that it is not good. After all, martyrs were burnt at the stake; for instance, Joan of Arc. People were crucified by religion. One of them, our so-called originator, was crucified by those of another religion.

We cannot continue to talk about the contributions which the Church has made. Some of the finest contributions made in our civilised world have been made not by Christians but by those who were condemned by Christians. That is amazing. It is ironic that the scientific discovery--the median line--which firmly established the fact that the world was round and was opposed by the Catholic Church was made in Greenwich.

I wish to turn to the history of the dome. The decision to build it was confirmed in June last year, but it had already been taken by the previous government. I do not know why those people who are critical of the present Government do not direct their forces at the previous government. This Government have continued the policy of the previous government and we did not bother about it.

The point that is being missed relates to the moral theme; the reason why the dome is being built, who is paying for it and what we are doing about it. I expected to hear the Church castigate the Government for the introduction on a huge scale of one of the most pernicious and evil practices in our world. I am talking about gambling. The money for the dome-- £400 million, £500 million or probably £1 billion before it is finished--will come out of the lottery. Whose money goes into the lottery? It is not the fat cats who go down to the shop on the corner to buy a ticket. No, they are not the people who buy tickets. Those who buy tickets are the deprived people in our society who really believe that it will get them out of their dire straits and allow them to enjoy the kind of life enjoyed by the so-called richer people.

That is the real moral issue that we face. It is the most obscene thing I have heard, because we are spending millions of pounds on a building of this kind when at the same time the income of poorer people is being cut. I do not care whether those incomes are being cut because this government accepted the spending policies of the previous government. The proposal is obscene, evil and it should be stopped. The sooner we realise that this so-called civilised society about which we like to boast, and about which we would like to boast in the

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new millennium, has some very immoral trends which do not give a damn, the better. I believe that the dome personifies the ultimate materialism--materialism gone mad--started by the first Prime Minister of the previous government and now, I am afraid, being made almost permanent by some members of this Government.

4.53 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil for initiating this debate in his own particular way. I beg leave to doubt whether life was dull in his Ministry. The word "dome" derives from the Latin domus: a house, a home, a stately building and also a cathedral church. Like my noble friend Lord Peyton, I think it not unreasonable to expect some reference to our Christian tradition in the great new experience that awaits us in the dome. I suppose we should be relieved that, according to Mr. Mandelson:

    "One of the three sectors of the outer ring--the doughnut, as I call it--is about our bodies, our minds and our souls and there will be opportunities for all faiths and none to find their sense of spirituality reflected in the experience".
I hope that we shall not find this being expressed solely by rock groups, led perhaps by Mr. Prescott's water-pouring friend, or by a Heaven disco, or by some suitably multicultural raggas.

So far, the structure has put money in the pockets of German and American contractors. We have not heard about what it has done for major British contractors, but I hope that we will. I hope that it will be used to demonstrate British innovation and success.

I warmly welcomed the Millennium Commission's choice in February 1996 of Greenwich as the site for a Millennium Exhibition based on the theme of time. The borough of Greenwich has been campaigning for this since 1962 and the hoped for outcome is to be 7,000 new jobs, where there has been the worst economic decay in London, and 10,000 new homes. Derelict and contaminated land will be reclaimed, the water front will be developed, part of Greenwich will have World Heritage status and, not least, there will be for the first time good transport links.

All that is excellent, but there remains a question. What is the value of the dome? At least the Government have moved from accepting the extraordinary decision of their predecessors that the dome would operate for only a year--that is, until the year 2000--to keeping their options open and deciding in the year 2000 on its future use.

What is the point of the dome, which covers, incidentally, 50 of the 100 acres of the millennium site? Mr. Mandelson told the Culture, Media and Sports Committee in December 1997 that when the new government came in:

    "We were concerned about the apparent absence of any idea of what would go in the Dome, the contents of it. The thing was being constructed, but it was very much a blank sheet".
That, I suppose, should not surprise us since, as my noble friend Lord Peyton said, the bland optimism of its beginnings must be remembered. I suppose that giving birth to the dome was as much as could be managed.

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Now Mr. Mandelson tells the Committee that he was saying to himself:

    "Crikey, this is going to be absolutely dramatic. It is going to be fantastic. [There will be] multimedia technology--an element of live performance--10 different zones of interactive attraction which will really engage people, involve them, stimulate them".
He goes on:

    "When you move on to art and sport, and everything else that is new, you will be going through a vast, huge in scale, interactive attraction which comes under the working title 'Play at Surfboard, the new 21st century sport'".
Incidentally, the working title for the interactive exhibit is,

    "Qualify for 20 jobs you never knew existed".
Presumably, the interactive experience will include climbing in and out of the giant hermaphrodite's kidneys.

I hope that there will be plenty of examples of brilliant British information technology, artificial intelligence and so on, but I confess to a nasty suspicion that, although the theme is supposed to be time--the actual title is "Time to Make a Difference"--and one might have expected some of our not unremarkable historic achievements as a nation to be part of the Millennium Experience, we shall find that the clock starts only with Cool Britannia 1997. The dome will not be Byron's,

    "ambitious airy hall, the dome of thought, the palace of the soul",
but a modern structure apparently composed of a drum and a doughnut; a display area for the Spice Girls, no doubt, or for even cooler successors in the pop world, with perhaps a tunnel of love for BSkyB. The trouble with cool events is that they pass their sell-by date a good deal faster than the more durable events of a national history.

Of course there has to be a major historical attraction at the centre of the new development, but I confess that I share the reservation of the committee about the premise that there will be 7 million visitors a year. The entrance price is said to be "not cheap" and there will be no parking except for coaches. As families tend to travel by car, where will those from outside London park before they transfer, we hope, to the Jubilee Line? I do not know whether the committee has yet seen, on a confidential basis, the contingency plan or the details of the all-important private sponsorship. We are told that those sponsors exist, but not how much they are prepared to give.

I do wonder how the essential action by the British Tourist Board, British Airways and the other organisations which will need to publicise the tourist attractions of the dome can be achieved in time for the millennium date. However, in fairness, I must say that I have been told that they can happily wait until October, surprising as that seems.

Not least, there is an alarming plethora of committees, ministries, focus groups, action groups and so on all involved. Incidentally, I wish the commission very well. We need it to succeed. I suppose that Mr. Mandelson is in the driving seat. Has he a road map; or perhaps I should say a stopwatch which works? Greenwich had a clear vision. Mr. Mandelson's vision seems to me to

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be typical of the now familiar incoherence of the spin doctors in which the word "about" crops up with painful regularity.

I can only hope that Mr. Mandelson will heed the words of Richard von Weizsacker who said:

    "Those who close their eyes to the past become blind to the present".
Returning to Cool Britannia, the most probable formative influence on the contents of this £0.5 billion dome, did I tell your Lordships that the word "cool" also means a tub of butter--28lbs to be precise?

5 p.m.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, I am deeply grateful to my noble friend Lord Peyton for his introduction, in his own inimitable way, of this debate. I am concerned in this debate by the idea that a recognition if not a memorial of an event such as the arrival of the second millennium should be of such an ephemeral nature, however large it may be. Indeed, it is an enormous and impressive engineering structure. After all, the arrival of the millennium is an event of enormous significance not just in the Christian sense--and here I accept that the date is symbolic rather than accurate--but it is also an event of enormous importance in the secular sense.

It is to be an example of our achievements and inventions, of the progress of society and of our influence in the world at large. Those are indeed of immense importance and we can be truly proud of them. Why then do we deliberately raise a temporary structure which has a shelf life of only 25 years? Something like an exaggerated Bedouin tent, however close it may be to the meridian, is surely an unacceptable eyesore and irrelevant to the great symbolic event we are to celebrate. If one does accept that symbolism, surely the dome is not only inappropriate, but it is also grossly impertinent.

On the other hand, it could be regarded as an excellent example and perhaps a reflection of the impermanence of our society. But perhaps that is something that we should not wish to celebrate too much.

But that is on the negative side. It is right that we should celebrate the great inventiveness of our nation and perhaps it is a little ironic that we should be making such a fuss over a replacement for the hoover. However, we have developed the most advanced legal and social system which has been the model for new nations throughout the world for the past 200 years, while, incidentally, Europe in general has been struggling with a top-heavy Napoleonic system which it is now struggling to perpetuate.

Our efforts have been helped and guided by our Christian faith, a faith which is not entirely reflected for all of us by the Anglican Church. However, accepting that we are in a constant state of change, it is not surprising that Mother Church itself is having difficulties with the speed of change which is perhaps reflected in the sizzling speed of advance in the information technology field.

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There we have our two most important bases--our contribution to civilisation and our Christian faith for the present society. Indeed, those may be the two most important factors. It does not seem to me that they require the dome.

Previous civilisations have built for the future. They built their pyramids, cathedrals and temples. In 25 years, we shall have nothing to show. It is easy to criticise from the comfort of these Benches, but I believe that we could have done better. However, as I have no proposal to put before your Lordships that in the time available would match the celebration which I envisage, I shall cease my carping and pray that that odious example of tat will be more than a funfair and will be a satisfactory lift to the souls of the great British public and our guests from overseas.

5.3 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, it is not every day that I find myself in broad agreement with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston. But his description of this whole Millennium Dome project is most aptly summed up in one word that he used; that is, "obscene". It is morally and totally wrong. It is not of lasting endurance.

We are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, for raising this matter and giving everybody an opportunity to air their views and perhaps give some cause to rethink before more millions and millions of pounds are wasted, leaving no lasting legacy through the next 100 years of the next millennium, let alone the next thousand years. It is entirely right that we should have this opportunity.

Reference has been made to the fact that the date of 1st January 2000 is indeed commonly regarded as the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the Son of God. I reflect also that many of our greatest churches, if they do not exactly date from the beginning of the last millennium, at least date before it and some shortly after--Westminster, Durham, Ely and Salisbury. I mention only the large churches. I believe that I am right--and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich will correct me if I am wrong--to say that in Grantchester, or very close to it, is the oldest church still in use, which dates from about the Norman conquest.

If this country cannot afford £750 million today, and it will undoubtedly be substantially more when the thing is finished, would it not be correct to ensure that those churches, which reflect the birth of our Lord, should be put in such perfect order as the day on which they were built so that they will see this country through for another 1,000 years? Charity begins at home. It does not begin on a waste site in the south-east corner of London.

We are told that the roof of this edifice is likely to last only 25 years. Can anyone envisage that in 25 years time, another government will say, "We must put the roof back on this thing"?

The noble Lord, Lord Luke, expressed the wish that a political influence on and involvement in this exercise should be removed. I express the hope that there will be great political influence in this matter because I do not

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believe that the majority of people in this country want to see such vast sums of money squandered on something of such short-lived duration. For that reason I say that if, as I find it highly likely, the Labour Party is still in office in the year 2000, an awful lot of political brownie points will be lost to it if the project goes ahead. Although I speak from these Benches, it must not be thought that I am particularly inclined towards the Labour Party. If I were inclined with feelings anywhere, it would be towards the party with which I had the honour to sit for many years in your Lordships' House. But I believe that many bad marks will be gained by the political party in office if this project goes ahead.

Have we thought of the transport? That matter has been raised by other noble Lords. I thought that we wanted to try to reduce the number of cars being used in this country. But what are we to have? Millions of pounds will be spent on a car park, instead of an environmentally-friendly and substantially improved public transport system to the site, if it goes ahead. Again, I believe that that is not in keeping with the present thoughts which seem to emerge from the Government at present.

The Festival of Britain left us a legacy; namely, to promote the arts. The Government of this country donate the same amount of money to assist the arts as is given to the state opera in Hamburg. Indeed, that amount covers the whole of the arts spectrum in Great Britain, and it seems to me that that is the wrong direction and the wrong train of thought. I hope that we shall cut our losses and that this project will be reconsidered.

5.10 p.m.

Viscount Brentford: My Lords, I very much hope that the dome will end up by being as fascinating as the speech that my noble friend Lord Peyton made when opening the debate. Indeed, I thank him warmly for doing so. The dome is certainly one method of celebrating the anniversary that we have been discussing. This is not a party political matter, as both the previous government and this Government have supported it.

The first part of my noble friend's Motion relates to cost. Perhaps I may mention that there are many arguments which state that the money would be better spent in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and educating the illiterate. I very much hope that this Government will do both. I look forward to the Government increasing their aid programme as they have promised. I also look forward to hearing the Answer to a Question tomorrow morning as regards their progress in that respect. I am glad that we are going to construct a marker which will clearly identify--and be remembered as a marker--the person whose anniversary we will celebrate; namely, the Lord Jesus Christ who is perhaps the only person alive today who was alive 2,000 years ago.

I hope that the Minister will be able to help me as regards the question of the length of life of the dome. I thought it could have a length of life of 50 years, but reference was made by the noble Viscount,

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Lord Mountgarret, to the term of 25 years. My noble friend Lord Peyton referred to a short life span and, indeed, one noble Lord mentioned that the dome would be demolished by the year 2001. When he replies, perhaps the Minister can tell the House how long the dome will last.

I turn now to the question of "accessibility", which also forms part of the Motion. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an update on the state of the Jubilee line and its present timetable. To travel to the dome on that line will be both practical and dull, while travelling by the water bus will be exciting, interesting and sometimes extremely dodgy bearing in mind the winds that we had last weekend. Indeed, I think that I would perhaps prefer to travel by the Jubilee line.

The main point of issue is, of course, the content of the dome. I hope that it will look back over the past 2,000 years and cover the country's progress and failures. I certainly take into account what the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, said about the failures of people who call themselves Christians and have done many appalling things. However, nothing will disparage the person of Jesus Christ whose anniversary we will be celebrating. I also hope that we can look forward to what the future holds and that the dome will enable people, especially the young, not just to see events but also to experience them. I am not looking for a Disney-type of programme, but one which is educational. Indeed, several noble Lords have mentioned the expansion of knowledge through the dome. I trust that it will be thoroughly purposeful as well as interesting.

I should like to make one specific suggestion to the Minister; namely, that I hope the Government will include in the dome a portrayal of their anticipated progress for the UK over the next 20 years leading up to, for example, "Welfare 2020", as set out in the welfare Green Paper. Visitors will then be able to monitor the progress that the Government are making as regards their proposals for the next 20 years.

I am told that there are very good relationships between, on the one hand, the New Millennium Experience Company and the Government and, on the other hand, other interested parties, such as the Churches. I am very grateful and appreciative of that fact. I hope that those discussions will continue amicably and fruitfully. Of course, this will not be the main Churches' celebration; indeed, there will be many others involved. However, it is good that the Churches are involved in the dome.

We are fast approaching Easter and I have been reading about the contrast between what some people call the "vacuous dome" and the "empty tomb" of Christ. The empty tomb is a symbol of faith in divine power. I trust that the dome will not be vacuous but that it will be thoroughly inspiring.

5.15 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Peyton has an established reputation as a scourge of governments, both Conservative and Labour. Today he was, as usual, at his most effective;

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indeed, he is a sort of one-man Select Committee. In listening to his robust opening speech--and very witty it was, too--I was reminded of the character who slew the Jabberwock:

    "One, two! One, two! And through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back".
I hope that that is not what will happen to the dome or the Millennium Experience. But, listening to some of the apocalyptic suggestions that have been made today, I must admit that I wonder.

The debate has ranged very largely over the spiritual, which is obviously extremely important. Indeed, I agree with what has been said. However, for the few minutes at my disposal, I should like to deal with the practical. I shall begin with the contents of the dome. This seems to be entirely in the hands of the Minister without Portfolio, so admirably represented in this House by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who is the Minister for many portfolios. Indeed, there are so many of them that I am afraid I have lost count. But no doubt the noble Lord will be able to remind me of them at a later stage.

While we await the great announcement regarding the contents of the dome, I sometimes feel like some sort of spectator at a conjuring show as I wonder whether the Minister will produce several rabbits out of a hat or whether he has some card tricks up his sleeve. I hope that we shall hear something about when the great contents of this important experience will be announced.

I have one suggestion for the Minister. Only last week the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who spoke earlier, was searching for a location for the statue of Raleigh, which seems to be a very vexed question. Perhaps one location for the statue would be inside the dome because it is situated in Greenwich which is a great maritime location and, indeed, Raleigh was an important explorer. However, I suspect that that suggestion will find its own level, as yet another non-event.

My other practical point relates to transportation, which was mentioned earlier by my noble friend Lord Luke and more recently by my noble friend Lord Brentford. There seem to be serious problems with the Jubilee line, which has always been considerably under-capitalised. It has also had technical difficulties. Therefore, I hope that we shall hear some good news in that respect and that we shall be told that it will be completed well in time. I say that because, without the line, there will be serious congestion. The alternative of course is to travel by way of the river. I find river transportation to be a most exciting and attractive possibility. The river buses were started some years ago but they came to an end. That was partly because, again, they were under-capitalised and partly because the service was rather infrequent. Will the Government be able to guarantee that there will be a sufficient volume of river buses travelling up and down this important water highway, as that will make a great difference? It is an effective and ecologically sound system of transportation.

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Those are merely a couple of suggestions. The Millennium Experience will undoubtedly take place. There is no way that it can be stopped although one or two noble Lords have suggested that. We want to ensure that it is a success, not a failure, and that it is something of which the nation can be proud.

5.20 p.m.

Viscount Thurso: My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, for the opportunity to debate this important matter, not least because there has been so much inaccurate speculation on the subject of the Millennium Experience both in the press and elsewhere, and this debate gives us an opportunity to lance that boil and to hear from the Minister some of the facts that pertain to the dome.

It seems to me that the Millennium Experience, or one's views on it, are certainly not a party matter. As I have listened to the debate in your Lordships' House I have detected a division across all parties as between those who are for it and those who are against it. One could say that there are "domosceptics" and "domophiles". I believe that your Lordships' House has demonstrated a clear "domosceptic" tendency this afternoon. There does not appear to be too many in the "domophile" camp. I hope that over a period of time we may be able to change that. On my Benches I know that there is quite a strong "domosceptic" tendency. I count myself fully, clearly and absolutely in the "domophile" camp. I make that declaration most happily. I was, and am, in favour of the concept. I am in favour of the site; I like the project and I like what it is intended to achieve. Therefore I am "outed".

However, I have serious concerns regarding the execution of the project on which I wish to ask the Minister some questions. I recognise that he may not be able to answer all of them today. If time does not permit him to do so, I hope that he will write to me. Before I mention those concerns, I wish to touch on the spiritual side of the matter which has been mentioned this afternoon. I had not intended to talk about it at all as I had not anticipated that the debate would go in that direction. However, a number of noble Lords have made valid points in that regard. I am a practising Christian and a member of the Church of Scotland. I believe that we ought to distinguish between a secular celebration about a point in time, on the one hand, and the 2,000th birthday of Christ, on the other. I believe it is perfectly appropriate to hold a more secular celebration in the dome and, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, so rightly pointed out, to let the Churches celebrate the 2,000th birthday of our Lord Jesus.

We must take into account that we are a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society. It is important that no one should be excluded from the Millennium Experience. As regards the experience, there are two excellent precedents, as a number of noble Lords have pointed out. I recently attended an exhibition illustrating the restoration of the Albert Memorial and I discovered some interesting facts. I discovered that the Great Exhibition cost

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£12,000 to mount. It would be interesting to know the equivalent sum in today's money. That exhibition made a profit which enabled the commissioners to buy land near the exhibition which became known as "Albertopolis" and houses the Victoria and Albert Museum and many other buildings. Somehow "Mandelsonville" does not have the same ring to it. Of course, the Festival of Britain also attracted many visitors.

I shall now discuss the concerns that I have. First, on the question of finance, the total budget for the project is £758 million, of which £399 million is to be provided by lottery grant and £359 million by sponsorship, commercial deals, merchandise and so on. I have had small responsibility for a number of projects and I have managed to run over budget on one or two of them. On a far bigger scale we have seen what has happened with some public projects, for example the British Library, the Channel Tunnel and a few others that have run way over budget. How much of the budget for this project has been spent? Is that portion adjudged to be within the budget? What is the size of the contingency which the budget contains? How much, if any, of it has been spent? Does the Millennium Experience Company confidently expect to achieve its budget goal? Is it still on target?

Further, we assume that the £399 million of lottery grant is safe. However, the other £359 million may be less reliable. I understand that the sponsorship comprises chunks of £12 million. That is a great deal of money and a high target for any sponsor to have to produce. How many sponsors have been signed up, and does the Minister feel that is progressing well? Can the Minister tell us the breakdown of the sponsorship money within each of the zones? In other words, how much of the money will be spent on infrastructure and how much on what one might describe as "what the customer sees", as clearly the sponsors will not be able to commence their projects until they know how much money they have to spend?

My second general area of concern has already been mentioned by a number of noble Lords; namely, access to the site, and in particular transport. I warmly commend the decision--I believe everyone on these Benches commends that decision--that it should be essentially a car-free site. In the middle of our capital where there is so much public transport it is appropriate that that should be the preferred method for transporting people to the site. However, as has been pointed out, that will depend very much on the successful completion of the extension to the Jubilee Line. I believe that is due to be completed in spring next year. Can the Minister give us some assurance on that point?

Not long ago the All-Party Tourism Group was given a briefing by one of the operators, who told us that the 35,000 people who are estimated to attend each session is roughly equivalent to the same number of people who travel by tube each day to Harrods. That puts the whole thing into perspective somewhat; it is not such a difficult target after all. However, I would like some reassurance on that point. A great number of visitors will travel to the site from outside the capital. They may even travel down from Thurso, as I have done today. What

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arrangements are being made to put in place through-ticketing facilities? Is it possible to provide a through-ticket to take me from Thurso by plane and by tube to the millennium site?

My third area of concern is one that I also view as an area of great opportunity; namely, tourism. Clearly there are huge opportunities for the Millennium Experience to boost tourism in the country. The BTA estimates that about £500 million will flow into the country directly as a result of this project. However, London First has predicted a 20,000-bed shortage in London. What thought has been given to the pressure that will be put on beds? Is the BTA taking any action in that regard? Clearly many domestic visitors will choose to visit the Millennium Experience rather than visit some other leisure or tourist activity in the United Kingdom. There is therefore a danger that much tourist spending within the United Kingdom will take place in London when that money might have been spent elsewhere. That is a challenge for the English Tourist Board. It would be interesting to know what the English Tourist Board plans to do in that regard.

In his excellent contribution, my noble friend Lord Newby mentioned many of the benefits to Greenwich and the area, one of which I should like to touch on. I refer to the possibility of the dome being retained at its present site and used as a conference centre for London. I very much hope that it will be retained at its present site. As a hotelier practising in London, I know that a proper conference centre in London is very much missing. The site, though not perfect, would afford a very good opportunity for such a centre. It would be a most useful contribution to the capital.

The only other danger that I can foresee is that we have now reached the point when it is time to let the operators operate and the managers manage. If one is to believe the press--not something I do very often--there seems to be a danger that the Minister without Portfolio is moving the goalposts on a fairly regular basis. I hope the reports are untrue. If they are not, I urge the Minister to resist, since I believe that we have now reached the point when the operators should operate.

I come back to where I started. I am firmly "domophile". I wish it the greatest possible success; I am sure that it will be a success. I look forward to hearing from the Minister the facts that will back that up.

5.31 p.m.

Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, I too join with other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Peyton of Yeovil for making this debate possible and for opening it in his inimitable fashion.

The debate has shown that the Millennium Dome arouses decidedly mixed feelings. I confess that I am what the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, called a "domosceptic". Everyone agrees that we should mark our entry into the third Christian Millennium with important and memorable events. But doubts are bound to arise when we move from the general to the particular, and many have surfaced in the past two

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hours. Even those of your Lordships who have wholeheartedly supported the project believe that it can be improved and have made many valuable suggestions to that end.

Many of the doubts stem from a basic disquiet about the conception and position of the dome itself. I know I am not supposed to say anything against the dome, because it was thought up by the previous government. Still, we cannot avoid the topic altogether since most of the practical problems which your Lordships have raised refer back to the original decision.

To start with, is there not something ironic about a structure to mark the dawn of a millennium which is programmed to last for 25 years at most? It is ironic, but natural, I think, because the dome has no purpose beyond itself. The great public buildings of the past, whether religious or secular--our cathedrals and parish churches, our great civic buildings--were built for use. They had a function; they were set in centres of population. The noble Lord, Lord Montague of Oxford, reminded us that the 1851 exhibition was held in the heart of fashionable Mayfair. But the dome has no function, no use, nor have the Government any plans for it beyond the year 2000. It is a magnificent empty shell covering 20 acres, the ultimate expression of an architect's ego, aggressively situated in its own remote and isolated space.

My noble friend Lord Renton and the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, pointed to the local benefits which Greenwich will receive as a result of the dome, and I welcome that, but we are discussing the dome, not the area of Greenwich. As my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth said, what is the point of the dome? The dome was commissioned first; then they had to think about how it was to be paid for, how people were to get to it and, above all, what they were going to put into it. That was all the wrong way round. It is a triumph of fantasy over reality; yet we are meant to be a practical people.

It is the practical aspects of the project which we have been discussing today. Naturally enough, your Lordships have expressed concern about the cost, none more passionately than the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston. The dome is expected to cost £758 million, a colossal sum, which is bound to overrun--it always does. Of this, £399 million will come from the National Lottery, distributed by the Millennium Commission. Almost half of the national budget of the Millennium Commission will go to this single project. Was this the right message to send to the regions? Does it not reinforce the impression that a London-based Parliament will always think first and foremost of London, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said, and, what is more, of a politically correct London, as my noble friend Lady O'Cathain said?

Stephen Bayley, the former creative director of the so-called experience, said that he could have created a stunning exhibition and building for £100 million. What is the Minister's response to that? I look forward with much interest to hearing it.

Sponsors are supposed to provide an extra £150 million. The figure of £75 million has been mentioned as already committed, but the last figure

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I had was £58 million. What is the actual figure to date and what realistic hopes are there of obtaining the rest? What further inducements will the Government have to offer to obtain the rest? In fact, £194 million is expected to come from ticket sales and what is called merchandising and licensing, although this estimate wholly depends on the number of visitors. Naturally, we are worried about the costs. Having just been involved in the passage through this House of the National Lottery Bill, as the Minister well knows, I fear that more and more National Lottery money will be diverted to this experience from the other very good deserving causes.

My noble friend Lord Luke dealt ably and eloquently with the problem of access, which is the key to visitor numbers. I completely share the excitement of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, about river transport and its possibilities. I wish to ask just one question: when will the Jubilee Line be finished? The date for completion is always being pushed back. It was once expected to open this spring; then it was pushed back to September. The new opening date is now spring 1999. Have we any guarantee at all that this section of the line will be operational by the time the experience is meant to start? The Channel Tunnel is not exactly a comforting precedent. How much will this line, with its enormous capacities, be used after 2000? That is another point on which I would be interested to have the Minister's reply.

These problems are reinforced by doubts about the content and what will go into the 20 acres. Many of your Lordships have pointed to the absence of an adequate Christian content. Indeed, I believe that that has been generally regretted. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, made a telling attack on the cultural nullity of the project, its ephemeral character. My noble friend Lady Park asked whether Peter Mandelson has a road map. No, but he has recently visited Disneyworld. I do not know to what extent the contents of the glossy brochure Millennium: Time to make a difference--which I recommend that all noble Lords should read if they have not done so already--reflect his experiences there. Written in ad-man's babble, it tells us excitedly about the great experiences the estimated 12 million visitors can expect in the 13 exhibition zones. In the mind zone they will be able to,

    "Discover the creative power inherent in us all".

In the body zone they will,

    "learn how to get the best from"
the human machine. They can open up their minds to life-long learning, travel around the British Isles and try out their skills, including their talking skills. No doubt exhausted by these invigorating activities, they will then be able to relax in a,

    "restful landscape of smooth pebble shapes",
before ascending, refreshed, to something called the spirit level to reflect on,

    "the values that underpin our society".
Are you not all longing to go?

I recommend this vainglorious, empty production to anyone who has not yet seen it. I have rarely felt so depressed or ashamed when I read it--its poverty of

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language; and the thinness of its inspiration; what my noble friend Lord Elton called its "tattiness". My noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry, asked, "Where's the beef?" The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, called it obscene for its vast cost and the impermanence of its designs. Give me Disneyworld any day. At least it tries to connect the present to the past, and to peer into the scientific future. Here there is no sense of the past, no sense of the triumphs and tragedies of the last millennium to inspire and warn us as we enter the next. And no sense really of the future: at Greenwich, the home of time, time is dissolved into the politically correct present.

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, mentioned France. How much more confident in their culture and judgments are the French. I have been looking through their plans for the millennium. I shall not go into them, but the basic equivalent of the dome will house three major international exhibitions devoted to contemporary art, a portrayal of the major intellectual movements and events in French history, and a collection of masterpieces from all over the world, with equivalent supporting tableaux.

Surely we have more to be proud of in the past, more to offer the future than pebble shapes in restful gardens and Godless spirit levels. My noble friend Lord Peyton reminded us that this is a Christian occasion. But the absence of any adequate recognition of this fact is only the most blatant of the many omissions in the project. Whatever else it exists to do, the dome has certainly not set out to praise our famous men or women.

In the change of governments--I am sorry to interject a political note, but I think it is appropriate--the dome has become the symbol of the emptiness of new Labour. We have a teflon Prime Minister and his monument will be a teflon dome--a magnificent shell built for him by the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, full of hot air supplied by Peter Mandelson. What could have been a memorable event has become a branch of showbiz, a toy of admen and spin-doctors: structure without purpose, form without content, hype without substance--a grandiloquent statement with nothing to say; a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

I urge the Government to take serious note of the suggestions that have been made in the debate and avoid the coming mess.

5.40 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, for introducing the debate. I am not as depressed as the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, about the tone of the debate, despite the last speech. I never feel that scripted abuse goes down terribly well in this House. The noble Viscount made a distinction between "domosceptics" and "domophiles". I counted five unregenerate "domosceptics": my noble friend Lord Sefton, the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, the noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, the noble Baroness, Lady Park, and the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, above all. There are some who perhaps might be called reformed "domosceptics" like the noble Baroness, Lady

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O'Cathain; and I thought to some extent, because he was judicious in this, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. But the majority of the 19 speakers, with proper and responsible reservations, were on the whole in the camp of the "domophiles" and I am grateful for that.

It is important that we should have these debates in Parliament and it is important that they take place, as this one does now, just over a year since the first announcement was made. It will be recalled that the last Conservative administration had the support of my colleagues in Opposition, who recognised the significance of the year 2000 and the opportunity it provides to make a great public statement about the Britain in which we live (and what is wrong with statements being in physical form as well as human form? I did not understand that point) and the world we are going to live in as the new millennium dawns.

In January last year the project did not have planning permission and work had not begun to clear the site of 150 years' worth of polluting chemicals. The operating company had a small board and an energetic chief executive but little else--no staff, no money, no offices and no business plan. It was very different from what we see today. The site at Greenwich is clear, and I can assure noble Lords who are concerned that it has been approved by the Environmental Agency as clear of pollution. The dome is growing before our eyes. The roof is now being unfurled. A large proportion of the content has been announced to the public and designers are continuing to work on the fine detail; and under the excellent management of the board and chief executive--I shall name the chairman of the board for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, Bob Ayling of British Airways, and the chief executive, Jenny Page--the project is on time and within budget.

When this Government decided in June of last year to back the experience, we made five clear commitments. The first was that the experience would cost no more to the taxpayer than the sum already committed to prepare the site. The second was that the contents would entertain and inspire. The third was that the experience would be a truly national event. The fourth was that it would provide a lasting legacy. The fifth was that the management structure of the company would be strengthened by the best creative and business talents available. That is a challenging task and I wish to report now to the House on each of those five commitments.

On cost, the project is developing well within the budget we have set it. In addition to the £399 million lottery grant, the company, in partnership with government, is working with a large number of major corporate sponsors. Seventy-five million pounds (not £58 million) of sponsorship has now been committed and the company is well on its way to reaching its £150 million target. British Telecom, Manpower, Tesco and Sky have made substantial commitments, each making contributions of at least £12 million to the project. The amount of £12 million is not a minimum sum for participation in sponsorship. The British Airports Authority, British Airways and the Corporation of the City of London are also committed to the project and the company is in serious discussions with another

8 Apr 1998 : Column 796

40 companies for smaller amounts. On all those matters, we are on target for the lottery grant and for sponsorship; and that will appear when the new Millennium Experience Company publishes its corporate plan in due course. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Park, of the 22 major contractors for the site, 21 of them are UK-based.

On the contents, of course there will be different views. Everyone in advance of seeing the content plans is entitled to fear, with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that there could be infinite triviality. But seven of the main exhibits were presented to sponsors and the press at the Festival Hall on 24th February. I saw them some time before that. I have to say, as one of those who was understandably nervous about the contents, as any sane and rational person would be, I was, again to quote the noble Lord, Lord Annan, surprised and delighted.

Having seen what I saw--it was only at a very early stage--I felt that it is something that I and my family and friends would not only want to go to once but would wish to return to on several occasions. I thought that the ones I saw were high quality. They breathed life into the central and core themes. They showed the ingenuity, imagination and talent of young British designers. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, that they are certainly not only for the under-40s. I appreciate that she is approaching the age of 40, as I am approaching the age of 65, but the exhibitions are for me as well as for her. I hope that she will enjoy them in due course.

The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, made an interesting proposal that the Government should present a 20-year plan in the dome. I like the suggestion that we shall be in power for 20 years, but some of his noble friends might be nervous at the suggestion that we should put forward such political propaganda.

The next commitment which we made was on national impact. The most important thing I have to say is that 80 per cent. of millennium expenditure will be outside the dome in other parts of the country. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, is quite understandably afraid of people being excluded. The national programme was the least developed part of the Millennium Experience under the last government, but we have been working hard to ensure that there will be a wealth of events and activities around the country.

There are two separate strands to the company's nationwide programme. The Millennium Challenge is the umbrella title for a series of major artistic, sporting and heritage initiatives which the company is supporting around the United Kingdom during the years before 2000. These will complement what goes on at Greenwich and link into individual zones within the dome.

There are participatory projects already well developed such as Our Town's Story, in partnership with local education authorities, which will involve children putting together histories of local communities. I hope that will be of interest to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford. The Millennium Generation, in partnership with BBC local radio and the British Library is an ambitious oral history programme. I hope this will help to build up

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the legacy which we believe will be provided by the millennium. Living on the Line will link people and places in eight countries along the Meridian line. I hope that it will address the issue of world poverty, which was properly raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry.

The company is also contributing £20 million to a £100 million Millennium Festival of celebratory projects in the year 2000. All the lottery distributors--the Millennium Commission, arts councils, sports councils, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Lottery Charities Board--are also taking part. We warmly welcome this millennium spirit of co-operation between the distributors.

Finally, around the country, from 1st May this year we shall set up one-stop shops for each country of the UK, receiving proposals for festival projects. We may stop short of paying for fireworks and parties, but we hope that a wide range of projects will apply, including artistic exhibitions and performances, sporting contests, heritage and charitable initiatives and religious events.

A number of noble Lords quite properly referred to the legacy which would be left behind. The physical legacy of the experience is becoming clearer as each day passes. One only needs to visit Greenwich to see the regenerative impact of the investment, the improvements to transport infrastructure, the creation of jobs, particularly in Greenwich, and a sense of local pride in what is being achieved.

A number of noble Lords made contrasts between 1851 and 1951. Of course, the Crystal Palace, being moved, survived for a long time until sadly it was burnt down. In 1951, apart from the Royal Festival Hall, most of the exhibition--the Skylon and the Dome of Discovery--was rapidly removed by the incoming Conservative Government in case it might serve as a memorial to Herbert Morrison. My honourable friend Peter Mandelson did not pay for that testimonial!

I was asked about the physical structure of the dome and whether it will last for only 25 years. There was only one preceding dome. It is in California, it is over 25 years old and is showing no signs of age. Let us hope the dome can last much longer than 25 years, certainly the steel structure can last at least 60 years. It can be dismantled or moved; it is perfectly possible for it to stay there. The suggestion of a convention centre made by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, is a sensible one which we shall take seriously. The dome could go somewhere else and it could have a considerable life into the new millennium. I am not at all afraid of the judgment of history about something so remarkable in itself which so many people from this country and around the world will see and of which they will be proud in the coming years.

I referred to the management of the dome and the Millennium Experience. That commitment is being well fulfilled by the existing management. A number of noble Lords referred to the transport to and accessibility of the dome. Of course, it is on a regained site, surrounded on three sides by water. We have the commitment of London Underground that the Jubilee

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Line will run a through service from Stanmore to Stratford via Greenwich well before the opening of the Millennium Dome. The travel time on that will be approximately 12 minutes from central London. It will almost certainly be on fixed block signalling rather than on the more experimental signalling, but that may be a relief to some of your Lordships.

On river services, we have done a great deal. I am not sure how many noble Lords observed that the Deputy Prime Minister announced on 16th March that, as part of his Thames 2000 initiative, £21 million was being allocated to boost new passenger transport services on the Thames. I hope that that will reassure the noble Lord, Lord Luke, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. We expect a million people to travel by boat from central London. There will be new piers and new river services and there will also be a certain number of park-and-ride facilities, although, as the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, said, it is our intention for it to be a car-free zone except for the severely disabled and essential workers.

There will be integrated ticketing. It will be possible to buy coach, rail and air experience tickets at the local supplier of transport and Camelot will act as agents. So there will be an outlet within three miles for 95 per cent. of the population.

I hope I am being given extra time, because the microphones went down, to talk about the religious aspect of the millennium. The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, challenged me to say what was a spiritual experience. I started to think of that distinguished man of the cloth, Sydney Smith, for whom it was eating foie gras to the sound of trumpets. However, I decided not. Now it is listening to John Peyton at the top of his form.

Perhaps I may say something about the religious aspect of the millennium. The Government fully recognise that the millennium is a Christian anniversary and want to see a proper acknowledgement of the Christian heritage of the country in the celebrations, including at Greenwich. Reference was made to the Spirit Zone and, as the right reverend Prelate said, Christian elements in other parts of the content of the zones. The suggestion about Jubilee 2000 and third world debt is appropriate.

However, Britain is a multi-faith society and the Government are determined to ensure that the celebrations are relevant and accessible to those who are adherents to other faiths or who have no formal religious beliefs. The year 2000 will, after all, be significant to people who use the Gregorian calendar.

Through a consultation group which meets at Lambeth Palace, the Government, the Millennium Commission and the New Millennium Experience Company have built a good working relationship with the Churches and other faith groups in respect of millennium planning. The group has produced a document giving guidelines to events organisers on how millennium celebrations can be made inclusive of Christians and adherents of other faiths. The Lambeth Group has also produced a document setting out the spiritual values which it wishes to see enshrined in the Millennium Experience at Greenwich. The New

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Millennium Experience Company is giving this serious consideration and is taking the advice of expert witnesses from the Churches during these critical months.

The company is considering various ways in which the Christian heritage of this country can be incorporated within the experience and its national programme and is looking into the options for providing worship spaces for different faiths. The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister without Portfolio have all stressed that spiritual as well as physical renewal should be a key theme. That is something which the Minister without Portfolio stressed in his recent constructive meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I do not have time to deal with the wide variety of Church projects which the Millennium Commission and other lottery grant-giving bodies are providing. But I am pleased to agree with the right reverend Prelate that the dome is not the most important part of Christian millennium celebrations. The Churches are planning a wide variety of events and activities for the year 2000 focused on Pentecost weekend in that year.

In the time available I hope that I have answered the majority of questions raised in this valuable and important debate. We believe that it is an important and essential reaffirmation of our confidence in ourselves, our belief and our understanding of who we are and what we may be in the future. I express again my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, for raising the issue.

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