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Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Harris of Haringey: But that does not mean that London is threatened by Birmingham's success; indeed, quite the contrary. I should also make the point that this is not so much a criticism of Birmingham but perhaps of a number of places slightly further north. This jealousy of London which has so undermined the Dome is very damaging. It rests on the incorrect view that London has received and continues

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to receive more than its fair share of resources. The decision to site the Millennium Dome here was, for such people, yet further proof of that incorrect belief.

Yet the facts are rather different. It is not the case that London receives more than its fair share of resources. The opposite is the case: London subsidises the rest of the UK. It contributes nearly £20 billion more in taxes than the Government allow to be spent in London. What is more, London acts as the engine for the UK economy. The fortunes of the country as a whole are entwined with the fortunes of London. London is not only an employer on a massive scale accounting for 15 per cent of the workforce, but also a vital domestic market. Each year the city imports goods and services worth £53 billion from the rest of the UK and more than 4 million jobs outside London depend directly or indirectly on supplying those goods and services.

London is a magnet for the whole world. It is the main gateway to the UK and possibly the premier gateway to the European Union. Some 23 million visitors come to London each year, spending £7 billion, and many go on to the rest of the country. My point is that the UK's prosperity depends on London and its prosperity and security.

That is why the Dome and its visitors--even the more realistic visitor figures that everyone today accepts--were an important investment in locating London, and continuing to locate London, as a prime visitor attraction. It is to be hoped that not too many overseas visitors were put off by the sniping.

I conclude by echoing the words of my noble friend Lady Gibson. The Dome has also been a vital contributor to the development of the Greenwich peninsula and the wider Thames gateway. The galvanising effect of the 1996 decision to locate the Millennium Experience in Greenwich prompted a huge amount of regeneration activity that has begun to lift the whole area out of the economic decline it had been in for a generation.

The direct impact of the Dome has resulted in the 8,700 construction jobs that my noble friend mentioned, 9 per cent of them going to Greenwich residents, and the 5,700 operational jobs, 40 per cent of them going to Greenwich residents. We have seen the decontamination of 300 acres of derelict land; the creation of 50 acres of new parkland; new leisure facilities; a new primary school and health centre; 1,400 new homes and an expanded industrial estate. There are the transport improvements attributable to the Dome. I refer to the completion of the Jubilee Line extension, which I rather suspect would never have happened without the Dome; the new millennium pier at Greenwich; the widening of the Woolwich Road; the Cutty Sark station on the Docklands Light Railway and so on.

All of this has kick-started the wider economic, environmental and social regeneration of the entire area. The expected outcome of this over the next 10 years is 30,000 new jobs, increasing the jobs base in the borough by 60 per cent; 10,000 to 15,000 new homes and major improvements in existing housing;

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1,000 acres of land decontaminated; and a general raising of skills and educational achievement among local residents and an improvement in their health status.

Those will be real and lasting achievements and, if noble Lords want to draw up a balance sheet for the entire Dome enterprise, the impact on the local economy must be properly recognised, as should the impact on London and the beneficial effect that that will have on the nation as a whole.

8.2 p.m.

Lord Lyell: My Lords, noble Lords will have heard many interests declared. I shall start with that, not that I have been to the Dome. However, the noble and learned Lord who is to reply to the debate will know that I am a compatriot of his; I am a Scot. Most Sunday evenings I am fortunate enough to obtain a window seat on one of the flights from Edinburgh to Heathrow when I am able to look down upon a marvellous structure in east London. It is a striking and impressive structure and is broadly similar in outlook to some of the structures that I viewed earlier this month, St Peter's in Rome and, indeed, the lovely cupola of St Paul's in London.

The structure is beautiful from above but I think that even the noble and learned Lord and all noble Lords who have spoken this evening might admit that the events at that site on 1st January 2000 were not the most glorious debut for the project. Many reasons have been put forward for that which I may mention later. The Motion that we are discussing this evening concerns the,

    "planning, management and operation of the Millennium Dome, and of its future".

I concentrate my remarks briefly and humbly on the financial management and control of the Dome. I declare my interest as a member of the Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Many years ago when I undertook my apprenticeship in Glasgow and then in London I was taught as a young apprentice auditor to ask questions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, may have considered a career with that wonderful institute north of the Border. Certainly many of the remarks that he has made over the year--we await his reply tonight with eager anticipation--might have benefited from an apprenticeship in our perhaps slightly narrower and, I dare say, less lucrative profession.

However, in this debate I take cover behind the excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sharman, who, alas, has had to slip out of the Chamber, no doubt briefly. He used the marvellous terms "breathtaking" and "byzantine". He is a man of enormous experience, far greater than mine as an accountant. I await with great anticipation the speech of my noble friend Lady Noakes. It was nice to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jacobs. The noble and learned Lord will no doubt appreciate the wisdom and the trenchant remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, who for many years has been a representative of the accountancy profession.

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Many years ago I sat roughly in the same position as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. When any trouble was directed at me I used to invite the Opposition to play what I called a game of Bingo. I used to direct noble Lords' attention to various Acts. That worked wonders. I ask noble Lords to glance briefly at the National Audit Office report. The first provision that attracted my attention is to be found on page 31 at paragraph 2.52. That paragraph states--perhaps not in the language of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne which caused the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, some difficulty--

    "the Commission's own assessment, based on 4.4 million paying visitors, was that the Company might run out of money within two weeks and might require an additional",

sum of money. The notion of paying visitors is important to an accountant. When the report came to the attention of the noble and learned Lord, let alone any of his advisers--I understand that he has many responsibilities--I believe that it would have triggered a trip wire. However, I have never had the responsibilities of the noble and learned Lord.

Paragraph 3.7 of the report on page 40 refers to what I shall term the "forecasts" which are part of the major business plan. The paragraph refers to the run up to the opening of the Dome. The paragraph states:

    "The Company used this data in November 1998 to estimate that some 8.74 million people were 'likely' to visit the Dome and that a further 3.65 million 'could be persuaded'"

to visit the Dome. I am only an accountant. We have to leave this to the marketing people. But that might cause me to stub my little toe on a trip wire.

I apologise for directing the Minister's attention back to paragraph 3.3 on page 39. There it mentions the vast range of visitors and those who might appear. But certainly there is an interesting figure mentioned in that paragraph which hints that 11 million people might visit the Dome. Paragraph 3.13 states that 1 million schoolchildren would obtain free entry.

There will be many reasons for that. I am a humble auditing accountant. Can we differentiate between paying visitors and those with free entry? It will be nice if there will have been 6 million visitors by the end of the year. But does that figure include 5 million paying visitors and 1 million free entry visitors? The 1 million school children with free entry might have to be included in the financial forecast. Visitor numbers seem to be rather like my skiing and that of my noble friend Lord Selsdon, downhill very quickly, with figures decreasing from 12 million to 10 million to 6 million and now to 4.5 million. According to the NAO report, the figures at the end of August were 3.8 million. It is hoped that the figure will be 6 million at the end of the year. I hope that that will include 5 million paying visitors and 1 million free entry visitors, or thereabouts.

The original figure of £199 million was presented in the business plan of May 1997. That is stated at the end of the report in large capital letters.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, perhaps I may deal with that point. The May-April issue was raised with the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. I have

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had produced the evidence given by Miss Jennie Page to the Select Committee. It makes clear that the 12 million visitor figure came from the NMEC board meeting in April 1997. What the National Audit Office report indicates is that the business plan was put to the Government in May 1997 for the purposes of the review. That is why it is called the May business plan in the NAO report. It was in fact approved in April 1997 by the NMEC board.

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