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Millennium Projects

Volume 300: debated on Monday 10 November 1997

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What the legacy of the millennium projects will be in London and the regions. [13426]

During its lifetime, the Millennium Commission will spend more than £2 billion on projects throughout the United Kingdom, covering five key themes: investing in education; promoting science and technology; revitalising cities; supporting communities; and encouraging environmental sustainability. It will thus prove of lasting benefit to the whole nation.

The forest of Burnley scheme has overwhelming support in my constituency, but it could not have gone ahead without millennium funding. Will not such schemes change the country positively for the forthcoming millennium?

My hon. Friend is right. The forest of Burnley scheme has received a £1.7 million grant from the Millennium Commission. It will create 500 hectares of new woodland and engage an arts and education programme linked to the woodland work.

I should like to add that I am delighted that, later this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio will be answering questions about the millennium dome. I remind the House how important it was that I suggested four months ago that he should take over direct responsibility for the millennium experience. It would have been improper for me, as chairman of the Millennium Commission, which provides a major proportion of the funding, to be in charge of the company that received the money.

The Secretary of State will be aware that one project being undertaken throughout London, as well as at London in my constituency, is the restoration of church bells. Is he aware of the difficulty being experienced throughout the London area and in other parts of the United Kingdom? English Heritage is insisting that church bell frames should also be maintained, even though 200 or 300-year-old frames are often not suitable for the restoration of existing bells. The Secretary of State should be aware of that problem, which is causing a logjam, as people cannot easily get up to belfries to see the frames—after all, the object of the exercise is the heritage of bell ringing and the bells themselves.

I am aware of the issue. We need to ensure that the frames are robust enough and that heritage interests are taken fully into account. I shall discuss the matter with English Heritage.

I thank the Secretary of State for the money that has already been allocated to Northern Ireland projects. Will he reconsider the problem of shortfall in the satellite for the sports academy, which is so vital to our heritage? We have been boxing above our weight over the years, as a small community. It would be worse if we did not have that facility to match the others.

I am well aware of the issue. My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport will have a word or two to say about the British academy of sport later. We hope to make some specific announcements in a few days.