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Millennium Dome: Award Of Contracts

Volume 591: debated on Monday 22 June 1998

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3 p.m.

What is their policy, when awarding contracts for the Millennium Dome project, for ensuring that British companies have the same opportunities as those from other countries.

My Lords, the procedures adopted by the New Millennium Experience Company for procuring goods, services and equipment meet UK domestic and European Union requirements for fair and open competition among potential suppliers. My noble friend will be especially pleased to hear that UK companies have done exceptionally well in winning contracts for the Millennium Dome project with 29 of the 30 main trade contracts having been let to companies based in the UK.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that much of British industry will be pleased to hear the Answer he has given me? Although there has been much bad publicity about the millennium project, it is regarded as prestigious, in particular by overseas companies which wish to win contracts. Am I correct in interpreting my noble friend's Answer to mean that there will be a level playing field for British companies, and that the political lobbying, in particular from overseas governments, will not take precedence over commercial excellence?

My Lords, perhaps I may congratulate my noble friend on his birthday and express regret that our unfair sex discrimination laws mean that unlike a woman he will have to wait another five years for his bus pass.

My noble friend is right that the Millennium Dome contracts are prestigious. He can be assured that there is and will be a level playing field. Indeed, I should have thought that political lobbying by other governments would be a disadvantage rather than an advantage.

My Lords, I speak as a member of the Millennium Commission. Is the noble Lord aware that the Millennium Commission has funded a considerable part of the project; that it has the spotlight of the Treasury and all others upon it; and that all procedures for procurement are under a microscope at all times on such a project?

My Lords, the noble Lord had the advantage of being invited to the topping-out of the dome this morning which I did not. In that sense, his information may be more up-to-date than mine. I can confirm what the noble Lord says.

My Lords, the construction of the dome has apparently been conducted within the time limits and the budget set. It is therefore a great success in that regard; and that distinguishes it from many other major projects recently undertaken. Will the procedures adopted to achieve that desirable result be fully documented and passed on to those who may be concerned with further major projects?

My Lords, the Prime Minister made the same point this morning. I am sure he will be grateful to the noble Lord for his comments about what has been achieved so far. I think that the noble Lord's suggestion about documentation will be well received.

My Lords, would the Minister like to express a view about the rather unusual figure that appears on top of the dome?

My Lords, I am not sure that I understand the noble Viscount's reference to "on top of the dome". He may be referring to the large human figure which is to appear in one of the zones of the dome. I understand that discussions about the configuration of that figure (if that is the right word) continue.