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The BBC's John Pienaar
"The government says it still supoorts the dome"
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Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
MPs demand Dome inquiry
The Millennium Commission ordered a change of chairman
More than 50 MPs are calling for a public judicial inquiry into the running of the Millennium Dome.

They have signed a Commons motion in which they express their "deep concern and alarm" at the decision by the Millennium Commission to give the project a further 29m.

Bob Ayling
Bob Ayling was ousted
They say that money could have been spent on education, health and the environment.

The chairman of the company running the Dome, Bob Ayling, paid the price for the fiasco on Tuesday when he tendered his resignation.

He has been replaced by David Quarmby, 58, who directs the British Tourist Authority and has been a New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) board member since 1997.

The Tories say that Mr Ayling has been made a scapegoat for the government's failure to ensure the Dome's success.

Ministers have consistently sought to fend off criticism by saying the government is not responsible for running the attraction.

Bob Ayling is clearly a scapegoat

Peter Ainsworth
Shadow culture secretary
Following the Dome's latest request for funds, the ailing exhibition has now received 538m in support.

Its main problem has been its inability to attract sufficient visitor numbers to meet its ambitious business plan.

It is now predicting seven million visitors this year - making it potentially the most popular attraction in the UK - but far short of the initial projections of 12 million.

'Minister should resign'

The public inquiry motion was tabled by Medway Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews and the Labour chairmen of three Commons select committees - Gwyneth Dunwoody, Martin O'Neill and David Hinchcliffe.

David Quarmby has been on the board of NMEC since the start
David Quarmby: On NMEC board since 1997
Mr Marshall-Andrews said the affair raised serious concerns over accountability, with Lord Falconer - minister with responsibility for the Dome and the holder of the government's share in the project - acting as "both borrower and lender".

He added: "I think it reflects precisely the way people feel right across the party about this.

"This is plainly a failing commercial venture and the second problem is the lines of accountability, which are a nightmare."

Shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth said Lord Falconer should have resigned.

"Bob Ayling is clearly a scapegoat and the latest in a series of Dome victims," he said.

"Ministers are responsible for this mess. Every time they are forced to admit things have gone badly wrong they look around for people to blame."

Looking to future

But Mr Quarmby, also chairman of the Docklands Light Railway, remains upbeat about the Dome's prospects.

Despite the Dome's financial troubles he has said he intends to look forward and "build on what has already been achieved".

He said Mr Ayling had "been central to the amazing sponsorship success story without which the project would not have been possible".

Mr Quarmby, 58, also heaped praise on NMEC chief executive Pierre-Yves Gerbeau and his team, describing them as "terrific".

He said the Dome had more than one million advance bookings for the rest of 2000 and higher visitor satisfaction "than any other visitor attraction in Britain".

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