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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 00:21 GMT 01:21 UK
Cash for 'successful' Dome defended
Empty Dome interior
The number of visitors to the Dome is far fewer than predicted
The Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended the government's decision to pump 29m into the Millennium Dome saying the attraction had been a success.

A group of 64 MPs, including senior Labour figures, signed a Commons motion expressing their "deep concern and alarm" at the decision by the Millennium Commission to give the project a fresh cash injection

They called for a public judicial inquiry into the running of the Greenwich attraction.

But Mr Prescott, standing in for Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Questions, said the Dome was the second most popular tourist attraction in the country.

John Prescott
John Prescott: Believes the Dome has been a success
"Nearly six million people have visited the facility - that is a huge amount of people," he said.

The deputy prime minister had overstated the popularity of the dome which has only had two million visitors so far.

Projected figures suggest there will be between six and seven million visitors by the end of the year, well below initial expectations of 12 million.

"Over 80% who are asked whether they enjoyed the facility say that they have and that many are returning to it," Mr Prescott said.

Shadow Leader of the House Sir George Young, standing in for William Hague, reminded Mr Prescott of some of his earlier comments about the Dome.

Early closure

"Does he recall the Labour minister who said that the Dome would be the first big test of competence for the Labour government," Mr Young said.

"He should recognise it because it was him."

Mr Young said the contents of the Dome stood as a monument to the "vanity and the emptiness" of New Labour.

The Liberal Democrats called for the Dome to be closed early, before its scheduled 31 December shutdown.

Sir George Young
Sir George Young: Dome "a monument to vanity of New Labour"
The MPs calling for a judicial inquiry believe the money given to the Dome could have been spent on education, health and the environment.

The attraction has now received 538m in support.

"This is plainly a failing commercial venture and the second problem is the lines of accountability, which are a nightmare," said Medway MP Bob Marshall-Andrew, who tabled the Commons motion.

On Tuesday the chairman of the company running the Dome, Bob Ayling, was forced to tender 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.

He said he intends to look forward and "build on what has already been achieved".

Mr Quarmby, 58, praised the 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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See also:

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Dome 'monument to Labour vanity'
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