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The BBC's Sean Curran
"The Dome has come to symbolise everything that has gone wrong with the government"
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Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Minister stays despite Dome failings
Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer: Refusing calls for his resignation
The minister responsible for the Millenium Dome has admitted it is not a success, but insists he will not step down.

Lord Falconer told the House of Lords that plans for the troubled Millennium Dome had been too ambitious and the government should never have tried to run such a major project.

When do we get to the point where you accept your responsibility and go?

Tory Baroness Anelay
But in the face of calls for his resignation as minister responsible for the beleaguered attraction, he insisted he would see the project "through to the end".

His comments echo those of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who also said it had been a let-down, but that the government had been right to go ahead with the controversial project.

Lord Falconer told peers: "The target of 12 million visitors was too ambitious and it was not appropriate for the public sector to manage such a large visitor attraction."

Jobs and economy boost

But the minister stressed it had been "the catalyst for the regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsular," which was now beginning to flourish.

It had seen 300m worth of construction contracts awarded to UK companies and 13,000 employees working for building and operation projects, he said.

We are aware of the lessons to be learnt. However, we cannot put the clock back

Lord Falconer
There had been an estimated 1bn boost to the UK economy from foreign visitors in 2000.

"This will benefit the whole country," Lord Falconer said.

But there was still more to be done. "I am determined to see this project through and secure those benefits," he said.

'I won't quit'

However, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, for the Tories, said Lord Falconer had "failed utterly" in his management of the project.

"It has been a fiasco, but the sole shareholder (Lord Falconer) sails blithely on."

She asked him: "When do we get to the point when you accept your own responsibility and go?"

She challenged Lord Falconer to reveal when he noticed things were going wrong.

As sole shareholder, it was his responsibility to notice, she said.

The Millennium Dome
The Greenwich attraction has been in choppy waters
Lord Falconer has faced rising calls for his resignation after Japanese bank Nomura pulled out of a deal to take over the attraction.

And it was revealed earlier this week that business experts warned three years ago that the Millennium project was "over-optimistic and risky" and would struggle to attract 12 million visitors.

Lord Falconer told peers: "There are lessons to be learnt and we are aware of the lessons to be learnt. However, we cannot put the clock back."

The government was in discussion with Legacy Plc on the sale of the Dome and tasks had to be accomplished.

'Risk worth taking'

The minister said he had asked for a report by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers on the Dome's finances to be placed in the library of the House.

It concluded that closing the Dome early would have been more expensive by about 30m-40m.

Despite the "disappointing" events that came to light over the summer, he said he hoped the House would understand the government was right to press ahead with the project.

"It was a risk worth taking and it was an honourable risk," he said.

But Baroness Anelay condemned the project as "bungled".

She said many people suspected he was acting as an "air raid shelter" for the prime minister and other ministers, who were hiding behind him.

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See also:

24 Sep 00 | Labour
Blair admits Dome letdown
22 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Dome a flop - Short
06 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Ditch Dome now - Hague
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