Big business comes to aid of Millennium

The planned Millennium Exhibition to mark the start of the 21st century will definitely take place at Greenwich in south-east London, it was announced last night. After months of doubt and controversy about the funding of the pounds 500m exhibition, Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for National Heritage, announced that the event's future was assured.

"The exhibition at Greenwich will go ahead and the country can look forward to a celebration of which it can be very proud indeed," she said yesterday. "On the basis of the substantial support received from the private sector, we are happy for work on the exhibition at Greenwich to continue."

Mrs Bottomley, who is chairman of the Millennium Commission, which met yesterday afternoon, would not reveal how much money had been received in sponsorship.

Sir Peter Levene, the businessman and government adviser, told the Millennium Commission that he was now confident of securing enough private-sector backing for the event. After weeks of behind-the-scenes arm twisting in Whitehall, companies have been persuaded to drop their initial reluctance and offer support.

While the target figure of pounds 144m had still to be met, Sir Peter told the commission he felt confident it would come once work on the site had started.

Sponsors had been invited to take a pavilion for pounds 12m each. So far, only British Airways, British Telecom and the City of London Corporation have publicly pledged their support. Others thought to be interested include GEC, British Aerospace, Amec, BAA and London Electricity.

Sir Peter's report to the commission followed a recent emergency meeting between Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, and captains of industry called after business reluctance became apparent. Under the original scheme, the commission would put up pounds 200m from National Lottery receipts, the private sector would find pounds 144m, and gate receipts and licensing deals would account for the remaining pounds 156m.

Without sufficient private backing, ministers were contemplating scaling down the event or scrapping it. At the meeting, Mr Heseltine is alleged to have emphasised that backing for the exhibition should be seen not as a commercial decision but as an act of faith.

MPs for Birmingham, which lost out to Greenwich, have reacted furiously to claims that some of those at the meeting may have gone away believing they would receive peerages in return for their cash. In an early day motion tabled in the Commons yesterday, Labour MPs Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton North-East) and John Spellar (Warley West) called on the Government to ensure it was made clear that awards of peerages were "the sole prerogative of the Queen".

Mr Spellar said: "Mr Heseltine should make very clear where he stands on this. If he didn't mean to give that impression at the meeting, then he should make it clear."

He warned companies to think twice before committing cash to Greenwich: "A company that trades on a national basis, like BT, should be thinking very carefully about whether it should be stabbing Birmingham in the back to bail out a bid which is obviously not viable."

Mr Heseltine declined tocomment on the allegation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own