Politics: Left-wing MP calls Mandelson to account over Dome

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The Independent Online
Peter Mandelson faced criticism from his own side in the Commons yesterday as a Labour backbencher accused him of refusing to publish financial information about the Millennium Exhibition.

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said the National Audit Office had identified "serious problems in the procurement process" relating to the Dome.

"Why do you stubbornly continue to refuse to lay interim accounts and contractual information in the library before Parliament?" she asked the Minister without Portfolio.

Mr Mandelson said all the information that such a non-departmental public body should make available would be made available.

He added that he had answered more than 100 parliamentary questions since June - four times as many as his predecessors.

For the Liberal Democrats, Norman Baker, member for Lewes, said the Ministerial Code demanded that ministers should be "as open as possible" with Parliament and the public.

"Do you feel that your refusal to give full information on the finances and details of the Dome ... and your clear wish to avoid any answers at all on your wider responsibilities, is consistent with the code?" he asked.

Mr Mandelson told him: "I answer questions fully in accord with the requirements of this House. Far from the House being denied information about the finances of the company or any other aspects of its operation, that is the opposite of the case."

The shadow Culture secretary, Francis Maude, mockingly congratulated the minister for his "victory in the titanic struggle" to persuade the Leader of the House to allow him to answer MPs' oral questions for 10 minutes instead of five as at present.

He also demanded to know what meetings had taken place between Mr Mandelson and executives from Disney before his recent visit to Florida, and why they were not publicised.

Mr Mandelson replied that he was happy to publicise such meetings because he had been urged by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee to take advice from the acknowledged world leaders in entertainment in deciding what should go into the dome.