Ministers hatching plan to thwart backbench rebels over Dome funding

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Ministers are planning to thwart a rebellion by Labour MPs over the crisis at the Millennium Dome by delaying a crucial vote on the attraction's funding.

Ministers are planning to thwart a rebellion by Labour MPs over the crisis at the Millennium Dome by delaying a crucial vote on the attraction's funding.

The Government is bracing itself for the publication this week of a damning report by the National Audit Office which confirms the Dome's budget has risen to nearly £790m, about £30m more than its original £758m spending plans.

The release of the NAO report on Thursday will greatly increase pressure on Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the "minister for the Dome", to offer his resignation, despite his earlier pledge that he wanted to see the project through to the end of the year.

He is expected to be blamed, along with the Dome's operators and Millennium Commission, for failing to heed warnings about the Dome's unrealistic target of 12m visitors and to control its repeated overspending.

The NAO report will also confirm that the New Millennium Experience Company quickly spent its £88m contingency funds by diverting most of it into meeting overspends building the Dome's zones.

It confirms that revenue targets were badly hit by Lord Falconer's decision to give 1 million schoolchildren free entry.

Although other ministers suggested yesterday they expected him to toughen it out, about 50 Labour backbenchers have already signed a Commons motion protesting at the Millennium Commission's decision to give the NMEC a further £179m in lottery money this year.

Those decisions, which have taken the total lottery funding for the Dome to £628m, have to be passed by votes in the Commons and House of Lords under a technical measure to legally extend the length of time the commission is given lottery funds until next year.

It is understood ministers will delay those votes until December, helping the Government avoid an embarrassing revolt in the Commons and possible defeat in the Lords.

Comments