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Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th March 1998.

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Photo of Professor Ross Cranston Professor Ross Cranston Labour, Dudley North 12:00 am, 16th March 1998

If he will make a statement on the Millennium Commission's spending on projects in the west midlands region. [32909]

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The Millennium Commission has, to date, awarded more than £80.6 million to eight projects at more than 1,000 sites in the west midlands economic planning region, ranging from an offer of up to £50 million in grant to the Millennium Point learning centre in Digbeth, Birmingham, to a number of grants of less than £10,000 to community halls and Church-based projects around the region.

Photo of Professor Ross Cranston Professor Ross Cranston Labour, Dudley North

My right hon. Friend will be aware that one of the projects funded is the black country urban forest, although he may not be aware that the commission is also funding the planting of trees in the Dibdale area of my constituency, which is a new, vibrant and growing community. Does he agree that the latter is precisely the sort of project that should be funded, benefiting not only local people now, but future generations?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith Mr Chris Smith Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I am pleased to agree with my hon. Friend. The project is, indeed, very worth while and one of quite a number of tree-planting projects that the Millennium Commission has funded. It will help to reverse the devastation of the natural woodland of the region since the industrial revolution. More than 100,000 people are expected to participate actively in the scheme over five years, and more than 1.1 million people living in the catchment area will benefit. That is a very good example of the many projects that the Millennium Commission is funding. I sometimes wish that our friends in the national newspapers would learn that the Millennium Commission is about a lot more than just the excellent millennium experience in Greenwich.