My Lords, the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) is extremely encouraged by the continuing upward trend in visitor numbers: 10 million paying visitors over the year will enable the company to deliver a break-even operating budget. The company's target remains higher than that, but its focus at this stage is on achieving that figure of 10 million. Over 1 million people have visited the Dome so far, which is remarkable in itself given the fact that January, February and March are traditionally low season periods for visitor attractions.
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that Answer. However, in view of the Question that I asked on the subject of the chairman and board of the NMEC on 10th February in this House and the fact that the chairman of the company no longer has his day-time job at British Airways after a £60 million loss in the first quarter of the year, do the Government still think that he is the right person to be chairman?
My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that everyone will hope that M. Gerbeau, who seemed somewhat surprised to get the job, is successful at the Dome? However, has the noble and learned Lord read reports in the press that there were several M. Gerbeaux at Euro Disney--one very highly paid, one very senior and one junior and not so well paid? Will the Minister categorically and unequivocally deny the rather alarming suggestion that the wrong M. Gerbeau was chosen?
My Lords, I categorically and unequivocally deny that the wrong M. Gerbeau was chosen. Our M. Gerbeau is delivering a great service to the Dome, as can be seen from the huge visitor numbers that we are now seeing.
My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what is the effect of the combined tickets that we see being advertised now for the Dome and the London Eye, which, of course, has been very successful? Can the noble and learned Lord also tell us how the money will be allocated between the two; in other words, will they be run independently or jointly? What will happen in that respect?
My Lords, visitors to the Eye can buy a ticket there which will take them down to the Dome by river. That is a marvellous journey and one that I would recommend to everyone in the House. The money for the boat trip will be allocated to the boat operators and the money for entrance to the Dome will go to the NMEC.
My Lords, I trust that my noble and learned friend will forgive my voice. Will he accept the plaudits of Back-Benchers for the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, was not chosen for the post?