2001 NEWS Bofors trial to begin in India on July 9: Hinduja Update - click here

5th July: One hell of an expense account! In the beginning it was announced that David James would be working for "nothing", however since taking up his position last September, he has managed to accumulate 192,000 in "expenses". But, thankfully, he will be reimbursed.

An NMEC spokesman said Mr James was receiving 120,000 this week after being invited by Charlie Falconer to estimate what his expenses had been since last September. James will receive a further 72,000 to cover the period up to the end of this year by which time NMEC is expected to be wound up.

This is an extraordinary state of affairs, because those of us who live in the real world have to provide receipts when we claim expenses.

5th July: Demolition Man ! English Partnerships is organising the demolition of the Dome's contents. English Partnerships officially took back the Dome last weekend from NMEC. English Partnerships says it has received more than 100 expressions of interest in the Dome but won't name them. It said that no details of how companies can bid would be announced "before late summer at the earliest".

It has also been revealed that the cost of keeping the Dome standing empty was 600,000 a month for the first six months of the year, adding that it included maintenance, security and care of the grounds.

24th June: Dome was full of drunks on opening night. The Daily Telegraph has reported that The Archbishop experienced "great waves of hostility" from guests at the Millennium Dome's opening night, a number of whom were "drunk" - when he recited prayers at the opening of the Millennium Dome by the Queen. Dr George Carey told a private meeting last month that the occasion had been "embarrassing" for him and "not a happy event". Dr Carey's was determined to be involved in the opening night, at the same time that the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, criticised it as representing human pride rather than Christian humility.

Dr Carey said: "Quite a few people there were drunk. It seemed so out of keeping with the context. I was embarrassed, and there are times in public ministry when you are embarrassed." The Archbishop and other Church leaders had wanted a minute's silence just before midnight, but BBC producers and Dome organisers argued that it would destroy the flow of the entertainment.

We all know that when you've got your nose in the biggest trough there is, you don't take kindly to someone wanting to stop the fun!

22nd June: Manchester is new Dome ? Is there no end to it ? The Commonwealth Games in Manchester is now being compared to the Millennium Dome. We say - hang on a minute, there's only one Millennium Dome.

As quoted in the Daily Telegraph "MANCHESTER could join the Millennium Dome and Wembley Stadium in a new and very British Hall of Shame: how to first project grandiose ideas and then so cock it up that you make a fool of yourself and make yourselves and others poorer." Couldn't have said it better ourselves! Apparantely Manchester's budget figures do not add up and so they were awarded the games without first ensuring a feasible business plan.

The Telegraph carries on ... Manchester has been " making promises they would underwrite the costs but hoping that when push came to shove the Lottery and the Government would bail them out. They have now been found out. Manchester was wildly over-optimistic about how much the television rights would sell for. It was also hopelessly wrong about costs, particularly staff costs... But Manchester's worst sin is that it has never admitted any mistakes... Now that civil servants and a respected businessman say that without millions the Games will collapse, will Manchester come clean, at least for the sake of the hard-pressed ratepayers? Don't hold your breath."

All we can say here at Not the Millennium Dome, and in defence of Manchester, is that such a good example has been set by the dome of how to swindle the taxpayer, that it is hardly surprising that another under-nourished part of Britain should want a slice of the cake. But then, it doesn't have the support of Tony Blair and, let's face it, will he really want to venture north of Watford to watch a bit of sport ?

18th June: Eden Project Update Unlike our Dome, visitors are flocking to see Cornwall's very own set of domes, the Eden Project. Check out the official website of the Eden Project here

The world's largest greenhouse was built in a former clay pit near St Austell and recreates the planet's different climates. The 86 million project was expected to attract 750,000 visitors annually after its official opening in March. However, within just three months of opening, 500,000 have been to see the domes. When added to the 500,000 people who went to the site last year to watch it being built, it brings the total number of visitors up to one million.

11th June: Election Update 4 days after the General Election and in recognition of their hard work and achievements, Tony Blair and his ministers have awarded themselves wallet-bursting pay rises. This band of jolly ministers includes our favourite Charlie Falconer, who now earns 117,979 a year.

In the new-look cabinet, Tessa Jowell replaces Chris Smith as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Outlining her ambitions she said: "My goal is to ensure that everyone, at every stage of their life, gets the chance to enjoy the best of what our rich culture and heritage have to offer." Charlie Falconer becomes a housing minister at the new Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. Everybody's friend, Europe minister Keith Vaz gets reshuffled out altogether, along with Mike O'Brien, home office minister also at the centre of the Hinduja passport affair.

Labour Manifesto Surprise, surprise, the Millennium Dome did not feature, as promised, in the first paragraph of Labour's new election manifesto! Nor the second, nor the third, nor the fourth .....

Tony Blair answers questions Newsnight about Keith Vaz and the Hindujas. See the Times of India article here

2nd May: Wembley and the Dome: The collapse of development plans for new 660 million Wembley Stadium was likened to the Millennium Dome when Tony Blair and William Hague clashed in the House of Commons. Football Association chief executive Adam Crozier said "Wembley Stadium is not the Millennium Dome Mark II... " Quite right too, everyone knows that the Millennium Dome is quite unique and that a fiasco like this cannot possibly be surpassed!

The Dome is no longer front page headlines - THIS IS ... Check here

4th April: More about Keith Vaz: The Commons International Development Committee has criticised the answers provided by Keith Vaz following its enquiries about the Ilisu Dam project in Turkey.

In a report last year MPs said they were "astonished" that the government had failed to properly consider the broader human rights implications of the dam. Keith Vaz wrote to Committee chairman Bowen Wells, the Conservative MP for Hertford and Stortford, insisting that the Foreign Office had indeed included human rights issues in its discussions of the project with the DTI. Vaz said the relevant correspondence could not be published, citing two paragraphs from the code of practice on access to government information. The Committee report found that in its evidence to the DTI, the Foreign Office statements had been "vague, unconvincing and, on occasion, desperate".

The matter was then brought to the parliamentary ombudsman, Michael Buckley, who ruled that a summary of the contents of the correspondence could be made public - despite Foreign Office protests. The committee now claims the results support its original view, and the latest report concludes that any information between the Foreign Office and the DTI "was limited to the issue of resettlement, and that it did not extend to the more general issues of human rights and conflict in the region."

The Keith Vaz Saga:

When the Hammond report into the Hinduja passport affair was published, most of the attention was focused on Peter Mandelson because he had already resigned. However, the fallout engulfed Keith Vaz too. The scandal surrounding Keith Vaz related to entirely different allegations which were being investigated separately by Parliament. Elizabeth Filkin, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, conducted a 13-month inquiry into allegations of impropriety by Keith Vaz. The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee completed the investigation into Keith Vaz in December. The committee cleared Mr Vaz of all the allegations but one. It criticised him for failing to co-operate with Ms Filkin's inquiry. Ms Filkin had been unable to reach a conclusion on eight of the 18 allegations against Keith Vaz.

The charges which defied a decision mainly involved alleged payments from businessmen in Keith Vaz's Leicester East constituency. He was accused of receiving cheques for donations to the Labour party, including one for 1,000 from Leicester businessman Bakshish Attwall, but he denied receiving the cheque and said Mr Attwall had suffered a "lapse of memory" because of his age. Bakshish Attwall presented a cheque stub from 1992 marked donation to the Labour Party and said he had given the cheque to Keith Vaz's mother. Keith Vaz said the cheque had actually been collected by John Thomas, the secretary of the Leicester East Labour party. When asked for his own bank statements, Vaz said he no longer had them and his bank was unable to provide copies. Another Leicester businessman, Jaffer Kapasi, alleged that Vaz offered to help him obtain planning permission for a mosque in return for a 500 payment in 1991-92. Vaz emphatically denied the allegations, which he said were "malicious." After contacting journalists with his story, Jaffer Kapasi retracted all his allegations when he appeared before the Parliamentary Standards Committee under oath.

Keith Vaz was accused of failing to record one of his Leicester properties in the register of Member's interests. He initially argued that the standard's committee had the wrong address, but he later admitted that they were right and agreed to register it.

On 14th March further allegations were published in The Sunday Times - that Keith Vaz failed to disclose financial links with a charity run by the Hindujas. A newspaper reported that in 1995 the Hinduja Foundation paid nearly 1,200 into Mapesbury Communications, a company set up by Vaz the previous year to handle income from his extra-parliamentary activities, for help in organising a reception at the House of Commons. It is alleged Mr Vaz failed to declare the payment in the Register of Members' Interests. It is also claimed that when Ms Filkin asked last year whether he had received any money from the Hindujas, Mr Vaz wrote back: "No donation has ever been made by the Hinduja brothers." A statement issued by Mr Vaz's office confirmed that Mapesbury had undertaken to do the publicity for the event - a lecture by Swami Dada JP Vaswani - "at cost" and said that details had been provided to the Charity Commission. "The reimbursement donated by the Hinduja Foundation was 1,196.10 (postage, the cost of invitations, some refreshments). There was no financial benefit to the company from the event. The company made a loss that year," the statement said. "Mr Vaz has never received any donations or benefits from the Hinduja brothers or the Hinduja Foundation." The statement added that Mr Vaz submitted a list of all payments into and out of Mapesbury exceeding 1,000 - including details of the Hinduja Foundation event - to the chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee, Labour MP Robert Sheldon. Apparantely, Mapesbury Communications was initially , but its purpose has since changed and he now has no formal link with it.

On 21st March, it was announced that the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner was launching a new investigation into Keith Vaz to examine his alleged links to the Hinduja Foundation.

On 26th march, he was under fire again. This time he had to defend his decision to approve 49 visa applications against the advice of immigration officers. In a Commons written reply, Vaz said the decisions followed representations from MPs. He insists they were not as a result of requests from other people.

On 28th March, it just got worse. Keith Vaz, as Europe Minister, was criticised by the Labour- dominate Commons Foreign Affairs Committee for failing to fully grasp the details of Britain's Balkans policy. The committee said it was "deeply regrettable" that Mr Vaz had not even visited the region, despite being the Foreign Office Minister responsible for south-east Europe. It said there was a "worrying lack of ministerial oversight" of Balkans policy, with only the Trade Minister Richard Caborn having been to the area since the fall of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic last year. Despite the importance and volatility of the Balkans region, the MPs complained that Mr Vaz had shown a lack of understanding of the issues when he appeared before the committee last month to give evidence. "His evidence session with us did not reveal a detailed grasp of the policy issues which the area faces," the report said. "We are concerned that there is inadequate Foreign Office ministerial oversight of an area where considerable United Kingdom financial resources and personnel are committed and which has great relevance to the future stability of Europe, and where a window of opportunity exists to effect real change. We recommend that a Foreign Office minister visit the area urgently, and thereafter should visit on a more frequent basis." The committee also highlighted the potential of the insurgency by ethnic Albanian "extremists" in Macedonia to spiral out of control unless firm action was taken. It continued "The British Government should take the most urgent steps to galvanize the international community into giving both the UN and Nato a clear remit to bring the situation in Macedonia under control and counter Albanian extremist violence against Macedonia." Francis Maude, a former Conservative Minister for Europe, said: "When I was Minister, if I had read a report like that about my performance I would have crawled off into the darkest corner I could find and hoped that people forgot about me. It is the most damning criticism of a minister's performance by a select committee I have ever seen."

On 29th March, 44 year old Keith Vaz collapsed during a television interview and spent two nights in hospital. He is pn sick leave until June - the general election is expected on June 7th.

25th March: Return of Gerald Ronson: There are mutterings that Gerald Ronson is poised to bid for the Dome, 10 years after he spent six months in jail for his part in the Guinness insider share dealing scandal.

Ronson, who is seeking to have his conviction quashed in the Appeal court, wants to use the Greenwich site for a huge leisure complex. Ronson's Heron empire is 75% owned by some of the world's most powerful tycoons including Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and the family trusts of junk bond dealer Michael Milken. He said: 'The Dome is something we're looking at very closely. 'We're very interested in it. It depends on the way the competition is framed whether we press on."

Ronson's vision is a leisure dome called Heron City, with multiplex cinemas, a 'family entertainment unit' featuring indoor games and children's facilities, fitness centres, restaurants and shops. His only serious rival is a consortium consisting of the Duke of Westminster's property firm, Grosvenor Estates, Stanhope - owned by the Government's architecture tsar, Sir Stuart Lipton - Quintain, which owns 14 acres of land next to the Dome, and Lend Lease, the giant Australian retail developer. After leaving prison, Ronson faced debts of 1.4 billion. Banks were repaid in 1994 and he refinanced his firm thanks to rich backers, and Heron International is now worth more than 1bn. Ronson made his name in the Sixties by introducing self-service petrol stations to the world. He has trawled London seeking a site for a UK Heron City after opening branches of it in Madrid, Stockholm and Lille.

24th March: Dome SUCCESS triggers bonuses all round !!
NMEC has announced that PY is to receive an extra 45,000 under a performance scheme that also triggered 41,031 for Jennie Page. PY was judged a success unlike Jennie Page who was forced to resign. Both were paid 150,000 a year, and officials said the bonuses appeared similar because directors were entitled to up to 30% of salary over their entire employment. Ms Page working three years to Mr Gerbeau's one. PY's 45,000 represented nine-tenths of a maximum 50,000 while Ms Page's 41,031 was three-tenths of the 136,769 due if she had achieved targets set when she took control.

The dome board's approval of bonuses totalling 135,620 for five former directors reflected what a flop the project was. They would have been entitled to share 389,626 if it had lived up to the advance billing. Managing director, Liam Kane, was awarded 31,559 of a possible 94,677; Commercial director, Kevin Johnson, got 8,768 of 52,608; and Finance director, Steve Brown, got 9,262 of 55,572.

Liam Kane, paid 150,000 a year during the 24 months he was in the post, immediately returned the bonus and asked for it to be donated to good causes supported by the millennium commission. We say BRAVO, Mr Kane!

David James, appointed NMEC chairman in the middle of last year, said he had been legally advised of contractural obligations to pay the bonuses. David James, who is still working unpaid to find a buyer for the Greenwich tent, paid tribute by name to PY only. "The contract for PY Gerbeau, chief executive from February 2000 to January 2001, carried a maximum bonus entitlement of 50,000 measured against overall performance," he said. "In making the award of 90% of the maximum entitlement the board recognised that PY had achieved a significant level of performance against his targets."

PY said that he was "still waiting for the letter" confirming the bonus but viewed it as a vote of confidence in his performance. "More important than the money is the recognition that I have done a good job," he said. "The board recognises I achieved all my objectives."

16th March: Even PY Doesn't Want The Dome Now! As PY says "au revoir" to Britain's biggest folly, what now ? Ministers admitted that a buyer is unlikely to be selected before the end of the year. PY thinks the bidding process could take up to 18 months and that the idea of the Dome as an entertainment centre would fade as property developers took over. PY, along with Ministry of Sound, formed New Dome Partners to bid to take over the attraction. The company said it was now "crystal clear that the sale of the Dome would be tied to a majority property deal". New Dome Partners said it was not interested in a wider project based on a major property development. The group said that without a major subsidy from a property development deal, it would not be possible for a private company to make the necessary levels of investment and be profitable.

PY said: "I am very sorry not only for my team but also for the British public, that we will not have the opportunity to make the Dome a long term success. It is a sad day for me, but I am not interested in doing a property deal and the bid process is now surrounded by uncertainty and looks likely to stretch well into 2002." He added "I want to get on with my life and I want to stay in Britain. I want to go and find a business to run, anything that's got a strong brand and is pretty much in trouble. I'm a pretty good brand promoter and a fixer."

Favourite now to take over the Dome is a consortium that includes the BBC, Madame Tussaud's and the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Estates property company. PY, however, could yet return as a member of another consortium as he seeks to retain the structure as an entertainment venture. PY's New Dome Partners group was backed by Ministry of Sound nightclub owner James Palumbo, a friend of Peter Mandelson, but his bid was dogged by doubts over his ability to finance and operate the complex. David James, the troubleshooter brought in after PY to prevent it collapsing in a financial crisis, dismissed the Frenchman's bid as "puff" and suggested the dome would never be a success as an entertainment venue.

A spokesman for Charlie Falconer said: "There is a lot of interest in the dome and English Partnerships has had around 100 expressions of interest. At the moment, bidding competition rules are being drawn up and they will be published in due course. Mr Gerbeau spoke about the bidding process taking as long as 18 months, but we hope that a winner will emerge during 2001."

With the bidding process in chaos, check here to see the latest status of those left in the running.

8th March: Hammond Enquiry published Amidst press and media allegations of a whitewash, you can read the full text of the Hammond Report here

4th March: BBC Panorama - The Hindujas Affair Typical ! The television breaks down just when you don't want it to - what can I say ... read the transcript of the Panorama programme here

2nd March: The Sale of The Century flops! The sale of contents from the Millennium Dome is expected to fall 2m short of the 5m target set by organisers. More than 1,000 items have been withdrawn from the auction. Technical equipment was originally included in the sale in the belief that the Legacy company would pull out of bidding for the Dome after being stripped of preferred bidder status. But Legacy has not yet pulled out, so items it originally requested cannot go under the hammer. NMEC now expects the sale of the 15,000 items to raise between 2.5m and 4m.

27th February: The Sale of The Century On 27 February, 17,000 items from the Millennium Dome will go under the hammer. The auction house, appointed to handle the sale, is billing it as your chance to "purchase a piece of history".

Items include a giant seagull made from recycled kitchen utensils, a pair of diamond-studded football boots and a six-foot-tall hamster, 5,000 sets of cutlery to two remote-controlled airships. Some objects may appeal as souvenirs, but the items expected to raise most money are practical items such as projectors, cranes, lights and catering equipment. The contents of the most popular zones - the Home Planet ride and the Timekeepers ball park - are not included, in case PY or another bidder succeeds in re-opening the Dome as a visitor attraction.

AUCTION UPDATE:

  • The six -foot-tall fibreglass hamster, complete with 3ft wedge of plastic cheese, was bought for 3,000
  • The Body Zone giant heart went for 1,500, the brain sold for 1,150 and the eye for 750
  • Half a flower-power mini car was sold for 450. (Rip off! I bought a whole one for less than that a couple of years ago!)
  • A life-sized figure of a depressed England football supporter was bought 900 by a scottish football fan - he said he would display it in his dance club in Aberdeen "every time England lose"
  • An engraved crystal dish went for 1,700

    Earlier news has now been moved to Dome News


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