WHEN the idea of building the Dome was conceived, it was promised it would be a lasting landmark to the nation's celebration of the third millennium.

Tragically, within a few days of the new millennium it was apparent it would fall way below those high hopes and high expectations.

As a visitor attraction in the year 2000, it has proved to be an unmitigated disaster. It has failed to attract visitors in the vast numbers that were forecast, and it has been a constant drain on public funds.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Government should have abandoned the project long before it got to the drawing board stage.

Even finding a future use for the Dome has turned into a nightmare.

It is difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that the Government wants rid of the embarrassment as soon as possible, ideally well before the next General Election.

Handing it over to a consortium to transform it into a business centre represents the final abandonment of the original aspirations for the Dome.

As a visitor attraction it at least had the semblance of a national phenomenon. As a business centre, creating 14,000 jobs, the Dome will become closed off to the rest of the country, accessible only to those who work there.

If the intention of building a Millennium Dome was to pour millions of pounds of public money into creating thousands of jobs, then there must have been more worthy sites than the outskirts of one of the most prosperous cities in the world.

Positive force

ONE of the tragedies of the Balkans crisis of the past decade was the rest of Europe's inability to intervene in the interests of peace and human rights.

The task of pulling together a peace-keeping force from the disparate nations of the European Community proved cumbersome and laborious.

It is pleasing to see that lessons have been learned with the creation of the European Union's Rapid Reaction Force.

Britain's inclusion in such a force ought to be perceived as a positive move in the pursuit of European security.

Surely, our national interest is better served by having a role in maintaining stability on our continent, rather than standing idly by and watch it be torn apart before our very eyes.