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Millennium Dome: Legacy Bid

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 14 February 2001

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2.52 p.m.

What is the current status of Legacy's bid for the Millennium Dome.

My Lords, the preferred bidder letter gave Legacy preferred bidder status until today. The Government are now considering Legacy's detailed proposals on an exclusive basis.

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that Answer. Does he agree that not setting a deadline initially for the exchange of contracts when giving preferred bidder status and then setting a deadline and letting it go by, which I take to be the burden of his Answer, were irresponsible acts and unlikely to achieve value for money for the taxpayer in relation to the sale of the Dome?

My Lords, a deadline was set in the preferred bidder letter.

My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord say what has been the cost, on a care and maintenance basis, of maintaining the Dome since it closed at the end of last year?

My Lords, the costs are well in excess of £1 million a month for maintaining the Dome. However, those costs will decrease as the numbers of staff involved reduce.

My Lords, will my noble and learned friend join me in expressing pleasure at the way in which regeneration is continuing on the Greenwich peninsula, thanks, of course, to the building of the Dome in that area, and in particular in relation to the new Millennium school and the new medical centre, which are due to be opened shortly? As many people in Greenwich are obviously interested in the future of the Dome, especially those who lost their jobs when the Dome closed, can my noble and learned friend assure the House that employment is on the agenda in the negotiations which are taking place?

My Lords, I join the noble Baroness in welcoming the regeneration which has taken place on the north Greenwich peninsula. A school and a medical centre have just opened. A Millennium village is in the process of being built, and I and a number of my colleagues were present when the first tenants moved into the houses that were built there. It is a very impressive development.

As regards the second part of the question, I agree with my noble friend that jobs will be import ant when deciding the future of the Millennium Dome.

My Lords, today the Minister has told the House that a deadline was imposed. However, yesterday the Prime Minister said that it was a guideline, a schedule or something else. Therefore, can the Minister tell the House on what legal basis the Government have decided to pursue their sole negotiations with Legacy? Although that deadline has passed, what is now to stop the Government opening up the bidding process to a wider group of people who perhaps will be able to provide a much better deal for the public than Legacy seems able to do?

My Lords, the preferred bidder letter specified precisely how long Legacy would be the preferred bidder. As one would expect in negotiations of this kind, once the deadline is reached, it is a matter for the Government to decide, in accordance with the process that they have set up, what is in the best public interest. They have freedom to manoeuvre in the matter.

My Lords, can my noble and learned friend tell us what the problem is with the Legacy bid? Does a draft contract exist between the two sides? If not, what is causing the serious problem in relation to the bid? How much is involved, is a deposit required, and is there to be deferred payment? Surely my noble and learned friend should tell us something about the bid.

My Lords, it would be entirely wrong for me to negotiate these questions in the House of Lords. We are in the process of seeking to sell in the best public interest an asset which the Government own. The right way to do that is by the negotiation process.