HL Deb 29 May 2002 vol 635 cc1354-67

3.9 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, with your Lordships' leave, I shall make a Statement on the future of the Dome and the Greenwich peninsula.

English Partnerships has today entered into legally binding contracts with Meridian Delta Ltd, a consortium consisting of Lendlease plc and Quintain Estates and Development, and with the Anschutz Entertainment Group, for the redevelopment of the Dome and approximately 170 acres of land on the Greenwich peninsula. Under the deal, Anschutz will construct a world-class standard 20,000 seat arena inside the Dome, capable of hosting a wide range of entertainment and sporting events. No specific price is being paid for the land under the arena, but its value is reflected in the deal as a whole with MDL. Anschutz is committed to investing £135 million, and EP will be entitled to a share of profits made by the arena, after a priority return to Anschutz.

In the outer rim of the Dome, and spilling out into the northern tip of the peninsula, MDL and Anschutz plan to construct a mix of eating, entertainment and leisure facilities—this part of the development is known as the Dome waterfront. Again, the land value is reflected in the deal as a whole with MDL. MDL and Anschutz are committed to investing at least £65 million. Again EP will share in profits.

All risk in respect of the Dome will transfer to Anschutz and MDL, who are required to maintain the Dome until 2018. Should they decide at that time to remove the Dome structure and redevelop the land, English Partnerships will be entitled to a 50 per cent share of redevelopment proceeds. This protects English Partnerships' position on the redevelopment value of the land.

In respect of the rest of the peninsula land in the deal (around 146 acres), English Partnerships and MDL have agreed that they will develop the site jointly. Development is to take place over the next 20 to 25 years, with an end date of 2025. The detailed terms provide for English Partnerships to retain ownership of its land until individual plots are required for development. The payout will work as follows: first, an agreed minimum land value, on the sale of any parcel of land—this protects against any downturn—secondly, the uplift in the value of land, after planning permission and at the point of sale to a developer, to reflect development value. Calculation of the split varies across the phases of development, but broadly evens out to 50:50—after costs—assuming development of about 14 million square feet.

Where MDL develops land itself, English Partnerships will receive the agreed minimum land value plus a share of sale proceeds, or the value of the development—both after costs—once the development is complete.

Under the terms of the original acquisition of the land, British Gas is entitled to 7.5 per cent of sale proceeds or open market value across the site. This would apply in relation to any onward sale of land on the Greenwich peninsula by English Partnerships.

No negotiations between English Partnerships and British Gas have yet taken place on how exactly British Gas's entitlement is to be interpreted in the context of the deal with MDL and Anschutz. English Partnerships will ensure that the outcome of those negotiations represents good value for money for the public purse.

The deal's three parts—Dome, Dome waterfront, and the rest of the land—are subject to the grant of planning permission. Participants envisage making an application in the autumn. Until planning permission is granted the site will remain the responsibility of English Partnerships.

In agreeing to accept the terms of this deal, the Government have focused on four main aspects: value for money; regeneration benefits for the area; deliverability and a proper use for the Dome.

As regards value for money, we have made it clear that we would only proceed with any deal if it provided proper value for money for the Government. That included comparison with the value for money which could be delivered by demolishing the Dome, or by alternative development scenarios retaining the Dome. The net present value of the agreements that I have just outlined to English Partnerships, assuming the full scheme is developed, is around £240 million as estimated by independent advisers. The expected cash to be received over a period of around 20 years will be up to £550 million.

The division of these proceeds between the Millennium Commission and English Partnerships has not been finally agreed. At the time of the Legacy deal a formula was agreed. Because that deal was of an entirely different sort from this one, the precise application of the formula to this deal needs to be considered further. But a fair split will be worked out. The process of working out that split does not affect the deal English Partnerships has done with MDL and Anschutz. On the basis of independent advice, we are satisfied that the deal is good value for money.

If the site had been sold outright now with no joint development agreement, the estimated value of the site—the amount we would have obtained in the market—was considerably less than the net present value of the deal of around £240 million. This is so whether the Dome was there or not.

The other main comparator that we have considered is whether this current deal would have produced a higher return had the Dome been demolished and the land under it dealt with in the same way as the wider peninsula lands. Independent advice from Jones Lang Lasalle satisfies us that the value to the Government of demolishing the Dome would produce a lower return for the Government than preserving the Dome, and developing the site in the agreed way. To make available more land by the demolition would not increase the amount of land which could be developed because the constraints on development over the period of the development are not the amount of land but planning and transport.

Moreover, we have received professional advice that the establishment of a successful and iconic venue enhances the value of the rest of the development.

These agreements allow the Government to participate in the increasing value of the land across the peninsula. This is sensible, and in the public interest. As the development proceeds, land values will increase. This will be reflected in the land value element in the payment to English Partnerships when the land is sold for development.

The deal also ensures a return to English Partnerships if the Dome site is redeveloped at some point in the future. In addition, English Partnerships will share in profits from the arena and from the Dome waterfront development.

The deal contains no promise by the Government to a particular crossing across the Thames. There is no commitment of any sort in the deal or associated with it. MDL has confirmed this.

The issue of enhancing the transport infrastructure is of huge importance to many communities in and around London. The increased activity on the Greenwich peninsula which comes from this development will inevitably be a factor which will bear on those decisions. But there is no promise on this issue in connection with the deal. The question of river crossings is a very complex regional issue, extending well beyond the Greenwich peninsula and relating to traffic flows across the region, not just in respect of individual developments.

As regards regeneration benefits, the Greenwich peninsula has for decades been contaminated and badly connected to the rest of London. It has been decontaminated and the Jubilee Line extension brings with it good transport links. This development will bring tens of thousands of jobs and up to 7,000 new homes, many of them affordable. We believe that it will have a significant regeneration effect. It will create a new mini city. The MDL scheme outperforms any other scheme in regeneration benefits.

As regards deliverability, the participants in the development include players with established records in delivering developments of the size and quality this project requires. This is their core business.

Anschutz Entertainment Group is part of the Anschutz Corporation, one of the largest private corporations in the United States of America. It has world-wide sporting and entertainment interests including the Staples Centre arena in Los Angeles. It has the resources to develop and the track record which shows that it can do it. It has the energy and commitment to deliver.

Lendlease is a major development company. It is quoted on the Australian stock exchange, operates in 40 countries and has a market capitalisation of around £2 billion. Quintain is quoted on the London stock exchange and has gross assets of £637 million.

Lendlease owns Bovis in the UK and has successfully developed the Sydney Olympic village and Bluewater shopping centre. It is currently project manager for the ground zero project in New York.

These players have the resources, the experience and the ability to deliver.

As regards a suitable use for the Dome, by creating an arena and associated entertainment and leisure facilities we have found an appropriate use for what is widely acknowledged to be a high quality landmark building. Public access is assured. Keeping the Dome as the lynchpin of the development has been welcomed by the London Borough of Greenwich and the Mayor's office.

The agreements represent excellent value for money. The deal brings substantial regeneration benefits for the immediate area and beyond. It brings into the development players of proven ability and resource. It ensures that the public sector can participate in the increase in value of the whole estate as the development proceeds. It represents a fitting use for the Dome which will enhance the value of the whole project and attract people and economic activity.

A huge amount of work has gone into this deal. It represents a very secure foundation on which the Government and their private-sector partners can proceed to deliver the benefits that are available to be harvested from the Dome, and for the peninsula. We considered all other options but none offered comparable benefits.

The deal will deliver excellent value for money, thousands of jobs and homes, an exciting use of one of London's landmark buildings and the continued regeneration of a key site in the evolution of Greenwich, London and the Thames Gateway. I believe that the Government are making the right choice in entering into this deal.

3.20 p.m.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I thank the Minister for making the Statement. I understand that it is the last Statement he will make on behalf of the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions because he is moving to the Home Office. I wish him luck in his new department. I ask at the outset: will he take with him ongoing responsibility for the Dome?

I shall be charitable to the noble and learned Lord; I am not going to ask him to list the times he announced to the House that the Dome would not need further funding but, unfortunately, had to come back and to tell us that funding would again be required. The management of the Dome has been a disaster for the Government. They took a good idea and ruined it. That culminated in the awful millennium night, with its dreadful parody of English culture.

I have various questions for the noble and learned Lord. What is his final—and I mean final—estimate of the cost so far of the Dome? He has always promised that taxpayers would not bear any costs for the Dome. What costs have they borne so far? Is it not the case that taxpayers will have to fund the costs until planning permission is agreed? That cost will be at least £3 million a year. How will taxpayers be repaid? Will it be through English Partnerships? Will the Minister tell us what the alternative plan is if planning permission on the 130-acre site is refused? Can Meridian Delta drop out and, if so, will it be recompensed? When is planning permission expected to be received?

Will the Minister confirm that Meridian Delta, Anschutz Entertainment Group, Lendlease or Quintain—or their directors—have not been donors to the Labour Party? What is the nature of the priority return, mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, which is due to Anschutz? Can the Minister tell us whether the Millennium Commission will receive 50 per cent of the sale proceeds or 50 per cent of the profits originally agreed with English Partnerships? I remind the noble and learned Lord that it was conditional for the commission advancing further funding to the Dome that it received that share of the money back.

The Millennium Commission will be wound up in two years. What will happen to the share that it is owed if not all the money is paid? Why have the Millennium Commission and English Partnerships not been able to come to an agreement?

The Minister said that British Gas and its property company, Lattice, are due 7.5 per cent of the profit on any land sale. He said that no negotiations have taken place between English Partnerships and British Gas. If we are to rely on English Partnerships to conduct those negotiations, how can he assure us that best value for the taxpayer will be guaranteed? Is not British Gas due about £40 million?

Previously, in response to questions, the Minister refused to tell Parliament what his advisers estimated the value of the site to be, with the Dome and without it. What is the actual estimate—without any conditions, such as developing the site in an agreed way—of the value of the site if the Dome was demolished? The noble and learned Lord must answer that question.

We know that the Dome has an estimated life of only 25 years, but it does not seem to be standing up very well to the elements. Can the new owner apply to demolish it prior to 2018 if it starts falling down?

The Minister said that a bridge across the Thames is planned. Who will pay for it? The Mayor says that he cannot. The Minister has not made a commitment that the Government will fund the cost of £200 million. Who is going to pay for the bridge?

The Dome has never been value for money, as the Minister said. It has cost more than £800 million. There will be a return of £550 million, he estimates, but after 20 years. Not much value for money there, my Lords.

The Dome will stand as a decaying monument to new Labour. It has cost a fortune. It was all promise but no delivery. At the end of the day, like most government policies, it was only full of hot air.

3.25 p.m.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, we on these Benches thank the noble and learned Lord for the Statement. As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said, the noble and learned Lord is moving on to new responsibilities. We on these Benches greet that with mixed feelings. Whenever I speak across the Chamber to the noble and learned Lord, I always feel after the event—such is the smoothness and skill of his delivery and powers of persuasion—that I must surely have missed something and that there must be something good in whatever proposal is involved. I shall feel the same today. His move means, I understand, that we shall no longer have the brusque and human style of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker.

Does not the deal presented to us involve giving away the Dome—that catastrophic project—for the promise or expectation of profits that will repay the enormous investment, including lottery investment, way in the future? The phrase "value for money" features many times in the Statement. We have been rather beaten over the head with that phrase. If I am correct, it appears in the Statement half a dozen times. It makes one a little suspicious if people keep repeating things. That reminds me of the situation when people say, "To cut a long story short." One knows that the story will be long. When one hears the phrase "value for money" too many times, one begins to wonder whether there is any real value for money. Talking of long stories, I suggest that this story has a great deal further to run.

The Statement is complex and there are many questions one could ask. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, raised a number of them. I shall mention one or two further matters. The Statement refers to a proper use for the Dome. One wonders what an improper use would be. Was it necessary to make that point in the Statement? Obviously, the Dome will not be turned into a brothel or a venue for rave parties. We understand that it will be an eatery, an entertainment centre and a sporting centre with a rather clever name—Dome waterfront. I wish someone had thought of that name previously; it has a catchy feeling. There might have been more visitors if it had had that name. The pseudo-entertainment/education mix that it turned out to be largely accounts for its failure as an attraction.

The question of Lattice and British Gas is interesting. I do not expect the Minister to respond to that point today. There has been comment in the press about the bitterness and wrangling over the future of the 77.5 per cent entitlement in relation to land values. The Statement leaves very opened-ended the way in which that will be resolved. I hope that the Minister will say a word or two about it.

As we understand it, there is no cash at all in the venture—no cash, indeed, until the parcels of land are developed. I also find strange the reference to the fact that profits will come back in future—and, presumably, go towards the repayment of lottery funds, about which I, as spokesman on culture, media and sport, am very concerned. The Statement also contains the suggestion that if Dome waterfront is profitable, moneys will come back from the entertainments, sporting events and other activities. Will the Minister tell us more about that? Under what timescale does he expect that to happen?

I shall not follow the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, down the road of recriminations. We have done enough of that and we are all tired of it. I do not want to start beating the noble and learned Lord around the head with my own vernacular. We have heard enough today about value for money and other terms of that kind. The Dome has not been a success. We have not got out of the situation quickly and it appears that we shall not be doing so.

The Dome has contributed to a disappointing result for the lottery in recent times. People are buying fewer lottery tickets. There have also been problems in relation to the national stadium and investment in that project. What of the moneys that have been sunk into the Dome? Can we expect any repayment of those moneys and, if so, when might they be forthcoming? I expect that we shall return to this matter often in the future.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I thank both noble Viscounts for what I took to be their warm best wishes in relation to my new job in the Home Office. I may have misunderstood, but I shall be charitable and treat them as warm best wishes. I believe that today is my last day of responsibility for the Dome. That is a matter of great sadness from my point of view.

Perhaps I may begin by answering points raised by the noble Viscount from the Liberal Democrat Benches. He summarised the deal by saying that there was no money up-front in relation to the Dome and the Dome waterfront and that there was a profit-share arrangement in relation to the rest of the land. I shall summarise the arrangement. In relation to the Dome and the Dome waterfront, the purchasers are, in effect, agreeing to make an investment which totals just in excess of £200 million. They are undertaking the whole risk in relation to the Dome and the Dome waterfront. After they have made a specified return on t hose, English Partnerships will be entitled to participate in a share of the profit.

There will, in effect, be a trading entity in relation to those two parts of the deal. In respect or the rest of the North Greenwich peninsula—an area of approximately 146 acres—a joint development will be carried out on plots. As each plot owned by English Partnerships is developed, that body will receive a minimum land value and an amount which reflects the increase in the land value as a result of development. The fact that there is no up-front payment in relation to the arena or the Dome waterfront will not cost the taxpayer any money. We have received advice that there will be a limit on the amount of development that can take place on the Greenwich peninsula. It will be possible to develop an area in the region of 14 million or 15 million square feet on the rest of the land. We are also advised that an identifiable destination such as the Dome enhances the value of the development.

As a separate matter in relation to the wider peninsula, an arrangement whereby we participate as a government in the increase of the value of the land will be in the interests of the taxpayer. Everyone advises us that an outright price obtained for the land now will be lower than that obtained as the peninsula is developed over 20 to 25 years as the value of the land increases. A minimum land value will protect us against a significant downturn in the market.

Therefore, we believe the deal to be good value for money. We have independent advice that it is a better deal than either the outright sale of the land without the Dome or an identical agreement to that which has been reached but with the Dome knocked down. I am not prepared to say what the figures are for the estimated net present value of the sale of the site with no Dome on it or for the alternative development without the Dome because that could prejudice subsequent negotiations.

So far as concerns the specific questions raised by the noble Viscount on the Conservative Benches, the total amount of money invested by the lottery in relation to the Dome is in the region of £603 million. In a separate arrangement, £237 million has been invested by English Partnerships in the wider peninsula. In addition, £187 million has been invested in the North Greenwich interchange and the Jubilee Line approaches. The total of that is in the region of £1.024 billion. The private sector investment that has, or will, come back is expected to be between £4 billion and £5 billion.

In relation to the question of continued liability for the Dome, its approximate maintenance cost is £250,000 per month. That will continue to be a liability for English Partnerships until the deal goes unconditional. The deal will go unconditional upon the granting of planning permission. If planning permission is not granted, the deal will not go unconditional. Whether or not planning permission is granted is a matter for the London Borough of Greenwich and the applicants, or, if the matter is called in, for the Secretary of State and the applicants.

So far as concerns the Millennium Commission's rights, as I indicated in the Statement, an agreement in principle was made at the time of the Legacy arrangement that would ensure a fair return to the commission. This deal is different in form from that envisaged at the time of the Legacy arrangement. Therefore, it will be necessary to work out precisely how much that means in relation to the Millennium Commission's entitlement, but that will be done.

As to the position of British Gas, or Lattice, and its entitlement, British Gas has a contractual entitlement to 7.5 per cent. That must now be negotiated in a way that ensures good value for money.

The noble Viscount from the Liberal Democrat Benches asked what would constitute an improper use of the Dome. I can think of many improper uses. However, the usage envisaged here—namely, a world-class arena housing 20,000 people, making it possibly the best arena in Europe—is a perfectly proper and sensible use of the Dome.

Although a large number of questions were asked, I believe that, on the basis of independent advice that we have received, this is a very good deal in terms of value for money, and neither noble Viscount suggested a better deal.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, we are deeply grateful to the noble and learned Lord for making this—his last—Statement as Minister for the Dome and prefabs, and we wish him well in his new appointment. But, as I listened to the Statement, I could not help thinking how fortunate it is that we have the National Audit Office to analyse the structure of the deal, the risks that are being incurred by government and the eventual outcome. We shall wait with great interest to see its report and to discover whether it is as critical in the future as it has been on occasions in the past.

The nature of this deal appears to be that the Government are effectively giving away the Dome in return for a highly speculative long-term venture. The noble and learned Lord would not tell us the exact basis of current land values, but he admitted that, until planning permission is granted, there will be an ongoing liability of well over £3 million a year. Another payment of over £40 million may have to be made to British Gas—perhaps up front. And he was vague about when the poor Millennium Commission is to receive the money that it was promised would be returned to it. But he appears to be saying that the commission might have to wait almost as long as the Government for such a return.

Therefore, we do not have quite such a marvellous deal as the noble and learned Lord indicated. He spoke about a 50/50 return after costs. I noted with care the words "after costs". I suspect that in reality the Government will have very little control over the future management of the venture or over the nature of those costs. Therefore, I suspect that the speculative nature of this long-term bid is even greater than the Minister suggested. Is it not true that he is giving away the Dome after enormous expenditure for a highly speculative and very uncertain long-term return?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his good wishes. He describes me as moving on from being the Minister for the Dome and prefabs. I am not sure what that was a reference to, but I thank him for his good wishes anyway. I have gone through the matter in some detail because it is right that noble Lords should know the facts so that they can make an assessment of the situation. Like the noble Lord I welcome the opportunity provided by an NAO inquiry into the sale, so that the detail can be considered. That should give noble Lords confidence that a proper consideration of all the facts will take place. Ultimately the Government have to make decisions about the best deal that can be obtained on the Dome and the surrounding land. We believe we have that.

In picking up some of the points that have been raised, I hope that I shall not repeat myself. We are not giving away the Dome. There is a commitment to the development of the Dome and the Dome waterfront in exchange for a share of profits. In addition, there is the development agreement in relation to the rest of the site, which is a common form land development agreement that permits the landowner to participate in the expected increase of value. Yes, the noble Lord is correct to say that there is a risk in relation to that. However, a landowner in such circumstances has to ask whether one is better off taking all the money for the land up front and watching the developer take all the profits as the development takes place, or whether one would be wise to participate in the development over a period of time. With proper protections, we believe that the latter, rather than the former, is the correct course. That is the judgment we have made. The 7.5 per cent of £40 million to which the noble Lord referred has to be negotiated, but that was an agreement reached in relation to the land and would apply to any deal that we struck.

In relation to costs, the noble Lord is absolutely right. The cost to which we refer is the infrastructure improvement costs that MDL has agreed to undertake under the agreement. That is why the agreement contains appropriate engagement of English Partnerships in the process by which those decisions are made. All the points made by the noble Lord apply in practically every joint development. We believe that we have reduced the risk as much as possible.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

My Lords, has my noble and learned friend received any recent communication, expression of regret or even apology from the former chairman of the Millennium Commission who altered the rules on the siting of the Dome after the tender bids had been submitted and went against the site chosen by the preferred operator to take the Dome exhibition to the NEC, the Birmingham Solihull site? Does he accept that the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, is the father of this grief, and that had the original bid gone forward as it should have done, the millennium exhibition would now be encased in the marvellous National Exhibition Centre, the premier exhibition centre in the country?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I feel that it would be unwise of me to go into the question of where the Millennium Dome should have been sited in the first place. However, the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, to whom my noble friend refers, was a strong supporter of the Dome from the outset. Throughout the whole period of the existence of the Dome, he has remained consistent and supportive and he stands by his decisions at the outset. Whatever else one could say about the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, he has been totally consistent.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I extend to the Minister my best wishes in his new role. I have enjoyed working with him on housing matters, inside and outside the Chamber. We shall miss the presence of a housing Minister in this House. I have two questions on the Dome. First, does the Minister have any estimate of how long the planning permission will take and when the contract will go live? Secondly, on affordable homes, how many will there be and when will they be built? Quite often affordable homes are built after more expensive ones.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her genuine kind wishes. It is difficult to estimate how long the planning permission will take. I t will depend on whether the application is called in. The applicant's intention is that an application should be made in the autumn. It is hoped that the planning permission will he granted in such time to allow building work to start in 2003. On the affordable housing point, the master plan envisages that up to 35 per cent of around 7,000 homes to be built on the site will be affordable homes. I cannot say in what sequence the houses will be built. That is a matter to be discussed between the London Borough of Greenwich and the applicant.

Lord Jopling

My Lords, in view of the murky background that has surrounded so many of the deals of this Government, ending in the humiliation of yesterday, will the Minister answer the question put by my noble friend on the Front Bench as to whether a check has been made to see whether any of the individuals from outside companies involved in making this deal or any of their associates has been involved in contributing to the Labour Party? Would it not be better to come clean now rather than to leave it to the press to make a discovery in the months ahead?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I apologise for not answering that question. I am not aware whether any of the three parties involved has made a contribution. If any of the parties had, it would not have made a jot of difference as far as the deal was concerned.

Lord Campbell-Savours

My Lords, would not those who were responsible for that monument to dereliction, the Battersea power station, do well to keep their heads down in relation to the Dome?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, in a number of respects those on the other side are pretty shameless.

Lord Naseby

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord answer one question asked from the Front Bench? What return is guaranteed on the £200 million investment? Is he aware of the Public Accounts Committee report of 15 years ago, when the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, was chairman, in which it was specifically required that every government contract should contain a clause to ensure that the Government had a share in any extraordinary windfall gains? Is he certain that there is such a clause in the agreements in relation to the Greenwich peninsula development?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, there is no guaranteed return in relation to the investment of £200 million. That investment is not being made by the Government; it is being made by Anschutz and MDL. The agreements in relation to the arena and the Dome waterfront legally commit them to make an investment in excess of £200 million. They are entitled to a specified return before we receive our share of the profit. I shall not say what the share of the profit will be, as that is commercially confidential. On windfall profits, the deal has been so constructed that the Government will participate in any profits in relation to the increase in the value of the land and in relation to any subsequent redevelopment of the Dome.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, following the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, will the Government ensure that the opportunity for securing housing for essential public service employees is grasped and that they have priority in the process of housing development?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, there is a significant element in the housing proposal relating to affordable housing. The precise amount of such housing—how much will be full social housing and how much will be for key workers—is a matter to be resolved in the context of the planning application which is a matter between the London Borough of Greenwich and the applicants or the Mayor, or, if called in, the Secretary of State.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that it is fortunate that this House is sitting today—the House of Commons has taken an extra week's holiday—as it has enabled him to make an early report to Parliament about the deal? When the House of Commons resumes on 10th June will a similar report be made to that House so that it has an opportunity to discuss what is on offer?

I have a second question. The public have been sold a lot of pups. In the end, if things go wrong, they always have to pick up the tab. I think particularly of the part-privatisation of air traffic control as regards which it seems that the good deal announced to this House and another place has turned sour and the taxpayer may very well be picking up the bill. I hope that this will not be another such deal.

That brings me to my third question about the sale of the land. I understand the necessity of ensuring that the Government and the taxpayer get the enhanced value of land over a period of time. But, rather than selling the land, would it not be better to allow its development on a long lease? That would ensure that the Government share in the increased land value and the profits, but it would, nevertheless, retain the land in the long term under public ownership, or am I wrong about that?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, indeed it is fortunate that the House of Lords is sitting today. As the noble Lord has acknowledged, once the deal was done I came at the first opportunity to describe its full details. I am very grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Secondly, as to a similar Statement in another place, that is a matter for another place. Thirdly, as regards the enhanced value of the land, the nature of the landholding will be a 999-year lease that will be granted to developers.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is a distinguished lawyer. Clearly, the success of this scheme depends upon planning permission. Should it be refused and the application be called in, does he consider that the European Convention on Human Rights would consider it right and be happy that the Secretary of State, who has such a big interest in the deal, should arbitrate?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, so far as concerns call-in, it does not occur when planning permission is refused but before any decision is made in relation to planning permission. Before the Secretary of State made any decision about this he would have the views of an independent planning inspector. Issues in relation to the application of human rights and the planning law have been considered in the Alconbury case. As the noble Baroness knows, it was broadly concluded that because it is a democratically-based system the full rules of natural justice do not apply. So I am confident that the system would be able to accommodate this case.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I apologise to the House and to my noble and learned friend for not being here at the beginning of his Statement. Does he accept that there are many noble Lords who would like to congratulate him on the assiduous and good-humoured way in which he has reported regularly to the House during his time as Minister for the Dome? I think that he has served Parliament very well in that capacity.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those remarks.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, can the Minister tell us for how long the profit-sharing deal on the Dome will continue?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, it will go on for the length of the agreement; that is, for as long as Anschutz continues to operate the Dome and the Dome waterfront—the Dome waterfront being operated by Anschutz and MDL together.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, it is rather important that the Minister answers that clearly. Is he saying that in the event that the present consortium were to sell on the business to another consortium the profit-sharing deal would end?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, as I have made clear in the Statement, there is provision for English Partnerships to participate in any redevelopment of that kind.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, can the Minister tell us under what conditions the companies concerned can withdraw from the deal?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, there are a number of conditions that are not significant, save for one. The one significant condition is planning permission.