Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-335)




  320. Several individual items have not come up which are probably worth raising with you before we finish. Could you just tell us what your proposed treatment of the staff is at the end of the operation?
  (Mr James) We started the year with 2,175 staff and at the moment we have 1,627. We have absorbed the wastage of staff as some have gone. We are very concerned that those people who have given such loyal and dedicated service will be dealt with at the end of the year in the best possible way and given opportunities for employment elsewhere. My colleague, Mr John Darlington who joined with me on this project in September, and I have had great success with an in-house form of outplacement and jobcentres which we have developed on other projects. Earlier this year we scored 99 per cent in a company in Northampton on the same problem. We are introducing here with the participation of our friends in the personnel department a similar outplacement operation at the Dome and we would expect to have at least 75 per cent and would be very disappointed if we do not have at least 90 per cent of all of these people with jobs by the time they leave on 31 December.

  321. That will be very gratifying for the people who work for you. Thank you for that. I want reasonably precise answers to my other points and therefore I am willing to accept notes. The first one is that in the NAO report there is a letter from the Secretary of State to the shareholder. I should like to know from you, and a number of questions have come up in the course of today indicating there was not very much of a rapid reaction to that, if there had been a rapid reaction to that, what financial difference that could have made[28].

  (Mr James) The letter dated . . .?

  322. The February one.
  (Mr James) I believe in fact there was a reaction to it and I believe that the shareholder conveyed and participated in the dialogues which led to a number of changes. It was consequent upon that that significant management changes took place which included the address to the issues of governance, but particularly the marketing and operational site management of the business as well. I think the letter was responded to.

  323. There was a demonstrable effect.
  (Mr James) There was a demonstrable effect as a consequence of that letter.

  324. Then I will have a note enumerating that.
  (Mr James) You may indeed; yes[29].

  325. I do want a note on this next one because I do not want to spend too long on it. Why do you consider the deal to sell the Dome fell through? It would be quite useful to have a note on that.
  (Mr James) This was the Dome/Europe deal.

  326. You can give me a one-sentence reply but I shall want a note on that.
  (Mr James) I would refer you to the correspondence which has been lodged in the Library of the House between Nomura and myself in which they have raised their reasons and I reject them. I have to say that I do not accept the reasons they gave which are a substitute for some other private reason of their own which they have never identified.

  327. I should still like a note of your view formally[30].
  (Mr James) You shall have that also.

  328. I have had a request from another Committee member. I do not know whether you could do this, but the question is: what visitor numbers were estimated had it been free entry and whether therefore the enhanced profits from the contents, catering, retail and so on, would have balanced it out? If you can do that, fine. I shall understand if you cannot.
  (Mr James) The only thing I can say is that on the only one day we have offered free, we hit a figure of over 40,000 on that one day. That is not really a market sample. I cannot give you more guidance.

  329. A single day probably is misleading. Can we have a copy of the Deloitte & Touche report, so we can actually understand where these numbers come from?
  (Mr O'Connor) In mid 1997.

  330. Yes, that is correct; the basic Deloitte & Touche report
  (Mr O'Connor) Yes[31].

  331. Are there others?
  (Mr O'Connor) No. I think you are talking about our analysis of the 12 million visitor target[32].

  332. Yes, that is right. Earlier, in response to Mr Rendel, you gave some figures on total cost which I have to tell you were a little confusing.
  (Mr James) Mr Rendel raised them with me in the break.

  333. Could we have a spreadsheet showing us the beginning, the end and the changes?
  (Mr James) I shall reiterate for you how I explained it in the time we had just now.

  334. In writing would be clearer so everybody can understand what is in and what is out. Can we have a copy of the balance sheet and profit and loss of the cash flow statement, the sort of thing that the board would have had available to it?
  (Mr James) At which date?

  335. Any date you like. I just want it to demonstrate what is there.
  (Mr James) We shall provide you with samples with the information as it was seen by the board at that time.

  Chairman: That would be helpful. Finally, a matter which is not coming from you to us but from us to you. You will get a copy of our two pieces of advice to show to you why we take the view we do. I shall say to you that actually the arbiter in this is made clear in Treasury guidelines: the arbiter is Parliament's view not the Department's view and I hope we shall get a letter of apology in due course when you have thought about it. Otherwise, thank you very much indeed for turning up. It is not an easy subject or an easy meeting to come to. Thank you.

28   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 4, page 000. (PAC 00-01/40). Back

29   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 44, page 000. (PAC 00-01/40). Back

30   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 44, page 000. (PAC 00-01/40). Back

31   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 4, page 000 (PAC 00-01/13). Back

32   Note: See evidence, Appendix 4, page 000, (Pac 00-01/13). Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 12 September 2001