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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the pre-conditions that were imposed by the Millennium Commission included ensuring that there was proper management and that that amount represented the last draw-down from the Millennium Commission. The management is in place and discussions are taking place to finalise how the other pre-condition will be achieved, but they are almost there.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, can my noble and learned friend remind me who set up the board and the accounting standards for the Dome? Was it this Government or the previous government? If he inherited the structure from the previous government, did he find it satisfactory?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the structure that runs the Millennium Dome was set up in 1996 under a previous Conservative government. We adopted that structure and did all that we could to make the process work. It was a structure that had cross-party support until there was an element of unpopularity, at which point the Conservatives abandoned their support.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, has the Minister read the Question, which is whether the Government are satisfied with the financial position of the Millennium Dome? He did not answer the Question. He did not say that they were satisfied. Therefore, may we construe that they are not satisfied?
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, if he and the Government have done their best, it would be a sad look-out for this country if they ever did their worst? Their best has proved to be an absolute disaster. They abused public money and betrayed public trust. If they are so keen on the regeneration of Greenwich, why did they not allocate government funds for that? It would have cost everybody a great deal less.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not accept the premise of the question. Everybody knew when this project was embarked upon that risks were involved. The Millennium Commission, the previous government and this Government went into it with the best of intentions; namely, to regenerate that part of the country and to provide an exhibition for the millennium. We were not wrong to do that and it will certainly bring regenerative benefits.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, that question probably relates to whether or not there is a register of the assets within the Millennium Dome. There were difficulties in relation to that in regard to Nomura. There was an exchange of correspondence in that regard, which I placed in the Library of the House last Wednesday. I tried to provide as much detail as possible. I suspect that some of the information will be commercially confidential but, in so far as I can provide more details, I shall.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that when both governments decided to initiate and continue with this project, they showed vision and imagination? Any leisure project would have found it difficult to succeed in the face of such enormous hostility, both from the media and from politicians who do not have the imagination to see what is at stake.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I agree that both our Government and the previous government showed vision and imagination in taking the risk in relation to the Dome. Plainly, the attitude of the press had some part to play, but other factors were involved as well. For example, it was said, "It can never succeed within just a year", and, "The public sector may not be the right people to run an attraction of this sort". But we have learnt lessons from it and I am quite sure that both parties went into it with the right motives.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as to the last point, the noble Lord may be the sort of person who would get out from under, but my intention is to stay with this until the conclusion. As to whether or not this is the last tranche of money from the lottery, we received advice from PricewaterhouseCoopers. That has been looked at by both the Millennium Commission and Mr David James--a man in whom there is universal confidence; it has also been looked at by independent accountants on the part of the Millennium Commission. All those people believe that no further money will be required from the lottery.
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced on 29th September that members of the Fuel Supply Task Force had signed a memorandum of understanding to put in place more robust systems to avoid disruption of fuel supplies. The full text of the memorandum and its signatories has been published and placed in the Library of the House. The task force continues to meet to discuss whether further measures need to be taken to ensure that the disruption caused by the recent protests is not repeated.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. I heard in the Statement made in this House last Thursday that some broad principles had been agreed within the task force but had not been made public. The Statement went on to say that the task force would continue to look for possible changes in the criminal law. When the resulting recommendations are made, will the Government consider carefully the personal situations of tanker drivers and others involved, some of them self-employed, some sub-contractors and many members of trade associations and trade unions?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the memorandum of understanding made clear where the work of the task force would be focused; that is, on the joint early warning systems and the joint crisis management systems and in tackling the potential for, and allegations of, intimidation of tanker drivers. That is the work to be done. It is not appropriate to give all the details of those issues. The House can be certain
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of allegations from the Transport and General Workers' Union that many tanker drivers were leant on by their employers to say that they were being threatened and should not drive when actually many of them were quite happy to drive? Has that situation changed?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the evidence on the question of intimidation is largely anecdotal. An attempt is being made as part of the review to obtain more firm evidence. However, it is anecdotal and therefore to make judgments on that basis is premature at this stage.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it will always be a huge risk for either the oil companies or drivers to take petrol tankers through hostile pickets at refineries when anyone perhaps going a bit over the top could set off a catastrophic explosion of 5,000 gallons of highly inflammable fuel? Is not that one of the real problems and what can be done about it?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we need to distinguish between peaceful protesters and other people who get involved in these demonstrations. Clearly, there are risks in those situations. That is exactly the sort of issue at which the task force will look.
Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, are those hostile pickets who threaten to do catastrophic damage to the environment and so forth the same people described by Mr William Hague as being decent, honest citizens?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, everyone would agree that in that situation there were two different kinds of protesters. The great majority were perfectly peaceful protesters, and nothing should take place in the law which in any way discourages peaceful protests. On the other hand, we have heard of people whose intentions were less admirable.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, what is proposed is essentially to put in place systems which can deal with this kind of crisis as effectively as possible, both in the short term and the long term. But, obviously, as we go forward, the systems will be increasingly refined.
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