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Surrey County Hall

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: I understand that Surrey County Council's preferred option for the potential relocation of its County Hall is to a site in the Woking area. The relocation of County Hall would require planning permission. Surrey County Council has confirmed that Woking Borough Council would be the local planning authority that would determine any planning application for Surrey's new County Hall if the county council decide to relocate to Woking. However, the planning application may have to be referred to the First Secretary of State if the local planning authority proposed to grant planning permission for a development that would not accord with the development plan. If this were the case, the First Secretary of State would then consider whether the proposal raises any planning issues of more than local importance which might justify his intervention.

Millennium Dome

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: English Partnership (EP), Meridian Delta Ltd and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) signed contracts on 29 May 2002, to develop much of the Greenwich Peninsula, including a new use for the Dome. The deal is conditional primarily on securing planning permission satisfactory to the contracting parties.

On 23 December 2002 a planning application was submitted to the London Borough of Greenwich (LBG), for a 26,000 capacity arena inside the Dome, with associated facilities, and a new masterplan

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covering 15m sq.ft. on the Greenwich Peninsula, the delivery of over 10,000 homes—many of which will be affordable and the creation of 20,000 jobs. The private sector investment is expected to be £4 billion.

In April 2003 LBG resolved that it is minded to grant permission subject to a number of conditions and subject to legal requirements. The Mayor confirmed in June he would not refuse permission and in July my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed the application would not be called in for his determination. Negotiations between LBG and the applicants over the section 106 and section 278 agreements are ongoing.

Subject to the successful completion of agreements, a satisfactory planning permission and satisfaction of other conditions, the contracts relating to the sale of the Dome and development of land on the Greenwich Peninsula should go unconditonal in spring 2004. On this basis AEG's current aim is to open the Dome arena in late 2006, or possibly 2007.

In the interim period the Dome continues to host popular events, the most recent being the Festival of Asia on 23 to 25 August. EP continues to explore opportunities for events in the Dome while the deal with MDL is being completed.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What expenditure has been incurred on the maintenance and security of the Dome since its closure.[HL4539]

Lord Rooker: The New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) was responsible for maintaining the Dome from its closure on 31 December 2000 to the end of June 2001. English Partnerships (EP) took over responsibility in July 2001. In total £8 million has been incurred on maintenance and security from the Dome's closure on 31 December 2000 to July 2003: £1.9 million by NMEC from January 2001 to the end of June 2001 and £6.1 million by EP from July 2001 to July 2003.

Building Regulations

Lord Lipsey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What process of regulatory impact anlaysis is carried out before changes are made in building regulations.[HL4567]

Lord Rooker: Before any changes are made to the building regulations in England and Wales, or their supporting approved documents, consultation with outside bodies takes place. Part of the consultation package, which is publicly available, is a draft regulatory impact report, prepared by officials or by consultants working on their behalf. The views of consultees on this report are invited and the analysis revised in the light of these comments. The final regulatory impact analysis is made available when the regulations are laid before Parliament or the revised approved document published.

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Manchester Salford Pathfinder

Baroness Golding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce a decision on the scheme submitted by the Manchester Salford market renewal pathfinder for tackling low demand housing and abandonment in the area.[HL4602]

Lord Rooker: I am delighted to announce the award of £125 million to the Manchester Salford pathfinder over the next two and a half years for the implementation of its scheme. The funding comes from the £500 million market renewal fund announced earlier this year in Sustainable Communities: building for the future.

The investment from the market renewal fund will be complemented by significant investment from other programmes and the private sector so that other issues vital to sustainable communities in the pathfinder such as jobs, education and crime reduction can be tackled alongside housing.

The scheme marks a key step in our commitment to deliver thriving sustainable communities in those areas devastated by low demand housing and abandonment.

Alstom Restructuring

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they are making to the European Commission concerning the legality of the French Government's plan to subsidise Alstom by acquiring shares in the company.[HL4302]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is considering the matter. In major restructuring cases it is normal for the Commission to launch an investigation under Article 88(2) of the EC Treaty providing third parties, including competitors and other member states, with an opportunity to make representations.

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their view of the proposals of Alstom to halve its United Kingdom staff, which is estimated would result in 5,000 redundancies and would reduce the company's operation in the United Kingdom from an export centre to a servicing base.[HL4303]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Alstom's proposals are disappointing, but the decision is a commercial matter for the company and has been brought about by a major restructuring package affecting Alstom's worldwide operations as the company seeks to address continuing losses and a huge debt burden. However, it is important to note that many of the jobs affected are

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being transferred, rather than lost; for example, the sale of the transmission and distribution business, with 3,500 jobs out of the total of 5,000, which is expected to be finalised shortly.

It should be noted that Alstom's restructuring plan would also significantly affect the company's sites in other European countries, mainly in the power sector. Any UK job losses will of course be a blow to the individuals affected and their families. Regional bodies and local agencies are in contact with the company and will do everything necessary to help the individuals affected.

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they are making to the European Commission concerning any reduction in the workforce that may result from Alstom's proposal to reduce its United Kingdom staff by 5,000 and concerning any relationship between this reduction and the French Government's subsidy to the company.[HL4427]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is considering the matter. In major restructuring cases it is normal for the Commission to launch an investigation under Article 88(2) of the EC Treaty providing third parties, including competitors and other member states, with an opportunity to make representations.

Libel

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the offence of criminal libel under English law is compatible with the right to freedom of expression protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights; and, if so, what are their reasons for this view.[HL4283]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The offence of criminal libel is not in our view, in itself, incompatible with the right to freedom of expression. Depending on the circumstances, one or more of the exceptions in Article 10.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights may justify any interference with that right.

Prison Sentences

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will introduce legislation containing their proposals for longer minimum prison sentences.[HL4326]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The measures set out in the Criminal Justice Bill for determining the minimum term to be served in relation to a mandatory life sentence will take effect two weeks from the date of Royal Assent for the Bill.

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The Criminal Justice Bill also makes provision for a minimum sentence for certain firearms offences. No decision has yet been taken as to when this measure will take effect.


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