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Mr. Hill: The system of registration of all motor vehicles will continue. A system of Automated First Registration and Licensing of vehicles by manufacturers has been developed and now covers over 60 per cent. of new registrations. A similar system is being developed for use by independent importers.
The system of registration and periodic relicensing performs a number of important functions including the vital role it plays in the fight against crime through the maintenance of the vehicle register. It also helps to ensure that vehicles meet statutory roadworthiness and insurance requirements.
In recent years the regime for Vehicle Excise Duty has undergone substantial changes, principally aimed at encouraging more environmentally friendly use of vehicles--for example, the introduction of a new system of graduated VED for new cards based on CO 2 emissions. The Government also introduced in June 1999 a new lower rate of VED for smaller-engined cars up to 1100cc. In March 2001 this limit will be raised to 1200cc and the Government have signalled their intention of raising that limit to 1500cc from July 2001.
For goods vehicles, the Government have taken into account the role played by road transport in maintaining a competitive economy. Thus, following the pre-Budget Report last November, VED for goods vehicles has been cut by up to 50 per cent. The Government have issued a consultation paper on the future of VED for goods vehicles seeking views on a number of proposals including fewer VED rate bands, greater flexibility of vehicle configuration within each rate band, better environmental signals and reduced tax on vehicle ownership. The consultation closes on 12 January.
Ms Beverley Hughes: We have received representations on a number of issues relating to new council constitutions, including access to executive decision-making. We have taken account of these representations in making the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2000 which were laid before the House on 19 December. These Regulations,
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together with the powerful overview and scrutiny committees introduced by the Local Government Act 2000, will put in place a robust regime of more accountable decision-making. These arrangements will give people the right to proper access to papers and meetings of the Executive and overview and scrutiny committees will ensure that the Executive are held properly to account both for what they have done and, equally, for what they are proposing to do.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with British Gas regarding the value of the proposal to sell the Millennium Dome to Legacy plc. 
Ms Armstrong: We have had no discussions with British Gas concerning the value of the potential sale of the Millennium Dome to Legacy plc. Any such matters will be discussed formally between English Partnerships and British Gas, from whom English Partnerships acquired the land.
Ms Armstrong: Completion of the sale of the Dome and the associated land will be conditional upon appropriate planning permissions having been obtained. The timing of any such permissions will be a matter initially for the London borough of Greenwich, and will depend on how any planning applications progress through the planning system. Two initial applications relating to the Legacy plc proposals for the Dome site are currently being considered by the London borough of Greenwich. Another application, for the use of associated land around the Dome, is due to be submitted within the next several months.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many expressions of interest have been received from companies, consortia and individuals wishing to bid for the Dome site. 
Over 70 expressions of interest were received in response to the competition that was launched in March 1999. All of these were encouraged to elaborate and substantiate their interest, and were subsequently evaluated prior to short lists being drawn up.
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Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what checks were carried out concerning other potential bidders before confirming the Legacy Consortium as the preferred bidder for the Dome. 
Ms Armstrong: Legacy plc was confirmed as the preferred bidder at the end of an extensive competition process lasting 18 months, during which more than 70 expressions of interest in acquiring the Dome site were evaluated and shortlisted in a four stage process. The final shortlist of two from this process comprised Dome Europe and Legacy plc. Dome Europe was appointed as preferred bidder, but subsequently withdrew, and discussions were then initiated with Legacy plc.
The competition process was open to new bidders for a period of over nine months after its launch in March 1999. While other unsolicited expressions of interest have been received since the competition was closed to new entries, these have not been subjected to the same level of development and testing; nor would it have been fair to continue accepting new entries when existing bidders had already committed substantial resources to proving the appropriateness and deliverability of their bids.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the Government's estimate is of the value of the Dome site with the Dome (a) removed and (b) remaining. 
Ms Armstrong: A pre-sale valuation of the Dome site has been undertaken in the context of the competition to identify a sustainable long-term use for the Dome. The Government estimate of the financial value of the site is commercially confidential while the process to secure a buyer continues.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what information was made available to each bidder for the Dome site concerning the willingness of the vendor to accept staggered payments. 
Ms Armstrong: The financial offers of each competing bidder have been considered and assessed on their individual merits, including in relation to proposed payment structure. In comparing bids, any deferred payments have been discounted for time and risk.
Ms Armstrong: Details must remain commercially confidential while negotiations continue, but I can confirm that the total issued share capital of Legacy plc is owned by Robert Bourne and family interests.
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