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House of Lords

Thursday, 6th May 1999.

The House met at three of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Exeter.

The Lord Chancellor: Leave of Absence

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, before business begins, I take the opportunity to inform the House that I am to open the new BPP Law School at Lincoln's Inn tomorrow, Friday, 7th May, when the House will sit. Accordingly, I trust that the House will grant me leave of absence.

Millennium Dome Site: Housing

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans English Partnerships have for residential developments on the Greenwich peninsula.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Greenwich peninsula as a whole enjoys outline planning consent for 3,000 homes. The first will be built in the new Millennium Village. By 2005, nearly 1,400 new homes will be occupied. Construction works for the first phase of 90 units should begin very shortly. Subject to further planning consent, work on the next phase will start in the late summer.

Lord Luke: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, does he agree that one of the most attractive uses of the Dome site would be to promote business tourism by means of, let us say, a convention centre or similar project. If so, will the Government make sure that the appropriate infrastructure is provided--high class hotels, possibly a marina, a shopping mall, and proper provision for parking?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the future use of the Dome is currently subject to competition and initial views are due in shortly. Indeed, expressions of interest are due next week. If noble Lords have any creative ideas, we should very much welcome them. The full applications then have to be considered over the next year. They may well include the uses to which the noble Lord refers. As to infrastructure, a hotel is being built on the site and there will be provision for shopping. The remaining infrastructure referred to should be there. The issue of parking is complex. It will have to be tackled in peninsula traffic plans.

Lord Annan: My Lords, will the infrastructure contain schools and pubs, both of which are necessary if the homes to which the noble Lord referred are to be occupied?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, my understanding is that there will eventually be a school on the site. There is

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quite a handy pub there called "The Pilot". I used to know the landlord. I believe it will remain; it is not actually on-site. There will also be a community hall. So there will be a social infrastructure.

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that money will not be wasted on buildings that are wrongly sited and that decisions will be made with a view to what is to happen to the Dome when it is finished with in its present form?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, so far as is possible, I can assure the noble Lord that that is the case. Certainly, whatever final mix emerges in regard to use of the peninsula, there will be a substantial residential element. The houses in the Millennium Village will be built to a very high standard. It will be a message for future development as regards the ecological, environmental and social use of this brownfield site. All other aspects of mixed housing and mixed use will be taken into consideration in regard to what is an important site.

Lord Elton: My Lords, following the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, addressing the issue of a complete spectrum of provision, will there be provision both for worship and for exercise in the form of sport?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, there will be a park area for certain forms of sport. There is also of course the river for many other forms of sport, and there are other facilities not too far away. I understand that the community hall will be available for worship in the present circumstances. No new church is currently planned, but that may well come later.

Baroness David: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some of us visited the millennium site yesterday? It seemed to me that facilities were provided for almost everything. There are a great many refreshment areas and plenty of space for sport. I cannot think of anything that is not provided for. One of the zones is called "Faith".

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that my noble friend refers to the Dome itself, which subject I have carefully avoided at this stage. I am very happy that those who visited the Dome site were impressed by it and the range of facilities there. I also believe that the longer term will be catered for in the same way.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, does the noble Lord believe that the Dome at Greenwich will last as long as the dome of St. Sophia in Constantinople or the dome of St. Peter's in Rome? If not, will it not be rather cheapskate?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I doubt it. However, in the period during which the Dome is present I believe that it will provide a great deal of entertainment and information to a large number of people--probably more than those who attended these other places in their

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early years. I believe that the Dome is a magnificent achievement for British architecture and we should stop mocking it.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, no Question about the Dome and Greenwich can be complete without reference to the Jubilee Line. Can my noble friend give the House the latest information about the likely opening date of the line?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I repeat what I said not long ago. The date for completion of the final phase of the Jubilee Line is late autumn. We are confident that it will be open in good time for the opening of the Dome itself.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, will any of the 3,000 homes referred to be available for letting at low rents?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the provision is for mixed housing, approximately 25 per cent. of which will be for social housing at affordable rents.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that when we visited the Dome yesterday we received very strong indications of how poor the area of east Greenwich is? Is it envisaged that the rich around the Dome will move to these new houses, and will the east part of Greenwich remain the poor part?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the intention is that the peninsula will provide a very substantial mix of housing for all kinds of people. It is only part of the development process for Greenwich and the riverside as a whole, but the village itself will undoubtedly provide homes for such people.

Lord Elton: My Lords, the social and religious composition of the community that eventually lives in the 3,000 houses is yet to be known. Can the noble Lord be more reassuring about provision for their spiritual needs other than saying that there will be a hall available for worship? Does the planning envelope provide for permanent places of worship for the spiritual needs of whatever denominations settle there?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, not at present. The community hall to be provided will be available for community worship to whatever faith requires it. It is not very far from other existing places of worship. Certainly, it is not the intention to exclude from any plan provision for worship.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, will there be a nice burial ground for people when they have done their turn there?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I regret that that is one facility that is not available either for the noble Earl or anyone else who may want to live on the Greenwich peninsula. However, everything in life will be provided.

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Department for International Development: Security Sector Reform

3.16 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they define "security" in the new programme of the Department for International Development for "security sector reform"; what will be the budget for such reform in the next financial year; and what proportion this expenditure will represent of the total aid budget for that year.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, in our new policy paper on plans to help developing countries reform their security sections, we define the security sector as those who are responsible, or should be responsible, for protecting the state. The Department for International Development does not plan to set specific targets for spending on security sector reform activities. Actual spending will be determined in the country and regional context and will reflect needs over a particular year.

Lord Judd: My Lords, while I thank my noble friend for that reply, can she assure the House that in the Government's approach to relief and reconstruction in Kosovo and the adjacent states this new policy will be taken seriously? Can she also assure the House that in the long term in the wider world we shall continue to recognise that stability and security are best achieved by the right mix of development, environmental, trade and economic policies right across the spectrum?

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