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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, this matter is very much on the Government's agenda. The Government are committed to attempting to increase the number of children with special educational needs who can be educated in mainstream schools. But it is vitally important that sufficient and appropriate specialist resources and back-up are provided for those children.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, one of the categories of people who are most helpful for children who have this condition are the speech therapists who work in and with schools. Are they included in the threshold payments? It seems to me that there may well be tension now between speech therapists and the teachers alongside whom they work, given that teachers will enjoy the benefits of the threshold payments.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, speech therapists are employed by the health service. They are occasionally attached to schools, but for the most part they work outside schools, and pupils are sent to them in the clinics where they work.

House of Lords: Scrutiny of Legislation

3.23 p.m.

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I understand that the recommendations of the All-Party Modernisation Committee in another place are intended to allow Members there to make more effective use of parliamentary time in scrutinising primary legislation. They are not intended to reduce the time available for scrutiny. The recommendations are a matter for Members of another place and do not affect procedures in this House.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. However, does she agree that most serious commentators believe that the proposed changes would curtail debate in another place and make it much easier for all governments to force their measures through? That would strengthen the executive at the expense of all opposition parties, and also at the expense of independent-minded Back-Benchers of all parties. To restore the balance, is it not

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essential for this House to be given the powers to prevent any possible slide towards an elective dictatorship?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as each House has control over its own procedures, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on changes that are made in another place. As I understand it, the proposals for timetabling, which were the burden of the modernisation report, are intended to make a fair division of available time relevant to each part of every procedure in another place. There are no proposals that would affect proceedings in this House.

Lord Renton: My Lords, in the past two Sessions government legislation from another place has reached us in an unprepared state and a very heavy task has fallen on Members of this House in attempting to put it right. To what extent would the modernisation of the other place as proposed in this plan overcome that problem?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as I said, I do not think it appropriate for this House to comment on the procedures of another place and how they may or may not affect the scrutiny of legislation. As regards the time spent on legislative scrutiny, the figures that I have, which compare the 1995 Session with the past year, indicate that in the 1995 Session 43 Bills received 121 hours' scrutiny at Second Reading in another place, while so far in this Session 40 Bills have received over 150 hours of scrutiny at Second Reading. So, clearly, the questions of timetabling and scrutiny are not falling into disrepute.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, as the noble Baroness says, it is not our business to worry about the procedures of another place except in so far as they result in legislation of the kind that has arrived here recently, ill-prepared and ill-considered. But surely we should think more about our own procedures. Is there any barrier to this House rejecting secondary legislation?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as has been demonstrated in this Session, we have had one rejection of secondary legislation. That was an outcome that the Government did not welcome. I believe that it was only the second time that such a thing had occurred in a very long time, probably since the Second World War. The issues of secondary legislation and how it should be scrutinised were addressed in proposals in the report on the reform of the House of Lords by the Royal Commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. They would probably be appropriate matters for consideration by the Joint Committee of both Houses when it is set up after the Recess to examine the parliamentary aspects of reform.

Earl Russell: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that what concerns many of us is not scrutiny but control? Does she further agree that, over the past 30 years or so, the controlling of ill-considered legislation

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has been slowly passing from Parliament to the courts? While I do all honour to the courts, ought we not to try to keep our end up?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as always, the noble Earl makes an interesting observation, but it is somewhat wide of the Question.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that an increasing number of Bills that come to this House seem to have been badly scrutinised by another place? That may not just be the fault of Members of another place but may be the result of directions given by Ministers to the parliamentary draftsmen. When it comes to giving more power to delay legislation, are not the Government doing a rather good job all on their own? The Freedom of Information Bill had its Second Reading in this House on 20th April, and the Political Parties and Referendums Bill had its first day in Committee on 11th May. What has happened to those Bills?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that we have not completed every part of every Bill. However, I was very pleased to report to the Cabinet this morning that we have reached Royal Assent on every single one of the Bills to which we gave agreement by the end of July. That is a long list of Bills; it will appear in the Official Report tomorrow. It is entirely consistent with the projections that we have given over the past few months. The two Bills mentioned by the noble Lord will be addressed in the overspill.

Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree with the comments of the Speaker of the House of Commons that parliamentary reform should be in order to strengthen parliamentary scrutiny of government--that it should strengthen Parliament in calling government to account--and that that should take precedence over any changes designed for the convenience of Members?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am always pleased to hear the noble Lord's comments on these matters. They are extremely authoritative and we have all benefited from his thinking in this area. These are general questions which may well become appropriate when the Joint Committee is set up to discuss the relationship between the two Houses.

Millennium Dome Sale

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I beg leave to ask a Question of which I have given private notice, namely:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government whether an agreement to sell the Millennium Dome has been reached; and, if so, to whom and on what terms.

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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, Dome Europe has won the competition to take over the Dome when the Millennium Experience ends on 31st December. It has now signed heads of agreement with the Government. We believe that its proposals will deliver a high quality, innovative and economically sustainable long-term future for the Dome of which the people of Greenwich and the United Kingdom can be proud. In supporting the Dome's transition from the current Millennium Experience to another visitor destination, Dome Europe proposes to create an urban entertainment resort through a combination of uses inside the Dome and on adjacent land. The latter will include hotels, a convention centre, commercial leisure, restaurants, residential units, offices, retail and community facilities. Although all of the proposals are subject to the granting of planning permission and much work remains to be done to complete the sale of the site, we are confident that Dome Europe's proposals will deliver an exciting contribution to the continued regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula.

Further, the Government have decided that of the overall consideration from the sale of the Millennium Dome, some £53 million should be paid to the New Millennium Experience Company from total expected early payments of £105 million. In the agreement with Dome Europe there is also provision for additional payment for land value in certain circumstances and a share of profits if and when the business changes hands from Dome Europe. The balance of that total amount, after the payment to NMEC and meeting third-party commitments, will go to English Partnerships.

In reaching this view, we took account of the benefit to the Greenwich peninsula and the Thames gateway in terms of continuity of jobs and assured future private investment in the site, building on the substantial public investment already made--more than £1 billion--towards major environmental, transport and other improvements on the peninsula. The Dome company's agreed entitlement to that share of the proceeds of sale means that it will continue to operate within its approved lifetime budget of £758 million. The Millennium Commission has agreed to consider how it may assist the Dome company in realising its share of the proceeds of the sale to underpin the company's finances in the period before Dome Europe take over the Dome.

The Government have always supported and believed in the long-term legacy which will be achieved on the Greenwich site because of the investment of lottery funds in the Dome. The Millennium Dome has brought benefits to the national and local economy. It has been a hugely innovative public sector enterprise that has harnessed private sector money. It is a project which will be a model for future regeneration schemes, with £160 million of private sector sponsorship secured.

During 2000, over 5,000 people will be employed at the Dome, and 6,000 long-term jobs will be created through all of the peninsular developments. The Greenwich Millennium Village will provide 1,377 mixed-tenure homes and a further 1,600 elsewhere.

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The first people will move into the new houses by the end of the year. Greenwich council estimates that 30,000 jobs will be created as a result of the Dome.

Successive governments and the Millennium Commission have always supported and believed in the long-term legacy which will be achieved on the Greenwich site because of the investment of lottery funds in the Dome. We are delighted that a successful outcome has been achieved and that it has been possible to unlock the new value in the site as a result of the commission's investment. This good result means that the Dome has secured its future and can plan and deliver the next five months with confidence.

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