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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Inquiry into Dome 'giveaway'
Millennium Dome
The government will profit from development
A proposal to give the Millennium Dome away for nothing is set to be the subject of an inquiry by government's financial watchdog.

The expected deal to hand over the Dome to consortium Meridien Delta is likely to be announced later this week.


It's got to be the best deal that is available and it has got to be a deal that regenerates that part of London

Lord Falconer
The National Audit Office, which has already held two inquiries into the Dome in recent years, including one a month ago, has always planned to launch a third investigation once the sale takes place.

The deal involves buying the Dome - plus up to 200 acres of prime development land on the Greenwich peninsula without any money changing hands, several newspapers suggest.

In return, the government will receive a share of the profits from the development of the site with a proposed 4bn "mini city" of offices and houses.

Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer says reports of bridge deal are "wrong"

Dome minister, Lord Falconer has refused to reveal precisely what the deal includes.

But an announcement on the issue is expected on Wednesday.

Shadow culture secretary Tim Yeo has called for an immediate announcement as to how much the Dome deal would cost.

"At present, after almost 1bn has been spent, there is still no certainty about whether, when, and how much any of this will be recovered," he said.

Better offer?

A Meridian Delta spokesman has denied that any deal was dependent on a new river crossing - a suggestion made in a Sunday newspaper report.

"Our plans for the Dome to host a superb 20,000 seat arena and the regeneration immediately around the Dome are also not dependent on a third river crossing," he said.

But Mr Yeo insisted that the inclusion of a river crossing in any deal would "materially alter" the value of the site.

"If other prospective bidders had been aware that a couple of hundred million pounds was going to be poured on top of the 700m that has already gone in, to provide a river crossing, that might indeed have attracted many more bidders who would have made a much better offer than Meridian Delta has."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "As usual with Lord Falconer, we never quite get the full truth."

'Value for money'

Meridian Delta's backers were reported to include the Australian property developer Lend Lease and British developers Quintain.

Lord Falconer said the principle of the deal was a "joint venture for the Greenwich peninsula and the running of the Dome as an arena".

"Both arrangements involve profit sharing as far as the government is concerned.

"It's got to be a value-for-money deal. It's got to be the best deal that is available and it has got to be a deal that regenerates that part of London," he said.

Last week, the government admitted about 4m of public funds had been spent looking after the Millennium Dome since it closed at the end of December 2000.

The money has been spent on management, maintenance and security.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"The Dome itself will become an arena for sports and music"
The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"This has now been a three year process"

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See also:

01 Feb 02 | UK Politics
18 Dec 01 | UK
18 Dec 01 | UK Politics
12 Nov 01 | UK
03 Nov 01 | UK
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