Mandelson keeps Dome job as new DTI team takes shape

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The Independent Online
PETER MANDELSON, the new Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, is to retain responsibility for the controversial Millennium Dome project despite claims from the opposition benches about possible conflicts of interest.

Announcing the details of the responsibilities of the DTI team yesterday, Mr Mandelson said that in addition to overall responsibility for the Department of Trade and the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), he would retain special responsibility for competitiveness and productivity, the information society and the Millennium Dome. He will also be the cabinet minister responsible for science and technology.

There has been pressure for Mr Mandelson to step aside from the dome project as conflicts of interest could arise when he takes decisions relating to companies investing in the dome or sponsoring it.

The opposition industry spokesman, John Redwood, said last week it would be better for Mr Mandelson to drop control of the dome, saying he should "think very carefully" about decisions relating to companies involved in the project. "A lot of people will be watching," warned Mr Redwood.

The DTI said yesterday that if any conflict did arise, each instance would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Some of Britain's largest companies are backing the dome, including BT, BSkyB, Tesco, BAA and BA.

The responsibilities of the DTI's new faces has been decided. Brian Wilson, the new minister for trade, will oversee trade policy, export promotion including inward investment, infrastructure and export projects as well as the ECGD. Kim Howells, who has replaced Nigel Griffiths as parliamentary undersecretary of state, has a broad brief including competition and consumer affairs. That could see him get involved in the future of the Post Office, which comes under the remit of Ian McCartney, who also has employment relations, the minimum wage and shared responsibility for corporate governance with Lord Simon.

Lord Sainsbury, who stepped down last week as chairman of Sainsbury's to avoid conflict of interest criticism, is named as Minister of Science, which has an additional budget of pounds 1.1bn over the next three years. He has responsibility for the Office of Science and Technology, the research councils and space matters.

Other ministerial responsibilities remain unchanged. John Battle remains in charge of energy, industry and environment issues. Lord Simon stays as minister for trade and competitiveness in Europe, overseeing internal EU issues, the single market and preparations for the euro. Barbara Roche continues as minister for small firms, regional policy including inward investment and the year 2000 computer bug.