HC Deb 18 November 2002 vol 394 cc346-7
2. . Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West)

What discussions she has held on Newcastle-Gateshead's bid to be the European capital of culture.[81369]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

None specifically.

Joyce Quin

My right hon. Friend will appreciate that I enthusiastically welcome Newcastle-Gateshead's inclusion in the short list for European city of culture.[Interruption.] I am sure that other hon. Members welcome the inclusion of their cities, too.

The link between culture and economic regeneration is important. Does my right hon. Friend agree that awarding capital of culture status is not simply a matter of high-profile cultural projects, but a matter of considering what it means in reaching out to local communities, promoting employment and enhancing the quality of life?

Tessa Jowell

The short list that I announced on 30 October was recommended by the panel according to the clear criteria for capital of culture status that were established by the European Union and developed by the Department. Regeneration is not a specific criterion, but I accept my right hon. Friend's point that arts and culture can be powerful drivers of successful regeneration, as her cities of Newcastle and Gateshead clearly show.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)

I hope that the Secretary of State is also aware of the bids made by other cities across the United Kingdom to become the European capital of culture, and that she will therefore see Birmingham as by far the superior bid, not least because of the cultural opportunities that that city now offers. Does the right hon. Lady not regard that as a more important benefit than the economic regeneration referred to by the right hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin)?

Tessa Jowell

The panel has recommended the bids received by Bristol, Birmingham, Oxford, Liverpool, Cardiff and Newcastle/Gateshead, on the basis of their excellence. The remaining shortlisted bidders—Brighton, Bradford, Belfast, Canterbury, Inverness and Norwich—were also very strong contenders. This competition has unlocked the cultural potential in many of our cities. There will only be one winner, but we hope that the efforts made by every city will be developed and capitalised on, and that the visions described in their bids will be translated into practice.