HC Deb 18 November 2003 vol 413 cc247-53WH 3.50 pm
Mrs. Louise Eliman (Liverpool, Riverside)

This debate takes place as Liverpool, "the world in one city" and European capital of culture designate for 2008, is poised to become the United Kingdom's cultural ambassador to Europe, and Europe's ambassador to the world. I shall draw attention to the significance of that achievement—Liverpool's equivalent of holding the Commonwealth games—and consider the potential that that offers for regeneration.

I am pleased to be a member of the board that secured the bid under the leadership of Sir Bob Scott. Winning was certainly a team effort; dedicated staff worked with Liverpool city council, and were backed by local authorities throughout the region, Liverpool Vision, business, Members of Parliament, the voluntary sector, the Northwest Development Agency, Arts Northwest, the regional assembly and, above all, the diverse people of multicultural Liverpool.

Liverpool has great achievements across the cultural spectrum—in sports, heritage, the creative arts and tourism—but today I want to stress Liverpool's excellence in the arts, including the visual arts. That includes the Liverpool biennial festival, which launched its preparations for 2004 in the House of Commons two weeks ago. I was delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts at those presentations, and contributing to them.

The Centre for Film, Art and Creative Technology, FACT, is a great success. It is the only United Kingdom exhibition and performance space specialising in film, video and digital art. It stands proudly in the regenerated Ropewalks area of Liverpool city centre. The city has renowned galleries and museums, including the Walker, Tate and Bluecoat galleries, and the maritime museum. Fine architecture is a major characteristic. The magnificent waterfront has been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site. Liverpool has the greatest concentration of listed buildings outside London.

St. George's hall is currently being refurbished. Liverpool's Georgian terraces are outstanding. Liverpool is increasingly becoming a major centre for filming. Mersey TV, the largest independent regional production company in the United Kingdom, entertains and informs the nation from Liverpool. In 2000, feature films made in Liverpool had a £35 million budget, with a benefit of at least £12 million to the local economy. Feature films made recently in Liverpool include "Liam", "The Parole Officer", "The 51st State", and Alex Cox's "A Revengers' Tragedy".

Liverpool Film Studios is encouraging new filmmakers. The Toxteth film centre and the £40 million film development fund gives opportunities to local filmmakers. I am particularly pleased that the Toxteth film centre is giving opportunities to young talented people who wish to become involved in the production of filming, and young people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to develop their great talents. On Wednesday, North West Vision, based in Liverpool, will hold a reception in the House of Commons to show Parliament the calibre of media production in the north- west. Last Saturday, Liverpool was a fitting venue for the Royal Television Society's regional awards, which took place in the regenerated city centre building.

In the area of live music, the Royal Philharmonic Society, with its magnificent orchestra, is working with the community to encourage the city's talented young musicians, and new bands are being given opportunities by venues such as the Picket. I am sad to note that the future of the Picket is at risk because of a change in the ownership of the building in which it is located. Liverpool has a record of excellence in performing arts, with its theatres and Sir Paul McCartney's exciting Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, which is breaking new ground in training talented young people to be the performers of tomorrow. Liverpool's festivals, such as Matthew street, Africa Oye and Brouhaha attract international audiences.

I am pleased that Liverpool humour plays such a pivotal role. Sir Jeremy Isaacs, chairman of the capital of culture judges, explained that Liverpool's community involvement, as well as its high standards in the arts and in culture generally, was critical to Liverpool's securing the title capital of culture. He also revealed another winning factor: he visited the Rawhide comedy club at the Albert dock, and listened to the successful stand-up comic Nige, otherwise known as Keith Carter, philosophise on life, trapped in a world of looking after his mum and gran and their terrorist cat. Sir Jeremy was reported as having said: I only understood one in every three words he was saying, so I enjoyed him. He helped Liverpool win".

What happens now? Winning the title capital of culture is not an end in itself; it is a new beginning. Liverpool is buzzing with renewed confidence. The multi-million pound Grosvenor Henderson city centre shopping development is ready to start. Preparations are under way for the return of cruise liners. The capital of culture team is being refashioned to meet the challenges of working with the community to deliver the exciting world-in-one-city programme, with a different theme every year. The theme for 2007, when Liverpool celebrates its 800th birthday, will be celebrating heritage. Other themes include learning, faith and community, arts, sports and—in 2008—the world in one city.

Liverpool will increasingly become the showcase for international visitors. It is essential that the events that take place are of the highest possible standard, and of sufficient variety and interest to attract a wide variety of people from near and far. Culture is intrinsically bound up with community. That is why the capital of culture team is working with education, health and regeneration agencies. Capital of culture opens new opportunities for regeneration, attracting new investment. It has been estimated that it will bring 14,000 new jobs in heritage, tourism, sport and the creative industries, £2 billion of investment, 1.7 million extra visitors spending £50 million per year and the possibility of 3,000 more jobs across the north-west. The proportion of overseas visitors could increase to 40 per cent.

All of that means more economic activity and more opportunities for performers, writers and designers. It also means more work in catering, transport and retail, and more jobs for electricians, engineers and construction workers. The benefits should stretch beyond the boundaries of Liverpool and Merseyside and into the wider north-west. The challenge is to ensure that the benefits are long term and reach local communities. People in Granby, Dingle, Vauxhall and Everton should be beneficiaries. Rising property prices must not put local people at a disadvantage.

Support is required to enable these opportunities to be maximised. Good transport links are essential. About 50 years since the last trams were seen in Liverpool, Merseytravel is set to deliver line 1 of the new tram system. Underground stations will be refurbished. Travel around Merseyside will be much improved thanks to Merseytravel and the support that the Government have given it. However, there is no such certainty for west coast main line modernisation, which must be delivered north of Crewe and for Liverpool in the time promised in the Strategic Rail Authority plan.

Lime Street station, a grade II listed railway interchange that Network Rail now operates, must be refurbished as the gateway to a great city. What is good enough for Manchester Piccadilly is good enough for Liverpool. Liverpool requires a direct air link to London and the retention of Royal Mail freight facilities at Liverpool John Lennon airport. Liverpool airport, the fastest growing airport in the country, has direct flights to European cities such as Barcelona, Geneva, Amsterdam, Nice, Berlin and Paris. There is, however, no flight to London, our capital. That must change to enable Merseyside to attract maximum visitors and investors. The Department for Transport is currently assessing a proposal for a second river crossing, which Merseyside needs for economic development. I look forward to a positive response.

Local people need the skills that will ensure that they can benefit from the opportunities offered, and the Learning and Skills Council must rise to the challenge, which it is working to achieve. Local companies must have the opportunity to bid for work to build up capacity in the local economy, and new businesses must have access to investment. I hope that the Northwest Development Agency and the Merseyside special investment fund will expand their excellent work to attract European and private sector funds to encourage investment. Most creative industry businesses are very small and need access to capital to meet their distinctive needs. The creative sector incorporates many social enterprises, and I hope that funding will be available to help that important sector to develop.

I am grateful for the support that my right hon. Friend, when she was Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and her Department, have already given Liverpool. She was surrounded by cheering crowds when she visited Liverpool on the day when the city won the capital of culture nomination, which was followed by close involvement by her Department. I invite her to visit Liverpool again in her current capacity to see for herself what Liverpool has to offer. I assure her of a warm welcome. I note that the Government have made £30 million available to back London's Olympic bid and that national funds helped the Commonwealth games to be a tremendous success. I hope that national financial support can be found to assist the capital of culture team to maximise the substantial regeneration opportunities that will open up for Liverpool and the region.

Liverpool has displayed initiative and entrepreneurship in reaching this point. Despite its growing success and the record support that the Government have given it for its public services and regeneration, Liverpool remains one of the most deprived cities in the UK. It has achieved much through its own resourcefulness. I ask for Government backing to maximise the success of capital of culture as a showpiece and regeneration opportunity for the region. I hope that financial support can be given to assist the initiative to bring HMS Whimbrel—the last surviving warship from the battle of the Atlantic and part of Captain Walker's escort group—back to Liverpool from its current location in Egypt. I thank John Livingstone and his team for their magnificent efforts in that regard. What a fitting tribute the title of capital of culture would be to the people of Liverpool for their past contribution and what benefit it could bring as a tourist and educational asset for the future.

Capital of culture status presents Liverpool and Merseyside, as well as the rest of the north-west, with unique opportunities for long-term regeneration, but these opportunities must be grasped. Liverpool has determination, entrepreneurial spirit and civic pride. As the Liverpool-born novelist Linda Grant writes: Now Liverpool has a shot at re-invention. It is accused of trading on its past but its past is modernity. Its heritage is people dreaming of escape and of the future. If the city can be reborn, this is the moment". I ask my right hon. Friend to give Liverpool her support to make that a reality.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Before I call the Minister to reply, it is my understanding that there could be a Division almost at any time. I suggest to the Chamber that if there is one Division, we break for 10 minutes, and if there are two Divisions following one another immediately, we break for a total of 18 minutes.

4.6 pm

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris)

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is nice to see you again. My only option is to speak very quickly, although I do not want to speak more quickly than I usually do.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) on securing this Adjournment debate. It was no surprise, however, as she has been an active supporter of Liverpool's bid and plays a key role on the management board—indeed, she hosted the biennial reception last week, which I was privileged to attend. I would welcome an ongoing dialogue from her and her colleagues not only in Liverpool and Merseyside, but throughout the northwest, between now and 2008.

Given that my constituency is in Birmingham, I am sure that my hon. Friend will understand that in congratulating her I am also glad that I was not in this ministerial post before the decision was made on which city should be awarded capital of culture. That has, at the very least, excused me from receiving harsh words in my constituency.

I hope that my hon. Friend realises that, in one way or another, I have had rather a lot to do with Liverpool in recent years. When Liverpool was going through several problems relating to education, I visited the area in my former ministerial capacity. Before it was awarded capital of culture status, I said that it had been a joy to see a city being reborn. It has grown in confidence and self-esteem, and it is not losing its past but reinventing itself for the future with the strengths of its people and the vision and excitement that it has always had—I liked the quote from my hon. Friend. The capital of culture year in 2008 will come at an important point during that process of rebirth, and it will push the city to even greater strengths.

I would love to visit Liverpool in the new year, and I think that I have plans to do so in any case. I formally accept my hon. Friend's invitation. I have already accepted an invitation to visit the museums and galleries, representatives of which I met when they came down to visit me in my office last week. I would be delighted to see what progress has been made.

In connecting my two ministerial roles and my involvement with Liverpool, I have one thing to add to the long list of strengths that my hon. Friend attributed to the city: schools and young people are also joining in with the capital of culture year. My visit to Liverpool the week after it was designated was in order to open a school as a performing arts college. I very much hope that the adults' bit of the arts and the children's bit of the arts grow in strength, and that this is not a one-off. I hope also that culture and arts are rooted in the Liverpool community where they have always been.

For the north-west, Liverpool's achievement will be of regional significance. I was in Manchester a couple of weeks ago, and I would not be telling the truth if I said that the people there were as excited as Liverpool is about capital of culture. However, they certainly saw it as an opportunity to build on the fine work that has been done at the end of east Lancs road in the north-west. This is another excellent opportunity for north-west regeneration.

Lest anyone reading Hansard thinks that Liverpool is already going to be the capital of culture, I remind hon. Members, as I ought to, that the designation process has not yet run its course. In July, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister submitted the formal nomination to the European Union. We are about to send a package of information in support of the nomination to the European Commission, at which point a panel will be appointed that will consider Liverpool's plans and proposals, and issue a report next year. In the light of that report and any comments from the Commission and the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers will be invited to designate Liverpool formally as European capital of culture 2008.

We certainly hope that that process can be concluded quickly—indeed, the Commission has promised to move it along as quickly as possible. Once those formalities are out of the way, however, Liverpool's preparations for 2008 can shift to a higher gear. It is important to say that, because it was not until I had prepared for the biennial reception that I understood that the formal part of the designation process had not taken place. However, that part is a formality—another staging post and an opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved.

Before I discuss my hon. Friend's point about money, I pay tribute to the other 11 cities that bid. The process of producing a bid was good for all the cities—those short-listed and those that were knocked out at the first round. Those cities are now left with plans of their own that can contribute to greater arts and cultural regeneration throughout the country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are keen not to lose that. Our aim is for the network of 12 towns and cities, with Liverpool at the head, to build on the plans that they have made, so that there is more than just one place shouting for arts and culture.

My hon. Friend rightly commented on the costs. I agree with everything that she said about both the variety of activities that will take place and the work that has already been done in the city to prepare. I also recognise that some of the things she said about infrastructure—an airport and the modernisation of the west coast railway line for example—are important. If we are to learn one lesson from previous big projects, it is that the infrastructure is of prime importance and must be right in time, so I acknowledge her plea that recognition should be given to transport and infrastructure, and other things as well.

I should warn hon. Members that Liverpool cannot be entirely rebuilt and be successful with every bid just because of capital of culture, although I do not blame them if there is a natural inclination to put a "capital of culture" badge on everything. This is the hard part of my speech: putting the "capital of culture" badge on Liverpool does not mean that the Government will find the resources. That cannot happen, it would not be right and I do not think that my hon. Friend would expect it. However, we should work with Liverpool to ensure that as much of the infrastructure as possible is in place in preparation for capital of culture.

When the bid went out to cities to put together plans to be capital of culture, it was made clear that there would be no pot of money coming along with it. Everybody made bids knowing exactly that that was the position. It might be interesting to debate whether the Olympic games is different in a national sense from 12 cities competing to be capital of culture. I take the point, however, and I heard what my hon. Friend said. I also note what was achieved by another great north-western city, Manchester, which secured the opportunity to host the Commonwealth games. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members will bring that to our attention. Nevertheless, the starting point is that it was clear, initially, when the panel studied the bids, that no extra money would be forthcoming. That remains so.

The Government do not intend to say, "You are on your own. We do not want to speak to you about this matter, and we do not want to favour Liverpool at all, or to do anything." That would not be fair or in the spirit of partnership. The Government want to work closely with Liverpool and to provide as much support as they can in the making of an application and the bringing together of partnerships with a view to obtaining new finance.

As to ways in which that might be possible, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will no doubt wish, in due course, to reflect on whether the Department can perhaps offer capital moneys to assist in the capital of culture project. We have spoken to Liverpool representatives about that when they have come to see us. I hope that some existing funding streams will be used to finance some of the bids. I will want to speak to the people in charge of the funding streams in the months and years to come, to make sure that they will give more than reasonable attention to Liverpool's extra needs, and to the national flag that Liverpool will carry when it is capital of culture.

We very much want—and I know that my hon. Friend would agree about this—to bring in private sector money. We want to work in partnership. There is a celebration in each of the years up to 2008, and the 800th birthday is in 2007; it will be a very happy one and a cause for huge celebration. However, the plan as I see it is not for a sudden Government announcement that £x million has been made available to Liverpool so that it can finance all it wants to do. Rather, the plan is for solid partnerships providing access to specific funding streams; for the Department to do what it can, especially with capital from its own budgets; and for work to be done in partnership to see what funding can be secured from the private sector.

We want this undertaking to be a success. We have no intention of leaving Liverpool to go it alone, or of failing to listen carefully to its needs and requests. We shall do whatever we can. However, I want to balance our intention against the proposal that central Government should provide total funding.

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Estelle Morris

I have about one minute. I do not know whether that is helpful.

I again congratulate Liverpool on the plans that it has made since designation. I look forward to a continuing working relationship with the city, the north-west and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have used my discretion to allow the debate to continue because the Minister of State indicated that she would finish within a minute. I hope that that was acceptable to the House. It has been an excellent debate and I was delighted to be in the Chair. I now suspend Westminster Hall for 10 minutes, if there is one Division, and 18 minutes if there are two. We shall be back here 18 minutes from now for the debate initiated by the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir).

4.17 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

4.58 pm

On resuming

[MR. DAVID AMESS in the Chair]

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