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Londonderry (City of Culture)

Volume 547: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2012

7. What assessment he has made of the likely effect on Londonderry of becoming the UK’s first city of culture; and if he will make a statement. (114376)

Order. The hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) aspires to be a statesman; he should not be yelling across the Chamber—yes, you!

They don’t like it up ’em, Mr Speaker.

My officials have been working closely with Derry-Londonderry Culture Company to ensure that the year-long programme will have social, economic, cultural and political benefits in the short term and as a legacy beyond 2013.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. May I also ask him what lessons the city of Plymouth can learn from the city of Londonderry-Derry in its bid to be the city of culture in 2014?

Of course, as a west country Member of Parliament I am hugely supportive of Plymouth. The whole issue of whether the city should be called Londonderry or Derry seems to be resolved, as we are now going to call it Legenderry. Plymouth is already legendary, not least on account of its excellent Member of Parliament. My hon. Friend should get his councillors to come over to Londonderry during its year as the city of culture, and I will introduce him to all the key players who are going to make it the most happening place in Europe.

In promoting Londonderry as the first UK city of culture, does the Minister agree that job retention and job maintenance is a crucial factor? In that context, will he speak to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), who I assume will make an announcement on this in a written statement today, to ensure that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency offices are preserved in Northern Ireland so that 260 jobs are not lost in my constituency?

On the latter point, I understand that the Minister is putting out a written statement today, and I do not want to prejudge what he might say in that.

On the longer-term economic benefits to Londonderry, yes, that is a vital issue. Of course, there will be a lot of prosperity around in the year that it is the city of culture, but that should be the building block to cement the renaissance that has gone on in the city, not least with the regeneration of the Ebrington barracks site and the peace bridge.