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Liverpool: European Capital of Culture 2008

Volume 697: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government how they are supporting Liverpool in preparing for its role as European Capital of Culture 2008.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, whenever I have been asked during my political career abroad, including my decade as the Wirral’s MEP, “Where do you come from?”, I have replied, “Chester, a Roman town near Liverpool.” Only then, with the mention of Liverpool, do eyes light up with a sense of awe and wonder. For Liverpool is indeed a world city, conjuring up images of the Beatles and modern pop music as well as its fame as a city of football. But Liverpool’s renown is built on more than the two modern cultural icons of football and music. Its history stretches back centuries, but only in the relatively recent past did Liverpool rise to prominence. The River Dee silted up, preventing slave ships from landing at my home town of Chester, and as Chester declined as a port so Liverpool rose, cornering the slave trade. That is a sorry story but one that is told so well in the International Slavery Museum, which opened this year in advance of Liverpool 08. We all hope that Liverpool 08 will be its annus mirabilis as it proudly takes stewardship of its year as European Capital of Culture.

It would be easy to say that Liverpool’s claim to cultural significance, like the emblematic liver birds, comes in twos: two wonderful art galleries in the Walker and Tate Liverpool; two splendid theatres in the Everyman and the Playhouse; two outstanding universities in Liverpool and JMU; two magnificent tunnels in the Wallasey and Birkenhead; two architectural masterpieces in the Catholic and Anglican cathedrals, and two wonderful football teams. Not Liverpool and Liverpool reserves; but Everton and Liverpool, the European Cup champions. How about a debate highlighting Liverpool’s European connections? Liverpool plays Marseille tomorrow night, another port town with which it shares a distinctive trading culture.

Liverpool’s heritage is deeper than such adventitious pairings of cultural icons. The Mersey poets number well beyond the trio of Henri, Patten and McGough. The buildings of Liverpool in their range, innovation and grandeur put Liverpool first among all other towns outside London in boasting an unsurpassed architectural heritage. I congratulate all those in Liverpool who have worked so hard not only to secure its designation as Capital of Culture but to bring the programme to the boil just weeks before the start.

Liverpool 08 will be a year-long celebration of the city’s cultural diversity. The year heralds a renaissance of a great European city. Those of us who celebrated Glasgow’s outstanding rebirth in 1990, as it rejoiced in the title of European Capital of Culture, are determined that Liverpool should succeed. We have an unexampled opportunity for Britain to get behind Liverpool 08 and show Britain at its best, especially in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics when the eyes of the world, not just Europe, will be upon us.

The people of Chester and Cheshire are backing Liverpool to the hilt and dedicating our own year of Cheshire Gardens of Distinction 2008 to Liverpool, which was itself home to one of the 1980s garden festivals supported by the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine. It will be an inclusive festival; the creative communities initiative will involve some 400,000 Merseysiders by the end of 2008. We believe that by making 2008 a success we will be confirming the European Union’s faith in the vital Capital of Culture programme. Our ambition is to rank alongside Glasgow, Bilbao and Lille in the pantheon of outstanding EU capitals of culture.

The events planned for the year have excited interest throughout Europe and the world. Indeed, in the aftermath we expect to welcome tourists who will in succeeding years spend some £200 million and generate many jobs and much prosperity for the region. Some of the highlights of the creative communities initiative include £1.2 million spent on public art, another programme celebrating street theatre, hosting the Turner Prize for the first time outside London, major retrospectives of Klimt and Koons at Tate Liverpool and of Le Corbusier. That is surely appropriate in a city which nurtured the unsung Liverpool architect Peter Ellis, who first showed in the 19th century how modern materials could be used to maximise light in new buildings. There will be classical concerts featuring Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting the superb European Union Youth Orchestra and, fittingly, the Cologne cathedral choir singing Benjamin Britten’s war requiem. Sir Paul McCartney will preside over a pop concert, and Liverpudlian Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the Berlin and Liverpool Philharmonics. Sounds like thirsty work? Why not slake your thirst in another of England’s finest cultural icons, the recently refurbished Philharmonic pub?

Liverpool 08 is not just about buildings. It is also about building and rebuilding communities. Some £3 billion of investment will produce an estimated 14,000 new jobs. St George’s Hall restored to its former glory and the opening of a state-of-the-art conference centre and concert seating 9,000 people will enhance the already dynamic riverfront. Liverpool’s tourism infrastructure will be strengthened by the development of the Liverpool One shopping centre, helping to propel Liverpool from sixteenth to sixth most visited British city. Some 20 million visitors are expected during the year.

The involvement of young people will be secured by the imaginative flagship initiative Portrait of a Nation funded by the Urban Cultural network and the Heritage Lottery Fund and co-ordinated by the Liverpool Culture Company, whose leadership in the programme has been pivotal. That will attract young people from across Britain and beyond. I am particularly thrilled that a session of the European Youth Parliament will see 300 young citizens from Europe gather in St George’s Hall to share common concerns. Younger citizens will be catered for in the Little Acorns programme. Others will be encouraged to work with established artists to tackle problems for young people such as looking after health, promoting enterprise and dealing with the unwanted and unwarranted perception of Liverpool as a city of crime.

Liverpool is now up and ready for the challenge of being Capital of Culture 08. This is a rare opportunity for a British city to host the event and, like Glasgow, Liverpool will harness culture to transform national, European and international perceptions of Liverpool. 2008 heralds the start of the cultural Olympiad that leads to London 2012. In delivering the Capital of Culture, Europe’s eyes will be upon us to succeed not just for Britain but for Europe.

It is a big financial commitment of some £100 million, with welcome contributions from the European Commission and from the Government directly and indirectly. I am impressed with the DCMS and the Arts Council England’s detailed help for Liverpool as listed in its five objectives. Local and regional businesses have been generous, as have the Government, particularly since the arrival of James Purnell as Secretary of State. Nevertheless, the local council, the central funder, still needs support from the Government to ensure that the funding gap is closed to bring a fitting conclusion in a year’s time. I ask my noble friend not to stint on helping to close that funding gap.

I also suggest to my noble friend that while DCMS has played an active supporting role, other Whitehall departments should put their shoulders to the wheel to fulfil broader themes of regeneration, health, education, neighbourhoods, crime, diversity and youth policy. Could DCMS also co-ordinate a programme of ministerial visits to Liverpool throughout the year to cement the active interest of the whole of Whitehall?

I am not aware that the European Commission has yet accepted Scouse as a working language of the European Community. I do know that Liverpool hymns an Esperanto of cultural diversity in the football chants on its terraces, in the chants and prayers in its churches, in the frozen music of its architecture, in the drama of its theatres inside and outside on the streets, in the beat of the Mersey sound and in the songs of the men who ferry visitors across the Mersey. For too long, the artistic and cultural variety of Liverpool—the city and its people—has been Britain’s best kept secret. Now is the time for us to celebrate its fascinating past, its pulsating present and, of course, its beckoning bright future.

My Lords, I am delighted to join the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, as a prologue to a celebration, or a series of celebrations, throughout 2008. I have been living in London for well over 50 years but I am proud to be a Liverpudlian. I was born in Liverpool, like my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and beyond. I went to school in Liverpool and when I came to this place I chose my title in recognition of Quarry Bank High school, a local authority grammar school in Liverpool from which I greatly benefited. John Lennon was a much later pupil, hence the skiffle group, the Quarrymen, which was soon transformed into the Beatles. Another pupil at the school was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith.

My Liverpool years were my formative years and I learnt much from Liverpool’s culture even if we did not use the description—books, painting, architecture and music. Two generations on, I hope that many young people will enjoy and benefit from the experience of this year.

It was almost seven years ago that I received an invitation from the Countess of Derby to support the early steps towards winning Liverpool’s prize of European Capital of Culture 2008—an irony because 50 years earlier I had been ejected from the 17th Earl of Derby’s estate for trespassing. “The land”, I said to his bailiff, “is the people’s”.

Growing up in Liverpool I was excited by every aspect of one of the great seaports of the world. I also remember the impact on Liverpool of the 1941 May blitz, which took 1,900 lives in a single week. But as the war came to an end, I was able to visit the Walker Art Gallery, which had an important collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings. We still have the Walker and the collection, but we also have Tate Liverpool with the 2008 Turner Prize and, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, mentioned, a major retrospective of Gustav Klimt.

There is St George’s Hall, which has just been renovated. It is a great neo-classical building of which I have a fine 1854 lithograph that hangs on the wall at my home. Another former pupil of Quarry Bank is Stephen Bayley, the design critic of the Observer, who finds Liverpool “utterly fascinating”. I share his view that not all the recent building developments are wonderful but there are now top-quality architects working in the city centre. In any case, Liverpool is already rich in long-standing eclectic buildings, including a vast number of places of worship, reflecting the 19th century life of a cosmopolitan city.

I heard classical orchestral music for the first time as a schoolboy in the concerts at the Philharmonic Hall conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, and I am delighted that Sir Simon Rattle, another Liverpudlian, will conduct the Berlin Philharmoniker.

When visiting the National Archives at Kew last week, I saw an original copy of King John’s 1229 Liverpool charter; and we have recently learnt that there was a Viking settlement on the Mersey. I am glad that the events will be within Liverpool’s long historic perspective but will also widen the life of the citizens and open the imagination of the next generation.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for putting this Question with such enthusiasm. The motto of the city of Liverpool is “Deus nobis haec otia fecit”, which means that God has given us this leisure. It is an extract from a poem by Virgil—a conversation between Tityrus and Meliboeus. I am sure that noble Lords will be interested in this. The former is bragging about his good fortune, explaining that God has given him all this wealth. Miliboeus, presumably wanting something for himself, asks, “But tell me about that God of yours, my friend”. Tityrus replies that the God who has given him so much is none other than a city men call Rome. It shows that the city fathers who chose this motto saw Liverpool as the latter-day Rome, not as second to London but as the centre of a new trading empire. Liverpool is making the journey from a 19th century capital of trade to a 21st century city in which there is huge investment from both the public and private sectors working together in unison with the leadership of the city council, the Liverpool Culture Company and the Regional Development Agency.

T S Eliot once defined culture as,

“those things that make life worth living”.

There is so much in the city of Liverpool that makes life worth living and the challenge for Liverpool, as for all the northern cities, is how to make that wealth flow through the whole city and to and through all the communities. Many cities today are threatened with the disease of urban diabetes where the blood pumps around only the heart of the city and its prestigious projects. The secret of good urban regeneration is to open the valves and ensure that the blood and the wealth pumps around the whole body. Otherwise the extremities—the outer estates—atrophy and die, and the limbs drop off.

One of the reasons that Liverpool won the city of culture was because it could demonstrate just how the whole city would be involved in the project, and benefit from it. My own cathedral—forgive me for boasting—is the largest Anglican cathedral in the world, with now the largest organ in the country. It will be hosting a number of events: a lecture by my noble friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of January on “Europe, Culture and Faith”; a performance of the “War Requiem” to be staged in both Liverpool and Cologne, our twin city; and the northern premiere of Sir Paul McCartney’s, “Ecce Cor Meum”.

Eight hundred years ago when King John gave his charter, he commanded the people to come to Liverpool

“in safety and in peace”.

This is the priority of private and public enterprise—that we should build a city of prosperity and pride where people can walk the streets and parks in safety and in peace. We are not complacent. We have known sorrow in the tragic killings of Anthony Walker and Rhys Jones. But we also know the comfort of solidarity and the dignity of forbearance, not least in the extraordinary examples of grace to be found in Anthony’s mother, Gee Walker, and Rhys’s family, Melanie, Stephen and Owen. This community spirit is as much a part of our culture as all our artistic achievements.

Liverpool is a microcosm of our whole society. When it is Capital of Culture next year it will be holding a mirror up to the nation. It is the city of culture not just for Liverpool but for the whole of the United Kingdom and for Europe. It would be good if the Government recognised that explictly.

My Lords, first, I must thank my noble friend Lord Harrison. I thought that his eloquent tribute to Liverpool and what the people intend to do in relation to its becoming the city of culture was absolutely first class. He ranged far and wide over the ability of Liverpool. Its magnificent buildings are already there; the cultures already exist. I believe—and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool expressed it very well—that people’s perception of Liverpool will be different following the year of culture.

This is the first time that the city of culture has been in this country since 1990. Glasgow had it, and it changed Glasgow for ever. I am sure that the same thing will happen to Liverpool. Liverpool is determined that this will be the best Capital of Culture event that has ever been held. I am certain that it will be right in that.

Immense benefits to Liverpool follow—not just to Liverpool, but to the region. That is why the Northwest Regional Development Agency has put millions into this venture, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool acknowledged. The agency supported it from the first, because it saw that it was not only about Liverpool—about speaking of the virtues of a city that deserves to be spoken about in that light—but also about the rest of the region. What we will see is not just the major cultural events, many of which have been described, but also street theatre and events in the community. Thousands of Liverpudlians will be directly engaged in the festival, a wonderful event that will not only change people’s ideas about Liverpool and its people, but make Liverpool a European capital city of culture in the future as well.

I am so pleased to be able to talk about this tonight. It is not just what we are doing now; it is not only that there has been something like £3 billion in investment. There will be the creation of 14,000 jobs, so there are lasting benefits. The lasting benefit of what is happening to Liverpool is that it will be not only the Capital of Culture but a Mecca for tourism in the future. That will go on year after year.

We are also seeing that, quite rightly, Liverpool will be the centre of what is occurring in 2008. In addition—and my noble friend Lord Harrison is quite right about this—others in the north-west are joining in. He was right to talk about it being the Cheshire Year of Gardens 08. Nobody knows better than the noble Lord, Lord McNally, about Lancastrian cuisine; it will be the Year of Food and Drink in Lancashire. In Manchester it will be Manchester World Sport 08. In Cumbria it will be the Year of Adventure. While Liverpool will benefit directly, so will the rest of the region.

I wish Liverpool well. After this, more and more people will want to go not just to watch Liverpool and Everton but to see the city itself and the magnificent buildings and, more important, feel the warmth of its people.

My Lords, we have heard of the links with Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire, but I remind noble Lords of the links with north Wales and mid-Wales. At one time, Liverpool was regarded as the capital of north and mid-Wales. For many of us, it still is.

So many of the builders of Liverpool were Welsh. They came and put Welsh names on the streets. They even took over the shops: Owen Owen’s, TJ Hughes’s and Lewis’s. The largest Welsh-speaking congregations in churches, particularly non-conformist churches, were not in Wales but in Liverpool. There were great cultural events such as the eisteddfodau; the Lewis’s Eisteddfod was a notable event for many years. I could take a long time speaking about this, but I must not, except to say that the links between Wales and Liverpool are historic and valuable and must be protected and expanded.

I call not only on the Government in London but also on the Assembly in Cardiff to understand the close nature of the links between north and mid-Wales and Liverpool. There is a proposal that certain medical treatment for the people of north and mid-Wales will not be provided in Liverpool and those people will need to travel to Cardiff and Swansea. Now, I admire Cardiff and Swansea, but a journey for a patient from north Wales to either takes something like five hours. From north Wales to Liverpool is just over an hour. A big contention now is whether neurological surgery and treatment should be continued at the Walton Centre in Liverpool. Then there is a problem for children at Alder Hay, Broadgreen and other hospitals losing their Welsh links. How important it is that we preserve these links and that north and mid-Wales keep these health and education links with their capital of Liverpool.

There is a new era of opportunity in the building of this link. Mike Storey was an outstanding leader of Liverpool City Council. Just before he retired he organised an apology from the city of Liverpool to the people of Wales for the drowning of the Tryweryn Valley to provide the reservoir. That drowning was a thoughtless gesture; all the MPs for Wales were against it, but it went through. Now, Mike managed to get a unanimous vote from Liverpool City Council, which began to build a bridge. I am only sorry that one effort of mine failed, which was to get the National Eisteddfod of Wales to be held in Liverpool preceding the European year of culture there.

There is an opportunity to keep and appreciate these traditional links. So many Welsh people have contributed a great deal to Liverpool, and Liverpool has contributed so much to the people of north Wales. I hope that the year of Liverpool being the Capital of Culture in Europe will also be a year when these links are reinforced, and there will be a great new happiness in our relationship.

My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and thank him for initiating this important debate this evening. In just 22 days, Liverpool will join an impressive clutch of cities that have previously secured this accolade, including capital cities such as Athens, Paris, Berlin and Stockholm. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool said, there were few in the city who did not join the impressive coalition forged to bring the bid forward. That number included some 20,000 schoolchildren.

I pay particular tribute to Professor Peter Toyne and the energy and skill that he deployed. I also pay tribute to the then leader of the city council, Mike Storey, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, referred, and the then chief executive, David Henshaw. When they were singing from the same hymn sheet, they were formidable indeed. Their starting point in placing that bid forward was economic and social disadvantage. You do not receive European Objective 1 status, as Merseyside did in the mid-1990s, unless your economy is performing 75 per cent below the average European Union economic activity per head. Since then, more than £2.4 billion has flowed into Merseyside— £463 million from the private sector, with a further £350 million to come via Objective 2 funding.

For several years, I served as a non-executive director and chairman of Merseyside Special Investment Fund. Set up in 1996, MSIF has backed 1,136 businesses, created 6,136 jobs and preserved a further 4,439. It has invested over £93 million and has brought in more than £192 million in private sector funds as investment. In addition, the Capital of Culture is expected to create a lasting legacy of some 14,000 jobs. The right reverend Prelate talked about the city’s motto being, “God has given unto us this leisure”. Happily, He is also now giving us jobs and work, which were part of the problem that the city faced in the 1980s and 1990s.

In declaring the chair that I hold at Liverpool John Moores University, I have nothing but praise for the hugely important role that our three universities have played in the city’s regeneration. It is good to see the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who is chancellor of Liverpool University, in his place this evening. Part of John Moores University’s contribution to Capital of Culture is its prestigious Roscoe lectures, which attract thousands of people. Lecturers have included the Dalai Lama, the President of Ireland, the Chief Rabbi and many other celebrated figures. This year they have included His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the President of Ghana, and next year’s lectures include one by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York.

The greatest lesson that Liverpool should learn from its success in becoming the Capital of Culture is that when it unites, it is invincible. The entire city now needs to show the same intense, united sense of purpose and utter commitment in ensuring that this opportunity bears many long-term fruits. Liverpool’s cultural achievements speak for themselves. Its theatres, museums, galleries, orchestral achievements and literary heritage make it the best cultural centre outside London. A new Museum of Liverpool is under construction; a renovated and expanded World Museum is attracting record numbers of visitors; the new International Slavery Museum is already open; and the spectacular 9,000-seater waterfront stadium, the Liverpool Echo Arena, will open early next year. Europe’s biggest retail development is under way; the cruise liner berth will become a full terminal; and the 2007 Turner Prize has arrived at the Tate of the north—the first time this prestigious event has been held outside London. There will be a rollercoaster of public lectures, public art, street theatre, exhibitions, community festivals and exhibitions. A winter arts festival begins in January. The largest programme of public and community art ever undertaken in the UK is under way and 400,000 Merseysiders will have been involved by the end of 2008. As the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, and others have said, that will play out right across the region.

Just achieving Capital of Culture status does not, of course, guarantee renaissance. It did not in Patras and it was only of limited value in Cork, but Glasgow—Capital of Culture in 1990—genuinely became miles better. That will happen in Liverpool, too, if the city unites to make it happen. The objective must be a legacy of long-term growth and sustainability.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Harrison on securing this debate, as next month Liverpool approaches the opening of a year’s activities and initiatives celebrating European Capital of Culture. I declare an interest in that my mother’s family is the Moores family; I refer especially to my late grandfather, Sir John Moores, who was instrumental in developing cultural life on Merseyside over many years. He initiated the John Moores exhibition to encourage young artists and to promote art outside London. That exhibition alternated each year with the Peter Moores exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery; remarkably, 2008 is the 25th John Moores exhibition, celebrating 50 years of encouragement to aspiring artists. The Moores family were also instrumental in bringing the Tate to Liverpool and in helping the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Today, James Moores and his sister Portia have raised the bar in artistic activities on Merseyside, reinvigorating the John Moores exhibition and initiating the biennial.

I also pay tribute to other leaders who have tirelessly promoted Liverpool: Loyd Grossman, chairman of Culture Northwest and of National Museums Liverpool, who spearheaded, with Dr David Fleming, a £68 million development programme for the museum; Bryan Gray, chairman of the Northwest Regional Development Agency; Warren Bradley, leader of the council; Phil Redmond, the entrepreneur; and many others.

Liverpool 08 will use culture to transform national and international perceptions of Merseyside. It is the first opportunity since 1990 for a British city to host the European Capital of Culture. It will happen; it will be fantastic; it will be delivered on time and on budget. Liverpool will be a credit to the nation and to Europe and Liverpool 08 will be a catalyst for the city’s regeneration, both in buildings and in institutions. National Museums Liverpool, which includes the Walker Art Gallery, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Lady Lever Art Gallery, the National Conservation Centre, the new International Slavery Museum, among others, and the Liverpool and Merseyside record offices and St George’s Hall have all benefited from over £100 million of spending. Liverpool’s tourism infrastructure will also be enhanced with developments such as the Liverpool One shopping centre. Liverpool has already gone from being 16th to the fifth most visited city since winning the bid. Visitor numbers at the National Museums have already risen from 700,000 in 2001 to almost 1.7 million this year.

Liverpool 08 is not just about buildings; it is also about rebuilding communities. At the heart of Liverpool 08’s contribution to the Cultural Olympiad will be the flagship Portrait of a Nation initiative, a campaign run by the Liverpool Culture Company.

Liverpool is also the centre of the pools industry, whose influence on British culture has helped to make football our national game. Merseyside celebrates two of the greatest football clubs, Everton and Liverpool; it is regrettable that Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, respectively from Liverpool and Everton, were missing extensively throughout England’s failed campaign for Euro 2008. Nevertheless, 2008 celebrates 80 years since Everton’s Dixie Dean’s unsurpassed record of scoring 60 goals in a season, which will be remembered through biographical plays and events. Everton Football Club will celebrate 130 years of success and the Football League will be 120 years old.

Liverpool 08 is not just good news for the people of Merseyside; it is also good news for the north-west. Cheshire will host the Cheshire Year of Gardens 08, which has been mentioned, with a year of programmes building on the success of the Royal Horticultural Society’s July event at Tatton Park and its partnership development with Ness Botanic Gardens. I am sure that the Minister will join us tonight in recognising and promoting Liverpool 08 as an event of national significance. The Government have been instrumental in funding and attracting support and will continue to work hand in hand with the Liverpool Culture Company, the council and their partners to deliver the best ever European Capital of Culture.

I congratulate the support shown by DCMS. I encourage it to see what more it could give and especially to look at ways in which to answer the council’s request to capitalise £20 million of revenue funding to avoid public sector funding restrictions. DCMS must also encourage other departments to support Liverpool 08, as the programme touches on many broader themes, such as regeneration, health, education, neighbourhoods, crime, diversity and youth policy. I encourage DCMS, with the Government Office for the North West, to co-ordinate a programme of ministerial visits to Liverpool throughout the year. It will be an experience to savour.

My Lords, I rise to associate myself with this excellent debate and to say, as chancellor of the University of Liverpool for the past 11 and a half years, what a great privilege it has been to help Liverpool build itself up, as it has done so rapidly. I am also grateful to the vice-chancellor of the university, Drummond Bone, for the work that he has done on the Cultural Company, and to all those people who put a tremendous amount of effort into making the year the success that I am sure it will be. The University of Liverpool’s Victoria Building is going to be renewed and replenished during the year and will be open in part to the public—that building gave the name to “red-brick universities”, which has gone right around the country. Liverpool is a great city and has wonderful things for people to come to see, but I hope that people will go a little bit further and on to Crosby beach to see the Gormley statues in the sea—that is one of the most remarkable sculptural exhibitions that I have ever seen. I wish the city every success.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, particularly on opening this short debate with what I can only describe as a lyrical overture. Almost everyone in the Chamber has been claiming some part of what is going to be the great success of Liverpool—the north-west, north Wales and, no doubt soon, London.

If I may so, there is a striking difference between the two great events that we are celebrating; one the Capital of Culture event next year and the other the London Olympics four years later. It is worth pointing out that the London Olympics will be hugely commercial, will have vast sums spent on it, will have professionally trained sports men and women and will, at the end of the day, be able to offer huge rewards to those who are successful. Liverpool, by contrast, has the story of a community coming together to contribute to the success of Liverpool as Capital of Culture. Briefly, looking at the extraordinary renaissance of Liverpool since the early 1980s, the church—at that time led by Bishop Sheppard of the Anglican community and Archbishop Worlock of the Catholic community—played a huge part, setting at rest what previously had been the fierce racial riots in the city, when we reached the very bottom. Since that time, there has been a tremendous outpouring of community inspiration and spirit in Liverpool, the reviving of singing and poetry reading in the pubs, and recognising the tremendous contribution of the universities. In that context, I would particularly congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Owen, on the fantastic work that the universities have done, making themselves available to the whole city. Those are not the universities of a small elite, those are universities that belong to and feed into the community.

In conclusion, I am delighted that we now have a new dynasty; the dynasty of my noble friend Lord Rodgers. Of course, there is the famous dynasty that the grandfather of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, represented; that of the Moores, who made huge contributions to the city. This is a wonderful example of a citizens’ City of Culture, a citizens’ contribution to the renaissance of a great part of this country. I hope strongly that it will be a great success—I am sure that it will be—and that this little debate will have sent it off into the finest waters.

My Lords, I have just returned from two of the most thrilling days of my life, working with young people in Liverpool, which is why my speech tonight is unpremeditated. It is the most fantastic and thrilling city. There is a joy in going around both the cathedrals, then looking at a church like St Agnes in Sefton Park and the Unitarian church next door and thinking, “Oh yes, it’s fabulous”, as are the city’s architecture and young people.

We had the most wonderful time working together on a musical about Northern Ireland, funnily enough, which was interesting. The kids knew a lot about history, but in one sense there was something a little lacking. One wondered whether one could take the whole thing further, because the joy of working in Liverpool is that it is multicultural and it has everything going for it. In the wonderful Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts—LIPA—you get a sense of everyone wanting to come together. They are very well funded there, but the city, too, wants to go another notch further. This is a city that will explode if it is given a little bit more encouragement. The architecture is thrilling—those of us who love churches know what is there—but the extraordinary nature of what is going on there has something of a lid on it. If the Government would give it a nudge, the lid would come off and it would be a cauldron of absolute joy and art.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, must have a warm glow about the debate that he has initiated, not least with the talent encouraged to contribute in the gap. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, should not worry—sometimes the impulsive speeches are the best of all. I am certain that Liverpool will be happy to have that endorsement from such a source.

My parents were born in Oceanic Road, Old Swan, at the turn of the previous century, and I was brought up on stories of Liverpool before the First World War. Liverpool was the first big city that I went to from Blackpool. When I was Member of Parliament for Stockport in the very early 1980s, I went across to a conference about Liverpool sponsored by Granada. It was one of the most depressing conferences that I had ever been to. The bleakness outside of depression and recession and the feeling that the city was going nowhere was very depressing indeed.

That is why the City of Culture and the run-up to it has been so very encouraging in the way that all parts and all sides have come together. Here, in the All-Party 08 Group, Members of both Houses of Parliament, including Michael Howard from the Conservative Party, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and all the Merseyside MPs, are working hard to give back-up.

It is no secret that when Liverpool won the City of Culture nomination, there were those, certainly in the national press, who sat back and waited to light the blue touch paper, thinking that somehow Liverpool would snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Liverpool has proved them wrong. It has overcome that. Those in our national press who make a sport of telling the worst of Liverpool should look at what has been achieved in recent years. As many speakers tonight have said, a genuine renaissance is going on in the city.

I remember doing some work there in the late 1980s. In some ways, the press image was justified, because you came out of Lime Street station and on your right was a hotel that had been derelict since the end of the war and opposite was the shuttered and darkened St George's Hall. Last year, I had the pleasure of going to hear the Prince of Wales give his Roscoe lecture, which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, mentioned, in the magnificent surroundings of the restored St George's Hall. The amazing waterfront has been restored and much else in the city.

What stuck in my mind about Liverpool winning the City of Culture was that someone from the panel that chose it said to me that one of the most heart-warming things about the presentation was when the selection panel went into an empty room and it then filled with young people from all parts of Liverpool and of every nationality, bringing home the message of a world in one city. The interesting thing about the City of Culture is that Liverpool has promoted not just high culture—important, because it has a world representation—but community culture. The breadth of the project is bringing home all of Liverpool's strengths.

Liverpool sometimes has a certain persecution complex. I hope that Liverpool will listen tonight to a message from London, from the House of Lords, that there is enormous good will and a great deal of admiration for the way in which the city has come together—all parties, all communities—and that there is now a real sense of expectation that we are on the verge of a great year for Liverpool and a great future for that city.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I ask the House’s indulgence and ask whether he is aware of the Abdullah Quilliam Society, given the long presence of his forefathers in Liverpool. Does he feel that, given the multicultural and multifaith nature of society as it is today in Liverpool, and given the work of Abdullah Quilliam in Liverpool, in particular, it would enrich the European Capital of Culture if there were proper and appropriate recognition of his work?

My Lords, I certainly agree. That was well done. If we had a Speaker in this House, the noble Baroness would be in trouble, but fortunately we do not.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for initiating this debate and say how much I enjoyed his wonderful enthusiasm for the City of Liverpool—and that of many other noble Lords. As a frequent visitor to Liverpool over the years, and having seen its renaissance at first hand, I have an especial fondness for the city and wish it the utmost success in its year as the European Capital of Culture.

Being named as the capital of culture will put Liverpool on the heritage map and alert people to the city’s status as a world heritage city. Liverpool has more museums and art galleries than any other British city aside from London—something which is not as well known as it should be. This will help to widen the knowledge of Liverpool.

There are expected to be considerable financial benefits. As capital of culture, Liverpool is expected to bring in £2 billion of investment to the cultural sector and create 14,000 new jobs—as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, pointed out. It is expected that nearly 2 million extra visitors will come to Liverpool for the festivals and events in 2008.

The positive effects have already started. Liverpool’s housing market has soared. Figures from Hometrack show that demand for property in the city rose after the announcement. There was a 10 per cent increase in June alone—a pattern quite different from some other northern cities. The 2008 celebrations should generate extra spending of £50 million.

Without wanting to upset the many noble Lords who have spoken this evening, I must say that Liverpool’s celebrations will be expensive. Recently Liverpool councillors were so concerned about the increasing cost that they appealed to the Department for Communities and Local Government to avert what one Labour councillor called a serious financial situation. The appeal failed. If Liverpool is unable to pay for the substantial cost of its award, will the Minister tell us whether the Government will pick up the bill?

At last week’s local authority settlement, it was made clear that, yet again, southern council tax payers will be subsidising the northern councils. Are further subsidies to be given to Liverpool as well as the substantial contributions from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport? That having been said, I wish Liverpool all the best, not only for 2008, but beyond.

My Lords, I ought to feel somewhat aggrieved as my 12-minute contribution has been reduced to six, which leaves me less time than I would have wanted to congratulate all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate.

I recall when the bid was going forward for Liverpool as the city of culture. Nearly all noble Lords who have spoken this evening spoke on that occasion with great effect. It is sometimes suggested that this House is not listened to outside as much as it might be, but on that occasion we were able to demonstrate a unity of purpose. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, indicated, we also associated with the other place in that endeavour. I was pleased to reply to a debate in which the enormous enthusiasm of noble Lords for the Liverpool venture—a very large number of whom come from the city—was quite clear.

We are almost at the point of reaching fulfilment but challenges lie ahead. We all recognise that. The noble Lord, Lord Howard, is right to enter a note of caution. This Capital of Culture costs money and, in certain aspects, the city is facing some difficulties. I want to emphasise the significant contribution that the Government have made thus far in support of the city. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, along with other noble Lords, mentioned the refurbishment of St George’s Hall, to which the Heritage Lottery Fund made a substantial contribution. In other areas, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been concerned to give as much support as possible for what promises to be an outstanding year.

There is no doubt already that the city can balance various elements, as the right reverend Prelate indicated that it should. It not only has high culture such as the very impressive classical music events that are being developed and the Gustav Klimt exhibition at Tate Liverpool, but it is bringing forth the energies of people. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, emphasised the role of young people. One of Liverpool’s great strengths is undoubtedly the extent to which its people can come together when there is a project on which they unite. This is a great opportunity.

I do not have to survey the events that have already been put in place because my noble friend Lord Harrison, who has given us this significant opportunity to discuss the subject and who introduced the debate so superbly, has already covered them. I am concerned, however, that we make this year a creative experience with a lasting legacy. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, we recognise that this investment in the city must have a longer-term legacy. It is very important that we recognise the potential economic benefits to Liverpool, which are already showing, as noble Lords have said, in the increased role of tourism in the city and the number of visits in recent years. Tourism plays an important part in a local economy, and there is no doubt that the richness of Liverpool’s cultural heritage at this time and the refurbishment that has been effected through significant investment in the past five years give tourists a better experience than they might have had in the past. I mention the obvious fact that Liverpool is preparing for these tourists. A thousand new hotel rooms will open in 2008, bearing on the 73 per cent increase between 1997 and 2006. No doubt the city is working hard to ensure that a consistently high level of service will be on offer throughout the city.

I recognise what everyone who has spoken in the debate this evening has emphasised; this is not only about the economic legacy but about the experience of the year, as well as about people’s ability to come together. We should put a little more emphasis than we have this evening on the work that has been done to bring volunteers together to ensure that tourists enjoy the experience of the city. That is a great way of engaging young people. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, indicated other areas in which they are responding. The very strength of Liverpool in many ways is the inherent enthusiasm that people once generated. It is also true that they can put their case rather more pessimistically on occasions. We have a great opportunity for them to reap the rewards of enthusiasm. Noble Lords who have contributed to the debate have been enormously optimistic and enthusiastic about the opportunities that are provided. And so we should be. There is no doubt that there will be a great cultural legacy from this year. The accountants will scratch their heads about how the bills will be paid. I cannot tell the noble Lord, Lord Howard, that the Government will pick up the bill. The Government have a clear definition.

My Lords, it would be wrong to leave the impression given by the Conservative Front Bench that Liverpool wanted to pick the pockets of southern taxpayers. Liverpool has made a number of constructive proposals, and I hope that the Government will respond constructively. That is all that is being asked.

My Lords, I am grateful for that crisp intervention, because it reduces my four sentences to one with great accuracy. It was a point that I wanted to make. There is no doubt that a great deal of investment is being made, and Liverpool is playing its part and pulling its weight. I, too, emphasise the substantial role played by my department in the cultural development of Liverpool in the past few years.

This is an opportunity in which the whole nation can share. It is true that a great deal of credit will go to the people of Liverpool when this year is a great success, but it is also true that the nation will enjoy this year hugely. I have no doubt that there will be a very large number of overseas tourists. We have already seen the numbers of people who come from other parts of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, is absolutely right that Liverpool is important because of its place in the hinterland. Indeed, Liverpool offers access to both the north-west and north Wales.

I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, for emphasising the role which the University of Liverpool is playing in this development. I also liked his reference to Crosby Beach and I hope many of the tourists who come to Liverpool see those sculptures. They are among the most striking things to see and appreciate in modern art.

I appreciate that, this evening, we have seen a most constructive, optimistic and enthusiastic presentation of the case for Liverpool. That is the way in which it will be the Capital of Culture, and the way the whole nation will rejoice in its success.