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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

All 12 cities who have entered the contest to be Britain's European Capital of Culture in 2008 will benefit from the process of developing their bid, culture minister Baroness Blackstone told peers.

Replying to a lords debate in which every speaker - except Conservative whip Lord Luke, who initiated it - acted as advocate for one of the bidders, she said she had a completely open mind and was boringly non-partisan. She said she was delighted that 12 cities had come forward in the competition to select the UK's nomination for 2008, when it would provide the European City of Culture. No city had been lent on to bid or not to bid. It had been entirely a matter for the cities themselves, she explained.

'I am sure that all the cities that have entered the competition will benefit from the process of developing their bids, through building new partnerships and by identifying new and innovative ways of improving and enhancing their cultural life. I am also sure that the city that wins the title will be a magnificient showcase for its own cultural life and for the UK as a whole' she added.

'However, I emphasise that the competition is not just about winners and losers. We want all the cities to derive some benefit from taking part in the competition...

'When we launched the capital of culture competition we announced that we would expand it in the UK and designate the shortlisted cities as centres of culture. That is desirable, because not everbody can win, but just by dint of entering they will have put a lot of effort into developing their particular culture in the broadest sense of the term'.

All bids would be evaluated on the same basis against the UK government's published criteria. The selected city would also meet the criteria laid down by the EU.

The independent advisory panel to evaluate the bids and produce a report for ministers - the final choice of city will be made by the prime minister- will be announced as soon as possible. The bids from the competing cities covered a broad spectrum and government wanted to ensure the expertise of the panel reflected this as far as possible.

The government was aiming to announcing the shortlist in late autumn and the final winner in spring 2003, although the timetable would be kept under review. The nomination has to reach the EU by the end of 2003.

She said Glasgow had used its year and the city of culture title to enormous effect, winning both economic and social benefits.

'The city that is awarded the title will have an unparalleled opportunity to promote itself and its culture and to represent the UK on the international stage. Whichever city it is, I think that we should all wish it the very best for 2008', concluded Baroness Blackstone.

Hansard 1 May 2002: Column 772-790

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