Liverpool told to pay back cash in cruise row

10:27am Tuesday 22nd May 2012

By Tom Moseley

MINISTERS have this morning announced how much public cash Liverpool will have to repay to muscle in on Southampton’s cruise industry.

Shipping Minister Mike Penning has said a one-off payment of £8.8m, or £12.6m spread over 15 years, would be sufficient for restrictions to be lifted.

The Merseysiders had offered to pay back just £5.5m of the £9.2m grants.

Mr Penning told MPs: “In my view this represents a fair outcome that addresses competition concerns while enhancing the benefits to secure which the grants were initially paid.”

The statement will anger some in the Southampton camp by offering the chance to spread payments until 2027. And it makes no reference to a separate EU grant of around £8.6 million, which Liverpool has not offered to repay.

Final removal of the conditions will depend on state aid clearance from the European Commission, although Liverpool plans to restart cruises from its terminal within weeks

Reacting to the announcement, Southampton Itchen MP John Denham, said: “The Minister’s decision to require Liverpool to pay back more of the public subsidy on their cruise terminal vindicates the campaign that I and many organisations in the city have been running. It shows we were right to raise concerns that fair competition was being undermined.

“However, Liverpool is still only being asked to pay back less than half the subsidy they have received. It’s now down to the European Union to ensure that State Aid rules are fairly applied.”

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