THE GOVERNMENT has said Liverpool must pay back some of the public money it received if it wants to compete with Southampton for cruise business.

Transport minister Mike Penning today told Southampton City Council leader Royston Smith the Merseyside port would have to return some of the £21m subsidy it got to build a brand new terminal.

The taxpayer-funded facility was initially designed only to deal with calling cruise ships, but Liverpool City Council now says it wants to use it for the more lucrative turnaround business too.

That had led to claims of unfair competition, as the port would be in direct competition with Southampton, despite the city's facilities being entirely funded by the private sector.

Although the decision effectively gives Liverpool the green light to tout for turnaround cruises, Cllr Smith today told the Daily Echo he believed his meeting was a success.

He said: "The minister is waiting for them to come up with a proposal, and if he thinks it's acceptable he'll go to consultation.

"I would say they have to pay most of it back - as much as possible."

• Read the full story and reaction in Tuesday's Daily Echo.