when I proposed creating development corporations in the East End
of London and on the banks of the Mersey.
Effectively, they were coordinating bodies with the resources and
powers to make and enable the public and private sectors to work
together for economic and social gain. Old enmities faded in the
face of human relationships and problems shared. Both achieved
significant investment in excess of the public contribution. I learnt
Even more important and influential was my three-year relationship
with the City of Liverpool and, particularly, the 18 months I spent in
a role that became known as the Minister for Merseyside.
Peter Shore, the Labour minister I replaced as Secretary of State
for the Environment, had introduced a partnership arrangement
wherein each of his department colleagues entered into a partnership
arrangement with a city with urban stress. He chose Liverpool. I
agreed to continue with the arrangement.
My first 18 months saw significant decisions relevant to that great
city. I created a development corporation to regenerate 600 acres of
toxic land on the banks of the Mersey, saved the iconic Albert Dock
by listing it, announced that Britain’s first garden festival would be
held in Liverpool, and introduced the Derelict Land Grant that Peter
Walker had used to get rid of rural eyesores for regenerating urban
dereliction. Of particular significance, this money had to be spent in
partnership with the private sector, thus establishing the concept of
partnership and gearing.
The riots of 1981 created a dilemma for me. I felt a personal
responsibility. I had been the partner minister for 18 months.
People had rioted. I felt a need to escape the stereotypical reactions
that inevitably follow such events. There are usually two sides to
a story and, whilst sympathetic to the traditional response of a Tory
government that such behaviour cannot be tolerated and the forces of
law and order respected, I wanted to be sure there was no alternative
case to answer. It is not impossible that the Prime Minister herself