§ [Relevant documents: First Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 2000–01, on Wales in the World: the role of the UK Government in promoting Wales abroad, HC 38, and the Government's Response thereto, HC 270, Session 2001–02; Second Special Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee of Session 2001–02, HC 311—Response of the National Assembly for Wales to the First Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 2000–01, on Wales in the World: the role of the UK Government in promoting Wales abroad, HC 311, Session 2001–02.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]1.11 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy)
Welsh Members are rarely given the opportunity to engage in a day-long Adjournment debate, on a Thursday, about a matter affecting Wales. There is, of course, our annual St. David's day debate, which takes place around the time of that saint's day, but apart from that we have few such opportunities.
§ Mr. Murphy
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Welsh Grand Committee was due to debate the matter later in the year. For various reasons, however, this slot has become available, and I think it beneficial for Welsh Members to be able to rise to the challenge as I know only Welsh Members can.
I pay special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones), who, as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, initiated the inquiry into Wales's position in the world and what has happened to its profile since devolution. The Committee is extremely important. Over the years, it has more than once highlighted issues of great significance to the people of Wales and, indeed, to the whole United Kingdom. We currently await its report on objective 1 structural funding for Wales. Uniquely, it took evidence on that important issue from me and also from the First Minister of the National Assembly in Cardiff. We also await its reports on farming and food prices, and on broadband cabling. A report on transport in Wales is still under way.
That last example highlights the way in which the Committee is adapting to a post-devolution world. It now meets its counterparts in the National Assembly, where issues such as transport that are divided between the Assembly and the Government can be dealt with jointly. Today, however, we shall deal with an even broader subject—the position of Wales in the wider world. The responses of the Assembly and the Government to the Committee's report on the subject also indicate that government in Wales is a joint affair—that the people of Wales are represented jointly by Members of the House of Commons here and by Members of the National Assembly in Cardiff. Clearly, in this and other instances, co-operation and partnership between the Assembly and the Government can work.
§ Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
My right hon. Friend is right to point out the advantages of partnership 1063 between this House and the National Assembly. When he and the First Minister talk about modernisation and adapting the procedures of the House, will they consider the possibility of having a joint Committee of the Assembly and Parliament, particularly in matters such as this, in which both the Assembly and Parliament clearly have an interest? Rather than making recommendations to the Assembly, the joint Committee could make representations that draw on the strengths of Members from both the Assembly and Parliament, which could be of real value to Wales.
§ Mr. Murphy
I shall certainly mention that to the First Minister. My right hon. Friend the President of the Council has now left, but I know that he will read what my right hon. Friend has said in Hansard and take those points into account. We need to be innovative in the way in which we deal with issues constitutionally following the advent of devolution. I take my right hon. Friend's point.
§ Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster)
I hope that the innovations will have a bearing on all our constituents, whether they live on the borders of Wales or are Welsh themselves. One of the difficulties that I face is that I cannot ask the Secretary of State questions about issues that are devolved: because they are devolved, it is impossible for hon. Members even to ask about them. Perhaps one of the innovations that the right hon. Gentleman will seek to bring in will permit some sort of dialogue or exchange in this Chamber to allow the concerns of our constituents on the borders outside Wales to be voiced to him.
§ Mr. Murphy
I have no problems with that. At most Welsh questions, there is no shortage of hon. Members on both sides of the House asking me questions that impinge on matters that are devolved, as opposed to those that are reserved.
Devolution has highlighted the international position of Wales in a special way. This coming Saturday, in just over 48 hours' time, the 2002 FA cup final will kick off at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff. It will be watched by hundreds of millions of people in more than 100 countries, so the profile of Wales will be raised still more and in a special way this weekend.
As the Select Committee's investigation showed, the problem has been that, internationally, Scotland and Ireland have had a higher profile than Wales for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it is a question of size and of the extent to which the Scottish and Irish diaspora stay together in the United States, Australia and other countries. Although Welsh people did emigrate to America and elsewhere, because of the size of Welsh communities abroad, and for reasons of assimilation, Wales's profile was not as high as that of Scotland and Ireland. The Select Committee report did a great service in trying to find out why that was and, more significantly, how that profile could he raised to make Wales better known and more frequently visited by people from elsewhere.
§ Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
Members on both sides of the House who went on the 1064 visit to America discovered that several Welsh expatriates were keen to assist in raising the profile of Wales. We had quite a lengthy telephone conference with them. To our disgust and dismay—I think I speak for hon. Members throughout the House in this—their offers of help to the Welsh Development Agency and Wales Tourist Board were rejected out of hand. Surely there is something wrong there.
§ Mr. Murphy
I do not know the details of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised, but I agree with him in principle. If any help comes from expat Welsh men or women living anywhere in the world, it is important that we take advantage of that. The Scottish and Irish do, and we should too. The hon. Gentleman refers to the United States, and I am sure that other hon. Members, like me, have talked to politicians in the United States.
There is hardly a family in Wales that does not have some American connection: my great grandparents went to Philadelphia, stayed a year and came back again, but there were others who remained in America. More people in Wales work for American companies than for any other foreign companies. That connection with the United States could be used in a positive way for the people of Wales.
§ Mr. Bryant
I feel almost ashamed to bring in my American anecdote now. My right hon. Friend may be amused to know that when the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport visited the United States recently, the British consul turned out to be from Penygraig and the venture capitalist who led the discussion at Stanford university on the Tuesday morning was from Treorchy. Clearly, the Rhondda has so much get up and go that some people have got up and gone.
§ Mr. Murphy
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Everyone except me seems to have visited America recently.
§ Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)
To make a slightly more serious point, At is worth drawing attention to the success of the south of Ireland in the United States. Ireland has been immensely successful at creating a brand identity in the United States that has clearly brought economic benefits. Does the Minister agree that if we were proactive in this regard, although we might not achieve the same success as Ireland, we could certainly go a long way towards creating a trend of Welsh pride in the United States which could produce not only tourism benefits, but economic benefits which are currently going elsewhere?
§ Mr. Murphy
Yes. I shall make some specific points about that later in my speech. I visited America several times when I was Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office. The hon. Gentleman will know that 40 million people in the United States claim Irish ancestry. Any comparison should take account of the huge difference in 1065 scale, although that does not mean that post-devolution Wales, or indeed the United Kingdom, cannot take advantage of the factors that he mentioned.
§ Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)
If my right hon. Friend gets an opportunity to visit the United States in the near future, will he follow the example of my constituent Charlotte Church, who took the opportunity to explain to President George W. Bush where Wales is. Perhaps if my right hon. Friend's ancestors had stayed over there and he had become President of the United States, there might be more awareness of where Wales is. Will he take the opportunity of reminding US politicians where Wales is?
§ Mr. Murphy
I shall certainly do that, although I have no intention of singing the rest of my speech. My hon. Friend makes a valid point. People like Charlotte Church raise the profile of Wales and Welsh people in a very special way.
To return to Europe, which is geographically closer to home, it is important that we tell the rest of the United Kingdom that, on balance, Wales is more pro-Europe than any other part of the United Kingdom. There are various reasons for that, not the least of which is the fact that Wales has a substantial structural funding regime. Two thirds of the land mass of Wales will now get objective 1 funding. That is crucial to the future prosperity of the Welsh economy, although it is not the only reason why people in Wales feel that they understand Europe and relate to it.
Recently, Welsh politicians have been talking to their counterparts in regional government in the European Union. The Committee of the Regions plays an important role in regional activities and regional government in Europe. I pay tribute to two members of that committee: Rosemary Butler, who is a member of the Welsh Assembly, and Brian Smith, who is a member of the Welsh Local Government Association. They and their alternates play an important role in raising the profile of Wales.
I visited Spain a couple of weeks ago. I went to the Asturias region which, Members will know, is very similar to Wales in that it was traditionally a coal and steel region and has now had to change. After that, I spoke at a conference in Segovia, where there were people from all over Europe who are now looking at the way in which regional government is operating in the European Union context.
Wales is of course playing its part in that context. My Department plays that role; my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary recently led a trade mission to the Czech Republic. Welsh Members of Parliament have a role to play, too. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) recently took a number of Members to Brussels to talk to people in the EU. The Welsh Affairs Committee has of course visited Brussels, where its members have talked to EU politicians and officials.
In addition, something has occurred that is peculiar to the development of devolution. In establishing the devolution settlements, liaison was important not only between the Government and the Assembly, but with the other devolved Administrations in the UK—the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament and its Executive. To that end, on 30 October in Cardiff, the Prime Minister chaired a joint ministerial council, 1066 which looked in principle at how we deal with international affairs from a devolution point of view, and at our relationship with Europe.
In addition to that, the Foreign Secretary chairs meetings of the joint ministerial council on Europe, of which there have been three in recent months. They discussed, among other things, the convention on the future of Europe and the 2004 intergovernmental conference. As well as that, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe organises with the Assembly a series of what are called Minecor meetings, which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary also attends.
What is so new is the way in which the Assembly is participating in Europe. There is specific Assembly representation in Brussels as part of the UK representation. Assembly Ministers go to EU Council meetings. An interesting and important development since devolution is that between April 2001 and March 2002, there have been seven Council meetings, attended by Ministers from Cardiff who deal with culture, the environment, agriculture and education. Indeed, the Assembly Minister responsible has led on youth issues at such meetings. That compares interestingly with four meetings in previous years. I remind Members that, even though Assembly Ministers represent a devolved Administration, they have become part of the UK delegation at such meetings. The same of course applies to Scotland and to Northern Ireland.
Assembly Ministers have visited countries such as Ireland, Finland and Spain, and the Assembly is a member of various EU networks. Those include links with the motor regions of Catalonia, Baden-Wurttemberg, Lombardy and Rhone-Alpes.
§ Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire)
The Secretary of State is right when he says that Wales is broadly pro-European. Europe is also very pro-Wales. If one introduces oneself as Welsh and living in Wales when one is travelling, one receives a much better reception than if one leaves it to people to assume that one is of some other origin. The benefits that flow from that relationship are often impeded by the exchange rate between the pound and the euro, which disadvantages our manufacturing and agricultural exports, and above all our tourism operators, who have in the past depended on European visitors for much of their trade. Sadly, that is not so to the same extent at present.
§ Mr. Murphy
Yes, that is particularly important for us in Wales. The hon. Gentleman rather neatly takes me to the next subject on which I propose to touch: tourism. He, perhaps more than any other Member in the Chamber, will know the impact of the foot and mouth disaster and, of course, of the events of 11 September on the tourism industry.
In Brecon and Radnorshire, as well as in other constituencies throughout Wales—especially in Snowdonia—tourism has been badly hit by those events. The Welsh Affairs Committee in its evidence mentioned the need for an improved working relationship between the British Tourist Authority and the Wales Tourist Board, so that they could work together to promote tourism in Wales. For obvious reasons, a British tourist authority exists to promote Wales as much as it does to promote England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
1067 We want to maximise Wales's share of overseas visitors and of visitors from other parts of the UK. There are signs, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, that things are getting better for the tourist industry. It will take time, especially given the huge loss of resources suffered by small businesses in Wales as a result of what hit them. However, if good can come from the disaster that has occurred, it is that people in Wales have managed to focus on ensuring that we attract visitors from other parts of the world to come to Wales.
Everyone knows that the core attractions for visitors to the United Kingdom are London, Stratford-on-Avon and, perhaps, Edinburgh. It is often difficult to get visitors to go elsewhere, but it is the job of the WTB and the BTA, working together, to ensure that overseas visitors look at their brochures and understand that Wales has much to offer. We have a great diversity of opportunity for tourists and it is up to us—in the Government and in the Assembly—to ensure that that is promoted.
§ Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy)
It concerned me greatly that, 12 months after the foot and mouth outbreak occurred, our television programmes were recently showing pictures of burning animals. If my right hon. Friend shares my concern about that, will he use his good offices to persuade the powers-that-be at the BBC and the other channels to refrain from using such images in their news bulletins? As a Member for a constituency that relies heavily on tourism, I was also concerned—as I said in the Welsh Grand Committee—by the incident that took place over the Easter weekend in which activists from the Cymuned group stood on the cob in Porthmadog. It did not affect my constituency directly, but it affected the constituencies of the hon. Members for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams). I would hope that they would join me in condemning such actions, which will affect the livelihood of their constituents. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Does that mean that the hon. Gentlemen do not agree with me? Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning such actions, because foot and mouth last year brought the tourism industry to its knees?
§ Mr. Murphy
Of course I condemn such actions, and every right-thinking person would do so. Anybody in their right mind who wishes to increase the tourism potential of north Wales would not partake in those activities, because it is important to give the right impression to people from abroad that when they visit Wales they will receive a proper Welsh welcome.
§ Mr. Bryant
There is a serious point to be made about the way in which broadcasters portray Wales to the rest of the world. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has seen the film "Solomon and Gaenor", which is mentioned in the Committee's report. It is a fine movie, but it is unremittingly sad and gives a destructive vision of Welsh society—admittedly some 50 or 60 years ago. What can we do to ensure that broadcasters portray Wales in a positive way that will encourage people to come to Wales?
§ Mr. Murphy
I do not think that we can abandon sadness altogether. Even we in Wales are sad from time 1068 to time, about different things. However, I understand my hon. Friend's point: if a gloomy picture is being painted of the way in which we in Wales work and live our lives, that is something that must be considered.
My hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) mentioned her constituency. I was there yesterday, in Llandudno. It was a very nice, sunny, early spring day—
§ Mr. Murphy
I must say that I thought that there was an enormous opportunity there to capture the overseas visitor. The area has mountains and a beach, and hotels in Wales are improving all the time. Indeed, the only five-star hotel in the country is in my hon. Friend's constituency.
Television is important. The British Tourist Authority is advertising on the television, and its overseas campaign will feature Carreg Cennen castle in south Wales. Other advertising ventures will be undertaken by the BTA and the Wales Tourist Board. They are vital to getting people to understand what Wales has to offer.
The House will recall that the WTB is organising a campaign called "Wales—The Big Country", which is aimed especially at getting people from other parts of the UK to visit Wales. All hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies are conscious of the importance of tourism to our economy, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises. That importance arises from the fact that Wales is such a beautiful country.
I know that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, are a Welsh woman and that you are familiar with some of the points being made in the debate. You will know that, in addition to tourism, inward investment has been singularly important in ensuring the strengthening of the Welsh economy over the years. The Welsh Development Agency and Invest UK are working together much more effectively than in the past. They have sponsored events abroad, one of which took place in Hanover and involved Cardiff university.
Companies that have been responsible for inward investment in Wales in the past year include International Rectifier, the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, Continental Teves, Borg Warner, and ICM Pharmaceuticals. In addition, the Welsh Assembly has made more money available for Wales Trade International.
However, the figures on the business done abroad by Welsh companies are staggering; exports from Wales total about £6 billion, of which more than £4 billion goes to countries within the EU.
§ Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)
Inward investment is important, but does the Secretary of State agree that there is a danger in focusing on that as the sole answer to all problems? Long-term structural changes are needed in the Welsh economy to encourage a sense of entrepreneurship in many communities, but they will not necessarily be stimulated by inward investment. Do not indigenous businesses need support and promotion as much as any form of inward investment?
§ Mr. Murphy
I could not agree more. The hon. Gentleman is right: we cannot afford to rely solely on companies from other countries to stimulate industrial development in Wales. Such companies, not least those 1069 from Japan, have been significant for us but, as I said earlier, so have companies from the US. Increasingly, however, we live and work in a global economic environment, and many companies that originated in Wales and the UK have been taken over, often by American companies. For example, in my constituency, more people now work for American companies than work for companies owned by any other investor. That is because local firms have been taken over by American, global companies. An example of that is Girlings, the brake manufacturer, which was originally a British firm, and similar examples can be found in both north and south Wales.
However, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Frisk) mentioned indigenous small and medium-sized businesses. I know that the Assembly is working hard to ensure that such companies are enabled to fulfil their potential.
§ Mr. Prisk
The Secretary of State is very generous in giving way again. Many in the Chamber will be concerned, as I am, about steel imports and the American position. What contribution has the right hon. Gentleman made to ensuring that Welsh steel businesses have been properly represented? Perhaps there is an opportunity here to square the deal and respond to the American changes in import controls.
§ Mr. Murphy
Yes, not least of which was the recent meeting that I had with the First Minister and the Deputy Trade Secretary of the United States Government when he visited Cardiff. We spent a great deal of time discussing those issues. Moreover, I represent a steel constituency; some hundreds of people in my constituency work in the Panteg steelworks and also in Llanwern.
The hon. Gentleman's general point is about the importance of indigenous firms. What they export, from the European point of view, is extremely important. The significance of the exchange rate has been mentioned; it is important not only to the tourism industry but to the steel and manufacturing industries, and is one reason why Europe is of such huge significance to the people of Wales and Welsh industry in general.
The other aspect referred to in the Select Committee report was the importance of the British Council in raising the profile of Wales. Since devolution, it has made an enormous contribution to ensuring that that profile is higher than it used to be. It contributes to festivals, such as that in Hay-on-Wye; it ensures that the catalogues of Welsh literature go to all overseas British Council offices and it promotes the exports of Welsh creative industries, which are increasingly important to us.
It is a staggering fact that more people are employed in the creative industries—in the media, films and music—than were employed in the steel and coal industry combined. When I was a boy, all those years ago, between 250,000 and 500,000 people in Wales, including my father, were employed in those two big industries.
Huge changes have taken place, but the most exciting developments of the past five to 10 years have been in film, media and music. The British Council is helping to ensure that Catatonia and the Stereophonics, to name but two, are known the world over, not just in Europe or the United Kingdom.
Wales Arts International has been strengthened, with four full-time staff in the Cardiff office of the British Council dealing specifically with Wales Arts International. 1070 The British Council also organised a conference on lesser used languages in Europe, helped by the Welsh Language Board. It trains and gives seminars on devolution to its own staff so that people throughout the world working for the British Council are aware of what Wales is like since devolution.
I am also glad to say that the First Minister has set up Wales International centres around the world. These are not embassies or consulates; instead, they complement the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which supports what the Assembly is doing. The centres raise our profile, helping trade, industry and tourism. The first will be in New York next year, while others will be sited in San Francisco, Tokyo, Hong Kong and mainland Europe. As well as dealing with trade and industry, they work with universities, local authorities, museums, libraries, sporting organisations and, of course, with the diaspora—the expats who were referred to earlier. I pay special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) who, along with other Members, has dealt with issues surrounding the Welsh diaspora, which are very important to people in Wales.
In addition, there is significant consular representation in Cardiff with honorary consuls from countries in Europe, Africa, south and central America, the far east and Canada. The Irish Consul General in Cardiff does an extremely good job, and a diplomat from the United States embassy is dedicated to dealing with Welsh issues.
Staff in our embassies and consulates around the world are trained, when ambassadors and high commissioners are appointed, to be aware of the United Kingdom's new constitutional arrangements. People in our posts around the world are conscious of devolution.
§ Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that Wales's standing in the world is also enhanced by the numerous voluntary groups and solidarity groups that have links with other countries and promote Wales as a devolved country throughout the world? I am thinking of one group in particular—the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign—which has for many years forged links with the autonomous coast of Nicaragua, which has had a long-standing relationship with us because of similarities in our respective language and cultural traditions. Does he agree that those groups, at the grassroots, also portray Wales to the world?
§ Mr. Murphy
Yes, and I also remind the House that there is nothing particularly new in that. Wales was involved in such activities throughout the 20th century. In fact, it has always been a country that has looked outwards, not inwards. It has been international in many respects of that word. As hon. Members who represent valley constituencies will recall from their histories of their constituencies, many Welsh miners went to fight in the Spanish civil war to oppose fascism.
The essence of Welsh politics has not just been confined to domestic issues, but has extended to international ones as well, and that will be even more so in a devolved Wales. Far from being introspective, devolution has meant that—in the context of being not only part of the United Kingdom, but very special and different, too—we can exercise all the talents of Welsh men and women internationally as well as domestically.
For that reason, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd. South and the other members of the Welsh Affairs Committee for doing an excellent job in highlighting the 1071 profile of Wales and in ensuring that the Assembly and the Government have had to react positively to the points that the Select Committee has made. The Assembly and the Government have made enormous strides in raising the profile of Wales. Devolution has added a huge new dimension to our relationship with the rest of the world. It recognises the fact that, yes, we are part of the United Kingdom, but that we are a very special part of it, and I commend the Select Committee's report to the House.
§ Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)
Today's subject is very important—"Wales in the World: the role of the UK Government in promoting Wales abroad". I am not sure whether to blow the cobwebs off that report—it is more than a year old. I suspect that we have the great people of England to thank for today's debate because, as everyone knows, local government elections are being held in England.
I am afraid that we will have to wait a couple of years for similar elections in Wales because, as the hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) said, the Welsh Assembly, in its great wisdom, decided to defer the Welsh elections by 12 months, so that they would not take place on the same day as the Welsh Assembly elections. None the less, I dusted down my copy of the report and had a good read. It is important that we do not look a gift horse in the mouth; we should take the opportunities that exist. I suspect that we had to battle hard against all the other competing bids for today's subject.
We should build on the report. In parts, it is a fairly miserable report, given that, of all the United Kingdom's constituent parts, Wales comes fourth out of four in terms of recognition. We are mostly known for things such as the Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales. News bulletins in the United States of America used to refer to them as the Waleses. [Interruption.] That is absolutely true, so it is indeed a case of God bless the Prince of Wales.
We are also known for our rugby skills, although I suspect that people are nostalgic about them these days. So there are the usual stereotypes, and I remember that the Minister for Europe, the right hon. Member for Neath (Peter Hain), was very keen on the phrase "Cool Cymru", but I suspect that his campaign has foundered.
I heard what the Secretary of State said about groups such as Catatonia, the Stereophonics and the Super Furry Animals. I suspect, however, that Wales does well out of their great success and talent in music rather than from anything that we can do. Charlotte Church was also mentioned, and Tom Jones was one of the great leaders in all of that.
The stereotypes are predictable, but the amount of ignorance about Wales worries me. When Charlotte Church met the President of the United States, he said to her, "What state is Wales in?" I do not know whether he was referring to the geography of Wales or the state of Wales. President Bush has a good sense of humour, and I suspect that he now knows exactly what state Wales is in.
Ignorance about Wales is perhaps not confined only to great world leaders. I received a reply yesterday to a question that I asked the Minister for E-Commerce and 1072 Competitiveness. I asked him what effect Post Office redundancies would have on communities in Lancashire. He replied:The Consignia board decided that the company's costs needed to be reduced to stem its losses and improve its performance. At the moment it is not immediately clear what the effect in Wales will be.I know that Wales is a large country, but it is interesting to note that even Ministers cannot work out its boundaries.
I decided to enter the word "Wales" into the Google internet search engine to see what came up. The No. 1 area of interest was the Welsh Assembly; the Wales Tourist Board only featured second. Perhaps the Welsh Assembly has now become the great tourist centre for the whole of Wales, and people are queueing up to visit it to see where everything is happening. After all, there is wall-to-wall coverage of the Assembly on S4C2.
§ Donald Anderson
The hon. Gentleman is not being helpful in the sense that anyone who has visited the Welsh Assembly's information centre must be impressed by what is there. It is, perhaps, a model that the House should follow.
§ Mr. Evans
My concern is getting people into Wales in the first place, not thinking about people queueing for and flocking to the Welsh Assembly's information centre and where they will go afterwards. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will share my concern that we need to get more tourists into Wales. I think that he will agree with some remarks that I shall make later about Swansea.
I wonder whether people were flocking to the Welsh Assembly to look at the £8 million hole where the new Welsh Assembly building should stand. Rarely has so much taxpayers' money been spent on achieving absolutely nothing. A fence has been erected around the hole to stop the tourists flocking there to look into it. That is a great shame; the fence should be taken down. Normally, when money is being misspent, people say that it is money being chucked down the hole. At least the Welsh Assembly has created the hole down which all the money can be thrown later. This is the new bold Wales, where our politicians can turn their backs on a children's hospital for Wales while spending millions on building a palace to glorify their own presence—and they cannot even get that right.
§ Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd)
Will the hon. Gentleman inform the House whether he voted for or against the £250 million for Portcullis House?
§ Mr. Evans
I shall do so in a moment. I know that the hon. Gentleman probably wants to welcome the defection yesterday of a Liberal Democrat on Cardiff council to the Conservatives. I shall give him every opportunity to praise that.
We all know about the transport problems in Wales. Sue Essex's and Rhodri Morgan's fun ride—the pods that are supposed to go between the Welsh Assembly and City 1073 hall—will cost £20 million. It is a case of Richard Rogers meets Buck Rogers in the 21st century, and it seems as though it will be a Disneyworld invention.
Thank goodness, the £20 million for the pods could not be better spent. We are grateful that all the roads in Wales are in good nick. There is no street crime, no waiting lists for the national health service and all our schools are in tip-top condition. There is nothing on which the money could have been better spent. Sadly, however, that is not the case. I know that the money could have been spent in a better way.
§ Lembit Öpik
I considered welcoming the defection of a Tory councillor to the Liberal Democrats—I refer to Mary Megarry in Pembroke—but I wish to make a plea for consistency. In the interests of consistency and not talking Wales down, will the hon. Gentleman seriously answer the question and tell us whether he opposes the kind of construction projects that led to Portcullis House and to the millennium dome, which I believe he supported at the time? If he says that he did not oppose those projects, how can he criticise the reasonable proposals in Wales that are designed to create a long-standing home for the Assembly? Members of the Conservative party in Wales, at least, seem to support the proposals.
§ Mr. Evans
Conservative Members of the Welsh Assembly totally opposed the erection of a new building on that site. They believed that the money should have been spent on a children's hospital for Wales. I hope that Liberal Democrats in Wales would want the money to be spent in that way.
I have said enough on the record to show that I thought that the £250 million for Portcullis House was extravagant expenditure. I also thought that the dome should never have been built. Indeed, I refused to go there throughout the entire time that it was open—
§ Mr. Evans
I welcome the early-day motion. I was delighted by the enormous effort and commitment that Ian Botham put into the walk. I believe that Catherine Zeta Jones met him at one stage of the tour. We should recognise the enormous efforts that he made to raise such sums, but I have just spoken about £40 million for a new building for the Welsh Assembly and £20 million for the project involving the pods. We should consider using those vast sums in other ways.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)
During the period of neo-colonial Tory rule, the popular perception was that 1074 Wales was out on the fringe. The then Secretary of State sent back £100 million to the Government, who told him what a good boy he had been.
§ Mr. Evans
Successive Secretaries of State for Wales showed an enormous commitment to Wales over the 18 years that we were in power. I bet that people in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and elsewhere now feel that, five years after the promise was made that "Things can only get better"—not just in Wales, but the whole UK—things have not got better: in fact, they have got a great deal worse.
Let us take the opportunity provided by this debate to tick some boxes. The Secretary of State for Wales might care to put in a bid to hold a debate on Wales in the world every year so that we can consider the issues raised by the report and the Government's response and examine suggestions made by the Welsh Assembly and by councils throughout Wales. That would enable us to see how we could do a lot a better for Wales. We should create tick boxes to set targets by which we can be judged in 12 months' time.
§ Mr. Roger Williams
Going back to the hon. Gentleman's opposition to Portcullis House and the dome, will he explain why he accepted an office in Portcullis House when he refused to visit the dome?
§ Mr. Evans
Thank you for your protection, Madam Deputy Speaker. As a riposte, however, may I ask why the hon. Gentleman accepted a seat in Westminster on the basis of first past the post when his party opposes that system? I assume that he did that because it is the system and the Liberal Democrats use it. For the same reason, I have an office in Portcullis House.
I want to consider those things on which we can make a difference. The Secretary of State mentioned tourism, which is vital to Wales. It accounts for 7 per cent. of our gross domestic product and one in 10 Welsh jobs. Some 100,000 jobs in 10,000 businesses, many of them small businesses, are in that industry. I do not declare an interest because my retail business in Swansea is not on the tourist trail. If any tourists are wandering around Town hill, I suspect that they are lost or visiting relatives. However, the industry is important. It contributes about £5 million a day to the Welsh economy and 50 per cent. of tourism revenue comes from rural Wales. An increase in tourism benefits all such businesses.
The Secretary of State mentioned foot and mouth, which was a dire disease. It hit agriculture hard. We now know, if we did not know it before, how important agriculture and the natural environment are to tourism. We need to reconsider what support we can give to Welsh farming and we must have a public inquiry into foot and mouth to ensure that it never happens again.
Overseas tourism is worth about £12 billion to the United Kingdom. Wales has only a small share of that—about £176 million, or just under 1.4 per cent, which is a tiny percentage. The report clearly highlights the fact that many visitors do not know about Wales even when they 1075 are in the UK. Sometimes, people visit Wales because of congestion on the M6. When they turn off the motorway to avoid that, they discover that Wales is a jewel within the UK and a superb place to visit.
I heard what the hon. Member for Conwy said and think that the vast majority of people in Wales open their arms to tourists and give a big welcome to visitors from any part of the world, including England. English tourists are important to Wales. They spend money at bed and breakfasts and hotels and in restaurants and cafés. It is important that we make certain that everyone in England knows they will get a good royal welcome when they come to Wales.
We know what Wales has to offer historically. The Secretary of State spoke about the beauty of Wales. Its coastline is superb, from the Gower peninsula right up to Aberystwyth—[Interruption.] Yes, the coast goes right round to Llandudno, which will shortly host the Conservative conference in Wales.
§ Mr. Evans
I also mean Rhyl and a number of other areas.
Wales is also known for the international music festival in Llangollen and the Eisteddfod, which alternates between north and south Wales. Cardiff hosts the international singer of the world contest, and there are other international music festivals. We have much of which we can be proud.
I was born in Swansea and lived there for 33 years. Some of my family still lives there. I think we have learned a great deal in that time. Swansea used to have the oldest passenger railway in the world which ran along the Mumbles road. In the 1960s, in a gross act of wanton vandalism, the railway was done away with. We now know that it would have helped with congestion on the Mumbles road, and thousands of tourists would have come to see it.
§ Donald Anderson
The railway would have involved public expenditure and might have made the children's hospital less attainable.
§ Mr. Evans
The number of tourists who would have come to Swansea to see the oldest passenger railway in the world would have earned Wales enough tax pounds and produced sufficient money through a growing economy for that not to be a problem.
We know that Swansea has a lot to offer. We know too that Cardiff is a buzzing city with great growth and development, and not only because of the millennium stadium. We wish both cup final teams and their supporters well. We hope that the weather is fine for them and that they have a peaceful and enjoyable Saturday in Cardiff. May the best team win.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies
I welcome the direction that the hon. Gentleman is taking in his speech, which has a very positive outlook. He mentioned that significant tourist attractions can draw in people from abroad, and we have seen that happen with the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. 1076 Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman welcomes such architecturally magnificent palaces because they lead to worldwide recognition of an area?
§ Mr. Evans
It depends on what is done in those buildings. I think that architecture is important in certain circumstances. The old City hall in Cardiff, for example, is a wonderful and impressive building, and people would come to look at it because of its architecture, both inside and outside.
We have talked about all the great things in Wales, but we know that we have a problem in getting tourists into Wales. One difficulty is competition from cheap airlines. One only has to look on the internet to see that there are several, including BMI, easyJet, Ryanair, Go and Buzz, which can fly people to an amazing array of places for small sums. They can go to Barcelona, Portugal, Ibiza or Nice for £25, to Dublin for £19, and to Venice for £15. They go to those places for sunshine, among other things, and we have to compete in that market and do better.
I heard what the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) said about southern Ireland. The Irish Tourist Board has a 'very large budget—four times that of Wales—so perhaps we ought to look at ours. We should find out how it is spent, how effective it is and what the return is. We can then see whether we can do better with our resources.
§ Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly)
The hon. Gentleman mentioned a number of cheap airlines. Will he be using them when he goes round Europe to study the national health service in various countries?
§ Mr. Evans
I do not know which airline the shadow Secretary of State for Health has been using, but when it comes to returns, the hon. Gentleman will soon be learning of our policies to improve the NHS in this country, including Wales, where of course it is in a poor state.
Those who have travelled to the United States of America and other places recently will have seen the Welsh Development Agency advertisement, which comes on after the news and before the main movie or entertainment section. It is a very good advertisement, and it will achieve enormous returns for Wales. One of the greatest growth areas in the economy is tourism, and within that the greatest growth is in short stays—people stay somewhere on Friday and Saturday night and return home on Sunday. We have to be in that market.
Cardiff airport is successful, and I am sure that we were all disappointed by the announcement that British Airways was withdrawing a number of routes. That cannot be good news. In 1999, 1.3 million passengers used the airport, and in 2001 the figure was more than 1.5 million. That is a good growth record, and although 11 September may have affected it somewhat, we can only hope that use of the airport continues to grow. We need a proper roads infrastructure leading from the airport to the M4, and the road between the airport and Cardiff needs dualling. The airport should be seen as a gateway to south Wales, and we need to ensure that it has the proper infrastructure.
I turn now to regional airports. In the USA, states do very well out of regional airports. We need to look at what we can do to ensure that our regional airports are 1077 given every support. The right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) mentioned Swansea airport, which serves one of the growth areas in Wales. It is absolutely superb. Oxford Economic Forecasting states:Good air transport links are one of the key considerations affecting where companies choose to invest.Swansea is the 22nd largest city in the United Kingdom. We know that there is a problem with the three-hour journey to Swansea—the extra hour between Cardiff and Swansea seems to take longer than 60 minutes, and does on many occasions—and we need to see what we can possibly do with the airport. Within a radius of approximately 25 miles of the airport there are 730,000 people. That catchment area is bigger than those for Norwich or Exeter, and 1,000 passengers a day could use Swansea as a regional airport, thus cutting commuter traffic. As we know, there is congestion in parts of the city.
I commend Martin and Louisa Morgan, who took over Swansea airport from the local authority. The airport was always seen as a dead weight around Swansea council's neck but we hope that, with the Morgans' investment and entrepreneurship, it will become a magnet not only for people in Swansea, but for the whole of west Wales. We all recognise that the announcement about ITV Digital will have an appalling effect in Pembrokeshire, where more than 1,000 jobs will be lost—a tragedy for the area, which already has the second highest unemployment in Wales. We need to look at boosting business opportunities in Swansea and west Wales. Martin and Louisa have already invested a considerable amount in Swansea airport. When I was a lad, its glory was fading and the airfield was used more for car boot sales on bank holiday Mondays than for air traffic.
Thanks to the Morgans' investment, they now employ 50 people, although there were only three employees when they took the airport over. The airport has full fire facilities and restaurants, and I hope that the Secretary of State can visit as soon as possible to see what sort of help he can give the airport and Air Wales, which has been responsible for the boost in air traffic at Swansea. If the runway was extended, it could take charter aircraft and 737s, which could mean that direct links with other European capitals would be on the cards. Air Wales already flies to Dublin, a hub for the rest of the world, and we must see what we can do to assist with an expansion of flight destinations. I was staggered to learn that none of the airports in Wales is eligible for objective 1 funding, which is a great shame, as it might have given them the extra boost that they need. Will the Secretary of State examine that matter as Welsh airports need investment? Will he meet the Welsh Development Agency, local authorities and any representatives of the Welsh Assembly to put in place a strategy for Swansea airport and, following that, other regional airports?
I pay tribute to Roy Thomas, who started Air Wales only a couple of years ago. The airline now employs 30 people and flies from Cardiff to Cork and Dublin, which is welcome following British Airways' announcement of the withdrawal of its Cardiff-Dublin service. Last October, Air Wales started to fly from Swansea to Dublin and, a month later, to Cork as well. It is now looking to buy two larger, 42-seater planes to add to its existing 19-seater Dornier aircraft. Air Wales is doing a terrific job; we should see how we can help it and Swansea airport.
1078 A Swansea-London route would be a great link. It would be great for tourists travelling to London and for business people in London who wish to expand their enterprises in Wales. If we had an airport that could provide such a service, the London route would pay for itself. I urge the Secretary of State to have discussions with Air Wales and Swansea airport to see if we can do anything to facilitate that. Expansion would help bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants and conference facilities, not only in Swansea but in a much wider area, and would help us to develop opportunities in west Wales.
On a recent visit to New York, I saw a full-page advertisement in The New York Times placed jointly by British Airways and the British Tourist Authority. It said:It's time you followed in your father's, father's, father's footsteps.I do not know how much that advertisement cost, but would it not be great if we saw a full-page advertisement trying to get people to come to Wales? I urge the Secretary of State to have discussions to see how we can advertise Wales more directly as a first stop for people who want to come to Britain. I make no apology for having devoted the majority of my speech to tourism, because it is an enormous growth industry that is vital to Wales, and we must see what we can do to improve and increase it.
I want briefly to cover two other aspects of Wales in the world, the first being Atlantic college, which the Secretary of State has visited on at least two occasions. When I went there recently, I spoke to the principal about how the college is expanding. Anyone who goes there cannot but be impressed by what it has to offer. It runs a two-year baccalaureate and has 330 students from 70 countries—although, sadly, only 20 are from Wales. I know that the Secretary of State was impressed by what he saw, so will he consider how to enable more students—many of whom are on bursaries—to go to the college, which has a superb reputation not only in Wales, but throughout the world?
Three weeks ago, I met a senior Chinese politician touring the House of Commons, who said that he went to Atlantic college. There are enormous potential spin-offs from all the links that that gentleman will develop back in China as his career progresses. The college has been open since 1962, and thousands of youngsters have passed through it, mostly from other parts of the world. That will pay dividends for Wales in future as those young people remember—with great affection, I suspect—their experiences in Wales.
When I spoke to the college principal, he talked about a young girl from a valley seat who had recently come for interview, and whom he described as dynamite. The college offered her a three-quarters bursary, but her parents are unable to meet the cost of the other quarter. It is a crying shame that a Welsh youngster with the necessary ability, skill and talent is unable to benefit from going to Atlantic college. At one time, local authorities provided bursaries to send young people from all parts of Wales to the college, but no longer. If there is still an opportunity to get that young girl into the college, will the Secretary of State consider what can be done to assist in that, whether through local authorities or business sponsorship? Let us open the doors of that Welsh college to more Welsh people and, indeed, more people from the United Kingdom.
1079 I mentioned the collapse of ITV Digital and the enormous impact that that will have on an area that is already an unemployment black spot. That comes on top of job losses in other companies, including Consignia, throughout the whole of Wales: British Airways, in Cardiff; Pirelli Cables; RD Precision, which makes aircraft parts; Alcoa; GE Aircraft Engines; Corning Optical; and Sony. The Secretary of State knows first-hand about the enormous impact of the closure of Corns, which led to redundancies in south and north Wales.
The WDA is playing its role in trying to sell Wales, but its job has become tougher since it has had to compete against other development agencies throughout the whole of the UK. The Secretary of State spoke about our representatives going to New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and other parts of the world. I mentioned China, which is of course one of the great growth areas of the world. It would be useful to try to secure more trade between China and Wales. He said that the representatives will be properly trained. Will he ensure that they are fully aware of the extent of the abilities of manufacturing and service companies in Wales, so that they can be proactive about looking for the opportunities abroad that will enable our exporters to build on the £6 billion that he mentioned, as well as finding new opportunities to help some of our smaller businesses?
The report is important. This debate has come about by a fluke, but let us use the opportunity well by being constructive in our suggestions about how to help businesses in Wales. We should not walk away thinking, "Oh well, that's another day filled; there's no vote, so we can just forget about it", because that would be a complete waste of the debate. Let us revisit what we said today because I am sure that hon. Members from all parties will make constructive suggestions about ways to support Welsh businesses and get people more interested in Wales. Let us reconsider the debate in 12 months and ascertain what has been achieved and how we can build on the opportunity that today provides.
§ Mr. Martyn Jones (Clwyd, South)
I am grateful for the opportunity to debate the report of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs on "Wales in the World". As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we originally asked for a debate in the Welsh Grand Committee because the subject is primarily, although not exclusively, of interest to Welsh Members. However, most hon. Members who represent English constituencies are otherwise occupied today and I am therefore pleased that we can debate the subject on the Floor of the House, which is even better than a Welsh Grand Committee.
It is good to debate the report after a sufficient length of time to test the Government's responsibility. Although the report is entitled "Wales in the World", the Welsh Affairs Committee surprisingly did not travel abroad. I offer my sincere apologies to our friends in the Press Gallery, if any are present, for so cruelly denying them their junketing headlines. We stayed in the United Kingdom for the inquiry.
1080 The inquiry arose from a visit to the United States when we were considering social exclusion.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Gentleman will remember Chicago.
We saw some amazing projects in relation to the social exclusion report. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) said earlier that we held an interesting telephone conference—we failed to get a video conference—with business men throughout the United States while we were there. One of the tenets of our report on economic investment in Wales was that Members of Parliament and Assembly Members should contact business men and women of Welsh descent when they travel abroad to encourage contacts.
We were disappointed at the lack of liaison between some aspects of the UK Government's promotion abroad and business men and women who have links with Wales. That prompted us to hold the inquiry, which involved inviting various authorities to see us here rather than junketing around the world. We also invited famous Welsh people to give evidence, including Bryn Terfel Jones, Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones. None was able to attend in person, and many members of the Committee were devastated that Miss Jones—perhaps I should say Mrs. Douglas—could not be present.
There was no conspiracy to ensure that only Joneses gave evidence. None of the three celebrities whom I mentioned are directly related to me.
§ Mr. Jones
Indeed, However, American Smiths do not necessarily believe that they are English, whereas an O'Malley in Chicago, who may be fifth or sixth generation, still thinks of himself or herself as Irish. Welsh people come across the problem when trying to promote Wales abroad. The most obvious reason relates to the patterns of emigration from Britain to the US in the 19th or 20th centuries.
1081 The Irish emigrated to the US in much greater numbers than the Welsh and formed distinct Irish-American communities. Their Welsh counterparts were more likely to be integrated and assimilated in the melting pot of American society, possibly because of names.
§ Donald Anderson
To add a historical note, the great boom in emigration to the United States occurred at a time of relative prosperity in Wales, when there was inward migration to areas such as the valleys from rural areas. We therefore lost out in the period of emigration to which my hon. Friend refers.
§ Hywel Williams (Caernarfon)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that much of the migration in Wales was from north to south and from west to east? We should be proud of that, and not worry too much about the lack of Welsh diaspora in the United States. North-south and west-east migration saved many communities throughout Wales from economic decline and ensured the preservation of the Welsh language.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Gentleman is partly correct. Nevertheless, many people left Wales to go to America. For example, many coal miners in Michigan were of Welsh descent. They were called Jones and Williams, and it was therefore not obvious that they were Welsh. I do not completely accept the hon. Gentleman's point, but to extend it, many Welsh people emigrated to England. There was also immigration from England.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) was right to say that we did not emigrate at that time because we did not have to. We were not in the same sad position as the Irish. Nevertheless, those who went to America from Wales tended not to be perceived as a distinct group, unlike Irish-Americans. It is therefore rare to meet a native-born American who describes himself as Welsh. A notable exception is Glyn Davies, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy. He is No. 2 to his excellency William Farish, the ambassador, and is proud to display his Welsh ancestry.
The position has begun to change since the advent of the Internet. Myriad genealogy websites hosted in the United States on the world wide web are dedicated to helping Americans trace their Welsh ancestry. As the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) said, a survey by the British Council of young professionals and post-graduate students in 28 countries showed that, despite the world wide web, a problem remains: people with Welsh ancestry do not relate to Wales; they simply do not know about Wales.
The survey, which was undertaken in October 2000, showed that only 67 per cent. of respondents mentioned Wales when they were asked to name the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. By contrast, 85 per cent. mentioned England, 80 per cent. mentioned Scotland and 72 per cent. mentioned Northern Ireland. When they were asked to name something that they associated with Wales, the most common responses were the late Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales. Rugby, sheep, castles, the valleys and coal mining were among the other predictable answers. Probably none gives a true picture of 1082 Wales nowadays. There is nothing wrong with tradition, but those responses do not project an accurate image of modern Wales.
Many of the people we spoke to in America thought that Wales's lack of recognition in the wider world was a problem. Obviously, we did not expect the Government to be able to tackle the underlying demographic reasons for Wales's low international profile, but we decided that the issue was worth looking at to see what more could be done to boost Wales's image overseas.
The UK Government and their associated public bodies, and the National Assembly and its sponsored public bodies, have responsibility for promoting Wales abroad. Although the responsibilities of the Government relate primarily to the promotion of the UK as a whole—or of Great Britain, in some cases—those of the Assembly relate specifically to the promotion of Wales. That is not the whole story, however. Economic policy, transport links, housing, environmental protection, broadcasting and telecommunications all have an impact on investment and trade, including invisible exports such as income from overseas visitors.
The promotion of Wales needs to be seen as a thread running through numerous Government policy areas, rather than as a distinct policy in its own right. It is also important to recognise that promoting Britain or the UK as a whole is not enough. Wales, as the least-recognised country in the UK, is bound to lose out in an all-UK approach to overseas promotion. We believe that there must be a distinct promotion of Wales as a tourist destination, a location for inward investment and an exporter, alongside the more general promotion of the UK as a whole.
I am sure that other hon. Members will want to speak on trade and investment, but I shall make just a few points on those matters. Two bodies are responsible for promoting trade and investment in Wales.
§ Chris Ruane
Before my hon. Friend moves on to trade and investment, may I make a point about foreign tourists coming to Wales? The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) mentioned that only 1.4 per cent. of the foreign tourists who visit the UK come to Wales. How far does my hon. Friend think that the Welsh Affairs Committee's recommendation that the British Tourist Authority should set specific targets for each region of the UK will go towards redressing the imbalance?
§ Mr. Jones
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I shall come in a moment to tourism and the dichotomy between our population as a proportion of that of the UK as a whole and the amount of investment and/or tourists that we get. We are not pulling our weight in terms of the proportion of our population, and setting targets might well be a way forward. I do not think that that was a conclusion of our report, but perhaps the Government will look at the matter.
As I was saying, two bodies have responsibility for promoting trade and investment in Wales: British Trade International—an agency of the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry—which was created in 2000 to bring together the various components of trade and investment promotion for the UK; and WalesTrade International, which was established by the Assembly at about the same time to bring together the overseas trade 1083 work previously carried out by the Welsh Development Agency and the Assembly itself. WalesTrade International has two members of staff based overseas, and the WDA has 25. British Trade International has a network of 1,400 overseas staff, based in more than 200 posts and covering roughly 140 overseas markets.
Although they are still relatively new organisations, the evidence suggests that Trade Partners UK—the branch of BTI that handles trade—and WalesTrade International are working well together. Assembly officials went so far as to describe their working relationship with Trade Partners UK as "excellent". The chief executive of BTI told us that it had had a good deal of success with a number of products from Wales, including contracts in Brazil and South Africa for a Merthyr Tydfil firm that makes heavy lifting equipment, the export of camera equipment for use in large stadiums and the export of self-adhesive film used in the aircraft industry to the middle east and Latin America. One reason for the good relations between Trade Partners UK and WalesTrade International might be that Trade Partners UK was first established at about the time that devolution was taking place, and efforts were made to involve the devolved Administrations right from the start.
Over the past 20 years, Wales has been markedly more successful than other parts of the UK in terms of inward investment. Although its share of inward investment into the UK has fallen over the past 10 years or so from 19 per cent. to 11 per cent., it is still far higher in proportion to its share of the population. That is one plus factor. Inward investment was effective in creating large numbers of jobs to replace those lost in the coal and steel industries in the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately, the need for inward investment in steel-making areas is becoming just as pressing now as it was then, as Corus implements its closure programme.
Unfortunately, witnesses' confidence in Trade Partners UK was not entirely matched when it came to Invest UK, British Trade International's inward investment wing. The WDA works closely with Invest UK and believes that it has a successful track record, but it is concerned that Wales has, on occasion, been poorly represented by Invest UK. It alleges that a number of high-profile investment missions from Japan and Korea have not included Wales on their itinerary, despite the fact that both countries have strong business links with Wales and despite lobbying from the WDA.
To some extent, this is reflected in Invest UK's outcomes. Of 757 inward investment decisions recorded by the WDA in 1999–2000, only 45 went to Wales. At just under 6 per cent. of the total, this is considerably smaller than Wales's overall share of UK inward investment, suggesting that investors who approach the UK through Invest UK are less likely to invest in Wales than those who approach it via some other route. My hon. Friend's suggestion about targets might have some relevance to Invest UK's policies.
The First Minister told us that relations between the WDA and the Invest in Britain Bureau, Invest UK's predecessor body, had been "pretty unhealthy" for a long time, but that, since the creation of BTI, relations with Invest UK had begun to improve. Invest UK's main argument about the level of support it provides to the WDA is that it is not for Invest UK to direct potential investors to any particular part of the UK. Investors must 1084 make their own decisions, based on their business needs and on what each region has to offer. Invest UK's job is to maximise the total size of the investment cake. I would suggest that it is not doing that if it does not get the same proportion of investment into Wales as it is getting in general terms.
I shall move on to tourism. Wales's share of inward investment may be greater than our share of the population, but our share of overseas tourists is much smaller. We get about 1.4 per cent. of Britain's £12.7 billion overseas tourism revenue. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley mentioned that point, and it is relevant. Tourism is important to the Welsh economy as a whole, and particularly important in those parts of the country where it is the main source of income for local businesses. On the positive side, we get about 8 per cent. of domestic tourism revenues.
I am sure that hon. Members need no reminder of the many reasons why Wales is such an outstanding tourist destination, but for those who are interested, we set some of them out in paragraphs 22 to 25 of the report. Even that rather lengthy list only skims the surface.
§ Mr. Wiggin
I would like to take this opportunity to ask the hon. Gentleman about the effects on tourism of foot and mouth disease, and whether he shares my concern that we could see a similar crisis if more is not done to tackle bovine tuberculosis? No tourism business could take that kind of knock again, and I hope that he will persuade Labour Members that more needs to be done.
§ Mr. Jones
I shall come to the effects of foot and mouth in a moment; I share the hon. Gentleman's concerns about its tangential effects on the tourist industry. It behoves hon. Members not to make too much of bovine tuberculosis. Like foot and mouth, it is not a disease that presents a problem to the general public because of the way in which it is controlled, although it is a problem for animals. We would hope, however, that any control measures would not impinge on tourism. I think that that is the point that the hon. Gentleman was making.
The best quote that I heard about Wale's tourism potential was given to me recently by a hotelier from Llangollen, in my constituency—a gem, I might say, for any tourist wishing to come to Wales—who told the tale of an American tourist who happened to visit his bed-and-breakfast place. The tourist was driving southwards from Scotland, but got lost somewhere around Manchester, just before he reached the M6. He ended up in north Wales, having strayed, by accident, from the tourist rut that runs from Edinburgh to London via Stratford. He described the beauty of the landscape he witnessed as "knocking the socks off' anywhere he had previously visited. Such is the potential that we are privileged to have in our small nation.
One matter of concern that we discovered during the inquiry was the nature of the British Tourist Authority's targets. Although the BTA's general aim is to promote a regional spread of visitors, its main target is achieving a certain return on investment. We were concerned that that would militate against promoting cheaper areas of the country such as Wales, which offer the tourist much better value for money, and work in favour of London and the 1085 south-east of England, where tourists may rely on paying multiples of the prices that they would pay in Wales for transport, accommodation, food and entry to attractions.
Essentially, tourists could be ripped off in the south-east whereas they could get much better value for their dollar or mark—or their euro, now—in north Wales. I am sorry, in Wales generally; that was a Freudian slip. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Jones
I have never heard that term before, but it is probably a misnomer, as Swansea is not centric to anywhere. Nevertheless, the area is wonderful, particularly the Gower. I am sure that tourists would not be ripped off in Swansea, were they to go there.
The Committee was pleased to learn from the Government's response that the most recent funding agreement between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the BTA, covering 2001–02 to 2003–04, sets a measurable target for the authority to increase year on year the proportion of additional spend that it delivers through visits outside London. I would be interested to hear an update from the Minister, if he could provide one.
Tourism is more important to the economy of Wales than to the economy of much of the rest of the UK, and it is estimated that one Welsh job in 10 depend on tourism. At the end of our inquiry, just over a year ago, we made a two-day visit to north Wales, where we met representatives of the local tourism industry. Our intention was to discuss the inquiry's subject matter, but the conversations inevitably turned to the foot and mouth crisis. The news that we received was deeply worrying.
Tourism operators were not unsympathetic to the dreadful situation faced by farmers at that time—indeed, many were themselves farmers or from farming families—but there was a great deal of concern about the impact on tourism of measures being taken to halt the spread of what is essentially an animal disease.
We found that almost all tourism operators experienced a significant drop in trade, and some attractions had not reopened since the outbreak began. Many youth hostels and national park visitor centres were closed, as were 17 of the 18 National Trust sites. Those businesses that remained open reported falls in business ranging from 20 to 100 per cent. Even the conference trade was affected, with hotels in Conwy and Llandudno having bookings cancelled at short notice.
We were extremely worried by what we heard and, at our next meeting, the Committee directed me to write to the Secretary of State for Wales to set out our concerns. That was over a year ago. I would very much welcome a statement from the Minister on the steps that the Government are taking to reverse the damage done to the tourism industry at that time.
The third broad area that we examined was culture, the arts and sport. I do not propose to say a great deal on the subject because, towards the end of our inquiry, the 1086 Assembly established Cymru'n Creu, which is a cultural consortium that includes bodies such as the Wales Tourist Board, the WDA, the Arts Council, the Sports Council, broadcasters and several others, and covers the interests of the voluntary sector and the creative industries more broadly.
Many concerns related to poor co-ordination of different organisations and events. We believe that the creation of Cymru'n Creu was an effective response, but we recommended that the relevant UK bodies should forge strong links with the consortium. In particular, we recommended that the Government should consider ways to promote Welsh film and television programmes—one of the success stories so far in the promotion of Wales abroad—to a wider audience.
I have touched on a number of recommendations that relate to specific policy areas. However, as our inquiry progressed, we became more and more convinced that the solutions were not specific to a particular sector of international promotion—sport, inward investment, broadcasting and so on—but were general, affecting the work of the Government and the Assembly as a whole. That chimes with the Assembly's desire to adopt an all-Wales approach to overseas tourism.
A key recommendation was that the Government should adopt ambitious targets for secondment between the National Assembly and UK Government bodies. As it stands, the memorandum of understanding between the Government and the Assembly allows such secondments, but they have been slow to get off the ground, at least in part because the Assembly attaches more significance to secondment to EU bodies. That is understandable, especially given the importance of European structural funds in Wales.
However, it is also important to ensure that those who work for the UK Government overseas are fully conversant with the devolution settlement and are aware of and sensitive to Welsh issues. We suggested a target—every UK Government post overseas should have at least one member of staff with experience of working for the Assembly or another public body in Wales—and we were pleased that the Government responded positively, although they stopped short of committing themselves to our proposed target.
Assembly-sponsored public bodies such as the WTB and the WDA have staff based overseas and the Assembly has its own office in Brussels, but those staff are spread thinly on the ground. We suggested that one way to expand the coverage of each ASPB would be to establish a single brand—a common name and logo—to enable ASPB overseas offices effectively to act as Welsh embassies by providing a first stop for access to the full range of services provided by the Assembly and the relevant services provided by the UK Government.
In the majority of cases, that might involve little more than fielding and forwarding queries or distributing other organisations' literature, but a single, easily identifiable brand identity would help to promote a clear, strong image abroad. We do not have that at present, although it became clear that establishing such a brand is one of the most important steps that we could take. The WDA has a good logo—half a dragon—and Wales is identified with the dragon. So, although we might not use the WDA version, such a logo would be useful.
1087 Two main institutions represent Wales in Brussels—the Wales European Centre and the Assembly's Brussels office. We saw their shared premises during a recent visit made in connection with our current inquiry into objective 1. The WEC has had a presence in Brussels since 1992. It was set up by the WDA and Welsh local government, and the partnership that contributes to the centre has grown to more than 70 public bodies.
Although the Assembly is a partner in the WEC, it opened its own Brussels office in 2000. Assembly office staff have diplomatic credentials, which give them access to UK diplomats, Foreign Office papers and so on—an inside track on the UK's relations with the EU. Clearly, however, the current arrangements could generate confusion over the respective roles of the two offices.
I am sure that the Assembly would not have set up two offices in Brussels with similar and, to some extent, overlapping remits had it been starting from scratch, but the WEC had been running for seven years when the Assembly was established, so it was decided to build on the existing arrangements.
The First Minister announced two weeks ago that the Assembly will relinquish its WEC membership to enhance its own representation in Brussels. That is correct, I believe, but the bodies involved should work together to ensure that there is no duplication of effort in promoting Wales in Europe.
As the Secretary of State said, Wales has only one full diplomatic post—the Irish consulate general in Cardiff. The Committee wrote to the embassies of those countries with full diplomatic representation in Scotland or Northern Ireland to ask why they had not established a consulate in Wales. Many thought honorary consuls sufficient to meet their needs and some said that, although they would like to establish a full consulate in Wales, their budgets would not permit it. The Italian ambassador told us that he would personally recommend upgrading the consulate in Wales.
More important than overseas diplomatic representation in Wales is the quality of British representation overseas. Our main recommendation is on secondments, but we felt that more could be done on specific Welsh representation in some of our embassies. The Irish have made extremely good use of St. Patrick's day as an opportunity to promote Ireland. Indeed, it has become an international celebration that is perhaps marked more enthusiastically in some countries than in Ireland itself.
Each Irish Cabinet Minister is required to spend the day at an Irish embassy somewhere in the world, leading the celebrations there. We did not go so far as to suggest that Assembly Ministers should be despatched around the world on 1 March every year—or, indeed, that Members of Parliament representing Welsh seats should travel to all parts of the world on that day, although I would volunteer for that—but we recommended that every UK embassy should hold a specific St. David's day event to promote Wales every year.
The Government told us in their response that posts are encouraged to celebrate St. David's day "where appropriate" and that 20 did so in 2001. That is slightly disappointing, and I would be pleased to learn in due course that the number of posts celebrating St. David's day this year was somewhat higher.
1088 I have not covered all the ground in the report, because my Committee colleagues will want to mention it and I do not want to steal their thunder.
§ Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)
I am impressed by, and grateful for, the efforts of the hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones). Despite my disappointment at not being able to pound the streets of Southwark and Bermondsey, I am greatly consoled by finding myself in such auspicious company, surrounded by Welsh Members and by the would-be Welsh Members on the Conservative Benches.
Wales's role in the world has been a subject for debate ever since the Romans were given a fright by the axe-wielding Queen. Boadicea. It seems that the centurions considered the Celtic fringe too much trouble to bother with, so they built the A5 and used it to drive home. We had to wait nearly 2,000 years for the completion of the harbour development in Holyhead—and, for that matter, for any real improvements to the A5.
Apart from some castle building in the early middle ages, there has not been much macro-political investment in Wales by London's political classes, so it is hardly surprising that Wales still seeks to define its role not just in the United Kingdom and Europe, but in the world. That has given us political opportunities to argue among ourselves about the Welsh national identity, but it also gives us a significant opportunity to sell Wales as the great undiscovered territory, the "big country" in the United Kingdom, in terms of both tourism and economic development.
There is a problem with the Welsh identity. Wales is not yet entirely confident about its own nationality: it is not sure how it wants to project itself. The strengths are well known to us—gentleness, depth of character, a traditional commitment to communities and, very important, a willingness to look out for each other that has, I think, been lost in other parts of the United Kingdom. Those strengths, however, constitute a weakness in a sense. The clarity of identity that we must have if we want a confident international image has yet to be fully developed.
Along the eastern border of Wales, for instance, many people do not even regard themselves as being part of the nation. They tune their televisions into Central Television. I do not criticise them for doing that, but we should acknowledge that we have not yet made the Welsh identity so attractive that people feel comfortable, even proud, in associating themselves with it.
§ Hywel Williams
I am relieved to hear the hon. Gentleman refer to some of the structural difficulties that have arisen in the construction of Welsh identities in the past. Perhaps he would like to explore those, rather than ascribing problems with the Welsh identity to individual Welshmen and Welshwomen.
§ Lembit Öpik
That is what I was trying to do. I was not suggesting that any individual, or indeed Plaid Cymru, was responsible for either abusing or failing to define the Welsh identity. Indeed, I accept that Plaid Cymru has had a healthy and diverse internal debate in seeking to define itself.
1089 As the hon. Gentleman implies, in some respects the issues are structural, and are underlined by interesting debates engaged in by the Welsh nationalists. The lesson is not that we should condemn Plaid Cymru for grappling with those issues, but that if the nationalists are grappling with them, it is hardly surprising that Wales as a nation is doing the same. All parties here, and in the National Assembly, have an opportunity to try to identify the essence of Welshness that can sell the nation in the United Kingdom, Europe and the world.
Other countries have managed successfully in that regard, and we can learn from them. Members have mentioned Ireland's success in defining itself very clearly. I know the Irish experience well, because I was brought up in Northern Ireland, but I can give an even more interesting example, that of Estonia. Some claim that Wales is too small to sell itself viably on the international circuit, but Estonia has had many more serious problems of the same nature and has nevertheless succeeded in doing so. Its population is less than half that of Wales, and until recently it was not well known; but in the last 10 years particularly, it has been singularly successful in achieving the kind of profile that Wales, too, has an opportunity to achieve.
Public recognition of a nation's achievement is not always necessary. Members who have bought products from Ikea may be surprised to learn that those products are likely to have been built and designed in Estonia. For a time, there was an item of furniture that shared its name with my brother Endel. There are close family ties with Ikea's product lines. Estonia has also done what Wales could do in terms of music. I am sure that many Members have heard the music of Arvo Pärt, a very successful classical composer. That shows what can be done with a clearly defined identity.
Talking of music, Estonia is host to the Eurovision song contest. My only slight regret is that, had things been different, I could have won the contest last year. As things are, I must content myself with my harmonica.
My final example from Estonia relates to its football team, which made a very successful visit to Wrexham—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. May we return to the subject of the debate, which is "Wales in the World"—interesting though the hon. Gentleman's comments are?
§ Lembit Öpik
I apologise if I was digressing too much with reminiscences of my genetic past. I was about to mention Wrexham, the venue for the last international game in which the Estonian football team took part.
§ Lembit Öpik
That is always an insurance policy in my back pocket lest things turn bad in Wales, although I am sure that I shall not need to avail myself of it.
Let me now deal specifically with Wales, and explain my brief digression into the Baltic states. My point was that if a small nation such as Estonia can achieve this kind of international profile, there is no justification for suggesting that there is a barrier to Wales's achieving it. The report is very clear about the opportunities available to us in, for instance, tourism, culture, language, sport and, of course, trade and industry and investment.
1090 According to the report,Wales's poor share of the overseas tourist market is largely due to the country's poor recognition overseas".Members who have spoken have made that clear as well. The argument is almost circular, but it highlights the fact that we have a great opportunity to sell Wales to other countries and potential visitors. It is not that those visitors have positively decided not to visit Wales; they are simply not aware of the opportunities. I pay tribute to the Wales Tourist Board for its "big country" campaign, which is an innovative way of trying to advertise—certainly in the United Kingdom market—for more internal tourism. It may provide some pointers on what can be done internationally as well.
Earlier, I suggested to the Minister that we had an opportunity in the United States. Ireland has clearly taken full advantage of its opportunity there. Our opportunity is less than that of the south of Ireland, but we could bring about a manifold increase in our links with the United States. I have often thought that there could be a Celtic tour involving Scotland, Ireland and Wales, with an historical package that would be very attractive to tourists from the United States. If we can pool our resources with those of Scotland and the south of Ireland, we shall be working with successful groups that would themselves stand to benefit.
The report suggests that we promote Wales as a first-choice destination, and it is in that context that we would be most successful. As the hon. Member for Clwyd, South implied, tourism is a tremendously important part of our economy, producing £2 billion per annum—£5 million a day—and employing about 95,000 people. We must recognise tourism as a serious economic opportunity. Even a small percentage increase in turnover will lead to benefits. In addition, tourism tends to be important in areas that are perhaps less successful economically than Cardiff and other large areas. The money can be disproportionately effective in stimulating local economic development.
Jenny Randerson, one of the Liberal Democrat Assembly Members, has worked hard on this issue, and is a member of the Britain abroad taskforce. I am pleased that we are working in partnership with other parts of the United Kingdom to stimulate such development.
On culture, language and sport, we need to choose our branding. We need to decide how to identify ourselves clearly with the products that we most want to push. The list in the report shows that, left to their own devices, would-be visitors to Wales are not necessarily latching on as clearly as we would like to key selling points.
Again, there are lessons to be learned from Ireland, which has chosen some key products that are now internationally identified as brand names not just of the companies that produce them but of Ireland. An obvious one is Guinness. Who can deny the success that Guinness has had in branding Ireland as well as its product?
§ Chris Ruane
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there are Welsh products with international recognition, including Ty Nant water?
§ Lembit Öpik
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. We have started on that path. We are beginning to be quite successful with various cheeses: Caerphilly cheese stands to be an internationally recognised brand. 1091 Everything is there, which is why achieving the kind of success that Ireland has had will not be such a big leap. Ty Nant water could be the Welsh equivalent of Guinness, but I am sure that there will be even more successful brands.
From a cultural perspective, we could start to brand Wales as a centre for performing arts. The international Eisteddfod has not yet been mentioned.
§ Lembit Öpik
I am sorry; apparently, it has been mentioned, but I would like to mention it too. The Eisteddfod has been tremendously successful in building relations between the countries that send representatives and the Welsh nation. By coincidence, no fewer than two Estonian choirs attended last year's Eisteddfod—but shall leave further discussion on that to a time outside the Chamber.
We need to recognise that, when other countries send representatives to our international Eisteddfod, a lot of publicity about Wales is generated in those countries. Effectively, we open a cultural shop window, which will, I hope, attract tourists. I suspect that if we took a strategic approach and encouraged the Wales Tourist Board to think clearly about the opportunities that that opens up, the international Eisteddfods could pay back into the Welsh economy much more than they already do.
On sport, rugby has already been mentioned, sadly, but there is a great undiscovered opportunity, and that is Welsh soccer. A large number of people in Wales, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, celebrate the sport of soccer every weekend, but we have not yet made a breakthrough in selling Welsh soccer, as the Scottish have with Scottish football.
One reason for that—I raise this unabashedly—is the BBC's resistance to giving Welsh football a level playing field. I am tremendously disappointed that, despite having run a campaign for over a year, the BBC refuses to include the Welsh football scores on the Saturday announcement. Two minutes is about all it would take to do a reasonable job—l00 minutes a year. The BBC has yet to respond. I warn it that an angry mob of Welsh football supporters will eventually inundate Broadcasting house with letters and petitions until justice is done. I hope that the BBC will take note of that respectful plea for parity.
One successful example of sporting achievement is that we have for the time being managed to secure the Millennium stadium as the greatest venue in the UK for many sporting activities. According to the report, it was curiously described by one commentator asWales's own Sydney Opera House".I imagine it would be difficult to play football between seats, but the implication is that the Millennium stadium is an entity in its own right, a celebration of Welshness, not least because of its distinctive external appearance. The stadium is well marketed and well used. The Wales Tourist Board and indeed the Welsh Assembly may seek creative ways in which to use the stadium to promote Cardiff as a destination for sport lovers from outside the UK as well.
1092 On trade and industry, sheep and farming are important in areas such as that represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) and me, but we must recognise that they do not make up a very large proportion of the overall turnover of the economy. While we must be careful not to run down the land area of Wales, a majority of which is farmed, we must recognise that the true economic breakthroughs for driving the Welsh economy need to be found elsewhere.
We should specialise again. There are some centres of excellence in Wales, which we have yet to bring together strategically so that international investors regard them as significant. The two I want to mention are film, media and music, and aerospace.
With regard to film, media and music, there is a particular talent in Wales, above and beyond what one would expect on a pro rata basis. It has provided some great performers. Many regard Tom Jones as one of the true ambassadors of Welsh entertainment—"it's not unusual" to hear that even in Estonia.
There is a great chance for us to drive the Welsh film industry. The film industry generally in the UK is reviving. It looks with great interest at what is going on in Wales. Aside from the economic turnover, it puts Wales generally in a positive light. Some great actors have come out of Wales. Catherine Zeta Jones has been mentioned repeatedly, but there are others.
§ Mr. Prisk
In terms of the hon. Gentleman's tour of the cultural aspects of Wales—I entirely endorse his comments, although I was not quite clear what an unlevel playing field was in relation to football—will he join me, and, I am sure, all hon. Members present in supporting the bid by Cardiff to become the city of culture for Europe? It is an extremely important bid.
§ Lembit Öpik
The hon. Gentleman is right to mention that. I was going to come to it but I will cover it now. I imagine that not one individual in the Chamber would refuse to add their enthusiastic support to Cardiff's bid. Cardiff is almost there already. When we see the success, indeed the transformation, that was achieved in Glasgow, we can speculate about the long-term benefits that it could bring to Cardiff and to Wales. Cardiff would then be a showpiece of culture; the performing arts of the nation in particular would be a showpiece.
§ Kevin Brennan
I warmly welcome the intervention by the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) and the response by the hon. Gentleman, who has signed early-day motion 1177 on the subject. I invite the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford to add his name to it and to encourage his English colleagues from the Conservative party to sign it, too.
§ Lembit Öpik
This is exactly the new, positive approach to inclusive politics that I referred to in my speech on St. David's day. Having had sharp words only a few weeks ago, the hon. Gentleman and I are now speaking and marching as one to the resonant sound of the performing arts in Cardiff—[Interruption.] I see even more back-patting breaking out among Labour Members.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies
It certainly is a matter for back-patting. I too congratulate Cardiff and I have signed the early-day motion. It is a golden opportunity not only for Cardiff but for Wales.
§ Lembit Öpik
Indeed it is. As hon. Members who may be looking for an opportunity to put those fine words into action will know, the May festival in Newtown is coming up soon. Hon. Members are most welcome to attend and they will receive a warm invitation from me to come along and have fun. Although Cardiff is not the be all and end all in investment terms, it is a useful showpiece for Wales. One justification for significant investment in major arts projects in Cardiff is the knock-on effect on the rest of Wales. For example, performers who may not otherwise have come to Wales may be attracted to come to Cardiff and perhaps go on to tour Wales.
The performing arts offer many other benefits and I am sure that we will hear about them from other hon. Members. Strategically, rather than trying to do great things in all the arts, those who have influence over these matters should seriously consider specialising in the performing arts that are the historical basis of the Eisteddfod tradition.
In the context of trade and industry, my other suggestion on specialisation for Wales is the aerospace industry and regional airports. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), who is not here to hear my compliments, put his finger on the button when he referred to airports and the large number of jobs connected with aerospace in Wales. The industry has a high turnover and provides some 20,000 jobs.
Hon. Members may be surprised to learn that Wales has the oldest space port in the world. Aberporth was founded in 1939 when the secret rocket propulsion group was evacuated from Fort Halsted near London. It operated throughout the war and has been operating ever since. It represents an enormous international opportunity for Wales to play a meaningful role in the developing environment of space technology. [Interruption.] I hear hon. Members muttering the word "asteroid". I am not suggesting that Aberporth become the home of the Spaceguard UK project to prevent near earth objects hitting the earth because that is already based in Knighton.
§ Chris Ruane
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the fine tradition of Wales's association with space continues in my constituency as 50 per cent. of the glass used in reflectors in satellites is made by Pilkington which is based there?
§ Lembit Öpik
The hon. Gentleman is right. The Welsh aerospace industry has a turnover of £2 billion. Space shuttle windows are produced by Pilkington and its control valves by Ellisons. Bangor university developed the Zero-Gee experimental chamber for the international space station and the engineering department at University College Cardiff is doing some important work on the Herschel space telescope which will be orbited as the successor to the Hubble space telescope.
Hon. Members are aware of my passion and interest in aerospace and for once my hobby accords well with the economic opportunities for Wales to specialise as a true centre of global excellence in an industry that is guaranteed to grow exponentially in terms of the amount of money devoted to it.
1094 Wales is due about 5 per cent. of the British national research budget from the research councils, amounting to about £60 million per year, but it does not get more than a fraction of that. Most of the cash goes to organisations in the Thames valley, the access corridor to Oxbridge. In order to shine internationally in this sector, we should lobby those who have the power to distribute that money more equitably and make sure that it is diverted to places where it can be of most use to the United Kingdom. Needless to say, I believe that that means that Wales would get a fairer share.
You will be delighted to know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am having a meeting in Cardiff to discuss that very issue; I can see that you can hardly contain your excitement. As the potential is so huge, I hope that hon. Members whose constituencies are directly affected by the aerospace industry—the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Mr. Ruane) has made his commitment clear—will be able to work together to create for Wales a truly forward looking, cutting-edge, high-technology industry capable of competing with the best in international space development.
Finally, let me make a few suggestions about how we can convert our vision of a positive international role for Wales into a reality. First, we need to look outwards. We must not waste our energy on pointless internal debates. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ribble Valley is not here as I wanted to chide him for his criticisms of the proposed investment in a permanent home for the Welsh Assembly. The reason why that has international significance is exactly the same as the reason why there are often long queues of people waiting to watch our proceedings. Although this is our primary workplace for discussing matters such as the subject of today's debate, investment in the Assembly also makes a statement to the world about the United Kingdom and our democracy. It was a trifle churlish of him to criticise such an investment because he was being a little hypocritical. He was damning of the millennium dome and Portcullis House and said that he had not visited the dome on principle, yet he has an office in Portcullis House.
§ Lembit Öpik
It is precisely the point. If we want Wales to be seen in a positive light, we must be willing to make courageous investments in the short term which pay off in the long term. Part of that is an investment in the public image of the democratic process that we hope will play an increasingly significant role in decisions for the Welsh people. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley is a tremendously nice man—at least from time to time—but Conservative Members must view difficult long-term decisions for Wales in a less opportunistic way.
§ Mr. Evans
The hon. Gentleman has found his way from Estonia through Ireland and into Wales. Will he state clearly that he agrees that taxpayers' money would be far better spent on a children's hospital, for instance, than on a palace for the politicians of the Welsh Assembly? Indeed, as he knows, the result of the referendum was 1095 very tight. If the people of Wales had known that £40 million was going on a building, they probably would have voted no.
§ Lembit Öpik
We are straying off the subject, but I hope that I will be permitted one sentence in response if I promise not to mention Estonia.
§ Lembit Öpik
The hon. Gentleman has seen through my clever plan.
The argument deployed by the hon. Member for Ribble Valley is cheeky, because the matter is not one of either/or. Indeed, he might argue similarly that had we not built Portcullis House, we could have built 10 children's hospitals around the United Kingdom. I simply counsel him to value the benefit of consistency or to move out of his office in Portcullis House.
§ Lembit Öpik
The hon. Gentleman should not be naughty.
I shall finish with a few thoughts about the benefits of us all becoming international ambassadors for Wales. I know that the hon. Member for Clwyd, South always carries his passport, but we can all make an effort in other ways. We can fulfil one implicit recommendation in the report by asking prominent people in the diaspora of Wales to play their part in selling Wales. There are many examples of successful ambassadors for Ireland and for Scotland, and we probably undersell ourselves by simply not asking questions of such people, who would probably be willing to celebrate their Welsh connections.
In addition, we should exploit the potential of unexpected heroes who have high credibility around the world. Robert Owen, who coincidentally was born in Newtown in Montgomeryshire, was the architect of the co-operative movement—and who would deny that? He has a tremendous standing in certain parts of the world, way beyond that which he enjoys in the UK. His work is admired and he is well known among many people—not just academics—in Japan, which is mentioned in the report. There may be opportunities for us to create cultural tourism and an economic respect for some of the traditions in Wales, and to use that as one way to increase our standing on the international circuit. The Robert Owen Society has done great work in promoting that case, and I do what I can as well.
Robert Owen is just one example that I know of; I am sure that hon. Members could think of similar ambassadors from the past who could be used to illustrate the extent to which Wales has influenced international thinking. I have little doubt that such an approach could provide an important and meaningful lever in places such as Japan and elsewhere.
In addition, we need to make greater ambassadors of our national celebrations. Let us consider what St. Patrick's day has done for the south of Ireland. It prompts a global celebration. To Rhodri Morgan's great credit, he has seen such potential. Indeed, he went to the United States of America on St. David's day to make some 1096 important statements about the expansion of our public image. We could make money and a great deal of international capital by ensuring that we do the same assertively and creatively.
§ Mr. Evans
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there was a tartan parade in New York on St. Andrew's day, just as there is a parade for St. Patrick's day? Because the United States is such an important market, it might not be a bad idea to concentrate a little effort in New York and do something similar for St. David's day.
§ Lembit Öpik
The hon. Gentleman is right; we could all add our creative thoughts on how that could best be done. Few countries in the world fail to take such opportunities. For example, there are tremendous celebrations, with which hon. Members will be familiar, on independence day in Estonia every year—I assure hon. Members that that will be the last time that I mention that country in this debate.
It is good that we have had, for whatever reason, an opportunity to debate on the Floor of the House the role of Wales. I am confident that, blessed as we are with some of the best journalists anywhere in the world, we shall get a fair wind in tomorrow's press, as they act as ambassadors for a new spirit in the media, providing the inspiration that will flow from this Chamber like wild fire, first through the Welsh nation and then across the wider world.
It would be worth reviewing how we are doing on this subject. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley suggested that we revisit it in 12 months' time, but that will of course be the day of the Assembly elections. I think that we need a little longer to allow such a strategic approach to take root.
Nevertheless, if Wales has the courage to develop the kind of visions that we are discussing—I have added my views—and we have the soul to reach out across the world to potential friends, allies and investors in Wales, we can not only make more frequent travellers to Wales spend a little longer in our fair nation more often, but we can make Wales the final destination for international investment. It is up to us to make that happen in partnership with the Welsh Assembly. If we do so, I am sure that a larger proportion of economically active individuals and the Welsh public will feel that we are serving them well in a practical sense.
§ Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
This has been a very interesting debate. I now know quite a lot about Estonia. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) for filling me in on those details.
I also want to talk about other countries and Wales's link with them. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said at the beginning of the debate, Wales has always been internationalist in its approach to the rest of the world. I think of Keir Hardie, or of Henry Richard, the apostle of peace, and of the many people who have contributed to the success of the United Nations. Wales has always played an honourable role in key posts in the United Nations, yet we sometimes forget the contributions that we have made to the development of that institution.
My international interest began at Urdd UNESCO summer schools at Pantyfedwen. I would like them to return to the Welsh scene because they made an important 1097 contribution to the education of so many Welsh schoolchildren. I attended them at the ages of 14 and 15. Children from all over the world went to Pantyfedwen near Aberystwyth for those summer schools. We used to watch films about other countries, famine and poverty, and we had lecturers such as Lord Richard Calder, who is a very famous name in the United Nations. Somehow, those summer schools engendered in us, children brought up in Wales, the ideas for which I am very grateful. In my case, they have meant a lifelong interest in international affairs and international development. I therefore hope that that opportunity will be offered again to the children of Wales some time in the very near future.
§ Hywel Williams
Will the hon. Lady therefore applaud and welcome the recent initiative taken by Urdd Gobaith Cymru and Cymorth Cristnogol—Christian Aid—to establish Croeso Calcutta, which will link young people in Wales with that great city on the Indian sub-continent?
§ Ann Clwyd
I welcome all such links; they are very important. The twinning arrangements of so many Welsh towns bring together two communities whose people might not otherwise have an opportunity to visit people in other countries. That has been important in Cynon Valley, for example, which is twinned with many other parts of the world. I certainly welcome that.
I also pay tribute to the National Union of Mineworkers, which always maintained its international links. The father of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis), Dai Francis, was one of those who ensured that such international links were solid and continuous. Indeed, the mining community that is still left in my constituency has considerable links with miners from other countries.
Other hon. Members have mentioned Welsh film making, and we hope that soon a film about Tower colliery will be made for international distribution. I hope that that will bring opportunities for people in Cynon Valley. Filming has already started, and I am sure that mining communities in many other parts of the world will be able to identify with the film. Many people were interested in the struggle to keep Tower going, especially in France and Belgium, and that was important to us at the time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) mentioned the Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, and similar organisations exist for Cuba, Lesotho and other countries. The group Christians against Torture is mainly made up of church and chapel people in Wales and it is extremely active. One issue that it has focused on is the Turkish Kurdish Members of Parliament who were imprisoned eight years ago. People in Wales have kept up links with those Members of Parliament, and last Easter when I visited Leyla Zana in prison in Ankara she showed me a letter from some of the members of that group in Cardiff. Throughout the time she has been in prison she has corresponded with them and they played a role in getting her husband out of prison. Indeed, he visited Cardiff a few years ago to thank people for their efforts on his behalf.
1098 I mention that issue because, as Members of Parliament, we should be concerned about Members of Parliament in other countries who cannot fulfil their mandates, perhaps because they have been sent to prison unfairly.
§ Mr. Llwyd
I know of the hon. Lady's great interest in the problems of the Kurds and similar situations worldwide. She may be interested to learn that last year a rally was held in Bala against the Ilisu dam, and it was well attended by Kurdish people. I am pleased to say that the proposal for the dam has now been shelved.
§ Ann Clwyd
I played a role in getting that project shelved, so I have taken an interest in it. The Kurdish-Welsh link is an interesting one. Many Kurds were trained in Cardiff, Bangor or Swansea, or at the North Wales institute, and they have built up links with the Welsh. I mention the four Turkish Kurdish MPs because the European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that the legal proceedings against them—Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and Orhan Dogan—were unfair and called for compensation and damages to be paid to them. Despite all our efforts, they remain in prison. That is an absolute scandal, and we should put more pressure on the Turkish authorities to release them.
The four MPs were imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. Leyla Zana was imprisoned because, as she took the oath in the Turkish Parliament, she wore the traditional Kurdish colours of red, yellow and green in her headband. Her colleagues wore handkerchiefs in their pockets in the same colours. As she took her oath, there were cries of "Separatist", "Traitor", "Arrest her" and even "Hang her".
The Turks have much to learn from us in Wales on how two linguistic communities can live side by side in harmony, using both languages and with television channels and radio stations for both. Welsh language broadcasting no longer causes much trouble, in the days of satellite television which gives people a choice. We are an example of how to achieve the harmony that could also be achieved in Turkey. That country is an applicant for membership of the EU, but a Turkish truck driver has recently been sentenced to three years in prison for listening to a cassette of Kurdish music. Such persecution should not be tolerated without protest by those of us in the EU, especially in Wales, where we know that it is possible to co-exist and use both languages.
I know that many people in Wales take a great interest in the fate of Leyla Zana. When I visited her last year, I was told that I could not take her any letters, but I took her a birthday card in Welsh which the prison authorities allowed through. She was pleased to receive the card because it was her birthday on the day that I visited her. She should not be in prison and the Turks should either give her a fresh trial or release her.
Some two weeks ago I visited Jenin, where I met a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross. He was based in Geneva, but he came from Bangor. For three days, he had been waiting at the entrance of the refugee camp in Jenin, hoping to be allowed in to use his skills. He was not able to do so, because the Israelis prevented international organisations, including the ICRC, from gaining access to the camp and its civilian inhabitants.
1099 It is an outrage that the United Nations has been refused permission to send a committee of investigation into Jenin, where we suspect that many violations of humanitarian law took place. It undermines the authority of the UN and the Secretary-General. Our Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister have tried hard behind the scenes and the Security Council will meet yet again to decide on a resolution.
Wales has always played an important role in the world, and will continue to do so.
§ Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
I intended to concentrate my remarks on tourism, but I realised that the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) had decided likewise. I must have made the wrong decision.
Indeed. However, I shall speak mostly about tourism so I wish to declare an interest. My daughter, Catrin, is a professional actress and she appears in the television advert for the Wales Tourist Board, which several hon. Members have mentioned. As a family, we are doing our bit. However, I shall be brief and I shall not take half as much time as some other hon. Members, because I know that others wish to speak.
The report that we are discussing refers to three main areas—the marketing of Wales as a destination for tourism, Welsh representation in governance at UK and EU level, and the marketing of Welsh trading interests in creative industries.
The report is a good one. The responses from the Assembly and the Government are heartening in parts, although disappointing here and there. We must see how the process develops. As the Secretary of State said, we are in the immediate post-devolution period. We are all trying to see how everything fits in. Clearly, it behoves us to work together to increase Wales's potential as a tourist destination. I am sure that that is why we are here today.
It is interesting to compare the responses. The Assembly seems to agree with the report's conclusion that more needs to be done to promote Wales, whereas the UK Government seem more satisfied with the present situation. Certain witnesses from the British Tourist Authority thought that the appropriate number of visitors to Wales could be calculated as a proportion of its population. That is a bizarre idea.
I say this with great respect to the BTA, but it is easy to sell holidays based in London, Stratford and Edinburgh. The hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, has already made that point. Wales is fitted in almost as, "By the way, how about a few days in Wales?" It is obvious that people who have been up to Edinburgh and back down to London do not want to cross into Wales. A conflict of interest is therefore bound to exist.
However, I am not whingeing. The English Tourism Council is entitled to market England abroad by itself, and through the BTA. Wales is therefore placed at a bit of a disadvantage. The report tries to tackle such matters. I am 1100 sure that the Government will address them in due course. given the huge importance of tourism to the Welsh economy. It is worth about £2 billion annually, and accounts for between 7 and 9 per cent. of Wales's gross domestic product. The relative contribution of tourism in many coastal areas, and some rural ones, is even higher. Tourism supports about 25,000 jobs directly in rural Wales, or about 10 per cent. of the work force. It supports many more jobs indirectly, and is Wales's largest industry.
In its response, the Assembly agrees that Wales's profile is too low. It outlines what it has done to raise it, and some good progress has been made. For example, Wales is due to host some high-profile events, with the Ryder cup golf tournament being held there in 2008. The FA cup final is being held in Cardiff on Saturday—I shall be there to do my bit, although I am not sure yet which team to support—and we must not forget the rugby world cup tournament. Rugby is a painful subject just now in Wales, so I shall not refer to it further today.
The Secretary of State spoke about liaison with the motor regions of Europe. High-profile visits have been made recently to the National Assembly for Wales by the Taoiseach, President Pujol of Catalonia, and the vice-premier of China. However, many of Wales's key overseas markets remain unaware of the realities of foot and mouth, either through misinformation or misunderstanding.
Many people in the US—and I say this with respect—think that one cannot eat meat safely in Wales or the rest of the UK because of foot and mouth. That is clearly nonsense, but I regret to say that that impression is still abroad. In addition, the horrific events of 11 September have had a significant impact on Wales's largest tourism market.
I am glad to say that the budget for the WTB for 2001–02 rose by 30 per cent. The total is still a quarter of that for the tourist board in the Irish Republic, but we are getting there: we cannot expect to complete the journey overnight.
The WTB is due to receive objective 1 money for a couple of projects. Reference has been made to the creation of Cymru'n Creu, a body to co-ordinate raising Wales's profile abroad. The Assembly states that itlooks forward to strengthening further its links with UK Government Departments, and bodiesto further the aims of tourism.
When the Under-Secretary of State for Wales winds up the debate, I hope that he will say what is happening with Cymru'n Creu, and what further developments there have been. If he cannot do so today, I hope that he will write to me.
A sub-committee has been established in the National Assembly which is called "Wales in the World." Not much has been heard of it so far, and I should be grateful if the Under Secretary told us what he knows about it. The debate is important, and the committee has a role to play in keeping it going. As the hon. Member for Ribble Valley said, it is to be hoped that the papers for today will not be packed away and forgotten about. I see no reason why Members of Parliament should not try to assist the committee by feeding it information.
The Government's response to the report does not accept that Wales has a lower profile than other European countries or regions of similar size. That is in sharp 1101 contrast to the Assembly's view. The Government say that 4 per cent. of overseas visitors to the UK visit Wales. Given that Wales's population accounts for 5 per cent. of the UK total, the report says that the number of visitors is not bad.
I fail to see the logic of that assertion, which makes no sense at all. What is the population of Stratford-on-Avon? What percentage of all visitors go there? The Government's response is based on a strange assumption.
The main point is that there is a need to relaunch a rural tourism strategy. We must not allow the current malaise in rural areas, which stems from the knock-on problems from foot and mouth, to persist. Very often, the agricultural community and the tourist sector are inextricably linked. Some people are therefore liable to have suffered a double whammy: those who have tried to diversify into tourism have been hit not once, but twice.
Farm-based tourism has been hit, but it remains a growth area. It needs to be developed. The events of the past couple of years should not deter us from the task—and the challenge—of ensuring that farm-based tourism in Wales is brought up to speed. However, that has to be done fairly swiftly, as we are on the verge of the reform of the common agricultural policy.
Wales could also be well placed to profit from green tourism. Diversification will make it possible for such tourism to expand in Wales. We need to make sure that Wales makes full use of its great natural assets.
I take issue with the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), who referred to the number of acres in Wales devoted to farming. Farmers are the custodians of the landscape. If their custodianship were not careful, no part of rural Wales would be considered a tourist attraction. However, if I misunderstood him, I should be happy to allow him to intervene.
§ Lembit Öpik
For the sake of the record, I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. My point was simply that, although tourism may not account for a great proportion of Wales's GDP, farmers are the guardians of the overwhelming majority of the surface area that people come to visit. I am grateful to him for letting me clarify that.
§ Mr. Llwyd
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I accept what he says.
I also welcome the new walking campaign initiative. There are great walks all over Wales, and we need to look also at the concept of themed holidays. We have excellent facilities for fishing, golf and almost any activity that one could name. We need to make sure that people out there know that, as the story has not been told clearly enough hitherto.
Wales has a low share of tourism, due in part to the lack of facilities, but more to the fact that the country is not being sold as well as it should be abroad. That message comes over fairly clearly in the report.
§ Mrs. Betty Williams
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the Snowdonia Green Key scheme had gone ahead as intended, that would have been yet another kick in the teeth for tourism in north-west Wales?
§ Mr. Llwyd
I oppose that scheme. Places such as Betws-y-Coed and Llanrwst have been told that there will 1102 be gateway places, where people will have to park and take buses. There is no room to park as it is—it is absolutely ridiculous. We have heard fantasy figures about 75 jobs being created, but heaven only knows where those jobs will come from. There must be a rethink. I agree that there should be a regular bus service, but it must be voluntary. People should not be forced off at places that have no facilities. I agree entirely with the hon. Lady.
We could make more of the centre for alternative technology at Machynlleth, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), and I know that he is a regular visitor. It is a landmark development and has been for many years. It is at the cutting edge of environmental developments and could be linked to green tourism.
The Government's response also mentioned some welcome initiatives. The British Tourist Authority and the Wales Tourist Board organised a visit to Wales of trade and media leaders. Mr. Glyn Davies of the American embassy accepted an invitation at short notice to come up to Portmeirion to give an extra boost to tourism in Wales and to make it plain to his friends in America and beyond that the food is perfectly safe and that they are missing out. We all owe him a vote of thanks for that. We should also thank the ambassador who arranged the I March celebration at his residence. It was an astounding success and a very welcome initiative, which I hope will be repeated next year. I am not exactly singing for my supper, but I must say that it was rather good.
The report is concerned that the overall marketing of the United Kingdom fails to market the worth of the different countries within it. Predictably, the BTA and the British Council say that Wales has its fair share, but that is not the case and we need to look at the structures again.
§ Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr)
My hon. Friend will he aware that cultural tourism is a growth area worldwide. Does he agree that, as that trend continues, the cultural and linguistic distinctiveness of Wales will give us an edge? Should we not, therefore, take steps to encourage greater bilingualism and ensure that a greater proportion of Welsh speakers work in the hospitality sector in all parts of Wales?
§ Mr. Llwyd
I agree entirely. We should no longer think of tourism as a Cinderella industry—it is not. Tourism can be very well paid. Our colleagues in Ireland, for example, look upon it as another respectable industry, not badly paid and very often year-round. We can develop our industry, and our cultural differences can play a part.
In 1996, S4C conducted a survey that showed that 62 per cent. of people from outside Wales thought that Wales was simply sheep and coal mines—a strange and not very positive image. Our cousins in Scotland and Ireland are marketing their industries expertly.
The recent campaign by the Wales Tourist Board is welcome, and not simply because it keeps my daughter in work. The big country campaign captures the "bigness" of spirit and emotion that is inspired by the Welsh people and our fabulous landscape.
The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) has been instrumental in inviting people who are considering making a film about the Arthurian legend in north Wales, 1103 and all credit to him for that. We could develop that further, because we have a distinct history that could be marketed.
We need to concentrate on the transport problems that are holding Wales back, although we must not talk Wales down in doing so. I agree that developing regional airports would be a useful measure.
The future of our £2 billion tourist industry depends to a large extent on nurturing a highly skilled work force to provide the high-quality holiday experience that is expected and demanded—rightly—by our discerning visitors. We need to come up to speed—very often we do, as we have excellent facilities.
The tourism training forum, a new independent body set up by the Wales Tourist Board, is doing a good job. Education and Learning in Wales is assisting, as is the National Assembly for Wales. However, according to the Welsh Economic Review, published yesterday, the National Assembly should play a more pivotal role in marketing Wales, extending to bringing the likes of the Wales Tourist Board and Welsh business together to market Wales fully on the back of events such as the Ryder cup and the Network Q rally.
The Government response points out that the Wales Office should do as much as it can to represent Wales abroad and to give a good view of it. Not long ago, the Secretary of State made a speech in Bruges, in which he denigrated nationalists and said:many nationalists would counter that theirs is a civic and inclusive nationalism. But I have to say that I regard their desire to put an international frontier between England and Wales as justifiable only in terms that would satisfy the faith and language nationalists.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he did not regard English people as foreigners in Wales, thereby insinuating that English people were often not made to feel welcome in Wales. That is not part of our thinking—it never has been and never will be. Ministers should talk up Wales when they go abroad, not pick off their political opponents and give the wrong impression of Wales.
The Government response highlighted the important role of the Wales Office in representing Wales abroad. A parliamentary question answered on 17 April showed that, between them, the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Wales have undertaken only one trade mission since July 1999—the ill-fated and now fabled train ride to the Czech Republic. One trade mission in 22 months does not represent a high profile, I regret to say.
§ Chris Ruane
The hon. Gentleman criticises my right hon. Friend for saying in his speech in Bruges that the Welsh nationalists have an anti-English feeling. Is he aware that Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, shares that view? He admitted that there is an anti-English feeling within Welsh language nationalism that risked deepening tensions between Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers.
§ Mr. Llwyd
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman knows this, but I have been singled out for criticism by those very people, so I am not really qualified to say anything. They are more prejudiced against me than 1104 against the hon. Gentleman, so I do not know where that leaves us. However, I was pleased to see the hon. Gentleman's colleague pass him that crib note.
We in Wales need to attract further investment in the knowledge-based industries. We are falling behind; we need more liaison with universities. The importance of inward investment in this sector cannot be overestimated.
Some 50 major Japanese companies currently operate in Wales. They recognise what Wales has to offer—a high standard of living, a loyal and adaptable work force and a clean, healthy and beautiful environment. Here comes the nasty bit—on Tuesday evening the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) criticised Plaid Cymru Members for not being in the Chamber for the Finance Bill debate. All four Members of Plaid Cymru spoke in the Budget debate proper or in the Welsh Grand Committee debate on the Budget. We were represented in the Finance Bill debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Mr. Weir), a member of the Scottish National party.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly is a new Member, so he probably does not understand: we are a joint grouping, and we were represented that evening by my hon. Friend the Member for Angus. Furthermore, my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) popped in and out of the debate regularly. Neither the hon. Member for Caerphilly nor one single member of the Welsh parliamentary Labour party bothered to turn up to the debate on UK-Japanese relations on 11 April in Westminster Hall, despite many Labour Members having important Japanese concerns in their constituency. Of course, it was a Thursday—time to skive off. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Mr. David
I reiterate the point that I made in the debate on the Finance Bill. First, not one Welsh nationalist Member set foot in this Chamber for any length of time. Some of them might have poked their heads around the door to see what was happening, but they made no contribution. Secondly, it is an utter disgrace when a member of the Scottish National party has to speak on behalf of Plaid Cymru. Those two parties might have a cosy relationship, but that has no credibility with the people of Wales.
§ Mr. Llwyd
When the hon. Gentleman has been here long enough and begins to learn a little of our practice, he will find out that only one of my hon. Friends was entitled to speak, and my hon. Friend the Member for Angus spoke that evening. As for the hon. Gentleman's record, he went home instead of taking part in that debate on Japan, so he should stop digging when he is in a hole.
§ 4 pm
§ Mr. Martin Caton (Gower)
I am a member of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, which undertook this inquiry. One of the most illuminating pieces of evidence that we considered was the report, which has already been mentioned by at least two hon. Members, on the British Council's survey of the attitudes of young professionals and postgraduate students in some 28 countries throughout the world. The survey was conducted by MORI in 1999 and 2000, and published under the title "Through Other Eyes".
As one assumes that the people surveyed—well-educated men and women aged between 24 and 35, with above-average incomes and excellent prospects—will be among the next generation of movers and shakers on the international scene, their attitudes towards Wales and the United Kingdom generally should be of more than passing interest.
For the United Kingdom as a whole, the message was mixed. There was generally a high opinion of our higher education provision, our businesses and our institutions, including our democratic institutions. However, we scored low, in their perception, for creativity and innovation. We did particularly badly under the heading "People and society", as there was a widespread view that we are still deeply divided by class and that we are sometimes racially intolerant and unwelcoming to foreigners.
Before dealing with the attitudes towards Wales, it is important to recognise that we in Wales have our part to play in building on the positive aspects of the perception of the United Kingdom and overcoming or correcting the negative image of the United Kingdom that some people identified.
When those in our young, upwardly mobile survey group were asked about the images that best summed up Wales for them, 20 per cent. identified Diana, Princess of Wales; 13 per cent. identified Charles, Prince of Wales; and 8 per cent. identified the royal family generally. They then listed castles, rugby and beautiful landscapes in that order, and all with less than 7 per cent.
To be fair, the associations with the other nations of the United Kingdom were almost equally limited and distorting. With Scotland, the No. 1 icon was kilts, followed by whisky, bagpipes, the highlands and cold weather.
In 1999 and 2000, when young go-getters from around the world were asked what they associated with Northern Ireland, 34 per cent. replied violence and religious conflict, followed by the IRA and then the scenery. Perhaps that has begun to change since then. England was represented by the Queen, football, London, the Houses of Parliament, Oxbridge education and bad weather in that order.
Perhaps Wales does not come out much worse than anyone else in that icon association game, although I am not sure that the Welsh contemporaries of those in the international survey group would agree with them in putting the royal family in the top three spots, even in this jubilee year. That may tie in with a more revealing figure: 16 per cent. of those intelligent and successful young people replied that they did not associate anything with Wales. I suspect that that figure would have been even higher if it had not been for the tragic loss of Princess Diana and the fact that the name "Wales" had appeared a great deal in the media in the two years before the survey.
1106 When asked the same question, the figure was only 3 per cent. for England, 6 per cent. for Scotland and 10 per cent. for Northern Ireland. Clearly, Wales projects by far the least distinct image internationally of any of the countries of the United Kingdom. That is reinforced by the response to the question, "What countries go to make up the UK?" As has already been said, 85 per cent. identified England; 80 per cent., Scotland; 72 per cent., Northern Ireland; and just 67 per cent., Wales.
So we in Wales have an identity problem in the perception of the world. Of course, the significance of that can be easily exaggerated. We are a small nation that is part of a bigger state. We cannot expect everyone to know about us or to be aware of all our qualities. Let us face it, we would have a much bigger long-term problem if we somehow managed to create a fantastic image of Wales, but the quality—the substance, as opposed to the spin—did not come anywhere near matching it. Our challenge is to get the message across and tell people just how good Wales is and how much it has to offer, but we have not yet managed to do that well enough in some ways. That is true in several different, but related ways.
In our report, we broke the subject of Wales in the world into three broad categories: trade and investment, tourism and culture, and language and sport. Those are sensible subdivisions in which to address the practical issues that we considered in our inquiry, but the boundary lines are nowhere near as distinct, if they exist at all, when considering the more nebulous concepts of image, identification and recognition.
Put at its most obvious, we all know of investment decisions in Wales that have been influenced by positive experiences that the decision makers have had in their higher education, on holidays, attending conferences or through some cultural association. Equally, we all know of the impact—positive and negative—on image that the use of locations in major international films can have. Whatever people thought of the film "Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring", I have not met many who did not admit that it had increased their desire to visit New Zealand.
Establishing and marketing the right sort of consistent image can be valuable across a range of economic activities. I was going to talk about Scotland and Ireland, but they have been dealt with quite well by other hon. Members and the time is getting on.
§ Adam Price
The hon. Gentleman has just mentioned Scotland and Ireland in passing, but the hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones) mentioned the fact that there is now greater diplomatic representation in Edinburgh and Belfast. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that possibly one of the reasons for that greater representation is the fact the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly have law-making powers?
§ Mr. Caton
That is not yet a significant factor, but it may well come to that. Scotland and Ireland have moved away from a caricature image in people's minds towards a much more accurate and three-dimensional image because of various economic and cultural developments in both those countries. That is happening in Wales as well, but we are a little behind.
§ Chris Ruane
Is my hon. Friend aware that the American consulates in Belfast and Edinburgh have not 1107 just been established but have existed for more than 100 years? Is he also aware that the consulate in Wales was withdrawn in 1965—years before devolution?
§ Mr. Caton
Yes, I am aware of that. Like my hon. Friend and the other members of the Select Committee, I know that we need to do all we can to get those consulate and international representatives into Cardiff. When we met the Irish consul general, he said how important the type of networking that is provided by the fact he is in Cardiff is for the Republic of Ireland and for Wales. We need to work on that.
I should like quickly to consider the inward investment and trade aspect of our inquiry. Naturally, we gave most of our attention to the role of Government—especially the UK Government—and agencies in promoting those twin objectives. However, it is important to remember that the most important component in getting foreign business to locate in Wales or in selling what we produce in Wales is not how we are promoted by the Government at any level, but the quality of what we offer and how well it fits what the investor or the customer wants.
For inward investment, the communications and sourcing materials and components, and the quality of education, training and the environment are far more significant than how good the WDA video was or how nice the Foreign and Commonwealth Office people were. Some investors, who have made a real contribution to our economic development in Wales, have become aware of what we have to offer through channels other than those offered by the Government at any level. I think in particular of the value of the higher education sector. Our universities and colleges can be a magnet for high-quality, high-tech, cutting-edge employment in Wales. This was brought home to me twice in the last few months, once in south Wales and once in north Wales.
The first occasion was the opening of the Technium centre on the docks in Swansea, which is a joint project involving the university, the Welsh Development Agency and the council, and which is the next stage on from the college's innovation centre. It is a base for developing the business and the technology for a whole new range of products. It is exciting, not least because it brings together established, successful and, sometimes, foreign companies with a new generation of Welsh entrepreneurs. That initiative needs to be rolled out across the whole of Wales to tie in to our existing educational and research network.
In north Wales, just a few weeks ago, the Welsh Affairs Committee was taking evidence for our current inquiry into broadband cabling in Wales. There was a lot of criticism of and concern about the adequacy of broadband provision and the comparative costs in north-west Wales in particular. Not unreasonably, therefore, we asked one company involved in advanced research and development why it had decided to locate in Bangor when it knew the disadvantages. It immediately replied, "Because of the university." It went on to explain the partnership that it had developed with the relevant department in the university, which was mutually beneficial. The quality of the graduates and postgraduates coming out of that department was even more important, however, and it had offered employment to some of them.
I am sure that maintaining and improving the excellence of our higher education and research institutions will be more and more important in attracting 1108 investment and developing new Welsh products. In fact, that can play a valuable part in improving Wales's identity and image in the world. One of the things that those young people whom the British Council surveyed admired about the UK was our educational institutions. The only colleges that they mentioned, however, were Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics. Welsh universities, which are already world leaders in many areas, need to be recognised for a more general level of excellence.
I was going to talk about tourism, but that has been covered well in the debate. As many other Members wish to speak, I shall conclude.
§ Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)
I commend the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) not least for identifying the importance of perceptions. We of all people should understand that, in the information age, perception is often more important than reality. The same applies when one is trying to promote a country, a nation or a city. I therefore also want to pick up the theme that he began—trade and investment—and to consider the position of Wales in the economic world.
The Select Committee, of which I am now a member—I was not a member when it prepared the report—received a wide variety of evidence about the characteristics of the Welsh economy. Those characteristics represent both strengths and weaknesses. Among comparative strengths, the most important items were a very skilled work force who have high productivity, and, in tandem with that, good industrial relations and few strikes. In addition, Wales has now developed centres of excellence in several different business sectors—the one that comes to mind is the information technology and telecommunications sector. Since 1990, £3 billion has come to Wales, involving 200 companies, in that sector alone. People in Wales can take considerable pride in that.
In terms of weaknesses—there must be two sides to any argument—one of the worries highlighted in the report is the relatively low level of research and development investment in Wales. Sometimes, that can be a symptom of inadequate innovation. Secondly, there seemed to be low levels of entrepreneurial activity.
§ Chris Ruane
The hon. Gentleman has a point—there has been a lack of research capabilities in Wales in the past. Is he aware, however, of a £10 million project, the Opto Electronic Incubation and Research Centre, which will be based in my constituency in north Wales? It is tied in to Aberystwyth university, Bangor university and the North East Wales institute of higher education. I hope that it will fill that gap in my part of north Wales.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy. The centre to which my hon. Friend the 1109 Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) referred is not an isolated example. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would also welcome the Technium centre in Swansea.
§ Mr. Prisk
I am always happy to allow an advertising intermission. I shall now resume my speech.
The third aspect of the evidence to the Committee that worried me was the relatively low profile of Wales in the business world. The hon. Member for Gower referred to that. There was another allied weakness: an over- reliance, which is perhaps historical, on low-value products. That is not totally true—as Labour Members have demonstrated, there are always good examples to bring to the fore—and Ford's investment in the Premier Automotive Group in Bridgend is an encouraging sign that what might have been thought, historically, to be lower-value manufacturing products can be turned into higher-value products. That is a welcome trend.
In considering strengths and weaknesses, the Select Committee has recognised that the Welsh economy is undergoing a long-term fundamental transformation from an economy based on primary and manufacturing industry into a genuinely mixed economy. That transformation is, of course, still under way. If I may, I shall therefore focus on two aspects of the report's findings—inward investment and indigenous businesses.
The Welsh Development Agency has an excellent record on inward investment. Although the Welsh population is approximately only 5 per cent. of the United Kingdom population, inward investment in Wales throughout the 1980s and 1990s was pro rata far higher. In 1991, inward investment was 19 per cent. and, even last year, despite a considerable fall, it was 11 per cent. of total UK inward investment. That is still double the inward investment that we might expect were we to relate it to the population size of Wales. That is tremendous testimony to the work of the Welsh Development Agency and other Government agencies in the late 1980s and the 1990s.
Equally, we should not underestimate the value of signature projects such as the development of the Millennium stadium in Cardiff to which hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), who is not here at present, referred. These projects help to attract international attention and to change perceptions—as the hon. Member for Gower said—about the attractiveness of a city and its qualities as a business location. That is why I was happy to lend my support to Cardiff's bid to be European city of culture in the future. It was encouraging that that was supported across the House.
As the Secretary of State highlighted when he opened the debate, inward investment from international business has helped the Welsh economy change and has provided much-needed jobs. As he also accepted, however, it is not a panacea. In some ways, inward investment raises as many questions as it answers. For example, is there not a danger of merely replacing one big company with another, thus perpetuating a community's dependency on one employer? Can we rely on footloose multinationals to create jobs, given their collective record? Furthermore, is it not a fairly expensive way of creating jobs?
Those questions lead to a realisation that inward investment on its own will not produce the long-term structural changes to the economy that are so important. To do that, we need to address the needs of indigenous 1110 businesses, large and small. The Select Committee's report found that, by comparison with England and other European Union countries, entrepreneurship in Wales, sadly, lags behind: a low number of start-ups; poor levels of research and development, despite some good examples; a lack of key marketing skills; and too few Welsh small businesses engaged in international trade. Those are all symptoms of what I might term an entrepreneurial deficit.
The Select Committee's report identified objective 1 status and funding as offering perhaps the greatest hope of reversing that deficit. Although I am not opposed to objective 1 and similar projects, as a former small business man, I am sceptical about the genuine quality and opportunity that top-down government schemes offer. There is certainly much activity and many schemes, initiatives and funds. However, to date, the results do not bode well. What is lacking is a clear understanding of why people become their own boss—their motives and aspirations. We therefore need to be realistic about the environment in which enterprise operates in Wales.
First, many sole traders and husband—and—wife partnerships have no wish to grow. They run the local shop or pub, and they want simply to be independent and make their own way in the world. The prospect of radical growth and driving into new markets—together with all the bureaucracy that inevitably comes with that—holds little appeal for them. Given that many small businesses and self-employed firms already spend up to four working days a month filling in Government forms, is it any wonder that they are hesitant to embrace the ideology of growth?
Secondly, many Welsh and Cornish communities—I say this as a Cornishman—are naturally small and self-contained, and others may have known only one large employer throughout the history of the community. The employer might have been a mine or a steelworks, and that is how it has always been. The danger is that there is no entrepreneurial role model in those communities and no culture of making it by oneself. That is why I said that there is a sense in which inward investment does not necessarily tackle the root of the problem. The danger is that it will merely reinforce the problem. We move from one steelworks in a town to one call centre. I cite the example of call centres because of the sad news of the job losses at Pembroke dock. In some ways, that underlines the danger of relying simply on inward investment.
The third characteristic that shapes the environment for enterprise is the fact that, in the communities that have relied on the jobs of one employer, the people who want to get on often move on. The danger is that they will move to the bright lights of Cardiff or London. Therefore, the single most important thing that any Government can do to focus on changing the culture is to raise people's aspirations.
I would like to consider several practical ways in which we can make a difference in Wales and raise people's aspirations. First, in education, the emphasis has been on teaching business and enterprise in schools. That is fine, because teaching has its role. However, the real need is not to instruct but to inspire. How do we do that? A good example—I had the privilege of being part of it in the past—is the Prince's Trust, which was founded by the Prince of Wales. The trust supports budding entrepreneurs, and many Members will be familiar with its work. At the heart of its work is the role of the mentor. 1111 I was self-employed and I had the opportunity to help other youngsters to come through the process and get involved in becoming their own boss. It is important to provide hands-on experience or to act as a role model. Such a direct approach is highly successful.
The other aspect of the issue is to educate not just youngsters but members of the public sector. That means trying to help civil servants, who may not have direct experience of enterprise, to understand the practical realities of running a small or large business. In particular, the Industry and Parliament Trust does wonderful work to help civil servants and big business to work together. I am also aware that a fellowship for small businesses enables parliamentarians to gain experience. However, we need to go a step further. In Cardiff and Whitehall, we need to consider extending the scheme so that civil servants and small businesses can gain experience from one another. I do not know whether the new head of the civil service will embrace that suggestion, but the noises that he has made so far are encouraging.
Another practical suggestion that I wish to make relates to the removal of barriers to growth and enterprise, and I will give three brief examples. First, the report refers specifically to objective 1, and the Committee is engaged in further discussion of how that is working. However, the report shows that the process is too slow and that many enterprises find it too time consuming. The barriers are too high and the worry is that the administrative process is reactive and not proactive. We need change in that regard.
The second barrier that concerns people is the discrimination in the United Kingdom and Wales against the self-employed. We need to remove such discrimination in a legal and taxation sense and then go on to consider how we can end the discrimination against the self-employed when it comes to bank loans and mortgages. Both sides of the House can engage in that agenda.
The third barrier relates to regulations. Although I am sure that Labour Members would be only too thrilled to hear me wax lyrical on the subject at length, I will merely say that last year 4,642 new regulations were introduced. For many small business men—we return to the question of perception—that is 4,642 new reasons why they do not want to grow the business, take on a new employee or, for that matter, come into business at all.
Investing and doing business in Wales has much to commend it. A skilled and productive work force lie at the heart of Welsh competitiveness in what is an increasingly mobile and cost-conscious world economy. However, the root problem of changing the entrepreneurial culture in both towns and villages is not being addressed fully by the Government or by the Assembly's policies and schemes. Drawing in inward investors and multinationals has its place but, in the end, the future of the Welsh economy and enterprise lies in the hands of the Welsh people. They have raised their skills and their productivity; we now need to help them to raise their aspirations to be their best.
§ Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd)
As many Members have said, this is an important debate. We have talked about the Welsh diaspora, and the first Welsh person to 1112 start it was Prince Madoc in 1170. He discovered America 300 years before Columbus and 200 years before St. Brendan of Ireland.
Wales has a proud tradition in America. When I visited the deputy ambassador, Glyn Davies, two years ago to discuss Wales in America, he pointed out to me a brass plaque that depicted the declaration of independence. He went through the names of every one of those who signed the declaration. One third of them were Welsh. We have a proud tradition in north America. However, perhaps we should be less proud of the fact that five of the top 10 names for black people in America are Welsh names—Lewis, Williams, Jones and so on. That may be because the Welsh were the first colonists out there and owned slaves.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that hardly a family in Wales does not have a connection in America, and that applies to my family. My sister Maureen Ellis left Wales 24 years ago; my sister Kathy Wazera left for America 22 years ago; and my sister Amy Kelly went to America 12 years ago.
§ Chris Ruane
I am staying put.
Indeed, 4 million Americans claim Welsh heritage. The American census farm contains a Welsh tick box, which will please Conservative Members. Some 4 million people ticked that box to say that they were of Welsh descent.
§ Kevin Brennan
Is my hon. Friend aware of two other interesting points about names in America? First, to emphasise what he said about the names of black Americans, the greatest long jump final of all time was between Mike Powell, Carl Lewis and Larry Meyrick. Secondly, a recent book indicates that America is probably named after a Welsh merchant who lived near Bristol called Ameurig.
§ Chris Ruane
We should not forget to include Jesse Owens on that proud list of black Americans with Welsh names.
There are 300 St. David's societies around the world. I was given a list of those five years ago and it was already out of date then. When I saw the list, I thought what a fantastic network to use to promote Welsh culture, investment, exports, tourism and academia. Indeed, we have made great gains in promoting Wales around the world and attracting investment into Wales. We have had significant successes—the 143 American companies that have invested in Wales are proof of that. Between 1983 and 2000, there was £5 billion of American investment in Wales, which created 75,000 jobs.
The Welsh Development Agency is probably the most successful development agency in the world. Twenty years ago, there were only three development agencies in Tokyo, one of which was the WDA. We have made good use of our consulates, increasingly so since devolution. Last summer, I travelled at my own expense to the Gymanfa Ganu in San Jose and spent an evening at the British consulate in San Francisco, where 150 people of Welsh extraction, including Welsh business people, mingled together, networking to strengthen the bonds between Wales and America.
1113 However, we need to build on our successes. For relatively little money, with some organisational skills and through recognition and co-operation, we could help to expand Wales's influence around the world. Wales International produces an excellent publication that goes back 50 years called "Yr Enfys"—"The Rainbow". "Yr Enfys" is about to collapse for the sake of £5,000 per annum. Wales International contributed to the Welsh Affairs Committee when it looked into the position of Wales in the world. It is a fantastic organisation, whose aims are:To forge close and abiding world-wide links between Wales and the people of Welsh descent and friends of the language, culture and traditions of Wales … To promote present-day Wales, its work and culture outside Wales and to encourage and assist in the establishing of Welsh Societies outside Wales wherever this is possible. Many Societies Worldwide are already affiliated to the movement … To provide a meeting place every year at the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales for its members and its friends from all over the world … To develop and maintain a register/database of worldwide Welsh contacts for individuals, cultural organisations and public bodies.It is possible for organisations such as Wales International to fold for the sake of £5,000.
The Gymanfa Ganu is a fantastic celebration of Welshness across the whole of north America. Last year, it was held in San Jose and more than 2,000 people of Welsh extraction attended. Rather than finance, that great organisation requires recognition and an awareness among the political and cultural classes within Wales of what it does. I travelled with my family, and Rhodri Morgan and his wife, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan), also attended. We were the only three political representatives there.
§ Chris Ruane
Ruane is an Irish name from Galway on the west coast. I am aware of the great strides that the Irish people have taken in developing their international network.
I would urge all hon. Members to visit the Gymanfa Ganu at least once. I think that it takes place in Ontario this year. It deserves our political support and is a great networking opportunity for Welsh businesses, Welsh culture and Welsh academia.
Numerous hon. Members have pointed out that, when the Welsh Affairs Committee visited America to look into social exclusion, we were contacted by the Welsh North American Chamber of Commerce. The group comprises about 100 eminent business people who are spread across north America. Some of them are millionaires and multi-millionaires, and they provide a valuable Welsh network. Most of them are of Welsh extraction. The group is headed by David Williams, who has become a good friend of mine in the past couple of years. It thinks that it has been ignored by the WDA and the Wales Tourist Board, and instead of co-operation, there was confrontation. It is a valuable asset in America. Bridges have been built, but we still need more co-operation between independent Welsh organisations in America.
§ Adam Price
The hon. Gentleman has strongly made the point about the economic advantages of the Welsh 1114 diaspora several times. To pick up on something that the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) said, it is true that Welsh business people outside Wales have been tremendously successful, not least in America. I can think of JP Morgan, Jack Daniel and, more recently, the former head of CBS, who is of Welsh extraction.
§ Chris Ruane
Absolutely; I believe that the former head of CBS was at the Gymanfa Ganu last year. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the success of Welsh people in America.
David Williams has set up a business network across north America. He says that an equivalent networking system is desperately needed for Welsh academics. Our greatest export over the past 100 years has been our young people and our young qualified people, thousands of whom have ended up in academic institutions in Canada and the USA. It would be beneficial to the Welsh economy if we could develop a network between those academics, to make them aware of the research and the developments in Wales, and the fact that Wales is developing a booming economy. We could even try to convince them to return. That has been done in Ireland, where there is a skills shortage. At Easter and Christmas, people go to Dublin and Shannon airports to ask people where they are from and what their qualifications are, before pointing out job opportunities in Ireland. I urge the development of a Welsh academic establishment across America and, indeed, the world.
We could also develop the twinning of towns and counties in Wales. That already happens on a haphazard basis and has been mentioned by several hon. Members. My county of Denbighshire is twinned with a region of Sweden and my home town of Rhyl is developing a twinning relationship with Athay in county Clare in Ireland. I also believe that Lesotho and Wales have been twinned for a number of years. We need promotion, co-ordination and perhaps a pocket of finance to draw on to develop the bonds around the world between Welsh towns, counties and organisations.
Click Cymru is another idea that warrants attention. I was involved with Hicks Randles in Mold in north Wales, and mentioned the 300 Welsh societies that exist around the world. People at that company thought it would be an excellent idea if we harnessed the support of the societies to develop the Welsh economy. They did a great deal of work on that for no pay—it was all off their own bat. Over a two-year period, they met high-powered people in BT, Barclays and the National Library of Wales to develop a portal—a database—for Wales. Specifically, they were interested in developing tourism.
The hon. Members for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr (Adam Price) said that we need to attract people to visit Wales as a first resort. It will be difficult to do that, but one way is by developing links with the Welsh diaspora and by developing research resources, as Ireland has done. Fifteen years ago, the Taoiseach took young people off the dole and taught them computer skills. They went through the parish registers of births, marriages and deaths and the shipping registers, and put them all on to computer databases. Each county in the north and south of Ireland had a research centre, and those were used as a worm on a hook to attract people of Irish extraction back to the old country to research their roots. Many people 1115 did so and spent money in the local economy. They also strengthened even further the bond between Ireland, Irish-Americans and Irish people around the world.
§ Chris Ruane
I agree entirely, but first we must put the idea in people's heads to come to Wales. How they get there is a secondary factor, which we do need to look into.
§ Lembit Öpik
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) that, along with the important marketing campaign that he describes, we should think seriously about the benefits of having a regional structure for existing airports? We do not need much investment to finish off the campaign that he describes.
§ Chris Ruane
Absolutely. I agree with both points. We need international airports as well as regional airports in Wales. Again, I point to the example of Ireland. My family come from Oranmore in County Galway, where my uncle sold off fields for the development of Galway airport. There are also airports at Knock, Shannon, Kerry and Cork—in fact, throughout Ireland. We should be developing such a network in Wales.
I worked closely with Click Cymru, which spent a great deal of time, effort and research developing the database and portal that I mentioned. It received enthusiastic responses from people throughout Wales, but its bid for objective I funding was unsuccessful and has withered on the vine, so a fantastic opportunity has disappeared.
A number of hon. Members have mentioned the importance of St. David's day, which I think should be a national holiday in Wales. We should have the day off, or perhaps the day after so that we could celebrate late on St. David's day and recuperate the following day. I think that there may be something of the Welsh methodist in us all—I speak as a Catholic—because we seem to have a negative attitude towards celebration. Or perhaps it is just laziness. What did we Members do, collectively, rather than as individuals or within our own parties, to celebrate St. David's day this year in the House of Commons? Perhaps we should develop a cross-party initiative to promote Wales in the House. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had a bit of a beano, or a soirée, in Gwydyr house, and we are thankful for that.
Again, we need to look to the Irish example. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones) pointed out that the Dail in Ireland closes down for a week so that TDs and the Taoiseach can travel round the world to help to celebrate St. Patrick's day. That is not considered a freebie or a jolly: there is a database informing them who they are visiting, why they have been invited, who they are to talk to and what they are to say. The aim is to bring jobs and investment back to Ireland. We need to take a more structured approach to our St. David's day celebrations. I was pleased to hear that the First Minister was in New York 1116 celebrating St. Patrick's day and raising the Welsh profile. He was also, as I mentioned, at the Gymanfa Ganu in San Jose, where the WDA had a large tent.
§ Chris Ruane
I thank the hon. Gentleman for correcting me on that point, although I am sure that the First Minister celebrated St. Patrick's day too.
The Welsh Affairs Committee was told in evidence that the Taoiseach visits America with a list of people of Irish extraction, drawn from corporate America, whom he will meet and wine and dine, in the hope of getting a certain type of investment for Ireland. The Secretary of State and the First Minister should be doing as much of that as they can.
I urge hon. Members to take up their visits. We can now make three visits a year to European Union capitals.
§ Chris Ruane
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. We can now visit candidate countries in eastern Europe.
§ Chris Ruane
Yes, including Estonia. We need to find out about the international and European links in our own constituencies and take advantage of our visits to develop those links.
We also need to consider the use that is made of Welsh celebrities, such as Charlotte Church, Catherine Zeta Jones, loan Gruffydd—who incidentally was said by American women to be sexier than George Clooney—Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and Bryn Terfel. They are all proud to be Welsh, but we need a more structured and co-ordinated approach to taking advantage of their celebrity to promote Wales in America.
I turn now to a more contentious part of my speech. We must look carefully at the image of Wales being portrayed, especially in the UK, by certain sections in Wales. I am expecting hon. Members to intervene, but I will accept interventions—as many as are requested—at the end of these remarks. Over the past two years there have been a number of incidents of people speaking in strong and detrimental terms about what is happening to the language.
I am talking about people such as Gwilym ab loan, who said:Montana is the dumping ground for oddballs, social misfits and society drop outs and Wales suffers from the same phenomenon. Soon Wales will be so full of foreigners, in our own land our voice will be drowned out.I am talking about people such as John Elfed Jones, who compared the movement of non-Welsh speakers into Welsh-speaking communities, which includes people who, like me, were born and raised as Welshmen, to the spread of foot and mouth disease.
1117 I am talking about people such as Eifion Lloyd Jones, who urged Welsh schools not to accept too many non-Welsh-speaking children. That includes my own daughter, who attends a Welsh-speaking school. In fact, it was the first Welsh-speaking school in the English language community in Wales, and I attended its 50-year celebration two years ago. In that school, 85 per cent. of the children are from families whose mother tongue is English, and it is doing a fantastic job. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is good to hear that agreement.
I know that Plaid Cymru Members have stood up to be counted and have criticised people like Eifion Lloyd Jones. They include the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, who is on the record in the House as having criticised Seimon Glyn for his racist comments last year. The hon. Gentleman said that the Secretary of State or his eminent PPS was passing up crib notes. These are not crib notes; they are notes that I have gleaned myself by typing the word "racist" into the computer and extracting about 20 different articles. Many of them are from The Guardian and other national newspapers, not just the Daily Post or the Western Mail.
Some Members have taken a principled stand. Again, I mention Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, who admitted that there was an anti-English feeling within Welsh language nationalism which risked deepening tensions between Welsh and non-Welsh speakers. That development has been roundly criticised by eminent non-political people in Wales, including the Professor of Judaism at Lampeter university, who was deeply disturbed by attacks on incomers to Wales. He said:It's just the kind of language used in the early stages of Nazism in the 1930s.If words like "mixed marriages", "incomers" and "in-migration" are bandied around, a political climate is created. If politicians stand back and do nothing, they are part of the process. I therefore welcome the interventions of some members of Plaid Cymru but, to make a political point, criticism has come from Back Benchers and the Presiding Officer, but not the leadership of the party.
None of the articles that I took off the internet mention Ieuan Wyn Jones, whose views are hidden. He should look at the lessons learned by the Labour party when it was infiltrated by extremists in the 1980s. It took a principled leader, Neil Kinnock, to stand up and root out those extremists. He was straight with them and said, "These our rules and this is the way we operate. If you don't like it, get out." That is exactly what should have been done with Seimon Glyn: the problem should have been nipped in the bud and he should have been told by Ieuan Wyn Jones, "Any more of this and you're out."
However, Ieuan Wyn Jones failed to take such action; as a result, extremism has spread both within and outside his own party, which is detrimental to Wales and sends out entirely the wrong message to people in England, the rest of the UK and elsewhere. Why should an investor invest in north Wales when he is told, "Come in, invest and build your factor, but don't you or your children come into our communities. Even if you want your children to speak Welsh, we do not want them in our Welsh language schools as they will pollute the language." Entirely the wrong message is sent out to tourists. Why should they come to Wales when offensive signs are stuck up?
I have not spoken on this topic before. I do not want to mix it with Plaid Cymru, which has its own agenda. However, the issue is pertinent to our debate on Wales in 1118 the world; it has a negative effect on the position of Wales in the UK. I urge Members on both sides of the House to do their utmost when racist comments are made in the media to stand shoulder to shoulder and say that they will not accept or tolerate them.
§ Mr. Llwyd
I noticed that the hon. Gentleman did not refer to what the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Gareth Thomas) said about incomers swamping Colwyn Bay and adding to pressure on social services. However, I have no truck with the kind of behaviour described by the hon. Gentleman, and neither does my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), who has just returned from the Le Pen protest in France. We are not signing up to any agenda of that description; we never have and we never will.
§ Chris Ruane
I accept the hon. Gentleman's assurance. As I have said, he is on record in the House of Commons as criticising Seimon Glyn on the issue.
There are other significant issues, including houses in multiple occupation in seaside towns, which my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (Gareth Thomas) has rightly brought into political debate. However, the language and terminology that we use to discuss that issue create a particular political climate. Preserving the Welsh language is important, as is preserving jobs in our rural communities, but we cannot develop proper policies on them if the language does not fit the issue, as has been the case. We need political unity to develop proper housing policies and make sure that finance and resources are available to spread the language. However, that has been made more difficult by certain sections of Plaid Cymru and the Welsh language movement.
§ Mr. Evans
I touched on that in my speech. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that while certain people say nasty, damaging and hurtful things, the message from our debate should be loud and clear to the people of the UK, particularly in England? They are extremely welcome to visit Wales, set up businesses and create employment there. Only a small minority of nasty people say damaging things; they discredit our country.
§ Chris Ruane
Absolutely. As I said, I am pleased that there have been comments from other Opposition parties in support of that.
In conclusion, if we work together as politicians and develop a political agenda to promote Wales within Wales, the UK and around the world, we are much more likely to achieve our goals than we are with a divisive political agenda in our own country.
§ Hywel Williams (Caernarfon)
I congratulate the Welsh Affairs Committee on its report. It is sad but not surprising that the report did not reach the House earlier. I recently took part in a debate on the equally important social fund report produced by the former Social Security Committee, and it languished for at least a year before being debated.
We are debating the Welsh report on a quiet afternoon when other events have drawn attention elsewhere; it is sad that attendance in the Chamber is thin. We have heard about ignorance about Wales and the Welsh language 1119 which seems to extend to BT. Recently, I dialled 192 and asked for a number in the blameless community of Garndolbenmaen. I was asked which country that was in; Members may be interested to know that I was dialling from Swansea.
Some Members have looked at the subject of our debate—Wales in the world—chosen the world rather than Wales, and decided to go elsewhere. It is sad that some of them represent Welsh constituencies. I note that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) has departed, perhaps to hone his literary skills after receiving a blast from my hon. Friend the Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd). The hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) is no longer in the Chamber. Contrary to her usual views, perhaps she has succumbed to the delights of Virgin Rail.
Our debate is about Wales in the world, not Wales or the world, a principle that has guided many people from my constituency for many years, not least the entrepreneurial slate traders who carried slates from Porthmadog, Caernarfon, Porth Dinorwig and elsewhere to all parts of the world in the previous two centuries. The principle also guides the thoughts of my party and progressive national bodies, as I shall explain later. In my constituency, we have a large Polish community, as some Members may know. We have a Polish retirement community, Dom Polska, in a rural part of Caernarfon, which is trilingual; signs appear in Polish, Welsh and English. The communities of Llanbedrog, Pwllheli and Penrhos have gained tremendously for many years from the existence of that retirement home, not least from the substantial employment that it provides.
I propose three guiding aims for looking at Wales and the world. We should be consistent in speaking as Welsh people with one voice, and we should speak up for Wales, not talk it down. The pictures that we should present should be true pictures of ourselves, unencumbered by narrow political considerations. Our primary purpose should be to represent Wales, not other interests—that is the principle of our party. We have far to go before those aims are achieved.
Tourism has been discussed by many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy. In March, I attended a British Tourist Authority reception to mark St. David's clay. It was a convivial evening attended by the Secretary of State for Wales, the Under-Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), who is unaccountably absent. Given his ministerial interests and much-advertised internationalism, I would have expected to see him here at some point.
During that evening at the BTA, we heard many fine words, if to the accompaniment of some rather dodgy white wine.
§ Hywel Williams
No, but it was warm, to say the least.
Significantly, I soon found myself giving Wales the hard sell to some BTA executives. It was only later that I realised that it should have been the other way round: they should have been giving me the hard sell. However, they 1120 seemed interested, or at least polite. We heard fine words, and look forward to even finer action, especially as regards the recommendations of the report. In the past, the impression has wrongly been gained that tourism in the UK consists of a golden triangle to the east, and that the mountains of Eryri—Snowdonia—in my constituency are merely pimples on the body politic: or touristic, perhaps. I shall not go into any detail on where the pimples are to be found. That impression will be particularly wrong in future if the BTA lives up to its promises.
One of our priorities for tourism must be to promote the nature of the unique nature of the Welsh holiday experience, including ensuring the prosperity of the Welsh language and culture and of our unique take on the English language. Too many people forget that English is, after all, a Welsh language.
Another priority must be to address the transport problems that beset our country, not least north-south, by rail and by road. In my constituency we have the Cambrian line. Recently, when travelling on the west coast main line, I looked at the railway map and noticed that the Cambrian line was not there. The line went from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth; to the north there was nothing at all. I seem to remember that the last time I went in that direction there was a railway line all the way from Machynlleth to Pwllheli.
We must deal with training deficits in the tourism industry. Some good work is already in hand, as I have heard from my local colleges.
§ Lembit Öpik
Before the hon. Gentleman moves away from the rail network, does he agree, given that there is a lot of competition to take over the rail network, that an important factor in attracting people to Wales is the quality of the proposals to ensure that there is a truly national rail network across Wales, adding to what we hope will be an effective regional airport structure?
§ Hywel Williams
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Certainly, the quality of the Cambrian line leaves something to be desired. The sum required to bring it up to a proper standard is relatively small, but it faces competition from other rail priorities. We want to ensure that it is given proper attention, because investment is needed for the loop that will increase traffic tremendously on the northern part of the line.
As I said, it is important to deal with training deficits in the tourism industry, and some good work is already in hand, as I have seen in my local colleges. However, we have far to go to reach the point where working in tourism services is more than a second choice—or even worse—for our young people. During my time at school and as a student, I spent many summers working in the tourism industry, and at that time such employment left a great deal to be desired.
Given the system of government that we currently enjoy, it is important to develop secondments between Welsh institutions and public bodies in our European and UK counterparts. I note that the Assembly exceeded its target of six secondments per year to European institutions. Will the Minister tell us what progress has been made in developing secondments with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Secondment is a two-way process. What progress has been made in training UK 1121 overseas staff about Wales to raise their awareness of the resources of its landscape, people, languages and culture? On the UK level, it is not only a matter of secondments to the Wales Office. What progress has been made as regards secondments to other UK Departments?
The vital sector of secondments to UK and international business will be of great help to Welsh business. On 26 October I received an answer from the Department of Trade and Industry in which I was told:It is not possible from central records to give the location"— [Official Report, 26 October 2001; Vol. 373, c. 415W.]of every secondment from private business into Government and from Government into private business. However, I was given a long list of 341 companies that have taken or given secondments to the DTI. The only one that I could discover that seemed to have any Welsh relevance was the Prince of Wales's press office, which, with all due respect, is not the powerhouse of the Welsh economy or Welsh industry. I note that Arthur Andersen also figures in the list.
On 17 October, I asked the Secretary of State a question about business in the private sector seconding people into the Wales Office. His reply stated that the current arrangements mean thatit is not practicable to attribute individual outward secondments to the Wales Office. There have been no inward secondments from the private sector to the Wales Office."—[Official Report, 29 October 2001; Vol. 373, c. 492W.]Given the key role that international business and trade could play in developing the Welsh economy, that matter needs attention, and I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.
I want to refer briefly to the Wales European Centre, which has been debated this afternoon in another place. The Assembly's response to the report states:Both the Assembly's Brussels Office and the WEC are important tools in forging an identity for Wales in Europe. They also ensure that we are well placed to engage with EU institutions at an early stage.This month, the Assembly office decided to pull out of the Wales European Centre and to set up a separate office in Brussels. Plaid Cymru condemns the decision to withdraw funds from the Wales European Centre. We acknowledge that changes are needed, but we are worried about the lack of prior consultation, whatever the First Minister says.
Sir John Grey is currently conducting a review into the workings of the Wales European Centre. Perhaps it would have been better to await its conclusions before acting without consulting. The way in which the matter has been handled is damaging to Wales's reputation in Europe.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)
My hon. Friend mentioned the Wales European Centre and embassies. Does he agree that we should also consider the British Council and its work in promoting Wales abroad'? Does he share my anxiety that it has no worked-out programme for promoting devolved parts of the United Kingdom? Many people abroad learn about the activities and culture of the United Kingdom through the British Council. They would never know about the Welsh language and culture through the current programme.
§ Hywel Williams
I agree. I unfortunately have to listen to the BBC World Service in the small hours. Again, little 1122 attention is given to Wales in that Foreign Office-funded service. We need to use the instruments of the British state to promote Wales abroad more effectively.
I want to consider trade and industry, especially the creative industry. Three industries are based in my constituency. Ceka Tools was originally a German company, which was relocated to Pwllheli, and is now a substantial importer and exporter of hand tools and other goods. It has recently extended its market to Ireland. Instead of continually looking to the east, it has taken advantage of our excellent links with Ireland.
Sain records has developed a body of Welsh music on tape, disc, CD, video and DVD. It has a substantial list that it sells to the United States. It is very successful and is branching out locally and opening a shop in Caernarfon to sell its goods.
Hufenfa De Arfon—the South Caernarfonshire Creamery—has recently won an export reward. It is based in the west of my constituency, far from centres of population, yet it makes a cheese called Monterey Jack to an American recipe, which it manages to export to America. I am not sure what the English idiom is—
§ Hywel Williams
I thank the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane).
The creamery is doing well because it has a basic sense of entrepreneurship to which I referred earlier in respect of state industry. Lest anyone doubts that such entrepreneurship exists in the Welsh language as well as the English language, I recently attended the creamery's annual general meeting with Carwyn Jones from the National Assembly for Wales and Dafydd Wigley, my immediate predecessor. It was successful and interesting and conducted entirely through the medium of Welsh.
On a lighter note, there is a story circulating in my constituency that we have a large French creamery in south Caernarfon. Some tourists saw a milk tanker carrying the name "Hufenfa De Arfon" and wondered, because of the way in which they pronounced it—houvenva d'arvon—why a French company was based in south Caernarfonshire. We therefore have real and imagined international links in Caernarfon.
I am sure that all hon. Members were glad about the launch of Cyfle Cymru—Opportunity Wales—on 22 April. It is the largest e-commerce initiative of its type in Europe. That will give Welsh business and commerce an advantage in exporting to and working in other countries. Cyfle Cymru will provide a wealth of opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to extend their businesses and work up niche export markets.
The international image of Wales and Welsh business will increasingly be sourced locally in Wales to the whole world. I heartily subscribe to the principle of thinking globally and acting locally. I note that Cyfle Cymru's site is entirely bilingual—no narrow monoglotism there. I sincerely hope that many hon. Members will attend the London launch of Cyfle Cymru—Opportunity Wales—on 21 May.
Many companies in my constituency are associated with the television production industry. I was told recently that that industry had succeeded in creating up to 800 jobs in an area where jobs of such quality are scarce. It has 1123 succeeded not only in providing Welsh language programmes to SpedwarC—S4C—but in establishing many joint productions with other countries. A friend recently returned from a long stint of filming in Poland and enjoyed good relations with film companies there. He looks forward to further work there.
The 800 jobs are vital and the success of the industry depends on secure funding, which needs to be extended when necessary. I was therefore glad to meet the chief executive of the North Wales Film Commission at my constituency office. Again, he is selling Wales hard, especially north Wales locations, to the film industry. He has achieved notable success in attracting major Hollywood productions as well as domestic UK and Welsh productions.
There is an interesting and varied picture of international links in trade and the creative industry in my constituency. Those links need to be supported and we look forward to their providing many more high quality, high value jobs in the future.
In reference to the three principles that I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, I note that the difference between Plaid Cymru, as a nationalist party, and the other parties in this place is that our prime purpose is to represent Wales. I am certainly proud to do that.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)
I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate. I also welcome the unanimity across the Floor of the House today in representing and putting the case for Wales. I should stress, however, that we are also here as United Kingdom Members of Parliament, so as well as putting the case for our own communities and for Wales we must put the case for the United Kingdom. I do not see a schism in those concepts.
If I may, I shall tread on dangerous ground by talking about Wales, the Welsh, tourism and the whole question of image and identity. These issues are crucial as we reach a turning point in Wales. We have gone through years of massive restructuring in industry involving the loss of the coal mining industry, and the turbulence in the steel industry at the moment. We can see the restructuring going on. This is a time of change and of pain. Out of that, however, will come opportunity and challenge.
We need to achieve—in the House, in our communities and as a Welsh nation—a clear confidence in what we are about, what we see ourselves as, and where we see ourselves going as a nation. If we can reach some degree of agreement on that, we shall have achieved a lot today, and we can take that message forward. This is not a political point. We need coherently and consistently to present the idea that we are not going to whinge when whingeing is not necessary. We should present the case that Wales is a nation of winners and of potential. We can do things as well as or better than anyone else. We in this House are aiming to present that case.
Why is this important? First, it is important for business. Some good points have been made this afternoon about business and entrepreneurship. It is vital that we change the culture and give people the structures and the confidence that will enable them to take forward 1124 that entrepreneurial vision. Wales has undoubtedly lacked those skills for many years, for whatever reason, so we must advance the case for such change.
Inward investment is important, but, as has rightly been pointed out, it is not the be all and end all. It has, however, been a great help and we have been very successful in attracting it. We should not turn our backs on it, but we also need to encourage our own small businesses and self-employed businesses to set up, to take on small numbers of people and to build from there. That is not to say, however, that they should set up in their own region and then move to a location where production costs are cheaper or the wages are a quarter of those in Wales. We have seen that happen before, and we have to encourage them to stay.
It is also important for society and the community that we agree on some kind of identity and cohesion. Sometimes, when we are considering the technical details, we underestimate the idea of having shared goals and aspirations—a vision that enables people to say, "Yes, the politicians in the House, the Assembly and throughout the land are saying that this is what we want. We want to bring our children up in the areas where we live because the politicians are trying to provide these opportunities and this vision." The vision thing can easily be dismissed if we concentrate only on the nuts and bolts. If we forget about the vision thing, however, and forget about where we want to be in 10 or 15 years, it will all fall down and cease to be worth while.
§ Mr. Prisk
Without wishing to engage in gratuitous back-slapping, I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman said earlier—not least because he was agreeing with me. Does he agree that it is at the heart of this matter to move from a culture of dependency—in this case, economic dependence on one employer—to one of independence and confidence? I endorse his comments about change, and I wonder whether he would agree with that suggestion.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies
Indeed, the hon. Gentleman is right. There is always a danger in relying too much on a single employer, which is why we need diversity in the economic community as much as in the cultural community. The Welsh Development Agency has been making strides in that direction, but it must go further. The Secretary of State will no doubt continue his discussions with it to ensure that there is a network of approaches in the business community rather than too much reliance on just one.
I want to speak specifically on tourism, which has been much discussed today. There is a subtle difference, which has not been mentioned, between the identity of a person and a nation and what is presented as a tourism product. Much has been said about kicking out the old stereotypes and getting rid of the idea of turning us into a heritage nation. As a chap called Hewison once said, "Who wants a nation when you can step off the plane from Heathrow and walk into a Disneyfied theme park of heritage and castles?" We must accept that many people want that—they come here because of the pageantry, the industrial heritage, the castles, the legends and the myths—and that it is an essential ingredient of tourism, even though it is not necessarily what we are now.
We talk about identity: one aspect is a forward-looking nation seeking dynamic industry and diversity of communities and culture; the other is giving the tourists 1125 what they want. We must accept that as a nation, even though there may be a stereotypical element to it. Felix Mendelssohn, writing way back in the 19th century, said:Here I am in Wales … and a harper sits in the vestibule of every inn and never stops playing so-called folk melodies, that infamous, common stuff'.If the tourists demand such a product, let us give them what they want.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies
This is undoubtedly a time of change, as well as opportunity. In 1945, there were more than 250,000 jobs in collieries, but by 1989 there were 10,000, and the story continues. In addition, we had immense industrial dereliction as a left-over. In the early 1960s, there were more than 8,000 hectares of disused spoil heaps, 3,000 hectares of disused mineral workings and 7,500 disused, derelict installations. That is still the image that some people hold of Wales—dereliction and despoiled valleys—but times have moved on significantly.
Back in 1935, Thomas Jones wrote in the New Statesman:What's wrong with Wales? … South Wales should be designated as a grant national ruin".How times change. Would he not be interested to know that the Blaenavon ironworks is designated a world heritage site, along with the pyramids? We have the potential; we need to play to our strengths.
Before 1966, there were only three reclamation schemes for despoiled areas in the whole of Wales. By 1990, thanks to local authorities and the WDA, more than £170 million had been spent on 800 sites covering 17,000 acres. An area the size of a football pitch, every day of every year during this period, was turned back towards its natural state. That may be seen in my area—the Llynfi, Garw and Ogwr valleys have been turned back to their natural state—but we must put something back into those communities to acknowledge that the industries have gone and to provide a vision for the future. We have treated the areas cosmetically; now we must move on and bring jobs and a different vision.
In 1939, a pressure group called Political and Economic Planning proposed closing Merthyr and transporting all the residents down to sunny Monmouthshire, for the good of the residents and the taxpayer. The House, the WDA and the Assembly can suggest better remedies than that. I mention those illustrations because we do not want to dwell only on our history. We have the new image to contend with—for example, a dynamic industry such as adventure activities.
I used to be a lecturer at the Swansea institute. It now runs courses in adventure activity management, water sports and sailing management and golf management—as the Ryder cup comes to Wales. That is the sort of innovation that results from a different image, and from bringing major events to Wales and developing tourism there. We should consider how the past can benefit the future.
An example in my constituency is the Garw valley railway, the "Daffodil Line". Volunteers united to seek funds, helped by the local authority and other agencies, to put a steam railway back into a cul-de-sac valley—a 1126 valley leading nowhere. Until recently, its future led nowhere as well. Now there will be a railway that we hope can be linked with the adventure activity centre at the top of the valley, and with crafts, the work of local painters, cafés and so on.
That is one instance of the vibrancy that we can develop in our communities and put across as the Welsh product. We must dwell partly on our industrial heritage and our culture and partly on a new entrepreneurial vision of not just a great unspoilt landscape, but a centre of interest and activity—adventure activities, and activities for the family.
The importance of tourism has already been mentioned, so I shall not say too much about it. Let me point out, however, that even in Bridgend, where there is a 10-year strategy for tourism development, tourism contributes £119 million a year, supporting 2,500 jobs. As has been said, Wales receives 8 per cent. of UK tourism spending but only 2 per cent. of overseas spending.
Tourism is not one-way traffic; it benefits areas. The conservation of the countryside and parks has been productive. Apparently, 63 per cent. of visitors to the Garw valley country park said that that had influenced their decision to visit the area. There are 750 public rights of way, including the Celtic trail and cycleways, which are likely to attract 200,000 people to south Wales; and there are crafts. There is, for instance, the Welsh Porcelain Company at Maesteg.
Let us look at Wales as a whole, however. Why do tourists go there? They mention certain attributes. A Wales Tourist Board survey carried out a year ago mentioned beautiful scenery, castles, the friendliness of the people, fresh air, a land of legend and mystery, and somewhere to enjoy the great outdoors. But what made people feel let down? What did they feel they had missed at the end of their visits? Apparently, the "legend" aspect, and the experience of a country that is famed for song, music and poetry.
We are failing to capitalise on our strengths. We should go beyond the stereotypes. We should look at what the Irish do with the idea of craic and fun—the idea of a harp in every pub, and an Irish jig band in every pub. Let us play to our strengths. It may seem coy to us and it may not be what happens at our local hostelries, but given the money that can flow from tourism, we need to be bold and imaginative. We are underselling ourselves.
I welcome the additional spending on the Wales Tourist Board and the British Tourist Authority. The BTA should extend more of the benefits from London into the regions. I would welcome ambitious targets, not just for the next two or three years but for the future generally. The "hidden Britain" campaign is helping to spread those benefits across the regions.
The commentWales at present is little more than the highlands of England without a highland line: it is a geographical expressionwas made in 1886. Sometimes it seems that we have not moved much further in terms of tourist development. How can we persuade inbound tourists to go further out into the regions?
I was disappointed to read, on the BTA's very good website, that when it recommended a set itinerary for the UK involving 10 days' travel over 1,100 miles of the UK, tourists spent one day venturing across the border to 1127 Welshpool, seeing the gardens and travelling down the Severn. That is not my idea of what Wales is. That does not capitalise on the products and opportunities that we have. I stress to the Secretary of State and to other Ministers that we need to look carefully at how Wales is marketed. The BTA has moved in the right direction, but it needs to move a little further.
The Welsh language is an important issue in that regard. Opposition Members have already said how important it is. We agree that the Welsh language has intrinsic value. It is part of our culture but it also has a value for tourism. I agree that it is what differentiates us. It gives us the authenticity of Wales and the Welsh. It is not spoken widely throughout Wales, but it is significant in certain parts of Wales.
On genealogical resources, we are being beaten again. The Scottish and Irish have easy access if they want to trace their ancestry. We are starting to get there, but we are not quite there: we are playing catch-up. We have gone in the right direction but we should go further to make it easy to access genealogical sources.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's general tone but I am sure that he would not let the opportunity pass without paying tribute to what the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth does to help people from abroad to trace their genealogical records. I am sure that he will find if he goes there that visitors from abroad can find all the information online, including important Welsh Mormon records, from which a lot of people trace their Welsh origins.
§ Huw Irranca-Davies
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. That is right. My point was about the ease of access. The websites are fantastic but they should be easily accessible. They are available, as the Welsh and Scottish websites are. They do a tremendous job. Let us bring them to the forefront so that we can see more of them.
It is rare for poetry to be quoted in the Chamber, but I want to contrast a vision of Wales. R.S. Thomas wrote:
That has gone. We now need to move onwards with confidence. When the question is asked, "Who will answer for tomorrow?" it is us. Let us put that vision and the mechanisms in place, and let us drive in the tourism and get our fair share for Wales.
- "There is no present in Wales,
- And no future;
- There is only the past,
- Brittle with relics,
- Wind-bitten towers and castles
- With sham ghosts;
- Mouldering quarries and mines;
- And an impotent people,
- Sick with inbreeding,
- Worrying the carcase of an old song."
§ Dr. Hywel Francis (Aberavon)
I wish to declare an interest as the chair and trustee of the Paul Robeson Wales Trust.
1128 I welcome the debate for two reasons. First, it gives the House the opportunity to consider the evidence, observations and conclusions of this important Select Committee report. Secondly, it gives hon. Members the opportunity to reflect beyond the report on issues that are critical to Wales in the world.
On the conclusions of the report, hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken eloquently on many of the issues that were problems and challenges at the time of the inquiry. The welcome arrival of democratic devolution in Wales is already beginning to impact positively on the presence and understanding of Wales on the world stage. The report makes an important contribution to that cause, and I hope that its many constructive conclusions will be taken up both by the Assembly and by Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
I turn to issues and themes that will need to be dealt with if Wales is to have a more central and dynamic role in the world. We need to consider four themes: first, celebrating our cultural diversity, which reminds us of our international roots; secondly, recognising and emphasising our historical and contemporary international role; thirdly, building on the growing positive attitudes towards the Welsh language in Wales and how we portray that internationally; and, finally, strengthening our relationships with Europe.
The Rhondda writer Gwyn Thomas once wrote that we wereone of the classic lands of emigration".If we want to look at our motherland, we have to keep turning, for our brothers and sisters are everywhere. I believe that there is another meaning to those words. As Dr. Mashuq Ally, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality in Wales, has said:Wales is a commonwealth of communities.Modern multicultural and multifaith Wales does look around the world as our Wales is worldwide in its origins and we should be proud of that. Again, Gwyn Thomas put it beautifully:As you move to the docks"—in Cardiff—you hear the high soft speech of a hundred tongues from Africa and the East, or perhaps from the lips of a child born into the docks, the enchanting mixture of Somerset. Madagascar and PondlanffraithThe Commission for Racial Equality in Wales has done much in recent years to make us more aware of our cultural diversity, celebrating rather than fearing it. I hope that the role of the CRE will be enhanced and strengthened in years to come so as to achieve greater social cohesion within Wales and between Wales and the world and make our full contribution to conquering racism and xenophobia at home and abroad.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas
Will the hon. Gentleman join me in welcoming the fact that the CRE will contribute to the conference next Tuesday on the future of the Welsh language in Wales and the role of our Welsh-speaking communities? I am sure that he also welcomes the way in which the CRE is exploring these issues with Welsh language communities.
§ Dr. Francis
Indeed I do welcome the role of the CRE in all this work. I know that many of its officers have entered into fruitful discussion with many language groups on this important issue. 1129 Many of us were brought up on a heady diet of Welsh internationalism. I believe that the children's hymn "Draw, draw yn China" was an internationalist hymn not an imperialist one. For us, Elfed's words:
which translate as:
- "Da yw caru gwlad ein hunain,
- Gwell yw caru'r gread gyfan",
were a statement of fact, not a political assertion.
- "It is good to love one's country,
- It is better to love the whole world",
The anti-fascist Jack Roberts, known locally as Jack Russia, born in Penrhyndeudraeth, captain in the international brigades and organiser of the national eisteddfod at Caerphilly, and Tom Jones, known throughout Wales as Twm Sbaen, a Franco prisoner from Rhosllanerchrugog and founder of the Wales TUC, are not details of history but the very essence of Welsh history and indeed world history, as is Eunice Stallard, who was born in Ystradgynlais. She collected money for Basque refugee children in the 1930s and was a founder of the Greenham women's peace camp. Emma Goldman, the Russian-American socialist writer, a frequent visitor to my constituency in Briton Ferry and Cwmafan, was given British citizenship by the comradely gesture of marriage by James Coltman, a Glanaman miner from Carmarthenshire.
Wales ignores its proud internationalist history at its peril. There are many lessons to be learned. Many great radical movements—the peace movement, the antiapartheid movement, the green movement and the trade union movement—have their origins in the distinctive social justice and internationalist, welcoming and tolerant traditions of Wales.
§ Lembit Öpik
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that the Co-operative movement and Robert Owen's contribution is also important.
§ Dr. Francis
I apologise for not mentioning Robert Owen and the Co-operative movement. The first society of course was founded in Cwmbach in the Cynon valley in 1864.
When I want to think of Wales at its best, I think of our relationship with Paul Robeson and the causes of peace and justice which he espoused. It is thoroughly appropriate that "Let Paul Robeson sing!", the exhibition currently touring Wales, is funded by the National Assembly and local authorities, and the plans to take it to countries beyond Wales are most welcome. I hope that in time it will come to the Houses of Parliament.
I also think of Gregorio Esteban, who was born in Baracaldo in northern Spain, who taught Spanish through the medium of Welsh in Abercraf s miners' welfare hall, and of Salay Rahman, a founder of the Port Talbot Muslim Welfare Association and the Afan community credit union. Both were proud of their culture and faith, and proud to be Welsh.
I also think of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, which is in Cardiff's temple of peace. It has for decades played a vital role in communicating Wales and Welsh aspirations to the world, and conversely explaining to Wales important contemporary, global, social, economic and cultural changes. The centre places strong emphasis on world citizenship, international youth 1130 exchanges, peace, conquering poverty and racism, and achieving global social justice. Its quiet, educational voice of tolerance and reason needs to be listened to and valued in Wales and beyond. It deserves our full support and we should be proud of its work.
I turn now to how we safeguard, portray and enhance the Welsh language, and how it is perceived internationally in cultural and commercial terms. We should be more confident in explaining how the Welsh language is very much part of modern Wales. The diligent work of bodies such as Cyd. Pont and the Urdd is largely unsung beyond Wales, yet but for their work and that of the Welsh-medium and bilingual pre-school and school movement over the decades, the language would not be as strong as it is today.
There is a danger that that benign, positive work will be eclipsed by other well-meaning and perhaps not so well-meaning forces. I am pleased that Neath Port Talbot county borough council is to welcome Europe's largest youth festival next year, the Urdd Eisteddfod, in my locality, and I am proud to be one of its vice-presidents. Locally, nationally and internationally, the event will give great impetus to the Welsh language as a language of the future, and as one that takes its place with equal status alongside other languages in Britain.
I end on a contemporary note: Wales in Europe. Welsh involvement in the European Union has always been positive. It was particularly so in the 1980s, through structural funds in assisting rural, urban and valley communities which experienced enormous economic and traumatic change—climaxing of course with the sad recognition that west Wales and the valleys had achieved objective 1 status.
Two major challenges are before us: the single currency and EU enlargement. Quite simply, the single market needs a single currency. From a Welsh perspective, the case for entry is comprehensively made in the recently published pamphlet "Wales in Europe", which emphasises safer jobs, more foreign trade and investment, and higher standards of living. The single market, the single currency and European enlargement are very much in both the internationalist traditions and the contemporary interests of the Welsh people, in achieving what Paul Robeson called peace, dignity and abundance for all.
§ Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West)
I intend to focus on the role of the capital city in promoting Wales in the world, particularly its bid for European capital of culture in 2008.
Given the implications for Wales's image in the world, I should, however, first say a few words about the problems that occurred outside Ninian Park in my constituency after last night's second division play-off between Cardiff City and Stoke City. It would be wrong to exaggerate what happened or to tar all the Cardiff City supporters with the same brush. Indeed, problems were created by Stoke fans in the first leg. However, I say to those who were involved in any violence or disturbance that everyone understands the bitter disappointment of last night, following such a magnificent recent run, which was helped by the fantastic support of Cardiff City fans, but if such incidents are repeated, they will begin to threaten all our ambitions to see Cardiff in the premier league—in football and, indeed, in every sense.
1131 I draw the House's attention to early-day motion 1177, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan). I thank other hon. Members across the House, from Wales and beyond, who have given it their support. It commends Cardiff's bid to be European capital of culture in 2008. I also wish to draw hon. Members' attention to the fact that the bid document from Cardiff is now available and being circulated. An event will be held here in the House on 21 May to promote the bid to Members, and I ask them to make every effort to attend.
Cardiff's bid for European capital of culture highlights the transformation that has taken place in our capital city in recent years. Billy Connolly's recent programme, which showed his natural reaction to the changes that had taken place since he last visited the city, confirmed their radical nature. The statistics bear that out: the official mid-year estimate of Cardiff's population in 2000 was 327,500, which shows a population growth since 1991 of 9.2 per cent., compared with population growth in Wales as a whole of 1.9 per cent. and in the UK of 3.4 per cent. Given that the 2001 census is expected to confirm that the population of Wales is some 3 million, the metropolitan area of Cardiff hosts half the nation's population. Cardiff is also a cosmopolitan city. It is estimated that 2.3 per cent. of the population is black, 2.8 per cent. Asian, and 2 per cent. Chinese or other ethnic group.
The bid is important for the image of Wales for several reasons. For most of its history, Cardiff, as many hon. Members will know, was a relatively small village. It had Roman remains, having been built on a giant mud-pat where three rivers meet the Bristol channel. Greater historians than me will know that towns such as Merthyr, at the time of the 1830 rebel rising, and Newport, at the time of the Chartist rising in 1839, were much more important than Cardiff. It was in the second half of the 19th century, when the population graph for Cardiff was rising at a right angle, that the city grew rapidly. Had that population growth continued, the population of Cardiff today would be 20 million.
It was coal, and the valleys of south Wales, that were responsible for Cardiff's development. Coal was also responsible for the multicultural nature of the modern Cardiff, with all the different languages that are spoken and the influences from across the world, including Somalia and Yemen. Powerful European influences are also at work. One of Cardiff's most famous sons, Roald Dahl, wrote in his book "Boy":To the shipbrokers, coal was black gold. My father and his new found friend, Mr. Andersen, understood this very well. It made sense, they told each other, to set up their shipbroking business in one of the greatest coaling ports in Europe. What was it to be? The answer was simple. The greatest coaling port in the world at that time was Cardiff in South Wales. So off to Cardiff they went.That explains why Cardiff eventually became our capital city in the 20th century. In 1905, Cardiff was designated a city and, in an era of great municipal expansion, some of its civic jewels, such as the city hall, were built. Indeed, the old plans for Cathays park—home of the city hall—show a site reserved for a Welsh parliament, because home rule was a big issue at the end of the 19th century. In 2005, we shall celebrate the centenary of Cardiff becoming a city and I hope that by then it will have been named as the capital of culture for 2008.
1132 In the 20th century, population growth slowed as the coal industry gradually declined. However, Cardiff had established its position as Wales's premier city. That position was cemented with events such as the 1927 FA cup final victory of Cardiff City over Arsenal. That was 75 years ago, almost to the day. Arsenal are playing in the final on Saturday, but not against Cardiff City, sadly.
Like many other British cities, Cardiff suffered in the second world war, but it also opened its arms to the world. As part of the city's bid to be capital of culture in 2008, residents of the Penalun house Jewish retirement home are writing a great Cardiff poem:
That proud and honourable tradition forms part of the city's hid for 2008.
- "Here in Cardiff we were German.
- Back in Germany we were Jews.
- Here, though, no one called us names.
- Here in Cardiff we were welcomed."
Cardiff was made the official capital of Wales in 1955, although it had been unofficially recognised as such for many years. Three years later, the Commonwealth games were held there. In the 1970s, the city was most famous for hosting the great rugby matches of that era, which included those involving the famous Welsh side of Barry John and Gareth Edwards, both of whom played for Cardiff rugby club.
There was a renaissance in the city during the 1980s and 1990s, with the redevelopment of Cardiff hay. My predecessor once spoke in the House for two hours and 40 minutes in opposition to the Cardiff bay barrage. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) went as far as to invent an endangered species, the Grangetown barking rat, to try and build opposition to the barrage. He was not successful, and the bay development is now almost complete. It has transformed the area, which was in decline after the coal industry in Wales almost completely disappeared.
In 1999, the Millennium stadium was built for the rugby world cup, and democratic devolution came to Wales. That has meant that Cardiff has become a real capital, perhaps for the first time. The city also hosts the FA cup final.
The cultural and economic renaissance of our capital city is accompanied by a political one, with the realisation of Keir Hardie's vision of home rule, which we now call devolution. However, the city needs to reach out more to the rest of Wales, and to reach out, with Wales, to the rest of the world. That is what today's debate has been about.
Cardiff has not reached out enough in the past. Perhaps its cosmopolitan history means that the city has taken for granted the rest of Wales and the rest of the world. The bid for culture capital status is a way of reaching out, as it is being made on behalf of Wales as a whole, not on the city's behalf alone. It seeks to emphasise Cardiff's links with the rest of Wales, and the cultural achievements of Wales as a whole—north, south, east, west, city and countryside. It is an inclusive bid, which is why it has attracted so much support from Welsh Members of Parliament.
Many of the events planned will be Wales-wide, and will not be restricted to Cardiff. They will include events involving the Pop Factory at Porth in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant), who was here earlier, and the Merthyr movie film project, 1133 in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Havard). Projects from all over Wales will be included in the bid.
Cardiff's bid will emphasise the youthfulness of Cardiff as a capital city in a devolved Wales, as well as the country's European links and cultural values. It will involve co-productions and exchanges with other countries across Europe. The communities of Cardiff and other parts of Wales will be included.
The great Cardiff poem is being compiled in conjunction with, and with the assistance of, the Welsh writers academy. Anyone visiting Cardiff can see the poem as a work in progress in the old library centre, where the bid headquarters is stationed.
The bid will emphasise inclusivity, diversity and multiculturalism. It will emphasise the languages of Wales—Welsh and English, of course, but also the other languages of ethnic minority communities so often heard in Cardiff and other parts of Wales.
§ Lembit Öpik
I am interested in the concept of inclusivity. Does the hon. Gentleman feel that there is a prospect of building in inclusivity in terms of performing arts events around Wales that feed into the central focus in Cardiff?
§ Kevin Brennan
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. That is very much part of the bid. I commend the bid document to him; it is lengthy, but it contains a passage on that very idea, including events such as the Llangollen international eisteddfod that he mentioned. We need to build on existing cultural events.
The bid will also build on the existing and developing cultural infrastructure in our capital city. One of Cardiff's great features and strengths in terms of quality of life is the richness of its cultural infrastructure. We know about the new millennium centre that is to be built. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) might support expenditure on developing the millennium centre even if he will not support the neighbouring new building of the National Assembly.
Partners in the bid include Cardiff castle, one of Wales's major tourist attractions; the Museum of Welsh Life, in my constituency; Coopers field, which will be developed into a permanent event site for 20,000 participants—the Urdd eisteddfod is being held in Cardiff this year: the Millennium stadium; the Oval basin in the docks, to be renamed the Roald Dahl Plass, in honour of Cardiff's famous resident: the Bay arts studios; the Howard Gardens gallery in the Cardiff School of Art and Design; the Cardiff International Arena; City Hall; the Channel View centre; the Chapter arts centre; Llanover hall; Llandaff cathedral; the New Theatre; the National Museum and Galleries of Wales; the Norwegian Church arts centre; the Sherman theatre; St. David's hall; Techniquest—the hands-on science and technology museum in Cardiff bay; the centres for sports training and competition, including indoor athletics; the Welsh Institute of Sport and the Glamorgan county cricket club school of excellence; the BIG SHED project in the bay; the Cardiff City football club new stadium; and the multicultural arts centre for Wales. I could go on, but I do not have the time. We have a major cultural infrastructure in our capital city, and we can build on it.
Cardiff also has an outstanding track record of hosting major international sporting, cultural and political events, including the European summits, the FA cup, the rugby 1134 world cup and, indeed, the Labour party spring conference. [Interruption.] The Liberal Democrats have also held their conference in Cardiff.
The use of new technologies will also be part of the bid. It will be used as a transforming experience for Cardiff and for Wales, to try and change the perception of Wales in the world, raise its status and make people more aware of what modern Wales is all about. When Glasgow was European capital of culture, we saw the impact that can have on the image of a city and a country.
I should like to finish by quoting a poet I know quite well, Gwyneth Lewis, who lives in Cardiff:The past we inherit, the future we build.Cardiff's bid to be European capital of culture in 2008 is an important part of building the future of Wales in the world.
§ Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
We have had a remarkable debate, ranging from Gwyneth Lewis—and Estonia—to R.S. Thomas—and Estonia—to Gwyn Thomas—and Estonia. We even had a suggestion from the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk), who is fairly new to Welsh debates, of an entrepreneurial deficit in Wales. As he is new, perhaps I should remind him of the story of what happened when Keith Joseph addressed a Swansea business club. He said that there was not an enterprise culture in Wales—that there was not even a Welsh word for entrepreneur. Of course, a heckler asked, "What is the English word for entrepreneur?"
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones) and his Select Committee on the report, which is wide-ranging, like our debate today, the theme of which has been the unknown image of Wales. The product is not well known outside Wales, but I take the wise remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) that while image and product identification must be considered, quality is of greater importance. We may have the greatest tourism marketing, but if our restaurants and hotels are poor, the quality of our product will not be worth having. That said, the theme was essentially the lack of product identification and the adverse effects on tourism and inward investment, to which reference is made in paragraphs 9 and 27 of the report.
I found much of what was said perhaps too defeatist. We have an unfortunate Welsh trait of folding our arms and saying, "It's all too difficult", or "The Irish are much more lucky." It is rather like the Llanelli-Leicester game last week, when the ball hovered and twice banged the post. We say, "That's Wales's fate. It always happens to us.
Incidentally, I agree wholly with what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan) said about the millennium bid. My city, Swansea, is wholly in favour of that bid, but the challenge for Cardiff is to reach out to other parts of Wales. I recall that the people of Cardiff did not vote for devolution. Perhaps this is a debate for another day, but, in my judgment, the distance between Cardiff and other parts of Wales—the centralisation—is still proceeding apace. Whether measured by office rents, by house prices or by availability and location decisions, that is clearly a major problem for Wales.
§ Donald Anderson
No, I must move on.
1135 Perhaps I can quickly illustrate the nature of the problem. When I was a student in France, an elderly lady from the United States asked me where I was from. I said, "Wales", to which she replied by asking, "Is that anywhere near Stratford?" That gives some indication of the problem.
I should like to say a little about the US. The hon. Member for Town hill and Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) mentioned an advert that he saw in New York. He will tell me if I am wrong, but it said something like, "Follow in your father's and your grandfather's footsteps." Well, when we consider the Irish in America, we may say that 40 million Americans look back to an Irish heritage, but let us not forget the strengths of Wales in the US. Let us analyse the foundations on which we can build not just in genealogy but in theme holidays and so on.
I stand to be corrected by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis) about our historical roots, but between a third and a half of the signatories of the declaration of independence were of Welsh extraction. Thomas Jefferson's father was a north Walian and called Snowdonia his home. As for the professions, some of the most eminent lawyers in US history were of Welsh origin, from Chief Justice Marshall—the seminal man in federalism—to Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a Welsh speaker, who was only narrowly defeated by Woodrow Wilson in the 1916 presidential election.
Others with a Welsh background include Frank Lloyd Wright, the great architect of Chicago, and John L. Lewis, the great trade union leader—and in terms of professional competence, I remind the House that Al Capone's accountant, a Mr. Humphreys, was from Breconshire.
§ Donald Anderson
As for the regional impact, which we have to target, Scranton and Walkes-Barr were bastions of Welsh culture in the 19th century. In Philadelphia, most of the place names on the mainline railway are related to Wales. Those in the old south were not of English background as they claimed, but mainly of Celtic background. Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, was a Welsh American, as, perhaps rather more importantly, was Jack Daniel, who founded the whiskey firm in Tennessee.
As for culture, the Irish may have their nostalgic and schmaltzy films with John Wayne, but John Ford's "How Green Was My Valley" is a hymn of praise to Welsh working-class solidarity and values. Our stars today range from Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins to Catherine Zeta Jones and Joan Gruffydd, who has a cult following because of "Hornblower". I was reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) that Charlotte Church is billed as an English singer; there is a challenge for us.
1136 In terms of cultural matters, President Carter came to Swansea on the Dylan Thomas trail. With regard to male voice choirs, the Swansea male choir, of which I have the honour to be president, has been in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois in the past 12 months. The Morriston Orpheus choir from my constituency has sung not only on two occasions in the Sydney opera house but September in Carnegie hall, after 11 September. Why cannot we make visits by Welsh choirs opportunities for disseminating Welsh tourist literature.? Why do we not send key historians to the United States—to targeted areas, such as Pittsburgh, parts of Chicago and parts of the south—to remind people there of the links with Wales? The distinguished Welsh historian, Professor Peter Stead, who happens to be a good personal friend, told me that he walked into a library in Wisconsin fairly recently and the first book that he saw was "Wisconsin and the Welsh". I should declare an interest, as he is a friend, but why do we not send such people on lecture tours around the United States?
§ Donald Anderson
I have pledged to be brief.
Such opportunities should be used. My understanding is that, for instance, the opportunity of the Morriston Orpheus choir's visit to New York was not exploited. That was a public relations failing. It is a wonderful choir, which sang very well, but it was not adequately publicised; certainly, the Welsh element was not. We have a potential platform to exploit if we target it.
I have mentioned the United States, but I am sure that I could perform a similar exercise—I shall not do so, as colleagues will be pleased to hear—for the Welsh in Australia. We could try to build on our relationships there. I wonder whether we have been imaginative enough in considering those Welsh linkages. Having made a bid to send a friend of mine around the United States, I should not pursue that matter.
§ Donald Anderson
I have promised to be brief.
On foreign diplomatic representation, I met a distinguished ambassador this morning from a Latin American country, and I tried this question on him: "What is your image, and your people's image, of Wales?" This distinguished ambassador—who had also been a foreign minister—said, "It is extremely hazy. My country, which is a major soccer country, thinks of the Welsh soccer team." Otherwise, he said that all his countrymen would think of Richard Burton as an English star. We have a problem of overcoming that image. Image can be helpful in terms of tourism and the attraction of industry. With regard to industry, however, we have been doing more in terms of using Welsh firms to act as missionaries for Wales.
To move away from the parochialism that sometimes exists in Wales—the valleys complex is the worst sort—cross-fertilisation in terms of the civil service was a valuable recommendation of the Committee. However, a quota of embassies overseas that should have people who have served in the Assembly was asking a little too much. It was, at least, something worth striving for—an impossible ideal, as Niebuhr said, which we should strive for nevertheless.
1137 On honorary consuls—again, I am delighted that the Committee wrote around to embassies—I have, in little ways, urged several key ambassadors to look for local business men, not just in Cardiff but perhaps in Town hill, who would be very happy to be honorary consuls. Those honorary consulships might fructify into full consular positions, and that would improve relations.
The ambassador to whom I spoke this morning had never been to Wales and was looking forward to going there. We must be far more proactive in ensuring that most of the major countries at least have an honorary consul in Wales. We should also ensure that we use the instruments that we have—the Welsh diaspora and contacts in the American and Japanese firms in Wales—so that, when people ask us where we are from and we say Wales, we are not asked whether it is close to Stratford.
We face enormous problems with our profile and product identification, but we have a good product and we should not be defeatist about it. We should look to our strengths and to every way in which we can maximise the recognition factor for Wales. We should be imaginative, and each one of us should be ready to bang the drum for Wales.
§ Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside)
I welcome the Select Committee report "Wales in the World". It is honest and recognises that Wales has some way to go to establish itself at the forefront of people's thinking and consciousness abroad. I will spare people a rerun of the Charlotte Church story—we have probably heard enough about it—but it illustrates a point.
The fact that people in the wider world do not identify a product, service or even an individual as being predominantly Welsh does not mean that Wales is not playing a major role in the world economy. My constituency of Alyn and Deeside and much of north-east Wales are heavily dependent on manufacturing for their employment and well-being. As well as many small and medium-sized manufacturers, we have several large players, including Toyota, Corns and Airbus to name but three. Those companies export products across the world and they are at the forefront of value-added manufacturing.
Those companies are not considered to be Welsh. Indeed, of the three that I have mentioned one is Japanese, one is Anglo-Dutch and Airbus is a European partnership. Airbus illustrates a point. Its factory was previously known as BAE Systems and, despite the fact that it is in Wales, it was known as BAE Systems Chester. Thankfully, that has now changed.
The three companies have chosen to locate in Wales. More important, they have decided to stay and invest in Wales because of the quality of the products that are manufactured. All three operate in fiercely competitive markets, and that point applies to established companies as well as to new entrants. Airbus's achievement in coming from a standing start to compete with established giants, such as Boeing, is testament to its success, a success that many so-called experts said would be impossible to achieve. Its growing market share and order book for all sizes and types of passenger airliner shows that Europe and, importantly, Wales can succeed and compete whatever the challenge may be.
The introduction of the A380—the so-called super jumbo that will be the world's largest passenger airliner—will cement Airbus's position as a world leader in its 1138 market. That seemed impossible only a few years ago when the Boeing 747 was considered to be the only large passenger aircraft.
The success of the plant at Broughton has been possible only because of Airbus's sizeable commitment. Indeed, the new hangar in which the wings for the A380 will be built is under construction. It is the largest commercial building project in the UK, and Airbus is spending more than £l million a week on it. The completed building, which will he open in May 2003, will contain more than 14,000 tonnes of steel all produced and supplied by Corus. The building will have more than 1 million sq ft of floor space. It is a mammoth project, and a great achievement for Britain and Wales. However, it will be the work inside the building that will secure the position of Airbus and the jobs of thousands of people. The quality of that work must be the best, and I am confident that that will be achieved through the use of cutting-edge technology at the plant. We must maintain our intellectual property in that respect. The quality will also be achieved because of the skills of the work force at Broughton and, indeed, throughout north-east Wales.
Maintaining and enhancing the skills base is vital if we are to retain manufacturing jobs. That applies throughout Wales. In addition, we want to attract new inward investors to Wales. That is a big challenge for us, just as it is for Britain as a whole. Even in times of economic growth and low unemployment, there is a danger of eroding the skills base.
All hon. Members can give examples of manufacturing jobs in our constituencies which have been lost and replaced with jobs in the service sector or in more basic assembly operations. I am not denigrating those jobs, and they do provide employment but, as several hon. Members said, such jobs are readily exported to lower cost producers in eastern Europe or the developing world. That will always be a danger if we lack the value-added element and do not have real intellectual property. Those jobs can always be uprooted and transported elsewhere, and Wales has suffered as much, if not more, than any other part of Britain in that respect.
When my predecessor, now Lord Jones, made his maiden speech in the House, he spoke of the importance of the textile industry to what was then Flint, East and the almost total reliance on the steel industry for employment in the area. That pattern has changed dramatically since the 1970s, however. There has been a painful and damaging period of change throughout Wales, but new industries and employers have appeared. The change has not been seamless and it has been far from smooth.
There was massive unemployment throughout Wales in the 1980s. Our traditional employers did not so much go into decline as collapse. Large areas of Wales are still recovering from that dark period and we still have major issues to address, especially with regard to reskilling and re-equipping some of those people who lost their jobs and who need to re-enter the job market. North-east Wales has probably been more fortunate in rebuilding after that period than some other areas. The geography of the area has helped. We have a good road network and, following an announcement by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, I am glad to note that it will get even better in the near future.
Our proximity to north-west England has been especially important, in terms of both the supply chain and the interchange of employees and skills. Many of my 1139 constituents work in manufacturing companies across the border, such as Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port. Equally, many people from those areas come to Wales to work. So the solution to securing future employment and growth in north-east Wales is not simply a matter for Wales. We have to build on our successes; and look to the future, not the past. In north-east Wales we have a genuine possibility of establishing the premier location in Britain for quality manufacturing jobs. If we are to meet that potential, we need to continue to provide the right environment both for existing businesses, big and small, and for new inward investors.
I have spoken in the House of my disappointment at the decision of the Welsh Assembly not to grant permission to extend the Deeside industrial park. That would have created thousands of good quality jobs for Wales as a whole. North-east Wales therefore faces a challenge in finding alternative areas to develop, but I am sure that we will do so. The demand is there, and we must meet it.
North-east Wales has much to offer and a good story to tell, but companies will continue to invest in Wales only if we make them aware of the opportunities and benefits there. Importantly, politicians have a major job to do in that respect. We have to paint a positive picture of Wales. We must not denigrate it or portray it as a place of Victorian-era misery and depression. It is not like that, and we have a positive story to tell. We want people to come to Wales, to invest their money, to help to build our economy and to secure the long-term future for the people of Wales.
§ Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)
I apologise for not being here for the early part of the debate. I was a member of the Select Committee when it undertook this inquiry, but I am no longer a member.
This has been an interesting and wide-ranging debate. I was impressed by the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) who made yet another good speech, using his expertise in tourism. He mentioned the success in achieving world heritage status for Blaenavon, which shows how much collaboration there has been between the local authorities of Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire. When that project is developed, it will be a great success.
I was interested in the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis). He will know that I have strong family connections with his constituency and in nearby Neath. He made important points, using his extensive historical knowledge. I also commend my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan) for his comments. I assure him that those people who support culture will support Cardiff's bid to be the European city of culture. That decision will be made soon, and I hope that we can make whatever representations are necessary to ensure that Cardiff is successful.
The Select Committee received evidence from significant organisations that are working hard to promote Wales abroad, including the Welsh Development Agency, the Wales Tourist Board and Wales Trade International. In the short time that I have to speak, I want to stress the importance of promoting Wales abroad and of promoting the interests of Monmouthshire.
1140 Monmouthshire is part of Wales. I know that there has been debate about that in the past, and I get a few letters questioning the fact, but I assure my constituents and all Members of the House that Monmouthshire is most certainly part of Wales. I am particularly proud to be a Welsh Member of Parliament representing a Welsh constituency, although I was brought up in the fine Welsh community here in London. One of the ambassadors for Wales from my little Welsh community is our latest operatic dame, Anne Evans, who was a member of our little chapel, capel y Borough, just a few miles away in Southwark.
I should like to focus on three aspects of the Select Committee's report. The first is tourism. I represent an area of Monmouthshire which is outstandingly beautiful and includes world-famous sites such as the Wye valley and Tintern abbey. It attracts visitors from all over the world. I wonder sometimes whether they come to the Wye valley but go no further into Wales. I sincerely want people coming from Heathrow, Gatwick or Birmingham airports to use Monmouthshire as an entrance to Wales.
I was particularly delighted to see in the Wales Tourist Board's promotional literature, which goes to other countries, a 10-day tour starting in Monmouthshire, but when I went into the tourist office in Monmouthshire, no such literature was available because the tour is only promoted abroad. I hope that such literature can be made available within Monmouthshire itself.
Recently, Monmouthshire has been severely hit by foot and mouth. In the Easter holiday and the few weeks since then, there has been a revitalisation of rural tourism in Monmouthshire. I was delighted to spend time over Easter in a beautiful part of my constituency, the Llanthony valley, which I think is unknown in England, in the world and in Wales. It goes from the village of Llanfihangel Crucorney, past Llanthony priory, towards Capel-y-Fin and over to Hay. Capel-y-Fin is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams), and has the smallest polling station in the country.
I hope that hon. Members will be able to see the amusing video that was filmed, and recently launched, in Monmouthshire, "Arthur's Dyke", which depicts the walk along Offa's dyke. There are beautiful locations in Wales, so the film industry can invest there. We have a tremendous international film school in the university of Wales college just outside Monmouthshire at Newport. I give credit to everyone who campaigned to get Newport city status, which will benefit Newport, south-east Wales and Monmouthshire.
The Select Committee took evidence from Wales Trade International and the Welsh Development Agency, and realised the significance of promoting Wales abroad. I have a particular interest in links between Wales and Japan. I am delighted that Wales has an honorary Japanese consul and that events in the Japan-UK 2001–02 festival were held in Monmouthshire at the Monmouth Boys school and the superb but largely unknown Nimbus concert hall, which is the only quality concert hall between Birmingham and Cardiff. I wish that more people in Wales knew about it. Japan has done a tremendous amount to help Wales. I would hate to think of the state of the Welsh economy had it not been for Japanese investment in the 1980s. There are strong links between the two countries. I was delighted that the former Japanese 1141 ambassador, Mr. Hayashi, made a memorable visit to Monmouth a couple of years ago; I trust that it established good links between Monmouth and Japan.
I have visited companies in the past couple of years that have developed a world reputation for their products. Last Friday, I went to the Mitel telecommunications factory. I was impressed by new developments in information technology that could be of great benefit in education and health care, including a remote district nurse service which would be particularly useful in rural areas. Television and interactive IT can be used to monitor old people and others in isolated areas. That would be a tremendous investment, and I hope that Mitel can trial its work in Wales.
I have also visited Nimbus, which is involved in advanced technology and makes CD machines that are exported across the world. Fairfield-Mabey manufactures bridge girders which are exported to developing countries across the world; it works with the Department for International Development to try to get infrastructure investment into other countries, which is to its credit. Ocean Resource develops installations for the petro-chemical industry; and the Cambian Group received the Queen's award for export achievement a couple of years ago—I was delighted to attend the ceremony.
We can also promote Monmouthshire as a sporting venue. I am sure that we all share delight in winning the bid to host the Ryder cup at the Celtic Manor, and give credit to Sir Terry Matthews, Tony Lewis and everyone else who worked hard on the bid on their tremendous achievement. One or two of the holes on the Ryder cup course are in Monmouthshire; when it is expanded, I hope that there will be more. Monmouthshire has other world-famous sporting facilities. We have two of the finest salmon rivers in the world, the Usk and the Wye, and have outstanding cultural traditions.
We want to attract people from across the world to Monmouthshire so that they can use it as a gateway into Wales. However, I want Monmouthshire and all its assets to be enjoyed by the people of Wales. I hope that visitors will appreciate it as they do the north-east and north-west of Wales. We can do more to promote our own areas. It was a great pleasure to serve on the Select Committee, and I commend its recommendations to the House.
§ Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)
It is a pleasure to wind up the debate on behalf of the official Opposition. Not many Conservative Members are here, for reasons that are well known to the House—some important elections are going on around the country, at least in England. I do not know what excuse the many missing Welsh Labour Members have, but it is a pleasure to see those who are here, and I congratulate them on having turned up and taken part.
We have heard no fewer than 14 Back-Bench speeches, all of which made an important contribution. Many debates become repetitive, but on this occasion each speech has added something new to the debate, and it has been a privilege to listen to it.
The Secretary of State opened the debate by making several important points, one or two of which I should like to add to. He talked about the benefits of the European Union to Wales. We should bear it in mind that one of the problems involved in the money that comes 1142 from Europe is that it is no more than recycled money from the very few net contributors to the European Union, of which this country is one. We should not get too excited about what Europe may be doing for Wales. The Secretary of State mentioned that money in the context of objective 1 arrangements. As he will be aware, the report points to problems with delays in objective 1 payments. The Welsh European Funding Office, an executive agency of the National Assembly, is responsible for such payments. Clearly, members of the Committee believe that that issue should be urgently addressed.
The Secretary of State spoke about Wales with obvious pride and stressed what a beautiful country it is. In describing the importance of tourism, he explained why Wales has not been able to promote itself throughout the world as have England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and, indeed, the Republic. His comments about the problems faced by Wales were useful and gave a good background to the subject, although that does not mean to say that we should let the matter rest there.
The shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), made several practical points. At times he was somewhat controversial, which is not unusual for him. In discussing the cost of the Assembly building, he suggested that the money might have been better spent on some of the more important functions of government in Wales.
My hon. Friend also covered matters relating to tourism, such as people's ability nowadays to travel abroad very cheaply. It sometimes costs more to drive to and park at the airport than to fly to certain elegant settings in Europe and beyond. That problem should not be underestimated. I speak as an Englishman—I say that before anyone else can—but I have spent many weeks and months travelling Wales and have enjoyed many holidays there. It has recently become obvious to me that fewer people are doing that because it is so easy and cheap to travel abroad. My hon. Friend put his finger on an important point and, characteristically, suggested one or two ways in which it might be addressed—for example, by improving airports.
My hon. Friend touched on the problem of ITV Digital, which has unfortunately hit Wales very hard. I want to return to that in a few minutes.
The hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones), who chairs the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, gave a comprehensive and useful outline of the report. It was interesting to hear about the number and quality of the people he invited to give evidence, one or two of whom, if they had turned up, would have attracted a record attendance at the Committee. It is sad that that did not happen. He also listed several people who have Welsh ancestry, and pointed out that many people have Welsh ancestry but do not recognise it. That was an important point. He also mentioned several things that are associated with Wales. Again, it is perhaps unfortunate that that is not fully recognised.
I like and admire the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) a great deal. As ever, he made an entertaining speech full of good points. He mentioned the aerospace industry, which several other hon. Members discussed. It is also important to my constituency of Tewkesbury, where several aerospace jobs have been lost. There have been many aerospace mergers, 1143 but there are also many opportunities. It is therefore important for the United Kingdom, especially Wales, to grasp them.
It is important for aerospace companies in this country to work on a level playing field. We hear so much about the level playing field for agriculture, but it is no less vital for aerospace. We must ensure that our competitors do not receive benefits from their Governments that the Government do not give ours. I am asking not for handouts to aerospace companies—far from it—but for them not to be disadvantaged when competing with companies abroad.
§ Lembit Öpik
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be helpful if Ministers agreed with Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister, on the aerospace industry? He was present at the formal launch of the aerospace group for professional and business people directly related to aerospace in Wales.
§ Mr. Robertson
Yes. I am sure that the Minister will respond to that point. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire talked a great deal about his constituency as well as Estonia. I am sure that he will not be described as the hon. Member for Estonia for long after today.
The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) spoke about Wales's wider role in human rights. She made an extremely interesting and important contribution.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd)—I hope that I have pronounced it correctly—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Well done."] Since serving on a Standing Committee with the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), I have been practising pronouncing some Welsh names. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy spoke about tourism and the need to market Wales better. That was a recurring theme of the debate.
The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) spoke about the importance of perception and stressed the amount that Wales has to offer.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) spoke about Wales positively, but he outlined several matters on which we need to concentrate, including the need for greater research funding and capability, which one or two other hon. Members also mentioned. He referred to Wales's low profile in the business world, but he also mentioned the Millennium stadium, which adds credibility and brings recognition to Wales. That is extremely positive.
My hon. Friend spoke about entrepreneurial problems: "entrepreneurial" is difficult to pronounce and I understand why the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) suggested that it was not an English or a Welsh word. My hon. Friend also talked about the low rate of start-ups. There is a need in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom to stop standing in the way of small businesses and to encourage them as best we can.
The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) mentioned involving more politicians in spreading the news about Wales throughout the world and using the many celebrities that Wales can boast. He made an 1144 extremely important point about his regret at the running down of Wales, and also about—I hesitate to use the term—racist or strongly nationalist remarks. Perhaps he felt that they were damaging. He drew support from all sides about that. It is a problem in most countries, but it does not help Wales and he was right to draw attention to it.
The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) discussed secondments from business to promote Wales abroad and made many other detailed points. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) made a lively speech that reminded me of his excellent maiden speech, in which he broke with convention by being controversial and party political as well as entertaining. Whenever he is on his feet in the Chamber, I shall do my best to listen to the important points that he makes. He stressed how important it is to remember that we are here not only as MPs from Wales, England, Northern Ireland or Scotland, but as Members of the United Kingdom Parliament, and that we should do all that we can to promote the United Kingdom as a whole as well as promoting all its parts.
The hon. Member for Aheravon (Dr. Francis) made some important points about Welsh history. As someone who is interested in history, I believe that it can make the present and the future come alive, and I found his remarks most refreshing. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan) rightly condemned the hooligans at the football match last night. He also talked about Cardiff's bid to become the European capital of culture in 2008. While hon. Members from different areas might have conflicting interests in relation to which city achieves that title, I certainly wish Cardiff well.
The right hon. Member for Swansea, East reminded us, in a characteristically interesting speech, of Welsh stars, and of famous and important people, whom we really should use more, as has been suggested.
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) spoke about the importance of the aerospace industry and the Airbus. He also mentioned the textile industry, about which I, too, have some concerns, having worked in it for many years, in north Wales and elsewhere.
Last, but not least, the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) spoke about the attractiveness of his area—which he insists is Welsh—and about the importance of Japanese investment in Wales.
§ Mr. Edwards
Knowing the hon. Gentleman's interest in horse racing, I was delighted to welcome him to Chepstow race course. I know that the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) has also attended. Does he agree that Chepstow is not only the capital race course of Wales but one of the finest in Britain?
§ Mr. Robertson
I certainly agree. I understand that there are plans to build another race course in Wales. If that goes ahead, I wish it luck. It is always a privilege to visit Chepstow race course, even though I usually—not always—come away a lot poorer, but, in another way, much richer for the experience of having been there.
It is important to recognise the investment made not only by the Japanese but by the Americans. That kind of investment adds to the international flavour that we all want to see in Wales. I was rather disturbed to discover the extent of the decline of inward investment in Wales—I was not aware of the extent of it until I researched this 1145 debate. The levels used to be a lot higher than they are now. They are still impressive when compared with the population size, but it is a matter that we need to address.
We also need to address the problems of agriculture, which is also in decline. All these things declining is not very good. As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) pointed out in an intervention, it is important that we put out good-news stories about Wales. By way of an analogy, I take a great interest in Ethiopia. The ambassador for Ethiopia always tells me how important it is for his country to get the right image across. Ethiopia is not just about desperate people suffering starvation and disease; that is not the sum total of the country. He feels that it is important to get across the right image for his country, and it is important to do the same for Wales.
We need to address the problems of agriculture. My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley was right to say that there should be a public inquiry into foot and mouth disease, which was as devastating for Wales as it was for so many other areas. It is also important that farmers and others working in agriculture should be allowed to diversify. We often find, however, that they are blocked from doing so by the rules of planning. I am sure that that applies throughout the United Kingdom, and it is another issue that needs to be addressed.
I would like to make many more points, but time is against me. This has been a very interesting debate, and I shall finish by echoing the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley, who suggested that, having concluded this debate, we should not just go away and forget about what has been said. Let us use many of the points that have been raised on both sides of the House for the benefit of Wales.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)
We have had a wide-ranging and comprehensive debate on Wales in the world, covering the report and a significant range of recent achievements. The debate has been of a high standard, which again proves that we have a good story to tell about Wales. That is a warning to the whingers and knockers to stop talking Wales down. We should see the Severn bridge as a gateway to markets for Welsh goods, not a drawbridge to be pulled up, shutting out the rest of the world.
"Wales for the Welsh" is a slogan that bears deep menace for all of us in the House. It is important for Members of all parties to confront that evil, because it will not help Wales and Wales in the world, and we know what will happen if we go down the road of challenging who is and who is not Welsh. Who decides who is Welsh?
We all know what happens when a country thinks that the only issue to be tackled is who fits in ethnically and who does not. It starts with people saying, "If you can't speak Welsh, you're not Welsh." Then comes, "If your grandparents weren't born in Wales, you're not Welsh." It ends with. "If you're not white, you're not Welsh." Those are the dangers. Our parents' generation took up arms against those who advocated a new dark age in Europe. They defeated them; we must ensure that we defeat such people in this generation.
We can look back with satisfaction on the fact that our own Welsh Development Agency first spread the message that Wales is a great place to grow a business and a great 1146 place to come and invest. The agency's success over the past quarter of a century is shown by the fact that it became the template for the regional development agencies that followed. Indeed, the WDA has opened up new horizons for Welsh business and the Welsh economy.
Furthermore, in Wales Trade International we have an organisation with an ambitious programme of trade missions for the coming year. I was proud and pleased to meet its delegation in the Czech Republic in March. The entrepreneurial spirit of the small firms that took part encouraged me, and I can tell the House of some successes. Mr. John Wyn Williams, chairman of Vaynol Estates in Bangor, said that the visit was a great success for his organisation, resulting in five contacts. Terry Gorman, of Swansea-based HPA Property, which specialises in repairing and maintaining glass structures, had 15 meetings. Four companies that he met want to establish partnerships, while another wanted prices immediately for work to be carried out.
Lyn Powell, from RPS Chapman Warren, a Cardiff-based planning and environment consultancy, has been asked by the Brno city authorities to submit plans to relocate the central railway station and redevelop the site. Suzanne Wilkinson, from Invest E in Welshpool, was immediately asked for quotes for her software products by a non-governmental agency involved in waste management. The visit was a success and I pay tribute to all who took part. I was impressed, too, by my welcome in north Bohemia and, in particular, in south Bohemia, when I visited a small town called Pisek. Tucked away in the local museum was a display of art by Welsh artists.
Wales can be proud of its tourism industry and the bodies that work hard to promote Wales as a tourist destination. The British Tourist Authority has nine core campaigns running at the moment. They were all developed in consultation with the Wales Tourist Board and they feature considerable Welsh content. Everyone in Wales feels pride when they see the imaginative WTB advertising campaign promoting Wales—the big country.
Those campaigns capitalise on Wales's core strengths of being a country that inspires and that is welcoming and passionate. We have a rich heritage of poetry, song, legend and mystery as well as wonderful and dramatic countryside. We also have a rich industrial heritage. Let us not forget that we spearheaded the industrial revolution, and that Welsh coal and iron are the two products that changed the world in the 19th century.
Wales can be rightly proud of its achievements in developing creative industries, which a number of colleagues mentioned. Now we seek to make an impression on the world through high-tech companies, the expansion of information technology and the creative and performing arts. We can and do attract high-tech companies involved in research and development. When considering where to locate its European headquarters and its research and development facility, General Dynamics received a consultant's report, which was, it told me, completed with apparent academic rigour. It strongly advised General Dynamics against coming to Wales. Following a little prompting from me and from others, the company located itself in Oakdale in my constituency in the Welsh valleys. Only this morning, the human resources director told me that it had had no problem in recruiting highly skilled, high-quality staff in Wales. It had not had to headhunt; it had used job fairs and other 1147 conventional means of attracting a work force, and had secured people with the right qualifications and the right chemistry for the company.
General Dynamics, incidentally, is now forging ahead with a major research and development initiative, in partnership with the university of Wales in Cardiff.
Last autumn I visited Cyfle in Cardiff bay. Cyfle is a company engaged in training for the film, television and media industry, and, thankfully, is well supported by S4C. I also visited the International Film School at Newport, where it was brought home to me how important the film and television industry is to Wales. Those two centres support and nurture the creative and communications industries in Wales—industries that employ many people through the three television networks we have in Wales, and will be important to Wales in this 21st century.
Our communities, too, benefit from Wales's greater capacity to be outward-looking. They benefit from twinning arrangements, for instance. My own children attended a comprehensive school that was twinned with a school in Germany, and my constituency and many others have twinning links with European towns. Blaenavon, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, is twinned with one of the world's best wine-producing areas, in Bordeaux. I commend it to Members.
All these experiences serve to broaden the horizons of our people, and to boost their confidence in their ability to handle what is different and then use that to improve their quality of life and that of their families. It is improving the quality of life and increasing our people's prosperity that bring us all to the House of Commons.
The world is our market, culturally and economically. Wales has seen enormous changes in its economic fortunes in the past few years. The strong economic policies introduced by this Government have sustained us well, even in the tragic and awful aftermath of 11 September. We have one of the strongest and most robust economies in the western world. Our economy is growing at a rate of 2.25 per cent. a year, faster than the economy of any other G7 country. There is strong consumer demand, which I see when I travel around Wales, and our unemployment is at its lowest for 27 years. That is a remarkable achievement.
§ Mr. Touhig
The hon. Gentleman can be assured that that will happen. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has had discussions with fellow Cabinet Ministers and other members of the Government, with Members of the Assembly and with others to try to overcome the awful problems now being faced in that part of the world.
We heard speeches from my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones), the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton), the hon. 1148 Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk), my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams), my hon. Friends the Members for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), for Aberavon (Dr. Francis) and for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan), my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), my hon. Friends the Members for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) and for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) and, of course, the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson).
The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) made his usual robust contribution, but I thought it negative at first. He rose at 1.47 pm, and it was 2.2 pm before he said anything positive, when he admitted that Wales was a jewel. He went on to make some important points about regional airports. My colleagues in the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions will soon publish reports on their investigation of the valley and how we can develop regional airports across the United Kingdom and in Wales in particular. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned Atlantic college, which makes an important contribution to education in Wales. I can tell him that Education and Learning Wales has discretion to fund support for scholarships.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South has done a superb job in leading the Welsh Affairs Committee, which produced the report that prompted this debate. He spoke about the problems we experience as a result of stereotyped perceptions of Wales and its people, and helpfully suggested answers to the questions posed by the report. We are indebted to him and his Committee for an excellent job.
My hon. Friend mentioned the importance of exchanges between staff working in the Assembly and Government agencies with those working in our embassies and agencies abroad. That is encouraged by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and a number of colleagues who work in the Assembly are currently on secondment in Brussels. My hon. Friend also mentioned the celebration of St. David's day. The FCO encourages all our embassies to organise events celebrating our national saint.
My hon. Friend referred in particular to the British Tourist Authority's efforts and involvement. The three-year funding agreement with the BTA and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport includes a target for increasing the proportion of additional spend that the BTA delivers through visits outside London.
The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire was right to stress the importance of selling Wales. He pointed out the successes that other countries have had in promoting their identity, including Estonia. He made some good points about promoting Wales through the performing arts. I hope that, when it is completed, the millennium centre will be a focus for that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley was right to remind us of Wales's important contribution to internationalism. She also reminded us of her childhood and how important it is that we educate ourselves about other countries. That breaks down barriers and fears.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy made a number of important points about ensuring that Wales is promoted as a tourist destination. Recently, I had a meeting with the Wales Tourist Board, and I have offered the use of the House to promote Wales as a tourist destination. 1149 The hon. Gentleman mentioned the awful problems that foot and mouth caused the tourism industry and the whole of Wales. Initial indications are that we are overcoming those problems and that tourists are returning. In the next few days, I will write to him about a number of other matters that he raised.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned that the Secretary of State and I have made just one trade mission in 22 months. That is true. Our visit to the Czech Republic was a success. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman may laugh but companies in his part of the world have benefited from that trade mission. We should not knock that. It is good for Wales and for Welsh business. The Secretary of State has also visited the Republic of Ireland, Brussels and Spain. He has been very active in that regard.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gower made an important point about the perception of Wales overseas. The hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford made a thoughtful contribution, which those on the Conservative Front Bench may benefit from reading. It was useful and important.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd highlighted the importance of the profile of Wales in north America. As we all know, north America was discovered by a Welshman. He spoke of the importance of allowing the language not to divide us, but to unite us. The hon. Member for Caernarfon was right to say that we must speak up for Wales at all times. He referred to the importance of training in tourism. We must ensure that we promote that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore was right to say that we must seek to change people's perception of Wales, a point also made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon, who reminded us of the strong links between Paul Robeson and Wales.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West referred to Cardiff's bid to become the European city of culture. We all wish the city every success in that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East reminded us of the 1150 many famous people who have had links with Wales. It was good that he did that. My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside pointed out the importance of north-east Wales as a major area of manufacturing, where companies can meet all the problems that the economy faces. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth brought his knowledge of the Committee's work to bear and said how important it was that we promote Wales abroad.
As I have said, we have heard many important contributions. It has been a very good debate. It has shown that we can make and have made great strides in Wales. The devolution settlement has given new impetus to the way in which we govern ourselves and manage our affairs and key public services.
Wales is making a significant contribution in a European context. It is attracting inward investment and increasing its capacity for international trade. It is developing and promoting its tourism products to appeal to an increasingly wide range of visitors. It is raising its profile around the world in terms of culture, its language and its arts. Indeed, a group of Welsh artists will be exhibiting in Chicago in the coming months.
Devolution means less introspection. It means being more outward looking and having greater confidence in ourselves. The National Assembly, working in partnership with the Government and Parliament, can promote Wales widely around the world. That unity and partnership bring many benefits to Wales, and of course it is beneficial that we are part of the fourth largest economy on the planet. It is important that we provide opportunities for debate, so that we can solve the problems that we face as a country.
We have proved today that Wales in the world is not a bad issue to debate. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley suggested that we might return to it on many other occasions. Perhaps we will. As I said at the start of my speech, the standard of debate today has been very high indeed. It has given us the chance—