Examination of Witnesses (Questions 262
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
MP, MR BRIAN
WILSON, MP, DR
MP, MR ALISTAIR
262. Order, order. Thank you very much for coming,
Secretary of State and colleagues. It is groundbreaking to have
Ministers from other Departments and we are pleased to see you
here today and also the officials from DCMS. We understand that
the Minister could not come at short notice and we accept that.
We are grateful that you will be able to answer our questions
on that area of interest. Perhaps you could begin by introducing
your team for the record, Secretary of State?
(Mr Murphy) Thank you very much for asking
us along to talk to you today about these important matters. I
shall be answering questions on the role for my Office in promoting
Wales abroad and my colleague, Mr Brian Wilson, who is the Minister
of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, an honorary Welshman,
will be answering questions which touch on his Department's responsibilities.
Dr Kim Howells, Member of Parliament for Pontypridd, Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry, will
cover matters related to DTI. I am also joined by Mrs Alison Jackson,
who is Head of my Office, Mr Alistair Howie, Head of International
Tourism Branch of the DCMS who will cover tourism issues and Mr
Keith Gibbins, Head of Films Branch in the DCMS, who will cover
questions relating to films and to broadcasting.
263. Most of our witnesses have suggested that
Wales does not enjoy a high profile overseas and that the overseas
perception of Wales is often distorted, stereotyped and out of
date. In fact it was complaints such as this which led us to look
at the issue in the first place. Do you agree, and if so, why
do you think this is?
(Mr Murphy) If we compare how the world looks at Scotland
and at Ireland, because of the size of those two countries and,
I suspect, also, so far as Ireland is concerned because of the
diaspora which is enormous in the United States alone, the profile
of those countries is inevitably higher than a small country such
as ours. I do believe that is changing. It is changing for a number
of reasons. One, because of the international reputation of Wales
in terms of our industrial developmentand I know in a sense
it may be ironic to say that at the moment with what has occurred
as far as Corus is concerned and the redundancies there, but all
of us know that the inward investment which has come to Wales
over the last 20 years, particularly from Japan, but many other
countries as well, has meant that we do enjoy a profile in those
countries where we did not have them before. Secondly, since devolution
there has been an increased awareness about the fact that the
United Kingdom is made up of different countries. The National
Assembly, which I believe you have already been to and talked
about these matters, is heightening the profile of Wales to a
very significant degree. You are absolutely right to say that
has been the case in the past: the general point I make is that
I think it is now changing.
(Mr Wilson) I would endorse everything that Paul has
said. I would say that from my experience, both in this job and
previously as Trade Minister travelling to a lot of embassies
abroad, there is certainly no lack of willingness on their part
to promote the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, whether
Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales or the English regions. I can
offer a fairly long list of specifically Welsh events which take
place. For instance, at the weekend I was in Cairo and because
I knew I was coming here, I asked if they did anything Welsh.
In the same way that they did a St Andrew's Day event, they did
a St David's Day event. Where there are specific trade missions
from any part of the UK, including Wales, then they will lay on
exactly the same level of facility. A lot of this has to do with
the level of pro-activity on the part of Wales and I, like Paul,
would certainly see the creation of the Assembly as an opportunity
maybe to tailor the service which the diplomatic posts abroad
give to Wales more to Wales' own view of itself in the present
day. I am absolutely confident and shall try to help to ensure
that if Wales wants a different type of image and presentation
to the world then the whole British Foreign Office and the whole
range of diplomatic services is at its disposal. I am not quite
sure I agree with the premise of the question. Every time I get
on a plane I see a commercial for the Welsh Development Agency,
which seems to me to give Wales a head start in an extremely influential,
opinion forming sector on the attractions of Wales as a destination
for inward investment.
264. That is actually a very good point. Those
of us who occasionally travel abroad see these adverts and they
are very good indeed.
(Dr Howells) I agree with Brian Wilson. I completely
disagree with this premise; I think it is a nonsense. It is typical
of the way we whinge constantly about our identity and where we
are and who knows about us. I have a hellish job in DTI and I
had to go recently to Los Angeles to talk to film companies about
intellectual property rights, which is a big issue because kids
like mine are downloading Napster files and DVDs and they are
worried about the flows of revenue to film makers and the record
industry, song writers and so on. I had to go to meet one of the
biggest chief executives in Hollywood. When I walked into his
office he strode towards me held out his hand and said "You're
Welsh, right?". I said yes and he said "Catherine Zeta
Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Catatonia, Stereophonics, big bands, big
acts. Being Welsh is OK by me". We ought to remember this.
We might not be able to play rugby very well any more, but we
are a pretty famous nation.
265. May I suggest that story is memorable because
he was a one-off?
(Dr Howells) No, I do not come across that at all,
wherever I go. Sometimes you have to draw a map to show people
where Wales is, that is absolutely true, but I suspect it would
be the same with a lot of other places.
266. I am very interested in what Mr Wilson
said about Cairo and St David's Day. Could you expand a little
bit on what you were told?
(Mr Wilson) The basic point was that it is a large
embassy, it has the facilities to hold receptions and the decision
was taken to hold a specifically Welsh reception which would be
directed at Egyptian business people who have links with Wales,
potential inward investors, people who trade with Wales and also
of course with the Welsh community in Egypt. That would be a fairly
characteristic event. It was quite interesting in that specific
embassy that the venue for that kind of event is a former ballroom
built by Lord Kitchener in days of imperial glory. That is in
the process of being converted into a much more commercial unit
in the embassy where there will be displays and opportunities
for various organisations to make more direct contact with people
walking in off the street. The point was specifically made to
me that that facility is available to organisations like the WDA,
like Locate in Scotland. There is an absolute even-handedness
of access for promotional events and materials to Wales, to Scotland,
increasingly because of the RDAs to the English regions and to
Northern Ireland. It is just essential that these opportunities
are grasped. Certainly no distinction is made by the embassies
in my experience. There are many of these events at embassies
around the world and I can certainly provide a list of embassies
which have held St David's Day events and other specifically Welsh
events. If there are places where you think they should be happening
and where there is a particular Welsh focus, then we can do something
267. What I am trying to establish is whether
what you heard and saw was sufficient or would you as a Minister
from the UK Government improve those arrangements?
(Mr Wilson) There are two answers to that. I have
covered one already, that if the Welsh agencies and the Assembly
do not think there is enough being done in a specific place then
they make that case to the embassy and my guess is they would
get a very positive response. The other point which is worth bearing
in mind is that in order to serve Wales or to serve Scotland,
embassies do not have to have little labels on services which
say Wales or Scotland. A fantastic range of services is provided
by our embassies and consuls, this unrivalled network all over
the world; it is part of the strength of the United Kingdom that
we can provide that range of services in virtually every country
of the world. These are open to the whole of the United Kingdom.
I always make the point in Scotland that the choice is having
160 countries, over 200 diplomatic posts where Scottish businessmen
can access the services of the UK embassies, consular services,
the commercial services in particular and we do that as part of
the United Kingdom and it is exactly the same story for companies
in Wales. It is not specific to Wales, but Wales is part of it.
The alternative to that is to have half a dozen embassies up a
side street in Tokyo, Paris and two or three other places. That
would not be a very healthy alternative.
268. Far from disagreeing with the premise,
in a way you have actually confirmed the premise. What you mentioned
was St David's Day, which in a way is a stereotypical event. You
said that they put on Welsh events on St David's Day. Do the embassies
specifically put on English events on St George's Day? Or do they
assume that these events are worthy the whole year round?
(Mr Wilson) In saying it, I recognise that St David's
Day is a stereotypical event. It would be entirely wrong to imply
that is all they do. Where I come from has stereotypical events
as well and sometimes that is an asset and sometimes it is an
irritation. It certainly does not imply that the only time embassies
do anything for Scotland is on Burns Night or St Andrew's Day,
any more that it implies the only time they do anything for Wales
is on St David's Day. The services which I have referred to and
particularly the services given to trade missions are available
365 days of the year and are utilised in that way. To be fair,
it is not up to the ambassador in Cairo to say St David's Day
is the wrong image for Wales, we should make a special effort
some other day. It is up to this Committee or the Welsh Assembly
or the WDA to say we want to get away from leeks and rugby and
get onto microchips and Catherine Zeta Jones and we definitely
do not want it on St David's Day.
Mr Edwards: That is precisely why we are doing
this inquiry of course. Let us hope that is the result.
269. May I refer to the document we have received
in evidence and in particular to a speech by you on 19 October
in Bruges? How does this kind of thing help promote or indeed
assist in the international profile of Wales? I quote, "Now,
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".
That is a questionable, emotive and nonsensical couple of statements
there. How does that kind of stuff assist? I always thought that
traditionally, when Ministers were abroad, they tended to keep
any internal criticisms for when they got back home. How does
that help the international listener?
(Mr Murphy) You must read into it what you read into
it. Clearly I was referring in a general sense to the whole business
of nationalism, as I was describing in that speech, which the
vast bulk of people in Wales would agree with me on. I was not
specifically referring to your own political party there, but
referring rather to the concepts which I believe would not suit
us well in Wales. It would not be unusual for a member of the
United Kingdom Government who believes in the United Kingdom as
a place which should retain its statehood to say that outside.
Certainly it did not seem to me something which in any way would
be wrong because that is the view of the vast bulk of people in
Wales and it is also the view of the British Government. We were
at a symposium which was talking about the whole business of regional
government in Europe and how far regional government should go.
I rather suspect that the bulk of people who would have been listening
to that would agree that although they believed in strong regional
government, including in Belgium, the bulk of them would not agree
with the breakup of the Belgian state.
270. Read in context, looking at the following
paragraph, it says that you do not regard English people as foreigners
in Wales. Heavens above, nor do I and I hope no right thinking
person would. What is the point of making that statement? What
is the point of making that kind of statement if not to create
a divisive atmosphere? How does that promote Wales?
(Mr Murphy) I was saying there that there are undoubtedly
people who do believe that English people are foreigners in Wales
and that is an argument which I would completely and utterly reject.
Clearly there are people who believe that Wales should be wholly
independent, should be cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom
and therefore regard people who are not Welsh as being someone
from a foreign country. We would be burying our heads in the sands
if we did not think that was the case. I was simply saying that
particular point of view is alien to me, is alien to the Government
and is unquestionably alien to the bulk of people who live in
271. Where does promoting Wales abroad fit into
the Wales Office's SDA?
(Mr Murphy) There is a case for both the Wales Office
and the other offices, NIO and the Scotland Office, to play their
role in partnership with the National Assembly in ensuring that
our profile abroad is much higher than it has been traditionally
in the past. In specific terms, that means that I have visited
the Republic of Ireland with the First Minister, to discuss Objective
1 funding, to discuss their economic policies, the relationships
between the Republic of Ireland and Wales in the new dispensation.
In addition to that I visited, as I was reminded rather colourfully
just now by Mr Llwyd, Bruges some months ago where I took part
in an exceptionally interesting seminar. I went also to Spain
some time ago at the invitation there of our ambassador and others
to take part in a conference on devolution and to see how Spanish
devolution developed over the last 20-odd years since the demise
of Franco and what lessons we could learn in the United Kingdom
Government and in Wales from such developments; indeed they were
very useful. In addition to that I go to Brussels where we now
have an Assembly office in that city. We have had a Wales centre
for some time now. That partnership in Government between ourselves
here in London and in Cardiff can be continued abroad. It is part
of my role to ensure that that profile which you referred to at
the beginning is made as high as possible as a consequence of
my ministerial visits and my colleagues' visits abroad. I do hasten
to add that much of what is done is done in very close partnership
with the National Assembly and the First Minister.
272. Both Scotland and Ireland appear to enjoy
much higher international profiles than Wales. Is this solely
due to the greatest scale of emigration from those countries,
especially to North America? I think I am right in saying that
there are 40 million people of Irish extraction in the States.
Or is there something we in Wales could do to emulate their success?
(Mr Murphy) I am sure you will recall that one of
the members of this Committee, Mr Ruane, has on a number of occasions
raised the issue of the Welsh diaspora; other members have as
well. In a sense it is the forgotten diaspora. Those of us who
studied and taught Welsh history over the years know full well
that there is a very rich Welsh historical interest in the United
States, for instance where people who went to work in the pits
and steel works in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and elsewhere,
where indeed people still go to Gemanfegany, where there are still
chapels in Wales. But it is not the same as the Irish or indeed
the Scottish emigration because of the scale of numbers as much
as anything else. When I was Minister of State in Northern Ireland
I had to visit the United States quite regularly and you are quite
right in saying that there are those people in America, 40 million
of them, who claim that they have some sort of Irish descent.
It clearly is an important element in that country but there is
a huge Irish dimension which we could not possibly match because
of the size and history and political complexity of those issues.
Another issue of course inevitably is religion. The bulk of the
Irish who went to the United States were Catholic and they kept
their identity very often because of living in close Catholic
communities. There is a lot to compete with in that sense. We
can tap into that successfully. When I was a Northern Ireland
Minister I happened to go to Washington on St David's Day and
the then Chairman of the Select Committee on Administration of
this House, who is now the First Minister, and I met at a Welsh
tourist function in Washington which was trying to ensure that
as many people as possible in the capital city of the United States
were able to understand that Wales is a very good place to visit.
You will also recall that it was not that long ago when the North
American Institute of Travel Writers came to Cardiff and to Wales,
the first time they had been to the United Kingdom was to come
to Wales, and there was an enormous interest by those writers
from Canada and from the United States into what Wales could offer
as a tourist destination. It is just an example of how that awareness
is changing now, but we can never hope to compete with the Irish
and I shall ask Brian Wilson to talk about the Scottish dimension.
I do think it is something we can justifiably build upon and as
a consequence of that, as Kim has said, all the other things we
now do by way of the entertainment industry for example do heighten
273. As far as I know, in the States there are
roughly 2.5 million people of Welsh extraction; certainly some
members of my own family emigrated from Wales at the beginning
of the last century and there are significant pockets of Welsh
people in Pennsylvania and in Ohio and places like that. Do you
in Scotland target communities of that kind and are there a lot
of Scots people in America? How do you go about it? Our perception
is that Wales is not very clearly branded, whereas Scotland clearly
(Mr Wilson) There is a very significant difference
between the Irish community in America and the Scottish diaspora.
The Irish community historically grouped together and remained
in specific cities and geographical areas and operated very much
as a community and as a political force. That has persisted to
the present day. The Scottish diaspora did not do that. It was
much more footloose and it spread out throughout America. There
are very few places in the United StatesCanada is a bit
differentyou can go to and say it is a Scottish community.
It has not evolved like that at all. The Scottish recognition
factor in North America and indeed worldwide is based much more
on icons of Scottishness than on the way the Irish are in that
they are operating as a diaspora who have maintained their identity.
This is where there is a dichotomy between what Huw Edwards was
commenting on and this image. In the same way as the Welsh might
not like to be tied to St David's Day, there are many people in
Scotland who do not particularly like to be tied to tartan and
pipes and castles, all the things people recognise Scotland through,
but they are incredibly strong recognition factors, there is no
doubt about that. It would be very foolish not to use that as
a point of access, both in promoting tourism, but also in generating
an empathy with inward investors. I would say that these have
been tools rather than the reason for any success Scotland has
had for instance in attracting inward investment. Much more important
is the effectiveness of the inward investment agency than the
fact that there is some strong Scottish image which automatically
draws people back to their roots in Scotland. I just do not think
that is true. Of course you can draw parallels, because it is
all very well talking about the Scottish identity in North America,
but when you get to other places where you are looking for inward
investment like Taiwan, Japan and so on, then that does not really
operate as a factor at all. That suggests that what is far more
important is the effectiveness of the agency rather than any inbuilt
advantage through ethnic identity. I would challenge the premise
of the question, but I do not think Wales loses out because of
that factor. If Wales does lose out at alland I am not
saying it doesthen you have to look for other reasons than
simply that it does not have as high an image in the world as
Scotland and Ireland. It is a wee bit over defensive and there
are parts of the world where Wales has a very strong image and
cities in North America where Wales has a very strong image.
(Mr Murphy) On the diaspora side, it is interesting
that when President Kennedy became President of the United States
he was hailed as the first Irish American President. In reality
of course he was not. A large number of Presidents of the United
States came from Ulster, from Protestant Irish stock, but they
had integrated much more successfully into Protestant stock in
North America which was very different. There is another example.
The other point too is that lots of Welsh people emigrated to
the United States and actually came back. My great grandparents
for instance went to Philadelphia and spent a year there, took
ten children with them and returned; I am delighted to say, otherwise
I would not be here in front of you this morning.
(Mr Wilson) In fact the biggest ethnic group in the
United States describe themselves not as Scots or Irish but as
Ulster Scots. If there were some direct correlation between the
size of the diaspora and economic success back home, then the
most booming place in Europe would be Northern Ireland.
(Dr Howells) If you go back 20 years, this huge diaspora
from Ireland did not mean very much in terms of the Irish economy.
It was one of the very poorest in Europe, in desperate conditions,
I can recall some of them very vividly. What Ireland did was re-invent
itself. It decided to take its own economy by the scruff of the
neck, it had very clear strategic overviews, it looked very carefully
at what was happening in Wales, in terms of the activities of
our various agencies, it learned much better than Wales did about
how best to sell yourself as a location for inward investment
and it did it brilliantly. That is the reason. It has very little
to do with the diaspora. They may well use connections. Brussels
is full of the sweetest talking Irishmen you could ever find in
the world. They take it very seriously and I know, comparing notes
with the Secretary of State, that I have been ambushed many times
in Brussels, have gone in and somebody has talked to me for three
quarters of an hour about rugby and then said "And what's
this nonsense now you want to talk about?". And the meeting
is over and you come out of there bamboozled by this wonderful
facility that some of these Irish people in Brussels have. We
ought to be learning from that.
274. I totally agree with that and there are
many sweet talking Irishmen all over the world who are doing a
great job for their country. I just say to Mr Wilson that your
ingenious invention of golf and banking and insurance promotions
on the back of that and a little bit of whisky thrown in is a
terrific brand image for Scotland, which is something we have
to emulate in Wales in some other way. Your memorandum, Secretary
of State, lists direct links between Wales and only a handful
of regions abroad. Could this be part of the problem? It is no
big deal for you and the First Secretary to go to Ireland, very
pleasant though that it is, or perhaps one or two visits to the
motor regions, but there is only really mention of New South Wales
and one part of Argentina, which is well known because the Welsh
settled there. Is the problem something to do with the fact that
we do not have a proper international airport with flights going
all over the place and we have to travel out of Wales very often.
People do not land in Wales very often and get an immediate impression.
(Mr Murphy) It obviously comes back to the size of
Wales but that is unquestionably changing, for example on the
awareness by way of arriving by aeroplane. There is no doubt in
my mind that Cardiff international airport is improving weekly
in terms of the services it offers, in terms of the ability to
go through the hub at Amsterdam anywhere in the world really.
We need to look at that and I am sure the Assembly are looking
very carefully at the transport links between the airport and
Cardiff for example. That is important too. I think that it is
particularly important to link up with the Motor Regions. There
is a limit to how many places Wales can twin with; I suppose you
can only have two twins really. There is unquestionably a linkage
between Catalonia, where I was privileged to go some months ago
and which is undoubtedly a Motor Region, not just within Spain
itself but within the whole of the European Union and with the
other three. That is sometimes reflected in how our local authorities
link with towns and cities and villages within those particular
regions of Europe. Since we are part of the European Union it
does seem highly sensible to me to ensure that Wales compares
notes with other regions within the European Union on how best
to see itself developing. I have no doubt that as time goes by,
and as the National Assembly settles down to be a part of everyday
life in Wales and as people outside recognise its significanceand
I am sure Brian will have something to say about how the Assembly
works with the Foreign Officethere will be a complexity
of arrangements which means that lots and lots of other countries
will find that it is a useful link to have to come to Wales. If
you are looking at our industries and our industrial development,
there is a huge number of American firms in Wales now and that
probably is the unknown biggest link. Everybody thinks about Japan,
of course, because of the Japanese inward investment, but it is
true to say that the biggest single overseas investor in Wales
is the United States. For instance, the appointment by the American
Ambassador of an official representative from his embassy in Cardiff
is a very, very welcome move. It is not a consul general but it
is something which does mean that there is a specific Welsh link
in the embassy here in London and the person concerned goes to
Wales quite a lot and talks to the Assembly and its officials
because of that economic link alone. There are also cultural links
as we have discussed, but it is going to get better.
Chairman: We have in fact met that person informally
and it was a very useful meeting.
275. Could each of you tell us what your Department
does to ensure that your own staff who are responsible for promoting
Britain abroad are familiar with Welsh issues, in particular the
devolution settlement? Do you have a programme of exchanges or
secondments with the Assembly, for example? If not, why not? Would
you consider it?
(Dr Howells) At DTI we have a very proactive policy
of ensuring that our officials work very closely with officials
who are under the auspices of the Welsh Assembly, whether it is
WDA or anybody else. We actively encourage officials to become
involved in exchanges and simply to speak to people on a day to
day basis, so that if, for example, we might be taking a trade
mission somewhere, they ensure that the firms we have on our database
who might be in Wales and who could be interested in such a trade
mission are informed well in advance of the possibilities there,
the financial possibilities, the administrative protocol and that
if they want they can be part of that mission or they can be represented
in some other form. We are very keen that at every level there
are those kind of links between the Department and between the
new and older agencies and functions within Wales.
276. What about secondments?
(Dr Howells) Yes; indeed. We are very interested in
secondments. We have some already and we are looking for secondments
from Wales into the DTI and from our officials into Wales. We
think it is a very good way of operating.
(Mr Wilson) The Foreign Office has a very proactive
policy to make sure that there is an awareness of devolution around
the world. Speaking from my previous jobs, when I travelled quite
extensively, because I came from Scotland they spoke to me about
this. There was a very, very keen interest both on the diplomatic
side but also on the commercial side of embassies and consulates.
Long before I was there the FCO set up a new internal department
to deal specifically with the implications of devolution for the
Department's work and one of the manifestations of that has been
to encourage diplomats, including very senior ones like the ambassador
in Washington when they are back in the UK to visit the devolved
administrations and to get first hand experience of them. We have
been approached by the National Assembly for Wales about getting
Assembly officials into diplomatic posts and that is a process
which we evolve. At the moment the focus is on getting someone
from the Welsh Assembly into UKREP in Brussels which is obviously
important. There is no reason why it should not happen in other
posts as well. There is also a proactive role for the Welsh agencies.
I can just give you an example. Scottish Trade International over
a year ago appointed someone to Paris but instead of opening an
office in Paris, what they did was put that person into the British
Embassy in Paris. They are working there primarily on promoting
Scottish trade, but they are also part of the unified UK effort.
I should have thought this was something worth looking at. To
me it is daft to set up a separate Scottish Office or separate
Welsh Office in these places when you have the whole resource
of the British Embassy there which can greatly enhance the effectiveness
of a Welsh or a Scottish or a Northern Ireland representative
in these places. The other thing which has been done is a proactive
approach by the Foreign Office to try to get ambassadors in from
abroad based in London out into the devolved areas so that they
have a greater understanding of what devolution is about and that
they are seeing all the constituent parts of the UK and not just
London. There is a proactive programme but as in everything else
if there are other suggestions of how we can take the message
on more effectively then I shall be very interested to hear them.
277. Are you not able to give us any timescale
for these proactive programmes this morning?
(Mr Wilson) Everything I have said is ongoing, it
is happening now. Many of the visits I referred to have already
taken place. UKREP is regarded as a priority and there have been
a couple of near misses because these things have to be done on
merit. You cannot start applying quotasor I do not think
we should start applying quotasbut clearly a factor in
making appointments to UKREP and other key posts would be to try
to give that a geographical spread and particularly representation
from the devolved administrations.
278. So you would like the idea of secondments.
(Mr Wilson) Full appointments would probably be better
but secondments are also an option which maybe in the short term
could bridge any gap there might be.
(Mr Murphy) It might be useful if Mr Howie and Mr
Gibbins could mention from the DCMS point of view the points so
far as their Department is concerned.
(Mr Howie) The DCMS is in constant dialogue with colleagues
in the National Assembly. We have structured meetings twice a
year with Assembly colleagues and those from the Scottish Executive
and Northern Ireland. Coincidentally one of those is going to
take place on Thursday this week at which we shall discuss these
things of joint interest. To give an example, we are each setting
up IT systems which we wish to be compatible with one another.
That will be one of the items we discuss this week. Similarly,
Janet Anderson, the Minister, is arranging to meet her colleagues
from Wales and Scotland very shortly, to discuss tourism policy
matters. Our Arts Division also speaks to and has meetings with
National Assembly colleagues on international arts and cultural
(Mr Gibbins) Throughout our Department officials have
regular contact with their opposite numbers so almost everyone
in the Department will know who their opposite number is in the
Welsh Assembly. I gather at a senior level DCMS officials have
quarterly meetings with opposite numbers from the Welsh Assembly.
There is a continuous dialogue really, particularly on European
issues. On secondments, the Department is very keen to encourage
secondments both in and out of the Department. I am not aware
of any with the Welsh Assembly, but that is just my personal knowledge.
We are a very small Department of course, one of the smallest
in Whitehall, but I am sure the Department will be keen to have
secondments to and from the National Assembly.
279. May I take up something you told us, Mr
Wilson, which was confirmed when we visited the National Assembly
in Cardiff, that diplomats from various postings have started
to come to visit the National Assembly and learn more about post-devolution
Wales. It did seem to us that was on a fairly ad hoc basis and
often at the initiative of the individual diplomats. I wonder
whether it could not be made more systematic and particularly
focusing on those postings which are most important to Wales in
economic development and cultural and other terms.
(Mr Wilson) It has been encouragedand I cannot
comment whether individual visits were on the initiative of the
particular diplomat or whether it was as a result of encouragement.
I should certainly be willing to look at the point you make and
now that we are a couple of years into the process maybe have
a more systematic attempt to remind diplomats that this is something
which they should do and which we should be very happy to facilitate.
I am assured that there has been a proactive programme of encouraging
these contacts. I am very happy to refresh it.