Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 262 - 279)




  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does not enjoy a high profile overseas and that the overseas perception of Wales is often distorted, stereotyped and out of date.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 development—and 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.

Mr Llwyd

  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.

Mrs Williams

  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 about that.

  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.

Mr Edwards

  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.

Mr Llwyd

  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 Wales.


  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.

Mr Livsey

  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 that process.

  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 is.
  (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 States—Canada is a bit different—you 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 all—and I am not saying it does—then 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 significance—and I am sure Brian will have something to say about how the Assembly works with the Foreign Office—there 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.

Mrs Williams

  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 quotas—or I do not think we should start applying quotas—but 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 matters.
  (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.

Mr Caton

  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 encouraged—and 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.

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