Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
MP, MR BRIAN
WILSON, MP, DR
MP, MR ALISTAIR
320. Do you think that tourism has been and
perhaps now is being undervalued as an industry? If radio presenters
are making such silly statements, it makes the situation much
worse than it presently is. Last week we met the tourist representative
who said she was being interviewed, which is somewhat different
from a presenter making his comments. She was being interviewed
and challenged as to whether we want more tourists to come to
Wales, whether we want to promote more tourism. When we have TV
and radio presenters making statements like this, where do we
(Mr Murphy) It comes back to the point of places which
we never regarded as being centres for tourism. The classic one
is the south Wales valleys, no question about that, but there
are others too within Wales which now are very different. People
at one time never ever thought that they would have a tourist
industry within those parts of Wales. In other parts of Wales,
which have for many, many years been centres of tourism, it is
commonplace; people understand that there are jobs associated
with tourism. It is quite a new phenomenon in the valleys of south
Wales to say that here is tourism and here are jobs. Clearly over
the last week or two with all these announcements we have had
about job losses, it is very important to emphasise that we can
develop tourism as a means by which we can employ people and attract
people to see what we have to offer. That mentality amongst people
in the constituencies which Kim and I represent, for example,
is increasing all the time. It is seen as a major employer of
people as well as being of major importance in itself.
(Dr Howells) We have spent millions of pounds cleaning
up our rivers and slag heaps. We have salmon which have come back
after a century in the river Taff. They can get up as far as Radyr,
but then there is no fish ladder. So the river bailiffs jump into
the river there, so the First Secretary, Mr Morgan, tells me,
and throw the salmon up the weir so they get into the upper river.
I tell you, they get no further than Treforest in Pontypridd because
there is a miserable 15-foot weir there. This is the Niagara falls
as far as the authorities in Wales are concerned. For years and
years and years they have been talking about building a salmon
or fish ladder up there. If salmon could get into the upper reaches
of the Taff they would go right up through Merthyr, up into the
Brecon Beacons. Think what an extraordinary attraction that would
be. We have seen evidence that these cleaned-up rivers are attracting
more salmon now, whilst other established rivers have seen a decline
in the salmon numbers. However, we cannot get our act together
to do enough joined up thinking to build simple things like fish
ladders and then promote the tourism on the back of it, fishing
industry, good hotels and places to stay and everything associated
with it. We have been hopeless at it. Why is that? Why is that?
Are we too dull to understand it or are we so compartmentalised
that we cannot handle it? I do not know.
(Mr Howie) I should like to add how important we think
it is because tourism is a major economic driver in Wales. It
is estimated that about 100,000 jobs are tourism related, so it
is very important to the economy. Also, the total overnight and
day visitors spending comes to £2.2 billion, which is seven
per cent of GDP. It is quite clear how important tourism is to
321. I am pleased to say that this question
is for Mr Gibbins, who has not dominated the proceedings hitherto.
Could you please describe the relationship between the DCMS and
S4C? In so doing, would you describe how the National Assembly
fits into the equation, please?
(Mr Gibbins) S4C is grant-aided by DCMS to the tune
of about £78 million in the year 2000. S4C was set up under
the Broadcasting Act. The Assembly does not have a direct relationship
with S4C but DCMS consults the Assembly about the appointments
to the board of S4C. There is a Memorandum of Understanding between
DCMS and S4C which sets out the requirements for a business plan,
forward requirements and Government accountancy practice and so
on. However, as with other broadcasters, S4C is much more at an
arm's-length from DCMS than our other NDPBs are. For example,
DCMS does not interfere in programming or editorial content.
322. We were told by S4C that the Welsh film
industry, in particular international co-productions, is effective
at raising Wales's profile abroad. Do you agree and do you think
that if we had a similar tax regime in the UK to the one they
have in Ireland we could attract more film makers?
(Mr Gibbins) On the first point, there are two areas
which can be affected by film and television programmes. It is
absolutely clear that films and television programmes and the
locations in which they are set can have a big influence on tourism,
which we were talking about previously. It is clear that programmes
like Heartbeat and even the Full Monty can attract tourists to
Yorkshire; even though something like the Full Monty did not really
show an attractive side of Sheffield it nevertheless interests
people and people are going to Sheffield. The other thing is that
certainly television programmes can have a probably more direct
impact on the national community, but film can have a more significant
impact because feature films get shown around the world and can
attract visitors from around the world. The other aspect of film
and raising the profile of the location is the fact of film making
can give a location a certain image. Because it is a cutting edge
industry it gives a feel of a place being at the cutting edge
of the industry. An example of that is that quite a large property
development companythis is an example from Englandis
thinking about developing a film studio attached to a business
park which will be a business park for creative industries, lots
of electronic work, animation and so on, with a film studio attached.
The reason they want to attach a film studio is because of that
sort of image you can give. It adds a certain attraction. Those
are the two sorts of image which a film can give, both from the
location filming point of view and the actual fact of filming
it in a location. You asked about the tax regime as well. The
Irish tax regime is worth about 12 per cent of production costs
to film makers. The tax regime in Britain, which is of course
a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there is no difference
between the Welsh and English situation, we think is worth something
between six and ten per cent of production costs of a film. It
is slightly different in Ireland in that the tax benefits are
attracted to investments whereas here they are given to the production
costs of a film. So far as I am aware there has been no lobbying
from the industry for anything comparable to the Irish system
here. The industry has been concentrating on trying to persuade
the Chancellor to extend the tax benefits which exist at the moment,
which is to say that films costing less than £15 million
to make attract 100 per cent write-off of the production costs
in one year. The benefit is the ability to write-off in one year
rather than over a longer period. That works out at being worth
between six and ten per cent of the production costs for the industry.
That regime is due to expire next year and the industry has been
concentrating on trying to get the Chancellor to extend it.
323. May I take you back to the first part of
your answer? You may be familiar with the fact that there is a
school of film studies at the University College of Wales in Newport
and some consideration of developing a film studio in that area.
I am sure you might agree that that could help promote the film
industry in Wales just along the lines you were suggesting.
(Mr Gibbins) Absolutely. One of the essentials if
you want to attract film makers is to have studio facilities.
Of course film making on location is quite possible, but film
makers tend to like to be near studio facilities. So if there
are no studios, it is certainly more difficult to attract film
324. A question about the film industry and
how that can benefit the tourist industry. I notice that in Ireland
they have done extremely well as many, many years ago the film
The Quiet Man was filmed in a small place called Connacht[?].
They are still attracting visitors from all over the UK and indeed
from America because of the actors who took part in that film.
I am thinking in particular of Snowdonia where The Inn of the
Sixth Happiness was filmed some years ago, which was a very well
known film with the late Ingrid Bergman. This has not been used
in such a way and films never seems to be used in that sort of
way in Wales. Can you perhaps tell us why you think that is so?
Who should take the initiative to make the most of a location
where a well-known film has been made?
(Mr Howie) May I start by saying that the BTA has
a website which is called the "Movie Map", which identifies
areas in Britain where films have been made? You are familiar
with this. I suspect, I am not terribly sure, that there might
be more modern films on it than The Inn of the Sixth Happiness,
but there is no reason why they cannot think about adding that
to it. I shall ask if that can be done.
325. Who should take the initiative in any area,
thinking about Wales now, to make the most of film making?
(Mr Gibbins) I should have thought it would be for
the local tourist board to work with the BTA, to bring that sort
of thing to the attention of the BTA. If the Wales Tourist Board
would like something promoted abroad, I am sure they would be
very happy to undertake that promotion, or, the Wales Tourist
Board also has overseas offices itself now.
326. Maybe it comes back to what Dr Howells
was saying earlier about who was running tourism in Wales. The
Inn of the Sixth Happiness was filmed many, many years ago and
that might be one reason.
(Dr Howells) And you have to make good films to start
with of course.
Mrs Williams: It was a good film
Mr Llwyd: In that context, a huge classic, Carry
On Up The Khyber, was filmed in Capel Curig.
327. The Welsh Language Board says that the
Welsh language is "one of the strongest and most emotive
links between people of Welsh origin and Wales, even if they do
not speak the language themselves". What is the Government
doing to promote the Welsh language abroad? How can the language
be used to forge links with other bilingual countries and regions?
(Mr Murphy) As you know, the Assembly has recently
established a cultural consortium, including the Wales Tourist
Board, the Welsh Development Agency, the National Council for
Education and Training and other bodies as well. I think that
particular body, together with those specific responsibilities
which the Assembly has regarding the promotion of the Welsh language
can add tremendously, as you quite rightly say, to the attraction
of Wales as a destination for tourists, not just because of the
diaspora, but also because people do see us as having a distinctive
culture, as a consequence of having the language as we do in terms
of being the biggest language outside English in Wales which is
indigenous. That in itself is very, very important. It does need
to be an understanding with those who run tourism in the United
Kingdom that this is a very big plus point for us in Wales and
they need to relate very closely indeed, perhaps more closely
than they have in the past, with the Assembly and with the Welsh
Language Board, to ensure that this is seen as a major selling
point, which I have not the slightest doubt that it is. You are
also right to say that it is not just a question of those people
who can speak Welsh who would benefit from that, but that the
majority of people in Wales who cannot speak Welsh would too agree,
I am sure, with the points I have just expressed.
(Mr Wilson) May I add a brief Foreign Office point
to that. As someone who very strongly supports the Scottish Gaelic
language and minority languages generally, it is a matter of pride
for this Government that it was we who signed the European Declaration
on Lesser Used Languages, which of course reflects not only existing
commitments to the language but implies ongoing support. I certainly
believe that emphasising the difference in cultural distinctiveness,
is not only intrinsically valuable, but it is also good economic
sense and is of great interest to many people in the world.
328. The Secretary of State makes an interesting
point about the rest of the UK. In fact that point was made to
us last week in our two-day visit to north Wales, that maybe we
are not promoting Wales enough in England and in Scotland before
we start thinking of "abroad" as we know it.
(Mr Murphy) I could not agree with Mrs Williams more.
If you talk to people, as inevitably we have as Members of Parliament,
to people who live here in London and with whom we have dealings,
you will probably find that a large number have never been to
Wales and that there is a huge untapped market across Offa's Dyke,
across the border, which we ought to attract. If you think in
terms of the spending power people could bring in, even if they
come for the weekend or even just days, because it is possible
to do that, that would be of enormous importance in economic terms
329. The National Assembly has recently announced
the establishment of a cultural consortium, Cymru'n Creu, which
will apparently bring together all the ASPBs with responsibility
for cultural and sporting matters. Will the existence of a single
consortium make it easier to co-ordinate the promotion of tourism
and trade promotion with cultural and sporting events?
(Mr Murphy) I would hope that it would. It is matter
I am going to be talking to Mrs Randerson about in a hour or so's
time. I shall mention to her that you raised this matter today,
but I am sure that bringing together all those different agencies
and bodies in Wales under one umbrella is bound to improve the
way in which we deal with the matters we have been discussing
this morning. Only good can come out of it.
330. May I ask about devolution and the UK Government?
There is a lack of overseas diplomatic representation in Wales
compared with the other countries of the UKonly the Republic
of Ireland and the USA have posts in Cardiffwhich places
Wales at a comparative disadvantage when it comes to promoting
foreign trade, inward investment, international cultural links
and tourism. Would you consider that?
(Mr Wilson) I should certainly like to see more consular
posts in Wales. We do actively encourage this idea. We encourage
ambassadors and officials of embassies to visit Wales and then
they form their own assessment. To add to what I said earlier,
Mrs Williams wondered how many of the people who went to Wales
actually went on their own initiative rather than being directed
or assisted there by the Foreign Office. I can tell the Committee
that we have liaised with the National Assembly of Wales recently
over visits by the Polish, Uzbekistani, Italian and Brazilian
Ambassadors and a Japanese senior official, just to name but a
few. Each of them is encouraged to think of making some more lasting
connection with Wales. I understand that the National Assembly
of Wales is in the process of considering its own strategy for
promoting these links and increasing consular representation will
play a part in that. We certainly want to see that happen and
we shall continue to encourage it. If a fresh reminder to embassies
in London, but maybe looking at how they relate to Wales and the
other devolved national entities, would be helpful, then we should
be very pleased to do that.
331. In fact as a Committee we have written
to all the embassies in the UK asking whether they are going to
have representation in Wales. It does seem to be a financial matter
for them. At least we have put a marker down. We have the Irish
and American posts and we have met both those and they seem to
be finding it a very useful connection. I hope that encourages
(Mr Murphy) It is true to say that the position of
Consul General for the Republic of Ireland has been hugely successful
in Wales. If other diplomatic missions were to talk to their Irish
counterparts, they would see the value of that post.
(Mr Wilson) I shall be addressing the London Diplomatic
Corps in CardiffI am sorry, it is on St David's Day. I
shall be reinforcing these points.
332. My question is also post devolution. Does
it make sense for more of the responsibility for promoting Wales
overseas to be transferred to the National Assembly and its associated
public bodies in Wales rather than preserving the two-tier system
where responsibility is shared between Welsh and UK bodies? If
so, what are the benefits of the current system?
(Mr Wilson) I should advise very strongly against
transferring everything to the devolved administration.
333. Could you expand on the current system?
(Mr Wilson) I do not want to get too deeply into internal
Welsh politics, but I certainly believe that the devolved nations
of the UK get the best of both worlds at present. They get distinctive
representation abroad and they also get the benefits of being
part of the United Kingdom, particularly with this vast network
of embassies and consular posts around the world. There are two
priorities. One is to make sure that every part of that network
is representing all parts of the UK equally; and that is something
in which we are all entitled to be vigilant. Secondly, it is very
important to add value where possible by the specifically Welsh
or Scottish or Northern Irish activities abroad. It really would
be throwing out the baby with the bathwater to give up what the
UK is uniquely able to provide, which is that level and quality
of representation in every corner of the world. We have not talked
at all today about the consular side of things, but wherever a
Welsh man or woman has a problem anywhere in the world, there
is going to be a British Embassy or Consul within relatively easy
reach. That certainly would not be true if Wales or Scotland or
Northern Ireland were doing all of these things on their own account.
There is a vast range of benefits from the two-tier approach,
subject to these two caveats: one, we should always be vigilant
that it is working properly; secondly, we should add value where
334. When we were on the social exclusion investigation,
we visited Chicago. The consul there was very helpful indeed,
particularly in relation to Wales, although he was not directly
connected, I seem to recollect. It was very interesting because
we met a Professor from the University of Chicago who told me
anyway that there were enormous links south of Chicago with Welsh
communities going quite a long way down. I was not quite certain
that the hierarchy was as well aware of that, which is quite understandable.
What are you doing to educate staff about Wales in your Department
and the consciousness about various facets of Wales which may
be of interest in overseas countries?
(Mr Wilson) I am sure the Committee accepts that I
am pretty new to this but it is an area in which I am very interested.
I have seen the same thing in a Scottish contextand I apologise
again for referring back to thisand it is a close parallel.
I was in Nova Scotia recently and there are still Gaelic speaking
communities in Nova Scotia, but absolutely no effort has been
made to develop not only the cultural links but also the economic
benefits which could flow from it. You are talking about oil provinces
in Nova Scotia and New Foundland with very, very deep cultural
links, but unless you know that, unless you have that in your
bones, you may not find it out from sitting in Ottawa. Therefore
I am trying to do something about that. It is a very close parallel
with the example Mr Livsey gives. It almost comes down to individuals
and this is surely for the Assembly. If devolution is to improve
sensitivity to these matters, then this is a good example of where.
It is much more likely that the people in Wales know about these
connections than it is that ambassadors or consuls sitting in
Ottawa or Chicago know about them and that information must be
fed through and pressures must be created to respond to them.
The point is really well taken that on a superficial level everything
may be done to promote these links and I can give you lists of
Welsh days and Scottish days and all the other worthy things which
are being done, when in fact there might be a much more subtle
form of relationships which can only be developed if they are
known about and the people who are most likely to know about them
are those who are most directly touched by them. Let us try to
develop these subtleties in a way which has not been done systematically
Chairman: On that note, there are no more questions,
so thank you all for coming. It was very useful.