Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320 - 334)



  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 go?
  (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 the country.

Mr Llwyd

  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.

Mr Edwards

  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 company—this is an example from England—is 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 making.

Mrs Williams

  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.

Mrs Williams

  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 to Wales.


  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.

Mr Edwards

  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 UK—only the Republic of Ireland and the USA have posts in Cardiff—which 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 others.
  (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 Cardiff—I am sorry, it is on St David's Day. I shall be reinforcing these points.

Mrs Williams

  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 we can.

Mr Livsey

  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 context—and I apologise again for referring back to this—and 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 before.

  Chairman: On that note, there are no more questions, so thank you all for coming. It was very useful.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 27 March 2001