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Select Committee on Welsh Affairs First Report


A LIST OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

MATTERS FOR THE UK GOVERNMENT

It is clear that Wales does not generally enjoy a high profile overseas and it appears that the reasons for this are multiple and complex. It may be inevitable that a small country such as Wales is less prominent internationally than its larger neighbours, but it is nonetheless a source of concern if it means that Wales is losing out on the cultural and economic benefits which widespread international recognition brings (paragraph 9).

Although many of our witnesses seemed comfortable with the distinction, we find it difficult to disentangle the promotion of the UK as a whole from the promotion of its constituent countries. For many outside the UK (and, indeed, some inside it), "Britain" means England. It is therefore important that, notwithstanding the existence of bodies with a responsibility for promoting Wales specifically, United Kingdom bodies acknowledge and reflect the distinct identity of each constituent part of the UK in their activities (paragraph 12).

We are pleased that WalesTrade International and Trade Partners UK are working well together (paragraph 15).

British Trade International is still a young organisation but there is encouraging evidence that since its creation relations between the WDA and I-UK have been better than those with I-UK's predecessor, the Invest in Britain Bureau. We accept that Invest-UK's role is to maximise the total amount of investment in the UK and this emphasises the importance of promoting Wales abroad, alongside the UK as a whole. This is largely a matter for the National Assembly for Wales and its sponsored public bodies (paragraph 20).

We believe that Wales's poor share of the overseas tourist market is largely due to the country's poor recognition overseas (paragraph 27).

We acknowledge the efforts made by the BTA to promote international tourism to all parts of the UK but we share the concerns of the NAW and WTB that an overriding target based on return on investment will, other things being equal, tend to favour the higher-cost and better-established UK tourist destinations. We recommend that the BTA's target for return on investment should be balanced by clear, measurable targets for the regional distribution of foreign tourists (paragraph 29).

We recommend that the BTA and the WTB should develop a strategy for promoting Wales as a first-choice destination for foreign visitors to the UK. This should involve working with tour operators which bring foreign tourists into the country to try to persuade them to include Wales on more of their itineraries, and working with UK transport providers (such as the train operating companies) to promote the provision of efficient, affordable transport links between Wales and other UK tourist destinations (paragraph 35).

We welcome the creation by the Assembly of Cymru'n Creu, which aims to meet the kind of concerns about poor coordination expressed by many of our witnesses. It will be important for UK Government departments, and bodies such as UK Sport, the BTA and the British Council, to forge strong links with the consortium, as well as directly with their Welsh counterparts (paragraph 41).

Efforts to promote Welsh programmes and films internationally appear to be working well and witnesses from S4C cited several examples of positive assistance they had received from the Government and from ASPBs. Nonetheless, both felt that they might benefit from more support in some areas. We recommend that the Government examine, in conjunction with Sgrîn and S4C, ways in which it might be able to provide more support for the overseas marketing of Welsh films and television programmes, both inside and outside the context of overall UK promotion (paragraph 48).

We welcome the announcement in the Budget that the 100 per cent write-off of production and acquisition expenditure, on completion, for British qualifying films with budgets not exceeding £15 million will be extended until 2005 (paragraph 49).

While Wales-based bodies may already be alert to the benefits of promoting the language, we are not persuaded that this is always the case at UK level and we believe that it should be a guiding principle for all UK bodies involved in overseas promotion that the Welsh language is an intrinsic and inalienable part of Welsh culture and society, and that efforts to promote Wales as part of the UK should reflect this (paragraph 51).

On the strength of the evidence we have taken we would not propose any changes to the present arrangements for coordinating bids for international sporting events from different parts of the UK. It appears that, while there is a sensible level of coordination, Welsh sporting bodies cannot be prevented from bidding where they believe it is in their interests to do so (paragraph 57).

Promoting Wales within the UK is an essential prerequisite to promoting Wales in the rest of the world. We must overcome ignorant and inaccurate stereotypes in Wales and the UK. The Assembly and the Wales Office both have a key role to play, but so do other Government departments and public bodies such as the DTI, the DfEE, the Office for National Statistics and the BBC (paragraph 59).

There are clear advantages to Wales from being included under the auspices of the international work of the UK Government. Equally, there are clear advantages of the Assembly and its sponsored public bodies carrying out independent promotional work. How effectively Wales is promoted abroad will depend largely on the strength of the working links between the Welsh and UK bodies, and maintaining and strengthening those relationships should be the top priority for all those concerned, though it should not be done in such a way as to restrict the Assembly's ability to pursue different policies and strategies from the Government (paragraph 60).

We welcome the inclusion of a provision for secondments between the National Assembly and the FCO in the Concordat on International Relations, but we do not believe that it goes far enough. The Government should actively encourage secondments between UK public bodies and their Welsh counterparts of all kinds and at all levels. The new target for the proportion of senior civil servants who have experience outside the civil service is welcome and we recommend that, for the purposes of evaluating whether or not the target has been met, secondments from the main Whitehall departments to the National Assembly for Wales and its sponsored public bodies should count as experience outside the civil service. We recommend that the Government should introduce a target for the proportion of UK posts overseas which have at least one member of staff who has some direct experience of working for the Assembly or another public body in Wales. This should apply not just to embassies and consulates but to offices of bodies such as the BTA and British Council (paragraph 63).

Training and briefing on Wales and Welsh issues is important for those overseas-based staff who are not able to undertake secondments. Wherever possible, the Government should arrange such training in conjunction with the National Assembly (paragraph 64).

It should be recognised that participation by Assembly Ministers and officials in UK negotiating teams in Europe serves not only to ensure that Wales's interests are taken into account in the negotiations, but to raise its profile on the European stage (paragraph 65).

Recognising that the decision as to where to locate its diplomatic and consular posts is always a matter for the country concerned, we recommend that the Government should continue actively to promote to London embassies the benefits of consular representation in Wales (paragraph 68).

St David's Day events—like St Patrick's Day events in Irish Embassies—should be a fixed part of the calendar of every UK Embassy (paragraph 69).

The provision of genealogical research services to those outside the UK, especially via the internet, is a promising way of reaching out to the Welsh community in the world, bringing them back into contact with their home country and helping to bolster the Welsh identity of second and subsequent generation emigrants. This is something which should be borne in mind when the Government and Assembly are considering funding for genealogical services (paragraph 71).

We believe that the Wales Office should lead by example in the provision of information in the Welsh language on government websites, and it is a source of concern that it has allowed itself to be overtaken by some other Government departments and agencies. We understand that demand for translators is currently high and that the National Assembly's translation resources are stretched. It might be that there is a need to re-examine the prioritisation of the translators' work, or it might be that more resources are required to employ, and if necessary to train, new translators. In any event, we believe that it should be a high priority for the Wales Office to establish a fully bilingual website (paragraph 75).

We commend the BBC on the establishment of Cymru'r Byd. It is an excellent service which, as the internet becomes more dominant as a means of international communication, will help to ensure that Wales has a strong Internet presence (paragraph 76).

MATTERS FOR THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES

It is clear that Wales does not generally enjoy a high profile overseas and it appears that the reasons for this are multiple and complex. It may be inevitable that a small country such as Wales is less prominent internationally than its larger neighbours, but it is nonetheless a source of concern if it means that Wales is losing out on the cultural and economic benefits which widespread international recognition brings (paragraph 9).

We are pleased that WalesTrade International and Trade Partners UK are working well together (paragraph 15).

For small businesses, there is a limit to the amount of time and money they can invest in a project before receiving funding and we are concerned that delays in the distribution of Objective 1 funds may lead to some projects led by small and medium-sized enterprises being lost entirely. Objective 1 funds in Wales are distributed by the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO), an executive agency of the National Assembly for Wales. We invite the Assembly to examine the resources available to WEFO for administering the Objective 1 budget (paragraph 17).

British Trade International is still a young organisation but there is encouraging evidence that since its creation relations between the WDA and I-UK have been better than those with I-UK's predecessor, the Invest in Britain Bureau. We accept that Invest-UK's role is to maximise the total amount of investment in the UK and this emphasises the importance of promoting Wales abroad, alongside the UK as a whole. This is largely a matter for the National Assembly for Wales and its sponsored public bodies (paragraph 20).

We believe that Wales's poor share of the overseas tourist market is largely due to the country's poor recognition overseas (paragraph 27).

The budget for the Wales Tourist Board is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales. We record the concern that was expressed to us, that the resources available to the WTB to spend on overseas marketing may not be commensurate with those available to other tourist boards in the UK (paragraph 31).

We welcome the proposal to establish four Regional Tourism Partnerships, and in particular the fact that the devolution of responsibilities will be accompanied by a devolution of funding. However, we are concerned that the move from central to regional tourism promotion for Wales will make it more difficult to promote strong "brands" in the international market, and that there is a danger that an element of competition will creep into the relationships between the RTPs. These are factors which will need to be monitored closely from the centre, by the WTB and the National Assembly (paragraph 32).

We recommend that the BTA and the WTB should develop a strategy for promoting Wales as a first-choice destination for foreign visitors to the UK. This should involve working with tour operators which bring foreign tourists into the country to try to persuade them to include Wales on more of their itineraries, and working with UK transport providers (such as the train operating companies) to promote the provision of efficient, affordable transport links between Wales and other UK tourist destinations (paragraph 35).

We welcome the creation by the Assembly of Cymru'n Creu, which aims to meet the kind of concerns about poor coordination expressed by many of our witnesses. It will be important for UK Government departments, and bodies such as UK Sport, the BTA and the British Council, to forge strong links with the consortium, as well as directly with their Welsh counterparts (paragraph 41).

The membership of, and involvement in, Cymru'n Creu is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales. It is important as a matter of principle that key players are not excluded from initiatives such as the Cultural Consortium because they do not fit some pre-determined set of criteria for participation (paragraph 42).

One of the objectives of the Welsh Language Board is to raise awareness of the Welsh language outside Wales and to foster and promote the exchange of information and experience in the areas of language and culture between Wales and similar linguistic communities abroad. We believe that this is an important objective (paragraph 50).

Promoting Wales within the UK is an essential prerequisite to promoting Wales in the rest of the world. We must overcome ignorant and inaccurate stereotypes in Wales and the UK. The Assembly and the Wales Office both have a key role to play, but so do other Government departments and public bodies such as the DTI, the DfEE, the Office for National Statistics and the BBC (paragraph 59).

There are clear advantages to Wales from being included under the auspices of the international work of the UK Government. Equally, there are clear advantages of the Assembly and its sponsored public bodies carrying out independent promotional work. How effectively Wales is promoted abroad will depend largely on the strength of the working links between the Welsh and UK bodies, and maintaining and strengthening those relationships should be the top priority for all those concerned, though it should not be done in such a way as to restrict the Assembly's ability to pursue different policies and strategies from the Government (paragraph 60).

We welcome the inclusion of a provision for secondments between the National Assembly and the FCO in the Concordat on International Relations, but we do not believe that it goes far enough. The Government should actively encourage secondments between UK public bodies and their Welsh counterparts of all kinds and at all levels. The new target for the proportion of senior civil servants who have experience outside the civil service is welcome and we recommend that, for the purposes of evaluating whether or not the target has been met, secondments from the main Whitehall departments to the National Assembly for Wales and its sponsored public bodies should count as experience outside the civil service. We recommend that the Government should introduce a target for the proportion of UK posts overseas which have at least one member of staff who has some direct experience of working for the Assembly or another public body in Wales. This should apply not just to embassies and consulates but to offices of bodies such as the BTA and British Council (paragraph 63).

Training and briefing on Wales and Welsh issues is important for those overseas-based staff who are not able to undertake secondments. Wherever possible, the Government should arrange such training in conjunction with the National Assembly (paragraph 64).

It should be recognised that participation by Assembly Ministers and officials in UK negotiating teams in Europe serves not only to ensure that Wales's interests are taken into account in the negotiations, but to raise its profile on the European stage (paragraph 65).

One way of expanding the coverage of each of the ASPBs would be to establish a single "brand" (perhaps including a common name and logo) which would enable overseas offices of ASPBs effectively to act as "Welsh embassies" providing a first stop for access to the full range of services provided by the Assembly and the relevant services provided by the UK Government. In the majority of cases, this might involve little more than fielding and forwarding queries or distributing other organisations' literature, but the existence of a single, easily identifiable brand identity would help to promote a clear, strong image abroad (paragraph 66).

We welcome the Assembly's commitment to identifying prominent Welsh people who are willing to act as informal "ambassadors" for Wales (paragraph 69).

The provision of genealogical research services to those outside the UK, especially via the internet, is a promising way of reaching out to the Welsh community in the world, bringing them back into contact with their home country and helping to bolster the Welsh identity of second and subsequent generation emigrants. This is something which should be borne in mind when the Government and Assembly are considering funding for genealogical services (paragraph 71).

We commend the National Assembly for Wales on the range of information which it has made available on the internet, including initiatives such as "Wales world nation" which are specifically aimed at the international market (paragraph 72).


 
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