|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Murphy: I do not know the details of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised, but I agree with him in principle. If any help comes from expat Welsh men or women living anywhere in the world, it is important that we take advantage of that. The Scottish and Irish do, and we should too. The hon. Gentleman refers to the United States, and I am sure that other hon. Members, like me, have talked to politicians in the United States.
There is hardly a family in Wales that does not have some American connection: my great grandparents went to Philadelphia, stayed a year and came back again, but there were others who remained in America. More people in Wales work for American companies than for any other foreign companies. That connection with the United States could be used in a positive way for the people of Wales.
Mr. Bryant: I feel almost ashamed to bring in my American anecdote now. My right hon. Friend may be amused to know that when the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport visited the United States recently, the British consul turned out to be from Penygraig and the venture capitalist who led the discussion at Stanford university on the Tuesday morning was from Treorchy. Clearly, the Rhondda has so much get up and go that some people have got up and gone.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): To make a slightly more serious point, it is worth drawing attention to the success of the south of Ireland in the United States. Ireland has been immensely successful at creating a brand identity in the United States that has clearly brought economic benefits. Does the Minister agree that if we were proactive in this regard, although we might not achieve the same success as Ireland, we could certainly go a long way towards creating a trend of Welsh pride in the United States which could produce not only tourism benefits, but economic benefits which are currently going elsewhere?
Mr. Murphy: Yes. I shall make some specific points about that later in my speech. I visited America several times when I was Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office. The hon. Gentleman will know that 40 million people in the United States claim Irish ancestry. Any comparison should take account of the huge difference in
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West): If my right hon. Friend gets an opportunity to visit the United States in the near future, will he follow the example of my constituent Charlotte Church, who took the opportunity to explain to President George W. Bush where Wales is. Perhaps if my right hon. Friend's ancestors had stayed over there and he had become President of the United States, there might be more awareness of where Wales is. Will he take the opportunity of reminding US politicians where Wales is?
Mr. Murphy: I shall certainly do that, although I have no intention of singing the rest of my speech. My hon. Friend makes a valid point. People like Charlotte Church raise the profile of Wales and Welsh people in a very special way.
To return to Europe, which is geographically closer to home, it is important that we tell the rest of the United Kingdom that, on balance, Wales is more pro-Europe than any other part of the United Kingdom. There are various reasons for that, not the least of which is the fact that Wales has a substantial structural funding regime. Two thirds of the land mass of Wales will now get objective 1 funding. That is crucial to the future prosperity of the Welsh economy, although it is not the only reason why people in Wales feel that they understand Europe and relate to it.
Recently, Welsh politicians have been talking to their counterparts in regional government in the European Union. The Committee of the Regions plays an important role in regional activities and regional government in Europe. I pay tribute to two members of that committee: Rosemary Butler, who is a member of the Welsh Assembly, and Brian Smith, who is a member of the Welsh Local Government Association. They and their alternates play an important role in raising the profile of Wales.
I visited Spain a couple of weeks ago. I went to the Asturias region which, Members will know, is very similar to Wales in that it was traditionally a coal and steel region and has now had to change. After that, I spoke at a conference in Segovia, where there were people from all over Europe who are now looking at the way in which regional government is operating in the European Union context.
Wales is of course playing its part in that context. My Department plays that role; my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary recently led a trade mission to the Czech Republic. Welsh Members of Parliament have a role to play, too. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) recently took a number of Members to Brussels to talk to people in the EU. The Welsh Affairs Committee has of course visited Brussels, where its members have talked to EU politicians and officials.
In addition, something has occurred that is peculiar to the development of devolution. In establishing the devolution settlements, liaison was important not only between the Government and the Assembly, but with the other devolved Administrations in the UKthe Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament and its Executive. To that end, on 30 October in Cardiff, the Prime Minister chaired a joint ministerial council,
In addition to that, the Foreign Secretary chairs meetings of the joint ministerial council on Europe, of which there have been three in recent months. They discussed, among other things, the convention on the future of Europe and the 2004 intergovernmental conference. As well as that, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe organises with the Assembly a series of what are called Minecor meetings, which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary also attends.
What is so new is the way in which the Assembly is participating in Europe. There is specific Assembly representation in Brussels as part of the UK representation. Assembly Ministers go to EU Council meetings. An interesting and important development since devolution is that between April 2001 and March 2002, there have been seven Council meetings, attended by Ministers from Cardiff who deal with culture, the environment, agriculture and education. Indeed, the Assembly Minister responsible has led on youth issues at such meetings. That compares interestingly with four meetings in previous years. I remind Members that, even though Assembly Ministers represent a devolved Administration, they have become part of the UK delegation at such meetings. The same of course applies to Scotland and to Northern Ireland.
Assembly Ministers have visited countries such as Ireland, Finland and Spain, and the Assembly is a member of various EU networks. Those include links with the motor regions of Catalonia, Baden-Wurttemberg, Lombardy and Rhône-Alpes.
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire): The Secretary of State is right when he says that Wales is broadly pro-European. Europe is also very pro-Wales. If one introduces oneself as Welsh and living in Wales when one is travelling, one receives a much better reception than if one leaves it to people to assume that one is of some other origin. The benefits that flow from that relationship are often impeded by the exchange rate between the pound and the euro, which disadvantages our manufacturing and agricultural exports, and above all our tourism operators, who have in the past depended on European visitors for much of their trade. Sadly, that is not so to the same extent at present.
Mr. Murphy: Yes, that is particularly important for us in Wales. The hon. Gentleman rather neatly takes me to the next subject on which I propose to touch: tourism. He, perhaps more than any other Member in the Chamber, will know the impact of the foot and mouth disaster and, of course, of the events of 11 September on the tourism industry.
In Brecon and Radnorshire, as well as in other constituencies throughout Walesespecially in Snowdoniatourism has been badly hit by those events. The Welsh Affairs Committee in its evidence mentioned the need for an improved working relationship between the British Tourist Authority and the Wales Tourist Board, so that they could work together to promote tourism in Wales. For obvious reasons, a British tourist authority exists to promote Wales as much as it does to promote England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
We want to maximise Wales's share of overseas visitors and of visitors from other parts of the UK. There are signs, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, that things are getting better for the tourist industry. It will take time, especially given the huge loss of resources suffered by small businesses in Wales as a result of what hit them. However, if good can come from the disaster that has occurred, it is that people in Wales have managed to focus on ensuring that we attract visitors from other parts of the world to come to Wales.
Everyone knows that the core attractions for visitors to the United Kingdom are London, Stratford-on-Avon and, perhaps, Edinburgh. It is often difficult to get visitors to go elsewhere, but it is the job of the WTB and the BTA, working together, to ensure that overseas visitors look at their brochures and understand that Wales has much to offer. We have a great diversity of opportunity for tourists and it is up to usin the Government and in the Assemblyto ensure that that is promoted.