Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): It concerned me greatly that, 12 months after the foot and mouth outbreak occurred, our television programmes were recently showing pictures of burning animals. If my right hon. Friend shares my concern about that, will he use his good offices to persuade the powers-that-be at the BBC and the other channels to refrain from using such images in their news bulletins? As a Member for a constituency that relies heavily on tourism, I was also concerned—as I said in the Welsh Grand Committee—by the incident that took place over the Easter weekend in which activists from the Cymuned group stood on the cob in Porthmadog. It did not affect my constituency directly, but it affected the constituencies of the hon. Members for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams). I would hope that they would join me in condemning such actions, which will affect the livelihood of their constituents. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] Does that mean that the hon. Gentlemen do not agree with me? Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning such actions, because foot and mouth last year brought the tourism industry to its knees?

Mr. Murphy: Of course I condemn such actions, and every right-thinking person would do so. Anybody in their right mind who wishes to increase the tourism potential of north Wales would not partake in those activities, because it is important to give the right impression to people from abroad that when they visit Wales they will receive a proper Welsh welcome.

Mr. Bryant: There is a serious point to be made about the way in which broadcasters portray Wales to the rest of the world. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has seen the film "Solomon and Gaenor", which is mentioned in the Committee's report. It is a fine movie, but it is unremittingly sad and gives a destructive vision of Welsh society—admittedly some 50 or 60 years ago. What can we do to ensure that broadcasters portray Wales in a positive way that will encourage people to come to Wales?

Mr. Murphy: I do not think that we can abandon sadness altogether. Even we in Wales are sad from time

2 May 2002 : Column 1068

to time, about different things. However, I understand my hon. Friend's point: if a gloomy picture is being painted of the way in which we in Wales work and live our lives, that is something that must be considered.

My hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) mentioned her constituency. I was there yesterday, in Llandudno. It was a very nice, sunny, early spring day—

Mrs. Betty Williams: It always is.

Mr. Murphy: I must say that I thought that there was an enormous opportunity there to capture the overseas visitor. The area has mountains and a beach, and hotels in Wales are improving all the time. Indeed, the only five-star hotel in the country is in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Television is important. The British Tourist Authority is advertising on the television, and its overseas campaign will feature Carreg Cennen castle in south Wales. Other advertising ventures will be undertaken by the BTA and the Wales Tourist Board. They are vital to getting people to understand what Wales has to offer.

The House will recall that the WTB is organising a campaign called "Wales—The Big Country", which is aimed especially at getting people from other parts of the UK to visit Wales. All hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies are conscious of the importance of tourism to our economy, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises. That importance arises from the fact that Wales is such a beautiful country.

I know that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, are a Welsh woman and that you are familiar with some of the points being made in the debate. You will know that, in addition to tourism, inward investment has been singularly important in ensuring the strengthening of the Welsh economy over the years. The Welsh Development Agency and Invest UK are working together much more effectively than in the past. They have sponsored events abroad, one of which took place in Hanover and involved Cardiff university.

Companies that have been responsible for inward investment in Wales in the past year include International Rectifier, the Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, Continental Teves, Borg Warner, and ICM Pharmaceuticals. In addition, the Welsh Assembly has made more money available for Wales Trade International.

However, the figures on the business done abroad by Welsh companies are staggering; exports from Wales total about £6 billion, of which more than £4 billion goes to countries within the EU.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford): Inward investment is important, but does the Secretary of State agree that there is a danger in focusing on that as the sole answer to all problems? Long-term structural changes are needed in the Welsh economy to encourage a sense of entrepreneurship in many communities, but they will not necessarily be stimulated by inward investment. Do not indigenous businesses need support and promotion as much as any form of inward investment?

Mr. Murphy: I could not agree more. The hon. Gentleman is right: we cannot afford to rely solely on companies from other countries to stimulate industrial development in Wales. Such companies, not least those

2 May 2002 : Column 1069

from Japan, have been significant for us but, as I said earlier, so have companies from the US. Increasingly, however, we live and work in a global economic environment, and many companies that originated in Wales and the UK have been taken over, often by American companies. For example, in my constituency, more people now work for American companies than work for companies owned by any other investor. That is because local firms have been taken over by American, global companies. An example of that is Girlings, the brake manufacturer, which was originally a British firm, and similar examples can be found in both north and south Wales.

However, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) mentioned indigenous small and medium- sized businesses. I know that the Assembly is working hard to ensure that such companies are enabled to fulfil their potential.

Mr. Prisk: The Secretary of State is very generous in giving way again. Many in the Chamber will be concerned, as I am, about steel imports and the American position. What contribution has the right hon. Gentleman made to ensuring that Welsh steel businesses have been properly represented? Perhaps there is an opportunity here to square the deal and respond to the American changes in import controls.

Mr. Murphy: Yes, not least of which was the recent meeting that I had with the First Minister and the Deputy Trade Secretary of the United States Government when he visited Cardiff. We spent a great deal of time discussing those issues. Moreover, I represent a steel constituency; some hundreds of people in my constituency work in the Panteg steelworks and also in Llanwern.

The hon. Gentleman's general point is about the importance of indigenous firms. What they export, from the European point of view, is extremely important. The significance of the exchange rate has been mentioned; it is important not only to the tourism industry but to the steel and manufacturing industries, and is one reason why Europe is of such huge significance to the people of Wales and Welsh industry in general.

The other aspect referred to in the Select Committee report was the importance of the British Council in raising the profile of Wales. Since devolution, it has made an enormous contribution to ensuring that that profile is higher than it used to be. It contributes to festivals, such as that in Hay-on-Wye; it ensures that the catalogues of Welsh literature go to all overseas British Council offices and it promotes the exports of Welsh creative industries, which are increasingly important to us.

It is a staggering fact that more people are employed in the creative industries—in the media, films and music—than were employed in the steel and coal industry combined. When I was a boy, all those years ago, between 250,000 and 500,000 people in Wales, including my father, were employed in those two big industries.

Huge changes have taken place, but the most exciting developments of the past five to 10 years have been in film, media and music. The British Council is helping to ensure that Catatonia and the Stereophonics, to name but two, are known the world over, not just in Europe or the United Kingdom.

Wales Arts International has been strengthened, with four full-time staff in the Cardiff office of the British Council dealing specifically with Wales Arts International.

2 May 2002 : Column 1070

The British Council also organised a conference on lesser used languages in Europe, helped by the Welsh Language Board. It trains and gives seminars on devolution to its own staff so that people throughout the world working for the British Council are aware of what Wales is like since devolution.

I am also glad to say that the First Minister has set up Wales International centres around the world. These are not embassies or consulates; instead, they complement the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which supports what the Assembly is doing. The centres raise our profile, helping trade, industry and tourism. The first will be in New York next year, while others will be sited in San Francisco, Tokyo, Hong Kong and mainland Europe. As well as dealing with trade and industry, they work with universities, local authorities, museums, libraries, sporting organisations and, of course, with the diaspora—the expats who were referred to earlier. I pay special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) who, along with other Members, has dealt with issues surrounding the Welsh diaspora, which are very important to people in Wales.

In addition, there is significant consular representation in Cardiff with honorary consuls from countries in Europe, Africa, south and central America, the far east and Canada. The Irish Consul General in Cardiff does an extremely good job, and a diplomat from the United States embassy is dedicated to dealing with Welsh issues.

Staff in our embassies and consulates around the world are trained, when ambassadors and high commissioners are appointed, to be aware of the United Kingdom's new constitutional arrangements. People in our posts around the world are conscious of devolution.

Next Section

IndexHome Page