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Lembit Öpik: I am sorry; apparently, it has been mentioned, but I would like to mention it too. The Eisteddfod has been tremendously successful in building relations between the countries that send representatives and the Welsh nation. By coincidence, no fewer than two Estonian choirs attended last year's Eisteddfodbut I shall leave further discussion on that to a time outside the Chamber.
We need to recognise that, when other countries send representatives to our international Eisteddfod, a lot of publicity about Wales is generated in those countries. Effectively, we open a cultural shop window, which will, I hope, attract tourists. I suspect that if we took a strategic approach and encouraged the Wales Tourist Board to think clearly about the opportunities that that opens up, the international Eisteddfods could pay back into the Welsh economy much more than they already do.
On sport, rugby has already been mentioned, sadly, but there is a great undiscovered opportunity, and that is Welsh soccer. A large number of people in Wales, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, celebrate the sport of soccer every weekend, but we have not yet made a breakthrough in selling Welsh soccer, as the Scottish have with Scottish football.
One reason for thatI raise this unabashedlyis the BBC's resistance to giving Welsh football a level playing field. I am tremendously disappointed that, despite having run a campaign for over a year, the BBC refuses to include the Welsh football scores on the Saturday announcement. Two minutes is about all it would take to do a reasonable job100 minutes a year. The BBC has yet to respond. I warn it that an angry mob of Welsh football supporters will eventually inundate Broadcasting house with letters and petitions until justice is done. I hope that the BBC will take note of that respectful plea for parity.
One successful example of sporting achievement is that we have for the time being managed to secure the Millennium stadium as the greatest venue in the UK for many sporting activities. According to the report, it was curiously described by one commentator as
On trade and industry, sheep and farming are important in areas such as that represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) and me, but we must recognise that they do not make up a very large proportion of the overall turnover of the economy. While we must be careful not to run down the land area of Wales, a majority of which is farmed, we must recognise that the true economic breakthroughs for driving the Welsh economy need to be found elsewhere.
We should specialise again. There are some centres of excellence in Wales, which we have yet to bring together strategically so that international investors regard them as significant. The two I want to mention are film, media and music, and aerospace.
With regard to film, media and music, there is a particular talent in Wales, above and beyond what one would expect on a pro rata basis. It has provided some great performers. Many regard Tom Jones as one of the true ambassadors of Welsh entertainment"it's not unusual" to hear that even in Estonia.
There is a great chance for us to drive the Welsh film industry. The film industry generally in the UK is reviving. It looks with great interest at what is going on in Wales. Aside from the economic turnover, it puts Wales generally in a positive light. Some great actors have come out of Wales. Catherine Zeta Jones has been mentioned repeatedly, but there are others.
Mr. Prisk: In terms of the hon. Gentleman's tour of the cultural aspects of WalesI entirely endorse his comments, although I was not quite clear what an unlevel playing field was in relation to footballwill he join me, and, I am sure, all hon. Members present in supporting the bid by Cardiff to become the city of culture for Europe? It is an extremely important bid.
Lembit Öpik: The hon. Gentleman is right to mention that. I was going to come to it but I will cover it now. I imagine that not one individual in the Chamber would refuse to add their enthusiastic support to Cardiff's bid. Cardiff is almost there already. When we see the success, indeed the transformation, that was achieved in Glasgow, we can speculate about the long-term benefits that it could bring to Cardiff and to Wales. Cardiff would then be a showpiece of culture; the performing arts of the nation in particular would be a showpiece.
Kevin Brennan: I warmly welcome the intervention by the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) and the response by the hon. Gentleman, who has signed early-day motion 1177 on the subject. I invite the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford to add his name to it and to encourage his English colleagues from the Conservative party to sign it, too.
Lembit Öpik: This is exactly the new, positive approach to inclusive politics that I referred to in my speech on St. David's day. Having had sharp words only a few weeks ago, the hon. Gentleman and I are now speaking and marching as one to the resonant sound of the performing arts in Cardiff[Interruption.] I see even more back-patting breaking out among Labour Members.
Lembit Öpik: Indeed it is. As hon. Members who may be looking for an opportunity to put those fine words into action will know, the May festival in Newtown is coming up soon. Hon. Members are most welcome to attend and they will receive a warm invitation from me to come along and have fun. Although Cardiff is not the be all and end all in investment terms, it is a useful showpiece for Wales. One justification for significant investment in major arts projects in Cardiff is the knock-on effect on the rest of Wales. For example, performers who may not otherwise have come to Wales may be attracted to come to Cardiff and perhaps go on to tour Wales.
The performing arts offer many other benefits and I am sure that we will hear about them from other hon. Members. Strategically, rather than trying to do great things in all the arts, those who have influence over these matters should seriously consider specialising in the performing arts that are the historical basis of the Eisteddfod tradition.
In the context of trade and industry, my other suggestion on specialisation for Wales is the aerospace industry and regional airports. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), who is not here to hear my compliments, put his finger on the button when he referred to airports and the large number of jobs connected with aerospace in Wales. The industry has a high turnover and provides some 20,000 jobs.
Hon. Members may be surprised to learn that Wales has the oldest space port in the world. Aberporth was founded in 1939 when the secret rocket propulsion group was evacuated from Fort Halsted near London. It operated throughout the war and has been operating ever since. It represents an enormous international opportunity for Wales to play a meaningful role in the developing environment of space technology. [Interruption.] I hear hon. Members muttering the word "asteroid". I am not suggesting that Aberporth become the home of the Spaceguard UK project to prevent near earth objects hitting the earth because that is already based in Knighton.
Chris Ruane: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the fine tradition of Wales's association with space continues in my constituency as 50 per cent. of the glass used in reflectors in satellites is made by Pilkington which is based there?
Lembit Öpik: The hon. Gentleman is right. The Welsh aerospace industry has a turnover of £2 billion. Space shuttle windows are produced by Pilkington and its control valves by Ellisons. Bangor university developed the Zero-Gee experimental chamber for the international space station and the engineering department at University College Cardiff is doing some important work on the Herschel space telescope which will be orbited as the successor to the Hubble space telescope.
Hon. Members are aware of my passion and interest in aerospace and for once my hobby accords well with the economic opportunities for Wales to specialise as a true centre of global excellence in an industry that is guaranteed to grow exponentially in terms of the amount of money devoted to it.
Wales is due about 5 per cent. of the British national research budget from the research councils, amounting to about £60 million per year, but it does not get more than a fraction of that. Most of the cash goes to organisations in the Thames valley, the access corridor to Oxbridge. In order to shine internationally in this sector, we should lobby those who have the power to distribute that money more equitably and make sure that it is diverted to places where it can be of most use to the United Kingdom. Needless to say, I believe that that means that Wales would get a fairer share.
You will be delighted to know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am having a meeting in Cardiff to discuss that very issue; I can see that you can hardly contain your excitement. As the potential is so huge, I hope that hon. Members whose constituencies are directly affected by the aerospace industrythe hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Mr. Ruane) has made his commitment clearwill be able to work together to create for Wales a truly forward looking, cutting-edge, high-technology industry capable of competing with the best in international space development.
Finally, let me make a few suggestions about how we can convert our vision of a positive international role for Wales into a reality. First, we need to look outwards. We must not waste our energy on pointless internal debates. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ribble Valley is not here as I wanted to chide him for his criticisms of the proposed investment in a permanent home for the Welsh Assembly. The reason why that has international significance is exactly the same as the reason why there are often long queues of people waiting to watch our proceedings. Although this is our primary workplace for discussing matters such as the subject of today's debate, investment in the Assembly also makes a statement to the world about the United Kingdom and our democracy. It was a trifle churlish of him to criticise such an investment because he was being a little hypocritical. He was damning of the millennium dome and Portcullis House and said that he had not visited the dome on principle, yet he has an office in Portcullis House.