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This is undoubtedly a time of change, as well as opportunity. In 1945, there were more than 250,000 jobs in collieries, but by 1989 there were 10,000, and the story continues. In addition, we had immense industrial dereliction as a left-over. In the early 1960s, there were more than 8,000 hectares of disused spoil heaps, 3,000 hectares of disused mineral workings and 7,500 disused, derelict installations. That is still the image that some people hold of Walesdereliction and despoiled valleysbut times have moved on significantly.
Before 1966, there were only three reclamation schemes for despoiled areas in the whole of Wales. By 1990, thanks to local authorities and the WDA, more than £170 million had been spent on 800 sites covering 17,000 acres. An area the size of a football pitch, every day of every year during this period, was turned back towards its natural state. That may be seen in my areathe Llynfi, Garw and Ogwr valleys have been turned back to their natural statebut we must put something back into those communities to acknowledge that the industries have gone and to provide a vision for the future. We have treated the areas cosmetically; now we must move on and bring jobs and a different vision.
In 1939, a pressure group called Political and Economic Planning proposed closing Merthyr and transporting all the residents down to sunny Monmouthshire, for the good of the residents and the taxpayer. The House, the WDA and the Assembly can suggest better remedies than that. I mention those illustrations because we do not want to dwell only on our history. We have the new image to contend withfor example, a dynamic industry such as adventure activities.
I used to be a lecturer at the Swansea institute. It now runs courses in adventure activity management, water sports and sailing management and golf managementas the Ryder cup comes to Wales. That is the sort of innovation that results from a different image, and from bringing major events to Wales and developing tourism there. We should consider how the past can benefit the future.
An example in my constituency is the Garw valley railway, the "Daffodil Line" . Volunteers united to seek funds, helped by the local authority and other agencies, to put a steam railway back into a cul-de-sac valleya
That is one instance of the vibrancy that we can develop in our communities and put across as the Welsh product. We must dwell partly on our industrial heritage and our culture and partly on a new entrepreneurial vision of not just a great unspoilt landscape, but a centre of interest and activityadventure activities, and activities for the family.
The importance of tourism has already been mentioned, so I shall not say too much about it. Let me point out, however, that even in Bridgend, where there is a 10-year strategy for tourism development, tourism contributes £119 million a year, supporting 2,500 jobs. As has been said, Wales receives 8 per cent. of UK tourism spending but only 2 per cent. of overseas spending.
Tourism is not one-way traffic; it benefits areas. The conservation of the countryside and parks has been productive. Apparently, 63 per cent. of visitors to the Garw valley country park said that that had influenced their decision to visit the area. There are 750 public rights of way, including the Celtic trail and cycleways, which are likely to attract 200,000 people to south Wales; and there are crafts. There is, for instance, the Welsh Porcelain Company at Maesteg.
Let us look at Wales as a whole, however. Why do tourists go there? They mention certain attributes. A Wales Tourist Board survey carried out a year ago mentioned beautiful scenery, castles, the friendliness of the people, fresh air, a land of legend and mystery, and somewhere to enjoy the great outdoors. But what made people feel let down? What did they feel they had missed at the end of their visits? Apparently, the "legend" aspect, and the experience of a country that is famed for song, music and poetry.
We are failing to capitalise on our strengths. We should go beyond the stereotypes. We should look at what the Irish do with the idea of craic and funthe idea of a harp in every pub, and an Irish jig band in every pub. Let us play to our strengths. It may seem coy to us and it may not be what happens at our local hostelries, but given the money that can flow from tourism, we need to be bold and imaginative. We are underselling ourselves.
I welcome the additional spending on the Wales Tourist Board and the British Tourist Authority. The BTA should extend more of the benefits from London into the regions. I would welcome ambitious targets, not just for the next two or three years but for the future generally. The "hidden Britain" campaign is helping to spread those benefits across the regions.
I was disappointed to read, on the BTA's very good website, that when it recommended a set itinerary for the UK involving 10 days' travel over 1,100 miles of the UK, tourists spent one day venturing across the border to
The Welsh language is an important issue in that regard. Opposition Members have already said how important it is. We agree that the Welsh language has intrinsic value. It is part of our culture but it also has a value for tourism. I agree that it is what differentiates us. It gives us the authenticity of Wales and the Welsh. It is not spoken widely throughout Wales, but it is significant in certain parts of Wales.
On genealogical resources, we are being beaten again. The Scottish and Irish have easy access if they want to trace their ancestry. We are starting to get there, but we are not quite there: we are playing catch-up. We have gone in the right direction but we should go further to make it easy to access genealogical sources.
Mr. Simon Thomas: I agree with the hon. Gentleman's general tone but I am sure that he would not let the opportunity pass without paying tribute to what the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth does to help people from abroad to trace their genealogical records. I am sure that he will find if he goes there that visitors from abroad can find all the information online, including important Welsh Mormon records, from which a lot of people trace their Welsh origins.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. That is right. My point was about the ease of access. The websites are fantastic but they should be easily accessible. They are available, as the Welsh and Scottish websites are. They do a tremendous job. Let us bring them to the forefront so that we can see more of them.
And no future;
There is only the past,
Brittle with relics,
Wind-bitten towers and castles
With sham ghosts;
Mouldering quarries and mines;
And an impotent people,
Sick with inbreeding,
Worrying the carcase of an old song."
I welcome the debate for two reasons. First, it gives the House the opportunity to consider the evidence, observations and conclusions of this important Select Committee report. Secondly, it gives hon. Members the opportunity to reflect beyond the report on issues that are critical to Wales in the world.
On the conclusions of the report, hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken eloquently on many of the issues that were problems and challenges at the time of the inquiry. The welcome arrival of democratic devolution in Wales is already beginning to impact positively on the presence and understanding of Wales on the world stage. The report makes an important contribution to that cause, and I hope that its many constructive conclusions will be taken up both by the Assembly and by Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
I turn to issues and themes that will need to be dealt with if Wales is to have a more central and dynamic role in the world. We need to consider four themes: first, celebrating our cultural diversity, which reminds us of our international roots; secondly, recognising and emphasising our historical and contemporary international role; thirdly, building on the growing positive attitudes towards the Welsh language in Wales and how we portray that internationally; and, finally, strengthening our relationships with Europe.