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Hywel Williams rose

Donald Anderson: I have pledged to be brief.

Such opportunities should be used. My understanding is that, for instance, the opportunity of the Morriston Orpheus choir's visit to New York was not exploited. That was a public relations failing. It is a wonderful choir, which sang very well, but it was not adequately publicised; certainly, the Welsh element was not. We have a potential platform to exploit if we target it.

I have mentioned the United States, but I am sure that I could perform a similar exercise—I shall not do so, as colleagues will be pleased to hear—for the Welsh in Australia. We could try to build on our relationships there. I wonder whether we have been imaginative enough in considering those Welsh linkages. Having made a bid to send a friend of mine around the United States, I should not pursue that matter.

Hywel Williams rose

Donald Anderson: I have promised to be brief.

On foreign diplomatic representation, I met a distinguished ambassador this morning from a Latin American country, and I tried this question on him: "What is your image, and your people's image, of Wales?" This distinguished ambassador—who had also been a foreign minister—said, "It is extremely hazy. My country, which is a major soccer country, thinks of the Welsh soccer team." Otherwise, he said that all his countrymen would think of Richard Burton as an English star. We have a problem of overcoming that image. Image can be helpful in terms of tourism and the attraction of industry. With regard to industry, however, we have been doing more in terms of using Welsh firms to act as missionaries for Wales.

To move away from the parochialism that sometimes exists in Wales—the valleys complex is the worst sort—cross-fertilisation in terms of the civil service was a valuable recommendation of the Committee. However, a quota of embassies overseas that should have people who have served in the Assembly was asking a little too much. It was, at least, something worth striving for—an impossible ideal, as Niebuhr said, which we should strive for nevertheless.

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On honorary consuls—again, I am delighted that the Committee wrote around to embassies—I have, in little ways, urged several key ambassadors to look for local business men, not just in Cardiff but perhaps in Town hill, who would be very happy to be honorary consuls. Those honorary consulships might fructify into full consular positions, and that would improve relations.

The ambassador to whom I spoke this morning had never been to Wales and was looking forward to going there. We must be far more proactive in ensuring that most of the major countries at least have an honorary consul in Wales. We should also ensure that we use the instruments that we have—the Welsh diaspora and contacts in the American and Japanese firms in Wales—so that, when people ask us where we are from and we say Wales, we are not asked whether it is close to Stratford.

We face enormous problems with our profile and product identification, but we have a good product and we should not be defeatist about it. We should look to our strengths and to every way in which we can maximise the recognition factor for Wales. We should be imaginative, and each one of us should be ready to bang the drum for Wales.

6.11 pm

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside): I welcome the Select Committee report "Wales in the World". It is honest and recognises that Wales has some way to go to establish itself at the forefront of people's thinking and consciousness abroad. I will spare people a rerun of the Charlotte Church story—we have probably heard enough about it—but it illustrates a point.

The fact that people in the wider world do not identify a product, service or even an individual as being predominantly Welsh does not mean that Wales is not playing a major role in the world economy. My constituency of Alyn and Deeside and much of north-east Wales are heavily dependent on manufacturing for their employment and well-being. As well as many small and medium-sized manufacturers, we have several large players, including Toyota, Corus and Airbus to name but three. Those companies export products across the world and they are at the forefront of value-added manufacturing.

Those companies are not considered to be Welsh. Indeed, of the three that I have mentioned one is Japanese, one is Anglo-Dutch and Airbus is a European partnership. Airbus illustrates a point. Its factory was previously known as BAE Systems and, despite the fact that it is in Wales, it was known as BAE Systems Chester. Thankfully, that has now changed.

The three companies have chosen to locate in Wales. More important, they have decided to stay and invest in Wales because of the quality of the products that are manufactured. All three operate in fiercely competitive markets, and that point applies to established companies as well as to new entrants. Airbus's achievement in coming from a standing start to compete with established giants, such as Boeing, is testament to its success, a success that many so-called experts said would be impossible to achieve. Its growing market share and order book for all sizes and types of passenger airliner shows that Europe and, importantly, Wales can succeed and compete whatever the challenge may be.

The introduction of the A380—the so-called super jumbo that will be the world's largest passenger airliner—will cement Airbus's position as a world leader in its

2 May 2002 : Column 1138

market. That seemed impossible only a few years ago when the Boeing 747 was considered to be the only large passenger aircraft.

The success of the plant at Broughton has been possible only because of Airbus's sizeable commitment. Indeed, the new hangar in which the wings for the A380 will be built is under construction. It is the largest commercial building project in the UK, and Airbus is spending more than £1 million a week on it. The completed building, which will be open in May 2003, will contain more than 14,000 tonnes of steel all produced and supplied by Corus. The building will have more than 1 million sq ft of floor space. It is a mammoth project, and a great achievement for Britain and Wales. However, it will be the work inside the building that will secure the position of Airbus and the jobs of thousands of people. The quality of that work must be the best, and I am confident that that will be achieved through the use of cutting-edge technology at the plant. We must maintain our intellectual property in that respect. The quality will also be achieved because of the skills of the work force at Broughton and, indeed, throughout north-east Wales.

Maintaining and enhancing the skills base is vital if we are to retain manufacturing jobs. That applies throughout Wales. In addition, we want to attract new inward investors to Wales. That is a big challenge for us, just as it is for Britain as a whole. Even in times of economic growth and low unemployment, there is a danger of eroding the skills base.

All hon. Members can give examples of manufacturing jobs in our constituencies which have been lost and replaced with jobs in the service sector or in more basic assembly operations. I am not denigrating those jobs, and they do provide employment but, as several hon. Members said, such jobs are readily exported to lower cost producers in eastern Europe or the developing world. That will always be a danger if we lack the value-added element and do not have real intellectual property. Those jobs can always be uprooted and transported elsewhere, and Wales has suffered as much, if not more, than any other part of Britain in that respect.

When my predecessor, now Lord Jones, made his maiden speech in the House, he spoke of the importance of the textile industry to what was then Flint, East and the almost total reliance on the steel industry for employment in the area. That pattern has changed dramatically since the 1970s, however. There has been a painful and damaging period of change throughout Wales, but new industries and employers have appeared. The change has not been seamless and it has been far from smooth.

There was massive unemployment throughout Wales in the 1980s. Our traditional employers did not so much go into decline as collapse. Large areas of Wales are still recovering from that dark period and we still have major issues to address, especially with regard to reskilling and re-equipping some of those people who lost their jobs and who need to re-enter the job market. North-east Wales has probably been more fortunate in rebuilding after that period than some other areas. The geography of the area has helped. We have a good road network and, following an announcement by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, I am glad to note that it will get even better in the near future.

Our proximity to north-west England has been especially important, in terms of both the supply chain and the interchange of employees and skills. Many of my

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constituents work in manufacturing companies across the border, such as Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port. Equally, many people from those areas come to Wales to work. So the solution to securing future employment and growth in north-east Wales is not simply a matter for Wales. We have to build on our successes; and look to the future, not the past. In north-east Wales we have a genuine possibility of establishing the premier location in Britain for quality manufacturing jobs. If we are to meet that potential, we need to continue to provide the right environment both for existing businesses, big and small, and for new inward investors.

I have spoken in the House of my disappointment at the decision of the Welsh Assembly not to grant permission to extend the Deeside industrial park. That would have created thousands of good quality jobs for Wales as a whole. North-east Wales therefore faces a challenge in finding alternative areas to develop, but I am sure that we will do so. The demand is there, and we must meet it.

North-east Wales has much to offer and a good story to tell, but companies will continue to invest in Wales only if we make them aware of the opportunities and benefits there. Importantly, politicians have a major job to do in that respect. We have to paint a positive picture of Wales. We must not denigrate it or portray it as a place of Victorian-era misery and depression. It is not like that, and we have a positive story to tell. We want people to come to Wales, to invest their money, to help to build our economy and to secure the long-term future for the people of Wales.

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