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Lembit Öpik: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be helpful if Ministers agreed with Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister, on the aerospace industry? He was present at the formal launch of the aerospace group for professional and business people directly related to aerospace in Wales.
Mr. Robertson: Yes. I am sure that the Minister will respond to that point. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire talked a great deal about his constituency as well as Estonia. I am sure that he will not be described as the hon. Member for Estonia for long after today.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd)I hope that I have pronounced it correctly[Hon. Members: "Well done."] Since serving on a Standing Committee with the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), I have been practising pronouncing some Welsh names. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy spoke about tourism and the need to market Wales better. That was a recurring theme of the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) spoke about Wales positively, but he outlined several matters on which we need to concentrate, including the need for greater research funding and capability, which one or two other hon. Members also mentioned. He referred to Wales's low profile in the business world, but he also mentioned the Millennium stadium, which adds credibility and brings recognition to Wales. That is extremely positive.
My hon. Friend spoke about entrepreneurial problems: "entrepreneurial" is difficult to pronounce and I understand why the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) suggested that it was not an English or a Welsh word. My hon. Friend also talked about the low rate of start-ups. There is a need in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom to stop standing in the way of small businesses and to encourage them as best we can.
The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) mentioned involving more politicians in spreading the news about Wales throughout the world and using the many celebrities that Wales can boast. He made an
The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) discussed secondments from business to promote Wales abroad and made many other detailed points. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) made a lively speech that reminded me of his excellent maiden speech, in which he broke with convention by being controversial and party political as well as entertaining. Whenever he is on his feet in the Chamber, I shall do my best to listen to the important points that he makes. He stressed how important it is to remember that we are here not only as MPs from Wales, England, Northern Ireland or Scotland, but as Members of the United Kingdom Parliament, and that we should do all that we can to promote the United Kingdom as a whole as well as promoting all its parts.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis) made some important points about Welsh history. As someone who is interested in history, I believe that it can make the present and the future come alive, and I found his remarks most refreshing. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan) rightly condemned the hooligans at the football match last night. He also talked about Cardiff's bid to become the European capital of culture in 2008. While hon. Members from different areas might have conflicting interests in relation to which city achieves that title, I certainly wish Cardiff well.
The right hon. Member for Swansea, East reminded us, in a characteristically interesting speech, of Welsh stars, and of famous and important people, whom we really should use more, as has been suggested.
The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) spoke about the importance of the aerospace industry and the Airbus. He also mentioned the textile industry, about which I, too, have some concerns, having worked in it for many years, in north Wales and elsewhere.
Mr. Edwards: Knowing the hon. Gentleman's interest in horse racing, I was delighted to welcome him to Chepstow race course. I know that the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) has also attended. Does he agree that Chepstow is not only the capital race course of Wales but one of the finest in Britain?
Mr. Robertson: I certainly agree. I understand that there are plans to build another race course in Wales. If that goes ahead, I wish it luck. It is always a privilege to visit Chepstow race course, even though I usuallynot alwayscome away a lot poorer, but, in another way, much richer for the experience of having been there.
It is important to recognise the investment made not only by the Japanese but by the Americans. That kind of investment adds to the international flavour that we all want to see in Wales. I was rather disturbed to discover the extent of the decline of inward investment in WalesI was not aware of the extent of it until I researched this
We also need to address the problems of agriculture, which is also in decline. All these things declining is not very good. As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) pointed out in an intervention, it is important that we put out good-news stories about Wales. By way of an analogy, I take a great interest in Ethiopia. The ambassador for Ethiopia always tells me how important it is for his country to get the right image across. Ethiopia is not just about desperate people suffering starvation and disease; that is not the sum total of the country. He feels that it is important to get across the right image for his country, and it is important to do the same for Wales.
We need to address the problems of agriculture. My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley was right to say that there should be a public inquiry into foot and mouth disease, which was as devastating for Wales as it was for so many other areas. It is also important that farmers and others working in agriculture should be allowed to diversify. We often find, however, that they are blocked from doing so by the rules of planning. I am sure that that applies throughout the United Kingdom, and it is another issue that needs to be addressed.
I would like to make many more points, but time is against me. This has been a very interesting debate, and I shall finish by echoing the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley, who suggested that, having concluded this debate, we should not just go away and forget about what has been said. Let us use many of the points that have been raised on both sides of the House for the benefit of Wales.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): We have had a wide-ranging and comprehensive debate on Wales in the world, covering the report and a significant range of recent achievements. The debate has been of a high standard, which again proves that we have a good story to tell about Wales. That is a warning to the whingers and knockers to stop talking Wales down. We should see the Severn bridge as a gateway to markets for Welsh goods, not a drawbridge to be pulled up, shutting out the rest of the world.
"Wales for the Welsh" is a slogan that bears deep menace for all of us in the House. It is important for Members of all parties to confront that evil, because it will not help Wales and Wales in the world, and we know what will happen if we go down the road of challenging who is and who is not Welsh. Who decides who is Welsh?
We all know what happens when a country thinks that the only issue to be tackled is who fits in ethnically and who does not. It starts with people saying, "If you can't speak Welsh, you're not Welsh." Then comes, "If your grandparents weren't born in Wales, you're not Welsh." It ends with, "If you're not white, you're not Welsh." Those are the dangers. Our parents' generation took up arms against those who advocated a new dark age in Europe. They defeated them; we must ensure that we defeat such people in this generation.
Furthermore, in Wales Trade International we have an organisation with an ambitious programme of trade missions for the coming year. I was proud and pleased to meet its delegation in the Czech Republic in March. The entrepreneurial spirit of the small firms that took part encouraged me, and I can tell the House of some successes. Mr. John Wyn Williams, chairman of Vaynol Estates in Bangor, said that the visit was a great success for his organisation, resulting in five contacts. Terry Gorman, of Swansea-based HPA Property, which specialises in repairing and maintaining glass structures, had 15 meetings. Four companies that he met want to establish partnerships, while another wanted prices immediately for work to be carried out.
Lyn Powell, from RPS Chapman Warren, a Cardiff-based planning and environment consultancy, has been asked by the Brno city authorities to submit plans to relocate the central railway station and redevelop the site. Suzanne Wilkinson, from Invest E in Welshpool, was immediately asked for quotes for her software products by a non-governmental agency involved in waste management. The visit was a success and I pay tribute to all who took part. I was impressed, too, by my welcome in north Bohemia and, in particular, in south Bohemia, when I visited a small town called Pisek. Tucked away in the local museum was a display of art by Welsh artists.
Wales can be proud of its tourism industry and the bodies that work hard to promote Wales as a tourist destination. The British Tourist Authority has nine core campaigns running at the moment. They were all developed in consultation with the Wales Tourist Board and they feature considerable Welsh content. Everyone in Wales feels pride when they see the imaginative WTB advertising campaign promoting Walesthe big country.
Those campaigns capitalise on Wales's core strengths of being a country that inspires and that is welcoming and passionate. We have a rich heritage of poetry, song, legend and mystery as well as wonderful and dramatic countryside. We also have a rich industrial heritage. Let us not forget that we spearheaded the industrial revolution, and that Welsh coal and iron are the two products that changed the world in the 19th century.
Wales can be rightly proud of its achievements in developing creative industries, which a number of colleagues mentioned. Now we seek to make an impression on the world through high-tech companies, the expansion of information technology and the creative and performing arts. We can and do attract high-tech companies involved in research and development. When considering where to locate its European headquarters and its research and development facility, General Dynamics received a consultant's report, which was, it told me, completed with apparent academic rigour. It strongly advised General Dynamics against coming to Wales. Following a little prompting from me and from others, the company located itself in Oakdale in my constituency in the Welsh valleys. Only this morning, the human resources director told me that it had had no problem in recruiting highly skilled, high-quality staff in Wales. It had not had to headhunt; it had used job fairs and other
Last autumn I visited Cyfle in Cardiff bay. Cyfle is a company engaged in training for the film, television and media industry, and, thankfully, is well supported by S4C. I also visited the International Film School at Newport, where it was brought home to me how important the film and television industry is to Wales. Those two centres support and nurture the creative and communications industries in Walesindustries that employ many people through the three television networks we have in Wales, and will be important to Wales in this 21st century.
Our communities, too, benefit from Wales's greater capacity to be outward-looking. They benefit from twinning arrangements, for instance. My own children attended a comprehensive school that was twinned with a school in Germany, and my constituency and many others have twinning links with European towns. Blaenavon, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, is twinned with one of the world's best wine-producing areas, in Bordeaux. I commend it to Members.
All these experiences serve to broaden the horizons of our people, and to boost their confidence in their ability to handle what is different and then use that to improve their quality of life and that of their families. It is improving the quality of life and increasing our people's prosperity that bring us all to the House of Commons.
The world is our market, culturally and economically. Wales has seen enormous changes in its economic fortunes in the past few years. The strong economic policies introduced by this Government have sustained us well, even in the tragic and awful aftermath of 11 September. We have one of the strongest and most robust economies in the western world. Our economy is growing at a rate of 2.25 per cent. a year, faster than the economy of any other G7 country. There is strong consumer demand, which I see when I travel around Wales, and our unemployment is at its lowest for 27 years. That is a remarkable achievement.