Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Second Special Report




(HC 38)

Paragraph 9

It is clear that Wales does not generally enjoy a high profile overseas and it appears that the reasons for this are multiple and complex. It may be inevitable that a small country such as Wales is less prominent internationally than its larger neighbours, but it is nonetheless a source of concern if it means that Wales is losing out on the cultural and economic benefits which widespread international recognition brings.

The Government of the National Assembly for Wales agrees that Wales does not enjoy a high profile overseas. We also agree that greater international recognition can yield significant cultural and economic benefits. We are taking steps to address this.

The Cabinet has established a Sub­Committee on Wales in the World. At official level, there are arrangements in place to co­ordionate the interests and activities of the Assembly and the ASPBs.

As a result of these arrangements, and other efforts, Wales has been successful in attracting events (the Rugby World Cup, FA Cup final and Ryder Cup), receiving high profile visits (the Taoiseach - Bertie Ahern TD - President Pujol of Catalonia, Vice­Premier of China and the Premier of New South Wales) and undertaken a number of overseas events (eg California). In all of this, the Government of the National Assembly works with the UK Government, principally through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Wales already has a number of international links, and the Assembly will work to develop these further and to consider developing other links.

A major initiative has been the development of the Wales World Nation communications package and promotional material.

Paragraph 15

We are pleased that WalesTrade International and Trade Partners UK are working well together.

The relationship between WalesTrade International (WTI) and Trade Partners UK continues to grow and strengthen, with regular meetings and exchanges taking place between the two organisations. The Assembly's Senior Director of Economic Affairs, Transport, Planning & Environment is a member of the British Trade International main board. As well as providing the National Assembly for Wales and WalesTrade International with a strong platform for involvement in the development of UK international trade services, it also acts as a public acknowledgement of the partnership between the two organisations. WalesTrade International is also represented, at Chief Executive level, on Trade Partner UK's Government Group.

The close relationship benefits both organisations and the Assembly is keen to maintain these links and develop them further. The Government of the National Assembly recognises the importance of international trade to the Welsh economy and in recognition of this WalesTrade International is drawing up an International Trade Strategy, on which British Trade International has been widely consulted.

Paragraph 17

For small businesses, there is a limit to the amount of time and money they can invest in a project before receiving funding and we are concerned that delays in the distribution of Objective 1 funds may lead to some projects led by small and medium­sized enterprises being lost entirely. Objective 1 funds in Wales are distributed by the Wales European Funding Office (WEFO), an executive agency of the National Assembly for Wales. We invite the Assembly to examine the resources available to WEFO for administering the Objective 1 budget.

The Government of the Assembly will ensure that WEFO is given adequate resources to carry out its functions. WEFO has established a Private Sector Unit to assist the private sector (including small and medium sized enterprises as appropriate) to access Objective 1 funds. The Unit provides hands­on assistance to companies throughout the project development and application process.

Paragraph 20

British Trade International is still a young organisation but there is encouraging evidence that since its creation relations between the WDA and I­UK have been better than those with I­UK's predecessor, the Invest in Britain Bureau. We accept that Invest­UK's role is to maximise the total amount of investment in the UK and this emphasises the importance of promoting Wales abroad, alongside the UK as a whole. This is largely a matter for the National Assembly for Wales and its sponsored public bodies.

The Welsh Development Agency has specific responsibility of promoting Wales as a viable business location to prospective inward investors. The Agency works very closely with Invest.UK and is a member of the Committee on Overseas Promotion. The Agency takes forward, and develops further, initial expressions of interest identified by Invest.UK with the aim of securing overseas investment in Wales.

The need to promote Wales overseas in a consistent way has long been recognised by WalesTrade International and, to that end, a formal working protocol now exists between WTI and the WDA's International Division. This allows both organisations to maximise the opportunities afforded by their respective overseas networks, allows for collaboration in marketing Wales as an international location in which and with which to do business and ensures that all potential projects are signposted to the relevant body.

Paragraph 27

We believe that Wales's poor share of the overseas tourist market is largely due to the country's poor recognition overseas.

The Government of the National Assembly for Wales recognises that Wales' relatively poor recognition overseas has a significant impact on our share of the overseas tourist market. The Wales World Nation initiative, overseas promotional events and the marketing efforts of the Wales Tourist Board (WTB) are all helping to raise recognition levels. In addition to this, events, such as the Network Q Rally, the Ryder Cup and the next few FA Cup finals will continue to provide opportunities to raise recognition levels, building on the success of the Rugby World Cup. It should of course be acknowledged that the Foot and Mouth outbreak in February this year has had a significant impact on tourism in Wales which was compounded by misinformation and lack of understanding within many of Wales key overseas markets. The WTB and BTA launched specific marketing and promotional campaigns to counteract these misconceptions. The recent atrocities in America will also have a significant impact on international travel and again the WTB are looking to review their marketing plans to take account of the situation.

Paragraph 31

The budget for the Wales Tourist Board is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales. We record the concern that was expressed to us, that the resources available to the WTB to spend on overseas marketing may not be commensurate with those available to other tourist boards in the UK.

The Assembly approved a record increase in the WTB's budget for 2001­2002 ­ up 30% to £20.086 million. This included funds specifically to develop an IT Destination Management System to enable people to access information on Wales and book accommodation. The Assembly has now increased the WTB's budget by a further £2.2 million for 2002­2003. In addition to this, the WTB has had two Objective 1 projects approved for marketing (£9 million) and capital development (£5.3 million) which, along with Assembly match funding, will provide the WTB with around £29 million extra over the next three years.

It is not really possible to make meaningful comparisons on spending between the UK national tourist boards. The English Tourism Council does not have marketing powers, the British Tourist Authority does this as part of its overall work in marketing Britain overseas, whilst the Scottish Tourist Board (now called visitscotland) allocates funds to its 14 Area Tourist Boards. However, the WTB, as with other national tourist boards, is currently reviewing its marketing expenditure plans to help the tourism industry recover from the effects of Foot and Mouth and the more recent terrorism activities in the USA. The USA is Wales' largest single tourism market.

Paragraph 32

We welcome the proposal to establish four Regional Tourism Partnerships, and in particular the fact that the devolution of responsibilities will be accompanied by a devolution of funding. However, we are concerned that the move from central to regional tourism promotion for Wales will make it more difficult to promote strong "brands" in the international market, and that there is a danger that an element of competition will creep into the relationships between the RTPs. These are factors which will need to be monitored closely from the centre, by the WTB and the National Assembly.

The Government of the National Assembly recognises the importance of strong branding for the international market. The Regional Tourism Partnerships will be tasked with operating within a national framework set by the Wales Tourist Board. That framework will clearly say that the Wales Tourist Board should lead on international marketing. However, partnerships will be encouraged to market alongside the Wales Tourist Board where appropriate.

In certain more mature markets and those closest to Wales in terms of proximity such as Ireland, there may be a case for Regional Tourism Partnerships taking up more of the mantle. In general terms however, the Regional Tourism Partnerships will be to concentrate its efforts within the UK market.

Paragraph 35

We recommend that the BTA and the WTB should develop a strategy for promoting Wales as a first­choice destination for foreign visitors to the UK. This should involve working with tour operators which bring foreign tourists into the country to try to persuade them to include Wales on more of their itineraries, and working with UK transport providers (such as the train operating companies) to promote the provision of efficient, affordable transport links between Wales and other UK tourist destinations.

The overall strategy is to ensure that Wales is regarded as a "must see" destination within Britain. This recognises the fact that many of the people who will come to Wales will visit Wales as a part of an overall visit to Britain. Wales needs to ensure that when people are considering Britain, they regard us as one of the key destination honey pots within Britain. The Wales Tourist Board will also be raising the profile of Wales, separately, as there will be occasions when the primary reason for a visit to Britain is a visit to Wales.

The WTB is working with a large range of tour operators to improve their product provision in Wales and current internal restructuring proposals include the setting up of a new Business Development Department whose role will specifically be to liaise with the world's travel trade. The WTB recognises that the lack of international gateways in Wales is a strategic weakness and believe that there is a need to identify suitable transportation partners.

As previously mentioned, all the BTA's and WTB's marketing plans are being reviewed in response to the recent terrorist activities in the USA.

Paragraph 41

We welcome the creation by the Assembly of Cymru'n Creu, which aims to meet the kind of concerns about poor co­ordination expressed by many of our witnesses. It will be important for UK Government departments, and bodies such as UK Sport, the BTA and the British Council, to forge strong links with the consortium, as well as directly with their Welsh counterparts.

The National Assembly welcomes this recognition of the initiative of Cymru'n Creu. The British Council is now represented on the consortium, which looks forward to strengthening further its links with UK Government Departments, and bodies. The consortium would welcome proposals from UK bodies for presentations to future meetings.

Paragraph 42

The membership of, and involvement in, Cymru'n Creu is a matter for the National Assembly for Wales. It is important as a matter of principle that key players are not excluded from initiatives such as the Cultural Consortium because they do not fit some pre­determined set of criteria for participation.

Cymru'n Creu consists of the key ASPBs, the Broadcasters, the WLGA and the British Council. We agree, however, that it is important that key players other than these are not excluded. The work of Cymru'n Creu at a practical level is being taken forward by specific task and finish groups - the Arts Council of Wales and WDA working on European funding, for instance, and the National Library leading a project on ICT. Other strand groups are being developed. It is vital that these groups involve the other players as they take their work forward to ensure that all the key bodies are included and are able to contribute. When the task groups present to Cymru'n Creu they will need to demonstrate full consultation and participation.

Paragraph 50

One of the objectives of the Welsh Language Board is to raise awareness of the Welsh language outside Wales and to foster and promote the exchange of information and experience in the areas of language and culture between Wales and similar linguistic communities abroad. We believe that this is an important objective.

The Government of the Assembly agrees that this is an important objective. The Assembly is supporting the Board in developing its contacts with Catalonia, the Basque Country and other language communities. The agreement signed by the First Minister and the President of Catalunya in April foresees further cooperation in the area of language policy. The Assembly also funds a Welsh language project in the Chubut province of Argentina. This is managed, on behalf of the Assembly, by the British Council.

Paragraph 59

Promoting Wales within the UK is an essential prerequisite to promoting Wales in the rest of the world. We must overcome ignorant and inaccurate stereotypes in Wales and the UK. The Assembly and the Wales Office both have a key role to play, but so do other Government departments and public bodies such as the DTI, the DfEE, the Office for National Statistics and the BBC.

The Government of the National Assembly works in tandem with the Wales Office to promote Wales within the UK, and sees this as essential in overcoming stereotypical views. This has been a major objective behind the Wales World Nation initiative and overseas promotional events. The Government of the National Assembly is looking to develop this initiative further.

Paragraph 60

There are clear advantages to Wales from being included under the auspices of the international work of the UK Government. Equally, there are clear advantages of the Assembly and its sponsored public bodies carrying out independent promotional work. How effectively Wales is promoted abroad will depend largely on the strength of the working links between the Welsh and UK bodies, and maintaining and strengthening those relationships should be the top priority for all those concerned, though it should not be done in such a way as to restrict the Assembly's ability to pursue different policies and strategies from the Government.

The National Assembly for Wales is committed to maintaining good working relationship with the UK Government and UK bodies. In implementing our policy of promoting Wales to an international audience, we will continue to develop and strengthen these links within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding and the respective concordats between the Government of the National Assembly and the UK Government.

The Government of the National Assembly and its ASPBs will continue to work with the UK bodies and organisations, responsible for promoting the UK overseas. The Government of the Assembly will continue to seek to take full advantage of the services of these bodies and add value through its own programme of events and activities.

Paragraph 63

We welcome the inclusion of a provision for secondments between the National Assembly and the FCO in the Concordat on International Relations, but we do not believe that it goes far enough. The Government should actively encourage secondments between UK public bodies and their Welsh counterparts of all kinds and at all levels. The new target for the proportion of senior civil servants who have experience outside the civil service is welcome and we recommend that, for the purposes of evaluating whether or not the target has been met, secondments from the main Whitehall departments to the National Assembly for Wales and its sponsored public bodies should count as experience outside the civil service. We recommend that the Government should introduce a target for the proportion of UK posts overseas which have at least one member of staff who has some direct experience of working for the Assembly or another public body in Wales. This should apply not just to embassies and consulates but to offices of bodies such as the BTA and British Council.

The Assembly continues to highlight secondments and to encourage officials to take up positions in overseas departments, such as UKRep Brussels or Washington. To encourage Assembly staff to apply, a number of seminars have been held to outline the benefits of secondments and to highlight required skills, which not only serves to encourage officials to apply but ensures that they are best placed to compete for and take up these positions.

The Assembly is meeting and exceeding its targets of 6 secondments per year to European institutions as there are currently 8 Assembly staff in various positions in Brussels. The Assembly will continue to work with the FCO to look at ways of encouraging a higher proportion of applications for secondments.

As we have cannot control whether staff decide to apply for these posts, we do not believe that targets for secondments would produce the required results.

Paragraph 64

Training and briefing on Wales and Welsh issues is important for those overseas­based staff who are not able to undertake secondments. Wherever possible, the Government should arrange such training in conjunction with the National Assembly.

The National Assembly agrees that training and briefing on Wales and on Welsh issues is important for overseas staff. We will continue to work with the Wales Office, the FCO and other UK Government Departments to assist with this training and encourage new schemes. Discussions have been held at official level with the FCO about taking this recommendation forward.

Paragraph 65

It should be recognised that participation by Assembly Ministers and officials in UK negotiating teams in Europe serves not only to ensure that Wales's interests are taken into account in the negotiations, but to raise its profile on the European stage.

The Government of the National Assembly for Wales agrees that participation in UK negotiating teams in Europe serves to promote Welsh interests and raise Wales' profile on the European stage. There are a number of ways in which we promote Wales in Europe.

Since devolution, Ministers have attended Council of Ministers meetings, including Agriculture, Health and Culture Councils, and an Assembly Minister has lead for the UK at a Youth Council. Officials are also involved in working group meetings. Attendance has exceeded initial expectations and we intend to maintain this level of engagement.

The Assembly has established an office in Brussels, ensuring a physical presence in the EU capital. We are taking steps to strengthen this office, particularly via the appointment of an officer to handle rural affairs. The Assembly works closely with the Wales European Centre (WEC) partnership. Both the Assembly's Brussels Office and the WEC are important tools in forging an identity for Wales in Europe. They also ensure that we are well placed to engage with EU institutions at an early stage.

There have been a number of bi­lateral meetings between Assembly Ministers and European Commissioners. In addition, members of the European Parliament have standing invitations to attend the Assembly's European Affairs Committee, and to provide a written contribution outlining their current activities. These direct links with European Union institutions are a means of raising Wales profile with key decision makers.

Wales is represented on the Committee of the Regions. This institution has a consultative role within the European decision making across a range of subjects relevant to the Assembly's work, such as regional policy, economic and social cohesion and education amongst others. This has provided another platform to promote Welsh interests.

The National Assembly networks with other countries and regions in trans­European bodies. The Assembly's e­Minister is President of the Tele­Regions Network, the First Minister has attended a number of meetings of the European Regions with Legislative Powers group, the Assembly is a member of a Life­Long Learning Network and a Sustainable Development Network, and has recently joined the Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions of Europe. Through our participation in these networks, we not only share experience and best practice, but we are promoting Wales and showcasing our achievements.

We have begun to engage with the accession countries and their regions. So far we have received the Ambassadors from Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to Wales, and have undertaken twinning missions to Poland and Hungary. The Assembly has hosted a visit to Wales from 12 of the 13 candidate countries, and additional visits for officials from Slovenia and Estonia. By developing and building on these links, the Assembly aims to ensure that we are best placed to promote Wales in an enlarged Europe.

Paragraph 66

One way of expanding the coverage of each of the ASPBs would be to establish a single "brand" (perhaps including a common name and logo) which would enable overseas offices of ASPBs effectively to act as "Welsh embassies" providing a first stop for access to the full range of services provided by the Assembly and the relevant services provided by the UK Government. In the majority of cases, this might involve little more than fielding and forwarding queries or distributing other organisations' literature, but the existence of a single, easily identifiable brand identity would help to promote a clear, strong image abroad.

The Government of the National Assembly for Wales recognises the importance of strengthening Wales as a brand and work is in hand to develop a more co­ordinated approach with the ASPBs. Consideration is also being given to strengthening Wales' overseas representation, including the development of joint facilities to establish Welsh centres.

Paragraph 69

We welcome the Assembly's commitment to identifying prominent Welsh people who are willing to act as informal "ambassadors" for Wales.

The Government of the National Assembly recognises the role that can be played by Welsh people overseas and will continue to look for opportunities to capitalise on the role they can play.

Paragraph 71

The provision of genealogical research services to those outside the UK, especially via the internet, is a promising way of reaching out to the `Welsh community in the world, bringing them back into contact with their home country and helping to bolster the Welsh identity of second and subsequent generation emigrants. This is something which should be borne in mind when the Government and Assembly are considering funding for genealogical services.

The National Library of Wales provides a limited family history service within the Library building and on the Internet. It is currently looking to further develop its service within a dedicated Wales Family and Community History Centre. This would be, to a large extent, a virtual centre, founded on a substantial body of digitised genealogical and other records, and online services designed around them. The Assembly will be giving consideration to this in the overall approach to promoting Wales overseas.

Paragraph 72

We commend the National Assembly for Wales on the range of information which it has made available on the internet, including initiatives such as "Wales world nation" which are specifically aimed at the international market.

The Government of the National Assembly for Wales welcomes the recognition that the Committee has given to this very significant initiative.

Following its launch earlier this year, the WWN web­site has now been translated and is available in French, German, Spanish and Japanese. Additional languages are being considered. This initiative will be kept under constant review. The overall aim is to make this a state of the art communications package to compete with the best in the world.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 7 November 2001