SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE FROM THE BRITISH COUNCIL
The British Council works hard to ensure that
the full diversity of the United Kingdom is reflected in our work
overseas and I hope we successfully communicated that to the Committee.
During the course of the session on 12 December,
Martin Caton MP asked me (Q107) for my reaction to paragraph 5.7
of the memorandum to the Committee from the Wales European Centre
(WEC), which was critical of the British Council in Brussels.
You will recall that I expressed my surprise at their comments
and undertook to write to the Committee when I had looked into
I have consulted with Martin Rose, the British
Council's director in Brussels, and he shares my surprise at the
WEC's comments. In addition to Martin's discussions with the WEC,
visits to Brussels have been made by Tony Deyes, Director Wales
(who you will recall gave evidence to the Committee) and Paul
de Quincey, our Director UK. Both made a point of visiting the
WEC and discussing with its Director, Joseph Gallacher, how we
might work more closely to promote the interests of Wales in Brussels.
Martin has written to Mr Gallacher, suggesting
a meeting if he feels there is a problem with our work for Wales
in Brussels or our relationship with the WEC.
In the meantime I would like to respond to the
two specific criticisms made by the WEC in their memorandum.
The British Council programme this year has had
little Welsh involvement or representation
I would like to bring the Committee's attention
to the following selection of our recent Welsh activities, all
either initiated, funded, or co-funded, by the British Council,
The WEC's last (March 2000) St David's
Day programme contained two purely British Council events (Operation
Tournesol and Urban Beat/Community Music Wales) which were absorbed
into the programme; and another three to which we contributed
financially (Arts from Wales, Poems & Pints and Julie Murphy).
Discussions with the Minister of
Education of the francophone community, Pierre Hazette, about
Wales-Wallonie educational links, resulting in his attending the
opening of Wales House.
Keynote speech by Paul Murphy, Secretary
of State for Wales, to the first (Council-organised) Belgo-British
conference at Bruges (October 2000).
Visit by Earthfall dance company
to Brussels (one week, October 2000). This was their second visit
in 12 months.
Visit to Cardiff by a BC consultant
from Brussels, to discuss programming with BC Director Wales,
to arrange Rubicon Dance residency (see below) and to finalise
work on our major Brussels CD-Rom publication with its Cardiff-based
designer/publisher (November 2000).
Publication of an article by Mr Gallacher
about the WEC in Britain in Brussels (a British Council directory
of British interests in Brussels, distributed free to 5,000+ recipients,
in the Commission, European Parliament, business, government,
lobbying etc) (December 2000).
Visit to London for Wales Promotional
Strategy meeting, by the British Council, Brussels' Arts Manager
The WEC's memorandum also states:
The British Council in Brussels and the British
Council as a whole is reviewing its operations. This has meant
a hiatus in programming and planning.
During the course of my evidence to the Committee
I made reference to the British Council's new strategy which takes
us up to 2005. It is essential that we review our operations from
time to time in order to ensure that we effectively reflect the
contemporary nature of the United Kingdom.
I was surprised to learn from the Committee
that the WEC felt time spent on our review of strategy has resulted
in a perceived pause of our programming for the promotion of Wales
In addition to the work undertaken on behalf
of Wales in the current year, referred to above, the Committee
will want to know of our programmed work for Wales in Brussels
and Luxembourg in the coming year.
Welsh concert (PM ensemble) and St
David's Day reception at the Ambassador's residence (March 2001).
Current discussion of WEC participation
in a Cultural Tourism seminar organised by the British Council
with Scotland House (March 2001).
Budget commitment of £5-7,000
to the 2001 St David's Day celebration (March 2001).
Special Needs residency at a Brussels
Special Needs school by Rubicon Dance (March 2001).
Negotiations currently in train for
a Welsh design centrepiece at the Britain-in-Luxembourg trade
fair (September 2001).
The review the British Council is currently
undertaking is designed to ensure that our promotion of the United
Kingdom is delivered with efficiency, making full use of new technological
developments and achieves maximum impact in countries where we
I can assure the Committee that the overall
purpose of The British Council is not part of the review. We exist
to enhance the reputation of the United Kingdom. In order to achieve
this it is essential that we reflect the unique strengths of every
constituent part of the UK. The Council's devolution policy and
guidelines, updated versions of which were distributed to all
overseas offices last month, are an essential component in the
composition of strategies for each country.
Finally I would like to thank the Committee
members for their constructive comments during the session. We
very much welcome advice from elected members as a way of informing
our work overseas. I would like to reiterate the offer I made
during the Committee session to members to visit Council offices
when they are abroad. We would always be grateful for any advice
and comments on how best to represent Wales overseas.
21 December 2000