Select Committee on Welsh Affairs First Report


WALES IN THE WORLD: THE ROLE OF THE UK GOVERNMENT IN PROMOTING WALES ABROAD

CONCLUSIONS

58. We have considered the promotion of Wales abroad in relation to three broad areas: trade and investment, tourism, and culture and sport. This might not cover every aspect of overseas promotion but it includes the main areas of economic importance to Wales. During the course of the inquiry, a number of ideas emerged which, rather than relating to one of these three areas specifically, had more general relevance. At the heart of this inquiry is the overall system whereby the UK Government promotes the UK and the National Assembly for Wales promotes Wales. We have already expressed some doubt about the practicalities of distinguishing between promoting the UK as a whole and promoting its constituent parts (paragraph 12) and we believe that there are a number of ways in which the position of Wales within the structure for promoting the UK could be strengthened.

59. Speaking at a lecture at the University of Glamorgan in February 2001, the First Minister recently lamented the "siren voices from the M25" which portray Wales as "as a bleak land, devoid of hope and aspiration".[118] We need not rehearse here the negative coverage which Wales receives in much of the London-based media, though the BBC broadcast a particularly egregious piece of anti-Welsh sentiment the night before we took evidence from witnesses from BBC Wales.[119] The failure to include a Welsh nationality tick box in the 2001 Census form is another example of the way in which Wales is sometimes simply overlooked at the UK level.[120] 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.

Should the UK Government have a role in promoting Wales abroad?

60. Realistically, a country the size of Wales is never going to have the same resources for overseas promotion as the UK, or even as England. Although Ireland, which is of a comparable size to Wales, seems to do a rather better job of promoting itself overseas, this is due not only to larger budgets, but to historical factors which cannot be replicated by changes in Government policy.[121] 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.

Promoting Wales in Government

61. If Wales is to be promoted successfully abroad, it is vital that those involved in the overseas promotion of the UK are familiar with Wales and Welsh issues. Many of the specific complaints we received about the Government's failings in respect of Wales were complaints about officials' unfamiliarity with Wales, particularly officials based overseas. The views of the Chairman of the Welsh Society in Brussels were typical. He told us that "it is difficult to see what, if anything, UK institutions do to promote Wales ... in Belgium".[122] The Federation of Small Businesses told us that much work remained to be done by the FCO and DTI to "integrate devolved thinking" into their overseas work.[123] One of the most obvious ways of ensuring that staff are fully conversant with the devolution settlement and other considerations which relate specifically to Wales is to arrange secondments between Government staff and Assembly staff. For example, from the Foreign Office to the Assembly and vice versa, between the Wales Tourist Board and the British Tourist Authority, or between BTI and the WDA. This approach was widely recommended by those who submitted evidence to the inquiry.

62. The Concordat on International Relations already provides for "reciprocal exchange and secondment of officials" between the FCO and the devolved administrations,[124] although the First Minister told us that secondments to EU institutions were a higher priority for the Assembly than secondments to British embassies.[125] Assembly officials regularly participate in the six-monthly Civil Service stagiaire schemes to work in the institutions of the EU.[126] Other witnesses, such as the Chief Executive of BTI, were able to give us examples of a few ad hoc secondments but not of any systematic programme,[127] while others, such as the Director General of the British Council, were in favour of the idea but had no experience of secondments actually taking place.[128] The recent Report by the Cabinet Secretary on civil service reform highlighted the importance of secondments in promoting "innovative thinking, broader horizons and different skills".[129] The permanent heads of the main government departments have agreed to increase the target for the proportion of senior civil servants who have experience outside the civil service from 50 per cent by 2005 to 65 per cent.[130]

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.

64. We do not imagine that it will be possible to ensure that there is widespread understanding of Wales within the UK Government by the use of secondments alone. Training also has an important part to play and we understand that the National Assembly is now making efforts to step up its briefing of Government officials. Training and briefing on Wales and Welsh issues is important for those overseas-based staff who are not able to undertake secondments. Wherever possible, the Government should arrange such training in conjunction with the National Assembly.

65. Under the terms of the Concordat on International Relations, where international negotiations bear directly on devolved matters Ministers of officials from the Assembly may form part of the UK negotiation team, although the UK Minister retains lead responsibility. Their duty, as part of the UK team, is to "support and advance the single UK negotiating line" which they will have played a part in developing.[131] The Government told us that the FCO is keen to see Assembly Ministers attending EU Council meetings and other meetings in Brussels.[132] 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.

ASPBs' overseas offices

66. As we have already noted, Wales's budgets for international promotion are small. The Wales Tourist Board has a smaller budget for overseas promotion than its Scottish or Irish counterparts.[133] We frequently heard the complaint that Welsh bodies simply did not have enough overseas-based staff to work effectively. 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.

Foreign diplomatic representation in Wales

67. At the moment there is only one diplomatic post in Cardiff, that of the Consul-General of Ireland. The United States Embassy has a Welsh Affairs Officer, who spends part of her time in Wales but is based in London. Both these posts were established in response to devolution, or in anticipation of it.[134] There are also a number of honorary consuls who provide a much more limited range of services than diplomatic posts, and whose principal task is the protect the interests of the nationals of the countries which they represent. Scotland and Northern Ireland both have more career consular representatives than Wales and we wrote to the embassies of all those countries which had established full Consulates-General or Consulates in Edinburgh or Belfast to find out why they had not done so in Cardiff.[135] The range of responses was varied: some countries were actively considering the idea but were conscious of the budgetary implications. Others felt that honorary consular representation was adequate for their needs and others had, for one reason or another, stronger economic or cultural links with Scotland or Northern Ireland than with Wales.[136]

68. Wales has not always been so lacking in diplomatic representation. There have been several US Consulates in Wales from the 19th Century onwards, including one in Cardiff until 1963 and others in Beaumaris, Carmarthen, Llanelli, Milford Haven, Newport and Swansea. The Chief Executive of BTI told us that it made little difference whether a country was host to foreign diplomatic representation or not and that it was the quality of that country's representation abroad which made the difference.[137] It may be that the practical benefits are small, but we believe that they are there and we are concerned Wales will be disadvantaged in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have a greater international diplomatic presence. Diplomatic representation also carries strong symbolic significance as a mark of nationhood. We were pleased to learn from the Minister of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs that he would like to see more consular posts in Wales and that the FCO was actively encouraging the idea, and encouraging visits to Wales by senior London-based diplomats.[138] He suggested that it might be time for a fresh reminder to embassies in London about the post-devolution benefits of representation in Wales,[139] and we agree. Recognising that the decision as to where to locate its diplomatic and consular posts is always a matter for the country concerned, we recommend that the Government should continue actively to promote to London embassies the benefits of consular representation in Wales.

The Welsh Community in the World

69. It seems that one of the principal reasons for the radical difference in the international profiles of Wales and Ireland—two countries of similar size in the same corner of North-Western Europe—is the way they develop and maintain links with their expatriate communities. The same is true of Scotland, though its larger size might also be significant. There are a number of ways in which the Welsh community in the world might be able to help with the promotion of Wales in the world, but one of the ways which appears to have been effective so far for Ireland is the use of informal "ambassadors". They are prominent people who are either living abroad or are famous outside their own country who are able, during the course of their work, to find opportunities to promote their country on the international stage. The National Assembly told us that identifying such people was a mainstream objective for them,[140] and based on the evidence we have received there is no shortage of Welsh communities and societies, especially in the Anglophone world, who are keen to play such a role.[141] We welcome the Assembly's commitment to identifying prominent Welsh people who are willing to act as informal "ambassadors" for Wales. St David's Day is an ideal opportunity to reach out to the Welsh community around the world. St David's Day events—like St Patrick's Day events in Irish Embassies—should be a fixed part of the calendar of every UK Embassy.

70. Another way of maintaining links with expatriate communities is through the use of genealogy services. We were told by Hicks Randles Chartered Accountants, operators of the Click-Cymru website,[142] that Ireland has used this strategy effectively, encouraging expatriates and those of Irish origin to research their family histories by providing resources.[143] Acting on a request from the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, the Heritage Council of Ireland began a review of genealogical resources in 1997.[144] The Council's final Report recommended the establishment of a dedicated genealogical body, the Irish Family History Research Centre (IFHRC), to ensure that all users, from Ireland and abroad, have easy and efficient access to essential information necessary to carry out genealogical research.[145] During the public consultation exercise relating to the Report, 44 per cent of the private individuals who responded to the invitation to submit their views about Irish genealogical service provision were Americans, compared with 41 per cent Irish, seven per cent Australian and four per cent UK.[146]

71. The Report concluded, among other things, that "Irish cultural legacies are not exclusive to those living in Ireland. The claim on Irish cultural heritage made by those of Irish descent living abroad is as strong as if not stronger than those at home. Adoption of inclusive policies by considering émigrés and their descendants within a cultural framework is a responsibility that the State cannot ignore".[147] While Ireland has a bigger diaspora than we have, we believe that this is also true of Wales. 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 Internet

72. The provision of genealogical information is one of many ways in which the internet can be used to promote Wales in the world. It is a laudable feature of the Assembly's working methods that it has made extensive use of the internet to promote its policies, and Wales in general, through initiatives such as betterwales.com and, most recently, the "Wales world nation" package, consisting of a CD-ROM, information pack, book and website.[148] This was developed with the international market in mind, to ensure that journalists are given an accurate and up­to­date picture of modern Wales, its government, economy and culture.[149] 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.

73. While we were conducting this inquiry, we took evidence from the Secretary of State for Wales and Wales Office officials on the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review for Wales.[150] During the course of that evidence session, we asked them about the provision of material on the website in the Welsh language.[151] Very little of the material on the Wales Office website is available in the Welsh language: the Head of Finance and Administration told us in December 2000 that only the Annual Report and one other item were available in Welsh on the website but that they were in the course of translating the Service Delivery Agreement.

74. The explanation offered for this is that the Wales Office's translation services are provided by the National Assembly under a service level agreement, but there is a general shortage of translators. The Head of the Wales Office explained that it was not possible simply to hire more people: "The National Assembly for Wales has practically taken every translator that there is in Wales. The work of the Assembly takes a great number of people and the translation unit has increased considerably. They are under considerable pressure to keep up with the timetables for documents and records tabled with the Assembly. While they are extremely good about translating for us letters to members of the public in Welsh and documents which have to go out, I am afraid that our website comes quite low down on their list of priorities".[152]

75. Other Government agencies have managed to provide more extensive Welsh language material on their websites. The Crown Prosecution Service provides a Welsh mirror of its English site.[153] The Employment Service's Welsh-language site includes the same job-search facility as its English counterpart, which it also mirrors closely.[154] The practice among Whitehall departments varies: the Ministry of Defence[155] and the Home Office,[156] unlike the Wales Office, provide clear links to Welsh-language material from the first page of their websites, but most departments do not. The DfEE website, for example, has a few Welsh-language documents on it but they are not easy to find from the starting page.[157] We believe that the Wales Office should lead by example in the provision of information in the Welsh language on government websites, and it is a source of concern that it has allowed itself to be overtaken by some other Government departments and agencies. We understand that demand for translators is currently high and that the National Assembly's translation resources are stretched. It might be that there is a need to re-examine the prioritisation of the translators' work, or it might be that more resources are required to employ, and if necessary to train, new translators. In any event, we believe that it should be a high priority for the Wales Office to establish a fully bilingual website.

76. On St David's Day 2000, the BBC launched Cymru'r Byd, the only daily Welsh-language news service on the internet. It is primarily a rolling news service but it also has features, magazine items and regular columnists.[158] It carries some Welsh-language news in audio and video format. We were told that it receives around 30,000 page impressions a week, with people from as far afield as Pakistan and the USA accessing it. Some users from overseas who have studied the language but had never heard it spoken have told the BBC that they heard the language for the first time via the service. We commend the BBC on the establishment of Cymru'r Byd. It is an excellent service which, as the internet becomes more dominant as a means of international communication, will help to ensure that Wales has a strong Internet presence.


118  Rhodri Morgan Attacks Misconceptions About View Of Wales, NAW Press Release dated 9 February 2001. Back

119  We raised this with the witnesses at QQ. 337-343. Back

120  See Minutes of Evidence taken before the Welsh Affairs Committee on 21 November 2000,Comprehensive Spending Review, HC 995, Session 1999-2000, QQ. 59-73. Back

121  See paragraph 9. Back

122  Ev. p. 126. Back

123  Ev. p. 153. Back

124  Ibid, paragraph D3.17. Back

125  Q. 25. Back

126  Ev. p. 84, paragraph 27. Back

127  Q. 92. Back

128  Q. 119. Back

129  Civil Service Reform, Report to The Prime Minister from Sir Richard Wilson, Head of the Home Civil Service, Cabinet Office, 1999, paragraph 15. Available on the World Wide Web at:
www.cabinet­office.gov.uk/civilservice­reform/documents/cs_reform_report.pdf (5 March 2001). 
Back

130  IbidBack

131  Concordat on International Relations, paragraph D3.8. Back

132  Ev. p. 83, paragraph 26. Back

133  See paragraph 30. Back

134  We held informal discussions in Cardiff with the Consul-General of Ireland and in London with the US Embassy's Welsh Affairs Officer. Back

135  Most states appoint both honorary and career consuls, with career consuls being appointed to the districts which are deemed to be more important (see Ev. pp. 123-4). Back

136  See Ev. pp. 156-159 & 165. Back

137  QQ. 90 & 91. Back

138  Q. 330. Back

139  IbidBack

140  Q. 17. Back

141  For example, Ev. pp. 124-5, 134-7, 142-3 & 152. Back

142  www.click-cymru.com. Back

143  Q. 202. Back

144  The Heritage Council is an Irish statutory body established by the Heritage Act 1995. Back

145  Towards Policies for Ireland's Heritage: The Provision of Genealogical Services in Ireland, The Heritage Council, February 2000. Back

146  Ibid, paragraph 14.6. Back

147  Ibid, paragraph 14.8. Back

148  www.walesworldnation.com Back

149  First Minister to launch 'Wales world nation', NAW Press Release dated 28 February 2001. Back

150  Minutes of Evidence taken before the Welsh Affairs Committee on 21 November 2000,Comprehensive Spending Review, HC 995, Session 1999-2000. Back

151  Ibid, QQ. 44-52. Back

152  Ibid, Q. 47. Back

153  www.cps.gov.uk/cpsw_home.htm (Welsh) and www.cps.gov.uk (English). Back

154  www.employmentservice.gov.uk/cymru/home/default.asp (Welsh) and
www.employmentservice.gov.uk/English/Home/default.asp (English) 
Back

155  www.mod.uk Back

156  www.homeoffice.gov.uk Back

157  www.dfee.gov.uk Back

158  Q. 343. Back


 
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