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Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): Does my right hon. Friend agree that Wales's standing in the world is also enhanced by the numerous voluntary groups and solidarity groups that have links with other countries and promote Wales as a devolved country throughout the world? I am thinking of one group in particular—the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign—which has for many years forged links with the autonomous coast of Nicaragua, which has had a long-standing relationship with us because of similarities in our respective language and cultural traditions. Does he agree that those groups, at the grassroots, also portray Wales to the world?

Mr. Murphy: Yes, and I also remind the House that there is nothing particularly new in that. Wales was involved in such activities throughout the 20th century. In fact, it has always been a country that has looked outwards, not inwards. It has been international in many respects of that word. As hon. Members who represent valley constituencies will recall from their histories of their constituencies, many Welsh miners went to fight in the Spanish civil war to oppose fascism.

The essence of Welsh politics has not just been confined to domestic issues, but has extended to international ones as well, and that will be even more so in a devolved Wales. Far from being introspective, devolution has meant that—in the context of being not only part of the United Kingdom, but very special and different, too—we can exercise all the talents of Welsh men and women internationally as well as domestically.

For that reason, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South and the other members of the Welsh Affairs Committee for doing an excellent job in highlighting the

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profile of Wales and in ensuring that the Assembly and the Government have had to react positively to the points that the Select Committee has made. The Assembly and the Government have made enormous strides in raising the profile of Wales. Devolution has added a huge new dimension to our relationship with the rest of the world. It recognises the fact that, yes, we are part of the United Kingdom, but that we are a very special part of it, and I commend the Select Committee's report to the House.

1.47 pm

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): Today's subject is very important—"Wales in the World: the role of the UK Government in promoting Wales abroad". I am not sure whether to blow the cobwebs off that report—it is more than a year old. I suspect that we have the great people of England to thank for today's debate because, as everyone knows, local government elections are being held in England.

I am afraid that we will have to wait a couple of years for similar elections in Wales because, as the hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) said, the Welsh Assembly, in its great wisdom, decided to defer the Welsh elections by 12 months, so that they would not take place on the same day as the Welsh Assembly elections. None the less, I dusted down my copy of the report and had a good read. It is important that we do not look a gift horse in the mouth; we should take the opportunities that exist. I suspect that we had to battle hard against all the other competing bids for today's subject.

We should build on the report. In parts, it is a fairly miserable report, given that, of all the United Kingdom's constituent parts, Wales comes fourth out of four in terms of recognition. We are mostly known for things such as the Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales. News bulletins in the United States of America used to refer to them as the Waleses. [Interruption.] That is absolutely true, so it is indeed a case of God bless the Prince of Wales.

We are also known for our rugby skills, although I suspect that people are nostalgic about them these days. So there are the usual stereotypes, and I remember that the Minister for Europe, the right hon. Member for Neath (Peter Hain), was very keen on the phrase "Cool Cymru", but I suspect that his campaign has foundered.

I heard what the Secretary of State said about groups such as Catatonia, the Stereophonics and the Super Furry Animals. I suspect, however, that Wales does well out of their great success and talent in music rather than from anything that we can do. Charlotte Church was also mentioned, and Tom Jones was one of the great leaders in all of that.

The stereotypes are predictable, but the amount of ignorance about Wales worries me. When Charlotte Church met the President of the United States, he said to her, "What state is Wales in?" I do not know whether he was referring to the geography of Wales or the state of Wales. President Bush has a good sense of humour, and I suspect that he now knows exactly what state Wales is in.

Ignorance about Wales is perhaps not confined only to great world leaders. I received a reply yesterday to a question that I asked the Minister for E-Commerce and

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Competitiveness. I asked him what effect Post Office redundancies would have on communities in Lancashire. He replied:

I know that Wales is a large country, but it is interesting to note that even Ministers cannot work out its boundaries.

I decided to enter the word "Wales" into the Google internet search engine to see what came up. The No. 1 area of interest was the Welsh Assembly; the Wales Tourist Board only featured second. Perhaps the Welsh Assembly has now become the great tourist centre for the whole of Wales, and people are queueing up to visit it to see where everything is happening. After all, there is wall-to-wall coverage of the Assembly on S4C2.

Donald Anderson: The hon. Gentleman is not being helpful in the sense that anyone who has visited the Welsh Assembly's information centre must be impressed by what is there. It is, perhaps, a model that the House should follow.

Mr. Evans: My concern is getting people into Wales in the first place, not thinking about people queueing for and flocking to the Welsh Assembly's information centre and where they will go afterwards. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will share my concern that we need to get more tourists into Wales. I think that he will agree with some remarks that I shall make later about Swansea.

I wonder whether people were flocking to the Welsh Assembly to look at the £8 million hole where the new Welsh Assembly building should stand. Rarely has so much taxpayers' money been spent on achieving absolutely nothing. A fence has been erected around the hole to stop the tourists flocking there to look into it. That is a great shame; the fence should be taken down. Normally, when money is being misspent, people say that it is money being chucked down the hole. At least the Welsh Assembly has created the hole down which all the money can be thrown later. This is the new bold Wales, where our politicians can turn their backs on a children's hospital for Wales while spending millions on building a palace to glorify their own presence—and they cannot even get that right.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd): Will the hon. Gentleman inform the House whether he voted for or against the £250 million for Portcullis House?

Mr. Evans: With my hand on my heart, I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman, because I suspect that the vote went through at 11 or 12 o'clock at night, without a huge debate on the issue.

Lembit Öpik: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Evans: I shall do so in a moment. I know that the hon. Gentleman probably wants to welcome the defection yesterday of a Liberal Democrat on Cardiff council to the Conservatives. I shall give him every opportunity to praise that.

We all know about the transport problems in Wales. Sue Essex's and Rhodri Morgan's fun ride—the pods that are supposed to go between the Welsh Assembly and City

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hall—will cost £20 million. It is a case of Richard Rogers meets Buck Rogers in the 21st century, and it seems as though it will be a Disneyworld invention.

Thank goodness, the £20 million for the pods could not be better spent. We are grateful that all the roads in Wales are in good nick. There is no street crime, no waiting lists for the national health service and all our schools are in tip-top condition. There is nothing on which the money could have been better spent. Sadly, however, that is not the case. I know that the money could have been spent in a better way.

Lembit Öpik: I considered welcoming the defection of a Tory councillor to the Liberal Democrats—I refer to Mary Megarry in Pembroke—but I wish to make a plea for consistency. In the interests of consistency and not talking Wales down, will the hon. Gentleman seriously answer the question and tell us whether he opposes the kind of construction projects that led to Portcullis House and to the millennium dome, which I believe he supported at the time? If he says that he did not oppose those projects, how can he criticise the reasonable proposals in Wales that are designed to create a long-standing home for the Assembly? Members of the Conservative party in Wales, at least, seem to support the proposals.

Mr. Evans: Conservative Members of the Welsh Assembly totally opposed the erection of a new building on that site. They believed that the money should have been spent on a children's hospital for Wales. I hope that Liberal Democrats in Wales would want the money to be spent in that way.

I have said enough on the record to show that I thought that the £250 million for Portcullis House was extravagant expenditure. I also thought that the dome should never have been built. Indeed, I refused to go there throughout the entire time that it was open—

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