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2.19 pm

Mr. Martyn Jones (Clwyd, South): I am grateful for the opportunity to debate the report of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs on "Wales in the World". As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we originally asked for a debate in the Welsh Grand Committee because the subject is primarily, although not exclusively, of interest to Welsh Members. However, most hon. Members who represent English constituencies are otherwise occupied today and I am therefore pleased that we can debate the subject on the Floor of the House, which is even better than a Welsh Grand Committee.

It is good to debate the report after a sufficient length of time to test the Government's responsibility. Although the report is entitled "Wales in the World", the Welsh Affairs Committee surprisingly did not travel abroad. I offer my sincere apologies to our friends in the Press Gallery, if any are present, for so cruelly denying them their junketing headlines. We stayed in the United Kingdom for the inquiry.

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The inquiry arose from a visit to the United States when we were considering social exclusion.

Mr. Llwyd: Ah.

Mr. Jones: The hon. Gentleman will remember Chicago.

We saw some amazing projects in relation to the social exclusion report. The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) said earlier that we held an interesting telephone conference—we failed to get a video conference—with business men throughout the United States while we were there. One of the tenets of our report on economic investment in Wales was that Members of Parliament and Assembly Members should contact business men and women of Welsh descent when they travel abroad to encourage contacts.

We were disappointed at the lack of liaison between some aspects of the UK Government's promotion abroad and business men and women who have links with Wales. That prompted us to hold the inquiry, which involved inviting various authorities to see us here rather than junketing around the world. We also invited famous Welsh people to give evidence, including Bryn Terfel Jones, Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones. None was able to attend in person, and many members of the Committee were devastated that Miss Jones—perhaps I should say Mrs. Douglas—could not be present.

There was no conspiracy to ensure that only Joneses gave evidence. None of the three celebrities whom I mentioned are directly related to me.

Chris Ruane: They must be somewhere along the line.

Mr. Jones: They may well be distantly related, as all Joneses probably are. There is a serious point. Jones should be synonymous with Wales, as Roberts, Williams, Evans—

Lembit Öpik: Öpik.

Mr. Jones: I am not sure about that.

Chris Ruane: Murphy.

Mr. Jones: The Secretary of State's name represents one of our competitors, Ireland.

Jones is as important to Wales as are O'Reilly, O'Brien, O'Malley or, indeed, Murphy to Ireland or MacGregor, MacDonald or MacAllister to Scotland.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): Or Smith to England.

Mr. Jones: Indeed. However, American Smiths do not necessarily believe that they are English, whereas an O'Malley in Chicago, who may be fifth or sixth generation, still thinks of himself or herself as Irish. Welsh people come across the problem when trying to promote Wales abroad. The most obvious reason relates to the patterns of emigration from Britain to the US in the 19th or 20th centuries.

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The Irish emigrated to the US in much greater numbers than the Welsh and formed distinct Irish-American communities. Their Welsh counterparts were more likely to be integrated and assimilated in the melting pot of American society, possibly because of names.

Donald Anderson: To add a historical note, the great boom in emigration to the United States occurred at a time of relative prosperity in Wales, when there was inward migration to areas such as the valleys from rural areas. We therefore lost out in the period of emigration to which my hon. Friend refers.

Mr. Jones: I am sure that my right hon. Friend is correct.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that much of the migration in Wales was from north to south and from west to east? We should be proud of that, and not worry too much about the lack of Welsh diaspora in the United States. North-south and west-east migration saved many communities throughout Wales from economic decline and ensured the preservation of the Welsh language.

Mr. Jones: The hon. Gentleman is partly correct. Nevertheless, many people left Wales to go to America. For example, many coal miners in Michigan were of Welsh descent. They were called Jones and Williams, and it was therefore not obvious that they were Welsh. I do not completely accept the hon. Gentleman's point, but to extend it, many Welsh people emigrated to England. There was also immigration from England.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson) was right to say that we did not emigrate at that time because we did not have to. We were not in the same sad position as the Irish. Nevertheless, those who went to America from Wales tended not to be perceived as a distinct group, unlike Irish-Americans. It is therefore rare to meet a native-born American who describes himself as Welsh. A notable exception is Glyn Davies, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy. He is No. 2 to his excellency William Farish, the ambassador, and is proud to display his Welsh ancestry.

The position has begun to change since the advent of the internet. Myriad genealogy websites hosted in the United States on the world wide web are dedicated to helping Americans trace their Welsh ancestry. As the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) said, a survey by the British Council of young professionals and post-graduate students in 28 countries showed that, despite the world wide web, a problem remains: people with Welsh ancestry do not relate to Wales; they simply do not know about Wales.

The survey, which was undertaken in October 2000, showed that only 67 per cent. of respondents mentioned Wales when they were asked to name the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. By contrast, 85 per cent. mentioned England, 80 per cent. mentioned Scotland and 72 per cent. mentioned Northern Ireland. When they were asked to name something that they associated with Wales, the most common responses were the late Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales. Rugby, sheep, castles, the valleys and coal mining were among the other predictable answers. Probably none gives a true picture of

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Wales nowadays. There is nothing wrong with tradition, but those responses do not project an accurate image of modern Wales.

Many of the people we spoke to in America thought that Wales's lack of recognition in the wider world was a problem. Obviously, we did not expect the Government to be able to tackle the underlying demographic reasons for Wales's low international profile, but we decided that the issue was worth looking at to see what more could be done to boost Wales's image overseas.

The UK Government and their associated public bodies, and the National Assembly and its sponsored public bodies, have responsibility for promoting Wales abroad. Although the responsibilities of the Government relate primarily to the promotion of the UK as a whole—or of Great Britain, in some cases—those of the Assembly relate specifically to the promotion of Wales. That is not the whole story, however. Economic policy, transport links, housing, environmental protection, broadcasting and telecommunications all have an impact on investment and trade, including invisible exports such as income from overseas visitors.

The promotion of Wales needs to be seen as a thread running through numerous Government policy areas, rather than as a distinct policy in its own right. It is also important to recognise that promoting Britain or the UK as a whole is not enough. Wales, as the least-recognised country in the UK, is bound to lose out in an all-UK approach to overseas promotion. We believe that there must be a distinct promotion of Wales as a tourist destination, a location for inward investment and an exporter, alongside the more general promotion of the UK as a whole.

I am sure that other hon. Members will want to speak on trade and investment, but I shall make just a few points on those matters. Two bodies are responsible for promoting trade and investment in Wales.

Chris Ruane: Before my hon. Friend moves on to trade and investment, may I make a point about foreign tourists coming to Wales? The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) mentioned that only 1.4 per cent. of the foreign tourists who visit the UK come to Wales. How far does my hon. Friend think that the Welsh Affairs Committee's recommendation that the British Tourist Authority should set specific targets for each region of the UK will go towards redressing the imbalance?

Mr. Jones: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I shall come in a moment to tourism and the dichotomy between our population as a proportion of that of the UK as a whole and the amount of investment and/or tourists that we get. We are not pulling our weight in terms of the proportion of our population, and setting targets might well be a way forward. I do not think that that was a conclusion of our report, but perhaps the Government will look at the matter.

As I was saying, two bodies have responsibility for promoting trade and investment in Wales: British Trade International—an agency of the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade and Industry—which was created in 2000 to bring together the various components of trade and investment promotion for the UK; and WalesTrade International, which was established by the Assembly at about the same time to bring together the overseas trade

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work previously carried out by the Welsh Development Agency and the Assembly itself. WalesTrade International has two members of staff based overseas, and the WDA has 25. British Trade International has a network of 1,400 overseas staff, based in more than 200 posts and covering roughly 140 overseas markets.

Although they are still relatively new organisations, the evidence suggests that Trade Partners UK—the branch of BTI that handles trade—and WalesTrade International are working well together. Assembly officials went so far as to describe their working relationship with Trade Partners UK as "excellent". The chief executive of BTI told us that it had had a good deal of success with a number of products from Wales, including contracts in Brazil and South Africa for a Merthyr Tydfil firm that makes heavy lifting equipment, the export of camera equipment for use in large stadiums and the export of self-adhesive film used in the aircraft industry to the middle east and Latin America. One reason for the good relations between Trade Partners UK and WalesTrade International might be that Trade Partners UK was first established at about the time that devolution was taking place, and efforts were made to involve the devolved Administrations right from the start.

Over the past 20 years, Wales has been markedly more successful than other parts of the UK in terms of inward investment. Although its share of inward investment into the UK has fallen over the past 10 years or so from 19 per cent. to 11 per cent., it is still far higher in proportion to its share of the population. That is one plus factor. Inward investment was effective in creating large numbers of jobs to replace those lost in the coal and steel industries in the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately, the need for inward investment in steel-making areas is becoming just as pressing now as it was then, as Corus implements its closure programme.

Unfortunately, witnesses' confidence in Trade Partners UK was not entirely matched when it came to Invest UK, British Trade International's inward investment wing. The WDA works closely with Invest UK and believes that it has a successful track record, but it is concerned that Wales has, on occasion, been poorly represented by Invest UK. It alleges that a number of high-profile investment missions from Japan and Korea have not included Wales on their itinerary, despite the fact that both countries have strong business links with Wales and despite lobbying from the WDA.

To some extent, this is reflected in Invest UK's outcomes. Of 757 inward investment decisions recorded by the WDA in 1999–2000, only 45 went to Wales. At just under 6 per cent. of the total, this is considerably smaller than Wales's overall share of UK inward investment, suggesting that investors who approach the UK through Invest UK are less likely to invest in Wales than those who approach it via some other route. My hon. Friend's suggestion about targets might have some relevance to Invest UK's policies.

The First Minister told us that relations between the WDA and the Invest in Britain Bureau, Invest UK's predecessor body, had been "pretty unhealthy" for a long time, but that, since the creation of BTI, relations with Invest UK had begun to improve. Invest UK's main argument about the level of support it provides to the WDA is that it is not for Invest UK to direct potential investors to any particular part of the UK. Investors must

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make their own decisions, based on their business needs and on what each region has to offer. Invest UK's job is to maximise the total size of the investment cake. I would suggest that it is not doing that if it does not get the same proportion of investment into Wales as it is getting in general terms.

I shall move on to tourism. Wales's share of inward investment may be greater than our share of the population, but our share of overseas tourists is much smaller. We get about 1.4 per cent. of Britain's £12.7 billion overseas tourism revenue. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley mentioned that point, and it is relevant. Tourism is important to the Welsh economy as a whole, and particularly important in those parts of the country where it is the main source of income for local businesses. On the positive side, we get about 8 per cent. of domestic tourism revenues.

I am sure that hon. Members need no reminder of the many reasons why Wales is such an outstanding tourist destination, but for those who are interested, we set some of them out in paragraphs 22 to 25 of the report. Even that rather lengthy list only skims the surface.

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