Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Lembit Öpik: For the sake of the record, I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. My point was simply that, although tourism may not account for a great proportion of Wales's GDP, farmers are the guardians of the overwhelming majority of the surface area that people come to visit. I am grateful to him for letting me clarify that.

Mr. Llwyd: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I accept what he says.

I also welcome the new walking campaign initiative. There are great walks all over Wales, and we need to look also at the concept of themed holidays. We have excellent facilities for fishing, golf and almost any activity that one could name. We need to make sure that people out there know that, as the story has not been told clearly enough hitherto.

Wales has a low share of tourism, due in part to the lack of facilities, but more to the fact that the country is not being sold as well as it should be abroad. That message comes over fairly clearly in the report.

Mrs. Betty Williams: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the Snowdonia Green Key scheme had gone ahead as intended, that would have been yet another kick in the teeth for tourism in north-west Wales?

Mr. Llwyd: I oppose that scheme. Places such as Betws-y-Coed and Llanrwst have been told that there will

2 May 2002 : Column 1102

be gateway places, where people will have to park and take buses. There is no room to park as it is—it is absolutely ridiculous. We have heard fantasy figures about 75 jobs being created, but heaven only knows where those jobs will come from. There must be a rethink. I agree that there should be a regular bus service, but it must be voluntary. People should not be forced off at places that have no facilities. I agree entirely with the hon. Lady.

We could make more of the centre for alternative technology at Machynlleth, which is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), and I know that he is a regular visitor. It is a landmark development and has been for many years. It is at the cutting edge of environmental developments and could be linked to green tourism.

The Government's response also mentioned some welcome initiatives. The British Tourist Authority and the Wales Tourist Board organised a visit to Wales of trade and media leaders. Mr. Glyn Davies of the American embassy accepted an invitation at short notice to come up to Portmeirion to give an extra boost to tourism in Wales and to make it plain to his friends in America and beyond that the food is perfectly safe and that they are missing out. We all owe him a vote of thanks for that. We should also thank the ambassador who arranged the 1 March celebration at his residence. It was an astounding success and a very welcome initiative, which I hope will be repeated next year. I am not exactly singing for my supper, but I must say that it was rather good.

The report is concerned that the overall marketing of the United Kingdom fails to market the worth of the different countries within it. Predictably, the BTA and the British Council say that Wales has its fair share, but that is not the case and we need to look at the structures again.

Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): My hon. Friend will be aware that cultural tourism is a growth area worldwide. Does he agree that, as that trend continues, the cultural and linguistic distinctiveness of Wales will give us an edge? Should we not, therefore, take steps to encourage greater bilingualism and ensure that a greater proportion of Welsh speakers work in the hospitality sector in all parts of Wales?

Mr. Llwyd: I agree entirely. We should no longer think of tourism as a Cinderella industry—it is not. Tourism can be very well paid. Our colleagues in Ireland, for example, look upon it as another respectable industry, not badly paid and very often year-round. We can develop our industry, and our cultural differences can play a part.

In 1996, S4C conducted a survey that showed that 62 per cent. of people from outside Wales thought that Wales was simply sheep and coal mines—a strange and not very positive image. Our cousins in Scotland and Ireland are marketing their industries expertly.

The recent campaign by the Wales Tourist Board is welcome, and not simply because it keeps my daughter in work. The big country campaign captures the "bigness" of spirit and emotion that is inspired by the Welsh people and our fabulous landscape.

The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) has been instrumental in inviting people who are considering making a film about the Arthurian legend in north Wales,

2 May 2002 : Column 1103

and all credit to him for that. We could develop that further, because we have a distinct history that could be marketed.

We need to concentrate on the transport problems that are holding Wales back, although we must not talk Wales down in doing so. I agree that developing regional airports would be a useful measure.

The future of our £2 billion tourist industry depends to a large extent on nurturing a highly skilled work force to provide the high-quality holiday experience that is expected and demanded—rightly—by our discerning visitors. We need to come up to speed—very often we do, as we have excellent facilities.

The tourism training forum, a new independent body set up by the Wales Tourist Board, is doing a good job. Education and Learning in Wales is assisting, as is the National Assembly for Wales. However, according to the Welsh Economic Review, published yesterday, the National Assembly should play a more pivotal role in marketing Wales, extending to bringing the likes of the Wales Tourist Board and Welsh business together to market Wales fully on the back of events such as the Ryder cup and the Network Q rally.

The Government response points out that the Wales Office should do as much as it can to represent Wales abroad and to give a good view of it. Not long ago, the Secretary of State made a speech in Bruges, in which he denigrated nationalists and said:

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he did not regard English people as foreigners in Wales, thereby insinuating that English people were often not made to feel welcome in Wales. That is not part of our thinking—it never has been and never will be. Ministers should talk up Wales when they go abroad, not pick off their political opponents and give the wrong impression of Wales.

The Government response highlighted the important role of the Wales Office in representing Wales abroad. A parliamentary question answered on 17 April showed that, between them, the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Wales have undertaken only one trade mission since July 1999—the ill-fated and now fabled train ride to the Czech Republic. One trade mission in 22 months does not represent a high profile, I regret to say.

Chris Ruane: The hon. Gentleman criticises my right hon. Friend for saying in his speech in Bruges that the Welsh nationalists have an anti-English feeling. Is he aware that Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, shares that view? He admitted that there is an anti-English feeling within Welsh language nationalism that risked deepening tensions between Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers.

Mr. Llwyd: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman knows this, but I have been singled out for criticism by those very people, so I am not really qualified to say anything. They are more prejudiced against me than

2 May 2002 : Column 1104

against the hon. Gentleman, so I do not know where that leaves us. However, I was pleased to see the hon. Gentleman's colleague pass him that crib note.

We in Wales need to attract further investment in the knowledge-based industries. We are falling behind; we need more liaison with universities. The importance of inward investment in this sector cannot be overestimated.

Some 50 major Japanese companies currently operate in Wales. They recognise what Wales has to offer—a high standard of living, a loyal and adaptable work force and a clean, healthy and beautiful environment. Here comes the nasty bit—on Tuesday evening the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) criticised Plaid Cymru Members for not being in the Chamber for the Finance Bill debate. All four Members of Plaid Cymru spoke in the Budget debate proper or in the Welsh Grand Committee debate on the Budget. We were represented in the Finance Bill debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Mr. Weir), a member of the Scottish National party.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly is a new Member, so he probably does not understand: we are a joint grouping, and we were represented that evening by my hon. Friend the Member for Angus. Furthermore, my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) popped in and out of the debate regularly. Neither the hon. Member for Caerphilly nor one single member of the Welsh parliamentary Labour party bothered to turn up to the debate on UK-Japanese relations on 11 April in Westminster Hall, despite many Labour Members having important Japanese concerns in their constituency. Of course, it was a Thursday—time to skive off. [Hon. Members: "No."]

Mr. David rose

Next Section

IndexHome Page