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4.27 pm

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd): As many Members have said, this is an important debate. We have talked about the Welsh diaspora, and the first Welsh person to

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start it was Prince Madoc in 1170. He discovered America 300 years before Columbus and 200 years before St. Brendan of Ireland.

Wales has a proud tradition in America. When I visited the deputy ambassador, Glyn Davies, two years ago to discuss Wales in America, he pointed out to me a brass plaque that depicted the declaration of independence. He went through the names of every one of those who signed the declaration. One third of them were Welsh. We have a proud tradition in north America. However, perhaps we should be less proud of the fact that five of the top 10 names for black people in America are Welsh names—Lewis, Williams, Jones and so on. That may be because the Welsh were the first colonists out there and owned slaves.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that hardly a family in Wales does not have a connection in America, and that applies to my family. My sister Maureen Ellis left Wales 24 years ago; my sister Kathy Wazera left for America 22 years ago; and my sister Amy Kelly went to America 12 years ago.

Mr. Evans: When is the hon. Gentleman going?

Chris Ruane: I am staying put.

Indeed, 4 million Americans claim Welsh heritage. The American census form contains a Welsh tick box, which will please Conservative Members. Some 4 million people ticked that box to say that they were of Welsh descent.

Kevin Brennan: Is my hon. Friend aware of two other interesting points about names in America? First, to emphasise what he said about the names of black Americans, the greatest long jump final of all time was between Mike Powell, Carl Lewis and Larry Meyrick. Secondly, a recent book indicates that America is probably named after a Welsh merchant who lived near Bristol called Ameurig.

Chris Ruane: We should not forget to include Jesse Owens on that proud list of black Americans with Welsh names.

There are 300 St. David's societies around the world. I was given a list of those five years ago and it was already out of date then. When I saw the list, I thought what a fantastic network to use to promote Welsh culture, investment, exports, tourism and academia. Indeed, we have made great gains in promoting Wales around the world and attracting investment into Wales. We have had significant successes—the 143 American companies that have invested in Wales are proof of that. Between 1983 and 2000, there was £5 billion of American investment in Wales, which created 75,000 jobs.

The Welsh Development Agency is probably the most successful development agency in the world. Twenty years ago, there were only three development agencies in Tokyo, one of which was the WDA. We have made good use of our consulates, increasingly so since devolution. Last summer, I travelled at my own expense to the Gymanfa Ganu in San Jose and spent an evening at the British consulate in San Francisco, where 150 people of Welsh extraction, including Welsh business people, mingled together, networking to strengthen the bonds between Wales and America.

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However, we need to build on our successes. For relatively little money, with some organisational skills and through recognition and co-operation, we could help to expand Wales's influence around the world. Wales International produces an excellent publication that goes back 50 years called "Yr Enfys"—"The Rainbow". "Yr Enfys" is about to collapse for the sake of £5,000 per annum. Wales International contributed to the Welsh Affairs Committee when it looked into the position of Wales in the world. It is a fantastic organisation, whose aims are:

It is possible for organisations such as Wales International to fold for the sake of £5,000.

The Gymanfa Ganu is a fantastic celebration of Welshness across the whole of north America. Last year, it was held in San Jose and more than 2,000 people of Welsh extraction attended. Rather than finance, that great organisation requires recognition and an awareness among the political and cultural classes within Wales of what it does. I travelled with my family, and Rhodri Morgan and his wife, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan), also attended. We were the only three political representatives there.

Mr. Prisk: Why does the hon. Gentleman think that, historically, Irish communities have got into the political culture of the countries that they have moved to, but Welsh communities have not been so successful?

Chris Ruane: Ruane is an Irish name from Galway on the west coast. I am aware of the great strides that the Irish people have taken in developing their international network.

I would urge all hon. Members to visit the Gymanfa Ganu at least once. I think that it takes place in Ontario this year. It deserves our political support and is a great networking opportunity for Welsh businesses, Welsh culture and Welsh academia.

Numerous hon. Members have pointed out that, when the Welsh Affairs Committee visited America to look into social exclusion, we were contacted by the Welsh North American Chamber of Commerce. The group comprises about 100 eminent business people who are spread across north America. Some of them are millionaires and multi-millionaires, and they provide a valuable Welsh network. Most of them are of Welsh extraction. The group is headed by David Williams, who has become a good friend of mine in the past couple of years. It thinks that it has been ignored by the WDA and the Wales Tourist Board, and instead of co-operation, there was confrontation. It is a valuable asset in America. Bridges have been built, but we still need more co-operation between independent Welsh organisations in America.

Adam Price: The hon. Gentleman has strongly made the point about the economic advantages of the Welsh

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diaspora several times. To pick up on something that the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) said, it is true that Welsh business people outside Wales have been tremendously successful, not least in America. I can think of JP Morgan, Jack Daniel and, more recently, the former head of CBS, who is of Welsh extraction.

Chris Ruane: Absolutely; I believe that the former head of CBS was at the Gymanfa Ganu last year. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the success of Welsh people in America.

David Williams has set up a business network across north America. He says that an equivalent networking system is desperately needed for Welsh academics. Our greatest export over the past 100 years has been our young people and our young qualified people, thousands of whom have ended up in academic institutions in Canada and the USA. It would be beneficial to the Welsh economy if we could develop a network between those academics, to make them aware of the research and the developments in Wales, and the fact that Wales is developing a booming economy. We could even try to convince them to return. That has been done in Ireland, where there is a skills shortage. At Easter and Christmas, people go to Dublin and Shannon airports to ask people where they are from and what their qualifications are, before pointing out job opportunities in Ireland. I urge the development of a Welsh academic establishment across America and, indeed, the world.

We could also develop the twinning of towns and counties in Wales. That already happens on a haphazard basis and has been mentioned by several hon. Members. My county of Denbighshire is twinned with a region of Sweden and my home town of Rhyl is developing a twinning relationship with Athay in county Clare in Ireland. I also believe that Lesotho and Wales have been twinned for a number of years. We need promotion, co-ordination and perhaps a pocket of finance to draw on to develop the bonds around the world between Welsh towns, counties and organisations.

Click Cymru is another idea that warrants attention. I was involved with Hicks Randles in Mold in north Wales, and mentioned the 300 Welsh societies that exist around the world. People at that company thought it would be an excellent idea if we harnessed the support of the societies to develop the Welsh economy. They did a great deal of work on that for no pay—it was all off their own bat. Over a two-year period, they met high-powered people in BT, Barclays and the National Library of Wales to develop a portal—a database—for Wales. Specifically, they were interested in developing tourism.

The hon. Members for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) and for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr (Adam Price) said that we need to attract people to visit Wales as a first resort. It will be difficult to do that, but one way is by developing links with the Welsh diaspora and by developing research resources, as Ireland has done. Fifteen years ago, the Taoiseach took young people off the dole and taught them computer skills. They went through the parish registers of births, marriages and deaths and the shipping registers, and put them all on to computer databases. Each county in the north and south of Ireland had a research centre, and those were used as a worm on a hook to attract people of Irish extraction back to the old country to research their roots. Many people

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did so and spent money in the local economy. They also strengthened even further the bond between Ireland, Irish-Americans and Irish people around the world.

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