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Mr. Llwyd: I do not want to intrude on private grief, so will the hon. Gentleman join me in congratulating Ian Botham on his superb effort to raise nearly £1 million for a hospital for children in Wales? Will he, and Labour Members, consider signing early-day motion 1224, which is on that subject?
Mr. Evans: I welcome the early-day motion. I was delighted by the enormous effort and commitment that Ian Botham put into the walk. I believe that Catherine Zeta Jones met him at one stage of the tour. We should recognise the enormous efforts that he made to raise such sums, but I have just spoken about £40 million for a new building for the Welsh Assembly and £20 million for the project involving the pods. We should consider using those vast sums in other ways.
Mr. Evans: Successive Secretaries of State for Wales showed an enormous commitment to Wales over the 18 years that we were in power. I bet that people in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and elsewhere now feel that, five years after the promise was made that "Things can only get better"not just in Wales, but the whole UKthings have not got better: in fact, they have got a great deal worse.
Let us take the opportunity provided by this debate to tick some boxes. The Secretary of State for Wales might care to put in a bid to hold a debate on Wales in the world every year so that we can consider the issues raised by the report and the Government's response and examine suggestions made by the Welsh Assembly and by councils throughout Wales. That would enable us to see how we could do a lot a better for Wales. We should create tick boxes to set targets by which we can be judged in 12 months' time.
Mr. Evans: Thank you for your protection, Madam Deputy Speaker. As a riposte, however, may I ask why the hon. Gentleman accepted a seat in Westminster on the basis of first past the post when his party opposes that system? I assume that he did that because it is the system and the Liberal Democrats use it. For the same reason, I have an office in Portcullis House.
I want to consider those things on which we can make a difference. The Secretary of State mentioned tourism, which is vital to Wales. It accounts for 7 per cent. of our gross domestic product and one in 10 Welsh jobs. Some 100,000 jobs in 10,000 businesses, many of them small businesses, are in that industry. I do not declare an interest because my retail business in Swansea is not on the tourist trail. If any tourists are wandering around Town hill, I suspect that they are lost or visiting relatives. However, the industry is important. It contributes about £5 million a day to the Welsh economy and 50 per cent. of tourism revenue comes from rural Wales. An increase in tourism benefits all such businesses.
The Secretary of State mentioned foot and mouth, which was a dire disease. It hit agriculture hard. We now know, if we did not know it before, how important agriculture and the natural environment are to tourism. We need to reconsider what support we can give to Welsh farming and we must have a public inquiry into foot and mouth to ensure that it never happens again.
Overseas tourism is worth about £12 billion to the United Kingdom. Wales has only a small share of thatabout £176 million, or just under 1.4 per cent, which is a tiny percentage. The report clearly highlights the fact that many visitors do not know about Wales even when they
I heard what the hon. Member for Conwy said and think that the vast majority of people in Wales open their arms to tourists and give a big welcome to visitors from any part of the world, including England. English tourists are important to Wales. They spend money at bed and breakfasts and hotels and in restaurants and cafés. It is important that we make certain that everyone in England knows they will get a good royal welcome when they come to Wales.
We know what Wales has to offer historically. The Secretary of State spoke about the beauty of Wales. Its coastline is superb, from the Gower peninsula right up to Aberystwyth[Interruption.] Yes, the coast goes right round to Llandudno, which will shortly host the Conservative conference in Wales.
Wales is also known for the international music festival in Llangollen and the Eisteddfod, which alternates between north and south Wales. Cardiff hosts the international singer of the world contest, and there are other international music festivals. We have much of which we can be proud.
I was born in Swansea and lived there for 33 years. Some of my family still lives there. I think we have learned a great deal in that time. Swansea used to have the oldest passenger railway in the world which ran along the Mumbles road. In the 1960s, in a gross act of wanton vandalism, the railway was done away with. We now know that it would have helped with congestion on the Mumbles road, and thousands of tourists would have come to see it.
Mr. Evans: The number of tourists who would have come to Swansea to see the oldest passenger railway in the world would have earned Wales enough tax pounds and produced sufficient money through a growing economy for that not to be a problem.
We know that Swansea has a lot to offer. We know too that Cardiff is a buzzing city with great growth and development, and not only because of the millennium stadium. We wish both cup final teams and their supporters well. We hope that the weather is fine for them and that they have a peaceful and enjoyable Saturday in Cardiff. May the best team win.
Huw Irranca-Davies: I welcome the direction that the hon. Gentleman is taking in his speech, which has a very positive outlook. He mentioned that significant tourist attractions can draw in people from abroad, and we have seen that happen with the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
Mr. Evans: It depends on what is done in those buildings. I think that architecture is important in certain circumstances. The old City hall in Cardiff, for example, is a wonderful and impressive building, and people would come to look at it because of its architecture, both inside and outside.
We have talked about all the great things in Wales, but we know that we have a problem in getting tourists into Wales. One difficulty is competition from cheap airlines. One only has to look on the internet to see that there are several, including BMI, easyJet, Ryanair, Go and Buzz, which can fly people to an amazing array of places for small sums. They can go to Barcelona, Portugal, Ibiza or Nice for £25, to Dublin for £19, and to Venice for £15. They go to those places for sunshine, among other things, and we have to compete in that market and do better.
I heard what the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) said about southern Ireland. The Irish Tourist Board has a very large budgetfour times that of Walesso perhaps we ought to look at ours. We should find out how it is spent, how effective it is and what the return is. We can then see whether we can do better with our resources.
Mr. Evans: I do not know which airline the shadow Secretary of State for Health has been using, but when it comes to returns, the hon. Gentleman will soon be learning of our policies to improve the NHS in this country, including Wales, where of course it is in a poor state.
Those who have travelled to the United States of America and other places recently will have seen the Welsh Development Agency advertisement, which comes on after the news and before the main movie or entertainment section. It is a very good advertisement, and it will achieve enormous returns for Wales. One of the greatest growth areas in the economy is tourism, and within that the greatest growth is in short stayspeople stay somewhere on Friday and Saturday night and return home on Sunday. We have to be in that market.
Cardiff airport is successful, and I am sure that we were all disappointed by the announcement that British Airways was withdrawing a number of routes. That cannot be good news. In 1999, 1.3 million passengers used the airport, and in 2001 the figure was more than 1.5 million. That is a good growth record, and although 11 September may have affected it somewhat, we can only hope that use of the airport continues to grow. We need a proper roads infrastructure leading from the airport to the M4, and the road between the airport and Cardiff needs dualling. The airport should be seen as a gateway to south Wales, and we need to ensure that it has the proper infrastructure.
I commend Martin and Louisa Morgan, who took over Swansea airport from the local authority. The airport was always seen as a dead weight around Swansea council's neck but we hope that, with the Morgans' investment and entrepreneurship, it will become a magnet not only for people in Swansea, but for the whole of west Wales. We all recognise that the announcement about ITV Digital will have an appalling effect in Pembrokeshire, where more than 1,000 jobs will be losta tragedy for the area, which already has the second highest unemployment in Wales. We need to look at boosting business opportunities in Swansea and west Wales. Martin and Louisa have already invested a considerable amount in Swansea airport. When I was a lad, its glory was fading and the airfield was used more for car boot sales on bank holiday Mondays than for air traffic.
Thanks to the Morgans' investment, they now employ 50 people, although there were only three employees when they took the airport over. The airport has full fire facilities and restaurants, and I hope that the Secretary of State can visit as soon as possible to see what sort of help he can give the airport and Air Wales, which has been responsible for the boost in air traffic at Swansea. If the runway was extended, it could take charter aircraft and 737s, which could mean that direct links with other European capitals would be on the cards. Air Wales already flies to Dublin, a hub for the rest of the world, and we must see what we can do to assist with an expansion of flight destinations. I was staggered to learn that none of the airports in Wales is eligible for objective 1 funding, which is a great shame, as it might have given them the extra boost that they need. Will the Secretary of State examine that matter as Welsh airports need investment? Will he meet the Welsh Development Agency, local authorities and any representatives of the Welsh Assembly to put in place a strategy for Swansea airport and, following that, other regional airports?
I pay tribute to Roy Thomas, who started Air Wales only a couple of years ago. The airline now employs 30 people and flies from Cardiff to Cork and Dublin, which is welcome following British Airways' announcement of the withdrawal of its Cardiff-Dublin service. Last October, Air Wales started to fly from Swansea to Dublin and, a month later, to Cork as well. It is now looking to buy two larger, 42-seater planes to add to its existing 19-seater Dornier aircraft. Air Wales is doing a terrific job; we should see how we can help it and Swansea airport.
A Swansea-London route would be a great link. It would be great for tourists travelling to London and for business people in London who wish to expand their enterprises in Wales. If we had an airport that could provide such a service, the London route would pay for itself. I urge the Secretary of State to have discussions with Air Wales and Swansea airport to see if we can do anything to facilitate that. Expansion would help bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants and conference facilities, not only in Swansea but in a much wider area, and would help us to develop opportunities in west Wales.
I want briefly to cover two other aspects of Wales in the world, the first being Atlantic college, which the Secretary of State has visited on at least two occasions. When I went there recently, I spoke to the principal about how the college is expanding. Anyone who goes there cannot but be impressed by what it has to offer. It runs a two-year baccalaureate and has 330 students from 70 countriesalthough, sadly, only 20 are from Wales. I know that the Secretary of State was impressed by what he saw, so will he consider how to enable more studentsmany of whom are on bursariesto go to the college, which has a superb reputation not only in Wales, but throughout the world?
Three weeks ago, I met a senior Chinese politician touring the House of Commons, who said that he went to Atlantic college. There are enormous potential spin-offs from all the links that that gentleman will develop back in China as his career progresses. The college has been open since 1962, and thousands of youngsters have passed through it, mostly from other parts of the world. That will pay dividends for Wales in future as those young people rememberwith great affection, I suspecttheir experiences in Wales.
When I spoke to the college principal, he talked about a young girl from a valley seat who had recently come for interview, and whom he described as dynamite. The college offered her a three-quarters bursary, but her parents are unable to meet the cost of the other quarter. It is a crying shame that a Welsh youngster with the necessary ability, skill and talent is unable to benefit from going to Atlantic college. At one time, local authorities provided bursaries to send young people from all parts of Wales to the college, but no longer. If there is still an opportunity to get that young girl into the college, will the Secretary of State consider what can be done to assist in that, whether through local authorities or business sponsorship? Let us open the doors of that Welsh college to more Welsh people and, indeed, more people from the United Kingdom.
I mentioned the collapse of ITV Digital and the enormous impact that that will have on an area that is already an unemployment black spot. That comes on top of job losses in other companies, including Consignia, throughout the whole of Wales: British Airways, in Cardiff; Pirelli Cables; RD Precision, which makes aircraft parts; Alcoa; GE Aircraft Engines; Corning Optical; and Sony. The Secretary of State knows first-hand about the enormous impact of the closure of Corus, which led to redundancies in south and north Wales.
The WDA is playing its role in trying to sell Wales, but its job has become tougher since it has had to compete against other development agencies throughout the whole of the UK. The Secretary of State spoke about our representatives going to New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and other parts of the world. I mentioned China, which is of course one of the great growth areas of the world. It would be useful to try to secure more trade between China and Wales. He said that the representatives will be properly trained. Will he ensure that they are fully aware of the extent of the abilities of manufacturing and service companies in Wales, so that they can be proactive about looking for the opportunities abroad that will enable our exporters to build on the £6 billion that he mentioned, as well as finding new opportunities to help some of our smaller businesses?
The report is important. This debate has come about by a fluke, but let us use the opportunity well by being constructive in our suggestions about how to help businesses in Wales. We should not walk away thinking, "Oh well, that's another day filled; there's no vote, so we can just forget about it", because that would be a complete waste of the debate. Let us revisit what we said today because I am sure that hon. Members from all parties will make constructive suggestions about ways to support Welsh businesses and get people more interested in Wales. Let us reconsider the debate in 12 months and ascertain what has been achieved and how we can build on the opportunity that today provides.