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Lembit Öpik: It is precisely the point. If we want Wales to be seen in a positive light, we must be willing to make courageous investments in the short term which pay off in the long term. Part of that is an investment in the public image of the democratic process that we hope will play an increasingly significant role in decisions for the Welsh people. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley is a tremendously nice manat least from time to timebut Conservative Members must view difficult long-term decisions for Wales in a less opportunistic way.
Mr. Evans: The hon. Gentleman has found his way from Estonia through Ireland and into Wales. Will he state clearly that he agrees that taxpayers' money would be far better spent on a children's hospital, for instance, than on a palace for the politicians of the Welsh Assembly? Indeed, as he knows, the result of the referendum was
The argument deployed by the hon. Member for Ribble Valley is cheeky, because the matter is not one of either/or. Indeed, he might argue similarly that had we not built Portcullis House, we could have built 10 children's hospitals around the United Kingdom. I simply counsel him to value the benefit of consistency or to move out of his office in Portcullis House.
I shall finish with a few thoughts about the benefits of us all becoming international ambassadors for Wales. I know that the hon. Member for Clwyd, South always carries his passport, but we can all make an effort in other ways. We can fulfil one implicit recommendation in the report by asking prominent people in the diaspora of Wales to play their part in selling Wales. There are many examples of successful ambassadors for Ireland and for Scotland, and we probably undersell ourselves by simply not asking questions of such people, who would probably be willing to celebrate their Welsh connections.
In addition, we should exploit the potential of unexpected heroes who have high credibility around the world. Robert Owen, who coincidentally was born in Newtown in Montgomeryshire, was the architect of the co-operative movementand who would deny that? He has a tremendous standing in certain parts of the world, way beyond that which he enjoys in the UK. His work is admired and he is well known among many peoplenot just academicsin Japan, which is mentioned in the report. There may be opportunities for us to create cultural tourism and an economic respect for some of the traditions in Wales, and to use that as one way to increase our standing on the international circuit. The Robert Owen Society has done great work in promoting that case, and I do what I can as well.
Robert Owen is just one example that I know of; I am sure that hon. Members could think of similar ambassadors from the past who could be used to illustrate the extent to which Wales has influenced international thinking. I have little doubt that such an approach could provide an important and meaningful lever in places such as Japan and elsewhere.
In addition, we need to make greater ambassadors of our national celebrations. Let us consider what St. Patrick's day has done for the south of Ireland. It prompts a global celebration. To Rhodri Morgan's great credit, he has seen such potential. Indeed, he went to the United States of America on St. David's day to make some
Mr. Evans: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there was a tartan parade in New York on St. Andrew's day, just as there is a parade for St. Patrick's day? Because the United States is such an important market, it might not be a bad idea to concentrate a little effort in New York and do something similar for St. David's day.
Lembit Öpik: The hon. Gentleman is right; we could all add our creative thoughts on how that could best be done. Few countries in the world fail to take such opportunities. For example, there are tremendous celebrations, with which hon. Members will be familiar, on independence day in Estonia every yearI assure hon. Members that that will be the last time that I mention that country in this debate.
It is good that we have had, for whatever reason, an opportunity to debate on the Floor of the House the role of Wales. I am confident that, blessed as we are with some of the best journalists anywhere in the world, we shall get a fair wind in tomorrow's press, as they act as ambassadors for a new spirit in the media, providing the inspiration that will flow from this Chamber like wild fire, first through the Welsh nation and then across the wider world.
It would be worth reviewing how we are doing on this subject. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley suggested that we revisit it in 12 months' time, but that will of course be the day of the Assembly elections. I think that we need a little longer to allow such a strategic approach to take root.
Nevertheless, if Wales has the courage to develop the kind of visions that we are discussingI have added my viewsand we have the soul to reach out across the world to potential friends, allies and investors in Wales, we can not only make more frequent travellers to Wales spend a little longer in our fair nation more often, but we can make Wales the final destination for international investment. It is up to us to make that happen in partnership with the Welsh Assembly. If we do so, I am sure that a larger proportion of economically active individuals and the Welsh public will feel that we are serving them well in a practical sense.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): This has been a very interesting debate. I now know quite a lot about Estonia. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) for filling me in on those details.
I also want to talk about other countries and Wales's link with them. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said at the beginning of the debate, Wales has always been internationalist in its approach to the rest of the world. I think of Keir Hardie, or of Henry Richard, the apostle of peace, and of the many people who have contributed to the success of the United Nations. Wales has always played an honourable role in key posts in the United Nations, yet we sometimes forget the contributions that we have made to the development of that institution.
Hywel Williams: Will the hon. Lady therefore applaud and welcome the recent initiative taken by Urdd Gobaith Cymru and Cymorth CristnogolChristian Aidto establish Croeso Calcutta, which will link young people in Wales with that great city on the Indian sub-continent?
Ann Clwyd: I welcome all such links; they are very important. The twinning arrangements of so many Welsh towns bring together two communities whose people might not otherwise have an opportunity to visit people in other countries. That has been important in Cynon Valley, for example, which is twinned with many other parts of the world. I certainly welcome that.
I also pay tribute to the National Union of Mineworkers, which always maintained its international links. The father of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis), Dai Francis, was one of those who ensured that such international links were solid and continuous. Indeed, the mining community that is still left in my constituency has considerable links with miners from other countries.
Other hon. Members have mentioned Welsh film making, and we hope that soon a film about Tower colliery will be made for international distribution. I hope that that will bring opportunities for people in Cynon Valley. Filming has already started, and I am sure that mining communities in many other parts of the world will be able to identify with the film. Many people were interested in the struggle to keep Tower going, especially in France and Belgium, and that was important to us at the time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) mentioned the Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, and similar organisations exist for Cuba, Lesotho and other countries. The group Christians against Torture is mainly made up of church and chapel people in Wales and it is extremely active. One issue that it has focused on is the Turkish Kurdish Members of Parliament who were imprisoned eight years ago. People in Wales have kept up links with those Members of Parliament, and last Easter when I visited Leyla Zana in prison in Ankara she showed me a letter from some of the members of that group in Cardiff. Throughout the time she has been in prison she has corresponded with them and they played a role in getting her husband out of prison. Indeed, he visited Cardiff a few years ago to thank people for their efforts on his behalf.
I mention that issue because, as Members of Parliament, we should be concerned about Members of Parliament in other countries who cannot fulfil their mandates, perhaps because they have been sent to prison unfairly.