The case for saying yes to Finnish industry

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The Independent Online
That old tart John Marshall, the Tory member for Hendon South, does not have to be seduced by the whips to ask tame questions to ministers - he is quite happy to perform the act unpaid. So his usual contribution to Scots or Welsh questions is to table a query such as this: "To ask the Secretary of State if he will make a statement about recent projects relating to inward investment in Wales". His oral supplementary will invariably consist of an invitation to the minister to contrast the present massive drive by everyone in the Far East to set up factories in Wales, with the economic devastation likely to follow in the wake of a minimum wage, adherence to the social chapter and a Welsh Assembly.

So it was yesterday - though Mr Marshall managed a final rhetorical flourish. Would the minister "confirm to Finnish industrialists that they are welcome in Wales, even if Finnish nurses are not welcome in Hackney". Experienced drivers will tell you that it is possible, given the state of roadworks on the North Circular, to take a wrong turn and end up in the Principality. Even so, one wondered where Mr Marshall's breezy confidence about the Welsh actually came from.

By chance Lady Olga Maitland (Con, Sutton and Cheam) had almost exactly the same question as Mr Marshall, though her constituency occupies a similar geographical position relative to the inner ring road as Mr Marshall's, save that it is south of the Thames. At least Robert Hughes (Con, Harrow West) has the name for it, but he wanted to ask about a Welsh Assembly which would be "a financial disaster for Wales". (Having stood outside the Catalan Assembly in Barcelona - the most vibrant city in Europe - and seen the well-heeled matrons dance the sardanha, I do not quite comprehend the connection some MPs make between devolution and economic collapse.)

Compared with his colleagues, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury) is positively Welsh. On a fine day you can practically see Wales from his stately home. And Geoffrey knows what true democracy is. So could he congratulate the minister on taking the Welsh Grand Committee around Wales, and "actually bringing government closer to the people"?

Intrigued, I phoned the Welsh Office. Where had it been? Where was it going? Perhaps it would be hosted in the castles of Wales, from Kidwelly in the south to Chirk in the North? Er, no. It had met at Cardiff, would meet next in London, there had been some thoughts about Carmarthen, and Bangor might be nice.

So my question is this: why do the Welsh put up with it? This is, after all, the nation of Lllewellyn ap Grufydd, Owen Glendwyr, of the red dragon on the green hill, of the Men of Harlech. Wales has its burned villages, ravished maidens and pillaged churches, its heroes and traitors, its woad and pike rebellions. And yet Mel Gibson will not painfully be shaping the accents of Old North Wales around the vowels of New South Wales. They won't be packing the Monico cinema in Rhiwbina to see the forebears of Mr Marshall and Lady Olga stagger around with pieces of Celtic ironware protruding from their bodies.

They must rectify this. For until the Welsh do get proper Hollywood billing, no one is going to take them and their Assembly seriously. Least of all themselves.