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Patagonia (Welsh Community)

Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2015

5. What plans officials of his Department in Argentina have to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Welsh community in Patagonia. (907831)

Our embassy in Buenos Aires, in co-ordination with the British Council in Argentina and Wales, will facilitate official visits to Argentina for the celebrations in July to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Welsh settlers in Patagonia. It will also work hard to promote Wales in Argentina through cultural and other events.

The Minister will surely be aware that the 25,000 Welsh speakers in Argentina have a very special place in the hearts of everyone living in Wales. Does he agree that this important anniversary—notwithstanding other matters that, with amazing timing, have just been raised—perhaps offers the opportunity to rebuild a more friendly relationship? Will he come to a photographic exhibition on the Welsh colonies in Argentina, which I hope to organise in the House later this year if all kinds of other events allow?

I would be delighted to continue in this role after the May election, but that is up to the Prime Minister. We should all celebrate the great story of the arrival of 153 Welsh settlers in Chubut in 1865. I am pleased that the First Minister of Wales will go to Argentina, and I am delighted that the National Youth Choir of Wales, the London Welsh choir and the National Orchestra of Wales will all visit Patagonia this year. I hope that they will concentrate on Welsh relations with Argentina, rather than anything else.

The history of the Welsh settlement in Patagonia is an incredible story of tenacity, innovation, fortitude and triumph over adversity, with a thriving Welsh-language community in Chubut province today. Will the Minister ensure that the FCO Argentine mission has an obligation to strengthen relations between Patagonia and Wales?

We have absolutely no problem with the people of Argentina. We enjoy extraordinarily good relations with them, and the Welsh factor is enormously important. When the Welsh Affairs Committee visited last year, it was presented with a declaration on the Falklands, and I expect similar stunts this year. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members and the Argentinians will remember that the members of the Welsh community chose to emigrate and have become Argentine citizens by choice. By comparison, the Falkland islanders have exercised their own right of self-determination and, frankly, it is hypocritical for Argentina selectively to ignore that.