Orders of the Day — Welsh Courts Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 14th October 1942.

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Photo of Major Goronwy Owen Major Goronwy Owen , Caernarvonshire

For 19 years I have had the honour to represent in this House one of the most Welsh constituencies in spirit in the whole of Wales. During that period, with other Members, I have never allowed an opportunity to pass of drawing the attention of the Government of the day to the necessity of recognising the Welsh language and giving it its proper place in the administration of Wales. I do not want to enter into any recriminations, but on many of those occasions our pleas were received with derision, if not with contempt. It is with all the greater pleasure that I welcome this change of attitude, not merely of the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor but of the Government. I hope that that change will have permeated into the minds of the permanent officials of Government Departments. I represent, as I have said, one of the most Welsh constituencies in Wales. During election campaigns, at which I have addressed 100 or more meetings, I have rarely made a speech in English. That is not because the people of Carnarvonshire do not speak English as well as Welsh, but because English is not the language in which they think and live: it is not for them the language of the hearth, nor is it the language of the heart. For that reason I have always wanted to see the Welsh language properly recognised, not as a favour, but as the right of a nation distinct in itself.

The Welsh language and the Welsh nation have gone through many vicissitudes. We had the Roman occupation; we had the invasions of the Jutes, the Angles, the Saxons, the Danes and the Normans. All through that period, in spite of the inhibitions placed on the Welsh language, it has survived, and today it is more alive, more virile than ever, more than ever the expression of the will, the aspirations, the traditions, and the hopes of the Welsh people. When Henry II returned from his victorious conquest of Ireland, he landed on the shores of Wales, and at Pencader he came across an old Welshman, whom he rather chided about Wales and its language. I would like the House to listen to what the old Welshman said in reply, and how true a prophecy it has turned out to be: This nation, O King, may often be weakened, and in great part destroyed, by the power of yourself and others, but many a time, as it deserves, it will rise triumphant, but never will it be wholly destroyed by the wrath of man unless the wrath of God be added. Nor do I think that any other nation than this of Wales, or any other tongue, whatever may hereafter come to pass, shall on the day of reckoning before the Most High Judge answer for this corner of the earth. I have always been proud that the Welsh nation, though small in number, though not endowed with great wealth, though not endowed with great armaments or anything of that kind, has played its part as a partner in the commonwealth of nations which makes up the United Kingdom. I look upon the nations of these islands as an example to the rest of humanity. Here for centuries the English, the Scots, and the Welsh have lived together in amity, have worked together in co-operation. But there was always one weak link in that combination. It was a tendency by the senior partner, if we may call it so, to disregard what is essential for the Welsh nation in order that it may realise that it is a partner in the true sense in that combination. It was a lack of recognition of the language which has survived through all these tribulations. I trust that this country, with all sections of it combining together, will now prove to the world that it is possible for separate nations to live in amity together as one family.