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 Mr Rhys Davies Mr Rhys Davies , Westhoughton

I hope I may be forgiven for intervening in this very interesting Debate. I have, at any rate, one or two slight qualifications for speaking about my native land. I, like my colleagues, welcome this Measure. I sat here some months ago and witnessed the British Government introducing a Measure, which became the law of the land, giving the Norwegian, Czech and Polish Governments the right to establish courts in this country in which all the business would be conducted in their native tongues. Such foreign courts can be established even at Cardiff, Carnarvon, or Swansea. I thought to myself, How comes it about that a Polish subject could have all the business of his court transacted in his own language in Wales whereas the Welsh people are not allowed in their own courts to speak their own tongue? I am very pleased that this Bill gets rid of that disability. I speak with some feeling, because the English language to me is still what the French is to my right hon. Friend. It is a foreign tongue. I still prefer speaking in Welsh, and I would address this House right away in my native tongue, but I understand there is a regulation that I shall not. I can, however, quote a sentence:

Câs Gŵr na charo'r wlâd a'i maco.

I think I am almost the only Welsh-speaking Welshman representing an English seat. There are tens of thousands of Welsh people in London, Liverpool, Manchester and other English cities, and there are also about a quarter of a million of Welsh stock in America, who will be very pleased at the step the Home Secretary has taken to-day. My own relations in Wales, if any of them were at any time unfortunately found in a court of law, though they speak some English could not express themselves as well as they can in Welsh. Even I, after 21 years in the House of Commons, having lived the larger part of my life in England, still think in Welsh. I hope I shall not be blamed for that. I have always held the view that if a man does not love the country of his birth, he has not much capacity for loving any other country. I welcome above all the toleration that has been exhibited to-day. I have travelled much through Central Europe and the Balkans. I know the problems of the Croats and Slovenes, I have seen the Magyars and Serbs and Macedonians too, and have been as far as Turkey where the alphabet has changed its character recently. One of the ugliest problems in Central Europe arises from the intolerance shown by the larger nations to the language of the smaller. In that respect I very much welcome this Measure.