Welsh Language

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th January 1977.

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Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan 12:00 am, 24th January 1977

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the present state of the Welsh language; and if he will also make a statement.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

The language is under pressure in all parts of Wales. Sustained effort will be needed if this situation is to be redressed. I am discussing with the Council for the Welsh Language ways in which, within its terms of reference, it can provide me with further advice.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

What discussions has the Secretary of State had with his counterparts in Europe about the proposed EEC Language Fund? What benefits will accrue to the Welsh nation as a result of this fund?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

If the hon. Member asks a specific Question about that matter, I shall answer it. We have taken a number of measures to assist the language, and we have provided material assistance during my period in office.

Photo of Mr Gwynfor Evans Mr Gwynfor Evans , Carmarthen

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he next proposes to meet the Welsh Language Council.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

I last met the Council on 22nd October 1976. I have no immediate plans for another meeting, but I shall be discussing with it the development of the useful work it has already accomplished.

Photo of Mr Gwynfor Evans Mr Gwynfor Evans , Carmarthen

Is the Secretary of State aware that during the three years of Council's existence its main recommendations have been dismissed with such contempt by the Government that the Council and its chairman would be justified in resigning en bloc, just as the late Dr. Huw T. Edwards resigned from the Council for Wales for similar reasons? Is he aware of the devastating effect of English television in Welsh homes, particularly among children and young people? Could something be done quickly to meet that threat so that at least we have some Welsh language programmes at peak viewing hours every night of the week?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks can be sustained or that they are particularly helpful. I invited all the Council members to take up reappointment, and my recollection is that all have accepted, except for one member, who is not available for domestic reasons because she is moving. Therefore, they cannot share the kind of sentiments which the hon. Gentleman expresses. I value very much the work which the Council has done and will do for me over the coming period. We have canvassed this matter of Welsh language programmes backwards and forwards over the past few months, and I have nothing to add to what I said in my previous statement.

Photo of Mr Leo Abse Mr Leo Abse , Pontypool

While everyone would deplore the decline in Welsh speaking and in knowledge of the language, at a time when the Secretary of State is giving replies which indicate that there are limitations on the material assistance he can give and that the possibility of transferring Welsh language programmes to a fourth channel is limited by money, would it not be much more sensible and more in accordance with the wishes of the Welsh people as a whole if the Secretary of State immediately desisted from the erection of road signs in Welsh in certain areas, signs which serve no purpose—except a vague propaganda purpose—and from the duplication of bureaucratic forms in Welsh? Would it not be better if all the funds which his Department offered were put towards meeting genuine education needs for the promotion and assistance of the Welsh language?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend has put a number of pertinent and helpful points, with some of which I would agree. I have inherited the system of sign-posting and distribution of forms that all Governments in the past followed. What is really needed is some element of consensus in Wales about where the priorities should lie. I should be grateful for some assistance in the coming months from the Welsh Council, my colleagues and the whole of Wales generally in arriving at such a consensus. When only limited resources are available, they should be put to the best use for furthering the language.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

I welcome the Secretary of State's decision to renew the Welsh Language Council, which was established by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas). Would he confirm that there is useful work for the Council to do and that as Secretary of State he will put that work in its way? Perhaps he would take this opportunity to confirm that it is his view that disruptive tactics, which are often used to support the Welsh cause, are in fact alienating support for the language. Is not the more constructive approach, such as that taken by the Welsh Council, infinitely more valuable?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Secretary of State for Wales

The Council has done good work and I value its advice and the enormous amount of energy that its members put in. Discussions are going on to see how the Council can be most effectively used in the coming months. We have all suffered from disruptive tactics in Wales and I agree that they are no help to the language whatsoever.