Welsh Affairs

Part of International Women’S Day – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South 3:44 pm, 2nd March 2017

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and a belated happy St David’s day to you. It is a great pleasure to follow Chris Davies, but he seems to have forgotten that St David’s mother, Non, went to live in Brittany in her later years. I hope that the Government will give some thought to that when they come to the reciprocal arrangements for EU citizens.

As we know, the ground around St David rose so that he could be heard by a crowd. But there is a second David of whom we must speak today: the David who thought that the ground around him would always rise, such was his belief in his great political gift to our country. With what Max Boyce would have called an incredible plan, this second David promised us a referendum on the EU, believing that his promises could never fail. Madam Deputy Speaker, I prefer the first David, our patron saint.

St David was quintessentially Welsh. He was almost always supported by followers, such as Aeddan, Teilo and Ysfael, and of course he also had the support of the great and the good—yes, even in the 6th and 7th centuries we had the great and the good in Wales—such as Deiniol, Dyfrig and the like. Across Wales yesterday there have been eisteddfodau, as indeed there will be today and over the weekend, such as the concert I will be attending in Rhosllanerchrugog tomorrow night, and there will be parades and other celebrations of culture. Let us therefore thank the great work of mentrau iaith, especially menter iaith Maelor across our borderland areas of Wales, for their promotion of Welsh language and culture.

I cannot let St David’s day—it is becoming St David’s week—pass without expressing my pleasure about the introduction of the Welsh language in this House in our Welsh Grand Committee, which is an historic change. I am pleased because I do not believe that there can be any understanding of Welsh political and cultural life that does not include an understanding of Welsh language rights. I am pleased because I think it goes some way towards righting an historic wrong. I am also pleased because I believe in a Wales that looks outwards, that does not beatify its borders—we hear so much nonsense on that subject today—and that does not want to create artificial walls between what is inside the Welsh border and what is Oswestry or the north-west of England. Those communities have been united with ours and there has been a relationship between the communities, not merely for decades, but for centuries. Let us leave the insular wall-building that separates people to the likes of Donald Trump in the United States, because it is so alien to our outward-looking vision of Welshness.

I know that every Member of this House—certainly every Welsh Member—will have in their constituencies heritage projects that should rightly be showcased and celebrated at this time. There are many such projects across the glorious 240 square miles of Clwyd South, but I will refer to only one today, the Brymbo heritage project, which has been set up by the Brymbo heritage group. The industrial village of Brymbo had a steelworks between 1796 and 1990—yes, its closure was another achievement of the great Mrs Thatcher. Today we are seeing the restoration of those buildings, with jobs being created and the community getting involved through volunteering, with oral histories, educational resources and various events.

I am delighted by the support that has been given to that project by the Welsh Government and the local council. I was even more pleased recently to see plans to convert the former steelworks building into a visitor centre, and a grant to fund architectural designs for an ambitious plan to convert a 1920s machine shop and regenerate the site further. I know that industrial sites in north-east Wales are not often what people think of when they think of our Welsh heritage. When we celebrate our Welshness, our culture and the two great languages of our nation, let us also remember the industrial heritage of north-east of Wales and celebrate it. I wish everybody a happy St David’s day—I like saying this—Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus.