Welsh Language

Part of Domestic Abuse Bill: Carry-over – in the House of Commons at 7:16 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 7:16 pm, 2nd October 2019

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. Of course I support the work being done in Wales to recruit more Welsh teachers. Immersion in a language is the best way to learn it. There is only so much that can be learned in a classroom. It is important to see the language used, and be able to use it for real, not just, as was touched on in one or two interventions, in an educational setting. It is important to be able to see it online and in media, and obviously to be able to speak it with friends.

As part of the work being done by the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales, at the National Eisteddfod in August, the Secretary of State, together with the Welsh Language Commissioner, Aled Roberts, launched new guidance for UK Government Departments when planning and delivering bilingual communications targeted at audiences in Wales. This guidance, endorsed by the Government Communication Service, is the first of its kind for the UK Government. Included in this guidance are recommendations and good practice on designing and creating quality bilingual content in areas including events, consultations and campaigns. This guidance will support people working across both Governments, in Wales and in Whitehall, to help us achieve the Cymraeg 2050 ambition, ensuring the Welsh language is visible, audible and, above all, accessible.

My Department has also promoted Welsh as part of Wales Week in London. I was proud to see every aspect of Welsh cultural life represented, alongside showcases of Welsh culture and identity, tourism, and food and drink products; I particularly enjoyed the latter two. We also celebrated our champions of the Welsh language. My Department has sought a commitment from all UK Government Departments to preserving and promoting the Welsh language. I am pleased to say that 11 UK Government Departments now have a Welsh language scheme, including most recently the Cabinet Office. As some may be able to guess, there has been a series of bilaterals between me as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales and me as the Minister with responsibility for the constitution. I found very persuasive my argument that the Cabinet Office, as the Department that very much takes the lead for constitutional and Union matters, needed to resolve the issue and get a Welsh language scheme in place.

It is not just the Office for the Secretary of State for Wales taking the initiative in promoting Welsh language and culture. My colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have encouraged its network of posts to mark St David’s day across the overseas network. This year’s activities included a digital campaign highlighting Welsh culture, including the Welsh language.

Bringing Welsh to a global stage does not stop there. The Department for International Development launched Connecting Classrooms through their Global Learning Programme, which connects Welsh pupils and teachers with schools all over the world. The FCO and DFID are examples of Departments playing their part in promoting the Welsh language.

The UK Government are also funding award-winning creative output, providing bilingual services and developing initiatives where Welsh plays a central part. This includes the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which has announced that Welsh language programming will benefit from up to 5% of its young audiences content fund and audio content fund, with the aim of stimulating the creation of dynamic and distinctive Welsh language productions from the independent sector.

The UK Government have also committed to maintaining S4C’s funding at its current level for 2019-20. S4C does not just make a contribution to the promotion of the Welsh language; it also makes an important contribution to the creative economy in Wales. It recently moved its headquarters from Cardiff to Yr Egin in Carmarthen, and I am proud that through the Swansea Bay city deal we will be supporting the next phase of this move, which will generate major and positive change to the creative and digital economy of Wales. This will ensure the Welsh language will be seen and heard not only throughout Wales but beyond its borders.

The UK Government are also supporting civil servants to learn Welsh. For example, the DVLA is one of many departments registered as an employer with the National Centre for Learning Welsh, and as a result over 280 of its staff have registered to undertake online Welsh language training courses. It is also championing Welsh in its service provision and has developed a new “Welsh language call handler of the year” award category in its annual contact centre awards to recognise the importance of providing excellence in this service.

The UK Government are constantly looking to improve our Welsh language services. Most recently, the Department for Work and Pensions implemented a Welsh version of the universal credit online system and is ensuring that all its digital services are in Welsh as well as English. It has also undertaken a number of Welsh language-specific recruitment exercises to ensure it has enough Welsh-speaking work coaches. This has been considered a leading case study of best practice for Welsh language recruitment, and it has been sharing its experience with other UK Government Departments.

Welsh language considerations are also being embedded in other Departments. The Home Office has Welsh language champions who raise the profile of the Welsh language across the Department and its arm’s length bodies. It has also run successful campaigns in the Welsh language on forced marriage and female genital mutilation. I hope this gives the House a flavour of the UK Government’s passion and commitment to the Welsh language.

I would like to end on a personal note. It is sad news that my hon. Friend Glyn Davies will be standing down at the next general election. The £55 million announced today for the mid-Wales growth deal is perhaps another example of what he has achieved for his constituents during his time in the House. I know that his support for the Wales Office has been greatly appreciated by me, my predecessors and the Secretary of State for Wales, and he will be greatly missed in this Chamber. The House will also lose a great champion of the Welsh Language. That said, we will be delighted, I hope, to welcome back in his place another champion of the Welsh language, Craig Williams.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.