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Welsh Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:23 pm on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales 1:23 pm, 27th February 2020

No, I will not give way. My mood has changed. I am no longer co-operative and collaborative.

On defence, we have, in our ministerial team, two people who have worn a military uniform—that of the Royal Artillery in the case of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, and that of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry in my case. We have an instinctive love, affection and respect for the defence industry, our soldiers, sailors and airmen, and we want to see more of them in Wales. We want to ensure that their veterans’ railcard is delivered in exactly the same way by the Welsh Government as it will be by the UK Government in November, and we want to preserve and enhance the Ministry of Defence footprint in Wales.

Let me turn to the question of steel, which is of huge significance to a number of constituencies, including mine. I reassure the House that the UK Government recognise not only the economic value of steel, but its social and cultural importance in Wales. We are working with steel companies to find out, and be absolutely clear in our minds about, what they see as a sustainable steel industry, and what UK and Welsh Government support they need to be able to develop that. I will be at Tata Steel Port Talbot tomorrow. I hope to meet Stephen Kinnock there to discuss these issues further.

I want to end on a cultural matter to do with the Welsh language. I am very proud of the fact that S4C moved its headquarters from Cardiff to Carmarthen. It is, of course, the only Welsh language broadcaster. As somebody who has, as Jessica Morden knows, a limited grasp of the Welsh language—she would argue that I had a limited grasp of any language—this is of real significance. It is about far more than viewing figures. I am anxious to make sure that the language is seen as approachable, fun, and significant. The moment it becomes politicised, it turns off people who might be taking their first steps with the language—whether they are already residents of Wales, or are moving to Wales, perhaps for work. The vibrancy of the language and its future are important.

The Welsh Government ambition, which I fully support, is to have 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050. That will be achieved only if that is seen as something that we can aspire to achieve without fear of political retribution if we somehow fall short. Inserting the odd word of Welsh into a speech or article does not do the trick. It is a lazy way of attempting to do our duty by the Welsh language. We have to go further than that, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say more about that later.

On that point, Madam Deputy Speaker, I think it is time for a gwin coch mawr over in No. 10. Those are the three words of Welsh that I have learned and have carried me through the most difficult situations over the past 10 years. This is a great occasion. It is a brilliant opportunity for us to speak about the positives of Wales. I look forward to hearing the rest of the contributions.