Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 9:15 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for introducing the amendment and other noble Lords who have participated in the debate. Through the amendment, the noble Lord seeks to extend the Assembly’s competence so that it could legislate otherwise than in relation to Wales to support the Welsh language and Welsh culture in the Argentinian province of Chubut.

Of course, the history of the Welsh settlement—“settlement” in a sense that I hope I will be allowed to use here—in Patagonia is one of the great stories of human migration and holds a special place in the hearts and minds of people in Wales. It is a story of typical Welsh tenacity and fortitude that led settlers to travel thousands of miles, driven by the desire for a better life and the dream of establishing a new Wales.

In Patagonia today, interest in the Welsh language and Welsh culture is flourishing, more than 150 years on from the first settlement. Members of the Welsh Affairs Committee in the other place saw this for themselves when they visited Patagonia in 2014, a year early, to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Welsh settlers. Although the anniversary was in 2015, typical Welsh efficiency and promptness meant that they were there a year early. The settlement is of course a part of Argentina and, while Welsh culture thrives there, it is wonderfully intermixed with the rich culture of South America. I, too, have taken an interest in the settlement. When I was on the British Council committee, access to finance and help were certainly provided to Chubut.

When the amendment was tabled, my reaction was, “Surely, the National Assembly has the power to do this already”—and that is our conclusion. The common law-type powers that we are devolving to Welsh Ministers will ensure that they can continue to act in the way that they are doing in support of the Welsh language in Chubut. I will have another look at it to ensure that that is the case and will be happy to speak to the noble Lord if that is helpful, but I am sure that we would all want to see this continue. With that, I ask the noble Lord if he would kindly withdraw his amendment.