Taking account of local government boundaries

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 30th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion 9:25 am, 30th June 2020

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that point. The debate about dialect is very interesting, and could certainly spark quite a bit of interest in Wales. He might be aware that northerners, or gogs as we call them in Wales, hold quite proudly that their Welsh is somehow superior to that of us mere mortals in the south. Of course, I am a west Walian, so I am better than both. However, he makes a good point on the distinction between dialect and language.

For the purposes of linguistic ties in Wales, I think it would be only fair for the Boundary Commission for Wales to consider the language as a whole. It would be unfair, and perhaps impossible, to draw the commission into adjudicating which dialect is more important. People feel quite passionately about whether they speak north Welsh, south Welsh, or west Walian as I do.

It is a good point, perhaps, for other languages. I do not want to interfere in the war of the roses that we had last week between Yorkshire and Lancaster, but people feel quite strongly about their dialects and accents. I would not be opposed to that being captured by the “local ties” considerations as the boundary commissions do some of their work in different regions. That would be a perfectly appropriate consideration for them to make. In Wales, I would not want the commission to have to tie too closely to the different dialects, but certainly the language itself is something that I want it to hold true to.

I reiterate that my remarks are not a criticism in any way of the Boundary Commission for Wales, which does incredible work. I fear that subsequent boundary reviews will be of greater complexity due to there being fewer seats, but the commission’s operation is compliant with Welsh language standards, and I know that it does a lot of work to ensure that it works as bilingually as possible, both in terms of its day-to-day administrative operation and when it consults with different communities. That is so important, especially when consulting with Welsh language communities.

I should mention that the naming of constituencies is not an issue for anybody to be concerned about. I am quite relaxed about that. We have two wonderful languages in Wales and we are very fortunate in that regard. I am happy that the names are bilingual; if anything, it is a bonus and a win-win situation. It is not a matter of the naming of constituencies, although I know there was quite a bit of work on that in the commission’s previous review.

My final point is that in subsequent reviews we may find that there are a greater number of Welsh speakers in the first place. I am happy that there has been progress in recent years in encouraging more people in Wales to be bilingual. This may well be a fear we need not address in the future, but at the moment it would be good to know how the different considerations that we can capture under local ties are prioritised, whether there is a hierarchy and how that works. In future reviews, if Wales has a smaller number of seats to divide the electorate, I would be concerned that the Welsh language may be a secondary or tertiary consideration, and would be relegated in that sense. Naturally, I would oppose that.

Can the Minister say how the Welsh language will be treated in future reviews, especially when the task of allocating seats within Wales will be far more complicated? I would be grateful. Diolch, Mr Paisley.