Wales: new rights for Welsh speakers

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Jun 10 16:30:06 UTC 2006

Give new rights to our Welsh speakers Jun 9 2006

By Tom Bodden, Daily Post

PLAID leader Ieuan Wyn Jones will call for a cross-party consensus to
deliver new rights for Welsh speakers. Mr Jones will use a keynote speech
at a rally in Aberystwyth tomorrow to support demands for new language
laws. The speech, to the Welsh language society, will argue for official
status for Welsh and linguistic rights in a new Act. Ynys Mn AM Mr Jones
said: "The time is now right, after 13 years, for new language
legislation. There should be rights to services in Welsh in the same way
as disability and equality rights.

"The present Act places responsibilities on public bodies to produce
language schemes but the individual who expects services has no rights at
all." But he warned a cross-party consensus was needed to strengthen the
demand for Westminster to sanction new laws. "The Assembly is split
politically and you aren't going to get a language policy through with a
majority of one. It's far too sensitive," he said.. A strengthened
"language commissioner" could police the legislation which would be
extended from the public sector and Crown bodies to public utilities, gas,
water and electricity, he said.

But the commissioner could also be instructed to investigate how to extend
language laws into the private service sector - to services such as banks,
mobile phone and cable companies. "It wouldn't be a one size fits all
system in the private sector," Mr Jones said. "We would expect certain
large-scale companies to provide services in Welsh. But very small
companies, which employ just a few people, wouldn't be expected to deliver
on this. "We would expect the commissioner to consult widely with the
private sector over what would be acceptable.

Mr Jones will argue that the reforms should be in place before Assembly
Government abolishes the Welsh language board. "It is my personal view
that to have the private sector involved it has to be done through
extensive consultation and to be taken out of the political arena," he
said.. "The point we want to arrive at is that private companies see there
are advantages for them in dealing in Welsh in the business sense. "I'm
not proposing legislation for the private sector at the moment but that a
language commissioner be asked to draw up proposals."

He added: "It's going to be necessary to secure a consensus across parties
to deliver this programme. We are inviting the other parties to respond to
the programme we are setting out." The case for legislation, under new
powers after the Assembly elections, would be strengthened if other
parties had similar proposals in their manifestos, said Mr Jones.

Language laws for discussion

WELSH campaigners meet Tory AMs today to discuss calls for new language
laws. Members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg will hold talks with
Conservative Assembly leader Nick Bourne and culture spokeswoman Lisa
Francis. Catrin Dafydd, leader of the campaign calling for a new language
Act, said: "We hope that we will be able to develop a consensus regarding
matters such as the need for the Welsh language to be given official
status." Ms Francis said the Conservatives were still debating their
language policy for the Assembly elections. "However, my personal view is
that much could be achieved by strengthening the Welsh language act we
already have, by allowing people to live their lives through the medium of
Welsh if they want to.

"I would say that there is a world of a difference between a voluntary
approach focussed on the relationship between an individual company and
its customers, and the requirement of a mandatory language scheme. "I
acknowledge that compulsory language schemes could increase the costs of
companies who have chosen to base themselves in Wales."

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