UK: Firms flock to Welsh language services pledge

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Nov 27 14:39:40 UTC 2008

Firms flock to Welsh language services pledge
Nov 26 2008 by Tom Bodden, Daily Post

THE CHALLENGE was thrown down to private businesses yesterday to sign
a voluntary pledge to provide services in Welsh. More than 150 firms
across Wales have signed up to the new programme by the Welsh Language
Board, including big High Street names Tesco, Boots, and the major
banks. The signatories, ranging from wind energy and food producers to
foster care agencies and a north-south Wales airline operator, have
each been given a new 'Investing in Welsh' badge to openly display
their support for the language.

Each has signed a series of commitments – including that they will
treat Welsh and English on an equal basis, and all new signs must be
A new internet service from the language board offers a free template
for businesses wanting to develop their own bilingual policy. Meri
Huws, chair of the Welsh Language Board, said the board wanted to win
over the "hearts and minds" of businesses to encourage use of the

The aim is to increase and improve Welsh medium provision in the
private sector as businesses move towards making clear and formal
commitments about their bilingual services.

The initiative was announced as the Welsh Assembly Government is still
negotiating the terms of a proposed transfer of powers over the Welsh
language from Westminster.

New language laws could then force private companies to comply with
rights granted to Welsh speakers, something widely resisted by the
business community.

Ms Huws said the board was having some success seeking voluntary
agreements with companies.

"I'm a great believer and hearts in minds.

"When you're talking about the business sector it is hearts and minds,
particularly in the economic climate of today," she said. "They are
actually coming to us in droves at the moment."

Mark Watkin Jones, managing director of Bangor-based Watkin Jones
Group, one of the first to sign up, said: "Although our business
operates throughout the UK, we are very proud of our roots here in
North Wales and are committed to supporting the Welsh language and

"We have been working closely with the Welsh language board to develop
a Welsh language policy for the company"

Ms Huws told a launch of the scheme in Cardiff Bay: "The Welsh medium
provision in the private sector has increased enormously in the last
few years.

"Businesses are now ready to take the next step and to work alongside
the board on formalising the use of the language through producing and
implementing language policies."

David Rosser, director of CBI Wales, said the scheme provided a dual
benefit for organisations operating in Wales.

"It also provides businesses, yet to develop a Welsh language policy,
with a cost effective and practical framework for getting started."

Colin Munro, from Highland Airways said: "It's important to us that we
can communicate with our customers through the medium of Welsh. We're
also very proud of our trilingual website – in Welsh, English and
Scottish Gaelic."

Eryl Vaughan, managing director, Windpower Wales near Abergele said:
"We operate in communities that are naturally bilingual. Adopting a
Welsh language policy is therefore an essential step to take."

Dafydd Morgan Lewis from the campaigning Welsh language society
welcomed any initiative promoting the use of Welsh.

But he argued voluntary schemes in the private sector had been pursued
for 20 years.

"We emphasise a new Welsh language measure that embraces and includes
these sectors within its legislation is the only realistic answer to
this particular matter," he said.

The proposed transfer of power over the Welsh language to the Assembly
Government remains in Whitehall. Heritage minister Alun Ffred Jones
said the scheme was an "important step forward".


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