HC Deb 30 June 1960 vol 625 cc1553-5
40. Mr. G. Roberts

asked the Prime Minister what steps he took to consult Welsh opinion before making an appointment to the post of chairman of the Broadcasting Council for Wales.

45. Lady Megan Lloyd George

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent to the representations made to him by the Broadcasting Council for Wales, protesting against the appointment of Mrs. Rachel Jones as the chairman of the Council.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I naturally undertook consultations before making a recommendation for this appointment. As a result, and after taking into account all the requirements laid down in the Charter, I am satisfied that Mrs. Jones is eminently suitable for this post, and I have replied to the Broadcasting Council for Wales in that sense

Mr. Roberts

Does not that Answer show that there was no consultation with Welsh opinion before this important appointment was made? Is it not the fact that an increasing number of local authorities and other public bodies in Wales are protesting vigorously against this appointment and particularly the way in which it was engineered? In view of the prevailing strong feeling in Wales, is it not high time that the Prime Minister rescinded this decision and made an appointment which at least would be acceptable in Wales and defensible in this House?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that I cannot accept those suggestions. I feel that the major part of Welsh opinion feels that the time has now come to allow Mrs. Jones a chance to see how well she can do this job.

Lady Megan Lloyd George

As the Broadcasting Council for Wales is composed of distinguished persons of great experience in this sphere, as they are in a special position to assess the qualities needed in a chairman of the Council and as our protests are supported by an overwhelming body of opinion in Wales, will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this totally unacceptable and unsuitable appointment?

The Prime Minister

I cannot accept that this is the responsibility of anybody except the Government.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this appointment has staggered exiles from Wales as much as it has amazed and annoyed people in Wales?

Mr. J. Griffiths

While I recognise that this is a Government appointment, surely the Government are obliged to pay some regard to the Charter which lays down certain requirements. I have never in my experience found an appointment so universally condemned. This is the universal opinion in Wales. I do not think that there are any exceptions to it. There was only one in the Council, and there are obvious reasons for that. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that he is at present regarded in Wales as having flouted the wishes of the people, particularly the one-third who take pride in preserving their language? Since we want an opportunity to discuss this matter fully on the Floor of the House, will the right hon. Gentleman make available, either in the OFFICIAL REPORT or by putting copies in the Library, the exchange of letters between himself and the Council?

The Prime Minister

I will consider the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. With regard to the first part, I cannot accept that everybody who does not speak Welsh is incapable of understanding Wales or the Welsh people. The chief accusation against this lady is that she does not speak Welsh, and, as I have pointed out, she shares that disability with two-thirds of her countrymen.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that he is Prime Minister for the whole of the United Kingdom and not speak so patronisingly about a language which is the first language of many of us in the House and of many people in the country? Does he realise that, though he speaks continuously in the way he does about the other one-third of the people, they are, in my opinion, among the best in the country?

The Prime Minister

I did not speak patronisingly about the Welsh language. It is a very fine language, like the Gaelic language. Quite a lot of people in Scotland speak Gaelic. The view of many people and myself is that the future of the Welsh language depends, to some extent at any rate, on the support of non-Welsh-speaking Welshmen and on general interest in Welsh culture. For this purpose, I believe that this lady is very well suited.

Mr. Gaitskell

As half the broadcasts in Wales are in Welsh, it is extremely difficult to see how the chairman can do his or her job properly without being able to understand them.

The Prime Minister

There is such a thing as translation. But the function of this lady is to represent the Welsh point of view with the Governors of the B.B.C. I feel sure that she can adequately and successfully carry out this function.

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