HC Deb 11 May 1972 vol 836 cc1549-51
Q4. Mr. Fred Evans

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Lord Chancellor at Llandrindod Wells on Saturday, 22nd April, concerning the activities of the Welsh Language Society and of the Irish Republican Army, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. In his speech my right hon. and noble Friend expressed warm admiration for the Welsh people, their language and culture, but unqualified condemnation for lawlessness or violence in all parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Evans

Will the Prime Minister unequivocally reject that part of his right hon. and noble Friend's speech which compared the intelligent and normally law-abiding people in Wales with the baboons of the IRA who blow the arms and legs off innocent men, women and children, break the bones of and tar and feather pregnant women, and shoot our lads in the back in the streets of Londonderry and Belfast? Does the Prime Minister seriously think that the young people of Wales fall into this category? Will he not now realise that Wales wants the language to be taken out of political controversy and to see that justice is done to an ancient language enshrining an ancient culture? We expect the Government to provide the funds and to provide the will to see that this is done in the light of the character of the Welsh people and the contribution they have made to the history and culture of this country.

The Prime Minister

I would fully support the hon. Member in agreeing that there should be justice for the Welsh language, and since we have been in office I have taken certain steps to try to ensure this. As the hon. Member knows, there is a committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Roderic Bowen dealing with bilingual traffic signs, which have caused so much trouble. But I think the hon. Member must have misread the Lord Chancellor's speech, because far from saying that these young people were the same, he differentiated those who were concerned with the Welsh language from the IRA. While it is true that my right hon. and noble Friend has had the tendency over recent years to embellish his theses with somewhat picturesque imagery, I would ask the hon. Member to reread the speech carefully.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does the Prime Minister agree that, although condemnation of the Irish Republican Army is always welcome among the people of Northern Ireland who want to remain within the United Kingdom, the people of Northern Ireland are looking not merely for words of condemnation but for drastic action against those people so aptly described by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Fred Evans) as engaged in torturing and murdering citizens of Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister

That is what Her Majesty's Government are doing.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Does not the Prime Minister agree that although the vast majority of people of all parties in Wales consider that the activities of the Welsh Language Society are injurious to the future of the Welsh language, nevertheless it is floridly absurd for the Lord Chancellor to compare the activities of the IRA with those of the Welsh Language Society as differing only in degree? Is it not the same as saying that a person who parks on double yellow lines differs only in degree from a person who deliberately commits an act of murder?

The Prime Minister

I read elsewhere the comparison which the hon. Gentleman has just made. It does not alter the fact that what the Lord Chancellor was saying was that, if there is illegality, whether it is passive or whether it involves the use of force, that is a difference of degree. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor deliberately used the word "differentiate "; he differentiated those who were concerned with the Welsh language from those whom he was condemning, namely the IRA.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way for the young people of Wales to avoid odious comparisons is to abstain from lawbreaking and to express their feelings by constitutional means?

The Prime Minister

I entirely support my hon. Friend in that remark. I repeat that it is absolutely right and, indeed, necessary that those in Wales who wish to use the Welsh language should feel that they are able to do so and that their own language is receiving justice.