HC Deb 21 April 1980 vol 983 cc8-9
6. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what recent initiatives he has taken to encourage the fostering and growth in the use of the Welsh language.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I refer the hon. Member to the speech I made at Llanrwst on 15 April. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House and I am having it printed for wider circulation. In this speech, among other things, I announced a major increase in the Government's financial support for the language.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Secretary of State aware that we welcome the statement made in Llanrwst, as far as it goes, and recognise that it goes a substantial step forward? None the less, is he aware that we were also interested to note his words when he said that education through the medium of the Welsh language gave an additional educational experience to a child? In these circumstances, will he give a lead from the Dispatch Box in suggesting to parents of children who are about to enter school that they should actively consider the possibility of sending their children to a bilingual Welsh language primary or nursery school?

Mr. Edwards

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said and for adding his encouraging support to a number of other congratulatory messages that I have received from those who are concerned about the future of the Welsh language. I made it clear in my speech that parental consultation is to be an important part of the future role of education authorities and that they must take full account of the views of parents in this matter. I think that my speech clearly indicated that there was nothing in our experience in education in Wales that suggested that learning Welsh could be harmful to children. In many parts of Wales, it must clearly be of considerable advantage that they should be able to speak Welsh.

Mr. Best

Does my right hon. Friend know of the particular pleasure caused by his announcement that financial provision will be made for the project in Nant Gwrtheyrn for a Welsh language centre and for teaching the Welsh language in this village?

Mr. Edwards

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he knows, it is now up to those involved to raise private sector money to enable me to produce the grant which would enable them to round off the appeal and meet the total. It is now up to the individuals to see whether they can make a success of this project.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that many people in Wales felt that the best boost to the Welsh language would be the fourth television channel? As he sees the evidence of lawbreaking around Wales as a result of the Government's decision, is he beginning to realise the damage that the cynical contempt shown by the present Government has done to relations in Wales? How does he explain the fact that the Conservatives fought an election campaign on introducing the fourth channel and then abandoned that decision within two weeks of coming into office? Is he aware that such a blatant abuse of the democratic process plays into the hands of the militants by making ordinary law-abiding people feel cheated?

Mr. Edwards

I have justified and explained the change of policy that we announced in the speech that I made at Llanrwst. Indeed, I have done so in the House of Commons, so I do not need to repeat myself. But I hope that the implications behind the right hon. Gentleman's words from the Dispatch Box just now were not that extremism might in any sense be justified. That would really be a monstrous suggestion.