§ 2.58 p.m.
LORD RAGLAN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in their opinion, the teaching of the Welsh language to children against the wishes of their parents is in accordance with Section 76 of the Education Act, 1944; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, many Welsh children are now being taught the Welsh language against the wishes of their parents, and I shall suggest to your Lordships that that is illegal. The section of the 1944 Act to which my Motion refers reads as follows:
In the exercise and performance of all powers and duties conferred and imposed on them by this Act the Minister and local education authorities shall have regard to the general principle that, so far as is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.
So far as I can learn, no English parents have ever been asked whether they wish their children to be taught Welsh. Supposing they had been asked, the authorities, as the section directs, would have had to consider two matters. One is cost. It can hardly be denied that the cost of teaching Welsh is higher than the cost of not teaching Welsh. The other matter they will have to consider is the question of efficient instruction. I should have thought it quite clear that a child can be efficiently instructed without being taught Welsh, and the only reason I can find that is given for instructing English-speaking Welsh children in Welsh is that the Welsh language ought to be preserved. My Lords, I suggest that is not an educational object at all, and that education authorities have no right to take that into consideration.
§ Though not a Welsh speaker, I shall now venture to say a few words about the Welsh language. The Welsh language is a very ancient language. I believe that it is a very difficult language, but it has a fine old literature. That literature flourished up to the end of the fifteenth century, by which time I should say that it compared very favourably, in quality and quantity, with that in English. But a Welshman, Henry VII, became King of England; the Welsh gentry flocked to London. Those who returned to Wales 846 took to speaking English, so that the Welsh language gradually fell out of fashion and has been declining ever since.
Then, at the beginning of this century, under the influence of an incipient nationalism, there began a revival of the Welsh language. The language selected for this revival, as I understand it, was not the language that anybody now speaks. There are now at least two spoken languages in Wales, North Welsh and South Welsh, and I believe that those who speak one cannot understand those who speak the other. The language which was selected was the ancient literary Welsh, which I am told is nobody's native tongue and is not understood by ordinary Welsh speakers. This appears to be confirmed by a letter which appeared a few days ago in the Western Mail headed "New Welsh". I will read the letter:
Sir—The controversy regarding the Welsh language is really interesting. Having always spoken Welsh at home it pains me to hear my young grandson tackling quite a new language in school which is also called Welsh.
Having been brought up in our smooth Welsh at home he has to start a quite different language, a language quite foreign to him.
Even the numerals nave quite different names from what he has been used to.
The concoction of words on the Welsh news is very amusing. Why not keep the Welsh at home and in school learn English—which will take you round the world?
I shall leave it at that, and go on to consider who, in one form or another. speaks Welsh.
§ At the Census of 1951 28 per cent. of the people of Wales and Monmouthshire over three years of age returned themselves as able to speak Welsh. Those figures are somewhat misleading, as it is certain that quite a number of those who returned themselves as speaking Welsh have not spoken it since childhood, while many others have not acquired more than a smattering. However, taking the figures at their face value, we see that, of the total population, 72 per cent. speak no Welsh and less than 2 per cent. speak no English. To say then that Welsh is the language of Wales seems to me quite ridiculous. There is no country in the world except Eire where so small a proportion of the inhabitants speak what is alleged to be the national language.
§ Further than that, there are many parts of Wales in which the Welsh language is 847 dead, for a language may surely be said to be dead if less than 5 per cent. of the people speak it. Areas in which the language is dead include my own county of Monmouthshire, which, strictly speaking, is not in Wales. It also includes Cardiff, the capital of Wales, the whole of Radnorshire, the whole of South Pembrokeshire, in which Welsh has not been spoken for centuries, and considerable parts of other counties. In those areas Welsh is for all practical purposes a foreign language.
§ Another striking feature to be extracted from the Census is that while 28 per cent. of the population as a whole were returned as Welsh-speaking only 18 per cent. of children were returned as Welsh-speaking. This indicates the rapidity with which the Welsh language is dying out. In Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, 4 per cent. of the population speak Welsh, but only 1.3 per cent. of the children of school age and only .6 of 1 per cent. of the children below school age. It is clear that many people, many Welsh speakers, have migrated into the city, and they have not brought their children up to speak Welsh. Why should they, when there is no one they can speak it to, nothing they want to read in Welsh, and when the only time they hear Welsh spoken is during the very few seconds that elapse before a Welsh programme starts on the wireless, when somebody says "Welsh! switch it off"? "Switch it off: it's Welsh!" is a proverbial saying throughout Wales.
§ There is little in Welsh, apart from the rather specialised studies of the ancient literature, that anyone wants to read. There is no daily newspaper in Welsh, and I am assured that the weekly newspapers depend largely upon their advertisements in English. As for books, quite a number of books are published in Welsh, and are dutifully bought by all the public libraries. It is very doubtful whether anyone reads them, however. Some years ago the librarian at Barmouth, a town in the heart of Welsh-speaking Wales, included in his annual report, which created some comment, mention of the fact that in the course of the whole year not a single Welsh book had been taken out of the library. Only last week I was sent a cutting from the Liverpool Post by the librarian of Wrexham, a very important 848 industrial centre in North Wales serving about 80,000 people; and he said that, of every 1,000 books taken out of the library, only three were in Welsh. He asked his council whether it was worth while taking any more Welsh books. The population of Wrexham is largely Anglicised, but 160 out of 1,000 of the inhabitants speak Welsh. Those 160 people took out only three Welsh books. This, to my mind, shows quite clearly that either the Welsh speakers do not read any books at all or they always read books in English.
§ As regards the speaking of Welsh, I would just relate one anecdote. Your Lordships will know that the Welsh people are very interested in the ancient Welsh game of Rugby football. A few years ago the Welsh Rugby football team visited France, and their hosts, anxious to make the visitors at home, produced a Welsh-speaking Welshman to greet them. They were disappointed to find that not a single member of the team spoke a word of Welsh.
The Welsh language fanatics have alleged that I am waging a one-man war on the Welsh nation, the whole of which is united in hostility to me on that account. I can refute that allegation only by reading a number of extracts from letters which I have received during the last month. I am afraid that it will take some little time, because I have a large number of supporters. From Pembrokeshire I have had this comment:
A big majority of the population approve of your views.
From a leading member of the Labour Party:
You speak. I believe, for a very big section in Wales.
There are very many more people on your side than would appear from the newspaper correspondents.
From west Glamorgan:
You speak for the overwhelming majority of Welshmen.
The writer of this letter goes on to say that at his local debating society a motion "That the Welsh language is an anachronism" was carried by a large majority. Then from Cardiff I have had this message:
More power to your elbow! Ninety-five per cent. of the people in Wales are with you.
My Lords, I am afraid that that statement is an exaggeration; I should not put the number of my supporters at more than 80 per cent. From Radnorshire a writer says that he has been surprised by the number of teachers who support me, but that responsible men have said to him:
You may quote me, but you must not mention my name; I dare not protest.
He goes on to say that
the compulsory Welsh school has captured the pass and will take some shifting. There is profound disquiet about their policy.
From Aberdare comes this statement:
Most of the people in this district are on your side.
And from Barry:
Because English is now the language of the people it is putting the clock hack in education to place so much emphasis on so relatively unimportant a tongue as Welsh.
From Porth, Glamorgan:
You are absolutely right in your views regarding the obsolete Welsh language. The trouble is that the umpteen thousands who think as you do are not so vociferous as those who encourage the cult.
Our poor kids in school have enough to learn without burdening them with the obsolete Welsh language which has no practical value.
I had another letter just now, as I came into the House. It came from Brecon, and said:
Be assured that countless Breconshire people will he behind you.
I commend that to the noble Lord who is going to answer me.
A Member of your Lordships' House writes from Wales to say how sorry he is that he cannot be here to support me. He says:
A professor at Birmingham University told me not long ago that many of his students from Wales are greatly handicapped in their studies by their Welsh schooling.
I think that one of the most sinister aspects of this movement is the inevitable segregation of the people in Wales. After all, we are a United Kingdom and anything that is calculated to divide us is to be deplored.
This segregation is what the language fanatics and the Ministry of Education are working for. A Cardiff lady complains that her seven-year-old daughter has to spend many hours being taught Welsh, and she goes on:
American people do not have to learn Blackfoot, Sioux and Choctaw. Why should
ours have to learn the language of the aborigines?
I do not share that lady's view of the Welsh language, but I sympathise with her indignation. A Swansea father objected to his child being taught Welsh and asked that she should be transferred to the English side of the school. The headmaster refused, so the father appealed to the local education authority. They too refused, and he appealed to the Ministry. The Ministry again refused; so, as a protest, he took his child away from the school, and as a result, was prosecuted and fined. There is freedom for you! From West Glamorgan a writer says:
Though Welsh teaching is not in theory compulsory a child who does not agree to attend the Welsh classes is made to feel an outcast.
At a head teachers' conference, the headmistress of a secondary school said that at her school Welsh was not compulsory, but she admitted that she had it put into the curriculum and that all the girls were expected to attend. From Lampeter a writer states that it took a whole year of agitation before he could get his non-Welsh-speaking child transferred from the all-Welsh school A lady writes from Llangadog, Carmarthenshire—not far from the home of my noble friend Lord Dynevor—to say that her small child attended a school in which half the people spoke English only and the other half were bi-lingual. Last September the Welsh language adviser to the local education committee arrived at the school and told the teachers, without a word to the parents, that the teaching in future was to be entirely in Welsh. She has had to take her child away and send him to his grandparents in order to be educated in English. I believe that Wales is the only part of the British Dominions in which an English-speaking child is not allowed to be educated in English. Another lady from the same county said that her children had to attend a school where all the teaching is in Welsh. Two of them went on to an English school and they were so far behind the others in the commonplaces of English teaching that they never caught up.
Last year, to alleviate local unemployment, the Saunders-Roe Company established a factory in Anglesey, and they brought in some of their skilled employees, with their families, in order to
get this factory going. There is in Beaumaris a grammar school at which the teaching is in English. These English-speaking children asked that they should be allowed to sit for this school. They were told that because they could not pass an examination in Welsh they would not be allowed to do so. When they complained they were told, "Oh well, you have chosen to come to Wales and you must take what you get." Complaints are received not only from purely English speakers but from Welsh speakers as well. I am told that the grammar school boys at Aberystwyth, though Welsh-speaking, are sick of the overdose of Welsh. Last year the honourable Member for West Flint, Mr. Birch, was reported as saying:
Money seems to have been spent on providing Welsh education for which there is no genuine demand; it has been thought to justify the expense by the exercise of compulsion on Welsh-speaking parents.
He was referring to a complaint made by some of his Welsh-speaking constituents that they are not allowed to transfer their children from an all-Welsh school to an English-speaking school. This was forbidden by the headmaster of the school and by the local education authority. Acting on Mr. Birch's advice, they fought the case; and I am glad to say that they won. This happened last year.
I have been sent a more recent example of the kind of coercion which is being employed. Last Thursday there appeared in the Western Telegraph, the Pembrokeshire leading paper, an article headed "Chemistry in Welsh angers parents". It begins as follows—I will not read your Lordships all of it:
The parents of children attending the Preceli bi-lateral Grammar School at Crymmych are ' up in arms '. All the parents are Welsh-speaking, also their children, but while they are willing to be taught certain subjects in their own language, they feel it is entirely wrong to he taught chemistry, history and geography in Welsh. Parents say 'Our children are not having fair play. We want them to stick to their own language in this rural school, but it is ridiculous to be taught chemistry, for instance, in the Welsh language'.
The editorial comments:
It is well known that certain persons with Welsh Nationalist leanings are busily engaged in doing all they can to foster and to cultivate the Welsh language and culture.
These people honestly believe that what they are attempting to do is right—others, who have a sincere understanding for those feelings, hold the opposite view.
But whatever the merits of the respective arguments, the interests of the children should be of paramount importance.
What scope in the wide world is there for a future chemist, physicist or the other specialist pitchforked from an all-Welsh class into one of the great universities of Britain?
I hope the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, will be able to answer that question. I may add that, under the auspices of the Ministry, schools in which all teaching is in Welsh have been established at Cardiff, Penarth and Swansea—all English-speaking towns. A man who speaks no Welsh told me recently that he had been strongly urged to let his daughter be taught chemistry in one of these schools. What can the future of these children be? And what can one think of a Ministry which perpetuates such criminal folly?
My Lords. I now propose to read two short communications, for which I hope your Lordships will excuse me. I shall not read them in full, but I have to make my case and I cannot do so merely by giving my own opinion. The first, on a postcard from Porthcawl, reads as follows:
Thank you for your leadership. Although Welsh-speaking, I resent the attempt to force Welsh on my grandchildren in Wales and consider my grandchildren in England are fortunate. The compulsory learning of Welsh in schools is:
The Ministry of Education has established teachers' training colleges in Wales in which only the Welsh language is used. Teachers come out of those colleges incapable of teaching anything except Welsh, and jobs have to be found for them.
The last letter that I shall read to your Lordships runs as follows:
Although I am not in a position to sign this letter, I feel bound to write to you to say how happy I am that you are making such a stand against the largely bumptious and
arrogant section in Wales who, at this moment, are slowly but surely forming a militant dictatorial group.
They have captured the B.B.C. and are making a determined assault on our schools. I am afraid these Eisteddfod-going Welsh-language-thumping people will stop at nothing to force their views on the majority. Already they are splitting erstwhile happy teaching staffs into two, just as they are doing with the nation as a whole. Most of the people are on your side. I wish you every luck in your endeavours.
Your Lordships will notice that the writer says he is not in a position to give his name, and you may remember that an earlier writer whom I quoted said that responsible teachers said they dare not protest. One of the ladies from whose letter I quoted just now asked me not to mention her name because her husband is a civil servant and might suffer for it. A few days ago I was talking to a man with a temporary Government appointment, and he said, "I am entirely with you, but: I dare not say so. I should lose my job." I said. "Surely not!", and he replied, "Yes, I should. You do not know how powerful these people are." I do not know how powerful those people are but I find it difficult to believe that my informants are lying.
§ Your Lordships may well wonder how a minority of language fanatics could possibly attain such power. The principal reason is that they have the full support of the Minister of Education. I will not trouble your Lordships with a history of the discussions that have taken place about teaching Welsh in the schools, because the present situation really goes back only to 1952. In that year the Minister of Education, Miss Horsbrugh, appointed a body to be called the Central Advisory Council for Education (Wales). It was a remarkable body. All its members were drawn from Wales, and a majority of them—I believe thirteen out of nineteen, including the Chairman—were Welsh speakers. They issued a voluminous report, their bias being 63vious in almost every line of it: everything that makes for more Welsh teaching is commendable; every decrease in Welsh speaking is a catastrophe; the English are aliens. The Boy Scouts are not mentioned, but the Urdd Gobaith Cwmry, the nationalist organisation set up in opposition to the Boy Scouts, is praised unstintedly.
§ This egregious document is the most blatant piece of special pleading that I 854 have ever read, yet the Minister of Education seems to have swallowed it all and it has become the charter of language fanatics and their authority for ramming the Welsh language down people's throats all over Wales. As a result of the policy of the Ministry, large numbers of children are being educated partly in English and partly in Welsh; and I believe it is maintained by all educationists outside Wales that bilingual teaching in any two languages is bad educationally and psychologically. It is said that children so educated never learn to think clearly or to express themselves clearly in either language.
§ Since I put down this Motion the honourable Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn), in an article which he contributed to the Western Mail, mentioned some of the defects in the system of education, and asked that there should be an inquiry by a body with no vested interests into the teaching of Welsh in schools. I believe he will get that inquiry only against the opposition of the Welsh language fanatics, for any form of inquiry they would resent very strongly.
In conclusion, is not the example of Eire sufficient to show the futility of trying to keep a dying language alive by artificial respiration? It is notorious that in that country education has been sacrificed to an entirely unsuccessful attempt to revive the dying Irish language. Not only has this policy failed completely in its object, but it hay brought in its train other serious disadvantages. As a writer in the Western Mail stated a few days ago:
Teachers in Denbighshire are ranting about the Welsh language becoming dead. Let them cross the water to Ireland and see what has happened there, where fanatical emphasis on one subject in the school curriculum affects the mental adequacy of all the teachers.
This has not yet happened in Wales, but it may be on its way. Some of the teachers of Welsh teach it only because they have to, and they recognise its futility. Others are preachers rather than teachers, and what they preach is hatred of England and everything English. But in whatever spirit Welsh is taught to English-speaking children, it may inflict a permanent disability on them, and at best it is a complete waste of time. Those who favour the Ministry's policy are Wales's worst enemy; and it is because I believe their activities are illegal that
I have put down this Motion. I beg to move for Papers.
§ House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
My Lords, what rather amuses me is that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, did not read to the House all his correspondence.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
I noticed that the noble Lord kept clear of the bulk of his correspondence.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
The noble Lord read from his correspondence what suited his purpose. He knows that, as Lord Lieutenant of Monmouth-shire, he has acted differently from many other Lord Lieutenants in either Wales or England. He has taken it upon himself to be a partisan on this vital issue of the Welsh language. I do not know of any debate in your Lordships' House which has created more interest throughout Wales than this one —not because of the Motion but because of the individual who has brought it forward. Let us be quite plain with each other. I could read to your Lordships far more correspondence than has been read by the noble Lord—correspondence which I should be ashamed to receive if I were a Lord Lieutenant. In August last year the Royal National Eisteddfod was held in the county of the noble Lord. It happens on every occasion in the county where the Eisteddfod is held that the Lord Lieutenant of the county is invited. Invariably he attends. But not this one. Oh no! He put forward the pretext that it was a Welsh occasion.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I never put any pretext; I sent a polite refusal in answer to the invitation. I never put up a pretext.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
It may not have been a pretext; we thought it was. 856 But let me put the position quite plainly to the noble Lord. The National Eisteddfod is under the patronage of Her Majesty; and one would have thought that for that reason in itself, if for no other reason, he would have accepted the invitation. But he gave the reason or the pretext for not attending that it was an all-Welsh occasion. Not every day at the Eisteddfod is spent on Welsh affairs. There is an instrumental day; there are brass bands there, and they are concerned with neither English nor Welsh. But there was also a special day. The British Council had invited students from the Commonwealth overseas to attend. They informed the noble Lord that it would be an all-English occasion.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
They told me they did. Was the noble Lord there? Not likely! Why should he condescend to come to a Welsh gathering in any circumstances, even on an "English day"? The national Eisteddfod is very dear to the Welsh people, and that attitude towards us creates resentment and a storm; but the storm abated after much correspondence. Then what happens? The noble Lord issues an article in a monthly magazine called Wales. He has done some quoting and I will do some too. This is one of the most offensive articles one could read.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
I know the background. We will come to that, and soon enough, too. I ask your Lordships to listen to this:In general, therefore, Welsh is the language of the illiterate Welsh, English of the literate Welsh.He makes that statement. He does not recognise any Welsh literature. There are literary men in Wales. They may not be as literary in English as is the noble Lord, but they are nevertheless literary men. It is not for him to say that because they are literary in their native tongue they are illiterate or semi-literate. The article continues:The dialects of north and south are so different as to be mutually unintelligible.857 That is not true. In Wales the northerner understands the southerner. But let us consider north and south England. The noble Lord will not have heard of the two individuals at Wembley, one from the north-east and the other from the West Country. The man from the West Country kept jabbering something which the north-easterner could not understand, so he said, "Oh, either talk English or shut up!" That was not in Wales; that was at Wembley.
In writing this article the noble Lord was enjoying himself. I ask your Lordships to listen to this. Could your Lordships think of anything more offensive to any nation than this? And if a small nation it is all the worse:The Welsh language is thus used for at least three undesirable purposes, to conceal the results of scholarship, to try to lower the standards of official competence "—this is a Lord Lieutenant saying this—and, worst of all, to create enmity where none existed.Imagine ascribing those three offensive things to the language!
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
And he has the audacity to say that they are perfectly true. Well, I was told when I was entering the House, "Don't forget you are dealing with a silly fool." I shall believe it shortly.
But let us come to the last sentence—because he is entitled to his opinion:
It will be a happy day for Wales when that language finally takes its proper place—on the bookshelves of the scholars.We are told that surely the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, is entitled to state is opinion. Who said he was not? But I should like to remind the House that so was another rather fervent, ardent Welshman. He read the article and when he got to the last sentence he amended it slightly in this way:It will be a happy day for Wales when Lord Raglan finally joins his fathers and his body rests on the shelves of the vault of his family.He also was entitled to his opinion. But that opinion would not entitle him to try to hurry along the day when the noble Lord. Lord Raglan, joins his fathers. The noble Lord has said that Welsh is a dying 858 language. If it is, let it die naturally. Why hurry it? This is not a storm, but a tornado, that resulted in someone communicating with the Palace—wrongly, of course. Why try to drag Her Majesty into this? It is not right to drag Her Majesty into this. It is the Lord Lieutenant himself who is concerned and he, as a Lord Lieutenant, should know better than to treat little Wales in that way. We now come to the Motion.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
And it was very necessary that I should say what I have said before the noble Lord said "Hear, hear!". Why was this Motion put on the Order Paper? That was the question asked, because the noble Lord had obtained publicity which many noble Lords and Members of the other place would envy. Overnight he became the most talked-of man in Wales. Wherever one went, whatever newspaper one got hold of to read, it was a question of "That man again!" The matters to which I have referred already are the background to this Motion on the Order Paper. Why was it put there? It could have been because the noble Lord felt he had a mission and he must save the Welsh people from their own folly, since they would not save themselves.
§ LORD MACDONALD OF GWAENYSGOR
I can well believe he may in the early hours of the morning imagine himself taking a firm stand. In fact, my Lords, I omitted to tell you that the title of the article is: "I take my stand". I can well imagine the noble Lord saying to himself:Dare to be a Raglan;Dare to stand alone;Dare to have a purposeAnd dare to make it known!I can quite understand that. It may well be it was that sense of a mission that caused him to pursue this matter. It may well be. But, my Lords, it may be bravado. It could be braggadocio; it could be defiance and arrogance, with the attitude of. "Who are they, these illiterate and semi-illiterate people, to criticise me, the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire?" It could be a horrid attitude he adopts 859 towards them. It could be; but it could also be intelligent anticipation. He could have thought that someone might put a Motion upon the Order Paper and he had better forestall him. There is already a similar Motion on the Order Paper of another place. It may have been that.
What does this Motion say? It simply asks a question which could be answered from the noble Lord's own Front Bench in one word: "Yes" or "No." Do not forget that the 1944 Act was an Act of Parliament in the time of a National Government. All the Parties at that time were national ones. What did they do? They decided who should have the authority to determine the curriculum of a school in an area. In their wisdom they decided that the local education authorities should have that power; that they should have the direct responsibility, and nobody else. That is what they decided.
What does the noble Lord say? He says "No". From his speech to-day, one gathers that the parents should be in a position to say to a local authority: "No; don't put this subject in; don't put that subject in, and don't put the other subject in". Surely the noble Lord is not confining this to the Welsh language, is he? He is not going to say to the local education authorities of England and Wales: "You can do what you want regarding other subjects, but on the question of the Welsh language parents should have a right to contract out"? He is surely not suggesting such unfair treatment as that, is he? Is he saying that parents should have the right to decide from which subjects their children may contract out? Can they contract out of chemistry or history? Can they contract out of any subject? If that is the position he is advocating, it will create chaos in our schools. I cannot believe that he intends singling out this one subject.
I do not know whether or not the noble Lord has ever served on an education authority, but if he has he will know how careful a local education authority are when determining the curriculum for a school, and how careful they are when determining which subjects should go in and which should not go in. If he thinks, and if other noble Lords also think, that it will serve the interests of education in this country, in Wales or in England, simply to say: "The local education 860 authority must have the approval of parents for every subject"—not singling this one out, but for every subject—then he is asking for chaos throughout the school world, both in England and in Wales.
The noble Lord then makes great claims. He tells us of some schools, somewhere, where 90 or 95 per cent. of the children are English and yet they have got to turn over to the Welsh language. In my own county, Flintshire, where I was born and where I live, there was some discussion some few months ago relating to the position of their ten schools, where almost all the children are English. It was said that 90 to 95 per cent. of the parents of the children there were objecting to Welsh being taught in those ten schools. The education authority, in their wisdom, decided to have meetings in the ten schools and to hear what the parents had to say, and to try to explain to them what was behind the policy of the L.E.A. Less than 25 per cent. of those people on fire—those people against—turned up at the meeting. Less than 25 per cent.! The education authority were told that the whole place was seething with discontent— yet less than 25 percent. turned out. And when the vote was taken the majority of those who did turn out were in favour of Welsh being taught. Everyone there was English, and they were in favour of Welsh being taught.
The noble Lord must have seen the Argus. He knows that in Newport not long ago it was suggested that headmasters should be asked to canvass the children, through their parents, on whether they would like a Welsh school or a Welsh lesson. To make it easier for them, it was suggested that it should be held on a Saturday morning. They thought they might get 25 to 30 favourable replies: in fact, they got over 500. And the vast majority of those persons were English. That was in Newport. Monmouthshire—so it is no use the noble Lord coming to the House of Lords and trying to tell us that the whole of Wales is seething against this.
We must bear in mind that local education authorities are made up of responsible men and women. They know, better than anybody else what is best to teach in their respective schools. I do not know of one local education authority 861 in Wales—and I know them all; and hundreds of the members of those local education authorities—which would agree to Welsh or any other subject being introduced into a curriculum if they thought it would endanger the general education of the children. I do not know of one single education authority in the whole of Wales who would agree to any subject—English, Welsh, or any other subject—being introduced into the curriculum if it was going to endanger the general education of the scholar. What is the position regarding the very important question of how the general education of the children is affected by the learning of Welsh? The noble Lord may be surprised to hear that, generally, the child who learns both speaks both well —very well indeed. The interchange of translating one to the other enriches the vocabulary.
Let me now look at another quotation. Here is the testimony not of an illiterate or semi-illiterate Welshman but of a headmaster—an Englishman. He is the headmaster of a grammar school. Surely this will be accepted. He writes to the headmistress of a Welsh school about the progress of her pupils after transfer to his school. Let me read this:I should like to take this opportunity of telling you how well the boys from your school have done at the end of the first year. One or them is top of all the boys in Form I, with an average percentage of 86, the highest average that I can remember in a junior form. You will perhaps be interested to know that all these boys have done very well in English, one of them gaining 88 per cent. I am sure these results afford adequate proof, if such were needed, that children who are taught mainly in Welsh are not thereby hindered in their progress in English and other subjects when they come to a grammar school. These facts disprove categorically those statements in the Press that education through the medium of Welsh penalises any child if he proceeds with the study of English or any other language afterwards.Then I spoke to the director of education for my native county of Flintshire (I am sorry to say that he is one of the "illiterate" or "semi-illiterate" Welshmen), and asked him what his experience was. He said that the time is now coming when we can adjudicate on the issue as to how far the introduction of Welsh has affected the general education. He said that the fact of the matter was that, in the main examinations, the children who had learnt Welsh did as well as, if not better than, those who had 862 not. So it is no use thinking that learning both languages confuses the mind of the child. It does nothing of the kind.
There is another aspect which I want to emphasise. After all, your Lordships have always agreed that there is a Welsh nation—as much a nation as the English nation. What amazes me is that, after eighteen centuries of battling, the Welsh language is still alive. Let it be clearly understood that it has been a fight right through. One prominent Welshman, writing a few years ago, said this:How the ancient speech of the Britons, after battling for eighteen centuries against three such powerful languages as French, Latin and English, has survived at all, is a mystery; the fact that it is today more studied, more written about and more read than ever before is a miracle.That was a man who may be known to the noble Lord. Professor Sir Alfred Zimmern—an Englishman this time, said this:Welsh has survived because it represents something—a spirit, a culture, a national character.And Ruskin said about seventy years ago:God forbid that the Welsh language should die! It is the language of music.There is another quotation that I want to read. This is by somebody who happened to be a good friend of mine, George Tomlinson, who was Minister of Education in the Labour Government. George Tomlinson was a thorough Englishman. There is nobody more English than a Lancashire man, and George Tomlinson was thoroughly Lancashire.I believe,said the late George Tomlinsonthat the language, the literature, the history and the traditions of Wales ate the priceless heritage of all Welsh children.I beg of the noble Lord, if he must pursue this course, to do it with a little more discretion. I would beg of him, also, if he does so, to resign his position as Lord Lieutenant. Then he will be able to say it far better and with better grace.
It is suggested that a bunch of Welshmen known as the Welsh Nationalist Party are running Wales. Anyone who suggests that does not know Wales. A friend of mine who holds a high position in Wales said to me the other day that it was not the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, 863 who would kill the Welsh language but the Welsh Nationalist Party, by their silly, overmuch lauding of the language. Suppose that to-morrow morning every man, woman and child who lives in Wales, including the noble Lord, woke up able to speak Welsh fluently. Would that mean that because we should all then speak Welsh we would make a mass attack on England? Is that the idea? That is what is suggested. It is suggested that the more people speak Welsh the more we endanger the relationship between the two countries. That is just silly.
The Welsh people have played their part in the United Kingdom—a noble part and a part that ought never to be forgotten. Many of them are anxious to-day to preserve their language. I have spent fifty-five years in Lancashire and therefore I think I can view the position a little differently from those who have spent all their lives in Wales; but to those of us who know the language and enjoy reading our literature it seems wrong to stop the attempt to talk in the language and to use the schools to help to make our children Welsh and give them a knowledge of the Welsh language. Is that a right attitude? Is that a statesmanlike attitude? I presume that at the end of the debate the noble Lord will be able to find it unnecessary to force a Division and will find it possible to withdraw his Motion. On this issue there is no Party policy and I have no doubt that if a Division were called we should be a mixed bag in both Lobbies. I want the House to send this message to Wales: that the exclusion of any subject from the general curriculum, which exclusion might endanger the general education of the children of Wales, is opposed by your Lordships.
It must be remembered—and this is important—that there are those in Wales who are dissatisfied with being ruled from Westminster and who think that if they had a Parliament for Wales, sitting at Cardiff, they would be much better off. Many of us in Wales do not accept that doctrine at all and we will do all we can to prevent it, because we think that our interests are joint interests and that it is far better to keep together. If we want to drive Wales into the hands of the Nationalist Party, all we have to do is to pursue the kind of policy which is in the 864 mind of the noble Lord. Then more Welsh people than ever would feel inclined to support a Parliament for Wales.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD SWANSEA
My Lords, it is with some trepidation that I rise to address your Lordships' House for the first time, and I must ask your Lordships' indulgence while I occupy your time for a brief space. I am afraid that I cannot speak with the eloquence achieved by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, who has just spoken. Like the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, I am an Englishman living in Wales, where I was born. Although I speak no Welsh, I find it no hindrance, and certainly I should not choose to live anywhere else. Although I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has said. I feel that the article which he wrote for the magazine Wales, which has raised such a storm in Welsh circles, was rather unfortunate in coming from him, an Englishman of high standing living in a county which is neither in England nor in Wales.
The noble Lord said that small languages are a hindrance to communications between countries, but even if the world had a universal language, there would still be a need for tact and a certain forbearance in people's dealing with each other. I think that the article has served to influence a hot-headed few and to offend the feelings of many who otherwise bear no ill-will towards the English. I think it is remarkable that while the noble Lord, Lord Raglan has received numerous letters commending his view and contributing further opinions, all the letters of the opposite viewpoint, which have been published in the Press have been, almost without exception, simply abusive and have offered no concrete and reasoned arguments. This only illustrates the intolerance of a Nationalist minority towards anybody who dares to oppose their views.
I believe that the Welsh language should not be allowed to die out. The best way for it to survive is for people to speak it in their homes and to bring up their children to speak it. Many people who wish their children to learn, say, French send them abroad to France. There, living perhaps with a French family and in a French atmosphere, they 865 naturally absorb the language and quickly become efficient in it through daily use. If children are going to learn Welsh in their homes, it is only right and natural that they should be able to have lessons in grammar and spelling at school. But if they do not speak the language at home, it is useless for parents to insist that they learn it at school, because as soon as they leave school they will soon forget all they have learned and much time and money will have been wasted. There is the added difficulty, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan has said, that there is no such thing as standard Welsh, the equivalent of what we know as the Queen's English. First, there is great difference between the written and the spoken language in any one place. Secondly, there is just as great a difference in the language as spoken in North Wales and South Wales, and even in adjoining counties. Even children who have been brought up to speak Welsh at home find that the Welsh they are taught at school very different.
Much is being said about attracting industries to Wales, and there is no doubt that the potential benefits, both to Wales and to Great Britain's prosperity as a whole. are enormous. However, workers will not be keen to come to Wales from, say, the Midlands unless they have some assurance that their children will have a good education in their new homes. What possible justification can there be for compelling these children to learn Welsh? Or more still for compelling these children to attend schools in which all lessons are conducted in Welsh? That has happened already, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has told us. A case was reported in the Press a short while ago. A boy went to a village school in Anglesey where all the teaching was carried out in Welsh. He did net understand one word of the language and was given a pencil and piece of paper to keep him occupied. What benefit could that boy have obtained from such an education? It is not to be wondered at that he was classed as backward, through no fault of his own.
Fanatical insistence on one language cannot produce happy results. The case of Ireland provides a lesson for anyone who thinks otherwise. The policy of Mr. De Valera was survival of language at the expense of unity; yet today, I am told, 90 per cent. of the people in Ireland are English-speaking, and there is still 866 no unity. Their Government has made every effort to make Gaelic the official and universal language of the country, to the extent of adopting the Gaelic spelling of place names, and even of personal names, so that they become quite unrecognisable to anybody but the 10 per cent. who speak Gaelic. In some counties in Wales, too, this practice is gaining ground. One sees large signs on the county boundaries, and outside towns and villages, hearing the English and Welsh names, which often have little or no apparent connection with each other. One cannot help wondering whether, if one addressed a letter in Welsh, it would in fact reach its destination.
What has happened in Ireland is also happening in South Africa, where the present Government is trying to make Afrikaans the official language of the country. I was once told by an African N.C.O. there that in the South African Army all correspondence is carried out in alternate months in English and Afrikaans. Unfortunately, Afrikaans is rather weak in technical terms, so that if during an Afrikaans' month they want to indent, say, for a small part with a long name for a rifle they leave it, if they can until the following month when they can indent for it in English. The same person also told me that the literal translation in Afrikaans of the command "Mark time!" would be: "Make as if you are walking, but do not walk."
The Welsh language is similarly handicapped. Although it is a language of great antiquity, it is not flexible and adaptable to changes in requirements. It is not alone in this respect: technical German, for instance, fairly bristles with portmanteau words which would make Lewis Carroll green with envy. But because of this handicap Welsh has to borrow wholesale from English to fill the gaps in its vocabulary. A few days ago I was in a garage in South Wales when a customer came in and spoke to the proprietor in Welsh, in the middle of which I heard the word battery ". The proprietor responded with another flow of Welsh, in which the words "two-year guarantee" appeared like lucky charms in a Christmas pudding.
Welsh is a language with great tradition behind it, and a lot of memorable poetry and prose. For that reason the language should not be allowed to die out altogether. 867 Eisteddfods, both local and national, do much to keep the language alive by encouraging the growth of new writers; but care must be taken lest Eisteddfods become bogged down through insistence on the use of one language. The other day I was told the story of an Englishman who happened to be in Ebbw Vale at the time of the National Eisteddfod. Being keenly interested in music he obtained tickets for it. In the course of the programme he asked the people sitting next to him to explain what the next item in the programme was. They started to tell him in Welsh. He said: "Look here, I cannot understand a word of what you are saying. I have come here because I am very interested in music, and I want to know what the next song is about, so that I can appreciate it." They still continued to talk to him in Welsh and, not unnaturally, he was so annoyed that he got up and walked out. An Eisteddfod could be a great attraction to tourists, were it not for the narrow-mindedness of some people who have not the courtesy to speak to visitors in a language they understand perfectly well.
To many people Welsh is an essential part of their home and community life. But what practical purpose does it serve? In the centres of commerce and industry, such as Cardiff and Swansea, I am sure it would be difficult to find anyone who regularly uses the language in the course of his business. Of all the local authorities in Wales, only one conducts its meetings in Welsh. The members must, I presume, derive some satisfaction from using it in the council chamber, but what good can it do them in their correspondence and transactions with other and higher authorities? It has been suggested that in some parts of Wales preference is given to Welsh-speaking applicants for posts in local government, regardless of whether their other qualifications are adequate. If this is so, it is yet another example of the inverted snobbery which is unfortunately so common these days.
The quality of being Welsh is not dependent on language alone. The Welsh people who have contributed most to the world. in science, the arts, literature, commerce, and even in politics, have done so through the medium of the English language. Many of them, even among the writers, have succeeded in displaying 868 their Welshness through their work without being able to speak or write the language. One has only to look at Census figures to see how Welsh has declined since the beginning of this century. To-day only a quarter of the population, most of them in the higher age groups, can speak Welsh fluently. The literature of the language to-day is meagre: there is no Welsh daily newspaper; few periodicals and only a few books are published, simply because the demand is not there, as my noble friend Lord Raglan has already said. In one of the most Welsh-speaking towns only one Welsh library hook is borrowed for ten English ones. In other parts, as we have heard, the proportion is even less.
There is one body which, perhaps in consequence of this controversy, has been stung into action. The London Welsh Association, which I gather up till now has conducted all its functions in English, has now resolved to conduct them in Welsh. However, I see from a newspaper report that at a dinner organised by the Association an appeal for the preservation of the Welsh language was made in English. If Welsh is to be preserved, let people speak it at home; and let it be taught in the schools, but only with the consent of the parents. The object of education is to make children fit to take their place in the world, and their needs, my Lords, should surely have first consideration.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
My Lords, it falls to my happy lot to congratulate my noble friend Lord Swansea on his maiden speech in this House. It will be apparent to your Lordships that we shall benefit very much from any future contribution he may make to us, which we hope will not be too long delayed. Having said that, I am not quite sure that I agree with all he has said. I am sure, however, that I do not agree with the method that my noble friend Lord Raglan has adopted to bring this matter to the attention of Parliament. It may be said, perhaps, that some violent electric shock should be administered to Parliament to make it consider this vexed question— because undoubtedly it is a vexed question—but I feel that we can discuss the matter without hurting other people's feelings to quite the degree that I think they have been hurt by those who are 869 perhaps more extreme Welsh nationalists than I am, although I yield to no one in my desire to do what I can for my country in the best possible manner.
Undoubtedly a shock has been administered; I feel even that my noble friend opposite, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, felt the prick of the needle when he was making the first part of his speech. That is all as it may be. Surely, the point of this debate is to find out, in the words of the Motion, whether the Education Act, 1944, is in fact being carried out. If the forum of the nation, in the shape of the two Houses of Parliament, cannot discuss this matter in a reasonable voice, then that is, of course, the negation of what the Houses of Parliament stand for.
I am delighted that the Welsh language survives, and I entirely agree with the noble Lord. Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, that it is a miracle that it does. Perhaps I may, with due diffidence, be allowed to say that, because my family was not one of those which left Wales at the time of the Tudor accession to the throne. Possibly it was because of forfeiture or execution that it had to remain where it was. But it recovered. Of course, the position of the Welsh language varies greatly according to the part of Wales you are in, and what may appear to be quite ridiculous in one part of Wales is not so ridiculous in another. I live in a county where the Welsh language is the current speech of the countryside. Many children go to school at the age of five unable to speak English and that is, of course, the strength of the language—it is in the home.
But we must recognise that Welsh parents want their children to learn English when they go to school. There is absolutely no doubt about that. The village schools are slowly being closed, and it makes education in those that survive very difficult. It is not long since that I was in a small village school in Carmarthenshire which had eleven children as pupils. Only seven spoke Welsh, and only four spoke English. The schoolmistress, who, incidentally, lived in the town of Llangadog which my noble friend Lord Raglan mentioned in his speech, said she had an extraordinarily difficult task, because every lesson had to be done twice—not only the ordinary lesson, but 870 also the teaching of the two languages vice versa. The English children certainly did not want to learn Welsh. Their parents were there on a temporary job for a year or two, and then the children would go away and forget all they had ever learned.
I will turn for a few moments to the question of how to overcome that difficulty. So far as the language is concerned, I submit that we should encourage it in the home in every way we know. We have now a Welsh broadcasting system which competes, I hope successfully —I am not quite sure; in fact, I rather doubt it— with English television and English radio, and there are, of course, the Eisteddfods and the literature which can encourage it naturally. But, in spite of all that, I think there is no doubt that the Welsh language is declining slightly. In my submission, the mistake of the ardent Welsh nationalist is in making a fetish of the language, because, whether we like it or not, the majority of Welsh people do not speak it. I tried a few moments ago to point out that whether it appears reasonable or unreasonable depends upon where you live. But because the majority of the Welsh people do not speak Welsh, I do not think they are any less patriotic for that reason.
It was my immense privilege two or three weeks ago—and the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was there—to speak the closing words of the Festival of Wales in the big stadium at Cardiff, in the presence of several thousand people. That occasion was the culmination of six months of the Festival which reached into every town and village. I believe that those who were present will bear me out when I say that there was a tremendous feeling of culmination of a great national effort, and that everybody who was there felt that all the trouble, time and expense that had been given to it was well worth while. But, my Lords, it was in English. That was the language spoken, because most of us could not speak Welsh—at least I and and others on the platform could not speak it. But although the Welsh language was not used at that function, I yield to nobody in my feeling of patriotism towards Wales. I can only say that I came away feeling that the whole thing was a great. moving success. The present Archbishop of Wales cannot speak Welsh. He comes from the County of Monmouth.
§ LORD DYNEVOR
No, he was the Bishop of Monmouth before he was appointed Archbishop of Wales. I instance that only to show the slow pressure of the English language upon the Welsh language. In Cardiff, the capital city, you will hear virtually no Welsh spoken. but there are many good Welsh people there, for all that.
With that background, I come to the actual issue of this debate: the compulsory teaching of Welsh in the schools. This is indeed the crux. It may be argued that the decline of the Welsh language would have gone faster if it had not been that the language was compulsorily taught in the schools of those particular counties that insist upon it. Indeed, I have no particular objection whatever to the teaching of Welsh in the schools, if that is what the parents want, but—and here I come to the great difficultyနI have a great deal of sympathy with the English children who do not want to learn it. I do not know how to get over that difficulty. In our old-fashioned, rather over-crowded school-houses and buildings, it is difficult to know how further segregation can be made and classes divided so that while Welsh is being taught on one side of the school, English children, or those who do not want to learn it, can be taught something else.
There have been suggestions, and there still are, that all-Welsh schools should be built. I have in my hand a notice issued last year by the Education Committee of the Carmarthenshire County Council which I received as a governor of one of the voluntary schools which may be affected. It says:Notice is hereby given, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 (3) of the Education Act, 1944, that the County Council of Carmarthen, being the local education authority, propose to establish a new Welsh county primary school for about thirty children mainly of the age of five to eleven …The school will be available for that district. That notice is in English, and it is naturally printed in Welsh on the other side. The question which interested me and my colleagues, I think I may say, when we received that notice was: Will the children benefit? Your Lordships will have noticed that the school is for thirty children. I suppose one could argue the other way round: that one 872 is providing a school for thirty children who will be unable to speak English until they are eleven, and they will make more room in the other schools for those who wish to learn English and do not want to learn Welsh. But I do not think that that is really in the interests of the children, which must be the paramount issue.
English, as has already been said by noble Lords, is the language of commerce, the language of science and the language of the exciting world of the future which our children have before them to-day. There is no single scientific Welsh word. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, said, I cannot think that a child will not take some harm from not being able to speak a word of English until it is eleven. although I dare say that the medical profession can tell you that a foreign child coming here, speaking only Russian at the age of eleven, will be nearly word perfect in English by the time it is fifteen. That may well be; but within the confines of these British Isles, where we have this one universal language spoken, whether we like it or not, in Ireland and Scotland and England, I cannot help feeling that it is a slightly retrograde step. from the child's point of view, to prevent its acquiring a sound knowledge of the English language at the earliest possible age.
If there are those who want to speak Welsh, to become fluent in it, to become scholarly in it—and, so far as I know, there is only one universal Welsh book and that is the Bible—well, if we like to pay for it, allow that to happen. But the overriding consideration, in my view, must be for Parliament to give the fullest protection to every child in this country who desires to become perfect in English, and do nothing to handicap it in commerce, trade and science in the great world of the future.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ LORD GRANVILLE-WEST
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships' House for the first time, and I crave that indulgence which your Lordships so generously grant to one who faces the ordeal of the maiden speech. I face that ordeal now, and I am acutely aware of the very high standards which your Lordships set and of the wholly admirable quality of the maiden speeches which 873 have so far preceded mine. Furthermore, I realise that a maiden speech, to be acceptable to your Lordships, must be non-controversial. I am in the unfortunate position of having chosen to speak in this debate, which your Lordships may think was rather rash on my part; but whatever the feelings may be in Wales and elsewhere with regard to the matter now under discussion, I can only assure yam. Lordships that I, for my part, shall avoid the highly explosive nature of them. Furthermore, it may be of some comfort to your Lordships to know that I shall be brief.
Perhaps I may be permitted to deal with a preliminary point. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has based his Motion upon the legality of the teaching of Welsh in schools in Wales. He rests his objection on Section 76 of the Education Act, 1944. With great respect to the noble Lord, I would submit to him and to the House that Section 76 of the Act of 1944 is a section which does not deal with the curriculum in schools but deals with choice of schools. There is this great difference. If a local education authority, in pursuance of the powers given to them, have erected two schools, then there may be a choice to the parent to decide which of those two schools his child shall attend; and it is upon that point, I think, that the noble Lord has rested his objection. In fact, the section which deals with the curriculum in schools is Section 23, and that matter, under the Act, is given to the local education authorities to decide.
Now, my Lords, one of the reasons why I ventured to intervene in this debate at all was that, like the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who has so eloquently and so vigorously introduced this debate, I have a close and intimate association with Monmouthshire, a county which, as the noble Lord said, is technically outside Wales, but which, of course, has historical Welsh connections; in fact, it has often been described as the most Anglicised part of Wales. However, I do not propose this afternoon to talk upon the technical matter of the true legal status of Monmouthshire. What I think is indisputable is that Monmouthshire, at any rate historically, formed the Welsh Kingdom of Gwent Its place names are Welsh. The eisteddfod, which is so essentially Welsh in character, is firmly 874 established in the towns and villages of that county and is so much a part of the life of the people. Furthermore, my Lords, successive Governments have recognised the inseparability of Monmouthshire from Wales in matters of education, local government, industry and Statute Law. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that one of the convincing arguments in favour of the association of Monmouthshire with Wales is the fact that so many Monmouthshire men find their place in the Welsh International Rugby team.
The point I want to make is that, not-withstanding these close Welsh connections, the Welsh language in Monmouthshire is virtually non-existent. Even the local eisteddfodau are conducted in the English tongue. It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan said, that only 3.5 per cent. of its total population can speak the Welsh language. With regard to schoolchildren between the ages of five and fifteen in maintained primary and secondary schools, the position is even worse; only 2 out of every 1,000 of them are thoroughly bi-lingual; and only 8 out of every 1,000 are able to carry on an elementary conversation in the Welsh language. In this respect the position of Cardiff, the capital city, is not much better. Only 4 out of every 1,000 of its schoolchildren of the ages I have mentioned are thoroughly bi-lingual, while only 16 out of every 1,000 can carry on this elementary conversation in Welsh. Monmouthshire's position does not greatly differ from that found in other industrial areas. In Glamorgan and Rhondda only 7.2 per cent. of their schoolchildren are thoroughly bi-lingual. So there is undoubtedly a remarkable decline in the use of the Welsh language in Gwent.
There are various reasons for this. One, of course, is to he found in the large number of people who crossed the borders into Gwent from England during the last century, when industrial development took place, But another reason, and perhaps the most significant of all, is that in very few schools in Monmouthshire was the Welsh language taught; and certainly in none of them was it a compulsory subject. If, therefore, the Central Advisory Council for Education are right when they declare that the distinct culture of Wales is closely and intimately bound up with the language, 875 and little of it will survive the language, then Welsh culture is in serious danger in those industrial areas. It follows from this that the cultural future of Wales rests not on Monmouthshire or Glamorganshire—though perhaps in time they may be able to make a greater contribution—but on the counties north and west, where about 70 to 80 per cent. of the population are Welsh-speaking. They are now the guardians of the Welsh language and culture. But when industrial development spreads to them, as all are hoping to see, will they, too, be able to withstand the pressure, or will the industrialisation and the influx of population, mean Welsh denationalisation?
The Celtic language has been subjected to many pressures and to many threats of extinction throughout the centuries, but it has survived over a thousand years. There are still nearly one million people in Wales who speak the Welsh tongue, but undoubtedly it is true that the English influence is strong and permanent, and must exist in Wales side by side with that of the Welsh. It is therefore not possible, nor indeed is it desirable, to have a Principality wholly and exclusively Welsh in language or in culture.
The Central Advisory Council for Education in Wales clearly saw the road ahead when in their Report they said that the only feasible way in which Welsh culture could be kept alive and saved for posterity was by a policy of bi-lingualism. They could see only one other alternative, and that was for Wales to become monolingual English, which would mean the disappearance of the Welsh language and culture. I do not believe that the English, certainly much less the Welsh, would wish to see so rich a heritage lost. It is therefore in the Advisory Council's recommendation that the greatest hope lies. It was accepted by the then Minister of Education, Miss Florence Horsbrugh, who urged local education authorities to implement it as quickly as possible. The recommendation was that the children of the whole of Wales, including Monmouthshire, should be taught Welsh and English according to their ability to profit from the instruction. Some progress has been made even in Monmouthshire. In 1955, the Monmouthshire education committee established a small school with Welsh as the medium of instruction.
876 Perhaps I may refer at this point to some observations which have been made with regard to the teaching in Welsh schools. The impression that has been conveyed to me is that English-speaking children are compelled to attend Welsh schools and submit to instruction in the Welsh language. If that is so, then I must confess that I was not aware of it. The position as I understood it was that in regard to the Welsh schools where Welsh was the language of instruction, it was the parents who decided whether their children should attend such schools. The children were taught the Welsh language up to the age of seven, and from the age of seven the English language was introduced progressively up to the age of eleven-plus. They then sat for the eleven-plus examination which in Wales was, and still is, taken on a knowledge of English and arithmetic. To get into the grammar schools the children had to satisfy the standards in English and arithmetic. So far as I have been able to understand the position, the results of the examinations show that the children who have been taught bi-lingually (which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, said was educationally bad) obtained, on the average, a higher percentage of places in the grammar schools than those who were taught in the English language alone.
But I was saying that some progress has been made in Monmouthshire, and I mentioned the establishment of a school in which the language of instruction was Welsh. That is the case where the parents exercise their choice. They have in the same area arranged for Welsh to be incorporated in the curriculum of the primary schools as a second language—this is a bi-lingual effort—while in the secondary school it is taken as an optional subject. There are three other schools within the county—two grammar schools and one secondary modern school—in which Welsh is taught as an optional subject. If I am wrong in the impression I have gathered from the noble Lord. Lord Raglan, I hope he will forgive me. but I rather gathered the impression that he was complaining that children of English parents living in Wales were compelled to attend school and to receive Welsh instruction.
There is another side to the story, because in Monmouthshire, which the noble Lord knows so well (the noble Lord and I at one time served upon the 877 same local education authority) a questionnaire was sent out to 5,000 parents inquiring whether they would like their children to take the study of Welsh. Three thousand five hundred of them replied and said that they would like it done; but because of the difficulty of making arrangements in the schools, and because of the shortage of teachers of Welsh. those 3,500 children could not be taught the Welsh language. So that it is not wholly on the one side that these difficulties arise.
Then again, in Monmouthshire there is the Caerleon Training College. This college is one where the Welsh language is extensively used, and it has become a stronghold of the Welsh language and culture. It is, of course, in the predominantly Welsh-speaking areas of the north and west where the policy of bilingualism is being most extensively applied; but the pattern throughout Wales and Monmouthshire as a whole is a highly complex one. Your Lordships may have been given the impression that in Wales all schools are taken in the Welsh language, and the Welsh language only. The position, as I understand it, is as follows. There are schools where the Welsh language is the language of instruction, subject to the parents of the children giving their consent. Then there are schools where English is the medium of instruction, with Welsh as a second language—that is to say, if the children take Welsh in the primary schools, they are taught English up to the age of seven, and at the age of seven they are then gradually and progressively taught the Welsh language. In other schools, where English is the language of instruction, Welsh is an optional subject; and there are a large number of schools in Wales where English is taught but no Welsh is taught at all. This pattern, my Lords, demonstrates, I think, that local education authorities, upon whom the responsibility for providing the school curriculum rests, are discharging their responsibilities with sympathy., with understanding and, I hope, with wisdom; and that this matter can safely be left with these local education authorities who have so faithfully discharged their responsibilities in the past.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ LORD TREFGARNE
My Lords, I regard it as fortunate that it falls to me 878 to follow the noble Lord, Lord Granville-West, and to express—I believe I carry your Lordships with me in this—our appreciation of his maiden speech. I, at any rate, felt that his calm manner and the balanced selection of facts with which he supported his argument were of a kind to commend themselves to your Lordships, and I feel sure that if he can do as well as that on his maiden speech, we shall look forward with interest to his further contributions when he has perhaps become more accustomed to your Lordships' House. I particularly commend his suggestion that this is a Motion which should not be decided on legalistic grounds—particularly when the legalistic ground on which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who moved this Motion, relies, is of extremely doubtful validity in the opinion of every lawyer whom I have heard give an opinion upon it. The question should be decided on grounds which transcend every petty legal consideration, and I am sure that when the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, comes to reply he will deal with that matter more adequately than I can.
Having said that, I wish respectfully to express my own dissent from the opinions of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. I would go further and say that if the noble Lord is looking for a windmill to tilt at or a mission in life in the field of education, I believe he could find one more worthy of his influential position, one less likely to inflame Welsh opinion against him and, I am afraid I must add, against his high office, and one which, moreover, would be more likely to be rewarded with success. Let me, in passing, mention just one subject which I should like, with all deference, to suggest to the noble Lord: the proportion of children who are taught French compared with the small proportion who are taught German or Spanish; and the infinitesimal proportion of children who are taught one of the two great trading languages of the future, Chinese or Russian. Surely there are more material gains to be attained by espousing a cause of that kind than to pick on a subject which arouses such intense antagonism among the noble Lord's own people and population.
What makes the noble Lord's case at once more plausible and more provocative is that there is a grain of truth in 879 each of his three main points. Undoubtedly there are Welshmen who would give a job to the devil if he could speak Welsh and would reject the Angel Gabriel if he could not. But gentlemen with dominating prejudices are to be found at every appointments board, and noble Lords must be aware of the exceptional but still numerous class of person in a position of authority to whom religion, accent, school, politics or common membership of something or other is preferred to competence. These are not characteristics of the Welsh alone; these are human weaknesses, and I have no reason to suppose that they are any worse or that they run more strongly in the breast of a Welsh nationalist than they do in a large number of other categories of gentlemen whom I need not name.
I was sorry to hear the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, say that hatred of the English was being taught by some of those who are teaching Welsh in the Welsh schools. That I do not believe; and I found it rather astonishing that a proposition so grave should be put forward by one of your Lordships without a scintilla of evidence to support it. It is perfectly true that a number of semi-jocular references to the English are made occasionally, just as there are references to the Scotch and often to the Irish. I remember once being told by no less a person than Mr. Lloyd George, with whom I had the honour of some close association, that when he first went to the Peace Conference he said to M. Clemenceau: "How do the Bretons fight?" M. Clemenceau said: "That is a curious question to ask. Why do you want to know that?" Mr. Lloyd George told him, "The Welsh and the Bretons have a great deal in common and I am very curious to know if they are as good fighters as the Welsh." M. Clemenceau said: "They are the most wonderful fighters—but they are subject to one condition: we have to let them think they are fighting against the English". I am sure that that is the kind of semi-jocular reference which constitutes the only foundation which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, could bring forward to support his serious proposition that hatred of the English is being taught in Welsh schools.
880 A further point in reference to his speech which I should like to submit to your Lordships is this. He skated swiftly and lightly over the case upon which he originally based his argument and he founded his case before your Lordships on reading a succession of letters which he had received from correspondents since he published his rather extreme article in the Press. Your Lordships know that there is no proposition so foolish but which, if published in the Press under the name of any person in authority, will not attract a whole flood of letters in support. I would go even further and say that the more foolish and fanatical the proposition, the more letters will it attract. I believe that before your Lordships would vote on so sensitive a question as this you would want some more real proof than that which was adduced by the noble Lord.
I said that there was a grain of truth in some of the propositions put forward by the noble Lord, but there are others which are not supported by any grain of truth at all. One of those is his statement that most of the speakers of Welsh are illiterate or semi-illiterate. I submit that that statement is simply not true. I have not the honour of any personal knowledge of the mover of the Motion and therefore I may be mistaken in this; but his statement seems to me to indicate that he has lived in an ivory tower and has not mixed with the Welsh-speaking people on such a level as would enable him to assess their intelligence and literary knowledge.
If noble Lords would not mind a very brief personal reference, I feel that I can speak with a little personal detachment on this subject, like one or two other speakers. None of us, I believe, are strong Welsh nationalists. Both my parents spoke Welsh as their first language, and my father's first pastorate was all-Welsh. My earliest recollections are of two services every Sunday, each under twelve heads, all in Welsh, with all hymns in Welsh. I have not myself been. and am not to-day, an advocate of applying any strong stimulus to the growth of any small language, whether it is Irish, Gaelic Afrikaans or Welsh; indeed on this part of the subject I agree with almost everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, and if he had been framing the Motion and opening it I venture to believe that it would 881 have had a great deal better chance of passing through your Lordships' House than that which has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. If I understood the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, aright, his attitude is very different from that of the mover of the Motion. The mover has made an attack, rather an immoderate one, I am afraid, on the educational and cultural standards of the Welsh-speaking people, and has insinuated—in fact rather more; he has declared in no equivocal terms—that the Welsh language is a forced growth.
I want to give just one more brief personal reminiscence or memory, which as an argument is sometimes a little more powerful and valid than mere statistics. When I began my business life it was as a junior apprentice in a bank. About 80 per cent. of the customers of that bank were Welsh, the name over the door was written in Welsh and the cheques were written and drawn in Welsh—and (an even greater moment of truth) when the manager wrote to customers asking them to call next day without fail and reduce their overdraft, that too was written in Welsh. I have written so many of those stock letters in my own hand that I could recite the terms of them to your Lordships even to-day, a great many years after those events. What nonsense it is to suggest that a language so universally spoken by people is a forced and unnatural thing which ought to be allowed to die! I do not presume to be a better judge of literacy and literary culture than is the noble Lord, but I am prepared to put forward this proposition: that the standards of culture of the people of Wales are highest where the proportion of Welsh spoken is highest. In saying that, I do not exclude even those circles in which the noble Lord himself moves.
I do not know whether it is too much to expect the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, not to press his Motion. Many people will be with him in deploring an exclusive nationalist cult of Welsh which would exclude from the comity of Wales a much greater number of Welshmen who live outside Wales than who live in it. I believe the Welsh have that in common with the Irish and the Scotch—there are more people of Welsh, scotch and Irish origin outside their three countries than there are within the three 882 countries. I do not dissent from what the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, said: a very large proportion of the achievements of Welshmen who live outside Wales are at least equal to the achievements of those who live inside Wales. I think that an attitude which attempts to exclude those non-Welsh-speaking Welshmen from the comity (that is the most general word I can think of) of Wales is mistaken and ought to be opposed. I believe that reasonable men informed by the same facts will come to the same conclusions on this rather sensitive subject and thus will present a united opposition to those who take an emotional view on either side.
I believe that a public policy of understanding, common sense and tolerance is what is required to deal with this situation. As for the place of the language in the curriculum, I repeat that the question must be decided on grounds which transcend the legalistic grounds; and I hope that if your Lordships cannot oppose this Motion on the legalistic grounds, you will, if it is pressed to a vote, reject it on grounds which have a far greater importance than that.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TENBY
My Lords. I must confess that when I saw this question on the Order Paper for the first time, a quick glance did not make me feel it was entirely unreasonable. The only thing that I felt, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, also felt. was: why on earth should there he one particular subject which should be dropped on the grounds of parents' intervention? It would be a very serious thing if children were to drop certain subjects because of a whim of their parents. I can well understand (if my memory goes back to my schooldays) the very much better proposition that subjects could be dropped at the request of the children. I had some excellent candidates myself which I would have put forward with the greatest possible pleasure. The reason why I think that would have been a good idea is that I believe it was a famous headmaster of Rugby who said that boys are always reasonable, masters sometimes, and parents never. I think it would be a tremendous mistake if a subject were allowed to be dropped at the whim of parents.
883 However, having read the article of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, I came to realise that that was not really the purpose of the Motion. There is no doubt whatever for anybody who has read it that the noble Lord's purpose is to abolish the language altogether. I am not using this word in any offensive sense (as I need hardly say to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan). but his article reveals as appalling an ignorance of Wales, as a country, as it is almost possible to believe of anyone who knows Wales. This afternoon the noble Lord gave figures for various parts of Wales. Those parts have not been Welsh-speaking for years. South Pembrokeshire has not been Welsh-speaking for 400 years. But he did not mention what is a very important point indeed: that in three of live Welsh counties, the percentages of Welsh-speaking children attending school are over 80 per cent.—in one case, it is 88 per cent.; and in the two other counties 77 per cent. and 68 per cent. of the children are Welsh-speaking. That covers a part of Wales which is entitled to consideration. There is rural Wales and there is industrial Wales. Anglicisation comes with industrialisation, obviously, because a tremendous number of people who developed Welsh industries came from over the Border.
Judging from the speech of the noble Lord, he has definitely come to the conclusion that the Welsh language is at death's door and he is anxious to pull it through. I would remind your Lordships that this is not the first time that efforts have been made to destroy this language. I refer back to the Act of Union, 1536, at which time it was practically attempted by Statute. That was followed some fifty years later by a remarkable achievement which makes the Welsh language differ from both Gaelic and Erse, and that is the translation of the Bible from Hebrew into Welsh by Bishop Morgan. That obtained for Wales a classical language that is still with us. That is a very great difference. And despite the Act of 1536, there are far more people who can, and do, speak Welsh to-day than when the Act of 1536 was passed.
I suggest that there are three approaches to this question: there is the extreme Right (if I may put it that way); there is the extreme on the Left and there is the middle way. I confess that 884 in this particular instance I am a middleman. I am bound to agree with certain of the observations which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, made to-day, particularly with regard to Monmouthshire, where the percentage of Welsh-speaking schoolchildren is very small indeed. At the same time, I regard him as one who thinks it would be better if the language were completely abolished throughout the country. On the other hand, we have the extreme Nationalists who, so far as I can ascertain, would like to exclude everything from Wales unless it is Welsh. It savours to me very much of the castor oil which one used to hear about in days gone by. They would even insist on the income tax forms being in Welsh as well as in English. I myself find it impossible to understand them in English, and I certainly could not understand them in Welsh. But I, personally, favour the middle course.
In many parts of Wales, Welsh is the domestic language. I spoke none other for years. May I tell a personal story which has an application to this debate? I went to a school in London when I was six years old. I revisited that school some three years ago. The master had kept the mark book; to my horror he had kept my marks as well. There were three subjects on which we were marked. known to your Lordships as reading, writing and arithmetic. Beside the name of "G. Lloyd George" there appeared, "0", "0", "0". I was, I confess, very disappointed with this until the Chairman of the London County Council, who very kindly took me there, said "Do not be surprised. I made inquiries and I was rather shocked. You got '0', '0', '0', because you were not assessable as you could not speak English." I went to a school in London not understanding one word of the English language. I should have been taken away, I assume, if it had been such a handicap that I did not learn anything.
I assume, if I read the article correctly, that I am like the others—semi-literate and not half as competent as I should have been. It is not for me to judge my own competence, but I have never felt at any time that being able to speak the two languages had any effect upon me at all. In fact, I think that on the whole it has been a great advantage, as it is to be bi-lingual in any two tongues. I would inform your Lordships that one senior 885 civil servant (if not the senior civil servant) in Wales to-day is a Scot. He has taught himself Welsh, well enough to speak on a public platform. I suppose that by now he also is "semi-literate" and is not half the civil servant that he was before he decided to do this rather foolish thing.
There is one part of Lord Raglan's article to which I must call attention, because I have some experience of it—I think. Lord Swansea also referred to it. It says:The dialects of north and south are so different as to he mutually unintelligible, and the literary language, which is taught in the schools but is nobody's mother tongue, differs considerably from both.He is then good enough to add:At least, that is what I am given to understand.That is the explanation of that quite fantastic statement. My Lords, I was a North Welshman; I lived as far from South Wales as one can live. As to the dialect, as he calls it—and, of course, it is not a dialect—I became a candidate for a seat in South Wales, and at least half my meetings had to be addressed in the Welsh tongue. If these two are mutually unintelligible, it is the first time I have ever understood so. I addressed meetings there for many elections, and despite this difficulty of understanding (or maybe because of it; I do not know), I was returned at least six times. It is utterly ridiculous to say that people from North Wales cannot understand people from South Wales. Indeed, I suggest to the noble Lord that if he were to go and have a talk with a Durham miner it would be a very one-sided conversation.
My Lords, as a man who is in the middle of the road on this Motion, want to say only one other word. I do not know whether many of your Lordships realise this, but the knowledge of Welsh gives to those who read it and to those who speak it an access to poetry and literature which is not surpassed in any other language in the world. I will mention Dafydd ap Gwilym, Goronwy Owen, Ceiriog and Pantycelyn. Another pleasure that one can enjoy through a knowledge of the Welsh language is the oratory of the pulpit. Some noble Lords may say that you can translate these things, but one loses by translation certain things which it is almost impossible 886 to describe. Of course they can be translated, but there is a loss through translation which, in my opinion, is absolutely irreplaceable. After all, there are 800,000 people who understand and speak the Welsh language to-day. Why should we, by any act of ours, deprive future generations of these treasures which we, who speak this language, know exist? I hope, first of all, that the noble Lord will see fit not to press his Motion. Then, secondly, I hope that the Government will continue, as Governments have in the past, to give every help to the teaching of Welsh in schools.
§ 5.4 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, my only possible justification for joining in this debate is that mine is the only non-Celtic voice in the list of speakers which is, at the same time, unconnected politically or residentially with the country of Wales. I can therefore lay claim to some extent to territorial and racial detachment. But on the issue itself I am not detached. It seems to me a hard thing to pass a sentence of death on a living language: to commit it consciously and deliberately to the limbo of lost tongues. That is what the Motion of my noble friend Lord Raglan in fact proposes. And it would not be a painless death. So much has been made clear by noble Lords who can speak far more poignantly and knowledgeably than I on these matters. But it was plain, even without their evidence presented this afternoon, that this proposal had grieved and antagonised many people in Wales. I am told that many more than half the people in Wales would be deeply affronted were the Motion to be carried this evening.
It is hard for me—and it must be still harder for the rest of your Lordships' House—to see why I personally am so moved, but I do feel moved. It may be some undeparted loyalty of blood, harking back across four centuries to the time when my family lived in Llanrwst, in Denbighshire. To-day I can hope for little honour among true Welshmen, being at best a lapsed Welshman, if not a renegade. Certainly all my territorial loyalty to-day belongs to Yorkshire. But even there I am conscious that 1,300 years ago, which is no great span of history, that which is now the Welsh language was spoken in my region, and that the town which is now called Leeds, ten miles from 887 my own home, then bore the Welsh name of Elfed. It was only in 1615 that a wedge was finally driven between the North Brythons, from whom some members of this House spring, and those of the South Welsh who now form the Welsh nation.
My Lords, after Greek and Roman, the Welsh language contains the oldest extant literature in the whole of Europe, and I think that we might all draw some bride from that knowledge. In fact, one Welsh friend of mine, who feels very strongly about this whole matter, affirmed to me that in the sixth century, when Wales already possessed its own literature, the language we speak to-day was no more than a system of weird shrieks echoing through the forests of Schleswig Holstein. I am happy to say that a little personal research has gone far to persuade me that this was something of an exaggeration.
It is perhaps only fair to say that I have been approached by those who feel strongly the justice of Lord Raglan's case. In some way my temerarious intention to speak in this debate became known in Wales, and I received a letter yesterday from a lady living in Cardiff, whom I gather not to be of Welsh stock herself. She said:As the mother of a little girl who is being taught against my wishes this jaw-breaking, mummified language miscalled Welsh, I am grieved to read that you intend to speak on Wednesday.I am assured by those with an authority quite lacking to me that there are three mis-statements in that opening passage. Nobody has ever broken a jaw speaking Welsh; though difficult for an adult to learn and pronounce, it is nevertheless quite simple if one starts young. Nor is it mummified. New compositions in prose and verse are continually being added to the existing treasury of the Welsh language. I am told, moreover, that no-one has logically denied its right to be called the Welsh language, and I am bound to confess that here I find the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, and of my noble friend Lord Tenby more convincing than the statement of Lord Raglan.
The lady continues:Many of us in Wales and Monmouthshire are behind Lord Raglan in his brave fight. He has voiced the feelings of the majority of 888 people in Monmouthshire, and I suspect of Wales as a whole.At first sight there is already an element of guesswork, not to say wishful thinking, in that claim regarding the rest of Wales. Even regarding the categorical claim in respect of Monmouthshire I have been given evidence to cast some doubt. It must be, I think, the same evidence mentioned by Lord Granville-West, as to the questionnaire sent out by the divisional education executive, representing Aber-tillery, Ebbw Vale, Blaina and Nantyglo, four years ago. It was sent to about 5,000 homes containing school-age children, asking if they would like to have the teaching of Welsh added to the curriculum. Rather more than three-fifths of the parents registered their wish that Welsh should be added to the existing school curriculum. That leads me to follow my noble friend Lord Granville-West in his suggestion that, if the sort of referendum required by the noble Lord. Lord Raglan. were put into effect, it might in the event reveal a desire for more Welsh teaching instead of less; to the teaching of Welsh as opposed to the teaching of other subjects in Welsh. I was glad also that the noble Lord drew a clear line between those two.
As an outsider, I feel that a language of such vital and ever-increasing richness as this has been shown to be ought to be retained, and that Wales must be its proper home. Last night I spoke to a most distinguished Member of your Lordships' House, who is not here to-day, but who has spoken Welsh with those who honour it in large areas of the United States, such as Scranton and Philadelphia, and who has had contact with the 30,000 who use it as their mother tongue in South Patagonia. There are Welsh churches and congregations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, among other great cities of the United States. It would seem to me a depressing development if they were to become, through neglect at home, the sole repositories of this noble language.
The advantage of being bi-lingual is undeniable, and to my knowledge it has not been seriously denied. Certainly some of the most eloquent Members of this House and of another place must owe their particular eloquence to having been taught Welsh as children. We should affront them at our peril. I am reminded 889 of the strategy of the Croat deputies in the Austrian Parliament, the Reichsrat of Vienna, before the 1914–18 War. There were about a dozen of them, and by way of emphasising their independence, they spoke deliberately on every conceivable subject, at great length and always in Croat, which nobody but themselves could understand. I feel that we should be inviting the same sort of retaliation by Welsh Members, if we were to approve the purpose of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, to-day. That would impose a great additional burden on the procedure of Parliament.
But most importantly, in my impression, it stands out that the Welsh people as a whole have been antagonised and hurt by this proposal. If, in another 1,300 years, our own language were to be threatened with extinction, I hope that its executioners would not be able to quote a verdict of your Lordships' House to bolster their own. If the defence were to plead on such an occasion for the survival of the language of Milton, Shakespeare and my noble friend Lord Raglan, I hope that it would not be crushed by a reminder of how casually we, its trustees in the twentieth century, abolished the language of Taliesen, Evan Evans, Gorónwy Owen and my noble friend Lord Tenby, whom I was so proud to follow this afternoon and who, if I may say so, rebuts any possible claim that the learning of Welsh as well as English means that one cannot speak either well. If we are ready to spend, as we have spent, noticeable sums in restoring Stonehenge, let us at least protect something less tangible, but certainly a far more inspiring and beautiful link with the past, which can still enrich the future. Even if Welsh was not the forefather of our own language, it was the language of our forefathers, and I believe that we should all be the poorer by its disappearance.
§ 5.15 p.m.
My Lords, my mother came from Wales and your Lordships will understand how distressed I was to hear from my noble friend Lord Raglan the unsympathetic remarks about her native tongue. It is true that she was not a very fluent Welsh speaker, but in her later years she became a fairish one. I think that your Lordships will agree that the Celtic peoples, wherever they are to be found, essentially must be bi-lingual. They speak English as the language of 890 commerce and Welsh, Erse or Gaelic as the language of the family and the home and provided these languages are taught to the children when they are in their early years, they are perfectly capable of absorbing at least two languages—even more.
I hope, with my noble friend Lord Tenby and others who have spoken, that my noble friend Lord Raglan will not carry this Motion to a Division. His remarks made me unhappy, but my happiness was restored to a large extent by the speeches of my noble friends Lord Granville-West, Lord Dynevor and Lord Tenby. From my own point of view, when privileged to be invited to Wales to make a speech for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution or some engineering concern, I invariably make it a practice of putting at least five minutes of what I have to say into the tongue of my mother. And if I cannot work it out myself properly. I get my noble friend Lord Tenby to coach me on pronunciation, or to do it over again, so that I do not go wrong. I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Raglan will not carry his Motion to a Division. If he does, I shall certainly oppose it.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, we have had an interesting, in fact, a fascinating debate. In some ways I regret that it was held on a Motion so narrowly drawn, but the debate has ranged widely. As my noble friend Lord Dynevor so rightly said, it is a subject which agitates a large number of Welsh people and deserves serious consideration in your Lordships' House.
Before going on to deal with the merits of the case, I should like to congratulate the two noble Lords who made their maiden speeches to-day. First, there is the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, whose people lived in my own little town in Wales, though now the noble Lord has gone to a foreign country (speaking in a tribal and not in a national sense), to Breconshire. There is just one correction I should like to make to what he said—probably I should have intervened during his speech had it not been a maiden one. The noble Lord said that the London Welsh Association have decided to conduct all their proceedings in Welsh. I am the President of the London Welsh Association and have 891 been for four years, and we have not made any such decision. We realise that roughly three-quarters of the people of Wales do not speak Welsh, and therefore some of our proceedings are conducted in Welsh and some in English. The noble Lord also referred to the annual dinner. This is conducted in English because the bulk of members do not understand Welsh. I mention that point because otherwise your Lordships may gain a wrong impression.
Then there was the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Granville-West. I must congratulate him most heartily. I had the pleasure and privilege of being one of his Sponsors, and his speech, in form, content and manner, was a model of its kind. We shall look forward to the future contributions of both noble Lords with added interest now that they have spoken; and that is not always the case.
I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, put his finger very nearly on the spot in this case, and that what he told your Lordships was about what the average Welshman in Wales (if there is such a person) would think about this matter. To all Welshmen, I think, whether illiterate, literate or semi-literate, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has given much offence; and noble Lord after noble Lord to-day has said so. It is a serious subject, but, so far as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. is concerned, it has not been treated in a serious way. Statements have been made, both here to-day and in this article to which reference has been made in the magazine Wales, without any vestige of proof, as the noble Lord. Lord Trefgarne, has so rightly said; and many of the pieces of evidence which the noble Lord has produced have been written since he wrote his article. That is an odd type of evidence in any court of law.
The noble Lord suggested that the language should be relegated to the universities, as in the past it was relegated to the peasants. The situation is this. In a nation of some 2½ million people, little more than a quarter speak Welsh. But most Welshmen, whether they speak Welsh or not (and for this purpose I must regard myself as one of those who do not speak Welsh—at least. not fluently), have a sympathy for it and would not like to see it die out. Nevertheless—and this, I think is a point 892 that has to be made—while the percentage of Welsh speakers declines, the Welsh national spirit expands; and I am one of those who firmly believe that, even though the Welsh language may, in time, die out, it is by no means the case that the Welsh national spirit will die out. The same thing has happened in Scotland. The Highlands to a large extent, have lost the Gaelic; but no one can assert, I am glad to say, that the Highlands have lost their national spirit: the national spirit of Scotland is as firm as it ever was. As the Archbishop of Wales, who has been referred to to-day, and who is an Englishman, said recently:The Welsh national spirit grows all the time—and rightly, very rightly.Then the Prime Minister said in another place on December 12 last [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons. Vol. 579; col. 1422]:The Government's cardinal purpose is to put beyond all doubt that Wales as a nation has a place of its own in the councils of Britain.…That is one of the most significant Government statements on Wales that has been made for many years, and I was very pleased when I read that statement in Hansard.
The Welsh language, as has been rightly said, even by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, is not some patois or hedge dialect; it is the ancient tongue of the British people. It is the ancient tongue of noble Lords whose ancestors were from the ancient people, whether they now call themselves Welsh or not. It was formerly spoken over a wide area of this country; not only in what is now Wales, but in the North country, the South of Scotland and elsewhere. One of the earliest of poems which is extant at the moment is a perfectly readable account of an attempt by the Saxons to capture the British town of Catraeth, now known as Catterick. The British King who was resisting this held his Court at Edinburgh. So that he, at least, and the people whom he ruled at that time, spoke the same tongue as those who can speak Welsh do to-day. These poems, whether the one to which I have referred, or the poems of Taliesin and Aneurin, the sixth century poets, are quite legible to-day.
I would give your Lordships another example from an experience of only last week, of how this tongue has come down 893 in such an understandable form. Last week I, with other noble Lords, represented your Lordships' House at the N.A.T.O. Conference in Paris, and we had at that Conference colleagues from another place, one of whom is bi-lingual, Mr. Idwal Jones, the Member for Wrexham. Mr. Idwal Jones was standing in the lobby of our hotel, and for some reason (which I have now forgotten) he spoke in Welsh. A French gentleman standing near immediately spoke to him, and they carried on a conversation. They could each understand what the other was saying. It turned out that Mr. Idwal Jones had never been in France before, and this French gentleman had never been in Britain in his life: but he was a Breton. The Bretons were originally Cornish people, and they left Cornwall in the sixth century. Yet their language has remained and is perfectly understandable by someone who speaks Welsh well. All these things show what a great treasure this language is—I say this although, unfortunately, I have only a slight knowledge of it—and I think that most countries, if they had a treasure of this kind, which has existed right back into the mists of time, with poems of the kind I have mentioned, would be reticent to jettison it. and certainly reluctant to kill it.
Under the 1944 Act, as your Lordships have been told, the responsibility for educational policy in the various parts of this country is imposed on the local education committee. These committees are not, I imagine, directed by Whitehall, but are elected by the local people and do what the local people want them to do and if they do not, the local people at the next election can turn them out. So that, in the first place, we have to remember that these are elected bodies, carrying out policy which is approved by, or at least acquiesced in, by the people who elect them. Then there are the headmasters, who are the captains of their ships. They have wide latitude. They are not interfered with, so long as they carry out the broad framework of the policy of the local education authority.
I am told—and I shall be interested to hear about this from the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, when he comes to reply—that in fact the Government do not direct local education authorities, and do not direct headmasters: they advise, and 894 inspect, but only in rare cases do they intervene. There is an odd coincidence about Monmouthshire, when we come to look at this point about the policy of the education committee. I have here the magazine Education, which is the, official magazine of the local education authorities. In the October 24 number there appears this statement:In the same week as Lord Raglan's blasphemies appeared the Monmouthshire Education Committee decided to extend their experiment in holding Welsh classes in the north-west of the county. This decision resulted not from a Ministry edict, or from an approach by the National Union of Teachers, but because of pressure from parents. This has been something of an embarrassment to the local education authority, who have troubles enough with teachers and premises. The consequences of Lord Raglan's irritant may well be to excite parents into even stronger demands.The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, did not give us a hint of this to-day: he did not tell us that in the north-west part of the county of which he is the Lord Lieutenant parents are actually pressing the education authority to have Welsh classes. If he was putting before your Lordships all the evidence on this matter. it is odd that he did no: include that comment—which, after all, is a very telling piece of evidence—from his own county.
The picture that he put forward was of parents being dragooned by the Ministry. Not long ago the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—he is one of the dragoons—was the man who was dragooning parents to have their children taught Welsh. I have known the noble Viscount for a good many years. and I must say I have never regarded him in the nature of a dragoon.
§ LORD OGMORE
A sharpshooter. maybe—one who enfiladed the Government when he was not in it, but never a dragoon. I am quite certain that the present Minister of Education Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd, and Dame Florence Horsbrugh, the noble Viscount's predecessor, were not dragoons either. One must imagine that people in this position—who. after all, so far as I am aware, have no Welsh affiliations; at least not recent I ones—would look at the whole problem 895 from an objective point of view and do the best for the children in the area.
This policy—and this is a point I want to make very clearly—is not by any means one which is peculiar to Wales. It has a wide significance in these days, not only in Europe but in Asia and Africa. In fact, it is one of the most vexed questions with which statesmen have to deal in India, in the Far East, in Africa and so on. Therefore it is interesting, quite apart from the narrower context of Wales, for us to look at it from that wider point of view, which I am trying to do. I was for a comparatively short time—a year, maybe—Chairman of the Colonial Education Council, and one of the points that was always coming up to us was: At what stage do you teach the vernacular language, the language of the indigenous people, and at what stage do you teach the international languages, English, French or whatever it may be, of the colonial Power?
As your Lordships can imagine, that was long ago laid down by an authoritative body, and I am quoting from the Report on Education in the United Kingdom Dependencies. At page 47 the Advisory Committee said, in 1927:It was recognised by the Imperial Education Conference, which met in London in 1923, that the language best known and understood by the child on his entry into school life is, from the educational point of view, the most effective medium for his instruction in the preliminary stages of school education.… The clearness of thought, independence of judgment, and sense of responsibility which are developed through the wise educational use of the language in which a pupil has learned from infancy to name the things he sees, hears and handles, are the best and surest guarantees of success and progress in the later stages of education. There is common agreement that vernaculars must be used in the first stages of elementary education.That, I think, is a most authoritative doctrine, laid down first of all by the Imperial Education Conference, and then by the Advisory Committee on Education in 1927. I should have thought that it is common sense. You teach the child in its early stages in the language it has learned at its mother's knee.
Applying that test to this case, I would say that Welsh or English should be the medium of instruction in primary schools, depending upon whether Welsh or English is the child's normal tongue. Where 896 Welsh is the medium, then English should be taught as soon as practicable as a subject, and should become the medium of instruction in later life in secondary schools, Welsh remaining as a subject. Where English is the child's normal tongue, the child should he taught in English throughout, taking Welsh, if the parents and the child so wish it, as an optional subject. Personally, I am so proud of the ancient language that I do not want to force it on anybody, and should hope that it would be possible for the local education authorities to make arrangements for all those people who normally speak English to have the primary tuition in English, whether they are of Welsh or English parentage. I should have thought that that was reasonable. The child who is brought up in a Welsh home learns all subjects in the primary school in Welsh; the child who speaks English at home, whether of Welsh or English parentage, takes subjects at the primary stage in English, and takes Welsh as a subject if he so desires. Then, in the secondary school, there is a switch over, and the subjects are taught in English, whether the child is from a Welsh or an English home. This will not satisfy the keen zealots of the language, but I am perfectly certain it will satisfy most people in Wales.
There is the special case, of course, of the English parent in a Welsh-speaking area. Again, I should not try to force the children to speak Welsh at all. I do not want anybody to have to speak the Welsh language who does not want to. I am quite certain that in that case it is open to the local education authority to make the necessary arrangements. Wales is a small country; you can motor or go by bus over a good deal of it in a very short time. I cannot believe that there is any district in Wales where there is not a school where tuition is in English near to any particular child whose parents desire him to be taught in English. I do not believe there are these wide areas where nothing but Welsh is taught. It is not so in my experience. If a child goes into hospital, teachers are provided by the local education authority for the children, or even one child, in that hospital, and I feel that it is quite open for, and, indeed, should be the practice of, local education authorities to make similar provision for isolated children of 897 English parents where they happen to be in an all-Welsh-speaking district—if there is one, which I very much doubt.
Finally, I should like to say that the language of Wales and the people of Wales have survived all vicissitudes. They have survived them largely by the tenacity with which they hold on to their language and their national way of life. But to-day in many ways there is a greater danger to the language and to the way of life than ever before—there is a great danger to the English way of life, for that matter. We are becoming so cosmopolitan and international to-day that one hardly knows what country one is in. If one looks out of the window, maybe the foliage is different, but the people look the same, dress the same and drive the same sort of cars. We are becoming more and more internationalist, and small countries like Wales, with a limited number of people speaking the language, are under greater pressure than countries like England.
Of course, if the noble Lord were really wise he would suggest that everybody should study Mandarin, because Mandarin will be the language in the 21st century. There are already 800 million Chinese, and I am quite certain that a sensible parent, wanting to give sensible advice to his child, would insist that he spoke Mandarin. In about fifty years' time a distinguished Chinese statesman will be getting up in the House of Assembly in Peking and asking: "What reason is there to keep on this language, English? After all, it is of little commercial value, although it has some cultural value." He might say that the people of the world—a World State then being in existence—should not bother with a language like English, but should speak the great language, Mandarin. The way the Chinese are developing, this is not quite so fantastic an argument as your Lordships may think. Unless children are taught Mandarin in our schools we may find ourselves, in the 21st century, left at the heel of the hunt.
However, the danger to Welsh, I feel in these circumstances, comes to a large extent more from the zealots than from the Lord Raglans. I believe that the language will survive for many years to come if it is allowed to take its natural place in the life of the people. If it is not forcibly fed, if the three-quarters of the Welsh who either speak no Welsh or, 898 as in my case, speak very little Welsh, are not too forcibly fed with the Welsh language, then I think it will survive for many years to come. But if, through the medium of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Independent Television Authority, the schools and all the rest of the media, it is too strenuously forced upon us, the three-quarters, then the effect may be the reverse of what the one-quarter hope to achieve.
My Lords, that is really all I have to say. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, and the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, for the support they have given to our ancient language. It will be very much appreciated in Wales, and I am quite sure that the Welsh mother of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, has every reason to be proud of him.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords, I intervene for just a moment because of an experience I had showing how sensitive the Welsh are about their language. During the war, when the whole world was listening to our broadcasting, especially at night, at eleven o'clock the B.B.C. changed to the Welsh tongue. I did say, as I say now, that that was a very poor time to broadcast in Welsh. At any other time it might have been good; but not that time. I have never in my life been inundated with such a spate of offensive letters as I had after those few innocent words.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
The ones I understood were in English. That was just a little experience. I must say that, broadly speaking, I am against all languages except English. You have in America that sort of thing happening. You go 1,000 miles; you open your mouth, and you find you are still talking the same language. But take Europe: a man situated in Luxembourg has to go only twenty miles and he has to speak any one of nine languages. I maintain that one of the curses of the world is this difference in language; otherwise we should all understand each other.
The Welsh speak better English than anybody else in the world—when Emlyn Williams speaks English it is like listening to a symphony, compared with most English people speaking their own 899 language. But the danger, I think, lies in going to extremes. Ireland, I think, has gone to the extreme. There it has been imposed upon you. If you want a driving licence to drive a motor car you get a form on which there is not one single word of English. Nobody in the county can understand it, and you have to go to the local post office and get it translated and be told how to fill it up. There again they have their own characters, and that is the most frightful curse. You come to a fork road. You look up to see which way you are going. What do you see? A triangle, a tennis racquet and a couple of moustaches. That is of no earthly good to anybody. It is that danger of overdoing the thing which wants discouraging. I do not believe that, with this Welsh language, considering the small number of people who speak it, there is that danger. and I believe that it would be a pity for it to be suppressed in any way. Let it go on, because it has a great history, the history of an unconquerable race from the past who spoke the original language. They have poetry and they have literature. I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore; that is the sort of compromise which I am sure will be acceptable to everybody in this House.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR WELSH AFFAIRS (LORD BRECON)
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the debate on the Motion which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and to the many interesting speeches that have been made, not only by Welshmen but by Englishmen as well, to whom we are very grateful. I should like to offer my congratulations to the two maiden speakers—first to the noble Lord. Lord Swansea, who I am delighted to see here; he lives in my own county of Breconshire. I hope that, having made his maiden speech, he will come here and help with contributions in the future. I would also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Granville-West, who lives in the neighbouring county of Monmouthshire. It was delightful to hear him speak about education, and his remarks showed his great knowledge. Perhaps serving on local education authorities is to be commended in this matter.
900 My Lords, this debate, I believe, is the result of an article that has been written by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and published in a magazine recently. I have read this article, and I wish at this early stage of my reply to say that I completely dissociate myself from the views expressed in it. To me it appears unfortunate that this article was ever written, and still more unfortunate that it was ever published. As a Welshman, and whether one speaks Welsh or not. I think one cannot but be deeply hurt at some of the statements in the noble Lord's article.
Noble Lords this afternoon have ranged over a great period of time discussing the Welsh language in many ways, its culture and everything else. I am sure you will expect me in reply to state quite clearly the Government's position on this matter. The noble Lord. Lord Raglan, is asking Her Majesty's Government whether the teaching of the Welsh language to children contrary to their parents' wishes is in accordance with Section 76 of the Education Act. I was grateful when I heard the noble Lord, Lord Granville-West, say that it is not Section 76 of that particular Act that deals with this matter, but Section 23.
The Government's position is quite clear on this point. The Minister of Education has no power to require the teaching of the Welsh language in any publicly maintained school. He can only give encouragement to the teaching of the language and its use as a medium of instruction. For the last fifty years this has been done mainly through pamphlets and reports to local education authorities. The principles that have been followed in these reports and pamphlets are, first, that in the early years of a child's education—that is in the primary period—the language of instruction should be the child's mother tongue. Secondly, the second language, English or Welsh, should be gradually introduced during these early years. Thirdly, by the age of transfer to secondary education every child's competence in English should be such as to enable him to profit from any type of secondary education. The fourth principle is that the study of Welsh as the first or second language should be continued during the years of secondary education.
In 1953 the Central Advisory Council of Education far Wales produced their Report on the place of Welsh and English 901 in the schools of Wales, and I think it is acknowledged by everybody, by educationists throughout the world, that this is one of the finest documents on bilingualism that has ever been published —it is referred to by many nations of the world at present. This Report announced as one of the Council's recommendations that children throughout Wales arid Monmouthshire should be taught Welsh and English according to their ability to profit from the instruction. This was commended to the attention of the local education authorities and they were asked to consider its application in the fullest possible way. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack was at that time the Minister for Welsh Affairs, and I know how much he supported that view in the matter of bi-lingual teaching.
So far, I have stated the position of the Minister of Education in relation to the teaching of Welsh. Now I want to give the position of the local education authorities. The local education authorities are wholly responsible for their language policy—and this is right when you consider the complex and linguistic pattern that is in Wales. Every local education authority must take this important factor into account when determining its own policy, and these policies are always adapted to meet local requirements. In predominantly Welsh-speaking areas, Welsh is the medium of instruction in the early part of the primary school course and English is the second language. When the child is eleven years of age it should be competent in the English language. In the English-speaking parts of Wales, English is the medium of instruction. Welsh is taught as a second language in the primary schools, where it is the local educational authority's policy to do so. In areas where Welsh and English are spoken about equally and where the schools are large enough, parallel classes are organised in the school, one class being instructed through the medium of Welsh, while the other is instructed through the medium of English; the alternative language is taught as a second language.
In the secondary schools the position is more tentative. In many of these schools, Welsh is not taught at all. There are nearly 400 secondary schools in Wales and in 90 of them Welsh is not taught at 902 all. In others it is obligatory for the first two or three years. In some rural schools Welsh is the medium of instruction in some subjects, but in only one secondary school in an urban area is Welsh used as a medium of instruction substantially throughout the curriculum.
Now I must deal with the parents' wishes in this matter. Should any parent at any time object to their child being taught through the medium of Welsh or English—because there are objections to teaching in English, too—they can make representations to their local education authority, and failing agreement on a satisfactory arrangement, the parents can then appeal to the Minister of Education. So far as the teaching of Welsh as a language is concerned or the use of Welsh as a medium of instruction, the Minister has already made it plain that it is considered appropriate to the circumstances in Wales that it should be the language of instruction at the primary stage for children whose mother tongue it is. Generally, however, the Minister would find it difficult to uphold a parental objection to the language when it is the subject of curriculum. The Minister does not, if possible, interfere with the responsibilities of local education governors and managers, and the content of a school curriculum is one of those matters.
I did not think I should get evidence so helpful to that point about curriculum as I did this week from my fourteen-year-old daughter, who wrote her weekly letter. In it she said:Yesterday we had the dullest lecture on embroidery one could imagine. Honestly, to have a lecture on embroidery! It was made compulsory, too, partly because if it had been optional no one would have gone, I suppose. But it did help to pass the time away.I do not know whether I should now raise objection to my daughter's being compulsorily taught embroidery, which would be to the detriment of learning Latin, French and German. But the Minister gives advice to local education authorities about their curricula and he wholeheartedly supports the inclusion of Welsh in the curriculum; but so far there is no evidence that because children are being taught Welsh in our schools it is at all affecting their standard of education in any way. In fact, I think that if any evidence can be provided it is to prove that they are benefiting in many other ways.
903 There is a need for a bi-lingual policy in Wales, and what the Government have done is to give an equal opportunity to those who want to learn and speak Welsh with those who want to speak English. I would say here that it is not to the exclusion of English that we want to learn Welsh. Sometimes difficulty arises when an English-speaking family goes to live in a Welsh-speaking area. When those cases occur the local education authority are expected to provide suitable arrangements in regard to the problem. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, referred to a case in Carmarthen. I have an idea that we have been thinking about the same case. The lady also wrote to me and I am glad to say that three days afterwards I received a letter asking me not to take any further action, as the matter had now been settled. That was last week.
The noble Lord has questioned the legality of teaching Welsh, on the ground that it is not necessary for efficient instruction. Efficient instruction does not refer to one particular subject—it must surely refer to the child's general education, and the teaching of Welsh in Welsh schools cannot be held to be the cause of inefficient instruction, any more than the teaching of any other subject. It is interesting to note that of the seventeen local educational authorities in Wales, ten have adopted the Central Advisory Committee's policy on bi-lingualism; two have a modified policy; and five have made no policy at all, and this includes the noble Lord's own county of Monmouthshire. Here Welsh is taught at the primary schools at Rhymney and Abertysswg. Welsh is taught at only one secondary modern school in Monmouthshire, at New Tredegar, and at the grammar schools only at Rhymney, Ebbw Vale and Pontllanfraith. The reason for teaching Welsh in Monmouthshire is to meet parents' wishes.
The total population of Wales is about 2½ million. Of these, 714,000 people speak Welsh, according to the last census, and the Government cannot ignore the demand from nearly one-third of the population that opportunities shall be available for the teaching and learning of Welsh. These opportunities have been provided, but certain problems arise when the local education authorities decide their policy and sometimes this 904 policy does not meet the wishes of all the parents. Here the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made the point that the parents have an opportunity to deal with local education authorities in the triennial elections, when if they want to make their voices and their opposition to the local education authority heard, they can do so by means of the ballot box, when they can change their representation. This is in addition to the parents' right to appeal to the local education authority and then to the Minister.
On the whole, the people of Wales do not take a narrow and singular view on this question. In fact, the trends are, at the present moment, although it is always difficult to be quite certain, that more and more people are wanting to learn Welsh and are learning Welsh. I am sure that the opportunities that are being given to those young people to learn Welsh in their primary school and the demands that we have heard from some noble Lords this afternoon will mean that perhaps Welsh will be spoken more frequently in the home. Certainly it is true that for our own Royal National Eisteddfod the proceedings are always held in the Welsh language, although I understand that because this year it was being held at Ebbw Vale, in Monmouthshire, special arrangements were made and the English tongue was heard—perhaps this was for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and the right honourable gentleman who represents Ebbw Vale in another place.
I should like to remind your Lordships that Wales is also the host to the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen, where not only Welsh and English are heard but also the language of many foreign countries, where one can hear their songs and see their colourful dances and costumes. These are the cultural pursuits which we enjoy and prize so much; but I doubt whether any of them would survive if they did not have their own native tongue to support them. Wales has had a very successful year. We were the hosts at Cardiff to the Sixth British Empire and Commonwealth Games, which were a resounding success and for which we shall long be remembered with gratitude by our visitors from the Commonwealth. We had, too, the Festival of Wales which produced many fine features of our national life.
905 My Lords, I have spoken at some length in reply, but this matter is of great interest and importance to us, and I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has shown that he is not fully acquainted with all the facts and all the problems. I believe that the noble Lord has based his conclusions upon assumptions which reflect adversely upon Welsh-speaking people as a whole. He has advocated policies which reveal a considerable lack of understanding of the whole matter. I wish to state that the manner in which a bi-lingual policy for Wales is being interpreted does not cause the Minister to feel that there is anything radically wrong. There will always be difficult cases, but, as I have already said, only six or seven have been sent to the Minister in the last three years. The Minister will, of course, continue to take a sympathetic and constructive interest in this matter—on both sides—and I trust that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, will now agree to withdraw his Motion.
§ 6.2 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby has left the House but he accused me of wishing to abolish the Welsh language. I have never said any such thing. I do not wish to abolish anything. I did express the view that I thought it would be in the interests of Wales that her people should gradually cease to use the Welsh language, and I still think that is true; but the last thing I should wish to do is to abolish the Welsh language. If people wish to speak Welsh they are fully entitled to do so, and I should be the last to try to stop them. I hope that that is perfectly clear.
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, was merely a personal attack upon me and suggested the old adage: "No case—abuse plaintiff's counsel." I found very little with which to disagree in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore; the policy which he advocated, and which he thought would satisfy most people in Wales, would certainly satisfy me far better than the present policy of Her Majesty's Government as outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Brecon. I feel it is obvious that children who have been brought up to speak Welsh should be able to go on speaking Welsh 906 in the primary stages of their schooling; but at the same time I think the English language is the proper language for secondary education throughout; and that is what I understood was said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. I wholly agree with him.
As for the policy indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, I can only say that I feel it is quite wrong; and when he seeks to hide himself behind local education authorities I would remind him of an article written by the head of the Welsh Department, Sir Ben Bowen Thomas. which appeared not long ago in the South Wales Argus. He stated that it was the deliberate policy of the Ministry to do all the things to which I and those who have written to me object. I hope very much that what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, will be taken seriously to heart, and that Her Majesty's Government will think over this policy of coercing parents, which undoubtedly is being adopted. It emerged from everything that was said by the noble Lord. People who do not wish to learn Welsh are being forced to do so and that is going on in many parts of the country. From what the noble Lord, Lord Brecon, has said it is obvious that Her Majesty's Government have no intention of stopping it. However, things being as they are, I shall not press my Motion, which I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn