Mr. Geraint Morgan
asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he now expects to publish the Bowen Committee Report on bilingual traffic signs and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas
The report is being published today and copies are being placed in the Library of the House. I am deeply grateful to Mr. Roderic Bowen, a distinguished and well remembered former Member of the House, and to his colleagues for all the time and thought which they have devoted to a difficult and complex subject and for a176W report which I consider to be most valuable.
I am happy to announce that subject to what is said below the Government accept in principle the recommendation of the majority report that there should be a progressive transition to bilingual traffic signs in Wales. This is a furter important step in this Government's policy of support for the Welsh language. The new signs will bring before the public the Government's recognition of the place of the language in the life of Wales.
The cost of new signs on motorways and trunk roads would be borne wholly by the Welsh Office, The financial arrangements with regard to bilingual signs on other roads would involve a sharing of costs between central Government and local authorities. This would represent only a small burden on local authorities in a phased, programme.
The committee recommended, though not unanimously, that Welsh should come before English on bilingual signs. It is clear that issues affecting the safety of life on the roads arise in this connection and before reaching a final conclusion I shall want to give further thought to this. For similar reasons I shall also want to consider a few regulatory and warning signs in addition to those for which the committee does not recommend bilingual notation.
There is much preparatory work to be done in drawing up a programme for this major change. The local highway authorities will play an essential part in this matter, and I therefore intend as a next step to initiate consultations with the local authority associations about the management of the transition. This I propose to do as soon as practicable.