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Welsh Language

Volume 79: debated on Monday 20 May 1985

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asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts if the Minister for the Arts will increase the allocation in the Arts budget for Welsh language activities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment
(Mr. William Waldegrave)

The Welsh Arts Council and not my right hon. and noble Friend determines the distribution of the grant it receives from the Arts Council of Great Britain. That grant was increased to £7·14 million in 1985–86, an increase of 3·2 per cent. over the 1984–85 figure.

Does the Under-Secretary not realise that an increase of just over 3 per cent. is wretchedly mean ? Is he aware that the consequence is that many groups and companies wishing to perform plays in the Welsh language are now having to cut their programmes, which is causing real, widespread and justified resentment throughout Wales ?

I know that the figure is not as high as many people would like. However, I also know that the public funding of the arts should be a matter of seeking priorities and giving the money to the most valuable activities, and there is no escaping that.

Does my hon. Friend realise that a large number of monoglot English-speaking people living in Wales wish to learn the Welsh language ? Is not one of the most attractive and encouraging ways of doing that by seeing the arts performed in the Welsh language ?

Primarily the Welsh Office budget supports the Welsh language qua Welsh language, and does so generously. The principle behind support for the arts has always been that they should not be supported simply because they are in Welsh, but because they are of outstanding quality. I think that there has always been a great deal to be subsidised on that basis.

Does the Minister accept that, with inflation running at 5 or 6 per cent., an increase of only 3 per cent. means a reduction in real support for Welsh language productions ? Does he further accept that there is a universal feeling on both sides of the House that such productions are worth supporting ? Will he inquire whether more funds can be made available for that purpose ?

I shall report what the hon. Gentleman has said to my right hon. and noble Friend. There is no question but that arts funding is tight. At a time when all programmes are under pressure, I think that my right hon. and noble Friend has secured a reasonable settlement this year.