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Welsh Language Education

Volume 81: debated on Monday 17 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the co-ordination of Welsh language education at nursery, primary, secondary and higher levels to ensure the best use of resources available for Welsh language education.

I have no reason to suppose that individual local education authorities, whose responsibility it is, have not made provision for Welsh language education appropriate for their areas. I have, however, received representations from various organisations and individuals on the Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg proposal for a Welsh language education development body. We are currently considering these representations, and we hope to announce our conclusions before the summer recess.

I welcome the Minister's announcement that active consideration is being given to this proposal. Does he accept that there is a wide body of support for such a proposal, which is put forward by the Welsh Language Society and runs across party lines? In looking for a new formula to get the best value for money from what is spent on the Welsh language, is it not necessary to ensure that those local authorities which do most for Welsh language education are not penalised by the rate support grant formula? Does he agree that funding through such a body could overcome the difficulty? Will he bear this actively in mind over the next few weeks?

I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are statutory problems. I shall not come to a firm view until I have considered all the representations put to me and all other relevant factors. I should emphasise that I have no intention of changing the present statutory framework within which local education authorities have responsibility for the provision of Welsh Language education in their areas.

I am meeting representatives of six Welsh language organisations, led by Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru and including representatives of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, shortly to hear their further views on these proposals.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Urdd on its excellent recent eisteddfod in Cardiff? From my observation, it was a first-rate example of all that is best in our Welsh culture. It was a tribute to everyone involved, under the chairmanship of Mr. Malcom Thomas, for a great deal of excellent voluntary effort, especially by teachers.

I agree very much with my hon. Friend. I might add that the Government's support for the development of the Welsh language is not in question. We have considerably increased the resources earmarked for the Welsh language, including Welsh language education.

I agree with the Minister. The Urdd is doing magnificent work in Wales for the young people, and none of us wants to see the Welsh language withering on the vine of the 21st century. I commend to the Minister the existing consensus on the language in Wales, though there is no room for complacency. What are the prospects for the language in the heartland of Wales—in Dyfed and Gwynedd? What specific measures is he taking to enhance the language?

There is provision through special grants for the language, and we encourage it in every way through the local education authorities. I think that this is the right policy for the Government to pursue, and we have pursued it vigorously.