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S4C and Welsh Identity

Volume 580: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2014

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Vaizey.)

As always, wherever we are, it is a pleasure for me to speak under your always fair chairmanship, Mr Brady.

S4C and its link with cultural identity are hugely important and a matter on which there is a large measure of agreement across all parties and among all Welsh MPs, so I would have liked to have had a lot of Members from other parties present for the debate and a good audience. Unfortunately, however, we clash with the Welsh Grand Committee, which Members must attend because it is an important meeting to discuss the recent Budget, so I fear that we may be short of the sort of numbers that I might have expected. That is not a reflection of the interest of Welsh MPs in the future of S4C, because interest is strong.

My personal interest became much more exaggerated in the 1960s and 1970s, when I became much more aware of my identity and of the person I was, as we do when we get older. That was when I realised I was Welsh to the core; first and foremost, I would always say that I was Welsh. I have looked through lists of my ancestors, and I do not have a single one who was not born in Montgomeryshire, Sir Drefaldwyn. Every single one was a first-language Welsh speaker—I have gone through books that people have written.

In the 1960s, my generation—my five sisters and I—was the first not to speak Welsh; we spoke only English. When I became a Member of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999, the sense of identity was such that I felt that I had to learn to speak Welsh. Since then I have become bilingual, and if anyone were to ask me what I was proudest of doing in my life, one of those things would be becoming bilingual in the language of my nation.

People have asked me why I sought today’s debate. It stemmed from a meeting I had with the chief executive of S4C, in which we talked about the budget and programme development—I will come on to that. It was a chance conversation, three years on from the trauma that we experienced when we broke the inflationary link, in terms of guaranteed funding for S4C. We also changed the arrangements for the funding, so that it came via the BBC Trust, from the licence fee. That change was huge, and it was a sensitive issue, causing a huge amount of trauma in Wales.

Another factor in the timing of the debate is that we have a new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. There must be something of an induction course for the new Secretary of State, because he will see that the S4C issue is not a quiet one. When it raises its head, it might well be on his desk more than he expects. The issue is important, and he needs to be aware of just how important S4C, the Welsh language and the cultural link between them is to the Welsh people.

S4C is inextricably linked to the language and Welsh identity. More than anything else, it is the Welsh language that makes Wales special. If we look at a nation, we wonder what it is that makes it distinct or special, and the Welsh language is what makes Wales special. As I said, my first interest in Welsh identity, including in the language, developed in the 1960s. At that time—this might come as a shock to my colleagues—I won a bardic chair. I wrote a 20,000-word essay on the future of the Welsh language. It might cause some amusement to hear that my pseudonym was Taurus ap Tomos; make of that what you will.

The conclusion of my essay was pessimistic, although not an unusual one in the 1960s: it was that the Welsh language would disappear as a used language in the long run. We have made a huge advance since then, because that is not something that people would say today. It is easy to forget just how negative we were.

Before 1982, there was a lead-up to the establishment of S4C. Some Welsh language programmes appeared in the 1960s and 1970s on other platforms, such as the BBC and HTV Cymru. Before the 1979 general election, there was a big debate about whether a new Welsh language channel would be created. It was created, although there was a bit of a hoo-hah after the election. The Government of the day were facing a lot of economic and budgetary pressures. There was a lot of support for a new channel; the Welsh community came together and applied pressure as well, as they did three years ago, too. The then Government, led by Mrs Thatcher, created S4C in November 1982, and that was a huge stepping-stone.

Despite the hoo-hah leading up to it, the creation of S4C under a Conservative Government is something that I can look back on as a huge step forward for the language. If we look at the record of the Conservative party, creating S4C was not the only thing it did: the Welsh Language Act 1993 was another huge step forward, and the creation of the Welsh Language Board was another Conservative initiative.

I am therefore proud, not only of the 1982 creation of S4C—there can be debate about how that happened; there was the influence of Gwynfor Evans’s threat to fast to death, and Opposition criticism of the prevarication in introducing the necessary Bill—but of its budget. Ever since the beginning, there has been a good and adequate budget. S4C has been good value. In 1991, the guaranteed link with inflation was introduced, and that funded the channel on a confident basis right up until 2010, when the incoming Government faced a similar position to that of the Government who came to power in 1979: there were huge threats to the economy and a need to cut back on public expenditure, which lead to substantial debate.

There is room for much debate on the impact of the inflationary link. I was pretty nervous about breaking that link, as all of us probably were. In the end, I accepted it. There has been a positive element to the inflation link: S4C had a guaranteed income in a business in which forward commitments need to be made, and independence from Government interference. However, being a statutory link, an element of complacency arose, as it does when there is a guaranteed income. That guaranteed income meant that S4C had to keep thinking not about its market, but about satisfying the people in control of paying it. Breaking the link was important.

It was quite an experience being involved in breaking the link. I served on the Committee that examined the Public Bodies Bill. I had 1,200 e-mails on the issue, which is four times more than on any other subject since I became an MP. After I had spoken—or it might have been my vote that did it—I became something of a target. We even had someone carted out of the Public Gallery, because they were disturbing a debate. There was a huge rumpus in Wales. I was being doorstepped all over the building by various people lobbying. That showed me that the people of Wales really cared about their channel. They were worried that changes would damage it, although over the past three years, things have worked out okay.

There was a second big change: rather than being funded directly from Westminster, the channel is now funded from the licence fee through the BBC Trust, an issue that has raised its head this morning. A lot of people worried about that change at the time, and have been worried since. Their worry is that we need an independent S4C that is not influenced by a paymaster—that is, not influenced by the BBC. I must say that the relationship between S4C and the BBC in Wales is terrific—better than anybody could have expected.

The comments we have heard today are a bit overblown. The director of BBC Cymru Wales has made comments about viewing figures at peak hours, which might be perceived to be about wanting to influence the managerial side of S4C, but I am not sure that that is right. It is crucial that S4C is free and independent—editorially, operationally and managerially. The slightest suggestion that there might be some interference in that has caused a huge hoo-hah. In a sense, I welcome that, as it emphasises just how important that independence is.

As an Ulster Scot, I am very aware of the need to preserve and encourage identity. In Northern Ireland, 35% of the population see themselves as Ulster Scots—that is 250,000 people from a population of 1.7 million—so I understand the identity that the hon. Gentleman is trying to preserve. The issue is important for us as well. In Northern Ireland, we have BBC channels and programmes that promote our identity. Does the hon. Gentleman see S4C and also the BBC as conduits to enable others to have input into the Welsh identity and language?

Indeed I do. S4C is particularly important because it is a Welsh language channel, but of course BBC Wales is hugely influential. It is a discrete part of the BBC and is committed to the language. It works closely with S4C, providing programmes, and the relationship is very good. That was not always the case, but it certainly is at the moment.

There is one aspect of the Public Bodies Act 2011 on which I would like a reassurance from the Minister—I am sure he will be happy to give it. Section 31 states that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport must ensure “sufficient funding” to deliver a Welsh language channel in Wales. That is rather imprecise. However, it is important that it is stated in the Act that the Secretary of State should do that.

My focus today is on the link between S4C and the language, because that is what I think is most important, but to a lot of people, the importance of S4C is about not just the language but the contribution that it makes to the economy. I was involved in economic development for the whole of Wales around the time that S4C was created. There was a blossoming of the creative industries. A huge number of small businesses set up in parts of Wales where there had been depopulation, and to which it was difficult to attract other forms of business. S4C does not produce its own work but commissions it, and a large proportion of those commissions go not to the BBC but to independent companies. Today we have four major companies that produce work for S4C. Those include: Boom Pictures, a successful international company; Tinopolis, a major company that produces “Question Time”; Rondo; and Cwmni Da, a company that has sold programmes to China.

We should not forget, however, that the last thing we want is for S4C to drop into a comfort zone. We need to make certain that it is not just the four established companies with good relationships with S4C that continue to get all the work, and that there is still that blossoming of new, small companies in the more remote parts of Wales where it is still more difficult to develop the economy.

My hon. Friend makes an important point about S4C’s contribution in commissioning work from smaller companies. Remarkably, since the reduction in funding, the variety of companies supplying work for S4C has increased, whereas before the reduction, companies—especially those from the north-west—saw a significant contraction in the number of programmes that they supplied to S4C.

Indeed. I was not aware of the precise way in which the creative industries had developed in Wales, but it is generally known that over the period leading up to the break in the funding link, there was a real fall-off, with too much concentration on Cardiff-based companies. Members for Cardiff might feel cross about that remark, but the key thing about S4C is that small companies can operate in areas where the language has traditionally been strong. We must not forget that. We do not want to return to complacency—a comfort zone in which we have what we have and S4C does not look to continue to develop new companies that can become the big successes of tomorrow.

My hon. Friend will have heard that S4C is moving its headquarters to Carmarthen. The economic contribution that that will make across west Wales is profound. His point is a good one, and one that S4C is beginning to realise itself.

I agree with my hon. Friend. There will obviously be views on whether S4C should move from the capital, where political activity is mainly based and the creative industries are concentrated, but the move is the right one. Where the language is under most threat is in what I term the heartlands, where Welsh is still the language of the street—Carmarthen is one of those places. Those are the areas where we have seen the biggest loss in Welsh speakers and where S4C can play a role in helping to stabilise any decline in the language.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. I am hugely impressed by his prize-winning background— I had not heard about that until today. He is making an important point about the Cardiff-centric nature of institutions in Wales, which is a real danger. Does he agree that over the past few years one issue has been that Welsh-speaking people have been drawn to Cardiff and have settled in the Cardiff area, which has had an impact on the Welsh language in communities throughout Wales, in particular in north-west Wales?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point—I can only agree. It is inevitable, and in mid-Wales, where I live, it happened in a huge way—the population was disappearing completely. That is what developed my interest in public affairs. When I left school, I was the only person in the academic stream who stayed in the area; everybody else had to leave to find a job of any value of to them. But that trend has reversed to a large extent, as the numbers show: in Montgomeryshire, the numbers fell from 50,000 at the start of the last century to about 36,000 mid-century, but are back up to 50,000, so they went down but have come back up again. That is partly to do with the regional development policies of the Conservative Government of the 1980s, who invested greatly in the rural part of mid-Wales with great success.

Like others, I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. To return to education and the importance of the language, does he agree that an essential role of S4C has been to buttress education policy in schools? It is not a tool of Government policy but has meant that children from an anglicised background have had the Welsh language made familiar in their homes in a natural way. Does he also agree that evidence for the fact that S4C is in no way complacent is the international success of many of its commissions, not least “Hinterland”, which was filmed in Ceredigion?

Indeed. The only difficulty I had with the programme was that it rained pretty much throughout the whole first episode and was probably not particularly helpful to attracting tourists to Ceredigion. However, I have watched the later episodes, and I must say that it is a hugely successful programme.

My request for today’s debate was instigated by my meeting with S4C to discuss future funding. Decisions on programming have to be made two or three years ahead, and those making the decisions need to have an idea of what their budget will be. Although most of S4C’s budget comes from the licence fee, which is fairly certain, a certain amount comes from the Westminster Government—from DCMS—and is guaranteed for only a limited period. Programmes such as “Hinterland” take more than two years to deliver, from first discussions to delivery, so to commit to a programme such as that, which is hugely successful and will be internationally successful, a fair degree of certainty is needed. That is one of the main reasons I requested today’s debate, in the lead-up to consideration of how S4C will be funded. The licence fee we know about, and the Minister may have already started discussions on its future. Officially, they will probably start after the next election.

I know that S4C will deliver a document later this month to start the process of discussing what S4C will be from 2018 onwards. The agreement is that that will be considered. The issue is long-term funding in the creative industry. If we are going to have good and internationally successful programmes such as “Hinterland”, we need to have a period in which the board and chief executive of S4C can commit to delivering programmes in two years’ time, and that requires some certainty about the budget.

The next point I was going to make was the move to Carmarthen; I will make it again to satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart). I have said what I was going to say, but I just thought that I would say it twice to make him happy.

Very soon now—or perhaps it has already started—the Secretary of State will be starting the long process of reviewing the BBC’s charter, and part of that will be its relationship with S4C and the continuation of the funding stream. There will also be discussions, which I hope hon. Members will be part of, about S4C deciding what sort of organisation it wants to be. There will be big changes—nothing stands still, particularly in the fast-moving world of the creative industries. There has to be a serious look at how much money comes in from advertising: if that is part of S4C’s funding, that has to be taken into account, because it relates to audience figures. When I see headline audience figures, I never really trust them, because we have to look at the whole picture and what is behind the figures. S4C produces a lot of children’s programmes, which do not count in the measurement although it has been incredibly successful in that field, exporting all over the world. Also, there is a big move by all television channels to online programming, which inevitably leads to a reduction in audience figures. We have to look at the issue in the round before we make a judgment about viewing figures. There will be a significant debate about the sort of S4C we want. As I said, I think S4C is producing a document later this month. That will be a chance for us to start engaging with it.

The United Kingdom has been a hugely successful entity for centuries. A key part of that is that each nation in it, whether Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, has to feel a sense that it is belonging to a team and that its differences and uniqueness are properly recognised right across the UK; that the whole team recognises its special features. In Wales, we have a special language, which about 20% of people speak; it is hugely successful. We have probably stopped its decline, but there has to be a constant and continuous battle. It is a minority language—I am not sure that Welsh is absolutely a minority language; it is probably just classed as such, and it does not seem to be a minority language any more in Wales—and it is under threat. There is a constant battle to protect and boost it. That has to be respected throughout the United Kingdom, not just in Wales, where we all know about it, but in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That is why it is important that we have a debate about S4C, the language and the identity of Wales here in the UK Parliament. That is why I have secured today’s debate and why I have enjoyed sharing my views on the issue with hon. Members.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) in congratulating the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) on securing this important debate.

Only last year, we were here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of S4C as the world’s only publicly broadcast Welsh language channel. Although at times the existence of the channel has been taken for granted, its importance to the people of Wales has not diminished in the slightest. As I said in the anniversary debate, the existence of S4C is a reminder of a diverse history of people—some of them famous, some of them pretty much establishment figures, and some of them definitely not establishment figures—all of whom came together to campaign for the Welsh language at a time when it was not fashionable to do so. That is important for us to remember. For some, it was a campaign that came from our universities and from this place; for others, it was a different campaign that involved refusing to pay their television licence; but for all those people, from wherever they came, we can never say too many times that we—that next generation of people active in Welsh political life—are in their debt, because without them, the channel would not have been created.

As the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said, we often have very personal reasons why we are so supportive of S4C. He took us through his own journey in the 1960s—one wonders whether he was long-haired and hippyish in those days, or merely a prize winner at cultural festivals. My personal experience was that of growing up in a bilingual community, where English was the language of the home, so for me S4C was not only a nice way to have a bit of extra Welsh, but a way of enabling me to study Welsh at first-language level at school. It was also the mechanism that normalised the use of Welsh for me, and I know that that is true for many other people. The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) mentioned earlier the crucial importance of S4C in education. For people like me, it was the station that I could listen to when most of the Welsh speakers I knew were people who dealt in Welsh almost 24/7.

I know that that is even truer today. Many children who go to Welshmedium schools are without the advantage that I had of being in a bilingual community. It is an advantage, too, for non-Welsh-speaking parents who are trying to learn the language; for the wider community of people who are unable to speak Welsh themselves, but who are determined, as my father was, that it should be passed to the next generation; and for families with only one Welsh-speaking parent in London, Liverpool or even outside the United Kingdom who are trying to bring up their children to speak Welsh—no easy task and a tough challenge for families living outside Wales in an increasingly globalised world.

I do not propose to tread over old ground in this debate. The Minister remembers many of us from a few years ago. We remember that he watched “Fireman Sam”; I am sure that he has watched a lot more than that now. Many of us had real fears for S4C’s independence and funding when we tried unsuccessfully to get it removed from the Public Bodies Bill. We saw disproportionate cuts that meant S4C’s grant was reduced from £101 million in 2010 to £83 million in 2012. We saw it being chucked away. We have seen reductions of 1% in 2013-14 and 2% more in 2014-15, which clearly places stress on a channel that has already had to cut costs wherever it goes. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire described the experience as traumatic and talked about the difficulties of breaking the inflationary link. We must not forget, whenever we discuss the subject, that UNESCO classified the Welsh language as “vulnerable” and that S4C is the only television channel in the world that broadcasts in that language. To protect the language and not to allow it to disappear, we must support institutions such as S4C that use and promote the language successfully.

That is why I am asking the Minister today for a cast-iron assurance. Given the way the governance and funding of S4C were changed by this Government in 2011, the commitment to funding S4C needs to be included, and indeed, spelt out in the next BBC charter and in the negotiations. There can be no ambiguity about that. If S4C is to invest and thrive, a proper, costed commitment needs to be in there. I very much take on board what the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said about its importance for the channel in planning ahead, and I would be grateful for a response from the Minister on that point.

However, if I want to make a challenge to the Government, I also want to make one to S4C. I know that S4C has decided to move its headquarters from Cardiff to Carmarthenshire. The hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) rightly spoke of the benefits to west Wales, and of course if I had been a west Walian I would have welcomed that. An often quoted figure is that £1 of investment into S4C brings about £2 into the Welsh economy, and the siting of the S4C headquarters in Carmarthen will bring undoubted benefits to that part of Wales.

Of course I realise that, realistically, the headquarters of S4C cannot be everywhere, but I want a commitment from S4C that its partnership working will be in all parts of Wales. A huge proportion—more than three quarters, I think—of S4C’s programmes are made by the independent sector, and we need a commitment from the channel that those companies will be chosen from right across Wales. That should not stop with direct commissioning; I want the institutions with which S4C does partnership working to be Wales-wide, too. That is critical.

S4C is very important to people all over Wales. It is important to people who speak Welsh, to those who are learning and to those who wish to learn. It brings people together and makes the Welsh language accessible in an age when modern media force us sometimes to question the nature of our cultural identity. I have no doubt that as long as Welsh people live and breathe, which, of course, will be for ever, the debates about Welsh cultural identity and the Welsh language will increase, not diminish. However, it is my hope that as the debate develops, we will not all sit in our respective partisan or ideological silos, but we will be open to good ideas from wherever they come. I hope that we will not only debate the channel directly, but look at other things connected with the Welsh language—for instance, the whole system of teaching Welsh as a second language. Last summer, I joined Ann Jones, the Labour Assembly Member for the Vale of Clwyd, and many other people in the letter campaign organised by the veteran Welsh language campaigner Ffred Ffransis, arguing that it is time for a thorough look at the system of second language Welsh education.

We also need to begin the debate again about distinctive policies for our heartland Welsh-speaking communities. I do not say that in any trite fashion: if we do not do this now, in 30 years’ time we are simply not going to have any. It is time that we at least consider models such as the Irish model of the Gaeltacht as one way of revitalising Welsh-speaking heartland communities. Wherever our debate on the Welsh language takes us—I believe that we have to very open and refreshed in our thinking on that—I am confident that S4C and its partnerships with Welsh creative industries will always be a vital part of it.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady, and I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) on securing the debate.

As I look at the Minister, I think he has probably participated in more debates on S4C than many other parliamentarians before him. He will remember the turbulent time that ensued after the 2010 general election, with the financial crisis that needed to be acted on. I was going to say that this is the first debate we have had while S4C is in a settled form, but the hon. Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) reminded me of last year’s debate on the 30th anniversary of S4C. That was an important marker to underline the significance of the channel and the cross-party support that exists and remains for it.

I want to go back over a couple of points in history. The Conservative record on S4C is extremely proud, having established the channel in 1982 with all-party support—it is important to recognise that—and it has had fantastic success over that period. It has received a number of Oscar nominations and several awards that we could cite. Animation, particularly, was a great success. It could be used across the globe in local languages and provided a major income earner for the channel, as well as the development of a skills base and the economic support generated through the work in the creative industries in those communities.

It is fair to say—I do not mean this in a party political way—that over the 10 years leading up to 2010, S4C might have been neglected by politicians, in that it was secure in the RPI link to its funding and it avoided a lot of parliamentary scrutiny, which led to it having a false sense of security that money would come, whatever the output, performance and measures we chose to use. Viewing figures were falling, which was a concern, and it simply could not carry on like that. Therefore, when it came to 2010, there was an extremely turbulent time when clearly, we had to look long and hard at all budgets, and S4C obviously could not escape the reality of the financial position. That led to resignations of board members and the sacking of chief executives. It was an extremely turbulent time shortly after the change of Government, from four years ago until today.

It is therefore worth pointing out the stability that has been delivered. The Minister has been constant throughout that period and has played a significant part in delivering the channel’s security. A delegation went to see him and the then Secretary of State for Culture, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), to underline the importance of the channel to all the issues my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire discussed—be it culture, language, economic development or celebrating the distinctiveness of Wales as a nation, because it is about not only broadcasting but nationhood and so on. I have no doubt that the Minister and the then Secretary of State absolutely understood that, after considering the matter not only in the budget round but following representations from Members of all political parties as to why S4C could not be treated lightly and had to be given the respect it deserved.

At the time, there were serious questions about the management and editorial independence that the new settlement and the new arrangements with the BBC would provide. Board members of S4C were questioning and criticising that, saying that the future of the channel would be in doubt if the current arrangements were allowed to ensue. I think that has been proven to be wrong. The relationship with the BBC is effective. The BBC provides a large part of its funding but it does—this is extremely important—continue to receive some funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. That needs to be maintained to show that it is not a subsidiary of the BBC. The BBC can raise questions about its performance, just like every other member of the public, and celebrate its great success when it performs as it has in the past and looks as though it will in future, and the way it has turned itself around. I pay tribute to the new chairman, the chief executive and the senior appointments made by them. That has secured the stability of the channel following the turbulent time I have talked about.

I want to continue with the theme of stability. My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), again under the guidance of the Minister with us today, protected S4C from the budget cuts that could have resulted from the last comprehensive spending review. Again, that was a significant moment, because unlike almost every other part of Government expenditure, S4C was absolutely protected despite the need to make financial cuts and to address the financial reality. That was important, but we need to admit that at the time there was a tense debate about whether it could be secured. The Minister responded admirably and protected the budget, but I remember several people saying at the time that we should not be in that position in the future and that we needed to develop a system that would secure departmental funding for the channel and secure certainty, to allow it to budget and plan. Although only £7 million comes from the DCMS, that is a significant proportion of S4C’s reduced funding from the BBC. Therefore, it is exceptionally important that we consider that and provide S4C with the opportunity to plan over the short, medium and longer term. Many of the contracts that S4C needs to enter into need to be made now, but will last several years. Without some guarantee or commitment, it is difficult for it to plan in an efficient way that will result in the best use of public money. I hope the Minister can look positively and constructively at that issue. Clearly, there are no guarantees for ever, but the longer any guarantee can last, the better it is for any operator.

I want to make some points about the channel’s future. Comments have been made and questions asked about the viewing figures. They are important, but they are not all of the debate or all of the argument. S4C does need to broaden its appeal, and significant progress has been made in that regard in the last couple of years. Reference has been made to the importance of children’s programmes in the Welsh language, and the part that plays in enabling people to understand Welsh culture at an early age is, without question, vital.

In addition, S4C can be and is a major exporter. It plays a significant role in the creative industries. Mention has already been made of Boom, a company based in my constituency, and other companies that I know very well, such as Tinopolis, Cwmni Da and Rondo. They were based on the initiative that was about making programmes for S4C at the outset. Some of them are now global players in programme making and they deserve the credit for that. The wealth that that generates for the economy is extremely important. The seeds of that were obviously planted by the entrepreneurs, but thanks to the opportunities that S4C created. I am delighted that “Hinterland” is such a great success. That flagship programme is extremely important in demonstrating that programmes of the highest quality can be made and sold and exported all over the world. I hope there can be further Oscar nominations, but of course, that will depend on the quality. That would show those who do not live in Wales or view the channel regularly that, with a relatively small amount of public money, S4C can punch well above its weight through its output and attract further investment thereafter, as many other quality programmes have been able to do so far.

Finally, I want to talk about the multiplier effect. The argument could be made that of course, if we make £80 million or £100 million available to any region or nation of the UK, it can create a business and start exporting. However, for S4C the multiplier effect is without question at the forefront of any form of economic regeneration package. I have talked about the quality of the output and the export income that that can provide. Thanks to the stability that the current Administration have given the channel, for the benefit of all the people of Wales, that income will be greatly extended as S4C continues to develop output that can be exported, and the multiplier effect continues to grow.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. In the past couple of days, Welsh MPs might have thought that all their birthdays and Christmases had come at once. We discussed the Wales Bill yesterday; we have the Welsh Grand Committee today; and the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) has the debate following this one. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies)—I think I can call him that—on securing this important debate.

My constituency has some bearing on the debate, because it is the home of many of the small companies that have produced output for S4C and have provided additional services. That has led to great economic progress in my constituency. I sometimes introduce myself as the Member for Arfon, “where the main industries are tourism, agriculture and TV production.” That sometimes raises a few eyebrows, but it is true, because the TV sector in Arfon is extremely important.

I want to take a small step back into the history of S4C—Sianel Pedwar Cymru as I call it. Forgive me, Mr Brady, if I sometimes slip into calling it Sianel Pedwar Cymru, as that is how I see it, rather than S4C. The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan referred to the establishment of the channel in the 1980s. Perhaps I can be the first to pay tribute to Sir Wyn Roberts for his titanic struggle to establish it. As a figure who did so much for the Welsh language, he is still underrated, and I am very glad to pay tribute to him today.

My history of the channel starts rather earlier, at a time when I had long hair, a checked shirt, jeans and clogs. [Interruption.] I know that that is difficult to believe, but there we are. Actually, I can see myself, sometime in the early ’70s, at Hyde Park corner, at a rally called by Cymdeithas yr laith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and being inspired by him. He is as sprightly as ever of course, but he made a speech that Sunday morning and I thought, “Well, if we can get an MP here to talk, there must be something to this.” It rather persuaded me not to pursue my studies in psychology and sociology and instead to pursue a political course, I am afraid, so I have named the guilty man—guilty to a certain extent—here today.

I would like to say a little first about the function of Sianel Pedwar Cymru. As has already been mentioned, it is a provider of programmes, a publisher and an employer, and it also provides a very useful economic stimulus in parts of Wales that in the past have not received the proper amount of attention in the media. As a provider, it is important that S4C produces popular programmes. Reference has been made to children’s programming, and speaking as a new father, my little son is obsessed with “Cyw” and the children’s programmes, as are children throughout Wales. S4C fulfils a hugely valuable function there. Reference has been made to “Y Gwyll”, or “Hinterland”, as it is called in English. Not only is that a very good programme—in Welsh and English—but, as the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan mentioned, it shows the world that we are out there with the best. It is an important stiffener to the spine and a bit of an inspiration.

Seeing as I am reminiscing, I remember being in a sociology conference at some point in the mid-’80s. Late at night—after, as they say, drink had been taken—I was discussing minority language broadcasting with people from the university of Hawaii. We eventually came to the conclusion that most TV was trash, but my contention was that if there was any trash going, it should be also available in Welsh. At that point, we decided to retire. That is a significant point, because the Welsh language has been seen over the centuries as the language of the chapel or of high literature, but S4C has an important function in providing popular material that will appeal to a wide audience.

I will not tarry to talk about S4C as an employer. It is an important economic stimulator. I was glad some weeks ago to be present at the opening in my constituency of the building for Cwmni Da, a hugely important production company run by local people who are now not quite so young. For those who judge companies by the way the people there dress, Cwmni Da is not a tie-and-shirt outfit but a jeans-and-sneakers one, and long may that continue. It is a challenging company.

That leads me on to one of my main points, which is a plea for stability of funding for S4C. As has been said, the planning cycle for programmes is long, and producers need to know that the money is there. I do not want to say that we are coming into another difficult period, because things have seemed difficult for rather a long time. I was part of the discussions on the Public Bodies Act 2011, and there was an existential threat to the channel. The money was going to disappear, and I was glad to work with people from across the House to ensure the channel’s future. It operates under an unusual model, and it needs public money. It shares the model of public service broadcaster with Channel 4 and, peculiarly, it has advertisements, even though it is a public service broadcaster. People outside Wales might not know that we have BBC programmes with adverts on either side, which some people find very strange indeed. It is a creative model that actually works, but it needs certainty to continue.

I want to talk briefly about the cultural importance of S4C, which is what we are discussing this morning. The channel is a means of cultural production and cultural reproduction—that is, of passing culture on to other people—and it defines the culture as well as being symbolic of it. We have everything on S4C from cartoons and rock and roll to religion and opera, and even, in the past, Oscar-nominated films. Television has a supremely important function in that respect.

People from England and the other parts of the UK know the reverence with which the BBC is viewed as the repository of all that is good about culture through the medium of English. S4C has something of that function, but it is even more important in Wales. The BBC is only one producer of programmes through the medium of English among hundreds of thousands across the world, but S4C is the only one that does it in Welsh. In that respect, its fragility is both hugely dangerous to the language and a huge opportunity. It literally makes Welshness.

A historian that I am fond of, Gwyn Alf Williams—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West knew of him when he was alive—said tellingly that Welshness is what Welsh people make. It is a function of our will to continue to be Welsh, and it is something that we create anew every day. Whenever we talk about identity, people make appeals to their ancestry. They say, “I have a grandfather who is Irish, a grandmother who is Scottish, and a second cousin through marriage who comes from Poland.” I have Irish ancestry, although that is by the bye. The important thing about S4C is that every day it makes Welshness apparent anew in a creative and radical way.

When I was preparing for the debate, I had a look at the definition of “radical”. S4C is the establishment embodied, because it is Welshness and it has all sorts of programmes including opera, but it is also a radical channel that breaks new ground all the time. The definition in, I think, “Webster’s Dictionary” said that “radical” meant changing and from the root, and was also a term of approbation among skateboarders. That shows how malleable meaning can be. S4C is radical, and long may it remain so, because it is at its best when it is most challenging, radical and creative. The Welsh word for that, to my mind, is “beiddgar”, which means not only challenging, but challenging the very heights when the chances of success are slim—pushing the boundaries. S4C has been beiddgar in such a way. I think it lost its way slightly, but it is going back in that direction.

Reference has been made to the importance of audience, and it is important, but I simply want to say that all channels are now minority channels. Long gone are the days when the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show could pull in 28 million viewers, or half the population of the UK. It is right for critics of S4C from other channels and from the media in general to recall that all channels are minority channels.

I want to finish with one point. S4C has been important in defining and symbolising the Welsh language over many decades, but we must always bear in mind—I wish there was equivalent action on this point—that we need broadcasting about Wales through the medium of English. I remember surprising one of my Labour colleagues some time ago in a debate about the language by saying that English is a Welsh language. That is literally true for 80% of the population in Wales. I finish with an appeal for broadcasting through the medium of English to be better funded, better resourced and better received in Wales.

Order. I have avoided setting a time limit, but we should start the wind-ups in about 10 minutes’ time. There are two hon. Gentlemen seeking to catch my eye, and I leave it to them to try to make sure that they both get called.

Thank you, Mr Brady, and I will be brief because I want to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) has to say. I congratulate the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) on securing the debate. Its title is “S4C and Welsh Identity”, and since many hon. Members have talked about the settlement and the past, current and future financing of the channel, I will talk predominantly about the importance of Welsh identity and S4C to me and to many of my constituents and fellow citizens in Wales.

I want to put on the record my praise for the pioneers who set up S4C. The issue is cross-party—the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire mentioned pride in his party, and we hear a lot about Gwynfor Evans and the role of Plaid Cymru—but I want to praise one of my predecessors, Lord Cledwyn Hughes, for the role he played as the Leader of the House of Lords at the time. That body was important in helping to push for the establishment of S4C.

I will just break the consensus with the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire for a moment, because he mentioned this issue. Prior to the early 1980s, Welsh society felt that the Conservative Government of the time had broken their promise and that, as he said, they were prevaricating. A grand coalition of people within the Conservative party and from other parties came together to put pressure on the Government to honour their commitment to the people of Wales. It is important to put that on the record. Nevertheless, the language, culture and identity of the Welsh nation are far too important to belong to any one political party; they belong to the people of Wales, and we have seen that demonstrated today on a cross-party basis.

I was born in Wales to a family whose language in the home was English. My mother was from Liverpool, and I was brought up on the Beatles and Everton football club. I am still proud to support Everton and listen to the music of the Beatles. My father was Welsh speaking, but, in the 1960s, they spoke English in front of me out of courtesy, and I ended up being a non-Welsh speaker throughout my educational life.

A point that I did not make in my contribution was about what was happening when I was young—I am sure it was also happening in Ynys Môn. My parents were both first-language Welsh speakers, and they had a policy of never speaking Welsh in front of the children, because the language of failure was Welsh and the language of success was English.

It is fair to make that point, as I made one about the language of my home. Indeed, people in the village in which I was brought up and still live used to speak English to me. They are very surprised when they now see me on S4C speaking Welsh, because I have learned the language. I wanted to learn it in order to play a full role in Welsh society: I belong to a bilingual society, so I wanted to be bilingual. I would like Wales to be trilingual, with people learning three, four or more languages. But we must never forget the Welsh language, which S4C has portrayed brilliantly.

We have heard today about S4C’s ability to put on classy productions. The hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) spoke before me about opera and religion, but I think everyone has missed something out: sport. S4C is very good at showing sport. The Welsh national football team does not always qualify for the World Cup finals—in fact, it has not done so since 1958—but sport is important, because more young people in Wales watch it than many other TV programmes. They aspire to be the Olympian Colin Jackson, or the greatest footballer in the world, Gareth Bale, who also happens to be Welsh, so sport is important.

I watch football on S4C in the Welsh language, but we have the opportunity to use the little red button to listen to the commentary in either Welsh or English. That is hugely important, because it reaches a massive audience of our football and rugby fans—Wales has one of the best rugby teams in the world and people want to watch them. It is important that we break out of the perception that S4C is a minority channel in a minority language covering minority subjects. It is not; it covers sport and culture, as well as many other things that we aspire to do in Wales.

I learned the Welsh language by watching S4C. I listened to programmes and watched the subtitles on 888. Do people remember the old Teletext system? We would have to explain what that was to young people now, but we had subtitles, and we also had the service on 889—I think—which explained sentences when a new word was brought up for the first time. That way, people who were competent and had some knowledge of the Welsh language were able to follow the programme. Language is a live issue and S4C does cover the big issues of the day.

I want to finish my speech by touching on identity, which is important. I gave some brief background but do not have much time to go into other elements of S4C because I want to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West, as I promised. I do not think there is any contradiction between the Welsh and British identities. I am proud to be both Welsh and British—and, indeed, European—and see no contradiction there. British and Welsh society must move forward on that, because a person is not any less Welsh or inhibited from being so by being pro-British; nor is anyone any less British for being pro-Welsh.

The Minister will understand that we are discussing the British isles and a language in Britain that is thriving and moving forward. There are creative people in Wales and they want to express themselves through the medium of their own language. I am also pleased that the Cornish identity and language are taking new steps forward. I want these British isles to express themselves through their mother tongues. People should be proud to be Welsh and proud to be British. I am very proud that S4C has played a part in my life, and in the lives of constituents in Wales whom I represent.

The Conservatives deserve great credit for their work for the Welsh language—there is no question of that—but the summit of their achievements and the work of Wyn Roberts was in education rather than S4C.

I had a ringside seat at the genesis of S4C. In 1973, with a colleague, I wrote a document called “Television in Wales” that became Labour party policy. The hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) used the word “fragility”; when one looks at how the campaign for a Welsh channel could have gone wrong in many ways, one sees that it had great luck. The main way that the campaign got the support of almost the entire Welsh population was through a conference in Cardiff called by the lord mayor in 1973. Everyone was saying, “Yes, we want a fourth channel.” The monoglots wanted one not because of their love of the Welsh language but because they wanted an all-English channel. That was a coincidence.

John Davies’s marvellous record of the history of broadcasting contains details about the Broadcasting Council for Wales that I thought would always remain confidential. He records that in 1978 only two voices on the Broadcasting Council for Wales were fourth-channellers. The idea was dead, impractical and was not going to happen. Again, there was a coincidence: Margaret Thatcher happened to be reading about Irish history at the time and saw the audience in Sophia Gardens pavilion in Cardiff chanting “Gwynfor! Gwynfor!” because such a majestic figure in Welsh politics was going to starve himself to death if there was no fourth channel. She read about the effect on Irish nationalism of the deaths—the martyrs—in the Easter rising; about how Irish nationalism multiplied and grew strong. Although the great and the good came up from Wales to change her mind, that was the real reason, and to our great good luck we now have a Welsh language channel.

I think of why we bother to go on. There is a great poem by T. H. Parry-Williams that I recorded from S4C being read beautifully by John Ogwen, about Wales as an untidy part of the world for people who believe in order, a bit of a nuisance, and a tiny place where they speak in a strange way. It is difficult to get across the value of a wonderful, beautiful ancient language. The Hungarian litterateur István Széchenyi asked where he could find the Hungarian nation if he left it. He came up with the phrase, “The nation lives in her language”; not through a language, but in her language, as a place where all the wisdom of a nation—the proverbs, the humour—has come rolling down the centuries and is there enshrined as a living medium. That is the feeling we have for the language.

That lovely poem by T. H. Parry-Williams ends by saying:

“Duw a’m gwaredo, ni allaf ddianc rhag hon”.

We cannot escape from that; it is part of us. It is the great treasure of the language. It is marvellous that none of us who, in 1973, had such an impossible dream that we were told was hopelessly impractical would have believed that a day could come when there was universal approval in this House for the marvellous achievements—beyond our wildest dreams—of S4C.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this morning, Mr Brady. I congratulate the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) on securing the debate and introducing it with characteristic charm. He is right that we have a lot of Welsh business this week. I bring apologies from my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), who is attending the Welsh Grand Committee this morning. Obviously I am not Welsh, but I do remember the introduction of the Broadcasting Act 1981. In my first job when I left university, I worked for a man called Phillip Whitehead, then the MP for Derby North. He was a former television producer and he was on the Broadcasting Bill Committee, so we did a great deal of work to set up both Channel 4 and S4C. One of the people also working on that was a researcher for Plaid Cymru, Aled Eirug, who I am pleased to see is now on the board of S4C. That demonstrates how a not just bipartisan but multipartisan consensus was built, which has been so important for S4C.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire is absolutely right to point to the importance—indeed, the centrality—of the Welsh language to Welsh identity. The hon. Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) said that identity is about more than ancestry. I think he put it very well when he said that S4C is in the business of cultural production and reproduction. That is an extremely important point, because it is no good if the language is unchanging; it must be a living language, central to people’s lives, developing and changing all the time. Given that television is the medium that most people use to get entertainment, news and information, it is essential to continue support for S4C.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire also said that—I am borrowing his words—after the election in 2010 there was a funding trauma. It is clear that the changes and the big cut—20%—made by the coalition Government posed significant challenges to S4C. Many hon. Members have spoken about the importance of moving to a more stable situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) and the hon. Members for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) and for Arfon all made that point. Although we do not anticipate a review of the royal charter after the next general election, it is important that we achieve greater stability so that S4C can make intelligent plans for its programme production. It works on a two to three-year time scale and will not be able to maintain the high standard of programming that has been developed without funding certainty, so whatever structure is chosen, we must be able to be confident that it can be sustained in the medium term.

Hon. Members have pointed out the many good and enjoyable programmes being made by the indie sector for S4C, from sport and religion to drama. Selling noir drama back to the Scandinavians is a triumph. It is clear that these high-quality programmes are strongly appreciated in Wales: 92% of people think that S4C is the best channel for Wales, and 97% say that S4C keeps the language alive. Everybody very much hopes that we can establish a system to maintain that excellent track record.

I am pleased to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) on securing this important debate. I immensely enjoyed his lyrical contribution, as well as the outstanding contributions from other Members this morning, including my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) and the hon. Members for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones), for Arfon (Hywel Williams), for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), for Newport West (Paul Flynn), and, of course, for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman).

My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire started by saying that as he got older, he had a yearning to be bilingual. Perhaps it is a sign of my now rampant middle age that I always enjoy a bit of bipartisanship, and I always think we have the best debates in this House when, broadly speaking, there is a great deal of common ground in the landscape. I too pay tribute to Lord Roberts, about whom many of the contributors spoke so eloquently this morning.

I rise to add my voice to the appreciation for the work of Lord Roberts. I omitted to do so during my speech. One of the dangers in not preparing notes for a speech is that we sometimes forget one of the most important things that we wanted to say.

I am pleased to have given way to my hon. Friend to allow him to make that tribute, although I feel people would have understood that his entire paean to S4C was a tribute to Lord Roberts.

I join in the tributes to Lord Roberts, who lived in the constituency that I represent and was brought up there. He was a pioneer of broadcasting, not only in the Welsh language but in English as well. As for bipartisanship, I was always told that a cigarette paper could not be put between Gwynfor Evans, Wyn Roberts, Cledwyn Hughes and Geraint Howells. It was impossible to do it, because all came from the same mould: the Welsh mould.

Hear, hear to that. May I add my tribute to all the Welsh titans mentioned by the hon. Member for Ynys Môn? Of course, Lord Roberts was the predecessor of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb), who is widely acknowledged as a great mover in this debate.

Before I move on to the meat of my speech—the debate is becoming an extended tribute session—I should also pay tribute to Dylan Thomas. This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of Wales’s most celebrated sons, so it is appropriate, as we debate the importance of the Welsh language, the Welsh language broadcaster and Welsh culture in general, to acknowledge that very important anniversary, which is being commemorated in Wales, and, indeed, around the world.

The main subject of the debate is S4C, which is a long-standing and significant part of the UK’s rich public service broadcasting landscape and a stalwart of Welsh language services. Only last year, we gathered in this Chamber to celebrate the 30th anniversary of S4C. I said earlier that it was a privilege to hear the speeches made this morning, but such debates are always a pleasure, because of the deep understanding shown by the Members participating. They have clearly been involved for many years in S4C and the campaigns and debates about the Welsh language. Some have served in the House for many years, but those who have come to the House recently have been involved in the issue for many years. There can be no doubt that for me and my successors, from whichever party they come, the channel and its content make a tremendously important contribution to the cultural life of Wales, as well as economic impacts, and those deserve to be celebrated.

Dylan Thomas, grew up when an English-only education system was the norm in Wales—hon. Members have mentioned that the same was true when they were growing up—and the mother tongue was pushed to the margins. Thankfully, as acknowledged in many speeches, times have changed. The number of children in Welsh-medium primary schools has seen a steady increase over recent years, but we must not be complacent. We must be mindful of the importance of preserving the Welsh language and the important role played by S4C. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire has said previously in the House that, although not brought up a Welsh-speaker, the existence of S4C was critical to his learning and mastering the language.

The media, particularly the broadcast media, are vital to language and to the preservation of culture. Culture and identity are bound up in shared experiences, and TV clearly has an important role to play, whether in sport—we all know how central the game of rugby is to Welsh culture—drama, such as “Pobol y Cwm”, or key cultural events such as the Eisteddfod and the royal Welsh show. It is no coincidence that all those examples are broadcast to the Welsh-speaking public and the Welsh public in general by S4C.

To return to my earlier theme, I pay tribute, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan, to the chief executive of S4C, Ian Jones, and the chairman of the S4C authority, Huw Jones, for their outstanding work in ensuring that S4C has in difficult times not only kept on an even keel, but thrived.

The hon. Member for Clwyd South demonstrated her legendary recall of detail by remembering that in 2010 I was keen to share my experience of “Fireman Sam”, but S4C is obviously much more than “Fireman Sam”. As my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire and others pointed out, S4C is currently enjoying national prominence with the murder drama, “Hinterland”, which shows Welsh television and TV in general at their best. The mean and moody DCI Mathias and the equally mean and moody landscapes around Ceredigion have given us the latest water-cooler TV. The programme was shown on S4C last year entirely in Welsh, migrated to BBC 1 Wales in a bilingual version and is now showing on BBC 4. It has also been sold to Denmark, among other countries, which is perhaps an example of coals to Newcastle and which shows that anything they can do, the Welsh can do—in the spirit of bipartisanship, I should perhaps say “equally as well”. Hopefully, if hon. Members will pardon the pun, the Welsh can make a “Killing” with Welsh drama. Better still, I understand that the show has now been picked up by Netflix and that more episodes have been commissioned. “Hinterland” is not S4C’s only contribution to the genre, either. “35 Days”, which has only recently hit screens in Wales, is another example of great murder drama and is entirely in Welsh.

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. A key development in the partnership between S4C and the BBC will be the availability of S4C programmes on iPlayer, with my daughters, for example, looking forward to downloading “35 Days”. This innovation will bring S4C to an audience who are no longer willing to sit down at a certain time to watch a television programme.

That is an extremely important point, which takes me back to the debate, beginning in 2010, about the future of S4C, because S4C’s current success has taken place against the background of significant challenges, but those challenges have also brought opportunities. S4C was not alone in facing challenges.

It is always good to have someone come late to the debate and destroy the good will and general bonhomie that we were hitherto enjoying. I mean challenges. I am always one for a euphemism, but I mean the challenges that have been faced by many fine institutions. I was pleased that the Government were able to protect Department for Culture, Media and Sport funding for S4C during the last autumn statement and to ensure no cuts. It is not possible to offer certainty around Exchequer funding beyond 2015-16—in case anybody wants to try to read between the lines of that statement, that is the case for all publicly funded bodies—but given that the majority of S4C’s funding now comes from the licence fee, it is important that it is guaranteed up to 2017. The Government have as yet made no statement on how they intend to proceed on charter review. Sadly, I may not be the Minister supervising charter review, but common sense would clearly dictate, given the stellar speeches and high quality of the hon. Members who have contributed to the debate and given the level of debate that accompanied the changes to S4C in 2010, that S4C and other language channels will be a prominent part in such a review.

Today, we have focused on the culture as well as the cash, but it is important to understand the contribution made by S4C to the creative economy in Wales, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Arfon. Thousands of Welsh jobs are supported by S4C-related activity, and research published by S4C last year showed that each pound of funding returned nearly twice that amount for the Welsh economy, which is perhaps unsurprising but nevertheless important to acknowledge. It is also encouraging to see that formats developed in Wales, and in Welsh, are selling internationally. We have mentioned “Hinterland”, but there is also the recent sale of “Fferm Factor” to China, taking farming to a country with 300 million farmers.

As we look to the future, a key challenge for all traditional broadcasters will be to continue to reach their audiences. That challenge is more acute for public service broadcasters, and particularly for S4C, which faces the challenge of reaching an increasingly fragmented audience with such a wealth of content, and means of accessing content, on the market. In a world where the internet is largely in English, that is no small challenge, which is why the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) is so telling. The partnership with the BBC not only saves money in overheads and encourages a shared approach to programming and news, but gives S4C the opportunity to showcase its excellent content on BBC iPlayer.

I am delighted that S4C is reaching out and continues to strive to meet children’s needs with two dedicated channels, Cyw, broadcasting to pre-schoolers on TV and online, and Stwnsh, aimed at slightly older children and young people. Although age need not be a barrier to learning a new language, as shown by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire, it is important to reach people and potential Welsh speakers when they are young. I hope that S4C will continue to push forward plans to reach young people in a multi-channel, multi-device world. It is also important to reach the 16 to 24-year-old audience. Among Welsh speakers in that age group, only half consider themselves fluent, so it important that such content continues to be pushed through, which is why S4C programmes being on iPlayer and S4C’s own online offering, Clic, are so important. It is entirely in line with the Government’s objective that public service content should be available to as many people as possible, and maintaining a presence on such platforms will be increasingly central to that objective as viewing habits change.

Finally, I thank all hon. and right hon. Members who have contributed today. There may have been some disagreement or concern about the changes made to S4C’s funding structure a few years ago, but no one in the Government and no one in the House with an interest in such matters would deny S4C’s importance to the Welsh language, to Welsh identity, to culture more broadly and to the Welsh economy. I salute S4C on its success and wish it great success in the future.