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Government Digital Service (Welsh Language)

Volume 603: debated on Wednesday 9 December 2015

2. What steps the Government Digital Service is taking to ensure that Government Departments treat the Welsh and English languages equally on their websites when providing services in Wales. (902469)

Mae’r fonheddiges anrhydeddys yn gofyn cwestiwn pwysig.

The Government Digital Service is committed to ensuring that the needs of Welsh language speakers are recognised and met. For example, the introduction of gov.uk now gives every Government organisation the ability to publish web content in Welsh. GDS has helped to produce exemplar Welsh language versions of the new digital services, such as the “register to vote” service, and it has put forward its digital design recommendations for Welsh language Government services.

Diolch yn fawr iawn am y rhagymadrodd—roedd o’n arbennig o dda ac yn gynsail pwysig i’r Ty yma.

I thank the Minister very much for his introduction in Welsh. However, considering that not a single gov.uk departmental website states on its homepage that services are available in Welsh, people do not know that they can use Welsh. When will the digital service stop preventing Government Departments from fulfilling their legal duty to Welsh speakers?

I acknowledge that the hon. Lady’s Welsh is more fluent than mine, and I look forward to her giving me a lesson or two at a future date. The Government are doing a huge amount to ensure support for Welsh digital services in Departments, and importantly, that is about quality, not quantity. She will know that every page of direct.gov.uk—the predecessor to gov.uk—was translated into Welsh. That ran to nearly 4,000 pages, but 95% of them were seen by fewer than 10 people per month, and half received no visits whatsoever. For gov.uk we are starting with user need, and working with Departments to ensure the best service for the user.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Mr Llywydd. May I congratulate the Minister on the positive sentiments he is echoing, both literally and figuratively, with regard to the Welsh language? May I remind him that as we are the party that set up Sianel Pedwar Cymru and passed the Welsh Language Act 1993, there is absolutely no doubt about our commitment to the language of heaven?

Tapadh leibh, Mgr Speaker, airson an cothrom seo a thoirt dhomh. May I ask that the respect being shown to Welsh also be shown to Scottish Gaelic?

It is always a pleasure to answer the hon. Gentleman. He will be pleased to know that the Cabinet Office does the same for the whole UK.

Were the Minister to go to the Llyn peninsula and do a six-week Ùlpan course, he would learn fluent Welsh, I can tell him. Having served in 1993 on the Welsh Language Bill, of which our party can be very proud, I know how important it is that it be clearly laid out whether things are in English or Welsh. Sometimes they are in Welsh and then in English, and sometimes in English and then in Welsh. May we have a systematic approach across Government?

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we are doing a lot from the centre to encourage Departments to support better the needs of Welsh language speakers. Earlier this year, together with the Wales Office, we conducted user research into their needs, and as a result we are helping Departments to identify a set of Welsh language end-to-end user journeys, such as online self-assessment, that could be better supported by gov.uk.