Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Joint Committee on the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Irish Speaking Community
Beart na Breatnaise agus Caighdeáin Teanga: Coimisinéir Teanga na Breataine Bige
Mr. Aled Roberts:
It is certainly an issue. The language measure would not have been passed without us having a devolved assembly. What has been important is cross-party consensus on much of the language legislation, something on which both my predecessor and I have been anxious to build. The assembly is not subject to the standards, strangely, although the Welsh ministers are, but I am proud of the fact we have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Senedd which has sought to ensure the language is given equal status with English. It is easy for people to forget that Welsh is a relative newcomer on the scene, both in the judicial and political context, because to all intents and purposes it was previously excluded. The devolved powers have been important and our memorandum with the Senedd has sought to ensure the practical requirements are put in place to ensure the members, if they require, can conduct their business in Welsh.
It was noticeable that the Welsh Parliament was the first parliament to ensure simultaneous translation was available over Zoom at the outset of the Covid epidemic, but there is more work to be done. If you look at the figures, the use of Welsh in the Senedd has reduced over the past three or four years, both at committee level and in plenary session. Much of that is down to the number of first-language speakers who were elected to the previous Senedd. A greater number of first-language speakers were elected to this Senedd. I am anxious to underline to them that there is a bit of work to be done to ensure children and young people, in particular, come to regard Welsh as a natural language of business in all fields in Wales going forward and not as a language for school.