Wales politics

Welsh speakers urged to use services in the language more

Eluned Morgan
Image caption Eluned Morgan highlighted the low use of Welsh-language services in the public sector

Welsh-speakers have a responsibility to use the language if they want more services offered in Welsh, the minister responsible for it has said.

Eluned Morgan said "we've got to be careful how we tread" in case companies were put off from investing in Wales if they were told they had to deal with customers in Welsh.

Laws compelling private firms might be possible in the future, Ms Morgan said.

But people had to start using existing Welsh services first, she added.

She also defended a decision to ditch plans for a major shake-up in promoting the Welsh language and denied that money had been wasted.

A Welsh Language Bill, which would have scrapped the post of Welsh language commissioner, was dropped earlier this month.

Asked about the use of Welsh by banks and supermarkets, Baroness Morgan told AMs on the Culture Committee that the government needed to "encourage, praise, thank, where that's possible".

But she pointed to the low use of Welsh-language services in the public sector. She cited figures from Bridgend council where almost 10% of people in the county speak Welsh, but only 0.2% of phone calls from the public - 301 out of 160,528 - were in Welsh last year.

"It's difficult for us to sell the need to do that to the private sector," she said.

"So I think we have to ask the commissioner to do a lot more about the use of the services.

"I think it's really, really difficult. That's the answer I've had very often from companies that already do things in the private sector, that do provide services, the Welsh-speakers don't use the service.

"I think there's a responsibility on Welsh speakers to use the services. At the moment they are not doing that."

Image caption Aled Roberts will take over as Welsh language commissioner in April

Utilities companies had been asked to "have a discussion" with the government.

"I think we've got to be careful and sensitive in the way we approach this," the minister said.

"Because the last thing we want to do is to see people not invest in Wales as a result, so we've got to be careful how we tread.

"Some of these companies are already providing a service and people are not using them.

"So it's very difficult for us then to say 'step up your work and the investment you'd have to make' if the Welsh public are not using them. It's very difficult."

Better data was needed on the take-up of Welsh language services, she said, adding that the commissioner needed to look at the quality of the data available.

Organisations needed help from the commissioner to use the language, rather than just seeing the office as a "policeman" that enforces the rule.

Speech-recognition

Former Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts will take up the post when the current commissioner, Meri Huws, stands down next month.

Jeremy Evas, head of Welsh language promotion at the Welsh government, said the government was helping banks to allow customers to bank in Welsh.

Speech-recognition technology was being created that could be given to the banks to update their systems.

The Welsh Government wants a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Related Topics

More on this story