Plaid AM in Last-Ditch Bid to Stiffen Language Law; ACTIVISTS SEEK BACKING IN TODAY'S VOTE FOR AMENDMENT ON RIGHTS

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 7, 2010 | Go to article overview

Plaid AM in Last-Ditch Bid to Stiffen Language Law; ACTIVISTS SEEK BACKING IN TODAY'S VOTE FOR AMENDMENT ON RIGHTS


Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON

ACTIVISTS made a last-ditch attempt yesterday to strengthen the flagship Welsh Language Measure on which AMs will vote today.

They appealed to politicians to back amendments laid by Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins which they believe will give Welsh speakers a stronger set of rights.

Ms Jenkins wants to insert the statement: "Everyone has the right to use the Welsh language in Wales as far as that is reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances."

But the party's deputy leader, Helen Mary Jones, warned that an "open ended" statement that Welsh is an official language could lead to rights being rolled back in court battles.

The Assembly debate is due to run for four hours today as AMs wrestle with how best to preserve the language for future generations. Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg alleges the legislation "fails to guarantee better services because provision will depend on the whim of future ministers instead of a clear principle enshrined in the new law."

However, Ms Jones said the legislation would ensure "it is the people of Wales, and not a court of law, that defines the status of the language."

The Llanelli AM said: "The standards that this legislation will impose on a wide range of bodies effectively give people the right to use our language in all public spheres and is a hugely exciting step forward.

"The last thing we need is constant court cases and uncertainty surrounding the language.

"Doing what some suggest risks making the language an on-going legal football that would be divisive and could harm the language.

"The very simple question is: who do we want defining our language status, a British judge or our own Welsh government?" Ms Jenkins said she had not seen legal advice indicating that a clear declaration about the status of Welsh introduced risks. But she argued there was international evidence that such declarations gave people legal protection.

Arguing that her changes would not leave the legislation "open-ended" but would strengthen the measure, she said: "We want to have a status for the Welsh language that everybody can be proud of and everybody can support."

Strong backing for her stance came from Professor Richard Wyn Jones of Cardiff University.

He said: "I am concerned that the Welsh Government is about to miss a historic opportunity to extend full and equal status to the Welsh language. …

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