Re-examination of the provisions of the Welsh Language Act

Every year, millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are wasted in Wales as a direct consequence of the necessity to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Welsh Language Act. In my view, this Act needs to be urgently re-examined in great detail so as to ensure that this state of affairs is not allowed to continue. Let me provide three, fairly typical everyday examples of how public money is wasted unnecessarily within the Principality: (i) When Welsh local authorities wish to alter a road layout, they are obliged, as everywhere else, to announce their plans in the local press. In Wales, however, the cost of this announcement is effectively more than doubled because the advertising must be bilingual. Costs could easily be slashed by the simple expedient of adding one line to an English language advertisement stating that ‘a Welsh version of this announcement is available on request’. However, currently, this appears not to be acceptable under the terms of the Act. (ii) A voluntary organization recently wished to provide patient information leaflets on sickle cell disease in a range of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian languages. Perhaps predictably, they ran out of money before the task was complete. One of the leaflets that was however successfully produced was in Welsh (because this was an obligatory requirement of receipt of public funding), despite the fact that it is vanishingly unlikely that any Welsh-speaking sickle cell disease patient actually exists in Wales. (iii) When scientific positions at my host institution, a leading Welsh University, are advertised in the local press, one is billed for the (more than doubled) cost of obligatory bilingual advertising. This is absolutely not what my hard-earned medical research funds were supposed to be used for! Further, I estimate that my cash-strapped host institution is obliged to fork out ~£250,000 per annum for this purpose. This is at a time when cut-backs are rife and some Welsh higher education institutions may have to merge or even close. Again, a perfectly reasonable compromise would be for the advertisement to state that a Welsh language version of the text was available on request. As the Welsh Language Act stands, however, this is unacceptable. These are just three examples of senseless waste in a virtual sea of wastefulness. Principality-wide, the sums of money involved are enormous and, to my mind, constitute a fertile hunting ground for massive savings that would be almost entirely painless to administer.    

Why is this idea important?

Every year, millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are wasted in Wales as a direct consequence of the necessity to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Welsh Language Act. In my view, this Act needs to be urgently re-examined in great detail so as to ensure that this state of affairs is not allowed to continue. Let me provide three, fairly typical everyday examples of how public money is wasted unnecessarily within the Principality: (i) When Welsh local authorities wish to alter a road layout, they are obliged, as everywhere else, to announce their plans in the local press. In Wales, however, the cost of this announcement is effectively more than doubled because the advertising must be bilingual. Costs could easily be slashed by the simple expedient of adding one line to an English language advertisement stating that ‘a Welsh version of this announcement is available on request’. However, currently, this appears not to be acceptable under the terms of the Act. (ii) A voluntary organization recently wished to provide patient information leaflets on sickle cell disease in a range of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian languages. Perhaps predictably, they ran out of money before the task was complete. One of the leaflets that was however successfully produced was in Welsh (because this was an obligatory requirement of receipt of public funding), despite the fact that it is vanishingly unlikely that any Welsh-speaking sickle cell disease patient actually exists in Wales. (iii) When scientific positions at my host institution, a leading Welsh University, are advertised in the local press, one is billed for the (more than doubled) cost of obligatory bilingual advertising. This is absolutely not what my hard-earned medical research funds were supposed to be used for! Further, I estimate that my cash-strapped host institution is obliged to fork out ~£250,000 per annum for this purpose. This is at a time when cut-backs are rife and some Welsh higher education institutions may have to merge or even close. Again, a perfectly reasonable compromise would be for the advertisement to state that a Welsh language version of the text was available on request. As the Welsh Language Act stands, however, this is unacceptable. These are just three examples of senseless waste in a virtual sea of wastefulness. Principality-wide, the sums of money involved are enormous and, to my mind, constitute a fertile hunting ground for massive savings that would be almost entirely painless to administer.