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Davies: Strengthening the Welsh language

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"Mae'n bleser gennyf gynnig y cynnigiad yma mae fy mhlaid wedi ei roi gerbron Aelodau'r Cynulliad y prynhawn yma.

Mae'r iaith Gymraeg yn un o'r rhai mwyaf nodedig yn Ewrop, ac mae ei thraddodiad llenyddol yn mynd yn ol 1,400 o flynyddoedd.

Yn ystod yr ugeinfed ganrif ac yn ol sawl cyfrifiad yn y cyfnod hyn gwelwyd y niferoedd o siaradwyr Cymraeg yn lleihau.

Ond yn ol cyfrifiad 2001 roedd yna newid sylweddol i'r iaith lle gwelsom am y tro cyntaf mewn cenedlaethau y niferoedd o siaradwyr Cymraeg yn cynyddu.

Erbyn 2003 roedd y nifer o siaradwyr Cymraeg wedi cynyddu i 21.7% o bobol i gymharu a 20.8% yn 2001.

Mae hyn yn newyddion da iawn wrth gwrs, ond mae llawer sydd raid i ni neud i sicrhau ac i amddiffyn y Gymraeg ymhellach.

Dwy ddim yn cefnogi'r iaith Gymraeg am ryw resymau rhamantus ond am resymau ymarferol fel rhywun sydd yn defnyddio'r iaith Gymraeg bob dydd gyda teulu a ffrindiau.

Mae'r Blaid Geidwadol yn hollol ymrwymedig i'r iaith Gymraeg ac i greu Cymru ddwyiethog.

Yn ystod cyfnod y Llywodraeth Geidwadol diwethaf pasiwyd Deddf Yr Iaith Gymraeg a sefydlwyd S4C a Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg.

Gwnaeth y ddeddf yn 1993 yr iaith Gymraeg yn iaith gyfartal yng Nghymru a gorfodwyd y sector cyhoeddus i sefydlu Cynllun Iaith Gymraeg.

Rydyn yn dal i gefnogi Bwrdd yr iaith Gymraeg ar gwaith da mae nhw yn ei neud.

O ganlyniad y polisiau a pasiwyd yn yr wythdegau a'r nawdegau rydyn nawr yn gweld y nifer sydd yn siarad Cymraeg yn cynyddu.

Yn wir dwy'n deall fod Llywydd y lle hwn, ac wrth gwrs, cyn gadeirydd y bwrdd iaith, wedi cydnabod hyn yn rhyw erthygl weles i rhai blynyddoedd yn ol.

Rydyn ni fel Plaid wedi dod i'r penderfyniad for rhaid adolygu'r ddeddf bresennol.

Beth sydd yn bwysig fod ni yn gweld rol y Gymraeg yn cynyddu tu fewn ein cymdeithas.

Dwy'n credu fod rhaid i ni hybu'r iaith Gymraeg mewn gwahanol ffyrdd drwy Cymru gyfan - efallai, er enghraifft, fod y dulliau sydd yn cael ei defnyddio yn addas i hybu'r iaith yn Crymych ond nid yn Casnewydd.

Mae rhaid cydnabod fod agweddau rhai polisiau yn gorfod fod yn genedlaethol a rhai eraill yn rhanbarthol.

Mae'n bwysig fod polisiau arbennig yn cael ei dosbathu mewn ardaloedd lle mae'r Gymraeg yn iaith y gymuned.

Addysg, cefnogaeth ac annogaeth sydd yn allweddol i weld yr iaith yn parhau - o ysgol feithrin drwy i addysg uwch.

Mae rhaid gweld mwy o fuddsoddiad tuag at dysgu rhieni di Gymraeg er mwyn eu bod yn gallu annog eu plant i ddysgu'r iaith.

Fel i ni gyd yn gwybod mae'r llywodraeth eisie uno bwrdd yr iaith Gymraeg gyda Llywodraeth y Cynulliad er bod y lle hwn wedi pleidleisio yn erbyn y cynnig yn 2005.

Yn ei maniffesto mae'r blaid Lafur wedi cadarnhau ei bod eisie neud hyn ar y cyntaf o mis Ebrill 2009.

Mae'r cynlluniau ma yn achosi pryder mawr i mi oherwydd gall uno'r bwrdd iaith a'r llywodraeth beryglu annibyniaeth y Gymraeg ac o ganlyniad gall yr iaith cael ei defnyddio fel pel ffwtbol.

Creuwyd Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg er mwyn tynnu'r iaith allan o ddylanwad uniongyrchol gwleidyddion.

Bydde gwaredu'r bwrdd yn gam yn ol ac unwaith eto yn tynnu'r iaith i fewn i'r arena gwleidyddol.

Bwriad arall y llywodraeth fel i ni gyd yn gwybod yw sefydlu Dyfarnydd i'r iaith ar ol diddymu'r bwrdd.

Yn anffodus dyn ni ddim yn gwybod yn iawn beth fydde cyfrifoldebau'r swydd ma.

Y perygl yw fydde rol y swydd ma yn ry agos at wleidyddion a ddim yn wir annibynnol.

Y perygl hefyd yw fydde'r dyfarnydd ddim a'r pwer statudol i gymeryd penderfyniadau a bydde'r rol yn fwy fel ymgynghorydd.

Rydyn ni fel Ceidwadwyr Cymreig yn gwrthwynebu yn hollol gwaredu bwrdd yr iaith Gymraeg sydd gyda llaw wedi bod yn bencampwr annibynnol i hawliau'r iaith Gymraeg.

Beth i ni eisie gweld yw'r bwrdd iaith yn parhau a fod swyddfa comisiynydd iaith yn cael ei creu.

Bydde swydd annibynnol fel hyn yn amddiffyn hawliau i siaradwyr Cymraeg a Saesneg.

The Welsh Language Act passed by the Conservative Government in 1993 placed the language on an equal footing with English in Wales with regard to the public sector.

It also gives Welsh speakers the right to speak Welsh in court.

However, even though, the act, gives Welsh "equal" status with English, it does not give it "official" status.

The UK Government has ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in respect to Welsh.

This means that while Welsh is recognised as a national language, English is the only official language of the UK.

The Welsh Language Board in January 2006 published a paper on the "Legislative Position of the Welsh Language".

In it they their key points included the need to review the existing legislation in relation to language rights.

They also believed that legislation affecting the language should primarily be the responsibility of the National Assembly.

They also proposed an independent regulator for the Welsh Language with statutory powers and a clearly defined role which should include agreeing and monitoring compliance with language schemes.

They also concluded that none of the Board's current regulatory powers should be transferred from the Board until an independent regulator has been established on a statutory footing.

Abolishing the Welsh Language Board and merging it with the Assembly Government is yet another example of this Government's drive towards centralised decision making and control.

We remain concerned that there is no clarity or commitment on the future place of the language - there are still too many unanswered questions.

It seems to me that the Government has failed to address any of the concerns raised by the Welsh Language Board and largely ignores the views of many other organisations.

As we all know "Iaith Pawb" is the Government's strategy document aimed at promoting and supporting the Welsh language.

The key target in the strategy is to increase the number of Welsh speakers by 5% on the figure in the 2001 census which was 21% by the year 2011.

In order to achieve this we must have a robust framework in place.

And that is why this afternoon not only are we as a Party putting forward a motion to give the Welsh Language official status but it is imperative to create an independent language commissioner.

We have seen language commissioners being appointed to protect minority languages throughout the world - in Ireland, in New Brunswick, Canada and in New Zealand to protect the Maori language.

Let's for a moment look at the Irish Language Commissioner established in the official Language Act 2003 in relation to the Gaelic language.

The Commissioner there has the statutory role of overseeing and monitoring the Act, and ensuring that it is being implemented.

The Commissioner has the power to deal with complaints, conduct investigations and take legal action against any body which fails to provide appropriate services.

The Irish Language Commissioner cannot be removed from office for political reasons, apart from a case of misconduct.

The post is not accountable to a Government Minister and is free to be critical of Government.

As I understand it the Irish Commissioner did criticise the Irish Government recently.

The appointment is made by Parliament, not by the Minister and the commissioner has authority and free rein over the financial resources of the office and legislation protects the independence of the role and the staff.

The commissioner can regulate and enforce the legislation but can also act in the spirit of the legislation in an advisory role.

Establishing a commissioner here in Wales similar to the Irish Language commissioner would protect the rights of both Welsh and English language speakers.

Thomas Cook's decision to deny its employees the right to speak Welsh at one of its offices provoked outrage from the public and prompted the Commission for Racial Equality to express its concern.

If a language commissioner had been in place at the time of this incident then this matter would have been investigated by the holder of that post.

The Welsh Conservative Party is committed to increasing the use of Welsh in all spheres of life and to creating a truly bilingual Wales.

Giving the Welsh "official language status" would strengthen the rights of Welsh and English speakers and would be a hugely symbolic move.

Encouraging the use of Welsh must be at the heart of policy making.

Whilst we certainly want to encourage businesses in the private sector to offer Welsh language services, we do not want to compel them to do so.

It would not be practical to force firms, especially small businesses such as your corner shop, or your local chip shop to use both Welsh and English.

There is a danger that the mandatory introduction of Welsh Language schemes for businesses could damage the goodwill which already exists towards the language which has been nurtured in recent years.

However, larger companies have more capacity to meet the demands of a growing bilingual culture.

Encouraging all sections of business and industry to operate bilingually wherever it is practicable to do so must be the way forward.

The Welsh language relies on the goodwill of the 80% of Welsh people who are non-Welsh speaking.

We rely on their cooperation to ensure the survival of the language.

I believe that there is a consensus here in the Assembly today on our motion.

In their Assembly election manifesto Labour wants to establish a "dyfarnydd" - we are suggesting we should take it further by establishing a commissioner.

Plaid Cymru's stated aim in their manifesto was "to give official status to Welsh and create the post of Language Commissioner to ensure that the interests of Welsh are proactively safeguarded and promoted."

The Liberal Democrat manifesto pledged to "make Welsh an official language and commit to reaffirming the independence of the Welsh Language Board" and ensure that the Board has commissioner style powers."

Indeed, the All Wales Accord which was produced by the 3 opposition parties proposed and I quote "We will introduce a measure to give the Welsh and English languages official status, to afford language speakers equal rights in the provision of services, and to establish the office of Language Commissioner."

In closing, the very fact that there is agreement between the majority of Assembly Members seems a good reason for putting forward those proposals today, and I would encourage this chamber to wholeheartedly support this motion."

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