Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg have strongly criticised the Welsh Language Board's Private Sector Strategy, and have branded the report announced today as 'a huge disappointment.' The strategy outlines the Board's plans to ensure that more private companies offer services through the medium of Welsh by using persuasion only.
Although the Board recognises the need for extending the existing legislation to include the utilities, they refuse to accept that a New Language Act is the way forward for the private sector as a whole. This is in complete contrast to Cymdeithas' experiences in the past decade in their campaigns.Cymdeithas' campaigns and discussions with Orange for example, underline the extent of the ineffectiveness of any persuasion by the Board. In an optimistic statement in 2000, the Board stated:“The mobile phone company Orange has confirmed today that the Welsh language is top of the list of languages which they consider to be key to the company's programme of developing multilingual communication in the UK."Four years later, responding to one of Cymdeithas' campaigns, an Orange representative said:"There is no obligation on Orange or any company operating in Wales to provide bilingual services."Orange continue to refuse to offer services through the medium of Welsh, and the story is similar with Coca Cola and the Welsh Rugby Union, two other examples held up by the Board as indicative of the power of persuasion.Catrin Dafydd, chair of Cymdeithas’ campaign for a New Welsh Language Act said:"This is a huge disappointment, and it shows the unwillingness and impotency of the Board to face the situation as it truly is. As their past failures with rich multinationals such as Orange and Coca Cola testify, the Board’s persuasion is not enough to ensure that these companies offer goods and services through the medium of Welsh.""The only way of ensuring service through the medium of Welsh and the linguistic rights of the people of Wales is through strong legislation that will enforce these companies to do so. The response of these companies time after time is to refuse services through the medium of Welsh because there is no legal requirement to do so. Only through a strong and inclusive New Welsh Language Act can this requirement be ensured.""It is absolutely unbelievable that the Board accepts that there is a need to extend the legislation to include the utilities such as water and electricity, and at the same time refuses to accept that this is also suitable for companies such as Tesco, who hold just as much of a monopoly over consumers as water companies."It is absolutely clear that the situation at present is unfair. A review was undertaken by Cymdeithas recently regarding the willingness of electricity companies to offer services in Welsh. Only two companies out of fourteen are able to do so, and only two companies responded to our letters, one in English, advising us to correspond in that language.""Why should consumers suffer a narrower choice if they choose to operate through the medium of Welsh? Until we have a New Welsh Language Act to force companies to offer services through the medium of Welsh, the rights of the people of Wales will not be respected whatsoever. It is disgraceful that the Board continue to ignore the clear lessons of history in this field."