Wales (United Kingdom)
Country / Region: Wales (United Kingdom)
Name of Member: Meri Huws
Name of Office: Welsh Language Commissioner

Meri Huws started as the first Commissioner on 1 April 2012. She is responsible for the secretariat of the International Association of Language Commissioners since March 2015 and Chair of the Association since March 2016.

Before being appointed as Commissioner, Meri Huws chaired the Welsh Language Board from 2004 to 2011, and was also a member of the Board from 1993 until 1997.

She studied a degree in Law and Politics at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and then a postgraduate degree at St Ann College Oxford. After training to be a social worker, she worked in the field for many years in north west Wales. Later, she followed a career in higher education, and in the 80s and 90s, she lectured in Normal College, Bangor, and Newport University before working for a period in Dublin City University. She also chaired Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) from 1981to 1983.

In 1999 she moved to work at Bangor University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and was in the post for ten years. She was appointed as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity St. David in 2009, before being appointed as Welsh Language Commissioner.

She is a familiar face in public life in Wales.

Meri Huws

The principal aim of the Welsh Language Commissioner, an independent body created in accordance with the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011, is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh Language. This entails raising awareness of the official status of the Welsh language in Wales and imposing standards on organisations. This, in turn, will lead to the establishment of rights for Welsh speakers.

Two principles underpin the work:

  • In Wales, the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably than the English language
  • Persons in Wales should be able to live their lives through the medium of Welsh if they choose to do so.

 

The office of Commissioner is a full-time post for a period of seven years.

The Commissioner works to increase the use of the Welsh in terms of service provision and opportunities for people to use the Welsh language.

In working towards achieving her long term vision, the Commissioner has identified 5 strategic objectives:

  1. Influencing the consideration given to the Welsh language in policy developments

  2. Ensuring justice for Welsh language users

  3. Imposing statutory duties and regulating them

  4. Encouraging, promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language on a voluntary basis

  5. Operating and communicating appropriately and effectively

Official status was given to the Welsh Language through the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011. Even though English is the language most widely spoken in Wales, only the Welsh language has official status confirmed in legislation.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, a constant decline has been seen in the percentage of the population of Wales who speak Welsh. At the turn of the century, 49.9% spoke Welsh, but by 1961 this had halved to 26%.

Over the next decades, a further drop in the numbers of Welsh speakers was seen, but in 2001, there was an increase of 2.1% from 18.7% in 1991 to 20.8% in 2001.

By 2011, a decline was seen in the percentage who could speak Welsh, from 20.8% in 2001 to 19% in 2011. This was a fall in the number of Welsh speakers from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000 in 2011. This is against a backdrop of an increase in population of Wales, with a usual domicile population of 3.1 million in 2011 – an increase of 5% since 2001.

Despite the reduction in the number in Wales who can speak Welsh of the past decade, there are some trends of growth to be seen as well, with a national increase in the percentage of children 3 to 4 years old and 5 to 9 years old who can speak Welsh.

More statistical information on the situation of the Welsh Language is available here.

In 2016, the Commissioner published a 5 year report on the situation of the Welsh language, which included an analysis of the Census figures relating to the Welsh language as well as all of the relevant research. Click here to read the Report.

Website: welshlanguagecommissioner.org
Other useful links:
  www.twitter.com/ComyGymraeg
  Contact
  The Welsh Language Measure (Wales) 2011