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INTERVIEW WITH IEUAN WYN JONES, LEADER, PLAID CYMRU
APRIL 27, 2003
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: First let's talk to the leader of the Welsh nationalists, Ieuan Wyn Jones, he's in Bangor, Plaid Cymru of course are the main opposition party in Wales, like the SNP in Scotland, but the Welsh Assembly doesn't have the same powers to make laws that the Scottish Parliament has. Nor can it raise taxes. Plaid want to change this and win similar rights for the Cardiff assembly, but they're stopping short of demanding independence for Wales. Ieuan welcome back to the programme.
IEUAN WYN JONES: Good morning David.
DAVID FROST: The basic question, I suppose, here is that with Rhodri Morgan having put a distinctively Welsh stamp on the assembly and introduced a number of policies of which you in fact approve, that the question is what's the incentive to vote for Plaid Cymru now you've got a real Welshman in there in the top job?
IEUAN WYN JONES: Yes, of course he likes to give the impression that there is this red clear water, as he describes it, between himself and London but the reality of the delivery over the last four years indicates that he's very much wanting to keep in tow with what's been happening in London. And of course everybody knows that Plaid Cymru as a party in Wales would always put the interests of Wales first. Whether that is in terms of the delivery of public services, which is a big issue in this campaign, or of course to turn the assembly with its very small powers at present into a proper powerful parliament for Wales that could really do a proper job for our people.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of the various policies that you have Ieuan, what exactly is the situation on your historic aim to create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language when they say at the moment only 16 per cent of Welsh people are fluent and only 28 per cent have even some knowledge of Welsh? Is that still part of your policy?
IEUAN WYN JONES: Well what is important of course to recognise is that the Welsh language belongs to everybody in Wales whether they speak it or not, and the last census return showed that there is a tremendous interest and indeed a growth in the use of the Welsh language both in terms of full knowledge of the language and in terms, as you've indicated, of people who have some knowledge of Welsh. And one of the remarkable features, I think, of Welsh life in the last 25 years has been the remarkable growth in Welsh medium language education and primarily, of course, in the English speaking parts of Wales. And I think that know that the language has become depoliticised in that there is a broad all party consensus on the future of the language, that I think is of tremendous benefit to everybody. And the fact that the language hasn't been a contentious issue in this election, I think is a very important step along that road.
DAVID FROST: And the Tories, the Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne, he says, he claims that asylum seekers are draining rural areas of Wales of resources. Is there some truth in that?
IEUAN WYN JONES: Well I think he's overblown the situation, he's actually used very inflammatory language in relation to asylum seekers. There are concerns about the issue but there are also concerns about the way asylum seekers are being treated and I think it behoves everyone of us in public life to actually treat this issue very sensitively indeed and I think not to over blow it. There are small numbers of asylum seekers, it's not the kind of issue that Nick Bourne tries to make out it is. And I think one of the things that we have to remember very much in the post-Iraq situation is to be tolerant of all traditions in Wales. There is a very big Muslim community in Wales, there's a big Jewish community in Wales, and I think we have to remember that the job of politicians is to make Wales a country safe for everybody to live in, whatever their tradition, whatever their background, whatever their language and whatever their religion.
DAVID FROST: And what about in terms of people coming into Wales, one of your own people said that, one of your councillors in North Wales said "It's English pensioners who are the problem, and strict controls should be applied to English people who want to move to Wales" Do you back that idea of quotas, and would you back their to be also quotas for Welsh people who want to move to England?
IEUAN WYN JONES: Well, Sir David, I think you asked that question of me in the general election in 2001 and I'll give you the same answer and that is that Wales, of course, has always welcomed people to live into Wales from wherever they come and it's very important to recognise that we have a very tolerant country. But what everybody wants to know in this election is what would Plaid Cymru do in government, and the real issues for us, as well as being a very open and tolerant society, is to make sure that we have a very decent health service, we have jobs for our people and that we have safer communities. And wherever people have come from, they've talked to me about those very, very basic issues. And I've been able to persuade them that wherever they┐ve come from, people from England, people from Wales, people from ethnic minority communities, that Plaid Cymru is a party that can bridge any divide which exists in Wales and we must make sure that when we become the government of Wales ... as I hope we do ... that not only are we the party of the whole of Wales, but that we can govern for the whole of Wales as well.
DAVID FROST: Ieuan, thank you very much for joining us.
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