Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Half polled support Welsh laws

Translation of the word Welsh
Support for any new laws on Welsh is strongest among fluent Welsh speakers

Nearly half of the people questioned in a poll commissioned for BBC Wales say they support the need to create new laws to encourage the Welsh language.

The assembly government is currently seeking permission from Westminster to make new laws to cover the language.

Of the 1,000 people polled by ICM, 47% agreed there was a need for new laws, 29% thought they were not required and just under a quarter were undecided.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said the support shown was "heartening".

Initial plans in the assembly government's legislative competence order (LCO) have indicated that any future new law would be aimed at requiring more of the public sector and some private businesses who provide public services to provide more Welsh language services to their customers and users.

The LCO, which was first published in February, is the first stage in passing a Welsh law (measure) and seeks to give the assembly government more powers over the Welsh language.

Fluent speakers

Any handover of power would need the approval of both the Welsh assembly and Westminster.

In the ICM poll, support for any new laws is strongest among Welsh speakers with around 75% of fluent speakers and 60% of those with some understanding of the language agreeing with the need for new laws.

However, among the non-Welsh speakers polled, there appears to be a fairly equal split between those who are opposed (35%) and those who agree with the need to develop new laws.

Support for changes is strongest in the north (56%) and the biggest opposition is in the south east (35%).

Mr Jones said the poll's results reinforced the assembly government's belief that there is widespread support for their proposals.

"We are only beginning to discuss the measures, the laws, that will come from this therefore that level of public debate is very heartening and it shows a growing maturity among Welsh people," he said.

"The Welsh language belongs to all of us. It is part of what we are and I think that people think there is a need to use measures to support and to encourage it."

The Secretary of State for Wales Paul Murphy said it was also important to look at the detailed results of a consultation on the proposals.

"There is some detail with regard to the impact on business in these difficult times which we are consulting on and that I guess will be the main focus in the months ahead," he said.

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