Million Welsh speakers target by 2050 backed by UK minister

David Lidington
Image caption David Lidington is Theresa May's defacto deputy

Plans for a million Welsh speakers by 2050 have the support of the UK government, Theresa May's defacto-deputy has said.

David Lidington said the language is one of the UK's "greatest inheritances as a nation".

The Welsh Government in Cardiff wants to boost the number of speakers through expanding Welsh-medium education.

Mr Lidington made the comments ahead of a visit on Monday celebrating 20 years of devolution in Wales.

The National Assembly for Wales celebrated the anniversary earlier in May - marking when the institution was officially opened.

Twenty years ago on Monday the assembly, which had ministers before the Welsh Government was set up, took over the powers of the old Welsh Office.

Welsh language policy, with the exception of broadcasting, is set in Cardiff. Ministers have vowed to boost the number of Welsh-medium primary and secondary teachers.

Image caption Alun Michael led the government in the assembly when it opened in 1999

The number of Welsh speakers stood at 562,000 at 2011 Census.

On Monday Mr Lidington, who is Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, visited S4C in Carmarthen, before later visiting Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Morgannwg, a Welsh-medium school in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, with Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

He said: "We are committed to supporting the Welsh Government's aim for a million Welsh language speakers. The Welsh language is one of our greatest inheritances as a nation and the UK government recognises its part and responsibility to protect and develop it for future generations."

The Conservative party is currently embarking on a leadership contest to find a replacement for the prime minister.

Mr Lidington said 20 years of devolution had strengthened the UK's nations and improved accountability.

"It will be important for the new prime Mmnister to make a passionate and positive case in every part of the UK for the benefits of being part of a strong United Kingdom," said Mr Lidington.

Mr Cairns said it was "hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the National Assembly for Wales was established".

"It was a privilege to be a part of that first assembly intake some 20 years ago and since then serve as Secretary of State for Wales," he said.

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