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William Hague's bedside reading - and a historic battle

David Cornock
Parliamentary correspondent, Wales


William Hague is currently hard to avoid during his farewell tour of Parliament.

Having stood in for the prime minister yesterday, today he answered MPs' questions in his day job as leader of the House of Commons.

A question from Cardiff West Labour MP Kevin Brennan prompted Mr Hague to reveal details of the contents of his bookshelves.

Mr Brennan asked: "I know you will know the Gododdin, the early Welsh medieval epic poem, features a battle in your constituency; in fact at Catterick, with soldiers from a Welsh settlement of Edinburgh fighting in your constituency and indeed in Glasgow - the very name Glasgow comes from the Welsh language for 'a green place'.

"Doesn't this show from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth the historic ties that bind the people of this island are deep and enduring and should not be idly cast aside?"

Mr Hague replied: "You make a very strong point. I am well aware, I have a copy of the Gododdin at home and the battle was fought around the year 600 in Catraeth as Catterick, where I live, was then called.

"I sometimes visit the mound by the church where the warriors killed in that battle are meant to have been buried. And the fact there was a Welsh-speaking tribe there taking part in a battle which included people who had come down from Scotland, and that that's in England, is indeed, as you say, a reminder of the intricate ties and a reminder of the dark times when this kingdom was not so united.

"So I hope people will bear in mind that sort of history when they vote next week as well."

The two MPs were at Oxford University together and have developed a cameo double act during Mr Hague's Thursday appearances. Here's last week's exchanges

Brennan: "May we debate the Welsh language? The leader of the house will have seen the American ambassador's effort to speak Welsh on YouTube ahead of the NATO summit in Wales, and President Obama spoke Welsh this morning when he spoke to schoolchildren in Wales—I may say his effort was better than that of your predecessor as secretary of state for Wales [John Redwood]. Given your close connections to Wales, would you care to welcome the summit to Wales in the language of heaven?

Mr Hague: "I strongly welcome the summit to Wales. Before I stepped down as foreign secretary, I regularly explained to NATO Foreign Ministers the wonders and attractions of Wales, including a fair bit about the language.

"I do not think we need to debate the Welsh language next week. Indeed, in my household, debating the Welsh language is not a very good idea; adopting the Welsh language is a good idea, and I strongly welcome the efforts of President Obama and many others to do so."