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MP wants Welsh text on ID cards

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Llanelli MP Nia Griffiths has called for the national identity card to include Welsh text.

New technologies provide many ways to make services bilingual, said the Labour MP on 3 February 2009, and using Welsh on identity cards would send a clear message that the language has equal validity with English.

A supporter of identity cards, Griffiths said that people for whom Welsh was their native or preferred language expected to see it on official documents. The government's plan is for the cards to contain only English and French, however.

In a Westminister Hall debate organised by the MP, she said that the Welsh Language Act, introduced by the Labour government in 1967, laid down the principle of the equal validity of English and Welsh in Wales.

"If someone wants to discuss their tax, they can ring up a Welsh helpline. If someone needs advice or help on issues raised by the Department for Work and Pensions, they can ring up a Welsh helpline," she said. "There has been tremendous progress not just in the written language, but in providing the opportunities for people to speak Welsh if they wish to."

The question for the government, according to Griffiths, is not how to fit three languages on the ID card, but how to design a card to fit three languages.

During the debate, Albert Owen, MP for Ynys Mon, said the issue reminded him of the "debacle" that surrounded the 2001 census, when the lack of Welsh caused an uproar. The situation will be rectified by the next census in 2011.

Home Office minister Meg Hillier said that although she supported the principle of having the Welsh language on identity cards, the government still has to determine exactly how that can be done.

"It is not as straightforward as it may seem," Hillier said. "But I can give a commitment that we will make a final decision well in advance of the high volume roll out of identity cards that will start in Wales, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, in 2011 or 2012."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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