Posted: Fri 7th Jun 2024

North Wales MS calls for Welsh language standards to be extended to banking sector

North Wales news and information

A politician has called for the banking sector in Wales to be brought under the Welsh Language Standards.

Llŷr Gruffydd, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, has spoken out after raising the issue of HSBC’s decision to axe its Welsh language helpline.

HSBC has come in for fierce criticism for the decision, but has refused to reverse it.

Since January 15 of this year, only English-speaking agents have been available to answer queries customers banking with HSBC.

Customers who want their queries to be answered in Welsh now have to wait for a call-back.

The helpline, before it was discontinued, used to receive 22 calls a day on average,

However, since moving to the call-back model, they have only received 17 requests in a three month period.

Mr Gruffydd said that this is “clear” evidence “that that new system isn’t working”.

Welsh politicians were informed of the bank’s decision to axe its Welsh language service by letter on November 8, 2023.

The Senedd’s Culture Committee wrote to the corporation accusing it of “contempt” towards Welsh speakers.

It added that its “failure to maintain an approach consistent with its values is considered disingenuous and disturbing”.

At the time, Mr Gruffydd said that the decision was “unacceptable and wrongheaded”, and that it was “astonishingly disrespectful to Welsh speakers”.

The Plaid Cymru MS called for HSBC to invest in the service instead of scrapping it and to ensure it is well-advertised.

Addressing Welsh Language Minister Jeremy Miles in the Senedd, he said: “It’s clear that the new system isn’t working, and it’s also clear that the banking sector, generally, doesn’t meet the needs of Welsh speakers.

“Neither, indeed, does it provide fundamental services through the medium of our language.

“You’ve already said that you’re not happy about that, and you accept that it’s unacceptable.

“The question therefore is: what are you doing about it? You could bring the banks under the Welsh language standards, so why don’t you do that?”

In response, Mr Miles confirmed that the Senedd does have the power to “extend standards to certain parts of the private sector.”

However, he added: “We’ll need further reforms in order to reach all the parts that we’ve discussed today.

“I think that there is a case to look at this, but, unfortunately, that will be for the next Senedd, in practice.”

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