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

A MEMBER of the Senedd has called for the banking sector in Wales to be brought under the Welsh Language Standards regime.

Llŷr Gruffydd, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, has spoken out during a debate about the regime, in which he raised the issue of HSBC’s decision to axe its Welsh language helpline.

The Plaid Cymru MS challenged the Welsh Government’s Minister for the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, on the issue on the floor of the Senedd.

HSBC has come in for fierce criticism for its decision to axe its Welsh language helpline for customers, but it 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 callback.

The helpline, before it was discontinued, used to receive 22 calls a day on average, However, since moving to the callback 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.

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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”.

He called for HSBC to “invest” in the service “properly for at least 12 months” instead of scrapping it and that this included “ensuring that it is well-advertised”.

Addressing the Minister in the Senedd Llŷr Gruffydd MS said: “You’ve already mentioned this afternoon that you’re disappointed at the decision by HSBC to terminate its Welsh language helpline service. At the time, they received 22 calls a day to that Welsh language helpline.

“Since moving to a model where people can ask for a callback, they’ve only received 17 requests in a period of three months.

“So, 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, and 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 Jeremy Miles confirmed that the Senedd does have the power to “extend standards to certain parts of the private sector, but we’ll need further reforms in order to reach all the parts that we’ve discussed today.”

He added: “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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