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Written Statement - The Welsh Ministers’ response to the Welsh Language Commissioner’s proposals for Welsh language standards.

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

I wish  to inform Assembly Members that I have made my decision with regard to the Welsh Language Commissioner’s proposals for Welsh language standards.

On 16 May 2012 the Welsh Language Commissioner launched a non-statutory consultation into her proposals with regard to Welsh language standards. She closed the consultation on 11 August 2012. Her report following her consultation was submitted to me on 28 November 2012.

The work undertaken by the Commissioner has been helpful and constructive and has moved the dialogue forward with regard to standards. Her consultation has opened the debate about how best to set the standards expected of organisations and her meetings with key stakeholders have served to raise the profile of the Measure and the language – including within new stakeholder communities.

I have carefully considered the Commissioner’s consultation document – and have given full and due regard to her advice to me and to her proposed standards. The Government fully supports the principle set out in the Measure, and reflected in the Commissioner’s proposed standards, that, in Wales, the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably then the English language. The Government also recognises, as did the Assembly, that any Welsh language duties to be imposed on organisations need to be reasonable and proportionate.

I have informed the Welsh Language Commissioner, however, that at present I am unable to proceed with her proposals as they stand. I have reached this decision for a number of reasons, including my concern that the model proposed by the Commissioner is too complex and would not enable me to lay before the Assembly a Regulatory Impact Assessment giving a clear picture of the impact of the standards on persons to be subject to Welsh language duties. I am also of the view that the Commissioner’s proposed standards, coupled with the model proposed by the Commissioner for the imposition of standards, will not achieve the shared policy aim of providing clear linguistic rights to citizens. My final concern is that the likely timescales required do not pay sufficient regard to the importance of need to introduce Welsh Language standards at the earliest possible opportunity.

The full reasons for my decision are set out in a letter I have sent to the Commissioner, dated 25 February 2013.

I propose to build on the Commissioner’s consultation to develop a set of standards that will meet the policy aims reflected in the Measure, and the commitments given to the National Assembly for Wales, to achieve linguistic rights for citizens. I will liaise closely with the Welsh Language Commissioner as I do so.

The steps I will need to take to develop the standards will include:

  • developing a revised set of standards for consultation;
  • undertaking a comprehensive consultation with the public and the organisations to be affected by the standards;
  • after taking account of the results of the consultation, preparing regulations making standards, along with regulations making those standards specifically applicable to persons, to be approved by the Assembly; and 
  • preparing a regulatory impact assessment to present to the Assembly alongside the regulations.

I estimate that we can make the regulations making standards, alongside the regulations making standards specifically applicable to persons, by the end of 2014.