Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
Today it gives me great pleasure to be able to lay before the Assembly the Regulations that will specify the first set of Welsh Language Standards.
This is a landmark piece of legislation that will put the language on a firm footing within the organisations required to comply with them. It will encourage more use of Welsh in everyday situations, be it in receiving public services or as an employee of one of the organisations.
The standards will play a key role in setting up a framework that ensures people can be confident in the services they receive in Welsh. They will help ensure that those services are offered proactively, are promoted well, and are of a quality that means individuals do not feel they are receiving services of a lesser standard than those receiving services in English.
They will be at the heart of a new mechanism that will enable the Commissioner - who will be responsible for imposing and regulating the standards - not only to investigate non-compliance with them, but also to take appropriate steps to enforce them. Setting up the Welsh Language Tribunal is also an important step forward as a route of appeal to the Commissioner’s decisions.
The standards were drafted specifically for Local Authorities, National Park Authorities and the Welsh Government. The Regulations authorise the Welsh Language Commissioner to give compliance notices to the relevant organisations, requiring them to comply with one or more of those standards.
These standards have been subject to consultation and investigation. The Welsh Government have fully considered the views of the Commissioner (following her standards investigation held between January and April 2014), and have since conducted a consultation on the draft regulations which ended on 5 December 2014. During that consultation we received many constructive and incisive responses, and the matters raised were given full consideration.
I’d like to thank the Commissioner, the organisations which will be subject to these standards, and everyone who responded for their valuable comments. There’s no doubt that these engagement exercises have proved useful for sounding out the direction of many of the standards. We believe the process has resulted in the creation of a robust set of standards which will be an important milestone in mainstreaming the Welsh language into every aspect of life in Wales.
I think it’s important to emphasise that this system of standards breaks new ground where legislation to protect languages is concerned. It is tailored especially for the situation of the Welsh language, and has the aim of:
- improving the services Welsh-speakers can expect to receive from organisations in Welsh
- increasing the use people make of Welsh-language services
- making it clear to organisations what they need to do in terms of the Welsh language
- ensuring that there is an appropriate degree of consistency in terms of the duties placed on bodies in the same sectors.
I will also take this opportunity to provide an update on the timetable for introducing these standards, and the Commissioner’s timetable for conducting standards investigations in relation to other organisations. A full list of organisations subject to the Commissioner’s second and third standards investigation can be found on the Commissioner’s website.
Set 1 – Welsh Ministers, Local Authorities and National Park Authorities
- Vote to approve regulations for first set of standards during National Assembly Plenary – 24 March 2015
- If approved, standards to come into force on 31 March 2015, enabling the Welsh Language Commissioner to issue
- Compliance Notices to the 26 bodies in set 1 Compliance Notices will set the date from which an organisation will have to comply with standards.
- Welsh Language Commissioner to submit standards investigation report for second set of standards – May 2015
- Welsh Government to begin drafting regulations for second set of standards – by Autumn 2015
- Begin the process of introducing regulations for the second set of standards – by the end of 2015.
- Welsh Language Commissioner to begin standards investigation for set 3 – May 2015.