Alun Ffred Jones, Minister for Heritage
The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 will provide for the abolition of the Welsh Language Board and the transfer of its functions to the Welsh Language Commissioner or, in terms of functions to promote and facilitate the use of Welsh, to the Welsh Language Commissioner and / or the Welsh Ministers.
I am very grateful to the Board for its innovative contribution over the years, and I look forward to seeing its work continue until the establishment of the Commissioner's office.
Looking to the future, we must recognize that the constitutional landscape has been transformed since the Board was established in 1993. We have a National Assembly, a far-reaching Welsh Language Measure, a new language strategy to be published shortly, following consultation - and we are delivering on our Welsh-medium Education Strategy. The Welsh Language Commissioner will be a key part of the new landscape, with responsibility for developing a new regulatory system to ensure the delivery of Welsh language services to the public.
In dealing with these changes, and considering the way forward, I have been guided by the need to establish clearly defined duties for the bodies which will be responsible for this vital work, whilst avoiding the possibility of conflict between the regulatory work to be pursued under the Measure - and the work of working in partnership with numerous organisations to develop a wide range of community based activities.
At the same time, I see a real need to create stronger links between Government programs that support the language and other, relevant programs, under the care of Welsh Ministers. This reflects the fact that one of the Government’s key priorities is for the Welsh language to thrive.
In considering this, I have decided to:
- ensure that the Commissioner will be able to focus on his or her role of ensuring the delivery of Welsh language services to the public and that he/she will have the resources to do so
- ensure that the Government is able to shoulder more of the responsibility for administering activities set out in its language strategy
- create an extended Language Unit within Government, which will be able to work creatively and proactively with a large number of partners, to ensure that the Welsh language continues to thrive
- establish, in accordance with the Welsh Language Measure, a Welsh Language Partnership Council to enable our partners to advise the Government on its language strategy.
In accordance with this decision the Commissioner will:
- focus on the new regulatory system, including developing and setting standards, developing codes of practice and establishing a new enforcement regime, whilst continuing to operate the Welsh language scheme system in the meantime
- monitor the performance of bodies in accordance with the duties imposed on them
- deal with complaints from members of the public about failure to comply with standards
- advise and promote good practice among private and third sector organisations that fall outside the scope of statutory duties under the Welsh Language Measure
- provide research and a statistical basis to support the Commissioner’s 5-year reports on the position of the Welsh language and conduct inquiries into any matter of interest to the language
- advise the Welsh Assembly Government and others on language policy and related issues through the development and analysis of research and data
- provide independent scrutiny of Welsh Assembly Government policies and respond to consultation documents
- develop the infrastructure to help others with their delivery of Welsh language services (e.g. in relation to terminology and translation)
- deal with applications in relation to alleged interference with the freedom of individuals to use Welsh with one another.
In accordance with the Government’s decisions, the extended Welsh Language Unit will:
- manage the Welsh language grants programme (including grants for the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol and the mentrau iaith)
- manage projects, including those outlined in the draft language strategy (e.g. the Twf project
- provide the secretariat for the Welsh Language Partnership Council, which will have a key role in providing advice on our language strategy - and its action plan
- represent the Welsh Assembly Government on international networks and the British-Irish Council
- administer the process of preparing subordinate legislation which may include legislation for language standards recommended by the Commissioner, in accordance with the Welsh Language Measure.
In addition, the extended Welsh Language Unit will be responsible for the work of the current Unit, including providing advice to Government Ministers and leading the work of developing the Assembly Government's ability to work through the medium of Welsh.
The responsibilities of the Board with regard to overseeing the planning of Welsh-medium education by local authorities, funding the athrawon bro service and Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin will transfer to the Welsh Assembly Government’s Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills.
With these changes, the responsibility for language planning, and for promoting and facilitating the use of Welsh, will lie in the hands of the Welsh Language Commissioner, the Welsh Assembly Government (in consultation with the Welsh Language Partnership Council and others) and numerous organizations, such as the Urdd and the mentrau iaith, which work tirelessly for the benefit of the language. The new Welsh Language Measure will also enable the Welsh Language Commissioner to impose a duty on local authorities to promote the use of Welsh.