The Measure, which goes before the National Assembly this afternoon seeks to strengthen the position of the Welsh language by meeting three One Wales commitments. The legislation will:
- confirm the official status of the Welsh language
- create a new system of placing duties on bodies to provide services through the medium of Welsh
- create a new Welsh Language Commissioner with strong
- enforcement powers in order to protect the rights of Welsh speakers to access services through the medium of Welsh
The Measure will also establish a new Welsh Language Tribunal; give individuals and bodies the right to appeal decisions made in relation to the provision of services through the medium of Welsh; create a new Welsh Language Partnership Council to advise Welsh Ministers on their Welsh language strategy and provides for an official investigation by the Welsh Language Commissioner of instances where there is an alleged interference with the freedom of persons wishing to use the Welsh language to do so with one another .
Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, said:
“The Welsh language is a source of pride for our country and is cherished by Welsh speakers and non-Welsh speakers alike. That is why this Government wishes to see the language thrive and play a real part in the day-to-day lives of all who wish to use it. And today is set to be an historic step to securing that vision.
"This Measure will lead to a transformation in the provision of services through the medium of Welsh and will officially recognise the importance of the Welsh to the people of Wales.”
Mr Jones said there had understandably been a great deal of interest in this important piece of legislation.
“As someone who has strived to protect and promote the language for most of my adult life, I have been acutely aware of the responsibility and the sense of expectation facing me as the first Welsh Minister to steer legislation on the Welsh language through the National Assembly,” Mr Jones said.
“Throughout this process I have listened carefully to many different views about this legislation and our amendments reflect this. We have introduced changes on matters such as the right of the individual to appeal decisions of the Commissioner and the independence of the Commissioner.
"I firmly believe, and more so than ever, that this far-reaching Measure represents strong and practical legislation which will make a real difference to the lives of Welsh speakers.”
First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said the proposed Measure was an important and historic step in strengthening the Welsh language:
“It has been nearly two decades since any Government has introduced legislation solely focused on the Welsh language,” he said.
“During that period the position of the language has improved in many ways, but the challenges facing it have also grown. The proposed Measure provides us with some of the tools we need to ensure that the Welsh language can continue to prosper into the twenty first century alongside the English language.”
Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, added:
“We are extremely proud of what this Welsh Language Measure will achieve. This will be the Assembly’s first piece of legislation on the Welsh language and it is both comprehensive and far-reaching. It is vital that we have a legal framework which underpins the Government’s support for the language, and the creation of the Welsh Language Commissioner as a strong advocate for the language, independent of Government, is to be celebrated.”