Wales politics

Welsh language law changes call

Wide-ranging changes should be made to the assembly government's proposed Welsh language measure, says an all-party assembly committee.

The legislation committee wants a clear statement that English and Welsh are official languages of Wales.

It also wants the budget for regulating and promoting the language scrutinised annually by an assembly committee.

Another recommendation is giving the assembly final approval of a new Welsh language commissioner's appointment.

The commissioner, who would be chosen by the first minister, would replace the Welsh Language Board and would have power to fine mobile phone, energy and water companies up to £5,000 if they fail to provide new standards of services in Welsh.

Previously the presiding officer of the assembly, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, had argued that the commissioner should be appointed by the assembly rather than by the assembly government.

The committee has been scrutinising the draft measure since it was published in the spring.

Over several months AMs have been taking evidence, which has included calls by the Welsh Language Society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, and some legal experts for the measure to be strengthened.

One of the main concerns is that the draft measure fell short of delivering a key promise in the One Wales agreement drawn up by the Labour-Plaid assembly government coalition that Welsh and English should be recognised as official languages in Wales.

The committee's report calls for a clear statement to be included to that effect.

'Progressive and sustainable'

Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones has welcomed the report, saying: "In the One Wales agreement, Plaid Cymru ensured that a number of steps would be taken to strengthen the language during the course of this assembly term.

"I'm sure that our minister will continue to work on the implementation of that agreement in a way that is both progressive and sustainable."

Language groups have also reacted positively to the committee's conclusions.

Alun Owens, of Celebrating Our Language, a group of organisations that promote the use of Welsh, said: "Today is a significant milestone as these recommendations highlight a cross-party consensus calling for the need to strengthen the measure in its present form.

"We are extremely glad that all parties within the assembly, through this report, now support the need for a clear statement in relation to the establishment of official status for the Welsh language as well as empowering the individual to increase the use of the language."

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