Leighton Andrews rejects 'complex' Welsh language standards

Welsh language campaigners say they are concerned that the standards have been rejected

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New legal standards for the use of Welsh by public and some private bodies have been rejected as too complicated by the language minister.

Leighton Andrews turned down the proposals from the Welsh language commissioner Meri Huws.

The standards are at the heart of legislation passed in 2011 that was meant to promote the Welsh language.

But Mr Andrews said they would not provide Welsh speakers with clear rights and many were unreasonable.

The standards place binding duties on the public sector and some private companies, such as phone and water firms, so people can use Welsh while receiving services.

Start Quote

These standards are complex and I have concerns over their reasonableness and proportionality”

End Quote Leighton Andrews AM Welsh Language Minister

They were the centrepiece of the Welsh Language Measure which was designed to strengthen the language when it was passed by the Welsh assembly in 2011.

The commissioner, Meri Huws, published 37 draft standards in November after holding a non-statutory consultation over the summer.

However, in a letter to her Mr Andrews says her recommendations are too complicated and not enough consideration has been given to the impact on the organisations involved.

The standards have to be laid before the assembly by the minister and voted on by AMs before they come into force.

The Welsh government will propose a new set standards and hold a statutory consultation with the public sector, voluntary organisations and utility companies.

Writing to Mr Andrews in November, Ms Huws acknowledged that it was for Welsh ministers to set the standards, but said her recommendations were "appropriate".

She also urged that the standards be put into law as soon as possible so organisations have "certainty" to plan and prepare for their implementation.

'Desire to work'

But in a reply to the commissioner on Monday, Mr Andrews said her proposals will not provide clear rights to Welsh speakers, some were contradictory and many appeared to be "unreasonable or disproportionate".

Education Minister Mr Andrews, who has responsibility for the language, said: "My decision not to accept the proposed standards is based on policy considerations as well as legal advice.

"These standards are complex and I have concerns over their reasonableness and proportionality."

Ms Huws said: "The minister's officials and my officials will now work together in order to develop a set of standards which will ensure that the Welsh language is treated no less favourably than the English language in Wales.

"I welcome the minister's commitment to work towards the target of imposing standards before the end of 2014, and making them specifically applicable to bodies, as well as his desire to work with my office to realise this."

Welsh language campaigners said the minister had given in to pressure from the private sector.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) chairman Robin Farrar said: "The minister's rejection of the standards raises major questions about the process and the role of the commissioner.

"Why appoint a commissioner and then ignore her specialist advice?"

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