Wales politics

'Ridiculous' standards for Welsh language rights

Meirion Prys Jones
Image caption Meirion Prys Jones said ministers had "completely lost their way"

The current law giving people rights to access services in Welsh is completely ridiculous, according to an ex-chief executive of the Welsh Language Board.

Welsh language standards, introduced in 2016, require councils, national parks and the Welsh Government to provide some services bilingually.

Meirion Prys Jones said ministers "obsessed with hitting organisations hard" had made "very poor legislation".

Ministers have admitted the law is too complicated and will be reviewed.

The review was welcomed by Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws, who took over the role of promoting the language from the Welsh Language Board in 2012.

Welsh language standards apply to around 80 public bodies in Wales, depending on the nature of the organisation and its location.

Typically, councils can have some 100 to 200 regulations to meet.

Many bodies have complained about the cost and complexity of the regulations, which include making it clear that they welcome correspondence with the public in Welsh and giving the language priority on bilingual signs.

Speaking on the BBC Radio Wales Good Morning Wales programme, Mr Jones said: "It's a very, very poor piece of legislation - it's so complicated.

"It was supposed to be simple [and] clear so that everyone can understand the new system - it doesn't work.

"The idea of standards was you'd have one standard or a few standards that would suit all of Wales," he said, adding that to have many more "is completely ridiculous".

Mr Jones said Welsh ministers "completely lost their way" on the matter "about seven or eight years ago".

"They became obsessed with the idea of regulation, the idea that you need to hit organisations hard who didn't provide enough services in Welsh and they set about putting a system in place," he said.

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Media captionThe law around Welsh language standards needs to be reviewed, says Alun Davies

On Thursday, Welsh Language Minister Alun Davies told the Newyddion 9 news programme: "I think we always need to review how policy is being implemented - is it delivering its ambition?

"I hope in the next few months to issue a white paper which will review the issue of Welsh language standards as part of a wider review of Welsh language policy.

"When I look at the standards I can see they are having an impact within public bodies that deliver services in Welsh, but I also see complications.

"They can be too complicated at times, both the process of designing and implementing."

Conservatives AM Suzy Davies said the rules were "far too bureaucratic and a balance needs to be found in cutting red tape while maintaining the rights which Welsh speakers want to exercise".

But the Welsh language society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, said the legislation should be strengthened.

Chair of the organisation's language rights group, Manon Elin, said it should cover the private sector and "include the unquestionable right to use the language in every aspect of life".

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