Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
In January, I issued a call for evidence, Preparing for a Welsh Language Bill, to gather the views and experiences of the bodies already operating under the Welsh language Standards or who are preparing to come under the Standards system set out in the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 ("the Measure"). I wanted to hear about their experience of the Standards regime, the balance between the Welsh Language Commissioner’s regulatory and promotional functions, and about arrangements for promoting and facilitating the Welsh language more generally.
I am pleased to publish today a summary of the responses received. There were 35 written responses, and 49 officers from public bodies attended workshops held in Llandudno Junction, Swansea and Cardiff. I am grateful to everyone who responded to the call for evidence and who attended one of the workshops.
The report shows that there is general support for the Standards and their positive impact on Welsh language services. It is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of the Standards in the long term but the comments suggest there has been an increase in the number and quality of Welsh services being offered, and that there is an increase in awareness about the importance of services in Welsh. My hope is that the Standards will lead to an increase in the number of people choosing Welsh language services in the future.
However, the report also suggests that the regime for imposing Standards is too bureaucratic and threatens to erode goodwill towards the Welsh language. The evidence is clear that there is a lack of support available to organisations that are seeking to transform the services they offer and develop a bi-lingual workforce. The evidence is almost unanimous that the current legislation has not led to an appropriate balance between the Commissioner’s regulatory functions and functions to promote and facilitate the Welsh language. The Commissioner is doing her best in the context of difficult legislation and her efforts to provide more support in the past year are recognised and valued by public services.
It is vitally important that we pay careful attention to what our partners have to say. The comments in this report about the frustrations they experience under the current regime and the practical obstacles which they face in trying to provide services in Welsh are credible and telling. We must take action to ensure that support is available to these bodies. The enthusiasm and energy of front-line staff, managers and leaders of public services, and the need for new energy and focus to the work of promoting and facilitating, are essential if we want to increase use of the Welsh language.