The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (WLWM 2011) modernised the existing legal framework regarding the use of the Welsh language in the delivery of public services.
It includes provision in relation to the official status of the Welsh language and establishes the office of Welsh Language Commissioner which has largely replaced the Welsh Language Board. However, some of the Board’s old functions now rest with the Welsh Ministers.
The Commissioner’s principal aim is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language and he or she is to work towards ensuring that the Welsh language is treated no less favourably than the English language. The Commissioner also has the power to investigate alleged interferences with individuals’ freedom to use Welsh in certain circumstances. The Commissioner is supported by an advisory panel.
WLWM 2011 makes provision for the development of standards of conduct relating to the Welsh language which will gradually replace the existing system of Welsh language schemes provided for by WLA 1993. It is anticipated that the first set of standards will be made in Spring 2015. Only bodies listed, or referred to, in WLWM 2011 can be required to comply with the standards, and only where certain conditions are met. This is done by the service, by the Commissioner, of a compliance notice to the bodies listed in the Measure. Until a compliance notice is made and in force, a body’s Welsh language provision will continue to be that specified in its Welsh Language Scheme made under WLA 1993.
WLWM 2011 also makes provision about ensuring the standards are complied with. Any body under a duty to comply with the standards and any individual affected by a failure to comply with the standards has a right to appeal certain of the Commissioner’s decisions. The bodies on whom the standards have been imposed also have the right to challenge the imposition of those duties at the Welsh Language Tribunal created under the Measure.
WLWM 2011 also makes provision for the establishment of a Welsh Language Partnership Council to give advice and make representations to the Welsh Ministers about their Welsh language strategy.
WLWM 2011 was made under Part 3 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (GOWA 2006). This meant that it had to relate to the specific matters (and could not relate to any of the exceptions) set out in Schedule 5 to that Act. As a result of the referendum in 2011, the National Assembly for Wales now makes Acts under Part 5 of GOWA 2006, and the limitations on the National Assembly’s competence are now those set out in Schedule 7. However, both WLWM 2011 and any orders or regulations (including regulations specifying the standards) made under WLWM 2011 must comply with the limitations in Schedule 5 because WLWM was made under Part 3.