The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (the Measure) modernised the existing legal framework regarding the use of the Welsh language in the delivery of public services.
It includes provision about the official status of the Welsh language and establishes the office of the Welsh Language Commissioner which replaced the Welsh Language Board.
The Commissioner’s principal aim is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language and, amongst other things, 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.
The Measure 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 the Welsh Language Act 1993 (the 1993 Act). Only bodies named or who fall within a category listed in the Measure can be required to comply with standards. The Welsh Ministers set out the range of standards that a body could comply with in regulations. Which standards a body has to comply with are set out in a body’s individual Compliance notice, which is issues by the Commissioner. The Compliance notice also sets by when the body must comply.
Where a body has a Welsh Language Scheme under the 1993 Act in place, it must continue to comply with that scheme until the date specified in the Commissioner’s compliance notice for the standards.
The Commissioner has powers of investigation and enforcement of breach of standards. 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. The Commissioner’s decisions may be challenged ultimately at the Welsh Language Tribunal created under the Measure.
The Measure 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.
The Measure 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. Senedd Cymru now makes Acts under Part 4 of GoWA 2006, and the limitations on Senedd Cymru's competence are now those set out in Schedule 7A and 7B. However, both the Measure and any orders or regulations (including regulations specifying the standards) made under the Measure must comply with the limitations in Schedule 5 because the Measure was made under Part 3 of GoWA 2006.