The New Welsh Language LCO / Measure

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The New Welsh Language LCO / Measure

Post  MH on Wed 10 Dec 2008 - 8:05

This is an attempt to get a discussion started on the New Language LCO (which will eventually become a Measure of the National Assembly rather than an Act of Parliament).

The starting point is that the One Wales Agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru made the following commitment:


Supporting the Welsh Language

The Welsh language belongs to everyone in Wales as part of our common national heritage, identity and public good. We will work to ensure that more people, young and old, can learn Welsh and encourage it to thrive as a language of many communities all over Wales.

• We will be seeking enhanced legislative competence on the Welsh Language. Jointly we will work to extend the scope of the Welsh Language Legislative Competence Order included in the Assembly government’s first year legislative programme, with a view to a new Assembly Measure to confirm official status for both Welsh and English, linguistic rights in the provision of services and the establishment of the post of Language Commissioner.

One Wales Agreement
Since then there has been lots of speculation, a few statements in various interviews, but nothing concrete.

Prior to the One Wales Agreement, the position of the first Welsh Assembly Government (a Labour/LibDem coalition) was set out in Iaith Pawb (Everybody's Language) in February 2003, which contained this statement:


The legislative framework and institutional framework

2.29 The Assembly Government has no plans at present to ask the UK Government to
introduce a new Welsh Language Bill. The official status of the language is far more secure than at any point in the recent past, due to the Welsh Language Acts of 1967 and 1993. We believe that the pro-active measures outlined in our Action Plan will achieve much more for the Welsh language over a shorter timescale than further legislation requiring passage through the United Kingdom Parliament.

2.30 We agree that there is scope for better-focused institutional action in support of the Welsh language, but we believe that this can be accomplished within the existing legislation.

Iaith Pawb
This has been followed up by an evaluation and number of reports:

First Stage Evaluation of Iaith Pawb
Iaith Pawb and Welsh Language Scheme Annual Report 2007-08

Taken together, these show the current position of legislation and policy. It's pointless legislating for something that can already be done, so the new Language Measure needs to address what further steps need to be taken.

The most comprehensive evaluation of what form new legislation could take is contained in this report by Cwmni Iaith in November 2007:

Creating a Truly Bilingual Wales:
Opportunities for legislating and implementing policy


The first part of the foreword gives a taste of what it sets out to do:


The Welsh Assembly Government’s vision is to create “a truly bilingual Wales, by
which we mean a country where people can choose to live their lives through the
medium of either or both Welsh or English and where the presence of the two
languages is a source of pride and strength to us all." This vision presents a
significant challenge, particularly in terms of enabling everyone who wishes to live
their life through the medium of Welsh to do so fully.

While the actions of Iaith Pawb represent a step in the right direction, more will have
to be done in order to succeed in this aim. A combination of further legislation,
effective policy implementation, a change in attitudes, education, encouragement and
support will also be necessary in order to achieve the Assembly’s vision.
The aim of this document is to present reference information to be used in
considering opportunities to create new legislation in relation to the Welsh language.
It also aims to present evidence and recommendations in relation to implementing
policies which champion Welsh speakers’ rights to use the language in every aspect
of their lives.

This report was commissioned by Hywel Williams – Plaid Cymru’s MP for Caernarfon
and will be presented to him on its publication. However, the report has been
prepared independently of Plaid Cymru. We were asked to prepare a background
paper on the introduction of a new language bill – a paper which would define and
evaluate the Welsh language’s current legislative position and its impact on the
opportunities available to individuals to receive the services affecting them through
the medium of Welsh. We were also asked to identify opportunities to legislate and
implement policy and put forward recommendations as to how the current situation
may be improved.
So it's well worth reading through this as a starting point for discussion. Another useful site is:

WikiDeddfu.com

This set out to be a forum for discussion about what form the legislation might take, but it had a limited active duration. I would hope this forum could become a place to continue the discussion.

The political reality is that the real deals are being hammered out behind closed doors right now, broadly caricatured as: Plaid want a lot, Labour AMs are probably content to see them get some of it, but Labour MPs are determined to see that they get as little as possible.

But why should that stop us discussing it on this forum?
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Draft LCO published

Post  MH on Fri 6 Feb 2009 - 4:05

What's happened in the past few days is hardly going to come as new news, but I have a few comments to make. First, this is a link to the actual draft LCO itself.

Draft LCO

Second, here is a link to a transcript of the debate in the Assembly after the LCO statement was made:


Record of Proceedings, 3 Feb 2009

In essence there is a consensus between all parties in Wales that this LCO is a good thing, and that powers to legislate on Welsh rightly belong to the Assembly rather than Westminster. Obviously this includes Labour and Plaid, as they form the Government which laid the LCO. So I will concentrate on what the Tories and LibDems have to say:


Paul Davies [Con]: I thank the Minister
for this important statement today. We have
all waited a long time for its publication - a
statement, by the way, that was promised in
the first year of the One Wales Government. I
very much hope that the new legislation will
build upon the successful measures
introduced by Conservative Governments in
the 1980s and 1990s. I am pleased that the
record that the Government published with
the statement yesterday confirmed those
successes.

This announcement currently only confirms a
transfer of the power to legislate on the
Welsh language to this place - something
that we, as the official opposition and the
Conservative group, agree with completely
.
I agree with the Minister that it makes sense
that legislating on the Welsh language should
be done by this institution. We look forward
very much to the specific Measures that the
Government will bring forward in this field
in the near future. We will consider them in
more detail when the details are placed
before us.

... I would like to add to the
consensus by welcoming the statement and
the proposed Order that you published
yesterday. It is important that the National
Assembly for Wales legislates on matters
relating to the Welsh language. If we have an
Assembly for any reason, it must be to
legislate on the Welsh language. I welcome
the fact that the Government is progressing
towards adding to the powers that we have to
legislate in this field. This will be warmly
welcomed by all political parties and, as you
said, Minister, no matter what discussions we
have in the future about the content of any
Measure, we are in unanimous agreement
that the Assembly should legislate on this
issue
. If we start on that basis, the ensuing
discussion will be more positive and
constructive than any other discussion.

----

Eleanor Burnham [LibDem]: On behalf of the
Liberal Democrats, I welcome this historic
statement on the Welsh language.

... I believe that there is consensus here; we
have been discussing the promotion of the
Welsh language for years, here and on the
national eisteddfod maes. The former
Minister, Jenny Randerson, did her best on
our behalf, and we have always had
consensus on this issue in Liberal Democrat
conferences. I look forward to hearing the
answers on these burning issues, but, on the
whole, I welcome the fact that the Minister
has been working so conscientiously. I wish
us all good luck as we do our best for our
language.
Those statements are translations of what was said in Welsh. But here is the first contribution from someone who doesn't speak the language:

David Melding [Con]: I am pleased that,
as a proud Anglo-Welshman, it falls upon me to
make the first contribution in English. My attempts
to learn the language of heaven are bearing
some fruit, but I am afraid that spontaneous
contributions are yet beyond me because I
have to be heavily scripted. However, I give
the Minister two and three-quarter cheers for
this legislative competence Order. I reserve a
quarter because he is a Minister. [Laughter.]

As a sceptical Tory, I would always be
suspicious of Ministers, of whatever political
stripe, including my own - perhaps more so
of my own because I would know some of
the tricks they get up to. When I introduced
my LCO, there was a sense among some of
us that the Government was stalling and in
trouble and lacked the will to bring about this
transfer of powers to the Assembly. I think
that you have completely dispelled that, and I
am really delighted that there seems to be a
great will to do this on the part of all parties,
which demonstrates a level of consensus that
I think is very precious and that stands in
sharp contrast to the situation even 30 years
ago
, when the last big debate on devolution
occurred in the 1970s. There was not that
feeling of unity across the Welsh nation at
that time.

You have brought this legislative competence
Order forward very tactfully and with proper
consideration for those who do not speak
Welsh and for other political parties.
But third, what of MPs in Westminster? Wayne David of the Wales Office was on am:pm yesterday:



There are quite a lot of positives in what he said. Especially him saying that is "widespread acceptance" among MPs that new legislation is needed and that the Assembly should have "primary responsibility" for that legislation.

But that masks the issue a little. The line seems to be that the Welsh Affairs Select Committee wants now to extend discussion to ask the opinion of parties like telecoms providers. They are going to want to know exactly what will be in any proposed legislation before they'll grant the LCO.

But if, as he has said, the principle is acknowledged, perhaps the details will not prove so difficult. If "this technology is constantly changing" it seems short sighted to limit legislative power too narrowly.
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Re: The New Welsh Language LCO / Measure

Post  pabicymreig on Fri 13 Feb 2009 - 23:14

I've just been sent an email by Plaid which says:

Welsh Language Legislative Competence Order – Public Consultations

The House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee is taking evidence on the proposed Welsh Language Legislative Competence Order (LCO). The consultation period closes on the 4th March 2009. The Welsh Affairs Select Committee have an influential role and it’s important that all members of the Committee realise that the passing of the LCO in its current form is important to the people of Wales. You can submit evidence via email via welshcom@parliament.uk, or by post to Welsh Affairs Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA.

The National Assembly’s Legislation Committee on the proposed Welsh Language Legislative Competence Order is also taking evidence. The consultation period closes on the 20th March 2009. It’s important that as many of us as possible make our voices heard. You can submit evidence by email: legislationoffice@wales.gsi.gov.uk, or by post: Legislation Committee No. 5, Legislation Office, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, CF99 1NA. For any further support or guidance on submitting evidence to the Committees please contact Cai Jones by emailing caijones@plaidcymru.org or by phone on 029 20475 928.
Having compared submissions for the All Wales Convention, we should do the same for this LCO. I should be able to put together something over the weekend.
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