In its report, which examines the Assembly’s bid for additional powers in relation to Welsh language usage (the ‘Order’), the Committee concludes that it is logical and appropriate that responsibility for the Welsh language should be located in its social context, and where it will be most effective.
However, the Committee heard a number of concerns from witnesses during the inquiry about how the current Order is drafted, and as a result says that the final Order should have a more clearly defined scope when it is presented for approval. The report concludes:
- The threshold of £200,000 of public money for organisations to be included in the Order seems to have been chosen at random and needs to be reconsidered
- The types of bodies specified in the Order could lead to inconsistencies in service: for example banks and insurance services are excluded but utilities and telecommunications are specified
- More information is needed on the role of the proposed language commissioner in Wales
- Burdens should not be imposed on smaller bodies, such as charities, NGOs, organisations established by Royal Charter and very small companies
The Committee recommends that the Order could be improved by moving away from an exhaustive list of categories and instead specifying the principles that future Measures would need to meet, for example a test of reasonableness, proportionality and a cost-benefit analysis. The Committee says that this would provide greater clarity about the purpose of new legislation.
The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:
"Our scrutiny of this proposed Order has taken place in a spirit of cooperation with our counterparts in the National Assembly. We have been greatly assisted by our joint meetings with Assembly members to discuss aspects of this Order, and the Assembly committee’s report has made a valuable contribution to our own deliberations.
"It is right that the Assembly has the powers it requires in order to modernise laws relating to the Welsh language, and although we have raised some concerns about aspects of the drafting of the Order, we are confident that these can be resolved if the Wales Office and Welsh Assembly Government accept our recommendations.
"It is hugely encouraging that not only do we support many of the Assembly committee’s recommendations, but that my Committee has agreed our report unanimously. I thank all the members of my Committee once again for their hard work in ensuring a thorough and constructive scrutiny process."