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National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012

Introduction

1.These Explanatory Notes are for the National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012 which was passed by the National Assembly on the 3 October 2012 and received Royal Assent on 12 November 2012. They have been prepared by the National Assembly Commission to assist the reader of the Act. They should be read in conjunction with the Act, but are not part of it.

2.This Act amends the current provisions of the Government of Wales Act 2006 that set out the general duties of the National Assembly and of the Assembly Commission in relation to use of the Welsh language (section 35(1) and Schedule 2 paragraph 8(3)).

3.In these Explanatory Notes, previous Acts of Parliament are referred to as follows:

  • “the 1993 Act” means the Welsh Language Act 1993;

  • “the 1998 Act” means The Government of Wales Act 1998; and

  • “the 2006 Act” means The Government of Wales Act 2006.

4.The Government of Wales Act 1998 required the National Assembly:

in the conduct of its business (to) give effect, so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable, to the principle that the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality.

5.The 2006 Act re-stated the duty imposed on the National Assembly by the 1998 Act, although by reference to National Assembly “proceedings” rather than National Assembly “business”, reflecting the fact that the National Assembly is now a solely parliamentary body. Under section 35(1) of the 2006 Act –

(1)The Assembly must, in the conduct of Assembly proceedings, give effect, so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable, to the principle that the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality.

6.It also imposed a parallel duty on the newly-established Assembly Commission (paragraph 8(3) of Schedule 2 to the 2006 Act) –

(3)In the exercise of the functions of the Assembly Commission effect must be given, so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable, to the principle that the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality.

7.In all these cases, the duty was framed so as to reflect the provisions of the Welsh Language Act 1993, which require Welsh language schemes to demonstrate how public bodies propose to give effect:

so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable, to the principle that in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality.

8.The law relating to the Welsh language has since moved on. The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (“the Measure”), which became law on 9 February 2011 will repeal the 1993 Act and the system of language schemes, replacing it with “standards” imposed by Ministers and enforceable in the courts by a Welsh Language Commissioner. The Measure has also abolished the Welsh Language Board.

9.Neither the National Assembly itself nor the Assembly Commission will be subject to these new arrangements under the Measure, overseen by Ministers, and they remain subject instead to the duties imposed by the 2006 Act. This reflects the constitutional principle that Welsh Ministers are accountable to the National Assembly, and not the reverse.

10.This Act only makes provision for the making of a scheme by the Assembly Commission, and contains no powers to make subordinate legislation.

11.This Act will apply only in relation to Wales.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Welsh Government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the National Assembly for Wales.

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