Section 1 - Amendment to section 35 of the Act (Equality of treatment)
12.This section replaces section 35(1) of the 2006 Act with five new subsections.
13.The new subsection (1) contains a clear, simple statement that the English and Welsh languages are the official languages of the National Assembly.
14.Subsection (1A) re-states, in a modified form, the principle previously contained in section 35(1). The change in the way in which the duty is expressed, which refers simply to a duty to treat the languages “on a basis of equality”, reflects a parallel change made by the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (see section 1(3) (a) “enactments which require the Welsh and English languages to be treated on the basis of equality in the conduct of the proceedings of the National Assembly for Wales”).
15.Subsection (1B) again reflects the practice of bilingual legislatures elsewhere of placing the right to use both languages clearly on the face of the governing legislation. The subsection also makes it clear that the right to use either English or Welsh extends not only to Assembly Members but also to others who participate in proceedings, e.g. witnesses giving evidence to committees (this accords with current practice but is not explicitly stated in legislation.)
16.Subsection (1C) requires reports of proceedings of the National Assembly as defined in section 1(5)(a) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (proceedings of the Assembly as a whole i.e. in plenary) to be fully bilingual. This means not only a full record of what was said in the language in which it was said, but also a full translation into the other official language. It therefore enshrines in statute the Assembly’s current practice.
17.The National Assembly can only comply with the duties in subsections (1A) to (1C) insofar as the Assembly Commission provides the National Assembly with the staff and other facilities to enable it to do so. Subsection (1D) is a pointer to Schedule 2, paragraph 8, which contains the related duties on the part of the Assembly Commission.