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Legislation (Wales) Act 2019

Section 5 – Equal status of Welsh and English language texts

54.Section 5 provides that, where an Assembly Act or Welsh subordinate instrument is enacted in both Welsh and English, the two language texts have equal status for all purposes. This means that the full expression of the law is that contained in both texts, not merely one.

55.The practice of legislating bilingually for Wales is well established. In particular, Assembly Acts must be in both Welsh and English, and subordinate legislation made by the Welsh Ministers is, almost without exception, made in both languages(1).

56.Section 156(1) of the Government of Wales Act 2006 currently provides for the equal status of the Welsh and English language texts of bilingual legislation. Section 5 of the Act restates that provision, so far as it applies to Assembly Acts and Welsh subordinate instruments to which Part 2 of this Act applies.

57.Like section 156(1) of the 2006 Act, section 5 of this Act applies for all purposes and not only for the purpose of interpretation. However, the equal status of the texts has a number of implications for the interpretation of bilingual legislation. These were considered by the Law Commission in its consultation paper and final report on Form and Accessibility of the Law Applicable in Wales(2). It is particularly important to appreciate that if there is any doubt about the meaning of Welsh legislation, it will be necessary to take both language versions into account to determine what the legislation means. This is something that affects all those concerned with the making, implementation, administration and interpretation of Welsh legislation.

58.The effect of section 5 is not subject to the exception in section 4(1). In other words, the Act does not provide for the rule in section 5 to be excluded in cases where provision is made to the contrary or the context requires otherwise. This is to ensure that section 5 has the same effect as section 156(1) of the 2006 Act.

59.Section 5 restates section 156(1) of the 2006 Act only for legislation to which Part 2 of this Act applies. Section 156(1) will continue to apply to Assembly Measures, and to Assembly Acts and Welsh subordinate instruments to which Part 2 of this Act does not apply (principally those enacted before Part 2 is fully in force). Part 4 of this Act amends section 156(1) of the 2006 Act to avoid any overlap with section 5.

1

An Assembly Bill must be in both languages when it is introduced and when it is passed: see Standing Orders 26.5 and 26.50 of the National Assembly for Wales, and section 111(5) of the Government of Wales Act 2006. For statutory instruments which are laid before the National Assembly, a failure to produce an instrument in both languages is a ground for drawing it to the attention of the National Assembly: see Standing Order 21.2(ix).

2

See Chapter 12 of Law Commission Consultation Paper No 223 (July 2015), and Chapter 12 of Law Commission Report Law Com No 366 (June 2016).

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