There's to be a complete rewrite of the proposed requirements to provide services in Welsh that will be imposed on public bodies in Wales. Other organisations that will be affected include some private firms that operate under government licence, such as telecoms providers, and voluntary groups that receive large amounts of public money.
The Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, who is responsible for Welsh language policy has rejected the standards drawn up by the language commissioner, Meri Huws. They were intended to make sure that it would be as easy to access a service in Welsh as it is in English. In a detailed letter, the minister makes a series of criticisms of the proposals. They include:
- The practical implications of the standards are not clear, making it difficult to estimate the cost of compliance
- The proposals for imposing the standards are too complicated, making them a step backwards in terms of the administrative burden imposed
- Organisations are asked to work out for themselves how to comply with the duties imposed on them, which would lead to inconsistency
- Some of the proposed standards contradict one another
- Many of the proposed standards appear to be unreasonable or disproportionate
Meri Huws has responded by saying that she held a wide public consultation on her proposals, although she was not required to do so. There were nine public meetings, attended by more than 350 people. However, she has pledged to co-operate with the minister.
The Welsh Language Society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, says the minister's decision is bad news.
But there was some support for Leighton Andrews from the Plaid Cymru AM Alun Ffred Jones, who was the minister for the Welsh language when his party was in coalition with Labour. He was responsible for the legislation that set up the commissioner and the requirement for Welsh language standards.
Plaid Cymru’s current Welsh language spokesperson, Simon Thomas said it was a 'regrettable situation'. He's demanding an explanation about what went wrong and quick progress in introducing the new standards. 'It’s surprising that we are in this dilemma', he added.