New language law: ‘wasting time’ on weakening rights

No more language rights until 2021 because of new Bill, Cymdeithas claims

Language campaigners have condemned the First Minister’s decision to try to push ahead with a Welsh Language Bill next year, accusing the Government of ‘wasting time on an effort to weaken people’s language rights’.

In January this year, the Minister was questioned and claimed that ‘loads’ of civil servants were working on the Standards, statutory duties which ensure rights to receive services in Welsh. Less than five months later, the Minister admitted that not a single civil servant was working on preparing the regulations, and, instead, that they are all working on drafting a new Act. Following today’s announcement, Cymdeithas yr Iaith has said it fears that rights to use Welsh won’t extend to sectors such as train, water, bus, energy and mobile phone services until after the next elections in 2021.

In the recent Government consultation, the clear majority of respondees did not support its plans to abolish the Welsh Language Commissioner, restrict rights to make complaints and weaken powers to ensure bodies stick to their language duties – a framework very similar to the discredited 1993 Language Act.

Responding to the First Minister’s statement, Osian Rhys from Cymdeithas yr Iaith commented:

Supporters of the Welsh language have completely lost confidence in this Government. Instead of using their existing powers to extend rights to get services like mobile phones with a Welsh language interface, and energy, train and bus services in Welsh, they’re wasting time on an effort to weaken people’s rights to the language. Indeed, because of Eluned Morgan's decisions, it’s now unlikely we'll see any language rights in new sectors until after the next elections. The Government hasn’t listened at all: only 15% of those who responded to the consultation supported the ill-considered idea of abolishing the Commissioner. It wasn’t in Labour’s manifesto; they have no mandate to do it.

"We don't understand why Eluned Morgan insists on pursuing this agenda of reducing regulation for the benefit of powerful businesses and organisations. Her refusal to extend the Standards to the private sector is completely at odds with public opinion and that of Assembly Members. It's a major step back that she's talking about 'persuading' big business when every expert knows that regulation is the answer to ensuring Welsh language services. Eluned Morgan and the Labour Party are refusing to defend us against these big, prejudiced businesses, which is a deep disappointment to many people. Indeed, the Welsh Government’s plans to weaken the language law is music to the ears of anti-Welsh language businesses.

"It would be far better for officials to concentrate on other work, including rolling out the Standards to more companies and organisations, rather than wasting time on a white paper that, if implemented, would turn the clock back to the old, failed days of the Welsh Language Board."