§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Report received.
Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos moved Amendment No. 1:
Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Establishment of Welsh as an official language in Wales
§ . The purpose of this Act is to confer upon the Welsh language the status of an official language in Wales and to establish a framework for promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language in the conduct of public business and in the administration of justice on the basis of equality with the English language.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friends and I have given very careful consideration to the debate on the first amendment which I moved at the start of the Committee stage. We are convinced that a clear statement at the commencement of the Bill setting out its central objective is essential if it is to satisfy the aspirations of the Welsh people. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has also shown that he is anxious to find a solution. This was manifest in his speech on Second Reading when he said:
At the heart of these proposals lies the principle that the Welsh and the English languages should be treated on a basis of equality".—[Official Report, 19/1/93; col. 834.]
That greatly encouraged us, but when we came to the debate on the first amendment in Committee we found that the Government refused to accept the inclusion of the words "equal validity" in the Bill although most of us feel that there should be no real difficulty in law in accepting them.
The House will recall that at the end of that debate the noble Earl undertook to,
consider what has been said to see whether there is any way of getting round the problem".—[Official Report, 2/2/93; col. 156.]
We are also grateful to the noble Earl for his letter to us of 16th February in which he dealt with "equal validity" and its legal implications. He went on to say that the principle of equality provides a more flexible approach. We have tried to accommodate the noble Earl in this amendment.
§ The House will be aware that this amendment is known as a "purpose clause". In our view it encapsulates the principles which the Welsh people wish to see embodied in the Bill. We think that this should be made clear at the very start of the Bill. I hope that the Government will accept it as I think it resolves their difficulties as well as ours.
Perhaps I may say a brief word about "purpose clauses". They are not frequently used in Bills but there are many precedents. This is one Bill which for obvious reasons calls for a definition of purpose at the outset. A purpose clause does not impose a duty and is not therefore enforceable at law. That is acknowledged in textbooks and was referred to in the report of the Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. The report stated:
We agree that statements of purpose can be useful, both at the parliamentary stage and thereafter, for the better understanding of the legislative intention and for the resolution of doubts and ambiguities".
The report further recommended that:
statements of purpose should be used when they are the most convenient method of delimiting or otherwise clarifying the scope and effect of legislation".
I should add that purpose clauses have been used in about half a dozen Acts in the past 20 years, the last being in the Legal Aid Act 1988. Referring to it, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said:
I hope it provides the appropriate fanfare to start the Bill that many of your Lordships thought was needed".—[Official Report, 29/2/88; col. 10.]
Wales today would welcome such a fanfare, and I hope we get it.
§ Furthermore, the demand in Wales for such a statement is enormous. With other noble Lords I have received a mass of correspondence calling for a clear statement of objective. But I have not received one letter of objection or protest. Local authorities in my own area—Gwynedd County Council and the Anglesey Borough Council—are strongly in favour of a clear declaration as are many other local authorities in Wales.
§ The Government and the House should also be aware that among the long list of those who support the amendment are the Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff and the Catholic Bishops of Menevia and Wrexham, the Welsh Free Church Council, representing the non-conformist denominations, the National Library of Wales, the National Eisteddfod, the Welsh Consumer Council and the Honourable Cymmrodorion Society as well as many other societies and organisations in Wales and Welsh societies throughout England and Scotland. It is a formidable list the like of which I have not seen before in the Welsh context in either of the two Houses of Parliament. I hope that the Government will heed what they say.
I was particularly moved by the letter which the professors and lecturers of the Department of Welsh History of University College, Aberystwyth, sent to the Secretary of State for Wales. I shall read part of it:
The perspective which 400 years of history helps to provide does suggest that the Act would be strengthened and the greater esteemed in public perception if its first clause were to state explicitly that it is the purpose of the Act to confer on the Welsh language the status of an official language. The fortunes of the language over the centuries have been affected by many influences other than that of legislation but it seems clear to us that the clause in the Tudor enactment which made specific reference to the respective positions of Welsh and English had a powerful and persuasive influence throughout the history of modern Wales. It is thus essential and it would be entirely appropriate that the historic enactment now before Parliament should contain a clear and unequivocal statement of the status of Wales as an official language in Wales".
§ After centuries of struggle we are asking once again for what we know to be our rights. I hope they will be granted. I beg to move.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I rise both to support the amendment and to speak to an alternative. The amendment which is grouped with Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 2, and Amendment No. 9, which is 1252 consequential to it, provide an alternative way of achieving the same objective. It seems to me that these amendments, together with possibly Amendment No. 7, are much the most important amendments before your Lordships' House today. I am sure that everyone who supports the spirit of the Bill would gladly discard every other amendment, important though they may be, if we could achieve this one. This appears to me to be a crucial amendment.
§ Perhaps I may explain to your Lordships how the amendment, which also stands in the names of my noble friends Lord Geraint and Lord Elis-Thomas, tries to achieve the same objective. The amendment declares, first, that English and Welsh are the official languages of Wales. We have been reassured many times by the Government and their spokesmen, both privately and at Second Reading, that so far as they are concerned Welsh is an official language in Wales and it does not have to be declared. There is no purpose therefore in declaring it to be so.
That statement is the clarion call or the fanfare referred to by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn in his contribution this afternoon. The amendment which I drafted continues:
and in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages shall be treated on a basis of equality".
I have taken those words from Clause 4(2) of the Bill. They are the exact words. The Government state,
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".
So it is simply repeating the principle.
The third provision in my amendment is the last phrase:
and this is to be achieved as provided in this Act".
That is a means of circumscribing the power. I know that the Government are genuinely concerned that a general statement of principle within a Welsh Language Act might be used as a means of support for further litigation to try to enlarge the powers that are given under this Act. One can therefore understand why they have been concerned about the matter.
I have considered the very helpful letter which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, sent me about the interpretation of the phrase:
on a basis of equality".
I am sure that he will not mind my quoting his letter to me:
It is not, therefore, simply the principle of equality itself which we prefer to the principle of equal validity, but rather the way in which the principle is dealt with in the Bill. Rather than putting the principle into statute, which could then only be interpreted by the courts, the Bill uses the principle of equality as a purpose with which schemes must conform".
The suggestion therefore was that the principle as provided in the Bill by the Government was circumscribed, in that it applied only to schemes which emanated from or which were approved by, the Welsh Language Board.
§ In this amendment I have inserted the general declaration which makes Welsh an official language, used the Government's principle, and then circumscribed that principle by the final phrase of the amendment. I am totally aware that many noble Lords sitting on the government Benches, and indeed those who are holders of office in the Government, are 1253 very anxious to ensure that Wales is satisfied with this legislation when it becomes law. They are very concerned that they get the matter right. It is simply excessive legal caution which has made them take the view that they should not put in the principle of equality as a statutory matter and that they do not wish to declare the principle that Welsh is an official language.
§ I understand the fear of litigation to exploit a general definition. I sought to deal with that matter in the way which I have described, but I would be equally happy to accept the proposed new clause put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn.
§ I wish to deal now with the case for the general declaration, which in my view completely overwhelms the case for legal caution. The letter from the Welsh History Department at Aberystwyth which the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, read out refers to four centuries of history. It might have said four-and-a-half centuries, because the Act of Union, which contained the very offensive clause proscribing the Welsh language, came into effect in 1536. As has been made clear in your Lordships' House, from that time onwards Welsh was a proscribed language in the public life of Wales. It was only in 1937 that my predecessor as Member for Montgomeryshire in another place, the late Clement Davies, and the late Ernest Evans, who was the Member for the University of Wales, introduced a Private Member's Bill in the other place to try to change the matter. That led to other efforts. There was also the Welsh Courts Act 1942, which was the first enactment which tried to put this matter right.
§ But when one has a language which has been in daily use in Wales and has a tremendously rich culture, but which has been proscribed in the public life of the nation for four-and-a-half centuries, something has to be done psychologically to restore the balance. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, put the matter very well in the Second Reading debate, when he expressed his own anxieties about the Government's attitude here.
§ I say with the greatest kindness to the Government—because we are all anxious to ensure that this Bill is a success—that the considerable practical wisdom of the government schemes is marred by their pussyfooting attitude to the general declaration. I believe that a fanfare is expected; a declaration is expected. There are various stratagems or provisions which can circumscribe and ensure that the general declaration will not be the subject matter of constant litigation, which seems to be the Government's sole fear in this matter. If the Government say that Welsh is an official language in Wales then why should it not be enacted to be so?
§ I recognise the situation as well as anyone because I live in an area of Wales which has probably been semi-Anglicised for longer than almost any other part of the country. I am very well aware of the "live and let live" attitude which is necessary to keep a majority and a minority culture living in harmony together. One does not want to encourage extremists who are always trying to take the matter much further than the general public will accept. Having said all that, the 1254 Government are here failing miserably to appreciate the mood in Wales. I am convinced that it is necessary to have a declaration of this kind within the Act to make it totally acceptable within the Principality.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, perhaps I may say a word or two about why this amendment matters. When I say "this amendment" I mean the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and in those precise words. Those who have the infinite benefit of fluency in the Welsh language know that it makes them different. It does not make them better, but it sets them apart. The majority of noble Lords in this House would doubtless feel the same about the infinite benefit that fluency and tradition in English has given to them. Those who speak Welsh feel that they are informed by it; that their nature is shaped by it; that their nationality matters substantially because of it, and that it permeates the whole of the culture which they revere. To put it at its simplest: those who speak Welsh want to live—demand to live—a full life in all its different aspects, through the medium of their own language. It is as simple as that. That is an exceptionally modest request; it really asks for nothing more than what civilised communities should offer.
The argument deployed on earlier occasions in your Lordships' House by the noble Earl and by the noble Viscount St Davids was this: a purpose clause is wholly inappropriate. The researches spoken of by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos have blown that argument out of the water. The second proposition was, "Welsh is an official language, so you do not need a declaration." The third argument was that one cannot speak of "equal validity" and that the phrase "a basis of equality" is more appropriate.
All that we have done in the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, is to incorporate and to deal with the reasonable arguments which have been put against us. It is not a charter for extremism. If the new clause is not accepted by your Lordships' House, there will be a very deep feeling of disappointment and—rather worse —of bitterness and of being let down. All the good in the rest of the Bill, which all of us on this side have readily recognised from the first moment of reading it, will be dissipated. I invite the Government to show a degree of thought and a spark of informed imagination and to know how people who are different feel. I ask them to recognise that feeling and to accept the amendment.
§ Lord Thomas of Gwydir
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said that all of us are anxious to ensure that this is a successful Bill. He is absolutely right. There is unanimity in the House that the Bill is worth supporting, and there is unanimity that we should do all that we can to further its progress. My anxiety is that the Bill should be supported so that it makes progress, and does so without opposition.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred to his amendment as a "purpose clause". He said that purpose clauses are not frequently used but that when 1255 they are, they do not necessarily impose a duty. I, too, should like to say something about purpose clauses. The noble Lord is right that they are infrequently used. However, there are examples of purpose clauses being used and there has been quite a lot of argument about what their effect is. A purpose clause is not a preamble to a Bill. Unlike a preamble, it affects all the provisions of a Bill. Therefore, it is part of the law and, being part of the law, it is subject to judicial interpretation.
The purpose of the noble Lord's amendment is,to confer upon the Welsh language the status of an official language".Therefore, all the provisions of the Bill must be read with that purpose in mind. The difficulty is that I cannot reconcile it with the preparation of schemes under Clause 4. Perhaps I may remind the House that Clause 4 lays a duty on public bodies, which have been given notice, to prepare schemes. Subsection (2) states that the purpose referred to in relation to the preparation of schemes is,that of giving 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".The noble Lord has taken the phrase "basis of equality" from Clause 4 and inserted it in his amendment.
The principle which is envisaged (that of conferring the status of an official language) is, like the principle of equal validity, supported and applauded by all of us. One finds plenty of examples in Wales of Welsh being an official language. And there are plenty of examples in statutes of Welsh being an official language. No form of declaration is needed. Those of us who are concerned about the matter know of the many varying circumstances and practicalities which exist in Wales, and we are anxious that a declaratory status might have an inappropriate result. Therefore, despite the fact that we applaud and support the principle in the amendment, there is a danger of enacting in a statute a principle without there being any clear definition of that principle. One interpretation that might easily be applied to the purpose clause is that it amounts to, could amount to, or could be seen as, statutory bilingualism. If so, that could have a dangerous and deleterious effect on the progress of the Bill. For that reason, I find it very difficult to support the amendment.
Many of us have received submissions from various bodies saying that it is essential to strengthen the Bill. This proposal, it is suggested, is one means of doing so. If the Bill were strengthened so that it received even more widespread support and made good progress, I would give it every support. However, if there is a possibility that what is put into the Bill might strengthen anxieties and opposition, I would be against it. Therefore, I find it difficult to accept the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn.
Amendment No. 2, which has been tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, is very different. It is a skilful amendment. Understanding the difficulties of putting a statutory declaration in a Bill such as this 1256 —as I am sure that the noble Lord does—he has sought to avoid the difficulties and defects which arise when giving statutory effect to undefined principles. Nevertheless, as I see it, his amendment is likely to produce uncertainty, which is the one thing that we wish to avoid. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that Amendment No. 2 states:English and Welsh are the official languages of Wales and in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages shall be treated on a basis of equality; and this is to be achieved as provided in this Act".Amendment No. 9 seeks to change Clause 4 by taking out the wording from "principle" and adding to the provisions. If it could be written into such an amendment that what is being sought is an aspiration or a goal, then it would be different. It may be that that was the noble Lord's intention, but it is not so if one reads the amendment. The measure is a legal enactment. It says that English and Welsh are the official languages of Wales and that in the conduct of public business the English and Welsh languages shall be treated on a basis of equality. We are in difficult legal territory here. It may well be that a similar interpretation could be put on this amendment. It would amount to statutory bilingualism. Again, the removal of the principle contained in Clause 4 could well assume a different legal meaning for that principle. Uncertainty is therefore created. For that reason, I cannot support the amendment.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Elis-Thomas
My Lords, I follow the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, but I fail to see how they are relevant to the first or second amendments; namely, that the statement that English and Welsh should be described in statute as official languages somehow appears to mean the enforcing of statutory bilingualism. The detailed programme for the status of Welsh and English is clear in the rest of the Bill. What we are dealing with here is whether there should be a general statement of principle on the face of the Bill as near as possible to its beginning. We ask for that in this House in the spirit in which we have pursued the whole debate on the Bill. I have taken a positive line from the start. I considered carefully the principles being enacted, in particular, the principle of treating languages on a basis of equality which, to me, was a new principle. Having studied it, I was persuaded, as I see, whether for tactical or for other reasons today, the official Opposition were also persuaded, that the form of words,treated on a basis of equalitycould be interpreted as being of wider import than the narrow phrase, "equal validity". We have come along with the Government's thinking on that aspect. We are now saying that to make the Bill effective and acceptable in Wales, for all the reasons put forward, it requires a general statement of principle which in no way undermines the rest of the Bill, the purpose of the Bill, or indeed the form in which the principle is to be enacted; that is, the guidelines and the specific schemes. None of that is affected by a general statement of principle.
1257 Two arguments have been cogently advanced for the statement of principle. We have had the historical justice argument, which I do not need to follow, although obviously with my background I am familiar with it. The argument has been that there is general demand within Wales and among Welsh organisations for such a statement. We have to take that seriously because, although we are not directly elected to the House, we are still representatives in a House of Parliament and we listen to the views of the public and of organisations. It is incumbent upon all Members of the House to listen to views put forward by those who are interested in achieving linguistic consensus in Wales.
There is a third argument which is equally valid. When the Government argue that phrases such as "official language" or "general purpose clauses applying to language law" are somehow inappropriate for legislation, we have only to make a comparison with other countries within the European Community and other legislation passed within these Houses of Parliament in relation to other parts of the Commonwealth.
I do not want to incite any noble Lord to refer to Quebec, but within the Canadian constitution, and the Canada Act, references to other languages, apart from English, being official languages are a regular part of legislation. So too is the phrase, "official language", as applied in the rest of the European Community. Such declaratory statements about language policy are not unusual in modern legislation. Indeed, they are the norm in legislation in the rest of Europe. For that reason, too, as we look to a future where the Welsh language sees itself increasingly as part of the pattern of European culture, we need to argue the case. It is appropriate for Catalan, the Basque language, and increasingly now even within the French state, the Breton language, and other languages to be official languages. In the Netherlands it is acceptable for the Friesian language to be regarded as an official language. Phrases which are the regular parlance of those seeking to legislate in the area of language are common European phrases. They may not at the moment sit easily with our tradition in UK legislation, but we are today, and in the Bill, making a new tradition for language law in the United Kingdom.
There is another argument, and it is one that I should like to emphasise. The phrase, "official language", and the attempt to develop policy in that area are already well established in Welsh institutions. At the level of local government and public bodies, attempts have been made to develop official language policies. That very phrase has often been used, as in the case of the recently produced policy on languages in Dyfed—The Statement of the New Language Policy of Dyfed County Council. That is a good example of how sensitive language planning can be developed for a local authority. Since local authorities are already administering those policies, they have a great deal of experience in how to develop them. It is an experience which the Welsh Office, the Home Office and the House might well look at.
In those cases again, the use of the phrase, "official language", or the attempt to develop a general 1258 framework of policy is not looked upon by the electorate of those local government units as somehow an infringement of their rights or the imposition of statutory bilingualism. It is seen as part of the norm of developing public policy sensitively in relation to a bilingual, bicultural situation. For all those reasons, I hope that the Government will continue to reconsider the matter, if not here then in another place.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I come into the debate more torn, unhappy, and undecided than on almost any issue in which I have recently participated in the House, because all my sympathies lie with the Bill's purposes. As the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, reminded me, on Second Reading I spoke of the enormous psychological importance of a declaration of the kind proposed. I found myself agreeing with almost every word that he had to say. I found myself in great sympathy too with almost everything that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, had to say.
If the Bill is to carry conviction in Wales and have the beneficial effects that I hope it will have, it is important that we should try, if at all possible, to include something along the lines suggested. It would be enormously to the Government's advantage if they were to follow that course, because they deserve the credit for the Bill, and to a significant extent they will not receive the credit that they deserve if they cannot find a way of meeting the desires of so many people in Wales.
I understand the difficulty: it was clearly spelt out by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir, who has the great advantage of being a lawyer. I have to listen with respect when he spells out the legal difficulties.
I have received a letter from Sir Wyn Roberts, to which I am sure he will not mind me referring. In the face of the representations which I have made to the Government outside the House he tried to explain to me that the concern of Government is that a declaration of this kind will take us beyond the whole structure of the Bill. It was designed to create practical measures which are determined by the "appropriate in the circumstances" and "reasonably practicable" provisions. He expresses the fear that a general declaration would correspond to something akin to statutory bilingualism. That anxiety was expressed by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir.
I turn to the clauses and try to make a judgment in the face of the arguments that we have heard. I have from the beginning felt hesitation about the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. As on previous occasions, those doubts were reinforced by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. He has a magical way of persuading me in precisely the opposite direction, which is his intention.
He spoke of the demand to live a full life in all its various aspects. That comes close to a declaration of full bilingualism because it contains the implication that any Welshman, in whatever circumstances, is entitled to demand from any government or offshoot of government that a document should be produced in Welsh. It is implied that he is entitled to deal in Welsh so that he can live the full life in all its various aspects. 1259 There is no qualification about the "appropriate in the circumstances" and "reasonably practicable" circumstances in which we in the real world must live.
The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, spoke about the part of Wales in which he lives. I live in a not dissimilar part of Wales. I represented a constituency which perhaps is more neatly divided than any other, and has been for longer, between the Welsh and English-speaking people of Wales. They have perhaps lived there longer, in greater harmony and with greater understanding than has been the case in other areas. I lived for a time in a house in the beautiful, tiny city of St. David's, with its wonderful cathedral. There more than any other place in the constituency is a mixture of English and Welsh-speaking people living and working side by side, happy and in harmony. I have a real anxiety about anything that would drive us down the road to full bilingualism. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, does not wish to go down that road either because he realises that it would spark fears and anxieties which would destroy the harmony which I observed in St. David's and in my constituency.
I have sufficient doubts about the first amendment to be unable to support it. However, even after listening to the powerful case advanced by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir, I am not persuaded that such objections apply to the new clause put forward so skilfully by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, in Amendment No. 2. It is clear that the Minister will have more to say about the effect of the qualification so carefully written into the new clause. Perhaps we shall be told that even now, as drafted, it is imperfect and can be improved. If that is so we may have to seek to improve it further.
The interpretation appears to be that the new clause has the effect of providing that equality of Welsh and English as official languages shall be achieved as provided in the Bill. The way in which that is to be achieved is set out centrally in Clause 4. That appears to be the right way to go. It is right that we should make it clear that we are qualifying the statement that Welsh is an official language by what follows in Clause 4 and that we are concerned about the practicalities. We should also make it clear that we are concerned about the way in which the language is spread in Wales, that there are large areas where it is hardly spoken and that there are isolated groups of people for whom the full provision of every service on every occasion is not practical.
It appears to me that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, achieves that object. I suspect that in reply my noble friend will say that his legal advice is to the contrary. However, I feel strongly that we ought to try to find a solution to the problem. I find it almost impossible to believe that it is not within the skill of the parliamentary draftsmen, the lawyers and other experts to achieve a statement with a qualification. Therefore, until I have heard more powerful arguments, my present intention is to support the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, and not that of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Geraint
My Lords, we have listened to excellent speeches made by noble Lords on this side of the Chamber and by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, on the Cross-Benches. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on his excellent speech. At one time I thought that he was about to cross the Floor and join us on this side of the House. Let us hope that his intervention will make the Minister think again that we on these Benches are taking the matter very seriously and that we are here to fight for our own rights and for those of the people of Wales.
It has been a great privilege to debate the issue of the Welsh language in this Chamber. I wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Minister for his patience, good humour and courtesy throughout the proceedings. I am sure that he has listened carefully to what has been said today and that he will have learnt a great deal about a different world beyond Offa's Dyke. I hope that he will now appreciate the great depth of feeling which underlies the arguments we have put forward. To us these are not mere debating points; they are a plea for understanding for a language and a culture which form the basis of our rich heritage. The language has survived many centuries. When on occasions its future has seemed uncertain it has been rescued from oblivion by some imaginative and enlightened Act of Parliament.
All I ask for now is an enlightened attitude from the Government which will once and for all give the Welsh language the status which we seek. Such a gesture would earn the respect and gratitude of the Welsh people. I am not sorry that I have to remind many noble Lords that we have travelled a long way from the era of the Welsh Not when children were severely punished for speaking their own mother tongue at school. I am sure that on many occasions many noble Lords on this side of the House were told that their forefathers were punished for speaking Welsh in school. Gradually in Wales we have won back the honour and respect for what in the Middle Ages was regarded as the language of princes and poets, let alone the language of Heaven. We now need to surmount the last few obstacles in the way of giving the Welsh language the same status in Wales as that of English. That is all we ask. The Government could easily give that to us.
Last Saturday I attended a rally in Aberystwyth. It was very well attended by people of all political persuasions. I bring a message from all those people to this Chamber; the majority of the people of Wales are not satisfied with the Bill in its present form. On occasions I feel that I and others have become beggars on behalf of the Welsh people. We beg for things which we deserve by right, on this occasion the same status being given to Welsh as to English.
I beg the Minister to reconsider. I hope that in his wisdom, having listened to some of his noble friends, he will accede to the requests by accepting amendments tabled by noble Lords on this side of the Chamber.
§ Lord Elton
I intervene with some temerity as an Englishman, having been almost persuaded by what my noble friend Lord Crickhowell said to remain in my seat. However, this debate touches on the threads of the fabric of the British nation in which Englishmen and Welshmen as well as Englishwomen and Welshwomen are interested members and, indeed, part of that fabric. We must be desperately careful in the way we handle this material.
In a rather corrosive period of history, which is beginning to have an effect on nations made up of different peoples, we all share the intention that the Welsh should be proud of, thrive in and advance their culture, history and tongue. That is not a question at issue. We are merely considering how that should be done.
I have considerable sympathy for the Welsh cause because, almost by default, I became the Opposition spokesman on Welsh affairs in this House for a short period which spanned discussion of the devolution issue in the Principality. Consequently, I went there to talk about those issues and I formed a firm affection and respect for the people of that noble race. We must he careful to remember—and nobody has addressed this—that it is not just a question of making the Bill acceptable as an Act and welcome as a landmark. The legislation must work. If it precipitates difficulties and controversies, it will be more disastrous, after a happy rather than a hostile reception, because the disappointment will be the greater.
We need to be certain that the Bill as drafted or as amended has the intended effect. I am not a lawyer but it seems clear that both the amendments that we are now considering address the whole ambit of what goes on in Wales whereas the Bill as drafted is restricted in its effect to what is provided in Clause 4 and the powers and duties attracted by Clause 4. Clause 4(3), introducing the effects of Clause 8, means that the provisions of the Bill as drafted are to operate on a scheme triggered by a directive of the board and prepared following guidelines issued by the board after approval by the Secretary of State. That may seem very "nannyish" but it has the advantage that if unforeseen consequences arise—and they may be consequences unfortunate to the Welsh—those consequences and guidelines can be changed. If either of the amendments are accepted, they will apply outside the restrictions of Clause 4. I shall address the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, in a moment. Amendment No. 1 applies outside the restrictions of Clause 4 and, therefore, there is no ministerial or board oversight. The means of adjusting the parameters will not exist.
My noble friend Lord Crickhowell has drawn to my attention —and by the shake of his head the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, reinforces it—the last phrase of Amendment No. 2 whereby the provisions are put back into the ambit of Clause 4. I doubt whether the noble Lord has succeeded in that endeavour. Had he done so, my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir would have recognised it. However, we must wait for the Government lawyers to advise us. If the amendment does have that effect, I should find it attractive. If it does not, I believe that we are 1262 advancing with confidence into an uncertain field rather than with caution into a restricted field; namely, that delineated by Clause 4.
As drafted the Bill opens a very large area to the effects of its provisions. That area consists of public bodies, which must be effective on the life of the nation as a whole since they are vast employers and direct a great deal of what goes on in the Welsh nation. The cultural percolation from that must be significant.
If your Lordships are content to leave the Bill as it is, I believe that we shall be on safe ground. I believe that it would be risky to amend it, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and I fear that the same may be said of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, if its effects are not restricted by the provisions of Clause 4. I apologise for detaining your Lordships but I hope that this is an opportunity to show that the English British share the ambitions of the Welsh British that they should feel that they are fully a part of our shared history.
My Lords, I hope that it will be acceptable to the movers of both amendments, whose antecedents are impeccably Welsh, if I, with Irish credentials—that at least exempts me from the appellation Sassenach—speak a few words in support of the amendments, because I am quite prepared to support either of them. I speak without sufficient knowledge to comment on the legal reservations expressed today.
I intervene on the premise of having had well over 50 years' association within and with the Principality in north, south and central Wales; of having had a home on the Welsh border for the greater part of that time; and also of an abiding empathy for Welsh history tradition and culture. I should add that I speak on the basis of being a very enthusiastic if slow learner of the Iaith Cymraeg.
As I see it, the amendments are at the very heart of the Bill and are central to its importance. To place whichever amendment is accepted—and I hope that one of them will be accepted by your Lordships—at the beginning is a statement of respect for Welsh national pride in its past and its present. Moreover, it is an acknowledgement of the equal role which Wales wishes to play within the United Kingdom in the future. Therefore I warmly support the amendments. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that whatever happens to the amendment I shall persevere with this difficult language.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I wish to say a few words in support of the important amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn. It has been supported by many speakers in your Lordships' House. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that of all the amendments which have been tabled to the Bill, this amendment, in the view of many of us, is the most important because it gives to the Welsh language the status which it has lacked for 450 years.
1263 In studying the Minister's speeches it appears to me that there is common ground between us. When the noble Earl introduced the Bill on 19th January he told the House that the Bill would confirm,the official status of the Welsh language across the public sector as a whole".—[Official Report, 19/1/93; col. 834.]In replying to the Second Reading debate the Minister went further, at col. 879 of Hansard, when he said that Welsh "is an official language". Those of us brought up in Wales and who live our daily lives in Wales know that Welsh is not an official language. The Minister shifted his position and clarified the situation in Committee on 2nd February when, at col. 150, he explained:The intention of the legislation is that it should confirm the official status of the Welsh language".At col. 152, he added:It is the Government's view that, whatever uncertainty there may have been in the past concerning the official status of Welsh, it should be removed by the Bill".We share that objective. The noble Earl expressed no anxieties about the objective. However, the uncertainty, if there is uncertainty, although for my part I do not believe that there is, because Welsh does not enjoy legal status in Wales, has not been removed. Welsh is still inferior to the English language.
The Minister has referred to the Government's view but nowhere in the Bill is there a simple, clear statement of the Government's intention to confer upon Welsh the status of an official language. Why is that? The Minister suggested in Committee, at col. 150, that it would not be appropriate to include in the Bill a general declaration of intent because,Bills arc not vehicles for the general declaration of intent or the beating of drums. Bills are for changing the law and implementing the change with clarity".I assume that that advice is based on the Welsh Office legal opinion. However this week, of all weeks, the House does not need to be reminded that departmental lawyers can occasionally offer mistaken legal advice. Given the importance that we in Wales attach to our language, yr iaith Gymraeg, we would like to know whether the Government have consulted the Law Officers as regards how the Government's stated intention, as repeated by the Minister, can be properly implemented.
The amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn confers official status on the Welsh language by means of a purpose clause. I am advised that there is no other authoritative way that its official status can be proclaimed. Notwithstanding the doubts cast by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, the legal authorities, including the Renton report on the preparation of legislation, recognise that there is a place for a purpose clause which sets out Parliament's intention in enacting the legislation but without itself imposing an obligation. Such a clause has been in use for about 200 years although in recent years it has only been used on about half a dozen occasions. To the best of my knowledge it has not led to difficulties. As my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said, it was last called in aid when used as a commencing clause for the Legal Aid Act 1988 by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. In the same way we are making a request to the Government to instil a purpose clause in the 1264 Bill. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor introduced the purpose clause on 29th February 1988 as a statement or a purpose of the Bill. He said that if the intention of the purpose clause was to seek to express in a simple short form the whole purpose of the legislation that would be acceptable. He added:I hope it provides the appropriate fanfare to start the Bill that many of your Lordships thought was needed".—[Official Report, 29/2/88; col. 10.]It has been said repeatedly that the Welsh language is of great importance to the people of Wales. That was the underlying theme of the Second Reading debate and the underlying theme of the discussions in Committee. As my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn said, the Welsh language embodies our history and our sense of nationhood and distinct identity. It could be said that of all the languages spoken in this country, apart from English, it is an indigenous language that is widely spoken by a significant number of people. But its relationship in Wales to the English language which is, and is perceived to be, the official language in Wales, is therefore an important element in the constitutional relationship of England and Wales. Hence it is an issue of constitutional importance. In this country we do not have a written constitution or a charter which one can amend to confer upon the Welsh language the status of an official language in Wales.
How then can we confer this status upon the Welsh language? I have taken advice and the only way that we can acknowledge the new relationship which the Government are anxious to establish between the two languages in Wales is by embodying an appropriate purpose clause in the Bill along the lines of the amendment before the House. I am advised that no other machinery is available to achieve that objective. Moreover, the amendment which my noble friend has moved is consistent with the tenor and form of the Bill and truly reflects the Government's stated intention as it has been explained by the Minister in this Chamber. I therefore trust that the Government will listen.
My Lords, the Government will listen and I like to think that they have listened. We have had what I can only describe as a fascinating debate on a subject that is close to many noble Lords' hearts. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Geraint, that I have listened carefully. No one can deny the depth of feeling of your Lordships about this subject.
I was interested to hear my noble friend Lord Crickhowell say that he had not been more torn, unhappy or undecided about any other subject recently. That reflects the feelings of many people. He went on to say that, whenever the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, spoke, it persuaded my noble friend in the reverse direction to that which the noble Lord intended.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I am sorry, but my noble friend misheard me. I said that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, had that effect on me. He did it in a slightly less provoking fashion today than on the last occasion. I said that I agreed with almost every word that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said this afternoon.
§ 4.45 p.m.
My Lords, I am bound to say that I did think it was a little odd. I am sorry that I heard my noble friend incorrectly. I apologise deeply not only to him, but to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that I should have attributed such statements to him.
In Committee a number of noble Lords were concerned—that concern has been expressed today —about using the words "official language" somewhere in the Bill. This came from all sides of the House. It was in no way partisan or confined only to those in Wales who have strong feelings on the matter. It was a natural and understandable desire for your Lordships to try to ensure that the status which we all agree the language must enjoy should be reflected in explicit terms in the Bill. Then, it might be said, we could all know where we are.
It was in a spirit of sympathy and endeavour that I have tried to see whether we can properly accommodate that view and somehow incorporate one of the noble Lord's amendments, or at least the aspirations contained in them. I am bound to tell your Lordships that this has not been easy. The natural desires of the heart have found themselves up against the harsh, cold realities of the law. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred to quotations from earlier speeches, saying that the intention of the Bill was to confirm official status. In our judgment the Bill does that by establishing the principle of equality, but it does not enact a principle in a statement to the effect that this is an official language.
I am concerned about the legal effect of a new clause of the kind proposed in Amendment No. I introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. He said that it is called a "purpose clause" and gave some examples. It is difficult if not impossible to establish that a clause of that kind would be just a purpose clause and that it would have no ulterior effect whatever. That would certainly be the case if there were to be any uncertainty as to whether the amendment reflected exactly the provisions in the rest of the Bill and did not do anything more. If it did—here I agree with my noble friend Lord Crickhowell; I fear that it does—the inclusion of the clause would then become a statement of law. The effect of making such a statement is simply not known. If we were to incorporate the provision, we may find that we had a tiger by the tail. We simply do not know where it will take us other than almost certainly and inevitably into the labyrinths of the courts. An important objective of the Bill is to keep the matter out of the courts. The amendment would alter the context in which the remainder of the Bill is read.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, referred to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor who said that he had a purpose clause, and justified it by saying that we needed a fanfare. A purpose clause is perfectly possible, but I do not think it is what you might call the flavour of the month among parliamentary draftsmen. However, we could not have a clause which is supposed to be a purpose clause, but which has effects that go, or might go, much wider than just those of a purpose clause.
1266 The Government understand the arguments of those who are in favour of giving the language a further symbolic and psychological boost—banging the drum, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, called it last time, or creating a fanfare as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said. We understand those people who wish to see the Bill contain a great declaration of principle. However, without dismissing the entirely understandable feelings that underlie those arguments, the best contribution that we can make for the Welsh language is to establish a legal framework which will ensure that the position of the Welsh language in public life is more than just a fine-sounding principle over which lawyers can haggle for many years to come, as I suggest they will do. We can ensure that Welsh is incorporated into the every-day business of public bodies throughout Wales. That is what we want to do and in that way the Bill will reflect and enforce the reality that Welsh is part and parcel of the every-day life of the people of Wales.
Our concern about the amendment is that it would cloud the interpretation of the detailed provisions in the Bill. Public bodies might legitimately ask themselves, "Is it the purpose of our scheme to confer upon the Welsh language the status of an official language in Wales?", as is stated in Amendment No. 1, or "Is it to give effect to the principle that English and Welsh be dealt with on the basis of equality?", as is stated in Clause 4. If the effects of those two statements in law were the same, the potential problems might not arise. However, if they are not the same —and our belief is that they are not—then the possibilities for dispute and uncertainty are legion.
Although the amendment very prudently does not attempt to define the meaning of "official language", the Government's understanding of the term is that it would amount to something akin to statutory bilingualism; in other words, that for official purposes everything must be done in both languages. For example, every Act of Parliament that applies in any way to Wales would have to be printed in Welsh as well as in English, as would every statutory instrument, every decision of a government department and every copy of Hansard in both Houses. The statute books themselves might even have to be written in Welsh too. The task would be endless, as would be the imagination and the cost.
I turn now to Amendments Nos. 2 and 9, which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, introduced and which stand also in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Geraint and Lord Elis-Thomas, and on which my noble friend Lord Crickhowell looked with some favour. Amendment No. 2 is rather more than a purpose clause. It is more than a declaration of principle: it is a statement of law.
The first part of the principle which is referred to in the amendment is that English and Welsh:are the official languages of Wales".I have already explained why the concept of legislating for an official language causes difficulty. The Government also believe that limiting the definition of "official language" only to the terms of the Bill could be said to circumscribe the status which the Welsh 1267 language currently enjoys in areas outside the scope of the Bill. That includes those other Acts of Parliament which underpin the status of Welsh —notably the Education Reform Act 1988 which makes the language a foundation subject in the national curriculum in Wales and a core subject in Welsh medium schools.
The second part of the principle set out in the amendment, which concerned my noble friend Lord Elton, would also seem to introduce a conflict into the Bill with the provisions of Clause 4. In Amendment No. 2 public bodies are being told that English and Welsh:shall be treated on a basis of equality".The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said that those words are lifted deliberately from the provisions of Clause 4. In Clause 4 public bodies are told to prepare schemes which give effect to that principle, but it goes further and includes the words:so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable".If the Bill is not intended to achieve statutory bilingualism and all that that would entail—and I believe that we are all agreed on that—it follows that the qualifying phrases in Clause 4 are necessary. The Bill ensures that the qualifying phrases should apply to schemes and not to the principle of equality itself. That is as it should be. However, it means that an inconsistency would arise if an attempt were to be made to enact a principle which is not encumbered by such qualifying phrases as:so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable",which is included in Clause 4.
Even though the words which are contained in the second part of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, are similar to those which are already contained in the Bill, that does not mean that they can be moved to another part of the Bill without having an effect in law. The principle which is referred to in Clause 4(2) provides a purpose for the schemes which public bodies will prepare. Placing that principle, unqualified, in a new clause as suggested by Amendment No. 2 would have a very different legal outcome.
I have sought to explain some of the reasons, on grounds of both policy and law, why a clause along those lines would interfere with the aims of the Bill. I can only re-emphasise that I say that with no wish to dismiss or devalue the objectives or the aspirations which underlie the proposal. I do so because the concepts, laudable though they are, are not easy to introduce on to the face of the Bill without introducing uncertainty and damaging the great strength of the principle of equality which lies at the very heart of the Bill.
The Government are concerned that the practical measures which we all want the Bill to secure could be placed at risk involuntarily by introducing the legal uncertainty which would be the likely result of a clause of the type which is proposed in Amendment No. 2 and in Amendment No. 1.
I know that my response will cause considerable disappointment to some of your Lordships. I give my 1268 view not because I disagree with or do not value or understand the wholly laudable aspirations and feelings which have been expressed. I do so simply because of the legal implications. We are introducing law. Laws ought to be clear and unambiguous. We are not always successful in achieving that end but that should be our aim. To walk into uncertainty with our eyes open is obviously undesirable, and I would find it difficult to advise your Lordships to accept either of the amendments, however much I sympathise with their motives. All the legal advice that I have received is that to do so would create uncertainty and the matter would all end up in the courts with the lawyers left to find a route through a very difficult minefield.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, the noble Earl was quite correct when he said that a number of us would be deeply disappointed with his response to the debate and to the case which the supporters of both the proposed clauses have presented to the House. I believe that we made a valid case for the purpose clause. The noble Earl, and those who support him, grinds very small in his arguments.
I was particularly taken aback when I heard the noble Earl talk about what is the flavour of the month among parliamentary draftsmen. What is not the flavour of the month among parliamentary draftsmen must obviously, with this Government, take priority over the aspirations of the Welsh people. That is really the nub of the noble Earl's argument in this debate.
There is still time for him and for the Secretary of State for Wales to think again before the Bill proceeds to another place. I hope that they will have the common sense to do so because I am afraid that the response of Wales to the case which the noble Earl sought to make will be extremely serious. In my view it is a regrettable error on the part of the Government.
I listened very carefully to what my noble friend Lord Hooson said in support of his amendment. I thoroughly agree with him. In the light of what he said, and in view of the general feeling of the House, I am prepared for the moment not to proceed with my amendment but to support the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Hooson.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Hooson moved Amendment No. 2:
Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
("Equality of Welsh and English as official languages
.English and Welsh are the official languages of Wales and in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages shall be treated on a basis of equality; and this is to be achieved as provided in this Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I move the amendment, which I intend to press to a Division, perhaps I may say a few words. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that the Government's heart is with the amendments but that they are confronted with the hard reality of the law, or the lawyers; I cannot remember which. I would say that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell is right. It is not beyond the ingenuity of the lawyers to draw up the kind of declaration that is required here with sufficient 1269 safeguards. In my view there is a sufficient safeguard in the amendment which I drafted and which I tabled together with my noble friends.
I appreciate entirely the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. We share a heritage, of which the Welsh heritage is a part. However, I say to him that Clause 4 of the Bill would still contain the words:
both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable".
It is not proposed that they should be deleted. The amendment which I propose contains the declaration that:
this is to be achieved as provided in this Act".
Therefore, the provision is totally circumscribed.
§ I believe that it is possible to have the declaration of principle without opening the can of worms which the Government fear. As the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said, there is a great psychological need in Wales for such a declaration. It is possible to draft a suitable clause which contains a sufficient legal safeguard. Whatever the outcome of the Division, I hope that the Government will take further legal advice on the matter. In the meantime I am certain that my amendment would achieve that purpose. I beg to move.
§ 5 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 124.1270
|Aberdare, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L.|
|Acton, L.||Jay, L.|
|Addington, L.||Jay of Paddington, B.|
|Airedale, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Judd, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Kagan, L.|
|Birk, B.||Listowel, E.|
|Blackstone, B.||Longford, E.|
|Blease, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Bonham-Carter, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||McNair, L.|
|Bottomley, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Mulley, L.|
|Crickhowell, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Desai, L.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Elis-Thomas, L.||Rea, L.|
|Falkender, B.||Richard, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Foot, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Russell, E.|
|Geraint, L. [Teller.]||Seear, B.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Serota, B.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Swansea, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hunt, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Wallace of Coslany, L||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|White, B.||Wilson of Rievaulx, L.|
|Williams of Elvel, L.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E|
|Ailesbury, M.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Amwell, L.||Inglewood, L.|
|Arran, E.||Jenkin of Roding, L.|
|Astor, V.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Lindsay, E.|
|Auckland, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Bessborough, E.||Long, V.|
|Birdwood, L.||Luke, L.|
|Blatch, B.||Lyell, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Boardman, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Braine of Wheatley, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Brookes, L.||Moore of Lower Marsh, L.|
|Butterworth, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Munster, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Nelson, E.|
|Carnock, L.||Newall, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Norrie, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Chilver, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Coleraine, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Colnbrook, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Cross, V.||Peel, E.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Pender, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Denham, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Denton of Wakefield, B.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Reay, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Rees, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Renwick, L.|
|Elibank, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Elles, B.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Elliott of Morpeth, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Elton, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Shannon, E.|
|Flather, B.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Stockton, E.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Strange, B.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Hacking, L.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E. [Teller.]|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.|
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Harding of Petherton, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Hayhoe, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Henley, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hesketh, L. [Teller.]||Vivian, L.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Hood, V.||Wise, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Clause 1 [Establishment of the Board]:
Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("Board") to end of line 9.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 3 and speak also to Amendments 1271 Nos. 4, 5 and 6. Although Amendment No. 5 is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, it may be convenient to speak to all of those amendments at the same time.
§ Amendments Nos. 3 and 6 are drafting amendments that are consequential upon Amendment No. 4 and concern the board's membership. I believe that on this issue there is very little between us and the noble Lords who have put down Amendment No. 5. We are all agreed that the Welsh Language Board will have a hugely important role to play in securing the successful implementation of the policies that are contained in the Bill. The Bill grants a considerable amount of discretion to the board in a number of important areas. This is vital if the board is to have the flexibility to be able to carry out its remit across the public sector as well as provide advice to private and voluntary organisations who are anxious to make greater use of the Welsh language.
§ Because we are not limiting the board to carefully delineated tasks, the importance of the board's membership being of the highest calibre is underlined. The board's membership must include individuals of the highest quality. These amendments seem to me to indicate that there is also some agreement between us as to the particular characteristics they should reflect. Most importantly, the membership must be able to reflect the interests not only of those who are fluent in the language but also those who are less fluent in addition to those who are learning. I would expect the Secretary of State to ensure that the board also contains non-Welsh-speaking members. The Government's amendment, on the other hand, recognises both the spread of interests which the board must reflect as well as the range of organisations with which the board will have to deal.
§ The ability of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to assemble such a board would be hampered by a requirement that some of the members should be nominated by Welsh language organisations or that others should be dependent on consultation with other groups. That is part of the amendment of noble Lords opposite. I can reassure your Lordships that the membership will be such as to allow for close links with all those organisations. I do not think that the Bill, or in due course the board, would benefit from including that kind of consultation machinery in the body of the Bill. I beg to move Amendment No. 3.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 4 and our own Amendment No. 5. After discussions in Committee we have a clearer appreciation of how the Bill will work in practice. We can see clearly that the Welsh-speaking consumer will be very dependent indeed on the commitment of the board and its members. Therefore, membership of the board acquires added significance. I think it is vitally important that its membership should have a good relationship with those organisations which embody the distinct Welsh-speaking culture of Wales, as the Minister put it in Committee. I hope that it will not be cluttered up with place-men.
I accept that the Government's Amendment No. 4 1272 is an improvement on the Bill. Although it lacks the detail contained in subsections (1) and (2) of our Amendment No. 5, I think I can go along with it. However, there remain areas of concern about the Government's amendment. The first is obviously derived from the absence of an independent element. Without that independent element there is little assurance that the board will always give proper consideration to the merits and demerits of Welsh Office pressure when it is applied. I believe that to deny the board the contribution of an independent element is a grave disservice to it.
Our second area of concern relates to the absence of a duty to consult organisations as to their views on membership. It seems to us that consultation is essential, particularly if the board lacks an independent element. We do not for one minute believe that consultation would in any way limit or reduce the pool of talent which would be available to the Secretary of State. That worry much exercised the Minister in Committee.
I have no doubt that if the Secretary of State were to consult widely he would come up with very good material indeed for membership of the board. They may be people who are unknown to the Welsh Office yet they have a contribution to make to the work of the board.
I wonder whether the Minister will between now and the time when the Bill finds its way to another place give further consideration to subsections (1) and (2) of Amendment No. 5.
My Lords, of course I shall give consideration to what the noble Lord said. I do not think under the Bill as amended by our amendment that the Secretary of State or the board would be denied the contribution of an independent element. The Secretary of State will be enabled to draw from wherever he wishes, provided that various considerations are reflected in the membership. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, will look at subsection (2) of Amendment No. 4 which states:the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of securing that, within the Board's membership, there are reflected both the varying extent to which the Welsh language is used by those living in Wales, and the range of interests of the persons to whom the Board will offer advice".That does not exclude an independent element, but I shall certainly take note of the point which the noble Lord made.
The other point which he made was that the Secretary of State ought to take advice. Personally, I think it is almost inconceivable that he will not take advice. I do not believe that he will sit down in a closeted room on his own to decide whom he will appoint to the board. It is such a sensitive issue that of course he will wish to gather advice and opinions from people, even though it would be wrong to put a statutory obligation on him. Once we start doing that, we are obliged to say with whom he ought to consult, and I believe that my right honourable friend or any Secretary of State would take great care to ensure that those responsibilities are carried out properly.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 5.15 p.m.
Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 4:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ Membership of the Board
§ (".—(1) The Board established under section I above (referred to in this Act as "the Board") shall consist of not more than fifteen members appointed by the Secretary of State.
§ (2) In exercising his power of appointment under subsection (1) above the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of securing that, within the Board's membership, there are reflected both the varying extent to which the Welsh language is used by those living in Wales, and the range of interests of the persons to whom the Board will offer advice.").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 5 not moved.]
§ Clause 2 [Functions of the Board]:
Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 1, line 10, leave out from ("Board") to ("shall") in line 11
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 1, line 12, at end insert ("as an official language in Wales.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment gives us a brief opportunity to pursue some of the points which came up in our earlier substantial debate on the amendment which sought to make a general statement in the Bill about the position of Welsh as an official language. I should like to take this opportunity to address some of the arguments which are relevant to this small amendment and which were also relevant to that general debate. I also wish to make one or two further points.
§ This simple amendment standing in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, inserts the phrase, "an official language". I emphasise "an"; it is not "the" or even "one of two". It just specifies "an official language". We propose to insert that in a place in the Bill where in our view it cannot have any of the effects which the Government and the noble Earl suggested applied to the previous new clause. The argument there was that the substance of the new clause being inserted at that point had a constricting effect on the rest of the Bill. In our view, inserting the simple phrase, "as an official language" following Clause 2, which sets out the functions of the board —that is, promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language—qualifies the phrase in what we regard as a neat way. It applies it directly to the promotional work of the board.
§ Therefore, what we seek to do is to give the board the role of promoting Welsh as an official language. In our view, it ensures that many of the arguments that have been used opposing the phrase "an official language" are no longer relevant, particularly to this clause.
§ I must say that I had some difficulty in following the line of argument put forward by the noble Earl. He seemed to suggest that if we use the phrase "an official language" or "one of two official languages" in the Bill it would somehow affect the legislative status already given to Welsh as an official language in other aspects. It seems to me that the argument is to the contrary; 1274 that inserting "an official language" in the Bill—which is specifically devoted to promoting the language through the statutory board and its activities within the public sector—strengthens and complements what we have available in other legislation.
§ I had the privilege in another place of taking part in the Committee stage of both the Broadcasting Bill and the Education Reform Bill. Both Acts created important domains of Welsh life in which Welsh was given an official status. We legislated officially for a requisite number of hours to be broadcast on S4C, the fourth channel.
§ Similarly, when we come to the national curriculum there is specific legislation as the noble Earl indicated earlier; Welsh is a core subject or a foundation subject within the national curriculum in almost all schools in Wales. Those are examples in practice of an official language functioning. The language has the status of a language set down in legislation; in the way that legislation is administered it then becomes an official language. Furthermore, it is an official language in practice, not just in those aspects of legislation—in the practice of the promotional bodies charged with pursuing the objectives of those Acts, for example, the authority which runs the fourth channel. I declare an interest as someone who has worked for that channel in the past and might hope to do so in the future. In its operation that authority functions with Welsh as an official language. Similarly, when we come to the local education authorities in Wales, or to the work of the curriculum council, they again administer Welsh as an official language. So I see no difficulty with the phrase "an official language".
§ The other argument used by the noble Earl, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, in the earlier debate was that somehow it was akin to statutory bilingualism. I have made it clear a number of times in debates—and I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, accepted it—that I have not argued from this Bench at any stage for statutory bilingualism. I have argued for the promotion of the Welsh language on the basis of the principles in the Bill in order to restore it to a full place in the national life of Wales. As I have also indicated, that can mean that certain institutions and certain areas of public life in Wales might wish to pursue policies or put into effect programmes which might place the Welsh language as the first or main language of the activity of those bodies. It is not necessarily paper equality that we are looking for. Similarly, in other parts of Wales and in other areas of public life there might be less emphasis needed because of the present demographic or population or language/community trends. All those caveats reflect the linguistic balance throughout Wales.
§ So we are not suggesting that by using the phrase "an official language" we then immediately ensure that everything that is officially done in English is done likewise in Welsh. That is not the principle here. What the phrase "an official language" means in this amendment to this particular clause is that it reflects the status given to the promotional work of the board. In other words, it is promoting Welsh as if it were to become even more an official language.1275
The noble Earl has gone a long way along that road. At Second Reading he used the phrase "official language" as applying to Welsh at least three times. He referred to it as "the second official language in Wales"; he referred to the fact that the Bill confirmed the official status of the Welsh language across the public sector as a whole; and in responding to the debate he said about Welsh:
It is an official language. It has equal status with the English language".
So we already have the statements of fact, or opinion or interpretation in the case of the Minister. Therefore why can we not have that simple phrase located in the Bill so that there is no doubt that the promotional role of the board is to bring about that particular status for Welsh; namely, that of an official language.
§ The phrase "an official language", as I indicated in an earlier debate, is not foreign to the European tradition. It is a phrase commonly used by our European Community partners within European Community institutions. It is a phrase used in the constitutions of many Commonwealth countries. And I believe we could use it in the Bill in a positive way. It would indicate quite clearly what the intention was, and would underline and strengthen the work of the board. My main concern is to ensure that when the board is established it becomes a regeneration agency for the Welsh language throughout the public life of Wales—and, by example, the rest of the culture outside public bodies. In my view, in doing so, it would be substantially strengthened by having the statement "an official language" added at this point in the Bill.
§ The Minister should reconsider the position on that point, and in particular the legal advice that he has been given. Far be for me to suggest that I have access to better legal advice in the Welsh language. But I certainly suggest that in terms of linguistic legislation we are in new territory. It may well be that the legal advisers to the Government are people who are not familiar with socio-linguistics or language legislation. If they are not familiar with them, they should familiarise themselves with the way that such legislation operates in other European countries and translate those concepts to the kind of legislative practice we have in the United Kingdom. Were they to look at the practice of the European Community and of the member states, and at the language policies of many of our Commonwealth partners, there they would see that within legislation there exists already a whole host of definitions and practices concerned with official languages.
§ If they are not satisfied with that, they can go to the United Nations declarations, and to most of the conventions which apply to language policy on a worldwide basis. There again they will see references to the question of official languages, to the implementation of languages and to languages becoming official. These are not strange phrases. They may be rather strange to the eyes and ears of parliamentary lawyers in the United Kingdom. But the reason why they are strange is that the United Kingdom has only recently recognised that it is itself 1276 a multi-lingual and multi-national state. It was with the Welsh Courts Act of 1942, as we have already heard, that the change of status seriously began.
§ Here we have an opportunity to use the phrase "an official language" in a creative way in the Bill. I hope that the Minister is already reconsidering as I speak. I hope that he will be able to take that phrase back, discuss it with his advisers and agree that such a phrase will do no damage to the work of the board. Indeed it will strengthen it and even bring it international recognition as an agency which will be responsible for transforming the status of one of the national languages of Wales into an official language in the full meaning of that phrase. It is not about statutory bilingualism. The issues must not be confused. There are various official statuses which can be applied to languages and they are not to be understood merely in terms of the phrase "statutory bilingualism". I ask the Minister, since he has listened patiently to my brief seminar contribution on socio-linguistics, to think again. I beg to move.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, I hope I am using the philosophical phrase correctly when I say that a fortiori we wish to support the amendment. As is evident from the debates we had on Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, we believe passionately in the fanfare. The fanfare was put to the opinion of your Lordships' House, and the fanfare failed. This is now a lesser claim in a more restricted context. We support it because we hope that the Government might be able to produce, if not a fanfare, a little toot on the government flute.
§ 5.30 p.m.
My Lords, in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, we come back to some of the substantial discussions we had with regard to Amendment No. 1. I find it a disagreeable task to tell noble Lords periodically—those who feel deeply about these matters—that the amendments will not work. We are all sympathetic with the feelings which prompt the amendments.
The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, quoted me as saying that I agreed that Welsh was one of the official languages. That is fine as a theory but the difficulty arises when one tries to enact it. I explained in relation to Amendment No. 1 how, when one tries to include a fine-sounding phrase, in fact in law that creates complications.
The whole intention of the Bill is that the board should be able to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language wherever it is spoken. That is illustrated in Clause 2(1). That duty is not constrained in any way by the Bill. It will be for the board to decide where it believes its activities will have the greatest impact.
Apart from the provisions in relation to schemes, the Bill does not seek to determine how it should set about that task. The concept of Welsh as an official language, which the amendment seeks to be incorporated in the Bill, would of necessity be restricted to activities which are to do with the Government or with public authorities. The effect 1277 would be to restrict the board's promotional activities. I am certain that that is not the intention behind the amendment. I must therefore tell the noble Lord that the Bill is better without the amendment if it is to achieve what I know he wants to achieve.
§ Lord Elis-Thomas
My Lords, I hear the argument but I am not convinced that the phrase denoting Welsh as an "official language" does not belong somewhere in the Bill. If not here, then where? I call in aid the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, who expressed similar sentiments on a number of occasions in all our debates.
In withdrawing the amendment, which I shall do in view of the earlier Division we had on an amendment of similar substance, I ask the Minister to have an early conference with his colleague, Sir Wyn Roberts and his equivalent in the Welsh Office, and to look again at where in the Bill that phrase can be incorporated. It is a phrase which will be important in supporting the work of the board; it will lend greater acceptability to the whole exercise and will have practical import because it will clearly confirm what we already know to be the case—that Welsh is an official language in Wales.
For those reasons I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but with the caveat that people will go away and pray on the issue.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 8:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Use of Welsh in communications with government departments or public bodies
§ . Any member of the public in Wales shall have the right to communicate with, and to receive available services from, any government department or other public body which operates in Wales, or in any part of Wales, in either Welsh or English unless such communication or provision of services is not reasonably practicable.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that Amendment No. 8 does not have the usual "Williams" effect on the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. I am conscious of what he said on an earlier occasion. I said that people who have Welsh as one of their languages want to live a full life in Welsh in every aspect, not on every conceivable occasion, as I hope the amendment makes plain.
§ I hope that the Government will look favourably upon the amendment. It indicates—I hope precisely—that a member of the public should have the right to communicate with and receive available services from any government department or other public body. It meets the fears that we recognise as being legitimate, that one should not necessarily cast the net to cover every private business or organisation. It is restricted therefore simply to cover a government department or other public body, to be subsequently defined in the Act in its final form, and has what I hope is the acceptable proviso that the right shall not obtain if the communication or provision of services by those bodies is not reasonably practicable. I beg to move.
My Lords, the proposition underlying the amendment is one that causes little difficulty given that the Bill is all about facilitating the delivery of 1278 services in Welsh. Where there is difference between us is in deciding upon the means by which those services can most effectively be provided.
The amendment seeks to ensure the provision of Welsh language services by establishing a right for a person to receive a service in Welsh, and I have indicated previously why the Government do not believe that that is the most appropriate way of securing a good level of service. The Government's Bill will achieve similar ends but by a more definite route. Everyone will know what they will be entitled to receive; each body will have a scheme which will be approved by the board and which will say what services are to be available in Welsh.
The noble Lord's amendment seeks to give rights to individuals with which one can sympathise. The Bill seeks to place obligations upon public bodies to deliver a satisfactory service. It would be incompatible for the Bill to contain both obligations of what should be produced, and rights as to what should be received.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, is successful in not aggravating my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, and will agree that on the whole we are obtaining the same ends but that one cannot have both the rights and obligations included in the Bill.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am grateful for the response of the noble Earl. Of course, an obligation is the mirror of a right. I wish the principle to be not only recognised, as the noble Earl has, but also specifically spelt out. There should be a right which devolves on an individual which an individual can enforce, rather than leaving nebulous obligations which will ultimately only be enforceable at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
In all the circumstances, and bearing in mind that the spirit behind the amendment is consonant with what the noble Earl has in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 4 [Duty of notified public bodies to prepare schemes]:
§ [Amendment No. 9 not moved.]
§ Clause 5 [Meaning of "public body"]:
Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 3, line 23, at end insert:
§ ("() any Government Department;
§ () British Rail and any licence holder within the meaning of Part I of the Electricity Act 1989, public gas supplier within the meaning of Part I of the Gas Act 1986, sewerage undertaker, water undertaker or operator of a telecommunications code system within the meaning of Schedule 4 to the Telecommunications Act 1984;
§ () any private company successfully obtaining a tender under arrangements for compulsory competitive tendering for the provision of services within Wales.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 10 seeks to clarify those bodies set out in Clause 4 of the Bill to include any government department, public utilities and those private companies which are successful in tendering under the arrangements for 1279 compulsory competitive tendering. I hope that in the matter of detail and position the Government can accept the amendment.
§ I recall the words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, this evening when he expressed support for the proposition—I believe I quote him accurately—and said that those organisations which are vast employers and whose activities affect the life of the nation should be subject to certain obligations. Amendment No. 10 merely seeks to specify those organisations which, by and large, are substantial employers and do affect the life of the nation; and proposes that they come specifically within the ambit of the proposed schemes.
§ We are particularly concerned with the utilities—in whose ownership or control they presently are or will in the future be is irrelevant. Their effect upon the economy, the society and the life of Wales is so enormous that they should be specified in Clause 5. That is the basis of Amendment No. 10. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elis-Thomas
My Lords, I support the principle of the amendment and wish also to draw attention to Amendment No. 12. It attempts to deal with the contracting out of a general activity by any of the public bodies specified in this clause of the Bill and tries to ensure that schemes are relevant to their activities.
This is a matter of some concern. In the whole area of compulsory competitive tendering and the provision of public services by previously public but now privatised utilities, it is regarded as essential that the principle of ensuring that the Welsh language is extended throughout the public life of Wales in the public sector as set out in the Bill should be fully implemented. The concern is that the provisions in this and other clauses do not sufficiently ensure that the policies pursued at present by local authorities, health authorities or public undertakings that have been or are about to be privatised will be pursued through to privatisation. This is a different principle from the principle that we should be imposing new obligations upon the private sector. That is a path that we have studiously avoided in the Bill. What we are seeking to do here is to ensure that, as the public sector contracts and as activity is contracted out in pursuance of government policy, the extent of the domain of the Welsh language is not restricted. We all support the principle that it is through provision in the public sector that we will bring about treatment on the basis of equality. That is how the Bill is to function. But if at the same time the public sector is reduced in its scope, there is a danger that an important principle will be eroded.
We should like an assurance that in the specification for a function of a prospective tenderer adherence to or pursuit of a language policy, as adopted by a local authority or a health authority as set out in the clause and as agreed by the language board, will also apply to the undertaker of a service if that service is being provided under contract or by a private sector contractor. We should like an assurance that a local authority can accept a tender for a defined activity even if it is not necessarily the lowest tender if it conforms with the policy, plan or scheme as set out 1280 in the Bill. Amendments may be required to the Local Government Act 1988 and I am sure that the department will be looking at that matter. We want an assurance that, as the public sector changes its shape, the effect of the Bill and the Government's declared intention will not be restricted.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I wish to make two points which are unconnected. The first arises from the third paragraph of Amendment No. 10 which refers to,any private company successfully obtaining a tender under arrangements for compulsory competitive tendering for the provision of services within Wales".The amendment as drafted would cause endless complications and is not necessary.
I speak because of my experience as chairman of the National Rivers Authority. We pursue a Welsh language policy broadly of the kind that will conform to the guidelines likely to be laid down. I hope that we shall always do so. We are also starting off down the road of competitive tendering. I can tell the House that it will be an extremely complicated and involved process. Competitive tenders will cover an enormous range of activities, large and small. They may be for relatively trifling services. They may be for very big sectors. The way to deal with these things for bodies like the NRA and others is to make sure that the scheme that applies to the principal government body ensures that when there is competitive tendering of this kind the contracts are laid down to ensure that sub-contractors provide the necessary service so that the principal body can conform to the scheme. I believe that the Bill provides adequately for this.
Clause 4 will lead to schemes being approved by the board which will ensure that when competitive tendering occurs satisfactory arrangements are put in place. What I want to avoid is a whole plethora of small individual schemes having to be created for every single competitive tender situation. It would bring the whole process of competitive tendering almost to a standstill. That might be the object of some people. But if it is not the object, it is an unnecessary and potentially damaging clause. I do not support it.
Amendment No. 12 enables me to return again to a point that I have raised before and which causes me some anxiety. I refer to the position of arts bodies. I do not want to go over again everything I said on the last occasion because I spelt out the position very clearly. My noble friend Lord St. Davids has taken the trouble to write to me to try to clarify the position. I think that the House would find it useful if I put the statement that he has given to me on the record. He said:Although there may be cases therefore where a private sector, or voluntary organisation, such as a Training and Enterprise Council, is required to produce a Welsh language scheme we would expect this to be because such organisations receive Government funding direct. In the case of the Arts it is the Welsh Arts Council which receives this funding and it is therefore the Welsh Arts Council to which we would expect to look to produce a scheme.Our view is that based on its current activities the Arts Council would have little difficulty in producing a scheme which corresponded with the aims of this Bill".1281 I have grave doubts. I am president of the South-East Wales Arts Association which is to be incorporated under the arrangements beginning next year as part of the combined structure that will be responsible for distributing grants in Wales in future. One has only to look at the list of individual artists, groups, organisations and performing companies that are supported by bodies such as the South-East Wales Arts Association and the Welsh Arts Council to recognise the almost infinite variety of situations with which one is dealing. The idea that it will be simple for the Welsh Arts Council to produce a scheme that will somehow provide for the exact circumstances in which the Welsh language is or is not to be used on every occasion when an organisation or individual receives support is optimistic indeed. I am quite seriously alarmed at the prospect. It ought to be noted, and it will need immensely sensitive and sympathetic handling by the board. If it attempts to impose a rigid structure, if it attempts to impose a system which will not leave great discretion to the Welsh Arts Council, it will run into trouble and cause much more harm than it will do good.
My noble friend's letter goes on to say:The position of the Welsh language in cultural activities in the general sense has always been an important feature of the overall scheme of support for the language".I heartily endorse that. It was certainly my policy when I was Secretary of State to support such bodies as the National Eisteddfod and many others because I believed it was very important that they should receive that kind of public support. My noble friend's letter continues:The Government's intention is that the Bill should enable arts organisations, as well as many others, to build on existing examples of good practice. We intend to do so in a manner which is sensitive to the particular circumstances of each of the individual institutions and to the nature of the contribution each can reasonably be expected to make".It is a particularly welcome assurance when it becomes clear from the letter that what is being said is that, if support for the arts body does not come via the Welsh Arts Council but direct from the Welsh Office, there would probably need to be a scheme. From time to time it has been seriously debated—and it is still a subject for debate—that it will be better for the Welsh National Opera (which has just had another triumph in Cardiff within the past two or three days with its production of "Tristan and Isolde") to be directly funded from the Welsh Office rather than through the Arts Council. There are arguments for and against such a proposition.
But it is important to take this opportunity to put on record that what has been said, in effect, is that if that happened there would have to be a scheme which would have to be approved in the normal way under Clause 4 of the Bill. If those who are responsible for the company's decisions—those in the Arts Council should be aware of this—decided to go down that road, there would need to be sensitivity in the imposition of such a scheme. We must not create a situation where, for very good reasons, we seek to support the Welsh language but in some way we inhibit the outstanding cultural contribution made by this organisation and many others in Wales.
§ Baroness White
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House for any length of time but I am concerned about the aims of my noble friends in the third paragraph of Amendment No. 10. It states:any private company successfully obtaining a tender under arrangements for compulsory competitive tendering".That will include, for example, waste disposal and recycling within local authorities. One needs to be realistic about this. For that kind of operation one wants the most competent company which is up to date with the latest thinking about the technicalities of recycling, for example. If the otherwise most suitable, effective and efficient company does not wish to tender because it feels that somehow it will be enmeshed in a Welsh language situation in which it is not interested—it may not have the ability to deal with such matters—that would be unfortunate.
It is unrealistic to say that any private company successfully obtaining a tender from a local authority shall be included in these schemes without an escape clause. I do not want to pursue the matter further. One can be fully in sympathy with the second paragraph of the amendment which deals with the major privatised monopolies, which is quite a different situation. To say that any private company obtaining a tender under compulsory competitive tendering should be included seems not to be very practical to anyone who has ever tried to administer such situations.
§ Lord Aberdare
My Lords, I wish to make one point as regards Amendment No. 12 which I also made at Committee stage as regards voluntary bodies which are under contract to local authorities and do work for them. They are mostly in the social services or health services fields, involving perhaps a hostel or some form of home for old people. On that occasion I had a satisfactory reply from my noble friend Lord St. Davids.
As I read the amendment, it would bring them back to the position where they would have to provide a scheme. That would be a considerable burden on any voluntary body, particularly at the present moment, because some of your Lordships may have noticed that local authorities in Wales are now withdrawing entirely their grants to voluntary organisations. It would be very serious if under this amendment every voluntary body working under contract for a local authority had to provide a scheme under the Bill.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, perhaps I may also briefly refer to paragraph 3 of Amendment No. 10. In Committee I addressed three precise questions to the Minister and his reply was reassuring. I was content with it and did not press the matter further. However, I have shown the reply to a number of representatives of local authorities and they are uneasy about it.
As regards the competition rules of the Local Government Act 1988 and relevant regulations, the emphasis in the White Paper Competing for Quality published in November 1991 and the plans of the Welsh Office to extend the area of competition, the local authorities are wondering whether that reply stands good. Did the Welsh Office consult the Department of the Environment and the Director General of Fair Trading before advising the Minister 1283 to reply in the terms in which he did? I shall be grateful if the Minister will look at his words in col. 209 of Hansard and confirm whether the local authorities have a good point when they express their unease.
My Lords, this amendment falls into three parts. We have already given effect to two of them in the Bill and I do not consider it appropriate to suggest to your Lordships that we give effect to the other part. I have given the House absolute assurances that government departments providing a service in Wales will be preparing Welsh language schemes. Here I am referring to the first paragraph of the noble Lord's amendment. The provisions covering government departments and other Crown bodies are in Clause 20. That contains a threefold duty on departments to have regard to the board's guidelines, to submit schemes to the board and to incorporate any amendments suggested by the board or else provide a convincing explanation as to why this would not be appropriate. The procedure for complaints and investigations by the board applies in the case of government departments' schemes just as it does to the schemes of other public bodies.
I explained why it was not possible to include government departments in Clause 5. The Bill sets up enforcement procedures which have been designed to be the most straightforward and suitable for enabling members of the public to obtain a service which is for some reason not being provided. These enforcement procedures rely ultimately on a power of direction by the Secretary of State. By providing that that might be used against the Crown, we would in fact be saying that the Secretary of State could direct himself. By dealing separately with the Crown the Bill avoids creating that absurdity. I can reassure your Lordships, and I state again that Crown bodies will be producing schemes just like other bodies.
The other element of this amendment which the Bill already covers is in the third paragraph and also in Amendment No. 12 to which the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, spoke. That is the reference to private companies delivering public services under contract from public bodies. I think that I can relieve the noble Baroness, Lady White, of her anxieties. We have dealt with this matter in a different way from that suggested by the amendment. Public bodies will be drawing up schemes which will cover all the services that they provide, including all services which are subsequently delivered by contractors on behalf of those bodies. It will be for the public body to ensure that its contractors carry out any parts of the scheme relating to the activities which have been contracted out. The responsibility, therefore, rests on the local authority or the government department to produce the scheme. When the work is contracted out, the contractor absorbs those responsibilities within the contract.
The advantage of this approach over that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, in his amendment is that we will not be requiring contractors to prepare their own separate Welsh language scheme and having to agree it with the 1284 board. They will simply implement the public body's scheme as one of the many facets of carrying out work for that body.
We think that that will result in less uncertainty for the consumers of services. They will know that the public body's scheme applies right across all the services that it provides whether or not those services have been contracted out. The amendment would result in individuals having to refer to separate schemes drawn up by each company that carries out work for a public body. Contracting out does not remove from the public body its statutory responsibility for the delivery of a service. The public body's scheme will reflect those responsibilities whether the body itself is carrying out the service or whether the work has been put out to a contractor.
My noble friend Lord Crickhowell referred to the arts and my noble friend Lord Aberdare to the voluntary bodies. I do not see any reason for thinking that these matters will not be dealt with the sensitivity to which my noble friend Lord Crickhowell referred.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked whether placing Welsh language conditions in a contract might not be possible in view of the legislation governing compulsory competitive tendering. I wrote to him about this and he said that he had taken advice that had caused him to be uneasy. I can only say that my preliminary view on this—and I stress that it is only a preliminary response—is that there should be no difficulty here. However, I have asked lawyers to look into this in greater detail. If I may, I shall write to the noble Lord when I receive their advice. I am grateful to him for drawing this to my attention.
The middle portion of the amendment—the second paragraph —concerns the privatised utilities—with the exception of British Rail which I confirm again will, as currently constituted, be a public body for the purposes of the Bill. There is an important distinction here, which the Government have always drawn with regard to this Bill, between the private and the public sectors. On other occasions I have outlined the dangers that we see of blurring that distinction in the Bill. The Government attach the greatest importance to the establishment of conditions in Wales which will ensure that our impressive record of attracting inward investment is continued in the future. The privatised utilities have been shining examples of the sort of voluntary contribution which we hope that many companies in Wales will choose to make. Not only would we risk unwelcome side-effects by requiring schemes of the privatised utilities, but we would be doing so with little prospect of securing any increase in the current high level of service provided.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will consider that I have been able to satisfy your Lordships on two of the points contained in his amendment. I hope that he will at least grant me two out of three and that, on reflection, he will perhaps consider that the third is best not incorporated in the Bill.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am most grateful for the noble Earl's undertaking that all government departments with relevant activities in Wales will draw up schemes. That is not a perfect answer but it goes some way. The perfect answer would have been to give the board itself enforcement powers as opposed to limiting them to the Secretary of State.
As regards the third item, I am bound to say, with regret, that what the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, the noble Earl and the noble Baroness said seemed entirely sensible. Having heard their propositions, I thought that they amply destroyed any validity for the third paragraph of our proposed amendment. In respect of two aspects, therefore, I am not entirely unhappy.
I regret to say that I do not see any—to quote the noble Earl—"important distinction between the private and the public". The point is, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, that these are vast employers and have an enormous effect on the public in Wales. If one puts into the scale on the left-hand side that under the present Clause 5(1)(a) a body as relatively insignificant as a community council has to have a scheme and that the governors of a voluntary school have to have a scheme—or at least they are public bodies and may well be directed to have a scheme—and one puts into the scale on the right-hand side all the substantial utilities referred to in the amendment, I respectfully suggest that the Government have got it wrong. There is no important distinction between the public and the private except the pure one of ideology, which has no place in our present discussions.
Bearing in mind the Government's resistance to our statement of purpose and principle, I suggest that there will be further significant disappointment and discontent at the fact that those very important organisations will not be capable of being categorised as public bodies. However, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 3, line 28, at end insert:
§ ("() the Commission for Racial Equality in Wales;
§ () the Equal Opportunities Commission in Wales.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this gives us an opportunity to consider again the matter of language schemes in relation to the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission. This issue was debated in Committee when the whole question of the employment policies pursued by other public bodies and local authorities in several areas in Wales was also discussed. It was pointed out then that, in the view of many of us, race relations legislation had been wrongly used in an attempt to prevent public bodies and local authorities from pursuing language policies that would provide services for their clients and populations, and that it was essential that that matter should be cleared up.
§ The amendment brings those two bodies within the list of public bodies set out in Clause 5 which are 1286 entitled to prepare schemes. I suggest to the Minister that that was an omission because, although the clause lists many bodies concerned with education, health and local authority services in Wales, these important bodies, whose work is part of social and cultural policy in the community, are not included. They do not have a separate Welsh identity as separate statutory bodies, but they certainly function widely within Wales and have officials and members from Wales. As I have said, they have been involved in equal opportunities policy which has not always been linguistically sensitive. For those reasons, it is important that they should be included in the scheme.
§ I call in aid as a precedent the fact that the relevant regulations of the statutory procedures governing structure planning by local authorities include those two commissions as bodies which are to be consulted when such plans are drawn up. If they are appropriate bodies to be consulted for strategic local planning purposes, I submit that they are surely appropriate bodies to be included for consultation by the Welsh Language Board and to be included within the ambit of the scheme. I beg to move.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I see that Amendment No. 11 is grouped with Amendment No. 14. I support Amendment No. 11, but I believe—we will come to this later—that it needs to be accompanied by Amendment No. 15. I turn for a moment to Amendment No. 14. The two bodies mentioned (the Welsh National Board for Nursing, Health Visiting and Midwifery and the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work) undertake important work. I am sure that the Bill is relevant to their work. The fact that we are asking for those two bodies to be included in Clause 5 is not to be interpreted in any way as suggesting that we are worried about their commitment to the Welsh language. On the contrary, I am greatly impressed by the initiative and the contribution of the CCETSW.
Those two bodies influence the development of important services for patients and clients—perhaps I may use that word rather than "consumers"—right across the health and welfare field. Both bodies seek consistently to improve the quality of services and to find better ways of providing services by nurses, health visitors, midwives and social workers. They are paying more and more regard to the background of the patient or client. The background means his or her culture and his or her language. So I urge the Government to ensure that those two bodies are brought within Clause 5.
Even in Sir David Hughes Parry's report attention was drawn to the importance of the sector and the need to ensure the adequacy of Welsh-speaking personnel so that the welfare of Welsh-speaking patients is fully ensured. I hope that the Government will respond sympathetically to Amendments Nos. 11 and 14.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I should like to say a brief word in support of Amendment No. 11. I assume that the Government's reply will be that Clause 5(1) (o) will cover both those organisations. So it would, but it would also cover every other organisation included in 1287 paragraphs (a) to (n). The Government have deliberately put down certain bodies and so one's concern is not that there is no means by which the Government can insist that the CRE should bring out a scheme but why it should be omitted from the list. One could have a list of a hundred sectors.
There is an important reason why the two bodies mentioned in Amendment No. 11 should be included, one of which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. The CRE, I believe wrongly, intervened in a case in Wales in which I was involved in a legal capacity. I advised the body involved to take the case up on appeal as far as it could and even to this place. But as with all public bodies, government included, it took the cautious line. It is important that the CRE should be in the list. Likewise, it would be odd if the EOC were not included. There is a good reason for including those two organisations.
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, I am pleased to be able to reassure your Lordships that each of the bodies referred to in the amendments would be required to produce Welsh language schemes in due course. My noble friend explained on an earlier occasion that the list of bodies in Clause 5 is, of necessity, a compromise between completeness, on the one hand, and keeping the Bill to sensible proportions, on the other. That should not be taken as any indication of the importance which the Government attach to the contribution which each of those organisations makes. As each of those bodies is a public body serving Wales and therefore comes within the scope of Clause 5(1) (o), we shall expect each of them to prepare schemes in due course.
I remind the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that the duty to prepare schemes is not restricted to bodies whose entities are entirely within Wales.
§ Lord Elis-Thomas
My Lords, I am not wholly convinced by that reply. It is important that statutory bodies whose existence in Wales is additional to their existence elsewhere rather than having a separate structure in their own right within Wales should be seen to be actively involved in this whole area, in particular, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said, when they are dealing with equal opportunities and racial equality. That is not the same as the issue of linguistic diversity with which we are dealing in the Bill, but they impinge upon each other.
Language competence affects gender equality and racial equality. So if I were drawing up a language Bill they would be the first bodies that I would want to include, because we are dealing with kindred areas of potential discrimination. The last thing we want to do is to create by the Bill the kind of reverse linguistic discrimination from which so many Welsh language speakers have suffered for so many years. That is not the point here. The point is to create a situation where the language is treated on a basis of equality. That must mean that employment policies are clearly understood throughout Wales to be fair and equal. That includes of course the activities of the EOC and the CRE. I do not know whether the Minister would like to respond to that point or think about it further.
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, my only response is that under Clause 5(1) (o) the Secretary of State's powers are sufficient to cover the bodies named in the two amendments.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, perhaps I may respond on Amendment No. 14. As I understand it, Clause 5 will establish a timetable for public bodies to produce their schemes. I am anxious to establish that the four organisations mentioned in the amendments will be called upon at an early date to produce a language scheme. I have my apprehensions about the timetable, but if they are included in Clause 5 they will be among the first to be called upon to produce a language scheme.
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am sure that the Secretary of State will take note of what the noble Lord says.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 12 not moved.]
Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 3, line 28, at end insert:
§ ("() the Curriculum and Assessment Council for Wales, which shall be consulted on matters relating to education.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment gives us an opportunity to have a brief debate on the educational aspects of the Bill. We are debating the matter not just in the context of this Welsh Language Bill but of the Education Bill which is in Committee in another place.
§ The amendment will have the effect of including the most important body involved in curriculum development within the bodies set out in Clause 5; namely, the Curriculum Council for Wales, which is about to be renamed, if other legislation passes through both Houses, as the Awdurdod Cwricwlwm ac Asesu Cymru, affectionately known as ACAC.
§ The failure to include that body in the clause is again a matter of some surprise in that all the other major bodies involved with education policy are included. It includes the Further Education Funding Council for Wales, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the governors of schools, the further education corporations and the higher education corporations, but the curriculum council, and what will soon become the assessment body, is not included. But surely that body will have a key role to play in the development of education throughout Wales, and in particular in the development of Welsh-speaking education. It will be responsible for performance standards in schools and performance in the Welsh language. Both the teaching of Welsh and the increasing Welsh medium education will be part of that.
§ I understand that the Education Bill, as it is being pursued in another place, will transfer all the assessment to the new authority from the existing Schools Examinations and Assessment Council. The new authority will also take over much of the work 1289 undertaken by Pwyllgor Datblygu Addysg Gymraeg, the development committee which was part of the Welsh Joint Education Committee structure. That includes the provision of materials, the co-ordination of curriculum assessment and so on. Surely such a body should be included in the Bill in order to ensure that we have the greatest possible co-ordination of planning for Welsh medium education at all levels.
The role of the board in relation to the activity of local education authorities is also an important matter and is covered in Amendment No. 35. It would be helpful if, in responding to the debate, the Minister would repeat what was set out in a statement made by Sir Wyn Roberts at the end of the Committee stage in another place indicating the role of individual LEAs in relation to language schemes. The Minister sent me a helpful letter on the subject. He expanded on some of the points and indicated that individual schools will be required to produce schemes. He stated that local education authorities will have a particular role in addressing the needs of Welsh medium education in their area. In his letter the noble Earl stated that:
the Government thinks that the key issue which they [LEAs] will need to address is the provision of Welsh medium education in their area. We are not proposing any change to the duties which are imposed upon LEAs by the 1944 Education Act. The guidelines, which the Welsh Language Board will produce on this matter, should however enable LEAs to discharge their duties under this Act more effectively".
§ Amendment No. 35 proposes that consultation between the language board and the LEAs should be seen to be effective and that the local education authorities should have a co-ordinating role for Welsh medium provision in their area. The danger which some people have foreseen is that there will be an approach to Welsh medium policy which will not be sufficiently coherent. Individual schools may take certain decisions in respect of their area and other individual schools may wish to take other decisions. We are well aware that in this clause the Schools Funding Council, if and when it is established by the Secretary of State as part of the proposals in the Education Bill, will also have an obligation to prepare schemes. Therefore we already have a plethora of bodies involved in preparing specific schemes.
§ We would be helped by an indication from the Minister on how he foresees the structure working most effectively and by assurances that there will not be any unnecessary duplication. I hope that the Minister will also explain in particular the role of the local education authorities, which have carried out such essential work in the development of policy. I refer not only to the areas of Gwynedd and Dyfed but also to areas such as Mid-Glamorgan and to the overall work of the Welsh Joint Education Committee and the Pwyllgor Datblygu Addysg Gymraeg, which have provided the initiative for much of the Welsh medium teaching in recent years and have responded to the needs and requests of parents. I envisage that the demand for Welsh medium education will increase exponentially during the next 10 years in view of the clear success of that provision, the upturn in the census figures and the express wishes of parents. It is important that the structure to enable that to happen is as simple as possible. There should be sufficient 1290 integration between the work of the Welsh Language Board, the new Curriculum and Assessment Council and the existing local education authorities. I beg to move.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, we on these Benches offer all possible succour and support to Amendment No. 13. Our only worry, and it is small, is that perhaps it is more minimalist that we would wish it to have been. For that reason it is sensible to link it with Amendment No. 35, which stands in my name and to which I wish to speak.
Amendment No. 35 is a probing amendment tabled to find out what the Government believe ought to be done in this case. There is a real danger of confusion about the changing role of the Welsh Language Board in the provision of Welsh medium education. There will not be a level playing field but a field on which goal posts will be constantly moved and there will be every opportunity of the game being rained off before completion of play.
I speak subject to correction, but I understand that the responsibility for the provision of Welsh medium education lies with the local education authorities rather than with individual schools. It is the Government's intention that the LEAs shall be required to produce schemes on that matter. Schools will prepare schemes which cover the areas for which they and they alone are responsible. Beyond that, the responsibility for devising the overall policy on Welsh medium education must rest with the bodies which are charged with the oversight of the education service. That responsibility will be shared with the schools funding council for Wales in relation to the grant-maintained sector. So far, so good.
It is reasonably certain that in the next few years the scene will change rapidly when and if—though it is not certain—schools begin to opt out. It is the wish of the Government that schools should opt out where parents see that to be desirable. There are Members on this side of the House who are less enthusiastic about that particular movement, but in the context of this discussion that move is neither here nor there. Further opting out may or may not happen, but the odds are that a few more schools will do so. Therefore, for some years we shall have a mixed economy in our schools. We shall have schools of all kinds and looking after them we shall have what the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, described as a plethora of bodies. I sincerely hope that the plethora of bodies will not become a dog's breakfast.
When the Welsh Language Bill becomes law schemes agreed by the board with individual schools must take clear cognisance of the local community needs and the local authority provision. That is the whole point of subsection (2) of Amendment No. 35. It is difficult to imagine how the Welsh Language Board can agree schemes with more than 2,000 schools in a matter of a few weeks, a few months or even a couple of years so that the implementation of the national curriculum can continue unchecked. If they do not and if it is not, some schools will be severely disadvantaged vis-à-vis others. Surely individual school's schemes would be much better 1291 considered as a subset of local authority schemes co-ordinated by the LEAs and mediated by them in discussions with the Welsh Language Board.
It would be perfectly possible and much simpler for the Welsh Language Board to agree the basic outlines of such schemes with eight or even with 24 local education authorities. As we all well know, such outlines are already available and are evolving in most of the current LEAs. Therefore, to agree with individual schools that they opt for one of a number of evolutionary models of Welsh language provision as defined in those schemes would present no particular obstacle. Those models offer a remarkably wide range from fully-designated bilingual schools working through, although not exclusively so, the medium of Welsh to English medium schools which are newly engaging in Welsh second language teaching.
In our view, that is a better way forward. All schools should agree an evolutionary policy aimed at increasing the engagement with Welsh language instruction and provision because I am sure that we all wish to avoid any suggestion that in future any one citizen of Wales will be better qualified or better prepared than any other. At present the future for schools is very unclear. We shall have LEAs with diminishing powers. We shall have opting out. We shall have grant-maintained schools, independent schools and all the administrative superstructure of the Welsh higher education funding council, the SFC, the Awdurdod Cwricwlwm ac Asesu Cymru—the Curriculum and Assessment Authority—and so on.
Amendment No. 13, and in my view more strongly, Amendment No. 35, offer to bring a pleasing touch of directive clarity to what is otherwise a rather uncertain picture.
§ 6.30 p.m.
My Lords, both Amendments Nos. 13 and 35 refer to the important matter of education. It is right to point out the way in which the Bill deals with education which is one of the issues concerning many people in Wales who have the interests of the Welsh language at heart. I am happy to be able to confirm once again therefore that schemes will extend to cover Welsh medium education. Every local education authority will be required to produce a scheme covering its policies in Welsh medium schools having regard to guidelines produced by the Welsh Language Board. It is not our intention to amend the terms of the 1944 Education Act under which Welsh medium education is provided. The role of the board in agreeing schemes will, however, ensure that every LEA is better able to discharge its responsibilities under that Act.
The duty to produce schemes will fall upon all bodies involved in the education service. The content of those schemes will be dependent upon the particular services for which those bodies are responsible. The responsibility to devise policies on the provision of Welsh medium education would primarily fall to local education authorities, which, as 1292 the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said have done such good work, given their overall responsibilities for educational provision.
The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, said that there might be confusion. I believe that that confusion will be reduced by the role of the board. As I said, local education authorities will prepare schemes which will govern the provision of Welsh medium education. If schools desired to opt out rather than to stay in the grant-maintained sector, they would be responsible for their funding and a schools funding council would also be required to produce a scheme. Therefore, schemes will assist in ensuring continuity during any transitional period.
The statement of curriculum policy may well be one of the matters which the board will wish to take into account in considering schemes. It will also of course need to take account of the position which Welsh enjoys as a subject under the national curriculum. That is a matter already established in law. It is not therefore a matter which schemes will influence in any way.
Although the new curriculum body will be required to prepare a scheme, I see no need to require the board to consult ACAC on all matters relating to education. I hate using acronyms. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, was kind enough to do so. When I tried to find out what ACAC stood for, it was completely impossible for me to use the words. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, has been good enough to say what they are and I do not wish to defile his interpretation by trying to repeat the words.
It is not necessary for the board to consult ACAC on all matters relating to education. We are not after all requiring the board to consult any other body during the course of its duties. Despite the importance of education, I see little justification in requiring the board to consult the new curriculum authority.
The noble Lord asked why the new curriculum authority has not yet been included. The Education Bill is still before another place and has not yet received Royal Assent. Therefore, the body does not yet exist.
The new ACAC will have quite different responsibilities from those of the board. Its function would be to advise on curriculum and assessment matters. These are not therefore matters with which the board will need to be concerned. Similarly, administrative matters concerning the provision of Welsh medium education are matters on which we expect the board to develop expertise.
Individual schools will also be required to produce schemes and these will need to reflect the services which they provide to the public. We would expect them to extend to dealing with queries from parents who may wish to communicate with the school in Welsh and to such matters as the use of bilingual signs. These are, of course, merely examples of the sort of matters which may need to be included in schemes. It would be for the Welsh Language Board to consider the matter in greater detail when it produces the guidelines which are required under the terms of the Bill. The guidelines will be subject to widespread consultation before they are submitted to the 1293 Secretary of State and will then have to be approved by Parliament. The guidelines would not, of course, affect the position of Welsh in the national curriculum.
Although LEA schemes may also need to refer to their own dealings with members of the public, the Government believe that the key issue which they will need to address is the provision of Welsh medium education in their area. Clause 12 of the Bill requires public bodies to consult with Welsh-speaking consumers during the course of the preparation of schemes. In the case of education, we would therefore expect LEAs to consult parents. The Government believe that that should help to ensure that the wishes of parents are reflected as closely as possible in the pattern of Welsh medium provision in all areas of Wales.
The Welsh Language Board's guidelines will not, though, impose the same pattern of Welsh medium provision in all areas of Wales. That is not what the 1944 Education Act requires and is not what we intend. Schemes covering education will need to be sensitive to local circumstances. The pattern of Welsh medium provision in Gwynedd can, therefore, be expected to be different from the pattern in Gwent, and we can expect the patterns in different areas to change over time. The inclusion of Welsh medium education as a matter to be covered by schemes will, though, ensure that the pattern of provision in both areas can evolve in response to the wishes of parents.
The duty which, under current arrangements, would be placed on the LEAs to devise schemes for Welsh medium education would also be placed on a schools funding council for Wales should it be established in future. I am afraid that I have given your Lordships rather a long answer but this is a complicated and sensitive subject. Your Lordships may wish to know what is our position.
§ Lord Elis-Thomas
My Lords, I thank the Minister. It cannot be easy for him to do the round of the Welsh education system. It is not easy for those of us who are part of it. I am grateful to the noble Earl because what he said will have clarified the inter-relationship between the various bodies concerned. Of course, ACAC is entirely the creation of his honourable friend Sir Wyn Roberts. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 14 not moved.]
Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 15:
After Clause 5, insert the following new clause:
§ ("() Any Court or Tribunal shall, when construing the Race Relations Act 1976, take into account the guidelines issued by the Welsh Language Board or a language scheme approved by the Board when relevant.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 33. Amendment No. 15 is a new amendment which was not discussed in Committee.
§ Assuming that there is a language scheme between the Welsh Language Board and the race relations commission, I believe that a further amendment is required along the lines of Amendment No. 15. That authorises a court or a tribunal—more often than not 1294 it will be a tribunal—to have regard to the guidelines of the board or to the language scheme between the two statutory authorities when called upon to construe the Race Relations Act.
§ The language scheme assumes that the board and the commission are in harmony. But what effect would the language scheme have in a court? The legal significance to be attached to a language scheme—as indeed the legal significance attached to any statutory guidelines or code of practice—must depend on the Bill to which the scheme owes its creation. That is my understanding of the law. If that is so, we urge the Government to give consideration to adopting an amendment along the lines of Amendment No. 15.
§ I shall now comment on Amendment No. 33. We discussed the thrust of this amendment in Committee. At the time the Minister showed sympathy with it. However, it is clear from the letter I have now received from the Minister that the Government believe the clarification of the law can be provided by the appropriate authorities. Presumably that is a reference to the possible agreement between the Welsh Language Board and the Commission for Racial Equality.
§ The thrust of Amendment No. 33 is to provide a statutory defence within Section 41 of the Race Relations Act if a public body were to be accused of acting in a discriminatory manner. We believe, according to the best advice that is available to us, that this amendment is necessary to enable the two statutory authorities to agree a scheme which would clarify what conduct is justifiable. We doubt very much whether an agreed scheme between the Welsh Language Board and the race relations commission would have priority over the Race Relations Act 1976. Even if there is harmony between the two statutory bodies—we all hope there will be such harmony—there will still be a need for a new statutory provision which could be construed as a statutory defence falling within Section 41 of the Race Relations Act. One of the amendments I have discussed is new and the other is one that we are bringing back to the House for further consideration. I beg to move.
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, perhaps noble Lords will forgive me if I say that the different versions of these amendments that we have seen over the past few days are an indication of the complexity of this matter. I believe we are all agreed that employers should in certain circumstances be able to stipulate Welsh as a condition of employment. I think we are also agreed that such a requirement needs to be justified. I believe it is also correct to say that the circumstances pertaining to the use of Welsh as provided for in this Bill are different from those which would face the speakers of any other language in this country.
The Government are, after all, saying that services should be made available to Welsh speakers by all public bodies. This policy is not based on Welsh speakers not being able to understand a service provided in English. Our intention is that there should, as required by the Bill, be a choice available as regards the language in which a service is delivered. This will necessitate Welsh speakers being available in 1295 certain posts. The Government have therefore been anxious to remove any uncertainty which may have arisen on this issue. We have suggested the possibility of guidance being issued as one way of achieving this. These amendments propose an alternative means of achieving this.
My initial response to the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Prys-Davies and Lord Morris of Castle Morris, is that it would not contribute much to this problem as the purpose of the board's guidelines is not to issue guidance on the meaning of the Race Relations Act 1976. Amendment No. 33, which it is proposed to insert after Clause 20, is, however, one I should like to consider in rather more detail before I reply to it. I appreciate that it seeks to leave untouched the more general provision contained in race relations legislation. I am, however, anxious that the policy it embodies should be compatible with our Welsh language policy and with the general provisions of employment law. I would therefore like to take this amendment away and study it.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Clause 8 [Duty to issue guidelines]:
Lord Morris of Castle Morris had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 16:
Page 4, line 31, after ("issue") insert ("and publish").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I, like everyone else in your Lordships' House, knows full well that in the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, Her Majesty's Government have no more stern and brilliant defender of their positions, whatever they may be, than they could possibly put into the field. However, I am in a position to inform your Lordships that I have found a way to soften his stony heart because when this amendment was proposed on 4th February 1993 I began my speech by saying,
All Welshmen talk too much"!—[Official Report, 4/2/93; col. 351.]
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, "hear, hear!" was precisely the response I received on that occasion. However, within six lines of that, the noble Earl said, again at col. 351:I shall accept his amendment in principle if I can take it away and look at it more carefully".In case I should not have been convinced by those comments, some six lines later he said:I shall accept in principle Amendment No. 23".The amendment was then Amendment No. 23. It is now Amendment No. 16. I am happy to propose that Amendment No. 16 be not moved. I shall not move the amendment.
§ [Amendment No. 16 not moved.]
Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 4, line 32, at end insert:
§ ("() Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, the Board shall exercise it powers under this section so that the guidelines contain such practical guidance as the Board thinks fit for promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language, including guidance on the following matters
- (a) the need to ensure that when communicating orally or in writing with any person resident in Wales, the language used, whether English or Welsh as the case may be, complies with the requirements of that person;
- (b) the status of the Welsh language generally;
- (c) the use of the Welsh language in the conduct of the business of the body;
- (d) the criteria for the employment of bilingual staff;
- (e) the arrangements for enabling staff employed by the body to receive tuition and achieve proficiency in the Welsh language;
- (f) the monitoring and reviewing on a regular basis of the scheme and its implementation; and
- (g) a complaints procedure.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, we discussed this amendment in Committee and the Minister was not then in favour of our amendment. In particular he thought that it was too restrictive. He wondered whether points which had not been specified in detail in the amendment could be included in the guidelines. The present amendment makes it clear in its opening sentence that the criteria mentioned are not meant to be exhaustive. That should meet some of the concerns mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in Committee.
However, I have read the letter which I received from the Minister and I concede that he may well have a point when he questions the phraseology of "promoting and facilitating" that appears in lines 3 and 4 of the amendment. However, the language scheme in turn has an indirect role to play in promoting and facilitating the use of Welsh, and the phraseology could therefore be justified on that basis. Nevertheless, I ask the Minister whether the amendment would be acceptable to the Government if we were to delete the words,
for promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language".
§ I shall not repeat the arguments that we developed in Committee. However, we made the point that there were strong arguments for setting out the guidelines' criteria in the Bill. I have since spoken to one or two people who are connected with the Welsh Language Board and who are aware of the magnitude of the task confronting the successor body. I believe they consider there is considerable merit in this kind of amendment. They consider it may prevent trouble arising later on. I would be grateful if the Minister could ensure that this amendment is given sympathetic consideration at the department before the Bill begins its passage in another place. I beg to move.
My Lords, it will be the task of the board to compile its guidelines. We are expecting the board to become the Secretary of State's expert adviser on matters relating to the Welsh language. We certainly therefore would not wish to doubt the board's ability to compile the guidelines. Your Lordships might spend a great deal of time attempting the same task, but I am not sure that we would be able 1297 to do it any better than the board. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked whether, if we omitted the words,for promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language",that would make the amendment any more acceptable. I do not think that it would because specifying the details of the guidelines in the Bill also brings with it the danger of restricting the guidelines. The more we enumerate different elements of the guidelines, the more we lend weight to the interpretation that other things need not or should not be included simply because they have not been listed.
The implementation of the principle of equality is the central element of what we are trying to achieve in the Bill. We should not blur the direct link between the guidelines and the implementation of the principle. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will see that it is better to leave the parameters of the guidelines—what they should contain and how they should be drawn up —to the board, which will comprise the experts, rather than us telling the board what should be in the guidelines.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I must confess that I am not convinced by the Minister's argument. I fear that the Government may be taking a risk with the clause, but nevertheless let us hope that my fears are not well-founded. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 4, line 34, at end insert:
§ ("() The Board shall arrange for any guidelines issued under this section to be published in such manner as it thinks fit.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment is similar to, but rather better than, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris. I thought that the noble Lord was going to pay me a nice compliment, but it was a very back-handed one which implied that, no matter how bad the argument, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, would be able to dress it up. My capacity does not extend that far.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, nothing could have been further from my mind. I wanted simply to point out that no cause could have a better advocate.
My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, but I do not think that we need pursue the matter further because it will waste your Lordships' time. In this amendment we meet that of the noble Lord, but in a way that is rather more technically correct. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [Approval of guidelines]:
Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 5, line 2, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No 19, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 20, 21 and 22.1298
We have been along this track before and at the last stage I made one serious point; namely, that we on this side would feel rather unimpressed if a situation were allowed to arise in which the Secretary of State unilaterally amended the draft guidelines and then laid before Parliament a set of guidelines in which it might be possible that the board itself did not have confidence. My concern was with the possible ambiguity of the word "with" in Clause 9(4) which states:
The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a copy of any draft guidelines received by him from the Board, with any amendments made by him under subsection (3) above",
and on the question of the 40 days.
§ In his reply the noble Earl saw my difficulty and said that he believed that his interpretation was correct and that Parliament would see both the draft guidelines and the amendments which the Secretary of State would have proposed. I have not heard anything since. May I therefore assume that this is so and, in that case, what happens if the Welsh Language Board finds that position unacceptable? Is there nothing left for it but honourable resignation?
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, has been particularly concerned about the provision in the Bill for the Secretary of State to approve the board's guidelines. In Committee he identified an ambiguity in Clause 9 which had occurred to few of us. I have since written to the noble Lord.
The amendments suggest various changes to Clause 9. I do not think that they are desirable because they would blur the lines of accountability that we have sought to establish. It is the Secretary of State and not the board who is accountable to Parliament. It is to the Secretary of State therefore that the responsibility for approving guidelines must fall. To require the Secretary of State to agree any amendments with the board would be to give primacy to the board over the Secretary of State. I am sure that the Secretary of State will want to reach such agreement with the board. Indeed, he may well not question the guidelines, but the draft which the Secretary of State presents to Parliament must be the responsibility of the Secretary of State.
As has been explained in writing, the board's draft guidelines will be a public document. A first draft will have been widely circulated for consultation and any amendments made by the board to reflect consultation will have been widely publicised. Members of Parliament will therefore be able to see the effects of any amendments made by the Secretary of State by comparing the two documents. Furthermore, the board or the Secretary of State will be able to explain in detail any alternations that have been made.
Given the importance of the guidelines, I can in addition see little justification for the Secretary of State being restricted by a statutory timetable from holding whatever further discussions he may consider necessary before approving the guidelines. That would be an unhelpful and unnecessary restriction of the Secretary of State's discretion in these matters. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his letter and for the clarification. I am not altogether convinced about the question of the 40 days. I should have thought that almost anything of that kind that the Secretary of State had to do could be done within a period of 40 days and I should not have thought that it was necessarily a constraint that was beyond endurance.
However, I still believe that there is the possibility of misunderstanding and muddle in requiring people who are interested in these things to have before them the board's initial guidelines and then to receive with great gratitude from the postman the revised version and to settle down immediately in the manner of the great textual critics and go through them line by line and inch by inch. I should have thought that it was not beyond the wit of man to produce a tidier scheme. It might still leave plenty of room for muddle, confusion and misunderstanding.
However, I do not think that we shall get much further with this. I have made the points that I need to make. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 20 to 22 not moved.]
§ Clause 10 [Revision of guidelines]:
Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 23:
Page 5, line 21, leave out ("not").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, on this matter I still regret that the Government have not given the Welsh Language Board the discretion to revise its guidelines when it wishes to do so. Re-reading what we have said on the matter, I realise that it is a matter of balancing flexibility with rigidity. We are talking about a garden hose or a garden fork. I simply seek a little reassurance that at this stage there might conceivably be some hope of a solution being sought which might come some way to meet us on this matter.
§ The position of the Welsh Language Board is not an easy one in this particular respect. There seemed to us to be a very strong reason for not tying its hands. By leaving out the word "not", which I thought was quite a witty way of making the point that we needed to make, and inserting "at its discretion", the board would not be required to do anything until five years were up. If it does not need to act it will not do so. However, if there is a need for the board to issue revised guidelines it would be in a position to do so. Is there any possibility of movement from the Government's side?
§ 7 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, asked whether there is any possibility of movement on the Government side. I heard what he said. He made a not dissimilar speech advocating the change at Committee stage. We believe that a five-year period ought to allow the schemes a chance to demonstrate their full potential. It ought to allow sensible judgments to be formed as to improvements which may need to be made to 1300 guidelines. Obviously we do not want to change the guidelines frequently because people have to get used to the new system.
On the previous occasion the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, said that something might happen in the course of the five years which would make the board want to change its guidelines but it would not be able to do so. There is something in that argument. I am happy to accept the amendment in principle, but perhaps I may come back to the matter at a later stage and in the meantime consider how we can implement what the noble Lord suggests in the amendments.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for his consideration, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 24 not moved.]
§ Clause 11 [Preparation of schemes]:
Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 25:
Page 5, line 31, at end insert:
§ ("() Every public body shall every five years review the operation of the scheme for the purpose of determining the extent to which the guidelines published by the Board are being implemented.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 25 is grouped with Amendment No. 26. The amendments give the board the means to monitor the implementation of the language schemes. Amendment No. 25 gives the board the power to require public bodies to review the operation of their schemes. Amendment No. 26 gives it the right to demand information, and a great deal is made nowadays of the need for appropriate information if informed positions are to be taken.
§ I raised the issue in Committee in order to establish whether the board would have those powers. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, was good enough to write to me. As I understand his letter, the board will not have those powers. I find his reply worrying. I understood the Minister to confirm that the public bodies will not be under a duty to provide the board with the information which it may require with respect to its functions. I am also told that if there are difficulties in obtaining information the board can consider holding an investigation under Clause 16. I find that amazing.
§ Reliance on an investigation under Clause 16 would involve the diversion of time and energies and also a possible right of appeal to the Secretary of State under Clause 19. Would it not have been better to require the public body to supply the board with information which it requires with respect to its functions? I see that there is a similar power in the Education Bill giving the Secretary of State the right to require the appropriate body to provide him with information.
§ I thought from his letter that the Minister had some difficulty in envisaging the kind of information which might be required by the board. One can think of many examples. How many bilingual staff does a public body employ or intend to employ? How many requests for services in Welsh has it received in the 1301 preceding 12 months? How many representations have been made during the preceding 12 months about its language schemes? When did it last review the working of its scheme? That is the kind of ongoing information to which the board should have access. We should have thought that a public body should be under a duty to provide the information if it is required by the board.
§ The Minister also said that there would be nothing to stop the board from requesting the statistics. That misses the point. Of course nothing prevents the board from requesting statistics. The point at issue is whether the public body will comply with that request. We now know that it cannot be compelled to provide the information, except after investigation. That, at least, is my understanding of the Minister's letter. We find that worrying.
§ The noble Viscount's letter also makes it clear that there would be no duty on the public body to review the operation of its scheme except when the board issues revised guidelines. The local review should have been conducted and the results reported to the board before the board revises its guidelines so that those guidelines are reviewed in the light of the best available evidence of what is or is not happening.
§ We find the absence of those powers particularly worrying. I should be grateful if the Government could consider the matter further.
Viscount St. Davids
My Lords, the board will be able to require that public bodies review their schemes in the light of new guidelines. The public bodies must then submit a statement of their conclusions to the board. Where the board considers it appropriate it can then require a scheme to be revised and submitted afresh for the board's approval.
The Bill also provides for interim amendments to schemes, which can be proposed by either the board or the public body. Those amendments will take effect as soon as they are agreed by both parties. Failing that, the extent to which the scheme should be amended will be decided by the Secretary of State.
It will be the duty of the board to ensure that schemes are introduced. It will be able to monitor their implementation in considering whether it would be appropriate to revise its guidelines. We would gain little by placing a duty on the face of the Bill which neither the board nor the Government would be able to enforce. Bodies will be expected to review their schemes. It is no more than best practice to do so. The board will be able to encourage continuous review of schemes, and I am sure that in practice that is what public bodies will want to do.
We also believe that in general it will be in the public bodies' own interests to show the board how well they are doing. If the board asks for statistics we expect that the public bodies will be more than happy to provide them. In circumstances where that proves not be so we have provided in the Bill for the board to be able to require statistics: firstly, when a scheme appears to be failing, because the board has the power to conduct an investigation; and, secondly, when revised guidelines come into force, because the board has the power to require public bodies to review schemes and submit their conclusions.
1302 I would not advise your Lordships to accept the amendment.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his response, but it does not help me at all. Indeed, it confirms my worst anxieties.
We on these Benches believe that the amendments would improve the Bill and could have been accommodated. I feel that the Minister's response—and of course he is guided by the advice he receives—is unreal and unsatisfactory. I do not believe that at ten past seven on a Thursday evening I can test the opinion of the House. However, I wish the Minister to know that I am extremely anxious about his reply, which I find unsatisfactory. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 26 not moved.]
§ Clause 12 [Consultation on preparation of schemes]:
Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 5, line 37, at end insert:
§ ("() Where a public body fails to comply with any directions given to it under subsection (1) above the Board shall have the power to apply to the court for an order of judicial review.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is designed to give force and effect to Clause 12(1) and (2). Under Clause 12 a public body is obliged to carry out consultations in the course of preparing a scheme for submission to the board. Subsection (2) provides:
A public body shall comply with any directions given to it by the Board in connection with the performance of its duty under subsection (1) above".
Its duty under subsection (1) is to carry out consultations. Unfortunately, if a public body fails to comply with those directions there is at present no available sanction that is capable of being directed to the public body in default.
§ There are two propositions for which we contend. First, the board ought to have power to seek judicial review in appropriate cases and it should not be left to the Secretary of State alone. That would underline and fortify the independence and therefore the quality of the board in the eyes of the public. Secondly, if one contemplates a public body that is in default with no sanctions directly capable of attaching to it, Clause 13 provides that if there is a failure thereafter the Secretary of State has complete discretion. Under subsection (3), if it is referred to him by the board, he may request the public body to submit a scheme. If the public body fails, the Secretary of State may in his discretion decide upon the terms of the scheme and in effect impose it. I submit that that is not satisfactory for the conduct of this type of business. I use with gratitude the general sentiment that the noble Viscount, Viscount St. Davids, uttered a moment or two ago. There is no point in imposing a duty that neither the board nor the Government are able to enforce. I respectfully agree, and that is what the amendment is designed to do. I beg to move.
§ Lord Thomas of Gwydir
My Lords, the noble Lord has moved the identical amendment that he moved at Committee stage and has used the same argument. I opposed the amendment then on the ground that it 1303 was inappropriate to put into the Bill the power to have a judicial review. The Bill is one that we hope can resolve any disputes amicably. It is not in the interests of the Bill that one should put into it something in the nature of a warning to public bodies that any direction that is given to them is likely to end up in court. It is inappropriate. I do not intend to repeat what was said at Committee stage since this is Report stage and it is not usual to do so. I hope that the House will not accept the amendment.
My Lords, I rather agree. In this amendment we have rather returned to what was said in Committee. I do not know whether the noble Lord is intending to refer to Amendment No. 32 at the same time since it covers similar matters. Both these amendments concern the ability of the board to initiative proceedings for judicial review. This is not a matter that we have specifically ruled out on the face of the Bill but neither have we ruled it in. I have said at Committee that where the board can demonstrate that it has a locus in any particular case it should be able to initiate proceedings for judicial review. The Government's position is that in the general conduct of its business the board should not have to. The reason why it should not have to is that the Bill provides a better means of redress. The board's powers under both Clause 12 and Clause 19, to which these amendments refer, are backed up either by the Secretary of State's power of direction or by his ability to impose a scheme. This is a straightforward method of enforcement that will be clear to public bodies and to the consumers of their services. More important than that is the knowledge that the Secretary of State stands behind the board. That will give added weight to the advice and recommendations that public bodies receive from the board.
The real strength of having the Secretary of State in this chain of command is that his presence will reduce the likelihood that the board will face difficulties in enforcing its regulations. If the board encounters difficulties the Secretary of State can impose compliance. That is quite a severe power to have. That will not be the case if the board is required to have recourse to judicial review to enforce its advice. The result of judicial review is of necessity in the hands of the courts, which may not come to the same conclusion. For all that, where the board has a locus under the Bill it has the capacity to introduce a judicial review.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl. I am bound to say that any divisional court that came to a conclusion adverse to the board's application for judicial review where a public body had not complied with any directions would itself be perverse. The duty clearly specified in Clause 12(2) is that "A public body shall comply". I am also grateful to the noble Earl for confirming my original understanding that the board will have a locus to take proceedings for judicial review in appropriate circumstances.
My Lords, I did not say that it was my view that they would have locus. I was referring to where they had locus, which would be for them to decide.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, in order to try to resolve the issue, perhaps I may ask whether it is the Government's view that there would be circumstances in which the board would have locus to go for judicial review. I had understood at Committee stage that that was the view of the Government.
My Lords, I was nodding assent because I did not want to infringe the rules of your Lordships at Report stage by speaking more than once. With the leave of the House, I believe that the interpretation of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, of what I said at Committee stage is correct.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Earl's inquiry about Amendment No. 32. My answer to that is that the point is the same and I do not propose to move it. With your Lordships' leave, I beg to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Clause 13 [Approval or imposition of schemes]:
Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 6, line 23, at end insert:
§ ("() A public body shall be under a duty to adopt and carry out a scheme as soon as it has been approved by the Board.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will not take up your Lordships' time on this amendment. It is a new one and has not been discussed in Committee. The need for the amendment was brought to our attention last week when we met some representatives of the local authorities. While it is a modest amendment, it is important. It seeks to do no more than insert into the Bill a duty on a public body to carry out a scheme that it has agreed with the board. The express duty under Clauses 4 and 11 is merely to prepare a scheme that reflects the guidance. I accept that possibly there is an implied duty under Clause 16 to carry out the scheme, but the clear intent is that it should carry out the scheme. Therefore, we believe that that duty should be inserted into the Bill.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, for drawing this somewhat technical issue to our attention following his consultations with certain Welsh local authorities. I can reassure the noble Lord that the Bill has no need for a further express provision like this that requires a scheme to be implemented. The Government have looked at it carefully. The advice I have received is that the Bill places a sufficiently clear duty on public bodies, particularly in Clauses 13 and 16, to adopt and carry out a scheme. I very much hope that this removes any uncertainty that there may have been on this point.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his assurance that this matter has been 1305 looked at by the department's lawyers. In reliance on his word I am content to rest on the implied duty in Clause 16. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 29:
After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Failure to give effect to scheme
§ .—(1) A complaint of a failure by a public body to give effect to a scheme approved by the Board may be made the subject of civil proceedings by any person who claims to have been directly affected by that failure.
§ (2) Proceedings under subsection (1) above shall be brought only in a county court, but all such remedies shall be obtainable in such proceedings as would be obtainable in the High Court.
§ (3) The Board may, if it thinks fit, defray or contribute towards any fees or expenses incurred by a person in relation to proceedings or proposed proceedings under this Act, provided that such a person applies to the Board for assistance under this subsection.
§ (4) Nothing in this section shall prejudice any remedy, including proceedings for judicial review, available to a person (apart from this section) in respect of a failure to observe a provision of this Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is designed to provide remedies to the individual. Our approach is that a right is meaningless if it cannot be enforced by the individual in certain situations with, in appropriate circumstances, compensation. As was said at the Committee stage, a person suffering racial discrimination can have financial compensation. A person suffering sexual harassment can have financial compensation. A person aggrieved by the wilful failure of a public body will have none here.
§ I urge the Government seriously to consider, if not acceptance of this amendment, at least the contemplation of an alternative scheme which may be analogous to the powers of the local government ombudsman, for example. He can direct the local authority to pay compensation to an aggrieved complainant.
§ I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, on the last occasion that one wishes to avoid legalisms and recourse to law if at all possible. I ask the Government at least to consider giving the board powers—if they cannot accept the amendment in its present form—to recommend compensation where appropriate. That would avoid the legalisms and involvement with the courts against which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, cautioned.
§ Finally, perhaps I may inquire of the Minister whether it is his view that an individual may also have locus to go for judicial review on the projected scheme. He has dealt helpfully with my question about the board and I wonder what his view is about the individual. I beg to move.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, in reply to my question in Committee, the Minister said, "Everyone can go to court." In a sense, he is right. The critical question is whether the courts will listen and provide a remedy for the mischief. It is my understanding of the law that the courts will not listen to a claim for damages for breach of a language scheme unless such a right is contained in the Act. That is my first point.
1306 In Committee, the Minister also advised that an aggrieved party could make a complaint to the ombudsman. I wonder whether he would clarify that. Will the failure to follow a language scheme constitute maladministration, for the purpose of giving jurisdiction to the ombudsman?
§ Lord Thomas of Gwydir
My Lords, the matter was discussed at considerable length at the Committee stage. It is clear that this is a bad amendment and that it should not be supported. For the reasons given by several Members in Committee, I hope that the House will oppose it tonight.
My Lords, the contents of the amendment reflect a difference of approach between the Government and some noble Lords opposite as to how the objectives of the Bill can most effectively be achieved. The Government believe that having recourse to the courts is not the best means of overcoming practical difficulties which may be faced by Welsh speakers in receiving a service in Welsh. We believe that the difficulties are best overcome by providing a means by which questions of this nature can be rapidly investigated by a body which will develop considerable expertise in resolving just that kind of problem.
I think we all agree that individuals must have effective means of redress. I cannot see the court authorities—no matter how well blessed they may be with Welsh-speaking Welshmen—being able to compete with the expertise which would be available to the Welsh Language Board in resolving disputes of this nature speedily and effectively.
I suggest also that we ought to consider the means of redress which the Bill provides by comparison with other complaints against investigating machinery. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred to the local government ombudsman, and that is one example. I am sure that we all agree that the ombudsman provides an effective means of resolving disputes. However, he is able to pursue his role without having recourse to the enforcement powers which will be available to the board.
The board's ability to investigate complaints is otherwise similar to that which is available to the ombudsman. I see no particular reason to think that the board will not become equally effective, if not more effective, as an agent for investigation of complaints concerning the Welsh language. It would lead to confusion were there to be a parallel route for seeking redress in the courts.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, asked two questions. First, I think he asked—and he will correct me if I am wrong—whether an individual can take a body to judicial review. I think the answer is that that is correct because anyone can take a public body to judicial review.
The other point that he asked was about compensation. In theory and in fact the board can recommend compensation. It will have to take into account the obligations which may be laid upon the body concerned by statute as to whether that body is enabled to pay compensation. If it cannot pay compensation the board would not suggest that it 1307 should. If the board suggested that it should and it could, that is still only a suggestion. It is not an enforcing power.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I am grateful because there may be a way forward here which would meet everyone's legitimate queries and possible worries. I was unaware of any power that the board would have to recommend compensation. I am not sure where one finds it, but I dare say I shall be told.
My Lords, if I may intervene, I did not mean that the individual had the ability to suggest compensation. I said that he had the ability to take someone to judicial review.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I entirely understand. I think that the noble Earl and I have misheard each other. What I heard him say was that the board can recommend compensation. I wondered where one finds that power of recommending compensation.
My Lords, I am nervous that I am transgressing the Report stage procedures. The board has the ability to recommend. I think that I had better refer later to the detail of where that provision is to be found.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I accept that. It is difficult and troublesome if specific questions are asked without notice. I should be grateful if the noble Earl would write to me with his further thoughts. On that helpful basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 16 [Investigations]:
§ [Amendment No. 30 not moved.]
§ Clause 18 [Reports on investigations]:
Viscount St. Davids moved Amendment No. 31:
Page 8, line 9, at end insert:
§ ("() Where the Board considers that it would be appropriate for a report of the results of an investigation to be published, either in the form of the report made under subsection (1) above or in some other form, the Board may arrange for publication in such manner as it thinks fit.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a matter which my noble friend undertook to look into further following our debate in Committee. I hope that noble Lords can agree to the amendment that he has put down. It not only enables the board to arrange publication in a manner which it deems most appropriate but also recognises that there may be occasions when the report which is published is different from that which the board originally prepared. That may be necessary to respect the position of individuals. The format of the report will, of course, be a matter for the Welsh Language Board. I beg to move.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, I am grateful to both the noble Earl and the noble Viscount for this amendment and thank them for it.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Clause 19 [Directions by Secretary of State]:
§ [Amendment No. 32 not moved.]
§ [Amendment No. 33 not moved.]
Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 34:
After Clause 21, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Amendment of s.10 of Juries Act 1974
§ (2) After "understanding of English" there shall be inserted the words "or (where a trial is to be held substantially in Welsh) of Welsh".").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the third point of principle, the first being the original purpose clause of my noble friend Lord Cledwyn and the second the question of damages compensation. The third is the ability to empanel a jury of those who are capable of speaking and understanding the Welsh language.
§ The subject was traversed at some length in Committee. We still regard it as a matter of great importance. Ninety per cent. or more of the criminal business is conducted in the magistrates' courts in Wales. Anyone is as of right entitled to have his criminal case conducted in Welsh in the magistrates' courts. That is what the Bill contemplates as being available to him. It seems bizarre and unfortunate that a criminal case can be tried in Welsh in the magistrates' court, when very often it will deal with exactly the same issues, the same sums and the same charges as are found in the Crown Court.
§ I regret to say that on the last occasion we heard no justifiable argument against the rare occasions when a defendant might wish to have the criminal trial conducted substantially in Welsh, and on appropriate inquiry the judge presiding could not direct that a juror who was not competent because of his lack of understanding of the Welsh language should stand down in exactly the same way as a juror who is incompetent in English is instructed now to stand down, or may well be discharged or disqualified if he cannot read, write or hear properly. The matter is troublesome. It will happen very rarely but it will be a cause for increasing complaint. I beg to move.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, my noble friend covered the ground very effectively and made a virtually unanswerable case. Where a case is taken substantially in Welsh, where counsel or solicitors are Welsh-speaking, where parties to the case are Welsh-speaking and where the judge is Welsh-speaking, it seems to me that the amendment is necessary and reasonable. I hope that the noble Earl, and subsequently the Secretary of State, will look at it sympathetically.
§ Lord Geraint
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to support the amendment so ably proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I honestly believe that the majority of people in Wales are in favour of the amendment. If the Government accept the new clause, they will go a long way towards 1309 reassuring us and the Welsh people that they are genuinely seeking justice, not just for those before the courts but for the language itself.
I cannot see any difficulty in the wording, for it expresses the desire to see justice in Welsh language trials on exactly the same basis as in English language trials. I hope that on this occasion the Minister will give us a much better answer than he gave at Committee stage. I honestly believe that we need this new clause in the Act.
My Lords, this is indeed an issue of principle which we have covered. I fail to see that the arguments adduced at Committee stage regarding the random selection of juries stand up to scrutiny. Clearly the principle of random selection is substantially qualified. It is an historic principle (though as a principle it is not all that historic) which has applied and been administered with flexibility in order to ensure the linguistic fluency of jurors. It is surely not impossible, even adducing the argument for random selection, that within a population of half a million people one could have random selection effectively.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I did not intend to intervene at this stage, but it is as well that I should disclose my view. I am very sorry to disagree with my noble friends on this side of the House. I have practised on the Wales and Chester circuit for many years. I do not suppose that anybody has defended more cases over the years than I have. I do not think that the amendment should be accepted.
I am hound to say that in my experience the simultaneous translation provision which is now available at five Welsh centres following the Lord Edmund-Davies report on the use of Welsh in the courts is adequate. If there is a Welsh-speaking judge and he chooses to conduct the proceedings largely in Welsh, I see no objection to that. But I believe that the jury should be randomly selected and that it should have the benefit of simultaneous translation. We now have interpreters who are capable of the rapid translation which those of us accustomed to going to the Continent with various bodies know pertains in Europe. I think that we should rest on that.
Professionally, I can think of all kinds of problems that could eventually arise if one had the power to hold a trial entirely in the Welsh language. I can see that some people might use it for purposes connected with the psychology of what counsel know of juries, and so on. I need not go into the matter any further. Suffice it to say that I have the greatest sympathy with my noble friend. I know that he feels passionately about this matter, as does the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who has great experience in the law. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, too, obviously feels passionately about it. I do not. Ultimately, what is important in the courts is that justice should be obtained. I do not think it is necessary to make this provision. If it were made, it would lead to trouble.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that he believes that an interpreter is equivalent to a knowledge of the language?
§ Lord Hooson
No, my Lords, I am not. I remember prosecuting the case on the conspiracy to destroy Welsh road signs. I suppose it was 25 years ago. I was Welsh speaking and my junior was Welsh speaking. The judge, who was Mr. Justice Mars-Jones, was Welsh speaking. I told him that I had prepared my opening to the jury entirely in Welsh and that I could deliver the opening in Welsh and in English if he so wished. He told me that I could not do that because I would be my own interpreter. It was a matter I had not thought of.
The answer to the noble Lord's direct question is: no, it is not exactly the same. But if one has a trial conducted partly in Welsh and partly in English, or entirely in Welsh, or entirely in English, and there is simultaneous translation, then that is adequate, though not totally acceptable. The principle of random selection of the jury while we have jury trials is very important.
§ Lord Thomas of Gwydir
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, was able to express his view. He was not here at Committee stage. I am delighted that the view he expressed coincided with what I said at Committee stage. I would like to add that this is an amendment to amend Section 10 of the Juries Act 1974. Section 10 concerns the discharging of a juror on the grounds of ineffectiveness. Therefore what is intended by this amendment is that if a case is heard substantially in Welsh, some official in the court will go to the panel of jurors and test each one of them to find out whether he or she would be effective in Welsh. If the juror was unable to be "effective" in Welsh, then application would be made to the judge for that person to be discharged.
Like the noble Lord, I can see enormous problems arising if the amendment is passed. The main objection is the question of the random selection of jurors. There are parts of Wales where there are Welsh-speaking people and English-speaking people. We must remember that four out of five people in Wales do not speak Welsh, and the 18.3 per cent. who speak Welsh speak it with varying degrees of fluency. A large number of Welsh speakers would not be effective in a Welsh court. It is an enormous problem.
The random selection of jurors is a fundamental principle. Lord Edmund-Davies laid it down when he made his report at the time when I was the Secretary of State for Wales. If one has a mixture of people in a locality and one excludes the majority who may be English speaking on the grounds that they cannot be effective in court when there is a simultaneous translation occurring, it will be troublesome and divisive.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, the noble Lord refers to Welsh speakers. Does he not agree that English speakers also speak with a varying degree of fluency?
§ Lord Thomas of Gwydir
My Lords, certainly I agree. The noble Lord must have had experience, as have I, of jurors being discharged either because of their inability to understand what is being put to them by the court official or some other reason. The usual 1311 degree of ineffectiveness is caused by deafness or an inability to read. I certainly do not suggest that every English speaker is an effective juror. Happily, Section 10 of the 1974 Act enables them to be discharged.
My Lords, I am not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, tabled the amendment. I know that it is something about which he feels strongly, as do the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Geraint. These are matters about which many people feel strongly.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. The important aspect is to see that justice is done. We are not discussing whether a defendant can speak Welsh, whether the trial should be conducted in Welsh or even whether counsel can speak Welsh. The provision concerns jurors. To be able to stipulate that all jurors should be Welsh speaking would be an unacceptable interference with the principle that jurors should be selected at random.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that we would run into enormous problems if we accepted the amendment. My noble friend said that the main problem would be the effect on the random selection of jurors. He is quite right. The whole principle of the selection of jurors is that it should be wholly random. If the selection is to be made from only Welsh-speaking people, not only is the pool from which jurors are to be selected severely curtailed but it is no longer random.
The ability of people to speak Welsh—and understand other people speaking Welsh, particularly in legal proceedings—varies enormously. If we are to restrict juries to fully Welsh-speaking people, the pool from which they can be chosen is yet further curtailed I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the interests of the defendant should not be prejudiced by only a partial understanding of legal arguments.
Some noble Lords referred to cases being heard in Welsh. Of course many cases are already heard in Welsh and I am sure that many cases will be heard in Welsh in the future. However, I find it difficult to agree that there should be a limitation on the jurors who might potentially serve in such trials. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir was quite right. He referred to the report of Lord Edmund-Davies, who addressed himself to the issue some 20 years ago. He concluded then that the arguments in favour of the process of fully random jury selection exceeded the arguments in favour of solely Welsh-speaking jurors. He advised the use of translation facilities.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, suggested, those facilities may not be perfect but I believe it would be right to continue with the advice given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, as he then was.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I understand that we shall not gain this point, but the arguments addressed to the contrary are insubstantial and scanty. Why is it that if I am a Welsh-speaking defendant 1312 charged with theft of £250 in Aberystwyth I can go there as of right, with no notice—Clause 22 of the Bill —attend the magistrates' court and conduct the whole of the proceedings, defending myself or being represented by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, in Welsh; but, on the other hand, if the case is committed from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen, another Welsh-speaking area, I am not entitled to look for Welsh-speaking jurors? No one has sought to answer that question—the reason being that it is not capable of being answered.
It is said that some Welsh speakers would not be capable of dealing with legal arguments and difficult questions of law. I find that astonishingly—I take away the adverb—I find it patronising that the same question is not put to those who are monoglot English. Our old friends "enormous problems" limp forward in the defence of the indefensible. What enormous problems, given good will?
Section 10 of the Juries Act indicates that:Where it appears to the appropriate officer"—the court officer summoning the panel of jurors—that on account of physical disability or insufficient understanding of English there is doubt as to his capacity to act effectively as a juror",the judge must then decide and may discharge. That happens regularly. People cannot read. The usual version is that they say they have left their spectacles at home and they are discharged. People who are not fully familiar with the English language are discharged. In a few cases per year in Wales some defendants will wish the proceedings to be conducted in Welsh. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, says, and I agree, that the translation has much improved. He says, specifically in answer to my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, that it is adequate but not as good. Why should the Welsh-speaking defendant put up with something that is adequate but not as good?
I ventured to suggest to your Lordships earlier this evening that what people who are concerned with these issues want is to live their lives fully in every important relevant aspect of their lives. Being a defendant in a criminal case is a fundamental part of the experience of the defendant. If he is Welsh speaking and chooses to have Welsh-speaking jurors, that would be denied. I am sorry to say that I find it rather shabby. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 35 not moved.]
Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 36:
After Clause 27, insert the following new clause:
§ (2) In subsection (2) at the beginning there shall be inserted the words "Subject to subsection (5A) below,".
§ (3) After subsection (5) there shall be inserted the following subsection—
§ "(5A) Where a registered charity, to which this section applies, carries out its work in Wales using the Welsh language, it shall be entitled to state, in Welsh only, that it is a registered charity, using the following form of words—"Elusen Gofrestredig Rhif", followed by its registered number.".").1313
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 36 returns to the issue of whether charities in the voluntary sector should be able to register themselves as registered charities, Elusen Gofrestredig Rhif, and that solely. The anomaly arises whereby companies limited by guarantee or through warrant will be able, through the existing legislation—the amendments to the Companies Act—to call themselves companies registered in Welsh—Cwmni cyfyngedig. Amendment No. 10 would bring in the same system for registered charities.
§ I appreciate that it is important for people to be aware that organisations are registered charities. But surely the same argument applies to limited companies and it should be understood that they are Cwmni cyfyngedig. As I suggested at Committee stage, it is absurd to have a situation whereby charities will be producing material solely in Welsh but would have to add two words in the English language in order to conform with the law. I beg to move.
§ Lord Aberdare
My Lords, I note with pleasure that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord is worded much more like the amendment that I moved in Committee than the one that he did. For that reason alone I am happy to support it.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I am happy to support the amendment as well. My name is attached to it. It is a short and simple amendment. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, knows from his great experience of charity work in Wales that certain charities in Wales conduct all their work in English. They should not be required to produce their reports in Welsh when there is no need to. Some charities in Wales conduct all their work in Welsh. It is quite unnecessary that they should have to register the words in English under the Charities Act when they can do it equally well in Welsh.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, on these Benches we are pleased to support the amendment. As I said in Committee, there are to the best of my knowledge at least 150 registered charities which conduct their affairs through the Welsh language. I very much hope that the amendment will be acceptable to the Government.
My Lords, all noble Lords have supported the amendment. I should like to do so with one caveat which is that I am afraid that I cannot accept it as it is. In Committee I gave an undertaking that we would look at this matter. We have been looking at it. Unfortunately, it is not quite as easy of resolution as one might wish. I have not yet been able to find a proper conclusion to the problem. I can assure your Lordships that we shall continue to look at it.
The amendment as it stands is not acceptable because it would not provide the necessary protection of individuals dealing with charities who do not speak Welsh. I accept that there is a problem here. If your Lordships will permit me, I should like to look at the matter again to see how we can resolve the problem.
1314 I hope that we will be able to produce an amendment at a later stage of the Bill, either in your Lordships' House or, alternatively, in another place.
§ Lord Elis-Thomas
My Lords, in the spirit that the noble Earl is still looking at this and other things, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.