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Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I listened with interest to what the Minister said. I understand entirely that putting the section and schedule back into the Bill is not strictly necessary because the Act has not been repealed, but I advance the argument that it was important to have the two provisions standing together.
Unless I am looking at a totally different Marshalled List from everybody else, there is some confusion. It was not Amendment No. 45 that roped back in the sections of the 1998 Act, but the later amendments. The key amendment for me is Amendment No. 34, which provides the power to do anything, subject to the limitations of the section that is going back in and its schedule.
I got a good deal of support around the House for my Amendment No. 35, which deals with consultation. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rowlands, for his observations. Like him, I entirely agree that there was nothing sinister in omitting the section and the schedule from the Bill. I also welcomed his support for Amendment No. 35. He made a powerful speech suggesting that the powers of Section 28 and its schedule were not necessary, or should not be there, or should be altered or amended. But that is not what we are about here. That is not up for debate. If he had wanted to do that, he should have tabled appropriate amendments. The Government are not altering or repealing or changing Section 28 now, and probably for the reason that my noble friend Lord Roberts of Conwy declaredthat it is still absolutely necessary if the so-called bonfire of the quangos is to go on. Without it, the whole process would be halted.
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We are not really debating whether these provisions should have been put into the original legislation, or whether particular organisations should have been given protection. They are listed as they are because they are charter bodies. There are appropriate ways of getting rid of charter bodies which are not covered by this Bill, or the 1998 legislation, and which need to be dealt with appropriately. There was a suggestion that these bodies should be subject to democratic supervision. I can only say that, in my time as Secretary of State, the National Museum of Wales, for example, as well as the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments, found their expenditure of moneys and so on under pretty close supervision at times by the Welsh Office. I am sure the Assembly has all those powers today. When I took the decision that we should fund the new galleries of the National Museum of Wales, my successor, the noble Lord, Lord Walker, intervened very tightly on how that project was run. So those powers are all there.
We had a brief reference to the arm's-length principle. I happen to be one of those who believe it has stood the test of time. I think that to have an Assembly dealing with detailed day-to-day decisions on a whole range of arts bodies around the country would be a profound mistake. I follow the affairs of the Arts Council of Wales pretty closely. My wife was a member of it for seven, eight or nine yearsI forgetand I attended a great many of the functions that it supported and have done so ever since. I am afraid I think that we need to ensure that the safeguards are retained, that people take notice of them, and that the arm's-length principle is upheld. Therefore, I intend to test the opinion of the House.
"THE WELSH LANGUAGE
(1) The Welsh Ministers must adopt a strategy ("the Welsh language strategy") setting out how they propose to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language.
(2) The Welsh Ministers must adopt a scheme ("the Welsh language scheme") specifying measures which they propose to take, for the purpose mentioned in subsection (3), as to the use of the Welsh language in connection with the provision of services to the public in Wales by them, or by others who
(a) are acting as servants or agents of the Crown, or
(b) are public bodies (within the meaning of Part 2 of the Welsh Language Act 1993 (c. 38)).
(3) The purpose referred to in subsection (2) 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 in Wales the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality.
(4) The Welsh Ministers
(a) must keep under review both the Welsh language strategy and the Welsh language scheme, and
(b) may from time to time adopt a new strategy or scheme or revise them.
(5) Before adopting or revising a strategy or scheme, the Welsh Ministers must consult such persons as they consider appropriate.
(6) The Welsh Ministers must publish the Welsh language strategy and the Welsh language scheme when they first adopt it and
(a) if they adopt a new strategy or scheme they must publish it, and
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(b) if they revise the Welsh language strategy or the Welsh language scheme (rather than adopting a new strategy or scheme) they must publish either the revisions or the strategy or scheme as revised (as they consider appropriate).
(7) If the Welsh Ministers publish a strategy or scheme, or revisions, under subsection (6) they must lay a copy of the strategy or scheme, or revisions, before the Assembly.
(8) After each financial year the Welsh Ministers must publish a report of
(a) how the proposals set out in the Welsh language strategy were implemented in that financial year and how effective their implementation has been in promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language, and
(b) how the proposals set out in the Welsh language scheme were implemented in that financial year,
and must lay a copy of the report before the Assembly."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 36, I shall speak to Amendment No. 116. During our debates on this Bill, we have heard many cogent and persuasive arguments from all sides of the House about the rare opportunity that this Bill presents with regard to the Welsh language. Those arguments have been powerfully and passionately expressed, and the Government have listened carefully to the points that noble Lords have made. Having reflected carefully on those arguments, I am very pleased to be able to bring forward Amendments Nos. 36 and 116, which show that the Government are listening to reasonable concerns expressed during debate in the House.
The concern expressed, in particular by my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies, was that the current good practice of the Welsh Assembly Government in respect of the Welsh language would not be safeguarded in the future. The Government therefore propose to put the current good practice on a statutory footing. The requirement to adopt a strategy setting out how the Welsh Ministers propose to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language corresponds to Iaith Pawb, the national action plan for a bilingual Wales.
The requirement will adopt a strategy to complement, as my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies himself argued in Committee, the function of promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language. This will continue to be a requirement of Welsh Ministers, whether they acquire statutory function of the Welsh Language Board or not, as a result of the WLB merger. The requirement to adopt a Welsh language scheme is explicitly linked to the principle of equality between English and Welsh. This mirrors the Welsh Assembly Government's current practice.
The transitional provisions in Amendment No. 96 will mean that the Welsh Ministers will inherit Iaith Pawb and the Welsh Assembly Government Welsh language scheme as they exist before the separation, so there will be continuity. I commend these amendments to the House. I beg to move.
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