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And finally ...

Betsan Powys | 12:40 UK time, Sunday, 1 February 2009

... here it is.

We've wondered, we've made informed guesses.

You've already spelled out your views on the need to impose duties on any part of the private sector with regard to the Welsh language.

Now the LCO, 6 pages long - 3 in Welsh, 3 in English - is sitting on my desk. We're as certain as we can be it's the real thing so on your marks, get set ...

First this:

(1) Part 1 of Schedule 5 to the 2006 Act is amended in accordance with this article. (2) In field 20 (Welsh language), insert -

"Matter 20.1
Promoting or facilitating the use of the Welsh language; and the treatment of the Welsh and English languages on the basis of equality.

("On the basis of equality" - does that mean "equally" or does it point to wriggle room?)

This matter does not include the use of the Welsh language in courts.
This matter does not include imposing duties on persons other than the following -

"The following" are along the lines we predicted: public authorities, those with contracts to provide services to public authorities, companies who receive public money amounting to £200,000 (any public money whatsoever by the looks of it) or more in a financial year; social landlords, regulators, companies who supply gas, water or electricity services, postal services and post offices, railway services, telecommunication services, ... far too many for some, far foo few for others. No supermarkets. No chippies. Oh but sewerage services are there and worth noting that "telecommunication services" doesn't include broadcasting, radio or television.

Let's move on:

Matter 20.2
Provision about or in connection with the freedom of persons wishing to use the Welsh language to do so with one another (including any limitations upon it".

Recognise the Thomas Cook clause?

Now word about a Commissioner but then "Matter 20.1" clearly devolves the power to create that powerful role.

No mention of sanctions, other than the final words, which we've already dubbed the "get-out clause" for Whitehall departments: "... any functions so conferred or imposed may not be enforced against Ministers of the Crown by means of criminal offences".

Does that mean the Chief Executive of, let's say, Vodaphone or Orange could face a fine if the company doesn't comply but a Minister of the Crown would be treated differently? Do they have what looks like a de facto opt-out?

Just bear in mind that this is an LCO. It is a request for power - what reads as wide-ranging, lock, stock and barrel power - over the Welsh language. It is not yet about future measures, not about which duties the Assembly Government is intending to impose on any part of the private sector. That comes later. The battles over phrases like "where reasonably practicable" (see the 1993 Welsh Language Act) come later.

What the Assembly Government want you to ask at this point is this: who should have the competence, the power to legislate over matters affecting the Welsh language? Us or the UK government?

Six pages of detail says you'll have some trouble with that.

Now ... go.

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