Wales politics

National Assembly staff 'will need basic Welsh' by 2018

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Media captionBethan Jenkins wants assurances from Adam Price the move will not deter job applicants

New staff working for the National Assembly will need at least basic Welsh language skills from summer 2018.

Candidates will be expected to demonstrate they can show "basic linguistic courtesy" or commit to gain those skills during their induction.

Plaid AM Adam Price said it would include the ability "to understand basic texts such as simple e-mails".

An assembly committee and Race Council Cymru warned it could affect recruitment of ethnic minorities.

The Assembly Commission, the body responsible for the day-to-day running of the assembly, currently has 472 employees and is led by a cross-party group of AMs.

Mr Price, assembly commissioner with responsibility for official languages, said: "To provide excellent bilingual services... we will need to make great strides at times, including the way that we set the language requirements of particular posts."

He said basic linguistic courtesy entailed "being able to recognise, pronounce and use familiar phrases and names, such as Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru [National Assembly for Wales] correctly, and to understand basic texts such as simple e-mails".

Image caption Adam Price said "we will need to make great strides" on bilingual services
Image caption Bethan Jenkins said an equality impact assessment should be published as soon as possible

Culture committee chairwoman and Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins said its members were concerned the requirement "may have an impact on the recruitment of staff from under-represented groups, particularly BME [black and minority ethnic] staff".

She urged the commission to publish its "equality impact assessment", saying "other members of the assembly and the wider public are unable to judge whether the mitigation measures it outlines are sufficient".

Mr Price added there was "no expectation" that employees in their current jobs would have to meet the new language requirements.

"If they were to decide to apply for a new post, for a vacant position or as a promotion, they would then be subject to that particular level of linguistic courtesy," he said.

There were no objections to the commission's Official Languages Scheme when it was discussed in the assembly chamber on Wednesday and it was approved by AMs without a vote.

Image caption Uzo Iwobi warned some people may find the proposal prohibitory

Darren Williams, from the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: "The formal agreement of the Official Language Scheme by the assembly in plenary will now start the next phase of negotiations regarding the detail of what this will mean in practice for those who have to implement it."

Race Council Cymru, an umbrella group representing a range of organisations, said it "wholeheartedly supports" the use of the Welsh language, but felt "some ethnic community members may find this proposal prohibitory".

Chief executive Uzo Iwobi said: "It is important that every effort ought to be made to remove barriers to access to services, new opportunities and engagement.

"We would suggest that if this requirement is to be implemented, that it should not be mandatory rather, should be desirable to promote inclusive practises and promote racial integration."

Neil Hamilton, who leads UKIP in the assembly, said: "This policy must be applied with sensitivity and should not be at the expense of choosing the best person for the role.

"While improved Welsh competencies are desirable, it is not acceptable if monoglot English speakers feel excluded from public sector roles in Wales."

The Welsh Government, which employs more than 5,000 people, said language requirements for its jobs were assessed on an individual basis, and Welsh was not needed for every post.

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