Welsh Language Act 1993

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Welsh Language Act 1993
Long title An Act to establish a Board having the function of promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language, to provide for the preparation by public bodies of schemes giving effect 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, to make further provision relating to the Welsh language, to repeal certain spent enactments relating to Wales, and for connected purposes.
Chapter 1993 c.38
Territorial extent England and Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland
Dates
Royal Assent 21 October 1993
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Welsh Language Act 1993,[1] is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which put the Welsh language on an equal footing with the English language in Wales with regard to the public sector.

The Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 had made English the only language of the law courts and other aspects of public administration in Wales. The Welsh Courts Act[2] 1942 had given the right to use Welsh in courts providing that the Welsh speaker was under a disadvantage in having to speak English, but this was very narrowly defined by subsequent case law. The Welsh Language Act 1967,[3] overturned these decisions and gave rise to the concept of 'equal validity' between the Welsh and English languages. As a result, Governmental Departments began preparing documents in Welsh, and following a campaign of destroying or vandalising unilingual English road signs by members of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society), local councils were allowed to provide many bilingual signs in Wales. It was however the Welsh Language Act 1993 which established that 'in the course of public business and the administration of justice, so far as is reasonably practicable, the Welsh and English languages are to be treated on the basis of equality.'

The Act achieved three things:

  • setting up the Welsh Language Board, answerable to the Secretary of State for Wales, with the duty of promoting the use of Welsh and ensuring compliance with the other provisions.
  • giving Welsh speakers the right to speak Welsh in court proceedings.
  • obliging all organisations in the public sector providing services to the public in Wales to treat Welsh and English on an equal basis.

The powers given to the Secretary of State for Wales under this Act were later devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. Delegated or secondary legislation has been made under this Act by the Secretary of State, and subsequently the National Assembly requiring more public bodies to prepare what are known as Welsh Language Schemes which show their commitment to the 'equality of treatment' principle.

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