HL Deb 04 February 1993 vol 542 cc377-413

4.57 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 11 [Preparation of schemes]:

[Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Consultation on preparation of schemes]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 34: 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: The purpose of this amendment is to join with the Minister in strengthening the powers and the reputation of the board. The anxiety which we have derives from Clause 12 of the Bill. Subsection (1) of that clause states: A public body preparing a scheme for submission … shall carry out such consultations as may be appropriate". Subsection (2) states: A public body shall comply with any directions given to it by the Board".

We see that the obligation is there but we cannot find any sanction for non-performance. Therefore, this amendment simply entitles the board to have power to apply to the Divisional Court for an order of judicial review. It is to give a legal sanction to the board to secure enforcement of the obligation in Clause 12(2). I beg to move.

Lord Thomas of Gwydir

We have made quite good progress this evening and I hesitate very much to intervene. But I hope that my noble friend cannot accept this troublesome amendment. The noble Lord reminded the Committee of Clause 12 which is a very sensible clause. It sets out that, A public body preparing a scheme for submission to the Board shall carry out such consultations as may be appropriate in order to ascertain views representative of Welsh-speaking members of the public". Subsection (2) states: 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". If there is a dispute between the public body and the board as to what is appropriate in certain circumstances and as to whether such consultations should take place, the amendment seeks to ensure that the board should have the power to take the matter to the High Court for a judicial review. It would be wrong if the High Court were to engage in seeking the proper answer to the question of consultation on such matters instead of the issue being solved amicably, as it should be resolved, between the board and the public body. The whole purpose behind the Bill is to achieve co-operation, not coercion.

Therefore, I think that it is entirely wrong to include in a Bill the power to have a judicial review. The power to seek judicial review does not have to be written into a Bill. It may well be that circumstances arise in the course of the board's activities when it might seek a judicial review, but to include that in the Bill in conjunction with the very sensible Clause 12 seems extraordinary.

5 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, has misunderstood the amendment. It does not relate to a judicial review of a failure to carry out consultations; but a judicial review of a failure to comply with directions. If the Minister were to say now that the noble Lord is correct and that no specific power of the board is required in the Bill to entitle the board to go for a judicial review, I should immediately withdraw my amendment.

Earl Ferrers

My noble friend is correct. If a body has consulted—and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, says that it will have consulted—and if it makes a scheme, then it is up to the body concerned to make certain that the scheme accords with the guidelines. I agree with my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir that it will do that by co-operation. The board and the body will discuss together and, as a result of that discussion, there will be a scheme. If the board fails to produce a scheme or if anyone says that there has been inadequate consultation, one does not then take the matter to judicial review. I agree with my noble friend that that would be the wrong step to take because, as he said, one is trying to achieve co-operation, not coercion. In fact, the board would say to that body, "You have not implemented that scheme", and it would not approve the scheme. It would tell the body to produce another scheme. If, in the end, the body did not produce another scheme, the board would then go to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State would ultimately give a direction. If the body still did not produce the correct scheme, the Secretary of State could go to the High Court for a writ of mandamus, and if the body still did not produce the scheme, it would be in contempt of court.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

With great respect, I think that the point has been missed, so I shall make it again. The obligation under Clause 12 is on a public body, as defined, to "carry out such consultations". That is its obligation. Clause 12(2) states: A public body shall comply"— not "may", but "shall"— 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 not to produce a scheme, but to carry out consultations.

My simple point—and it really is of the simplest ——is that the body is obliged to carry out consultations. That is its duty. The board may give it directions, but if it fails to comply there is no sanction. I am suggesting that there should be a longstop—and I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, that it should be a longstop. At present if there is a failure to comply, the board is toothless. I am suggesting that it should be given a denture.

Earl Ferrers

I do not think that the board is toothless. If the body has not carried out the consultations when it prepares the scheme for approval by the board, the board would not then approve it because it would say, "You have not carried out your consultations. Go and carry out those consultations and then produce a scheme for us to approve." That is the sanction.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

But if the public body still refuses, the ultimate sanction —and here I agree with the noble Earl—is that the board may prepare its scheme but the Secretary of State may impose a scheme. At the end of the day, there may be the directed imposition of a scheme, still without any proper consultation.

Lord Prys-Davies

I agree with every word that has been spoken by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn. We very much agree that we should go along the route of co-operation, but Clause 12(1) gives the board the power to issue directions. That is an unconditional power. Indeed, it is the only unconditional power that the board has been given. 'The question raised by my noble friend is: what happens if the public body refuses to comply? If it refuses to comply, the Bill does not provide an answer unless the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, is correct and that, in those circumstances, the board would be able to apply for judicial review proceedings. That is my understanding of the position.

Earl Ferrers

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, is correct. As a last resort, the board could apply for judicial review —as anyone can. But that would not be the route normally taken. As I have explained, the board would say to the body, "Go and produce a new set of schemes after you have had public consultation." The sanction behind it in the end is that the Secretary of State could impose a scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, may say that there would not have been public consultation and that would be the drawback for the body because the chances are that such a scheme would be very much tighter and harsher on that body than would have been the case if the body had gone out to consultation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am grateful to the Minister. We simply wanted to probe the point. Now that we have had an unambiguous indication that, in some circumstances, the board will have the locus to go for judicial review, accordingly I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Approval or imposition of schemes]:

Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 35: Page 6, line 18, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak briefly to this amendment which simply seeks to substitute the word "shall" for the word "may". It raises for consideration whether such wording might not be better in order to ensure an early decision on the part of the Secretary of State. We fear that the word "may" presents endless grounds for delay if the Secretary of State is indecisive or worried about offending either the board or the public body. I should very much welcome the view of the Committee and that of the Minister. I beg to move.

Viscount St. Davids

I think that it would be a mistake to concentrate overmuch on the powers contained within subsection (5) of this clause and to which this amendment relates. I would draw the Committee's attention instead to the powers granted to the Secretary of State by subsection (4). This allows the Secretary of State to refer schemes back to the board and the public body concerned. This seems to me by far the best way of resolving disputes of this nature.

The intention of the Bill, however, is that the Secretary of State should be empowered rather than required to impose a scheme should there continue to be a failure to agree. There is nothing sinister about this. Granting the Secretary of State powers of this nature is fully in conformity with the pattern adopted in many other Bills. What would not be in conformity or, indeed, helpful, would be to fetter the discretion of the Secretary of State in the way proposed by this amendment. What is important is that the Secretary of State should have the power to impose the scheme himself. The Bill as drafted ensures that he has.

Lord Prys-Davies

I shall consider the answer, and, if appropriate, return to the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 36: After Clause 15, insert the following new clause:

("Failure by public body to give effect to scheme.—(1)

.—(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: We regard this amendment as being of the greatest importance. It entitles an individual member of the public who complains that a public body has not discharged its statutory duty when a scheme has been approved by the board or the Secretary of State to be able to sue for damages. We would expect that to be a power exercised relatively infrequently. We believe that it is important as a matter of principle. A person who suffers racial harassment or discrimination is entitled to damages; a person who suffers discrimination on the grounds of sex is entitled to damages; sexual harassment is a ground for damages.

We merely suggest that, if the languages are of equal validity, are to be treated on a basis of equality, or are both official languages, and an individual is legitimately aggrieved, he or she should be able to go to the county court and sue for damages. They would of course be relatively modest. One is thinking, I suppose, in terms of possibly £500 or £1,000. If the Minister wished to insert such a limit, we would find that unobjectionable.

Consequential to that legal right, power is given to the board to assist such a plaintiff in respect of legal expenses and, for the avoidance of any doubt, if there is a judicial review remedy for the individual, that would be maintained intact. It is important as a matter of principle that it should be understood and reflected in the Bill that those are rights for individuals.

Although the board will draw up schemes, and will have enforcement machinery, as will the Secretary of State, it is the individual who is aggrieved, not the board, not the Secretary of State. I understand of course what the Minister has said, that, in due time, if directions made by the Secretary of State are not complied with, then, by virtue of Clause 19(3), the Secretary of State, as the ultimate weapon, may go to the Divisional Court and ask for judicial review. Because of the underfunding of the court system and the lack of judges able to try these difficult questions, judicial review takes up to two years. An urgent application for judicial review, if one is exceptionally lucky, can get on within one year. So the hurt, the distress, the legitimate complaint, will inure for some time. Apart from that, these are rights for individuals which should, in rare circumstances, give the individual the right to sue in the county court.

It is not a probing amendment; it is not a questioning amendment. We, on this side, with great respect, regard it as fundamental. I beg to move.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Gwydir

I oppose the amendment again for the reason that I have expressed before. It is a great mistake to try to write into the Bill that recourse to the courts will be an answer to the Bill's purpose. The Bill's purpose is to try to advance, through co-operation and understanding, the Welsh language. If it is written into the Bill that people who have complaints should have recourse to the courts, that will not advance the Welsh language.

People who have suffered damage in any way by reason of a public body's breach of its duty in law, could bring an action, but I do not know why that should be put into the Bill. It can lead only to trouble. One can see many an occasion when people will be making complaints just to make political points.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

If there is no right specified in the Bill, what would the action be? What right of action for damages would the individual have?

Earl Ferrers

I am bound to say that I agree with my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir. It would make too much of the Bill to have recourse to the courts. As I said earlier, the great idea is to have as much co-operation as possible. Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is a distinguished member of the legal profession, and I have no doubt that he is used to suing for damages. He is anxious to see that there is such a recourse in the Bill. There are drawbacks to that, and I shall try to explain why.

Members of the public must have a right of redress. At the moment they have a number of avenues for redress. That can of course involve recourse to the courts, but in the majority of instances that will not be so, presumably because it would be too expensive.

The ombudsmen play an important part, as do the many and varied tribunals which exist in different parts of the public sector. The noble Lord said that the principle contained in the amendment is important. We must be careful about that, because, in considering the new complaints machinery for which we are providing in the Bill, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the rights of redress available to Welsh speakers reflect those available to non-Welsh speakers. We should not create any imbalance. Such an imbalance would be created if a Welsh speaker could approach the courts and claim for damages where a public body had failed to make a Welsh language form available but a non-Welsh speaker was unable to go to court and claim damages for a failure to provide an English form.

Perhaps I may give an example. If a Welsh speaking person went, for example, to British Rail, and said, "Can I please have a timetable in Welsh?" and British Rail said, "I am so sorry we have run out of all the Welsh ones but you can have an English one", the person might say, "I want a Welsh one. Under your scheme you undertake to provide a Welsh one. I shall take you to court". An English-speaking Welshman would go to British Rail and may say, "Please may I have an English timetable?" The reply might be, "We have run out of English timetables, but you can have a Welsh one". That English-speaking Welshman would not have recourse to the courts in the same way as the Welsh-speaking Welshman would under the amendment.

In considering the alternative means of redress, it is important to have regard to what it would mean in practice for a Welsh-speaking consumer. A Welsh speaker should not have to initiate civil proceedings to obtain a satisfactory level of Welsh language service. That would represent an imposing obstacle for many Welsh speakers and offer no certainty as to the outcome. Obviously individuals must have a right of redress where there has been a failure of the scheme. The Bill takes account of that.

First, since the board will have been instrumental in agreeing the schemes, it will have a special incentive to ensure that those schemes are complied with. There is then the formal complaint mechanism which is provided for in the Bill, where a person can complain to the board that that is not being done. Despite that, Welsh-speaking consumers will be able to expect the board to use its influence to ensure that failures of schemes are rectified as a matter of urgency. Although it may be a comfort to some to look forward to a formal upholding of their complaint at the end of a lengthy investigation procedure, the majority of Welsh speaking consumers will be more interested in receiving the service which the public body has undertaken to provide. The important point is that the board's ability to secure implementation of any recommendation which it may make will be backed up by the Secretary of State's powers of direction. That should ensure that the board's advice is heeded.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am sorry to press this matter. Not too long ago when I started at the Bar a famous judge, who had just started on the Bench, was Mr. Justice Caulfield. If you put forward a particularly weak proposition to him, he used to put his spectacles on the end of his nose and say, "Is that your best point?" I want to look at the noble Earl's best points, but I believe that I shall need my magnifying glass to find them. I quote the noble Earl when he said that it is absolutely agreed that it is important that the individual citizen should have some form of right of redress. I waited, clutching the end of the Bench and clenching my teeth to find out what was to be the form of redress. The answer is that there is none.

If I live in Birmingham and have a black skin, I can rightly claim compensation by way of damages for the gross insults done to me as an individual. I do not have to complain about the local authority or the person in Woolworth's or anywhere else. I can complain and receive damages. If I am wrongly discriminated against because I am a woman who wishes to leave work to have a child, I can claim damages. Some day someone will be able to explain to the Committee why someone who is wounded linguistically in the same way has no right to damages. I await such an explanation with a degree of anticipation and incredulity.

It is said that there will be redress internally in the Bill; there is none. I hope that the Minister will concede that we have done our best to be helpful. On many occasions we have said that we have welcomed the discussions that we have had because we all want this to emerge as the best possible Act. I do not wish to breach confidences, but I understood that the board would have the power to recommend compensation. Have the Government changed their mind? Where is the compensation to be found in the Bill? There is no redress for the individual except, at the end of the day, on the direction of the Secretary of State. In most cases that will be sufficient. However, if there is the wound of which I speak, which is not dissimilar in class, category or degree from the wounds of which I spoke earlier, then compensation should be available.

I take the case of the man with the timetable. I hear Mr. Justice Caulfield again inquiring, "Is that your best point?" The man with the timetable who is told that there are no more timetables will be told by any competent solicitor, with which Wales is well stocked, "Do not be a fool. You do not have a case." If that man wanted to be a fool and take his case to court, the judge would listen patiently and award him nothing.

Lord Thomas of Gwydir

The remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, fortify me in my opposition to the amendment. He said, quite rightly, that if there is sexual discrimination, damages can be obtained. If there is racial discrimination, damages can be obtained. However, the noble Lord is seeking to put into the Bill the right to damages for linguistic as opposed to sexual discrimination. I believe that to be wholly wrong. It alters the whole basis of the Bill and must be opposed.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

On this side of the Committee we think to the contrary; namely, that that is entirely right and that it is a matter of the utmost seriousness to us and to many of those who have submitted evidence to us and who have written to us as individuals.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, that everybody wants to go forward in a spirit of good will so that we achieve the best possible legislation on which we all agree. However, we are dealing with a matter of law. The context of the amendment is the context of the citizen's rights. Many people who wrote to us stressed that the Bill as it stands is very strong on bureaucracy and the powers of the Secretary of State but has virtually nothing to say about the individual rights of the citizens of Wales in any respect.

Rights of redress are central to our understanding of the Bill. Am I right in thinking that the noble Earl said and meant that the strongest right in this Bill for the individual citizen is the right to complain to the board? If that is the individual citizen's strongest right, we are in a parlous state.

Lord Aberdare

Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord who has just spoken what is his answer to what has been said by my noble friend; namely, that he is seeking to give rights to Welsh-speaking citizens which are not enjoyed by English-speaking citizens.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Perhaps I may respond to that because it was my dog that raised that rabbit. The proposition put forward is erroneous. If a monoglot English-speaking resident of Wales is discriminated against, we believe that he should have the same rights. However, experience has shown that linguistic discrimination tends to be experienced rather more by Welsh speakers than by English speakers.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, cannot get away with that. He is trying to put into the Bill a provision which is slanted one way. The noble Lord gave an example of a black-skinned person in Birmingham being racially abused. That person can claim damages. However, the point is that a white-skinned person in Birmingham who is racially abused also has the right to damages.

I gave an example of a gentleman who was trying to obtain a timetable. The noble Lord cavalierly asked whether that was the best example that I could give. It was a simple example and I thought therefore it might appeal to the noble Lord because he would be able to understand it.

The noble Lord is a barrister and is in a confrontational mood this afternoon. I cannot see why he wants to be confrontational. The amendment is not concerned with whether somebody is being discriminated against but whether a public body is not doing what it should do, is empowered to do by law and what the board has said it should do. If that public body is discriminating against one person, it is discriminating against all the Welsh-speaking people.

In his great excitement to claim damages for his friends, perhaps the noble Lord will consider again the Welsh-speaking gentleman who goes along to ask for the timetable and is not given one because one is not available. Let us suppose that he does not go to a wonderful solicitor who tells him that he has not got a case but instead he goes to another equally clever Welshman who tells him that he does have a case. Let us suppose that that case is taken to the court and he wins it. There will be a queue of people at that railway station asking for timetables and knowing perfectly well that they are not available because they will wish to obtain the same compensation. That premise is discriminatory and is against the whole ethos of the Bill, which is not coercion but co-operation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am sorry to be accused of being confrontational because that is an accusation which I have never heard cast against me in the past. I agree that if someone in Cardiganshire managed to obtain compensation because he could not obtain a timetable in Welsh, the rest of the residents of Cardiganshire would be queuing up for timetables. I am only in confrontation with the noble Earl because we are deeply divided on principle. Although we are dealing with the matter in a spirit of good humour —as always, I hope—there are important matters here.

My simple question, couched in an extremely non-confrontational tone, was to ask whether I am mistaken because on an earlier occasion I thought it was said that it was anticipated that the board would have power to recommend compensation. I do not think that I misheard.

5.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

I cannot vouch for the hearing of the noble Lord. That is a matter for him. I can only tell him it is not our intention that the board should award compensation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Earl was present at the same meeting. Therefore the stance has changed and I recognise that. However, the fact remains that a certain type of discrimination is the foundation of damages. I simply suggest that if a proper case can be made out—if it were a trivial case, the judge would throw it out—to show that an individual has been wounded in his individual rights, then compensation should lie. That is a perfectly moderate, non-confrontational observation.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord will agree that his amendment would constitute one way traffic and that would not be fair.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

If the Minister wishes to give equivalent rights—he believes those rights are lacking—to English people who are wrongly discriminated against in Wales, I personally would warmly applaud his effort.

Lord Prys-Davies

It would be helpful if the Minister can clarify the rights of an individual who has been directly affected by the failure of a public body to carry out a scheme. As I understand it, the route which is available to that individual is to make a complaint to the board. That is the one new right that has been given to a Welsh speaker—the right to complain. Then the board may investigate the complaint and may issue a report. The public authority may refuse to comply with the recommendation in the report and, ultimately, the Secretary of State may apply for mandamus. Assuming, as I think we must, that notwithstanding good intentions, in the rare circumstances—those were the words of my noble friend—that the worst may happen and the public body refuses to comply with the board, the Secretary of State may refuse to order mandamus proceedings. Does the individual have any right in those circumstances? Can he go to the court?

Earl Ferrers

Anyone can go to a court. Anyone can take anyone to court on the basis of civil proceedings. However, that is unlikely to happen because it is very expensive. We come back to the proposition that if one person is being discriminated against—that is an unfortunate word—it would mean that every Welsh speaker was being discriminated against. If that is so, it would mean that the public body concerned was not carrying out the duties which it undertakes to do and which it has agreed to do under the terms of the scheme. Anyone who feels that way has the right of complaint. There is a complaints procedure where one approaches the board. It is up to the board then to approach the body concerned and tell it to put its house in order.

Lord Prys-Davies

Under the Bill there is a non-legal route. In a sense it is a political route in that one complains to the board and there is then a route to the Secretary of State. Ought there not to be an alternative route—the legal route? Should there not be a right to go to the court and seek a judicial review order? The Minister said that everyone is entitled to go to the court but that is expensive. We recognise that it is expensive. The third subsection of the amendment allows the board, if it thinks fit, to contribute towards the legal expenses to be incurred by a person who wishes to take proceedings. Of course the costs of mounting a legal action against a public body are beyond the resources of most individuals and even of pressure groups who might wish to take proceedings. Is the Minister saying that where the individual has failed to obtain redress along the route prescribed in the Bill he may go to the court and in those circumstances the board has the discretion to contribute towards the cost of financing an action?

Earl Ferrers

No, I am not saying that. I can only come back to the principle that we have tried to adumbrate which is that we do not wish everyone to end up in the courts. We are trying to encourage the use of the Welsh language. We have gone a long way down that road by stating that guidelines and schemes will be produced and if schemes are not produced properly the board will not agree to them. Then the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, encouraged by his litigious noble friend behind him says, "Let everyone go to court and try to get some money." That is not the route we want to take. If someone is personally aggrieved, he can approach the ombudsman. If he wants to take the body concerned to court he can do so, but if that body is not fulfilling its duties as regards the Welsh language it is a matter for the Welsh Language Board to put right. I can see that the noble Lord feels he is following a good old ferret down a rabbit hole, but I hope he will realise we have adopted the best course.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I am deeply distressed to think that my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies ever needed encouragement from me to be litigious. This is an important matter. The Minister said that discrimination is an ugly word. It is an ugly word. It is also an ugly activity and that is why the word attached to it is ugly. I shall be obliged to withdraw this amendment. Nevertheless I say—I hope with every care—that this issue will cause a good deal of hurt and a good deal of anger to those who are most interested in these matters. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16 [Investigations]:

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 37: Page 7, line 28, leave out from ("case") to end of line, and insert: ("() Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (2) above, an investigation shall be conducted in public unless the Board determines that it is appropriate in the circumstances of the case for the investigation to be conducted in private.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 38 and 39. As regards Amendment No. 37, there are three good reasons for preferring the wording of this amendment to that which appears in the Bill. They are not adversarial or confrontational reasons. Consequently, we offer the amendment in a spirit of conciliation and good will which I hope the Minister and Members of the Committee on the other side of the Chamber will accept.

First, we believe that our wording is much more in harmony with the Government's declared policy in favour of open government where open government is possible. At present that area is too closed and we wish to open it up. Secondly, where most public bodies are concerned in Wales, there would assuredly be great public interest in an investigation by the board into any alleged non-compliance. I hope the Committee will believe me when I say that in the deepest heart of Dyfed this is hot news. People there would be very interested in being personally present at any investigation of this kind.

Thirdly, in all investigations of this kind the presumption should surely be that they take place in public, if that is at all possible. The amendment clearly places the onus of proof on anyone who argues that a private hearing is necessary. We maintain that that is the right way round. Can the noble Earl spell out for the Committee any of the circumstances in which it is thought that a private investigation would be so vital? Will he produce his best point as regards why the Bill puts the onus this way round rather than the way we are proposing?

In Amendment No. 38 we are simply proposing that an organisation should be spelt out as something slightly different from a person. As regards Amendment No. 39, I have spoken before on the importance of the board making its proceedings as public as possible. I remind the Committee that the word "publish" does not imply the printing and distribution of a large number of glossy pamphlets. A press release can in most cases suffice. The amendment uses the word "may" and not "shall". I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, that there is no difference between us on this issue. Nor is there anything sinister in what is written in the Bill. Clause 16(2) states: The procedure for conducting an investigation under this section shall be such as the Board considers appropriate in the circumstances of the case". In other words, that gives the board total discretion to do what it considers appropriate in the circumstances of the case. The subsection also states that: an investigation may be conducted in private". That provision was included in order to remove any uncertainty. The investigation may be a small one and the board may invite people to come and discuss the matter. Alternatively, the investigation may be of a larger nature, in which case there would be a public meeting. The intention is to allow the board to choose the correct procedure applicable to the circumstances of each individual case.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful for that reassurance. However, I still consider that for emphasis it would be clearer, better, and more reassuring for the people of Wales if it were stated on the face of the Bill that the investigation should normally take place in public although provision could be made for an investigation to be conducted in private. If the noble Earl is prepared to give a few days' thought to the possibility of some slight rewording I would be reassured.

Earl Ferrers

I do not know whether I shall give the matter a few days' thought, but I shall certainly give it some thought.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful for that reassurance, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Complaints of non-compliance]:

Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 38: Page 7, line 37, after ("person") insert ("or by an organisation with a special interest in safeguarding and promoting the use of the Welsh language,").

The noble Lord said: I appreciate that the word "person" can mean a group. That may well be the case in respect of many provisions of the Companies Act. However, I am worried that in Clause 17 the complainant is defined as: a person who claims to have been directly affected by a failure of a public body to carry out a scheme".

He has to show that he has been affected directly. A group would almost certainly not be able to satisfy that precondition. Yet an omission on the part of a public body might raise a matter of general significance. In those circumstances it should be possible for a group to make a complaint.

If the Minister confirms that the word "person" also means a group then I am content. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

I can assure the noble Lord that the use of the word "person" in Clause 17 would cover the type of organisation which is referred to in Amendment No. 38. My advisers tell me that the use of the word "person" in this context includes bodies corporate and unincorporate. I hope that that reply will comfort the noble Lord.

Lord Prys-Davies

That reply is satisfactory. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

5.45 p.m.

Clause 18 [Reports on investigations]:

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 39: Page 8, line 9, at end insert ("and the Board may publish the report.").

The noble Lord said: I have already said as much about publishing as perhaps the Committee would wish to hear. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, was so expeditious that I was momentarily floored, not least because, in respect of the previous amendment, I was looking at the wrong amendment when I rose to answer the noble Lord. However, I discovered that fact in time and the answer that I gave was the correct one.

It is certainly arguable that the board would be able to publish any reports which it had prepared under the terms of Clause 18. This matter is so central to the whole of the Bill that I very much agree with the noble Lord that we must remove all vestiges of doubt. Perhaps I could take the matter away and consider it again. I accept the amendment in principle, but should like to make certain that the wording is correct.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I am grateful and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Lord Hooson had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 40: After Clause 19, insert the following new clause:

("Responsibility of government departments and public bodies

.—(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any other enactment, it shall be the duty of—

  1. (a) every government department, and
  2. (b) every public body,
the executive responsibilities of which extend to Wales, when providing written material of whatever nature to, or otherwise communicating by any means whatsoever with, any person resident in Wales, in the course of discharging its executive responsibilities, to ensure that the language used, whether Welsh or English, as the case may be, complies with the requirements of that person unless those requirements are unreasonable or compliance with them would be impracticable.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, a requirement made in any case by any person shall be presumed to be reasonable and compliance with it shall be presumed to be practicable unless the contrary in either case is proved; and the test of what is reasonable or practicable as the case may be shall be objective.

(3) Every government department or public body such as referred to in subsection (1) above shall in discharging the duties imposed by that subsection have regard to any guidelines issued under this Act for the purpose of giving practical guidance with respect to those duties.").

Lord Geraint

Perhaps I may take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hooson who is unable to be present today. He had to go back to Montgomery to attend the funeral of a close friend. However, he feels very strongly about the amendment tabled in his name and would like to have the right to speak on this very important subject at Report stage.

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 not moved.]

Clause 20 agreed to.

Lord Prys-Davies moved Amendment No. 43: After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of the Race Relations Act 1976.1976 c. 74

.—(1) The Race Relations Act 1976 shall be amended as follows.

(2) After section 4 there shall be inserted the following new section—

"Communi-cation in Welsh.

4A. For the purposes of this Part of this Act a requirement or condition relating to an ability to communicate in Welsh shall be justifiable where the person to whom it is applied would, in the course of employment to which the requirement or condition applies, deal on a regular basis with persons who normally use Welsh and the level of ability required is no greater than is needed to do so.".").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to insert a new subsection in the Race Relations Act. Local authorities in North and West Wales in particular are concerned as to when they can lawfully stipulate that relative proficiency in the Welsh language is a condition of employment without being in breach of Section 4 of the Race Relations Act 1976. Experience has shown that there is a potential conflict between the Race Relations Act and the appointment policies of some local authorities. Some Members of the Committee will know that that has been the subject of litigation.

The issue is the cause of considerable anxiety in Gwynedd and Dyfed. Four of the local authorities in North Wales and South-West Wales have written to us in support of an amendment on the lines of Amendment No. 43, as have a large number of Welsh voluntary organisations. The amendment mirrors wording proposed by the Welsh Language Board.

There is obviously no problem when the linguistic condition relates to a post involving the teaching of Welsh. However, lawful linguistic requirements should not be restricted to such posts. There is a need for such a requirement for many posts in the public sector. Without the amendment, or an amendment along these lines, the present uncertainty and anxiety will prevail.

I understand on good authority that the board's amendment was acceptable to the race relations commission, subject to an additional proviso to take account of applicants who are able and willing to learn Welsh if appointed. That proviso was acceptable to the Welsh Language Board. It is my understanding that the commission has agreed that an amendment to Section 4 of the 1976 Act should be incorporated in the Bill. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that my understanding of the position is correct.

The local authorities and others were surprised, and very sorry, to find that the Bill does not address the problem. However, if the Bill incorporated the amendment, modified to include the proviso which the commission has agreed with the board, the problem would be resolved. I beg to move.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am pleased to support the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, indicated, the proviso was part of the original submission of the Welsh Language Board. It is also strongly supported by local authorities which have been trying to practise a policy of linguistically sensitive service delivery. I refer in particular to the so-called caring professions—social services, health care, social work practice, and so on. The equivalent of what is known in the jargon as ethnically sensitive social work practice in the context of the Welsh language is linguistically sensitive in those areas. To ensure that potential receivers of services can have their service through the medium of a language of their choice involves appointment procedures requiring competence in the language.

In an earlier debate we had reference in clear terms —I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn—to the effect of different forms of discrimination on individuals. However, there is a difference between sexism, racism and "linguism". When we talk about language policy, we refer to the potential for persons to be able to receive training in another language and therefore to become proficient and competent to be employed, thus removing any potential discrimination.

Obviously I do not ask for affirmative or positive discrimination in all areas. However, where the delivery of the service is required through the medium of Welsh, there is room for positive discrimination in order to ensure that people are recruited who are able to provide a service through the language. However, as important as the initial advertisements using the phraseology that individuals should be competent in Welsh is the provision that people who are recruited to public service (where that service is required to be a bilingual delivery) should have the opportunity to learn the language.

In that context the Welsh Language Board and the schemes have an important contribution to make. It would be possible to specify in advertisements that candidates for public appointments who do not have a fluency in the language will have opportunity to avail themselves of that skill. That is an important dimension of the policy. It allows for recruitment to the public services in Wales to be made flexible. It ensures that linguistic and other skills are available for those who provide such services.

The amendment raises a matter of concern which has arisen in specific cases. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson—he apologises for his absence—has been personally involved in an advisory and legal capacity. In some cases an attempt has been made to use the race relations legislation—I strongly support the legislation—and to extend it to linguistic discrimination. Again there is a distinction to be made. Equal linguistic opportunity is not necessarily the same as equal general opportunity or equal opportunity in terms of a multiracial society. Such distinctions are very sensitive. They have to be developed and set out clearly.

There are a number of ways of doing so. One is to amend the Race Relations Act, as set out in the clause. I commend another way to the department, although I repeat that from the Cross-Benches I do not seek to usurp the role of the Minister. It is to consider the ways in which the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and any other such agency which is not directly accountable to the Welsh Office, can arrive at schemes with the Welsh Language Board. That course would clarify the position. One would then have an agreement in the public services between public bodies that were not necessarily accountable to the Welsh Office, as the Welsh Language Board is to the Secretary of State, but were accountable to other Secretaries of State. They would then be able to come to an agreement between the Welsh Language Board and those bodies. The statements would describe the policies on recruitment and services to be delivered in the Welsh language.

That would immediately clarify the situation. I commend that course to the Minister today, if, for any reason, he cannot accept this sensible amendment.

Viscount St. Davids

If I understand the intention behind this amendment correctly, its aim is to clarify the circumstances under which an employer may justifiably stipulate an ability to speak Welsh as a condition of employment. Given the implications which this Bill will have for the delivery of Welsh language services throughout the public sector, which will in part be dependent upon the presence of Welsh-speaking members of staff, it is certainly an area where we need to remove any uncertainty.

I am pleased that the amendment, while seeking to clarify this issue, does not seek to interfere with principles of existing employment law by removing the need for such language requirements to be justified. Given the growth in Welsh language services which we all want to see, I think that that is particularly important. It may be that we see a growth in a number of posts where a knowledge of Welsh is essential. What the Government do not believe would be desirable would be a move to a position where all posts are so described. This will not be the case under the Bill. It is not our intention that all public servants, for example, must speak Welsh. The successful implementation of this Bill does not depend on that. We would not have brought it before this Committee if it did.

I therefore have considerable sympathy with the objectives underlining this amendment. However, I do not believe that it is necessary to amend the Bill in this way. What is being suggested by the amendment is a clarification of the justification criterion contained in the Race Relations Act 1976. First, the concept of what is justifiable in this context is already to some extent defined by case law. Secondly, the Government's view is that, if required, it would be far preferable for clarification to be achieved by means of non-statutory guidance. I would expect the Welsh Language Board to have an important input in the content of such guidance. I understand that the board would expect the commission to play an important part in the guidance to which I have referred.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am grateful to the Minister for his initial response. However, perhaps he will answer my more detailed question and specify whether commissions and bodies, such as the EOC and the CRE, which are not accountable to the Welsh Office as a department, but are public bodies operating in Wales, will be expected to draw up schemes within the terms of the Bill.

Viscount St. Davids

I understand that that is so.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am grateful for the obvious sympathy of the Minister. However, I am not convinced that we have to rely on an assurance in the terms that he has expressed: that it may be adequately covered one day in the indefinite future when a language scheme may be agreed between the Welsh Language Board and the Commission for Racial Equality. As I understand it, those bodies have agreed that this is a proper matter to be included in the Bill. Given that we have the provision before us, the assurance should be embodied in the legislation and not simply left to an assurance, an undertaking or a scheme to be agreed at some time in the future. I shall study with my noble friends what the Minister said; but we believe that there is a case for embodying the principle in this clause in the Bill.

In addition to reflecting an agreement between the board and the commission, the amendment reflects to a large measure a significant part of the decisions of the European Court of Justice in the Groener case, to which I referred on Tuesday. Is it not possible for the Government to reconsider their position and agree to embody the amendment, together with the commission's proviso, in the Bill? If the Government were to agree to do that, it would remove the uncertainty and be a source of great satisfaction.

6 p.m.

Viscount St. Davids

The Race Relations Act requires that the language requirement should always be justifiable. It does so without specifying any particular language. It would be to imbalance such legislation if the position of Welsh as a condition of employment were to be clarified but not that of any other language. Therefore the issuing of non-statutory guidance seems to us to be by far the best way of resolving the issue.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Welsh is a language of the United Kingdom which is of official status or equal validity.

Baroness White

All of us, even those who were doubtful about this, share the view of my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn that Welsh is different in Wales.

Viscount St. Davids

I do not think that I need any reminder about the Welsh language in Wales. This is a Bill which, by promoting the use of the Welsh language, will bring with it a greater cultural cohesion in Wales. References to race relations or similar matters should not be on the face of the Bill. As I said, the Race Relations Act already makes the provision that a language requirement should be justifiable. That is the way we would like to leave it.

Lord Prys-Davies

The race relations commission has a bank of information, knowledge and experience. It believes in and supports the amendment that is confined to the Welsh language as being compatible with its policy. Since that is the attitude of the commission, why are the Government concerned? The commission sees no problems here.

Lord Elis-Thomas

Perhaps I may pursue the argument a little further. Although I would not be one to make distinctions between languages, it is a distinction already made between so-called ethnic minority Community languages (which, although they are international languages in their own right, are so described in the United Kingdom) and what we are talking about here—namely, a national language. We all agree that in one sense or another it is national within Wales and official within Wales. The whole argument of the Government in the earlier context is that we do not need to write "official" on the face of the Bill, it is self-evident that that is so. If that is so, there is no problem about making a distinction in the case of Welsh in Wales and this does not necessarily relate to the position of other Community languages within the United Kingdom.

Where there have been cases in the past where one piece of legislation linked with racial equality has been, in my view, misused in the area of linguistic equality, we need to make that clear. Where better to do it than in this legislation?

Viscount St. Davids

I still maintain that any inclusion of an amendment of this nature would be totally against the ethos of the Bill.

Lord Prys-Davies

Is that the considered view of the department?

Viscount St. Davids

Given the strength of feeling which I find in the Committee, I shall take the matter away and give it further consideration.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am grateful for that response. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 [Use of Welsh in legal proceedings]:

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 44: Page 9, line 7, leave out ("spoken") and insert ("used").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment. It seeks to change the word "spoken" to "used". I beg to move.

Viscount St. Davids

We gave an undertaking during the Second Reading debate that the Government would be bringing forward an amendment to Clause 21 concerning the use of written evidence in Welsh in the courts. The Minister of State at the Welsh Office has given a similar undertaking. I am happy to repeat that undertaking today though the Committee will note that it has yet to appear on the list of amendments tabled by the Government. Clause 21 of this Bill as it currently stands repeats the provision contained within the Welsh Language Act 1967. I understand that the general policy of the courts is to interpret this provision as extending to written evidence. The Government are however anxious that this should in future be reflected in the law. The amendment we propose to introduce will ensure that it is.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am grateful to the Minister for those sympathetic comments. He called in aid the 1967 Act. I also call in aid that Act and in particular the preamble. It is in these terms: Whereas it is proper that the Welsh language should be freely used by those who so desire in the hearing of legal proceedings in Wales and Monmouthshire". On the basis of that preamble, the Government should now honour the commitment.

Lord Elis-Thomas

They should do so not only on the basis of the preamble but on the basis of the marginal notes to the clause which refer to the use of Welsh in legal proceedings.

Life would have been made much easier if the Minister had just accepted our amendment. There is an important point here that there should be no difficulty about the operation of legal proceedings. In these amendments we are moving away from the general discussion of the board and the statements of principle and on to the detailed provision which, as the Minister reminded us, is in part a recodification of what was in previous legislation. It is time that the Government got it right and specified it clearly on the face of the Bill.

Viscount St. Davids

As I said, the Government will bring forth an amendment which we hope will meet the noble Lord's requirements.

Lord Elis-Thomas

On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 45: After Clause 21, insert the following new clause:

("Amendment of s.10 of Juries Act 1974.1974 c. 23

.—(1) Section 10 of the Juries Act 1974 (discharge of summonses in case of doubt as to capacity to act effectively as a juror) shall be amended as follows.

(2) After "understanding of English" there shall be added the words "or (where a trial is to be held in Welsh) of Welsh".").

The noble Lord said: This is another amendment which is of great significance. It would entitle a defendant, where the trial of his criminal matter was to be held in Welsh or substantially in Welsh, to have jurors to try him who could comprehend his language.

Clause 21 makes it quite plain that: In any legal proceedings in Wales the Welsh language may be"— and it will be— [used] by any party, witness or other person who desires to use it, subject in the case of proceedings in a court other than a magistrates' court to such prior notice as may be required by rules of court". That means that presently a defendant who is a Welsh speaker is entitled as of right, with no notice given, to go to the magistrates' court and conduct his criminal matter before the magistrates in the Welsh language. No notice is required.

The practical validity of that is, as we all know, that there are many magistrates' courts in many different areas of Wales where the magistrates are wholly familiar with the Welsh language; so are the advocates, the clerk and all participants. That is a much more common experience, if I may respectfully put it that way, than many English people imagine who do not live or work in Wales.

Let us take a practical example. A man is charged with stealing £200. He can go to the Cardigan, Aberaeron or Aberystwyth magistrates' courts and as of right with no notice have the tribunal listen to him conduct his case in Welsh. He can call his evidence and have his advocate act in Welsh. However, if he elects to go to trial on that same charge of theft of £200, he will not have the right to be tried by a jury of his peers who understand his language. We simply say, I hope with care, that that is simply not just. The suggestion put forward in the amendment, which is one of fundamental importance, even though its practical incidence will be limited, is that Section 10 of the Juries Act of 1974 should be amended. Where a summons to attend for jury service has been served, Section 10 reads: Where it appears to the appropriate officer, in the case of a person attending in pursuance of a summons under this Act— in other words, to be on the panel— 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 person may be brought before the judge, who shall determine whether or not he should act as a juror and, if not, shall discharge the summons". The amendment that we propose is that after "insufficient understanding of English" there shall be added the words: or (where a trial is to be held in Welsh) of Welsh". That would give equal validity to the rights of the Welsh speaking defendant as is given to the English.

After all, there are still people in some parts of Wales whose grasp of English is imperfect, though their grasp of Welsh is excellent. If such a person attends as a prospective juror on the panel, he may well say, "I am not really up to sitting as a juror in English. There are complicated documents. I won't follow them properly because I am much more familiar with Welsh." Then the judge will invariably ask him to stand down if he has not made his request to the appropriate summoning officer.

What is suggested here as elementary justice is that, if a Welsh speaking defendant wishes his trial to be conducted substantially in Welsh, he should be entitled as of legal right to have the same inquiry put to the jury panel: "Are you familiar with the Welsh language? If not, you must stand down." The judge must decide.

That is very important. I readily reiterate that it will not happen very often. But things that do not happen very often can have enormous effect, influence and consequences. If the amendment is not accepted, the words about equal validity and about both languages being official will be exposed as a sham. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

I referred on Second Reading to the strong case for empanelling Welsh-speaking juries. I warmly support the eloquent and effective case which has been put by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn.

I believe that the failure to provide juries able to understand Welsh has been a major disincentive to the use of Welsh, especially in Crown Courts. I have read the criticisms and the objections, but I am bound to say that I am not moved by them. I understand that they come in the main from the Home Office. It seems that it fears it would open the gates to a flood of requests for ethnically composed juries. It is difficult to follow the logic of that. The basic difference between Welsh and an ethnic party's language is that Welsh is our native language. Any person in Wales, whatever his ethnic origin, has a statutory right to use Welsh in the courts. Any argument to the contrary flies in the face of the intention and spirit of the Bill; namely, that: in the … administration of justice … the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality". It has also been argued that the ability of a Welsh-speaking juror to understand a complicated legal argument in Welsh would be insufficient. That, in my estimation, is a somewhat specious argument, bordering on the offensive. The answer which any Welsh-speaking judge who knows his Welsh jury must from experience give is that the ability of a Welsh speaker to follow a complicated legal argument in Welsh is not likely to be any better or worse than the ability of his English-speaking compatriot to understand a complicated legal argument in English. A sensible judge is likely to explain matters in a way that the jury is likely to understand, whether his directions are given in English or in Welsh.

Furthermore, any argument to the effect that juries consisting of Welsh-speaking persons are more likely to bring in perverse verdicts in cases where a party or witness speaks Welsh would not only be inaccurate but offensive as well. It would echo the words of a distinguished Victorian Lord Chancellor, Lord Hatherley, who in 1873 refused to appoint a Welsh-speaking county court judge to the mid-Wales circuit on the ground that an English litigant might think that a Welsh-speaking judge would not be capable of doing justice. In subsequent years, we have proved beyond doubt that Welsh-speaking judges are among the best in the country. I believe that the arguments for this new clause are unanswerable and I appeal to the noble Earl to accept it.

Lord Thomas of Gwydir

I feel a little embarrassed because every time that I have risen to my feet this evening it has been to oppose an amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Williams. I rise now with great reluctance because I have great admiration for him as well as pride in having been a member of the same circuit.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, will know, and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, will know even better, that I was engaged many years ago in many cases in Wales where most of the evidence was given in Welsh. I often found when prosecuting in a sheep stealing case in Wales, which I frequently did in North Wales, that most of the evidence would be in Welsh. I never experienced any difficulty at all in those trials. The defendants were given the very best opportunity to defend and justice was obtained in most of the cases that I can think of. I cannot think of a case where there was any degree of injustice.

It was all done through interpreters. In my experience all the courts looked at the 1942 Act quite liberally; nobody was ever prevented from giving his evidence in Welsh. Frequently people benefited from that because, while their evidence was being translated by the interpreter, they had a little more time to think of the best answer. That is how the situation mostly obtains in Wales today: when there is a case with Welsh-speaking witnesses or a Welsh-speaking defendant, the evidence is given in Welsh and one uses interpreters.

The amendment concerns a case that is entirely conducted in Welsh, and that is what is suggested—that there should be Welsh jurors who can speak and understand Welsh and therefore it would be an all-Welsh court. That is ideal and I should certainly like to see that happen in many cases.

However, the noble Lord referred to Section 10 of the Juries Act 1974. I do not have the Act before me but he read it out. The Committee should recognise that that section concerns the discharging of jurors, who have been summoned to attend, in the case of doubt as to their capacity to act effectively as a juror. That is really the point of Section 10.

The appropriate officer, who is an officer of the court, is supposed to test a juror to see whether he or she is able to act effectively. It is for cases where there may be a disability such as deafness, illness or indeed if the person is unable effectively to understand English. Of course, most cases are conducted in English and that is why it is part of the Act. When that happens a juror is brought before the judge and it is the judge who discharges that juror—it is quite a ceremony.

The situation envisaged by the amendment assumes that somebody has committed some form of crime in, say, Newport and has chosen to be tried in Welsh. Great arrangements would need to be made in Newport in order to arrange for a case to be heard in Welsh, unless the case was transferred elsewhere. But arrangements would be made. Then one comes to the panel of jurors. It is extremely doubtful in Newport, Monmouthshire, that one would find 12 people to form a panel of jurors who were able to understand a trial in Welsh and who, to use the words of the amendment, were able to "act effectively" in Welsh.

When I was Secretary of State the Lord Chancellor asked Lord Edmund-Davies to investigate the matter of all-Welsh trials. There was one point about which he was absolutely certain: that the random selection of jurors should be maintained. Therefore the situation would not arise of having a case in, say, Newport—where only a few people can speak Welsh—where one would have to keep adding to the panel of jurors until eventually there were 12 Welsh-speaking people. That would be totally contrary to the random selection of jurors which has been with us for centuries and must, in my view, be maintained. Should one change that situation, one would be entering an area of considerable difficulty.

Lord Edmund-Davies said that there had to be simultaneous translation. When one has an all-Welsh court one has simultaneous translation, which means that, even though one cannot understand Welsh, one can receive a simultaneous translation of the evidence and the argument. Therefore an English-speaking juror who was considered to be effective as a juror, would still be able to follow the proceedings and have the capacity to act effectively. The amendment seeks to break down the policy of the random selection of jurors and therefore I wholly oppose it.

Lord Geraint

Amendment No. 45 concerns the main theme of the principle of the use of the Welsh language. Following the excellent speeches on the amendment, I do not feel that it is necessary to add much more to the debate today. However, I should like to endorse what has been said in favour of the new clause, especially by the noble Lords, Lord Williams of Mostyn and Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.

We, in Wales, have always had a high regard for justice and fair play. Indeed, we can look back as far as the 10th century to the time of Hywel Dda, the Welsh prince who set out to establish a legal framework that enshrined many human rights unheard of at that time in other parts of Europe. His laws of course were written in Welsh and Latin. Today, this clause asks for an ordinary, basic human right that has already been given to the native English speaker in the Juries Act of 1974. As a Welsh-speaking Welshman I simply ask for that same basic human right; namely, that juries in a Welsh language trial should have an understanding of Welsh just as in an English trial they are required to have an understanding of English.

I cannot see an argument against that. It seems to me to make the law more fair and more just. It gives the Welsh speaker the same rights as an English or non-Welsh speaker in similar circumstances. Can the noble Earl say where is the difficulty in implementing the new clause? The majority of cases heard in Welsh will be in those areas where there are plenty of Welsh speakers to draw from. I am sure that all practical problems can be resolved given the will to do so.

Finally, any Bill that is to gain the support and confidence of the people of Wales must recognise the right of all people of Wales to use Welsh, and place a duty on governmental and other bodies, including the courts, to respect that right.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas

Again I rise to support what has been said by the lawyers so far in the debate and I follow my noble friend Lord Geraint. In dealing with this section of the Bill we move on from the framework of principle and specific implementation, with which we dealt earlier in the case of the Welsh Language Board, to an area of the Bill where we already have existing language legislation. I do not think it is a matter of insignificance that it was the Welsh Courts Act 1942 that began, as it were, the modern return of Welsh on to the statute book of the Houses of Parliament. This is why the whole issue of the way in which the administration of justice takes place in Wales in relation to the two languages is still an important issue.

This clause, one hopes, affects only a small minority of the population. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said, that is not an argument for not ensuring that justice is patently seen to be done for both individuals and for the language group concerned. I appreciate the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, advanced about the random selection of jurors, but I believe that in practice the numbers of cases where this would apply would be limited.

However, we are dealing here with an area of legislation where individual rights are appropriate. I say that because in earlier clauses of the Bill I made it clear that it was not my view that the development of policy in the public services should be based on individual rights, but when we come to the area of the administration of justice and the position of persons who are defendants before a court of law, it is surely there, even in our tradition in the United Kingdom, that we should place an emphasis on the rights of individual defendants.

I am not arguing here—and we shall come to this in my next amendment—about the quality of interpretation. I am not arguing about whether an individual is or is not able to follow precisely what is being said directly. I am arguing about the position and choice of an individual defendant, and that, where a trial is to be held in Welsh as set out in these amendments, the opportunity should exist for it to take place entirely in Welsh.

These are exceptional cases. Often the trouble with language legislation is that exceptional cases become celebrated cases, and injustices are seen to be done even perhaps where injustice is not intended. This is an area where there has been concern, and expressions have clearly been made on the issue that there should be this right. Expressions have come from distinguished members of the Welsh legal profession here this evening and others outside the Committee. The Government have an opportunity now to reconsider the matter. I hope that the Minister will undertake to do so.

Lord Crickhowell

The noble Lord, Lord Geraint, talked about the creation of confidence and the right to speak and use Welsh. We are of course talking in this Bill about the right to speak and use Welsh or English, whichever is one's language, in Wales. One is talking about an equality of rights. We have had two examples given to us. We had the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, talking about a situation in a largely Welsh-speaking area where some offence is committed and where practically everybody speaks Welsh and it is easy enough to get a jury composed entirely of Welsh-speaking people. My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir has spoken of another example in a largely English-speaking part of Wales where it may be more difficult to recruit such a jury.

The example that springs to my mind is of neither extreme. I was thinking of the constituency I once had the honour to represent where the languages have been happily mixed for centuries; where we had Welsh-speaking people and English-speaking people. I was thinking of the words used by so many in this debate and by the noble Lord, Lord Geraint, about the importance of justice being seen to be done and about individual rights. But surely what we are talking about is individual rights to both English-speaking and Welsh-speaking Welsh people. There is the treasured right of people to serve on a jury irrespective of their language.

I am not talking of the great principle of random selection. Nor have I the legal experience of my noble friend or others. I am talking in practical terms about a mixed community. There is considerable merit in a situation where those called to serve on a jury can represent both languages. There is a real hazard, a real danger, that far from building confidence one will weaken confidence in a mixed community. Not on the basis that there is any doubt about the ability of the Welsh-speaking people and not on the grounds cited by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, which seem to have been the curious view of some people in the 19th century, not on any such ground, but simply that if you have an entirely mixed community in which a jury is seen to be selected from one group in that community but not from the other, you will have a cause for divide rather than for unity. You have a destruction rather than a building of confidence.

Simply for that reason, and bearing in mind the extraordinary quality nowadays of simultaneous translation and the effectiveness of the way it has been introduced into the courts in Wales, I would prefer to see the random selection of juries from people who live in the area, people who live in Wales, taken regardless of the language they speak, because that is as important a principle and as important an objective as any other that has been raised in the course of the debate.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

I would never claim normally to know better than the noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Gwydir and Lord Elis-Thomas, my noble friends Lord Cledwyn, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and Lord Prys-Davies, nor the noble Lord, Lord Geraint, but on one matter I claim to know better than they do, and that is the difficulty of following and working with simultaneous translation from Welsh to English or from English to Welsh over a long period. All the noble Lords whose names I have just given have the inestimable advantage of being fluent in both languages. They do not have to depend upon the crutch of simultaneous translation.

If I were called as a juror in a case to be conducted for the most part in Welsh, I would not feel myself sufficiently confident in the language to do without simultaneous translation, especially if any technical matters were being considered. Simultaneous translation has many drawbacks. It is extremely difficult for someone over a long period—and even 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour is a long period in this case—to keep up the concentration necessary to move from one language to another and to retain accuracy. It requires a high degree of skill. Those people who are competent to do it are very much underpaid.

It is also unfortunately less than perfect. Even the greatest of simultaneous translators are capable of producing less than perfection from time to time. The necessity to use simultaneous translation removes from a juror the ability to hear not only what is said but how it is said. In court proceedings, that surely is often an important part of a case. We should try to do better than simultaneous translation in cases of the kind we have been discussing. We can do better, we should do better, and for that reason I support the amendment.

Baroness White

Can my noble friend explain to me what the position would be in a court where some of the witnesses are not bilingual? You can have your main business conducted in Welsh, but if some of your witnesses are monolingual, or at any rate not Welsh speaking, surely you would have to have some kind of simultaneous translation?

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My noble friend is right. In cases of that sort where witnesses are unable to understand, simultaneous translation must take place. My point is that jurors are different from witnesses, and jurors are required to make a judgment on the facts. They must be given the highest priority, and simultaneous translation is not as much use for them as it would be for witnesses who are simply required to listen and understand.

Lord Prys-Davies

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, has criticised the amendment partly on the grounds that it is a breach of the principle of random selection. But if there is such a principle then surely that was breached by the Juries Act 1974. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, was rather critical of the amendment on the basis that it would deprive people of the right to serve on a jury. I had always understood that it was a duty to serve as a juror, and that we did not have the right to serve as a juror.

We are seeking to relate the principle implied in Section 10 of the Juries Act to the situation in Wales where the defendant's evidence is to be given in Welsh. The principle is fair and sensible in the English context. Why then do we not also relate the principle to the situation in Wales where the defendant wants to give his evidence in Welsh? Or does the Minister invite the Committee to say that there is to be one rule for the English-speaking defendant and another for the Welsh-speaking defendant in Wales? Without this amendment, that will continue to be the position.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that this amendment is of great significance. It is a very important amendment. I can quite see why those people who have spoken in favour of it have done so because the Welsh language is very dear to their hearts which I understand.

I find it difficult to accept the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said that it is all the fault of the Home Office. He can take that view if he likes. I know that there is a kind of flavour of thought which he has on that matter. The noble Lord, Lord Geraint, asked: where is the difficulty? There is a difficulty which is that the amendment would be unacceptable because it would interfere with the random selection of juries.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, said serving on a jury is not a right but a duty. If the amendment were accepted, the duty would refer only to a certain section of the population, and it would be removed from the rest. We have to be very careful about doing anything which is going to interfere with the random selection of juries.

The noble Lord, Lord Geraint, said that it was a basic human right that jurors should speak in Welsh. It is also a basic system of British justice that jurors should be drawn from the community in which a person is tried. To reduce the area of selection to only those who can speak a certain language would be a great mistake and a change from the principle. There is nothing against the concept of juries being composed of Welsh speakers. What is important is that juries should be compiled, as a result of a random selection, of all those who are qualified to serve. If the jurors for a particular kind of trial are to be selected from a more limited pool, then that must influence the nature of the justice which the courts can administer.

The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, reminded us of the Welsh-speaking judge in the middle of the 19th century of whom it was said that he was incapable of passing a reasonable judgment because he could speak only Welsh. I believe that we all found that an amazing thing. But that was 100 years ago. It also prompted the noble Lord to say that we have some of the best judges in Wales, and I agree. One of the best judges of recent times was the late Lord Edmund-Davies to whom my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gwydir referred. As my noble friend said, that judge made a report to the Lord Chancellor of the day 20 years ago. It remains one of the most comprehensive investigations of the matter. I remind the Committee of the conclusions of his report because it is important. He said that the use of simultaneous translation equipment was the best means to cater for the interests of Welsh speakers in court cases, and that it was not interfering with the random selection of juries. That would not be the best solution.

There is a duty on all courts to provide simultaneous translation. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, that it is not as good as if one were totally bilingual and free. The alternatives which one has are either of saying that only those who can speak Welsh are to be jurors—in which case one cuts down the pool from which one can draw—or one says that the pool from which one can draw is as wide as it is in every other condition. It is drawn from all those who are eligible. If some of those are unable to speak Welsh, then they must be supplied with simultaneous translation.

It would be wrong to cut down the pool from which one can draw just to those who can speak Welsh. It is in the interests of British justice that we should retain the pool to be from a wide selection of those who are eligible.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos said that it is all the fault of the Home Office. Most things normally are. But I am not a subscriber to that theory on this occasion. Even the past few minutes have demonstrated with superabundance what a chasm there is between us. It is a great pit of complete non-understanding. I regret that very much. We have done our best to give this Bill every assistance. There is a fund of goodwill towards it. I regret to say that if the Government continue on this tack, they will dissipate the goodwill faster than the dew on a sunny morning.

Perhaps I may attend to all the arguments which have been put forward. The first in sequence was that of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir. He has had a distinguished career at the Bar on the same circuit as mine. He said that he had conducted trials in Welsh, and that is right. So have I. He said that he found no difficulty and I am sure that he did not. He was not a Welsh-speaking defendant. We heard of our ancient friend random selection. Perhaps we should remind ourselves about the centuries-old tradition of random selection. There was not any. One had to be a householder. One could not serve on a jury if one was a woman. The description of the classic English jury by Lord Devlin was: middle class, middle aged, white and middle minded. It seems to me that that is not very random.

So the centuries-old tradition of random selection does not exist any more than that women could vote before the early part of this century or that one could be on a jury, until relatively recently, simply by being on the electoral register. It is very recently that the random selection of jurors has included persons of the age of 18.

All of us who have practised over the past 25 years have noticed that now jurors are much more representative because they tend to include about half the population; namely, women. This is not an attempt to usurp the random selection of the jury panel. There will be no interference with that. The jury panel will be culled in exactly the same way; namely, at random from those who have filled out their eligibility on the electoral register. It simply means that in a few cases in which the criminal litigation will be conducted substantially in Welsh, the jurors who, as my noble friend Lord Morris has pointed out, are the people who matter in coming to conclusions of this importance, will be able to understand the language of the defendant and the witnesses. I regard that as no more than a simple human right.

It is said that something less will do. It will not—and this is the reason for the bitterness and the disillusion which will grow and grow. This facility and right will be required in rather less than a handful of cases in any given year. If it is a right to be tried for theft by the magistrates in Welsh, why is it not also a right to be tried by the jury on the same issues in Welsh, possibly even in the same town?

Arguments about Newport will not do. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, knows as well as I do that trials are frequently transferred from one area to another. If I have read the paper correctly, a trial deriving from Liverpool is being tried in Mold at the moment. It is commonplace that trials are moved for various reasons.

Some of us who have heard arguments of varying quality put against this have come to the unhappy conclusion that the true reason (never expressed) for not having Welsh-speaking jurors is the fear among some that Welsh-speaking jurors will be more ready to acquit in politically-tinged cases. I wish that those who felt that had the courage of their ignoble convictions.

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. He has made quite the most unjustifiable attack upon anyone who happens to take a contrary view. I went particularly out of my way to say that there is a dilemma here between, on the one hand, taking those who are unable to speak Welsh and having a wider pool and, on the other hand, taking those who can speak only Welsh and drawing from a smaller pool. To suggest that anyone says, "Let us keep the original system because if it is all in Welsh those who ought to be convicted will be acquitted", is to make a most disreputable suggestion.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I did not ascribe that to the noble Earl and I was careful not to do so. I said that I would deal with every argument that has been put and that I was turning—I said this specifically—to what a number of us who have discussed these matters know and believe to be the facts. I did not ascribe this to the noble Earl. If I had wished to do so—if there had been any justification for it—I should have said it plainly because I prefer to speak plainly. I am not ascribing it to the noble Earl. I am saying that there is a distinct feeling that this is part of the motivation in some people's minds. Even if it is unjustified, that feeling adds to the bitterness that people feel about this matter. There is no doubt about that.

Earl Ferrers

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again and will not do so any more. He rightly said that he did not ascribe that feeling to me—and I did not suggest that he did ascribe it to me. However, he did say that he was going through the various arguments and he will agree that that argument was never mentioned.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I entirely agree. I made that quite plain which is why my preamble was, "I now turn to things which are never expressed". I repeat that I am not ascribing that to the noble Earl who, although we have known each other for only a relatively short time, has always treated me with every civility and courtesy, and I hope that I have reciprocated.

I am saying that the feeling that I have mentioned is a cause of distress and bitterness. I do not believe that there is anyone who has anything to do with the prosecution of offences in Wales who has not heard that expressed. It may be right; it may be wrong; but that is the belief of many people. What is being said here is that it is acceptable to discharge potential jurors because they are not familiar with English, but that it is not acceptable to discharge potential jurors because they are not familiar with Welsh.

I beg the Government at least to think again on this matter. We do not agree on everything. There is no perfect symmetry between us, but we do agree that this is an opportunity to do good work. We want to do that. I hope that all of our approaches have been constructive, but the Government will throw all that away. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23 [Provision of interpreters]:

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 46: Page 9, line 23, at end insert ("on an annual basis").

The noble Lord said: I believe that the argument for the substance of the amendment, if not its wording, has already been made in that the Government have clearly indicated that at least at this stage they are not prepared to reconsider the basic principle of the ability of jurors to be fluent in Welsh in a small number of cases. I very much regret the way in which that matter was approached. It means that in taking that approach the Government are relying absolutely on the technical quality and competence of the interpretation that takes place in the courts in Wales.

As we have already heard—I do not need to rehearse the history of this—the late Lord Edmund-Davies produced a report which brought about the beginnings of effective simultaneous translation. I am old enough to remember the days when ministers of religion would undertake part-time translation in the courts, but those days are long long past. We now have a profession of interpreters who are very effective. Clearly, if the quality of the justice administered depends on the effectiveness of the interpretation, that interpretation needs to be adequately catered for. The interpreters need to be effectively trained and properly remunerated. That is the purpose of this amendment. I hope that the Government can accept the spirit of it, if not the wording. I beg to move.

Viscount St. Davids

Although I do not find this amendment desirable, it does give me an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the interpreters on whom the effective use of the Welsh language in the courts to a greater part depends.

I understand that the Lord Chancellor's Department has, since the passage of the 1967 Act, taken a number of measures aimed at improving the standard of simultaneous translation available. I am sure that the experience so gained will in future be valuable for a number of other branches in the public sector which we envisage making greater use of Welsh.

Having said that, I do not believe that we would gain very much by the inclusion of this amendment. I am sure that, in determining payment for these services, the Lord Chancellor has regard to suggested rates published by the Treasury. These are uprated regularly, and I am sure that the Lord Chancellor takes account of this.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am grateful to the Minister for what he has just said and want to follow him on one particular point; namely, the importance of the development of simultaneous translation not only in the courts, but also outwith them and, as he said, throughout the rest of public life. If the Bill is to be successful in other areas of its objectives, the effectiveness and quality of simultaneous translation generally is something to which we need to turn our attention. It is certainly something that the board will want to pursue.

Although I have not so far appeared in a Crown Court and have not therefore benefited from simultaneous translation there, while attending conferences the length and breadth of Wales in recent years, I have observed that it is now almost the accepted norm to have simultaneous translation. Its quality is often as high as one would expect to find at conferences on mainland Europe. We need to pursue that and to ensure that it remains the case. My information is that relatively recently the remuneration of translators was not what might be desired, but that it has recently been increased. In celebrated and important cases there can be interpretation both ways: from Welsh into English, and from English into Welsh. It is important that remuneration for that work should be adequate.

Lord Prys-Davies

I am reminded that there is general dissatisfaction about the remuneration of court interpreters. Unless the Minister is prepared to reflect further about the amendment, it may well be something to which we will return at a later stage. I join the Minister in paying tribute to the interpreters. The quality of the translation is essential. This may well be a matter which needs further reflection.

Viscount St. Davids

As I have said, I am sure that simultaneous translation will play a much greater part in public life in Wales than it has hitherto but we should leave the payment for those services to the Lord Chancellor's Department. I shall ensure that the Committee's comments and the relevant parts of Hansard are brought to his attention.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am aware of the improved training work undertaken by the Lord Chancellor's Department, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 agreed to.

7 p.m.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 47: After Clause 23, insert the following new clause:

Powers to give Welsh names to statutory bodies etc

(".—(1) Where a name is conferred by an Act of Parliament on any body, office or place, the appropriate Minister may by order confer on the body, office or place an alternative name in Welsh.

(2) Where an Act of Parliament gives power, exercisable by statutory instrument, to confer a name on any body, office or place, the power shall include power to confer alternative names in English and Welsh.

(3) This section shall not apply in relation to a name conferred on any area or local authority by the Local Government Act 1972, or to any power exercisable under that Act").

The noble Earl said: It is the Government's intention that all future legislation setting up statutory bodies serving Wales should confer a name upon that body in English and in Welsh. There are however a large number of existing bodies in Wales whose names are in English only. The amendment would allow Ministers to give those existing bodies an alternative name in Welsh. Where a power to confer a name on a body has already been granted, but is to be exercised in the future by order, the amendment allows the order to specify alternative names in English and Welsh. I beg to move.

Lord Elis-Thomas

The amendment is more important than it may appear at first instance. The principle of the Bill is to ensure that both languages are treated on a basis of equality. The perception of that equality in the use of the Welsh language to name public bodies is an extremely important principle. If one looks at a check list of simple do-it-yourself bilingualism and how one extends a use of a language, the logo, name, design and the title of public bodies are important places to start. So I am pleased at the recent trend.

I must be careful because I have been criticised outside the House for being too supportive of the Government on the Bill. I am not being supportive of the Government; I am being supportive of what I believe to be a relatively good Welsh Office Bill. The Welsh Office, especially in recent years, has adopted Welsh titles for organisations such as Tai Cymru and CADW, and so on. Although we may disagree with the policies of such organisations, the public perception of them as Welsh-based organisations is improved. It also encourages the private sector to follow by good example. There were times when only a organisation called Plaid Cymru used a Welsh-speaking title in Wales. It seems that now everyone is following that practice; so I warmly welcome the amendment.

Lord Prys-Davies

From these Benches we also warmly welcome the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

I am most grateful. I cannot but tell the Committee how delighted I am that I can satisfy your Lordships.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24 [Powers to prescribe Welsh forms]:

Viscount St. Davids moved Amendment No. 48: Page 9, line 27, leave out ("enactment") and insert ("Act of Parliament").

The noble Viscount said: In moving the amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 49, 50, 57 and 58. These are basically drafting amendments. I should be happy to explain them to the Committee if it so wishes. The Committee may find that unnecessary. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount St. Davids moved Amendment No. 49: Page 9, line 34, leave out ("enactment") and insert ("Act").

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move.

Lord Prys-Davies

There is a question I should like to address to the Minister, but I am not sure if it should come under Amendment No 49. I was hoping that the Minister would elaborate a little so that we could study his words. If the Minister is not in a position to give me an answer this evening, I should be content if he would let me have a reply before Report and place a copy in the Library.

According to my count, about 70 prescribed forms have been produced under Section 2 of 1967 Act. A Minister cannot be required to provide a Welsh language or bilingual version of a prescribed form. More Welsh language versions have been produced over the past few years than was formerly the case. What are the criteria to which the Secretary of State has to have regard in deciding whether to issue a Welsh or bilingual version of a prescribed form? I should be grateful if the Minister could throw light on that matter.

Viscount St. Davids

I do not think that I can throw any light on it at the moment; but I shall write to the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount St. Davids moved Amendment No. 50: Page 9, line 41, leave out ("enactment") and insert ("Act").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 10, line 9, leave out subsection (4) and insert: ("(4) This section shall not apply in relation to a provision which—

  1. (a) confers, or gives power to confer, a name on any body, office or place, or
  2. (b) requires specified words to be included in the name of any body, office or place.").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 51, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 54 and 55. The amendments allow industrial and provident societies and credit unions to adopt the Welsh versions of their names if they so desire. I beg to move.

Lord Prys-Davies

We welcome the amendment. Industrial and Provident societies in Wales have for many years been pressing for these modest amendments. The societies are popular in Wales. We have many such societies in agriculture and in the industrial valleys of South-Wales. Many of the welfare halls in South-East Wales are registered industrial and provident societies.

However, I wonder whether the reform goes far enough, unless we have an indication that the Secretary of State contemplates using the power under Clause 24 to issue a Welsh language version of the many prescribed notices which can be served under the 1965 Act. What are the Secretary of State's intentions in that respect?

There is a further point. There is no provision in the 1965 Act for registering a society whose constitution is written in Welsh. I am aware of a number of societies whose constitution is written in Welsh. We have failed to register the constitution in Welsh under the 1965 Act. Some of my comments may apply equally to credit unions, except that they are not as common in Wales as industrial and provident societies. Subject to that question, I am happy to welcome the amendment.

Earl Ferrers

It is not the Secretary of State's intention to make those organisations change their name. The purpose of the amendment is to allow them to adopt Welsh versions of their names if they so desire.

Lord Prys-Davies

I thought that we were addressing Amendments Nos. 54 and 55.

Earl Ferrers

I believe that the response that I gave was correct. However, I shall study Hansard and I shall communicate with the noble Lord and try to put him at his ease.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 25 [Provisions supplementary to section 24]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 52: Page 10, line 26, leave out from ("The") to end of line and insert ("powers to make orders under sections (Powers to give Welsh names to statutory bodies etc)(1) and 24(2)").

The noble Earl said: This and Amendment No. 53 are two further drafting amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 10, line 29, leave out from beginning to end of line 31 and insert: ("(4) References in sections (Powers to give Welsh names to statutory bodies etc) and 24 above to an Act of Parliament include references to Acts passed after this Act; and in those sections "the appropriate Minister" in relation to any Act means—

  1. (a) in the case of provisions for the execution of which in Wales a Minister other than the Secretary of State is responsible, that Minister, and
  2. (b) in any other case, the Secretary of State.
(5) Any question arising under paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4) above shall be determined by the Treasury; and in that subsection").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 54 and 55: After Clause 25, insert the following new clause:

Industrial and provident societies

.—(1) Section 5 of the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 (name of society) shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (2), for the words from "the word" to the end there shall be substituted the words "the last word in the name of every society registered under this Act shall be "limited" or, if the rules of the society state that its registered office is to be in Wales, either that word or the word "cyfyngedig"".

(3) In subsection (5)—

  1. (a) after the words "contain the word "limited"" there shall be inserted the words "or the word "cyfyngedig"",
  2. (b) for the words "that word" there shall be substituted the words "either of those words", and
  3. (c) after the words "that the word "limited"" there shall be inserted the words ", or in an appropriate case the word "cyfyngedig",".").

After Clause 25, insert the following new clause:

Credit unions

.—(1) Section 3 of the Credit Unions Act 1979 (use of name "credit union", etc) shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), there shall be added at the end the words "or, if the rules of the society state that its registered office is to be in Wales, either those words or the words "undeb credyd"".

(3) In subsection (2), after the words ""credit union" or" there shall be inserted the words ""undeb credyd" or".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Repeals and consequential amendments]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 56: Page 11, line 6, leave out from ("Schedule)") to end of line 9 and insert ("—

  1. (a) for "2(1)" there shall be substituted "24";
  2. (b) for "1967" there shall be substituted "1993"; and
  3. (c) for "enactments" there shall be substituted "Acts of Parliament".").

The noble Earl said: This is a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount St. Davids moved Amendments Nos. 57 and 58: Page 11, line 15, leave out ("enactments)") and insert ("Acts)"). Page 11, line 19, leave out ("enactments."") and insert ("Acts of Parliament."").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 11, line 19, at end insert: ("() In section 3(2) of the Charities Act 1992 there shall be inserted after "shall be stated in English" the following words ", or in Welsh within Wales,".").

The noble Lord said: We have dealt with amendments which the Government propose to enable companies and provident societies and other organisations to be on a legal basis in their use of the Welsh language. Both this amendment and Amendment No. 60, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, seek, in different areas, to do the same in respect of charities. My understanding is that under the Charities Act 1992 it is not legal to use a Welsh form of words. My amendment would allow them to do so and I ask the Government to consider it. I beg to move.

Lord Aberdare

As the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said, my amendment is grouped with his and covers the same ground but it is slightly more restrictive. The noble Lord's amendment covers any charitable organisation in Wales whereas mine is restricted to Welsh charities working wholly in the Welsh language. The kind of charities which I have in mind are those such as Merched y Wawr, which has 300 branches and 5,000 members, the equivalent of the English Women's Institute, or the best known Welsh youth movement, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, which has 12,000 branches and 45,000 members. Those charities find it odd that working in the Welsh language, they have their headed notepaper in Welsh but then have to put in "registered charity" in English. That does not seem to be in keeping with the spirit of the Bill. Although it is a small point I hope that my noble friends will look upon it favourably. Here are two excellent amendments to which they could choose to agree and they would send us away happy.

Earl Ferrers

It is legal for a charity's name to be in Welsh but it must also be in English. In other words, charities may use Welsh if they so desire. The reason for this provision in charity law is to ensure that people dealing with charities are aware of that fact since in certain circumstances it can affect their legal rights. Therefore, it is important that a declaration that the charity is a registered charity should be readily understood by all those coming into contact with the charity.

Neither of these amendments would provide the necessary safeguards on that score but perhaps I may consider the matter further before we reach the next stage of the Bill.

Lord Elis-Thomas

I am glad of that sentence because it seems absurd to have to follow elusen gofrestredig with the words "registered charity".

Lord Prys-Davies

Many Welsh organisations would find it offensive to have those words on their headed paper or on circulars seeking donations. I understand that there are about 110 charities which would come within the definition contained in Amendment No. 60. Therefore, we are talking about a considerable number of Welsh charities which operate in the Welsh language and would find it offensive to have to reproduce their designation in English. However, I fully understand the mischief which the appropriate section of the Charities Act seeks to address. I should be grateful if the noble Earl would look again at this.

Earl Ferrers

We certainly do not wish to do anything offensive and I shall look at the matter to see whether we can overcome the problem.

Lord Elis-Thomas

In view of the inoffensive nature of the noble Earl's remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 60 not moved.]

Clauses 28 and 29 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 61 not moved.]

Schedule 2 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.