The first Welsh bill passed under the National Assembly’s new legislative powers received Royal Assent yesterday and become law.
The National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill was introduced by the National Assembly’s Commission because it wanted to recognise both the Welsh and English languages as the official languages of Assembly proceedings.
It became law when the Welsh Seal was applied by the First Minister to the letters patent (signed by the Queen) and notified to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“In March 2011 the people of Wales gave their overwhelming support to the Assembly receiving full law-making powers,” said the National Assembly’s Presiding Officer, Rosemary Butler AM.
“Today, the First ever Act of the National Assembly for Wales receives Royal Assent. How fitting it is that our first Act as a full law-making body will confer equal status on the Welsh and English languages in the proceedings of the Assembly.
“The bill was brought forward by the National Assembly’s Commission, because we believed it essential, as our democratic system grows and matures, that both the Welsh and English languages are considered the official languages of our nation’s law-making body, and our commitment to the Welsh language can no longer be questioned as a result of this legislation.
“Just fifteen years ago, it would have been unthinkable for politicians, elected by Welsh voters, to draft such legislation and put it on the statute books within such a short space of time.
“We should all truly feel the hand of history on our shoulders today, a day when the Assembly has fulfilled the mandate given to it by the people of Wales in 2011.
“That is for representatives, directly elected by Welsh voters, to make Welsh laws.”
The Commissioner with responsibility for the Welsh Language and the passage of the Bill, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM said: “On this historic day, I’m proud of the way the Commission sets an example for public and private organisations in Wales about how to approach bilingualism.
“As the Member in charge of the Bill, and on behalf of the Commission, I would like to thank Assembly Members and the public for working together with us on its development. We have listened, and are confident that this legislation makes our responsibilities and our commitment clear for all to see.”
First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “This is the first act that has been passed by a legislature in Wales for more than 600 years. It’s an exceptionally historic day,” he said. “Wales is an old country, but a young democracy. Today is a historic day for us as a nation. It heralds the beginning of a new era for the governance of Wales.”