Welsh language scheme

Prepared under the Welsh Language Act 1993. This scheme received the full endorsement of the Welsh Language Board in March 2010.

Introduction

The Wales Office supports the Secretary of State for Wales in discharging his / her role of representing Wales in the UK government, representing the UK government in Wales, and ensuring the smooth working of the devolution settlement in Wales.

Since June 2003, the Wales Office has come under the umbrella of the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), and subsequently the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in 2007. This scheme applies only to the Wales Office, and reflects our particular responsibility for matters relating to Wales, and our direct accountability to the Secretary of State for Wales. A separate Welsh Language Scheme applies to the MOJ and its related bodies.

Most of the executive functions, which were the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Wales before 1 July 1999 have been transferred to the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Assembly government. As a consequence, the Wales Office does not provide direct services to the public in Wales.

Wales Office Ministers are responsible for representing Welsh interests in primary legislation made by the UK Parliament and for progressing Welsh Assembly government legislative competence orders through the legislative process in both Houses of Parliament.

The Wales Office is also responsible for promoting and facilitating the devolution settlement for Wales, which necessitates ministers taking a wide-ranging interest in Welsh matters. In exercising these functions, the Wales Office occasionally publishes reports and other information, and regularly deals with a wide range of individuals and organisations both inside and outside Wales.

The Wales Office Welsh Language Scheme has been drawn up in accordance with Welsh Language Board guidance and was approved by the Welsh Language Board in March 2010. It will be reviewed once again within 4 years of its coming into effect.

The standard of service

The Wales Office conforms to the principle that in the conduct of public business in Wales, the English and Welsh languages will be treated on the basis of equality. (The term ‘public’ extends to individuals, legal persons and corporate bodies. It includes the public as a whole, or a section of the public, as well as individual members of the public; voluntary organisations and charities whether or not they have been incorporated with limited liability since they too, will form a section of the public. It does not include persons acting in a capacity which is representative of the Crown, government or the state.) This scheme sets out how the Wales Office will give effect to that principle in dealing with the public in Wales.

We are committed to delivering an equally high quality service in Welsh as in English. All performance targets will apply to both languages. We aim for consistency in the standard of our services regardless of whether they are delivered in Welsh or in English.

Whether documents are produced bilingually (ie Welsh and English together) or in separate Welsh and English versions, the Welsh version will be of the same quality, format, size and prominence as the English version.

Implications for legislation and policy work

The Wales Office contributes to the formulation of policy and legislation across Whitehall and will work closely with other government departments to help them to give early consideration to Welsh Language issues (including the creation of prescribed forms) in line with their own Welsh Language Schemes, to consult the Welsh Language Board in advance regarding the proposals that may affect this, their own, or the schemes of other organisations.

The Wales Office does not develop its own policies or policy initiatives. In the event that we were to do so in future, they will be assessed for their linguistic consequences and will be consistent with this scheme. We will also seek opportunities presented by any such new initiatives to promote and facilitate the use of Welsh. We will consult with the Welsh Language Board in advance regarding proposals which might affect this scheme.

The Wales Office occasionally receives queries from other government departments on issues relating to the Welsh language, and officials will continue to assist where possible and/or to direct departments to the Welsh Language Board for definitive advice.

Delivery of the scheme

We are committed to operating within the terms of this scheme. The Director of the Wales Office is responsible to the Secretary of State for its success and for monitoring its implementation. Individual managers within the Wales Office are responsible for ensuring that their teams operate in accordance with the scheme. Staff will receive support and guidance (which will be regularly updated) on the use of Welsh in the Wales Office and the implications of this scheme.

The provision of services to the public in Wales

The work of the Wales Office normally involves contact with the Welsh Assembly government, other government departments, stakeholder groups and organisations rather than direct contact with the public.

Correspondence

We welcome correspondence in either English or Welsh. When someone writes to us, we will note and record the language choice and will reply in the same language. The Wales Office will ensure that the target time for replying to correspondence in Welsh, and the type of reply sent, is the same as that for replying to correspondence in English.

The Wales Office will write in Welsh:

  • to an individual, group or organisation which we know works mainly in Welsh, or which has already notified us that it prefers to receive letters in Welsh
  • following a face-to-face meeting or telephone call conducted in Welsh, where follow-up correspondence is required

The Wales office will write bilingually (ie in both Welsh and English):

  • to an individual, group or organisation unless we know that they would prefer to correspond in Welsh or English
  • when we issue a standard or circular letter to several individuals or organisations unless we know that they would prefer to receive them in Welsh or English only.

If, in exceptional circumstances, we are obliged to issue letters at very short notice (eg in emergency situations), we may issue such letters monolingually if we judge that translation delays would significantly disadvantage the recipients. If this were to happen, the Head of Division would be required to provide a lessons learned report to the Wales Office Management Board.

As a rule, where a bilingual letter for issue is to be accompanied by one or more enclosure(s), we will produce the enclosure(s) bilingually.

Freedom of Information requests

Information released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 will be released in the language in which it is available at that time

Telephone calls

We welcome telephone enquiries in either English or Welsh. Calls to our main telephone numbers in both our London and Cardiff offices will normally be answered by fully bilingual staff.

Where a call in Welsh is received on a direct line and the person taking the call cannot speak Welsh, he or she will politely explain the situation and provide the caller with the choice of separate telephone conversation with a suitably qualified Welsh speaker, or of continuing the call in English, or of writing to us in Welsh. There may be rare occasions when there is no Welsh speaker available who can handle the call fully, especially if the topic is complex or of a specialised nature. In these circumstances, the caller will be given the option of discussing the matter in English or writing to us in Welsh – in which case, they would receive a written reply in Welsh.

Public meetings, inquiries and hearings

Whilst the work of the Wales Office does not normally require us to organise public meetings in the course of our business; in the event that we were to do so in the future, we will take steps to establish in advance the level of demand for bilingual facilities. To this end, we will also give careful consideration to the location of the meeting, to the subject matter of the meeting, and to our potential audience. If necessary, in light of this information, we will publish a public notice for the meeting, which will invite individuals to notify us (with clear instructions about whom to contact) which language they will be using.

Similarly, were we to prepare documents in connection with public inquiries and other hearings, we will issue these bilingually. Technical and legal documents will not normally be bilingual unless they are already available in Welsh.

Other meetings with the public

Members of the public are welcome to conduct pre arranged face-to-face meetings with us in Welsh. Where no prior notice has been received, we will nevertheless do our best to provide a Welsh-speaking member of staff for translation purposes, if one is available. There may be rare occasions when a suitably qualified Welsh speaker is not available. In these circumstances, we will offer to conduct the meeting in English, or to deal with the enquiry through correspondence in Welsh. If the meeting goes ahead through the medium of English, any written follow up action to the meeting will be bilingual.

Visitors to the Wales Office

We have fully bilingual receptionists in post in both our London and Cardiff offices.

There may be rare occasions when none of our Welsh speakers are immediately available. In such circumstances, the visitor will be offered the options of discussing their business in English; of leaving a written note in Welsh; or of leaving contact details so that a Welsh speaker can get in touch with them later.

Publications

All of our publications, directed at the public in Wales, will be bilingual, with the presumption in favour of a single bilingual document. Occasionally, we might publish a detailed technical document or a technical annex to an otherwise bilingual document in English only, unless it is already available in Welsh.

The editorial policy set out in the preceding paragraph will be reviewed annually in the light of experience. Where we do produce a document in both Welsh and English, the 2 versions will normally be incorporated into a single bilingual publication. Where practical considerations such as size lead us to publish separate Welsh and English versions, we will ensure that both are equally accessible to the public and that each will also contain a message stating that it is available in the other language. When we charge for a bilingual publication, we will not charge more than the price of a single language version. Where we issue separate Welsh and English versions, they will have the same price.

We will not translate documents which are primarily for internal use but which we may make available to the public on request.

Forms

When we need to issue any forms for general public use we will ensure that the forms and any explanations that may accompany them will be available in both Welsh and English. If a single document would be too lengthy, bulky or difficult to process, then separate Welsh and English versions of the form would issue at the same time and be made equally accessible to the public.

Where practical considerations such as size lead us to publish separate Welsh and English versions, we will ensure that both are equally accessible to the public and that each will also contain a message stating that it is available in the other language.

Press notices

We will provide a news information service on our Welsh language website. 50% of press notices will appear simultaneously on our English and Welsh websites, and 75% within 24 hours.

We will give priority to Welsh language press notices which are of particular interest to the Welsh-speaking public and/or include a Welsh language dimension. Our success in attaining these targets will be monitored and recorded.

Publicity campaigns, advertising and exhibitions

Should we need to conduct publicity campaigns, advertising or exhibitions, we will conduct our advertising and publicity activities in Wales bilingually in a way that treats both languages on a basis of equality. All Wales Office publicity materials such as brochures, booklets, leaflets and press advertising will be in a bilingual format. All Wales Office exhibitions, conferences and seminars will also have bilingual display stands.

Public notices

Public notices in newspapers distributed mainly or wholly in Wales will usually be bilingual in English language titles, or in Welsh only in Welsh language titles.

Presentation and corporate image

The Wales Office will present a fully bilingual corporate image. Our name and associated information will be bilingual in format, this will include signs (including those within the curtilage of our properties), publication covers and other forms of public display.

All our letterheads, compliment slips, fax cover sheets, staff business cards, e-mail auto-signatures and other similar items will be bilingual. In all instances, both languages will be equal in format, size, clarity and prominence.

Services provided on our behalf

Any agreements or arrangements which the Wales Office makes with third parties, such as agents, consultants or contractors, to provide services to the public in Wales on our behalf will follow the terms of this scheme where it is relevant to the services being provided.

The Wales Office will require third parties to provide reports on their performance against this scheme for monitoring purposes, and we will conduct random customer surveys to follow this up.

Implementing the scheme

Staffing

The total staff complement of the Wales Office is 65, around three quarters of whom are London-based. About a third of staff are on loan from the Welsh Assembly government and the remainder are recruited and managed under Ministry of Justice terms and conditions of service.

Wales Office staff recruitment notices are issued via both the Welsh Assembly government and Ministry of Justice. We will continue to work with both organisations to ensure that such notices issue bilingually in accordance with our and their Welsh Language Schemes.

It will be the responsibility of Heads of Division to communicate to our human resources branch the linguistic needs of their division and to keep under review posts where a Welsh-speaker is essential or desirable. The final decision on the recruitment of all posts will be taken by the senior management team.

Language training

The Wales Office is committed to encouraging staff to learn Welsh and we recognise the importance of language training in enabling staff to work confidently in Welsh. We will continue to meet the costs of training as well as offering paid facility time and study leave to members of staff undertaking such training. We will review the position each year and consider whether further steps are needed to stimulate higher participation levels

A skills audit of Wales Office staff was conducted in October 2009 and the results of this provide a foundation for our work force and training planning. Our HR branch will conduct and update this audit of language capability on an annual basis.

As part of our continuous improvement review of our reception arrangements, we will record any occasions on which a member of the public visits the Wales Office or contacts us on our main telephone switchboard numbers, and wishes to conduct matters in Welsh. We will also record whether each such requirement was met.

Translation services

Our translation needs will continue to be met partly by the Ministry of Justice’s Court Service Translation Service and partly by external translation contractors.

Interpretation services will continue to be engaged as and when they are required.

Guidance to staff

This scheme will be brought to the attention of all staff on a regular basis, and guidance will be issued to them on its implications for their work and the steps they need to take.

Timetable

Many of the commitments set out in this revised scheme have already been implemented, as we continue to comply with the principles of our original Welsh Language Scheme. Implementation of this revised Scheme will formally begin once it is approved by the Welsh Language Board. The Action Plan enclosed at Annex A sets out how the Wales Office will go about realising the commitments set out in this scheme.

Written guidance to staff on the steps they should take to implement this scheme will be issued prior to its implementation.

The development of a Welsh language policy for web publishing, referred to in paragraph 5.12, will be completed within 6 months of the scheme’s approval.

Monitoring the scheme and reporting on performance

We will monitor our performance in meeting the commitments made in this scheme, and in achieving the timetable for the changes. The heads of each Division and Branch or other operational unit will be responsible for ensuring that records are maintained on their compliance with the scheme, and on any complaints about the failure of the Wales Office to provide a satisfactory level of service in Welsh. This information will be collated by Corporate Services Branch and included in the 6-monthly reports to the Management Board.

If we do not meet the service standards set out in this scheme, the reports will give the reasons for this. Copies will be sent to the Welsh Language Board.

The Wales Office will also report to the Welsh Language Board on progress in delivering this scheme upon their request.

Publicising the scheme

The scheme will be available as a free bilingual document from our offices in London and Cardiff. Copies may be requested in a number of ways:

Wales Office
Gwydyr House
Whitehall
London
SW1A 2NP

Telephone: 020 7270 0534 ; Fax: 020 7270 6146 Email: correspondence@walesoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Adoption of the approved scheme will be advertised by notices in the press and a full copy will be placed on both our English and Welsh language websites.

Complaints

We hope that we will not give grounds for complaint. We shall be monitoring closely how well we are meeting the commitments in this scheme. If we fall short, we hope that members of the public will tell us. Any complaint about the Wales Office’s services in Welsh should be addressed to:

The director
Wales Office
Gwydyr House
Whitehall
London
SW1A 2NP

We would also welcome suggestions for improving the services we provide through the medium of Welsh, and any such suggestions should be sent to the above address where they will be considered as part of our continuing review of the way we deliver our services.