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Commissioner's role 'may still have a future'.

Byline: MARTIN SHIPTON Chief reporter

FORMER Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts has been appointed as the new Welsh Language Commissioner - leading to speculation that plans to drop the role have been scrapped.

Last year the Welsh Government signalled its intention to replace the commissioner with a Welsh Language Commission to promote the language.

But announcing Mr Roberts' appointment on a seven-year, non-renewable contract to succeed Meri Huws in the PS95k-per-year job from April 2019, First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "I am confident that Aled has the skills, the experiences, and the credibility to be Welsh Language Commissioner and to play a leading role in the public discussion on the Welsh language during the challenging years ahead."

Osian Rhys, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, which has campaigned against the abolition of the role, said: "We congratulate Aled Roberts on his appointment to this vital role: our national champion for the Welsh language and the people who use it every day.

"The Government's plans in their White Paper to abolish the role make no sense, and have been rejected in a public consultation. There's no sense in turning the clock back to an old, failed model that didn't defend people's language rights.

"It is significant that the Government has confirmed in their statement that Aled Roberts will serve as Welsh Language Commissioner for seven years. And they make no mention of their illconsidered plans to pass a Bill to abolish the job.

"This follows comments by the Minister and the chief civil servant in the division raising serious doubts about the plans.

"It looks more and more likely now that the Bill won't see the light of day. That would be great news - the Government needs to stop wasting staff time and money on a Bill that has no support.

"Instead, they should use their existing powers to introduce Standards for the private sector."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "The seven-year term of appointment is a requirement of the current Welsh Language Measure.

"Should the role be abolished prior to the end of the seven-year contract due to new legislation, the Welsh Government has the right to terminate the contract.

"This was made clear to all applicants for the role in the application pack.

"If a new Welsh Language Bill is approved and enacted by the National Assembly, it is expected that the Commissioner appointed under this procedure will have a crucial role to play in helping to shape the plans for establishing the new body to ensure a smooth transition."

A Welsh Government source suggested Mr Roberts would be unable to claim compensation for breach of contract if the role was terminated early because he will be an office holder rather than an employee.

Aled Roberts

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 28, 2018
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