What is a standards investigation?
The Commissioner has the power to carry out a standards investigation, which is an investigation to decide whether an organization should have to comply with standards, and if so, which standards should specifically apply to them.
When carrying out a standards investigation, the Commissioner must have regard to the need to ensure that requirements for organizations to comply with standards are not unreasonable or disproportionate.
Who is liable to be required to comply with standards?
The Measure refers to ‘person(s) liable to be required to comply with standards’. A ‘person’ in this sense means an organization or sector that is included within a category of persons specified in Schedules 5 and 6, or Schedules 7 and 8.
The Measure also notes that an organization that provides services to the public under a contract for a public authority may also be liable to be required to comply with standards.
How will a standards investigation work?
Before carrying out a standards investigation, the Commissioner will give an exploration notice to each relevant organization, at least 14 days before beginning the investigation. An exploration notice is a notice in writing stating the Commissioner’s proposal to carry out a standards investigation, and the subject matter of the standards investigation.
In carrying out a standards investigation, the Commissioner will consult with
- each relevant person
- the Advisory Panel to the Welsh Language Commissioner
- the public.
What will organizations have to do during a standards investigation?
There are clear requirements within the Measure that the Commissioner must satisfy when carrying out a standards investigation. She will provide information and advice to make sure that the process of carrying out out a standards investigation is as easy as possible. Guidance will be available in writing and through face to face meetings, and point of contact for enquiries will be provided. The Commissioner will not request any unnecessary information.
Will the Commissioner collect evidence or information from organizations or sectors part of a standards investigation?
When carrying out a standards investigation, the Commissioner will collect evidence from individual organizations.
What will happen to information provided as part of a standards investigation?
All information received will be used by the Commissioner to reach a conclusion in the standards report. The information will also be considered when deciding the contents of a compliance notice, after regulations come into force.
Does an organization have to respond to a request for information as part of a standards investigation?
No, they do not have to respond, but the failure of an organization to participate in the Commissioner’s consultation does not prevent the Commissioner from carrying out the standards investigation.
How long will the process of carrying out a standards investigation take?
There isn’t a prescribed definitive timetable for carrying out a standards investigation in the Measure. However, previous standards investigations were carried out for a period of 12 weeks. After this, the Commissioner will produce a standards report to the attention of the Welsh Ministers.
What is a standards report?
A standards report is a document that sets out:
- the conclusions of the standards investigation
- the Commissioner’s reasons for reaching those conclusions
After carrying out a standards investigation and producing a standards report, Welsh Ministers must have due regard to the standards report in deciding whether, and how, to use the powers given to them. A copy of each standards report published by the Commissioner can be found here
What if a person or a member of the public disagrees with the Commissioner’s conclusions within a standards report? Is there a procedure for appeal?
There is no provision within the Measure for appeals against the conclusions of a standards investigation. The Commissioner has a complaints procedure
about acts or omissions relating to the exercise of the Commissioner’s functions.
What are the steps following a standards investigation and standards report?
After carrying out a standards investigation and producing a standards report, Welsh Ministers will produce draft regulations and associated documentation to the attention of the National Assembly for Wales.
As regulations come into force, the Welsh Language Commissioner may give a compliance notice
to an organization.
What is the Commissioner’s timetable for carrying out the standards investigation to various organizations?
The Commissioner has published a standards investigation schedule for a specified number of organizations up to the end of 2015. That schedule can be seen here