Languages of the UK Act 2020

2020 CHAPTER 29

An Act to protect, promote and to make provision for usage of the indigenous languages of the United Kingdom.
Bill ID B050
Author(s) Llywelyn ap Iorwerth mp
Amended by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth mp
Their Grace Ser Xanthe–Orpheus Florence gctl kobc mr pc, 1st Marquess Florence
The Rt Hon Elliot Bouchard pc, 2nd Baron Hampstead
The Rt Hon Francis Valentine, 1st Baron Valentine
The Rt Hon Revd. George Vere, 1st Baron of Barrow-in-Furness
First reading 2020 September 10
Royal assent 2020 November 30
Commencement 2022 November 30
Affected legislation Equality Act 2010 (c. 15)

Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

1 List of Official Languages

Chapter 1: Power to add new official languages

  1. Her Majesty may by Order in Council amend this Part so as to—
    1. specify, as an additional official language, a language of any description, or—
    2. make any other modifications to the list of official languages which She considers appropriate.
  2. An Order in Council under this section may make such modifications of—
    1. any enactment (including any enactment comprised in or made under this Act) or prerogative instrument, or—
    2. any other instrument or document, as Her Majesty considers appropriate in connection with the provision made by the Order.
  3. No recommendation is to be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order in Council under this section unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing the Order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
  4. The amendment of this Part by an Order in Council under this section does not affect—
    1. the validity of an act made by a devolved administration passed before the amendment comes into force, or—
    2. the previous or continuing operation of such an act.

Chapter 2: Official and recognised languages

Official languages:

Recognised native languages:

Other recognised languages:

Chapter 3: Definitions

  1. By official written languages this act refers to all of the languages on the list of official languages of the United Kingdom that are commonly available in written form, such as most natural languages. This is to exclude languages that are not commonly available in written form, such as sign languages.
  2. Official languages constitute languages which HM Government is required to make provisions for translation of all currently maintained documents, websites, and other such material.
  3. Recognised native languages constitute languages which HM Government recognises as having constituted a significant part of the linguistic makeup of the United Kingdom, but that may no longer have significant numbers of speakers, and so for which the Government is not required to make provisions for translation.
  4. Other recognised languages constitute languages which have consistently high numbers of speakers, but which have arrived within recent times or are concentrated in specific geographic populations. These are for which, like recognised native languages, HM Government is not required to make provisions for translation.
  5. Of the above two sections, HM Government delegates authority to local government to make provision for these languages as they see fit: in areas with large populations of speakers of these languages, HM Government recommends that local government make provisions for translation as is seen appropriate by the relevant authority.

2 Protections and Rights

Chapter 1: Rights and anti-discrimination measures

  1. Her Majesty's Government and local government authorities must treat the official languages with equal favourability.
  2. The Equality Act 2010 is amended as such:
    1. In section 4, add after “sexual orientation” “language knowledge.”
    2. Add a section 4(B): Language knowledge, reading as follows:
      Language knowledge means a person's ability to communicate in or understand a language.
  3. Her Majesty's Government may not obstruct any person from exercising their right to communicate in the language of their desire.
  4. In relation to immigration requirements, knowledge of the official languages should be treated equally.

Chapter 2: Availability

  1. All official documents and forms shall be made available in the official written languages that—
    1. have a historical connection to the area of which these documents and forms apply, or—
    2. where speakers of that language are likely to interact with said documents and forms,
    so that speakers of these languages are able to read or understand them."
  2. Official websites of Her Majesty's Government which are under active development or maintenance must be available in all written official languages.
  3. Official websites of local government authorities which are under active development or maintenance must be available in any written official languages with a substantial population of speakers in the area governed by the authority.
  4. Her Majesty's Government, in consultation with Parliament, devolved governments, and local government authorities, must implement a strategy within 6 months of the passing of this Act to—
    1. facilitate education given in the medium of the representative official languages that have historical connections to their geographical area,—
    2. facilitate the prosperity of all the official languages, and—
    3. ensure that citizens and residents of the United Kingdom are free to communicate in the language of their desire without repercussions.


Documents relating to the functioning and running of the Houses of Parliament, devolved administrations, or any other local governance. This exception does not prevent said administrations to include or to require documents to be released in additional languages.

3 Establishment of a Language Commissioner

Chapter 1: The Language Commissioner

  1. There is to be a Language Commissioner of the United Kingdom (referred to in this act as “the Commissioner”).
  2. The Prime Minister must appoint the Commissioner.

Chapter 2: The Commissioner’s principal aim

  1. The principal aim of the Commissioner in exercising their functions is to promote and facilitate the use of the official languages of the United Kingdom.
  2. The actions which the Commissioner must undertake in exercising functions include (but are not limited to) working towards increasing—
    1. the use of the different official languages in the provision of services, and—
    2. other opportunities for persons to use the different official languages.
  3. In exercising functions in accordance with subsection (1), the Commissioner must have regard to—
    1. the official status which the official languages has in the United Kingdom,
    2. the principle that, in the United Kingdom, the official languages should be treated no less favourably than the English language, and
    3. the principle that persons in the United Kingdom should be able to live their lives through the medium of any official language if they choose to do so.

Chapter 3: Promoting and facilitating use of official languages and treating official languages no less favourably than English.

  1. The commissioner may do anything that he or she thinks appropriate—
    1. to promote the use of the official languages,—
    2. to facilitate the use of the official languages, or—
    3. work towards ensuring that the different official languages are treated no less favourable than the English language.
  2. That includes, but is not limited to, doing any of the following things—
    1. promoting the provision of opportunities to use the official languages;
    2. encouraging best practice in relation to the use of the official languages by persons who deal with, or provide services to, other persons;
    3. keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law relating to the official languages;
    4. carrying out, or commissioning others to carry out, research;
    5. carrying out, or commissioning others to carry out, educational activities;
    6. giving assistance to any person;
    7. making representations to any person;
    8. giving advice to any person.
  3. The Commissioner should not—
    1. make a grant or loan, or
    2. give a guarantee except with the approval of the Houses of Parliament.

Chapter 4: Staff

  1. The Commissioner—
    1. must appoint a person to be the Deputy Language Commissioner (referred to in this chapter as “the Deputy Commissioner”), and
    2. may appoint such other staff as the Commissioner thinks appropriate in connection with the exercise of their functions.
  2. The Commissioner may pay remuneration to the members of the Commissioner’s staff.
  3. The Commissioner may pay pensions to, or in the respect of, persons who have been members of the Commissioner’s staff.
  4. The Commissioner must obtain the approval of the Houses of Parliament for—
    1. the number of staff that may be appointed,
    2. the terms and conditions of service of the staff, and
    3. payments made under subsection 2 and 3.
  5. The commissioner may delegate any or all of the Commissioner’s functions to a member of the Commissioner’s staff.

4 Short Title, Commencement and Extent

  1. This act applies to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  2. This act may be cited as the Languages of the UK Act 2020.
  3. This act comes into force two years after the passing of this act.