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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 07:08 GMT
Software blocks MPs' Welsh e-mail
Graphic of the House of Commons, Welsh text and a keyboard
A scanning system meant to stop abusive and pornographic e-mails reaching MPs may also be blocking messages sent in Welsh because it does not recognise the language.

The four MPs of the Welsh party, Plaid Cymru, have noticed that bilingual English-and-Welsh e-mails sent to them have been rejected for allegedly having "inappropriate content".

I'm wondering whether the scanner has picked up on part of a Welsh word which when taken out of context can be considered offensive

Elfyn Llwyd MP

The gremlins in the House of Commons' software are thought to have turned back the party's staff bilingual newsletter as well as other legal and decent correspondence.

The road block on Westminster's information superhighway comes as the Government plans to spend 6bn upgrading its online services as part of its campaign to tackle voter apathy.

The electronic scanner was introduced last month after MPs complained about being inundated with pornographic and rude e-mails, many apparently by disgruntled constituents.

But MPs have also been told they must mind their language when going online.

Under a new ruling, their own e-mails will be censored to edit "profanities of a sexual or offensive nature".

Elfyn Llwyd MP
Elfyn Llwyd: E-mail scanner should recognise Welsh

The Commons authorities say the scanning system is about protecting staff and MPs rather than censorship.

However, Plaid Cymru's chief researcher at Westminster, Alun Shurmer, has now written to the authorities to ask what "inappropriate content" triggered the blocking of his party's newsletter e-mail.

Elfyn Llwyd, the party's MP for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, said e-mails sent from across the UK, including the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay and party's headquarters, had been intercepted.

He said: "We are quite satisfied that there is nothing in them other than very often they will come in bilingual form.

"I'm just wondering whether the scanner has picked up on part of a Welsh word which when taken out of context can be considered offensive or an obscenity in English.

'Expletives'

He added that it was strange that Welsh - an official language of the state - is seemingly not able to access the mother of parliaments.

"Parliament has decreed in the Welsh Language Act that is should have equal status with English - any e-mail scanning system should take account of that really."

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Archy Kirkwood, who represents the House of Commons Commission, said last week that only e-mails with a high proportion of the most offensive obscenities were automatically blocked.

"Incoming e-mails that contain only a few mild expletives will be unaffected," he said.

See also:

04 Feb 03 | Politics
17 Jan 03 | Politics
13 Dec 02 | Politics
07 Nov 01 | Wales
03 Jul 00 | Wales
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