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BBC Wales's Rhuanedd Richards reports
"Everything the assembly publishes is in English and Welsh - all that could change"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK
Welsh Assembly in translation row
Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Presiding Officer
Dafydd Elis-Thomas said resources must be prioritised
The presiding officer of the National Assembly, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, has come under fire for suggesting that the Welsh-language version of the assembly's proceedings should be scrapped.

At present, the record of proceedings is kept in both languages, as was recommended by the National Assembly Advisory Group which laid down the ground rules for the Assembly's operation.

However, a leaked e-mail from the office of Lord Elis-Thomas said that he wants the Welsh version scrapped as he thinks it is a waste of money having it translated by an outside company.

It is intended that the Office of the Presiding Officer will have its own language scheme

National Assembly spokeswoman
The e-mail, part of a series obtained and published in the Welsh magazine Golwg, also said Lord Elis-Thomas wants his office to have its own language scheme separate from that of the Assembly administration.

Leaked e-mailed responses from senior Assembly civil servants to Lord Elis-Thomas's suggestion are cautious about his proposals, and point out the political difficulties that scrapping bilingual provision would involve.

The presiding officer's suggestions have been heavily criticised by language campaigners Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society.

Dafydd Morgan Lewis, Cymdeithas's assembly campaigns organiser, said the society rejected any attempt to undermine the language in the assembly.

Elin Jones AM
Elin Jones AM: Critical of Lord Elis-Thomas

He said it was set up as a bilingual institution and the translation service should be improved and expanded not downgraded.

Lord Elis-Thomas's suggestion has been seen as all the more surprising as he is himself a Welsh speaker and is a former chairman of the Welsh Language Board, the statutory body set up to protect and promote the language, which is spoken by just over 500,000 people in Wales.

However, his comments received some support from the board's current chief executive, John Walter Jones.

'Symbolic gestures'

He said he had no knowledge of the content of the e-mails and could not comment on leaked documents, but that since the assembly's inception he had argued that translating documents into Welsh just for the sake of it was tokenism.

He said the assembly had to spend money responsibly and he opposed making symbolic gestures.

Translating documents into Welsh that people actually read was the most important thing.

Lord Elis-Thomas is an Assembly Member for the party traditionally most associated with the language rights movement, Plaid Cymru, and his suggestion of scrapping the Welsh translation has already been criticised by one of his fellow Plaid AMs.

'Consultation process'

Elin Jones, Plaid AM for Ceredigion, said the record must remain bilingual.

Responding to the leaked correspondence, an Assembly spokesman said: "It is intended that the Office of the Presiding Officer will have its own language scheme and as part of the development of that all services will be reviewed and subject to public consultation....Any views can be expressed as part of that consultation process."

Assembly Business Secretary Andrew Davies, a Labour AM, said a review of the Assembly's procedures was ongoing, and this was part of that review.

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See also:

04 Jun 00 | Wales
Elis-Thomas in language row
01 Aug 00 | Wales
Welsh language campaign call
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