Page last updated at 13:31 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 14:31 UK

Probe threat to translation move

AMs in the assembly chamber
AMs would still be able to speak Welsh or English in the assembly chamber

Plans to stop translating speeches from English into Welsh in the assembly's written record of proceedings could be investigated.

The Welsh Language Board has warned that the move could breach the assembly's own Welsh language scheme.

But the Assembly Commission, which says the move will save £250,000 a year, has denied the board has any authority to mount such an investigation.

The board has said it is taking further legal advice before responding.

The proposals, revealed in August, are in line with existing arrangements for assembly committees.

They mean the words of AMs speaking English in the assembly chamber would no longer be translated into Welsh in the written record, but Welsh speeches would continue to be translated into English.

In a letter to Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis Thomas, language board chief executive Meirion Prys Jones suggested the board could investigate the decision under a section of the 1993 Welsh Language Act which allows it to examine language schemes which have been breached.

Replying on behalf of the commission, assembly chief executive Claire Clancy said she did not accept the change would go against the assembly's Welsh language scheme.

She insisted the Welsh Language Board had no power to investigate the matter because the language scheme was the responsibility of the Welsh assembly, not the Assembly Commission.

The commission provides property, staff and services for the assembly.


Ms Clancy added that, for its part, the assembly was not subject to the Welsh Language Act, but admitted the institution's policy on the translation of assembly proceedings was "not expressed as clearly as it should have been".

She asked the board to agree to a rewording of the policy, based on a version which went out to consultation in February 2007, rather than the one approved by AMs five months later.

Concluding the letter, she said: "I look forward to your confirmation that you accept that any reference to statutory sanctions is inappropriate and that we can engage in dialogue on the basis of voluntary co-operation for the good of the language".

The Welsh Language Society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, has written to the commission to complain about the decision.

Spokesman Dafydd Morgan Lewis said the plans "emphasised the weakness of present Welsh language legislation when Welsh language plans drawn up by various bodies can be rubbished and ignored."

"Their decision set a bad example to other bodies and institutions."

The plans to end the written English to Welsh translation of proceedings in the assembly chamber are part of draft budget proposals for the commission for the financial year beginning in April 2010.

The proposals will go before the commission again later this month before being submitted to AMs.

The commission is considering exactly when the changes to its written translation arrangements would be implemented.

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