Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 13:40 UK

Welsh assembly translation decision backed by review

Mark Hannaby
BBC Wales political reporter

Record of proceedings on the Assembly website
The review examined bilingual services in the Welsh assembly

Speeches made in the Welsh assembly in English should not be translated into Welsh in the record of proceedings, an independent review has concluded.

The Assembly Commission's plan to stop such translations to save £250,000 a year was opposed by the Welsh Language Board but backed by a review panel.

The Welsh Language Society called the decision "disgraceful" and it is looking at a legal challenge.

CBI Wales said it hoped the "sensible" approach would also apply to business.

Lord Elis Thomas, who is chair of the Assembly Commission as well as Presiding Officer, welcomed the review's findings.

He said the commission had appointed the independent panel to look at the assembly's bilingual services because it wanted the best possible advice and expertise, and to gather opinions from a wide range of people.

He said: "The assembly is already an exemplar organisation in its delivery of bilingual services to the public.

"The commission is committed to remaining so by strengthening the position of Welsh in the work of the commission and the assembly, in a way that is effective, practical and relevant.

Lord Elis Thomas
The Presiding Officer Lord Elis Thomas has welcomed the review panel's recommendations.

"A key strategic goal of this third assembly is to increase participation in the democratic process here in Wales.

"This is why we are pleased to follow the panel's recommendations, particularly their proposals to make the records of our debates and proceedings more user-friendly by imaginative use of modern technology. "

The decision not to translate from English to Welsh has been condemned by the Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg), which is consulting lawyers about the possibility of mounting a legal challenge to it.

'Disgraceful'

Chair Menna Machreth said: "It's a disgraceful decision. The assembly's claims that they're trying to create a bilingual society are a sham: they're not treating the Welsh language equally.

Ms Machreth said English would end up being the only official language of business in the Assembly and accused the commission of leaving Welsh "on the sidelines".

She said: "What hope is there for the future of the language if even our politicians don't take it seriously?

"This sets a really bad example of other public and private bodies - it's really going to undermine any hopes of progress."

But the development has been welcomed by business representative CBI Wales, which has raised concerns over a proposed new law to allow fines for businesses which don't provide services in Welsh.

'Sensible and proportionate'

CBI Wales director David Rosser said: "This is a sensible and proportionate decision by the commission.

"We should focus our efforts and spending on action that will add real value and increase use of the Welsh language, rather than spending money on gestures.

"We expect to see this sensible approach repeated when standards are set for Welsh language service provision by companies."

The review panel recommended a verbatim text record of assembly proceedings be published in the language used in the chamber, together with a record of the contemporaneous translation of Welsh to English, as heard during Assembly proceedings.

It also recommended that the Assembly's online television service Senedd.tv should become the principal comprehensive stored record for researchers and future historians.

Another recommendation is that all members of staff at the assembly should have or acquire some skills in the Welsh language.

The review panel also urged the assembly to create and publish a guide to best bilingual practice for those holding functions on assembly premises.



SEE ALSO
Assembly bilingual review starts
17 Dec 09 |  Wales politics
Probe threat to translation move
03 Sep 09 |  Wales politics
Assembly Welsh translation ends
06 Aug 09 |  Wales politics
Welsh Assembly in translation row
09 Aug 00 |  Wales

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