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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dumping Welsh?

Today's Western Mail has one of the most inaccurate and misleading headlines on its front page for some time. It bears no relation to the story, which is about the future of the bi-lingual Plenary record of proceedings after May 2007. There is no intention to 'dump Welsh'.

It is worth recording that at the moment we do not provide a bi-lingual record of Committee proceedings. It is also worth noting that the number of meetings of Plenary and Committees will increase after 2007. There are issues about capacity as well as cost. There are after all only so many translators in Wales and ever since 1999, this has been an area where we have struggled to fill posts.

The paper believes that the Presiding Officer is suggesting diverting the £200,000 plus worth of savings into translating legal documents. That is not my understanding. I believe that the proposal relates to the discussion of legislation. As all of these Bills will be bi-lingual then the line-by-line scrutiny will also be bil-lingual. It is often the case that these sessions are used to inform interpretation of legislation in the courts. A bi-lingual record of proceedings in this case is therefore unavoidable.

The debate is not just about the most effective use of resource. It centres on what a truly bi-lingual legislature is. What purpose does a bi-lingual record of proceedings have? Surely, the point is to enable people to participate in the language of their choice and as such, interpretation should be the priority.

People are very quick to either assume that we have unlimited financial resources or to suggest that we focus savings elsewhere. The first is not the case whilst the second is not very constructive. As we move into the era of greater powers we will have to make some difficult choices. Perhaps it is right that we have a debate to inform those choices now. It is just a shame that the sub-text of this article is not about the future of the Welsh Language at all. It is the increasingly difficult relations between the Presiding Officer and his Deputy. An issue that has now spilt out into the press.
I think all this furore rather bears out your point about the holding of these meetings in camera.

Since nobody quite understands the issue on which John Marek has choosen to throw his toys out of the pram, naturally there is speculation and spin where there could be clarity.

I don't really see that there are any sound confidentiality grounds for doing most of House Committee business in private. If the Assembly believes in transparency and Freedom of Information then the onus should be on officials to make a case for individual items which should not be dealt with in public. Possibly HC members are keen too avoid the ridicule that would ensue if their egotistical and narcistic matters of concern were exposed.

The upshot of this latest episode is a silly season story for Shippo and further exposure of the feud between his Lordship and the increasingly deranged Member for Wrexham. Oh, and staff in the translation department now can't be sure that the sword of damocles isn't hanging over some of them!
Just to be clear, the translation of the record of proceedings does not take place in-house. It is sub-contracted to two outside companies. Thus any decision to change it will have no effect on civil service jobs in Cardiff Bay. With regards to the two companies they will most probably be able to use up their surplus capacity on other work arising from the new powers to the Assembly.
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