Here are some extracts from a document sent around the houses today that we thought you may find interesting. It’s a statement by the Presiding Officer about the bilingual services offered by the Assembly Commission.
(The writing you see in red was added by me as a means of explanation and doesn’t appear in the press release)
“As Wales’s principal democratic institution, the Assembly has a duty to enable all citizens and Assembly Members to be informed about, and contribute fully to, the democratic process in their chosen language – through Welsh or through English. The Government of Wales Act 2006 stipulates that “In the exercise of the functions of the Assembly Commission effect must be given, so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable, to the principle that the English and Welsh languages should be treated on the basis of equality.” (Schedule 2 Section 8(3)). Since 2007, the Assembly Commission has significantly developed and extended the bilingual services provided by the Assembly...”
“In June and July this year the Commission considered its strategic priorities in relation to the draft budget which will be laid tomorrow. Our aim was to limit the budget increase for 2010-11 as far as possible, so as to make as much of the Welsh block as possible available to support public services, while still delivering effective services for the Assembly. One of the options that was considered related to the translation of the Record of Proceedings. At the Commission meeting today we took account of the representations that have been made to us by Assembly Members and others. We concluded that we should take four main steps...” (emphasis added)
“Firstly, we will continue to translate the Record of Plenary Proceedings from English into Welsh so that a fully bi-lingual written record is produced, but to do so within 3 to 10 days of each plenary meeting. (emphasis added)
Secondly, we will introduce the facility for all proceedings related to legislation (i.e. all proceedings at Stages 2, 3 and 4 as well as committee scrutiny) to be translated.
Thirdly, we will establish an independent review to examine our delivery of bilingual services prior to the formal review of the Assembly’s Welsh Language Scheme in 2010. (emphasis added)
Fourthly, we will take steps to bring forward legislation to put the status of the two languages used in the business of the Assembly on a sound statutory footing.” (emphasis added)
And to finish:
“The Welsh Language Act 1993 was never intended to provide a framework within which a national legislature operates... but the Legislative Competence Order (LCO) on the Welsh language, when made, will provide us with the power to do so. The Commission intends to consider the options which will be open to the Assembly when the LCO in question becomes law.”
So what do we make of these four steps then? It seems to me that a review of the current set up is likely to be costly and time consuming – the exact opposite of what the Commission is trying to achieve. And whilst a wait of 3-10 days may seem like a fair compromise to some, Dafydd Ellis Thomas is bound to come under pressure from some language hardliners; however the extending of translation facilities in other areas may just appease them.
The interesting point for me from this whole debacle is wheather or not the commission’s desire for that LCO to see the light of day speeds up the process up at all?
Tell us what you think