A proposal to translate all Welsh National Assembly proceedings into Welsh appears to be dead in the water after Plaid Cymru MPs decided not to back such a move.

Last month the Western Mail revealed that extending the Assembly’s bilingual transcription policy to cover all committee meetings would cost up to £400,000. At present the record of plenary meetings is published fully in both English and Welsh, but contributions made in English at committee have not been translated into Welsh since the Assembly was set up in 1999..

The Assembly is currently considering a Bill that will determine the degree to which the body is legally obliged to produce documents in both languages. Last month the cross-party communities, equality and local government committee, which has been scrutinising the Bill, recommended that the transcripts of all proceedings, including committees, should be produced bilingually. We understand that none of the four party groups support such a position.

At the time the committee made its recommendation, it was unaware how much the proposal would cost. The estimate of up to £400,000 cited by the Western Mail has since been confirmed as accurate by Plaid Cymru AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas, the Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for the Welsh language.

Yesterday, fri the Assembly Commission published amendments that have been put forward by AMs on behalf of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Conservatives and the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Plaid’s three amendments, tabled on behalf of the party by its Welsh language spokeswoman Bethan Jenkins, do not propose that all proceedings should be produced bilingually. One calls for the appointment of an existing Assembly official to be responsible for promoting bilingualism within the institution, another calls for briefing documents for AMs to be produced bilingually, and the third proposes a semantic change aimed at removing ambiguity from an earlier amendment put forward by the Assembly Commission.

A Plaid Cymru spokesman said: “We’ve never taken the position where we have been pushing for everything to be translated.

“We think it’s important that the Assembly, like other bodies, should have someone with the brief to promote bilingualism within the institution. We’re not suggesting that a new full-time post should be created.

“We also think it appropriate that research documents produced for AMs should be in Welsh as well as in English. Otherwise it is difficult for an AM who wants to make a committee contribution in Welsh, for example, to do so.”

Amendments tabled on behalf of the Assembly Commission by Rhodri Glyn Thomas earlier this week include one that would create a legal obligation to produce a bilingual record of plenary sessions.

Mr Thomas said: “It is right that plenary sessions should be produced bilingually, because people do read the transcripts. But in my view it is not necessary to translate into Welsh every contribution made in English at committee. These are dead documents, in my opinion, and there are much better ways to spend money promoting the use of the Welsh language.

“The important committee documents are reports, and they are produced bilingually as a matter of course already.”

Welsh Conservative AM Suzy Davies, her party’s spokeswoman on the Welsh language, has tabled an amendment that, if passed, would oblige the Assembly to translate all proceedings into Welsh.

But a party spokesman said last night: “That is not a position we as a group support. We do, however, believe it is a proposal that should be debated as the Bill is considered by AMs.”

A spokesman for Cymdeithas yr Iaith, the Welsh Language Society, said: “We welcome many of the amendments laid by AMs of all parties. It seems our campaign is starting to bear fruit with the concession of a statutory guarantee of a fully bilingual Cofnod.

“However, questions remain about whether the Assembly Commission wants to lead on the Welsh language. We hope that by working across parties we will help to further improve the Bill as it is scrutinised over the weeks ahead.”

Source: WalesOnLine