Wales politics

Bilingual law plan for assembly after translation row

Rosemary Butler
Image caption Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler says the assembly should have exemplary bilingual services

Consultation has begun on proposals to make Welsh and English the official languages of the Welsh assembly.

A new bill would mean the assembly has to publish a bilingual services scheme.

The assembly's authorities have been criticised for a decision to stop publishing a fully-bilingual record of proceedings in the Senedd chamber.

Welsh translations of English proceedings were dropped from the official record of debates last September.

The Draft Official Languages Bill says English and Welsh are the assembly's official languages and must be treated on an equal basis.

The assembly's bilingual services scheme would provide for simultaneous interpretation and for official documents to be published in both languages.

Arrangements for the record of proceedings will be decided in the autumn and included into the proposals.

The Welsh Language Board has accused the Assembly Commission - the all-party group responsible for day-to-day business in Cardiff Bay - of breaking its existing language scheme by dropping Welsh translations of AMs' speeches from the record of plenary sessions.

The commission says it has agreed in principle to providing a fully bilingual record - the assembly's equivalent to parliament's Hansard.

Last month it emerged officials have looked at using the online application Google Translate to compile a Welsh record of proceedings and then proofreading it.

The bill is the first proposed by the Assembly Commission since the referendum vote in favour of direct law-making powers in March.

Launching a consultation on the draft bill, Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler said: "The new commissioners and I are committed to providing exemplar bilingual services for the fourth assembly. I'm confident that our plans will deliver that.

"This would be the first Commission-proposed Bill since the 'yes' vote of March 2011 and I want to encourage as many people as possible to have their say during the consultation period to help shape our proposals."

Rhodri Glyn Thomas, the commissioner with responsibility for the Welsh language, said: "The proposed legislation would put in place robust arrangements for the assembly's bilingual services.

"The draft scheme confirms our commitment to developing these services in an innovative way, to ensure that the work of the National Assembly and its proceedings are as accessible as possible to the people of Wales."

The bill is expected to be ready for AMs to consider in detail around the end of the year.

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