Playing Silly Buggers

In my post on Tuesday about the fiasco over proposals for translation of the Assembly's Record of Proceedings and, in particular, the compromise announced on Monday, I said:

I'm only left wondering what the precise logistics will be, because they surely won't publish one version of the Record with the English translation immediately, then publish another version with both translations a week later. That would just be more work and money wasted. So I'd be willing to bet we just have the same version as we have now, but published after three days. If they leave it any longer, then those who need the translation into English will start complaining loudly enough.

I lost that bet.

As we can read on Vaughan Roderick's blog today, the Assembly Commission have gone and done exactly that. As this both unreasonable and illogical, I can only conclude that the Assembly Commission are playing a game of silly buggers.


As I said in the previous post, the obligations which the Assembly have undertaken with regard to translation are set out in their Welsh Language Scheme. In it there is no mention at all of the timescale for producing a translated Record of Proceedings. There is no obligation on them to produce it within 24 hours, or three days ... or even a week! Therefore, if they had taken the decision to delay releasing the Record for a day or two (in order to, as they claim, save money on translation) that decision would have been entirely consistent with their obligations.

However, if they decide to translate from Welsh to English first ... and then wait another few days before translating from English to Welsh, they are very clearly not treating both languages equally, and are therefore breaking not only their own WLS, but also the basic principle behind the 1993 Act.

As I said, if they had chosen to produce the full bilingual Record after a few more days, the Welsh Language Board would have had no grounds to step in. But by choosing to do it as a two-stage process, the Assembly Commission has now given the WLB new grounds to step in. Indeed it is their job to do exactly that.


But leaving obligations and legal matters to one side, the route the Assembly Commission has now taken is quite obviously perverse. The stated idea behind the change was to save money. Producing two separate documents costs more money than producing one. It is also inefficient from the point of view of the translator's time, which of course equates to even more money. Previously a translator would have worked on both at the same time, now the same translator is being asked to think in two languages but translate in only one way ... and then put that work to one side for a day or two, only to have to come back to it, do the very same thinking all over again, and translate it the other way.

No rational person could propose doing things in such a way. The decision is perverse and illogical. That is what why this decision can only, in my opinion, have been taken as some political point scoring exercise. Dafydd Elis Thomas seems to be on some sort of crusade against the WLB because they had the temerity to challenge the Commission's original proposal.


There is one other point to raise. This "saving" was first put forward as part of the budget proposals. These budget proposals need to be approved by the Assembly. They haven't yet been voted on. Yes, it is the Commission's job to make day-to-day management decisions about how the Assembly operates. But this is not a "day-to-day" decision ... and neither was it presented as such. It was presented as part of the annual budget proposal. Therefore the Commission is completely out of line to make any change to the existing arrangements before the annual budget has been approved.


But as a word of advice to any AM who might be reading this blog, I would urge you not to insist on producing a fully bilingual version of the Record within 24 hours when (as it surely must be) the matter is debated in Plenary. If the current arrangement requires overnight work (though I'm not convinced it does) then there probably is some scope for saving money by doing it during normal working hours instead. Agreeing to publish the Record on-line by the end of the next day would achieve this. So why not compromise on "within 36 hours" and let everyone come away from this sorry episode with some of their dignity left intact?

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