Use of the Welsh language in the Welsh Grand Committee at Westminster Contents

2Use of the Welsh language in Parliamentary proceedings

The House’s decisions on use of the Welsh language

3.On 5 June 199612 the House resolved that the Welsh language should be permitted in Parliamentary proceedings held in Wales, subject to conditions laid down in the Procedure Committee’s Third Report of Session 1995–96.13

4.Uniquely among minority languages in the UK, the Welsh language has a status protected by an Act of Parliament. The Welsh Language Act 1993 “[gives] effect to the principle that in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice in Wales the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality”.

5.The House’s rules on the use of the Welsh language in its proceedings have subsequently been modified by the approval, as appropriate, of three further Procedure Committee reports (see Box 1). The present regime for the use of the Welsh language in Parliamentary proceedings is as follows:

(1)At Westminster

Box 1: Procedure Committee reports on the use of the Welsh language in Parliamentary proceedings

  • Use of the Welsh language in Parliamentary proceedings in Wales. Third Report, Session 1995–96, HC 387. Approved by the House on 5 June 1996. Recommended an affirmation of the general principle that the House’s proceedings should be in English, and recommended the use of Welsh in proceedings in Wales subject to certain conditions.
  • Use of the Welsh language in Parliamentary proceedings in Wales. First Report, Session 1997–98, HC 461. Approved by the House on 20 March 1998. Made a number of technical recommendations relating to rules on the use of languages in the Welsh Grand Committee sitting in Wales, in the light of experience of the first such sitting of the Committee.
  • Use of the Welsh language by select committee witnesses. First Report of Session 2000–01, HC 47. Approved by the House on 5 March 2001. Allowed the use of the Welsh language by select committee witnesses at Westminster under the same conditions as apply to the use of the Welsh language in proceedings in Wales.
  • Joint activities with the National Assembly for Wales, Third Report, Session 2003–04, HC 582. Approved by the House on 7 June 2004. Allowed the use of Welsh in joint meetings between the Welsh Affairs Committee and committees of the National Assembly under what is now Standing Order No. 137A.

Use of the Welsh language in Welsh Grand Committee in Wales

6.The first occasion on which Welsh was used at a sitting of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales was on 30 June 1997 (in Mold). The Welsh Grand Committee held three further sittings in Wales before the first elections to the National Assembly for Wales on 6 May 1999. It has held two such sittings since, the most recent of which took place on 20 October 2011 (in Wrexham).

Box 2: Sittings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales

  • Mold, 30 June 1997. The Government’s Programme for Wales.
  • Carmarthen, 5 May 1998. The Rural Economy in Wales.
  • Merthyr Tydfil, 13 July 1998. New Economic Agenda for Wales.
  • Aberaeron, 22 February 1999. Transport Policy in Wales.

—First elections to the National Assembly for Wales, 6 May 1999—

  • Cwmbran, 12 March 2001. Budget Statement and its Implications for Wales.
  • Wrexham, 20 October 2011. Work Programme.

Source: Appendix 2, Annex 2

Arrangements for bilingual sittings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales

7.Sittings of the Welsh Grand Committee in Wales generally take place in chambers made available to the Committee by a local authority. There are typically morning and afternoon sittings, with a suspension for lunch. The average total length of such a sitting, excluding suspensions, has been between four and five hours.18

8.The local authority has typically made no charge for the use of its facilities, but other expenses related to the sitting are borne by the House. For the October 2011 sitting in Wrexham (over five years ago) the total cost to the House was estimated at £7,600. This figure included sound recording and transmission, interpretation, accommodation, subsistence and travel, and a small amount of overtime, together with the costs of an earlier visit to Wrexham by staff to plan the arrangements for the meeting. It did not include Members’ travel costs (which fall to be reimbursed by IPSA) or staff salary costs that would have been incurred anyway.19 Simultaneous interpretation and audio-visual facilities were provided by the House’s contractor, Westminster Sonus. The figure given above included the cost to the House of hire, transportation, installation and operation of the equipment, which was £4,224.20 No separate figure was available for the cost of interpretation.

9.The Editor of the Official Report told us that Welsh-speaking Hansard staff attend committee sittings in Wales to log proceedings. English-speaking Hansard staff report (in English) the simultaneous translation from Welsh, which is then checked against the original Welsh by Welsh-speaking Hansard staff. Reports of proceedings are published, in English only, the following day.21


12 HC Deb, 5 June 1996, cols 668-91, and CJ (1995–96) 390.

13 HC (1995–96) 387. The text of the report is reproduced at Annex 5 of the Clerk of the House’s memorandum at Appendix 2.

14 For an incidental use of Welsh, with translation, see for example HC Deb, 1 March 2016, col 834.

15 Erskine May (24th edition), p 429: for a recent ruling from the Chair see, for example, HC Deb, 1 March 2016, col 859.

16 Sequential interpretation is also used in select committee meetings where evidence is given in foreign languages: Appendix 2, para 8

17 This reflects the statutory requirement on the Assembly and its committees to treat the English and Welsh languages on an equal basis.

18 Appendix 2, Annex 2.

19 HC Deb, 8 November 2011, col 182W

20 Inclusive of VAT. Figure supplied by the Public Bill Office.

21 Appendix 3, para 2




19 December 2016