Bilingual services

This page gives details of any meetings held which will, or did, discuss the matter, and includes links to the relevant Papers, Agendas and Minutes.

Note: Meeting Agenda can change at short notice. Particularly where future meeting dates are indicated more than a week in advance. Please check before planning to attend a Committee Meeting that the item you are interested in has not been moved.

Meeting: 02/12/2015 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

RoP Review - Progress Report and Recommendations

Supporting documents:

  • Restricted enclosure 2
  • Restricted enclosure 3


Commissioners had requested a review to explore new opportunities for the Commission’s approach to the reporting of proceedings. The Commission had been provided with an overview of action taken to date.


Commissioners enquired about the anticipated timeline for changes that were being recommended, and how soon different aspects would be delivered. The focus of the proposals was on maximising the value of the Record (of both Plenary and committees) through making it more accessible, re-useable and searchable increasing its use, and by making processes as efficient as possible while maintaining trust in quality. Commissioners were particularly interested in how staff are used effectively to meet the variable demand.


Commissioners also indicated support for looking at the most cost effective IT solutions, including adapting systems already used successfully elsewhere. They also expressed the importance of being clear about the status of different publications, for example interim and final versions.


The Commission agreed to:

        earlier publication of the draft Record of Proceedings (with effect from the Fifth Assembly);

        bringing forward the publishing of the fully bilingual version with effect from the Fifth Assembly, and exploring market options for delivery of this; and

        exploring in more detail a new IT solution.


Meeting: 17/11/2014 - Senedd Commission (Item 4)

Review of Reporting of Proceedings - update

paper 4


The Commission received an update on progress of the review of the way in which we report our proceedings.


Commissioners discussed the importance of making appropriate linkages between projects and achieving benefits from the ways that technology can be used.


Commissioners also fed back on examples of good practice from their recent visit to Canada.


The intention is that the next steps will be to:

·                     focus on users’ needs through workshops, focus groups and drop-in sessions;

·                     assess the success of the trials carried out over the autumn term that have not yet been quantified; and

·                     produce a more efficient process, with the aim of publishing the RoP more quickly in both languages.

Meeting: 17/11/2014 - Senedd Commission (Item 3)

Machine Translation - conclusions

paper 3


The Commission discussed a paper which provided them with a summary of the achievements of the machine translation project. Commissioners considered how to sustain the benefits that had been achieved beyond the life of the project and meet increasing demands for translation.


Commissioners commented on capacity issues that had been highlighted and the importance of prioritising translation in the right way to deliver a service that enables Members to do their job. A key driver for the project was to enable the translation team (TRS) to translate more text more quickly.


Tests undertaken by TRS earlier this year suggested that the use of Machine Translation, coupled with translation memory, could increase the capacity to translate by around 20% - this has been borne out in practice. The increase in productivity has coincided with an upturn in demand for translation. It has therefore allowed us to provide bilingual documents and messages where we would otherwise not have been able to, and enabled the translation team to respond to requests to tighter deadlines, for example, Members’ committee briefings.


The Commission agreed to continue to work with Microsoft and external organisations to gather data for the system to improve its quality, embed its use in the organisation further and to share our experiences of using machine translation.

Meeting: 20/10/2014 - Management Board (Item 6)

Update on the Review of Reporting of proceedings; and conclusions of the Machine Translation project - Paper 3 and annexes

Supporting documents:

  • Restricted enclosure 10


Anna Daniel presented a draft update on the review of reporting of proceedings.  An holistic approach was being taken to the reporting of proceedings, taking into account the overall communications strategy, how people were using the current service and what the future of reporting may look like. Any method or product adopted would need to be cost effective but still meet the quality expectations of users.

The Board asked for further evidence to be included to support the claims around capacity, i.e. that changes would release resources, also providing more illustrations of the new things that could be done as a result.  Further emphasis should be placed on the increase of the speed of translation, and clearer data provided, for example, on time spent proofreading.

In relation to the conclusions on the Machine Translation project, Anna indicated that the test results were showing that there was continued improvement in the quality of the translation through Microsoft.  Commissioner agreement to further the relationship with Microsoft and to explore other ways of working with them, would be beneficial.

The Translation and Reporting Service had experienced a reduction in staff due to secondments and, although individual productivity had increased, this was against an increase in demand for translations. It was, therefore, necessary to calculate the expected demand and decide whether that could be met internally.

The update would be presented to Commissioners at their meeting on 17 November.


·      Anna Daniel to capture key messages, to provide Commissioners with an update and conclusions in a shorter format and to provide a clear direction, highlighting the information and data relating to cost savings.


Meeting: 06/03/2014 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

Reporting Assembly Proceedings

paper 2


The Commission considered a paper which set out the background to the reporting of Assembly proceedings. Key points which Commissioners noted included:

·         Proceedings in the Assembly were reported in a number of ways, which was to be expected in a modern, accessible and transparent democracy.

·         In line with practice across the Commonwealth and the approach in Westminster since the 19th century, the Assembly’s Record of Proceedings was not a verbatim transcript but an edited record of what was said during plenary and in committee.

·         The existence of meant that that the written Record was not the only source for those interested in what happened during Assembly proceedings.

Commissioners discussed the current approach to the production and publication of the Record of Proceedings and the refresh of, agreeing that there may be opportunities to take advantage of new technologies in this area.

Commissioners agreed that producing a written record to provide a formal account of proceedings in the Assembly, particularly Plenary proceedings, was important and likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. However, any opportunities there may be to report things differently, particularly where these could increase engagement with and understanding of the work of the Assembly, should be explored.  

Commissioners agreed to carry out a review, over the next 12 months, to look at a number of aspects including:

·         exploring different ways of working and the use of technology to improve efficiency and make best use of resources in this important area of activity;

·         the form that reporting proceedings should take in order to meet the needs of Members and stakeholders; and

·         assessing the opportunities that were available to use these products in different ways, making the Assembly’s activities more transparent, open and easier to engage with in a digital world.

Meeting: 30/01/2014 - Senedd Commission (Item 3)

Progress with Machine Translation

paper 3


One of the commitments in the Assembly’s Official Languages Scheme was to make the best use of technology to help Assembly Members and staff carry out their roles effectively. In November 2013 Commissioners had agreed to continue to work with Microsoft to develop a Welsh-English / English-Welsh Microsoft translation solution that would be made publicly available in 2014.

Since then quality testing had been carried out and a significant amount of data fed into the system, including data provided by a number of bilingual organisations. Guidance was being developed for Assembly Commission staff and for Assembly Members and their staff to help promote the tool and increase understanding of its appropriate use. The product would be launched at the Assembly on 21 February, to coincide with International Mother Language Day. From that date, the tool would be available to all Members, staff and globally via Microsoft Office and other products.

Officials were congratulated on the rapid progress made with this project, which showed the Assembly leading the way on the use of technology to support bilingualism.

Meeting: 21/11/2013 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

Machine Translation: improving our translation

paper 1


The Official Languages Scheme, which was agreed by the Assembly in July 2013, included a commitment that the Assembly Commission would make best use of technology to translate documents so that more documents, including the Record of Proceedings, could be provided in both languages at the same time.

Following agreement at the Commission meeting in June, the Translation and Reporting Service (TRS) had been evaluating Google and Microsoft Translator solutions for the following purposes, to:

-       enable TRS to increase output levels and deliver a broader range of services by translating more text as quickly and as cost effectively as possible;

-       provide machine translation not only for TRS but other Assembly staff, Assembly Members and their staff by providing a self-service ‘gist translation’ capability to facilitate communication and working practices in the language of choice;

-       share the services and our experiences with other organisations in Wales.

Work had been undertaken to assess the quality of the output provided by both systems.

Officials would continue to work with Microsoft to develop the translation tool with a view to this being a new system that would be publicly available at an appropriate point in 2014. Use of Google would continue to be piloted within TRS so that the efficiency of this system could be fully tested.

Commissioners were pleased with the progress being made to assess the capacity of both machine translator tools. Emphasis was placed on the fact that the benefits of these types of facilities would not only make a significant contribution to the ability of those within the Assembly to work in the language of their choice, but have the potential to be of great assistance to other organisations and businesses in Wales and beyond. Officials should engage with interested parties and experts in the translation field to discuss the benefits and opportunities provided by such tools.

It was felt that guidance and training would be needed to facilitate use amongst users in the Assembly and to ensure that they were aware of some of the risks regarding the accuracy of the translated outputs. Any machine translation output used without post-editing would not be appropriate for documentation to be published outside the Commission and maintaining the high standards required for published documents would be essential.

Officials were thanked for making significant progress on this project in a relatively short time.


Meeting: 27/06/2013 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

Translation and Reporting Service

Meeting: 27/06/2013 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

Machine Translation

Meeting: 27/06/2013 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

Official Languages Scheme Update

Meeting: 27/06/2013 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

Improving our Bilingual Services


The National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012 places a duty on the Commission to adopt and publish an Official Languages Scheme. The scheme sets out measures the Commission will take in order to comply with its duties as outlined in the Act and the steps that will be taken to fulfil the Commission’s ambition to become a truly bilingual organisation. A number of priority areas and targets are included in the Scheme that will be delivered over the next three years that will position the organisation as an exemplar in the delivery of bilingual services. The Scheme also addresses matters raised by Assembly Members and consultees during the Assembly’s consideration of the Official Languages Bill.


The draft Official Languages Scheme was approved by the Commission. It will be considered by the Assembly during the last week of term.


Commissioners also discussed ways of enhancing the provision of bilingual services to ensure the best use of resources. In particular it was felt that there were significant opportunities to make innovative use of new technologies.


It was agreed that officials would continue to investigate and test options for machine translation and bring proposals back to the Commission in the Autumn.


Commissioners concluded that it would be appropriate to give consideration to future options for the record of Proceedings. However, they wanted to examine practice and plans in other parliaments, and make progress on the audio visual record, before making decisions on changes to the approach.


It was agreed that officials would explore the issues and options for the Record of Proceedings and that the matter would be considered more fully by the Commission in the Autumn.


Commissioners thanked Rhodri Glyn Thomas and officials for their work on the draft Scheme and continued efforts in this area.


It was agreed that only the Agenda and Minutes of this meeting would be published.  The Scheme will be laid before the Assembly on 17 July 2013.



Commissioners to be provided with up to date information about the number of Assembly Members making their contributions in Welsh in plenary and committee meetings.


Officials to look at the provision of English and Welsh spellcheckers/dictionaries.

Meeting: 27/09/2012 - Senedd Commission (Item 4)

National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill and Official Languages Scheme


The Commission discussed its approach to the Stage 3 and 4 proceedings in relation to the Bill, scheduled to take place in Plenary on Wednesday 3 October, and received an update on issues relating to the Bill and Scheme.


Commissioners thanked officials for their efforts to date in supporting the Bill during its consideration by the Assembly.

Meeting: 28/06/2012 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill and Bilingual Services Scheme

Paper 2


Commissioners discussed the progress of the National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill, following the completion of Stage 2 consideration of the Bill on 21 June.

All 7 of the Commission’s amendments were agreed at Stage 2, including an amendment clarifying that the duty to provide a fully bilingual record is limited to plenary proceedings.

During the Committee proceedings, a number of Members had put forward amendments which they had not pressed to a vote but which they had asked the Commission to consider further before the Bill returns to the full Assembly for Stage 3. The Commission recognised that were the Bill to be debated further on 18 July, as currently planned, there would not be enough time for these matters to be considered and discussed thoroughly and constructively between the Commission and the Members in question.

The Commission agreed to seek a postponement of the Stage 3 debate on the Bill until early in the Autumn term. 


·         Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM to write to the Business Committee to seek postponement of Stage 3 proceedings.

·         Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM to work with officials and AMs to consider the matters that require further consideration before Stage 3.

Meeting: 09/05/2012 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill and Bilingual Services Scheme

Supporting documents:

  • Restricted enclosure 31


The Communities, Equalities and Local Government Committee laid the report on its Stage 1 consideration of the general principles of National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill and Bilingual Services Scheme before the Assembly on 4 May.

Commissioners considered the implications of the recommendations for the Bill and Scheme and agreed the approach to be taken by the Commissioner in charge in his contribution to the Stage 1 debate on 16 May.

In considering how it should respond, the Commission took account of:

·         Its ambition to be recognised as an exemplar bilingual parliamentary body and its commitment to enhancing its bilingual provision;

·         The need for flexibility to allow services to be developed and enhanced over time;

·         The cost implications of any new obligations included in the Communities Equalities and Local Government Committee report recommendations, and the impact on its priorities for enhancing bilingual provision in different  ways;

·         The pre-legislative consultation undertaken in 2011;

·         The need to ensure that staff are fully aware of the implications of both the Bill and Scheme on service delivery.

·         The need to ensure that legislation intended to achieve equality of treatment of the official languages in the work of the Commission does not unintentionally constrain its ability to make changes to the way in which services are delivered.


Meeting: 24/11/2011 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

2 Bilingual Services

Supporting documents:


At its meeting on 14 July 2011, the Commission agreed to consult on a draft National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill and Bilingual Services Scheme and to provide a translated Record of Plenary Proceedings subject to a sustainable arrangement being found at reasonable cost.


Following the pre-legislative public consultation, officials had analysed the responses, which related to both the draft Bill and Scheme. Respondents had suggested a number of revisions to both the Bill and Scheme. The effort made to encourage participation in the consultation was noted and the responses were welcomed by the Commission.


The Commission decided that a duty to provide a fully bilingual Record of Plenary Proceedings would not be included on the face of the Bill. The other proposed revisions to the draft Bill were agreed. The Commission considered the possible revisions to the Scheme and made a number of suggestions which they asked officials to reflect in the revised draft.


Consideration was given to the comments made during the consultation in relation to the Record, and to investigations undertaken into the latest technological developments to assist with translation services. 


The Commission decided that from January 2012, the written record of plenary proceedings would be published, within five working days, with English language contributions translated into Welsh and vice versa. This would be achieved using a combination of machine translation and proof reading, with in-house control and editing to ensure that the published Record met the Assembly’s existing standards in terms of style, consistency and quality. Precise cost would depend on a range of factors including the speed at which technological advance increases the accuracy of machine translation but would, in any case, not exceed £95,000 per annum. 


The revised draft Bill, supporting Explanatory Memorandum, and proposed Scheme would be introduced in January 2012.


Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM was authorised by the Commission to be the Member in Charge of the Bill. Commissioners thanked Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM and officials for the work undertaken to date. Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM also thanked the Welsh Language Board for the assistance it had provided.


Action: Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM to finalise any pre-introduction amendments to the Bill and Scheme in consultation with Angela Burns AM, who will be responsible for ensuring relevant financial provisions are included in the accompanying Explanatory Memorandum.

Meeting: 20/10/2011 - Senedd Commission (Item 2)

2 Bilingual services

Supporting documents:


The pre-legislative public consultation period ended on 14 October and responses will be analysed and reported to the Commission at its next meeting. Subject to the Commission’s approval, it is expected that the Bill, incorporating any revisions, will be introduced in early December, with the proposed Scheme being laid before the Assembly at the same time.


At its July meeting, the Commission agreed in principle that the fully bilingual Record of Proceedings be reinstated provided that the arrangement was sustainable in the long term and could be provided at reasonable cost. Since July, translators have been testing online software based translation systems provided by Google, and an assessment of the cost of using such a system is currently being made.


Commissioners welcomed the progress that had been made on the public consultation and exploratory work conducted in relation to providing a fully bilingual Record of Proceedings.


A further paper on this issue (as well as on the final form of the Bill and Scheme) will be discussed at the Commission’s meeting on 24 November.


Action: Officials to contact Google again to investigate whether it is likely to charge for Toolkit and report on the outcome of discussions at the meeting on 24 November.


Meeting: 14/07/2011 - Senedd Commission (Item 4)

4 Bilingual services

Supporting documents:


The Record of Plenary Proceedings was discussed, taking account of the report by the Welsh Language Board, representations that had been made by Members and stakeholders, the principle of access to Assembly proceedings via the medium of Welsh or English and the need to ensure value for money.  The Commission agreed that investigations into the provision of a bilingual record should continue, and requested more detailed information on the likely total costs, including the charging structure of the Google Translate service from December 2011 onwards.  They said that any arrangement needed to be sustainable but that, if a long term solution could be found at reasonable cost, then in principle they wanted to provide a fully bilingual Record of Proceedings.  In the interim, current arrangements would continue.  The Presiding Officer would write to the Welsh Language Board to this effect.


Subject to amendments to reflect these decisions, the draft National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill, the draft Official Languages Scheme and the consultation timetable were agreed.  Commissioners requested that the public consultation included stakeholders from all across Wales, including local authorities.


Action: Officials to provide further details on the costs of using Google Translate from December 2011 onwards.


The Presiding Officer to respond to the Welsh Language Board on behalf of the Assembly Commission.