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Welsh Assembly: Translation of Documents

2.58 p.m.

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the Government are committed to the principle that the Assembly should, in carrying out its business, treat the English and Welsh languages on the basis of equality so far as is appropriate in the circumstances and reasonably practicable. The arrangements that are being made for both document translation and interpretation will facilitate that.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, first, I congratulate the Minister on his well-deserved elevation. As he will

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appreciate, I am sure that I am expressing that sentiment on behalf of all sides of the House. I wish him the best for the future. Those are the kindest words that I shall eschew about him in this Parliament.

I turn to the Answer to my Question. I am sure that the Minister will agree with me that the passing of the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the taking out of party political controversy the status of the Welsh language in Wales really means that the assembly, when it starts, must not start at any disadvantage as regards bilingualism. Is the Minister really sanguine that, with all the pressures on the translating service at present, all the documents will be in place when the assembly meets next year?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it is very important that the under-privileged, the less-favoured and the unfortunate should be properly protected so those who cannot speak Welsh will obviously be entitled to full translation facilities. In fact, there is work in hand. The Welsh Office is recruiting a new head for the assembly's translation services. That postholder will have a key role in designing the structure of the new services. We believe that we are well on track to provide a proper level of service. I thank the noble Lord Diolch Yn Fawr.

Viscount St. Davids: My Lords, will the Minister go a little further and assure the House that when our national assembly comes into being in May next year, it will, as a minimum requirement, be able to conform with the provisions of the Welsh Language Act?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I believe that that will be the position. We are consulting widely, not least with the National Assembly Advisory Group on which the noble Viscount has given such service. Its reports dealing with those particular matters will be available for the Secretary of State in a matter of days. We are taking advice from the Welsh Language Board, the Association of Welsh Translators and in particular Gwynedd County Council which has a very good record in that regard.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I too add my congratulations to my noble friend who is the most distinguished of our bilingual barristers. Will he agree that the steps taken by the Welsh Office and by the Welsh Language Board, which I chair--and I therefore declare an interest--to ensure bilingualism in the assembly will bring about precisely the circumstances which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, set out; namely, that there shall never again be conflict on language issues? Will he agree also that when we come to legislate on delegated legislation in Cardiff, it will be the first opportunity since the great days of Hywel Dda for us to do that?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it will be the first opportunity since the great days of Hywel Dda, who of course had a codified system of laws long before it

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was thought of in other countries. Being the first in the field of bilingual barristers in your Lordships' House confines it to a very small field indeed.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord on his elevation. He will be well aware of the variety of services, including translation services, which will be required by the assembly. Does he not consider it wise to establish some sort of body to co-ordinate the provision of the variety of services required?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we shall have a new head of translation services who will make a full analysis of the size and structure of what needs to be provided. We do not need a separate body, but we need arrangements in place to give the assembly a first-rate start in May of next year. I believe that preparations are well in hand for that.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, will arrangements be made to give lessons to those unfortunate people who cannot speak Welsh at the present time?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, every encouragement will be given in Wales for English speakers who are monoglots and therefore not as well favoured to learn the language which is likely to be so important in the new Wales as well as in the new assembly.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, will the proceedings be held in both languages and will there be instantaneous translations for that purpose?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the probability is, subject to the advice that we have from various bodies, that there will be simultaneous translation and any person will be able to speak in either of the two relevant languages--Welsh or English.

Israel: US Transfer of Strike Aircraft

2.58 p.m.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider it to be in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 487 and 687 that the United States should transfer to Israel 25 strike aircraft capable of reaching Iran.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, Security Council Resolution No. 487 condemned the Israeli air strike against Iraq in 1981. Security Council Resolution No. 687 upholds current sanctions against Iraq. I reply on the basis that my noble friend's question refers to his concern that Israel might use those US aircraft to attack Iran's weapon development programme.

Article 51 of the UN Charter enshrines each member state's right to self-defence. Therefore, it is a matter for Israel to decide what equipment it needs to exercise that

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legitimate right. Defence sales between the US and Israel are a matter for those countries. The way to address concerns about the development of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East is through international diplomatic efforts, including through relevant multilateral fora. The United Kingdom will continue to play an active part in those efforts.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, given that Israel disposes of 200 or more nuclear warheads and has publicly threatened to take out the Iranian civil nuclear facility, is it wise, in the opinion of HMG, of the United States to make available to it this large number of extremely advanced aircraft? If it is not, can my noble friend say whether the Government will be able to say anything outside the framework of international treaty or convention rules?

Baron Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as I said, it is a matter for the United States and for Israel. Indeed, it is a matter for the US provided that the sales do not contravene the international obligations and commitments of the United States to enforce UN embargoes or internationally agreed non-proliferation treaties or conventions. However, I should remind my noble friend that the F15-I aircraft is a conventional weapon.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a clear contradiction between the continued readiness of the United States to provide military assistance of this sort to Israel and its apparent unwillingness, as evidenced by a statement by Mrs. Madeleine Albright this week, to put any pressure at all on Mr. Netanyahu to get him to return to the peace process, to stop and reverse his illegal settlement policies and to agree to American proposals for the withdrawal from 13 per cent. of the West Bank?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the US--I hope that the noble Lord will agree with this--has worked hard in recent months to produce the package of proposals which are under discussion. It is still our position that we believe that these represent the best way of breaking the current deadlock in the peace process. We have indeed welcomed President Arafat's acceptance of the proposals, and the UK Government continue to urge the Americans to use all their influence to persuade both parties, including Mr. Netanyahu, to agree.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although these matters about the peace process are very important, the major threat to peace in the Middle East comes from the acquisition, or likely acquisition, by the Government of Iran of weapons of mass destruction--rockets that pose a great threat even beyond the Middle East? Therefore, ought we not to concentrate on how to prevent this happening?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, we are of course concerned about weapons of mass

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destruction wherever they may appear. That is certainly so, as the noble Lord indicates, as regards the extremely volatile situation that pertains in the Middle East. As the noble Lord pointed out, there are concerns about what is happening in Iran and we should not forget the continuing concerns that exist about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We should also remember UNSCOM's effort to try to establish the nature of those weapons of mass destruction. We must look at all the countries in the Middle East where such weapons of mass destruction exist.

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