§ '.—(1) In any legal proceedings in the courts in Wales, or in any tribunal, commission or other judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, the officer in charge shall ascertain at the outset of proceedings whether the defendant or litigant, or whoever the principal party may be, wishes the hearing to be in Welsh or English, and shall proceed accordingly; and after having chosen the language of the hearing, that person shall not be required to furnish translation of any statement or comment which he or she makes.
§ (2) Where, in accordance with subsection (1) above, a case is to be heard in Welsh, it shall be the duty of the officer of the 1164 court to notify the Lord Chancellor's Department, who shall ensure that the hearing is conducted by a Welsh speaking judge and by Welsh speaking court officers and attendants.
§ (3) In all prosecutions brought by the Crown in Wales, the prosecuting officer shall conduct the prosecution in the language in which the defendant has chosen to have his hearing.
§ (4) In cases involving two or more principal parties, who disagree as to the language of the hearing, the judge, chairman, magistrate or inspector shall exercise discretion as to balance of languages at the hearing.
§ (6) In Wales, the judge or magistrate presiding at any trial, or hearing, the chairman of any tribunal or commission established by Act of Parliament and an inspector presiding at a public inquiry held by virtue of statutory authority may require the whole or any part of the proceedings conducted in Welsh to be translated into English or from English into Welsh if, in his opinion, the translation thereof is necessary in the interests of justice.
(7) In the Welsh Courts Act 1942 there shall be inserted in section 3 after subsection (1), the following new subsections:
(IA) Such rules as specified in 3(1) above shall include a provision that only translators registered as having reached a sufficient standard of professional competence shall be employed in the proceedings of courts, tribunals, commissions established by Act of Parliament and public inquiry held by virtue of statutory authority in Wales, and translations by any other persons not so registered, shall not be admissable.
(1B) The Lord Chancellor shall keep a register of authorised translators for the purposes of subsection 3(1A) above".
§ (8) In order to make adequate provision for the purposes of the foregoing subsections of this Act, the Lord Chancellor shall, in making recommendations for the appointment of persons to judicial office, make reasonable provision to ensure that there is a sufficient number of persons holding judicial office who can use Welsh in the conduct of their office.
§ (9) In appointing justices of the peace for the counties of Wales, the Lord Chancellor shall make reasonable provision for each county of justices able to use Welsh in the conduct of their office.
§ (10) In appointing to the office in Wales clerks to magistrates, court clerks, Crown prosecutors, probation officers, police officers and inspectors charged with holding public inquiries and members of the clerical and administrative staff and ancillary staff attached to such officers, the appointing authority shall make reasonable provision for officers and staff able and willing to use Welsh in the conduct of their duties at all stages before to as well as at the hearing of any matter.'.—[Mr. Llwyd.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to discuss also new clause 6—Amendment of the Juries Act 1974—`In section 10 of the Juries Act 1974, there shall be added after the words "on account of physical disability or insufficient knowledge of English" the words "or, in the case of a trial in Wales, where the language appearing likely to be used by the defendant or a principal witness is Welsh, insufficient knowledge of Welsh".'
§ Mr. Llwyd
I shall try to be brief, because I have already argued the point at length. It concerns the right of a person in Wales to have a trial conducted exclusively through the medium of the Welsh language.
1165 Every time the matter has been raised, it has been argued that the fact that jurors are selected from a pool of Welsh speakers somehow detracts from the principle of random selection. That principle was dreamed up this century. It is not centuries old and cast in stone. Women were not included on jury panels until 1919 and, until 1972, there was a property qualification, which was subsequently broadened. Since 1974, persons over the age of 65, and latterly over the age of 70, have become ineligible to sit on juries.
The main argument against the new clause in the other place and in Committee—somewhat slavishly—was that the principle of random selection has been called into question. I have practised as a solicitor for 15 years, and I understand that a jury should be drawn from one's peers. Including a Welsh language qualification will have no effect on that.
Furthermore, it would be easy to do, because nowadays most juries are drawn from a computer sheet, and one simply needs to take the census figures. When people register to vote, they should be specifically asked whether they speak and understand the Welsh language. That information should then be taken on board when those facts and figures are produced in connection with trials by jury.
I realise that others may have different opinions on this matter, but I adhere to the view that the principle of random selection, such as it is, would not be imperilled by this procedure, to which I have referred on the hoof. I am sure that other more apt arguments could be thought up.
Random selection was discussed last week in connection with the Law Commission's report. I know what the Minister will say, because I have heard it before and have read his speech in the Lords Hansard. Indeed, I argued the point in Committee on that basis.
§ Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the novel idea of people ticking a box to confirm whether they speak Welsh, may I point out that, before the last census was taken, advocates of the Welsh language advised people that, if they understood any Welsh at all, they should say that they spoke Welsh. That would not be helpful for someone accused of fraud, for instance, and opting for an all-Welsh trial. A case would be extremely difficult for jurors to understand if they had ticked the box simply because they could say, "Shw ma'i."
§ Mr. Llwyd
I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will know that Wales has always been referred to as "Gwlad y menyg gwynion" and I am sure that few large fraud trials emanate from Wales—[Interruption.] Some hon. Members seem to make a decent living out of them.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's important point, but it is already catered for. Part of a judge's function is to ensure that jurors can understand what will be transacted before the court. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) will confirm that. If there is any doubt about it, the judge must decide whether a person is fit and able to sit as a juror, so the point could be taken on board at that stage. In any event, a selection process applies in all courts where juries sit.
It is understood that translation is always second best and that principle goes back many years.
§ Mr. Llwyd
The right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), who is an experienced advocate, is nodding.
In 1575 a renowned judge, Sir William Gerrard, who sat on the Wales and Chester circuit, said that judges in Wales should be able to understand the Welsh language. He believed, as many of us do, that translation is strictly second best. I want the Bill to provide that juries, too, should be able to understand it.
On Second Reading, I referred to a Privy Council case that established the principle that English jurors sitting in an English language trial must be able to understand English. That is painfully obvious, but it is appropriate in this instance, and it assists my case.
If I thought that, in asking for provision for Welsh language trials, I was imperiling the interests of justice, I would not be moving the new clause. Clearly, that is a prerequisite. However, although translation is second best, it is wrong that a person who seeks to have his trial dealt with through the medium of the Welsh language should have it dealt with through translation. There are two reasons for that: first, anyone who has conducted a trial will know of the nuances involved in every sentence. Sometimes a word can mean everything in a case.
§ Mr. Llwyd
Again, the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon is agreeing with me.
Although there are some excellent translators in Wales, ultimately translations are strictly second best, and we should not be prepared to sanction a system that delivers second-best justice in Wales.
Secondly, with any form of translation, whether simultaneous or not, there is an inevitable time lag of a second or two, often longer, when it is possible that the defendant will have more opportunity to think of a more plausible answer. Perhaps the Minister will consider that matter. Many practitioners throughout Wales, who have, like myself, conducted many trials through the medium of the Welsh language, think that it is never as satisfactory to conduct a trial through a translation. I say that with the greatest respect, and I hope with a sincerity that the Minister will accept. I am pleading for equality with the English language to ensure equality of justice in Welsh courts.
About 98 per cent. of trials in Wales finish their course in the magistrates courts and do not proceed to the Crown court. That argument again does not find favour with me, because there will always be a case where, conceivably, a person will not get the right quality of justice purely because of the language barrier. It is only right that Welsh should be an option, and I see no real difficulty in that approach.
I shall return to the point with which I started about random selection—which, as we know, was thrown at every hon. Member who previously argued about it. The royal commission's report, published in the past week, said:We are reluctant to interfere with the principle of random selection of juries. We are, however, anxious that everything possible should be done to ensure that people from the ethnic minority communities are represented on juries in relation to their numbers in the local community. The pool from which juries are randomly selected would be more representative if all eligible members of ethnic communities were included on 1167 the electoral roll. Even if this were to be, however, there would statistically still be instances where there would not be a multi-racial jury in a case where one seemed appropriateThe report says that the Commission for Racial Equality had also put that point:The CRE considered whether the judge should have power to order that the three jurors from the ethnic minority communities should come from the same ethnic minority as the defendant or victim. They concluded, however, that this would be impractical. While this may be so, we believe that it should be open to the defence or prosecution to argue the point and to the judge to be able to order in appropriate cases that one or more of the three jurors should come from the same ethnic minority as the defendant or the victim. We so recommend.The principle of random selection has been used, not as a smokescreen, but rather as an absolute argument each time the matter has been raised. How long will it be cherished by the Government and remain as it is when the royal commission's views represent a substantial inroad into that principle?
The suggestion of the royal commission is even less practicable than the suggestion that I made in Committee. Nothing is more simple than ensuring that there is an electoral list, with an indication by one's name of whether one can converse in Welsh and understand the Welsh language. It then proceeds by way of computer.
In all honesty, I cannot see how the principle would suddenly be devalued. To those who may argue—although it seems that few will, probably because of lack of interest in the subject—with me about the Monmouth case, for example, on which the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) spoke so eloquently, where 2 per cent. of people speak Welsh, I say that, realistically, there could easily be a trial centre in south Wales, a Welsh trial centre in the north and one somewhere in mid-Wales. As a matter of practice, I have frequently been involved in Crown court cases that have been transferred from the town of Caernarfon to Knutsford.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's point, although I do not agree with his basic premise that the transfer of Welsh cases out of Wales to Chester, and Knutsford especially, is wholly unacceptable. Does the hon. Gentleman support the efforts made—not always successfully—to prevent that?
§ Mr. Llwyd
As a one-time secretary of the Gwynedd law society, I wrote several letters to the circuit administrator, and I know that some heed has been taken of that problem. I agree that it is a problem, but the general point that I was making was that trial centres could take place in one, two or three centres in Wales, which would create far less potential inconvenience than if the cases were transferred to Caernarfon or Knutsford at the last minute.
It has also been argued that, if the new clause were accepted, potential jurors, be they English people or Welsh people who cannot speak Welsh, would be excluded. At the worst, one would have to hurt the feelings of jurors who could not sit on a jury because they did not speak Welsh. From experience, I would say that most potential jurors would be relieved not to have to sit on a jury, especially in a lengthy fraud trial. I say that out of a sense of jest rather than anything else.
If it is a choice between hurting the feelings of a potential juror and achieving quality of justice, of course the scales weigh heavily in favour of the quality of justice. The Minister must be aware that, as Welsh language trials 1168 are conducted with ease in magistrates courts throughout Dyfed, Clwyd and Gwynedd, that facility should also be available in Crown courts. To continue with a second-class delivery of justice is unacceptable. I plead with the Minister at this eleventh hour to accept my reasonable new clause.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
I know that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) moved the new clause in complete sincerity and with a determination founded on principle, for which I respect him greatly. He will probably agree that we are discussing a tricky balance of interests. It is matter of judgment how the House decides, but I come down on the other side from the hon. Gentleman.
As I said earlier—although I deprived myself of one year—I declare the interest of having practised on the Wales and Chester circuit for 22 years. I have conducted a great many Crown court trials and, I am delighted to say, some of them have been well instructed by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, who has an excellent reputation as a good solicitor in his county. I hope by saying that that I shall ensure that he instructs me again. I do not think that the rules against touting apply in the House—at least I hope not.
I also defer to the remarks made on the subject by two extremely distinguished and senior legal colleagues of mine, who are both members of the Wales and Chester circuit: my noble Friend Lord Hooson and the noble Lord Thomas of Gwydir. Lord Thomas has now retired, but Lord Hooson is still practising. They both practised on that circuit for more than 45 years. They both came to the same conclusion as I did, but unlike myself, they are capable of conducting a trial through the medium of Welsh at any level and in any court. They share with me the experience of being involved in trials where witnesses have given their evidence through the medium of Welsh and where simultaneous translation has been used.
I agree that occasionally nuances in a person's voice, a word used or even an inflection may make some difference. However, I have never been in a case in which I have found that the nuance has been lost through the simultaneous translation. Indeed, my experience of simultaneous translation, not only in criminal courts, but in other tribunals, such as planning appeals, is that the quality of simultaneous translation in Wales is now as good as that at the United Nations, where I have seen it in operation, and perhaps better. It is capable of ensuring that the court has a full appreciation.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy said that the time that translation gave a person to think might make what he said more plausible. The courts are not really concerned with plausibility. Plausibility is often what convicts a liar. The lie may be plausible, but it is all too easily detected as a lie by its very plausibility. The process by which juries reach a decision is sophisticated. Unfortunately, it is not well understood, although, as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, we may be able to do some proper research into the way in which juries operate.
I do not believe that juries are deprived of the opportunity to reach the truth by the fact that they may not speak Welsh as fluently as the defendant does, if they speak it at all. Indeed, the recent experience of those who 1169 might have wished to be tried by all-Welsh speaking juries, in north Wales at least, has shown that they are capable of obtaining substantial justice without the need for the new clause.
§ Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)
I remember reading a recent translation in the organisation to which the hon. and learned Gentleman just referred. Someone said in French, "This issue depends on the good sense of the people of Normandy." It was translated in English as, "This depends on Norman wisdom." How can the hon. and learned Gentleman say that all the full nuances of a language are translated unless in his cases he has understood both languages with great fluency? Is he making that judgment on the basis of his fluency in Welsh and in English?
§ Mr. Carlile
I am glad to have been able to take the part of feed to the hon. Gentleman's joke, which I suspect is more Morecambe than Wise. I have already said that, in my view, the simultaneous translation system available in Wales may be better than that available at the United Nations. I can speak only of my own experience, combined with the 90 or so years of combined experience of the noble Lords to whom I have referred. I recognise that there is a balance of interests, and it appears that my judgment does not accord with that of the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn).
There is a fundamental misstatement of the nature of a trial in the new clause. New clause 5(1) refers to the principal party at a trial as if there was only one. There are two principal parties in any criminal trial in the Crown court. There is the defendant who is, of course, always regarded as the most important principal party, but the trial would not occur at all were it not for the other principal party, which is the Crown. In balancing the interests of the Crown, which also have to be protected as we have seen in a very controversial verdict in London in recent days, and the interests of the defendant, we come to the conclusion that the present system of jury trial in Wales is adequate.
Many examples can be given of why it would not be just to enable people to choose to be tried only by Welsh-speaking juries. Harking back to an historical jury panel does not help the argument. I do not want to go back to jury panels that excluded women. I do not want to go back to jury panels that included only people of property. I do not want to go back to a jury class that was restricted by artificial distinctions.
One of the greatest advances that we have made in attempting to secure fairness in jury trials during this century, and especially during the second half of the century, is to increase the number of people from whom jurors are selected. I believe that random selection is a principle worth holding to.
More than just principle is at stake. Let us consider a few examples of what might occur. Let us suppose that there was a burglary in the town of Montgomery in my constituency. There was a burglary at Bunners Agricultural Ironmongers in Montgomery some time ago. It caused something of a stir because, in the middle of the night, the Dyfed-Powys police helicopter went out and caught the burglars en route back to the midlands.
Let us suppose that there was another burglary in Montgomery, which was committed by somebody who said that he wanted an all-Welsh jury. That would exclude 1170 almost the entire population of Montgomery and of Welshpool from serving on that jury, because there are not many people in Montgomery and in Welshpool who happen to speak Welsh.
It is a fair principle that the people of the area in which the crime has been committed have the right to serve on the jury. It is fair to say that they would be deeply offended—rightly so—if they found that they were excluded from being able to serve on a jury dealing with crimes committed in their area. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans) in his place. The Monmouth example is too obvious to state.
Let us take another example. In past decades, a celebrated and much-loved Queen's counsel on the Wales and Chester circuit was known for his success in fraud trials. I do not know whether this is a fair comment, because I never saw him conducting a fraud trial, but I am told that one of the reasons for his success was that he had a great capacity for so totally confusing the jury that it was driven eventually to return a verdict of not guilty because it had so failed to understand the case that it could not be sure that the defendant was guilty.
Let us suppose that a guilty fraudster was prosecuted and that he had committed a fraud entirely through the medium of English, using an English accounting system while working for an English company in Wales. Being a wily fraudster, he decides that one way to cause confusion is to insist on having a trial in Welsh.
That is not an absurd example. In 22 years of working in the criminal courts, I tell you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is no shortage of people around who would take advantage of such an opportunity. I of course acquit the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy and the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones), who is another good solicitor, of that charge. However, there may be solicitors around who would say to their clients, "Well, why don't you ask for a trial in Welsh so that we can confuse the issue further?"
That is a realistic and practical problem. The establishment of Welsh language trial centres in different parts of Wales would not resolve the problems to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Llwyd
I know of the hon. and learned Gentleman's advocacy in the Crown courts and of his experience, and I appreciate his point. However, I do not see why, in Welshpool, for example, it would be impracticable to empanel a Welsh-speaking jury. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the Monmouth example. Next door to Monmouth there are tens of thousands of Welsh-speaking people in Cardiff. If the trial centre was in Cardiff, people in Monmouth would have to go only seven or eight miles along the road. There is the answer.
§ Mr. Carlile
I would ask the hon. Gentleman why people from Monmouth should be excluded from serving on a jury when the alleged offences were committed in Monmouth. That, in my view, defies logic.
Mr. Alan W. Williams
I wish to say two things about the hon. and learned Member's analysis. First, most Welsh language trials would be in Dyfed, Gwynedd or other Welsh-speaking areas. The hon. and learned Gentleman is talking about exceptional circumstances. Secondly, the hon. and learned Gentleman describes Welsh-speaking fraudsters and others who might choose to use the 1171 language as a vehicle to escape justice. I wish to point out that Dyfed and Powys have the lowest incidence of crime in Britain. I am sure that the situation is similar in Gwynedd. Welsh-speaking people are law-abiding.
§ Mr. Carlile
The hon. Gentleman will know, if he has been following the newspapers recently, that the largest fraud committed in Wales is now between conviction and sentence, and relates to offences that were committed in the counties of Powys, for the most part, and Dyfed. That is the Foulkes Ingram case. I can immediately contradict the hon. Gentleman on that score.
§ Mr. Carlile
I will not give way again. There may be other hon. Members who wish to speak, and we will want to hear the Minister's response.
There is one aspect in which I echo the remarks of the hon. Gentleman for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy. It is essential that there should be enough judges and practitioners in Wales capable of understanding and speaking Welsh, to the extent that they are able to conduct with total fluency those parts of a trial that are heard in Welsh.
We have a distinguished body of such practitioners in Wales. I mentioned the two noble Lords as examples. There are many Welsh-speaking judges of great distinction. The Minister of State's brother is one of the best known of them—a greatly admired and just civil judge in north Wales. He is known to other hon. Members also.
I would be the first to say that I hope that the Lord Chancellor's Department will continue to follow the policy of looking for suitable Welsh speakers to fill judicial appointments. I also hope that the Crown Prosecution Service will pursue its policy of employing professional officers and others who can conduct trials and can assist the police with advice, where necessary through the medium of Welsh. It is important to do so. When it comes to the selection of jurors, the principle of random selection should be paramount.
Let us not forget the final point that I wish to make. If there was a case in which it was patently unjust that the trial should be conducted by the jury panel that was selected by random selection through the computerised system that is now used, a procedure remains open to the defendant and his legal advisers. It is possible to make what is called a challenge to the array, which is a challenge to the whole jury panel. It is not often done, and is probably done successfully even more rarely. I certainly have seen it done on one occasion and I believe that I have done it once myself in 22 years. The opportunity remains in common law to challenge—in extreme circumstances—the panel that is brought to court.
If a defendant came before the court on a serious charge and it were possible to show that he did not understand English sufficiently to be tried fairly, and that it was not possible for one reason or another for a simultaneous translation to meet the needs of the case, then the judge might exercise his discretion to allow a challenge to the array. The possibility ought not to be brushed aside, and I thought it right to mention it in the debate.
§ Mr. Flynn
I hate to intervene in what appears to be a private debate between lawyers, solicitors and the relatives of lawyers. That is probably why it has attracted so much attention in the House, attention that is out of all proportion to its importance.
I was provoked by the failure of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) to answer my simple question. How did he come to make the statement that all the fine nuances of a language are communicated when it is translated from English to Welsh? It is not possible, unless one has a thorough knowledge of both languages.
The hon. and learned Gentleman was silent on that particular issue—I respect his right to silence. I have never heard him speak Welsh. I look forward to that joy, and it is a moment for which I shall live. I do not know on what the hon. and learned Gentleman bases his judgment, but if he does not speak Welsh there is no way that he can make a decision on the matter.
The hon. and learned Gentleman made another point—one of some, if not great, importance—which was that people have a burning desire to make judgments on crimes that have been committed in their own countries. There may be something in that. However, overriding that are the needs of people who speak Welsh as a first language. No one speaks another language in the way that they speak their first language, which is usually learnt in the cradle. It is the language in which we are happiest, and most comfortable. People have different personalities in different languages. We can all think of people who are dignified and on whom we look with respect in one language who are stuttering buffoons in another. It happens in many languages. The right to speak in a proper and comfortable way is more important than the right to speak on juries.
I shall finish with one brief point. I was in the town of Harlech and wrote a cheque in Welsh at a strange bank. I handed over the cheque and my identification, but the person behind the counter brushed the identification aside, and said in Welsh that there was no need for identification. "Crooks do not use Welsh."
§ Mr. Morgan
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) I feel a degree of diffidence about this matter, and as a non-lawyer, I am fearful of sounding like a "stuttering buffoon."
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Redwood)
As a non-lawyer also, I wonder when I hear lawyers talk about balances whether we should also hear about the "cheques".
§ Mr. Morgan
The Secretary of State is trying to prove that the description of him in The Guardian last week was true. The newspaper described him as having the eyes of Hannibal Lecter and the hairstyle of Bob Monkhouse. He was trying there to show that he has also the wit of Bob Monkhouse. Most people would not want to be associated with Bob Monkhouse, even if they did. not mind being associated with Hannibal Lecter.
My point was about the practicality of the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) about computerised jury lists. The case for eligibility for jury service is currently denoted on the computerised version of electoral rolls—although, I 1173 believe, not on the versions that appear in print—to ensure that OAPs are no longer called for jury service. It seems a practical extension of that principle to provide the same electoral computerised roll, only stating the availability of and the competence of a person to act as a juror in Welsh.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
How would the hon. Gentleman test the ability of those who perhaps might put the letter "W" on an electoral roll to indicate that they spoke Welsh?
§ Mr. Morgan
That is a practical problem which seems far from insuperable when it comes to the selection of a jury at a trial. It would not be difficult for a judge to put a request to the jurors before the start of a trial, asking them to assure the court that they were capable of handling the case, whether it be a complicated fraud case or a relatively simple, open and shut burglary case. It is not an insuperable practical problem, but it would help to solve the long-standing grievance that people have felt over their inability to claim a jury trial in Welsh.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
The debate has concentrated largely on the jury system. We had a similar debate in Committee. Hon. Members who represent the legal profession showed then that there is a division of opinion among them about the matter. I am sure that that would also be the case in the House as a whole.
I set out in Committee, the Government's policy about all-Welsh juries and the Government's view remains unchanged. We do not consider it appropriate to make provision to require juries of trials conducted through the medium of Welsh to be composed solely of people who understand Welsh, mainly because we cannot allow anything to interfere with the principle of random selection of juries nor place further hurdles in the way of the administration of justice.
I call in aid not only all the arguments put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) but the findings of the report by the late Lord Edmund Davies. The Government's policy conforms with the recommendations of his report and I remain firmly of the view that the best way to safeguard not only the interests of Welsh speakers but justice generally is by means of simultaneous translation.
I have heard what the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) has said about nuances and so on, but, as I understand it, the translation service has improved considerably in recent years.
I can tell the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) that I am aware of the royal commission's recommendation on jury composition, but I have to remind him that it is only a recommendation. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will consider many matters relating to jury composition in the light of the royal commission's recommendations. However, the commission itself, as I think that the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, has stressed the difficulty of departing from the guiding principle of random selection, even in a limited way. I am sure that we will want to move with extreme caution in any matters relating to the selection of juries.
It is worth reminding the House that the Bill re-enacts the provision in the Welsh Language Act 1967 which gives the right to a defendant or another party at a legal hearing to give evidence in Welsh should he or she choose to do so.
1174 I was pleased to be able to table an amendment in Committee that further clarified the position of written evidence in the courts. In future, the Lord Chancellor will produce rules of court governing the submission of written evidence in Welsh. They will be able to cover detailed matters including the need to give notice and the need to protect the interests of parties to a hearing who do not understand Welsh.
Many hearings in Wales, particularly in magistrates courts, take place entirely in Welsh. That policy will continue, but is a matter that must remain at the discretion of court authorities. Therefore, the Government cannot agree to the proposal set out in the new clause that the matter be left to the discretion of the defendant or litigant.
I am pleased to be able to reiterate today the undertaking that I gave during Committee that the Lord Chancellor's Department will continue to seek to facilitate the use of Welsh in the court service wherever it is reasonably practicable and will not interfere with the efficient administration of justice. He must be able to have regard to all the relevant criteria in appointing judges and other legal officers in Wales. The Government do not, however, believe that it will be acceptable to restrict the discretion of the Lord Chancellor to make the most suitable appointments, as the new clause suggests.
In view of what I have said, and in concluding this short debate, I hope that the new clauses will not be pressed to a division.
§ Mr. Llwyd
The Minister says that he is unpersuaded. Frankly, I am unpersuaded towards his view. We shall beg to differ on that. In the light of the Runciman proposals in the royal commission report, if there were a change of practice following on that which I described earlier and of which the Minister is aware, will he reconsider?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I am sure that when the Home Secretary considers the royal commission's recommendation he will take into account what has been said today on the Floor of the House.
§ Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.