1998 Banking Bill - Cheque writing in Manx

Late in 1998, a new Banking Bill was before Tynwald. Mr. Peter Karran MHK put an amendment forward that meant that the established practice where most banks would accept cheques made out in the Manx language became a legal requirement. It is stressed that the only people to be compelled to accept Manx cheques would be the banks - the acceptance or non-acceptance of a cheque by a creditor is at entirely their own discretion. The amendment, therefore, should have been entirely non-contentious but a couple of individuals claiming to represent the banking industry started whining and inventing proplems. Mec Vannin was extremely vocal in attacking both the bankers and several other individuals who jumped on the band-wagon and tried to act against the language of the Manx people. This resulted in Mec Vannin and Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh being asked to give evidence to the Financial Supervision Commission who were responsible for the Bill. In the course of eveidence, it was established that the two bankers involved in the opposition camp had been lying about the cheque clearance process. As a result of the Mec Vannin protest and evidence, the amendment was successful and Manx speakers may now exchange cheques withou the fear of the bank refusing to accept them. It must be reiterated that the majority of banks were not in the slightest bit bothered.

These are the minutes of the meeting supplied by the FSC

Note for Record

8 January 1998



Notes of a meeting held at the offices of the Financial Supervision Commission on Thursday, 8 January. 1998 at 4.20 pm
Present: Mr Mark Kermode Mec Vannin
Dr Brian Stowell ("BS"), Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh
Mr W A Gilbey ("WAG") (Chairman) Sir Miles Walker ("MW")
Mr Norman Radcliffe ("NR") Mr J A Cashen ("JAC")
Mrs Kathy Harrison ( "KH" j Mr M P Weldon

WAG explained that, following Mr Karran's amendment to the Banking Bill, the banking community in the Isle of Man had expressed some concerns and the Treasury had therefore taken the decision to temporarily withdraw the Bill from the House of Keys to enable it to explore further the concerns of the banking industry before proceeding further.

Whilst doing so, however, the Treasury also wished to provide those with a specific interest in this matter opportunity to make any submission they may choose. Furthermore, the Treasury appreciates their assistance in responding to specific queries raised by KH earlier.

MK stated that Mec Vannin and the Manx language community, whilst not having worked with Mr Karran in putting the amendment forward, nevertheless welcomed the amendment.

BS explained that cheques are already being written in Manx. They have been written in Manx by some people for many years.

MK stated that he personally has paid in Manx cheques drawn on all the major clearing banks in the island without difficulty. Their view was, therefore, that things have got out of perspective.

Both MK and BS felt that, whilst the amendment might increase slightly the number of cheques written in Manx, they did not envisage an enormous increase.

As regards assisting the banks in translation, BS confirmed that a leaflet had been specifically produced to assist the banks some years ago. They are quite happy to expand or simplify this if this would be of assistance. They would also be happy to put together a panel of Manx speakers which could serve as a "hot line" for translation enquiries from banks. The leaflet could also be circulated to retailers in the island.

BS stated that Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh would be prepared to encourage the Manx speaking community to standardise their cheque writing so that the date appears in numbers rather than in words.

We discussed the name of the Payee on cheques and whether these are, as a matter of course written in a Manx translated version. MK made the point that a cheque can only be made out to the name of the account holder or any other name which the Payee's bank will accept. If the payee's bank will accept a Manx translation then so be it. If thev will not, then the Manx speaking community recognise that the cheque must be made out to the legal name of the payee, not its Manx translation. MK cited the case of the Celtic League which banks in the UK and which has a bank account that is recognised by the bank in 7 different languages. He also cited the example of the Milk Marketing Association where he says he has written cheques at different times to "Isle of Man Milk Marketing Association", "IOMMMA", "IOM Creameries" etc. These have all been accepted by the Milk Marketing Association's bank, presumably by agreement between the bank and its client. The point is that the names must be distinguishable. This is a matter between the client and the bank at the time of opening the account.
BS agreed with MK. Names are not, as a matter of course, translated.

Both BS and MK acknowledaed that there are a number of different ways of writing certain numbers (eg. Twenty-three, or three and twenty), but BS stated that he felt that the Manx language community could iron out the variations and they would appeal to everyone to fall into line. In any event, he felt that if the banks were to refer to the explanatory leaflet there is sufficient information on that to enable a bank to translate most variations. He felt that it would be difficult to pass a fraudulent cheque by virtue of the language.

KH explained that the bankers appear to have identified a difficulty in dealing with Manx cheques which are drawn in a foreign currency. Is there a demand for anything other than sterling cheques to be written in Manx? Both MK and BS felt that there would be no real demand for non-sterling cheques. MK did, however, make the point that he had come across an Irish punt account, but this was probably drawn on an Irish bank.

We touched upon whether either MK or BS are aware of any additional delays or costs suffered in Wales and Ireland. Neither party were aware of any special levy or delay. Indeed, they made the point that the Welsh have their cheque books written in Welsh.

We discussed retailers, who are not, of course, obliged to accept a cheque drawn in Manx. With one exception (a cheque presented by Mr Illiam Costain), MK/BS had not heard of any particular difficulties being suffered with retailers in the Isle of Man. MK felt that most of the cheques written in Manx were passed between Manx speakers.

In any event, BS made the point that retailers are increasingly encouraging customers to pay in alternative ways to a cheque in order to take advantage of automated svstems.

The question of the official status of the language was discussed. MK pointed out that there is no official language in the Isle of Man, although English has become the language of administration. He felt strongly, however, that, as our national language people should have the right to trade in Manx.

MK felt that to reject the Karran amendment would send a dangerous message to the Manx people coming out of school who have spent time and effort learning to speak Manx. Furthermore, there is a concern that one day the banks who have hitherto been accepting Manx cheques might refuse them out of hand. To incorporate the Karran amendment into law will not change things in practice at all.

MK made the point that banks could gain a competitive advantage by accepting cheques drawn in Manx.

MK stated that there is a point of principle. This is the national language and Manx people should have the right to use it. UNESCO are currently drawing up a convention which will accommodate this very issue because of the precedents of predator languages killing off national languages.

In summary, both MK and BS confirmed that they are always willing to enter into further dialogue and make further submissions if this is though necessary or helpful.

It was agreed that KH would forward a copy of the notes of the meeting to both BS and MK.
The meeting terminated at 5.20 pm.

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