Oral Answers to Questions - Justice
18 December 2012
Lorely Burt (Solihull, Liberal Democrat)
Last week, the Public Accounts Committee published its report on the Ministry of Justice’s language services contract. It concluded, among other things, that Applied Language Solutions does not have enough interpreters available to meet demand, and that the interpreters who are provided do not all have the necessary qualifications. Does the Secretary of State intend to implement the Committee’s recommendations to address those pressing issues?
Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald, Conservative)
Interpreting services in court are at a 95% success rate, and the National Audit Office has said that we should go on and implement the proposals fully. The contract is saving us £15 million a year of taxpayers’ money, and as long as we continue to work with interpreters—we have already had an important meeting with them—the new system will be more sustainable, effective and transparent than the old one.
18 December 2012
Lord Beecham (Labour)
My Lords, I take the Government's point about resources, but as my noble friend rightly points out, there are two sides to that equation. One is the cost to the system, which can flow from inadequate representation of defendants, adjournments and the rest of it, as well as the cost of providing it. Of course, there are defendants who get assistance in the form of interpretation. As it turns out, recent developments in interpreting services have been, to put it mildly, controversial. Contracts have been given to organisations that apparently have not performed very well, at considerable cost in terms of the fees paid to them. Equally, as might be the case in connection with people who are unable to understand proceedings and follow them unassisted, some of the interpreters who turned up to the courts were simply not up to the job. It has been something of a disaster.