Tuesday, 26 November 2013

26 November 2013


Clause 1 - Probation service reform: Parliamentary approval
Offender Rehabilitation Bill [Lords]
26 November 2013

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North, Labour)
I referred to the need of the Secretary of State for Justice to learn from his Department’s failures, and that relates to the language services contract, to which others have alluded. The contract started in 2012 and was branded “shambolic” by the Justice Committee. Coincidentally, the Committee also identified that the Ministry did not have a sufficient understanding of the complexity of court interpreting and translation work before it decided to put those services out to tender.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend again, but this subject is dear to my heart. When the language contract was originally let—it was a chaos and a farce and it was not performing—we were told by successive Ministers that it was teething troubles. The latest figures from last month show that the number of trials that are failing and the number of interpreters who are not turning up is going up and the performance of the contract is going down again. The performance is about 80%, against a target of 97%.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North, Labour)
My hon. Friend asks a question, and the next sentence of my speech answers it. The ultimate outcome is translators failing to turn up for trials, causing cancellations. Those that did appear on time frequently mistranslated the evidence. The circumstances around the language services contract led the National Audit Office to recommend that the Ministry of Justice
“implement future contracts so as to minimise transitional problems, for example through piloting”—
funny word that, “piloting”—
“and rolling-out new systems gradually”.
That is sound advice and applicable beyond the bounds of the Ministry, yet the Ministry is running the risk of delivering a parallel scenario of failures with the reform of the probation service, only the consequences pose a more direct threat to public safety.

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