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Interpreters (Prosecutions)

Volume 545: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2012

7. If he will assess the effect on the cost of prosecutions of delays caused by the absence of an interpreter. (108456)

The CPS has no central records on the cost of court delays caused by the absence of an interpreter, but common sense tells me that such delays resulting from the absence of a necessary interpreter waste time and money.

Apparently, Jajo the rabbit is now a registered interpreter and translator. Does the Solicitor-General agree that that latest embarrassment illustrates the utter shambles that the contracting out of the interpreter and translator service has become?

What discussions is the Solicitor-General having with his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to ensure that the contract provisions are carefully examined and, if necessary, penalties are imposed if the service is not up to the standard required?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I discussed that matter only this morning with colleagues in the Ministry of Justice and am assured by the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt), that the contract with Applied Language Solutions is now running properly. The company has got a grip on it and we can expect nothing but progress from here on.

I do not think that that will be necessary, but perhaps in future the hon. and learned Gentleman would face the House. We would all be greatly obliged.

It is my pleasure to stand in for the shadow Attorney-General, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry)—I understand that she has informed the Attorney-General, if not the Solicitor-General. Reports from the media, the courts and interpreters themselves show that, contrary to the Solicitor-General’s briefing, problems with ALS are getting worse, not better. The MOJ intends to publish its analysis of ALS’s performance this week, based on data that I understand were collected by ALS itself. Will the Law Officers conduct their own investigation of the collapse of the interpreting and translating service in our courts, one that will put the interests of justice before the self-serving interests of the Ministry of Justice and its contractor?

No, I genuinely do not believe that to be necessary, and I think that the hon. Gentleman has been misinformed. The ALS contract is working well. If he knows of any particular instances where it is not, no doubt he will tell the Ministry of Justice about them, but I think I am prepared to believe my hon. Friends in the MOJ a little bit before I believe him.

What mechanisms exist for the CPS to communicate concerns with regard to the quality of interpretation both to the Law Officers and, indeed, to the Ministry of Justice?

The CPS can tell us; my hon. and learned Friend can tell us; he can tell the Ministry of Justice; we can tell the Ministry of Justice—[Interruption.]

The demeanour of the Solicitor-General is eccentric. I cannot account for how he performs in Her Majesty’s courts, but in the Chamber it would be helpful if he looked in the direction of the generality of Members.