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Translation Costs

Volume 592: debated on Monday 2 February 2015

My Department has issued crystal clear guidance to councils that they should cease translating into foreign languages. Translation is a waste of taxpayers’ money and encourages segregation and division. Promoting English is the best way to ensure integration.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, and welcome the progress made by his Department. Does he agree that the enormous translation costs for public services that grew up under the previous Government were not just a huge waste of taxpayers’ money, but sent a message that if someone moves here from abroad, they do not need to speak English or to integrate, and that has proved a major policy mistake?

Yes; the cost worked out at something like £140 million a year. It is not good enough to say, “Don’t translate”; we must make a real effort to ensure that people can speak English. That is why my Department has invested £6 million in six programmes to deliver courses for more than 24,000 adults with the lowest levels of English. Those people are the most isolated because they are unable to speak English. The courses have been targeted principally towards Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Somali women.

I recently met the profoundly deaf communities in my constituency through Deaflink, and they highlighted how isolated they felt because of the lack of British sign language translation services available when accessing services. What will the Secretary of State do to support them?

The hon. Lady makes a reasonable point: sign languages in English should be available. I shall look into the matter very carefully and, because she has made a reasonable point, respond to her.