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Volume 686: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they support the interpreting profession's initiative to bring forward proposals for a national call centre for interpreters, similar to that used by police for duty solicitors; and [HL7814]

What guidelines have been or are being established to ensure that, as far as possible, only qualified interpreters are used within the criminal justice system; what percentage usage of qualified interpreters would be regarded as good practice; and how the guidelines set up in the new interpreter's working agreement will be monitored.[HL7815]

The Office for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) is currently leading a cross-agency review of the 2002 national agreement on arrangements for the attendance of interpreters in investigations and proceedings within the criminal justice system.

The guidance contained in that agreement already makes clear that interpreters working in a court or a police station should, wherever possible, be registered with the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) or the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People.

If, in an individual case, it is not possible to select an interpreter from these registers, checks should be carried out to ensure that the interpreter selected meets standards at least equal to those required for registration. This is the recommended good practice standard.

However, we are aware that there are shortages of interpreters in some languages and in some parts of the country. Rural areas may face particular difficulties in finding qualified interpreters compared with metropolitan areas, which usually have a more cosmopolitan population. These are difficult issues which the review is looking into.

Monitoring of interpreter usage is one of the issues being considered in the current review. However, a national call centre for interpreters is not one of the options under consideration. We believe there are other ways of addressing current problems in interpreter provision.