Interpretation Services (Ministry of Justice)
Sajid Javid (Bromsgrove, Conservative)
I should like to thank my hon. Friend Mr Leech for raising the important issue of the outsourcing of interpretation services by the Ministry of Justice. I want to raise the case of a local company, Sign Solutions, which is based in my constituency and which specialises in interpretation services for British sign language. It was formed in 1998, following the retrial of the case of R v. Smith, Smith and Sams. This murder trial had been running in the Old Bailey for seven weeks using an unskilled, unqualified BSL interpreter. The interpreter errors eventually became so great that the judge had to stop the trial.
My constituent Sean Nicholson and his friend Gloria Ogborn were interpreters of known expertise, and they were approached by the Ministry of Justice to undertake the retrial. Their company, Sign Solutions, went on successfully to tender for civil and family court work for more than 10 years. Since then, it has helped to streamline interpreting services, and introduced cost savings by reducing the number of interpreters booked for cancelled hearings and supplying the right number of interpreters for each case. It has also suggested cost-saving ideas to the MOJ, such as using a web-based video system that could cut pricing by up to 50% without compromising quality. Sign Solutions is an award-winning national vocational qualification centre that offers post-qualification training in police and court work. It employs apprentices who are training to become the next generation of BSL legal interpreters. Its services encompass all languages and telephone interpreting, in order to be able to compete for one-service tenders.
During the recent MOJ tender process, Sign Solutions was rejected on the basis of having insufficient turnover, despite being one of the most experienced BSL court interpreters in the country, with more than 12 qualified interpreters in house, four of whom have more than 20 years of legal experience each. Small and medium-sized enterprises such as Sign Solutions are just the kind of business that this Government are committed to supporting, so may I ask the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice to look carefully at the MOJ procurement process, to see how a more level playing field could be created so that companies such as Sign Solutions have a better chance of winning Government business?