Police Interpreters

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:45 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Identity) 4:45 pm, 11th March 2009

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Caton. I thank Mr. Leech for raising this debate. Other hon. Members have spoken to me and to my hon. Friend the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing about the issue, particularly my hon. Friend Clive Efford and my hon. Friend Tony Lloyd, who has spoken to me about it on behalf of a number of Manchester colleagues. Clearly, there is some concern in the Manchester and London areas in particular. I am aware of the issue, and I welcome hon. Members' interest in it. I also welcome the chance to debate it today.

It is useful to start by outlining the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 requirements on interpreters. The responsibility for providing interpreters at the police station is an operational matter for the chief officer of the force concerned, and the Home Office has no plans to change that. Code of practice C issued under the Act for the detention, treatment, and questioning of persons by police officers states that chief officers are responsible for ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place for provision of suitable qualified interpreters for people who are deaf or who do not understand English.

The code indicates that a person must not be interviewed in the absence of a person capable of interpreting if they have difficulty understanding English, if the interviewer cannot speak the person's own language or if the person wants an interpreter present. I know from my constituency that it is sometimes a challenge to find an interpreter in the right time frame who has the right qualifications and professional skills to do such demanding work. Interpreters do not have an easy job. Some of the issues that they deal with can be quite harrowing.