Immigration: Interpreters

House of Lords written question – answered on 3rd June 2013.

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Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many hearings of the second tier immigration tribunal have been cancelled on the grounds that (1) interpreters failed to attend, or (2) interpreters attending did not speak the correct language, since Applied Language Solutions began operating as the Ministry of Justice's sole contractor for language services in February 2012.

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

Statistics published by the Ministry of Justice in March covering the first year of the language services contract break down requests by tribunal type. Tables 5 and 6 cover data from both the first tier tribunal and Upper Tier Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, and contains information on bookings which were cancelled and the bookings where an interpreter did not attend. The data are available at:

These show that there has been a dramatic improvement in the interpreter contract since the start of last year, with the vast majority of bookings now being completed and a major reduction in complaints. Our changes saved taxpayers £15 million this year.

Hearings where an interpreter does not attend may exceptionally continue with the hearing to consider any “error of law” issues which can be dealt with in the absence of an interpreter. A failure to attend may not lead necessarily to a cancellation.

There is no specific complaint type for staff to select if an interpreter speaks the wrong language. The tribunal will specify the language required and the booking will be offered only to interpreters who have the appropriate qualifications to allow them to interpret in that language. Occasionally, staff may not be given the correct information on the dialect spoken by the individual and a hearing may have to be adjourned. These instances are rare and are not recorded separately for statistical purposes.

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