Anyone who has read this blog regularly will know that the Ministry of Justice’s contracting of interpreting services for courts and tribunals in England and Wales has been nothing short of disastrous (posts passim).

Nevertheless, Government ministers continue to perpetuate the myth that all is well with the service provided by Capita Translation & Interpreting.

The latest exhibit comes from this written question in the House of Lords on 3rd June 2013.

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.

This question received the reply below from Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords:

Lord McNally (Minister of State, Justice; Liberal Democrat)

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: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/177042/statistical-tables-jan12-jan13.xls.

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.

The Ministry of Justice seems to be applying the philosophy outlined by a certain A. Hitler in Mein Kampf, i.e. “if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one and if you tell if often enough, people will begin to believe it”.

The inhabitants of Petty France seem to believe the lie, but more and more outsiders are becoming increasingly sceptical of ministerial pronouncements. How much longer will the Ministry of Justice keep up the pretence before the train wreck that is the framework agreement consigned to the scrap heap?