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Government responses to Select Committee Inquiries
25 April 2013
Government Response to the Justice Committee’s Sixth Report of Session 2012-13: Interpreting and translation services and the Applied Language Solutions contract
Written Ministerial Statement on the Language Services Framework Agreement
Government response on the Twenty First Report from the Committee of Public Accounts
Session: 2012-13 (from page 24)
Justice Select Committee
6 February 2013
The Justice Committee published its Sixth Report of Session 2012–13,
Interpreting and translation services and the Applied Language Solutions Contract,
on Wednesday 6 February 2013 as HC 645.
Press Release by Justice Select Committee, 6 February 2013
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) pushed ahead with outsourcing court interpreter services despite warnings that the quality of court language services would be reduced, an inquiry by the Justice Committee has found.
The Chair of the Committee, Sir Alan Beith MP, said:
“The Ministry of Justice’s handling of the outsourcing of court interpreting services has been nothing short of shambolic. It did not have an adequate understanding of the needs of courts, it failed to heed warnings from the professionals concerned, and it did not put sufficient safeguards in place to prevent interruptions in the provision of quality interpreting services to courts.”
Evidence strongly suggests that the MoJ did not have a sufficient understanding of the complexities of court interpreting work, according to the MPs. Significant concern was revealed in the MoJ’s consultation process that quality standards could be diminished by the imposition of a tiered system to enable a wider pool of interpreters, and by the introduction of lower levels of pay. However, the Department pushed ahead with the contract and failed to properly anticipate or address the potential for problems with Applied Language Solutions’ (ALS) capacity to deliver on its promises.
Sir Alan Beith MP added:
“The evidence shows that Capita-ALS failed to deliver on many aspects of the Agreement and did not implement appropriate safeguards to ensure that the interpreters it provided were of sufficient standard.”
When Capita (which acquired ALS for £7.5m in December 2011) began delivering interpreting and translation services to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) in January 2012, it faced immediate operational difficulties. ALS and more recently Capita have been unable to recruit qualified and experienced interpreters in sufficient numbers, leading to an inadequate volume and quality of interpreting services being available to courts and tribunals.
Professional interpreters have largely boycotted the new arrangements; contributing to the difficulties in levels of fulfilment, but not entirely explaining them according to the report. Capita-ALS clearly needed significantly more resources than it had at its disposal to deliver the service levels required. The company also paid lip service to the regulatory duties accepted under the Framework Agreement, yet did not have the capacity to cope with complaints or to implement basic vetting procedures.
Performance has undoubtedly improved markedly but this has taken a long time to achieve and Capita is not yet being asked to supply interpreters to meet the full demand of HMCTS. The MoJ has had to monitor Capita-ALS very closely to secure the level of improvement necessary to make the Agreement workable, and continues to do so. The existing arrangements may not be financially sustainable as Capita is propping up the continuation of the Agreement, which mean that the Department’s savings, originally projected to be £15million, are effectively being secured at the company’s expense.
The most important priority is for the MoJ and Capita to prove that the Framework Agreement is capable of attracting, retaining and deploying an adequate number of qualified and competent interpreters to meet the requirements of the courts and other justice agencies.
The Committee has also condemned the actions taken by MoJ which had the effect of hampering the inquiry. HMCTS issued an edict to its staff instructing them not to participate in the Committee’s online consultation, established to invite direct observations from frontline staff of the performance of ALS. The Committee considers that the actions of the Ministry in this case may have constituted a contempt of the House, but as it received sufficient evidence from other sources to make a reliable judgement, it has not asked the House to take further action on this matter.
Sir Alan Beith MP said:
“We have made use of online forums in the past to obtain the views and experiences of staff in probation and prison services, without any obstruction by the Ministry. We received an abundance of evidence from other sources about the quality of court interpreting services, so we are confident in the conclusions we have reached, but we deplore the Ministry’s ill-advised actions and there should be no repetition of them in the future.”
Public Accounts Committee
14 December 2012
The Public Accounts Committee publishes its Twenty-First Report
The Ministry of Justice's language service contract
29 October 2012
The Public Accounts Committee holds its second evidence session of its inquiry into Ministry of Justice Language Services and the Applied Language Solutions contract on Monday 29 October 2012.
- Andy Parker, Joint Chief Operating Officer, Capita plc, and
- Sunna Van Loo, Public Service Director, Applied Language Solutions
25 October 2012
Ministry of Justice Language Services
15 October 2012
The Public Accounts Committee holds its first evidence session of its inquiry into Ministry of Justice Language Services and the Applied Language Solutions contract on Monday 15 October 2012.
- Geoffrey Buckingham, Chair, and
- Alan Thompson, Secretary, The Association of Police and Court Interpreters
- Ursula Brennan, Permanent Secretary, and
- Anne Beasley, Director General Finance and Corporate Services, Ministry of Justice, and
- Peter Handcock CBE, Chief Executive, HM Courts and Tribunals Service
12 September 2012
Statement from Public Accounts Committee Chair Margaret Hodge MP on NAO report: The Ministry of Justice's language services contract
* * *
Justice Select Committee
30 October 2012
The Justice Select Committee holds its second evidence session of its inquiry into Interpreting and Translation services and the Applied Language Solutions contract on Tuesday 30 October 2012.
- Andy Parker, Joint Chief Operating Officer, Capita Plc
- Sunna van Loo, Public Services Director, Capita Plc
- Gavin Wheeldon, former CEO, Applied Language Solutions
- Helen Grant MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
- Peter Handcock CBE, Chief Executive, HM Courts and Tribunals Service
- Ann Beasley, Director General, Finance and Corporate Services, Ministry of Justice
23 October 2012
The Justice Select Committee holds its first evidence session of its inquiry into Interpreting and Translation services and the Applied Language Solutions contract on Tuesday 23 October 2012.
- Madeleine Lee, Director, Professional Interpreters’ Alliance;
- Nick Rosenthal, Chair, Institute of Translation and Interpreting; and
- Ted Sangster, Chair, National Register of Public Service Interpreters
- John Fassenfelt, Chairman, Magistrates’ Association; and
- Richard Atkinson, Chair, Criminal Law Committee, Law Society
19 October 2012
Justice Select Committee
Announcement: Interpreting and Translation services and the Applied Languages Solutions contract
The Justice Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into interpreting and translation services and the Applied Language Solutions (ALS) contract. There was an excellent response to the call for written evidence but the Committee is now seeking further information on performance under the contract relating to the period September and October 2012.
The Committee invites observations from people who have direct experience of the provision of interpreting and translation services by ALS and who may have been reticent to provide formal written evidence. This may include: court and tribunal service staff; members of the judiciary and magistracy; legal practitioners; defendants in criminal cases and parties in civil and family cases; and interpreters providing services on behalf of ALS.
There are three areas of inquiry where recent experiences would be welcome:
- The quality of interpreting and translation services provided
- The effectiveness of the complaints resolution process
- The effectiveness of other steps that have been taken to rectify issues with under-performance
Comments can be submitted at http://forums.parliament.uk/court-language-services/ and will be available until 2 November 2012.
National Audit Office
12 September 2012
NAO publishes damning report on Applied Language Solutions / Capita court interpreting contract
"In August 2011, the Ministry of Justice signed a new framework agreement for language services with a company called Applied Language Solutions (ALS). Under that agreement, a range of justice sector bodies entered into contracts with ALS for the provision of specific interpretation and translation services.
On 30 January 2012, the largest of those agreements, for the Ministry, which is worth an estimated £90 million over five years, became operational and immediately faced operational difficulties. Following this, the National Audit Office received correspondence from a number of individuals, including MPs, whistle-blowers and the public, asking us to look into what had happened.
This memorandum sets out the results of our investigation."
A note on the NAO report: Questions have been asked about some aspects of the report, in particular the modelling of interpreters' rates of pay and the losses currently suffered by interpreters. See our rates calculation table here.
Read additional analyses of the NAO report here:
*Flashback* to 6 July 2011
MoJ 'Letter to Stakeholders' dismissed
all the concerns that have come to pass.
Justice Select Committee
18 July 2012
Justice Select Committee to hold Inquiry into Applied Language Solutions court interpreting contract
New Justice Select Committee Inquiry: Interpretation and Translation services and the Applied Language Solutions contract
The Justice Select Committee is launching a call for written evidence on the provision of interpretation and translation services since Applied Language Solutions (ALS) began operating as the Ministry of Justice’s sole contractor for language services in February 2012.
Specifically we will seek to explore six areas:
- The rationale for changing arrangements for the provision of interpreter services
- The nature and appropriateness of the procurement process
- The experience of courts and prisons in receiving interpretation services that meet their needs
- The nature and effectiveness of the complaints process
- The steps that have been taken to rectify under-performance and the extent to which they have been effective
- The appropriateness of arrangements for monitoring the management of the contract, including the quality and cost-effectiveness of the service delivered.
The deadline for submissions is Monday 3 September 2012.
Ministry of Justice releases Applied Language Solutions' figures - 24 May 2012
On 24 May 2012 the MoJ published the performance figures for the ALS Ltd/Capita language services contract here.
The statistics were provided by the contractors, ALS Ltd/Capita. Ministers have repeatedly stated that the MoJ is collecting no data itself (see the Written & Oral Answers given over past months).
The statistics relate only to the bookings handled by ALS Ltd, whereas it is known that HMCTS reverted to using the 'old' direct booking system alongside ALS Ltd immediately after the contract began in February (see here).
Questions you should be asking:
- Exactly what volume of HMCTS interpreter bookings bypassed the ALS Ltd system, thereby helping to prop up this failing contract and manipulate the data?
- What do the entries logged as 'collaborative partner did not attend' actually mean?
See page 137 of the Framework Agreement, which states:
"No cancellation charge
Our [ALS Ltd's] experience in working with key partners within the Criminal Justice System has proven that assignments will sometimes need to be cancelled by the requester, often right up the agreed appointment time. As these circumstances are often unavoidable we apply no cancellation charges.
(NB if the interpreter is actually on site as booked and the interpretation doesn’t go ahead, we implement just a one-hour charge. This is classified as a “did not attend” by the collaborative partner/detained person)"
In practice this means that ALS failings are recorded as 'other party did not attend', and ALS Ltd charges HMCTS the fee for one hour.
- Why do Ministers keep saying they don't have access to the information requested of them in Parliamentary Questions?
The Framework Agreement clearly states:
"The Administrator may request data and reports on an ad hoc basis to assist with Parliamentary Questions (PQs). The Contractor shall within one working day of request by the Authority provide the required data or information." (page 99)
The Administrator in this case is "Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice (hereinafter called “the Administrator”), acting through its representatives based at Unit 8/9, Silkwood Park, Ossett, Wakefield, WF5 9TJ" (page 4)
"The role of Administrator will be assumed by Julie Homer, Procurement Manager, CMT North, Ministry of Justice (Procurement)" (page 7).
- Where is the rest of the data?
Look at the statistics the MoJ published and look at the management information that ALS is contractually obliged to provide to MoJ under the terms of the FWA (see page 98 of FWA document):
J2. The Contractor will provide management reports through the web based portal. The reports will be capable of importing into Excel and will include but not be limited to the following:
1) Breakdown of available interpreter numbers by region, language, tier and vetting status.
2) Details of complaints received, upheld, timescale for resolution and outcome. ( Per Collaborative Partner)
3) Number of new interpreters added per tier per region.
4) Gaps in availability of languages per Region
5) Report status on performance against collaborative partner KPIs
6) Telephone Interpreting: Monthly breakdown of number of calls, number of minutes, total price. (Per Collaborative Partner)
7) Translation: Monthly breakdown of number of single linguist tasks, number of second linguist proof reads, total price, discounts for translation memory. (Per Collaborative Partner)
8) Transcription: Monthly breakdown of number of tasks and total price (Per Collaborative Partner)
9) British Sign Language/Deaf Blind: Monthly breakdown of number of assignments, assignment costs, and travel costs. (Per Collaborative Partner)
10) Face to Face: Monthly breakdown of number of assignments per region, per tier, per language, per Collaborative partner plus total price.
Out of the above I only see 10) in the published figures.... out of which the MoJ excluded one very interesting point....how much dosh was paid to ALS in the 3 month period ??
[This section will be updated soon]
Oral Answers, 18 September 2012
Written Answers, 24 May 2012
Oral Answers, 22 May 2012
Oral Answers, 15 May 2012
Written Answers, 30 April 2012
Written Answers, 23 April 2012
Written Answers, 19 April 2012
Video: Andy Slaughter MP on why the Framework Agreement with Applied Language Solutions/Capita Plc. should be scrapped
at the interpreter demo outside the Ministry of Justice on 16 April 2012
Video: Andy Slaughter MP addresses the interpreters' demonstration
outside the House of Commons on 15 March 2012
Written Answers, 27 March 2012
House of Lords, 26 March 2012
Written Answers, 22 March 2012
House of Lords, 22 March 2012
Written Answers, 21 March 2012
Reply from Attorney General
to Emily Thornberry MP on 22 March 2012
Written Answers, 20 March 2012
Letter from Emily Thornberry MP
to Attorney General on 15 March 2012
Written Answers, 15 March 2012
Oral Answers, 13 March 2012
Written Answers, 12 March 2012
Written Answers, 07 March 2012
House of Lords, 07 March 2012
Written Answers, 06 March 2012
HMCTS Chief Executive Peter Handcock CBE
before the House of Commons Justice Committee, 06 March 2012
Transcript by ML Video of meeting
Written Answers, 05 March 2012
Written Answers, 29 February 2012
Written Answers, 28 February 2012
Written Answers, 27 February 2012
Written Answers, 23 February 2012