The current monopoly service provider of courtroom interpreting has failed to repeat the success of meeting its key performance target, according to latest figures from the Ministry of Justice.

Four years after the controversial outsourcing of courtroom interpreting to a single contractor, Capita Translation and Interpretingfinally met its 98% target in the last quarter of 2015.

However, statistics published by the ministry yesterday show that it completed 97% of requests for language services between January and March this year.

Capita TI’s contract expires on 30 October and will be replaced with new arrangements.

International language services company Thebigword, formed in Leeds, has won contracts to provide face-to-face interpretation, and written translation and transcription services.

The contract for non-spoken language services has reportedly been offered to Cambridge firm Clarion Interpreting Limited.

Contractors working regularly for one client were not protected against discrimination

It has always been clear that truly independent providers of services to the world at large fall outside the scope of the Equality Act 2010. But the extent to which this is true of self-employed, independent contractors working extensively on assignments for only one client has been less than clear. But it now seems that even where self-employed independent contractors devote all, or a substantial amount, of their time to an assignment, they may not be able to rely on the Act’s protection against discrimination, following a recent Court of Appeal decision in a case called Secretary of State for Justice v Windle and Arada.

The case involved two court interpreters who were on the court and tribunal service’s National Register of Public Service Interpreters. They assisted those involved in court proceedings who did not have English as their first language and were engaged to do work personally on a large number of short term contracts. Under these arrangements, there was no guarantee of work, and no obligation on them to accept work when it was offered. The interpreters considered themselves self-employed.

In 2010 the interpreters, who were of Czech and Algerian origin, brought proceedings against the Ministry of Justice, arguing that they had been treated less favourably than British sign language interpreters in relation to their terms and conditions and that this was discrimination on the grounds of race.

Big numbers again from the United Kingdom, where the famed National Health Service on July 8, 2016, launched a request for proposal (RFP) for interpretation and translation services worth GBP 20–80m over the two-year life of the contract.

The new RFP comes hot on the heels of similar tenders for framework agreements from the nation’s Crown Commercial Service CCS (worth up to GBP 250m), the Ministry of Justice (up to GBP 160m), and a procurement organization for the country’s Eastern Shires (up to GBP 120m).

Even if only a fraction of the promised spend is likely be funnelled through the frameworks, the UK is emerging as a runner-up to the EU in terms of centralized procurement of translation and interpretation.

The RFP totals 74 pages across three documents, with another three vast spreadsheets added for good measure. Bid managers rejoice. Running the tender is the NHS’ procurement arm NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), which is funded by both the suppliers and the participating authorities. According to the bid documents seen by Slator, the Category Manager in charge is a certain Jack Steele.

My Lords, I rise with some trepidation as the only non-lawyer to speak in this debate. I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Woolf for providing the opportunity for me to draw attention to one particular specialist aspect of the resources available to our courts. I refer to the right to interpreting services and the way in which these services are provided. I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and put on record my sincere thanks to my fellow vice-president, Professor Tim Connell, for his invaluable help with background research on this topic. I am also grateful to the National Register of Public Service Interpreters for its briefing.

The right to interpretation is currently enshrined in EU law under Article 2 of the directive of the European Parliament dated 20 October 2010. This is several clauses long, so I shall quote just the first and last to summarise the key points. Article 2 reads:

“Member states shall ensure that suspected or accused persons who do not speak or understand the language of the criminal proceedings concerned are provided, without delay, with interpretation during criminal proceedings before investigative and judicial authorities, including during police questioning, all court hearings and any necessary interim hearings”.

Q: My grandson established a translation service, specialising in Portuguese and Spanish, three years ago and recently gained an accolade for his work. Some of his early customers offer him business which is not sufficiently profitable but, because they helped him to establish the business, he is reluctant to either refuse their custom or ask for increased and profitable rates of pay.

Other more profitable translation work, more demanding of his skills, still commands rates of pay below that which he feels he should have. Yet he is reluctant to increase his charges to these clients for fear of losing the business.

What words of advice do you have towards his goal of expansion and increased profitability, please?