Letter from the Chartered Institute of Linguists
15 March 2012
Crispin Blunt MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of
State for Justice
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ
Commons Debate 13 March 2012, Oral Answers to Questions – Justice
I am writing to you as the Chair of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, an organisation which has recently celebrated its centenary, and which represents some 6,000 professional linguists, including many of the UK’s professional interpreters and translators. Our examination setting arm, the IoL Educational Trust, awards the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI),the gold standard in public service interpreting in the UK.
My predecessor, Tony Bell, wrote to Nick Herbert and Lord McNally in December last year expressing various concerns about the new framework agreement with ALS, and I understand that he copied that correspondence to you. Mr Bell emphasised in his letter the Institute’s keen interest in engaging with the Ministry of Justice to ensure the best possible provision in public service interpreting, and that of course remains the case.
I have more recently written to Martin Jones at HMCTS, since the rollout of the MoJ/ALS contract , expressing concern about the damage that the surrounding media coverage is doing to the reputation of public service interpreting, and highlighting the risk of miscarriages of justice and the incurring of unnecessary costs, for example through the cancellation of hearings due to the non-availability of suitable interpreters. I offered to meet with Mr Jones to discuss these issues and how this Institute can help you to address them.
In view of these efforts to engage positively with the MoJ on this important subject. I was dismayed to read in Hansard this week (13 March 2012, c135), your statement that problems within the system were caused by “interpreters, who [on finding that] under the new payment regime [they] could no longer earn six figure salaries, as they could under the previous Administration”. I understand that you repeated this assertion in an interview on the Today programme this morning. I would like to draw your attention to our recent Rates and Salaries Survey carried out jointly with the UK’s other major professional membership organisation for linguists, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), and enclose a copy for your information. In this survey, over 1,750 respondents, both translators and interpreters, gave accounts of their rates and salaries.
The survey is an in-depth account of what it means, economically, to be a professional linguist today. The survey was conducted during 2010 and thus figures quoted are those prevailing before the MoJ/ALS contract.
The survey indicates that the average gross income for interpreting and translating was considerably less than six figures and stood at the more modest sum of £31,000. Only 16 of the respondents claimed to earn over £100,000 and from the figures contained in the report about the earnings of public service interpreters (PSIs), it can be reasonably assumed that these respondents did not work solely as PSIs, if at all.
I would like to repeat the Chartered Institute’s willingness to work with the MoJ to help resolve the difficulties the criminal justice system is currently encountering with the provision of suitable interpreting, but I would urge you not to confuse the issue by making unfounded claims about the earnings of public service interpreters.
Chair of Council, Chartered Institute of Linguists