I do hope that I don’t bore you with this blog post, personally I’ve been fascinated, and its my blog etc…
There will be lots of talk of millions and billions, and I know that makes your eyes glaze over, but since they are your millions and billions of pounds, I thought you might be interested.
I started trawling after reading a snippet in the Daily Telegraph concerning the £23 million quid spent annually providing translators for hospital patients in 120 different languages. Having spent most of the past six months in a hospital entirely staffed by French speakers, and who can blame them, for it was in France, I can tell you that there is no finer way of learning a language, French anyway, than being left starving bluddy hungry because you have failed to recognise that foreign lips curled round the sounds of ‘avez-vous faim‘ requires you to work up the enthusiasm to mutter ‘wee,wee, wee,’ unless you are planning a hunger strike. It’s called ‘being thrown in at the deep end’ and it works a treat. Basic needs and all that.
Then I discovered that the Department of Work and Pensions was spending further millions translating “I wan go job but I no well” from its original pigeon Nigerian into basic English that the job centre could understand like “give us me bluddy benefit money I’ve just come out of hospital”. No joke, they really do have a translator for pigeon Nigerian, along with 165 other languages – an increase of 45 languages over the NHS trusts ability. (Could someone find out where the 45 different language speakers that apparently don’t land up in our hospitals at out expense come from – perhaps we could concentrate our need for immigrants on them?) We don’t have a total figure for the cost of DWP translation services, but since just one firm, the ‘Big Word Interpreting Service Limited‘, received £3.5 million of public money in the 12 months to the end of January, we can fairly assume that it at least matches the NHS spending. The majority of the money was spent by Job Centre staff, but since some of the invoices came from the pensions department, then we must assume that those pensioners had at least been around in Britain long enough to be making enquiries about their pension, and still hadn’t learnt English…
A quick foray into the world of ‘Big Word Interpreting Service Limited’ showed that it had a multi-million pound turnover, and was the work of one Larry Gould. Well done Larry. Obviously has a contract with the NHS too, from this little gem:
Mom Rayna was a Bulgarian national, and a recent immigrant to the UK. She was giving birth to her second child at a hospital in Hackney, London. During the birth, doctors became concerned because the cord was around the baby’s neck. They desperately needed to tell the mother to stop pushing and start panting – but she had only a rudimentary grasp of English. The situation was critical and there was no time to call in a face-to-face interpreter.
So the hospital called their access number, and in less than 60 seconds were patched through to the thebigword’s Bulgarian interpreter, who was able to give the mother the correct instructions and her baby was born safely.
Good luck to Mr Gould with his enterprise, but alarm bells were starting to ring in my head – it was only a couple of weeks ago that a reader sent me a link to a piece about a ‘multi-million pound translation business’ effectively financed and operated by the Foreign Office – and it wasn’t the same outfit.
Just how many tax payer’s multi-millions are swimming around in the translation business?
The British Council, a ‘fake-charity’ if ever I saw one, dates from the 1920s, a time when there was money around to ensure that the savages in Afghanistan received the benefit of Shakespeare in Dari dialect and other cultural gems. It fell into moribund silence during the war, we having other things on our minds, but was then revitalised following the publication of the post-war Bland report, which recommended ‘the obtaining of cover from semi-national and often non-profit making British institutions with offices in foreign countries.’ What could be more innocuous than a charity bringing culture to the heathens? The Foreign Office began piling money into the British Council. Big money.
The British Council prospered – not without problems, every silver cloud has a dark lining; they got thrown out of the lucrative Russian market in retaliation for the British expulsion of Russian diplomats allegedly involved with the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. The perils of taking the Foreign Office shilling, eh? But soon they had offices in 53 different country, a staff of thousands, and had apparently cornered the market in teaching English to the savages – this allegedly is the way to stop wars, pace their grandiose Peacekeeping Initiative.
The aim of PEP was to reduce, resolve and prevent conflict worldwide through improved English language communication.
Er, financed by the Ministry of Defence – more tax payer millions! Since they had also got themselves involved in ‘Climate Change’ on a monumental scale, I can only assume that someone within the British Council was a dab hand at accessing grant money for their charity.
Our International Climate Champions programme engages young people as communicators and project leaders in 60 countries, to help them influence and educate their peers and the general public on the urgency of climate change.
Another grant from Chris Huhne old department?
Here we have an organisation which has offices in all these countries and was busy teaching English and encouraging foreign students to visit England, (not that this hasn’t caused them a fair few problems ) all paid for by the tax payer, (and some nifty capitalist enterprise, more on that in a minute) but which wasn’t being used by the government to provide a helpful Bulgarian translator to tell Mother’s when to push and when not…
It seems that they are just too damned busy. For having been heaved in the doorway of countless foreign governments by our helpful Foreign Office, the British Council then turns to private enterprise. Last year they earned a stonking £700 million in fees for their language courses in foreign parts; did they return anything to the tax payer? Did they heck, they’re a charity aren’t they, they don’t even pay the same taxes on these earnings as lesser mortals do.
I also discovered an interesting sideline of theirs. For the past 11 years Hotcourses has had the sole contract to sell the British Council’s services in respect of the “Education UK” database of courses, and for most of that period has also had the contract to collect and hold that data.
The contract that the British Council signed in 2001 with Education Websites Ltd (the company that they tried to bury in 2005 whose managing director was one Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey) included the following clause (10.4):
“Any data specifically collected for the purposes of this contract including the database of prospective students (and which may include databases of English language courses and of independent schools) will be jointly owned by both the Client and the Contractor. On the termination of this Agreement, both parties shall be entitled to use such data and to sublicence its use”.
In other words, data, including data about institutions and courses and students, that was collected supposedly on behalf of the British Council for the “Prime Minister’s Initiative” was, and is, also owned by the company owned by the present Culture Secretary, and indeed just as his company sells that Hotcourses data service, it also sells the parallel one for the British Council. And he’s got it for good. Given that the success of the Culture Secretary’s business is so closely aligned with the taxpayer-funded British Council, that it has been this way unbroken since early 2001, including both the data collected, the working of the website and the sales of the services, it would be fair to say that the Culture Secretary enjoys something close to a state subsidised monopoly in the educational course market.
My, my, our money just goes round and round. I knew there’d be an MP in this somewhere, for the British Council came in for some serious grief from the press during the MPs expenses scandal, when the unspeakable Michael Martin blocked FOI requests in respect of foreign
holidays working trips made by MPs on behalf of the British Council.
So, we have one MP owning the data on foreign students who come to this country on student visas, people the British don”t bother to check into or out of the country, hence the furious lobbying by the British Council to prevent any tightening of the student visa system, whilst other MPs agree multi-million pound grants to the same organisation – ostensibly to teach the world to sing the Climate Change aria in English, accompanied by useful holidays to see how they are getting on – and we still have to pay through the nose for translators to tell Bulgarian Mother’s not to push…
If you are interested in trawling through the British Council’s accounts, save yourself the agony of the first 100 pages of self-congratulatory ‘aren’t we wonderfully on message’ and go straight to page 101 here.
We really should keep an eye on this shower, if you think they are busy now, wait ’til next year. They are planning to ‘teach 20 million people English next year’. None of them in Britain of course, that would be too much to hope for. No, they are busy all over Africa…we’ll still be paying for translation services here in the UK.
Your head spinning yet? Mine is.