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Open letter to Dominic Raab

Wakefield, 20 July 2018

Rt Hon Dominic Raab, MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Dear Mr Raab,

I am writing in connection to the press reports about translations of the white paper The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union into various European languages. The press reports claim the translations were not of a professional standard, and this has been confirmed by several of my colleagues.

The translation profession in the UK is vital to supporting our international trade. To quote the former German chancellor Willy Brandt, “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language; if I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen!” Professional translators across the UK help UK businesses sell goods and services to their overseas customers in their customers’ languages. We do this by providing a quality service, which your department does not seem to have received in this case.

As with all professional services, good translation comes at a price, and a price that some clients may moan about. However, as your department is now seeing, the cost of a poor translation is much higher. This is why, as a UK taxpayer and so a stakeholder in the success of our national project, I am asking you, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to supply me with the following information:

  1. Which translation service provider did you commission to supply the translations?
  2. Is this translation service provider certified as complying with BS EN ISO 17100?
  3. Did the contract with the translation service provider specify that the translation should be performed to BS EN ISO 17100 standards, including qualification of the translator and revision by a second qualified person?
  4. What was the cost of the translations to HM Government?

I realise there may be several service providers involved, and I am asking for details of each one that was directly commissioned by your department.

My profession, like any profession, would like to promote the best standards in the services it provides. We would be helped in this if, at the very least for its published material, HM Government were to use translation service providers who can guarantee quality: this includes paying rates that high-quality translators will accept, or indeed can accept without risk of penury. I am sure that our representative bodies, the Institute of Translation & Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists, would be happy to give your department any advice on translation procurement.


Yours sincerely,

Nigel Wheatley

Cc: Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP, Chair of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee

Jon Trickett, MP, Member for Hemsworth

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