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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Our multi-ethnic state

I am not entirely clear what Monmouth Conservative MP, David Davies is trying to achieve in this morning's Wales on Sunday, other than perhaps to maintain his high public profile. He has commented on figures that reveal that Welsh police forces have spent more than £2m on language translators since the start of the Millennium. Even the use of the word Millennium implies some apocalyptic event when it is nothing of the sort.

The paper reveals that the police have been forced to spend increasing amounts of taxpayers’ money on interpreters for obscure languages such as Sylheti, Tongan and Berber. But, they say, the true figure is likely to be much higher as the nation’s largest force – South Wales Police – could only provide figures for the past two years.

Predictably, David Davies claims that this expenditure is a waste of money:

“As soon as you arrest people who speak perfectly good English they clam up at a moment’s notice,” said Mr Davies, who is also a special constable.

“It’s just yet another cost of mass immigration.

“It’s ridiculous for the Government to say immigration has been good from an economic point of view when they have not been able to add up the costs – and translation is one of them.

“It’s a huge cost and a large part of the police budget when they should be putting police out on the beat.

“Some are coming from Eastern Europe and causing immense problems and demanding translation as soon as they are arrested.”

What is not so clear is how David would do anything differently. Presumably, he would close off all our borders and throw out anybody who cannot speak perfect English.

To be fair to David, he is a pretty good linguist himself. He learnt Welsh from scratch and has taught himself Hungarian so as to better communicate with his in-laws. However, even he must realise that we cannot turn back the clock. We live in a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society and we should enjoy all the benefits that this brings to us as well as bearing the costs. It is true that our economy is better off for having migrants working within it. We need to be policed effectively and therefore we need to pay for this translation.

Personally, I thought that the spokesperson from North Wales Police offered a pretty effective riposte to David's over-the-top characterisation of English-speaking Eastern European gangsters reverting to their native tongue as soon as they entered a police station. She pointed out that these translators are sometimes employed to help victims as well.
It's all very well being able to speak so many languages, but what difference does that make when you talk out of your rear end as DD MP so often does?
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