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Immigrants to be banned from taking driving tests in foreign languages in  bid to stop cheating and boost road safety

  • Theory and practical driving tests can  currently be taken in 21 languages
  • 145,000 tests taken annually in languages  other than English and Welsh
  • Road safety minister Stephen Hammond said  interpreters ‘present the risk of fraud’

By Ray Massey

PUBLISHED:01:58 GMT, 6  February 2013| UPDATED:07:45 GMT, 6 February 2013

Immigrants are to be banned from taking  driving tests in 19 foreign languages in a bid to stop cheating and boost road  safety, it was announced Tuesday.

As well as beating fraud and keeping unsafe  drivers off UK roads, the move to end foreign translations and translators will  increase ‘social cohesion and integration’ in Britain and cut costs, the  Government said.

Those learning to drive can currently take  their theory and practical driving tests in any of  21  languages.

Consultation: Plans to outlaw the test being carried out in ¿non-national languages¿ have been set out in a major consultation by the Government¿s Driving Standards AgencyConsultation: Plans to outlaw the test being carried out  in ‘non-national languages’ have been set out in a major consultation by the  Government’s Driving Standards Agency

Nearly 145,000 tests are taken every year in  languages other than English and Welsh – from Albanian to Urdu – at a rate of  around 2,700 a week.

Of these, 108,374 were for the theory test  and 35,000 for the practical test. The evidence also suggests that many were  re-takes.

Plans to outlaw the test being carried out in ‘non-national languages’ are set out in a major consultation by the Government’s  Driving Standards Agency.

 

Official figures show that since 2009 some  861 people had their theory test passes revoked after being coached on what to  do during their theory and practical tests by ‘back-seat’ translators.

Nine DSA-approved interpreters were also  struck off for their part in such frauds.

Ministers are also concerned about handing  licences to people who are unable to read road signs.

Currently people whose first language is not  English or Welsh can request pre-recorded voice-overs for the computer-based car  and motorcycle theory tests in 19 foreign languages.

Nearly 145,000 tests are taken every year in languages other than English and Welsh ¿ from Albanian to Urdu - at a rate of around 2,700 a weekVariety: Nearly 145,000 tests are taken every year in  languages other than English and Welsh – from Albanian to Urdu – at a rate of  around 2,700 a week

The 19 Languages covered by interpreters are:  Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Dari, Farsi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri,  Kurdish, Mirpuri, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Pushto, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish,  Urdu.

Candidates can also use approved interpreters  on theory tests, usually if a voice-over is not available in a candidate’s  native language, or where a candidate speaks a dialect that would make a  voice-over difficult to understand.

Interpreters can also be used in practical  tests to translate the examiner’s instructions. Candidates have to pay for  interpreters themselves, but the cost of developing and updating voice-overs for  the theory test is met by the DSA. Ministers say the service, introduced by  Labour, costs taxpayers £250,000 a year.

There are currently 122 approved interpreters  for the theory test where the potential for fraud is seen as more acute.  However, a DSA spokesman said: ’For the practical test, candidates can bring  anyone to interpret for them’.

Road safety minister Stephen Hammond said allowing interpreters on tests for those whose first language is not English ¿presents the risk of fraud¿Road safety minister Stephen Hammond said allowing  interpreters on tests for those whose first language is not English ‘presents  the risk of fraud’

Of 1.68 million theory tests carried out in  2011-12, some 106,112 used foreign language voice-overs  and 2,262  involved  an interpreter being present, making a total of  108,374.

When individual theory candidates are  counted, some 57,361 requested voiceovers and 1,690 requested interpreters in  2011/12, suggesting many re-sat their tests at least once.

Of the 1.57 million practical driving tests  conducted in 2011-12, ‘around 35,000 were conducted with an interpreter  present,’ says the new report.  When individual practical test candidates  are counted, some 19,555 requested interpreters, again suggesting that many took  their test more than once.

Announcing the plans to remove voice-overs on  the theory test and scrapping the use of interpreters on all tests, road safety  minister Stephen Hammond said allowing interpreters on tests for those whose  first language is not English ‘presents the risk of fraud’.

Launching the eight-week public consultation,  Mr Hammond said the Government’s ‘preferred choice’ was to remove all  voice-overs and translation services in non-national languages.

He added that interpreters could, for  example, ‘indicate the correct answers to theory test questions’.

Mr Hammond said: ‘There is a potential road  safety risk of drivers not understanding important traffic updates or emergency  information, but allowing interpreters on tests also presents the risk of fraud,  for example if they are indicating the correct answers to theory test  questions.’

It would reduce fraud by addressing ‘the  problem of an interpreter attending for test with a learner driver and  communicating advice beyond a strict translation of the theory test questions or  the instructions given by the examiner.’

Lives could also be saved by improving road  safety, he stressed, saying: ‘There is concern about the ability of non-English  or Welsh speakers to understand road signs and other advice to  drivers.’

He said the move would also help to ‘enhance  social cohesion and to encourage integration in society by learning the national  language’.

Mr Hammond noted: ‘We want to ensure that all  drivers have the right skills to use our roads safely and responsibly. We also  want to keep test fees to a minimum for candidates, and I am not convinced that  providing translations is the most effective use of resources’

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