Lost in Translation? Afghan Interpreters and Other Locally Employed Civilians Contents

1Locally employed civilians

8.The Ministry of Defence, in line with other Government departments including the FCO and DFID, has a long-established practice of recruiting locally employed (or engaged) civilians (LECs) to support missions and operations in-country. According to an MoD quarterly personnel statistical report of 2016, LECs are:

Employees who have been recruited locally as a “servant of the Crown”. In other words, they have not been recruited through fair and open competition in the UK under the Civil Service Order in Council and they are not therefore members of the Home Civil Service or the Diplomatic Service.5

9.The majority of civilian personnel employed overseas by MoD are LECs, and therefore not civil servants. LECs are recruited locally exclusively for employment in support of the UK Armed Forces deployed in a particular overseas theatre and on terms and conditions of service applicable only to that overseas theatre or Administration. In the past this has included the dependents of UK military personnel or UK-based civilian staff employed in an overseas theatre (who are sometimes separately identified as UK Dependents). However, since October 2013, UK Dependents are no longer included in LEC figures. The MoD claims this to reflect the different terms and conditions of these personnel.6 On 18 September 2015, according to the then Secretary of State, there were approximately 7,000 former local staff members who had worked for HMG in Afghanistan.7

10.The importance of the role played by LECs in Afghanistan is widely acknowledged. Tom Tugendhat MP told us that interpreters were “absolutely fundamental” to the work undertaken by coalition forces and to the allied forces’ central mission of rebuilding a sovereign Afghanistan.8 He added that, in addition to providing secretarial and interpretation work, LECs helped “British soldiers and civilians to understand the local context, to be aware of stories that we would perhaps never have heard but which shaped the way people acted”, providing UK personnel with a “complete cultural lesson”.9

11.There has been a broad consensus that the UK owes a ‘debt of gratitude’ to the LECs who served UK forces during their engagement in Afghanistan—not only on grounds of principle, but also in recognition of the vital role that they play in the success and management of ground operations. As Mr Tugendhat put it, “if we don’t look after those who we need in conflict—whether it be the soldiers, airmen or sailors that we need to defend us, and I would include the interpreters and locally employed staff in that—we will find it significantly harder to recruit those people. That will make us less safe”.10

12.The MoD has frequently expressed its thanks to those who served as LECs in Afghanistan and claims to have “taken steps to recognise this debt of gratitude”.11 Hence the Redundancy and Intimidation Schemes for former LECs.

13.We agree with Tom Tugendhat MP that providing care and support for personnel engaged in conflict—whether as soldiers or as locally employed civilians (LECs)—is an incentive to recruiting such staff for future operations. Furthermore, on grounds of principle and morality, the UK Government owes a duty of care to those who served alongside UK forces. We express our gratitude for the hard work and bravery of the interpreters and other LECs who served with UK forces during the Afghan conflict.

14.We note that the Ministry of Defence has, on many occasions, expressed its appreciation to those who served as LECs in Afghanistan. We also note its claim to have recognised this debt by setting up the Redundancy Scheme and the Intimidation Scheme. The purpose of our inquiry is to assess whether these Schemes operate effectively and whether they discharge our country’s debt sufficiently.

5 Ministry of Defence, Quarterly Civilian Personnel Report, 1 October 2016, p 32

6 Ministry of Defence, Quarterly Civilian Personnel Report, 1 October 2016, p 32

8 Qq2, 20 [HC572]

9 Q20 [HC572]

10 Q21 [HC572]

11 See for example: Letter from Rt Hon Mark Lancaster TD VR MP to the Committee Chairman, dated 12 March 2018; Letter from Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP to the Committee Chairman, dated 18 September 2015; HCWS388; Q108 [HC993]

Published: 26 May 2018