HOME AFFAIRS – IMMIGRANTS & LANGUAGE – 20 February 2008

Dr Julian Lewis: I remember my immigrant grandparents telling me how difficult they found it to master the English language. I believe that the reason that they managed to do it was that they had to. Does the Home Secretary, who rightly emphasises the importance of mastering the English language, agree with Trevor Phillips and others, and will she therefore give the authority of her office to a condemnation of those agencies and local authorities that insist on translating documents and other papers into the languages of the countries that people have left, rather than helping them to master the language of the country that they have chosen to come to? Will she give a definite indication that that practice must stop?

[The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has made it clear, as have I, that we probably should refocus resources from translating into supporting people to speak English. That is why we have trebled the support for English for speakers of other languages since 2001 and why we are clear that being able to speak English should be one of the requirements for citizenship, as that will help people to integrate better into our society.]