Brown has power to act on his words

28th September 2007 at 01:00

In January, Gordon Brown spoke to the Fabian Society about his views on immigration. "We should do more to help integration," he said. "Take the example of those who cannot find work because of language difficulties. Here we should look at expanding mandatory English training.

"And for those who are trapped in a narrow range of jobs where their lack of fluency in English makes it hard for them to make progress in their careers, we should examine the case for further support."

Such broad-brush truisms always play well. Few would argue against the notion that a mastery of English is a good thing, for immigrants, the economy and social cohesion.

Those coming from within the European Union would be exempt from any mandatory training, but the experience of colleges is that there is no evidence of widespread reluctance among immigrants to learn English.

Having moved from Number 11 to Number 10, Mr Brown has the luxury of being able to act on his sentiments by removing the biggest bar to English language lessons for immigrants the Government's own funding policy. If he can't find the cash, we would point him towards the pound;94 million of Train to Gain funding which has gone unclaimed because of employers' reluctance to accept free training for their workers.

It is impossible to sustain the logic of allowing migrant workers to drift through life without improving their English while insisting free literacy provision to tackle our basic skills deficit is essential for the economy.

Economics doesn't discriminate by country of origin. What is good for the home-grown workforce is good for migrants.

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