Ministers talk the talk on language

28th September 2007 at 01:00

The Prime Minister used the Labour Party conference this week to repeat the popular assertion that immigrants should learn English.

He told his Bournemouth audience on Monday that people arriving from abroad must "learn our language and culture" and "play by our rules".

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, was quoted earlier this month as saying: "Those who we welcome into the UK to work and settle here need to understand our traditions . They need to integrate into our country, learn English and use our language."

Digby Jones, the former Confederation of British Industry director general, was vocal in his opposition to the Esol funding changes during his time as the Government's independent "skills envoy". In March he described the Government's approach as "a damaging, retrograde step in the nation's pursuit of an integrated productive workforce".

He said: "Many migrant workers and refugees need training in English to be aware of their rights, to make a full contribution to society and to perform efficiently at work. Low-paid and vulnerable workers will be disproportionately affected by the restrictions in access to free Esol provision."

Mr Jones has since been appointed minister for trade and investment.

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