David Cameron says migrant families could be broken up and mothers deported if they fail new English test

David Cameron is chasing phantoms again in his eternal effort to stir up division and mistrust of Johnny Foreigner and – it seems – his missus.

While this Writer would certainly agree that people born in foreign lands who immigrate into the UK should be able to speak English as soon as possible, deporting them for failure to do so seems unreasonably extreme. Especially as the threat seems groundless.

Perhaps it is simply arbitrary cruelty towards a minority group.

Does Cameron have evidence that a significant proportion of immigrants can’t speak English? No, he doesn’t.

Admittedly this information is three years out of date, but in 2013 the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) revealed that, of seven million foreign-born people in the UK at the time, less than one million could not speak English well, “and most of those appear to be making an effort”.

The NIESR article quotes Ed Miliband, who was Labour leader at the time. He said foreign-born women had told him they had to learn English because they wanted to be a part of society – so a Labour government would make English language teaching a priority.

Is Cameron offering English lessons?

No. He isn’t.

In fact, the Department for Business cut funding by £45 million in July last year for 47 colleges that teach 47,000 students ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

Families could be broken up and mothers deported after years of living in Britain if they fail a new mandatory English language test, David Cameron has confirmed.

The Prime Minister today outlined plans to language-test all spouses who immigrate join their partner living in Britain two and a half years after they arrive here.

Failing the language test could lead to the new arrival’s right to stay in the UK being revoked and them being sent back to their country of origin, he said.

Mr Cameron was asked during an interview whether a woman who came to the UK under the spousal settlement programme and had children in Britain could still be deported.

“They can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to stay,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Source: David Cameron says migrant families could be broken up and mothers deported if they fail new English test | UK Politics | News | The Independent

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17 thoughts on “David Cameron says migrant families could be broken up and mothers deported if they fail new English test

  1. NMac

    The Tory party and other right-wing reactionary groups thrive on hatred and division. Sadly, all too often their nasty tactics succeed.

  2. chriskitcher

    Just another example of how callous and hateful this government and this man is in particular. Like a load of right wing bigots he seems determined to make a scapegoat of any vulnerable group to please the rabid right wing in the Tory party.

  3. joanna

    What is your answer then? let them stay whether or not they can speak the language? I am sick and tired of going into what seems to be an English shop, only for the shopkeeper unable to understand what I am saying, it isn’t about accent because my speech is clear.
    I also saw a documentary where a man has been in this country for 25 years, yet he is still unable to speak English, do you think that is acceptable?
    I don’t think families should be split up, I think If no member of that family has even made an effort to learn, then the whole family should go.

    I am also tired of compromising my views, just because they might be non-PC. I am a fair person but there are limits to how I should adapt my views and opinions for others.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Perhaps you didn’t understand the article. More than six-sevenths of people who immigrate into the UK have decent English language skills and the rest have been trying to learn. But Cameron has scrapped their English courses and now he is saying he’ll deport those whose skills are not up to an arbitrary standard he is going to set.
      Some people won’t be able to learn the language for reasons of their own, on which I shan’t speculate. Perhaps they should not be put in a position where they have to try to communicate in English as part of their job, but you yourself say they should not be separated from their families for it. I notice you are referring to men, though, so Cameron’s ultimatum seems unlikely to apply.
      I reiterate: As the article makes very clear, these families ARE trying to learn the language. It is David Cameron who is putting obstacles in their way and then threatening them with deportation.
      How do you feel about your own opinion, now?

      1. Nicola

        But I wouldn’t expect the Italians to pay for my Italian lessons if I chose to go and live there, I honestly do not understand why we should pay to teach our language to people who choose to come here to live…..

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Has the Italian government demanded that we must be able to speak Italian to any particular standard before moving there?
        Actually, you’d have been better off saying that about Spain…

    2. fathomie

      I think it’s a great idea, so good in fact it should be applied not only to the spouse but to the original immigrant, then applied EU wide, better still World wide. There is though, a tiny snag with that. The percentage of emigrants from the UK that make an effort to speak the local language in non English speaking countries is pathetically low. Since there are now more than 4 million UK emigrants (not ‘ex pats’) living in Southern Europe alone, and a very small minority of them have bothered to learn the language of their host country, we would expect to see a very large number of them expatriated.

      Problem. A lot of them are pensioners, another large section of them are criminals (interpol confirmed this), while the rest just want to enjoy doing very little and enjoy the high life. I have nothing against any of them, they are who they are. However, they will pose a very large problem for the UK if they were all sent back for the ‘crime’ of not speaking the language.

      Whereas, as every single survey of immigrants shows, contrary to the govts outright lies, and, as has recently been proved that’s indeed what they are, the overwhelming majority are economically active and come here to work.

      It’s up to you really. Either you can carry on pandering to nasty, small minded bigots who simply hate foreign people (we are all ‘foreign’ people – this island is populated by roughly 80% Germans since Saxon times), and use any excuse, like ‘language’, ‘clothes’, ‘religion’ as a cover for their vile attitudes, or you can accept that that Cameron and co do things like this purely to stir up hate, and wake up.

      As for ‘not being able to speak the language’ it amazes me how often people claim this is the case, yet wherever I’ve lived there have been, Asian, Indian, Sri Lanka etc run businesses and I have never had a problem with getting them to understand me, or me them. Tbh I find several ‘English’ areas harder to understand what they say, and in Wales and Scotland been told they ‘can’t understand what I’m saying’ and flatly, and rudely ignored.

      But then the people of the UK are fair in many ways – they are as bigoted and vile to each other as anyone else.

      Charming aren’t we?

  4. alistair lazenby


    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Who says they receive more money?
      Who told you that?
      And why do you think they did it?

    2. moondancer

      I can confirm, being married to a ROW immigrant, that ROWs have NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS. Therefore the whole truth about migrants here for the money, or here for healthcare is actually utter B.S.My husband is entitled to zero from the benefits system, despite being a tax payer.
      (ROW refers to Rest Of World.., which is what we are talking about here as EU migration is currently protected)

    3. chriskitcher

      Those who need it receive more money than pensioners because they have children to look after or other dependents. Comments like yours make my blood boil. We hear Camoron and his acolytes shouting about how caring the British are and then dreaming up schemes like these to appease their rabid right wingers, of which you appear to be one.

      I have paid tax all my life and have been pleased to do so because I see it as an insurance policy against me not being able to provide for myself dependent upon circumstances. This idea that only those who pay in are entitled to draw money out are merely demonstrating their own selfish greed and brutality towards the weak and vulnerable. If you want to live in a dog eat dog society go and live in America where ideas such as yours are commonplace, but don’t poison this country with them.

  5. Joan Edington

    Apart from the blatant cruelty of Cameron’s suggestion here, I can’t get over the hypocrisy of a broad spectrum of the population, a couple of whom have commented on this article. The British are renowned globally for their lack of foreign language skills, expecting everyone else to speak English. I wonder how many ex-pats in Spain, say, can barely get past “hello”, “goodbye” and “how much is that please”.

  6. paulrutherford8

    Does Cameron’s ‘idea’ apply to wives from countries like Thailand who White English [British], ‘gentlemen’ marry, or is it just applicable to immigrants’ wives?

    1. Neilth

      No it seems to only apply to Muslim women. This piece of Trumpery (see what I did there?) panders to the worst extremes of the paranoid right. CaMoron is attempting to appease both the xenophobes in his own party as well as that beacon of fascism the UKIP supporting ex Tory.

      I had the misfortune to hear this lamentable, ill thought through, knee jerk piece of attempted populism. Not only was it unreasonable it ironically included a clear demonstration of CaMoron’s own struggle with the English language. I invite you all to listen to it again to find next Saturday’s Pedanticus question in the Guardian Quiz.

  7. Terry Davies

    i thought English was the language of business. so extrapolating logic from Cameron’s theoriescand policies: business and those in finances will meet his stipulated criteria. they will get business support grants which they can use in other countries and paid by UK taxpsyers. Avoid tax etc all by virtue of speaking broken business english.
    same for students who have to prove they underdstand english. Their english will be more advanced.
    However others who want to work, have to earn at least £35000 to meet criteria to stay and live in poor standard accommodation if necessary and have no recourse to public funding for at least 4 years.
    Is this the future migrants will share under the tories?? irrespective of which country they travel from.

  8. casalealex


    The war on so-called ‘benefit tourism’ – which doesn’t really exist, according to the Department for Work and Pensions’ own figures! – continues to escalate. From the Mail on Sunday:

    “David Cameron plans to strip welfare handouts from immigrants who cannot speak English.

    “In a radical bid to slash Britain’s benefits bill, the Prime Minister intends to stop printing welfare paperwork in foreign languages and prevent claimants using taxpayer-funded translators at benefits offices.

    “The move – which would also hit British residents who cannot speak English – was due to be announced tomorrow, but has been delayed following a row with Nick Clegg.”

    As I’ve said, and demonstrated before, in these Memos, benefit tourism is a fiction; migrants are much, much less likely than natives to claim benefits, with the vast majority coming to the UK to work and pay taxes, rather than ‘shirk’ or ‘sponge’ off the state. To quote economist Jonathan Portes, these are a “series of phantom measures to combat a phantom problem”.

    And what’s driving them? The Mail on Sunday makes it clear in a fascinating paragraph buried towards the bottom:

    “The latest proposed crackdown reflects the influence of Australian-born Tory election chief Lynton Crosby. Mr Crosby is said to have given orders that the party must produce ‘a new policy to curb immigrants and benefits’ every week.”

    Ah, pure cynicism and populism… The Waugh Zone

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