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Should immigrants be obliged to speak English?

An interview for the Politics Home Central Lobby with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles sparked interest for the following exchange:

 How will this affect councils that produce information leaflets in a range of different languages?

By and large anyone with any experience of this will tell you it is largely a waste of time. The general experience that we had was that I have got no problem with signposting, that is right, but in terms of wanting people, encouraging people, to be part of British society, they can't do that unless they have more than an understanding of English. If we don't get our resident population with an understanding of English then they become a sub-class that is virtually unemployable or are stuck in a ghetto. We should not be turning people out of our schools who aren't able to speak English like a native.

I think this is spot on and those who think they are being kind and sensitive by ignoring the problem are profoundly mistaken. I think that very many of those who are non-English speakers in this country would welcome the chance to learn and recognise it would transform their prospects. Those who can't afford the classes should have them offered for free.

But what of those who refuse the offer? If they are earning a living then I don;t think they should be put under an obligation. But if non-English speakers are claiming Job Seekers Allowance then learning English should be regarded as part of their obligation in "actively seeking work." If they are not doing so then their benefit should be docked.

While we are at it here is another idea from Simon Heffer, writing in the Daily Mail on Saturday:

THERE is outrage among Leftists that 25 U.S. states want people on the dole to pass a drugs test before receiving their benefits. They argue that many firms insist on drugs tests for their employees: and that someone out of his mind is hardly in a state to look for work. I wonder how many of Britain’s 2.7million jobless would pass such a test? I do not inevitably think we have a lot to learn from America, but, in this case, I suspect we do.

When he was Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin proposed this ultimatum for drug addicts: "Abstinence-based drug rehabilitation or prison?" Breaking the welfare habit is also important.


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