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ESOL Classes

Volume 648: debated on Monday 29 October 2018

1. If he will extend Government support for English for Speakers of Other Languages classes to include newly arrived asylum seekers. (907293)

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like first to express how shocked and appalled I am at the deadly gun attack that took place this weekend at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in expressing our deepest sympathies for the victims and those injured, as well as their families. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish friends across the world and utterly condemns antisemitism in all its forms.

My thoughts today are also with the friends and families of the victims of the terrible crash at Leicester City football club. I thank the emergency services for their response to this awful tragedy. I know that they did their absolute best.

Turning to Question 1, Government support towards integration is given through English language tuition, but it is available only once asylum seekers are recognised as refugees. This focuses resources on those recognised as being in need of protection.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Given the limitations on ESOL budgets, will he assure me that sufficient funding will be available to support the plan that he has in this area?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important question. It is right that we support those who are given protection in ways to integrate into British life, and language is important to that. I assure him that we have a good budget in this area; in 2016-17, it was £99 million of the total adult learning budget.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that perhaps the success of the Jewish community in this country has been its willingness to integrate, to do in Rome as the Romans do and to learn the language? That is not always the case with other ethnic groups, so it is a question not only of providing sufficient funds but of encouraging them to learn the language and become a part of our community.

It is right, of course, that this Government do more to welcome all communities and help them to integrate. That is why the Government published—I published it when I was Communities Secretary—an integration Green Paper, which we will build on. It is also worth commending the work that World Jewish Relief does to help all communities to integrate.

In the light of the terrible tragedy in Leicester, it is with particular feeling that I call Mr Keith Vaz.

I thank the Home Secretary for the comments that he made following the death of Khun Vichai and four others in the helicopter in Leicester. Khun Vichai was an amazing man—someone who spent so much time in Leicester and did so much for the club—and he was adored by the people of Leicester. He will be greatly missed, and it is kind of the Home Secretary to mention him today.

On the substance of the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), the issue is not just English language lessons but the right to work, which goes hand in hand with being able to speak English. Will the Home Secretary look again at the rules to make sure that those who are waiting can get their right to work quicker and asylum seekers can be fully integrated in our society?

It will be a difficult time for the right hon. Gentleman’s community and he has our full support in dealing with this tragedy.

On the issue of asylum seekers and support, the right to work is also very important. He will know that after 12 months, asylum seekers start getting some rights to work, but we are always looking at what more we can do.

I associate myself with the remarks by the Home Secretary in relation to the terrible attack in Pittsburgh and the victims of the terrible tragedy in Leicester.

In my schools in Harrow, 161 languages are spoken and it is vital that we integrate young people, but they are getting the education. What more can we do to integrate the adults who come here and need this training, so that they can take their place in our society?

My hon. Friend is right to raise that. He may recall that the integration strategy, which was launched earlier this year, talked of almost 700,000 adults in Britain who speak no or very poor English. That has led to more work in this area, especially on using members of the communities concerned as mentors to try to encourage others to take up English language learning.