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.
“We’re now going to toughen up so half-way through the spousal settlement programme – two and a half years – there’ll be another opportunity to make sure your English is improving.
“You can’t guarantee you’ll be able to stay if you’re not improving your language. It is tough but people coming to our country have responsibility too.”
Children born in the UK who have one parent “settled” in the UK automatically receive British citizenship and would therefore be allowed to remain in the UK with their fathers, while their mothers were not.
The spousal settlement visa, to which the new English language test applies, requires that the person with whom the new arrival is coming to live is already settled. This means all children born to a couple using a spousal settlement visa have British citizenship.
There is also no guarantee that children born Britain citizens would have a right to live in another country – meaning that in some cases mothers might be unable to take their children back to live with them in their country of origin.
Despite the new emphasis on forcing women to learn English Mr Cameron admitted that his government had actually previously cut funding for English-language tuition for migrants. He blamed the deficit for the policy.
“Yes, budgets did come down in the past because all budgets were under pressure because of the enormous deficit and the need to pay that down,” he told the same programme.
10 things immigration has done for Britain
10 things immigration has done for Britain
1/10 The Mini
The 1959 classic, that is, perhaps our greatest piece of industrial design, a miracle of packaging and revolution in motoring. Its genius designer was Sir Alec Issigonis, who was an asylum seeker. His family, Greek, fled Smyrna when Turks invaded this borderland in around 1920, and he wound up studying engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. He went on to create that most English of motor cars, the Morris Minor, as well as the Austin-Morris 1100, all much loved products of his fertile imagination.
2/10 Marks and Spencer
Once upon a time there was no M&S in Britain, difficult as that may be to believe. We have one Michael Marks to thank for our most famous retailer, and he was a refugee from Belarus, arriving in England in about 1882, and soon after set off to flog stuff around Yorkshire. He eventually teamed with Thomas Spencer to create the vast business we know today.
And many other TV shows created, funded and otherwise produced by that largest of larger-than-life characters, Lew Grade (also a world class tap dancer). The man who dominated commercial television gave us memorable entertainment such as The Prisoner, the Saint and brought the Muppets to Britain (a sort of fuzzy felt wave of immigration), as well as puppet shows where you could see the strings. All this from a penniless Jew from Ukraine, born Lev Winogradsky, who escaped the pogroms in Ukraine with his family in the 1890s. His nephew Michael Grade has also done his bit for British television.
4/10 The House of Windsor
Or the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until George V prudently rebranded the family during the First World War. Well, our royals are a pretty German bunch, as well as having various types of French and other alien blue blood coursing around their veins. ‘Twas ever thus. There was William the Conqueror, Norman French, who certainly broke the immigration rules; William of Orange, a direct import from Holland; the Hanoverian King Georges, the first barely able to speak English; Queen Victoria, who married a German, Edward VII, who couldn’t stay faithful to his wife, a Danish princess; George V wed another German princess; Edward VIII married an American (though she hardly visited England and prompted his emigration and exile); and the Queen is married to man born in Corfu. The embodiment of the British nation, to many, but one thinks of them as quite multicultural really.
5/10 I Vow To Thee My Country
Our most patriotic hymn was the product of a man named Gustav Holst (pictured), born in Cheltenham, but of varied Swedish, Latvian and German ancestry, who adapted part of his suite The Planets to put a particularly stirring and beautiful poem to music, just after the Great War. As the second verse has it, “there's another country/I've heard of long ago/Most dear to them that love her/most great to them that know”. Imagine if the Holst family had been kept out because the quota on musical European types had been reached.
6/10 Curry and Cobra
Chicken Tikka Masala is, so they say, a dish which not only the most popular in Britain but specifically designed to cater for European tastes. For that we probably have to thank an Indian migrant, Sake Dean Mahomed, who came from Bengal to open the first recognisable Indian restaurant, the magnificently named “Hindoostanee Coffee House”. History does not record if a plate of poppadoms and accompanying selection of pickles and yoghurts were routinely placed on the table for new diners, but we do know that we had to wait until 1989 to taste the ideal lager for a curry - Cobra. That brew was brought to us by Karan (now Lord) Bilimoria, a Cambridge law graduate who hailed from Hyderabad.
7/10 That big red swirly sculpture at the Olympic Park
Or Orbit, to give it its proper name, the work of Anish Kapoor, who arrived in 1973 from India and had the artistic imagination to fill a power station.
8/10 The Sun
Love it or hate it, and many do both, this has been a symbol of much that is successful and a lot that is awful in British journalism since its inception in 1969. In its turn it spawned the Page 3 Girl and some nastily xenophobic headlines. All the stranger when you consider its creator was, of course, Rupert Murdoch, born 11 March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia.
OK, Karl Marx’s philosophy was not much of a gift to the world, but for a while it seemed like a good idea. Though we might not dare admit it, Marxism still has a few insights to offer to anyone wanting to understand the workings of capitalism, though too few to excuse everything that was done in its name. Born in Germany spent much time in the British museum and the British pub, buried Highgate Cemetery. Oddly, his ideas never really caught on in his adopted homeland.
10/10 The NHS
They came from many, many backgrounds, including Ireland, the Philippines, east Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa, as they still do, but the contribution of the black nurses who came to the UK from the Caribbean to heal and care for is a debt of honour that must be recognised. It so sometimes forgotten that it was Enoch Powell, then Minister of Health (1960-62), who campaigned to recruit their skilled nurses to come and work over here. One abiding legacy we can thank Enoch for.
“I think we had to make difficult decisions. Now what we’re doing is targeting the language money – it is for those who are in the greatest level of isolation.”
The Government has emphasised Muslim women as the target of the policy. Ministers say some are living in “isolated” communities and do not learn English.
The Government claims 190,000 Muslim women lack adequate English language skills and that 38,000 do not speak any English at all.
“If you don’t speak the language your opportunities are very much reduced,” Mr Cameron said.
“Saying to people who come to our country that learning English is essential.”
The policy, to be launched in October, is the latest in a series announced by the Government that is likely to make life difficult for immigrants living in Britain.
Theresa May was last week urged to re-think a “discriminatory” new £35,000 earnings threshold for non-EU migrants who want to settle in the UK.
The threshold, which is being increased from the current £20,500, would see workers from overseas ejected from the country after five years if they fail to earn the new higher salary.
People earning £35,000 are in the top 20 per cent of earners in the UK.
Former director of public prosecutions and shadow immigration minister Keir Starmer warned at the time that policy could have implications for businesses who require skilled workers from abroad.
The Government has already had to take special measures after it was warned that the earnings threshold could lead to a shortage of nurses.
A petition to the Government to withdraw the policy is nearing 50,000 signatures and is likely to be debated in Parliament.