The Skills Secretary, John Denham, has now decided that having huge chunks of the population unable to speak English is harmful to community relations. In order to improve community relations he is now advocating 'free' English lessons to immigrants who cannot speak a reasonable level of English.
Now forgive me, but only a few years back if you had the temerity to state that, and suggest a level of English was desirable for immigrants, you were branded a xenophobe at best. I never saw it as morally wrong to question the wisdom of official documents and notices being printed in numerous languages, I always felt that it was unhelpful and divisive, a common sense position I thought.
When an organisation I worked for some years ago decided to print introductory leaflets in numerous languages, I questioned the wisdom and was told it was so that we could be 'more accessible'. They didn't grasp the irony that when the recipients of said leaflets rang for assistance nobody on the switchboard, or in the organisation, could speak other than English. Massive amounts of money wasted on an empty gesture.
Now I accept that not all who come and settle here will be able to speak an acceptable level of English initially, but for anybody wishing to settle here a certain level should be a condition of entry. Some people, from any background, may meet and marry somebody from overseas, as friends of mine have done, and poor English should be no bar to their entry. However, the emphasis should be on them, from their own resources, improving their English.
When the government talks about 'free' English lessons they mean free to the recipient, not free to you and me who pay through our taxes. Where there is a real need, such as genuine refugess who are unable to speak English, then let voluntary organisations provide a service, great practice for students before going away teaching English on their gap years.