English Language Teaching: Refugees

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:13 pm on 24th October 2017.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Minister for Immigration 5:13 pm, 24th October 2017

I will come to that point in a moment. Obviously there is a different process for people whom we have brought here from the region through a scheme and people who arrive here. We have to make sure they are from the region before we go through that process. There is a different approach, for a very logical reason.

Just as we were getting to the harmony of complete agreement, some hon. Members, including the shadow Minister, Afzal Khan, made the point about funding. I gently say to some Members that I have a different view. It is not always about how much we have to spend. We have to live within our means, so it is about how we spend the money we have. That is an important focus. It is not always about finding a magic money tree. I am not sure if his announcement on free education for such people was another spending commitment that Labour will step away from.

We must be able to live within our means. It is important, as hon. Members have said, to pick up on how we are spending the money that is there. My right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden outlined a number of schemes and the funding that is coming through. English language skills provision is funded mainly by the Department for Education and is accessed in a variety of ways. Training has been developed to improve adult literacy and get people into jobs. It is available to the resident UK population to meet their needs, but under Skills Funding Agency rules it is also available to those with refugee and humanitarian protection status, discretionary leave, exceptional leave and leave outside the rules, as well as indefinite leave to remain. They do not have to wait the three years that other migrants have to wait, and their family members are also eligible. That is a good deal.

There is also ESOL, which we have been talking about for much of this afternoon. That is funded by the Department for Education, which invested around £90 million in 2015-16 in those courses, and in doing so supported some 110,600 adult learners. By definition, that is for those for whom English is not their first language.