Employers must help pay for English lessons for immigrant staff, an influential Commons committee has recommended.
The Communities and Local Government Committee waded into a row between the Home Office and business leaders over who should pay to ensure migrant workers spoke English.
Ministers have launched a consultation over plans to make employers pay for lessons, but the suggestion has been condemned by bodies such as the CBI and Birmingham Chamber of commerce as yet another added cost for industry.
MPs concluded that the Government was ultimately responsible for providing English courses but “employers should pay far more towards the cost of provision for their employees”.
They warned: “One of the main barriers to the integration of migrants is the limited English of new arrivals.”
The committee, which includes Nuneaton MP Bill Olner (Lab), published its findings today [WED] following a six-month inquiry into community cohesion and migration.
MPs said that migration could benefit communities, for example by filling employment vacancies and strengthening the local economy.
But they also warned that the rapid pace of inward migration can lead to pressure on local services and have a negative impact on community cohesion.
This was a particular problem in areas where the were few ethnic minorities already, the MPs said. However, there could also be conflict between settled black or Asian communities and new arrivals, who were perceived as competing for resources.
Public services such as schools, social care, and translation services were not given the funding they needed to cope with the extra demands caused by immigration., the MP added.
Treasury cash was allocated on the bass of population data “which is out-of-date and does not take into account rapid population change”, today’s report warned.
MPs said: “The continued under-funding of local public services not only risks negatively affecting the quality of local public services; it also increases the risk of community tensions escalating as competition for services increases.”
The Committee’s chair, Phyllis Starkey, said public concern about immigration could not be ignored as racism.
He said: “We found that public concerns about the effects of migration are not necessarily based on prejudice, but can arise from genuine anxieties about practical issues, such as the effect of migration on housing and other local services. The Government needs to take action to respond to public concerns about the effects of migration.”
He added: “Local services are unable to respond to rapid population changes and are left under-funded as a result of the current funding system. The Government’s funding allocations do not take into account the needs of local communities experiencing rapid inward migration.
“This situation is putting local public services under pressure. The Government should establish a contingency fund to support local communities.”