Thursday, 28 July 2011

English Speaking Country

One of the hot topics at the moment is a case brought by a woman with UK residency who wants to bring her husband over from India. The trouble is, he doesn't speak English and the rules brought in last year mean that an ability to speak our native language is a prerequisite of entry to this country. I think for most people that is considered to be a reasonable compromise.

The wife has lived here for several years. She claims that this decision breaches her human rights because she is entitled to a family life. Yet again, the spectre of the European Convention on Human Rights looms large. But, speaking through a translator because she was shy of her own English skills, she freely admitted that her husband has no intention of learning English when he gets to this country. She says that at 58 he is too old to learn a new language. She suggests she'll be able to get him a job at the factory where she works - but I sincerely doubt that. What employer is going to risk employing people without a basic grasp of the English language? They won't, if they're cautious in any sense. And, if they do, that's placing both employer and employee in a precarious position.

At first I thought this story was a simple one of location - he lived in a rural village and couldn't get access to a language teacher. There were ways around even this - supply the husband with language tapes or the wife herself could teach him before he came over here. Perhaps I was not so adverse to allowing him into the country if he was going to make an effort to integrate when he got here. But he won't. Which inevitably means more pressure on our public services. Even if he doesn't claim benefits there is still the difficulty of going to see a doctor and needing a translator in order to have a conversation. He will live a very isolated life, communicating with only the people who speak his native language. As a commentator on Radio 2 just pointed out, this will lead to more ghettos and more segregation, which does our fragmented society no good in either the short or long term.

It's painful that EU open border rules mean that we have to accept Europeans into our country, no matter what their language status. This makes it seem unfair, as if we are discriminating against countries outside the EU. This is one of the woman's claims - that we are treating her differently because of her ethnic background. One way out of this, of course, is to take full control of our borders by escaping from the EU - but that's a separate issue.

It has been pointed out that many Brits who retire to other countries don't bother to learn the language there either. That's wrong too. We should practice what we preach and the joy of learning a language is a wonderful thing. I don't know why anyone would enjoy being isolated from the people around them.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Farewell 2,500 Police Officers

The shocking headline about the full impact of police cuts has thankfully not been masked by the on-going phone-hacking scandal. That (however important) story has so far covered up the first rumblings of movement to outside providers in the NHS and the ever-increasing concern about the future of the Eurozone. Luckily, these police figures haven't slipped into the ether.

34,000 jobs in total are to be lost from our police service by 2015. 16,100 will be police staff, admin workers etc, and up to 1,800 will be community support officers. The rest will be police officers, 2,500 of which are considered front-line. We were assured that front-line services would be shielded from the cuts as much as possible. Losing police officers from our streets doesn't exactly tally with that, does it?

Look at the scenario. While cutting the number of police officers you are also cutting the number of admin staff. Doesn't this leave many of the remaining officers with piles of administration to do themselves? Yes, the Coalition have pledged to cut red-tape and admin wherever possible - and this is long overdue - but it is not going to happen overnight. Unless you can convince hapless bureaucrats to concede that all paperwork is not essential then the problem will continue. And, as things stand, as well as losing police officers, the ones left will be devoting extortionate amounts of time to tasks that keep them from the streets.

What about the bigger picture? Research suggests that burglary and robbery statistics could rise by 3%. It's not difficult to see why. Few jobs are being created in this country and, when they are, 80% of them are going to people born outside of the UK. While I'm not suggesting that unemployment leads directly into crime, it is easy to see how desperation may escalate.

Cuts need to be made. We're told this so often that our ears ache. But reneging on promises to protect front-line public services is not going to inspire public confidence in the people running our country. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, believes that the cuts to the budget doesn't necessarily mean that front-line services have to suffer. As with many of these cuts, the government blames ideology for the way cuts are implemented - it is political point scoring they say. Every time a Labour council is forced to cut services, a Tory council proudly asserts that they kept they services running. Of course, this has nothing to do with many Labour inner-city constituencies being deprived and Tory areas being affluent. Who could suggest such a thing?

Repeatedly, the country tells our officials that we want them to be tough on crime. An outcry against trimming prison sentences won a change of heart. How is taking police officers from our streets or forcing them to do more paperwork being tough on crime?