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Newham mayor attacks 'demonising' plan to teach Muslim women English

PUBLISHED: 16:00 18 January 2016

Prime Minister David Cameron attends an English language class after pledging £20m to help Muslim women learn the language - a move that has angered Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales.                               Picture: Oli Scharff/PA

Prime Minister David Cameron attends an English language class after pledging £20m to help Muslim women learn the language - a move that has angered Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales. Picture: Oli Scharff/PA

PA/Press Association Images

The prime minister has been branded "duplicitous" by the borough's mayor after announcing plans to ensure Muslim women in the UK speak English.

Sir Robin Wales blasted David Cameron’s £20 million pledge – which the prime minister said is designed to help integrate “segregated” communities and push back against extremism – as hypocritical and divisive.

Mr Cameron, who said more than a fifth (22 per cent) of Muslim women in the country do not speak English, explained: “This is Britain. In this country, women and girls are free to choose how they live, how they dress and who they love.

“It’s our values that make this country what it is, and it’s only by standing up for them assertively that they will endure.”

But Sir Robin said the measures will “do more harm than good” and attacked the prime minister for focussing on one group – and for cutting adult skills budgets during the last parliament.

“It is utterly duplicitous of a prime minister who has previously presided over the slashing of budgets for these vital [English] classes,” he said.

“And I’m staggered that he thinks that singling out one section of the community is anything but divisive and demonising.

“In Newham we know the way to building strong, cohesive and fully integrated communities is ensuring everyone has a chance to get involved.

“If he really wants to make a difference he should visit Newham to see how we help bring our communities together.”

Mr Cameron explained this morning that women on spousal visas who do not pass English exams “can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to stay [in the UK]”.

He also said the programme could help reduce instances of female genital mutilation and limit the power of entities like Islamic State to recruit British members.

Newham, which has one of the largest Muslim populations in the UK, currently provides free lessons for anyone that wants to learn English.

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