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Ann Cryer, Labour MP
"A great deal of poverty.. is down to the fact that many of our Asian communities do not speak English"
 real 28k

Mohammed Riaz, Bradford Conservative
"Well over 95% of those people speak eloquent and good english"
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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
MP calls for English tests for immigrants
Riots in Bradford
Scenes of violence in Bradford
A Labour MP has called on the government to consider introducing restrictions on immigrant brides and grooms who cannot speak English.

Ann Cryer, who represents Keighley in West Yorkshire, said many UK Muslims were held back economically and educationally by language difficulties.

But the MP's views were described as "sinister" by Shahid Malik, who is a senior member of the Commission For Racial Equality and a Labour Party National Executive Committee member.

Mrs Cryer's comments come in the wake of riots by Asian youths in nearby Bradford.

Ann Cryer
Mrs Cryer's comments are likely to cause controversy
She made a direct connection between arranged marriages, difficulties in learning English and the success of different ethnic communities in the UK.

She said: "A great deal of the poverty in the Asian community in Bradford and Keighley is down to the fact that many of our Asian community do not speak English or very little.

"What I am saying is that if Asian parents who arrange marriages for their kids were to look around the Asian Muslim community here then they would do better for their children, their family and their community."

Mr Malik - who is currently involved in civil action against Lancashire Police after he was allegedly assaulted by riot officers during recent racial tensions in Burnley - expressed concern that Mrs Cryer had chosen to focus her remarks on Muslims.

'Sinister' arguments

"Ann might think she is doing the right thing by speaking out against arranged marriages but she is doing the work of the extreme right wing," he said.

"Her arguments are sinister and they have no basis in fact."

But Mrs Cryer said the fact she had singled out Muslims had "nothing to do with religion".

She said: "It just happens that the Bangladeshi and the Pakistani community are Muslims and they happen to be the people who persist in the practice of bringing in husbands and wives from the subcontinent.

"The Sikhs and Hindus are doing extremely well both academically and economically and I think that it is due to the fact they don't pursue this practice.

"It would be better if they selected the partners for their children from the sort of home-grown variety of Muslim Asians - that's what I would prefer to see."

No support from Muslims

Mrs Cryer, who admitted her controversial views would garner little support among ethnic minority groups, said the government, councils and local communities should strive to help people learn or improve their English.

She suggested that if the problem persisted five or six years down the line, then a change in immigration laws so they required basic minimum standards of English-speaking to people applying to come to the UK.

"If we changed immigration laws it would apply to husbands and wives coming in from South America, Asia wherever - we can't alter it for just a select group of people," said Mrs Cryer.

Her comments follow the troubles in Bradford and the publication of a long awaited report on Thursday into race relations in the city which depicted a community living "in the grip of fear".

Cost of riots

The report comes just days after some of the worst rioting Britain has seen in 20 years.

More than 200 police officers were injured, properties were firebombed and businesses looted, causing an estimated 25m damage.

Tony Blair's official spokesman said later: "In terms of immigration, we have always said that immigrants in the UK have made a huge contribution to national life, that we have a genuine multi-cultural society.

"That doesn't mean that from time to time there aren't tensions and problems, but we have a genuinely multicultural society and a race relations record which is on the whole very good."

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See also:

10 Jul 01 | Education
Schools told to teach tolerance
09 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Labour at odds on Bradford riots
01 Jul 01 | UK
Success for Asian festival
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