EAST Lancashire community and political leaders believe people coming to live in the UK should learn English.

They were responding to a survey showing that 95 per cent of people think being British means you must speak the native language well.

Burnley Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle and Blackburn with Darwen Tory councillor Mike Lee believe it is essential for immigrants to have a good grasp of English – for themselves as much as their new country.

Lancashire Council of Mosques chairman Abdul Hamid Qureshi said it was desirable, but not a requirement.

The British Social Attitudes survey found 95per cent agreed it was important to speak English to be British, up from 86per cent in 2003.

The proportion who think someone should have lived in Britain for most of their life to be British was 77per cent, up from 69 per cent ten years ago.

Some 74per cent agreed it was important to be born in the UK to be British.

Neither Mr Birtwistle, Coun Lee, or Mr Qureshi believed being born, or having lived in the UK for years, was important.

The 2011 census revealed that in Blackburn with Darwen 7.1per cent of homes (4,063) have no-one who speaks English as a main language; in Pendle 3.7per cent of households (1,385) have no main English speaker; while the figure for Burnley and Hyndburn is 2.7per cent (1,031 and 920 respectively), against the national 4.3per cent average.

In Ribble Valley, 0.6per cent of households (153) have no main English speaker, compared with 9.9per cent (272) in Rossendale.

People who want to settle permanently in the UK, or become citizens, have to pass a basic English test.

Temporary residents do not need to show a grasp of the language, Mr Qureshi said: “English is a beautiful language which people should learn. I enc-ourage my children to speak the best English they can.

“It should not be a requirement of living here.

“Being British is about other things like freedom, tolerance, and caring for others.”

Mr Birtwistle said: “I think speaking English is essential for the individual’s own good. Being born here, or how long you have lived here, is irrelevant.”

Coun Lee said: “I think people who come to Britain should learn English, other-wise they become isolated.

“How long you have lived here does not affect your ‘Britishness’.”


Do you think you need to speak English to be considered truly British?


Yes. The foreigners that do come here should learn English if they don’t already speak it. If they ask to stay, they should have to go on a course to learn the language.

Andrew Cass, 47, Darwen


Yes. In India you have to speak the local language, and in France you need to speak French, so here they should be able to speak English.

Ebrahim Sidat, 43, Blackburn


No. If people are born here, then it doesn’t matter what language they speak, they are British.

Corey Gibson, 17, Blackburn


Yes. I think people should speak the language, and I also think English people should make more of an effort to speak foreign languages when they go abroad.

Simon Cullen, 32, Blackburn


No. You can’t say what is truly British as this country was built on different cultures, and the English language derives from many different languages.

Akash Ahmed, 17, Blackburn