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UK Spousal Visas: Recent Developments

I'm researching the PM David Cameron's  recent remarks on the Today Programme about spousal visas. Here's my transcript of the interview, and the Downing Street press release is here, but it refers to an article in The Times which is behind a pay-wall. Fortunately, the text can be found (eventually) on Cameron's Facebook page, here, (Cameron, 2016). 

'Ed Husain put it brilliantly last week when he said that our political correctness stops us from identifying this separatist mentality – terming it “the racism of low expectations”.' (Cameron, 2016). 'Think about the young boy growing up in Bradford. His parents came from a village in Pakistan. His mum can’t speak English and rarely leaves the home, so he finds it hard to communicate with her, and she doesn’t understand what is happening in his life. At the same time, as a teenager he is struggling to identify with Western culture.' (Cameron, 2016). But doesn't he speak Urdu with her? Are we really saying mothers and their children who've lived together all the child's life don't speak the same language? (Incidentally, this brings me back, as so often happens, to Bonfiglio, 2010. The "native" speaking young man, not speaking his "mother tongue". )

'[N]ew figures show that some 190,000 British Muslim women – or 22 per cent – speak little or no English'. Where are these new figures from?  Also, 'sixty per cent of women of a Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage are economically inactive.' The last two words might be regarded as a indicating an underlying neo-liberal agenda.

'With a new £20m programme, we’ll make sure every woman from isolated communities with no English at all has access to classes.' [Emphasis supplied].  So that's not the A1 spouse visa women. "No English at all" means the 41,000 who 'cannot speak English', (Office for National Statistics, 2016), that is, not the 190,000 he refers to who 'cannot speak English well'.

In '"Passive tolerance" of separate communities must end, says PM', 2016, we are referred to 'Louise Casey’s ongoing review into segregation in England'  Casey is referred to by Mason, 2015. She is the author of a government report, (Casey, 2012).  According to Aitkenhead, 2013, Casey, 'Tony Blair's former Asbo czar was appointed by David Cameron last year to turn around 120,000 of England's most damaged and damaging families'. She is quoted in Aitkenhead: 'The Daily Mail don't like me 'cos I'm female and fat and lefty. Other people on the left think I sleep with the devil.'

Casey speaks at Policy Exchange, 2016. This was after Cameron, 2016. This is likely to be what 'Passive Tolerance' etc, 2016 meant by 'ongoing review'.

Ed Husain, quoted by Cameron, 2016, is the author of Husain, 2007.

Channel 4 Blog, 2016 for points in the direction of this zip (it opens in Excel) from the 2011 Census data, (table 005193 on that page). Here at last the source for Cameron, 2016's 'new figures'. You can make what you want of them. Notice, for example, that almost 27,000 females of 'no religion' 'cannot Speak English well', not to mention the 132,000 Christian women who are said to be at the same level. Cameron, 2016 seems to have wrapped up the figures from Office for National Statistics, 2016 with his own views on Muslim patriarchy and made conclusions which are guesswork. 

No doubt there have been school governors' meetings, or at least one, which was all male with the women excluded. And no doubt there are Muslim households where the women aren't allowed out unless escorted by a male relative, (I've spent 5 years living in the Islamic world, mind). But it's a bit much to extrapolate from this as a significant societal problem. And it's verging on the laughable that you could address this problem, should it even exist, by means of language assessment. 

Think of a person who fits in with Cameron's construction. Let's call her Aamal. She's comes to the UK and has therefore already had to get her A1 test. We don't know yet what the new 2 1/2 year test is that's being implemented, let's assume A2. Let's imagine that Aamal is in a conservative religious set up, and not allowed out alone. What are her daily interactions? How does she have them with, and in what language? Let's think of it in terms of consequential validity. Who are the stakeholders? What are the beneficial consequences? A reduction in the numbers of the 'economically inactive'?  

NB This angle is getting more interesting. I need to come back to looking at the actual form of A1 spouse tests, and what (if anything, yet) is to be set up for the 2 1/2 year test. Khalas.


Aitkenhead, D. (2013, November 29). Troubled Families head Louise Casey: 'What's missing is love' Retrieved February 13, 2016, from 
Bonfiglio, T. (2010). Mother tongues and nations. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Cameron, D. (2016, January 18). Facebook. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from 

Casey, L. (2012). Listening to troubled families.

Channel 4 Blog. (2016, January 18). Channel 4 FactCheck goes behind the spin to dig out the truth and separate political fact from fiction. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from

Husain, E. (2007). The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left. London: Penguin.

Mason, R. (2015, June 22). David Cameron's claim of £1.2bn saved via families plan labelled 'pure fiction' Retrieved February 13, 2016, from

'Passive tolerance' of separate communities must end, says PM. (January 18, 2016). Retrieved February 13, 2016, from 

Policy Exchange. (2016, January 25). Launch of the New Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit at Policy Exchange. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from
R (Ali and Bibi) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] UKSC 68

This post first appeared on Pig Sty Avenue, please read the originial post: here

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UK Spousal Visas: Recent Developments


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