Ben Gummer – 2016 Statement on English Language Requirement


Below is the text of the statement made by Ben Gummer, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, in the House of Commons on 21 July 2016.

The government believes that the public should expect that all those with whom they interact, within the sphere of public services, have the language abilities required to respond to their needs.

A clear commitment in our manifesto was to ensure that all public sector workers in customer-facing roles can speak fluent English. I am delighted to announce that this manifesto commitment has now been fulfilled, with the Immigration Act 2016 receiving Royal Assent on 12 May 2016.

Part 7 of the Immigration Act 2016 places a duty on all public authorities in scope to ensure that their customer-facing staff can speak fluent English, or in Wales fluent English or Welsh. This will assure citizens that there is not a language barrier that might prevent them from contacting or using public services or inadvertently put them at risk.

It is a clear priority for the government to ensure public services are delivered to a high standard in spoken English, or in Wales in English or Welsh.

In support of this aim, the government is today publishing:

– a draft statutory code of practice which is intended to support public sector employers in complying with this new duty, whilst ensuring minimal burden. It provides principles and examples for public authorities to consider when fulfilling their legal duties and obligations. It will also be available in Welsh.

– a final impact assessment is available, which evaluates the impact of this duty. It details the problem under consideration, the rationale for intervention and the policy objective. It also evaluates the monetised and non-monetised costs and benefits of the preferred option, as well as considering risks and possible wider impacts of the policy.

The government has worked with relevant employers throughout the development of the draft Code of Practice and will continue to do so to ensure that the duty is implemented in a way which ensures a positive impact for employees and service users in front line organisations.

The code will be laid before Parliament and issued in October but the early publication of the document is intended to support organisations to be ready to adhere to the statutory duty once it comes into force.