Many young Asian women who are being brought to the district as wives are being deliberately discouraged from learning English, an MP has claimed.

Ann Cryer also said the expansion of satellite television meant Asian children were starting school with no awareness of English because many now get television programmes direct from Asia. She said the language should be spoken at home.

Mrs Cryer, the MP for Keighley, said she first raised the issue following a report into the Bradford riots in 2001, but felt the situation had not improved over the last five years.

Mrs Cryer said: "Many young Asian girls who have come to the area as wives are actively discouraged from learning English. This is because once they know English they know their rights and have the wherewithal to look after themselves. So many Asian in-laws do not want their girls to learn English."

Mrs Cryer said: "I visited a school in my constituency that is 95 per cent Muslim. I was told that 95 per cent of its children enter school at three or four not with just no English, but with no knowledge of the language. In many cases they have never even heard it being spoken. When I commented on this five years ago, most Muslim children were at least watching various BBC children's programmes, so they had an idea of what English sounded like. Now most members of my Muslim community have satellite dishes and get the majority of their television programmes from Pakistan."

But Bradford councillors have rejected her claims. Councillor Mohammed Jamil (Con, Bowling and Barkerend) said he did not know why Mrs Cryer was making such a fuss about a non-issue.

"I don't think there is any problem. My wife goes to the community centre to learn English and our children are well educated. What about the workers coming from Eastern Europe? They can't speak English and they don't have to have a test because it's within the EU."

Councillor Shamim Akhtar (Lab, Keighley Central) said she knew of no cases where in-laws prevented young wives from learning English.

"Many women with limited knowledge of English are attending English language classes. They know perfectly well it's in their interest to know the language so they can take part in day-to-day life."

Referring to the language skills of Muslim toddlers, she said it was wrong to state that they had no exposure to English before starting primary school.

"If you go to the local nurseries the staff there don't speak Urdu, Punjabi or Sylheti, they speak to the children in English," she said.


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