THE new MP for Bournemouth West has used his first speech in the Commons to speak up for the town’s language schools.

Conservative Conor Burns spoke out against visa regulations which he says will mean overseas students already have to speak good English before they can study the language in Britain.

The government has said it will look again at the rules, which Mr Burns argued could hurt an industry worth £200 million to the town.

“The English language is one of our greatest assets,” he told the Commons.

“English is the language of world commerce and if we shut off the ability of those schools to thrive, to welcome people to our shores and enable them to immerse themselves in our language, our culture and our values, in time we will look back and realise that we made a very fundamental mistake.”

He claimed language schools could lose up to half their intake because of the changes.

The previous Labour government tightened student visa regulations earlier this year, meaning applicants were required to have intermediate level English rather than basic.

Mr Burns said the “painfully ridiculous” regulations meant students would have to speak English at roughly A* GCSE level before they could study it in Britain.

By speaking in the adjournment debate, Mr Burns broke with the tradition that an MPs’ maiden speech should be uncontroversial.

Poole MP Robert Syms told the House it was “vital” to get a quick resolution to the problem. “Of course we need a firm immigration system, but it has to be fair, and we have to be fair to the language schools so that they can do their business,” he said.

Junior home office minister James Brokenshire pointed out that students who did not have an intermediate command of English could still apply for student visitor status, allowing them six months in the country.

But he said the immigration minister would conduct a “thorough evaluation” of the system.

“The government want to encourage genuine students who seek to benefit from our world-class education system and to take away knowledge, skills and a sense of our culture, which they can then put to good use in their home countries,” he said.