Immigrants must learn English and join 'common' UK culture

Feb 21, 2012

Eric Pickles also attacks secularism as he launches coalition's 'integration strategy'

IMMIGRANTS will be expected to learn English and understand the British way of life, the government was due to say today when it unveiled its new strategy on integration.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles plans to signal an end to the policy of multiculturalism. Instead, children will be educated in a "common culture".

At the same time, the government will pledge to challenge extremism in all its forms.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Pickles refers to a "politics of division" exemplified in recent years by "public bodies bending over backwards to translate documents into a variety of foreign languages".

He also dips into the ongoing row over what his Conservative colleague Baroness Warsi last week called "militant secularism", observing: "We've seen men and women disciplined for wearing modest symbols of Christian faith at work, and we've seen legal challenges to councils opening their proceedings with prayers, a tradition that goes back generations, brings comfort to many and hurts no one."

Pickles is particularly critical of Harriet Harman, who was equalities minister in the last Labour government. "Harman was leading the country down the wrong path," he says. "If we are to remain a country where people of different backgrounds feel at ease and get along, we need more confidence in our national traditions. We must be unafraid to insist on the common ground and common values we all share."

Learning English, he believes, will increase social mobility. "It's right to ask new migrants to demonstrate a grasp of the English language and an understanding of British traditions. It would be plain unkind to encourage people to come here without the basic skills and understanding that are vital to getting on in a job, in education and the local community."

And while the strategy may spell the end of multiculturalism, the government will also promise to stamp out racism and "challenge extremism in all its forms" by improving the recording of hate crime against the Muslim and Jewish communities.

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How about improving the recording of hate crimes against the English?