Labour party leader Ed Milliband is to call for universal knowledge of English as a way of ending ‘segregation’ in British neighbourhoods.
In a speech in South London on Friday Mr Milliband will acknowledge that successive Labour governments under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown didn’t do enough to tackle segregation of communities along ethnic or cultural lines.
While emphasizing his pride in “multi-ethnic, diverse Britain”, the Labour leader will also say that the ability to speak English is integral to his party’s ‘One Nation’ ideal.
To that end, Mr Milliband is expected to propose the banning of those without a high proficiency in English from some public sector jobs and cutting of local council translation services if those funds could instead fund English language classes.
His speech will come just days after the 2011 census showed that fewer than half the people living in London are white British.
The figures also showed that in 2011, 13% of residents in England and Wales – 7.5 million out of a total population of 56.1 million – were born outside the UK.
In extracts from the speech released to the media, Mr Miliband admits that immigration has become a cause for concern in Britain.
“We know there is anxiety about immigration and what it means for our culture. The answer is not to sweep it under the carpet.”
He calls for the rejection of the idea that people can “live side by side in their own communities, respecting each other but living separate lives, protected from hatreds but never building a common bond – never learning to appreciate one another.”
“If we are going to build One Nation, we need to start with everyone in Britain knowing how to speak English. We should expect that of people that come here,” he will say.
Among other proposals that will be put forward in the speech are English language teaching for recent immigrants and a ban on recruitment agencies advertising for workers from specific countries.