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Publicly-funded workers must speak good English – Miliband

All staff in publicly-funded jobs that involve interaction with the public would have to show proficiency in English under a Labour Government, according to Ed Miliband.

The requirement would be part of his plans for a “connected nation” rather than a “segregated one”, Miliband is set to say in a speech.

The speech will cover his integration strategy, that would see English language teaching for newcomers to Britain prioritised over written translation materials, and schools and parents encouraged to share responsibility for helping foreign-born children by including statements on English language learning within Home School Agreements.

Miliband will say: “We can only converse if we can speak the same language. So 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. We will work together as a nation far more effectively when we can always talk together.

“Some people say that what we should aim for is assimilation whereby people who have come here do so only on the condition that they abandon their culture. People can be proudly, patriotically British without abandoning their cultural roots and distinctiveness.

“But there is another idea we should also reject: the belief that people can simply 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. We cannot be comfortable with separation. It blocks opportunities, leaving people at the margins. And it breeds ignorance, suspicion and prejudice.

“Too often we were overly optimistic, thinking integration would just take care of itself; that as long as the economy was buoyant, that services were well run; that people would learn to get on together and our common life would flourish automatically. The solutions seemed abstract, but the problems were real. We talked about 'shared citizenship'. But we did too little to tackle the realities of segregation in communities that were struggling to cope.”

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