It is important for all immigrants in the UK to speak English, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.
Setting out his party's policy on immigration, Mr. Miliband said: “We all know that the beginning of any real connection with a neighbour or colleague, work-mate or friend is a conversation. But we can only converse if we can speak the same language. So if we are going to build One Nation, our goal should be that everyone in Britain should know how to speak English. We should expect that of people that come here.”
The Labour leader said they would like to build a country “where people of all different backgrounds, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and those of no faith, live and work together. A place where people don’t just tolerate each other, but build friendships, families and businesses across communities.”
Observing that a third of Team GB medal winners at the Olympics had parents or grandparents born outside the UK, Mr. Miliband said “their diversity was reflected in the crowds that cheered them on. In fact, the whole Olympic experience reflected the diversity of modern Britain.”
He added that “Social, cultural and ethnic diversity” has made the UK stronger.
Mr. Miliband rejected the call for assimilation saying that Britons have multiple identities. “One Nation doesn’t mean one identity. People can be proudly, patriotically British without abandoning their cultural roots,” he said.
“We must live together across communities. Overcoming division, without asking people to lose their sense of themselves,” he said. “A Britain where people of all backgrounds, all races, all ethnicities, all cultures, can practise their own religion, continue their own customs, but also come together to forge a new and better identity.”
Mr. Miliband said that UK was “one of the few countries in Europe without a comprehensive strategy for integration,” adding that “We must put that right.”
He praised the last Labour government for raising the language requirements for people seeking to enter Britain on work and family visas. “That was the right approach. But of course there is a minority who have come here without being able to speak English. This makes life harder for them. Those who don’t speak English are less able to get a good job, less able to make the most of being in this country. And it is also bad for Britain as a whole.”
Mr. Miliband said refugees and immigrants “have contributed enormously to the country.”