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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

UK government should set target date for everybody to speak English, former official says

Dame Louise Casey said the measure would improve integration of ethnic minorities in Britain

Dame Louise Casey's 2016 report made a series of recommendations for improving integration of ethnic minorities in Britain. Paul Ellis/ AFP
Dame Louise Casey's 2016 report made a series of recommendations for improving integration of ethnic minorities in Britain. Paul Ellis/ AFP

A former UK government czar has called for a date to be set for everyone in Britain to speak the English language.

Dame Louise Casey, a former high ranking civil servant, said that “big bold policies” needed to be taken by the government to try and “heal the rifts” across Britain.

Dame Louise left the Civil Service last year a few months after publishing the Casey Review into social integration and opportunity, which was designed to improve the integration of ethnic minorities.

The call comes as the government prepares to announce their integration strategy in response to the Review, 15 months after it was published in December 2016.

Dame Louise, who previously recommended immigrants should take an “oath of integration with British values”, said if everyone spoke the English language it would help with community cohesion.

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“Everybody of working age and of school age should be able to speak one language and I think the public in particular would feel some relief," she told BBC radio.

"I would be quite old school about this and I would set a target that says by 'x' date we want everybody in the country to be able to speak a common language."

Dame Louise, who now chairs the Institute for Global Homelessness, recommended giving local government more money to promote the English language.

She has since criticised the government for failing to respond with appropriate measures to her 2016 report, which stated that segregation and social exclusion were at “worrying levels”.

The report drew particular attention to women in some Muslim communities who did not speak English.

Dame Louise said that any government strategy would also need to address social economic splits in the country, in particular in the north of England, as well as improve equality for women.

She said it would be “incredibly frustrating” if the government were to delay any more on setting out its integration strategy.

Former immigration minister Mark Harper told the BBC that the government had changed immigration rules to require a better level of English from immigrants coming to the UK but more had to be done.

"I think the recommendations she has made are very powerful and I hope the government produces an ambitious strategy,” he said.