The 2011 census said that Britain is increasingly becoming a more cosmopolitan country. How are we going to ensure it is a more integrated one too? On Tuesday 15th January British Future and Policy Exchange invited Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to discuss this issue.
In Uniting Our Communities: Integration in 2013, Pickles’ first major speech of 2013, he highlighted many different ways to make the UK more assimilated. Looking back at 2012, Pickles cited specific incidents of “integration in action”. The Queen’s Jubilee was the epitome of this, displaying a mix of national and local community initiatives that united people. For example, in Birmingham a group of volunteers tidied up the gardens of a local care home.
“We need to bring together all these intense sparks of commitment and community. What you get is a glowing sense of pride, a real, tangible sense of belonging to our community,” Pickles said of these events.
Pickles also emphasised the importance of the English language for integration. “We have people go through the entire system not able to speak English like a native,” said Pickles, who explained that 5 per cent of households in the UK contain no single member that can speak English as their main language.
While there is no quick fix for this problem, immersion is definitely key. “You want to be able to teach kids good language at schools, but you want to ensure Mum and Dad can speak as well so that they can check on what’s happening, so they can keep apace and make sure that the homework’s been done,” he noted.
Here are some other highlights from the speech.