Immigrants should learn English, says Howard

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New immigrants to the United Kingdom should learn English to enable to take part in the national culture, the Conservative leader Michael Howard said yesterday.

New immigrants to the United Kingdom should learn English to enable to take part in the national culture, the Conservative leader Michael Howard said yesterday.

Mr Howard said that British culture encompassed not only the language of Shakespeare and Dickens but also that of ethnic minority Britons such as the Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

The culture which makes up "the core of Britishness" is not the exclusive property of white people with family origins in Britain, said Mr Howard. It belongs to all those of any skin colour who live here, speak the language and regard themselves as British. Whether white or black, participation in the culture depends on the ability to speak and read English, which is "the most obvious binding element" in British society, he said during an election campaign visit to Birmingham.

"Successful integration depends on the dismantling of the barriers to progress posed by prejudice and discrimination," said Mr Howard. "But it also depends on a desire by those who come here to integrate.

"A common language is the most obvious binding element in society... It's important that people who come here to live and work learn the language of the nation."

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