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Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is to give a speech today stressing shared British values. The themes are trailed in an interview with the Daily Mail.

Eric says:

"We must be unafraid to insist on the common ground and common values we all share.

"It’s right to stand up for the right of councils who wish to start their proceedings with a prayer. If we want people of all faiths to feel at home and able to contribute here, the last thing we should be doing is knocking Christianity.

"By the same token, it’s right to ask new migrants to demonstrate a grasp of the English language and an understanding of British traditions. It would be plain unkind is to encourage people to come here without the basic skills and understanding that are vital to getting on in a job, in education and the local community."

He adds:

"It’s sad to see how, in recent years, the idea of tolerance has become twisted.

‘A few people, a handful of activists, have insisted that it isn’t enough simply to celebrate the beliefs of minority communities; they want to disown the traditions and heritage of the majority, including the Christian faith and the English language.

‘In recent years we’ve seen public bodies bending over backwards to translate documents up to and including their annual report into a variety of foreign languages.

‘We’ve seen men and women disciplined for wearing modest symbols of Christian faith at work, and we’ve seen legal challenges to councils opening their proceedings with prayers, a tradition that goes back generations, brings comfort to many and hurts no one.

‘This is the politics of division.’

It has been estimated that councils spend £50 million a year translating documents. Frequently documents would be translated but not attract a single hit on a council website.

Some seemed to think that this was a legal requirement but even under the Labour Government the practice was criticised.

JP Floru has suggested that councils provide vouchers for English language classes. Another idea is to take a close look at the voluntary organisations being funded including those for refugees to ensure that they are doing an effective job providing English tuition.

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