The communities secretary, Sajid Javid, has suggested that all public sector workers should take an oath of allegiance to British values. The step would be aimed at helping migrants integrate.
Elected officials, civil servants, and council workers would be among those expected to take the loyalty pledge, regardless of their country of origin, The Telegraph has reported.
Javid’s proposal comes in response to the recent Casey report on social cohesion, which found that some British towns had been transformed “out of all recognition” by migration, allowing ghettoes to spring up which governments have ignored “for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic”.
He said he was particularly “drawn” to a recommendation within the report to introduce an oath of allegiance for public office holders on the grounds that it was impossible to play a “positive role” in public life unless the office holders subscribe to the values of democracy and equality.
“If we are going to challenge such attitudes, civic and political leaders have to lead by example,” Javid said.
“We can’t expect new arrivals to embrace British values if those of us who are already here don’t do so ourselves, and such an oath would go a long way to making that happen.”
The oath could include phrases such as “tolerating the views of others even if you disagree with them”, as well as “believing in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from abuse … a belief in equality, democracy, and the democratic process”, and “respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass”.
But the idea has been opposed by Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who said the oath would do nothing to combat radicalisation.
She told Sky News: “I have nothing against it in principle, but it will not make a difference to the problems of radicalisation, or integration.
“I don’t think the oath will make any verifiable difference.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman Lord Brian Paddick said: “Forcing public servants to swear an oath to British values would be both superficial and divisive.
“We should be talking about the universal values that unite us, not using nationalistic terms that exclude people.”
A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union would not say whether it would encourage civil servants to take the oath.
He said: “To us, British values mean investing in our communities and our public services to make society more cohesive and to support everyone who needs help.
“They mean not pitting neighbour against neighbour, the young against the old, the sick and disabled against those in work.
“These are the values we should live by, these are the values civil servants hold dear and against these values the Tories are falling woefully short.”