Brown stresses Britishness over ‘English question’

Gordon Brown today denied suggestions an “English question” hangs over his premiership.

Addressing the Commons liaison committee, Mr Brown rejected calls for a separate English parliament.

Instead he quoted a recent opinion poll showing English support for the union is “very high indeed”.

“With the whole of the UK there is a recognition of the importance of being part of the UK,” Mr Brown said, pointing to the four nations’ shared culture and economic interests.

The prime minister said the sentiments of every part of the UK would always have to be recognised, but the most recent evidence is people want to be part of the wider United Kingdom.

He argued it was advantageous for the UK to work together on certain issues including climate change and terrorism.

In July, Mr Brown published a green paper on the governance of Britain, suggesting among other proposals that the country produce a written statement of values.

The prime minister defended this concept amid scepticism from the committee, insisting liberty, a sense of civic duty and social responsibility were “uniquely British”.

He argued the UK can claim to be the true pioneer of liberty, but unlike the US does not promote a belief in freedom from the state.

Mr Brown said it was right to attempt to compile a list of British rights and responsibilities, especially for new immigrants.

The prime minister said citizens and would-be citizens have to accept the status carries a range of responsibilities as well as rights.

He said: “Becoming a citizen is an important act, because [they] are getting rights and in return for that they have to accept responsibilities. If someone comes to our country and is applying for citizenship or permanent residency they have also got to accept responsibilities.

“You should be able to speak the English language, you should be able to understand and speak about British cultural traditions.”

With the Conservatives calling for a cap on immigration, Mr Brown said the forthcoming points system would be used to manage migration, ensuring only workers with desirable skills are let into the country.