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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK
Ministers proposing 'Britain Day'
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says it could be a new bank holiday
A national day to promote a stronger sense of British identity, and prevent communities from becoming more divided, has been suggested by two ministers.

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne say it could be a new bank holiday.

Ms Kelly told the BBC: "The point of it would be to celebrate the contribution that we all make to society."

In a pamphlet on the plan the ministers also suggest immigrants could have the chance to "earn" British citizenship.

Under a points-based system, credit would be given to migrants for doing voluntary work but lost for breaking the law.

Ms Kelly told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that a Britain day would recognise the "local focus" of people's contribution to society in particular.

As nobody in Scotland or England cares in the slightest about a British Identity what would be the point ?
Gordon Clarkson, Edinburgh

"It might be, for instance, that local areas come together, they decide for themselves about the contribution that they might make, " she said.

"And then people who live in that area would have the opportunity to get involved in local volunteering, local service to their neighbours, and to celebrate their sense of being a citizen of the country,".

'Neighbour contracts'

The two ministers say UK communities need a stronger sense of what they have in common, and they say the proposed national day would celebrate British values and achievements.

Mr Byrne said: "At a time when we face the threat of a new extremism, I just think it's important now for the law-abiding majority to stand up for the values that we've got in common.

Magna Carta: 27%
VE Day: 21%
D-Day: 14%
Armistice Day: 11%
Trafalgar victory: 10%
Slave trade abolished: 6%
Napoleon's defeat: 4%
Churchill's birth: 3%
Cromwellian republic: 2%
Reform Act: 2%
Source: BBC History magazine, 2006 survey

"One of the ways that we can do that is just taking a bit of time out each year to actually celebrate what we're proudest of in this country."

One of the ministers' suggestions is for "good neighbour contracts" setting out rights and duties for all people new to the UK.

Young people could receive "citizens' packs" when they come of age, setting out what is expected of adults.

These would give information on voter registration, volunteering opportunities and expectations of what they might be asked to undertake, such as jury service.

Debt of gratitude

Other suggestions for how Britain Day might take shape, made in the pamphlet for the left-of-centre think tank the Fabian Society, include:

  • Celebrating civic values, local heritage and opportunities to get involved in local life
  • Holding local "citizenship ceremonies"
  • Celebrating and promoting voluntary work in communities
  • Showing a debt of gratitude to war veterans who helped to secure freedoms
  • The Queen's state opening of Parliament speech could be followed by a "State of the Nation" address from the prime minister
  • 'Recapture the flag'

    Prime-minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown has himself previously floated the idea of day to promote the nation's identity.

    In a speech in 2006, he said it was important the union jack was recaptured from the far-right and that promoting integration had become even more important since the previous year's 7 July London suicide bombings.

    BBC News political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Brown has wondered privately why young British men blew themselves and their fellow citizens up, when in the US, where they celebrate their citizenship much more, young Muslim men had not done the same.

    In 2006, a survey by BBC History magazine suggested the anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 would be the most popular day for a Britain Day.

    The 15 June date was favoured by 27% of the 5,002 people polled, ahead of VE Day (8 May) with 21%, and D-Day (6 June) with 14%.

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