Miliband: Too little done to integrate UK society


Ed Miliband: "Often we were a bit optimistic about how integration would happen"

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"Too little" has been done to integrate people who have settled in British society, Ed Miliband has said.

The Labour leader called for more proficiency in the English language as part of his One Nation ideal.

He also admitted Labour had made mistakes in tackling the "realities of segregation" in struggling communities.

Ministers accused Mr Miliband of "hollow" words, saying Labour had failed to back coalition measures to tighten up immigration.

The Labour leader said he was proud of "multi-ethnic, diverse Britain", but accepted people had anxieties about immigration.

Among his proposals to improve integration is banning those without high proficiency in English from some public sector jobs that involve working closely with people, such as home helps.

Mr Miliband also said that local authorities should cut their translation services if that would protect their budgets for language classes.

'Immigration anxiety'

His speech in south London came just days after the 2011 Census showed that fewer than half the people living in London are white British.


Ed Miliband's speech was clearly an attempt to reposition Labour on immigration.

With this One Nation approach, he tried to reach out to two different groups - those who choose to settle in the UK and those who feel resentful about the number of people doing so.

Mr Miliband promised to prioritise spending on English language teaching for recent immigrants and increase the supply of affordable housing. But he also pledged stricter transitional arrangements and admitted the previous Labour government did too little to tackle segregation in communities.

While Labour has been strongly opposed to the cap on immigration from outside the EU - a key Conservative policy - Mr Miliband said he would now consider keeping the cap if evidence shows it works.

He's spoken about Labour's failure to address these concerns previously. In one of his first speeches as leader in 2010 he said a failure to listen on immigration was one reason Labour lost the last election.

He hopes the shift in tone will convince voters that Labour won't repeat previous mistakes. But critics say simply controlling numbers won't address underlying concerns about the impact of immigration.

The figures also showed that in 2011, 13% of England and Wales residents - 7.5 million out of a total population of 56.1 million - were born outside the UK.

"People of mixed race are among the fastest-growing group in the population of our country", and this is "a development with which our country is at ease", Mr Miliband said.

Mr Miliband - who spoke with pride of his own parents' history as Jewish refugees from the Holocaust - described his enthusiasm for ethnic diversity in the UK.

"We are stronger for it - and I love Britain for it. It gives us access to new ideas, new perspectives, new energies," he said.

"But at the same time we know there is anxiety about immigration and what it means for our culture. The answer is not to sweep it under the carpet."

In part, that means rejecting the idea that people can "live side by side in their own communities, respecting each other but living separate lives, protected from hatreds but never building a common bond - never learning to appreciate one another", he explained.

On his party's time in government, he said: "The solutions seemed abstract but the problems were real. We talked about 'shared citizenship'.

"But we did too little to tackle the realities of segregation in communities that were struggling to cope."

He criticised cuts to English language teaching despite a rising proportion of children who are non-native speakers.

'Connected, not segregated'

"If we are going to build One Nation, we need to start with everyone in Britain knowing how to speak English. We should expect that of people that come here," he said.

Labour plans to prioritise spending on English language teaching for recent immigrants over non-essential written translation materials.

Under the proposals, parents will be required to take responsibility for their foreign-born children learning English at home, and being able to speak English will be made mandatory in a greater number of public sector jobs.

A ban on recruitment agencies advertising only for workers from particular countries will help to end segregation in the workplace, he said.

"There are some shifts in some factories that are still segregated by language and by background. And there are jobs which still recruit far more easily from within one community than from other," Mr Miliband said.

The Labour leader said he wanted a "comprehensive strategy for integration" to bring the UK into line with other European countries.

Mark Harper, minister for immigration, said the speech was a "big apology" for Labour's failure to tackle immigration while in government

He told BBC News: "All of these people that were allowed to come to the United Kingdom not able to speak English came here while Ed Miliband was in government.

"We've made changes so that people who come here to study, to work and to live have to be able to speak English because we know that unless you can speak English properly, you can't be integrated properly in the community.

"They failed to back any of those policies in practice."

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, described Mr Miliband's comments as "a bit rich and a bit late" and accused him of failing to face up to future immigration from countries like Romania and Bulgaria.

Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch, a think tank which campaigns for tighter immigration controls, said Labour's proposals were "pretty trivial" in the face the "enormous problem of integration".


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  • Comment number 1592.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1591.

    This is amazing Ed. Why didn't anybody think of this before?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1590.

    To have true integration we need inter-marriage but too many young people are told who or who not to marry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1589.

    my daughter was turned down for a job in a hotel because there was a language barrier she's English, she did not speak polish! this was a hotel in Bristol,and a friends child was told that he would not fit with the staff at a bakery(in Dorset) again because he did not speak polish,surely this is discrimination and if you want employment you should speak the host countries language?

  • Comment number 1588.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1587.

    "While Labour has been strongly opposed to the cap on immigration from outside the EU - a key Conservative policy - Mr Miliband said he would now consider keeping the cap if evidence shows it works"

    When will Milliband tell us ?????

  • rate this

    Comment number 1586.

    We forget that it was the Tories in the 80s who got Britain signed up to the policies which enabled hundreds of thousands of immigrants to come into this country. And that was followed by one of the most divisive governments in the last 200 years. No wonder integration is so difficult in the UK compared to other countries. It has never been the Tory way and never will be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1585.

    Immigration has been an issue since the 1950s and in the 1960s Enoch Powell was brave enough to express his concerns. All the politicians then knew he was right when he said that mass immigration would be a disaster for this country and so it has proven. The last Labour Government made matters worse then ever with their open door immigration policy from which this country will never recover.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1584.


    Many of these comments did strike me as having a xenophobic undertone - maybe I'm wrong. I do know that I live in a very culturally diverse part of south london and find myself disagreeing with terms like "invasion" and "opening the floodgates". I'm all for sensible debate about immigration but not one lead by the uninformed (or dis-informed).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1583.

    It's one thing migrating to the UK because you want the lifestyle and prospects that it upholds, it's a very different thing coming here and wanting to change the legal system, the dress codes and the freedom of speach (not that we have that these days!)
    I suggest no-votes for immigrants! Their children would hopefully have westernised enough to appreciate their freedom!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1582.

    I thought it was so amusing when Miliband was shown on the BBC News chatting to immigrants in a nice, friendly way, saying "...and of course if you can't speak English properly, it makes life harder." And yet his proposals would ban these people from certain jobs! What a hypocrite!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1581.

    Would be much less of a problem if we had less people to integrate into our society!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1580.

    Milliband's weasel words should be seen in the context of UKIP's growing relevance, and in the alienation of the British white working class who think the Labour Party has nothing to offer them any more, and appears to put immigrant's interests first. As with almost every other speech by leading politicians it is designed to attract attention but has little substance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1579.

    This island has been invaded for thousands of years, the native peoples of this isle have been slaves long since before the vikings. Question i have to ask is, why is because of a ruling elite enslaving people all over the world, i as an englishman has to have my "culture" marginalised to accomated others. Does this country really need any more cheap unskilled labour BTW militard is a marxist

  • rate this

    Comment number 1578.


    If we are hated so much why does everyone want to come and live here? Free housing, free medical treatment, free benefits?

    Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) was a prosperous country which produced a wheat surplus. Now people starve, is that Britain’s fault?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1577.

    I have read the last 300 comments and fail to see where all the anger is coming from. I am from a working class community and have no experience of this negative integration. Surely, we are all just trying to get the best out of life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1576.

    Only more inter-marrying will solve the integration issue. That's how the English stopped bothering whether they hailed from Danes or Anglo Saxons. That's how victors in battle persuaded populations to take them on as new rulers. Too many young people are told who they should or shouldn't marry. That's got to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1575.

    Integration needs efforts from both sides. I am a person of Indian origin and in country for over 10 years. From my year 1, i have been paying more tax than national average salary. I am proud to be British and teach my kids same. But one day my son came back from school and asked me if he is Indian?? someone said he is Indian..any answers??

  • rate this

    Comment number 1574.

    We are always going to have immigration related problems while we are in the EU. This is the third most populated country in the entire world and we cannot stop millions more from coming in while we are in the european club. We will continue to be dictated to by people we haven't elected and cannot ever get rid of. If immigrants weren't here we would not have a problem

  • rate this

    Comment number 1573.

    Come now Ed my old son... you woldn't be talking with a forked tongue would you?

    Weren't you satisfied with the work of these foreigners that you paid them for with our money? According to the BBC article, looks like we're still paying for your mistake to the tune of £2.2 Million eh...

    Book yourself the same holiday you did for Sami & his family :D


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