Miliband: Too little done to integrate UK society


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

Related Stories

"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".


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    We do have problems with integration! However, this seems to apply mostly to those of the Islamic faith.. There don't seem to be problems from the Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist & Jewish communities. These faiths are happy to both celebrate their cultures and integrate and do speak our language. We shouldn't have to change our culture and our laws to fit in with migrants! Come here - but be a part of us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    About time too!

    Does the adage "closing the stable doors when the horse has bolted ring a bell"?

    So politicians - labour/conservatives/liberal democrats have just woken up from their slumber or should I say second sleep after the 2011 census was published.

    Get a grip and good luck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Just a quick question Mr Miliband - Perhaps people don't want to integrate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    @NedLudd Whilst I agree that this country has too many people in it to be sustainable I'm a bit mystified as to why Muslims come in for criticism over their food and clothing laws when Jewish people have lived in this country for centuries with the same kind of rules governing their lives and no-one, except Oswald Moseley ever had a problem with it.

  • Comment number 28.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    A local town has little enclaves of various ethnic groups. By their nature (if not intent) these are socially divisive with little social integration either with western culture or even between each ethnic culture.

    Each insists on its own cultural practices and religious beliefs.

    Is it no wonder Britain is a multi-culturally divided society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Assimilation is the only viable alternative. If people with foreign origin do not feel British after 20 years here, or if their children still feel more identified with their parents land than with Britain, we have failed. If democracy is the government of the people, how can we have a functioning one if there is no people, but many peoples?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    "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 will say.
    A development with which our country is at ease? Oh really? So the population of London is now less that 50% white British and he thinks the country is 'at ease' about it.
    He hasn't got a clue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Variety begets variety -Ashby 1956….integration cannot occur when vested interests are diametrically opposed to adapting their culture to the existing culture…multi-culturism is naked social engineering and a failed political policy. Ghettos of disparate peoples have sprung up all over the place – when will politicians learn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I could be forced to sell my house this year . I attribute this largely to the influx of immigrants taking up all the basic employment which might have seen me through this bad time. I was an engineer.

    So thats the great benefit that our politicians tell me europe has brought me.

    Newsnight summed it up. UKIP's Nigel spelt it out absolutely spot on.

    Get lost Labour!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    My family's name is in the Doomsday book (Westwell). I am proud to be British and I'm proud that our British family history goes back that far.

    With all the different cultures here now, ours are being forgotton and brushed under the carpet and to me, letting that go would be the biggest sin the Government has committed so far

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Revenge is a dish best served cold.
    How dare they not vote for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Maybe the real agenda is to destroy our national identity and turn us into a melting pot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    mmm... how about helping people born here with some jobs?

    If I went to Poland etc, would they help newcomers to live?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The only thing certain about immigration is that new immigrants will continue to be dumped on top of the people here, without our consent, at the rate of several hundred thousand a year, until this small island has been taken over, and the original white population destroyed as an ethnic group.

    i.e., an eventual takeover.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Yet more staggering hypocrisy from Labour and Milliband.

    He seems to have conveniently forgotten that Labour opened the floodgates for immigration - welcoming every one with open arms and telling us all how wonderful it was for the UK.

    But if anyone dares to talk about the problem, they were, and still are, shouted down as being racists and bigots ( remember that, Mr Brown ? ).

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    More rubbish from the leader of a party who opened the doors for millions of immigrants.
    Shameless on immigration and the fiscal mess they left us with.
    Him and his party are not credible and I hope the British can see through their spin and lies which was a major factor in creating the mess they left us with.
    Labour, never again

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The first rule of business is to make yourself be understood. If you can't speak English correctly, then you should not be working in an English speaking country. Instead of a pussyfoot approach, immigrants should be checked on the level of English spoken and understood, and if they do not pass the test, then they are returned to where they came from, until their linguistic skills improve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    ''A PLAN to deal with integration!!!!!''

    10 years of ignoring the issue in government and now Miliband has the diabolical temerity to suggest we need '' A PLAN''

    Disingenuous phoney vaccuous discredited CLAPTRAP!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Great comment from the Labour leader, as it was them who opened the flood gates in the first place.
    Many immigrants don't want to integrate, mainly for religious and racial reasons and normally keep within there own communities, thats why such places as Slough has high Polish immigrants, Southall has high Asian immigrants etc


Page 79 of 80


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.