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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  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    #107. Tony
    "Like all major Parties .. you are not listening Ed. Repatriation no integration is what we the Electorate are waiting to hear"

    What do you do if they refuse repatriation or your target country won't take them?
    Some one else tried a policy of emigration to remove members of an ethnic group which turned into a policy of forced 'evacuation'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Many in our modern society might not understand that there are people who were born into it and cut off from it thanks to the fact that such existance means integration and they are left behind needing integration into understanding of where and the time they are living in it. Can BBC carry out a survey of our politicians knowledge of Life in the UK test for us? E M WILL THEN BE RIGHT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Islam teaches that aetheists must be punished by death. By 2020 at current rates of growth there will be 10million Muslims in the UK. There are 14million aetheists for whom the phrase "thou shalt not kill" is not a moral absolute I don't know how a future government can reconcile these differences in opinion but they'd better crack on with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    It's too late, Ed, it's much too late. The country now has no option but to suffer the long term social consequences of Labour's madness.

    Your party, to its lasting shame, used mass immigration as a political weapon against your opponents at Westminster. But the rest of us have to live with the dreadful outcome. Meanwhile you pontificate on the fine detail of the catastrophe you've caused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Leicester is overwhelmed by immigration yet we are told to 'celebrate' it. Hindus tend to be open but few from other immigrant communities are inclusive of their celebrations or communities (except to politicians), Muslims (seperate factions), Somalis, Poles, Iraqis, etc. nor do they want water down their culture, in fact they aim to maintain it and build it. Many don't want what is 'British'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Miliband wants immigrants to integrate with British society. Actually I think in London specifically it's the reverse - white British people have had to integrate with Asian cultures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    There has to be a limit on the numbers Britain can take otherwise British born and bred people will feel swamped whether politicians like it or not. Immigration only serves the interests of Multi-nationals, who pay no taxes and depress wages. The chattering classes tell us of the high skills of immigrants but that is not true. Our warehouses, hotels and other low paid industries are full of them

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    The absolute hypocrisy of Labour never fails to amaze.
    This is a Diane Abbott moment-say one thing & do another.
    Labour destroyed many of our citys as recognisably British,due to a direct policy of gerrymandering & now think that we will all forget.
    Well WE WONT!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Ed Milliband can only do this if his pay masters let him and we all know the unions won't let that happen. If they ever get back into power it will happen again, how else will they get votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    when will governments stop trying to force different cultures and colours to live together when will they realise that they do not, look at schools clubs areas ect,it proves people are happy with there own kind , let people decide where and who they live with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I'm not a Tory, but I will never trust a Labour leader ever again... I was such a fool

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Britain has forced culture on every country in the world. When they are in another country its always "they don't even speak english" or "its not like this back home". So move to Spain and become Spanish. This would happen in anyone lifetime.
    Cowards with low IQ's always fight the fight running backwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    What Millibean is saying here is "this is a tolerant multicultural one nation society so now all you immigrants now must merge into one nation that we call Britian".
    Well now. It seems his party under Blairs legacy of uncontrolled immigration, enforced by threat of law of acceptance of immigrants and their culture and dilution of "British" has caught up with them. Too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    The fact is that any culture which finds itself in a foreign land wants to keep its own identity. The British are no different look at what happened in Africa and India over 100 years ago.
    In a few years time Britain will be open to a massive influx of Bulgarian and Romanian people. There is no room housing or slack in the benefit system to accommodate them all. This is not xenophobia it's fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Nice try and nice rhetoric. Alas, no-one believes any of this "tough line" from Labour or any other party. Horse has bolted, I'm afraid. Allied to which we are seeing two huge shifts in UK life. Firstly a "foreignisation" of London/S East, and secondly a centralisation of political and economic power there. Result is that we (indigenous British) are indeed, foreigners in our own country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.


    Did we want war with Iraq?
    2 million marched on Downing street to stop it

    Did we want unsustainable levels of immigration?
    We've been telling our leaders for years that we have lost our identity

    Do we want to fund mercenaries in Syria?
    No - If in doubt look here:

    We are a nation of whimps beaten into submission by the PC

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    we need repatriation not immigration. White british are now a minority in London

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Policy change.

    Now anyone who wants controlled immigration, integration and English as the first language is not officially not a bigot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    In London less than half the population can call themselves white british which when you consider how much taxpayers money is spent there and it being our capital city is quite shocking to the rest of the country . As you travel through districts of London you pass through clear ethnic groups . Labour shouldnt be talking about integration but being helf to account for its policies .

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    For goodness sake Mr Milliband. Hands up anybody who is "at ease" with the situation. People have to WANT to integrate, you can't police it.
    The Census statistics say it all , politicians on all sides should hang their heads in shame.


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