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 112.

    The New Traitor party spent thirteen years trying to turn Britain into Asia. Thank god they got kicked out before they could complete their evil, left wing loonie plan. Blair and Brown should be arrested on a charge of treason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Ed Miliband has really lost the plot. You did not need the census figures to realise that we have a big problem, caused by perverted New Labour ideology [open door immigration].

    Someone please tell me what "great advantage" unrestricted immigration has brought to this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Nothing morally wrong should not be politically brilliant! D M is pointing his finger at one of the main cause of our broken society. Resettlement and integration are not national only, they are local too. There is a part of integration that has nothing to do with politics but purely "to be", existance, essence and biology ... so I think that there is no reflective convexity in his message.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I agree with Miliiband...this must happen.

    However it's a shame the labour government didn't give this much thought when they were in power and oversaw (encouraged) the largest net immigration into the UK for 40 years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Immigration is not a problem - it's been happening for hundreds of years - spread over hundreds of years. The problem is the speed of change over the last ten years and the inability of our society to come to terms with it. The Labour Party's way of coping with it is to convince themselves that it's all wonderful.
    Well, it's not wonderful. It's a major problem and set to get a lot worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Like all major Parties .. you are not listening Ed. Repatriation no integration is what we the Electorate are waiting to hear, Resettlement grants to return to the country of origin is a way forward. Easing pressure on our infrastructure and removing the drain on our welfare system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Stephen of woking at 56.

    WHAT! Are you having a laugh? They caused the problem along with invading Iraq, Selling the UK gold reserves, deregulating the banks [look what happened], soft on islamic terrorists, filling up the media with their cronies, i could go on.

    Oh very constructive i'm sure. Labour makes me sick. God help UK if they get in again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Maybe Ed wants to finish off the social engineering experiment started by the previous government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    "There is an obligation on any one moving to a new country to fit in; to observe the law, learn the language, and not offend the host population."
    You know about the ex-pat(immigrant) Brit colonies in Spain, France etc, the continental version of Frinton-on-Sea, where only English is spoken.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    "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.
    No comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    My Polish friend showed me one of their Tabloid's. The front page showed how to get here and live for free off the state. The front page pic was of a family of 4 surrounded by £20 notes with big smiley faces!

    It made me feel sick to the stomach

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    The problem is where large groups of immigrants create a ghetto. Then the local natives get restless, they feel they are foreigners in their own country. Maybe there should be a law restricting the density of ethnic minorities, so forcing more integration. Probably violates the Human Rights thing though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    We have economic integration, immigrants either take jobs or benefits!
    How can we stop this, which political party will be strong enough to handle the issues? We have laws and BBC against discussing the issues and I do not know who to vote for, is it time for a centre party that puts BRITS first? Please tell me is there a party that has the guts to sort this and stop immigration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    This is a step in the right direction. A lot of peoples (myself included) frustration and anger with the last Labour governments immigration policy was more a result of them putting the emphasis and responsibility on British citizens to accept and adapt to the cultures of foreighn immigrants coming to our great country, rather than encouraging immigrants to adapt to British culture and laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.




    A large proportion of settlers very much do, and bring great benefit to the UK.

    However, there is a segment, the "they" to whom I assume you refer, who evidently do not. Worse, they seek to change the land to suit their obscurantism.

    We should be discussing this with the French, Belgians, Austrians etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I want to be fair - I have been to so many ex-pat communities where my fellow English have done little to integrate. They don't speak the local language, don't really respect customs. Not in all cases, but I think most. I would love it if more foreign-born people were integrated, but not at the risk of total hypocracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Just look around at all the enclaves that are no go areas. Honour killings and sharia law. They don`t want to integrate they want an islamist britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Too little has been done to prevent people coming into this country who would be a burden on the state or undercut indiginous workers pay scales.
    Trying to integrate them with people whose jobs they have taken or whose taxes are paying their rent is ignoring a fundamental problem of resentment.
    Labour failed to look after working class indiginous people ahead of immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    The problem is that governments of all colours have signed up to umpteen treaties and so forth so that we are 'obliged' on so many levels that discussions about whether immigration is good or bad are meaningless and at least Ed is starting from a realistic point but we must move to a 'you be like us' stance rather than trying to 'bend' the white British into shapes acceptable to the newcomers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Ed Milliband - he's just a sort of bigoted man who says he used to be Labour.

    Gordon Brown


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