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 152.

    How about an apology your governments financial mismanagement Ed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    For a small island nation it as an absolute farce that successive Governments have allowed this to continue for so long. UKBA are completely clueless with those politicians using immigration as a political football - meanwhile back at the ranch there are still thousands upon thousands of people in this country who can barely speak english and contribute absolute zero to the communities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Before we have an integration plan can we have an immigration plan?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    #23 I know exactly what you mean been there, seen it, done it, , and I sympathise, We had serbians move in next door and they actually ate, the other side to theirs, dog.I mean is this what integration means?

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    There seem to be a lot of people claiming that immigrants don't want to integrate but I think its best not to generalize. That's not to deny that there are those who resist, but consider that I'm of Pakistani descent, but I'm a Liberal, and an Atheist, and I consider myself to be British without any qualifications. Best not to stereotype!

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

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

    It does not matter which party is in power. It is Big Business that calls the shots. They wanted cheap labour and now they've got it. And consequently our living standards have fallen. That is the way of it. The Great Con continues....

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    I live in a medium sized town in SE England. Over the last few years there has been a steady influx of Eastern Europeans to our town. They have taken all of the local low skilled jobs, all of the low rent private housing and are now filling up our schools with their offspring. When I hear these people in the High St. talking to their kids, guess which language they are speaking? It's not English!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    I notice there isn't much 'integration' being done where the posh boys live.They put them in the inner cities and expect the working taxpayer to welcome them with open arms ...IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    This country has laws to respect ethnic diversity and religious freedom (even though religion may ride roughshod over gender equality).

    However, how can ethnic and religious diversity be respected when immigrants set themselves apart and decline to integrate (even in part) with British culture?

    Is this more divisive than being anti-immigrant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    #104 LeftL
    I agree entirely.
    I've seen the anger in the small French villages when their local bar/restaurant is taken over by the Brit expat drinkers and their bottles of HP sauce. I've had that conversation in my limited French, which is more than many of the expats have, and got thanked for it.
    And I've lived and worked elsewhere abroad too.
    It's gross and unacceptable discourtesy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Labour will obviously never do anything about immigration and the Conservatives/Lib Dems have done nothing since gaining power. That leaves UKIP whose manifesto looks good to me...

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    In the last 10 years, anyone who raised any concerns about any aspect of immigration was vilified as a racist by the left. I am surprised that Mr Milliband has the effrontery to say anything about the situation except "sorry"

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I wonder if the ethnicity patterns shown on the BBC website are reflected in BBC staffing...............................................?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Stephen of Woking, welcome back from your long holiday on another planet, hope the weather was fine.
    While you were away we had a Labour government, of which Mr Milliband was a key member, who hit upon a wonderful wheeze to increase their share of the vote - uncontrolled immigration. At the same time all discussion about "integration" was jumped on using the "racist" card. Cynical?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Time the polititians were brought to account for the state of the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    The fact that you can identify different cultural groups shows 'multiculturism' for the cheap-labour-led bs it always was.
    Britain was quick to literally kill-off attempts at colonial independence, equally fast to use colonials to replace lost British labour, with the added bonus of keeping indiginous labour under heel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Edgbaston...MCC v India. Just watch all the support for India from British born (Asian ethnic) youngsters and you will soon learn the truth. Foreign families that settle here want our benefits and comfortable way of life and to exploit our weaknesses. Ask them to fight for this country and there would be a mass exodus. Trouble with Ed is he is too naive. A moaner with no solutions and no substance

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Ah eureka! ... Gate, bolted, Horse! Whatever the order... it's too late and it was his lots doing in the first place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Enoch Powell must be laying smugly in his grave. Multi culturalism and policitical correctness has indeed sown the seeds of racial tension in this country

    David Cameron be warned, you risk doing the same with homosexuality with the current crusade for Gay over-rights.The Will Sel's (did anyone else cringe at his self-righteous display on QT last night) of this world are poisining a valid debate

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Why would they want to "integrate" with a MINORITY culture (white British)?

    Sorry, Millibland, your party has so much to answer for - even a simple (and probably cynically insincere) "apology" isn't going to change things now.

    And there's every sign that if you ever got into power again, your politically correct left loonies would open the flood gates to all and sundry.


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