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 432.

    Milliband is being disingenuous. Labour deliberately emphasised difference in order to win the votes of minorities. Now that they have lost an election, they suddenly want to integrate everyone. They had 13 years to do this. Why now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    Overseas student visas were on the news this week
    Did you know that such students with children are allowed to bring them over AND have them educated at the public expense (not to mention free NHS)? Spouses meanwhile are allowed to work for 16 hours. So one student visa can enable a whole family getting rights.
    No prizes for guessing who pays for all this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    So Labour's answer to the immigration crisis is just better integration ?
    So Ed Milliband is "at ease" with the situation ?
    Close the open door and send those already here back where they came from.
    Don't forget it will get worse next year with other Eastern Europeon countries being given the right to just walk right in.
    Its comments like this that prove the main parties just don't get it

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    There are plenty of self loathing people who think it’s okay for the English culture to die out. By any objective definition, these people are racist. Liberals who think a wholly valid culture that gave the world Shakespeare, the Industrial Revolution, Magna Carta , Newton, Football, The Beatles and a million words of vocabulary should be allowed to perish for fear of causing offense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    Immigration is a fact of life in a democratic country. Whilst we could do a lot to prevent criminals and illegals entering the country (although of course finding and stopping them costs a hell of a lot of money we haven't got), it's a reality that people want to marry foreigners and people want to employ foreigners. And we need to learn to live with this reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Know what? Christmas is coming!

    Not Winter Holiday, nor Eid nor Diwali nor Hannakuh. These have no place in an integrated society. Right Milliband?

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Rish coming from labour who were the ones who threw open the gates to the country and then failed to keep check of who, and how many, were coming in. They've changed their tune on the whole matter now that it's a hot button issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    It sounds like Ed Militant has had Harriet H. round for a New Labour dinner party at Primrose Hill, discussing equality & integration over a nice bottle of Mouton Rothschild.

    Most of our slavic, Chinese & Pakistani visitors have no intention of integrating into British society, we are a totally alien culture to them. Sure our health service, education & welfare state ingratiates us to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    It amazes me every time how the British people have been herded by the Conservative Party and the right wing press into thinking that the explanation for all of Britain's ills is our relatively middling immigration rate, rather than a deeply unequal, stratified society and, more recently, the latest dose of deregulated global capitalism's routine convulsions. Visit Sweden...

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Such a liability that the latest opinion poll places Balls above Osborne as the most economically competent (which isn't admittedly much of a challenge) and Miliband above Cameron as the best PM.

    Honestly - that really isn't anything to brag about. My 10 year old is more economically competent than both Balls & Osbourne.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    Quote Sadiq Khan: "We need a positive stratagy on this"

    Hmm Here's one. Halt immigration. Screen out those who came here to abuse and leech off our system and give the country BACK to its people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    326. Grabonlee
    For a two year UK visa I have to spend 3500 pounds for myself, wife and kid. I am not eligible for any benefits until I get indefinite leave(5 years)by then I would have spend 10500 pounds only for visa plus tax+NI without taking anything.

    However, I am still better off than me being in India. All the people here are. That is why they are not going back. That is the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    How hard can it be, to "craft a message"?

    Problem is, the context: insecure inequality

    What 'career politician' can 'risk the super-tanker'?

    Ditched captains have families, and old-ages

    Needs of pensions, desires still to help

    How else to 'understand' our predicament

    To be free, 'in conscience', we need equality

    Inclusion should be 'to lose', not dream of

    For democracy, Equal Partnership

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    My friends daughter is being taught stuff in her new school that she had already learned at nursery. The reason is more than half her class are migrants with very poor English and the teacher holds the other pupils back. We contacted our local MP, nothing could be done !

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    december 31 2013 is coming fast..the romanians and bulgarians are coming.real fast ...good old EU .We aint seen nothing yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    As a 'foreign-born' citizen, I think anyone choosing to come/ remain here *has* to integrate. I studied in a small village France. Nobody outside the school spoke English. One had to speak French to survive. I do not consider it helpful or positive when I receive a notice from the Council, translated into a gazillion different languages. People should learn English or suffer the consequences...

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    My two local town centres Colchester and Ipswich are unrecognisable, hardly anybody speaks English, gangs of Eastern Euopeans wander the town centre and hang around on corners, what a worthy and fantastic benefit they are to the UK, intergration, don't make me laugh, I feel like a foreigner in my own country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    As an immigrant to this country who has also lived in America, what is different is that immigrants who settle in america want to embrace the culture and become american. This doesn't happen here as freely and it's down to Britain's imperial past where the dynamic was one of master/subservient, which still pervades somewhat. Ed has his work cut-out but I wish all the best!

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    @385 stereotonic
    "You know nothing about me so you have no right to call me a xenophobe"
    @284 u say: "When parts of your country have more immigrants than there are of your own people, it becomes a serious issue."

    Then u deride schools for informing ur child that another religion exists besides Christianity, "Islam".
    = Xenophobic.

    U ignore egs Britain's multicultural bloods @365.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    You move to a new country with different cultures and traditions and YOU integrate yourself - don't expect your new country to change! I have never tried to make any countries I lived in become a little England and appreciates the new experiences


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