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 452.

    Instant social security that we have paid long term for politicians to give it away then expect us to go without affordable homes and jobs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    If people had suggested these measures just a few days ago, Labour supporters would have pounced on them as racist. But now the Labour leader has announced these ideas, they're suddenly perfectly acceptable views. Do the rest of us get an apology for being labelled 'racists' for the last few years? No? Thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    And another thing.....this level of immigration was forced on British people, we weren't asked if we wanted it! The trendy lefty "tree hugging" "love thy neighbour" brigade planned this and have got their wish.

    Their lack of foresight and stupidity has created this mess. Milliband is disingenuous and hypocritical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    Would 'no benefits until you speak English' do the trick?

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Left.. I find your statement very hard to believe.
    Sharia law is explict in that to marry in a mosque you must be a muslim. To marry a muslim and for them stay a muslim you must convert.Anything else makes it a civil marriage, muslim become apostate or considered not married. I speak from fact and from direct experience. The UK muslim council does not represent muslims in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.


    But we don't need mass immigration on the scale that Labour let in because as has been proved the country cannot absorb people @ the rate we have seen, public services have been stretched beyond capacity, you're an alledged maths researcher so do the maths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    Integration in which direction? Eg. Regarding provision of meat in Lancashire schools, LCC took the decision to only approve halal meat from animals that had been stunned before slaughter. A Muslim community leader appeared on local news this week stating that this would result in children being withdrawn from school meals schemes and hence present a barrier to social interaction & integration!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    Ed Milliband really needs to think harder before he speaks. I put it to him that the rise in immigration, despite what he or I or you personally believe is not "a development with which our country is at ease". Secondly I would suggest to him that if immigration had been planned and managed sanely for the last 15 years we would not have these issues as people would have assimilated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    What boy Miliband really meant to say was that Labour encouraged mass immigration during its years in power, in order to try and secure more votes by people and their families who entered our country with no means of support, and eligible to scrounge off the state to the detriment of the indigenous population. It has been that scrounging that brought about the biggest economic deficit ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    Miliband, a second generation immigrant, tries to lecture the UK about the mass immigration problems that he and his Labour Party caused. You could not make this up. Cameron is trying to limit immigration. If Labour were ever re-elected (God forbid), Labour would re-open the floodgates. Believe not one word that Labour say on this subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    Yet more blatant opportunism from. Ed Milibandwagon jumps on to the latest issue and hopes we won't notice, as with the economy, which party was in power when this all went wrong.

    Labour opened the immigration floodgates in a cynical attempt to manipulate the electorate for its own political ends.

    I'm not interested in Ed's 'strategy'. He couldn't strategise his way out of a papaer bag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    I agree that economic migration needs to be strictly controlled & all bogus/failed asylum seekers deported asap.

    What I don't want to I want to see the UK's reputation as a safe haven for those in genuine need to be damaged.

    I also want polititians to act with integrity, humanity & not forget about serving their electorate after the ballot boxes are closed

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    380. whambam
    @323. Raymond Hopkins
    " Finnish law states everyone has the right to service in their own language. It works well"

    .. Numerous polls indicated that the majority of the Finnish people wants to limit immigration
    This will be the same Finland that accepted half a million Karelian refugees some time ago?

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    It's true that we have had a lot of immigration over the centuries but usually it's been a steady trickle.

    Those who point to large scale immigration of Romans, Normans and Vikings as proof we've nothing to worry about miss the point that those waves were followed by decades of disruption and bloodshed.

    Mass immigration is at best unpredictable. What gave Labour the right to take the gamble?

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    The old community spirit has faded into the past, political correctness and the withdrawal of freedom of speech have stopped nieghbours from communicating apart from a brief ''hello how are you'' in passing, maybe a card at christmas.
    Integration has never worked and never will.
    forcing a persons views onto another is the easiest way to turn them against it, if it worked, PC would have no use

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    319. steve
    A typical left statement from those that wish to censor the majority views

    - You can think and say what you like .Not insulting others might be an improvement

    I like to base my opinions on facts not ingrained prejudice .

    Here's a fact for you that I am sure you won't like Labour have been 10-15% ahead in the Polls for last 18 months and are likely to be the next government

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    too little too late....British labour politician finally forced to acknowledge the beledin obvious....

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    I believe historically like choose to live near like because racists made life unpleasant - it must have been hard to integrate with people who hated you for your skin tone.
    That said there seems to be too many immigrates who come here for a better/easier life but fail to realise that means a better life for all not just men.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    sion corn am byth
    thats welsh for santa forever
    nadolig llawen
    happy xmass to all my readers

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    These comments are really interesting and there is definitely a trend and set of ideas being expressed here. The + and - scores are interesting too. I do hope politicians look at these results as they might effectively inform their understanding of the people of this land to improve future policy - I hope Dave and indeed Ed read them at least!


Page 58 of 80


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.