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 572.

    "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.




    Milliband, you're a deluded fool or an opportunist and probably both.

    You don't speak for "our country" and god willing, you never will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    Our problem is that we are shy of our patriotism, we don't want to insist that immigrants honour our rules.
    Mr Milliband knows all about ethnic diversity and therefore is duty bound to comment on it.
    One question would be immigrants should be asked, apart from 'will you adapt', is 'would you fight for this country'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    My Aunty would probably agree with Ed to an extent, and say that the last Labour government were to blame for integration/immigration problems.

    I would probably argue that the Conservatives are even worse, because they publicly placed immigration issues at the forefront of their policy list, and have therefore failed in an even more spectacular fashion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Business owners and shareholders enjoy profiteering from cheap labour and renting them overpriced property while things are good.

    The problems start once the boom is over (alleged 'fall in immigration' = nothing to come/stay for).

    The issue is boom/bust fantasy economics

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    In many multi-cultural schools they pander to the ethnic first languages. Let's start by having all school assemblies and lessons (apart from foreign language lessons) in English.

    We can also save public expenditure by having all official forms, documents and websites only in English. The same applies to utility companies.

  • Comment number 567.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    He loves immigrants... How many of those working class people, who the Labour party are meant to represent, love them too...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    I think we can all agree that Ed is extremely popular, his speech has encapsulated the zietgeist, every one is indeed "at ease" about his party's benefits and NHS for all stance.

    437 "I like to base my opinions on facts not ingrained prejudice" - this made me chuckle Steve. Cameron could save dying child and you'd complain he was stealing nurses' jobs. Partisan don't begin to describe you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    I'm an old boy of 72, bought up in East Ham in east London. People have very short memories. In the late 1950's and early 60's we had unregulated immigration few of the indiginous population voted for. It's not that there has always been immigration in Britain but the speed of it happening. My road in East Ham went from 99% white to 99% mixed ethnic in five years! No wonder there is resentment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    #oh dear ,the're picking up the habits of the English on the Continent where they do not integrate or speak the language ,or indeed in Welsh speaking Wales. In fact not to speak the local lingo is almost seen to be"patriotic".There are Poles in this area(I is a neighbor) who certainly speaks English better that Eastenders ! I assure you their children will speak better English than you I suspect!

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    Wait, didn't Labour open the door to all these foreigners? Aren't they pro EU open boarders? Now they're complaining that many of who arrive don't speak English well enough for Ed Miliband?

    Do they have a leg to stand on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    'Wonder what he will do about it when or if he actually gets to lead the country?'

    Nothing! There would be some watered down bill go through parliament and get lost somewhere in the Lords for 5 years. HR lawyers will be making millions out of the issue, mass immigration will continue and the country will go further down the pan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    Within a mile of my home I have:

    5 Indian restaurants
    6 pubs selling exclusively Indian food
    4 Indian clubs
    2 Chinese restaurants
    2 Thai restaurants
    1 African restaurant
    Umpteen puizza joints
    0 English restaurants

    Haven't they integrated well!

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Milliband and his useless cohorts in the Labour party did nothing for positive immigration due to opening a flood gate during their last disastrous tenure.
    I am rather fed up with listening to this sort of tripe, if you like the country sure your welcome, but don't expect us to be bending over to accommodate you, we are a little short of patience listening to two faced PC preaching politicians!

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    A total buffoon!

    His party is responsible for the biggest uncontrolled migration the UK ever saw!

    Nothing wrong with migration or migrants, the Brits do it too!

    I am in Australia, (partly to escape the mess left by Labour) & even here it isn't perfect, but there are 2 golden rules for migration to Oz.

    1. You must speak English - NO EXCEPTIONS!

    2. You must have a skill they actually need!

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    Controlled immigration is a good thing but it's gone way beyond that now.

    We are a small island with limited resources and immigration at the current rate is not sustainable.

    It's a problem which needs to be discussed rationally - ideally without the tired old words 'Daily Mail', racist, xenophobic, 'Little Englander' etc being hurled accusingly at anyone who dares to disagree!

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    486. whambam

    Maybe I'm just lucky, but the Finland you describe bears no resemblance to the one I know - and I have integrated fully in the years I have lived here, even to the extent of learning the two major languages of the country. I wouldn't claim all was problem free, but on the whole, the country is much more positive than the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    Integration is a two way process.

    If we want people to integrate we have to allow them. Not keep them at arms distance, want nothing to do with them & then complain that they don't want to integrate when we make it difficult for them.

    Go to any Northern working class area & you'll find that Asians are separate as much because the whites want nothing to do with them as them keeping to themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    If there are enough of any given immigrant group many will not integrate because they do not need to. This is true in any host country and for any immigrant group.

    I lived in New York in a Dominican neighbourhood. For two years they guy at the newspaper stand served me in Spanish even though I could only reply in English. 99% of his trade was with Hispanics so he didn't need to learn English.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    There are now many towns, my own included, where a stroll down the high street is like walking in a foreign country. I'm in no way racist, but that is plain wrong.
    These politicians have created almost all of society's ills, one way or another. It sickens me when they then pose as the knight on the white charger galloping in to save the situation.
    Get rid of the lot of 'em and start again!


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