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 772.

    As I correctly suspected, make any fact-based comment about Muslims and the moderator removes the posting. Well done BBC!
    What is the point of having a supposedly open debate if postings are removed because some religious bigot doesn't like the truth!

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    Many immigrants arrive here from collectivist societies where conformity and hierarchy/patriarchy are the norm. They are ill placed to deal with a culture or civilization which values the individual and gender equality. Hard won freedoms are in danger of being lost if we allow the tail to wave the dog in any future policy of integration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 770.

    @737. Eddy from Waring

    We have never had an "open door policy" in the UK towards immigration, under Labour, or any other party in recent decades.

    Would all those parrotting this please state what they in fact mean?
    that they are ignorant and uninformed

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.


    The Koran calls non-believers "infidels" and actively promotes muslims doing rather awful things to them.

    I recall a banner carried by a protesting mulsim in the UK a year or so back that said "Death to those that says islam is a violent religion"

    Says it all really

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    @734. When in a hole Millband stop digging!!

    Surely not if it is his own political grave?

    738. Seems Millibean and labour are as popular as piles.

    Wouldn't be so sure as there is a cure for piles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    @705 fynn
    Agreed, but the problem here is that for every post bringing up the legitimate concerns about unchecked immigration there are many more banging on about being there not being enough 'white' in their neighborhood and getting the muslims out etc. and it rings alarm bells, that these legitimate concerns are being highjacked as a platform to enforce illogical prejudice views of foreigners

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.


    Agree with what you're saying.

    Probably because I actually read it and didn't interpret the comment as saying it's only whites that are to blame.

    For the rest. Some of the Asians want to integrate, some don't. Like some whites happily get on with them, some don't want to.

    Then again, the negative ratings might be coming from those who want nothing to do with Asians!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    I can't help suspecting that incomers take one look at our society and recognise it for the shallow, self obsessed moral vacuum that it is and decide instantly that apart from doing a fair day's work for a fair day's pay they want nothing else to do with it.

  • Comment number 764.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    How quickly things change. A month ago if Ed Milliband had made this speech, he would have been banned from being a foster parent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    As a Brit/European hybrid brought up in a third country I can say there is nothing multicultural about Britain. There is no adapting, assimilating and most importantly, no respect for the host nation.

    In my experience I cannot stress enough how important adapting was. Those who never did tended to be arrogant, obtuse and troublesome

    Never use the word multicultural around me, I find it offensive

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    The hypocracy of Ed Miliband is incredible. Not only did labour let everyone in, they then complain about a lack of intergration.

    Many immigrants keep to themselves and own communities similar to expats abroad.

    I am an immigrant born in Hong Kong and I have adapted to british society. Why shouldnt all immigrants do this ? Integration is a two way street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    684 andyj
    'England /English - says it all really
    Britain / One Nation = England.
    Cant wait to be independent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    This reminds me of my school days
    I had a friend who was muslim. His father was a muslim immigrant and mother was a white national muslim convert. He explained to me that as a muslim it was his DUTY to spread islam, and to reject british culture. Suffice to say we are no longer friends. This seems to be common amongst immigrants. Need I say more? Enough is enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    Labour will for ever more be tagged as the party that allowed the destruction of Britian by their open door policy.
    That's an opinion
    However,it doesn't stop labour from being 10-15 points ahead of the Tories in most opinion polls for the last 18 months and clearly the most likely party to form the next government.

    Immigration isn't at the top of most peoples list of concerns

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    Its time we stopped being ashamed of our history, you cant constantly keep trying to put the past 'right', its gone & times are different now. Why are indigenous populations around the western world constantly made to feel guilty for trying to protect their heritage and culture? Immigrants must choose to integrate and with 2.5M out of work you cant expect people to be happy about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    374. Woundedpride +17
    This isn't just an issue of integration vs. multiculturalism.

    Lycurgus_4_PM -21

    Integration is a two way process.
    Two comments with vastly different ratings but similar arguments perhaps the first is slightly more blunter than the second.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    We will only be able to control inward immigration when we suspend the Human Rights Act, disentangle ourselves from the European Convention on Human Rights & suspend discrimination laws.

    Unless we do this we will not be able to control our borders or effectively decide who WE want in the country.

    Will Milliband & all Party commit to this ? Of course not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    Ah! Just like the English expats around the world have bothered to learn Spanish, Portuguese, Greek etc. you mean? Or bothered to learn Welsh in North Wales?

    Not exactly setting a good example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    The left-Wing Labour Party continues to support multi-culturalism. This concept has destroyed the Britain that I came to some 50 years ago. Yes, I am an immigrant. Multi-culturalism means that no-one and no way is OUR society's way. There is no, single society anymore, just a collection of ethnic groups. Here in London, I feel as if I am in an airport departure lounge. Stupid, stupid British!


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