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 812.

    Millibean and labour - gutter monkies to a man and woman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    Don't know what planet he's on we need to drastically reduce immigration and be much tougher on illegals it's only a small country

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    The European Union is our Nation, No one from the EU is a foreigner anymore. And i for one am in favour of a United states of Europe embracing everyone. Outside of the EU can apply once they speak English and have a profession we actualy need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    Need genuine multi-culturalism but have voluntary segregation. Multi-cultural events attended white m class liberals who watch Asian women dance - perhaps need more bhangra/curry/rock&roll/lfish and chips nights. Racists have little experierience 'others' and dehumanise themselves. Respect humanity in all its richness. X & Peace!

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    John I think you're missing some important points.
    Reciprocality? Who in UK would wish to "move" to Poland etc.
    You should look at how Tories took us into the Common Market, which led to the EU, which puts us where we are now. One of the biggest problems would be removed if we did not have to comply with so many self-serving EU diktats. ALL govts have added to the problem, not just Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    Sounds an awful lot like the 'Big Society' idea that you ridicule on a regular basis, Mr.Miliband....

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    Why should I have to integrate with someone from another culture that comes to the UK for our 'better life'. Surely they should integrate into our culture not impose their culture on mine.
    I'm happy other people come to my country but not if they want to change it to be more like the one they left behind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    "Miliband believes those who don't have sufficient proficiency in English should be banned from certain jobs - such as home helps"

    This is just Ed taking revenge on the Geordies who voted overwhelmingly to keep his brother David as an MP .... :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    Mr Milliband you haven't learned a thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    758.steve = That's an opinion
    - Immigration isn't at the top of most peoples list of concerns
    Labour may well be several points ahead but I think you will find there are a number of people who no longer trust them, particularly on immigration, I am one of them and I say this as a labour supporter
    immigration not top of most peoples concern, your opinion and I think you`ll find it wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    Take strong exception to Miliband telling me that ' I should be proud of an integrated society.'

    My view if you can't speak English before you come then the gate is closed until you can. Forget all these PC translation services (at my expense) and English classes when you are here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    I think mass immigration was a deliberate Labour policy... just as the hispanic vote overwhelmingly supports Obama's democrats so new immigrants are likely to support Labour, if anyone believes that Conservatives still represent whats left of traditional British values that is!

    If UK ever gets a vote on the EU, which way do you think the 1/2 million Polish migrants (as an example) wouldl vote?

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    It's individuals that deserve credit. My good pal Mark works for a man named Jon & Mark helps intergrate people into his native North East by feeding them Parmo & Chips, then taking them on a cruise of the local pubs and clubs, everyone has a great night & a better understanding of the cultre and dialect of the North East, something which I struggle with as Mark has such a thick North East accent

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    Labour left the economy in a wretched state, and won't admit it, and deliberately flooded the country with immigrants in order to shore up their vote, and won't admit that either. It is rank hypocrisy to blame the Tories for the first and wring their hands over the second.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    I dread to think what state the economy would be in if not for these dedicated, hard-working virtuous immigrants. They keep industry ticking over! To be frank, we could learn a lot by taking a leaf or two out of their books, not the other way around...

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    Stable door and horse spring to mind.



  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    People are asking "why are you letting people into this country?" and policitians need to be honest in their response. For example, if a reason is "they are better qualified and cheaper to hire" then just say that and let the public engage in that debate.

    There needs to be some blunt speaking from politicians. The public have already been blunt in their views but to no avail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    Our so-called leaders have buried their respective heads in the sand for decades as parallel communities developed.

    One major issue (until only 2 years' ago addressed) has been foreign spouses who speak poor or no English. We have 2-4 generations growing up in East London whose mothers don't/can't speak English. For many, keeping their women at home and bringing up children has been de rigueur.

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    Sadly some on the left still feel free to throw the racist label around when people argue for a sensible level of immigration. Like the otherwise thoughtful Will Self on question time yesterday. All this does is polarise the debate and make the BNP seem less ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    Furthering your example, do you think your Albanians would have felt so secure had "the other team" scored against England?

    To be honest, I don't really see the point you are trying to make in your little parable.


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