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 832.

    Milibean knows that Labour have lost the argument re immigration. This speech, coming hot on the heels of the recent census findings, is no more than knee-jerk, damage limitation on the part of his party. The British people are not fools. They are rightfully indignant about "New Labour's" cavalier attitude to immigration which has ruined and betrayed their country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    When in Rome....

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    It's very easy to blame Labour for people coming into this country, but it started long before they came to power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.

    Does it matter What he says he is not voted to run the country.Er neither or the coalition neither was Gordon Brown does that not say something about who we trust and want to run britain

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    I agree with what 'one nation' Ed is trying to say but I wonder if a Tory minister would have been allowed to raise the language issue like this without them being deemed a racist by the media (including the Beeb)? Had, lets say, Chris Grayling made the same speech would he have been afforded the considered response Milliband has received? I doubt it ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    If people coming to live in this country are going to be intergrated they must accept our culture and laws.We cannot as we have done in the past let some communities totaly ignore our way of life and try and live as if they are in another country.Should people regardless of colour not be prepared to adapt to our way of life they should not be allowed to settle here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    Interesting to see Sadiq Khan wheeled out to do all the interviews this morning.

    Pure Malcolm Tucker at his best.

    Do they really think people are stupid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    Off for lunch now. Incidentally, quite a few of the very angry English gentlemen on here who relentlessly drive the language point home [with whom I happen to agree by the way] would do better to check their spelling...Joseph Conrad enlisted a friend to help him as he was Polish. Perhaps you can recruit a Pole to smarten up your grammar? Au revoir...

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    INTEGRATION is okay but not DOMINATION. Millions of people have died in wars protecting what Labour so easily gave away. Shame on the Labour party. We can forgive but never forget.

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    One of the great barriers to integration has been the concept of a "multi-cultural society" where newcomers were encouraged to live within their own cultural values.
    Such attitudes were actively promoted by the left, thank goodness that they are now beginning to see the light.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    I'm completely at ease with people of mixed race but that doesn't mean I'm completely at ease with mass immigration.... these are two different things.

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Yet politicians wring their hand in anguish about nearly one million 16-25 year olds unemployed in the UK what do they expect when there are so many immigrants pouring in to the UK?

    I have yet to see any enriched fabric of a multi-cultural society. Humans are tribal by nature and will always polarize towards their own ethnicity, which is why ghettos are forming in many of our towns and cities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    As well as the hypocrisy of what Millibland is saying, he then proposes "solutions" that would immediately be challenged in the courts as contravening someone's "Human Rights" or their Religion, or their likelihood of Persecution if they were sent "home".

    All of these things Labour dumped on us (native British) people in the most gross act of social engineering ever seen.

    I bet he's "proud" !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    Lets be honest, they are here to find a job, the governement only want them here to boost numbers so that our state pension does'nt completely fall apart. To many immigrants and an economic crisis don't mix well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    Oh yes Immigration is VERY much at the top of the list!
    The census stats released this week were well understated as all the Illegal immigrants need to be added!!!
    We are in a big mess and need to start by rejecting and ejecting!

    The moderators must be close to shutting the HYS as this is too hot! How will they report this with majority of BBC News readers from ethnic minority?

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    Segregation is a 2 way process. I have just moved my son from a school where increasing numbers of children don't speak English. The day we decided to move him was the day the Urdu signs went up on the doors. No doubt many will call that racist. Call it what you want, the school's SATS results are plummeting and I am not about to let my son be yet another victim of this crazed social experiment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    801. Jason

    The ever so slight flaw in that argument is that immigrants can't vote unless and until they become naturalised UK citizens, a long, costly and complex process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    Immagrants into any country are the same; they keep to groups that share a common language and cultre. Hence why so many retired couples move to Spain, form friendships with only other ex-Pat Brits and then expect the local Spanish to speak english.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Maybe the solution is not how to integrate so many, but how to actually manage immigration so there are less to integrate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    Treat others as you wish them to treat you. Perhaps then integration will happen.


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