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 992.

    Thanks Andy. Clearly they are not marking how true my comment is but whether they like it or not!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    I've tried several times over the years to be friendly towards immigrants, it's difficult to live in a new place without hostility from the locals, however, I've found that they often don't want to be friendly back, I still smile and would offer friendship but I also realise that it isn't wanted. It goes both ways, maybe immigrants need to try harder to intergrate with local people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    How did the old song go? "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun".

    While there are of course many ex-pats who have integrated into their new countries, there are many who don't bother and have only contempt for the country whose hospitality they enjoy.

    The Australians had a name for them - "whinging poms"....

    Is the pot calling the kettle a well known dark shade (just to be PC)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    Labour are the main reason we are in such a state over immigration, overpopulation and the loss of British culture!

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    The Realist @839
    And the shareholders?
    Customers & Voters?

    Almost funny

    So many idlers here asking sympathy for views without sympathy

    No better reproach can be framed against our 'leaders'

    The children of the Quislings of Mammon

    Self-assorting in castes

    Planetary looters


    When will we see 'the joke', and revolt?

    Already too late?

    Lessons not enough, famine, war, plague?

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    939. Trout Mask Replica
    They knew exactly what they were doing ie over 90% of immigrants vote labour. That's what it was all about."

    Immigrants can't vote until they have gone through the long, costly and complex process of naturalisation. But hey, let's not the facts get in the way of a good rant, eh?

    As someone mentioned earlier, EU citizen can vote at local elections

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    @ 958. Robbie

    Excuse me - I didn't come on here insulting or belittling anyone's opinion. You did. Then I pointed out some truths to you. There's a huge difference in our comments - however I doubt you'll take an objective view on the matter, because I'm obviously a daily fail reader of trash who can't form my own opinions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    Perhaps this means we are allowed to celebrate Britishness now - including our traditions, cluture and most importantly our values- these have been severley tested by the PC mafia over the last 15 years. the BBC being one of its worst proponents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    Despite the usual blindly repeated rubbish spouted on here. It was a Tory government that opened the floodgate to immigration, we joined the EU

    But don’t let a little thing like the facts interrupt your illogical ranting

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    Labour should never be forgiven for what they did to this country.
    Educate your children and grandchildren. They should pay the price by never being elected again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    @933 Wonko-the-sane:

    "Au contraire" my friend (note the use of EU French) Your comment re Welsh bi-linguality is a no-brainer. It's an indigenous tongue of these British Isles...more ancient than English...and is therefore worthy of its equal status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    Too many immigrants disappear into their enclaves to reappear only to collect their benefits. Local authorities print benefit application forms in some 20 languages, at vast expense to taxpayers.
    Solution is simple...wherever they come from they should not be allowed in unless they can read, write and speak English.apart from any other considerations it does help to get work, assuming they want to

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    'What more can we do?'

    You miss the point - its not about what more we can do (we have bent over enough) but what more we insist that immigrants do if they want to continue living here or indeed come here in the future....... if we ever need any more......which we don't by the way......and probably won't for a very long time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 979.

    So all the white people integrated to native indians when they went to America? They integrated with aboriginals when they went to Australia?NO..why??? Now its hard to take one's own medicine? Immigrants coming to UK dont colonize a country...they work hard and pay tax.You know Darwin's theory "Survival of the fittest".Stop moaning and do some work to compete and survive before becoming a minority

  • rate this

    Comment number 978.

    Comment number 765.Dougall
    Comment number 765 is an Editors' Pick

    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.


  • rate this

    Comment number 977.

    Stop producing official documents in twenty different languages, it will save bucket loads of money! And then, refuse to give benefits etc. to people who cannot fill in the ENGLISH version documents - without help, or who cannot answer clearly and fluently in English during an interview.
    If you want to live in britain, you should respect and share in its language etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 976.

    Labour's attitude is at odds with human nature to which their attitude is shallow and manipulative. No-one's mind is a blank slate and we have evolved to prefer our own kind and to want our own territory. The Roman poet Horace said: "You can show human nature out by the front door, but she will find a way back in." If Labour want my vote, they should try studying evolutionary psychology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 975.

    I do not understand this hysteria surrounding integration of different communities. In this world of consumerism and capitalism where children do not have time to even visit their elderly frail & lonely parents how on earth they are going to integrate. As long as people work, pay taxes not break laws of the society I am not bothered if a black / white / brown or any colour race is living next door

  • rate this

    Comment number 974.

    914. deleted
    902.Raymond Hopkins - I don't really think that. (Same for town I was born in).

    Just trying to show the extreme stupidity of most comments. You probably give one of the reasons why people do move about.

    Countries are constructs - we should be able to go where we want.
    Agreed. The UK is poor in this last respect, despite feelings to the contrary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 973.

    In my lifetime I can see white British becoming a minority in this country.

    Ed won't have to worry about intergration because dilution will take care of that.


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