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 1032.

    My personal wish (as a woman, and mother of a daughter) is that everyone who comes to Britain learns to leave their racism/sexism/bigotry at the border. Especially in how women&girls are viewed, & therefore treated (young women accosted by strangers on the street; older women spoken down to as if they are mentally deficient instead of merely elderly),there is much work to be done with some groups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    can I say sth?I'm italian,came here 2 learn English as I'm a qualified professional (so didn't need 2 steal any of your jobs) met the woman of my life(English)had a boy&now living here.I can say my heart is half British 4obvious reasons.I'm an honest citizen,I pay taxes (a lot) & everything,but no1 misses 2 point out I'm not tesco even the tomatoes are British.u don't want integration

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    This integration idea is a nice gesture, but can it work?

    It's lots of money and work to try make people except each other and people will always be people when it comes to who they want to socialise with.

    I want investment mainly on Brits who have family generations from at least WII from our finite lands. And that includes all social groups!

  • Comment number 1029.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    It works both ways. We need people to come here to want to be here, and not just here for the money they can fleece out of us to send back home.
    I agree with Mr Milliband but not for the reasons he thinks. Personally I am sick of living in a British town where English is a minority language. Start with that one first then the culture should follow. Failing that issue an edict.. when in Rome...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    I think that it is important for those coming into a country to learn the language - for their own comfort as much as anything else and those who work in public or caring services must be able to speak clear English in an audible tone/accent. However for asylum seekers coming in from a war torn country this may not their first priority, so compassion and good judgement is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    The UK needs highly skilled immigrants - not intolerant non-English speakers with no hope of or desire to benefit our society. If you cannot benefit the UK then you should receive the order of the boot bestowed on the next plane home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1025.

    @765 Dougall - good point. It's the ideology that attracts. Then they arrive and see with what many people are actually like and think "I'll just keep my head down" and I don't blame them.

    Then you have the ethnic, religious or national groups who have no desire to integrate with the 'heathens' around them.

    Nice idea in principle but the reality is that we must just learn to get along.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1024.

    984.starryeyed and laughing
    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"

    Labour permitted unlimited immigration from new member states where some countries refused. dont let a little thing like facts interrupt your illogical rantings

  • rate this

    Comment number 1023.

    I was born abroad. The enforced multiculturalism was the main obstacle that I faced in my efforts to integrate. It always reminded to everyone that I am not one of them.
    I have no reason to believe that Labour have any motivation to help integration. They rely heavily on votes from the ethnic population that does not really feel British.
    Labour The Devious sold citizenship for votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1022.

    Where do these "poor" immigrants get the money to start up shops and businesses and afford flash cars?

    Practically every day a new Polish (or take pick) shop or business opens in my

    Also in my neighbourhood the majority of the language now spoken is non english!

    I hate to say this but Enoch Powells speech all those years ago is beginning to ring true!

    No more immigration!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1021.

    I came to the Uk and my English was very poor but there were no translations into Dutch. I had to learn English pretty quickly to be able to communicate with other mums at the school gate and with my in-laws, family members and neighbours. There were no other Dutch people in my area and that helped me to integrate with the community and to love this country as my own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1020.

    The human race is tribal & birds of a feather flock together, so Brits in France won't integrate: if nothing else, the French don't understand our humour. However, Brits in France are generally self supporting & aren't insisting that France changes to accommodate them. Immigrants coming here however, are generally a low skilled, low wage burden on the state & are insisting that Britain changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1019.

    Where, in Milliband's speech, is Labour's apology for their scandalous mis-handling of immigration whilst they were in government?!?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1018.

    hys ask all the english homeless about immigration
    ask those living in 2 bedroom who now are told they are only entitled to 1 bedroom other wise pay bedroom tax
    ask abused children who under this law will be the abused of the future
    ask the disabled couples who,s family help them when sick who now have to sleep in the same room

  • rate this

    Comment number 1017.

    @944 i'm on a dinner break thanks butt, whats your excuse Ed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1016.

    In my experience, it's not cultural diversity and integration (or the lack of it) that causes racial tension - it's overpopulation. Our NHS, schools and welfare system are creaking under the strain of ever increasing demands which as a near bankrupt nation we simply cannot afford.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1015.

    To 958.Robbie
    I don't think there's any 'racism here to see' as you put it. People wanting to cut immigration does not necessarily go hand in hand with racism. Australia has tight immigration policies but I've never heard anyone accuse them of being an inherently racist country. Why can't we adopt similar policies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1014.

    When are we going to draw a line in the sand and say that enough is enough? The open door policy of the last Labour government has created a fractured society. It is a society of mistrust, of ghettos and of ignorance. Politicians love to go on about our multi-cultural society but fail to do anything to protect our own British cultural identity. Does it make me 'racist' to bring this up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1013.

    Speaking language is one way of communicating with others, but, like WoundedPride said, you have to fix society's values, otherwise they would be communicating ill values. Ask yourself, what characteristics should a 'good' society have, and how do we encourage those through the medium of widest information accessibility - TV.


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