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 1072.

    It is a small land space remember this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    Ed Miliband, haw haw haw haw haw. Who listens to him

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

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

    Ah, so you do agree that this was not forced on the UK by the EU, then, but was voluntarily entered into by the UK?

    "1049 BathGuy"

    London has been like that for centuries: it's what's known as being "cosmopolitan"

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    Don't know if the Daily Mail website's down, perhaps people are just sick of the mess we've been left in, and still the liberal left think the sun shines from Miliband and flock to the negative rate button as soon as anyone disagrees with his/their narrowminded view of reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    Although we no longer have the infamous "No Irish, no n***ers, no dogs" signs, immigrants still find it hard to settle outside traditional areas. Cuts to adult education limits the opportunity to learn english & it must be given priority over translation services. Also just remember there are 1,000's of foreign-born Brits whose parents were working/serving overseas at birth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    How can we take any notice from such a bad politician. He is just like all the rest in Westminster.
    They just create more problems every day they are there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    This type of nonsense from Miliband will land with another term of Tory madness. Labour opened the doors when they were in power and deliberately created this problem. They have to come out with a strong stance on immigration or voters will rightly not trust them again. Much more of this mealy mouthed stuff and we will need another party to oppose the tories as labour will be unelectable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    Do most people honestly think that immigrant are here to enrich British Society !!. If so your Mad Mad Mad !!. Immigrant are here to make money and get out at the expense of society not to enrich it. The golden rule for any society is 'Look after you own'. This includes ensuring enough jobs for 'Your own'. Any society that does not look after it's own deserves to fall apart as with ours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    I've got a plan: How about Ed and all the labour MPs and ministers become teachers at adult ''learn to be British'' night classes and spend the next 13 years of their lives being of some use lecturing immigrants on English... rather than lecturing the rest of us on the problem THEY created in the first place... it would be a far better use of their time because they aint getting into power again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    I miss British humour most of all. The ability to take the mickey out of ourselves and others in such a witty and funny way. We were world leaders in it, up until the immigrants invaded us and became "offended" by it.

    Does their offendedness make me want to stop loving British humour? ....No.....quite the opposite in fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    Well, another Labour U-Turn. All we need to hear now is the "Millipede" acknowledging the financial mess they left the country in after their long period in office and say "sorry" to the nation!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    Blair was wrong and he is history. Brown got it wrong and he is history too. Milliband is the new Michael Foot (sans donkey jacket) so he is never likely to be in a position to do anything about it. Islington cant will get this country nowhere. The census figures make chilling reading, 45% white British in London, welcome to ethnic minority status.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    @1031 - listen mate, I lived in Lazio Region for a year and it's the same over there. I believe that if you move to a foreign country after the age of 16 you'll will forever be a foreigner - any country.

    Fair play to you for moving here and making a life - it is not easy thing to do. BTW - you really only see English tomatoes in summer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    We need pragmatism.

    Controlled immigration with assimilation is very good for the UK and for the immigrants.

    Uncontrolled immigration with multiculturalism is very bad for the UK and for the immigrants.

    Its a shame the gutless politicians of successive governments haven't advocated this view for fear of the false and ignorant accusation of 'racism'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    ...Labour created a successful economy ...' Are you allowed crayons in there so that you can write this diatribe? The reason we are in this poo now is because of B & B's economic plans.
    Milliband is grasping at straws and knows he has to sell some jargon, no matter how meaningless in an effort to save some face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    how can more immigration be justified when there are 2.5 million people unemployed already within our borders? It's not about where the immigrants come from, but the number. I don't care who they are, as long as they contribute to society. But there are already 2.5 million people who don't contribute to society. How about we close the doors for now, sort the problem out at home, then reopen them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    Multi culturism isn't working because of languages, it's because Britons have lost a sense of their own community, immigrants then band together because they happen to live nearby. If British people stopped keeping each other at arms length, then integration is possible for immigrants. Right now, there's not a whole lot for them to integrate into in most areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    You would think Ed Miliband is the Prime Minister - every time he says something the BBC report it press release like as if they are the PR and communications department of New Labour. Or are they Old Labour now? Or New Labour with Old Labour policies? I'm sure the impartial BBC will tell us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

    Too many people are frightened to say what they feel so many of the people from other cultures don't know how we want them to behave. Our politicians pay lip service to integration and, until they grasp the nettle, we risk a lurch to the right that would increase tensions and divide our nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    Ask the french to define Frenchness, or the Japansese what it is to be Japanese? Saudis? Mongolians? We dont expect when we go to these countries they have to accomodate every part of our society or culture? In fact, people often complain about the imperialistic nature of us doing that


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