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 1092.

    "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."

    Absolutely disgraceful!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    Miliband, what part of a free society don't you understand. Stop telling us who we can & can't hire.

    Stop imposing multiculturalism on us at taxpers' expense.
    Stop pretending you can solve the ills of society. You are made of the same clay as the rest of us.

    Leave us alone, we'll leave you alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    I have been waiting for some sort of awakening to the points Ed Miliband is making. Racial discrimination is unacceptable and deeply unkind, but multiculturalism leads to ghettos and to some extent erodes British culture. Many who were born overseas themselves, or whose recent ancestors were, integrate well, but many do not. We need to use the example of the former, to help the latter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    Some posters here refer to human beings who happen to have been born somewhere other than Little England as if they were a different (and rather unpleasant) species. This is a rather short-sighted view given that everyone in Britain is descended from immigrants. British culture is a mix of influences from all over (eg the pound is from Italy) so get used to this exciting mix and enjoy it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    It's because it isn't just YOU voting at any one time!! Other people might be marking something negatively while you're marking it positively, and the number you see is the net result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    Politicians love to go on about our multi-cultural society but fail to do anything to protect our own British cultural identity

    I keep reading this, but can anyone tell me one piece of British Cultural Identity (whatever that is) that we have lost or are losing? Just one.... And then why that has been caused by immigration and not just society moving on? Otherwise, get over it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    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.
    Not good enough! They reap the benefits of that "ill society" while shunning those who built it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1085.

    More bs from the Ministry of bs at Westminster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    So Ed Miliband says people who cannot speak English well will be banned from certain jobs, surely the answer could have been solved by previous Governments by making it compulsory for all immigrants & their family to be able to speak,read, & write English before their application was approved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    Politicians love to go on about our multi-cultural society but fail to do anything to protect our own British cultural identity.
    And which cultural identity would that be? The one of the 1930s is not one I would wish to return to. Nor the 1950s. The one of a hundred years ago is a foreign country. The current culture - minus immigrants - also leaves a lot to be desired. Which do you want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    I think most people left to their own inclinations, naturally integrate into a new community, and this applies to most people coming here from European states. However the muslim community do seem to be strongly discouraged by their community (religious teachers/parents/husbands/brothers...) NOT to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    Would be nice now that Labour are making a U turn on PC multi-culturisem that they at least admit the damage they did to the UK to satisfy their Socialist political dogma

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    In all reality, why should any immigrant 'integrate' with the English? When the Anglo Saxons invaded (not too long ago, on the history clock of the British Isles), they did nothing of the sort. They attacked the indigenous Britons, pushed them back to what is now Wales and Scotland, dominated them and called themselves rulers of Britain. Frankly, I've no sympathy for the decline of Ingerland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    why when pressing the negitive it is failing to register but putting on the plus ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    Most immigrants don’t want any part of this country . They expect us to bend to their medieval mindsets and change our institutions to suit their small minded prejudices and, in many cases, barbaric laws and traditions. We need a robust immigration policy, the Australian model springs to mind, to ensure that only people who have something positive to offer are allowed to settle in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1077.

    Good English is a joke. Most English people - especially u-25s - wouldn't know good English if it bit them in the bum. What is needed is a better English education all round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    We can see the failure of integration towards other ethnic backgrounds in London too. And surprisingly it is from so called liberal/organic food loving english middle class. I am very experience bar/restaurant manager, but was forced to work with people from my country. I tried 6 months to get a job but my appearance did not help it or i was not fake as they are. Integration? having a laugh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    Of course Miliband wants more immigration. He knows they will all vote Labour. It is a large part of the reason Labour won three terms in office; bring in lots of immigrants, create a welfare state cramemd full of "entitlements", and hand out cash to them like its confetti.

    Sorry Miliband.. Labour have now run out of other people's money to spend, so the game is up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    Labour wants immigration because it supports a socialist multi-racial society and world government; the Tories want immigration so that employers can keep wages low. Can we please have a party that wants to keep Britain British? Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    1005. SeeDubya

    'Actually Labour just created a successful economy'

    Please, no one really believes that. We now know that any growth that Labour achieved was completely false and based on high levels of borrowing and spending. None of their growth was sustainable and when they left office, you could hardly describe the economy as succesfull.


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