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 1132.

    We now have a perverse situation in Bradford where the Asian communities should be calling on the white British to integrate with the majority culture.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1131.

    I can never understand this talk of maintaining our culture. What, going down the pub, getting lashed, urinating in the nearest shop front and then going for a curry?

    Or perhaps the ladette that downs pints and goes for a kebab?

    Yes, let's fight to keep traditions that are so dear to us all ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1130.

    Miliband on the effects of Labour's open door for immigration?? Ed Miliband hates the English as much as his Marxist father did. Truly, Miliband is the Enemy Within.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1129.

    If you could double/treble your income, be eligible for a variety of allowances, get by without learning a foreign language, and live with your fellow countrymen, why bother to integrate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1128.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1127.

    It would be better instead of fighting useless wars in the far east that troops are brought home and used to protect our borders and airports from the foreign filth that is flooding our country, who eventually will overwhelm us and bring the place to its knees, something Hitler's bombs could not do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1126.

    but you guys don't mind foreign billionaires coming over here and create jobs? or do you? The immigration made this country financially stronger than others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1125.

    @Proud Welshman
    As another Welsh person, why are you proud, what have we in wales accomplished other than devolution, that led to a rushed welsh language act that has destroyed the ability of our children’s to read and write in English. Great job well done, English is the internationally spoken medium for business, what are we idiots, time to get out of Wales I think, will you take me England?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1124.

    It seems Mr. Miliband has a slight memory problem. It was your party that opened the gates for all and sundry. Subsequently by providing everything in their native language there has being no incentive to learn English to a reasonable degree, or conform to British life. At the same time it has being made extremely difficult for immigrants who wish to work hard here and not bleed the state dry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1123.

    Miliband through denial or probably cunning has answered the question that wasn't asked. The issue is not integration but Labour's ideological decision to change the very DNA of this country, and without any public mandate whatsoever. The Labour cabal who plotted that act of towering treachery still has not been properly identified or brought to book. Where is the BBC expose? Fat chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1122.

    Integration can't be complete without acceptance. Are we ready to accept the immigrants as part of our society, even if they speak English?
    I can't see this happening. Speaking English is a very important part of integration, but that is not all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1121.

    London should seek to become an independent Nation from the UK...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1120.

    Who's dream is this - the nations or Eds?

    Typical MP's trying to sell us what they want and not what the people want...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1119.

    so all of us British born people will carry on working to our graves, paying into a system which clearly benefits people who come and sponge here from abroad!there is a reason why we are know as Benefit Britain!!my wife and i can only dream of owning a house in london.meanwhile an Afghan family gets put up in a 4 bed house, 5 mins walk from leicester square at a cost of £2k a week! thanks Labour!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1118.

    1045.BadlyPackedKebab ahh, we are at crossed purposes and it's my fault. I thought you meant that you, as an immigrant, were somehow deliberately made to feel foreign in London by white British people.

    That said, foreign voices in my own country don't make me feel foreign and never will. Then again I don't have the misfortune to live in London, so محظوظ لي as they say in arabic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1117.

    I prefer David Miliband to Ed Miliband.

    Best of all was their late older brother who released some wonderful jazzy tunes in the 1940's....Glenn Miliband.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1116.

    Labour had a plan - Open doors let everybody in, they just never told us this was the plan. Put them back in power and they will do exactly the same again. Leopards, spots ...

    We are a small densly populated country with public services that already cannot cope with the population we already have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1115.

    The thing is many of them just cant be bothered to fit in, so many times you read of someone who has lived in this contry for something like 25 years and still cant speak english..........if they want to fit in they have to make an effort as well.... I went to live in Germany for a while for example and on my second day living there I started to learn German

  • rate this

    Comment number 1114.

    What does 'integration' mean? If it means my town and community being changed and transformed beyond all recognition then I dont want integration, I want my town and community to stay the way its been for hundreds of years. I fear that 'integration' will mean 'forced integration' which will only increase peoples anger and displeasure.

    Hearing Labour talk on immigration makes me physically sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1113.

    Takeaways, Taxis, and a Long Queue at the Doctors.....


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