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 1152.

    I deplore the loss of cultural heritage and belonging that we used to have"

    Is that the cultural identity shown in "Downton Abbey"? Or something else? Britain in 1918 was fundamentally culturally different than it was in 1914; ditto 1945 versus 1939. Victorian Britain very different from 18C. Etc. The world keeps changing and so must we. It seems many here just don't want change. Too bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1151.

    Umm...weren't the Miliband family originally immigrants to England?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1150.

    Wrong - its not the immigrants fault - its the left wing, British-hating do-gooders who give all the hand outs and bend over backwards.
    the UK is going to be picking up the catastrophic mess labour has left the UK in economically, socially and politically for decades to come.
    Trouble is no political party, including the Tories are cpapable of leading us out of this brown sticky stuff

  • rate this

    Comment number 1149.

    You all need to remember that you are all immigrants. You have no more right to call this place home than someone who's just arrived.

    You talk about respecting the people that created this nice place to live.. I'm afraid our bricks are mortared with the blood of the empire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1148.

    Yes yes yes, Britain has immigration since the dawn of time. So what? What we're talking about is the pace of change, the refusal to find an equilibrium - the complete erosion of what used to be our towns and cities. Have you been to Newham/Islington/tower Hamlets?
    Is it too much to ask that Britain remains largely British and not just a collection of foreign ghettos?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1147.

    it is a shame , we are still unable to see each other as humans.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1146.

    1089 Another high horse, pontificating waffle about "exciting mix[es]" with veil inferences of "racism"; the poster desperate to underline their open minded brilliance. No one cares about "foreigness", they care about masses people (from anywhere) arriving and jumping straight on to benefits, into housing, into schools and onto the NHS. The system wasn't designed to cope. It's about resources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1145.

    Why is it that when Milliband goes on the offensive he has nothing top say and when he goes on the defensive he is even worse.

    Talk about wanting our country back, surely the Labour Party want their party back.

    Lets have a leader who has something to say.

    As regards immigration you lost the plot years ago!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1144.

    "The Labour leader called for more proficiency in the English language" How about banning doctors who do not speak good English from EU countries and then kill patients by mistake?
    Seems reasonable.
    Oops. You are not allowed to do that under EU rules about freedom of movement and work.
    But it must be comforting for the families of the deceased to know that we are 'celebrating diversity'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1143.

    @939.Trout Mask Replica
    "Immigrants can't vote until they have gone through... process of naturalisation...let's not the facts get in the way...?"
    Here's a FACT for you :)
    EU IMMIGRANTS CAN VOTE at local elections, & some others:

  • rate this

    Comment number 1142.

    Doesn't impress anyone when the obvious is stated. His lot well and truly locked the stable door!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1141.

    654. Stunned_Silence
    Know what it's like to, for example, marry a non-EU person and try to settle them here? Not many I'd bet!

    My brothers non-EU wife was given indefinite leave to remain after three months.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1140.

    To me, integration by immigrants is 'paying your way' and contributing to the UK economy and abiding by UK laws.
    If social 'mixing' isn't happening, that's sad, but acceptable - our next door neighbours are entitled to keep themselves to themselves if they want to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1139.

    1041 Pete Gallaher:
    As long as Ed is the PM of England that's up to you. Dont want that garbage or anything else that England votes for foised on us ever again. So here's to a big YES to independence in 2014!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1138.

    When the Westminster politicians bother to integrate with the rest of society (paying for their costs, taking responsibility for their mistakes), then they have the right to dictate on said issues.

    Miliband is just creating wasteful news. Handy for the news companies. Handy for multi-culti wets. Handy for immigrants. Not so handy for everyone else.

    Labour back in 2015 with immigration sense? Ha!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1137.

    Do Politicians suffer from some kind of 10 year visual delay or what?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1136.

    Is it any wonder when they see the likes of the BNP campaign? It must be so awful for them. I imagine most do want to integrate but feel scared, isolated and vulnerable so they remain in their communities. This isn't always a bad thing though. Look at the Chinese communities in any large city. They are joyous, vibrant places with very strong identities and i like that

  • rate this

    Comment number 1135.

    1092. Molestrangler.

    Why it is disgraceful that fewer than half of Londoners are White British? What about ethnics that are integrated and British in outlook, if not in race.

    In all these talks of ethnic minority ghettoes one thing rarely gets mentioned. White trash ghettoes; or to put it more colloquially 'Chav areas', just as much of a problem as ethnic ghettoes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1134.

    the faliure of multi-culturalism is that it doesnt recognise that a country without national identity is deeply unstable. these culture do need to intergrate into the UK and accept that we dont change for them, they change for us. i therefore support, for once, Milliband although obviously he needs to flesh out a proper plan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1133.

    Has Milliband actually worked out how many "British" people aren't proficient enough in their own language to pass muster on this one? Manyof the immigrant population speak English better than the average school leaver.

    Phase X of the Labour-inspired destruction of Britain is taking shape now. Watch this space and guard your votes well.


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