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 1172.

    #690. True Brit. Opinions on HYS do seem to be have taken a turn to the right, this certainly doesn't apply to the editors; they're as leftist as ever, like the rest of the BBC, from Lord Patten down. I sometimes think the only reason he was ever in the Conservative Party was because he thought he would meet a nicer class of people. He was wrong, they have some great dinner parties in Islington.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1171.

    For me it has nothing to do with not seeing each other as humans. I just feel that my grandparents and generations before have fought for our privelidges, rights and national pride. Now due to recent governments and our obsession with being PC, we are giving it all away for free. Us integrate with them? Newcomers need to integrate with us. We are our own country you know. . . It makes me mad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1170.

    @1152. Trout Mask Replica

    Why must we change when the immigrants do not appear to attempt to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1169.

    The BBC likes to think it embraces diveristy, when it does nothing of the sort. You'll notice that the disproportionately large number of ethnic minority presenters/journalists are all totally anglocised, Oxbridge educated & middle class. i.e. totally unrepresentative of the majority of the immigrants that the rest of us deal with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1168.

    I recall a developmental biologist stating that in his view humans are hard-wired to be hostile/wary to those of other tribes. The establishment (who feel guilty for the Empire) have sided with the others and muzzled any dissent (labeling those who protest at their communities being radically altered as 'bigots/racists'). The do-gooders then invented PC and this was forced down our throats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1167.

    My son was playing the other day with his friends, one of their imaginary games. He as a King could discover new countries/continents, overtake it, rule it, loot it, drain away all their money and fill up his own treasury, palace and museums. But the moment one of his friends, wanted to pop over to live in his kingdom. No! he put up his hand, they cant come over to his kingdom!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1166.

    It's unfair for immigrants who come here to do a degree, finish higher education studies, get a job, and be a law-abiding citizen, to be scared of what will be decided regarding immigration. People who pay their bills, taxes, and want to make a life in England should be allowed to stay, based on how they've acted since they entered this country (proofs can be bank statements, references, etc)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1165.

    I'm highly skilled Pole. When I came here I had to take low skill job in order to survive before I found a job in my field. Guess what? There was no one from locals who wanted that low skill job! Now I got a job supporting research studies on one of the leading Universities in the UK. My son is first in his class. I know plenty of native British people not able to articulate English properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1164.

    I recall landing at Heathrow, at the arrivals gate, I was greeted by a sight I will never forget! I was just about the only white Brit ! I genuinely felt as if I had got off at the wrong stop! Just where do we start to regain our destiny and our identity? WHO can we vote for?????????????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 1163.

    1139. BordersRankin
    So here's to a big YES to independence in 2014!

    Doesn't matter what's being debated on HYS the SNP has to post independence clap trap, Just face it, its not going to happen. Its 1/4 with the bookies for the no vote. Obama was only 2/5 to win & he walked it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1162.

    Ah!! Labour spending money again without saying where it's coming from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1161.

    Every day I pass children & their parents going to school and hear a significant number of different Asian & Easten European languages. They use our services and claim our benefits, but won't use our language. Why do we spend tax revenues aimed at diluting our nation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1160.

    "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"

    What on earth has miliband been smoking! At ease!

    I'd say 95% of british born and bred around here are far from at ease with it!

    God help us all!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1159.

    "Here the Union Flag is labelled racist & any sense of Britishness actively undermined."
    It's not the Union Flag that is labelled racist, but the flag of St George being hijacked by racists here.
    However, what do you think of the Union Flag being allowed to be flown on only 15 days in Belfast? I thought that N Ireland was a part of the UK - that IS racism of a religious kind!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1158.

    I thought about voteing labour in the next election but since reading the atical above i have now changed my mind and will be voating for ukip as the people who represent us in parliment are compleately out of touch with how the majority of people think in this once fine country,i say this because the amount of imigrants i come across do not want to mix with the British people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1157.

    People just see this country as a free ride and that`s what it is,why would you cross 20 safe counties and sea to get to this one......It`s not rocket science.
    Integration is just not going to happen,people can live side by side and still not like each other culture.
    We are running out of track and the train is falling apart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1156.

    Fed up with multiculturalism.
    We don't get all the Accountants, Lawyers, Upwardly mobile and talented people. We get the gangs, street thieves and people who basically failed in their own country. At best we get some hard workers who are prepared to do anything. But mostly they are a drain. Yes we export people too, but that is mostly educated people wanting to be self sufficient, not drains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1155.

    Go to any Northern working class area & you'll find that Asians are separate as much because the whites want nothing to do with them as them keeping to themselves."

    Simply not true and not helpful. I live in Oldham and your answer really couldn't be more wrong. I know of very very few racist 'white' people here. Any that are quickly become social outcasts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1154.

    Ed admits a limited mea culpa for the last Labour govt's immigration policy.

    Until Labour acknowledge the mess they made of economic policy they don't have a hope of regaining trust / credibility.

    The issue of whether this govt is doing a bad job is a smokescreen - Labour got it wrong and badly wrong and they have to fess up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1153.

    My parents are west indian immigrants, intigrated, gave me a good education, I'm proud to be British
    Most immigrants of today don't give a flying f$%k about anything or anyone but themselves. They forcibly try and change this country to suit themselves, and our politician's allow them.. am I "racist"?.. no.. I'm black, only white british are "racist"as far as the gov is concerned it would appear.


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