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 1212.

    Look we just dont want to be flooded with foreigners ! I cant go and live wherever I want in the world without applying for a visa etc !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1211.

    The idea of Labour trying to portray itself as a OneNation party does make me smile. These are the same people who call folk "toffs" and actively encourage class warfare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1210.

    Milliband's solution to the problem is that we the existing tax payers need to spend even more of our money teaching immigrants to speak English and providing them with housing. He's just pandering to the immigrant vote (which is getting bigger and bigger BTW)
    He truly has no shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1209.

    More empty words from the empty suit. We will never forget that it was his lot who opened the doors to every parasitic Tom Dick & Harry. This man will say anything to get back in power. Does anyone actually think he's been sincere? Of course he isn't. Given 1/2 a chance he would open the doors even wider.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1208.

    Just now
    ...".I was just about the only white Brit ! I genuinely felt as if I had got off at the wrong stop! "
    So its white brit good , non-white brit bad then? Funny how the distribution of sub-dermal melanin makes you a good or bad person.
    Want an alterntive airport , try Munich 1936 , should suit you fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1207.

    The traditional mainstream parties have lost the plot. They can never recover because they're too scared of being called racist if they introduced strict immigration laws. UKIP offer an alternative that I believe many people will turn to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1206.

    The undertones and in some cases out and out racism within many of the comments here is shocking. Just stick to reading the Daily Mail in future!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1205.

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

    The world keeps changing; those who don't change with it will fail to adapt to the new opportunities and threats posed by that change. But nostalgia for a culture that either never existed or was itself transient as the reason not to change is quite dangerous as it implies control and expectations that aren't real.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1204.

    Look at any country on earth which is either in a state of civil war or has deep social unrest - and you will see the end result of multiculturasim. Northern Ireland - should serve as a good example of what happens when you have just two communities who do not communicate with each other.Is the govenement going to ban separate religious schools? because these are also a recipe for disaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1203.

    Can we take it then that the expensive and intrusive industry which has sprung up around "equality , diversity and integration" has failed? IMO this unaccountable bunch have been given far too much freedom and have actually done more to set one group aganst another by their dicatorial "we know best" methods .

  • rate this

    Comment number 1202.

    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"

    No offence but the govt should be responsible for educating and training our citizens and businesses should pay proper wages. Employing others is why we have not found an equilibrium

  • rate this

    Comment number 1201.

    Miliband said '...people who choose to settle in the UK...' as if it is some sort of global right, it isn't! The key question is whether the British want / wanted mass immigration. Anyone here as a result of illegal immigration should be removed. If the people's wish is ignored, it will eventually act. Human history shows this & that the later it is left the less pleasnat it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1200.

    With regards to British people in Spain. Britons do not normally have a great effect on Spanish society the amount Britons living in Spain is not large and do not pros a lot of pressure on public services If fact they have contribute billions to the Spanish economy.The same can be said for Immigrants living in the UK however.We have more poor Immigrants then rich thus the negative effect is having

  • rate this

    Comment number 1199.

    Miliband might be proud of our 'multi-ethnic diverse Britain', but I for one am not! We live in this multi-cultural mess, because successive political parties sleepwalked us into it. Instead of taking any blame, they pretend that a multi-cultural society was always their aim,as if what we now have, is really the culmination of some great masterplan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1198.

    Its taken rather a long time to acknowledge that adding a couple of million people to the population might have overloaded the country somewhat and more importantly that is isn't racist to complain about things going wrong when this happens. Politicians have been able to cop out of responsibility for making things work properly for far too long with the excuse that the complaints were racist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1197.

    A problem is (and it is not being addressed) is that some religions are almost like a virus......central to their belief is a desire and obligation to spread and take over others and they certainly won't integrate with 'non believers'.

    Without religion multiculturalism would be that much easier...with it...impossible!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1196.

    This smacks of hypocrisy to me, after all what does he have to lose by the situation, or continuing immigration?

    I read somewhere that mass immigration was a deliberate, if informal, wage control mechanism & on the basis of this I see no reason to disbelieve it. No real admission of the damage done, no commitment to limits in future, no pledge to require English as a condition of entry. So...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1195.

    too many posts that stand outside the lefty BBC's view of the world, soon be closed me thinks

  • rate this

    Comment number 1194.

    I'm weary of your lame points. Most ordinary Brits' ancestors didn't benefit from Empire, they themselves were treated like dirt (e.g Workhouses) by the same elite who gained from Empire. No-one mentions this. Yet we're the ones who have to live in immigrant ghetos not the descendents of the said elite! But the elite don't have hords of Somalians living in Mayfiar do they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1193.

    I've traveled the world to other immigration hotpots and whether on purpose or not we do a far better job of integrating people than most anyone. Maybe not economically although many would disagree - but culturally absolutely. A few bigots apart we are far too polite and helpful to be anything else. Actually I'd like to see our politicians work harder to integrate indigeneous people more.


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