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 1252.

    Mr Miliband has a keen intellect and is obviously very driven in creating a 'One Nation' Britain, whether he is prime minister or not. The country is clearly in need of leadership with a plan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1251.

    You can't freeze a country and a culture at a certain point, just because that was the moment you felt most comfortable with how things were.

    If you can't change with this country then you better just sit around and wait to die, because it's not going to pause just because a few malcontents like to blame other people of their own unhappiness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1250.

    800,000 non English speaking children currently being educated in UK state schools.......... good for future 'integration' ??????????????

  • rate this

    Comment number 1249.

    There is a real problem of a small sized counntry like ours allowing unrestricted immigration and then their family and dependants comming here.
    but good old Dave thinks its all good for the CBI at the tax payers expense
    Labour Libs and the Tories are to blame do not vote for any at the next election,

  • rate this

    Comment number 1248.

    We are a mulitcultural country and are stronger for it.

    These comments will only put the spotlight on immigrants and get the daily mail brigade foaming at the mouth.

    We should be welcoming the immigrants not being hostile towards them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1247.

    There are many immigrants that the British do NOT want to integrate, those illegals who should have been deported years ago, the large population of Asians who wish to have their own law and customs imposed on the UK. The EU citizens who want our benefit system to pay for children somewhere in Europe and contribute the minimum to our society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1246.

    I have the solution:

    Relax the Drug laws and feed them to the Immigrants, then give them a Bike each and send them on "La Tour"


    I think I may run for Prime Minister as I am the obvious genius around here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1245.

    "Too little" has been done to integrate people who have settled in British society...

    Successive governments have been at pains to state that the policy of the UK is multiculturalism.

    Incomers have taken that to mean the UK will adapt to them, not vice versa. It also means those with no intention of integrating have not been excluded.

    Why this was allowed to happen is unclear.

  • Comment number 1244.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1243.

    I like nice people. I don't like nasty people.

    Apparently every country in the world has some of both.

    I don't really care about which geographical land mass you came from, what colour your skin is, what language you speak or even who you prefer to sleep with - as long as you enjoy a beer and discussing music and stuff, you're generally alright with me.

    The rest is just so much anger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1242.

    Labour in government "did too little to tackle the realities of segregation", Mr Miliband said.

    Reality check: Labour couldn't have done any more to promote segregation and racial discontent in Britain. Ever since their messiah Tony Blair incorporated Bush's policies on the streets of Britain (ie remain vigilent around Muslims at all times), the UK has sadly become a much more racist place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1241.

    In times of austerity, the expense of translation services being provided at great cost to the taxpayer should be passed to the people wanting them. My GP is always having to provide translators for anyone who turns up. It is so wrong.

    I say this as a first generation born to European parents who arrived after the war. They learnt English straight away, found work and didn't expect handouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1240.

    Politicians have been saying things like this for years and doing the exact opposite.

    Now there are so many immigrants politicians have to consider them as voters and the cycle continues.

    Do we have to have a fascist party in power before our politicians will listen ?

  • Comment number 1239.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1238.

    So it's not just Cameron that's out of touch with popular opinion then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1237.

    Britain is a CHRISTIAN country, when I travelled (and lived) abroad, I lived by the rules of that state, I am fed up of immigrants here trying to impose their way of life on us. If your way of life was so great, go back to it in your HOME country. We are a soft touch for benefit scroungers, cowards and the work-shy etc. Intigration isn't the problem, uncontrolled immigration is

  • rate this

    Comment number 1236.

    1107 sixp

    Only a small minority? 4.8 million at the last count for one group alone. Obviously you don’t live in London (including Southall and Greenford), Leicester, Bradford or Luton, to mention but a few places where integration isn’t working. Perhaps some of us don't want to live in Foreign enclaves within our own country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1235.

    Taken from one of the more popular comments: "Integration??? More like an invasion if you ask me"

    I would say it's views like this which, ironically, get in the way of having an open debate. It's like not being able to speak rationally without having a small mentality. It would be nice to address valid points and take action without flippant comments like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1234.

    To 'aid integration' lets try:
    Only print housing and benefit forms in English, Welsh and Scots Gaelic
    Must be filled in on premises, no translators
    Issue work permits not residence permits, convertible after 10 years work, language test and no criminal record.
    Foreign nationals cannot live in council properties

  • rate this

    Comment number 1233.

    @1204. Banned

    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.
    before multiculturalism and tolerance became the norm, how many devastating wars did we have in Europe?


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