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 1272.

    Labour's first big mistake is 'multiculturalism' - what does that mean? It means immigrants are led to believe they can live here as they did in their countries of origin even if their customs are at variance with ours - vide multiple 'wives' and arranged marriages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1271.

    What has been done (At enormous expense) for the past 20 years has achieved absolutely NOTHING!

    When are the prawns in charge going to get real, and come up with a solution that really works? (Maybe learn to speak Portuguese and they could maybe, just find a better answer to what they are currently doing/not doing right now) ?

    Doing nothing or what they are doing at present is not acceptable!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1270.

    I find the orthodox Jewish community in North London a fascinating example of an insular community. They have their own schools, shops, even their own ambulance service. Outsiders, or 'goyim', are treated with at best suspicion, and often with outright rudeness. Admittedly, this is only a small community of 20,000 or so out of 8 million, but an interesting and longstanding example nonetheless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1269.

    How can anyone ever trust a Labour politician when it come to immigration policy.
    Mr Jack Straw, the previous Labour Home Secretary, told the public that only a few thousand immigrants from Eastern European counties would come to Britain when they joined the EU.
    In fact,several hundred thousand immigrants have come from these countries. How did he get it so wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1268.

    You can understand why voters are pushed towards marginal parties... the big 3 are just sound bite factories who implement policies which often run counter to what common sense and most voters demand,

    Who will stand up to protect the rights of the dwindling majority and stop the discrimination in favour of minorities. Equal treatment not special treatment for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1267.

    What's your address? I will happily send all the freedloading Somalians in my town who live in the same block of flats as me (though I had to work hard to buy my flat) me to your house. You and your mates ifthey are like you can look after them.

  • Comment number 1266.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1265.

    1. The Romans, Vikings, Celts etc were invasions NOT immigration, and was in the tens of thousands AT MOST.
    2. They all shared a common racial, cultural, and shared germanic heritage
    3. Its a proven fact that 80% of white brits are descended from the very FIRST people on these islands 10,000 years ago, not the subsequent invasions.
    4. We are not 'all immigrants' and we are not a 'immigrant nation'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1264.

    It is refreshing to see a Labour leader admit Labour got something wrong. Will he now admit responsibility for the catastrophic mess they left the country in when they were last in office?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1263.

    For 765.Dougall - You really are a person with a big problem and a very large chip on your shoulder. 415.Seamus Mooney-It can't be that bad here. You have elected to stay here and NOT in the USA.
    Only let the ones in who will really benefit GB.They must speak English reasonable well and be willing to integrate into our society. Just how do people come in from Somalia etc by the thousands??.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1262.

    Just now
    "Britain is a CHRISTIAN country"
    I guess you haven't seen the latest census results... Britain thankfully is becoming less Christian by the year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1261.

    What a load of clap trap from Red Ed! It was him and his party that wanted to "rub everyones noses in diversity", at the same time building their voting base in an effort to keep themselves in power for ever.

    The Tories are doing too little and this is why I either vote UKIP or BNP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1260.

    The BNP are looking more than a little tempting...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1259.

    "Liberal Bigots" is a rather apt description.

    We're way past due of getting rid of that evil ideology - that sandal-wearing, museli-knitting, guardian reading vegan nut jobs that have no experience of this issue.
    their western/white guilt is a real problem and a threat to this nation

  • rate this

    Comment number 1258.

    1205.Trout Mask Replica
    'The world keeps changing; those who don't change with it will fail to adapt to the new opportunities'

    What if the changes pose a threat in themselves? Change does happen naturally and is fine if accompanied by stability both economic & social but otherwise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1257.

    I wish Ali G was in charge of our immigration policy

  • rate this

    Comment number 1256.

    Another thought. Will multiculturalism not make us boring? Imagine a world where each country you visit consists of the same types of people. It is our cultural differences that makes us interesting. Take that away and what do we have? Why is there this incessant need to integrate everybody?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1255.

    Under Multiculturalism immigrants were told don't worry about learning our language we will learn yours. Don't feel you have to respect our traditions we will respect yours instead. Your culture is more valid than our own. Finally Miliband is speaking out against that stupidity but does he really mean it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1254.

    If the comments here are anything to go by, Britain is a nasty, racist country. But that's not the whole story: the racism here is from the noisiest, mean-minded folk who know no better. The decent people of the country welcome their fellow human beings from wherever they come and quietly get on with life, offering generous friendship, not braying hatred.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1253.

    Integration should start with children. Oh, but we have 'faith' schools which are not the children's faith, but the faith of their parents foisted on them. So we have Catholic children in one school, CofE children in another, Muslim children over here and Jewish ones over here. How on earth can they talk of integration when they encourage this amoral educational apartheid? Hypocrites.


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