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 1012.

    Typical Labour garbage. Just like the economy, mess things up completely and then decide something needs to be done, when it's too late. 13 years of achieving nothing positive for this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1011.

    In my opinion we are not a multicultural society, we're a society of many cultures. We admire the work ethic of many immigrants but do little to emulate them. Language will always be a problem, but with the dumbing down of English in society it's hard to imagine what language we'll all be speaking in 20 years time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1010.

    As someone mentioned earlier, EU citizen can vote at local elections"

    So? That can change a government in what way exactly? That enables the immigrants from outside the EU to vote in what way exactly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1009.

    988 I can tell from the tone you are extremely pleased with your and yourself, as if you've delivered some sort of universal truth underlining your complete superiority. You do also realise that, unfortunately, it makes so sense to anyone else right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1008.

    Is the Daily Mail website down today?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1007.

    After the war we NEEDED foreign labour for reconstruction and to man the welfare state but we didn't WANT foreigners here really. So, we've resented immigrants ever since.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    A recent immigration saw the incomers shoot the King in the eye and install their own King who gave orders in French and built castles and cathedrals everywhere. We seem to have got over this, and even turned it to our advantage by making a new language - English.
    Immigration is invigorating and Ed wants to manage it so as to reduce any negatives - because we can't always cope with what's new.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    961. BetterOffDeadThanRed
    Pure hypocrisy from Miliband. He and his party deliberately increased immigration in the hope they would provide themselves with grateful voters.

    Actually Labour just created a successful economy and the immigrants followed. Don't worry about this, now the Old-Etonians are getting Britain back to full unemployment, they will soon go home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    The biggest issue the UK faces with regard to immigration and integration isn't Race. It is religion and the "powers" in the UK are too afraid to address that. European / African / Asian isn't the problem. It is Islam and the fact that the majority of it's ffollowers see themselves as Islamic first and the country they are in does not matter. British is someway down the line in their ideology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    It was lefty Local Authorities that printed welfare 'opportunities' in 20 languages and provide interpretors (at great expense to UK taxpayer) - now they are saying that immigrants should be more proficient in English!

    Should do what all Universities do with overseas students - speak/write/understand English or you can't come in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    Just now
    Perhaps this means we are allowed to celebrate Britishness now - including our traditions, cluture and most importantly our values- these have been severley tested by the PC mafia over the last 15 years. the BBC being one of its worst proponents.

    Name one. And not a myth about xmas being banned. A real one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    Amazing that Red Ed even dares bring attention to Labours 12 years of utter failure on immigration. His focus group has told him immigration is a problem with most voters so now its time to start glossing over their monumental screw up. Slimy Ed. I wonder what out Granfathers who served in the war would think of the statistic that native Londers are now a minority in their own capital?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    I'll get slated for this but I think we have to remember integration also brings the bad points as well as the good. People don't like hearing this but it is a fact. Too many of one group of people and they hold the power, politically, financially etc and with this their idealisms also. Playing devils advocate - what happened if terrorists were the majority. would this integration be good?

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    I am from a mixed Asian/African background living in Leicester, I happily mix and integrate with all whites etc. Yet some people from the same background mock me as apparently I shouldn't be making friends with whites because white people are racist?! Some will never learn!

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    Birds of a Feather, Flock Together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    what are they on about football teams for? There are too many people here full stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    There's a lot of whiners on here today, there really is.

    I've lived in a major city and a small market town. In both I've lived next door to immigrants - a Ghanian Christian and two Nigerian Muslims. All three of them are great - hard working, helpful and community-minded.

    It doesn't matter to me that the Muslims don't want to go down the pub, or that their wives wear hair coverings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    BONG, another toll on the oil drum of Labour muck ups. But hey, it's okay really because we can now come up with a sticking plaster remedy and abracadaba, the masses will hopefully fall for it. How many times are we going to hear, 'we could have done this better', or 'the handling of that wasn't great' (think of the economy and stunts like selling the gold off when the price had bottomed out).

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    I find this pathetic little hypocrite typical of the party he represents; they're all good at gobbing off from the sidelines but absolutely useless in power!

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Can Labour really decide what they want to do? They seem to flip-flop between policies with no sense of general direction. At this time, when we're being totally screwed over by the government, we need a strong opposition. Labour, sort it out!


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