Miliband: Too little done to integrate UK society


Ed Miliband: "Often we were a bit optimistic about how integration would happen"

Related Stories

"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".


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1352.

    Milliband and his pals opened the doors to this country, basically to allow more voters in for their policies.

    Why should I have "integration" forced upon me.

    My ancestors will be turning in their graves at this betrayal.

    Some closely controlled immigration is acceptable, if jobs for the locals are not taken away.

    This country is already at stretching point and integrate is his "solution".

  • rate this

    Comment number 1351.

    I have family who live in scotland and i do not need an interpriter to speak to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1350.

    'Labour plans to prioritise spending on English language teaching for recent immigrants over non-essential written translation materials.'

    NO. Don't spend taxes on either.

    It's the immigrant's responsibility to learn English BEFORE they get here.

    I lived and workd abroad. Learning the language was the first thing i did, out of respect for the host nation and my own wellbeing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1349.

    And here was me thinking that Great Britain was a modern, multicultural country...

    Seems like a number of posts on here are nothing more than thinly disguised racism. The rich and powerful love to see us taking it out on each other; the poor, unemployed, public sector and now immigrants.

    Whilst we all squabble over a few crumbs, its these people in power who are walking away with the loot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1348.

    The ethnic group which chooses to be most segregated is the white English. Foreigners in London mostly end up hanging out together because the Brits don't want to know them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1347.

    If Miliband is the best that the Labour Party can put forward as a leader, then we can all look forward to another four years living in Cameron's Britain.
    The man is just not in touch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1346.

    4 Minutes ago
    1262 Mike
    True, Christianity is a dwindelling religion, however or laws and way of life are founded on the (supposed) principles of Christianity, my point, as i'm sure you are aware, is if you want to live here, live by our values.
    Agreed. but labelling UK values as CHRISTIAN (your caps) is inflamatory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1345.

    1219 no brit you know took part in colonialism tell your Asian friends that, but if they still have a chip remind them that Europe was ravaged by animals from Asia (like Atilla the Hun & Ghengis Khan) long before Britains empire began.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1344.

    My daughter went to the doctors today and she saw an indian doctor she came home and does not understand a word that has been said to her,i thought a person in his position should be able to speek good english..if people cannot talk good english they dont let them in
    It was probably his accent rather than the fact he couldn't speak English, I have trouble with Glasweigan accents

  • rate this

    Comment number 1343.

    What Trash this guy speaks.

    Our country should not change to integrate these poeple, these people should change to integrate here. After all these poeple that come here for a better life.

    that includes if your religious beliefs means you have to pray 3 times a day and that affects your ability to work you should receive no state benefits! simple!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1342.

    This is all a FAKE.

    African-British people have had over 30 years of pro-integration policies and agendas. South Asians aren't going to integrate by forcing them over a year. Whats going to happen is that, by the time 'we' find south-asians 'ok' like we do with African-British people, India would have developed its economy greater than ours, and they'll all leave along with white-english.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1341.

    I'm an immigrant (Aussie), and don't particularly agree with nationalism as a principle.

    That said, I think there IS a problem to be addressed.

    The reason I think this is that I returned from holiday the other day and was queuing in immigration. One of the officers there was directing a colleague as to which queue to route people down to allow them into the UK ...

    In hindi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1340.

    1 Minute ago
    After foisting Englishness on the rest of the world, destroying their cultures (and still doing it in North Wales & Mediterranean resorts), England is finally taking a heavy dose of its own medicine.

    Not nice is it?
    As a Scot, I would be of the same opinion. It's got bugger all to do with being English and everything to do with saying enough is enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1339.

    1301. Banned
    You sound like an American - and an idiotic one at that - shut up
    and then you insist you are not racist...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1338.

    4 days after the census report's findings, out rolls yet another knee jerk speech from the Labour Party leader, calling for actions that were called for at height of the issue. How many times has this topic been debated on the BBC's Question Time ? This is not new, but Labour politicians must stop patronizing the public with news headline-lead policy. We told them at the time !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1337.

    Being someone who is in the process of applying for Australian residency, it's incredible the amount of checks they do on your background, English ability (I had to take the IELTS test even though I have a degree from a UK University), skills assessment, medical checks etc.

    England just seem to let in anyone from Europe regardless of whether they have skills or can speak English. Nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1336.

    I am a teacher and have taught English to people from a variety of backgrounds. The learners who do not integrate into society do not have the opportunity to do so. Two students from Afghanistan couldn't spell their names or say their addresses in English. Their lives were centred on their large families and had no idea about life in the UK. They should have been given support on arrival.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1335.

    What a complete idiot this bloke is......funny how he knows everything now, I wouldnt trust him or Labour with the finances or immigration ever again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1334.

    I went to France as a young man and lived there for nearly twenty years. I learned French and observed their laws. I understood that, since I'd chosen to go somewhere, it was up to me to make an effort.

    Now, I live in Tower Hamlets where the view is 'change the borough to suit only the immigrants' and [if you speak up against that] 'you are a racist/Islamophobic'.

    So this is rubbish isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1333.

    17. HaveIGotThatWrong

    if anyone dares to talk about the problem, they are shouted down as being racists and bigots ( remember that, Mr Brown ?)


    Yes speaking of problems, where is our Saviour these days?

    For a man capable of 'saving the world', he is keeping a rather low profile.

    Is it because he knows that we now know that far from saving the world, he is one that helped bugger it up!


Page 13 of 80


More Politics stories



  • Shinji Mikamo as a boy, and Hiroshima bomb cloudLove and the bomb

    The Japanese man who lost everything but found peace

  • Northern League supporters at the party's annual meeting in 2011Padania?

    Eight places in Europe that also want independence

  • scottie dogShow-stealers

    How Scottie dogs became a symbol of Scotland

  • Hamas rally in the West Bank village of Yatta, 2006Hamas hopes

    Why the Palestinian group won't back down yet

  • The outermost coffin of Tutankhamun 'Tut-mania'

    How discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb changed popular culture

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.