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 1372.

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


    You missed the point entirely. I was pointing out I can't understand Glasweigan probably in the same way the doctor wasn't understood.

    It happens all over this country - Ant & Dec struggled with Eric Bristow's cockney accent on I'm a celeb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1371.

    I don't like Muslims. They want to take over the World, have Sharia Law and all non Muslims are supposedly not worthy of life.

    It is not racism to dislike a certain culture or religon and is nothing to do with skin colour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1370.

    @1362. ommadawn2000
    Much of the last 50yrs of UK politics has been an experiment by people with, it is starting to seem, very little brain.
    in Europe, this experiment has lead to the most peaceful time in history

    such a terrible thing, huh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1369.

    Surely Ed was a student at some point? Knows a bit about politics and history (in fact he may well still be a student...)? Then he should be well aware that ex-patriot communities always club together, and commonly to the extent of exaggerated propagation of customs, rituals, beliefs, economic activity, political views. Integration? Good luck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1368.

    When I was in Saudi Arabia, the shops closed 5 times a day for prayers.

    Wives are of a lower rank than sons and cannot drive a car. The reason they can't drive a car is because the men believe that women can only hold one thought at a time in their heads and cannot be trusted to drive safely.

    The people who let them into the UK probably didn't know what the hell they were doing!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1367.

    Where I live (as a minority) we have: mosques, temples and assorted alien places of 'worship'; my estate is a veritable UN, I can't communicate with my LA directly (English as 2nd lang); we have rubbish in front gardens, pound and charity shops in high St, rarely hear English voice in public etc. I am a stranger in my own land.

    Well done multicultural Britain; you have succeeded in my area!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1366.

    I am shocked and surprised at the hidden racist sentiments in many comments here. Being an economic migrant in the UK is now no less than being a criminal. Infact, a criminal has more rights than an immigrant. To put the record straight, not every immigrant lives in council properties, sponges benefits, steals or kills to earn a living, or has any difficulty in communicating in english.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1365.

    We don't need advice from the likes of Miliband, whose party has continually encouraged & permitted mass immigration. If he was really interested in this country & the ppl in it, he would be announcing plans to curb immigration if he got into power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1364.

    There is absolutely no need for the immigrants to integrate. They will soon outvote us and it will be us that will be doing the integration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1363.

    Greater integration would be a good thing. Learning English is a key requirement for integrating. I work in the health service and I have come across several people who have lived here for several years eg 15 years but haven't learnt English atall!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1362.

    Change is not always progress; it’s childish to think that it is/can be. In the long term the car may kill us so the short term convenience will prove to have been a mistake.

    Much of the last 50yrs of UK politics has been an experiment by people with, it is starting to seem, very little brain.

    As something I read this morning said, 'Progress just makes the bad things happen faster'

  • rate this

    Comment number 1361.

    Typical Labour .Realise they made a mistake after the event .Just the same with the economy which we are paying for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1360.

    @1296 Gordon
    Irony lives

    Opposition to what, a company you had no part in building and therefore no say in who it got sold to? Quite futile IMHO

    I don't need to get real. I'm not part of the mob that is outraged but cannot grasp why this country is so (wonderfully) diverse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1359.

    Honky may have come from coal miners in Oak Hill, West Virginia. The miners were segregated; blacks in one section, whites in another. Foreigners who couldn't speak English, mostly from Europe, were separated from both groups into an area known as "Hunk Hill". These male laborers were known as "Hunkies."[

  • rate this

    Comment number 1358.

    Gordon, partly agree - but have a think about which other nation (other than US & other English speaking nations) goes abroad, doesn't bother learning the language and expects all the natives to speak their language?

    Is this fair? Enough is enough indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1357.

    1/ Multiculturalism doesn't work.
    2/ You need a single culture (of all races)
    3/ There will be trouble ahead, because fools are at the helm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1356.

    Miliband is right. We should help integrate immigrants into society.

    We should also protect the interests of the silent majority, who may be concerned about disruption to settled ways of life by the massive influx of outsiders. Otherwise we risk severing the bonds of allegiance between citizens and the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1355.

    Having read through some of the highly-rated comments, it seems apparent that people think Milliband is right but they don't want to argree with him simply because he's the labour Party chair. I wonder what these people would say if Cameron had said it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1354.

    This from the party that did not bother even counting the immigrants during their time in power. It's pathetic that every time he wants a bit of publicity he makes up a new policy, usually on some subject they had years to sort out themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1353.

    Just now

    At Luton airport recently a bloke in a turban examined my passport to see if I was fit to enter my home country!
    Sixp: [cut]
    I stated a fact, nothing more. Why do facts make people like you abusive?
    Nothing more? In that case why not put "At Luton airport recently a bloke examined my passport" ?


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