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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  • Comment number 1412.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1411.

    The language demand for public service is both reasonable and necessary. If you cannot communicate effectively with your clients then you're of no use to them.

    A minimum standard is inadequate. As that implies a minimal ability to communicate, and some clients are more eloquent than others. Public servants should therefore have a high standard of English in both written and spoken form.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1410.

    1 Minute ago
    Yet anyone who disagrees is branded a Racist by the PC brigade.

    Really? I wonder how many times this faux-victimhood cliche has been trotted out during the last 1400 posts...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1409.

    We had mass immigration. Now let's have mass deportation. Where are the key opportunities in the world? The growing markets in India, China and Brazil. So why come here? Why did a muslim woman drowned recently trying to swim the channel from France? Could it be free housing? Free money? Free healthcare and education? We are too soft, deport them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1408.

    Integration? Perhaps Ed should look no further than his own family history to establish just how difficult an ideal that might be. Fleeing Nazi persecution after 1,000 years in europe. How will british historians treat this era in another 1,000 years. Worst case scenario is Britain could look something like the Balkans. How does Ed plan to address the tribal gene that seems to define us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1407.

    Labour damage control. It beggars belief they didn't see this coming

  • rate this

    Comment number 1406.

    And whilst we're at it we don't particularly have integration amongst the long standing nationals of the country either. We are a segregated community, always have been. Based first on power, then on class, then on religion, now upon wealth. Within that the North/ South divide? Inter country resentment? City tribalism? We all like our little cliques where we feel safest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1405.

    But Ed, your party, Labour, loves employing foreigners who can't speal English very well, or at all.

    Remember these guys you hired in 2004 to do some "dirty work" for you?

    Do us a favour Ed, book yourself the same holiday you did for Sami al-Saadi and his family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1404.

    I think it is wrong for the British to form enclaves of 'britishness' abroad, just as much as it is for immigrants to this country to try to recreate the place from which they came on british soil. By all means live near your fellow compatriots, but in an open and inclusive community which is welcoming to others and accepting and respectful of the indigenous laws and culture.

  • Comment number 1403.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1402.

    1378. UKStinks
    Its also about personal choices
    An example - If i live next to a muslim and decide i dont want to talk to him/her because i dont agree with their religious beliefs thats my choice. Does not make me a racist becuase i am free to choose who i want to talk/integrate with

    Does mark you as an ill-mannered neighbour though.
    Who can't spell in his native tongue either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1401.

    To add to my last comment:
    I pay taxes and fees for everything I get, some are unacceptable, some make sense, some fees and taxes should be there. People would love to integrate more when I am WELCOMED for the positive contribution we make to this society, rather than being stereotyped!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1400.

    Well I live near Birmingham. Most of the Subway and fast food places near me are Halal. Subway even substitutes bacon for halal turkey. Some of the parents at the local school are requesting a prayer room so their kids can pray during the school day. Yet anyone who disagrees is branded a Racist by the PC brigade. Thanks Labour!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1399.

    We, the British, like every other nation, are simply asking that our country is not completely overrun by immigrants which is absolutely understandable...citizens in every other country, quite logically, ask the same. Neither they nor we are racist. We simply want to hold onto our culture and identity. Mass immigration is completely eroding both.

    We simply do not need more unskilled immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1398.

    Thanks to Ed and his party we're in this mess. It's very easy to be in opposition pretending you didn't help cause the problem. For a start we should be able to deport any immigrants who commit crimes. The indigenous population might be more welcoming if they weren't welcoming people who come to take advantage of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1397.

    Does Ed Milliband realise how silly he sounds? If I were to move to Germany by choice, as a non German speaking resident, I would not expect to get a high end job. If I was to emigrate to a country, I would understand my need to have a good command of the language, to enable me to get the best out of living there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1396.

    As a businessman who pays many thousands of pounds a year in VAT, corporation tax and income tax even I can do the maths. An immigrant who comes to UK and earns two hundred pounds a week is basically paying zero tax, but is entitled to benefits, child support etc (i could go on)... basically taking more than they put in. If I ran my business like this, I would be out of business very quickly......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1395.

    The reason for my comments removal: Segregation and bigotry continue, to such degree that it is difficult to have discussion about equality.

    If all people are equal :
    Why do you have to put them into little boxes by nationality ethnicity, colour and creed?

    Why call a man black when he is Asian?

    Those who prevent non bigoted discourse continue the route of prejudice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1394.

    What depresses me most about all this,apart from having to listen to Milipede on the News,is that the media is twittering on about what is blindingly obvious and has been for years.Come to England and learn the language.If not,stay away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1393.

    Just for once, can the liberal marxists who keep on saying how great 'diversity' is, and 'enrichment' makes the country a 'stronger' place, actually explain WHY?


    All words which have no meaning, are never explained, and are used to try and brainwash English people that the transformation of their land is a good thing for them.


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