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 1432.

    By 2020, Indians will leave back to India ... so it's 8 years of anti-asian propaganda until we have to be fed by Indians in 2020.

    At 1.8% of the population Indians make up 30% of NHS Doctors ... integration ??? they treat us in hospitals for goodness sake.. The whinging is going to back fire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1431.

    Yet anyone who disagrees is branded a Racist by the PC brigade."

    As we've seen on a number of topic recently, anyone who begins a sentence "I'm not a racist/homophobe/misogynist/... but....we're not allowed to speak our minds" probably should be very careful. We all have atavistic urges. The more civilised amongst us manage to suppress them for the good of society and self.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1430.

    If incomers into the UK want to live in our country then they have to live by our ways. If you visit, for example, the Middle East, you have to abide by there ways and laws. What I DON'T like is walking in areas of my own country and not feeling I am actually living in my own country because incomers have changed it! It's them creating integration problems, not us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1429.

    Really don't understand how Ed Milliband can say that people are "at ease" with the increase in the growth rate of migrants. If people where at ease with it then he wouldn't have to release a statement about the lack of intergration in the country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1428.

    Mr Miliband. You do not realise why these people come here in the first place and they do not want to integrate. Recently an asian person came into my opticians,we found out he had been in the country 2 hours, he spoke five words of english. Free eye test and income support. with this we showed him the door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1427.

    @1417 and your point is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1426.

    Exactly the point I was making, change and progress do not always go hand in hand or benefit people. We take to change if the perceived benefits outweigh the downside, only time will tell if this is so.
    However when you make the choice more often than not turning back the clock is not an option. So lets be careful how we let society change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1425.

    To integrate the establishment must bin multiculturalism as a concept.


    Will Milliband bin multiculturalism ? No.

    So he is talking B....s as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1424.

    It doesn't come naturally to people to mix with other races. This is because of how we evolved.

    I have said this before but the Chimpanzee is a natural racist, and that is how it protected its own species. We are 99.8% Chimpanzee.

    Politicians don't understand human nature - we all prefer our own types.

  • Comment number 1423.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1422.

    Ironically the same people that usually agree with these high levels of immigration are against English speaking communities in France.

    There can not be a double standard with this. If a British national opens an English Restaurant in France or Europe, it's ignorant and xenophobic. If it happens here, it's 'diverse culture'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1421.

    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...
    Given the description Craig gave, his comment is not only justified but enforced by your comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1420.

    8 hours of massive ranting later and I've decided we do indeed need a plan... we cant just give up.... if anything that's what being British is all about: Courage in adversity.

    I'll never forgive anyone like Ed Miliband who presided over the nazi-style dogma that has dragged us all down... clear out all of these pompous, failed career politicians... and may the BBC alert us to their hypocrisy

  • rate this

    Comment number 1419.

    Just another New Labour Jump-on-the-Bandwagon Party's policy formulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1418.

    The majority of the country just want immigration reduced, not stopped completely. Why are people labelled as 'racist' for wanting people screened before entering?

    You wouldn't allow a murderer who didn't want to contribute to your household live in your spare room now would you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1417.

    There are more mixed race children in the world now than ever before and that number will increase.

    The World is changing and so is the UK too.

  • Comment number 1416.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1415.

    " Bastiat
    But Ed, your party, Labour, loves employing foreigners who can't speal English very well"

    Right. Very ironic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1414.

    - British colonists destroyed 100s of indigenous cultures globally
    - Govt. figures say ~ 30m Indians killed over 70-80 years of colonisation (of this ~10 m b/w 1857-1879)
    - I won't even start with Opium wars, African slavery, etc.

    Now you want people to respect you? Only way fwd is 4 the British 2 acknowledge, accept, respect and move on. Immigrants should in turn do the same. Karma is a *beech*!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1413.

    Not happy with Labours "repositioning" on immigration. How about some repositioning on the banks who have more of an effect on job availability after their economic car crash? How about supporting/promising to reverse education and cuts to youth services ? How about some solutions and not pandering to the racists both ideological and casual in nature ?

    Labour solutions stinks, they have no soul.


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