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 1472.

    I am Greek and moved with my wife in the UK 9 years ago.
    Both educated to Masters degrees with good jobs. Now we have kids and they both speak English as their first language because we speak to them in English all the time. Everyone is accusing me that I haven't made them speak Greek but I believe I did the right thing to make them much more integrated than anybody else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1471.

    Can someone please tell the main policitical parties that "ethnic" voters will continue to vote for them even if they take a tougher stance on immigration. Many second and third generation Brits who are the childen of immigrants who resettled in the Uk in 1960's are fed-up with the number of immigrants coming now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1470.

    This is the same man who said in the same speech that assimilation was "Completely wrong" and yet this loon supposedly wants more integration. Unfortunatelly, there will be no integration or assimilation, we will still have over 200 languages spoken and nothing will ever change apart from the continuous decline of the white population; absolutely horrendous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1469.

    Speaking as a descendant of immigration, this countries policy is ridiculous. Firstly each immigrant should be subjected to an English language test to ensure they can read, write and speak English at least to a primary school level. as well as this they should at least offer some kind of skill that can benefit our society, there is enough people on benefits to do menial jobs

  • rate this

    Comment number 1468.

    Surely the rise of academies is the biggest single threat to integration in this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1467.

    I am a european immigrant to this country of 52 years, I have never really been accepted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1466.

    All the highest rated comments today make rather uncomfortable reading for me (a white middle class english man in case you wondered). HYS comments are usually somewhat overly biased towards liberal / left opinion but on this subject the opposite is true. I wonder if there is someone out there with an agenda?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1465.


    They should be aware that this is an open society and women have the same rights as men.
    Unless you're an Anglican.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1464.

    1423.The (Tory) Bloke
    6 Minutes ago
    Labour paid the price at the last election. It lost.
    Oh yes, that crushing swing to the right must have really been hard to take.. that Scameron cribled to the Fib dems to form a minority govt. means nothing. Still, lets not worry about facts, eh?! How much better we are now that they did!! (wake up!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1463.

    Try looking in the vegetarian section, if you are looking for Humane !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1462.

    The USA, Canada and Australia all have a screening policy for migrants. It ensures that only people who have the skills they require are accepted in. They also have tests, which include spoken and written English and customs and history of the country, that all potential new citizens have to pass before they are granted citizenship Are they racist?

  • Comment number 1461.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1460.

    How can integration happen when institutions won't let it - my friend's daughter is at UCL - she is half indian and is on a floor in halls with all Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi students because the university (apparently) felt it better for them to "all be together". It is the "well meaning" goodie goodie lefties that try to "help" who are causing most of the problems!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1459.

    I see Ed's Pick has done the impossible and become even more shambolically biased. There must be a Guardianista choking on his mung bean wrap somewhere in BBC land, desperately trying to spin the tide of public opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1458.

    You would get the impression that British People wanted to nail shut the doors and bar the windows to any future immigration.

    What is particularly odd about this is until the last 20 Years migration from the UK has consistently exceeded immigration to the UK.

    So apparently the rest of the World should welcome us with open arms while they can naff off if they want to come here

    Grow up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1457.

    A lack of integration is inevitable when nobody knows anymore what it is that they are integrating into. All this 'Britain has always been multicultural, we're historically a nation of immigrants!' nonsense from the left has played a huge factor in this.

    Why is it always the left that refuses to acknowledge the existence and validity of a native British culture?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1456.

    The film Predator was on last night.

    A timely warning of what can happen when newcomers don't integrate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1455.

    No comments about rich russian oligarchs and Arabs buying up Kensington..... our football clubs and the sale of our utility companies to foreign concerns?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1454.


    Never again must we have politicians as we have now,with no experience of having to work in a real job,and paying their own bills.


    Well thats the Tories screwed. Unless you think the job of towel folding is the skill required to make you Chancellor of The Exchequer as per George Osborne

  • rate this

    Comment number 1453.

    It's just a few years too late. The next undertaking is for the British to integrate into Sharia Law.


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