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 1492.

    A few weeks ago a polish lady came to view my sister's house and stated that she could pay £120k up front for it as she had recieved a grant for the government to buy property in the UK. There are many young people struggling to get on the property market with no assistance from the government so it is beyond me why the feel they should help foreigners.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1491.

    I'm not convinced that the issue is only one of integration. Public services and the transport system is under serious strain.

    If Labour and Conservative were serious about tackling this issue then they should put together a plan on how to deport the thousands of illegal immigrants already here. I live in Brent and there are people living in sheds and garages, the council do not want to know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1490.

    I think having a basic grasp of the English language makes for a more enriching experience for all. However there are so many Brits who live and work abroad who make little or no attempt to learn the local language. Surely we should set the right example?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1489.

    Sounds like our ed is getting desperate for votes-AGAIN!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1488.

    To little to late , were do the Blairs live now ? is in one of the numerous homes abroad were they can escape the mess they put us in ! Im amazed at how Labour forget they opened the doors, they brought on the pc claptrap that made us fearful to speak our minds "free speech" ha . immigration was always ok when controlled , we are an island we have limited space and jobs and houses Nhs ???

  • rate this

    Comment number 1487.

    There is a problem with some sections of the Asian comunity here in my part of Lancs baby girls are veiled up, covered from head to toe in black.. I also find that boys and men believe that women are beneath them and treat them so badly it verges on being ciminal.I would behave myself and follow rules of other countries when visiting them as it is the proper way to act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1486.

    Integrate non Halal meat in supermarkets then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1485.

    1 Hour ago

    Haha! Call yourself a Welshman? Turncoat, more like!
    I suspect you never could, or were never allowed to master your own native tongue. Both sad and pathetic.
    That is, if you were ever native to Wales in the first place.
    Oh, by the way, when you leave, take the rest with you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1484.

    1 Hour ago
    It's just a few years too late. The next undertaking is for the British to integrate into Sharia Law.
    Might help reduce crime, knowing the punishments that await.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1483.

    white British?... why can't the bbc bring it's self to call the native population the native population..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1482.


    Labour got 29% of the popular vote versus the Tories at 36%. That's a pretty conclusive shift to the right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1481.

    Probably what I find most annoying is that I never voted for multiculturalism nor to have my job exported to India not once but twice. I just wish that for once the politicians would do something to help the indigenous people instead of constantly trying to destroy us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1480.

    Being a visitor to the uk is one thing. But deliberatlly choosing to come to Britain, not learning the native langauge, not integrating with british people, setting up your cultural support groups is a good way of disintegrating society. We have seen many examples in history of what can happen when people dont integrate. Civil wars, riots. I think most people would agree, we don't want that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1479.

    Some common sense at last! If I was emigrating to another country I would expect to learn the native language. I worked for a multi-national and had a few trips to Holland - I was told by Dutch colleagues that Holland expects people to integrate in to the community and speak the language. Not unreasonable so why don't we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1478.

    I am from Rushmoor which featured in the BBC's recent article '10 places that stand out in the census' Rushmoor is a beacon for Buddhists. Nothing has been done to integrate the Nepalese into our community. A group had been set up on Facebook by someone trying to help, but this had a negative reaction. Rushmoor needs help please; anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1477.

    We had no choice on arrival in France but to learn the language since all official documents are only in French. Either you got them translated at your own expense or you got someone to help fill them in. The French state does not pander to foreign visitors' failure to integrate (or their lack of effort to try). So why does Britain spend a fortune getting everything translated? Madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1476.

    When we are told to we are not allowed to hang our country's flag ( st georges cross ) during the world cup because it seen as inticing racial conflict. Our local council has now been asking tennants to remove christmas decorations after recieving complaints as they are causing offence to religions that do not celebrate christmas ? Is thier anything English that is still allowed ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1475.

    What about ending state support for religious schools? The de facto segregation of children by religion is a disaster and is a prime cause of social segregation and disadvantage. Integrate the schools and the rest will follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1474.

    "56. Stephen of Woking
    Ed Milliband is building a well deserved reputation for the courage to tackle really difficult subjects head-on....."

    Which Ed Miliband have you been listening to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1473.

    @1466 - I find highest rated comments refreshing! Needs saying.


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