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 1312.

    Tory or Labour - slavery or extermination. God help us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1311.

    My daughter went to the doctors today and she saw an indian doctor she came home and does not understand a word that has been said to her,i thought a person in his position should be able to speek good english as it could be life threatening for us who do not understand him.In my opinion i think things have got to chage in this country and if people cannot talk good english they dont let them in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1310.

    I live in a town where race riots have taken place in the past and nothing has really changed since then despite all the money and efforts to change things. Both sides believe that the other is being dealt with more favourably than the other.
    Both sides have a mistrust and a dislike of the other and live apart, ultimately one side will come out on top but until then there will be no integration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1309.

    I think politicians should be concentrating on pulling us out of recession and not be dwelling on personal social engineering crusades. Integration is a slow, EVOLUTIONARY process; ethnic groups integrate over the course of generations as the prejudices of older generations take less and less priority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1308.

    What is clear is that the party that controls immigration will hold all the cards in the next election. Labour are tied in ridiculous multi culti knots, The Tories love immigration because it lowers wages. The Lib Dems are just idiots. Therefore the goal is gaping for a credible third party with a robust view on immigration to slot home and take a pivotal position in the next government.

  • Comment number 1307.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1306.

    Sorry Ed but people don't want to integrate in the way you think they should, though on the whole they don't harbour ill will to others either.

    More proficiency in speaking English should have been wanted from the start.

    Agencies should never have been able to employ from one group only, let alone advertise that fact.

    You sound as useless and out of touch as Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1305.

    wow post removed, must have upset the BBC, shame on you

  • rate this

    Comment number 1304.

    REF 928 It takes one hell of a decision to move to another country and begin a new life, often leaving family and friends behind. When they do arrive they usually end up with the worst housing in the poorest areas with the lowest paid jobs.....the jobs that most of the so called indigineous British people wont touch!! Which Power Blocks would this be then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1303.

    After foisting Englishness on the rest of the world, destroying their cultures (and still doing it in North Wales & Mediterranean resorts), England is finally taking a heavy dose of its own medicine.

    Not nice is it?

    Not nice is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1302.

    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!"

    With that racist comment clearly your'e not....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1301.

    Given Millibands ancestry - does his willingness to integrate include Pallestinians too?

    You sound like an American - and an idiotic one at that - shut up

  • rate this

    Comment number 1300.

    Having small communities of mixed ethnicity UK/EU allowed a mass introduction of Eastern Europeans.
    How will the local population be affected?

    Now city folk and E.Europeans are all supposed to be equals?

    You have changed it by too many immigrants of a single ethnicity.
    It alters the population balance and puts extra strain on all our social needs (NHS Homes Schools).

    NONE of US are pleased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1299.

    "1254. Daffodiljar
    If the comments here are anything to go by, Britain is a nasty, racist country....."

    Are you referring exclusively to racists in the indigenous population?

    Or are you including the racists in the immigrant population, of which there are many?

    It is interesting how our Liberal Bigot friends can find racist connotations in anything and everything that anyone else says.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1298.

    At Luton airport recently a bloke in a turban examined my passport to see if I was fit to enter my home country!
    Maybe he was a 3rd generation Asian Brit who thought you were from outerspace - certainly sounds like it sometimes...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1297.

    This integration idea is a nice gesture, but can it work?

    It's lots of money and work to try make people except each other and people will always be people when it comes to who they want to socialise with.

    I want investment mainly on Brits who have family generations from at least WII from our finite lands. And that includes all social groups!

    And by the way: Freedom to Say and less PC!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1296.

    Just now

    [rest of post cut for reasons of boredom]

    here. Get real
    I think you will find most Brits are against this flogging off UK companies and resources overseas and would rather this stayed put. You may need to reconsider who amongst us should "Get Real" - starting with yourself

  • rate this

    Comment number 1295.

    Ed is only saying this because the disater of his comrades immigration policies has been rumbled, and even as he is offering it the architects of the failed social experiment are still sitting with him on the front bench.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1294.

    If the comments here are anything to go by, Britain is a nasty, racist country"

    wrong. the people are speaking. Face it - you are the minority. we're not hurt by your hollow calls of racism - we're fed up - white, brown, black, decendants of immigrants = British people. YOU need to see what WE see. Also, the word "racist" is losing its power - you misued it too often

  • rate this

    Comment number 1293.

    2 Hours ago
    For me it's simple - if you don't like our culture - DON'T COME TO OUR COUNTRY!


    Interesting point of view but what is our culture?

    As a cosmopolitan soceity its very difficult to define.


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