Miliband: Too little done to integrate UK society


Ed Miliband: "Often we were a bit optimistic about how integration would happen"

Related Stories

"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".


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1332.

    Our population is too high so we must stop net immigration from any and every source, this will have the additional benefit of making it easier to fully integrate those already here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1331.

    If you believe the Downton Abbey prog you must be smoking something recreational.
    I grew up in the 50's when it wasn't a bad thing to be proud to be British and yes whilst change takes place if its not an improvement then why do it. We don't ditch the automobile for horse and cart, because it for most is a convenient improvement.
    The future is what we make it or allow to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1330.

    Can a White British person define what British culture is? I know of no White person that knows much about the true British folk culture (only modern pop-culture), in the same way that many immigrant communities and other countries have their folk traditions.

    People say Britain's culture is eroding. But I'd like to know what it is, because my White friends don't really know themselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1329.

    Integration takes time and over the years, immigrants have arrived at a rate that is much faster than can be accommodated. The present government is trying to limit this flow in contrast with the previous government's open door policy. That Mr. Milliband dare speak on the topic is beyond belief and nothing he says is believable. However, the people are to blame for repeatedly electing his party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1328.

    A balanced and thoughtful speech by the Labour Leader. Immigration is a positive feature of modern and ancient Britain, it does not "take jobs" but creates more employment and adds to our competitiveness. But local community identity and cohesion is equally important and supporting integration (while celebrating diversity) has to be a priority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1327.


    At Luton airport recently a bloke in a turban examined my passport to see if I was fit to enter my home country!
    Sixp: Maybe he was a 3rd generation Asian Brit who thought you were from outerspace - certainly sounds like it sometimes...
    I stated a fact, nothing more. Why do facts make people like you abusive?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1326.

    The major problem is that we are told that integration is good for us and if we object then we have to be very careful that we do not breach the law. Multicultural ideals are forced upon us and quite frankly, I do not like it. I am not against any particular race but am against uncontrolled immigration which is, I believe, storing up a load of troubles for our future generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1325.

    Never thought I'd hear Labour say this, well done Mr Milliband!
    Not before time, much damage has been done by the encouragement of the idea of separate communities co existing in the same physical space.
    No, not sustainable. Sooner or later this leads to friction because of core differences in such areas as freedom of speech, religion and women's rights.
    A country must be a cohesive community.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1324.

    southall is okay as it's mainly full of sikhs and hindus who are hardworking and respect this nation. it's the areas that are full of muslims that are bad and i don't need to explain that to most people

  • rate this

    Comment number 1323.

    What's unfortunate is to read the majority of comments that can't be reasoned and balanced in their point-of-view. They're too busy with their "he-said-she-said-but-you'll-never-guess-what-they-said" facetiousness. It's no wonder that any valid points for discussion are overshadowed by short-sighted dismissals of racism and xenophobia. Is it possible to debate and act intelligently and reasonably?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1322.

    How about admitting mass immigration was a failure, close the door to the third-world and start a mass all-expenses paid repatration scheme to reduce our population by 5 million? Costs a few billion for sure, but wouldn't this country be better off for it?

    We might feel at home again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1321.

    Miliband is saying this was a mistake?? It wasn't a mistake it was exactly what Blair and Brown set out to do in 1997 as revealed by John Reid. They set out to destroy the British culture & create an unemployable underclass through attacks on vocational training wages & immigration. Of course making themselves vastly rich in the process. Looks like they achieved every objective

  • rate this

    Comment number 1320.

    What's the betting Ed's big idea will be to throw even more money into the 'race industry's' bottomless pit?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1319.

    1303, I don't want to rise to this, but why not, had it not been for the Empire, you would likely still be mid-way through the INDUSTRIAL REVOLOUTION era (if that), Britain brought many hardships/commited wrongs, we however brought progress, unlike the current burden of immigration

  • rate this

    Comment number 1318.

    I have absolutely no problem with immigration to this country. My doctor when I was a youngster was a superb man from India. However he came here to make a contribution to the country and not merely to 'milk it'. He learned the language and his family were fully integrated into 'a working class northen area'. Controlled immigration works; at present it isn't controlled....Labour's fault initially!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1317.

    As a previous Polish poster has already suggested, surely a simple solution would be to dispense with the army of translators employed at great tax payer expense, so that if immigrants need help making benefits claims & such, then they need to learn the language in order to do so.
    They could start by printing the census form in English only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1316.

    I dont get your point. So, as a black man, it is my right to redo slavery with white slaves? Or Because of Germany's past we can still bomb/invade them? People started in Africa hundreds of years ago, whats your point? I dont see your point other than history has happened.
    Oh, western guilt, i see, our opinions dont matter

  • rate this

    Comment number 1315.


    "Is it any wonder when they see the likes of the BNP campaign? It must be so awful for them."

    The BNP voiced their concerns about immigration and its effect on the indigenous UK, only to be shouted down by the likes of Jack Straw, whose party leader is only now realising those same concerns.
    Alas, 13 years too late. Which is so awful for the indigenous UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1314.

    1270. alastairpearce

    I find the orthodox Jewish community... a fascinating example of an insular community. They have their own schools, shops, even their own ambulance service.

    Good point. There's a similar one in Bournemouth. These communities can & do exist peacefully & successfully because they live how they want to, but don't try to force their beliefs on others or demand special treatment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1313.

    Given that the UK has welcomed millions of migrants to the UK and that our society is now so multi-ethnicial & diverse why don't we say the UK has done it's bit and stop paying out foreign aid? The money would be better spent building the houses, creating the jobs, teaching english and integrating those who now share our islands.


Page 14 of 80


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.