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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  • Comment number 1512.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1511.

    It's not that we are racist.

    We have Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans all coming back to roost in the UK, quite legally simply because their mother's uncle or someone was Irish. They are the same race as us but have never paid in to the UK yet we let them all in as though it's their birth right. I cant go live in their countries. Mealticket anyone??

  • rate this

    Comment number 1510.

    No Dave,
    You should apologise for your party's appalling legacy of allowing millions of people into the country unchecked with no assessment on the consequences for the health service and social service funding and who has to pay for this, or for housing resources, which have been thinning out for 2 decades, How did policy advice and labour lobbyists allow so few to benefit at a cost to so many?

  • Comment number 1509.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1508.

    @1476 Fluffy Bunny

    It is the start of the slippery slope into Sharia Law.

    I urge us all to :-

    1) Celebrate being St george's flag high and proud and NEVER listen to local authorities or political parties.

    2) Fly the Union jack high and proud.......never listen to people that say this is racist. Utter Cr*p.....It is nationalistic and proud.

  • Comment number 1507.

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

  • Comment number 1506.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1505.

    I love the cultural diversity in London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1504.

    white British?... why can't the bbc bring it's self to call the native population the native population..//
    because any acknowledgement that the native population is the native population is deemed racist. We are the only ethnic group whose racial identity is open to scorn and doubt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1503.

    I must say that the vast numbers screaming for immigrants to integrate sound such a welcoming bunch. Is it any wonder that so many newcomers seek out their own as a source of welcome and comfort. Please get your heads out of the sand, this is the world we live in. Vast numbers have migrated to western europe, this is not exclusive to the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1502.

    What is this idiot Milibland talking about His party and his like have ruined this country with their multi cultural rubbish. it doesn't work it has never worked. I am an immigrant and you don't need to have laws telling the population to include you People either like you for what you are or they don't it is very simple. Stick and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt get over it

  • rate this

    Comment number 1501.

    'If Britain want a brighter future then the British should tone down their arrogance & become humble. Accept your misdeeds, respect others and move on.'

    Arrogance? and misdeeds? you may want to be up with the times m8, that was britain 2-300yrs ago, suggest you address your whinging to the USA, Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy, China and Asia whose 'misdeeds' dwarf what Britain has ever done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1500.

    The first lesson that all migrants must learn is when you are in Rome do as the Roman does! It is a known fact that migrants will not hesitate to milk the system but will not even attempt to integrate let alone making an effort to learn the English language.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1499.

    1324. sexyfurrytigre

    Well in that case let's not forget to mention the Chav areas as well then hey? Populated mostly by Whites, yet fit the description you've given Muslim areas just as well.

    Let reiterate I actually dislike Islam very much (and all religion really). But it's definitely untrue that only Muslim ghettoes are a problem in this country. Ghettoes of all creed and colours are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1498.

    @1482. Alex

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


    This left versus right debate is sheer nonsense. Since Labour gave up its founding principles back in the early nineties you have all been voting for the same thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1497.

    I think Ed could do with a little more "Integration" into British society. He seems to have lost the plot entirely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1496.

    1442.David H
    I've rented my place out to eastern europeans. They can live on a lower wage as they pack a flat to the rafters (10 in a 2 bedroom without my knowledge), save their money and then go home. The worse case for our economy - low wages with little tax, no spending and send money home. £6bil was sent to poland last year. £6bil out of the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1495.

    1442.David H

    Yes David the irony ! When we got our mortgage it was based on the salarys we were getting at the time. Now with the min wage and thousands of foreign labour we are unable to pay our mortgage, was that our fault ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1494.

    251.Jimmy - As a Indian working in UK I am pretty sure your soft tactics won't work. I know people who hate almost everything in UK and proud of their "culture".

    So why are they here? Why not go to wherever their culture is from, and leave the UK to those who appreciate it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1493.

    @1444 - Jamie: Who told you the UK does not have a strict visa system? Do you know it is by far one of the hardest countries to get in? The problem is indiscriminate granting of asylum and refugee status to those who may be faking their circumstances. Every man, woman and child who enters GB goes through extremely arduous and financially draining immigration process despite being highly skilled!


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