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 1532.

    1525.Morphius Bane
    Just now
    .."The local workers are being asked to lower their living standards to the same level, or lose out on employment. The rich are unaffected.2
    Welcome to captialism. There is a price to be paid for everybody wanting all things cheaper and cheaper , as this is one of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1531.

    The Labour party are always trying to interfere with peoples lives, immigrants will integrate when and if it suits them, he should know..He and all MP's should have concentrated on stopping the UK breaking apart but it is those self same politicians that stand to benefit from devolution not the general population regardless of their ethnic origin or where they live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1530.

    Not sure whether the people of this country want integration or whether they just want less. Think we should discourage immigration by denying access to all benefits, free healthcare and education to immigrants on the basis that they haven't paid tax here to earn them- maybe for a period of ten years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1529.

    I live in Brent, illegal immigrants are living in sheds and garages. I've complained to both the Police and the Council - neither want to know.

    The government needs to deport those that shouldn't be here. Quality of life is deteriorating in this country rapidly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1528.

    If we are to be more integrated how do you ever define sufficient integration? Surely it's subjective? Do we have to have a % of mixed raced born in the UK? Do we define it by how many foreign friends we have? Or how many we work with?

    Personally I choose to integrate with people that I have things in common with, not on the colour of their skin! If they all happen to be white, then so be it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1527.


    A few weeks ago a young Polish woman came to view my sister's flat and said that she could offer £120k up front since she was getting a grant from the government. There are many young people struggling to get on the property ladder that were born here and they are recieving no assistance yet they don't hesitate to offer money to foreigners.
    Perhaps she was winding you up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1526.


    "All the highest rated comments today make rather uncomfortable reading for me"

    Why? Most of the highest rated comments are just criticising Labour for their incredible hypocrisy, which I think is fairly justified in this instance. They also reflect a refreshingly open debate about immigration, which is not racist but sensible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1525.


    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


    Exaclty correct. I used to live above a similar bunch (playing music at 2am all the time). The local workers are being asked to lower their living standards to the same level, or lose out on employment. The rich are unaffected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1524.

    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."

    And the empirical evidence to support these alleged facts comes from where?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1523.

    The UK is ridiculously over-crowded yet I'm told I should be enjoying this. Opposing immigration does not go hand-in-hand with racism or Xenophobia. It's just common sense that the infrastructure can only support so many people. I will never, ever vote Labour again after the open-door immigration policy of Blair's lousy government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1522.

    Sorry Mr Millband, whilst I agree we need to get better integration you and your party have never apologised for the blatant open door policy you followed for 10 years to boost your vote base at the expense of the finances of this country. Till your party do that you have no credibility on this subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1521.

    The principles and philosophy underpinning the announcement by the Labour Leader in support of the integration of our communities are clear and strong from a moral and practical points of view. The practical outcomes so far announced like Sir Andrew Green argues are modest.
    Jack Peffers International Centre for Intercultural Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London

  • rate this

    Comment number 1520.

    "a) When is an immigrant eligible to vote?
    b) Are you only allowed entry if you have a job?
    c) When are you eligible for benefits? If so, which benefits and when."

    a. To vote you must be be a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of ROI
    b. No; you can marry someone but for non-EU, you are not allowed to work until you have FLR
    c. non-EU = no benefit until ILR

  • rate this

    Comment number 1519.

    A few weeks ago a young Polish woman came to view my sister's flat and said that she could offer £120k up front since she was getting a grant from the government. There are many young people struggling to get on the property ladder that were born here and they are recieving no assistance yet they don't hesitate to offer money to foreigners. Where is the logic?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1518.

    If we want integration to work Britain needs to have the immigration levels it had back prior to 1997 before Labour came into power. Then it was in the tens of thousands, then Labour opened the flood gates up to hundred's of thousands. Miliband wants to know why people are not 'integrating' properly, perhaps he should look at his own parties immigration policy.

  • Comment number 1517.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1516.

    Miliband your an idiot and u support it because your a son of an immigrant.

    We have no more room and now we going to get a massive wave of bulgarians and eventually turks.
    5% housing
    77% for farming
    rest is either for infrastructure and also forestry
    We are net importers of power resources
    We have 1/2 the land of france but the same population size

  • rate this

    Comment number 1515.

    Hey Ed,

    Greece's nationalist party, Golden Dawn called; They want their motto back from you: "We are going to build One Nation".

    Better give it back. If you impersonate the Brown Shirts, you're going to have a bad time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1514.

    Mostly sensible stuff, and honest enough to admit to labours past mistakes on this. Where I do struggle a bit is which public sector jobs you could do while not speaking English. He should now go a step further and agree to keeping the cap on non EU migrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1513.

    When my uncle had a printing firm in London, he was obligated to employ foreign nationals into his workforce and he had to advertise any jobs at the job center even when he had people waiting for work.
    How come companies can now employ all foreign nationals to fill work placements, and they just go to the local gangmaster, nowhere near the job center.


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