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 1572.

    when will politicians learn. The majority of immigrants into britain, do not want to integrate, they simply want the benefits of british citizenship. The majority of them cannot speak english and dont bother to learn.

    Until immigration rules are toughened up, and immigrants are forced to learn English fluently, then our society will continue to fracture along lines of race. Race war is likely.

  • Comment number 1571.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1570.

    Successful integration is not possible without the promotion and state endorsement of British culture. What we have currently is the promotion and state endorsement of multiculturalism.

    A lack of integration is to be expected if the message given is:
    'Britain has always been a nation of immigrants and diversity!'

    This message is true - if you ignore a thousand years of homogeneity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1569.

    Mr Milliband is living in a utopian world, majority of people do not wish to integrate because of the bigoted attitude of the indigenous people, brought about by the attitude of members of parliament treating immigrants as in greater need than people of this country, all creeds are equal and should be treated so. Until parliament wakes up to this integration will never happen unfortunatly

  • rate this

    Comment number 1568.

    The question that requires answer is, where and when did the indigenious peoples of this country become consulted on immigration, at what point does it stop, if London has less than fifty percent white people indigenious, cannot not be concluded that they have been ethnically removed from their ancestrol home land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1567.


    By admitting that you live here makes you worse than the people you condemn. We were born here we had no knowledge of our history until we were educated. People who come to this country in the full knowledge of what they claim to be abuses by the British in the past, but are willing to exploit those supposed crimes have no moral platform to spout their hated of this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1566.

    India due to become the leading power y 2030.
    why are we still paying them billions of £'s every year in compensation?
    I get the feeling that in 50-60 years time, they will not be paying us compensation for the disruption they have caused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1565.

    Miliband hasn't answered that main question why did we do we need this immigration? Why is it better to employ people that we know are going to send most of their money abroad a good thing? What is so desperately wrong with supporting British people to earn a living and make a life in their own country. I fail to see why Labour thinks that the British are all bad people and must be destroyed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1564.

    The issue is the number of people and not their ethnic background. Simple choice for us as a nation. Do we want to increase our population significantly through migration; to build on thousands of acres of fields for the new houses and industrial estates they will need; to accept the reductions in levels of public service and salaries?
    Vote + to reduce migration
    Vote - to increase migration

  • rate this

    Comment number 1563.

    You have to love people like surf-turf(#1540)

    Saying the world hates Britain and we should understand why - yet in the same comment admitting he is an immigrant living in Britain.

    The double standards of these people actually make me think of voting BNP.

    If you hate my country - get out and stay out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1562.

    Lets just remember that the forces of capital demand free movement of workers. How else can they pursue vast profits by lowering terms and conditions for their employees. If they can outsource staffing to agency workers all the better. Don't blame the exploited, try pointing your fingers at the top of the pile, to those pulling the strings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1561.

    Why is it so offensive to some people that we believe that in Britain, the government should have a responsibility to British people first and foremost?
    We can be accommodating, but this bending over backwards to serve newcomers and ignoring the will of actual citizens went too far

  • rate this

    Comment number 1560.

    Who's fault was this Ed? Oh, thats right LABOUR'S who opened up the borders and made this country a free for all to come over. Your party was happy to let them come here, but not happy about checking what they were doing and where they were going. Maybe you should call for a public enquiry about it like you do everything else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1559.

    I am pleased you brought that up:
    @1516.Aduphanel We are net importers of power resources

    Now that we are very low on natural gas, the government is looking to fracking shale deposits for gas resources.

    However, the government has just given the go ahead for 30 Gas Fired Power Stations.

    Watch out for price hikes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1558.

    Multiculturalism reintroduced the victorian child brothel, it's something I don't wish to celebrate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1557.

    They should have thought about the cost to the system for interpreters before they allowed virtual free entry to the UK. Now its too late, you have to give people their rights equally and if that involves paying interpreters then so be it. The Labour Party simply has NO policies like the rest of them. They can't even agree with the Trades Unions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1556.

    Miliband is proud because he has 3 million+ new voters.

    To enable integration we need to stop adapting our culture to cater for immigration. Immigrants need to adapt to our culture! Stop the translation of government documents and websites into different languages. Ban the burka which discriminates against women and has no place in a western society. Ban the cruel production of halal meat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1555.

    One of the major obstacles is political correctness having grown up in what could be called an enclave where there was a small number of coloured lads who we had a great affinity all being so called deprived the banter between us would get the white lads locked up today for racialism, most of us would take a beating for each other when
    prince harry called his friend a nickname he was castigated

  • rate this

    Comment number 1554.

    @1450 - we're forever apologizing and now we are sick of it - how about the world give us some credit for the achievements and benefits we have given the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1553.

    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."

    Then you should contact the UKBA. Details are to be found here:


Page 2 of 80


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. 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.