JG - Test of 'Britishness' for UK citizen hopefuls
Test of 'Britishness' for UK citizen hopefuls
published: Tuesday November 1, 2005
LONDON, England (Reuters):
IMMIGRANTS WHO want to become UK citizens will have to show a knowledge of British customs and history if they are to pass new compulsory tests unveiled by the government yesterday.
The 45-minute 'Life in the U.K.' tests, which all applicants must sit from today, require immigrants to answer 24 multiple choice questions about British life, ranging from knowledge of Queen Elizabeth to regional dialects.
The tests, which cost £34 and can be taken at about 90 centres across the country, come on top of a need for new citizens to demonstrate a working knowledge of English.
"An understanding of the British language and our way of life is vital," said Immigration minister
"The measures we are introducing today will help new citizens to gain a greater appreciation of the civic and political dimension of British citizenship and, in particular, to understanding the rights and responsibilities that come with ... British citizenship."
Example questions include "Which TWO telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services? 112, 123, 555, 999."
The correct answers are 112 and 999.
Those who fail the test will not be able to apply to be British citizens and will have to take it again.
The Immigration Advisory Service, a charity that advises immigrants and asylum seekers, gave the tests a cautious welcome but said the questions needed 'a light touch'.
"The danger is that this will be seen as a way of excluding people from British citizenship," said chief executive Keith Best.
"The perversity of our education system is such that new immigrants who seek naturalisation may end up having more knowledge about life in the U.K. through these tests and their associated teaching than many who are born British citizens."
The concept of citizenship tests have been controversial ever since Norman Tebbit, a leading lieutenant of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, suggested a 'cricket test', under which immigrants could only be classified as British if they cheered for the England cricket team.
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, told BBC radio he was opposed to a test, but said immigrants should be encouraged to develop skills to integrate into society.
He added that the people 'most attached to Britishness' in the whole population were ethnic minorities living in England.
"To them it means fairness and equality and it means not being bullied because of your race or colour," he said.
"Secondly it's about the British tradition of individuality, that is to say you don't have to conform to someone else's idea of what being British might look like."