Politics

Home Office must urgently fix ‘joke’ citizenship test, parliamentary committee says

The Home Office is being pressured to urgently reform the UK’s “joke” citizenship test, which quizzed immigrants on a series of “random” facts under threat of deportation.

People who want to permanently settle in the UK are made to take the bizarre quiz on British history and culture, but a parliamentary committee says its content is not fit for purpose.

Content covered by the Life In The UK Test includes how a person should react when spilling beer over someone in a pub – and where the founder of the UK’s first curry house eloped with his wife.

It also includes subjective assertions and opinions, such as the claim that the British empire was a “force for good in the world”.

People taking the test are also expected to memorise a dubious version of history which claims Britain fought alone against Nazi Germany.

Failing the trial-by-trivia could lead to a person being deported, the loss of their livelihood, and potential separation from family, the critical parliamentary report notes.

“‘Trivial’, ‘outdated’, and ‘undermining British values’ were some of the terms used by witnesses to our inquiry into the Life in the UK Test,” Baroness Hamwee, chair of the House of Lords justice and home affairs committee, said.

“It is – or should be – no joke that the question most identified with the UK test related to the appropriate action to take after spilling a beer on someone at the pub. The test is not respected in the UK or abroad.”

She added: “Should candidates be required to memorise content referring to the Enlightenment and where the founder of the UK’s first curry house eloped with his wife? The UK today is about more than stereotypes such as roast beef and pantomimes.

“A multiple-choice question puts ‘freedom of speech’, ‘the right to a fair trial’, ‘long lunchbreaks on Fridays’ and ‘free groceries for everyone’ on an equal footing as potential citizens’ rights. The rights and responsibilities of active citizens can be dealt with seriously without being stodgy or impenetrable.

“Reform of the Life in the UK Test and of its associated handbook should be treated by the government as urgent. Not to do so disrespects those people who wish to become citizens or permanent residents of our country.”

The Life In the UK Test is a requirement for anyone who wants indefinite leave to remain in the UK, or who wants to naturalise as a British citizen.

The test was first introduced by the last Labour government under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which was steered through parliament by then home secretary David Blunkett.

In 2018 then Tory home secretary, Sajid Javid, announced plans to include more questions on “British values” in the Life in the UK test. He has previously also criticised the exercise, describing it as akin to a “pub quiz”.

Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesperson said: “The Life in the UK test is important for anyone applying to settle permanently in the UK to ensure they have an understanding of the democratic principles underlying British society and aspects of our culture and traditions.

“We intend to set out our plans to review the handbook as part of wider nationality reforms in the next 12 months and we will take on board the findings of the committee as part of that process.”

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