Monday, November 04, 2013

Thom Brooks recommended to revise "Life in the UK" citizenship test in House of Lords debate

On 10th October 2013 and under the heading 'Immigration: UK Citizenship and Nationality', there was a question for debate posed by Lord Roberts of Llandudno (Lib Dem & Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration):

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to revise their requirements for those who apply for United Kingdom citizenship or nationality."

An excerpt from the official Parliamentary record (Hansard):

"[. . .] Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, I appreciate the opportunity to bring up the question of residency and access to the United Kingdom, and to ask the Government to look again at the requirements of those seeking UK citizenship: residency conditions; evidence of their good character; English language ability; and a matter that I have raised in the past, the Life in the UK test. [. . .]

I should like to take the Minister up on an offer he made during Questions in February to meet interested groups in order to devise a more relevant and practical set of questions. As he will know, Dr. Thom Brooks of Durham University makes a number of recommendations for change. First, the handbook should make it clear which sections are to be tested. It contains about 3,000 facts—far too many for anyone to memorise—and the whole matter could easily become a pub quiz. There are inconsistencies and omissions that need to be rectified. The Government should decide what the rationale is for the test. Is it to be a stumbling block or a ladder in the immigration process? It appears totally unfair that it is used as part of the Government’s plan to reduce immigration. That is not what the test is there for. [. . .]

It would be interesting if we set up a parliamentary citizenship quiz—perhaps the Commons versus the Lords—on the Life in the UK handbook. If it succeeded here, we could then roll it out across the UK to see how many long-serving, ordinary UK citizens could answer the questions asked. Perhaps the Minister could set up a ministerial team to tackle these questions. The answers to irrelevant questions should play no part when one is making decisions about a person’s suitability for citizenship. I ask again: where is the necessary information about the NHS, how to report crime, or which subjects are taught to our children? We have to have someone looking at this new set of questions, and perhaps Dr Thom Brooks could do just that. [. . .]

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, on his persistence with this issue, and welcome his efforts to secure today’s debate. The excellent speeches we have heard do great credit to your Lordships’ House. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and I have had a number of debates over the years we have been in our respective positions on the issue of immigration and citizenship, and that reflects the public and political interest in this issue. [. . .]

I am getting close to my time, but perhaps I may direct noble Lords to the report from Dr Thom Brooks of Durham University, which makes it quite clear that the citizenship test is not fit for purpose. The Prime Minister failed it on national television. I am sure that I would fail it, and I regard myself as a very loyal and committed citizen of the UK. It is more like a pub quiz or a game of Trivia Pursuit. [. . .]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno for securing this debate [. . .]. The citizenship test has changed. The one introduced by the previous Government has been brought up to date. Although there has been some criticism, notably from Dr. Thom Brooks at Durham, about that test, it has been designed to make it much more real to the people who are sitting the test, and it has been widely welcomed. [. . .] This debate has raised a lot of issues and I have found it very interesting."

The full debate can be found HERE.

Their Lordships -- from across the three main political parties -- make references to my report on the Life in the UK citizenship test - this report can be found and freely downloaded HERE.

1 comment:

Alan White said...

Thom Brooks making a difference again! Congratulations!