Friday, January 12, 2018

Citizenship test might be available in Cornish and not Scots Gaelic or Welsh -- but why?

The government revealed they might allow individuals to sit the UK’s citizenship test in Cornish. This was announced in response to a question by Baroness Smith of Basildon, a Labour Peer and Shadow Leader of the House of Lords. The move is all the more surprising because it appears the government’s decision to consider a test in Cornish came after Smith’s question — suggesting this was not a change being planned previously.

In 2014, the Tory-led coalition government granted protected minority status for the Cornish. Its effect is that the government and public bodies are required to consider the equality of the Cornish in decision-making alongside previously recognised protected groups: the Scots, Welsh and Irish. Few commentators believed this announcement carried much significance beyond its symbolism at the time.

The exception was me. An immigration law expert, I recognised that this change granting the Cornish protected equal treatment with the Scots, Welsh and Irish would mandate significant changes to the Life in the UK citizenship test which carries virtually no mention of Cornish history or culture. It does require test applicants to know the patron saints, flags, national foods and more for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. No revisions have yet been made to the test since its current third edition was published in 2013 — the year prior to this change.

Replying to Smith’s parliamentary question, Baroness Williams of Trafford said Theresa May’s government “will consider whether it would be appropriate to make the test available in Cornish as part of the protected minority status”. Williams is Minister of State for the Home Office and a Tory Peer.

The government’s response is hugely surprising. Since the test was first launched, it could be taken in English, Scots Gaelic or Welsh. My research was the first to reveal that the test was sat only once in Scots Gaelic and never in Welsh. The coalition government ended all non-English citizenship tests since October 2013 — which did not raise objections in Parliament by either Plaid Cymru or SNP.

Why is the government considering launching the UK citizenship test in Cornish — when it only recently stopped producing it in Scots Gaelic or Welsh?

The only explanation appears to be that the government does not fully grasp the implications for granting the Cornish protected minority status. This does not in fact require producing the test in Cornish since it is not produced in Scots Gaelic or Welsh — and so the Cornish would not lack equality with the Scots or Welsh. But what it does mandate is information about the Cornish flag, patron saint, history and more are included in the citizenship test or the government risks continuing to breach their protected minority status. Not even Cornish pasties get a mention. This must change.

I would not be surprised if the government was not challenged on this point shortly. After several years of inaction, time is running out and they may be forced to make a change if an appeal is made.

Otherwise, the government is at risk of creating an unnecessary anomaly launching tests in the smallest British language while ending it for more popular alternatives. The Scottish and Welsh nationalists didn’t protest when the change to English-only citizenship tests was introduced. I expect this will change should the test be in Cornish but their regional languages.

In short, this is yet another problem of the government’s own making. It need not have changed how tests are produced, declared a new protected status or make what appears to be an error in responding to Smith’s parliamentary question. But they have and such shambolic handling of nationality rules shows their lack of attention to detail on citizenship and immigration issues more generally symbolising a lack of seriousness about one of the public’s biggest concerns.

Friday, January 05, 2018

PRESS RELEASE: Citizenship test might be available in Cornish but not Scots Gaelic or Welsh, says government


Citizenship test might be available in Cornish but not Scots Gaelic or Welsh, says government

For immediate release – Friday, 5 January 2018

-With picture-

*TV and radio broadcast facilities available*

The government revealed they might allow individuals to sit the UK’s citizenship test in Cornish. This was announced in response to a question by Baroness Smith of Basildon, a Labour Peer and Shadow Leader of the House of Lords.

In 2014, the Tory-led coalition government granted protected minority status for the Cornish. An immigration law expert, Professor Thom Brooks at Durham University, said at the time this change required significant revisions to the Life in the UK citizenship test because the Cornish were to have equal treatment with other protected groups like Scots, Welsh and Irish. Yet no changes have been made to the citizenship test since its current third edition was published in 2013.

Replying to Smith’s parliamentary question, Baroness Williams of Trafford said Theresa May’s government “will consider whether it would be appropriate to make the test available in Cornish as part of the protected minority status”. Williams is Minister of State for the Home Office and a Tory Peer.

The government’s response has caught many by surprise. Professor Brooks said: “It’s remarkable to discover the government is considering the production of citizenship tests in Cornish not long after they stopped making tests in Scots Gaelic or Welsh. Either they don’t understand what their granting Cornish protected status requires or they risk creating an unnecessary anomaly launching tests in the smallest British language while ending it for more popular alternatives.”

Originally launched in 2005, the Life in the UK citizenship test was available in English, Scots Gaelic and Welsh until October 2013. It is now only produced in English. There were no objections raised in Parliament to this change by Plaid Cymru or the SNP. According to research by Brooks, only one non-English test was sat in Scots Gaelic and none in Welsh.

Brooks said: “Protected status is not about putting the test into more languages, but adding more balance. Cornish culture and history are virtually absent from the test – not even Cornish pasties are mentioned. If they are to have the equality afforded to them, the test must change to reflect this move. Government has dragged its feet for too long and their response is shambolic”.

ENDS

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My submission to the Boundary Commission - Sedgefield

I'm going public with my individual response to the Boundary Commission consultation regarding proposed changes to the Sedgefield constituency submitted in a private capacity:

I submit two objections to the current proposals under consideration:

First, there appears no clear rationale for changing the name of the constituency from "Sedgefield" to "Billingham and Sedgefield". The Labour Party's official response was correct to argue that name changes should only be made when necessary.

Secondly, there appears no clear rationale for adding Billingham to the constituency. Under the current proposals, "Billingham and Sedgefield" will have more people (78,205) than any of the surrounding constituencies - see Hartlepool 77,215; Redcar and Cleveland 72,951; Middlesbrough and Eston 76,979; Stockton and Yarm 75,818; Darlington 74,929; City of Durham and Easington 77,002 and Bishop Auckland 71,135.

Retaining Billingham creates an extended boot-shaped area that looks - and feels - gerrymandered. Removing it would decrease voter size of constituency, but would keep Sedgefield above minimum. Either "Stockton and Yarm" (first preference) or "Middlesbrough and Eston" (second preference) would make a better fit.

Wynyard Village is on a peninsula part of Hartlepool which at least looks artificial. It would work better to put this within Sedgefield -- and for Sedgefield to keep the Trimdons north of Fishburn. This would unify Wynyard and Wynyard Village in the same constituency without dividing them (and dividing the community) as the current proposals support. Plus, Fishburn and the Trimdons (Grange, Colliery, Village) have historic ties with Sedgefield. Not only are they together now in the constituency, but major home construction in the area brings these areas together providing a form of communal coherence that these proposals disrupt. This should be avoided.

Adding some local villages that have strong communal ties while separating off Billingham (not in the constituency now anyway) would leave "Sedgefield" a geographically wide constituency, but provide greater communal coherence, produce a less radical redrawing of a well known constituency map avoiding artificial gerrymandered-looking boundaries and it could avoid separating the Wynyards or dividing the Trimdons.