Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Life in the UK test fiasco continues - 2 of 3 books for applicants still not published

The government launched its new Life in the United Kingdom citizenship test this past Monday. Applicants must answer 24 questions in 45 minutes. They must get 18 or more correct to pass.

Questions test knowledge in the new third edition of the test. See recent blog posts for comments on problems I've identified already.

There is a further problem. There are TWO further books that applicants are recommended to acquire and read PRIOR to sitting the test. The problem is THEY HAVE NOT YET BEEN PUBLISHED. Don't take my word for it. GO HERE AND SEE FOR YOURSELF.

It is further surprising that no one in the press -- to my knowledge -- has yet broken this important story about the deeply flawed launch of the new citizenship test. My hope is that this post will help draw further attention.

Needless to say, the government should never have launched the test until AFTER all three recommended/required books were published so that applicants sitting the test on launch day were not more disadvantaged than persons sitting the test a week or two later.

If this looks and sounds like the story of a test that was rushed too quickly to publication, it might be because this is the case.

Many thanks to SLSA

I'm back from a terrific conference of the Socio-Legal Studies Association held at the University of York. Great papers and great people.

Panel discussion on problems with new "Life in the UK" citizenship test

. . . can be found here and broadcast by the radio station 'Voice of Russia'.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Life in the UK" debate on Voice of Russia

I was invited to speak on a panel discussing the government's new Life in the United Kingdom citizenship test. Speakers included Peter Hill, former editor of the Daily Express; Prem Poddar - Professor of English; June Bam-Hutchison from the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past; and yours truly. The discussion was chaired by Vivienne Nunis.

Link to broadcast is here.

UPDATE: Link has been corrected.

Life in the UK: the interviews

I've had several interviews today about the newly launched (and deeply flawed) "Life in the UK" citizenship test. A few links:

BBC Radio Newcastle - from 1:19:20

BBC Radio Tees - from 1:53:35

Voice of Russia - panel discussion

Life in the UK test launched today, but not the books for it

I have received the below message from the TSO about stidy guide and official practice questions. The "Life in the United Kingdom" test launched today -- but the books to assist preparation for it have not!

TSO logo

Life in the United KingdomA Guide for New Residents, 3rd Edition

Contact us

order online

order online


order online


+44 (0)870 600 5522

Stay up-to-date

order online

Follow us on Twitter

Dear Sir/Madam
Life in the United Kingdom: Official Study Guide and Life in the United Kingdom: Official Practice Questions and Answers book - valid for tests taken on or after 20 March 2013.

Thank you for your order for the above publication(s).
TSO has been working directly with the Home Office and learndirect to ensure that all content is accurate before being made available for purchase.
Regrettably these publications are not going to be available prior to the commencement of the new test date (25 March 2013). However we are working very hard to ensure that they are available as soon as possible and will be of the highest quality and of the greatest use to you in preparing for your test.
If you are happy to wait until after the 25 March 2013 for the dispatch of your order then you do not need to do anything. However, our customer services department will assist you in revising your order if your test is due to be sat in the next few weeks.
Please call us on 0870 600 5522 or e-mail and one of our advisors will be happy to help.

Kind regards

TSO Customer Services

New "Life in the UK" citizenship test is "unfit for purpose"

. . . is the headline from this new press release that can be found here. The new test starts from today and its launch is a shambles. For example, two of the three books (including sample questions) are not yet published with delays to their release. The test is highly important -- it is required for any one seeking permanent residency -- so it is all the more alarming that the Home Office is so poorly organized on this launch.

The test is flawed and in urgent need of reform. On its front cover, it claims to be "A Guide for New Residents" but there is little substance to this. The new test has removed requirements that permanent residents know how to report a crime, contact an ambulance or register with a GP. There is no chapter on Education, Employment or Health Care. There is encouragement for new residents to become involved in their local schools - and information on where to learn more about setting up a "free school" - but nothing at all about the need for CRB checks, the different kinds of schools (state, etc.), the different qualifications (GCSEs, A-levels, etc.), school uniforms, etc. The test has gone from testing trivial facts to mere trivia in a departure from being the more practical test it had been previously.

This is not to say I have no problems with the former test. The test required changes. One major problem was that the "correct" answers to many questions were factually untrue. This is because the test had become woefully out of date. So it asked about the number of MPs claiming the "correct" answer is 646 (true when the test was published in March 2007) when it was, in fact, 650 MPs.

The new test addresses these problems by getting it worse. So we learn that there are MPs, but not how many they are -- a convenient solution to getting the numbers wrong is to remove them altogether. But what is strange is that the test does not ask about the number of Westminster MPs, but it does ask questions about the number of parliamentarians in the devolved governments for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Why should new permanent residents be expected to know the number of Welsh Assembly members but not the number of MPs in the House of Commons? This is the kind of mistake usually found in documents that are rushed without proper consultation -- and it will be interesting to see if this is the case here.

I have also been doing the media rounds with interviews on BBC Radio Newcastle (from 1:19:20), BBC Radio Tees (from 1:53:35) and Voice of Russia later today with more likely to follow. Links will be noted when they are online.

UPDATE: A Home Office statement can be found here. It claims that the test has stripped out inessential information and that it focusses on participation in British life. But this is inaccurate. Surely, 'essential information' about 'participation in British life' must include how to contact an ambulance, how to report a crime or register with a GP. This is all missing in the new book. Plus, the book recommends participating in volunteer work at schools with children - even setting up a 'free school' - but says nothing about the mandatory CRB checks that will be required nor anything about the national curriculum, etc. The handbook has struck me as a job rushed and opportunity missed. I would be highly interested to know whether anyone involved in its construction has had experience of moving to a new country and sitting a similar exam. If so, many of the obvious problems could - and should - have been addressed from the outset.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nudges and Paternalism

Delighted to see my review of Gilles Saint-Paul's The Tyranny of Utility: Behavioral Social Science and the Rise of Paternalism (Princeton University Press, 2011) in this month's issue of Perspectives on Politics here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The UK Citizenship Test is "unfit for purpose": News round-up

Delighted to see wide coverage of my recent criticisms of the new "Life in the United Kingdom" citizenship test in the press over the last 24 hours, including:

The Times (18 March 2013 - page 9)

The Scotsman (18 March 2013)

The Yorkshire Post (18 March 2013)

The Huffington Post (17 March 2013)

The Express (19 March 2013)

The Hillingdon & Uxbridge Times (17 March 2013)

...and this additional item on the Durham University news website. I will post further stories as they appear.

Other links include a piece on Anthony Davis's programme on LBC 97.3 FM that aired on 18 March 2013.

UPDATE: Additional links to my interviews with BBC Radio Newcastle, BBC Radio Tees and others can be found here. There will be much more to come over the next few weeks as I will be publishing a critical report about the test with launch details to be announced shortly.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The UK citizenship test is "unfit for purpose"

. . . a piece in The Huffington Post noting my criticisms of the "Life in the UK" test here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Immigration Insecurity

. . .  is my new piece found here via the Labour Party-affiliated group, Progress.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Society of Legal Scholars Response to the Sentencing Council's Consultation on Sexual Offences

. . . can be found here - - and I was delighted to co-author the SLS response.

James Seth on Natural Law and Legal Theory

. . . is now available on SSRN here. The paper's abstract:

"This article argues that James Seth provides illuminating contributions to our understanding of law and, more specifically, the natural law tradition. Seth defends a unique perspective through his emphasis on personalism that helps identify a distinctive and compelling account of natural law and legal moralism. The next section surveys standard positions in the natural law tradition. This is followed with an examination of Seth’s approach and the article concludes with analysis of its wider importance for scholars of Seth’s work as well as legal philosophers more generally."

It must be said - the shock self-admission of the year thus far? - that James Seth is fast becoming my favourite philosopher. An extraordinary life and his A Study of Ethical Principles a profound contribution to philosophy. Seth has been a particularly heavy influence on my Hegelian-inspired defence of the unified theory of punishment and punitive restoration. I expect this will be the first of many papers to come over the years that I'll devote to unpicking and defending Seth's views.

The Right to Be Punished: A Defense

. . . is my latest paper forthcoming in Legal Theory in China where it will appear in English and in Chinese. The draft paper can be downloaded freely here. The abstract:

"Punishment would notdeserve its name if it was a response that most want to avoid. Can we say thatwe – you and I – have a right to bepunished? Or does this claim rest on a fundamental mistake? This article arguesthat there is a fundamental connection between rights and punishment that istoo often overlooked. Punishment is not about the suspension or forfeiture ofrights, but their restoration and protection."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Punishment" reviewed in LSE Book Review blog

The review can be found here. An excerpt:

"[. . .]  Seven theories of punishment are discussed by Brooks, bifurcated in to two sections: general theories, which contains retributivist, deterrence, rehabilitative and restorative justice theories; and the hybrid theories of Rawls, Hart and the mixed theory, expressivism and the unified theory. Following the sections on theories of punishment, in the final part of the book, Brooks sets about applying various theories to four case studies: capital punishment, juvenile offenders, domestic abuse and sexual crimes.

The survey of each of the theories is thorough and accessible, but for Brooks each is inferior to the unified theory of punishment. The first six chapters are set up to allow for only one conclusion: that the unified theory is the one ring of punishment theory, which will bind each of the theories into a broad, irresistible theory.

The unified theory of punishment, as described by Brooks, has its genesis in Hegel and the British Idealists. It aspires to unify ‘multiple penal goals in a single and coherent approach’ (p.126). This unification has a single, primary ground which operates as a foundation only and does not ‘serve as the whole of the punishment itself’ (p.127). This pluralist approach is compelling because it attempts to draw together the benefits of various theories, each of which combats the negative aspects of theories of those with which it is combined. Brooks contends that the adaptability of the unified theory is what sets it apart from other theories and he offers a strong defence in its favour, distinguishing it from the Modern Penal Code.

[. . .]  Punishment is an accessible, engaging and successful prĂ©cis of key theories of punishment. [. . .]."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

New UK Citizenship Test

. . . . is debated here in the House of Lords. Please also see my paper on how to reform the UK citizenship test.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Many thanks to Edinburgh Law School

. . . and their Legal Theory Group for inviting me to give a talk on "Stakeholder Sentencing" this afternoon. Excellent discussion and enjoyable time.

"The Lost Age of Reason" by Jonardon Ganeri

. . . is an outstanding book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. For the longer version of my comments, see my review in the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews here.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Durham Law Graduate Appointed to UK Supreme Court

Lord Justice Hughes has been appointed to sit on the UK's Supreme Court. Previously, he studied law at Durham University while a member of Van Mildert College and later lectured at Durham Law School. For links and further information, see here. Brilliant news for Durham University - and the UK!

Friday, March 01, 2013

"Punishment and Moral Sentiments"

. . . is published in The Review of Metaphysics here.