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Peers demand Home Office launch review into outdated British citizenship test

THE Home Office must launch an urgent review of its trivial and outdated British citizenship test, peers are demanding today. 

Since 2002, people who want to become British citizens or permanent residents must prove they have sufficient knowledge about life in Britain, by passing the Home Office’s test.  

People applying for indefinite leave to remain who fail to pass can face severe delays to their settlement — and even deportation and loss of their livelihoods. 

In light of the high stakes involved in passing the test, the Lords’ justice & home affairs committee has issued an urgent warning to the Home Office to review the test and the current Life in the UK handbook, which forms the basis of the exam. Its content is decided by the Home Secretary. 

In a damning letter to Home Office Minister Kevin Foster, peers say that the handbook “comes across as a random selection of obscure facts and subjective assertions, trivialising the process.”

It follows the conclusion of the committee’s inquiry into the Life in the UK test, in which it received evidence from experts and prospective British citizens. 

Peers said witnesses were particularly critical of the handbook’s history chapter, with one expert arguing that it bowdlerised and manipulated key events and feeds new citizens “a myth.” 

Twenty-seven people who took the test said they felt uncomfortable by the British empire being described as “a force for good in the world.”

The committee also said witnesses were bemused by the handbook’s obscure content, including information on 18th-century furniture. 

One expert told peers the handbook includes knowledge outside of the British education syllabus, meaning most of the population does not possess that knowledge.

This has been supported by separate research. A 2021 study by academics at Essex University found that two thirds of Brits would fail the test. 

Peers were also told by some new citizens they felt the test was designed to act as an “additional barrier.”

Committee chair Baroness Hamwee said: “The UK today is about more than stereotypes such as roast beef and pantomimes.   

“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.” 

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