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Report condemns Life in the UK test as a “random selection of obscure facts”


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The Life in the UK test is a “random selection of obscure facts and subjective assertions” and needs urgent reform, a Lords committee has concluded.

Most migrants have to sit the Life in the UK test when applying for settlement or citizenship. The 24-question, multiple-choice exam is designed to ensure that “people who are committing to become British citizens have knowledge of our values, history and culture” but even the Home Secretary has described it as a “pub quiz”.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster told the Justice and Home Affairs Committee that his department plans an “in-depth review” of the test and will say more about this “over the next 12 months”. This is not fast enough for the committee, which professed itself “astonished” that an overhaul hasn’t happened already and recommended change “as a matter of priority”.

Academics who (for reasons best known to themselves) take an interest in the Life in the UK test complain that it is by turns esoteric, facetious and contentious. The official version of the UK’s colonial and martial history is a particular bugbear.

It may be thought unlikely that a government test is ever going to invite would-be citizens to spit on the butcher’s apron. One solution canvassed by the committee is to ditch the history section altogether and focus on the safely bland: “factual content related to the rights and responsibilities of a citizen in the contemporary British democracy”. All very sensible, although practically guaranteed to ignite a culture war controversy if ever followed through.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.