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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Huge citizenship ceremony backlog
Prince Charles and David Blunkett
Prince Charles and David Blunkett at the first ceremony in February
Hundreds of people across the East of England have been caught in a massive backlog for citizenship ceremonies.

The citizenship system was launched in February by the Home Secretary David Blunkett and Prince Charles.

People wanting to become UK citizens have to pay a fee and pledge to uphold the UK's rights, freedoms and values.

But a confidential Home Office document seen by BBC Look East reveals fewer than 5,000 people nationally have so far made it through the system.

Nationally there is a backlog of 40,560 adults - just 4,922 people have attended the ceremonies across the UK.

London accounts for a third of the backlog while in the east there are more than 1,100 on the waiting lists.

In Peterborough just 16 people have had their citizenship ceremonies. Another 119 are still waiting.

The worst of the backlog
Luton 284
Bedfordshire (rest of) 147
Northamptonshire 217
Norfolk 91
Milton Keynes 169
Suffolk 91
A Home Office spokeswoman admitted there have been delays.

She said one of the reasons was that more than half of all the applicants had sent in incomplete forms.

A change on the fee structure for ceremonies had also added some confusion, she said.

However, Peterborough Conservative councillor Stephen Goldspink said: "It demonstrates that the system was not set up to cope with the demands being made on it."

The ceremonies are conducted at a register office where applicants make an affirmation or an oath followed by a pledge to the UK.

All applicants successfully applying for citizenship have to take part in a ceremony.

Previously people becoming British citizens swore an oath of allegiance in front of a solicitor.

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