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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Tea and cakes for the new Britons
The plans include a new pledge to the UK
They will be very British occasions: honour the Queen, meet the local mayor and then retire for a nice cup of tea.

That, at least, is what the Home Office envisages for new ceremonies for immigrants who want to become British citizens.

After all, say ministers, doing so is about more than just getting a piece of paper.

A new consultation document suggests that would-be Britons would take a new pledge of loyalty to the UK and observe the national anthem.
THE SUGGESTED PLEDGE
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms.
"I will uphold its democratic values.
"I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen

Local dignitaries - the mayor or MP, perhaps - would be invited to attend to make a speech and hand over citizenship certificates.

Small commemorative gifts could be presented to new British citizens under the plans.

Schoolchildren might be asked to perform a traditional song or dance to give a local flavour to the events.

And afterwards: "There may be an informal celebration....with light refreshments provided. This would be in keeping with the welcoming nature of the ceremony."

Tests

Pilots of the ceremonies are to start next year in Brent, Liverpool, Wandsworth, Oldham, Kent, Cardiff, Telford and Glasgow, with the scheme rolled out nationally in April.

Around 110,000 people become naturalised Britons every year.

Those applying in future will be expected to have "sufficient knowledge" of English, or Welsh or Gaelic, and pass a "Britishness test" on practical aspects of life in the UK and its institutions.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the tests will be introduced later.

At present the system, whereby people become British citizens, is conducted by post.

Rights and responsibilities

But Immigration minister Beverley Hughes said: "Becoming a British citizen should not be about obtaining a bit of paper and a passport.

"It is something to be celebrated, both by those who qualify and by the wider communities of which they are a part.

"Citizenship ceremonies will enable more focus to be placed on the fact that citizenship carries with it both rights and responsibilities."

New British citizens will swear allegiance to the Queen as they do now, but also make a new pledge of citizenship.

CONCLUDING THE CEREMONY
May you find your lives enriched, and in turn, may you enrich the lives of others and your community.
"Ladies and gentlemen, will you all please stand and give a round of applause to welcome our fellow British citizens

They will be encouraged to invite family and friends to the ceremonies, which will include national symbols such as the Union Flag and the national anthem.

Other British music, poetry or songs could also be used.

The ceremonies could take place in register offices, town halls, parks, gardens, or even private homes in some circumstances.

The new "Britishness test" will not include questions on culture and history, but will concentrate on practical information about benefits, housing and using the NHS.

New citizens would have to improve language skills to a level set by the Department for Education.

People can apply to become British citizens once they have lived in the UK legally for five years, or three years if they have married a Briton.




SEE ALSO:
UK 'citizenship test' unveiled
31 Jan 03  |  UK News
Blunkett names 'Britishness' chief
10 Sep 02  |  Politics


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