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Lords Committee requests urgent review of the Life in the UK Test

30 June 2022

The Justice and Home Affairs Committee today publishes a letter to Home Office Minister, Kevin Foster MP, stressing the need for the Government to begin immediately a review of the Life in the UK Test.

The letter

The Life in the UK Test is an assessment of civic knowledge required to obtain citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. The Justice and Home Affairs Committee has completed an inquiry into all aspects of the Test: the official handbook, the test format, the experience of candidates at test centres, available exemptions and adaptations, alternatives to testing, and costs. The evidence received by the Committee was rich and came from a diverse range of sources, from expert academics to those who took the Test.

The Committee found several problems with the Test:

  • an official handbook full of obscure facts and subjective assertions (including offensive historical content),
  • inaccessible test centres,
  • poorly-phrased questions that trivialise the process, and
  • costs that can be prohibitive for some, among others.

The Committee also stressed the need to reintroduce taught courses, known to promote social cohesion and gender equality, as an alternative for those who may find a test particularly challenging.

The Committee is astonished that the Government has not yet conducted its long-overdue review of the Test and of its associated handbook. The Committee calls on the Government to appoint an Advisory Group to conduct a review to be published by a set deadline.

Chair's comments

Baroness Hamwee, Chair of the Committee, said:

"‘Trivial’, ‘outdated’, and ‘undermining British values’ were some of the terms used by witnesses to our inquiry into the Life in the UK Test.

"It is – or should be – no joke that ‘the question most identified with the UK test related to the appropriate action to take after spilling a beer on someone at the pub’. The Test is not respected in the UK or abroad.

"Should candidates be required to memorise content referring to the Enlightenment and where the founder of the UK’s first curry house eloped with his wife? The UK today is about more than stereotypes such as roast beef and pantomimes.

"A multiple-choice question puts ‘freedom of speech’, ‘the right to a fair trial’, ‘long lunchbreaks on Fridays’ and ‘free groceries for everyone’ on an equal footing as potential citizens’ rights. The rights and responsibilities of active citizens can be dealt with seriously without being stodgy or impenetrable.

"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.”

Further information