A professor believes there should be a requirement in the citizenship test to know who the reigning monarch is (Picture: Sky Armstrong/Reuters/Getty/gov.uk)
Candidates for the UK citizenship test should be required to know basic facts about the Queen’s unprecedented 70-year reign, according to the author of a critical report about the process.
Prof Thom also said that the public spiritedness embodied by Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral a year ago today, aged 96, is rapidly disappearing from view in political life.
He told Metro.co.uk that this includes a ‘seemingly endless trail of crises’ at Westminster and a merry-go-round of MPs leaving or changing office.
The professor of law and government at Durham University believes that test candidates should answer some basic questions about the royals.
‘I believe new citizens should know the Queen’s reign was the longest and, if I were reforming the Life in the UK test, I’d ensure it was there,’ he said.
‘I find it incredible that since her sad passing the government has chosen to remove mention of the King on any test, especially as everyone must swear an oath to the monarch who passes the test and becomes British.’
The government has updated its online guidance for the current edition of the Life in the UK handbook, saying sections relating to Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy are out of date.
The current edition of the Life in the UK handbook contains out of date references to the Queen (Picture: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty)
A list of amendments published online — bizarrely with the word ‘confidential’ at the bottom — says that images of and references to the Queen have been replaced with King Charles.
Although subsequent prints will be updated, candidates are told on another web page that neither of the topics form the basis of questions at present.
‘This statement makes clear that no one taking the test need know who is the head of state,’ Prof Thom said.
‘To my knowledge, the UK has the only citizenship test in the world where no one needs to know this.
‘Everywhere else, knowing who the head of state is has been seen as a part of the essential information every new citizen should know.
‘It makes sense that every prospective new citizen should know about our head of state for the simple reason that every new citizen must swear an oath to the sovereign.
King Charles III does not feature in the citizenship test questions despite becoming the head of state (Picture: Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters)
‘It is ridiculous that everyone who takes the test need not know who the King is but is required to swear an oath to HM the King to become British. The only reason I can see for this shocking omission from the unfit for purpose Life in the UK test is that the government hasn’t been bothered to update its contents for over a decade.
‘Because ministers can’t be bothered to update the test – which they promised repeatedly to do and which several cross-party committees have recommended as important and urgent – you find omissions like this which are avoidable and embarrassing. The whole situation undermines any credibility the government has to take immigration or becoming British seriously when they can’t get right something as fundamental as ensuring all new citizens know who the head of state is.’
Professor Thom also diagnosed a wider breakdown in political life which has included a stream of controversy and rows at the heart of government, such as the ‘Partygate’ saga.
‘I think many of us used to look to leaders in public life as those who put public interest first,’ he said. ‘Such citizenship was exemplified by the late Queen’s lifelong service to others.
‘Since her death, the sense of public duty and putting others before self looks missing as we see one MP after another leaving Parliament either because of a problem or a personal spat.
‘More should look to the example set by the late Queen.’
A series of exits from Westminster include former Boris Johnson, who attended the Queen’s funeral, standing down in June after receiving a report into whether he lied to MPs over Partygate.
The following month, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced she was quitting the Commons, a move which followed her being denied a seat at the House of Lords.
Professor Thom Brooks says the current Life in the UK test includes the following factual errors:
Cnut was first Danish king in what is now England. The first Danish king was actually his father, known as Sven I or Sweyn Forkbeard.
Dylan Thomas wrote the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night in 1952. It was written in 1947 and first published in 1951. A year later it featured in a collected works.
The highest bank note in circulation is £50. But this is only true of the Bank of England’s highest note. The Bank of Scotland has a £100 note in circulation.
An online update to sections about the Queen and King Charles is marked ‘confidential’ when freely available online
An essential fact for those taking the Life in the UK Test is the height of the London Eye, according to Professor Brooks (Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Professor Thom said: ‘I believe the Queen exemplified a lifelong commitment of service to others and the public good.
‘Her reign gave stability and brought people together.
‘After her sad passing, things have changed. Polls show most feel Britain is broken — no doubt fuelled by the constant musical chairs around Cabinet and seemingly endless trail of crises.
‘At such a time, I would have expected the government to seek to claim some appeal to the late Queen’s putting the public before the personal but this mantle seems squarely with the Opposition.
‘Young people should be inspired to make contributions to public life in service to others. Sadly, this happens all too rarely and is another sign of the need for change.’
Professor Thom Brooks believes the citizenship test should be urgently overhauled (Picture: Shutterstock/mundissima)
In April, Prof Brooks said that King Charles was not included in the citizenship test, even though ‘pub quiz’ questions such as the height of the London Eye were. He flagged mistakes and ‘trivial’ information in the process for applicants to show they are knowledgeable about British life.
Prof Thom, who is originally from the US and has dual UK citizenship after taking the test himself, wants an overhaul of the process.
His report, entitled ‘Like a Bad Pub Quiz’, comes more than two decades after the original advisors met the public before subsequently launching the Life in the UK Test under a Labour government.
Union flags are being flown on government buildings today to mark the first anniversary of the death of the Queen, who was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, and the accession of King Charles to the throne.
A Home Office spokesperson said previously: ‘The Life in the UK Test is important for anyone applying to settle permanently in the UK to ensure they have an understanding of the democratic principles underlying British society and aspects of our culture and traditions.
‘We are planning to set out the process for reviewing the Life in the UK handbook later this year.’
Metro.co.uk has approached the Home Office for further comment.
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Prof Thom Brooks has flagged shortcomings in the UK test including an update on the royals marked ‘confidential’.