A London councillor today reignited the debate about the way that British citizenship is awarded by claiming that too many applicants who cannot speak English properly are qualifying.
Peter Golds, who sits on Tower Hamlets council and has handed out hundreds of citizenship certificates in east London in the past six years, said he feared that the achievements of thousands of deserving migrants were being “cheapened” by the lax standards applied in some cases.
He said that some people that he had witnessed receiving citizenship spoke very poor English or were “not really interested” in the ceremonies.
Mr Golds’s claims, which follow an announcement by ministers that tighter language test will be introduced next year for non-European migrants wanting to come to the UK, will prompt renewed discussion of the rules governing migration and citizenship.
Applicants for British citizenship are expected to have reached an “adequate” level of English and pass a test about life in the UK.
Under the previous government, hundreds of thousands of migrants were granted citizenship in a bid by ministers to encourage integration and the commitment of overseas arrivals to this country.
Coalition ministers have pledged to tighten the rules to ensure that only those with a genuinely high standard of English and understanding of the British way of life are able to qualify.
But Mr Golds, the leader of Tower Hamlets’ Conservatives, warned today that recent cases in his borough had shown that citizenship was still being awarded too easily. In one case, he said, he presented a certificate to a woman from Afghanistan who could not understand the instruction to raise her hand and repeat the pledge of allegiance.
He said: “It cheapened the whole ceremony. You have to ask why these people are taking out British citizenship. I am concerned that there are some people coming here who are not really interested in doing it compared with others, who are amazingly enthusiastic.
“There are people who are fleeing persecution, when you come up to them they leap up and shake your hand and you realise how important it is to them.”