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New UK citizens to face tough English test

Last updated on: July 09, 2004 09:26 IST

Britain is expected to introduce tougher English tests for new immigrants as a row broke over the Home Secretary David Blunkett's fresh attempt to outlaw incitement to religious hatred.

New migrants who want to become British citizens will have to demonstrate a defined minimum standard of English or take a compulsory course of the language and citizenship classes for which those who can afford it will be expected to pay.

The tighter than expected requirement will come into force this autumn as a result of a parliamentary order laid by Blunkett yesterday. 

The original proposal put forward by an expert panel, chaired by Professor Sir Bernard Crick, rejected the idea of a minimum standard and instead argued that new citizens should merely demonstrate that they had made some progress in learning English.

The minimum has been set at entry level three of the international English Speakers of Other Languages standard, which says that people should have a basic grasp of reading, writing and speaking English and be able to understand the main points of a conversation and deal with situations regularly encountered at work, school and leisure.

The announcement came as the Home Secretary's confirmation that he is to renew his attempt to introduce a criminal offence of incitement to religious hatred provoked a mixed reaction.

Hindu leaders reacted cautiously to proposals by the Home Secretary to introduce an offence of religious hatred in tackling extremists who use religion to stir up hatred in society.

Ishwar Tailor, MBE, President of the Hindu Forum of Britain said: "This time, the Home Office have hopefully considered the concerns of various faith communities through consultation and dialogue. The Strength in Diversity paper released in May is a crucial step in ensuring that this legislation is handled correctly."

Ramesh Kallidai, Secretary General of the Hindu Forum said "The consultation programme initiated by the Hindu Forum will provide the Home Office with genuine feedback from our community. We urge the government to introduce the reforms cautiously so that we get it right, first time."

H S Rao in London
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