Politics: Initiation rites for Britons planned

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US-STYLE "welcoming" ceremonies could be used for all new British citizens under plans being drawn up by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary.

He told the Foundation for Citizenship pressure group yesterday that new citizens should be allowed to celebrate publicly "this key rite of passage".

In the US, he said, new citizens were treated to "tear-jerking" ceremonies, singing the national anthem and swearing allegiance to the flag.

But the Home Office had no means of holding similar events, diminishing the concept of citizenship, he added. "Citizenship is not just about legal rights and legal enforcement. It should also have a positive, proactive side. Citizenship is something worth celebrating.

"We have not been good at doing this. Canada and Australia honour new citizens with public ceremonies and citations. In Britain we send a certificate through the post. And we make people wait two years for it, such is the delay in processing applications."

Although most British people preferred to regard themselves as Londoners or Liverpudlians, rather than as "citizens", international agreements such as the Treaties of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights were forcing a rethink of rights and responsibilities for all.