Blunkett will press ahead with contentious citizenship and English tests

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Immigrants applying to live in Britain will be expected to pass English tests and swear an oath of loyalty to their new country, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will say today.

The moves, which will be unveiled in a White Paper on citizenship, are likely to anger ethnic-minority groups. But he has decided to continue with the plans after a report into riots in northern cities last summer suggested Asians felt excluded from mainstream society.

Under Mr Blunkett's proposals, arrivals will be required to take tests on written and spoken English. They will also be asked to go on courses to study the country's laws, political system and traditions.

Applicants who pass will then attend a ceremony to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen and promise to uphold its rights and laws.

Mr Blunkett told The Sun: "I want a formal ceremony to celebrate, just like when we are baptised, get married or graduate from university ... That way we could celebrate British citizenship and welcome new citizens into the community." He added that he envisaged "public occasions appropriate to our way of doing things in Britain. When they apply for citizenship, we shall expect them to learn about British society and institutions."

The legislation will apply to asylum-seekers and immigrants arriving under the green-card scheme. They will be handed packs in their native language introducing them to the country's traditions. They will also be directed to adult education centres to take English and citizenship lessons.

Mr Blunkett has been accused by critics of "linguistic colonialism", but he has insisted that there is no contradiction between retaining a distinct cultural identity and identifying with Britain.

The Home Office has also drawn up a shortlist of eight sites to house new accommodation centres for asylum-seekers. These include several former RAF bases and a disused hospital.

Ministers have met MPs whose constituencies may be affected by the plan, in an attempt to defuse local protests.

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