27/02/2007

Brown calls for volunteer work for immigrants

Immigrants to the UK should do community work before they are granted British citizenship, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said.

Mr Brown, who is widely expected to replace Prime Minister Tony Blair when he steps down later this year, told a seminar on Britishness in London that current citizenship ceremonies did not go far enough.

The Chancellor said that being British was about "more than a test, more than a ceremony". He said: "It is a kind of contract between the citizen and the country, involving rights but also involving responsibilities that will protect and enhance the British way of life.

"It is also right to consider asking men and women seeking citizenship to undertake some work in our communities, introducing them to a wider range of institutions and people."

However, his comments have been criticised by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats as well as the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).

Habib Rahman, JCWI Chief Executive, said they were "extremely concerned" about Mr Brown's remarks. He said: "Compulsory community service is usually imposed as a non-custodial penalty for a criminal offence."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis dismissed the initiative saying that it was "of little substance". He said: "The problem is not with those applying for citizenship, but with the number of illegal immigrants coming into the country."

Mr Davis said that the government should focus on ensuring that immigrants making citizenship applications are subjected to more effective background and passport checks and called for the introduction of a dedicated UK border police. He said that these measures would "actually get a grip on the problems in the immigration service".

Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell also dismissed Mr Brown's remarks.

He said: "This is just a gimmick and would be impossible to enforce. We need proper provision for teaching English, not more headline chasing."

(KMcA/SP)

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