Bill's Archived Comments

Monday, 11th February 2002

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Citizenship and the English language

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has published a White Paper called "Secure Borders, Safe Haven". In it, he proposes that those seeking naturalisation as British Citizens will be required to attend citizenship classes, learn English and make a pledge of loyalty. The White Paper also proposes that work opportunities be opened up for non-EU citizens and that a clearer distinction between immigration and naturalisation policies, on the one hand, and regulations governing asylum applications, on the other, be established. There is much additional detail, of course, but these seem to be the principal aims. A side effect will be to create a regime which permits those with skills in short supply here to come here to work more easily, similar in effect to the 'green card' system used by the United States - this seems a very positive step.

Broadly speaking, I think the proposals are a big step forward. It seems reasonable that those wishing to become naturalised should have, at the very least, a working knowledge of the main (and the official) language of the country if they are to be in a position to participate fully here. Similarly, it seems reasonable that there should be a basic knowledge of how this country functions, and that people who aspire to naturalisation should pledge that they have the best interests of this country at heart.

I am rather concerned, though, at the remarks Mr Blunkett has made in relation to 'arranged' marriages; there is a definite whiff of 'racism' or at the very least 'insensitivity', it seems to me. Arranged marriages are not common, traditionally, in British society - although they were once much more common, particularly in society's upper reaches (so to speak), and linger on today mainly amongst the aristocracy and specially the Royal Family. I consider it highly unlikely that Mr Blunkett would ever criticise publicly a member of the Royal Family who was paired with (or chose to pair with) a foreign national, except under very special circumstances. No, it seems inescapable that Mr Blunkett was giving voice to, at the very least, views which relate solely to the different cultural practices of some British citizens. It is obviously a concern that some marriages seem to be contracted for the sole purpose of allowing the foreign partner to claim naturalisation more easily, but great care (dare I say greater care) needs to be exercised by Mr Blunkett in expressing his views.

Labour MP Keith Vaz facing suspension from the House of Commons for a month

Following the issuance of a damning report by the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, Dame Elizabeth Filkin, the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges is likely to announce a one month suspension for Mr Keith Vaz, who was until the last election a Junior Minister at the Foreign Office. It appears that the Prime Minister's office is distancing itself from Mr Vaz, averring that it is a matter solely for him and the Parliamentary Commissioner - a very different stance from the unqualified support the Prime Minister continued, amazingly, to give Mr Vaz in the run-up to the last General Election. Even if the wheels are not yet coming off Labour's wagon, this incident (together with some others in recent weeks) does seem to indicate at least that some lubrication of its moving parts is perhaps becoming necessary.

Too boring even to be a waxwork

It seems Iain Duncan Smith (Leader of the Conservative Party, just in case you hadn't the foggiest notion of who he is)  is just too uninteresting - even to be considered for a wax effigy at Madame Tussauds. Whilst they still have an effigy of Kenneth Clarke (a former Conservative Cabinet Minister), and even Charles Kennedy (LibDem Leader) is considering worthy of a place, they have announced that they have no plans to include IDS - they will only consider including him should he do something noteworthy in future; a spokesperson seemed to think this was highly unlikely. Cruelly, she added 'Ever' to her assessment. A clearly stung Mr Duncan Smith, trying to make light of the first omission of the leader of a major political party for 130 years, could only whimper that "I'm happy to be a human being".

Princess Margaret dies

Princess Margaret, the younger sister of the Queen, died early on Saturday 9th February, at the age of seventy-one. She was born on 21st August 1930. Whatever one may think of her, and the Royal Family in general, it is certainly a sad time for her children, her mother and sister and other close relatives and I offer them my condolences.

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Copyright © 2002 William Cameron