In the fuss over Sajid Javid’s support for an oath of loyalty to `British values’ to be taken by public servants, it is worth having a look at what the Casey Review actually proposes. It has recommendations for two oaths. One would be taken by public servants:
We expect the highest standards in all civic leaders in selflessness and integrity, so too we should expect all in public office to uphold the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. The Government should work with the Committee for Standards in Public life to ensure these values are enshrined in the principles of public life, including a new oath for holders of public office.
Quite rightly, this has raised objections, though Diane Abbot is missing the point when she says that “I have nothing against it in principle, but it will not make a difference to the problems of radicalisation, or integration. I don’t think the oath will make any verifiable difference.” It is wrong in principle, and should be objected to on principle. Nothing more should be demanded of any office holder than that they do their job competently and honestly. Anything else is a matter for the law, and not for some performance of acquiescence to the state. Of course, such an oath will make a verifiable difference, like loyalty oaths everywhere: it will intimidate the dissident and produce a climate in which people will fear for their livelihoods if they say the wrong thing. Incidentally, given that members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines do not swear an oath of allegiance, this would be setting a higher bar for “elected officials, civil servants, council workers, and BBC and NHS employees” than for an Admiral of the Fleet.
The second recommendation has been less-widely discussed but is equally disturbing. It would require newly arrived immigrants to swear an oath on arrival, merely in order to remain in the country.
The Government should also review the route to full British Citizenship, which is of huge national, cultural and symbolic value. The Government should look at what is required for British citizenship, as opposed to leave to remain, and
separately consider an Oath of Integration with British Values and Society on arrival, rather than awaiting a final citizenship test.
A citizen of another country would be required to swear an oath merely to live in the United Kingdom. This goes beyond any undertaking to obey the laws of their country of residence, or to learn the language, or know something of the culture. It is a demand for a performance of loyalty and acquiescence which can only have the effect of insulting and demeaning people newly arrived in this country and intimidating them into renouncing the exercise of basic civil and human rights.
The government’s guidance to universities in England and Wales on the `Prevent duty’ contains the following paragraphs (120,1):
Universities have a clear role to play in the welfare of their students and we would expect there to be sufficient chaplaincy and pastoral support for all students.
As part of this, we would expect the institution to have clear and widely available policies for the use of prayer rooms and other faith-related facilities. These policies should outline arrangements for managing prayer and faith facilities (for example an oversight committee) and for dealing with any issues arising from the use of the facilities.
The use of the term `prayer rooms’ does make clear which faith is being targeted here. A few years ago, however, Bristol University’s Christian Union barred women from speaking unaccompanied at its events:
We understand that this [women teaching] is a difficult issue for some and so decided that women would not teach on their own at our CU:Equip meetings [its principal weekly meeting], as the main speaker on our Bristol CU weekend away or as our main speaker for mission weeks.
If such a thing happens again, is an academic or other member of university staff expected to note this affront to the `fundamental British value’ of `individual liberty’ and report the Christian Union for extremism?