UK tourist visas are often denied to would-be visitors because they "plan a holiday for no particular purpose other than sightseeing", a report says.

Others were turned down because they had never previously taken any foreign travel or could not speak English.

The "ridiculous reasons" for rejecting visas were set out in a report by the independent monitor of UK visas.

Linda Costelloe Baker's report said that despite such flaws there had been "significant improvement in quality."

But she said entry clearance officers could use "some ridiculous reasons when refusing visa for tourist visits".

She said a common reason for refusal was "you wish to go to the UK for a holiday. You have never previously undertaken any foreign travel before and I can see little reason for this trip".

In her report she says "this is a common reason for refusal but there was a first time for everyone who has gone abroad on a holiday and not having done it before is an acceptable reason for travel".

Another reason to reject a tourist visa was "you plan a holiday for no particular purpose other than sightseeing".

On the use of that reason, she says: "But that's what the UK is famous for, sights worth seeing."

'Live like a housewife'

She said the numbers of British people "going on their hols" would be cut if other countries emulated the UKvisas officials who rejected a tourist visa request because the applicant did not have a "sufficient command of the language for the purposes of tourism".

She also highlights the case of a person whose request was rejected by an officer because they had "little or no idea what you plan to see or do".

This was, she discloses, because the person had answered the question on a form asking why they were going to the UK, with the words "annual leave vacation".

That was a "perfectly sensible response", Mrs Costelloe Baker said.

Another woman was criticised for not researching the UK's background when she said she wanted to spend her four-month visit to her fiance to "just live as a housewife".

"I suspect being a housewife for four months was all she wanted to do and the Immigration Rules allow that," Mrs Costelloe Baker said.

She said it was "a little naive to worry about a list of tourist sights" being outlined if applicants wanted to visit close friends.

An applicant in St Petersburg wrote: "I just want a holiday, my friends live near the seaside" to which the officer wrote "you have not named any places you will see".

Mrs Costelloe Baker said this was not the case - the applicant had named the "seaside".

'Plain English please!'

In one case, a man was refused a visa because the officer thought it not credible that he was going to stay in a hotel in Cirencester "far from [his] friends in Surrey and Kent".

The hotel was in fact in London and the man had told the officer that he had not wanted to put a burden on his friends for his entire 28-day visit.

Mrs Costelloe Baker said the man had been offered another application free of charge and she hoped he would get an apology as well.

She also said there had been improvement in the language used to explain refusals to applicants since the "very strange wordings" seen during her previous assessment.

But she still called for "plain English please!"

The report covers the first nine months of 2006, which had been a very busy period for UKvisas.

Mrs Costelloe Baker, who is independent but appointed by the Foreign Office, concluded that overall "there has been a significant improvement in the quality of UKvisas work compared with 2005 and I have found that refusal notices are more consistent and less idiosyncratic".