§ (1) The Government of any British Possession shall have the same power to grant a certificate of naturalisation as the Secretary of State has under this Act, and the provisions of this Act as to the grant and revocation of such a certificate shall apply accordingly, with the substitution of the Government of the Possession for the Secretary of State, and the Possession for the United Kingdom, and also, in a Possession where any language is recognised as on an equality with the English language, with the substitution of the English language or that language for the English language:
§ Provided that, in any British Possession other than British India and a Dominion specified in the First Schedule to this Act, the powers of the Government of the Possession under this Section shall be exercised by the Governor or a person acting under his authority, but shall be subject in each case to the approval of the Secretary of State, and any certificate proposed to be granted shall be submitted to him for his approval.1487
§ (2) Any certificate of naturalisation granted under this Section shall have the same effect as a certificate of naturalisation granted by the Secretary of State under this Act.
§ Mr. RADFORD
I beg to move, at the end of the first paragraph of Sub-section (1) to insert the words, "and also in a Possession where no language is recognised as on an equality with the English language without requiring an adequate knowledge of that language."
The power proposed to be conferred on the Governments of British Possessions is, if I may be allowed to say so, wrongly described in the note as "certificates of Imperial naturalisation." These words do not occur elsewhere in the Bill, and I hope my right hon. Friend will pay attention to that. I do not want to repeat what I said on the previous Clause, but I am honestly concerned in the affairs of the Empire, and I am considering the case of the man who desires to become a British subject in a British Possession where English is not known, or very little known or spoken. I wish to know why an adequate knowledge of the English language should be required of the applicant for naturalisation in a case where he may be in a community numbering millions, of whom only a few have a knowledge of the English language. In the earlier Debate the Home Secretary did not say a word with respect to that difficulty. I assure him that it is a serious difficulty put forward in all good faith. I desire to have an answer upon it, and in the absence of an answer it seems to me to be unnecessary that British citizenship should be made to depend upon an adequate knowledge of the English language which, under the circumstances, may be of no use whatever to the intending British subject.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I beg to second the Amendment. Although the Amendment is perfectly intelligible, yet when inserted in the Sub-section it will make very strange English indeed, and I do not know that it will impress the people who are expected to have an adequate knowledge of the English language. The Subsection will read:… and also, in a Possession where any language is recognised as on an equality with the English language, with the substitution of the English language or that language for the English language, and also in a Possession where no language is recognised as on 1488 an equality with the English language without requiring an adequate knowledge of that language.All that sounds unintelligible. I would like to give one or two other instances. Take the case of Hong Kong. A man who speaks pidgin-English would not be able to pass muster.
§ Mr. HOLT indicated dissent.
§ Mr. BOOTH
The hon. Member for Hexham, who leads in a great many matters on this side of the House, tells me that pidgin-English would be regarded as sufficient to pass this simple test. I may say without any egotism that I am one of the few Members who could address the House in pidgin-English, only it is too late.
A Chinaman born in Hong Kong would of course be a British citizen although he did not know a single word of English, not even pidgin-English; but a Chinaman coming from the mainland although he might know pidgin-English would not be able to be naturalised. When you come to Shanghai where it is not a colony but a settlement, I do not know what difficulties there would be, or how they would be overcome. In the European settlement they use the French language in one portion, the English language in another, and the American language in a third. We shall get into difficulties. They have no legislatures. They cannot pass laws. It is not like Canada, Australia, and the Cape. They are ruled almost entirely from here. The same applies in the Straits, and I do submit that while here we of course have a right to be fairly strict with regard to our own country, it would lead, I am perfectly sure, to most extraordinary complications when you seek to carry it out in some of our Eastern possessions. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman can throw some light on the subject.
The effect of the Amendment if it were inserted in the Bill would be that in the great majority of the colonies, including the self-governing Dominions of Australia and New Zealand, where English is the only official language, an alien could be naturalised without possessing any knowledge of the English language. It is difficult to understand why is should be proposed to have a lower standard of fitness for British citizenship in purely English colonies than for those in the United Kingdom, and in the case of the Chinaman born in Hong Kong, he 1489 is born a British subject. There is no question of naturalisation. If a Chinaman comes into Hong Kong it is no special reason why you should offer him British citizenship unless he is going to qualify by a knowledge of the English language, to which much importance is attached in the colonies; and on that ground I do not think this is an Amendment which should be made.
§ Question "That those words be there inserted in the Bill," put, and negatived.
§ Mr. STEWART
I beg to move in Subsection (1), second paragraph, to leave out the words "or a person acting under his authority."
These words do not seem to me to be very necessary. It might so be that a duty of this sort might fall into the hands of some subordinate person, and I think it should be fixed on the Governor. In this country it is fixed on the Secretary of State. It does not prevent him employing subordinate officers, but in the colonies I think it should be fixed on the Governor.
The hon. Member knows well that in many of our tropical Crown Colonies it is necessary—at comparatively short intervals for the Governor to be absent on leave. In this case it would be impossible for any naturalisation to be effected in his absence if the Amendment were inserted in the Bill. It is not reasonable to insist that the Governor should always be the officer concerned. It would be quite natural in these Colonies that the matter should be placed in the hands of the Colonial Secretary, because there is a real safeguard in these cases in that the ultimate approval of the naturalisation is with the Secretary of State in this country, and the hon. Member can be quite confident that the duty would not be delegated to any minor officer by a Governor. It is, however, advisable that he should be able to delegate it.
§ Mr. STEWART
So long as the right hon. Gentleman assures me that it is not to be delegated to some minor official who might act in some irresponsible way I will not press my Amendment.