§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir G. Cave)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This Bill was approved in principle at the Imperial Conference in the spring of 1917. Since that time a draft Bill has been circulated throughout the Empire, and the draft has been approved by all the self-governing Dominions and India, with the exception of Australia, which has not yet approved the draft, but has indicated no dissent. The main purpose of the Bill is 623 to introduce wider powers of revoking certificates of naturalisation and to provide machinery for the purpose. It also makes certain Amendments, mainly of a drafting character, in the Act of 1914. We do not attempt to deal with the many difficult questions of principle which have arisen in connection with the law of nationality. I propose to refer these questions very shortly to a conference of experts, who will consider them and suggest or recommend legislation which will apply throughout the Empire. I venture to express the hope that we shall not regard the introduction of this Bill as an opportunity for dealing with the wider questions, which can only be effectively dealt with after consultation with representatives of the Empire at such a conference.
§ Colonel Sir NORTON GRIFFITHS
Is it the intention of the Government to take steps at once to obtain that expert advice?
§ Sir G. CAVE
Yes, Sir; I hope to take steps in that direction as soon as we get rid of this Bill. In regard to the revocation of certificates of naturalisation, as the House knows, the only power of revocation which now exists is given by Section 7 of the Act of 1914. This provides that where certificates have been obtained by false representation or fraud, the Secretary of State may revoke them. I believe that in other countries, or at all events in most other countries, there is no power whatever to revoke naturalisation. In this country we have this limited power, but I think we all have come to the conclusion—mainly owing to experiences arising out of the War—that that power ought to be extended. I do not think that there should be arbitrary power to revoke certificates of naturalisation. It is most desirable that a British certificate of naturalisation once given should confer a right which cannot be taken away without some good cause. We want good citizens, and the more of them we get the better. It is very desirable that a British certificate should be held throughout the world to be something more than a mere temporary licence. A man who is naturalised here loses his nationality in the place of his birth.
§ Sir G. CAVE
Not in every case, but in most cases. If you take away his British nationality he has none at all. It is certain 624 that at present our power is not wide enough, and we are proposing to extend it. In substance the power to extend is proposed to be given, first, in cases or disloyalty; second, in cases of serious criminal offence or of bad character; and third, in the case where a naturalised person acts contrary to the declaration which he makes when he is naturalised that he intends to reside in this country. That means that a man who is naturalised here really gives a statement of good character, a promise to be of good behaviour, a promise of loyalty, and if these promises are broken it is only fair that the State should have the right to revoke a privilege given to him under those conditions. The Bill provides, in the substituted Clause 7, that a certificate may be revoked if its continuance is not conducive to the public good, and where the naturalised person(a) has shown himself by overt act or speech to be disloyal to His Majesty; or(b) has within five years of the date of the grant of the certificate been sentenced by any Court in His Majesty's Dominions to imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve months or to a term of penal servitude; or(c) was not of good character at the date of the grant of the certificate; or(d) has since the date of the grant of the certificate been for a period of not less than seven years ordinarily resident out of His Majesty's Dominions otherwise than as a representative of a British subject, firm, or company carrying on business, or an institution established, in His Majesty's Dominions, or in the service of the Crown, and has not maintained substantial connection with His Majesty's Dominions.I think these paragraphs include all the important causes for the revocation of a certificate. We propose to amend the Bill by inserting an express direction that a certificate granted since the beginning of the War shall be subject to review, and may be revoked. I should add that I do not think that direction should apply to British-born persons. As the House knows, a great many certificates have been granted to women who are British subjects by birth, and who, having married alien enemies, have become widows. I do not think it is necessary that the certificates in these cases should be reviewed.
In regard to the machinery of revocation I think it has been a defect in the existing Statute that, although power is given to revoke naturalisation in certain events, no machinery is set up for the exercise of that power. We propose in this Bill to give the machinery. We propose to set 625 up a Committee which will contain some person of judicial experience who shall consider the cases, and report on them to the Secretary of State. Provision is made in the substituted Clause 7 (a) as to the effect of the revocation of certificates upon the wife and family of the person deprived of naturalisation. The person himself, of course, becomes an alien, but unless the Secretary of State otherwise direct, the nationality of his wife and minor children is not affected by the revocation,provided that it shall be lawful for the wife of any such person within six months after the date of the order or revocation to make a declaration of alienage, and thereupon she and any minor children of her husband and herself shall cease to be British subjects and shall become aliens.These, in substance, are the proposals we make. Of course I am quite ready to consider Amendments in Committee. At the same time, I should like to say that the Bill, as I have already explained, has been very carefully drawn, and agreed to practically by all the Dominions. I am most reluctant that large Amendments should be introduced into the Bill, partly because it involves more controversy than would seem to be desirable at the moment, and partly because if we go into the wider questions, the passage of the Bill before the Recess would be endangered. I hope, in view of these considerations, that no attempt will be made to discuss the Bill in relation to the many large questions that may be raised in connection with the loss of nationality, but that, as early as possible, we shall pass the Bill substantially in its present form.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I welcome this Bill very cordially. I was convinced by my own experience when I had the honour to occupy the position now held by my right hon. Friend that the powers of the existing law with regard to denaturalisation were insufficient. They allowed a revocation of a certificate of naturalisation only where it could be shown that the certificate had been obtained by false representation or by fraud. There are other cases in which it is quite clear that naturalisation ought to be cancelled. For example, there was one gentleman of German origin naturalised some time before the War whose conduct was such at the outbreak of war that he was tried for high treason, but he escaped conviction by what was very little more than a technicality, it being quite clearly shown 626 that his activities had been contrary to the real interests of this country. It seemed to me absurd that such a man, when this War is over, should retain his status as a British subject. There were other cases of men who had been naturalised whose conduct was such that it was found necessary to intern them during the whole course of the War under Regulation 14 B for the sake of the safety of the realm. In those cases also, when the War is over, it would really be intolerable that they should retain their status as British subjects, and other cases could be quoted.
A certificate of naturalisation is, in effect, a solemn contract between the State on the one hand and the applicant for naturalisation on the other. The State grants him privileges of citizenship, the applicant undertakes the duties and obligations of citizenship. One side of the document consists of a certificate signed by the Home Secretary on behalf of the Sovereign granting citizenship; the other side is the oath of allegiance taken by the newly-admitted citizen. It is a contract with obligations on both sides, and if the naturalised citizen does not fulfil his share of the contract or observe his oath, or engages in disloyal activities, it appears to me not merely legitimate, but necessary that that contract should be cancelled. As Home Secretary I set up a Committee of representatives of the various Government Departments to consider this matter, and I myself acted as chairman of that Committee. Those inquiries had gone very far before a change of Government took place, and my right hon. Friend succeeded to the Home Office. My Committee had already come to certain provisional conclusions, and they are followed very closely in this Bill. With them I entirely agree. I think it is necessary that there should be larger powers of revoking naturalisation. I agree that those powers ought not to be exercised wholesale. The cry which is now raised for a sweeping revocation of certificates of naturalisation, not after individual examination of each case, but by classes, seems to me to be wholly unwarranted by the circumstances, and one which, if acceded to, would create grave injustice in many cases, and it would also be contrary to the principle which the State has adopted in granting by a solemn instrument the rights of citizenship, with the understanding, which is implied, that those rights will 627 not be cancelled except on due cause being shown. We in this country, at all events, would never be willing to treat as a mere scrap of paper a solemn instrument of that character entered into by a Minister of the Crown on behalf of the State. My right hon. Friend proposes a quasi-judicial, or in some cases a wholly judicial procedure, which appears to me to be well adapted to meet the requirements of the case. Let it be remembered that those who desire to see a wholesale revocation of certificates of naturalisation not after examination, but by classes, are not only depriving those men of the privileges of citizenship, but you are also relieving them of its obligations. For instance, you render them not liable to compulsory military service; and you exempt their children from such liability if they had been minors at the time of naturalisation. If you accede to the cry raised in some quarters for wholesale revocations, your action would be followed by consequences which those who raise this plea have apparently not foreseen, and you would probably exempt from military service in the British Army a certain number of people who would otherwise be liable to military service, and who would, if naturalisation were revoked, be left at large, free to take the businesses of other people, and no longer would be called upon to take part in the burdens of the War.
Further, let it be remembered that many consequences follow from naturalisation and would follow from denaturalisation, questions relating to marriage, business partnerships, and testamentary dispositions. All those matters may be affected to some extent by national status, and therefore the process of denationalisation is not one to be lightly undertaken, and I think the House should certainly retain the provisions of the Bill securing a special inquiry into each case by a Committee presided over by an officer who holds or who has held high judicial office. With respect to the grounds for denaturalisation they seem to me to be well stated in the Bill, though I confess I have some little doubt with regard to paragraph (2) (b), which states that naturalisation may be revoked if a person is sentenced to imprisonment for a term of twelve months. We should consider what would be the effect of a provision of that kind on 628 decisions of magistrates and the decisions of higher Courts. If the passing of a twelve months' sentence on any naturalised alien, who may, perhaps, have been naturalised twenty or thirty years before, might deprive him of his British citizenship——
§ Sir G. CAVE
The provision is confined to offences committed within five years of the date of the grant of the certificate.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I overlooked those words, and consequently my objection is very much mitigated. But I think we should consider before we go into Committee whether that provision is really essential in its present form, and what effect it may have on the administration of justice. The Home Secretary, as the Bill is drafted, is not required to revoke a certificate of naturalisation, and it is optional in that case, but, on the other hand, as I read the Bill, the quasi-judicial Committee would not go into the merits as to whether or not naturalisation should be revoked in that particular case, but they would go into the fact whether or not a man had been so sentenced. Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 provides thatthe Secretary of State may by Order revoke a certificate of naturalisation granted by him in any case in which he is satisfied, after such inquiry as is hereinafter specified, that the person to whom the certificate was granted either—Therefore, all that the quasi-judicial Committee would have to do would be to determine whether or not the man had been so sentenced. Then the question whether or not it was desirable or expedient to review the certificate would be, not for them, but for the Home Secretary. That provision requires to be looked into a little more closely, because the Home Secretary might desire to have the advice of the Committee upon such a point. That, however, is purely a matter for the Committee stage. With regard to the status of wives and minor children of persons who are denaturalised, questions of very great difficulty are raised. On the one hand, it may be said that it is very unjust that an English woman who has married a German on condition that he became a naturalised British subject should be deprived of her British citizenship if her husband through any fault of 629 his becomes denaturalised. She ought not to be swept out of British citizenship without her consent. I think that is a very powerful argument. On the other hand, there is this circumstance to be taken into account: Take the case of a woman who was not originally British at all. She may have been German, and she may have secured British nationality because her German husband became naturalised as a British subject. If he were denaturalised, she would not forfeit her original nationality. She would be merely restored to her original nationality. If you say in all cases that the wife of a denaturalised British subject is to retain British citizenship you may have difficulty.
- (b) has within five years of the date of the grant of the certificate been sentenced by any Court in His Majesty's Dominions to imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve months."
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Under Clause 7, Subsection (1), the Home Secretary retains discretion in the matter.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I know; but there are some who say that in all cases British nationality should be retained if it had been acquired from birth by the wife of the person who is to be denaturalised. There is this point also to be taken into account: A wife, of course, in very many cases is greatly under the influence of her husband. It is not invariably so. It may be the other way about, but very often the wife, especially in business matters, acts under the influence and direction of her husband. Suppose you have provisions relating to matters of commerce, in which Parliament in its wisdom decides that aliens shall be under certain restrictions with regard to engaging in particular businesses or with regard to the ownership of particular patents. You have a person who is a naturalised British subject, and for good reasons he is denaturalised. Consequently, he falls into the category of an alien in respect of all these matters. Suppose his wife retains British citizenship, he can transfer these matters into his wife's name. She will still act under his direction and influence, and you may find that the provisions of the law, whatever they may be, are defeated. Take, again, the question of prohibited areas in time of war. A person is denaturalised, and, consequently, is required to remove from a prohibited area. In the ordinary course, his wife and children would go with him, but if you have a provision giving the wife the absolute right to retain British citizenship he may leave his wife in the prohibited area and probably be in constant 630 communication with her, not only written but also oral, and whatever reasons there may be for regarding it as necessary in the national interests that he should be removed from that prohibited area, may thus be defeated.
I mention these points, which may seem points of detail, in order to show that the matter is by no means so simple as at first sight may appear. I very much doubt whether it can be dealt with by any sweeping rule following a general formula. You will have to have an examination into each individual case by some means or other. The Bill, as it stands, provides for that. Some hon. Members may be disposed to suggest Amendments to that provision. We shall have to view these Amendments with the greatest possible care, in order, on the one hand, to embody, as far as possible, the principle that a woman, like a man, ought not to have her nationality changed against her own will, and, on the other hand, in order to safeguard the country against possible dangers such as those which I have sketched. I, for my part, entertain no objection to the review of certificates granted since the beginning of the War. Conditions to some extent have changed since the early days of the War, and the manner in which Germany has conducted this War, and what we know of her system of espionage and her methods in the countries which are engaged in belligerent operations against her, may make it desirable that certificates granted since the beginning of the War should be reviewed in all cases. The number of certificates granted to Germans and Austrians, for which I was responsible at the Home Office, was exceedingly small. In the first two months that I was there there were six cases. I do not remember what they were now, but they were all very special cases, and in all probability they were cases of persons-who were only technically Germans and Austrians, or who were, in fact, of friendly nationality. There may have been persons—I remember one or two—who, unfortunately for them, were Germans according to the law, but who had never entered Germany since infancy in some instances, who did not know a word of German, and the whole of whose interests—and perhaps those of the generation even before them—bad been non-German. There were six cases in those two months and in the following nine months there 631 were only three, making nine altogether. I have no objection to those cases being reviewed, and I have not the smallest doubt that in each case it will be found that the naturalisation certificate was granted in most exceptional circumstances and for a thoroughly good reason. I have no reason to think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouthshire (Mr. McKenna) would entertain any objection to the certificates which he granted being reviewed. As for my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Walthamstow Division (Sir J. Simon), who was Home Secretary between his regime and mine, I do not know what his view would be because I have not had an opportunity of consulting him, but I think it would be a good thing that the Committee, under the Bill, absolutely fair-minded as I have no doubt that it will be, should take these matters under impartial review. I understand that this special provision does not apply to neutral, but only to enemy alien certificates.
Lastly, there comes the question of the uniformity of our legislation here with similar legislation in the Dominions. Like the Home Secretary, I attach the greatest importance to that subject. For very many years past some of us have been engaged in a movement to secure uniformity of Imperial legislation on matters of common Imperial concern. The first step towards that was the summoning of the Imperial Conference every four years, at which the Prime Ministers and other representatives of the Dominions were present, and at which matters of common interest were discussed with a view to securing uniformity wherever possible. Again and again this question of naturalisation has been discussed at those conferences. It was regarded as a derogation from real unity if our law provided that a man who was a British citizen in one part of the Empire should be looked upon as an alien in another part of it, and it was considered most desirable here at home, as well as in the Dominions, that there should be a uniform law under this head. The matter was surrounded by difficulties, but after several years of negotiation and correspondence at last uniformity was obtained, and a Bill was drafted by the Government before the War which was an agreed Bill between the Imperial Govern- 632 ment and the Governments of the Dominions. That Bill was passed almost simultaneously by Parliaments throughout the Empire, and, with a very few slight exceptions due to local circumstances, in the same form. It now stands on the Statute Book of four or five separate Parliaments of the Empire in almost identical language. It would be a thousand pities if this effort were now to be undone, and if we here in this Parliament, without consultation with the Dominions, without concurrent amendments there, should make amendments which would have effect within the United Kingdom only and not throughout the Empire. Therefore I do, in the strongest terms, urge on the House that in the Committee stage it should bear in mind the observations made by the Home Secretary on the Second Reading to-day, and be very chary of introducing Amendments into the Bill which would again have the effect of making our legislation diverse so far as different portions of the Empire are concerned. With these observations, I express the hope that the House will, without delay, pass the Second Reading, and, as soon as may be, the later stages of this most useful measure.
§ Sir WILLOUGHBY DICKINSON
When a Bill of this kind is proposed by the Home Secretary, and supported by the leading men on the Front Opposition Bench, it naturally arouses a very considerable amount of suspicion, and I hope the House will forgive me if I do not quite follow on the lines laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. Samuel). I think this Bill is one which really does need consideration, and although I readily realise the strength of the appeal the Home Secretary has made that we should not take advantage of this Bill to put down Amendments, I certainly shall put down certain Amendments on broad principles which I think are raised by the measure. May I say that the argument that this Bill has been approved by the Colonies would have far greater weight if it had been first of all approved by ourselves. The very same argument was raised in 1914, when the British Nationality Bill was brought in under the charge of Viscount Harcourt. Then, although we tried to move Amendments, we found ourselves faced with great difficulty because the Government said the Bill had been presented to and approved 633 by all the Colonies. I hope, if we are going to start on this Imperial legislation, we shall not proceed generally on those lines. What happened then? One Department of the Government had drafted the Bill which was sent out to the Colonies, and the Colonies believing that it had great weight behind it because it was presented by the Central Government of the whole Empire, were inclined naturally not to criticise it too much. Then the Bill came back to us, and we were not allowed to criticise it, because we were told it had been passed by the Colonial Governments. That is what happened in 1914, and I think it had very disastrous results. Here we have the same proposal again. I understand that, the Home Secretary proposes that the whole question of British nationality shall go before a Committee of experts. I am very glad to hear that. I suppose the Committee will be enabled to hear evidence, and as a result of their report we shall probably have some form of legislation after the War.
§ Sir G. CAVE
It will be a Committee of experts. It need not necessarily take evidence, but it will report.
§ Sir W. DICKINSON
I hope that before the Government set up the Committee they will consider the advisability of having a broader inquiry than appears to be suggested. This is not a question merely for experts; it is a question involving the broadest principles, and I venture to suggest that, in view of the relations between nations after the War, it is most essential that some of these broad questions of principle which are now being dealt with under circumstances in which they cannot be thoroughly dealt with at all, should be considered in a broad way by some Committee which should be set up soon. I should like to appeal to the Home Secretary as to whether it would not be possible to make this Bill a temporary measure for the duration of the War and a certain number of years after. I do most earnestly urge that the question of nationality after the War will require the gravest consideration. It is not a ease of dealing merely with Germans. At the present moment whenever nationality is mentioned, one's mind involuntarily turns to the Germans. Most of these questions have arisen out of the War, and this Bill itself has been rendered necessary because of our ex- 634 periences in the War. But after all, we shall have to deal with nationality in peace-time, and when we have reverted, as we all hope we soon may, to conditions of peace, we shall have to consider very carefully our attitude with regard to aliens. This Bill will not deal with Germans alone. It affects friendly aliens, French, Italian, and American, and, indeed, all our Allies, and we are dealing with a law which affects some of our very best friends. There is a proposal to be made by which you are going to authorise the denaturalisation of aliens during the War. I should very seriously question the advisability of extending the powers of a Government Department, which is what we are going to do, to take away, for reasons that some may think insufficient, the protection which we have given, and which other countries have given, to their citizens, although they come from some other nationality. Our position, I cannot help thinking, would be very different if we were not at war. We ought to be very careful before we put this Clause into force as against Americans. It would be very doubtful policy. The Home Secretary stated that there were very few countries in which there was any power to revoke naturalisation. That is perfectly true, and I believe it is a good thing. When once a man has accepted the obligation of citizenship in a new country there is no reason why you should give him different treatment, especially in times of peace, from that which you accord to the ordinary British subject. I hope the Home Secretary will consider the suggestion that the operation of this Bill should be confined to the War, and a certain period after, so that we may then be in a position to discuss the laws of nationality as they should be in times of peace, and especially to discuss some questions which I shall feel bound to raise in connection with this Bill.
The point I want to raise on this Bill—I do so notwithstanding the injunction, if I might call it so, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel)—is the one I raised in 1914, only partially successfully. It is the question of the nationality of married women. It arises under this Bill in a very acute form. I argued in 1914, and I hope to be able to argue again on this Bill, that the law we have in England at the present moment that a wife assumes, by the act of marriage, the nationality of her husband, is wrong. I believe it has been 635 answerable for a great deal of trouble in the past. This Bill raises it in a very peculiar way. The proposals of the Bill are to give power to a Government Department or a Committee—at any rate, it is a limited number of men—of saying that an alien who has been naturalised in this country and has been denaturalised shall have his British nationality and the protection given to British subjects taken away. The draftsmen of this Bill have found it necessary to deal with the question of the wives and children, and the way they do it is found on Clause 7 (a). They recognise the difficulty, but they do not meet it fully. The Clause says:Where a certificate of naturalisation is revoked the Secretary of State may by order direct that the wife and minor children (or any of them) of the person whose certificate is revoked shall cease to be British subjects, and any such person shall thereupon become an alien; but except where the Secretary of State directs as aforesaid, the nationality of the wife and minor children of the person whose certificate is revoked shall not be affected by the revocation, and they shall remain British subjects.That gives to the Home Secretary an extraordinary power. The Home Secretary may, at his own will, order that the wife of a naturalised alien, a British subject, shall lose her nationality or not according as he thinks fit. The right hon. Gentleman recognises that there are many cases in which even his Department—perhaps I should not say his Department, because I have the greatest respect for the way in which they deal with the question of aliens—but a Government Department will be able to say that. What does that come to? That a woman who is a British-born subject, all of whose children are British-born, will cease to be a British subject simply because the Home Secretary thinks it is necessary to deprive her husband of his nationality. A British woman, who has as much right to be a British subject as a man, will be turned into a German or an Italian, or a Frenchwoman. For the first time in the history of this country, and, I believe, of any country, it is proposed to be left to a Government Department to convert a British subject, who has never been anything but a British subject all her life, into something else. That is going far beyond any question of naturalisation, and is raising a principle of very far-reaching effect. I hope that when this Clause is considered the Home Secretary will at any rate allow me to move Amendments 636 which will safeguard in any case the British-born woman from being turned, against her will, and with all her children, into a German or an Austrian.
I should like to take this opportunity of urging upon the Home Secretary that he should also not object to our raising on this Bill the more general question of whether a woman should, against her will, lose her nationality by marriage. The Act of 1914 says that the wife of a British subject shall be a British subject, and that the wife of an alien shall be an alien. That is the law as changed, comparatively recently. Up to 1870 the principle of British law, of American law, and of the law of all our Colonies—indeed, of all the Anglo-Saxon race—was that once a British woman she did not cease to be a British woman upon marriage. That, I believe, was a right law. That was altered in 1870, in accordance with the recommendations of a committee of experts—very much the same sort of committee which is suggested now, a committee of lawyers. That committee never heard women. Woman was not considered at that time. No one heard anything about it. It was recommended that we should follow the Continental law, which considered that a woman was such a chattel that she followed the nationality of the husband in any circumstances whatever. Up to 1870 we recognised that women had greater rights than that, and we retained cur old law until then. It was retained in America until 1908. They then followed our example—wrongly, I believe. It has been maintained in Australia, I believe, up to the present moment. I am told that in Australia, notwithstanding the Act passed in 1914, an Australian woman still has the right to say that she prefers to remain an Australian woman, even if she marries a foreigner. If that is so, and I believe it to be so, the curious situation arises that an Australian woman who marries an alien in Australia retains her British citizenship, but if she happens to be in England she would lose her British citizenship for that reason.
That was the position prior to 1870. In that year a change came about. The result of that change has not been satisfactory. The great mass of women now strongly object to it. I have here something like forty-four resolutions which 637 have been sent to me in regard to this Bill asking that the position of the question of the nationality of married women should be altered in this measure. I believe if an inquiry were made, and if the inquiry were to take the form of a Select Committee of this House, or a Joint Committee of both Houses, which should take evidence and hear women, that there would be a strong case, notwithstanding the objection my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland, for altering the law back again to its original shape. The present law is that the wife of a British subject is a British subject. What does that mean? That means that any German woman who chooses to marry a British subject now, for a traitorous purpose, can become a British subject. There is nothing to prevent her. The Home Office cannot prevent it. She can come into this country as a British subject, and that is simply because you insist upon this principle that the wife of a British subject by the mere act of matrimony becomes a British subject. I hope to put down Amendments on that point, because it is a very great danger. The same thing happens in the other way when you look at it from the other point of view. A British woman who marries an alien is bound to become an alien. When I raised the point in 1914 I do not think people had thought about it very much, but the moment I did so I received letters from all parts of the world. I received a letter from a lady in Spain and another from a lady in Constantinople, thanking me for what I had done, and pointing out what they felt was the injustice of being compelled to lose all the protection of the British power in the countries in which they were living because they had married aliens. You may say they bring it upon themselves because they marry aliens. My claim has been that a woman who marries an alien ought to have the same right of saying whether she prefers to change her nationality as the man who marries an alien. When you come to the bottom of it there is really no difference from the point of view of justice between the position of the man and the position of the woman. There are technical objections and difficulties, but there is really no reason why husband and wife should have the same nationality. In fact, there are many cases where they do not. In this very Bill there are to be cases where the 638 husband will be of one nationality and the wife of another. In the Act of 1914 you have provided that if an Englishman chooses to change his nationality his wife need not follow. There again you have provided for the wife being of one nationality and the husband of another. There is no real reason, apart from convenience, why a woman should be of one nationality and her husband of another.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
If the change the right hon. Gentleman advocates were introduced, what nationality would the children take?
§ Sir W. DICKINSON
That is a very simple question. I wonder the hon. and learned Gentleman does not know. The nationality of the children follows the father. When you have to choose between one and the other, the law says nationality follows the nationality of the father, just in the same way as in the Poor Law the parent of a child is the father. There is no real reason why the woman should have the same nationality as the man rather than the man have the same nationality as the woman. I feel very strongly about this. I did my best in 1914 to get Amendments, and I got some of them made on this point. I know there is a very strong feeling outside, especially among a large number of associations of women, and I shall put down Amendments on the point, and I very much hope, even if the right bon. Gentleman cannot accept the full Amendments, he will at any rate do something to meet the more glaring injustices which will arise if this Bill passes in its present form. All these difficulties, I think, could be avoided if the Bill were made temporary and if at the same time it were understood that we should have an opportunity of legislating on this general question of nationality, both of men and women, immediately after the conclusion of the War. I think that will satisfy a great many people, and it would also facilitate the passage of the Bill.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I desire to join in congratulating the Home Secretary very heartily upon having produced this Bill. If it is strengthened in one or two directions and vigorously administered—because in these matters administration is even more important perhaps than policy—as I have no doubt it will be, it will have very great advantages. I agree with my right hon. Friend in postponing the larger Bill, dealing with disputed questions of 639 naturalisation, until he has had an opportunity of consulting the representatives of the Dominions, because it is most essential that in the general matter of naturalisation the whole Empire should be under the same laws. I notice one significant fact to-day. These benches behind me, which are generally occupied by a noisy and mischievous section of pro-Germans, are significantly empty.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman entitled to call other persons pro-Germans, especially in their absence? It is a term of insult.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is a little difficult to say whether pro-Germanism is a Parliamentary expression or not. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman would modify the expression.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Let me say they are considered by large numbers of Members in this House, and I think by the vast majority of the country outside, to be noisy, mischievous, and unpatriotic. I have said that in their presence, and I will say it again on the first opportunity, and I hope, Sir, I shall not be infringing your ruling. I call attention to their absence to-day as pointing to the fact that the strength of opinion behind this Bill is sufficiently strong even to silence their factious opposition to any patriotic methods. The history of the Bill is somewhat remarkable. It has been repeatedly asked for since September, 1914, when the then Home Secretary was pressed to introduce a Bill of this character. In April, 1915, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. McKenna) is reported as saying that it was not necessary or even desirable to take powers to cancel certificates even when naturalised Germans still owed allegiance to the Kaiser. From that attitude many of us dissented, and still dissent, and it is very remarkable that in the very month in which the right hon. Gentleman uttered that remarkable sentiment the French Government passed a Bill which had the effect of cancelling naturalisation in such cases. Matters went on. We pressed successive Home Secretaries. Some of them expressed sympathy, while other were content with doing nothing. But the present Home Secretary, I think, from the very first expressed his desire to bring in this Bill, and after some delay—I dare say there was necessity for it—he has brought it in, 640 and I have very little doubt that he intends vigorously to act upon it. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir W. Dickinson) was not very enthusiastic about it. He seemed to think there was no particular necessity for it.
§ Sir W. DICKINSON
I did not say that in the least. I think there is every necessity for it during the War, but I want the whole question to be reconsidered later.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I fully accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, and I regret that I misunderstood. Then we are all in agreement that it is necessary now. With regard to what he says as to some of these provisions being reconsidered after the War when the larger measure is produced, of course there will be no objection to that. Whether this Bill is expressly stated to be confined to the period of the War or not, it is open to Parliament to reconsider any parts of the Bill when they consider the larger measure. There is necessity for immediate action. What happened on the declaration of the War? A whole crowd of aliens rushed to the Home Office making declarations of intended loyalty and asking for naturalisation. Powerful influences were brought to bear. The Home Secretary (Mr. McKenna), speaking in this House on the 17th May, 1915, admited that powerful influences had been brought to bear to obtain certificates, and he took credit to himself for having to some extent resisted those powerful influences. I greatly regret that his power of resistance was not greater than it was, because in the first five months of the War no fewer than 127 Germans and Austrians were naturalised—ninety-seven Germans and thirty Austrians, irrespective of the women referred to by the Home Secretary. No fewer than 127 alien enemies were naturalised. That is a matter which requires consideration now, and, as the Home Secretary very properly said, a full revision of these certificates will be made.
The total number of alien enemies naturalised since the outbreak of war is 190. I agree with the Home Secretary when he says that these certificates should at once be revised, and I urge that they should be cancelled, unless the Advisory Committee state that the exemption of the certificates is desirable in the national interests. I definitely and absolutely desire to throw the onus of proof upon these alien enemies who have been naturalised to show that it was not 641 for some personal reason or through some inadvertence that these certificates were granted, and that their continuance is desirable in the national interest. We know that in the case of Mr. Laszlo, who was granted a certificate of naturalisation, that was the result of powerful influence. So much for the cases of naturalisation after the War. There were a large number of people naturalised before the War. During the seven and a half years before the War 3,000 Germans and Austrians were naturalised. Speaking on the 29th June, 1916, quite accurately and truly, and with the knowledge he had as Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Samuel) said:There are a certain number of naturalised Germans who have retained the strongest sentiment of loyalty to the country of their origin and who are potential dangers.We know why many of these certificates were applied for. They applied for them not with any desire to become loyal citizens, but with a desire to benefit their business associations, and to be able more successfully to carry out the policy of German penetration in business, or it may very well be to be able to carry out the more sinister activities under the protection and ægis of this British citizenship. Therefore, what I contend for and what many others desire, is that whenever there is any prima facie evidence that a certificate of naturalisation, whenever granted, requires to be considered, that it should be referred to the Advisory Committee, and that that certificate should be revoked unless the Advisory Committee report that the continuance of the certificate is conducive to the public good. There is a special class of case where I think these certificates require revision—namely, cases where the naturalisation was acquired for business purposes, and where the continuance of the certificate of naturalisation enables German businesses to be continued in this country which ought to be at once wound up. That class of case is referred to by the Board of Trade Advisory Committee, which advises the Board of Trade as to enemy businesses, in its Report of 16th April, 1918, Command Paper 9059. The Committee draw attention to cases where businesses are still being carried on by naturalised Germans, and they say:The Committee have a strong suspicion that in many instances British nationality has been adopted purely as an armour of defence, and it is not at all improbable that the adoption of 642 it has been made a condition of financial support. But such businesses are not within the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade either under Section 1 or Section 4 of the Act of 1916. If, however, German trade penetration is to be fully dealt with, some of the cases in which it is carried on by recently naturalised Germans would seem to require consideration.They illustrate their point by referring to the firm of Ettlinger and Company, which consists of two persons, a Mr. Ettlinger, a naturalised German, who was naturalised in 1888, and a Mr. Bernstein, a German naturalised in 1903. I would call attention to the Report and ask the Home Secretary whether it will not be possible in such cases to give the Home Secretary power to revoke certificates of naturalisation in order effectively to wind up these businesses. I have suggested one or two Amendments, which I shall put down on the Paper. I think the specified reason set out in Clause 1 will require amplification. I think there should be a larger discretion given to the Home Secretary. If the Home Secretary tells me that there is any difficulty in amending the Bill in the direction I suggest, owing to the fact that it is practically an agreed Bill with the Dominions, may I suggest that as we have the Dominion Premiers here, and as the Amendments will be down on the Notice Paper, there will be opportunity for him to confer with them, if there is anything contentious in strengthening the Bill in the way suggested?
The last point to which I wish to refer is the status of women. I sympathise with what has been said as to the case of a woman acquiring on marriage the nationality of her husband requiring reconsideration. It is a very large, serious, and difficult question. To my mind there is something exceedingly unfortunate in the present position of a married woman who was born a loyal British subject and has remained loyal to this country and who finds herself, owing to a marriage contracted with a German some years ago, in the unfortunate position of being of German nationality and subject not only to all the disabilities, but to the extremely serious comments that are made on persons of German nationality. I do not think that the Home Secretary can alter the law on that point in this Bill, but I would suggest that the subject is one which may properly be dealt with when a larger Bill is introduced later on. There is one point in connection with married women which I think can be dealt with in this Bill. We know that when a 643 British-born woman marries an alien and the alien dies the British-born woman, if she desires, is, as a rule, restored to her original nationality. In a large number of eases that has been done, and very properly done, since the War began. I am not sure whether the same practice applies when the husband is divorced from the wife as when the husband dies. I think it only right that it should be so, and that a woman who marries a German and divorces him ought to be allowed to return to her original nationality just as if her husband had died.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace)
I think that I may assure my hon. and learned Friend that that is so.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I thought that that probably was so. I would like to carry it one step further, because cases of this kind have been brought to my notice. A British woman married a German some time ago, before she perhaps knew very much about that particular German, or Germans in general. She has separated from that man and never intends to return to him and desires to purge herself of all German connection and association for the rest of her life. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that, in a case of that sort, it is desirable to allow that woman to revert to her British nationality just as much as if her husband were dead, or as if she had been divorced from him. There is no difference in substance in all these cases. Either the hand of God or the hand of man has got rid of her husband. For all purposes she has been separated from him, and in all those cases, accordingly, she ought to be entitled to get rid of his nationality and revert to her original British nationality. I intend to raise the point in Committee stage, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give it consideration. I congratulate my right hon. Friend for having introduced this Bill, and I hope that in Committee he will keep an open mind for strengthening it, and, when it is passed, approach it with the determination to administer it in the most vigorous and, as the Prime Minister has said, the most rigorous manner which the circumstances require.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. C. HARMSWORTH
I desire to join the hon. and learned Member for York in supporting this Bill. I do so more 644 particularly because for a very short period I had some share in the administration of this matter of naturalisation, and in that connection I heard with regret my right hon. and learned Friend's references to the administration of the system under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. McKenna). I had the privilege of working with the right hon. Gentleman in the Home Office during the latter part of his administration there, and I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that this very delicate and difficult part of the right hon. Gentleman's functions was administered with the utmost care and with the most searching inquiry in every case that came up for his consideration. It must not be forgotten that we did not know as much about the Germans in the earlier stages of the War as we know now, but already when I joined my right hon. Friend in the Home Office I found that there was in practice there a most rigorous examination of every application, and the most rigorous sifting out of every possible kind of doubtful case This is one of the most difficult functions that have to be administered by the Home Office. I should not, perhaps, be in order if I gave more than one or two instances of the difficulties that confront the Home Secretary. I remember that cases came up in those days of young men, very distinguished undergraduates of Oxford and Cambridge backed by the opinions of the heads of their colleges and by professors, tutors and fellows, young men of unblemished character but technically of German nationality. They wished to become naturalised in order that they might be eligible for an Officers' Training Corps. If my memory serves me aright, even in cases of that kind, so rigorous was the administration of the system by my right hon. Friend that, often with reluctance, those applications were refused. There were cases, as the House knows very well, and there are still. I believe, where there is an applicant for naturalisation who has lost perhaps one or two sons fighting in our Army, and there again, if my memory serves me aright, even in those early days, that was not held a full and sufficient justification for conferring the status of a British citizen.
There is extreme difficulty in conducting this matter with justice to the State and to the alien. But this Bill, in my judgment, has long been needed. The powers of the Home Secretary have been 645 far too restricted. That in such cases and during the War the Home Secretary should only have the power of revoking a certificate where it has been shown that there has been false representation or fraud in acquiring it is not sufficient. I am extremely glad that the Secretary of State is asking for much greater powers. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Pancras (Sir W. Dickinson) that it is extremely inconvenient that this Bill has been of necessity referred to the Governments of our Colonies. If, as I understand, that means that we are not able to move very important Amendments to it, that is a very difficult point, and I trust that the Home Secretary will find it possible to give his permission to introduce at least one or two very important Amendments. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras that we should take this occasion to alter the position of women in regard to naturalisation. I hope that is not outside the scope of this Bill, and not confined by the limitation to which the Home Secretary referred. I have myself received an urgent report from the National Union of Women Workers, pointing to this grave anomaly to which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir J. Butcher) and other speakers have referred—that is to say, that a British woman becomes a German if she marries a German. I remember when I was at the Home Office I always regarded that as most unjust, and utterly illogical, and I was never able to understand why the practice which existed previous to 1870 was then abandoned.
If I may make one other suggestion—it is really a Committee point—I should like to see added to the list of causes given in Sub-clause (2) of Section 1 that the Home Secretary should have the power to revoke the certificate of anybody belonging to a nationality which admits of double nationality. I think that is absolutely essential. When I had the opportunity of watching this matter at very close range I was struck over and over again by the absurdities and anomalies of our system, and I could not help regretting that at the time the Bill of 1914 was presented to this House I had not the knowledge of the system which I subsequently acquired. It is absurd that certificates of naturalisation conferred by the British State should remain valid the moment after it is known that the person on whom it is conferred enjoys still and maintains the nationality of his original country. Such certificates 646 ought, in my judgment, supposing the circumstances not to be known to the Home Office at the time the certificates were conferred, to lapse quite automatically.
May I make this suggestion to the House? I think there is some danger to regard all these certificates of naturalisation as being of the nature of very solemn treaties or compacts. I have always been struck by the extraordinary contrast between the immense privileges which attach to naturalisation and the really perfunctory methods by which they are obtained. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Home Office administers this work in a perfunctory way. It is not the fault of the officers of the Home Office that the system lends itself to purely formal and perfunctory treatment. There is not in the public service a more public-spirited or more devoted body of servants than in the Home Office. But by securing an application form, making certain entries, getting somebody or other to guarantee that the statements are more or less accurate, by getting four British citizens to testify to the personal character of the applicant, by paying about £4 in money altogether, and by taking the oath of allegiance, it is possible even to one of these people enjoying double nationality—how it is reconciled with the alien's conscience I have never understood—by going through these simple processes, to acquire all the privileges and become inheritors of all the traditions of natural-born people of the British Empire. We must not regard these contracts as too solemn; I think that would be a mistake. I have the greatest respect for any scrap of paper to which the British State puts its name, but it really was not much more difficult before the War for a person to become naturalised as a British subject than it was for him to take out a passport, or, I was going to say, secure a situation in domestic service. I welcome this Bill; it was long overdue. It does not, of course, go as far as many of us would wish, but I do hope that within the limitations of necessity imposed by the Home Secretary it will yet be possible for us to introduce one or two Amendments of substance which, in my judgment, are immediately required, if we are to restore anything like a system of justice to our naturalisation laws.
Though this Bill only deals with one Clause of the 1914 Act, I think it is perfectly evident to the House, 647 from the speeches we have heard, that it will not have quite so short and speedy a passage as the Home Secretary hoped in his opening statement, and there is good reason for that. As I have said, this Bill only seeks to amend one Clause out of twenty-eight Clauses, and I think three Schedules of the 1914 Act, and even though this small Bill may satisfy us in this House, and may satisfy the Government, the Home Secretary, and the Home Office, it certainly will not satisfy the public. It is because it will not satisfy the public, as the Home Secretary will see if he reads the newspapers to-morrow, that we in this House have a feeling that, although the Government do not wish us to do so, and though the Home Office ask us not to do so, we shall have to extend this Bill, and make it cover a good deal more ground than it does at the present moment. Take this 1914 Act, and how it originated. It was passed before the War. It received the Royal Assent, curiously enough, a few days after war had been declared. Originally it was brought down from the other place, after having passed through all its stages there almost unopposed and unnoticed. It was introduced by Viscount Harcourt—I do not know what office he held then—on the 13th May, 1914, and I should judge from the report of the proceedings that it was dealt with in a couple of hours, and after a short passage through Committee it got its Third Reading, and the Royal Assent, as I told the House.
Let us remember that when this Bill was introduced by Lord Harcourt in May, 1914, Britain was then on the high road to be a prosperous German colony. Great Britain, and this Metropolis especially, was the chosen haven of refuge, the chosen abode, for a cosmopolitan community, Russian Jews and otherwise, who chose to come to this country from another. That was the state of affairs which we permitted. Some of us did not like it, but it was permitted. It was the custom of the country, and if any of us on this side of the House during the passage of the 1914 Act had proposed any Amendment against that state of affairs we should have been frowned upon by the then Government, and if we had gone to a Division we should certainly have been soundly beaten. That state of affairs is entirely changed to-day, I submit, after four years of war. When they introduced that Bill, Lord Harcourt said on the 648 Second Reading that our present naturalisation laws were absurd and intolerable. He was dealing, of course, with our naturalisation laws as being different to those of our Overseas Dominions. I quite agree that this small Bill makes an effort to deal with denaturalisation, but I cannot make out why it stops where it does. After all, the principal Act of 1914 was an Act to deal with the nationality and status of aliens, but let the House realise that at the present moment, by a Clause of the Act of 1914, a naturalised alien can hold and acquire land. The Clause is as follows:Real and personal property of every description may be taken, required, held, and disposed of by an alien in the same manner in all respects as by a natural-born British subject; and a title to real property and personal property of every description may be derived through, from, or in succession to an alien in the same manner in all respects as through, from, or in succession to a natural-born British subject.I came across that particular Clause almost by accident one day, and I put this question to the Government:Whether it is the intention of the Government to make it impossible, either by legislation or Order in Council, for an alien or neutral, whether naturalised or not, to at present acquire by purchase, assignment, or gift, land in the United Kingdom?The answer was:Adequate protection against any such danger as it suggested in the question can be secured under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. General legislation as proposed in the question is not considered to be necessary.Of course, that means that any aliens naturalised or unnaturalised can acquire and hold land in this country, and if the right hon. Gentleman says "No!" I can tell him that he is wrong. Only the other day there came to my notice the instance of a firm of enemy origin, a member of which was unnaturalised, and was, in fact, interned at Paris at the commencement of the War. This enemy firm had endeavoured to acquire property consisting of premises and a certain amount of land that had been offered for sale by the Board of Trade as an enemy-owned concern. One firm of aliens was allowed to bid for and acquire the property of another firm of aliens, which property consisted of land as well as premises. I understand that this particular firm has been able to do this sort of thing all over the country. It may be said that the Defence of the Realm Regulations forbid that, but it is a fact that they have been able to do it, despite any Regulations. Let 649 us take the matter further. If the Defence of the Realm Regulations are not going to be kept in operation after the War, what is going to happen then? If the Government have no power after the War to prevent aliens from actually acquiring land in this country, why do they not make in this Bill provision that will give them the power, after the War, to prevent such transactions taking place? Why do they not put in a Clause forbidding aliens from acquiring land in this country now or hereafter? Certainly it is very necessary, and certainly the public demand it. When this War ends we shall have lost very many thousands of the best of this country. Still, these Islands will be very thickly populated, and we shall want all the room we can find in these Islands for the men who will come back. Surely we ought to take this opportunity to ensure that land in this country shall not be occupied by aliens or acquired by aliens. It is not, as has been said, a question of agreement with our Dominions, because this particular question does not affect them; they have land, and they want emigrants. We do not want an immigrant population. To say that this Clause of the Act of 1914, to which I have referred, must remain on the Statute Book after four years of war, because of a little delay arising through consulting with the Dominions, is ridiculous. I have an Amendment on the Paper that this Bill be read this day three months, not with any purpose of obtaining its rejection, but simply with a view to enforcing the fact that it is a measure which could well be considered in October, when the Government will have time to bring in a larger and more comprehensive Bill. Why not put this Bill off for three months, until we reassemble in October, and bring in a Bill dealing with any enemy aliens, naturalisation, and so forth—the last measure of the kind in this dying Parliament of 1910? If you do that, I am convinced that you would be carrying out what the public want, instead of dealing with the whole subject in an inadequate measure of this kind.
§ Mr. SHERWELL
I could not associate myself with the suggestion made in the closing words of the preceding speaker, because, so far as I have listened to this Debate—and I think, with the exception of five minutes, I have heard every word uttered in connection with it—and so far as I know the feeling of the House, there is no serious disposition in any quarter to 650 quarrel with the principle of the Bill, or with the objects at which it is directly aimed. I myself am not prepared to quarrel with the principle of the Bill, nor to discourage the Government by any word of criticism from achieving the objects of the Bill, although, at the same time, I would associate myself with one or two of the moderate suggestions made by the Member for one of the St. Pancras Divisions. Like him, I heard with some disquietude the preliminary suggestion made by the Home Secretary, when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill, that we should impose upon ourselves a self-denying ordinance so far as the moving of Amendments was concerned, in consideration of the fact that this was a more or less agreed measure between the Government and the Governments of the Dominions. I happen to have a very intimate acquaintance, and a very great respect, for the self-governing Dominions of this Empire. I have again and again regretted that an inter-communication of ideas concerning the policy between ourselves and the self-governing Dominions is not closer than, as a matter of historical fact, has been the case. But I do regard with considerable misgiving the tendency to commit the Houses of Parliament here to certain legislation or a certain policy as a result of conversations with the Governments of the self-governing Dominions before this House or the other House has been allowed to express any opinion upon the policy. That is a course which may be excused in certain directions at a time of great national emergency, but, as a result of my twelve years' experience of this House, I have discovered that when, under emergent circumstances, you once establish a precedent, that precedent very easily passes into a custom or usage of the Government of the day, and I do wish to say, with the greatest possible respect to the Home Secretary, or the representative of the Home Office present, that I think they must not expect us to commit ourselves too closely to the view that we will not move Amendments for, in our view, improving the Bill in consideration of any prior conversation they may have had with the Governments of the self-governing Dominions.
I also wish to say—and here I desire specially to associate myself with one or two of my colleagues—that it is almost impossible for us who have given con- 651 sideration to the subject to forbear from raising the question of the status of women on their marriage. That seems to me to involve a principle of such elementary justice that in connection with a Bill like this, I think, we must be allowed at least to raise and to argue the matter on its merit. After all, legislation in this House is introduced in response to what is understood to be the feeling of the country, but there cannot be any dispute that at the present time there is an overwhelming number of our citizens—practically the whole body of organised and even unorganised women's opinion in the country—in favour of seizing this opportunity to redress what is at present, as I hold it, a very grave in-justice, and if my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras (Sir W. Dickinson) should in the Committee stage, seek to enlarge the powers of the Bill by providing for that I shall feel myself in duty bound, by conviction, to support him to the utmost of my power. This Bill seeks as its primary aim to extend the grounds of revocation of a naturalisation certificate, and I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Harmsworth) that in the Act of 1914 the grounds are far too circumscribed and too limited. But what I venture to criticise in this Bill is that the Government have really attempted two different things. They have set forth certain new grounds of revocation, and then, in line 7 of page 2 of the Bill, they have introduced a phrase which really requires any setting forth of any fresh grounds of revocation unnecessary, "that (in any case) the continuance of the certificate is not conducive to the public good." You first of all set forth additional grounds for revocation, and then you take complete powers, under any circumstances and in any case, to discontinue if it is a case where it is not conducive to the public good. If there is one lesson which this War has taught us it is the extra-ordinary and sometimes quite arbitrary and unnatural interpretations that may be given to set phrases. All through this War we have had interpretations of "public interest" and "public good" which have shocked the minds of ordinary men who have brought common-sense judgments to bear upon them, and I am bound to say that in Committee I shall venture to question the extension to the occupant, for the time being, of the office 652 of Home Secretary of this quite indefinite power that is given to him in this particular phrase.
The assumption of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel) and of some other speakers has been that the powers exercisable by the Home Secretary under the Bill are powers dependent upon or, at all events, associated with the judgment of a special Committee of experts after inquiry, but under the drafting of the Bill that is not so at all. There is no necessity that the services of the Committee of experts shall he called in in connection with any particular case of denaturalisation. The services of the Committee are dependent entirely upon the sense of fitness of the Home Secretary. Clause 7, in line 12 (the substituted Clause), makes the inquiry by the Committee entirely dependent upon these words, "The Home Secretary may, 'if he thinks fit,'" but you may have a Home Secretary exercising the process of denaturalisation without any reference whatever to the Committee of experts, and that, after all, is a very considerable discretionary power to grant to any temporary occupant of a very high and important office. There is another point that I would like to mention—and here I associate myself with, I think, one other speaker in the Debate—and that is the power given to the Home Secretary on page 3 of the Bill with reference to the denaturalisation of the wives and minor children of citizens who may themselves have been denaturalised. The Home Secretary, in moving the Second Beading of the Bill, rather referred to this particular provision as if it was one of protection. It is perfectly true that in the latter part of the Clause there is the protective provision, but in the earlier part of the Clause a set discretionary power is given to the Home Secretary to denaturalise a wife and children as the result of the denaturalisation of the husband and father, if he thinks fit. That seems to me to be again an extraordinarily wide extension of discretionary powers, and that is one which, I think, might possibly, in the Committee stage, be somewhat safeguarded. There is only one other point, which may not be very important, to which I would refer, and that is the curious construction of the Bill. I will not say it is entirely without precedent, because I believe I can recall at least one precedent, but at least it is novel. This in construction is a rather 653 hybrid Bill. It is partly an amending and partly a consolidating Bill. There are certain new Amendments introduced in the Naturalisation and Status of Aliens Act, but it is provided in the last Clause of the Bill that these shall be incorporated and that the original Act shall be reprinted with the new Amendments incorporated in it. That seems to me to be a course which, while not wholly without precedent, is very unusual in the procedure of this House, and it is not a course which, I think, is to be commended. Legislation by reference is bad enough, but when you have a Bill which is partly legislation by reference and partly a consolidating Bill it tends to make confusion worse confounded.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am glad that to-day we have had an expression of Liberal opinion in this House on this question, and I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras (Sir W. Dickinson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell) on so ably expressing what I believe to be the true Liberal point of view on this Bill—it is that a woman should not lose her nationality by marriage with anybody who may be an alien. Men and women are now absolutely co-equal citizens of the State, and the sooner that is recognised by the naturalisation law the better. We ought to take advantage of every naturalisation Bill which comes before this House in order to put our naturalisation laws on a sound basis as far as the equality of the sexes is concerned. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Pancras will bring this forward, and that we shall have a set Debate on this point.
The other point on which it seems to me Liberalism is interested is the power taken away from the judiciary and handed over to an Executive Department to decide the question of what is right or wrong. I think it is a reactionary proposal to say that the Home Secretary is to decide whether a woman is to remain a British subject or not and whether the children are to remain British or become German when the husband and father is denaturalised. It is much better to leave it to the judiciary to decide or to have it laid down by this House whether they are to be denaturalised or not under specific circumstances. If a woman, a natural-born British subject, marries a German, who becomes British and then 654 is denaturalised it should not be left to the Home Secretary to decide whether she should remain British. Leaving the power of decision to a Government Department is a wrong process, so far as all Liberal ideas are concerned. I hope that the advice given by my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras will be taken, and that this Bill will be made simply a war measure. The whole subject is bound to come up again when Peace is declared, and then we can get a really satisfactory measure. If it is a war measure, most of our objections to it cease, because obviously there are great advantages in being able, in the exceptional stress of war, to tear up that scrap of paper which has been talked about. In time of peace, however, we have got to look at it with far more critical eyes.
I do not think the effect of the words which my hon. Friend opposite pointed out is so great as he imagined. The point he raised was that not only were there certain conditions—(a), (b), (c), (d)—which enable the Government to rescind the contract with the naturalised alien, but that in the last two lines of Sub-section (2) there was a general omnibus provision "that (in any case) the continuance of the certificate is not conducive to the public good." I agree, if it were an alternative measure, it would be deplorable, handing over, without any appeal to justice or right, the decision whether a certificate should be repealed or not. But it seems to me that the last two lines are superfluous. If any of the other four specific cases arise, they alone will be enough to rescind the naturalisation, and the mere addition of this is not an alternative, but is an additional reason, and really gives the Department no more power than they would have under the first four paragraphs. That is not what struck me as being so particularly dangerous. But, if this Bill is to be law for all time, I would call the attention of my right hon. Friend to the words in substituted Clause 7, Sub-section (2):Without prejudice to the foregoing provision the Secretary of State may by order revoke a certificate of naturalisation granted by him in any case in which he is satisfied after such inquiry as is hereinafter specified that the person to whom the certificate was granted either—I think that is a very dangerous position. If any conversation, it may be at the dinner table, is allowed to be the basis of 655 drastic executive action, such as removing persons from naturalisation, you immediately open the door to all sorts of agents-provocateurs and spies in the household. If you allow a merely disloyal speech—which, after all, varies so much with the character and feelings of the listener, and the temperament of the man who makes it—in your own home to be the basis of cancelling naturalisation, and, it may be, cause very serious financial consequences—I think if that is the general law, you are opening a wide door to a system of espionage, and to a breaking-down of the sanctity of the home and privacy of conversation, which is undesirable. I should like to see the words "or speech" left out, so that it is only "overt act" in the case of the general law.
- (a) has shown himself by overt act or speech to be disloyal to His Majesty."
That is another point which makes it all the more desirable that this Bill should be a Bill for the War only. But my main point is this: If we make this Bill for the War only, then, at the end of the War, when the whole question comes up, we can raise the elemental rights of equality between the sexes and the right of a woman to keep her nationality whoever she marries. I hope I shall not be accused of being pro-German because I venture to criticise this Bill. I notice the chief witch doctor has now gone out. I hope the feelings with which they approach this subject are only the temporary feelings of the moment. They will get over this nervous fear and will become reasonable citizens, realising later on that, because some of their acts are criticised by some Members in this House who do not agree with them, those who so criticise are not thereby to be classed with the reptiles and villains who would seduce this nation from its allegiance to the cause of the Allies. This Bill wants to be looked at carefully if it is a Bill for all time, but, if it is to be for the War only, there are one or two Amendments I should like to see. Generally speaking, I can support it, but the great thing is that it is not in accordance with Liberal practice or tradition that you should make this arbitrary distinction between the sexes, or invest in Government Departments that which can only rightly be left to the judiciary.
§ Colonel Sir NORTON GRIFFITHS
I do not think anyone in this House will accuse my hon. and gallant Friend of pro-German sympathies, after what he has 656 been through, and the part he has played in this War. I think it is well that we should criticise the Bill, and indeed all Bills from all points of view. As to his remark about the Bill being confined to the War, I take it if the Bill is passed we shall be able to amend it. My main object in rising to-day is to draw attention to the machinery, and I think it is very important that we should pay some particular attention to that. The Home Secretary stated yesterday that:We propose that that process shall take place, and we shall ask a central committee in each country to undertake the duty of revision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1918, col. 528.]He proposes that more than one committee should be set up. I think that is absolutely essential. I look upon this Bill, as we all do, as an urgent war measure. The hon. Member behind who suggested three months' delay apparently loses sight of the fact that the agitation throughout the country for some closer control over the aliens and alien enemies is in regard to the War, and that immediate action is wanted in that respect. Therefore, the machinery must necessarily be such that it can act with the greatest rapidity. I should like to ask whether it is the intention to have a committee in each country. Does it mean that there will be a committee in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Treasury Bench to make a particular note of that suggestion, if he will be so good, for I think we should have a committee for England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and, in addition, we ought to have a committee—it may be smaller, and the smaller the better—in each command area. That would take in London, the Northern, Eastern, Southern, and Western Commands—in all, eight provincial committees. The reason I suggest that is on the ground of celerity, otherwise there will be months and months of delay in making full use of this Bill. From the military point of view, also, if this is a war measure, it is, to my mind, essential that the intelligence branches of the different commands in this country, who have much information carefully collected over a long period—in fact, ever since the War began—should be available in the public good. I know that on more than one occasion, when I was in the Intelligence Branch of the Service, that I heard from intelligence officers who had visited different parts of the country that they 657 had experienced some difficulty in bringing to heel certain people of pronounced pro-German sympathies.
It was said yesterday in the House by the Home Secretary that it was the intention to put a soldier on the Committee. I was delighted to hear that. If these other committees are set up and are more or less kept to the command areas, then I would suggest for consideration that the intelligence officer of the command should be a member of the committee, as he is in possession of information which will guide and help those selected to carry out the duties of the committee. The next point to which I would like to draw attention is the revision of naturalisation certificates. I think I am in order in stating that the intention is that the review of naturalisation certificates shall not be limited, but shall cover the pre-war period in the case of persons of enemy birth. The Home Secretary, I think, stated that yesterday, but it would be rather interesting to have a clear definition as to whether the Bill is only to cover those persons who have taken out naturalisation papers during the period of the War. We well know that there were many who, just previous to the War, having had inside information, took the first possible means of changing their naturalisation. In regard to that I should like to support the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Luton Division as to the automatic cancellation of certificates, if, after revision by the Committee, the case against the person is proved. Another point I desire to mention is the question of identity books. They should be compulsory for naturalised persons of enemy birth. In their own interests it ought to be so. Those who, for some good reason, have to be naturalised, should also have identity books, and for this reason: I know one very loyal Austrian by birth who was naturalised twenty-one years ago. He makes a point of putting on his notepaper that he is naturalised, the date of it, and his origin. In any communication he makes he lets the fact be known. I had occasion to take him to a certain Government Department in connection with a technical matter which required great skill to deal with. The first thing he made mention of was that he was a naturalised subject, and that he would like all concerned to know it before they had anything to do with him. I think an ordinary 658 loyal naturalised person would as willingly, or more willingly, possess an identity book as the others. I ask for consideration of that suggestion along with the others.
The people we want to get at really, and that the people of this country want to get at, are those that we all of us in this House and elsewhere come across at one time or another, or in one place or another as we go about the country, and that is the person who is openly in sympathy with the enemy, who sneers at the efforts of the British or the French troops—such a person is always pro-German in his views and sympathies. I remember last year staying a few weeks in Wales. I got to hear of an astonishing number of people, mostly, if not all, women, who as I discovered—being at particular pains to watch and listen—when they went into shops to purchase things, whenever there was an enemy success, were loud in their applause of the Germans. They would go out of their way to express their sympathy with the German troops. There are numbers of people in this country, particularly women, who do an awful lot of harm in this way I have heard of them again in a large centre near one of our biggest military hospitals where there are scores of men, and these women are allowed to walk around at large and make these insulting remarks purposely to reach the ears of the Tommies who are for the time being patents or undergoing medical treatment. I hope that this Bill will have some effect at getting at these people. Very often they are not of enemy birth. They are, however, foreign; possibly they belong to some neutral country, and are living in this country. Like most people, I happen occasionally to have to visit the tailor. I patronise about half a dozen. Periodically I visit one or the other, just to shake them up and make them individually more careful. In the course of my visits I have made a point of inquiring, knowing that most of the work was actually done by alien workmen in the East End, or somewhere else, what were their views on the War. It has been rather interesting to get the information I have got. In every case, almost, my informant has told me that these workmen are of enemy origin, and were more or less in sympathy with the enemy. I said, "Are they Austrian or German by birth? He said, "Goodness knows what they are; they will not state their nationality." 659 There are a large number of those aliens in the country, and I hope this Bill will deal with them.
I visited some German prisoners camps, and there I asked what source of information they had got in regard to the progress of the War, and the answer I got from the second in command was to the effect that the prisoners got to know about the actions fought in France quicker than our own Tommies. These men are behind barbed wire and yet they get information before our own people as to what is happening in France. Whether this information is conveyed by aliens or by a system of espionage we have not yet discovered, but it is conveyed. I got hold of a non-commissioned officer, and I asked him where he got his information about the War, and he replied, "From the German prisoners." I hope we shall be able to stop this kind of thing. If we do have these eight committees, one in each command area, I think their work should be co-ordinated with the work of the central co-ordinating and revising committee. I hope it is the intention of the Home Office to make use of all the information which the Admiralty and the War Office have accumulated, and I trust they will work in closer harmony than they have done in the past.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in thinking that this is a Bill which ought not to be unduly delayed in its passage. Its urgency rests more on the fact that it is a War measure than upon any abstract desire to amend the law of British nationality. I cannot help thinking, however, that the hon. Gentleman who spoke last is somewhat unduly sanguine as to the effects of this measure. How it is going to deal with that unknown and untraced system of espionage in connection with German prisoners I do not see, nor do I see how a measure whose principle object is to give power to revoke certificates of naturalisation can deal with the women of neutral nationality whom he seems to be afraid of. Certainly they will be entirely outside the scope of this Bill, and therefore any hopes he may have raised in his own mind on account of this Bill in that respect are doomed to disappointment. May I congratulate the Home Office upon the way in which this Bill has been drafted. In this case you have the principal Act in which the whole 660 law is embodied, and this Bill is so drafted that when it is passed the various Amendments and alterations which it makes in the principal Act can be corrected, and the principal Act can be reprinted clearly, with all the emendations made in the new draft, so that we shall have once more all the law embodied in a single Act. I have more than once alluded to that point, and I am certain if the Government Departments would only get into the habit of drafting Bills in that way the Statute Book would be a less untidy and slovenly collection of scattered and dispersed, and sometimes contradictory, Statutes than it is at present.
I do not take any exception to the general object of the Bill. There is no intention to revoke certificates unless the implied condition under which they were granted are not carried out and fulfilled. It may be that we shall have to look at some of the grounds for exemption somewhat more closely, but those are all Committee points. I will take one small point. You take power really to remove British citizenship from a man on the ground that he was not of good character at the time of the granting of the certificate, if that revocation be desirable in the public interest. I suppose you take precautions in dealing with these men when they are naturalised to find out if they are of good character. I should like to know what they imply, and what evidence is required to satisfy that condition in the first place. I think that provision might be used, perhaps, to cover something which is not intended, and I simply give that as an illustration. In Committee we shall have to look rather closely at the various grounds on which certificates can be revoked.
I also want to reinforce the appeal which has been addressed to the Government by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Pancras. When you come to deal with the indirect effect of this revocation upon the condition of women, then you get into difficulties whatever you do. I do not think that the Government have solved those difficulties, and probably we shall never solve them until we get a clear idea and a clear principle on which those matters are laid down. The old British law on the subject before 1870 was, I think, much sounder. It was based upon the idea that you could not strip off your allegiance to the Crown. In 1870, or before then, there was a Committee, and certain 661 distinguished lawyers investigated these points, and applied to the position of women the old doctrine of coverture. Looking into the matter I cannot find that they have made any recommendations, but it naturally occurred that this doctrine of coverture should remain. I do not believe that the matter can be settled by any compulsory or automatic process. At the present time you have 3,000 women, originally British subjects, who are married to Germans. They have become German citizens. Many of them, I suppose, did not in the least know that they were losing their British citizenship, for these matters to the lay mind are wrapped in very great obscurity. Some no doubt know, but if they were to be married at all they had no choice except to divest themselves of their British citizenship.
You will only get into difficulty by the application of a general principle, and you will never get out of the difficulty unless you say that the wife must be treated independently on her own merits, irrespective of this ancient legal friction. If she is born a British subject, marriage should not make any difference to her citizenship unless she wishes it. If she is of alien birth and becomes naturalised, that naturalisation should be cancelled only on the same grounds as are applicable to her husband. We are told that would mean a conflict of nationalities. It might mean that the wife might have a dual nationality. She might be foreign by the laws of some foreign country and British by our own laws. There is nothing very unusual in that. I know one or two people who have that kind of dual nationality, and the difficulties can be got over. Of course, this difference of nationality between husband and wife was recognised in the Act of 1914. It is being again recognised in this new Act, for, quite justly, the Home Secretary takes power to differentiate in the case of a wife and a husband. If he cancels the naturalisation certificate of the husband he does not necessarily cancel the naturalisation certificate of the wife. Consequently, you will get a difference of nationality between the husband and wife in some cases. I do not think that can be objected to, but it ought to be put on a clear principle. After all, the present arrangement does lead to very considerable difficulties.
There are hon. Members in this House who are afraid of espionage. Much the 662 safest position for a female spy of German birth is to get married to a British subject. She thereby gets all the privileges of British citizenship automatically and without further trouble, and I should have thought that position was one that would appeal to any clever spy who was prepared, in the interests of her profession, to take any kind of step. The Home Secretary said he deprecated any wide changes on the ground that you must preserve uniformity throughout the Empire. On this point there is no uniformity. In Australia the wife has the option of retaining her citizenship in spite of marriage, and I understand that Canada is going to do exactly the same. One can well understand, where inter-marriages between Canadians and Americans may be quite common, that a change of that kind is really necessary. We need not carry the matter any further to-day, but the Government will never get out of their difficulties on this point until they adopt the only clear and intelligent position of dealing with the wife independently of her husband on her own merits, not granting her British citizenship and revoking her British citizenship because of the accident of marriage, which has nothing to do with it, but making her allegiance depend upon her own will, her own determination, and her own conduct if and when she becomes a British citizen. I hope the Government will be good enough to take the matter into consideration, and if, as I understand, they are going to propose some Committee to look into these changes, I hope that this is one point that the Committee will very seriously consider.
§ Colonel YATE
I hope that when the Committee that has been spoken of is appointed to examine into this question of naturalisation some steps will be taken to go into the cases of dual nationality. When Germans and persons of other countries come to be naturalised here they do not lose their rights of citizenship in their own country. No man can possibly be loyal, or ought to be expected to be loyal, to two countries, and in the case of any foreigner or alien coming over here it ought to be a sine quâ non, before he is naturalised, that he renounces the citizenship of the country from which he comes. I spoke yesterday on the subject, and showed how difficult it is for an adult coming over here to put the interests of the country of his adoption before the interests of the country of his birth. We may take it that an adult 663 coming over here and becoming naturalised always looks to the country of his birth first of all. It was on that account that I urged yesterday that the question should be considered whether some differentiation should not be made between the case of a man who comes over here and is naturalised and his children who are born in this country. Those children naturally ought to be admitted to full civil rights in this country. That question is different from the question of double nationality. I do not think we ought to give full rights of citizenship in Great Britain to a German or any man who has not relinquished, by laws of his own country, his rights of citizenship in that country. The point, apparently, is not touched in this Bill, but I hope, when further consideration is given to it, that something will be done to differentiate between the man who really becomes a citizen of this country and the man who retains his rights of citizenship in his own country. I cannot help thinking that Clause 7, paragraph (a), which refers to women, should be drafted the other way about. It ought to be reversed. When the certificate of naturalisation of the husband goes, the wife and the children ought automatically to cease to be British subjects. They should only remain British subjects when the Secretary of State, in his discretion, decides to the contrary. I certainly consider that it should be lawful in the next paragraph for the wife to make a declaration of British birth. I would put the onus of doing that on the wife, and not on the Secretary of State. I repeat the Clause, as drafted, is upside down, and should be turned the other way. There is a third point to which I should like to call attention. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent the acquisition of land and real estate by aliens. We have heard instances in which Germans have acquired coal mines and various other important industries in this country, and considerable feeling has been caused thereby. Cannot something be done to make it impossible for such things to occur in the future? In my opinion, there should be differentiation in this respect between British subjects and aliens.
§ Mr. D. MASON
Most of the speeches to-day seem to indicate agreement that this measure should be regarded as a war measure, and I think the Home Secretary would be wise to put in a Clause 664 giving it that character. It would then command a greater amount of support and do away with the necessity for proposing a good many Amendments. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras (Sir W. Dickinson), that the Bill as it stands should be regarded simply as a war measure and that legislation will hereafter be needed of a permanent character. The Bill undoubtedly gives very large, I may say abnormal, powers to the Secretary of State for the time being. Hon. Members generally have absolute confidence in the right hon. Gentleman who now holds the office, but he will not always be there, and, consequently, we have to consider the Bill in the light of what may be done by a successor of the right hon. Gentleman who may not command the confidence of Parliament to the same degree. The Bill lays it down thatAn inquiry …. shall be held by a Committee constituted for the purpose by the Secretary of State presided over by a person (appointed by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Lord Chancellor) who holds or has held high judicial office and shall be conducted in such manner as the Secretary of State may direct.I think that would give much too great power to any right hon. Gentleman who may occupy the office of Home Secretary. It gives too great a power to any Department of State. It is a power which, in my opinion, this House ought not to hand over to any Department. Then the next provision is to this effect:Provided that any such inquiry may, if the Secretary of State thinks fit, instead of being held as aforesaid be referred to the High Court for consideration and report, and the procedure of any inquiry so referred shall be regulated by rules of Court.Under that paragraph you have a much better Court of inquiry. In my opinion, it is better to refer to these matters to the High Court for consideration. The alternative as provided here is only in so far as the Home Secretary may decide, but I think, in justice to the alien, whoever he may be, he ought to have the same right of appeal to an outside Court. He should be able to say by what Court his appeal should be heard. I propose to put down an Amendment, which I hope may receive some support, to provide that if the Home Secretary should decide to refer the question of naturalisation to such a Court, then also it shall not be left to him entirely, but the alien himself shall, if he prefers, have the case referred to the 665 High Court. I agree with the hon. Member who drew attention to Clause 7, Sub-section (6), which deals with the continuance of the certificate where it is not conducive to the public good. That, again, I think is far too wide a power to hand over to any Department. It might be made to apply to aliens who may have very pronounced opinions which might be said to be against the public good, and advantage of it might be taken to revoke the naturalisation of a man who is manufacturing goods in competition with our home manufactures. It seems to me, in fact, it would allow political animus to enter into what is purely a war measure. I hope the Secretary will consider the question of making this a purely war measure rather than one which is to be enforced after the War. By so doing he will get rid of much opposition to the Bill.
§ Mr. WATT
I desire to join with other hon. Members in congratulating the Home Office on having brought this Bill in, and I hope that the Department will vigorously administer it, because it is in the administration of measures like this that vigour is demanded both by the House and the country. Particularly I desire to congratulate the Home Office on Subsection (a), which deals with naturalised aliens who have shown themselves "by overt act or speech to be disloyal to His Majesty." There have been many hard cases of aliens interned who never at any time have shown by overt act or speech that they are opposed to this country. Yet it has been found necessary to intern them and it may have been wise to do so, because they have no naturalisation certificates. On the other hand, there are many men in the country in possession of certificates of naturalisation who by overt act and speech have shown that their inclinations are against this country and against His Majesty. They have not been interned because they possess naturalisation certificates, and although they have been guilty of this action they have been allowed to wander about the cities of this country, and even when they have been warned out of prohibited areas by the police or the military they have taken refuge in cities like Glasgow and London, and have been permitted to move freely among the citizens, although it has been well known that their conversation and actions are opposed to the welfare of this country. Another point to which I wish to direct the attention of the Home Office is in 666 connection with the Committee of Inquiry referred to on page 2 of the Bill. It is very difficult not to get confused regarding the various Committees adumbrated yesterday and to-day which are to deal with the aliens question. I understand that this Committee is to be a resuscitation of the Sankey Committee, which has dealt with the aliens question for the last three or four years. If that is so, and it is an enlarged Sankey Committee which is to inquire into the question of certificates, I would point out that Scotland had a Committee of its own, under the chairmanship of a judge of high judicial experience and having as its members well-known Members of this House. I hope that the Committee sitting in London and dealing with English cases will not be asked to deal with Scottish cases as well, because they will have too much to do. The Home Secretary indicated yesterday that the Committee would have to travel about to hold inquiries in different parts of the country, and if they are to go to Scotland as well it might well be that Scotland will be neglected. I hope the Home Office will consider that Scotland would be treated more thoroughly if the old system were followed. Perhaps before the Committee stage that matter will be taken into consideration.
§ Sir R. COOPER
I desire to raise one point not dealt with by any speaker during this Debate. It refers to the certificates of naturalisation that have been granted since the War began, and which those who were asked to advise the Prime Minister felt very strongly ought to be reviewed in any case, every one of them, by the Government authorities. I understand that under this Bill the Secretary of State himself determines what certificates he will or will not review; therefore the value of this Bill—assuming that it is carried into law very much in its present form—depends entirely for its value on the manner in which it is administered. With regard to these naturalisation certificates taken out since the War began, there is a very important aspect of the matter especially affecting Germans who have been naturalised since the War began, because on the 1st January, 1914, there came into force what is known as the Delbruck law, under which Germans who have become naturalised in this or any other country may, and in many cases they have certainly done so, deliberately retain their German nationality with 667 the knowledge and direction of the German Government. I do not know whether the Home Secretary intends, when this Bill is put on the Statute Book, to determine that every one of such certificates of naturalisation shall be reviewed. If that has not been specially considered recently by the Home Office, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will put the point to the Home Secretary at a very early date, because I personally attach the greatest possible importance to it. I have what I understand are real facts which point very strongly to the urgency of these particular people being reviewed lock, stock, and barrel. This Bill is a war emergency measure. I understand, like many other hon. Members, that shortly after the War is over there will be brought forward a new Bill dealing with the question of naturalisation. That really ought to have been dealt with in this Bill, but I hope that when that later time comes that those who are responsible for the measure will then give consideration to the terms of the oath which we require from those who take up British nationality, particularly in connection with the question of the Delbruck law. While there are some matters which might have received a little more consideration from the Government at the present time, in view of the circumstances of the War, nevertheless I feel a good deal of satisfaction with the policy which the Home Secretary announced to us yesterday, and that part of it which is represented by this Bill, if only the right hon. Gentleman will carefully see that the promises that have been made in that policy are finally carried into effect by action.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Pratt.]