HC Deb 07 December 1972 vol 847 cc1660-1
21. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now introduce comprehensive legislation to reform the British laws on citizenship and related matters.

23. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will undertake a comprehensive review of the law relating to citizenship and nationality.

Mr. R. Carr

I am considering whether any changes should be proposed in our nationality law. It is a complicated matter, and I cannot at present say what conclusions will be reached.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I draw the Home Secretary's attention to the debate that took place yesterday in the House of Lords which bears some relevance to this problem and also, in particular, to the situation of East Europeans who came here as refugees after the Second World War and who, because—like some Commonwealth citizens—they wished to return to their country of origin, retained their original nationality but did not enjoy the same rights in Great Britain as Commonwealth citizens?

Mr. Carr

I shall certainly take that into account. Of course, the sort of case that my hon. Friend has mentioned serves to underline that this a very complex subject, which will need a very thorough review.

Mr. Steel

Because of the complexity of the subject the House will welcome the fact that the Home Secretary is studying the need for a review of the British Nationality Acts. We on the Liberal benches would not welcome any further piling of anomaly on anomaly in changing the existing rules.

Mr. Carr

I take note of what the hon. Member says. It is a complicated matter and therefore any short-term answer to it is, to put it mildly, rather unlikely.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Although there may be a case for doing nothing and making no change, many people believe that such an approach would not be correct. If it is necessary to make a change will the Home Secretary therefore agree that it should be done quickly?

Mr. Carr

There is no question of delay for delay's sake. It is a difficult matter, and therefore unlikely to be solved in a short time, however much speed we try to make about it. I can, however, say that we shall not waste any time. But it is a complicated and difficult matter, which may also involve other countries.

Mr. J. T. Price

Is the Home Secretary advised properly by his Department about this? Those of us who are interested in the question have repeatedly pointed out to him and to the Foreign Office that the British Nationality Act 1948 is an absurd statute, in terms of today's practice. It not only inflicts difficulties and problems for people not born here; it inflicts grave hardship on British subjects who were born overseas of British parents and are now in trouble with the passport authorities, and are having their British citizenship challenged? Is it not offensive to any hon. Member who has feeling for his country that the British subject is told that he must consult the Government of Barbados or some other ex-Colony before being issued with a passport, especially where that man has served in the British Army?

Mr. Carr

We realise that the 1948 Act has become anomalous and difficult. We are reviewing it, and the technical studies involved are well in hand.