§ Amendment made: No. 66, in page 41, line 24, leave out 'society, company or body of persons' and insert `company or association'.—[Mr. Raison.]
§ Mr. Edward Lyons
I beg to move amendment No. 111, in page 42, line 42, leave out 'and (c)'.
The amendment would have the effect of exempting from the language requirement spouses of British citizens. Any woman who married a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies could always apply for registration. That did not involve a language test. Therefore, she could obtain citizenship without having to overcome that hurdle. The effect of clause 5(2) is that henceforth wives of British citizens will have to apply for naturalisation, and that means that they will have to pass the language test.
Mr. J. Enoch Powell
It is not my fault that this is the present state of the Bill. The Committee was able, if it thought that this as an injustice, to accept my amendment, as did the hon. Members for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and York (Mr. Lyon). The hon. and learned Gentleman, who did not support it, should not make so much of a complaint.
If the Committee had carried my amendment to insert the word "male", offensive though I understand that adjective to be—it was used adjectivally in the context of the amendment—the Government would have had to defend discrimination against the wives of British citizens. This is the doing of those members of the Committee who were not willing to act in accordance with their professions.
§ Mr. Lyons
If that is so, they will have the opportunity to make amends this evening.
Foreign husbands had to wait for five years before applying for naturalisation and they then had to pass a 1143 language test. The effect of the amendment would be to maintain for women the position that they have always had. I admit that it would grant to male spouses a right that hitherto they have not enjoyed. In these days of sexual equality, it would be wrong to give to one what one did not give to the other. The Government will argue that to ensure equality we must take away from the wife so that she is in the same position as the husband. I take a more positive line. I contend that we should give to the husband what we have always given to the wife. That is the equality of advantage and not the equality of disadvantage. It is a much finer type of equality.
A wife arriving in Britain could apply for registration immediately whereas the male spouse had to wait for five years before making the application. Under the Bill the wife will have to wait three years before making her application for citizenship. The same condition will apply to the husband. Therefore, the husband will enjoy an advantage. He will be able to make his application two years earlier whereas a woman will be disadvantaged. She will have to wait three years before applying whereas previously she could apply virtually upon landing.
We should be reluctant to take away a person's entrenched rights. We should be careful before making a change in the law to ensure that it is necessary. It is said by the Government that they wish to ensure that those with a strong connection with Britain should be enabled to obtain citizenship. There can be no stronger connection than marrying a spouse who is already a British citizen. I argue that the Government should leave matters as they are for women.
The immigration rules have to be taken into account and there will be few men coming into the United Kingdom as husbands-to-be. They will no longer be able to come in as husbands-to-be if their prospective wives were not born in Britain. That will certainly be the position of fiancés. In future men coming into the United Kingdom to marry will be coming to marry girls who were born in Britain. That means that there will be fewer men in that position.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
The figures have been increasing very largely because more men from alien countries have been coming to marry white women born in this country. The figures demonstrate that ther are more aliens coming here to marry than men from the Indian Sub-continent.
§ Mr. Lyons
The hon. Gentleman is right. I was referring to one special category of person. It is true that those who come to marry white women normally have no difficulty because the women have been born in Britain. None the less, there is an argument for parity of treatment between males and females. It seems that there is no good reason for taking away a right, or introducing rules which make it more difficult for women and men to obtain citizenship.
As I said in Committee, many Asian wives find it difficult to achieve a reasonable knowledge of English. That may apply to other foreign spouses. Those who intend to live here all their lives and who have children here may, with the best will in the world, find it extremely difficult to achieve a level of English that satisfies the Home Office and that will enable them to obtain citizenship. In such cases, the only reason for refusal will 1144 be not residence but language. As the years go by most of those refusals will be based on language and on no other ground.
Effectively, we are telling the mothers of future British citizens that they will not be able to obtain British citizenship. I say "the mothers of future British citizens" because when those women come to Britain they will marry British citizens. A child born in Britain of parents either of whom is British is British. Therefore, many women who find it difficult, through lack of formal education, to learn English adequately will become the mothers of British citizens and will have the strongest interest in the welfare of Britain, if only for the sake of the ambitions and security of their families.
I ask the House to support the amendment. If it is passed, mothers—an important category—of British children will not be disqualified from British citizenship merely because of a lack of language qualification. Social Democratic Party Members tabled an amendment to the effect that those who have lived in Britain for a long time but who have not passed a language test should, by virtue of that residence, be able to obtain citizenship. That amendment was based on American rules. The Americans recognise that some people can never learn a language and, as a result, if a person has been in America for more than 20 years and is at least 50 he can obtain citizenship without having to pass a language test. That amendment was not selected for debate.
I moved a similar amendment in Committee, but it was defeated; the Government would not have it. Therefore, we are not being as generous as the Americans. Many people will not be able to obtain British citizenship even if they live here until they are 90, merely because they cannot pass a language test. That language test will remain a permanent hurdle, however long they remain here. I ask the House to take a leaf out of the American book and to go some way towards the American system by a different route. I ask the House to say, in effect, that the spouses of British citizens—who obviously intend to live here a long time—should be entitled to citizenship if the only objection is that their English does not satisfy the Home Office.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
I rise briefly to support what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons). He has essentially stated the argument, which is one of consistency and parity. I am not in a position to argue with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), because I did not serve on the Committee, and nor did any other Liberal Member. Whether or not he is correct—and he has a creeping tendency to be correct when it is a matter of cold logic—should not be a bar to accepting the amendment if it rectifies a wrong. Therefore, I look forward to his support in the Lobby.
If Mr. Smith, fluent in Swedish, went to Stockholm and met and married Miss Sweden 1981, he might bring her back to Britain. Under the previous regulations, even though she spoke no English, she would have been able to register and automatically become a British citizen. She would have the advantages of British citizenship and would be able to vote. Under the Bill that will not be possible until she has passed a language test. Previously, if Miss Smith, fluent in Swedish, had gone to Stockholm, married Mr. Sweden, and returned here with him, he would have had to face a language test.
1145 As the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West pointed out, the Government are putting members of both sexes on the same level, because they both have to face language tests. However, foreign wives are in a more difficult position than before. There does not seem to be much justification for that. Essentially, Liberals are against language tests.
§ Mr. Johnston
The hon. Gentleman is being lighthearted about the matter. If someone comes to Britain, marries and has the clear intention of settling down and living here, he or she has every reason to learn English, and will naturally do so. That does not need to be made express in legislation. It was not thought necessary before for foreign women who married British citizens. The case has not been made for a change in principle, other than on the basis of parity. However, that would seem to be a downward parity.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
Surely the hon. Gentleman agrees that it would be inappropriate to grant British citizenship to a man who could not speak English. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the hon. Gentleman's argument.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not think that it is inappropriate. I believe that British citizenship should be offered to the spouse of a British citizen and that no distinction should be made between male and female citizens.
In many cases, especially those involving Pakistani immigrants, there are problems, because, due to the nature of Pakistani families, wives do not move around so readily in the community as is the tradition in this country.
I object to the method by which the tests are conducted. The Home Office relies on police officers to carry out tests on immigrants' doorsteps. Police officers are not necessarily well qualified for that task. Judging people's capacity in a language is an educational function rather than a police function. I understand that when a judgment has been made by a police officer there is no possibility of appeal.
§ Mr. Raison
The hon. Gentleman says that policemen are not suitable people to administer the test, but the test is simply a bit of conversation. The policeman talks to the person involved and finds out whether he or she understands what is said and can conduct a conversation. It is not much more sophisticated than that. If we say that police officers are not capable of talking to ordinary people in ordinary language, things must be getting very difficult.
§ Mr. Johnston
If it is nothing more than that, why is the change being introduced? If there is not much in it, in the Minister's opinion, there is no justification for a change that will result in people feeling intimidated—not because of any intention to intimidate, but because they are in an unknown country and are not used to the fact that our police are fair, reasonable and just, which is not the case in some of the countries from which immigrants come. There is a feeling of intimidation in some coloured communities. It is not necessarily justified, but what is felt is important.
There must be a question mark over how the tests are applied, and there is a risk that in attempting to apply tests, 1146 probably reasonably and fairly, an unnecessary degree of concern will be caused, particularly to the wives of certain immigrants.
There has been no justification for the change. Hon. Members smiled when I said that Liberals did not favour language tests, but the Government have failed to make a case for extending to men and women a provision that previously applied only to men.
§ Mr. Raison
We are evidently seeing the first fruits of the great budding alliance between the Liberals and the Social Democrats. I do not know whether the Social Democrats believe in language testing, but no doubt that will be resolved in the policy discussions that lie ahead.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
We have had a little laugh about this matter, but we are talking exclusively about the language testing of spouses.
§ Mr. Raison
Clearly the alliance is strong on that point at least.
The amendment would mean that those who applied for naturalisation as British citizens on the basis of marriage would not need to satisfy the Secretary of State that they had a sufficient knowledge of English or Welsh. I should explain why the Government felt that it would be reasonable to require those applying for citizenship on the basis of marriage to be able to speak the language.
The Government do not believe that marriage alone to a British citizen should provide an avenue to citizenship. We believe that some concessions, such as a reduction in the length of residence required, are appropriate but that in general, spouses, like other applicants for naturalisation, should have to show that they would be acceptable as citizens and able to fulfil the duties and obligations which citizenship entails. Such duties and obligations are, after all, an essential part of citizenship. As the Labour Government pointed out in their Green Paper, it is difficult to fulfil them adequately if one cannot speak the language. That is an important point. We are now talking about a modern world in which it is accepted that women just as much as men should be playing a full part in the civic duties of the country in which they live. Given that that is so, it is reasonable that we should require them, just as much as men, to be able to speak the language of the country.
Although some may regret it, nowadays, in more general terms, wives are seen less simply as dependants of their husbands and more as citizens, potential citizens or people in their own right than was the case in the past. Looking at the history of the nationality laws one sees that a woman was very much the dependant of the man; I have even heard the word "chattel" applied, which is a little hard. The whole notion of citizenship in the past in regard to the relationship of husband and wife has reflected that. That is why we have not seen descent passed through the female line. We are now talking about a world in which men and women are seen to be on a much more equal basis. Therefore it is right that wives just as much as husbands should be expected to be able to speak the language of the country to which they move.
§ Dr. Shirley Summerskill (Halifax)
I am interested to hear the hon. Gentleman saying that the notion of dependants is a thing of the past. Will the Home Office now not be using the expression "dependants" to apply to wives and children?
§ Mr. Raison
I do not know. It has an ingrained use. We talk about the dependants of men who were lawfully settled here before 1973 having a right to come to this country. I am not saying that we will obliterate the word from our vocabulary. I am making the point—it is one which I would have thought the hon. Lady would have been inclined to support—that the relationship between men and women has altered and that, if that is so, just as one believes that men ought to be able to speak the language as part of the qualifications for citizenship, so too should their wives. In a sense we are talking about a change in social attitudes.
It has been suggested that a language test will operate more harshly where spouses are concerned. It has been pointed out, for example, that many Asian wives live very sheltered lives within their own communities and do not therefore have the opportunities for learning English that are available to those who go out daily to work. I can quite see that learning a language may be more difficult in these cases but I do not see that it is impossible. As I explained to the hon. Gentleman a short time ago, the language test is not in practice one of great difficulty. It is usually only a question whether the applicant can make himself or herself understood without an interpreter, to the officer, usually a police officer, who interviews him or her about the application. In addition, as the House knows, the Bill provides the Secretary of State with power to waive the language test where, because of the applicant's age or physical condition, it would be unreasonable to expect him or her to fulfil it.
The hon. Gentleman talked about a sense of intimidation that might be produced by the language test. It is conceivable that that could happen, but this is not a new thing that we are talking about. We have had language tests in the past. They have not suddenly been dreamt up. They are a familiar part of the scene. I do not believe that the experience we have had so far justifies any claim that there is a great sense of intimidation about the relatively casual conversation which is the basis of this.
The hon. Gentleman asked me why it mattered if it was fairly straightforward conversation. I think it mattters because one wants to have a feeling that people acquiring citizenship have a rough and ready working knowledge of the language and the ability to understand things said on television or by their neighbours—in other words, a simple ability to get to grips with the fundamentals of civic life. It would be absurd to ask for anything sophisticated and elaborate, and we do not do so. What is sought is reasonable.
The ability to speak our language is one of the best safeguards against disadvantage and discrimination. If in this small way we can help to encourage people and give them an incentive to acquire a better knowledge of our language, we shall be benefiting them considerably. So long as there are large numbers of people living an isolated life, not being able to speak the language, not getting out and about into the world, there will be difficulties. I believe that there are good reasons for retaining the language test, that undue hardship will not be caused by this requirement and that there is a real case for encouraging people to learn the language in this way.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
May I give an example? An Asian woman comes to this country and marries a British citizen who dies a few months after the marriage. The woman has been allowed to come to the country, but has 1148 not been accepted as a citizen because of a failure to pass the language test. Would she subsequently be liable for deportation?
§ Mr. Raison
I think it unlikely that she would be deported, but I do not think I can say off the cuff what would be her status. But that does not alter the essential point. If she had settled status she would be all right. That makes the point that the people who are approaching the language test are all, by definition, people who are entitled to be in this country, people who will be settled here already, so they will not suddenly face removal from the country or severe disruption in their lives if they fail to pass the language test.
For all those reasons I urge the House to reject the amendment.
§ Question put, that the amendment be made—
§ The House divided: Ayes 227, Noes 275.1151
|Division No. 204]||[8.42 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Adams, Allen||Eadie, Alex|
|Allaun, Frank||Eastham, Ken|
|Anderson, Donald||Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||English, Michael|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Ennals, Rt Hon David|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)||Ewing, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Faulds, Andrew|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Field, Frank|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro)||Flannery, Martin|
|Bradley, Tom||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Ford, Ben|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)||Foster, Derek|
|Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)||Foulkes, George|
|Buchan, Norman||Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Campbell, Ian||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||George, Bruce|
|Canavan, Dennis||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Cant, R. B.||Ginsburg, David|
|Carmichael, Neil||Golding, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Cartwright, John||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Coleman, Donald||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Cowans, Harry||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)||Haynes, Frank|
|Craigen, J. M.||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)|
|Crowther, J. S.||Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)|
|Cryer, Bob||Home Robertson, John|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Homewood, William|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hooley, Frank|
|Dalyell, Tam||Howell, Rt Hon D.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howells, Geraint|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Huckfield, Les|
|Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd)||Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.|
|Deakins, Eric||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Dempsey, James||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Dixon, Donald||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Dobson, Frank||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Dormand, Jack||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Douglas, Dick||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Dunn, James A.||Kerr, Russell|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Kinnock, Neil||Rooker, J. W.|
|Lambie, David||Roper, John|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)||Ryman, John|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Litherland, Robert||Sever, John|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheerman, Barry|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|McCartney, Hugh||Short, Mrs Renée|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|McElhone, Frank||Silkin, Rt Hon S, C. (Dulwich)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Skinner, Dennis|
|McKelvey, William||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Soley, Clive|
|McNally, Thomas||Spearing, Nigel|
|McNamara, Kevin||Spriggs, Leslie|
|McTaggart, Robert||Stainton, Keith|
|Magee, Bryan||Stallard, A. W.|
|Marks, Kenneth||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Stoddart, David|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Stott, Roger|
|Martin, M(G'gow S'burn)||Straw, Jack|
|Maxton, John||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Meacher, Michael||Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Tilley, John|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Tinn, James|
|Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Torney, Tom|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Wainwright, (Dearne V)|
|Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)||Wainwright, R.(Colne V)|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Watkins, David|
|Morton, George||Weetch, Ken|
|Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Wellbeloved, James|
|Newens, Stanley||Welsh, Michael|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||White, Frank R.|
|O'Halloran, Michael||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Whitlock, William|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Palmer, Arthur||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Parker, John||Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)|
|Parry, Robert||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)|
|Penhaligon, David||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Winnick, David|
|Prescott, John||Woodall, Alec|
|Race, Reg||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Radice, Giles||Wright, Sheila|
|Richardson, Jo||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)||Mr. Edward Lyons and Mr. Alan Beith.|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Alexander, Richard||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Boyson, Dr Rhodes|
|Ancram, Michael||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Arnold, Tom||Bright, Graham|
|Atkins, Robert(Preston N)||Brittan, Leon|
|Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)|
|Banks, Robert||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Bruce-Gardyne, John|
|Bendall, Vivian||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Buchanan-Smith, Alick|
|Best, Keith||Buck, Antony|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Budgen, Nick|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Burden, Sir Frederick|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Butcher, John|
|Blackburn, John||Butler, Hon Adam|
|Blaker, Peter||Cadbury, Jocelyn|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Churchill, W. S.||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Kimball, Marcus|
|Cockeram, Eric||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Colvin, Michael||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Cope, John||Knox, David|
|Corrie, John||Lamont, Norman|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Lang, Ian|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Critchley, Julian||Latham, Michael|
|Crouch, David||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Lee, John|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Dover, Denshore||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Durant, Tony||Loveridge, John|
|Dykes, Hugh||Luce, Richard|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Eggar, Tim||MacGregor, John|
|Elliott, Sir William||MacKay, John (Argyll)|
|Emery, Peter||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Eyre, Reginald||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Madel, David|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Major, John|
|Farr, John||Marland, Paul|
|Fell, Anthony||Marlow, Tony|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Marten, Neil (Banbury)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Mates, Michael|
|Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)||Mather, Carol|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles||Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus|
|Forman, Nigel||Mawby, Ray|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Fox, Marcus||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Fry, Peter||Mellor, David|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Gorst, John||Moate, Roger|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Molyneaux, James|
|Gray, Hamish||Monro, Hector|
|Griffiths, E. (B'y St. Edm'ds)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)||Moore, John|
|Grist, Ian||Morgan, Geraint|
|Grylls, Michael||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mudd, David|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Murphy, Christopher|
|Hannam, John||Myles, David|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Neale, Gerrard|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Needham, Richard|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hawksley, Warren||Neubert, Michael|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Newton, Tony|
|Henderson, Barry||Nott, Rt Hon John|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hicks, Robert||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Hill, James||Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Hooson, Tom||Parris, Matthew|
|Hordern, Peter||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Pawsey, James|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Stokes, John|
|Pollock, Alexander||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Porter, Barry||Tapsell, Peter|
|Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Thompson, Donald|
|Raison, Timothy||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Renton, Tim||Trippier, David|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Trotter, Neville|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Viggers, Peter|
|Rossi, Hugh||Waddington, David|
|Rost, Peter||Wakeham, John|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Scott, Nicholas||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Wall, Patrick|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Waller, Gary|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Ward, John|
|Shepherd, Richard||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shersby, Michael||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Silvester, Fred||Wells, Bowen|
|Sims, Roger||Wheeler, John|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Speed, Keith||Whitney, Raymond|
|Speller, Tony||Wickenden, Keith|
|Spence, John||Williams, D.(Montgomery)|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Sproat, Iain||Wolfson, Mark|
|Squire, Robin||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stainton, Keith||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stanley, John||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Steen, Anthony||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Anthony Berry|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Amendment made: No. 67, in page 43, line 32, leave out 'society, company or body of persons' and insert `company or association'.—[Mr. Raison.]8.55 pm
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We have now reached the final stage of the passage of the British Nationality Bill through the House. The measure that we have examined so exhaustively is, necessarily, a complex one. It is also one which clearly called for the closest scrutiny. It is of very great importance for everyone living or born in this country and the dependencies, and for those who are descended from them. The time that has been expended on consideration of the Bill both in Committee and on the Floor of the House has been well worth while.
When the Government introduced their allocation of time motion, they made it clear that in their opinion there was ample time available in which to consider thoroughly the Bill's remaining provisions. Events have borne out that assertion. In the Committee's remaining stages there were substantial debates on a number of important issues. They included British overseas citizenship, statelessness, appeals, the requirements for naturalisation set out in schedule 1 and dual nationality. I am confident that almost every aspect of the Bill has received the thorough scrutiny it deserves and that the timetable motion served to organise our energies rather than to curtail the necessary debate. 1152 Indeed, the Committee did not find it necessary to use all the time allocated by the motion and rose early on five of the seven days to which the timetable motion applied.
Revision of our nationality law has been long overdue. No one would deny—not least any Government who talked of doing it and did not do it for a considerable time—that the unsatisfactory state of the current legislation has been all too obvious for many years. I am sure that the Government were right to seek to change it. Nevertheless, we did not act hastily. In 1977 the then Labour Government published their Green Paper. This discussed all the main issues and invited views on them. The present Government published a White Paper in July last year. It was based to a great extent on the groundwork done by the Labour Government. Of course, it did not slavishly follow that document. It took account of the comments which people had made on it.
The Bill, introduced last January, and which the House will, I hope, pass tonight, will make an enormous improvement to the present situation. Part I provides for a British citizenship which indicates clearly and unambiguously that the holder has the right of abode in the United Kingdom. I want to emphasise that there is nothing racist in the provisions for acquisition of British citizenship. Indeed, many of the people who will become British citizens belong to the ethnic minority communities. The passage of the Bill will, therefore, ensure that their position is put beyond doubt.
The Bill also introduces a separate citizenship for the British dependent territories. This is obviously necessary. It provides a parallel citizenship for people whose connections are with those territories. They are in no sense to be second-class citizens. I recognise the deeply held feelings in some of the territories concerned that the Bill should have given them more. It would, however, have been difficult to devise a scheme for separate citizenships for all the dependencies, and invidious to single some out from all the others. For that same reason, it would have been discriminatory to make some, but not others, British citizens.
I do, however, want to stress yet again that the Bill in no way alters the United Kingdom's special relationship with her dependencies. Our moral and constitutional ties with them, both individually and collectively, remain as strong as ever.
I come now to the provisions for British overseas citizenship. This is to be held by those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who become neither British citizens nor citizens of the British dependent territories. Much has been said about the position of these people and many unrealistic suggestions have been made. When all is said and done, however, they have since 1968 been unable to enter either the United Kingdom or an existing colony.
The Green Paper said, surely rightly, thatarrangements have to be made for those people who are now citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies but who do not have such close ties with the United Kingdom as to become British citizens … To leave those of them who are citizens sof the United Kingdom and Colonies with that status when many of them have little or no connection by birth, ancestry or residence with the United Kingdom or any Colony would prolong a misleading and unsatisfactory feature of the present situation".Part III is doing no more than what the Green Paper said had to be done.
British overseas citizens are only one of the transitional and residual statuses in the Bill. We also have British 1153 subjects without citizenship, former citizens of Eire who have declared an intention to remain British subjects, and British protected persons. All those will retain access to consular and passport facilities. We shall also continue to maintain the voucher scheme for certain British overseas citizens from East Africa and in India.
Clause 4, as amended by the Standing Committee, also gives British overseas citizens accepted for settlement here the right to registration as British citizens after five years in the United Kingdom. This right is also to be enjoyed on the same conditions by British subjects and British protected persons. We have not, therefore, been unsympathetic to the position of these transitional and residual categories.
Much has been said about voting and other civic rights during the passage of the Bill. It is quite wrong for people to see the Bill as the precursor of future changes in this area. If we had wished to change civic rights legislation, we could have done so without introducing a British Nationality Bill. It is only a matter of ensuring that legislation which at present gives rights to Commonwealth citizens and to citizens of the Republic of Ireland no longer does so. So it is wrong to see the Bill as having the sort of connection with civic rights which some people have seen. Of course, I cannot rule out future changes in the law. That is not practicable under our parliamentary system. But I repeat that the Bill does not have any bearing on the matter, nor do I or Her Majesty's Government have any plans to change the law in the areas which people appear to have primarily in mind. This is an important matter for the minority communities, and I am glad to be able to put the Government's position on record.
There has also been much discussion about the criteria for naturalisation and whether there should be rights of appeal. I do not want to repeat now all the arguments that were considered on Tuesday, when we discussed the matter in a properly long debate, and in which I made a long and, I hope, considered reply. The crucial point has been whether Parliament wants to relinquish the absolute discretion which, through the Home Secretary, is currently exercised over who should receive our citizenship. It seems to me that the Government were right to conclude that the criteria for naturalisation should remain as at present. It is, after all, not unreasonable to ask that a new citizen should be of good character, however subjectively one must inevitably judge that character in practice. It is also fair enough that one should also ask that he be able to speak English. He cannot very well play his full part in society if he cannot do that.
Having described in broad terms the Government's approach to the three citizenships, I come now to the main changes made to the Bill since its introduction. The House will, I know, recollect that during the Bill's Second Reading I undertook that the Government would respond constructively to criticism and to suggestions for amendments. We have certainly kept that undertaking. We have tabled significant amendments to the Bill in order to allay the disquiet which it inevitably, though largely unnecessarily, aroused in the ethnic minority communities.
I should like at this stage to pay a particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who has conducted the Bill through the Committee and the House with great patience and great good humour. Even those who disagree with him will recognise both the qualities that I have mentioned. I am personally extremely grateful to him. I 1154 thank also my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who has dealt with the Foreign Office side of the Bill, and without whose help we would have experienced considerable difficulty in many cases. We are grateful to him.
I deal now with the changes that we have made to the Bill. The first amendment is now clause 1(4). Clause 1 provides that a child born here after commencement will be a British citizen only if one of his parents is a British citizen or is settled. The provision has been criticised as racist, but, of course, it is not. This is proved by the fact that the clause would confer British citizenship on the child of parents who were not British but were settled.
It was suggested that there might be some uncertainty in some cases over whether a parent had been settled at the time of the birth. "Settled" incorporates the concept of ordinary residence. In a few cases it may be open to doubt whether a person absent from this country for a long period has remained ordinarily resident. It was also said that some children might, in later years, find difficulty in establishing whether their parents were settled at the time of their birth. We therefore added subsection (4) to clause 1 to confer on a child who has lived here for 10 years since birth an entitlement to registration as a British citizen irrespective of the status of his parents.
A great deal of concern was expressed over the descent provisions of clause 2. Under the Bill as introduced, these provisions would have meant that British citizens by naturalisation or registration would not have been able to transmit their citizenship to children born to them overseas. The Government amendment made to clause 2 ensures that citizens by naturalisation or those who are registered after living here would be able to pass on their citizenship on the same terms as citizens by birth here. I am pleased that this amendment has had such a warm welcome from the ethnic minorities.
I would, in passing, draw attention once again to the fact that clause 2 marks a great advance towards equality of the sexes. Women are enabled to pass on citizenship on the same terms as men. They cannot do so now. Elsewhere in the Bill the same approach to the need for equal treatment as between the sexes has been scrupulously observed.
I have already referred to the new clause added to the Bill as clause 4. It gives a right of registration in certain circumstances to citizens of the British dependent territories, British overseas citizens, British subjects and British protected persons. The Government were anxious here, in response to representations, to make it plain beyond doubt that it is no part of the Bill's purpose to diminish the status of people affected by it. This clause greatly enhances that status. It also provides for the possibility in special circumstances of recognising any special claim of Crown servants under the Governments of the dependencies.
We have also responded positively to points put in Committee by the Opposition and by Back Benchers. We readily accepted an amendment which extended from two years to five the transitional period during which Commonwealth citizens settled here since before 1973 could exercise their entitlement to register. The transitional periods during which wives of our citizens might continue to apply for their husbands' citizenship were similarly extended.
These amendments give ample time for people who have entitlements but who are unsure whether they should 1155 claim them to make up their minds. I appreciate that this is not always an easy decision. The countries from which they come may often not permit dual nationality. I can only say that the Bill does not seek to change the position under our law whereby dual nationality is permitted. The Government decided against a change in this area because, as the House will recollect, they were anxious that the members of the minority communties should feel able to settle down here without pressure.
It was with the same wish, that the minority communities should be able to feel secure, that we readily agreed to the suggestion that the Bill should contain a provision against discrimination. That is to be found in clause 41(1), and represents, I maintain, a highly important statement of the Government's policy in this regard.
We have shown our willingness to respond to the concern expressed by people from this country who have gone abroad to work and who are anxious that their children born abroad should not encounter difficulties in transmitting their citizenship. We have proposed amendments to clause 3 so that British citizens by descent in a much wider range of employment will now be able to secure British citizenship for their children. We have brought forward provisions which will extend the effect of the present arrangements for consular registration for five years after commencement. We believe that the Bill ensures that British citizens by descent who have continuing links with the United Kingdom should have no difficulty in securing citizenship for their children born overseas.
These amendments have been part of a substantial number which we have brought forward on Report and which reflect the consideration that we have given to the Bill in the light of the detailed discussion in Committee. Many reflect the efforts of members of the Standing Committee on both sides. We appreciate what they have done to draw our attention to deficiencies that we have sought to cure. There are those who criticise my absence from the Standing Committee, but I pay tribute to all those who took part in its proceedings and who played a substantial part in improving the Bill in many of the ways that I have set out.
The Bill leaves the House for another place much improved, obviously, since its introduction. Nevertheless, its main effect remains what it was on introduction. As I have made clear throughout our discussions, our major purpose, which has gained wide acceptance in the House and in the country, is to create a British citizenship based on the principle that citizenship should carry with it the right of abode in this country. It should thereby provide a precise definition of those who belong to this country and are part of it. This will benefit the whole community. It will in particular benefit the vast majority of the ethnic minorities in this country, who will share in the benefits of British citizenship. The Bill, as I have said before, is not racist and it is not sexist. It will end much of the uncertainty which has harmed our race relations in the past. For many years we have needed a reform of our nationality law—everyone accepts that. I have no doubt that the Government were right to have the courage to introduce the Bill and to press it through with 1156 determination. It lays the foundations for a secure future for all our citizens, and I commend it wholeheartedly to the House.
§ Mr. Hattersley
When the Bill was debated on Second Reading on 28 January, I said that it contained provisions to which the Opposition objected in principle. I made predictions about its passage through Committee. I claim no credit for the accuracy of my predictions, because it was obvious to everyone that the Committee stage would be prolonged, that our proceedings would eventually be limited by a guillotine motion, and that the Bill which emerged from Committee would remain unacceptable to the Opposition. Thanks to the guillotine motion, and thanks to the attitude of Conservative Members and the Whips who control their behaviour, the Bill emerged from Committee largely in the form in which it entered it.
I fear that my predictions—and I draw no pleasure from saying this—turned out to be true. There were only two exceptions, which were strangely announced by the Government between the completion of Second Reading and the beginning of the Committee stage. The Government have made no major concessions on the Bill. There have been some adjustments. In a couple of instances time has been extended from two years to five years. Pressure from Conservative Members and others meant that an adjustment was made concerning second generation British children born overseas. But the fundamental position remains unaltered and the fundamental principle remains unacceptable to the Opposition. That is why the next Labour Government will repeal the Bill and replace it with a more acceptable measure. We shall replace it by a measure—[Interruption.] Does the Home Secretary wish to speak? I am always willing to give way to him if he has a point of detail, in which he specialises, to put to me. If he has not, I shall continue with my speech outlining the position of the Opposition.
We shall replace the Bill when it becomes an Act with a measure that accepts that Britain is a multi-racial society, and which respects the rights and the feelings of the ethnic minorities within that multi-racial society. I do not believe that anybody who looks at the Bill objectively and with understanding can believe that it recognises our multiracial society or understands the feelings of the ethnic minorities within it.
I accept that the Bill has been improved in two material ways since it left the House on Second Reading. First, the original intention to distinguish between British citizens by birth and British citizens by registration and naturalisation, thus creating two different classes of British citizens, has been removed. That is a wholly welcome change. Because of that change, the proposal that children born overseas to British subjects should have British citizenship only if their parents were British by birth, rather than British by registration or naturalisation, has been removed. I very much welcome that change, although I remain astonished that the alternative was ever proposed and perplexed about why the Government changed their mind within 48 hours of the Bill being debated in the House. Notwithstanding that, I welcome the change as a major improvement.
Equally, I am glad—one can hardly be jubilant—about the slight modification to the changes originally proposed in the rights to citizenship for children born here. Certainly the Government's original proposal to abolish the rule 1157 which had applied for 700 years that every child born in Britain should be British has been slightly modified. But the modification is marginal at best, and trivial at worst. The basic change that the Government proposed on 28 January remains—namely, the abandonment of the principle that every child born in Britain is inalienably and unquestionably British.
The fact that that principle has been breached is in itself enough to justify our outright opposition to the Bill. It is one of those instances where the Government's White Paper differs from the Opposition's Green Paper, and where the principles of the two parties are in absolute conflict.
The abandonment of the principle that every child born here should be British in itself justifies our opposition because of the injustice that it will do to children denied British citizenship and the uncertainty that it will cause to a much larger number of children and eventually adults who, although British by birth, will be required for the first time in our history to demonstrate their British status.
We debated that point at great length yesterday. We then went on, yesterday and again today, to discuss the related matter of men and women entitled to British citizenship who might be denied it, but who would neither know why their applications for British citizenship had been denied nor be provided with any opportunity to question the decisions made about their lives and their future.
I must repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) and I and others have said throughout the discussion of the Bill. When a measure is introduced to replace that which we are now debating, it will include a list of criteria which qualify a person for British citizenship infinitely more precise than those in schedule 1. By such provision, applicants will be able to know how a person becomes British, why that status is denied when denial is imposed, and we shall provide a proper opportunity for the unsuccessful applicant to appeal against the decision.
Having said those things about British citizenship and the inadequacies in the Bill in those particulars, I do not wish the House to believe for a moment that our only objection to its provisions concerns the main category of citizenship, that is to say, full British citizenship, on which so much of our debate has been focused. The Opposition sought throughout the Committee proceedings to express the strongest possible opposition to both the definition and the operation of the other categories of citizenship in the Bill, that is to say, citizenship of the British dependent territories and British overseas citizenship. That remains our position.
At the beginning of the Committee stage, citizenship of the British dependent territories was described as an umbrella status which covered and, by implication, protected all the dependencies listed in the Bill, from the teeming city State of Hong Kong to British Antarctica where there were no citizens to have any citizenship. It was suggested that that single status embraced all the people in every dependency, but as we debated what that status meant it became ever clearer that the citizens of the individual dependencies would have no rights outside the single colony in which they lived and indeed their rights of entry to and egress from that single colony would be decided by the edicts of the individual colonial Governments.
1158 In our view, that remains an unsatisfactory state of affairs. What the Bill should have included and what a Bill will include is a status for individual dependent territories which meets their particular needs rather than the pretence that there can be a single status encompassing the needs of territories of very different kinds in very different political conditions.
I proposed to say that we were equally dissatisfied with British overseas citizenship, but to do that would be to admit that it is a citizenship at all. What was said on Second Reading, namely, that British overseas citizenship is not a citizenship but a subterfuge, has been confirmed as the debates on this condition have continued. Indeed, believing the phrase to be pejorative. I described British overseas citizen status as a residual condition into which British subjects, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies would be fitted when the Government could think of nothing else to do with them. To my astonishment, the phrase "residual citizenship" seems to have passed into ministerial folklore. It was used time after time by the Minister of State in Committee, and again yesterday and the day before. A residual citizenship it certainly is.
The notion of a residual citizenship seems to me and my right hon. and hon. Friends to be wrong. This residual condition confers virtually no rights on those who are allocated it. The only claim that the Government make is that they will give some consular protection. In the pursuit of the details in Committee, we discovered that not even complete consular protection is to be provided for citizens within this category. For all those reasons, we oppose the Bill, and we shall continue to do so.
A supplementary but important reason for my opposition to the Bill—notwithstanding all the difficulties that are implied, I should be wrong not to report it to the House—is its failure to take the opportunity which it provides to make amends to the East African Asians to whom the Government, the House and the country broke a promise in 1968, men and women who in their time were promised entry into the United Kingdom when the African States in which they lived became independent.
I repeat, with no pleasure, that that promise was broken in 1968. I take my share of blame for its breaking. I voted for the relevant Bill. I was a member of the Government who introduced it. However, I have no doubt that that measure was wrong. In the new circumstances of a new British Nationality Act it is possible to redeem the promise that was then broken.
The Government, like their immediate predecessors, are committed to the entry of all the East African Asians into the United Kingdom. They are committed to the special voucher scheme. Those to whom the promise was broken 13 years ago will come here gradually if the scheme is properly and honourably observed. That which divides us is the belief that is held on the Opposition Benches that the error made and the mistake committed in earlier years should be formally rectified by the announcement that the East African Asians will be allowed in, not according to the special voucher scheme, but now and granted British citizenship now.
It is never easy for a member of an old Administration to say that something for which he voted and which he supported was wrong, and wrong at the time. However, I believe that to be so about the 1968 Act. Embarrassing 1159 though it may be, it is my duty to say that to the House. I hope that we can proceed speedily to take an opportunity to correct that error and to put that injustice right.
I welcome two of the changes that appear in the Bill. The Opposition are glad that the new provisions allow the transmission of British citizenship through the female line. We are glad that by implication, by the operation of the principles on which the Bill is based, we have virtually abandoned the objectionable definition of patriality. I cannot share the Home Secretary's joy that sexual equality has been introduced by providing for husbands the same right previously enjoyed by wives.
I support the view that equality is right, but the right hon. Gentleman will recall that equality has been achieved only by diminishing the rights of one group and by slightly increasing the rights of the other. I must remind him that since the right of wives to acquire British citizenship depends on a period of residence in this country, and since under his edicts it grows increasingly difficult for Asian women to enter the United Kingdom and begin to acquire those rights, the advantage that he offers is more theoretical than practical.
There is another feature of the Bill that in a sense is welcome though it would have been intolerable if it had not been included. I refer to the maintenance of the right of citizens now resident here to enjoy the nationality status that would have been offered them before the Bill was introduced and before it is passed into law.
There is a great deal of disquiet among the ethnic minority communities because of the unjustifiable fear that for some men and women presently resident here their rights to British citizenship will be removed. I promise the Home Secretary and the House that I shall do my best to remove that fear. My simple request to the Home Secretary is to use the resources at his disposal and the authority that he possesses continually to broadcast the message that a man or woman who applied for British citizenship a year ago and who is still waiting for it will not find that his or her condition has been changed or rights removed. I know that such a provision is not in the Bill and is not in the Home Secretary's mind; it was never his intention. Nevertheless, the fear exists and we all have a duty to spread the truth as far as possible and to quieten that fear.
I shall comment on what can only be described as the Bill's spirit. The Opposition are opposed to its spirit, because it does not encourage the creation of the multiracial society that we want to see. I shall repeat something that I have said many times since 28 January, namely, that whatever the Home Secretary's intentions—I have said once and will gladly repeat that I make no allegations about his intentions, because I have no doubt that he has no racist principles or prejudices—the Bill that he has introduced and commended so warmly will fall hardest on and affect most the ethnic minorities. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman's intention, the results are prejudicial and prejudiced and their outcome is racial. As a result, the necessity for repeal and replacement is all the greater, not least because the Bill is largely based not on Government theories about nationality, but on Government fears about immigration.
On Second Reading, I said that this was not a nationality Bill, but, in many ways, an immigration protection Bill. I tried to justify that contention by making 1160 quotations from the White Paper that I shall not weary the House with tonight. Time after time in Committee that contention was substantiated by the Minister's replies to amendments. The Minister claimed that the British nationality of an illegitimate child—for whom there was a putative father who was prepared to say that he was the father and could demonstrate his British citizenship—would have unacceptable consequences in terms of those entitled to enter and settle here. Those who have read the reports of our Committee proceedings will know that much of the justification for the Bill concerns not the theory of nationality but the practice of immigration. That has overshadowed all our discussions and has deeply disturbed the ethnic minorities and made them increasingly insecure.
The ethnic minorities have also been disturbed by the way in which the Government have discussed the issue of immigration. Throughout discussion on the Bill, immigration and the existence of the children and grandchildren of immigrants—who are no longer immigrants but British—have been spoken of by the Government in terms of a problem. The subject has sometimes been discussed as a problem in the crudest terms. From Northampton, North to Down, South it has been discussed as a problem of the type that can be described only in the grossest language. Occasionally it has been discussed in compassionate terms. Indeed, the Minister of State and the Home Secretary discussed it in those terms. Whether spoken of in a crude or compassionate way, the existence of the ethnic minorities and the immigrants have always been described by the Government as a difficulty, a problem and a liability.
Some of us believe that the ethnic minorities are not a liability to the United Kingdom. In many ways they contribute to our lives. Such people exist as equal citizens, with equal rights, duties and responsibilities. When a new nationality Bill is introduced, it must recognise and rejoice in that fact. That is why we shall vote against Third Reading, and that is why, when the time comes, we shall introduce a new Bill to replace this one.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is aware that I have taken a special interest in the Bill from the point of view of Hong Kong. Whatever its final effects on the people of Hong Kong, whatever their continuing worries about it, they are extremely grateful for the full hearing that their case has received from Ministers over a long period, and from hon. Members in Committee.
Well before the Bill was introduced the Minister of State went to Hong Kong to get the views of the people there at first hand. At about the time of Second Reading, the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary received the leaders of the Hong Kong executive and legislative councils to hear and to discuss their objections to the Bill at length. At the beginning of the Committee stage, two members of the Committee went to Hong Kong to hear views and the knowledge that they gained there was of great help to the Committee.
That the extensive consultations were not merely a public relations exercise is proved by the changes that have taken place since the publication of the Green Paper, which proposed only two categories of citizenship and would have thrown the people of Hong Kong into company with many millions of others with far less close 1161 connections with this country. The extra category, introduced in the White Paper and the Bill, of citizens of British dependent territories was created mainly for the benefit of the Hong Kong population, which constitutes about 90 per cent. of that category.
As a result of the consultations, the important clause 4 was introduced in Committee. It put right the justified complaint that the requirement in the original Bill of naturalisation instead of registration had severely eroded the rights of Hong Kong citizens. The clause has also done everything possible to strengthen the position of those who serve the Crown so admirably in Hong Kong, including those giving voluntary service to the Crown.
Let me sum up the opinion in Hong Kong at this late stage of the Bill. There is broad agreement and understanding about the main purpose of introducing the Bill, namely, to tidy up and clarify the existing position and to incorporate into a single piece of legislation the succession of measures that have so radically changed the long-standing concepts of nationality and immigration since 1948.
But the point should be recorded that although there have been changes in relation to Hong Kong, the constitutional relationship with Britain has not changed since 1948. The passage of the Bill through the House has been widely followed in Hong Kong and, as its full implication has become clear, it has come as something as a shock to the people there. Many still wonder what is the real significance of replacing long-standing terms such as "British subject" and "citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies" with new terms such as "citizen of British dependent territories."
Although, as we keep assuring the people of Hong Kong, the change is intended to be of no political significance, it is not surprising that those who are so deeply affected by the measures should continue to ask why the changes are being made and whether the effect is not to take away their British nationality.
I understand that there are good practical legal and administrative reasons for the changes and I accept the need for them, but for all the reasons that I have given we should not be surprised that misunderstanding and even suspicion of the Government have been generated.
Moreover, there may be practical implications. The question arises whether those in the new category of citizens of British dependent territories will be accorded the same treatment when visiting third countries as they received when they were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Of course, the people in Hong Kong understand that they will continue to have no right of abode in the United Kingdom. These doubts can largely be put at rest if, in winding up, the Minister of State could give assurances on three points.
First, will he state that nothing will change in the relationship and commitment of Her Majesty's Government to the people of Hong Kong? Secondly, will he undertake that although they will become citizens of the British dependent territories they will remain British in the sense that Her Majesty's Government will continue to have the right and, indeed, the commitment to afford to them consular and other help in third countries? Thirdly, will he undertake that Her Majesty's Government will do their best to ensure that the new citizenship descriptions are fully understood in third countries so that CBDTs travelling as British passport holders will not encounter 1162 difficulties with immigration authorities abroad? I and, I am sure, the people of Hong Kong would be grateful if these assurances could be given.
§ Mr. David Steel
In his otherwise excellent speech the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) omitted one important feature of our proceedings: we are not left with the choice simply of a vote at the end of the debate tonight or the repeal of the legislation by a future Government. There is the completion of the Bill through its stages in the other House still to come. I know that may be a matter of embarrassment to the Labour Benches, but this is a good example of how our bicameral system could act as a protector of individual rights.
I shall join in a moment with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) but sometimes in that less disciplined Chamber greater attention may be paid to some of the issues on which we have touched lightly here. I contend that my noble Friends in another place should examine and seek to amend this Bill most thoroughly. Only if they fail in that regard will we fall back—I join with the right hon. Member in this—on the proposition that the legislation will have to be repealed and replaced with something based on sounder principles. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member presses me I will give a free commercial for the new politics but I am going to stick to the main issue of the Bill.
There are two reasons why my colleagues and I will vote against the Bill on Third Reading. First—here I disagree with something the Home Secretary said a few minutes ago—some of the issues have not been fully examined, certainly on the Floor of the House. I accept that those who were privileged to serve on the Standing Committee may have had a chance to discuss them, but either because of the timetable or the selection of amendments, there are substantial issues which have not been discussed in the House. I shall come to them in a moment. The second reason is that of principle.
Taking the first reason, about the issues which are undebated, the hon. Member for Howden has raised one of them. One of the side effects of the Bill which has not been fully understood in this country is that it has provoked widespread international indignation. The Prime Minister herself found this on her visit to the Indian Subcontinent and seemed to be surprised at the strength of feeling. I found it in Hong Kong at about the same time.
The hon. Member for Howden is by nature a mild-mannered Member. He was mild in his criticism and it. his representation of the feelings of the people of Hong Kong. I found deep and genuine resentment. There was no misunderstanding about what the Bill does. It is accepted that it does not technically alter the status of citizens in Hong Kong but there is widespread dismay at the change in nomenclature which they are bound to suffer. The Government have never spelt out what rights attach to the new citizenship of the British dependent territories which they are creating in this legislation. What obligations do the United Kingdom Government accept towards these people which are different from the obligations they accept to British subjects who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies? The description that in future is to be in the passports of our citizens in Hong Kong is one that they deeply deplore. They do not know—nor can we give them 1163any undertaking about this—what will be the attitude of third countries to such a description. It is a new form of citizenship.
This measure is timed, unfortunately, contemporaneously with the increase in fees for overseas students, which has resulted in a severe drop in the number of students coming from Hong Kong to our institutions of higher learning. They are being diverted to the United States, Canada and elsewhere. When I think that, sadly, these two unconnected measures were taken at the same time, I can understand why feeling among the people of Hong Kong is so deep and resentful. That issue, apart from being referred to in the speech of the hon. Member for Howden, has not been discussed in detail in the House, although it was in Committee.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook touched on the second issue which has not been discussed on the Floor of the House, namely, the second category of citizenship created by the Bill, that of overseas citizens. There is the problem of the queue; the problem of the status of the children of people who are waiting in the queue but born overseas; the possible creation of more stateless persons; the fact, as the right hon. Gentleman was honest enough to admit, that that clause entrenches in the main body of our law the emergency measure which was produced in 1968 for which he voted and which I vigorously opposed. We on the Liberal Benches have never accepted the taking away of the rights of citizenship which had been promised by the British Government to certain of our citizens in East Africa, and it is a ground for objection to the Bill that it is repeated in this new statute.
A third subject which has not been debated on the Floor of the House is the rights and obligations of citizenship. That whole issue has been left undiscussed. The Liberals tabled a new clause, hoping for a debate, but it did not happen. The Minister of State, replying to the last amendment we debated tonight, said that those who could not pass the language test would not be able to take up the rights and obligations of citizens. Yet we have had no debate on what those rights and obligations are. Because those issues have not been fully debated here, I hope that they will be fully explored in the other place.
I come to what is far more important—my objections in principle to the passage of the Bill. My first objection is that it increases the arbitrary power of the State over the individual. It is strange to accuse a Conservative Government of this, because members of the Conservative Party are always rushing around, warning the country of the evils of the parties Left of Centre which want to do precisely that. But it is the Conservatives who, by this legislation, are expanding the administrative powers, the arbitrary powers and, perhaps even more important, the secret powers of unnamed, unknown and irresponsible, unaccountable members of the Civil Service who will in practice have to take most of the decisions for which we are legislating.
The Minister of State may heave a great sigh at this thought, but there are bound to be still more cases on which he will receive letters from Members of Parliament. Those who come to Members of Parliament are the lucky few who will receive the personal scrutiny of the Minister, such as it is. I once worked out the number of seconds each case must receive according to the Minister of State's figures; the attention he gives must be very cursory. In the 1164 main the decisions will be taken by civil servants at different levels, unaccountable to the House and unaccountable to the people whose lives are being affected. This is an unsatisfactory and worrying trend in our legislation. It is a background against which uncertainty, injustice and even harassment will flourish among the ethnic minorities. That is our first objection of principle to the Bill.
Our second objection has been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. Whether the Government like it or not the Bill is racial in effect, if not in intention. It has created a climate of opinion which has pandered to people's worst prejudices.
§ Mr. Steel
I have been amazed at some of the speeches made on Report by Conservatives Members. Many of the comments which have been made about the Bill have not come from what are normally regarded as Left-wing sources. I shall quote from the Financial Times. Some Conservative Members may be familiar with that publication. It may be pink in colour, but it is not noted for any leanings towards radical political views. It said:there is much that national politicians can now do to create more trust and confidence in the black community. Many people in Brixton think that the new nationality laws, for one thing, are a move in exactly the opposite direction.I agree with that.
I shall also quote Mr. Hugo Young in The Sunday Times, who a few weeks ago said:the urgency behind the bill springs not from any need to rationalise nationality law in this particular way, but from the ugly side of the Conservative Party.It is the ugly side of the Conservative Party which has been much in evidence during the passage of the Bill. If anyone had any doubt about that, they would only have had to listen to some of the speeches that have been made by Conservative Members in the last few days to be no longer doubtful.
§ Mr. Whitney
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the dangers of creating apprehension in the ethnic minority community. If we are in grave danger of paving the way to a pass law society, as the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday, would not he agree that that is precisely the sort of measure which would create apprehension?
§ Mr. Steel
The point that I was trying to make yesterday was that the Bill would require greater evidence of documentation of the rights of individual citizens here. No one on the Government Front Bench has denied that. We have been over that ground on Report. After the Bill becomes law, a birth certificate will cease to be proof of citizenship. I am not saying that there will be a pass law society tomorrow, but that gradually and increasingly we are moving towards that situation. That is what I object to.
I wish to dwell on that point. I have sat in the House for 15 years and I have attended many debates on immigration and race relations. I have noticed a difference which has overcome the Conservative Party. In the 1960s in such debates there were many speeches of the same tone 1165 as in these debates. They were often rebutted by other members of the Conservative Party, who have been noticeable by their silence in these debates.
I remind Conservative Members that when the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) made his infamous "rivers of blood" speech, he was at least sacked from the Shadow Cabinet by the then leader of the Opposition. Meantime, members of today's Conservative Party are allowed by their leader to make speeches about repatriation and speeches of an offensive tone in the House with no repudiation from the Government Front Bench or the Government Back Benches. I believe that it is the duty of political leadership not to pander to such feelings, but to repudiate them at every possible opportunity.
Another worrying feature of the speeches that have been made in the last few days has been the slighting references to the Churches. The Churches are not in the business of gaining votes and marginal seats. Few people of ethnic minorities are members of the flock by definition, yet the Bill has been condemned by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the British Council of Churches. The Achibishop of Canterbury, despite the two major concessions which were made, for which I give the Home Secretary full credit, said:although we should welcome these concessions, we must not be deceived into thinking that they alter the basic structure, or the essential character of the Bill.One used to think of the Church of England as the Tory Party at prayer. It is extraordinary to listen to members of the Conservative Party denouncing the clergy in the language that they have used over the last few days.
I repeat that we shall oppose the Bill tonight. We shall oppose it in the other place and, when the time comes, it will be repealed.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), whose constituency is not far from mine, and I wondered whether he would have made that speech in the same terms in his own constituency and what sort of reception it would have got. I shall refer to only one remark that he made which was particularly silly. The right hon. Gentleman said that immigration into Britain was not a problem. If he believes that, he will believe anything.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) was the same speech that I have heard him make for many years. The notable thing about the right hon. Gentleman's constituency is that immigrants are conspicuously absent from it. He speaks not from first-hand knowledge but from Liberal dictum and theory.
There is much talk in the Bill of close connections with this country. But surely the closest connection of all—for example, for someone who has been living in England for some time—is to be a member of that race which has inhabited this island for hundreds of years and has given its name to our country. That fact seems too obvious to need to be stated. To omit all mention of race in a nationality Bill is like seeing the play "Hamlet" without the Prince.
I believe that it shows how poor old John Bull has been put on the rack, if not emasculated, by race relations 1166 pressure and humbug. It is as if we in this Chamber were legislating ourselves out of existence and as if the English race will in future exist only as a quaint survival in literature produced for the British Tourist Board.
This is one of the most extraordinary Bills ever to be brought before the House. Any Englishman who died before 1950 and who came back to this life now would find the Bill quite incomprehensible. So would all our ancestors. I have no doubt that the Bill is well meaning, but I believe that largely it will be ineffective. It offers some feeble protection to our own race here and there, but in the main it confirms the principle which is so highly attractive to the Labour Party, namely, that almost anyone can be a candidate to become a British citizen.
Incidentally, the Bill prefers the word "citizen"—I regard that as a French, revolutionary, citoyen or non-royalist word for a kingdom—to the word "subject". After all, the word "subject" has historical connotations in Britain and the Bill goes against much of our history. In addition, the word "subject" means allegiance and loyalty, something about which the Opposition ought to learn.
It is also amazing that nowhere in the Bill do the words "English", "Scottish", "Welsh" or "Irish" appear, although I am afraid that there is too frequent reference to the "Republic of Ireland". Everyone knows the reason for that. It is that the newcomers we are admitting into our island can never in the true sense of the words become Englishmen, Scotsmen or Welshmen. Fortunately, the Government can fall back on the word "British", which today can mean almost anything.
Amid the laughter, which will not be particularly well received by the vast mass of our people, I make my last protest at the Bill, which will further dilute our national stock. I am conscious that my words will be echoed by millions of people outside this place who never consented to mass immigration and were never consulted about it. I believe that in generations to come the reports of the debates on the Bill will be carefully studied. By that time Scotland and Wales will still probably have a majority of their own race living in those countries. However, in parts of England such as London and the Midlands, it is possible that the English will be outnumbered by the newcomers. What we once knew of England with its long and glorious history will be no more than a shadow.
I do not know whether there will be violent and bloody clashes between the races such as we have seen unfortunately in Bristol and Brixton and the other clay near to London, but inevitably I fear that tensions will build up and the immigrants will become a large proportion of the population.
Integration is a myth, and we all know it. No self-respecting and proud immigrant wants to be integrated into this country. I believe that the Bill is the culmination of 30 years of wishy-washy do-gooding and slip-shod thinking. The test of a nation in the end, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has said on a number of occasions, is its citizens' willingness to fight for it. Will the newcomers of dual nationality fight for our Sovereign or will the loyalties to their own homelands still prove too strong? No one knows. That is one of the many questions which the Bill does not answer. Our duty here, our duty to our constituents and our duty to our country is to advise as best we can, and, above all, to warn. In the end history will say who was right.
§ 10.2 pm
§ Mr. Thomas Cox
I do not intend to waste time answering any part of the despicable speech of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge. (Mr. Stokes).
We now come to the end of the debates on a Bill that we can only call a sad and bad Bill. All the speeches that we have heard in the House week after week about building good community relations in the different communities throughout the country fades into meaningless talk against the background of the Bill. I do not think that anyone disagrees that the present nationality laws are in a hell of a mess and need clarifying. No one can believe that the proposals in the Bill will do anything towards clarifying the mess of those nationality laws. One understands the different community groups expressing their opposition to the Bill, but many sections of society have expressed not only their concern but their outright opposition to the Bill's proposals.
Many hon. Members represent large city areas, as I do. Irrespective of whether those hon. Members sit on the Opposition or Government Benches, we try week after week to build good community relations within the constituencies that we represent. We try to impress on people who now live here their obligation to have a responsibility to our society because it is now part of their society and because this country is now their home. Unfortunately, Many Conservative Members never seem to understand that. We try in the best way we can to make people feel part of this country, but as they become aware of the various aspects of the Bill to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has already referred, they realise that life here will become even more difficult for them. At the same time, our task will become even more difficult.
In my constituency in south London there will be many people who, over the next few weeks, will say to me "We have been telling you for a long time that in the eyes of the Government we are second class citizens. The legislation that has been discussed in Parliament over the past weeks has shown us that what we have long believed is taking place".
The Bill is yet another aspect of the kind of legislation that has been introduced in this Parliament in recent times. There are women who may have been born in Asia but have lived in this country for almost the whole of their lives. They face restrictions if they want to marry a man who was not born in this country. We hear endless remarks about immigrants. What an affront that is to people who have lived here for 20 or 30 years and who are decent, honest, law-abiding men and women. They always hear themselves described as immigrants. Tonight we have heard a new phrase—"the newcomers". After living here for 20 or 30 years, they are now to be described as newcomers. There are the never-ending demands from the Conservative Benches for what they call a rigorous policy of voluntary repatriation.
The House should remember the tragic events that took place in Brixton not long ago. Many things contributed to those events, such as unemployment, the lack of decent housing, and the general environment in which people have to live. But whenever I speak to people who live in Brixton or in my constituency they say "what we object to in this country is that, because we are black or brown, we are not shown respect". That is what the House must 1168 begin to understand. I hope that Lord Scarman will also begin to understand that the one thing that these people are seeking and are entitled to is respect in the country that is now their home.
The language test is another affront to people. In many parts of the country there are people who came here from Eastern Europe. I have such people in my constituency. Many of them still cannot speak very good English. Is it suggested that before they can qualify for citizenship, those people must take an English test? The Home Office must be aware of the problems that a language test will create. It must be aware of the enormous fear that it will create in many families when—
§ Mr. Raison
The people from Eastern Europe to whom the hon. Gentleman has just referred have always had to pass a language test in order to acquire our citizenship.
§ Mr. Cox
In that case, it is time it was removed. We should look closely at the kind of test that is proposed in the Bill for people with a scant knowledge of the English language. The proposal will do nothing to help people feel that they form part of our society. Yet we are told time and again that this is the sort of atmosphere that is needed.
The same criticism can be levelled against the good character requirement. It may seem meaningless. It may be assumed that so long as people are law-abiding, that they have not been in trouble with the police, and that they are hard working, there will be no problems. I am certain, however, that when communities in this country start to examine what is proposed in detail they will have the feeling that they are being singled out.
I turn to what I believe is the most important part of the Bill. I still do not believe that the issue has been fully discussed. I refer to the question of children who are born here. The requirement proposed by the Government is that after a 10-year period these children will have a right to seek British nationally provided that they have not been out of the country for more than 90 days in any one year, but the Minister of State must be aware that one of the characteristics of families from Asia living here is that young children go back to spend a certain time with relatives. What happens, for instance, if the child, while away, becomes ill and is out of the country for 90 days? Will that count against the qualification?
One of the tests for some types of employment, certainly Government employment, is that of British nationality. Many children, especially in the Asian community, are encouraged by their parents to work hard at school. Are they now to be told that because they have been out of the country for more than 90 days— whatever their academic achievement—these job opportunities will be closed to them? Such a decision would be felt deeply within many communities
Hon. Members who make comments obviously do not represent constituencies where this Bill is a crucial issue. It affects people who genuinely try to be good citizens and who try to work for the benefit of the society in which they live. The remarks made from the Conservative Benches will cause enormous damage. Anyone who seriously considers this subject tries to set at ease the real fears that exist among communities here. Opposition Members have fought day after day in Committee and will continue to fight against the Bill and the evil proposals that it contains.
The assurance given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook that the Bill will be 1169 repealed and replaced by legislation that is fair and meaningful will give hope to communities for the kind of society in which we wish to live.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, this is an important Bill. It is perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation that has ever passed through the House. As we all know, it is of critical importance not only to citizens of this country but to millions of people overseas. It sweeps away the absurdities, anomalies and deficiencies of old laws that were introduced by the post-war Labour Government, dating back to the days of Empire.
Perhaps most important, because this is its principle aim—and should be recognised as such—it gives us as citizens of this country something that we have for too long needed, namely, a single and separate citizenship, an individual nationality. Once the Bill is enacted we shall no longer be citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies; we shall be in law and in fact what indeed we are—British citizens.
For those reasons alone, I congratulate the Government. In particular, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on his courage in stepping into this legislative minefield and doing what no other Home Secretary has dared to do for the past 33 years.
I like to think—I hope that this will not be misunderstood—that the decision of the Government, and of the Home Secretary in particular, was encouraged and made possible by the opinion and pressure of Conservative Back Benchers. It is appropriate to say that after last night's television film "The Westminster Man", in which Members of Parliament, both present and past, gave what appeared to be their views of the role of the Back Bencher. More than half of them did not appear to think much of that role. They regarded the voice of the Back Bencher as a voice in the wilderness of frustration. I hope that the fact that the Bill was introduced and has progressed under the influence of Back-Bench opinion, as it has, will do something to balance the picture.
§ Mr. Cryer
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledge that the Bill was influenced by the views of the Back Bencher, the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), or will he take this opportunity to repudiate those views, which were certainly odious to most decent-minded hon. Members but seemed to be endorsed by every Conservative Member?
§ Mr. Gardner
I hope that Back Benchers will always have the right to entertain their own views and will continue to do that.
I do not say that this is perfect legislation. I do not think that any legislation that deals with nationality can escape criticism from someone, or from groups of people. That would be too much to expect. It is good legislation. I want it to leave the House without any deficiencies or blemishes, and without any real grounds for criticism.
However, there is one ground for criticism that I wish to bring to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister. It was raised on Report, and I take leave to mention it again now. I and many other hon. Members—56 signed an early-day motion about the matter today—wish to remove a serious defect in the Bill. I want the Government to ensure that when it goes to another place it is amended so 1170 that British citizens who were born abroad, and whose birth was registered abroad, will retain the right to transmit their nationality to children born abroad. I do not want any diminution or qualification of that right.
The Bill interferes with, and ultimately extinguishes, that right. That is wrong. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will encourage and help any attempts made in another place to put the matter right. It is not an insuperable problem, and it is one that many'believe should be cured.
Mr. R. C. Mitchell
The leader of the Liberal Party put his finger on the saddest aspect of the debate, namely, that during the past three days we have heard a number of purely racialist speeches from Conservative Members. I remember entering the House in 1966. I remember one or two racialist speeches, but there was always another Conservative Member ready to stand up and repudiate what his colleague had said. That has not happened during the past three days of debate. That is symptomatic of the new leadership of the Conservative Party, which tends to encourage racialist thinking. The Prime Minister herself made that sort of speech shortly before the general election.
Everyone agrees that there was a need to revise the nationality law, but this is a bad Bill because it attempts to frame a new nationality law to conform to an existing immigration policy. Clause 1(1) will take away the right of British citizenship from some who were born in Britain. As the Government's immigration policy clearly has racialist undertones, it is inevitable that the Bill will be seen to have racialist undertones.
There is no doubt that the Bill has aroused a great deal of opposition and suspicion among the ethnic minority communities. An example is the refusal to grant rights of appeal. Many people will believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Minister intends to use his discretionary power as yet another adjunct of his immigration policy.
I regret that the Bill was introduced in this form. It has already caused serious harm to race relations in Britain, and it will cause even more harm when its provisions are put into practice. There are other hon. Members who wish to speak. I hope that the House will refuse to give the Bill a Third Reading.
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
Having served on the Standing Committee for three and a half months and having considered the Bill for some 140 hours, I had something of a surprise when I heard some Opposition Members talking about the Bill with such apparent knowledge when they had not been in the Chamber throughout the Report stage and had turned up this evening simply to make what I can only conclude is some kind of party speech.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for what he has said tonight and to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who made a notable contribution to the work of Parliament in the way in which he conducted the Bill throughout the proceedings in Committee.
I take this opportunity to agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in what he said about the duty that we all have to make it clear to the people of this country, particularly to the members 1171 of the ethnic minority who have applied for British citizenship, that the Bill will in no way disturb their applications. I regard that as a duty upon me which I shall carry out, and I know that other hon. Members will also wish to carry it out.
I also emphasise the point so ably made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) concerning those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies whose children have been born overseas and who, it appears, through a quirk of the drafting of the Bill, will lose the right to transmit their nationality to their children. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will look at this problem again. As he knows, it is one which worries many people who work overseas and whose children have been born overseas. The extension of consular registration for a further five years, welcome though it is, has not extinguished those fears entirely. I believe that we should take steps, before the Bill passes from Parliament altogether, to try to improve that provision still further and to set at rest the minds of people who are understandably worried on that score.
The notable feature of the Bill for the ethnic minority community is the fact that people settled in the United Kingdom will know for sure that their children will be entitled to British citizenship irrespective of whether their parents have chosen to take British citizenship by registration. That is an important feature of the Bill.
I think that all those who have taken a keen interest in the Bill will welcome the fact that it clearly defines our citizenship. I do not claim—nor do I think that any hon. Member would claim—that the Bill is perfect, because very few Bills that pass through Parliament are perfect. Nevertheless, I think that we can claim that we have improved the Bill at all stages, in Committee and during the past few days on Report, when my hon. Friend the Minister of State moved some vitally important amendments affecting the lives of those of our citizens who work overseas and who do so much to promote British interests abroad. I hope that that will not be overlooked, because the amendments moved yesterday by my hon. Friend were very significant indeed and will do a great deal to overcome many of the problems about which our fellow citizens, particularly those living in Europe, have written to us over the past months. Any colleagues who served on the Standing Committee will know that we have had a very heavy postbag on that subject. I believe that we have largely dealt with that problem, with the single exception of the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde.
Therefore, although there are differences between hon. Members on both sides about certain nuances and certain parts of the Bill, I hope that we can at least unite together in a determination to do our best to explain to our citizens how the Bill will operate and the benefits that it will bring to all sections of the community. I have no doubt that as the Bill passes through another place further changes will be made and we shall be able to consider them in due course. I welcome the opportunity to consider them, and I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had to participate in deliberations on the Bill as it has passed through Parliament.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) powerfully made the case against the Bill in its present state. However, with an issue of this importance there is a responsibility upon us that transcends the normal party division.
The Bill will have an effect on the lives of each one of us, but inevitably there will be a great many of us—perhaps as many as 95 per cent. of the population—for whom it will raise no qualms. After the Bill is enacted a British Citizen will have all the rights, all the obligations and all the privileges that now attach to his status as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who is patrial. That means most of us. All those who were born in this country will be British citizens.
We must say clearly to those who have worries about the Bill that most of the other 5 per cent. of the community who came to the United Kingdom from abroad in recent years, or were born to those who came from abroad, will have British citizenship. Whatever our criticism of the Bill, we should not increase the alarm and anxiety that they see for their future status by pretending otherwise. The majority of the black community will be British citizens after the Bill is enacted. If they have a British passport now and they have been here for more than five years they will be British.
Those who are not British after the Bill is enacted will have the right either to acquire British citizenship by registration or by naturalisation. If they came before 1 January 1973 and they came from the Commonwealth, they will have the right, within the next five years, to get that registration automatically. I wish that that had continued for the rest of their lives, and I see no reason why it should not. However, if they feel anxious about their status, they can use that right if they use it within the next five years. If they came after 1 January 1973 their rights are not very different from the rights that they will have under the Bill anyway. Since 1 January 1973 they have had to acquire citizenship by undergoing the character test and by passing the language test. To call it naturalisation rather than registration is no great departure.
Therefore, we should tell the great majority of black people in the United Kingdom that they will either have the citizenship of this country or will be able to acquire it in a way that is no worse than it was before the Bill.
That having been said, it is unfortunate that there should be such defects in the Bill as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook described so well. The most important defect, and the one that I think will cause the greatest trouble, is the refusal to apply the general right of birth in this country as a prerequisite of citizenship here. It will not affect a great many in the future. Not a great many more people would have become citizens if the concession had been made. However, the Bill will raise the status of the parents of children who might fall into that category and, therefore, it calls into question the status of some who are settled here but who have not yet acquired citizenship here. That might involve a considerable number of the black population.
In that sense, the Bill is—as I said yesterday—an unexploded time-bomb, which may have considerable repercusssions. I deeply regret that, because it was unnecessary to make that qualification. However, the fact 1173 that the Bill gives that reassurance—subject to that major qualification—to so many of the black community heralds a marked advance on the late 1960s.
Several of my colleagues have criticised the Conservative Party's change of character. Too many of the new Conservative intake think that votes are to be picked up by reiterating the outworn speeches of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). There are not many such hon. Members. The Government have learnt that the power of the black community is a reality in voting terms. It is reflected in election results. It is right that it should be. The idea that one can take away the right to vote from a substantial proportion of our people involves not only electoral niceties but the question of where power lies in our society. Such people pay their taxes, live here, and are part of our community, and it is right that they should exercise that degree of electoral muscle.
The Government have recognised that in this dispute power lies with the black community. As a result, they recognise that they must do justice to it. I am glad that they have come to the conclusion that they could not go on with the absurd racist proposal that was orginally contained in the Bill, that there could be two types of British citizen—one who could go abroad and have a child who would be considered a British citizen and one who could go abroad and have a child who would not be considered a British citizen. Whatever Conservative Members may say, that measure was racist. It has been dropped because of the massive response of the black community and of much of the white community.
In the late 1960s it would have been difficult to mount such a response. I remember 1976 well. Even then it was difficult to get that public response to such a racist initiative. Whether or not Conservative Members like it, not only are black people here; they are accepted by the great majority of our people as part of our multi-racial society. In addition, they understand that we are not only a multi-racial but a multi-cultural society, in which the diversity of culture is an asset to the country. They want it to work. It might not. As the right hon. Member for Down, South incessantly says, there may be an outbreak of violence. If bad men will it, there will be badness. There is a challenge to create a multi-racial society that is a genuine expression of the unity of diverse people with diverse cultures, who can come together to create a multi-culture that is an expression of the whole but that retains the identity of the individual. If that is achieved, there will be a harmony, peace and fulfilment that will enhance what is British in this country.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) kept talking about "us" and about "the British" and "the English". Every black kid born in his constituency is "us", and British. If the hon. Gentleman denies that he is such because he is descended from an immigrant, he must deny that those who made Marks and Spencer the most successful British store are British. They are descended from immigrants. Some hon. Members are descended from immigrants. Some are citizens of Canada, but they are part of the total community that the hon. Gentleman regards as "us".
The only reason why the hon. Gentleman talks about newcomers in order to distinguish them from us is that some people will be black. The pigmentation of the skin makes not a jot of difference to the capacity of people to live together. The only thing that makes a difference is the 1174 intensity of feeling about a diverse culture, and that is spurred on by the sort of speech made by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge.
I am glad that we have gone through the process of defining our own citizenship. I do not regard that as racialist. When I was a Minister I tried to propound the principles on which it ought to be done. They were not vastly different from what the Government have accepted. I am sorry that the Government have introduced defects into that concept, but it was necessary and right that we should define our citizenship and should not be ashamed that at last, we—the only country in the world that did not have a citizenship—should have taken that step.
I am upset that, as a result of the history since 1948, we should have found that there were some who could not join us in that citizenship or in the reality of a citizenship of independent Colonies. They are not citizens anywhere. I refer to the East African Asians and the 130,000 Malaysians.
It is deeply regrettable that those people are not citizens in any real sense. The Commonwealth ought to face the serious problem of what should be done about the Malaysians. There is no problem about the East African Asians. The Government accept their responsibility to take them, though I wish that the Minister of State had said that he would take them in faster than he proposes to do. But they will come in due course.
The Malaysians are a blot on the proper application of the Bill and a blot on our Commonwealth relationships. I hope that the Commonwealth will face that problem and ensure that those people also have a real citizenship.
§ Mr. Proctor
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) made a reasoned speech, which was in stark contrast to the contributions of his colleagues who were trying to avoid putting facts before their emotions.
The Opposition, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party have been severely critical of the Bill. The Opposition say that it is a racialist measure which will be a cause of grievance to the New Commonwealth and the Pakistani immigrant community in this country and that the grievance will automatically provoke a reaction and cause trouble. We must ask which came first—the trouble or the invented grievance—to explain away not only the existing troubles but, regrettably, future troubles.
The Bill contains no grievance, racial or otherwise, for loyal, law-abiding British citizens. I do not believe that it should be made a scapegoat—in addition to that vogue word "deprivation"—for lawlessness on the streets of our big cities.
The Opposition forget, as they forgot throughout the Report stage, the reassurance contained in the Bill, for the indigenous population—not total, but at least partial reassurance—that they will no longer share their citizenship with millions around the world, as has been the case since 1948, with all the consequences that that entailed for our country—namely, mass migrations for three decades from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan and the dreadful and inevitable racial strife of which we see evidence weekly, if not yet daily, in metropolitan London and elsewhere.
The Opposition claim that the Bill is an immigration control measure. They argue, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) argued tonight, that that is the reason why I and some of my right hon. and 1175 hon. Friends support it. Alas, if immigration control were to be the criterion for support or otherwise of the Bill it would fall far short of what is required in all the circumstances.
The yearly immigration flow from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan will alter only marginally with the passing of the Bill and not necessarily in the short term in a downward direction. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook informed the House, as I believe he had earlier informed the Committee, that although previously the Labour Party was committed to immigration control he was suggesting some form of immigration decontrol with regard to East African Asians. That view would be greeted with great dismay. All my right hon. and hon. Friends who thought otherwise will be deceiving their constituents if they try to pass this measure off as one that will help to halt migration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan or avert the consequences of that migration. It will not. That is not its purpose, and in the short and medium term it will have no such effect.
If the basis upon which the Government ask for my support for the measure is that it was intended to reduce immigration from the New Commonwealth and Pakistan, I would have to withhold that support. I would oppose the Bill as being inadequate and ineffectual on present trends. Such migration will continue at a rate of 30,000 to 40,000 a year or a further ½ million in the next 10 years, including the overstayers and the illegal immigrants of various descriptions.
The basis upon which the Bill is founded is none the less sound—that the citizens of the United Kingdom should have a citizenship of their own. Other countries define those who have the right to claim citizenship. So it should be with us. We are right to do it, albeit belatedly. Would that we had drafted even more tightly the right to belong. Would that we could treat everyone else as aliens, including those from the Republic of Eire and other EEC countries. Would that we had legislated against dual nationality as far as we were able to do. Notwithstanding these reservations, I shall support the Third Reading as a major step in the direction of restoring our national identity and independence.
§ Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)
My only consolation for having to listen to the arrogance, bigotry and prejudice shown by the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) is that after the next election I shall never have to listen to him again.
The Bill is a tripartite hotchpotch. I agree with what the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) said about the Government's aim. Where I disagree with him is that I think that the Government have missed it by a mile. It is a complicated Bill and difficult to understand, especially by those whom it most affects. The Government sought to change the complicated situation that has arisen since 1948, but they have succeeded in producing an even more complicated situation.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) acquitted the Home Secretary of racism, and I think that the whole House will accept that. But, as my right hon. Friend said, the effect of the Bill will be to erect a barrier against the process of integration. I feel keenly about the Bill because I have 1176 been engaged for a long time in trying to integrate ethnic minorities and build up a harmonious multi-racial community in the area I represent.
The riots in Brixton were nothing new to me. I remember Notting Hill in 1958. Over a period of years, by hard work day in and day out, an understanding has been reached among the ethnic minorities and there has been a working together in the community irrespective of race, colour and creed. The Bill is a barrier to the continuation of that process.
During 1958, 1959 and 1960, when most of the influx in my area was from the Caribbean, local newspapers contained advertisements "Room to let. No coloureds". That has not occurred during the past 10 years. If Mr. Speaker were in the Chair, he would recognise the same problem, because after mass unemployment 50 years ago in the Welsh valleys newspapers in my area contained advertisements "Room to let. No. Welsh". Prejudice of that kind has to be dealt with and defeated, and that has happened.
When the Bill becomes law, for the next two years I shall constantly have to try to build bridges because of the distress and fear it will cause. I accept, as the Minister of State said, that some of those fears are not justified and that the Bill is not quite as bad as many people think. But that is not important. What is important is whether people believe that it is bad.
The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) said that the Bill made necessary a justification which did not exist before. By a coincidence, a parallel case of justification appears in this morning's Nursing Mirror editorial:For petty inhumanity, the proposed regulations on health service charges to foreigners take some beating. Already hospitals have tightened up procedures, but in practice people with non-white skins are automatically suspect.The Bill acts in precisely the same way in all areas where the new provisions apply. People with black skins will be suspect. They will have to provide maximum proof, and there is no right of appeal against decisions. I welcome and emphasise what has been said from the Opposition Front Bench. The Bill will be repealed by the next Labour Government. The tendency in Government is not to repeal but to try to reform the existing Act by taking out the worst parts and leaving the rest. With this Bill that would be inadequate so I welcome the firm commitment by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook on behalf of a future Labour Government.
The only way in which the Bill can be dealt with by a future Labour Government is by complete repeal. Between now and then, a whole process of consultation with the people most worried and concerned needs to take place, so that by the time our Bill is put before the House it will have been thoroughly vetted and considered, so that the House can proceed on the basis of something that is fair and justified.
My fears are that we shall have to face so much red tape and problems in dealing with our constituents' queries that there will be a snarl-up, which will mean more public expenditute for more civil servants in the Minister of State's Department, more expenditure by my local authority in trying to sort out the problems and, if I may be strictly personal, much more time spent by me in trying to straighten out the problems with the Home Office.
Because of the cumbersome nature of the Bill, the way in which it has been drawn and the consequences which 1177 it will have on my constituency, I shall not only vote solidly against its Third Reading but from now onwards I shall try to mitigate the worst effects on my constituents.
§ Mr. Whitney
I recognise that the concern of the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) about the complication of the Bill is sincere and well-founded. Inevitably, it is a complicated measure. Any of us who laboured through the Committee would recognise that whatever approach is taken, the subject cannot but be complicated. I suggest to the hon. Member that his fears will prove ill-founded. I refer him to the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon), who said that the vast majority of the blacks in this country would suffer no problems from the Bill and ought to be reassured by what it contained.
I join in the commendation to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, who has supported him so ably in grasping this long-standing nettle. All of us in the House know that that was needed. The hon. Member for York, for example, started to tackle it in his ministerial days in 1974. The result was that the Labour Party considered the problem, produced the Green Paper, and left it. The Government have moved on from the Green Paper. In many respects, the treatment of the problems has been more compassionate and understanding in dealing with, for example, dual nationality and the transmission through the female line. Those are all measures and moves that take cognisance of those problems.
We who live in Britain have the right to a citizenship. Virtually every country has one. We, for the historical reasons that are familiar to us, do not. The 1948 Act accreted the various changes of the curious concept of the citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, so that by the time we reached 1980—indeed, long before that—that was a meaningless concept, and something else was needed.
Therefore, the fact that the Government have tackled the problem is something for which they should be greatly commended. After 150 hours we have produced by no means the perfect Bill. However, it brings a balance that deals with the conflicting claims that we all know so well. It achieves an answer that I believe is the best available in the circumstances.
My hon. and learned Friend and Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) and my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) mentioned the transmission of citizenship to children born overseas. I endorse their plea fo one more look at that question. We recognise that it is important for the interests of this country that British people working overseas must not be penalised for the general measures that we are obliged to take because of this country's problems with which the Bill seeks to deal.
The Bill must still go through the other place. I very much hope that we do not have a repeat of the problems that have arisen as it has gone through our own House. I refer to the deep anxiety that has been created among the immigrant communities by all sorts of people, most of whom ought to have known better. Some of them did it unwittingly, because they never read the Bill. Indeed, I doubt very much whether some Labour Members who have already spoken have read the Bill. In addition, many other men of good will—men of the cloth and 1178 others—have neither read the Bill nor taken account of the changes that my right hon. Friend has introduced as the measure has proceeded through the House.
It is essential for the well-being of Britain as a society that this bubble of anxiety that has been built up should now be deflated. I very much hope that we shall hear no more references to pass laws, such as we heard from the leader of the Liberal Party.
I also hope that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) will restrain his natural tendencies to excess. This is not an area in which we need bulls in china shops; it is an area in which there must be a sensitivity and understanding of the issues at stake.
When the Bill finally receives Royal Assent I hope that the Government will conduct a massive information and publicity campaign to counteract the grave damage to the immigrant communities that has already been done and to ensure that all of us clearly understand the sensible provisions in the Bill.
§ 11.2 pm
§ Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
Nationality is a fundamental concept which ought to be decided on principle and not on expediency. The Bill. is shot through with expediency from start to finish, which springs from the artificial fears which the Conservative Party and others have attempted to create among the British people about the prospect of others immigrating to this country.
The worst feature of the Bill is the abandonment of the principle, which has applied for 700 years, that a child born in this country automatically becomes a British citizen. Under the new provisions, that is now not enough. A child will need to be born in this country of one parent who is either British or settled here. If it is subsequently decided, as it may be, that the parent is not legally settled in this country, the child can become stateless. Statelessness is a horrible condition in a world that is entirely dominated by nation States. In the past, statelessness has usually resulted from major catastrophes such as war, the redrawing of international boundaries, major revolutions and the break-up of States and empires.
Under the Bill, statelessness for such children could be brought about literally by accident. Let us consider the question of someone who has no doubt about his right to be settled in this country having a brush with the police. It could be because that person is literally run down in an accident, involved in a motor accident or reports a crime. It could be that during their inquiries the police will look into that person's background, decide that there is something wrong with his status as a settled person and report the fact to the Home Office. Some liverish Home Office official one morning—and, Lord knows, they are not noted for their liberality or humanity in such matters—will decide to press on with the case and announce that the parents of the child were not settled and, consequently, will make the child stateless.
If the parents are lucky and well advised, they will be able to challenge in the courts the reasonableness of the Home Office decision. Lawyers, at vast expense, will quibble about the niceties of the circumstances in which the parents settled. It is possible that, by a judgment of three to two, a court will decide that the parents were not properly settled here, and the child could he made stateless.
1179 The Home Secretary should consider not just the effects on that family but what the effects will be in various ethnic minority groups if one or two similar cases occur. The willingness of many people in ethnic minorities to go to the police to seek their rights against other citizens is already limited. If that sort of case occurs, as it inevitably will, those communities will be even more reluctant to seek their rights against any form of authority and, in particular, to go to the police.
This squalid aspect of the Bill springs not from a principle but from the Government's concern that if they allowed that child to have British citizenship and then tried to throw out the unsettled or not properly settled parents they would be in breach of certain international rules and agreements. For that squalid and expedient reason, the Government are setting aside a 700-year-old principle that if one is born in Britain one is British. That is an admirable principle. I would have thought that it would seem admirable to the little Englanders and proto-Fascists on the Government Benches. They talk of British tradition and nineteenth century imperial tradition, but they have come a long way from that imperial tradition because at its worst it was dedicated to the concept of turning everyone in the world into British citizens and ruling them.
These squalid people have introduced this squalid law, which is demeaning to us all. It diminishes our reputation in the world and damages community relations in this country. I hope that the House will reject it. I am sure that it will not and that the geriatrics in the other House will not spring to the aid of the minority communities. The only time they set aside legislation from this place is when it has something to do with the rich and powerful whom they represent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Like school transport?"'] I accept that. It is an inevitability. As in almost all examples, there is one saving grace in that the House of Lords did that. But I challenge the Home Secretary or any of his colleagues to think of any other occasion when the House of Lords has acted to interfere with legislation from this House to protect the poor and the worst-off in the community. I am sure that it will not do it, nor will the Conservative Benches.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
The intemperate attacks on the Bill by Opposition speakers, the charges of racialism and the sanctimonious humbug spoken by prominent people, including the leader of the Liberal Party, might make one despair for the future of democratic government in this country, for all those charges are unjustified, and the people concerned know it. I suppose that one has to excuse them to some extent because, being all decent and honourable men, they are simply playing the party game. They know in their hearts that the Bill is necessary, that its provisions are reasonable in the circumstances of the needs facing this country, and that the racialist charge is bogus.
It is sad that as the Bill has evolved the Opposition have become identified with the immigrants' lobby in their outright rejection of the Bill and in their efforts to amend its detailed provisions in Committee. That sort of position is bad for British politics and bad for this country. Not once have the Opposition even appeared to look beyond 1180 the interests of the immigrant community when considering the Bill; not once have they looked at the interests of the country as a whole.
It might help if more Opposition Members lived in their own constituencies and shared the legitimate personal fears and anxieties of the majority of their constituents on immigration issues. It is the good fortune of some Opposition Members to represent areas known as deprived areas. One Labour Member—unfortunately, he is not here—said that he was proud to represent a constituency in which one-third of the people were coloured immigrants. Has he consulted, and does he feel that he represents, the other two-thirds? Those people should be considered just as much as the immigrants. As a result of that identification with the minority, Opposition Members have left the views and interests of the majority to be expressed by others whose opinions they do not themselves share.
The cause of democracy suffers when political issues are identified with personalities. That is just as true of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and the causes that he legitimately expounds as it is of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and his courageous willingness to expound the views that he holds on this subject.
On the issues dealt with by the Bill we are in the grip of forces which, because of the large influx of immigrants into Britain, we now seem unable to control. Racial violence is occurring with increasing frequency. The British people are sick at heart about it all. We badly need honest and forthright politicians to express their feelings without fear of being condemned on moral grounds. It is, therefore, deplorable that Church leaders should have condemned the Bill as being racially discriminatory. Any nationality law that is based upon place of birth or descent from one's parents is bound to favour those who are born or who are the children of those born in the country concerned. That is just as true of Nigeria and its nationality law as of America and its nationality law, or of the nationality laws of the countries from which our immigrants come. The Bill is no more racialist than any other nationality law in the world; indeed, it is a good deal less so, as my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington (Mr. Wheeler) reminds me.
Most people in Britain happen to be white-skinned. Most of those who would like to become British citizens happen to be black-skinned.
Those Church leaders who condemn the Bill bear a great share of the responsibility for the misunderstanding and the racial friction that derives from it. Marchers, protesters and even rioters think themselves covered by the moral sanction of Church leaders. The Bishop of Truro is the chairman of the Church of England Board of Social Responsibility. He is soon to become the Bishop of London. He described the Bill as being manifestly discriminatory between racial groups. That is quite untrue. When taken to task for this expression by some of my hon. Friends and me, he accepted that this was not the intention of the Bill but the impression given by it. It was the image of the Bill. If that is so, people like the Bishop of Truro, who should know better and do know better, bear a great responsibility for the impression and image given of the Bill. Misdescriptions of this kind are excusable in politicians who are playing party games. In a bishop, they are inexcusable.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I suppose that may be so.
It is true that the Bill has its imperfections. One is so important that I should like to mention it again. I hope that the Government will have second thoughts about those people who are to become Britons by descent. A group of them who now have the right to pass on their nationality to their children will lose that right on the passage of the Bill. I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has yet taken the point or recognised the injustice which will be done to a number of British people around the world who, for generations, have enjoyed this right.
I hope that a remedy will be introduced in another place. I have had the honour of presenting three petitions to the House on behalf of British communities abroad making this point. I was present when a petition signed by over 1,000 Britons born in Western Europe was presented to the Prime Minister two weeks ago, making the same point.
It was stated, I think by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in opening the debate, that it was no part of the Bill's purpose to diminish the status of those persons affected by it. The status of the class of person to whom I have referred is affected by the Bill, to his prejudice. I hope that the Government will find a wording that avoids creating an injustice to these people. This is an imperfection in an otherwise necessary Bill. I welcome the Bill. I believe that it deserves the support of the whole House.
§ Mr. R. McTaggart (Glasgow, Central)
I recognise that this is probably one of the more controversial pieces of legislation that this Parliament will see. Certainly, this Government lack nothing in controversy.
Although I am at a disadvantage, in that I did not serve on the Committee dealing with the Bill and am therefore not as conversant with its intricacies as those who did, I recognise that the Bill's most distressing and worrying clauses are retained, not the least of which is that concerning newborn children, in that for centuries every child born in the United Kingdom was automatically a British citizen. That has been the case for over 700 years, and although many features of the present Act are undesirable and complicated, this provision has worked well and is simple, and anyone can understand it.
Opposition Members have consistently said that a new Act was necessary and would be welcomed. We all know that the present Act is outdated. It is 33 years old, and much has happened in this country and the world in that time. Many former colonies have gained their independence, and rightly so.
It has also been said that any new Act should be an improvement on the present legislation. It should be simpler to understand than what we have now. I mean no disrespect to anyone, but the United Kingdom is not exactly brimming over with eggheads who are experts on the present nationality legislation. The opposite is true of this Bill. It is actually more complicated than the present legislation.
I believe that any new Act should contain legislation that is an extension of people's rights, in order to make the insecure among us feel more secure and to ensure that people feel more a part of our society, and on firmer 1182 ground. We should be at one, instead of for ever fighting among ourselves, as seems to happen now, with the advent of certain racist groups in this country. Again, the Bill does not do that. The reverse is true, in that certain rights that people now have are withdrawn from them.
The Bill destroys the simplicity of children born in this country being British citizens. In its place, it introduces an immensely complicated rule. As far as I am aware, no evidence has been advanced by the Government to show that the present rule has created great problems. I believe, far from what the Government said on Second Reading in January, that the Bill is not just about nationality; it is about controlling the number, not only of immigrants but of coloured immigrants, in particular, coming into this country.
Another fact that exposes the Government's hypocrisy is that the United Kingdom is a party to the United Nations convention on the reduction of statelessness. Yet here we have Government proposals whereby, for the first time in our history, some children born here will be stateless. What about the tragedies that that will cause?
What about children who become entitled to register when they reach the age of 10? Surely, it is obvious that problems will arise when these children have to establish that they are British citizens. What will their nationality be up to the age of 10? Will they be entitled to the same benefits as every other child? What happens if a child's parents are divorced in the interim period? What evidence is required to establish the child's citizenship? How do confused parents find out the nationality of their child? I have read the Committee proceedings in that respect, but the matter is ambiguous. I certainly find it hard to understand, and I can readily imagine the confusion and resentment that will be caused throughout the country if this becomes law.
Young individuals, who may well be the cream of our society, who have lived and learnt throughout their lives in the only country that they have ever known, training to be responsible adults, may find, to their utter astonishment, that they cannot present sufficient evidence to the authorities to prove their citizenship. They may find, to their dismay, that they are not British citizens. I can imagine the traumatic feelings of both parents and children in that situation.
Any hon. Member who has immigrant families in his constituency knows only too well how difficult it is at present for those families to obtain advice with their present problems. I can imagine that those problems will increase as more and more confused families seek help from the overworked and under-resourced advisory services in this country.
Contrary to what the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said, it is worth mentioning the steadfast and concerned attitude of sources such as the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the Church of England, the Scottish Churches Council and various community race relations groups. All those organisations are prepared to stand up for the rights of immigrants because they know the difficulties that they face at this time.
One can only reasonably conclude that the Bill is a bad Bill. It attacks sections of our community, it is divisive, and it should be defeated. Even at this stage, something can be salvaged from it. I believe that it is incumbent upon those Conservative Back Benchers who have at times 1183 opposed certain parts of the Bill, if they are to retain any kind of credibility, to come into the Lobby with us tonight to defeat the Government's proposals.
§ Mr. Michael Mates (Petersfield)
Quite the most remarkable speech of the evening has come from the lips of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). He stood up honestly and said that black people who are legally settled in this country have nothing to fear from the Bill and that it will not discriminate against them in any way. What a marvellous thing that is to have heard from him at last, and what a tragedy it is that he could not bring himself to say that on Second Reading, when he knew those facts just as well. What a tragedy it is, too, that in all the appearances on television and in the media that he has made as an expert on this subject he has not trumpeted that out loud and clear all along. If he had done so, he would have done a far greater service to all those people whom he alleges that he supports.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
If the hon. Gentleman reads my Second Reading speech, he will see that it is there.
§ Mr. Mates
I have the Second Reading speech, and it is the contrast that has made me refer to it. The hon. Gentleman said:the practical effect will be racialist, in that it will fall hardest upon black people, rather than on white people".—[Official Report, 28 January 1981; Vol. 997, c. 974.]Now he says that black people legally settled here have nothing to fear from the Bill. That is a totally different tone. This time at least, he has been honest. It is a pity that he was not honest before.
§ Mr. Mates
Nothing that has happened since the Second Reading of the Bill has made any difference to the people legally settled here and their status being unchanged. That is a fact. I shall not proceed with this argument, because we are very close to winding-up time.
As we reach the end of these very long proceedings, I should like to reinforce the Home Secretary's words about my hon. Friend the Minister of State. I think that I speak for all of us who sat through those long hours in praising his unending patience, his amazing knowledge of the detail and, most of all, his acceptance of reasoned argument, which has been a model for us all.
Having given my hon. Friend that unstinting congratulation, may I ask him to take all those qualities just one short stage further? I made a speech yesterday and, because I did not get the response that I hoped to get, I added to it. I shall not repeat it tonight, unlike most Opposition Members who have repeated all their speeches ad nauseam. The fact is, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) said, reinforced by my hon. Friends the Members for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) and Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and the motion which went on the Order Paper last night, which was signed by all the officers of the Conservative home affairs committee and has been reinforced by 54 Members 1184 of this party across the whole spectrum, that something is wrong. It is simply the attitude of retrospectively taking away rights.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State knows the point that I am trying to make. I ask him, first, to acknowledge that this is a restrospective taking away of rights and, secondly, to say that he will do something about it, because it would be totally in character for him to have listened patiently to a lot of reasoned argument and then to take it away and come up with a thoroughly sensible amendment which the other place can consider and which we can then deal with when the Bill comes back from the other place.
With that parting remark, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State and the Government on the way in which the whole Bill has gone through. It is vitally necessary. It is non-discriminatory. Black people and all coloured people settled legally in this country have nothing to fear from the Bill. Those are not my words but the words of the hon. Member for York, and they should ring out loud and clear, as long as they do not do him too much harm.
§ Mr. Dubs
Earlier this evening the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) made certain accusations against the majority of Labour Members. He suggested that we were representing only the immigrant lobby. If we have constituents who feel threatened and who are made to believe that they are insecure by legislation of the sort that is now before us, it is surely in the interests of all those living in our constituencies that we should speak up to oppose legislation that causes those feelings and beliefs. Surely, even the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is not a desirable piece of legislation that causes individuals to feel threatened and to believe that they are unwelcome in our society. That is one of the main reasons why we have been critical of certain parts of the Bill throughout its passage.
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) made a speech about which I do not wish to comment, save that he posed the question whether the people who have come to Britain from overseas—people who are black—would fight for this country.
§ Mr. Dubs
It may be that the hon. Gentleman added those words. That addition does not alter the point that I am about to make. Many black people came to Britan between 1939 and 1945 to fight for it. We should recognise that. We should recognise also that many black people are serving in the British Army in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. It is not right for Conservative Members to cast such aspersions on those who are living in this country and playing their full part as British citizens. We want people who have come to this country, or who in many instances were born here, to feel that they belong here fully. It is suggestions to the contrary that come from Conservative Members that are undesirable and add to the feelings on the part of minority ethnic groups that they are not wanted. That is something that we wish to reject.
This is an unhappy occasion. That is because the Government do not yet understand that many members of ethnic minority groups feel threatened by the Bill. It is seen as part and parcel of a series of measures and speeches 1185 which threaten black people in Britain. The immigration rule changes that we debated last Session are the most obvious example. Many speeches have been made in which it has been argued that we must reduce the number of people entering Britain. As a result, black people feel threatened by the Government's actions. That is why they are apprehensive about the Bill.
There is not time to go through the various aspects of the Bill, but I shall give one or two examples. There is the provision which means that people born in Britain will not have the right automatically of British citizenship. That is the most reprehensible feature of the Bill. It means that no longer can any child born here have the automatic right of British citizenship. In future, children and their parents will have to prove whether they have the right to British citizenship. That will cause misunderstanding and will appear to be discriminatory.
I turn to the East African Asians. Under the Bill, they will become British overseas citizens. If the Government wish to do one thing to improve matters, they should state that they will immediately increase the quota, which is believed to amount to only 500 per annum. Year after year, people queue up to get special vouchers. The Opposition wish to give them British citizenship and the automatic right of entry. We should like to get rid of the queue. We say that and believe it. The next Labour Government will do it. At the very least, the Government could prevent the intolerably long years of waiting which they impose on those who have the right to come here. The Government admit that. If they took that measure of good will, they would do much to undo the harm that the Bill will do to race relations in Britain.
§ 11.36 pm.
§ Mr. Tilley
I should like to pick up the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) regarding the comments of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). A constituency point is involved in the sense that many men and women in my constituency are dual nationals. Many are Jamaicans and registered citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Many have fought for this country and are now serving in the British Forces. Indeed, some have died in Northern Ireland.
If the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge embodies the priniciples of decency that he talks about so much, he will withdraw the slur against the reputation of those who are serving and who have served in the British Forces and against the memory of those who have died for our freedom and his. I am sorry that he does not appear to wish to take that opportunity. His silence speaks volumes.
§ Mr. Stokes
I am a great admirer of the British Forces and of all the races that take part in them. Neither the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) nor the hon. Gentleman answered the question that if someone has an allegiance to two countries, to whom does he ultimately owe allegiance? In the end, there is bound to be doubt. That is so obvious that I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman cannot understand it.
§ Mr. Tilley
The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge has shown how skin deep his attachment to decency and honesty is. I gave a specific case. We are 1186 talking about dual nationals who are serving in, and in some cases dying for, the British Forces. If the hon. Gentleman will not withdraw that slur, the House will deeply regret it.
We have come to the end of about 170 hours of debate on the Bill on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. If there were any prizes for the hon. Member who had spoken most, I should be fairly confident of sauntering casually over the finishing line, because I believe that I am well ahead. Therefore, I shall not detain the House for longer than is necessary. In the penultimate speech of this long process, I should underline the fact that the process has been valuable, not only because hon. Members have been able to discuss the Bill's full implications but because it has enabled the public to realise the full implications and horrors of the proposals contained in it. I pay tribute to those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who did not serve on the Committee but who have shown by their speeches in the last three days that they understand the details and implications of the Bill.
As a result of the education of public opinion, the Government have ranged against them all the Churches, all the ethnic minority groups and all the individuals and groups that are genuinely concerned about achieving racial harmony. All those people and groups know that the Bill is racially discriminatory in two major ways.
First, it is based on our racially discriminatory immigration laws and the immigration rules as tightened by the Government.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner
Has the hon. Gentleman not yet realised, after 170 hours of debate, that the Bill provides what the Green Paper suggested was vital—namely, a proper foundation for immigration laws? It has nothing to do with immigration itself.
§ Mr. Tilley
I have to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that when the present Home Secretary said in Leicester before the election that there would be a Nationality Bill he stated that its purpose would be to reduce future sources of immigration. During our 170 hours of consideration, it has been rammed down our throats that the Government would not countenance any changes to the Bill that interfered with the aims and objectives of the immigration rules. There is no doubt that it is based on our immigration laws.
The second reason why we believe that the Government are guilty of racial discrimination in the Bill is that the vast majority of those who will lose rights and opportunities are black.
As my hon. Friends have said, perhaps the most important consequence of the Bill is that for the first time in British history children will be born stateless in Britain. That has got home to the public, and they find it very objectionable. As more people come to realise it, they will understand that it involves a fundamental attack on the civil liberties of everyone in this country.
§ Mr. Tilley
I wish that the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) would not give me the sort of wonderful feed lines from a sedentary position that he was kind enough to give me on Second Reading. I wish to speak briefly, in order to give the Minister a chance to reply to the debate. The Government should be ashamed of the Bill, if only because it creates statelessness in this country for the first time.
1187 The public are also aware that the Government are determined to keep their arbitrary powers in this area, to exercise them in secret and to refuse to have decisions tested in the courts. Ministers have tried to shrug off our accusations. They appear languid and bored by the accusations. We are not impressed, and the country is not impressed, by their impersonation of the old "Comic Cuts" team of Weary Willie and Tired Tim. The facts speak for themselves, and the public know the truth.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House reasonably make a special effort to find favour with, and to help, the ethnic minority groups in their constituencies. I hope that when those black and brown citizens come to assess the commitment of their Member of Parliament to racial harmony they will not just listen to the honeyed words that come at election time but will pay more attention to the Division Lists of the vote we are about to take. They will then see who voted for and who voted against this racially discriminatory Bill after its harmful effect had been made clear, having been exposed in the course of a long Committee stage and a long Report stage.
I therefore call on all hon. Members to vote against the Bill. I end with a pledge on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends that if it becomes law the next Labour Government will make its repeal a very high priority. We will repeal it and replace it with a nationality law that is not discriminatory.
§ Mr. Tilley
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has somewhat undermined his own side. I hope that in both cases the Government concerned will be judged not by their words but by their deeds and by the legislation they produce in the House.
§ Mr. Raison
The time is fast approaching when we shall, by a convincing majority, send this Bill forward to another place. It is a long overdue piece of legislation. It replaces a nationality law that fails to provide a specifically British citizenship. It provides just such a citizenship at long last, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), in a notable and honest speech, confirmed to the House.
Despite the determined campaign waged in some quarters against the Bill, I am sure that increasingly with time the great majority of citizens, including the ethnic minority communities, will welcome the national approach to citizenship that the Bill makes. At last people will know where they stand. If they are British citizens they will have the right of abode here and will know that they are not subject to our immigration laws. If they are citizens of the British dependent territories it will be clear that their connections lie with those territories. They will still be British, but they will no longer hold a citizenship that implies, quite misleadingly, that they have the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
Of course, it is true that the Bill also provides for other citizenships or statuses. And these do not imply the right to enter and settle in either the United Kingdom or a dependency. These transitional categories will in time die 1188 out. Until they do, it is necessary to make suitable provision for them. We cannot simply ignore the claims of the past.
What the Bill has done is to put an end to the subterfuge whereby we describe people as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies while not permitting them to enter freely either the United Kingdom or the colonies. Some will say that we ought to have put an end to that subterfuge in a different way, namely, by admitting all those concerned to full British citizenship. That is a point of view, and the arguments have been gone into very thoroughly during the passage of the Bill through the House. The view has prevailed, rightly, I believe, that we cannot now put the clock back and open our doors in this way. It would be disastrous for race relations to try to do so.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) referred to the scheme of citizenship for British dependent territories. I appreciate the feeling on the part of some hon. Members that it would have been better for at least some dependent territories to have their own separate citizenships. I continue to believe, however, that this would have caused more problems than it would have solved. It is clear that separate citizenships are not widely desired in the dependencies. What those who feel strongly on the issue want is British citizenship.
Some hon. Members would be ready to meet the desire for British citizenship in some cases. I must, however, emphasise yet again the resentment that this would cause in territories whose inhabitants were not selected for conferment of British citizenship. A composite British citizenship of the dependent territories proposed in the Bill therefore remains the best solution for the dependent territories.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook complained about the status of the citizens of the British dependent territories. In our discussions on part II of the Bill we have often had occasion to refer to the rights of entry and residence of citizens of the British dependent territories. Constitutionally, these matters would be governed, as they are at present, by immigration ordinances made by the dependent territories themselves. Not surprisingly, those ordinances do not allow for the unrestricted entry of anybody who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. It would be ludicrous to expect a relatively small colony to open its doors to everyone from the United Kingdom and other dependencies; and the individual ordinances show some variations in the extent to which they allow residence rights even to people who might claim a connection with the territory concerned.
The Government do not feel that the existing constitutional position, whereby the dependencies have control over immigration matters, should be altered. We do not believe that that would be either justified or necessary. We believe, however, that it is important that future citizens of the British dependent territories should have somewhere to go. We welcome, therefore, the indications that we have received from these dependent territories that they are prepared to review their ordinances.
My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) sought assurances about Hong Kong. It is the fact that nothing in the Bill changes the relationship and commitment of Her Majesty's Government to the people of Hong Kong. I gladly give that assurance.
1189 Next, I confirm that citizens of the British dependent territories will remain United Kingdom nationals in the sense that the United Kingdom can afford consular protection and represent their interests internationally—both of which, of course, we intend to continue to do.
Finally, on the question of what those citizens tell immigration authorities in third countries, the position is as follows. They will bear a passport that will on the cover have the words "British Passport" and the name "Hong Kong". Inside, the citizenship description will probably be "citizen of the British Dependent Territories—Hong Kong". We shall of course tell other countries of our new citizenship titles, and these descriptions should cause no doubt or difficulty to immigration officers in third countries. I should make the point that my answers to my hon. Friend, which I hope he will find reassuring, will apply with equal force to our other dependent territories, and that must be emphasised.
There have been references in this debate to the provision in part III of the Bill for British overseas citizens. It has been suggested that they should instead become British citizens, or that those in Africa or India should become British citizens, or that those left over after a Commonwealth conference should become British citizens. All these ideas are, we believe, quite unrealistic. They would almost certainly lead to a large increase in the numbers who would wish to come here from overseas. In our present circumstances such a course would be only too likely to damage race relations, and so, too, would the argument that we should allow all voucher holders to come into this country at one time.
I do not mind admitting that one of the trickiest areas in tackling our scheme of citizenship has been citizenship by descent. Tackling its complexities in Committee was occasionally a nightmarish operation. I believe that we have broadly succeeded in the task.
Starting from the basis that citizenship by descent must be limited, as a universal right to one generation of descent, we have nevertheless provided something further for those with a real case. We have dealt, I believe effectively, with the problem of British business men overseas who maintain British connections. We have extended the opportunity of consular registration for a transitional period, and we have at last put our Service men and other Crown servants on a fair basis. Again, of course, descent will now go through the female line.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) and my hon. Friends the Members for Petersfield (Mr. Mates), Uxbridge (Mr.Shersby) and Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) referred to an early-day motion about transmission to those abroad, and their feeling that we had not quite got things right. They asked if we could help to tackle that problem further when the Bill went to the other place. I can make no firm commitment as to the outcome, but I undertake that we shall further consider that point carefully between now and when the Bill goes to the other place.
I shall turn to some of the criticisms made by Opposition Members. There were accusations of racialism. We have had the usual accusations that the Bill is racialist—or, perhaps more often, that it seems to be racialist. That is, of course, false. Members of the ethnic minority populations lawfully settled here will find their position unaffected by the Bill. Those who have been naturalised or registered since settling here will become 1190 British citizens. Their children will become British citizens if one of their parents is a British citizen, or is settled. The addition to clause 41 that the Government made in Committee makes it quite plain that applications for citizenship are to be considered without regard to an applicant's race, colour or creed. Those who are seeking citizenship under the present system will still be able to do so. All those are facts.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and others attacked our departure from jus soli—the principle that everyone born here should automatically receive citizenship. What is the principle that says that someone, neither of whose parents belong here, either as citizens or settled persons, should have an automatic claim to our citizenship? Why should the child of the student or the short-term worker here take back to his parents' country when he returns an entitlement to be seen as a British citizen. Why should the child of someone who is not lawfully here have an entitlement to our citizenship, unless he has been here so long that his roots are truly embedded here? That is the point of principle. We are looking for real connection and real commitment.
What about the practicalities of the matter? Of course there are points that must be carefully considered. We have considered them at great length during our proceedings. However, I remain unconvinced that they tip the balance against our proposals. Those who oppose us appear to believe that it would be our aim to place every possible obstacle in the way of those who seek to prove that they are citizens, at least if they are black. That is grotesque. In these matters we are concerned about fairness and truth.
The business of establishing citizenship for the purpose of securing, for example, a passport will not entail a witch hunt. I stress again that in no conceivable sense does the Bill move us towards a society in which people have to walk around bearing a passport or a pass.
Another matter for debate has been dual nationality. We are keeping dual nationality, not primarily as a matter of universal principle but because it suits the particular circumstances of our history and population. Because, above all, in the Empire and Commonwealth dual loyalties are possible. One can have feelings of loyalty to both Britain and, for example, Zambia or New Zealand. For those who are making their lives here, the transition from one culture to another has been eased by a gradual development of new loyalties rather than by an abrupt insistence on a break with the old countries. Allegiance is as much a matter of the heart as of formal loyalty. I do not play down the matter, expressed as it is by the oath that the Bill still retains.
The easing of the transition that is allowed by dual nationality and that we have seen with many other migrants in the past is, in our view, a way to avert the conflicts so direly predicted by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Let me say once more to him that our Bill, including the retention of dual nationality, will serve to bind together the nation and not to tear it apart.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary promised on Second Reading that the Government would approach the Bill's passage through the House constructively. He said that we would consider the case for amendments and if necessary make them. No one can seriously deny that we have kept that promise. The result is an improved measure, and one that can only be good for race relations.
1191 The Bill is not just about a section of the community; it is about all our people. For us, for the first time, it creates a British citizenship—something to tie us together and give a focus for our pride and loyalties. That is no small prize, and I urge the House to bring it about by giving the Bill a Third Reading tonight.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 287, Noes 234.1194
|Division No. 205]||[12 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Durant, Tony|
|Alexander, Richard||Dykes, Hugh|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Ancram, Michael||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Arnold, Tom||Eggar, Tim|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston N)||Elliott, Sir William|
|Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)||Emery, Peter|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Eyre, Reginald|
|Banks, Robert||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fairgrieve, Russell|
|Bendall, Vivian||Faith, Mrs Sheila|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Farr, John|
|Best, Keith||Fell, Anthony|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Blackburn, John||Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)|
|Blaker, Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles|
|Body, Richard||Forman, Nigel|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Fox, Marcus|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Fry, Peter|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)|
|Bright, Graham||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Brittan, Leon||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Brotherton, Michael||Good hew, Victor|
|Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Gorst, John|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gray, Hamish|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds)|
|Buck, Antony||Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)|
|Budgen, Nick||Grist, Ian|
|Burden, Sir Frederick||Grylls, Michael|
|Butcher, John||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hannam, John|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Hastings, Stephen|
|Chapman, Sydney||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hawkins, Paul|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Heddle, John|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Henderson, Barry|
|Cockeram, Eric||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Hicks, Robert|
|Cope, John||Hill, James|
|Corrie, John||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Holland, Philip (Carlton)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hooson, Tom|
|Critchley, Julian||Hordern, Peter|
|Crouch, David||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Hurd, Hon Douglas|
|Dover, Denshore||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Porter, Barry|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Knox, David||Raison, Timothy|
|Lamont, Norman||Rathbone, Tim|
|Lang, Ian||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Latham, Michael||Renton, Tim|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Lee, John||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rossi, Hugh|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)||Rost, Peter|
|Loveridge, John||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Luce, Richard||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Scott, Nicholas|
|McCrindle, Robert||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|MacGregor, John||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|MacKay, John (Argyll)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Shepherd, Richard|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Shersby, Michael|
|Madel, David||Silvester, Fred|
|Major, John||Sims, Roger|
|Marland, Paul||Speed, Keith|
|Marlow, Tony||Speller, Tony|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Spence, John|
|Marten, Neil (Banbury)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mates, Michael||Sproat, Iain|
|Mather, Carol||Squire, Robin|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Stainton, Keith|
|Mawby, Ray||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stanley, John|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Steen, Anthony|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Stevens, Martin|
|Mellor, David||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Stokes, John|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)|
|Moate, Roger||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Molyneaux, James||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Monro, Hector||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Thompson, Donald|
|Moore, John||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Morgan, Geraint||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Trippier, David|
|Mudd, David||Trotter, Neville|
|Murphy, Christopher||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Myles, David||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Neale, Gerrard||Viggers, Peter|
|Needham, Richard||Waddington, David|
|Nelson, Anthony||Wakeham, John|
|Neubert, Michael||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Newton, Tony||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Normanton, Tom||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Nott, Rt Hon John||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Onslow, Cranley||Wall, Patrick|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Waller, Gary|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Ward, John|
|Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Wells, Bowen|
|Parris, Matthew||Wheeler, John|
|Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Patten, John (Oxford)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Wickenden, Keith|
|Pawsey, James||Williams, D.(Montgomery)|
|Percival, Sir Ian||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Wolfson, Mark|
|Pollock, Alexander||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Younger, Rt Hon George||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and Mr. Anthony Berry|
|Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Adams, Allen||Dunn, James A.|
|Allaun, Frank||Dunnett, Jack|
|Anderson, Donald||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Eadie, Alex|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Eastham, Ken|
|Ashton, Joe||Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)|
|Bagier, Gordon AT.||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||English, Michael|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Ennals, Rt Hon David|
|Beith, A. J.||Evans, loan (Aberdare)|
|Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N)||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Bldwell, Sydney||Ewing, Harry|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro)||Field, Frank|
|Bradley, Tom||Flannery, Martin|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Ford, Ben|
|Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Foster, Derek|
|Buchan, Norman||Foulkes, George|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Campbell, Ian||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Canavan, Dennis||George, Bruce|
|Cant, R. B.||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Carmichael, Nell||Ginsburg, David|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Golding, John|
|Cartwright, John||Graham, Ted|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Coleman, Donald||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Cowans, Harry||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Craigen, J. M.||Haynes, Frank|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Crowther, J. S.||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cryer, Bob||Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Home Robertson, John|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)||Homewood, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hooley, Frank|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Horam, John|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Howell, Rt Hon D.|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Howells, Geralnt|
|Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd)||Huckfield, Les|
|Deakins, Eric||Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Dempsey, James||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Dewar, Donald||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Dixon, Donald||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Dobson, Frank||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Dormand, Jack||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Douglas, Dick||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Kerr, Russell||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Kinnock, Neil||Rooker, J. W.|
|Lambie, David||Roper, John|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Rowlands, Ted|
|Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)||Ryman, John|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Litherland, Robert||Sever, John|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheerman, Barry|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Short, Mrs Renée|
|McCartney, Hugh||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|McElhone, Frank||Skinner, Dennis|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|McKelvey, William||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|MacKenzle, Rt Hon Gregor||Soley, Clive|
|Maclennan, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|McNally, Thomas||Spriggs, Leslie|
|McNamara, Kevin||Stallard, A. W.|
|McTaggart, Robert||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Magee, Bryan||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Stoddart, David|
|Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)||Stott, Roger|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Straw, Jack|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Maxton, John||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Meacher, Michael||Thome, Stan (Preston South)|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Tilley, John|
|Mikardo, Ian||Torney, Tom|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)||Wainwright, R. (Colne V)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Watkins, David|
|Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)||Weetch, Ken|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Welsh, Michael|
|Morton, George||White, Frank R.|
|Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Newens, Stanley||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Whitlock, William|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)|
|Parker, John||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Parry, Robert||Winnick, David|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Woodall, Alec|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Prescott, John||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Radice, Giles||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Richardson, Jo||Mr. James Tinn and Mr. James Hamilton|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time and passed.