HC Deb 27 October 1981 vol 10 cc768-82

Lords amendment: No. 25, after clause 9, insert new clause A, A. A person who is a United Kingdom national for European Community purposes by virture of the operation of any of the pre-Accession Treaties listed in Part I of Schedule 1 to the European Communities Act 1972 shall be entitled, notwithstanding the provisions of Part II of this Act, on application, to be registerd as a British citizen.

Read a Second time.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

With this we may take the Government new clause in lieu—Acquisition by registration: nationals for purposes of the Community Treaties—Lords amendment No. 29 and Government motion to disagree, together with the Government amendment in lieu.

6.45 pm
Mr. Whitelaw

The amendments are concerned with access to British citizenship by the people of Gibraltar. As the House knows, Gibraltar is the only British dependent territory whose people are treated as our nationals for the purpose of the Community treaties, and it was agreed in another place that, by virtue of this status, people from Gibraltar should be entitled to British citizenship on application.

An amendment on those lines was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) on Report on 2 June. I explained then that I could not advise the House to give Gibraltar a special position under the Bill, because of the impact on other dependent territories. Whilst we fully understood the views put forward on behalf of the people of Gibraltar, specific assurances had been given to them about arrangements for their entry to the United Kingdom. The House decided by a majority of 25 that special access to British citizenship should not be given to the people of Gibraltar.

It was, however, clear that there was a large body of opinion in this House and elsewhere that continued to hold the view that Gibraltar's position merited special treatment in the Bill. This was emphasised again when an amendment similar to that moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East was moved in another place on 22 July. Again, very strong pleas were made that the situation of Gibraltar, the nature of its ties with the United Kingdom and its position within the European Community justified a different approach to British citizenship for its people from that available to other citizens of the British dependent territories. The opposing arguments were formidably displayed, but, by a majority of 38, the amendment was agreed. Subsequently on Third Reading the wording of the amendment was somewhat modified, but its intention remains the same—to confer on the people of Gibraltar, as nationals for the purposes of the Community treaties, an unqualified entitlement to British citizenship.

The Government carefully considered what response they should make when the amendment passed in another place came to be considered by this House. There are undoubtedly powerful arguments against the amendment. But we have to reckon with the fact that, though these arguments were fully set out in another place, they did not win the day there. Moreover, though this House voted against giving people from Gibraltar special access to British citizenship, it did so only by a relatively slender margin, though here too all the arguments against such a provision were fully exposed.

It is therefore clear that, after hearing all the arguments, a considerable body of opinion in this House and another place remains convinced that special access to British citizenship for the people of Gibraltar is amply justified. The Government have therefore concluded that they should not ask the House to disagree with the Lords over this principle of their amendment. Accordingly, we do not seek to oppose the principle that lies behind the amendment, but I am afraid that we must oppose the amendment as drafted since it fails in our view to achieve its objectives satisfactorily.

Let me outline briefly the deficiencies of the Lords amendment. It provides that an unqualified entitlement to British citizenship shall be held by a person who is a United Kingdom national for European Community purposes by virtue of the operation of any of the pre-accession treaties listed in part I of schedule 1 of the European Communities Act 1972.

In fact, no one is a United Kingdom national for European Community purposes by virtue of any of those treaties. It is, I believe, intended that the entitlement should be held by all those who are United Kingdom nationals for the purposes of those treaties. But it is not just people from Gibraltar who are United Kingdom nationals for that purpose. People connected in various ways with this country are nationals for that purpose. In most cases, such people will automatically become British citizens on commencement and consequently do not need the benefit of the entitlement in this amendment. The amendment thus goes far too wide.

We propose that the Lords amendment should be replaced by a simpler provision that will benefit solely those whom it is intended to help and whom the movers of the amendments both in this House and in the Lords clearly intended to help. The new provision confers an unqualified entitlement on those British dependent territories' citizens who are United Kingdom nationals for the purposes of the Community treaties. British dependent territories' citizens who derive that status from their links with Gibraltar are the only category of such citizens who fall to be United Kingdom nationals for the purposes of the Community treaties and, therefore, they alone will be able to benefit from this provision.

Lords amendment No. 29 would mean that those registered under the Gibraltar amendment, if this House sees fit to accept it, would be British citizens by descent. They would, therefore, be unable—unless they were in Crown service or other service relevant for the purposes of clause 2—to transmit their British citizenship automatically to a further generation born overseas.

The principle that lies behind this is surely right. After all, those who are registered under the Gibraltar amendment will in most, if not all, cases be born outside the United Kingdom. They will also normally be resident abroad, since the entitlement does not depend on a period of residence in this country, and need have no intention of coming to this country at any time during their lives. Their links with the United Kingdom are therefore comparable with those of other British citizens born abroad, and it seems only logical that they, like these other British citizens, should be British citizens by descent and should be able to transmit their citizenship—and the right of abode in the United Kingdom—to their children born abroad only in specified circumstances. To do otherwise would be incompatible with the Government's general approach to the transmission of citizenship and could only cause resentment amongst other British citizens born and resident abroad who have close links with this country.

However, Lords amendment No. 29 cannot stand as it is, since it is intended that the Gibraltar provision, as amended by this House, should appear after clause 4 instead of clause 9, as at present. This change will be made by the Public Bill Office. This has affected Lords amendment No. 29 in two ways. First, its place in clause 13 had to be changed, since the subsections of this clause follow the sequence of the clauses to which they relate. Secondly, the reference to the Gibraltar amendment in Lords amendment No. 29 has to be altered so that it refers to that provision if, as I ask, it is amended by this House.

We have decided to accept the principle of the amendment proposed and carried substantially in another place, and we have made the necessary technical adjustments to make sure that the amendment does exactly what the movers of it and others who voted for it in the House of Lords wished. That is the position, and I hope that the House will accept it.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

I welcome the words of the Home Secretary and the fact that the new clause will be accepted in lieu of Lords amendments Nos. 25 and 29. However, it is arguable that in accepting these changes the Government further expose the Bill for the discriminatory legislation that it is.

I am all in favour of Gibraltarians being able to register as full British citizens, but the House should consider the illogicality of refusing such status to other dependent territories, too. With or without the Bill there are safeguards in the EEC treaties, but this new clause elevates those safeguards to a status that Liberals would argue should apply to all citizens of British dependent colonies.

For many Falkland Islanders and Hong Kong residents it is perceived as an attack on their status and an attempt to downgrade them to second-class citizens. But they are now third-class citizens or, more crudely, as suggested by commentators in Hong Kong and elsewhere, sheep, goats and more goats. In Hong Kong, this legislation is viewed as a covert measure to evade the responsibility that should accompany territorial and colonial acquisition. This new clause proves that their view is correct.

Some people may regard the new clause as a step in the right direction, but it is simply a device to placate a powerful white lobby with which the Government have sympathy. The fact that the new clause is to be included shows how ready yet again the Government are to concede ground to groups with emotional appeal and political clout. That should be contrasted with their willingness to listen to the fears and anguish of our black and ethnic minority groups and to citizens in colonies that have less patriotic appeal than the Rock of Gibraltar. It is proof again, if proof were needed, that the Bill is mean-minded, nasty, divisive and racist.

Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

Like most hon. Members, I was shocked by the comments of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton). Hong Kong is not in Europe, as is Gibraltar; nor is it part of the EEC. There is no possible argument that could be adduced along the lines the hon. Member advanced.

My comments will be brief because I know that some hon. Members who have played a notable role in bringing about this welcome change of heart by the Government wish to speak. I am glad that the Government are not seeking to reject the spirit of the Lords amendment and that the people of Gibraltar will now be able to enjoy the right to apply individually to be registered as British citizens. That is a wise decision and I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on it. I am not surprised. I felt all along that he would see the justice of our argument. It is wise because Gibraltar was and is a unique case, especially since our entry into the EEC. How could one defend a situation where Gibraltarians were part of the EEC but were denied representation in the European Parliament?

It is wise, above all, because the decision takes into account the overwhelming wish of the people of Gibraltar to be regarded as British, if not in blood, certainly in spirit, culture and allegiance for a long time past. Certainly the overwhelming majority of people on the rock are not Spaniards. The origins of the people who settled there under the protection of the British Crown were anything but Spanish. They were Italian, Portuguese, Maltese, Moorish, Jewish and British. In short, the Government's decision is a recognition of the right of a people to proclaim their identity and, if they are denied sovereign independence, as the people of Gibraltar are under the treaty of Utrecht, to say where they want to belong.

However, I have one reservation: I am astonished that the Government have done nothing to meet the similar wishes of the Falkland Islanders, whose origins are wholly British and whose present insecurity is due entirely to the failures of successive Administrations to create the conditions that would ensure for them a viable economic future. It is, for example, a very sad commentary on the way in which British interests have been safeguarded in the Falklands that external communications, which are vital to the islanders, are now almost entirely dependent upon the Argentine.

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My correspondents in the Falkland Islands—I have letters from people there more or less weekly—tell me repeatedly that, despite all that has happened, they are determined to remain British. They reject the preposterous notion of lease-back, do not want to be part of the Argentine, and are now and wish to remain British.

I should like to quote from the last letter that I have received. It is from a lady in the Falkland Islands. She writes: We are told that if we refuse to co-operate with the Argentines we must take the consequences. Ridley said it on the stage at a public meeting, others in authority have said it since. No one says exactly what those consequences will be.

It is shameful that a people of wholly British stock—and I do not apologise for using that term—should have been put in this position of uncertainty. If the Argentine were a democracy, such as Australia or New Zealand, this situation would never have arisen, but it is not. It is a military dictatorship in which thousands of people in recent years have been arrested, have been imprisoned without trial. Many have been tortured. Several thousand of them—as the Liberal Party should know, if it is at all interested in human rights—have disappeared altogether.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Falkland Islands are not directly included in the amendment. The hon. Gentleman is therefore out of order.

Sir Bernard Braine

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you are right, but I have travelled down this road very largely because of the remarks of the hon. Member for Edge Hill. You did not call him to order, and he was calling in aid not just a remote group of islands in the South Atlantic but a vast range of territories, stretching from east to west and from north to south. I shall not pursue the matter save to say that in the Bill the Government have lost a great opportunity in not listening to this cry from the heart from our own people in the South Atlantic and in not giving them the same rights as we are now giving to the Gibraltarians.

The Falkland Islanders and the Gibraltarians have one other thing in common. They have played a notable part, particularly in this century, in the maritime defence of the people of these islands. They have made sacrifices for us. Where is the objection to giving the Falkland Islanders the right to British citizenship? There is none, save from those who have forgotten our history and come perilously near to forgetting our national honour.

Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)

I sincerely congratulate Gibraltar on securing the amendment, but I must point out the effects of the amendment on other dependent territories. The House will not be surprised to hear that I have in mind Hong Kong, although the words I use will be a good deal more temperate than those we have heard from the Liberal Benches.

During the passage of the Bill through both Houses there have been frequent assurances of non-discrimination between the different dependent territories. For instance, the Home Secretary stated: 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 here I emphasise the Home Secretary's words— 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."—[Official Report, 4 June 1981; Vol. 5, c. 1152.] Similar sentiments have been expressed by other members of the Government when speaking on the Bill. Nevertheless, the Bill before us now includes a specific discrimination in favour of Gibraltar.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary also gave a special undertaking on 28 January in respect of the Falkland Islands, but I shall not go further in that direction for fear of being out of order. But here again we have an instance of specific assurances being given to one territory under one sort of pressure but not to others that may well feel that the pressure on them is just as great.

I assure the House that there is no ill will for Gibraltar in Hong Kong, or any wish to remove from Gibraltarians what they have been given in the amendment. But after repeated assurances that Her Majesty's Government would oppose the amendment, the fact that it is now accepted, together with the principle of discrimination that it embodies, has naturally caused profound disillusionment in Hong Kong. I fully realise that this disillusionment is probably based on a misunderstanding of the very real sense of commitment to Hong Kong that the Government feel and have frequently expressed. Nevertheless, the acceptance of the Gibraltar amendment has created a new situation in which some further reassurance to other dependent territories is necesary. Their concern is with the extent of the Government's responsibility to them.

The extent of that responsibility was defined by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, in this way: 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."—[Official Report, 4 June 1981; Vol. 5, c. 1188-9.]

In the new situation it would be a great help if the Home Secretary would be explicit on a point which has hitherto been assumed but not stated. I ask him to confirm again that British dependent territory citizens hold and enjoy this status, together with the defined international responsibility of Her Majesty's Government for them, for life, regardless of whether their territory remains on the schedule and that the rights of this citizenship, as defined by the Minister of State, will be transmittable to their children, as provided for in clauses 16 and 17.

The situation for which I am attempting to provide is extremely hypothetical. Relations between the United Kingdom and China remain excellent in themselves and over Hong Kong. But the Bill, which was drafted so much with a view to the United Kingdom's own immigration problems—problems which are fully understood in Hong Kong—has, unfortunately, raised doubts, questions and uncertainties about the future of the colony and what Her Majesty's Government's attitude might be in certain circumstances.

I believe those circumstances to be a far-off matter. Nevertheless, the confirmation for which I have asked would be timely. It does not apply only to Hong Kong, it is very limited in extent, and it is without implications for United Kingdom immigration control. It would have a most reassuring effect after all the doubts that the Bill has raised.

Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)

I am sure that if Gibraltar were a territory many thousands of miles away from Britain, there would not be one radio that was not tuned in to this debate. Had they been tuned in, it might have been the Gibraltarians' great misfortune to listen to the opening comments from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), who made some disgraceful remarks about a Bill which has had a satisfactory hearing in this House and in another place.

I should like, however, to make some comments on the new clause. Many of us in all parts of the House attempted to make the amendment before the Bill went to another place. In that respect we were unsuccessful. When the Bill reached the other place, an amendment was tabled by Lord Bethell. The Government, in their wisdom, thought it necessary to bring in the heavyweights. Indeed, they brought in Lord Soames, who was then the Lord President of the Council, and no less a person than the Lord Chancellor, who replied to the debate. But the Government failed. Indeed, they failed to such an extent that the amendment is now brought back into this House as a new clause. I therefore pay great tribute to the Home Secretary and to the Minister of State for the way in which they have handled the matter. I agree that when the matter was debated in another place certain drafting amendments were necessary. They were accepted by my noble Friend Lord Bethell.

My right hon. Friend's new clause seeks to make it perfectly clear that the people of Gibraltar will be given the right on application for registration as British citizens. That is what my right hon. Friend has chosen to do. In my view, it has been a wise decision and, despite what the hon. Member for Edge Hill said, and despite what my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan), whose views I greatly respect, said about the people of Hong Kong, the most important aspect of the new clause is that the people of Gibraltar are United Kingdom citizens for Community purposes, and no other territories have that right as of now.

It was therefore right that my right hon. Friend should take cognisance of the decision that was taken in another place, because the people of Gibraltar have suffered badly for 18 years, although they have remained traditionally British and supported Britain in every respect. They did not expect the British Government to let them down in their appeal. All hon. Members—even my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—were aware of the many thousands of petitions that were sent at great cost by the people of Gibraltar pleading for this new clause or a clause of some kind to be inserted in the Bill to permit the registration which my right hon. Friend has now conceded.

It has been a great moment for the people of Gibraltar and I assure my right hon. Friend that there will be great joy in Gibraltar this evening. It will be second only to that given to Their Royal Highnesses on the occasion of their recent visit to that territory. I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf of the people of Gibraltar. If he ever finds the time to visit Gibraltar, he will be more than welcome because its people have got what they wanted, to be British. In that respect, nothing better could have come out of the House this evening than this message to Gibraltar, despite the opposition of Liberal Members.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

It would be wrong if all the congratulations to Gibraltar emanated from one side of the Chamber. To achieve a certain bipartisan approach to the matter, I add my congratulations to the Government on seeing sense at the end of a very long day. I congratulate them on the way in which they drafted this amendment to a Lords amendment.

However, Mr. Speaker, the point that I want to raise is close to your heart. I want to draw attention to what could become a grave anomaly with the amendment drafted as it is. I am happy that Gibraltar has been embraced within the bosom of the United Kingdom for the purposes of the Bill. That is absolutely proper. However, schedule 6 contains a list of territories which have not been embraced within the bosom of the United Kingdom. The list on page 61, headed by the word "Colonies", contains a territory which is not a colony at all. That is a grave defect in the Bill. It says: The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia (that is to say the areas mentioned in section 2(1) of the Cyprus Act 1960)".

In the negotiations to go into Europe one part of one dependent territory was treated for Commission purposes—I hope that I shall be forgiven if I use Commission language which I learnt in one year at the European Assembly—as a PDOM rather than a PTOM; that is, a d#x00E9;partement outremer rather than a territoire outremer. It so happens that Gibraltar was the only dependent territory of Britain which was treated in this PDOM category when we negotiated our agreement with Europe. That enabled the Government to draft the amendment as they did. 7.15 pm

However, other European territories could be analogous to Gibraltar in future in exactly that way. This is an important issue, because it will arise in future, and the interpretation of the amendment will become a matter of extreme importance.

The association agreement between Cyprus and the European Economic Community envisaged ultimately that Cyprus would become a full member of the EEC. Only four countries have association agreements with the EEC—Turkey, Cyprus, Greece and Malta. Greece has acceded to the EEC. Cyprus, Malta and Turkey have not yet acceded. Yet the treaty agreements between those countries and the EEC foresee a final accession to the EEC. No one knows whether that will happen, but, if it does, there will be an obligation on the Government to say how the sovereign bases in Cyprus will be affected by this resolution. The Government have tabled a new clause which does not mention Gibraltar. It just states: A British Dependent Territories' citizen … shall be entitled to register as a British citizen if an application is made for his registration as such a citizen if he is a British dependent territories' citizen for the purpose of Community treaties. Community treaties are a flowing river. They change from time to time. I do not want to delay the congratulations of the massed "ranks of Tuscany" opposite who wish to get their words in about Gibraltar, but there are two questions that I hope the Government will answer in replying to the debate. Do they seriously regard the two sovereign base areas of 99 square miles on the island of Cyprus—I shall not go into detail, because, Mr. Speaker, you would rule me out of order immediately if I were to go into the history—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been trying my patience for the past three minutes. I am an incurable optimist. I was hoping all the time that he was about to conclude.

Mr. Price

As always, Mr. Speaker, how right you are. I was about to conclude. I was concluding with two issues that I hope the Government will cover in their summing up. First, do they seriously regard the two sovereign base areas of Cyprus as colonies, as described in the schedule? That would seem to mark them out from this amendment. They are either Crown colonies or dependent territories. We want to know what status they will have if Cyprus accedes to the EEC. If the association agreement with Cyprus moves towards full membership of the EEC, what do the Government understand the position of the sovereign bases to be? Do they believe that they will come within the scope of this amendment? I might add that not many people live on the sovereign bases, because the boundaries were so drawn that very few could live there. Do the Government envisage that those few people who were born and live on those bases will be brought within or remain outwith the scope of the amendment? It may be stretching a debate on Gibraltar to ask such a question, but it is important to get these matters straight.

It was only to try to get an answer to those two questions—whether they are colonies and whether they will come within this provision—that I rose to my feet. To your great relief, Mr. Speaker I now conclude.

Mr. Shersby

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary explained, this amendment means that, because Gibraltar is mentioned in the pre-accession treaties under the European Communities Act 1972, Gibraltarians alone of the citizens of the British dependent territories will be able to become British citizens with the right of abode in the United Kingdom. I should like to make it clear at the outset of my remarks that I have no overriding objections to my fellow citizens in Gibraltar being British citizens. I have an immense respect for them, for the fact that they are Europeans and for the fact that they already play an important part in our country's affairs.

However, I feel that it is wrong in principle for their Lordships to have amended the Bill in respect of the citizens of Gibraltar but not to have amended it in respect of that uniquely British colony, which is also a dependency, the Falkland Islands. I want to speak on that particular point.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that amendment was not selected. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) was able, because Gibraltar had not been named, to ask whether other European territories were, as he counted it, included. But the Falkland Islands go far beyond the Lords amendment. Therefore, we must keep to the amendment.

Mr. Shersby

I am seeking to argue that the amendment made by their Lordships is unfairly discriminatory against another dependent territory. I am not seeking to debate the question of the Falkland Islands.

Mr. Speaker

In that case, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. However, had he so desired, he could have brought Hong Kong and everything else into his remarks.

Mr. Shersby

I completely and unreservedly accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the amendment which I tabled. I am sure that you know that that is so. However, I should like to know whether it is in order for me to argue against the amendment made by their Lordships in another place on the ground that it is unfairly discriminatory, and, in so doing, to advance the reasons why I believe it to be unfairly discriminatory. I cannot do that unless I can illustrate my remarks by drawing attention to some of the points that affect the Falkland Islands, without debating the Falkland Islands as such.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that the hon. Member will find himself, unfortunately, very restricted in what he can say. He knows that I did not select his amendment. Therefore, I ask him, as an old parliamentarian, to proceed in the knowledge that he cannot debate the Falkland Islands on this amendment.

Mr. Shersby

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. I shall confine my remarks entirely to the Lords amendment with regard to Gibraltar, and I shall seek to argue that it is unfairly discriminatory against other dependent territories, including the Falkland Islands. I hope that that will meet with your wishes, Mr. Speaker. I shall not refer to the Falkland Islands again during my remarks.

When their Lordships considered the amendment, they were faced with a text which referred entirely to the fact that the citizens of Gibraltar were to be treated in a special way because of their position as United Kingdom nationals for the purposes of the pre-accession treaties. No reference was made in the amendment to Gibraltar as such. It was only during the debate in another place that it became apparent that the consequences of accepting their Lordships' amendment would be to confer this special distinction on the citizens of one dependent territory as compared with citizens of another.

I read with great interest the remarks that were made in another place by the Lord Chancellor in seeking to persuade their Lordships not to accept this amendment. He made the point that if the amendment were accepted it would have an effect upon the homogeneity and solidarity of the Commonwealth. He said that there were British citizens living in other dependent territories who could, as a result of that amendment being passed, feel that they were in a second-class position.

I believe that the Lord Chancellor made an extremely valid point in reminding their Lordships that this was so. There is no doubt that the effect of this amendment will be to make British citizens in other dependent territories, including that to which I have already referred, feel that they are in some way different from the Gibraltarians, when many of them have a very much stronger claim to British citizenship than those who will get it under the Gibraltar amendment.

In other dependent territories there are British citizens who can trace their ancestry for four, five or six generations, but, because they are non-patrials, they do not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom. That is a very serious position for them. Consequently, they will look at the Gibraltar amendment and study the views expressed in another place by their Lordships, and they will be puzzled to know why it is that they are not to have the right of abode in this country whereas those who reside in Gibraltar are to have it.

I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will say something about the position of those British citizens in other dependent territories who are non-patrials and who do not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom, and that he will be able to give them some assurance that, although they are not to be treated in the same way as Gibraltarians, if their Lordships' amendment is accepted by this House, they may, nevertheless, receive very sympathetic consideration from the Home Office should they wish to enter this country at any time, particularly in times of difficulty which can be envisaged in certain territories around the world.

I hope, Mr. Speaker, that I have kept strictly within your ruling by not referring to another place in the South Atlantic but confining my remarks entirely to what I have described as the unfair discrimination caused by the amendment. I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to make these remarks in this very important debate.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was tolerant.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Despite the difficulties under which he was labouring, the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) has reminded all those of us who have been concerned in detail with the Bill of an unsatisfactory feature of the Bill with which I feel that none of us was pleased at the end. I do not think that the Government were satisfied. I do not think that the rest of us were satisfied.

In delimiting our own citizenship we were unable to solve the problem of what came to be known as the British dependent territories. Therefore, we solved it verbally rather than in reality. We created a citizenship, so we called it, which had none of the attributes of a citizenship. We created a common citizenship which had no common features. I think that we all know that this is a blemish upon what is bound to be a major settlement of our national law. In considering this Lords amendment we are bound to be reminded of it, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge reminded the House of the difficulty.

Nevertheless, I cannot say that I am sorry, as one who, at an earlier stage, argued the special claims of Gibraltar, that they have to some extent been met by the Lords amendment or the amendment which is, one gathers, to supersede it. However, they have not been fully met for the following reason. We argued the case that, if Gibraltarians were as such nationals, they should—straightforwardly—be defined by the Bill as British citizens. The orginal way in which we attempted to do that was by bringing Gibraltar within the definition—for the purposes of the Bill—of the United Kingdom.

According to this amendment they are not being recognised as British citizens. As individuals they are being given, individually, an entitlement to claim and to pay—presumably separately—for registration. That falls short of the logical consequence of the acceptance of Gibraltarians as such as British nationals. I can understand why the Government, in both Houses, limited and qualified the nature of their concession in that way. They could claim that they were not treating the territory differently but merely some of the people who happened to turn up. The Government have used a device that is not wholly satisfactory. The people of Gibraltar have been generous in welcoming this form of acceptance.

7.30 pm

Owing to the guillotine motion, it is possible that Lords amendment No. 33 will not be reached. I hope that I shall have your connivance, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House if I refer to something that occurs in the Home Secretary's amendment but that anticipates his amendment to Lords amendment No. 33. I refer to the expression "British Dependent Territories' Citizen". In anticipation, the right hon. Gentleman has written that into his amendment. I believe that I am right in saying that it is within the power of those who, between the completion of parliamentary proceedings on the Bill and Royal Assent, have a duty to prepare it for Royal Assent, to make certain changes, if necessary, to the punctuation. If the punctutation is manifestly inaccurate or fails to correspond with the clear intentions of both Houses of Parliament, I believe that that power exists.

I suggest that it might be possible to treat a comma and an apostrophe, for this purpose, as being of like effect. That would enable the right hon. Gentleman to avoid implanting a most horrible solecism on British nationality law. The apostrophe that follows "Territories"—instead of "British Dependent Territories"—is a monstrous piece of English. The word "Territories" is a noun epithet qualifying "citizen". It is, as it were, like "barnyard" in "barnyard fowl". To come nearer to the subject before us, it is like "Pakistan" in "Pakistan citizen", which is the correct description of that type of national. To come nearer to my home, it is like "Ulster" in the expression "Ulster Protestant".

In none of those cases would we dream of referring to a "Pakistan's citizen" or "the Pakistan's citizen". We would not dream of saying a "barnyard's fowl", because we do not apply the mark of the genitive—and should not apply it—to a noun that is being treated as an adjective. It is not a genitive but an adjective qualifying, in this case, the word "citizen". Therefore, the apostrophe is entirely solecistic; and, despite the reference to Cyprus—the home of "solecism"—that has been made in this short debate, the Home Secretary would not wish a solecism to find its way on to the statute book through his agency.

My remarks are serious in intent. If they were not, I would not have taken up the time of the House. We are creating a description for a class of people and we had better create one that is in decent, normal English. Therefore, I hope that the Home Secretary—who will not have to deal with this matter by way of amendment, or otherwise—will discover, with the help of others, that between the conclusion of tonight's procedure and the Bill's eventual presentation for Royal Assent he can bring "Territories" into the status of a noun epithet by omitting the apostrophe.

Sir Albert Costain

Owing to the guillotine motion, we are coming to the end of our debate and I shall, therefore, make a one-minute speech. The amendment worries me, because it refers to Community treaties. If a Labour Government were ever foolish enough to take Britain out of the Common Market, what position would the Gibraltarians be in? Will they then have the right to British citizenship or will they go back to square one?

Mr. Tilley

I shall speak briefly on behalf of the Opposition Front Bench. In such a short debate I felt it right—in view of the impending guillotine—to allow hon. Members with greater expertise on the various territories to have time to speak. However, some of them have managed to display their expertise without mentioning the territories concerned.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I very much support the Government's decision. It will give a sense of security to Gibraltarians. To some extent that sense of security has been undermined, even since our last debate on this issue. Since then, the naval dockyard has been threatened with closure and various proposals have been put forward regarding Spain's accession to NATO. Some people in Madrid think that if Spain joins NATO it will have some of the rights over Gibraltar that it has long claimed. Therefore, it is even more necessary now than it was when we last debated and supported this idea to give the people of Gibraltar extra security.

We welcome the Government's acceptance of the strong views expressed both in this Chamber and in the other place, as well as those expressed by the Gibraltarian and British publics. We certainly accept the extra gloss about citizenship by descent rather than by registration. I shall attempt to answer the question put by the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir A. Costain) Although the next Labour Government will, within a few years, withdraw Britain from the Common Market, the Gibraltarians will act quickly once the Bill has been enacted. Most of their registration forms will be in within weeks and months and not within the year or so that it will take to elect a Labour Government.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that Gibraltarians will be able to register in Gibraltar and to go through all the processes there? Will he confirm that they will not have to come here to do that? The right hon. Gentleman's confirmation would be helpful. I pay tribute to the courage of those Conservative Members who have challenged their Whips successfully during the past few months. I remind them, the people of Gibraltar and other hon. Members that their success was due not only to their courage but also to the solid support given by Labour Members since the idea was first mooted. We have always supported the right of Gibraltarians to acquire British citizenship.

I should like to take up the remarks the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Every colony is different. Indeed, we made that point at the beginning. We do not like umbrella citizenship, because each colony is different. Therefore, we supported a separate form of citizenship for each colony. If that had been accepted, we should have moved to a system in which each colony—like Gibraltar—had a settlement suitable to its circumstances. Indeed, that will be done in the Bill that will replace this.

We support the Government's amendment and their gracious concession to Gibraltar. We hope similar settlements will be made for each colony, including the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong and the sovereign bases in Cyprus, as part of our legislative contribution in the first Session when the next Labour Government come to power.

Mr. Whitelaw:

I shall seek to reply briefly to some of the important questions that have been raised. I found the remarks by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) surprising. We have bowed to the will of Parliament. We have bowed to the will of some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in another place. It is curious that he should castigate us for doing what his colleagues asked us to do. It is strange. I recognise that one of his colleagues did not ask us to do this but his behaviour is strange. We have done what Parliament thought that it wanted to be done. It is odd to be castigated for it.

Mr. Alton

The Home Secretary, more than most, is prepared to be conciliatory. I am grateful that he has accepted the amendment. He is mistaken if he feels that I was castigating him. I was saying that I wished that the same amendment applied to citizens in other colonies who feel just as strongly as Gibraltarians.

Mr. Whitelaw

That is what the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in another place tried to do.

My hon. Friends the Members for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) and Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) mentioned the effect that the amendment will have on the Falkland Islands. Assurances have been given to that territory at various stages and they still stand. That is the best that I can say.

Sir Bernard Braine

Will my right hon. Friend explain the assurances?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am sorry, I have done my best. I cannot do more.

Sir Bernard Braine


Mr. Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman leads the Home Secretary into temptation, we cannot discuss the Falkland Islands.

Sir Bernard Braine

All that I want is for the Home Secretary to spell out in two sentences exactly what the assurances are.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am saying that assurances that have been given before still stand. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East knows as well as I what those assurances are. If I say that they stand, they stand. That is reasonable.

My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) referred to the feeling of discrimination felt by Hong Kong citizens. Again I am in difficulty. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you would prefer it if I wrote in detail to my hon. Friend setting out the exact position as we now see it.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) for what he said. Parliament has decided. I argued the other way before, but I am glad that the House thinks that Parliament has decided correctly.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) for what he said about Gibraltar. I understand that if Cyprus were ever to become a full member of the European Community we should then have to consider afresh the position of the sovereign base areas. For people in the sovereign base areas to benefit from the Gibraltar amendment they would first have to declare themselves as nationals for EEC purposes. To some extent, since this depends on whether Cyprus becomes a member of the Community, it is a hypothetical question. I hope that I have done my best to answer the point.

Mr. Christopher Price

The right hon. Gentleman used carefully drafted words. It sounds as though the individuals who were born and now live in the two sovereign base areas could now register. Will the Home Secretary make it clear that he is talking wholly hypothetically in the event of Cyprus joining the Community?

Mr. Whitelaw

I was talking wholly hypothetically. I hope that I have made myself clear. When seen, I am sure that my words will bear that interpretation. I certainly meant them to.

I am advised that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), as one would expect in connection with our procedures, is entirely correct. Punctuation is usually regarded as having no legal effect on a Bill. For that reason the Public Bill Office of the House of Lords usually is amenable to altering punctuation. I shall, therefore, ask the House of Lords whether the matter can be put right.

I turn to remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir A. Costain) and the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley). Since I regard the Cyprus position as hypothetical, I am entitled to regard the likelihood of Britain leaving the EEC as very hypothetical—and so I do, despite what the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central said.

I was asked whether citizens of Gibraltar would be able to register there. I understand that I have the power under the Bill's regulations to give them that right. I certainly agree that that is sensible.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause to the Bill in lieu thereof:

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