HC Deb 24 June 1982 vol 26 cc423-4
12. Mr. Tilley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will seek to introduce a change to the Immigration Rules to entitle all women who are British citizens under the Nationality Act 1981 to be joined in the United Kingdom by their husbands.

Mr. Raison

We are still considering what changes will be required in the Immigration Rules when the new British Nationality Act comes into effect and we shall announce our proposals in due course.

Mr. Tilley

If, when the Act comes into force on 1 January, one group of hundreds and possibly thousands of young women in this country will be the only citizens without the right to live with their spouses in this country, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that group, which we know consists largely of young Asian women, will effectively be second-class British citizens, as they will have fewer rights than all the rest of British citizens?

Mr. Raison

If I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, the people of whom he speaks are not British citizens. But perhaps I have misunderstood. We have not yet determined what our policy in this area will be. We shall make an announcement in due course, before the new rules come in.

Mr. Jessel

Is not a wife's place where her husband belongs?

Mr. Raison

That is a generalisation of such a sweeping nature that I think that it would be imprudent for me to reply to it.

Dr. Summerskill

If the right hon. Gentleman will read the question, he will see that it refers to women who are British citizens. Will he bear in mind that the last Conservative general election manifesto stated that the rights of all British citizens legally settled here are equal before the law? Does he accept that if the rules are not changed he will have to add the words, "unless the citizens are women"?

Mr. Raison

I know that the original question referred to British citizens, but I understood the tenor of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question to be that the women concerned were not British citizens.

Mr. Stanbrook

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be ample support from Conservative Members if he decides to maintain the existing rule about foreign husbands? When does he intend to bring in such changes as will be needed in the Immigration Rules as a result of the British Nationality Act coming into force? Will he also confirm that the Act will be brought into force on 1 January next year?

Mr. Raison

I am aware that there are strong feelings on both sides of the argument. It is our expectation that the British Nationality Act will come into force on 1 January next year. The changes in the rules will have to be brought in ahead of the implementation of the Act, but I cannot say on exactly what date we shall make our announcements.