§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into a Committee on the said Bill, read.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, he desired to draw attention to that part of the measure which enabled a British subject to renounce his allegiance. This was a very considerable change. The doctrine of indefeasible allegiance was interwoven with the whole history of this country, and had led to more than one war. Noble Lords who had spoken in this debate seemed to be of opinion that the doctrine was unreasonable. Now he (the Earl of Carnarvon) did not think it was altogether so unreasonable as it had been represented. Every man had certain claims on the community to which he belonged; but on the other hand he owed to it certain duties and obligations, and though he might abandon the former, it was a question whether he could renounce the latter—at all events without the consent of that community. In former times not much practical inconvenience, he believed, was felt, there being facilities for acquiring a second nationality for commercial purposes; but one could not be blind to the fact that the present facilities of communication and intercourse with other countries—and especially with a great English-speaking country like the United States—had materially altered the position of the question. Emigration was a completely new feature of modern society; and there was considerable force in the argument that a country which sanctioned and even encouraged emigration ought not to carry its public law too stringently and closely into its relations with other States. Doubtless, there was a difficulty, also, from the growth of a large naval Power like the United States; and this question, which was partly the cause of the War of 1812, would probably again cause embarrassment under similar circumstances. The experience, too, of the late Civil War in 1605 the United States had shown that under the present law persons who had acquired a double nationality would desire to obtain the advantages of both while accepting the burdens of neither. While thinking, therefore, that the old doctrine had hardly had justice done to it in the debate on the second reading he could not shut his eyes to the facts as they exist; and if a man was to be allowed to renounce his allegiance he did not know that a better mode of accomplishing this object could be adopted than that provided by the Bill. It was true the new doctrine would be more favourable to new countries than to old; but the latter would be benefited by their relations in this respect being placed on a clearer basis. It might perhaps be an advantage if, by efflux of time, a man could divest himself of nationality; but he apprehended that, whatever term of this kind might be fixed it would be too short in some cases and in others too long. He thought, therefore, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had done wisely in cutting the knot by allowing a subject who chose to do so to renounce his allegiance. As to the resumption of nationality, he doubted whether, if the citizenship of a great country like this was really a precious possession, a man should be able to take it on and put it off as if it were an old garment, toties quoties according as it suited his convenience. He would suggest that a man should not be at liberty to return to his original nationality more than once. As to the mode of repatriation, which he understood to be the same as that of the naturalization of a born alien, this was probably the simplest method. In other respects he heartily concurred in the Bill, and thought it was very wise to introduce it in a time of peace, when it could not be said that the change was due to any external pressure.
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 1 (Short title), agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Capacity of an alien as to property.)
§ LORD WESTBURY
, who had given notice of the following Amendments:—Line 18, after ("United Kingdom") insert ("or qualify an alien, unless and whilst permanently resident in the United Kingdom, to be the owner or part owner of a British ship");Sub-section 1, omit lines 19 and 20.Sub-section 2, line 21, after ("that this section") insert (" shall not qualify an alien for any office or for any municipal or Parliamentary franchise")1606Line 21, leave out ("shall not") and insert ("or")Page 2; line 3, after ("this Act") insert the following:—"(4.) That it shall be lawful for Her Majesty in Council by proclamation to suspend the operation of this Act as to aliens subjects of any state at war with Her Majesty during the continuance of such hostilities, except such of the said aliens as were settled residents in the United Kingdom before the commencement of such hostilities, and intend to remain permanently resident within the realm.said, that by the Bill as it stood an alien, even though he were the subject of a State with which this country was at war, would be entitled to all the privileges of natural-born subjects. It was a question whether there should not be some restriction. He hoped to see the time arrive when a state of war would not be permitted to affect the title or enjoyments of private persons; but it would be right to invest the Government with power to impose a restriction, and he therefore proposed to insert a proviso that it should be competent for Her Majesty by proclamation to suspend the operation of the Act as to alien subjects of any State at Act with Her Majesty during the continuance of such war. He thought there would be an inclination in courts of justice to construe the enactment as confined to alien friends; but he believed this was not the intention of the framers of the Bill, and if so it would be necessary to fortify this power. He wished also to propose a proviso that the clause should not quality an alien, unless while permanently resident in the United Kingdom, to be the owner or part owner of a British ship. As the Bill stood it would allow an alien to enjoy real and personal property of every description except the ownership of a ship, the restriction imposed by the Merchant Shipping Act being retained. Now, nothing was a greater inducement to foreigners to settle in this country than the opportunity of engaging in trade and acquiring an interest in British ships, and the restriction which he suggested would be quite sufficient.
said, it appeared to him to be impossible to assent to the last Amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord. The question of aliens becoming owners of British ships was quite distinct from the subjects dealt with by this Bill, and was regulated by the Merchant Shipping Act. That Act was framed with great regard 1607 to our highest national interests, and had been carefully considered from time to time. It was even now under the consideration of the other branch of the Legislature, in the form of a Bill proposed with the object of consolidating the whole of the laws relating to the subject. He thought it would be more expedient that a question such as that proposed by his noble and learned Friend should be brought forward when the subject was under the consideration of Parliament in all its bearings, and then if it were approved it would be embodied in an appropriate Act. But he doubted the propriety of introducing such a change in a Bill relating like this to a distinct branch of legislation. His own opinion was, that a provision to allow aliens to be registered as owners of British ships was one of all others most likely to lead us into conflict with other countries. It was not at all probable that any other country would recognize, for instance, a vessel owned by a Frenchman resident in England as a British vessel. Difficulties would be constantly rising. We had already had some experience of the difficulties likely to arise on this subject in our war—not a very formidable one to be sure—with China respecting a lorcha which was owned by a Chinaman but claimed to be treated as a British vessel. He could not therefore assent to the Amendment on this point. He did not see any objection to introducing a clause of somewhat the same effect as that proposed with reference to the position of aliens during hostilities: but it would be better to leave out the words "by proclamation," and make the clause read thus—It shall be lawful for Her Majesty in Council to suspend the operation of this Act as to any enjoyment of property by alien subjects of any State at war with Her Majesty during the continuance of such hostilities.To provide for the suspension of the operation of the Act in general terms might lead to the raising of legal questions with regard to the position of the alien during that suspension. He would also prefer to a stop at the word "hostilities," and not add any words, as suggested, limiting the application of the clause to aliens who had become settled residents in this country. He thought such a limitation would give rise to an abundant crop of litigation.
§ LORD WESTBURY
said, he was willing to accept the terms suggested by his noble and learned Friend. He might remark, however, that no alien who was resident at the time hostilities broke out was over disturbed in the enjoyment of his property. With regard to the ownership of shipping, the conflict apprehended by his noble and learned Friend was equally possible under the Merchant Shipping Act, but he did not wish to press any Amendment to which the Government objected, and he would, therefore, withdraw that part of his proposal.
Then the following proviso added:—(4.) That it shall be lawful for Her Majesty in Council to suspend the operation of this Act as to any enjoyment of property by alien subjects of any State at war with Her Majesty during the continuance of such hostilities.
§ Clause as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Power of naturalized aliens to divest themselves of their status in certain cases), agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Alien not entitled to jury de medietate linguœ), agreed to.
§ Clause 5 (Capacity of British subject to renounce allegiance to Her Majesty).
§ LORD WESTBURY
, who had given notice of the following Amendments in this clause:—Page 2, line 31, leave out ("and not under any disability, voluntarily")Line 40, after ("this Act") insert ("having obtained the consent of the Government of such foreign state")Page 3, line 3, after ("to be") leave out ("and to have been continually")desired to draw attention to an extraordinary anomaly which the Bill would not remove. As the law stood the child of alien parents, if born in this country, was a British subject. Now, in almost every other country in Europe, and also, with the exception of the United States, in America, the nationality of a child depended on that of its parents, and not on the accidental locality of its birth. Not only would the Bill continue this anomaly, but this clause would not enable such a child to divest himself of his allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain; for, as by the law of the country to which his parents belonged he would be a natural-born subject of that country, he could not obtain naturalization there. Thus the very class who most required the benefit of the clause would be unable 1609 to take advantage of it. To remedy this he proposed the omission of the words from page 2 line 31 "and not under any disability, voluntarily."
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he could not quite follow the argument of his noble and learned Friend. The case put by him was that of a person who, being born, say in this country, of French parents, was regarded by us as an Englishman and was regarded by our neighbours across the Channel as a Frenchman. His noble and learned Friend affirmed that a person in that position was incapable of being naturalized, or of transferring his allegiance from the one country to the other, in so far as that he could not be naturalized in England, being an Englishman, and could not be naturalized in France, being a Frenchman. But that he (the Lord Chancellor) believed was a difficulty which would be ultimately resolved by the Bill; because when a man became naturalized in a foreign country he would cease to be a citizen of this country. What his noble and learned Friend chiefly wished to see effected, however, could only be done by special treaties between nations, and could not be effected by any legislation in England. It was on that account that this Bill was confined to naturalization as distinguished from nationality. Nationality could only be dealt with by treaty—when we had brought ourselves so completely en rapport with other nations that we could agree upon some common system of legislation. All that Great Britain could do meanwhile was to take a step in the right direction—in the direction proposed by this Bill—and thus induce other nations to act similarly. With the view of helping forward this consummation, the Bill declared that when a person voluntarily became naturalized in another country he should cease to be a British subject. He hoped that other nations would be by this example induced to act likewise. The good results of some such measure ns that before the House were already visible in the Protocol of the United States, in 1868, which adopted the principle that citizens of that country upon becoming naturalized in foreign countries, shall cease to belong to the States. That was also an example which he hoped would be largely followed. He could not, however, see how this desirable end was to be promoted by the 1610 adoption of the course proposed by his noble and learned Friend. His noble and learned Friend wanted to strike out the word "voluntarily;" but that could not be done without injustice. In several of the Southern States of America men were naturalized against their will by acts of the Legislature, and it would naturally be grossly unfair to refuse to receive back as citizens persons who had been compelled to cast off their allegiance to this country if they came asking us to be reinstated in their privileges. In Russia, again, up till the year 1862, no man was permitted to carry on business without being naturalized, and although this was no longer insisted on, the alteration was not made retrospective, so that not an inconsiderable number of merchants remained in this position; and in Prussia the case was still stronger—there no person could hold a consular or other diplomatic position in a fortified town unless he were naturalized. A practical result of this had occurred—an Englishman who had acted as Consul in Prussia and who had necessarily been nationalized, was afraid to let his sons visit him in Prussia because they would be liable to the conscription. He held, therefore, that in all cases where persons had been naturalized against their will, and where married women and children sought to be reinstated in their rights in this country, the Government should have power to grant their request. There was another thing which the Government proposed to do. It proposed to give persons who had been naturalized abroad previous to the passing of the measure—and who, according to the present law, were still British subjects—two years to choose whether they would remain foreign subjects, or return and reclaim their citizenship in England. That was a point upon which he thought there could be no real difference of opinion; for up to this time when a man asked for naturalization abroad he knew that he would remain a British subject, and it would be unjust by ex post facto legislation to deprive him of that privilege. The measure could only be made perfect by agreement with all foreign States, but a great step was made by pointing out to other States the principle we deemed most expedient for adoption—namely, that as soon as a man was naturalized in one country he ceased, ipso facto, to belong to another.
§ LORD WESTBURY
said, he must continue to express his regret that the hardship of imposing nationality by the accidental place of birth would not be removed by the Bill; but he accepted the instalment of right which it offered. Passing on to another point he would urge that naturalization ought not to be given to a foreigner without the consent of his own country. This might cause some difficulty in cases where the law of a country did not permit its subjects to be naturalized elsewhere; but these countries were very few, and most European countries were characterized by greater liberality than ourselves in this matter. They ought not to take a subject from another State without the consent of that State. If they did, they created a double nationality and produced that species of conflict which it ought to be the object of that Bill to remove. He therefore earnestly trusted that the clause would be so framed as to provide that no naturalization of a foreigner should be effected without the consent of the Government of the country to which he belonged.
§ LORD PENZANCE
said, it was a principle of the Bill, and a most desirable object to be attained, to get rid of what was called double nationality; and he would put it to his noble and learned Friend, who had charge of the measure, whether a clause might not be brought up on the Report to obviate some of the difficulties so clearly pointed out by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Westbury) in the course of this discussion. This case was not an unfrequent one—The child of a foreign parent was born in this country, and from the moment of his birth he became, without any will of his own, a subject of two different countries—there were impressed on him a double allegiance and a double nationality. As the Bill stood at present, he believed he was correct in saying that a person so born had no means of getting rid of his double nationality, however desirous he might be of doing so. Surely it would not be difficult to draw up a clause that would enable a person so born on whom a double nationality was fixed to withdraw himself from his allegiance to this country if he wished to do it. He did not think there would be the slightest harm in a provision of that kind.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that the discussion had opened a very important question, on which he had the misfortune to differ from his noble and learned Friends. The Bill, as now framed, ran thus—That an Englishman by acquiring foreign naturalization lost his natural status in this country. He might, if he liked, "repatriate" himself at a subsequent time, being treated as an alien in that respect—he might reacquire his original status by being naturalized on his return to this country, just as a foreigner coming here to live might be. Further than that, it was proposed, in other parts of the Bill, that foreigners settling in this country might be naturalized. But by the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Westbury) such a foreigner must obtain the consent of his own country before he could be naturalized here. His noble and learned Friend rested his proposition on the comity of nations and on the inconvenience of the double nationality—considerations of the importance of which the Government were fully sensible—and his noble and learned Friend plausibly asked why they should not require the assent of the foreign subject's nation, and then all would go smoothly, and there would be no further difficulty in regard to that man's status. But he (the Lord Chancellor) would put this case—There were countries, even in the present day, which declined altogether to allow their subjects to accept foreign naturalization and to become the subjects of a foreign State. All those States which adopted the Code Napoleon were in this position—that, after the naturalization of their subjects in a foreign country, their natural status in the country from which those persons proceeded was lost. But there were other countries, such as Prussia, and other States in Germany, where a different law prevailed—they refused to permit any such rejection of this allegiance by their subjects. The question, therefore, came to this—whether we were prepared to refuse every foreigner who could not obtain previous leave from the country of his origin the right of naturalization in England. What would that principle involve? Heretofore, we had opened our gates wide to all the persecuted in all parts of the globe, and there had been times in which it would have been impossible for those who sought refuge 1613 on our shores from what they conceived to be the persecution of their own Governments to obtain the consent of those Governments to their settling here. Such consent might, for example, have been refused by Russia in regard to the Poles, and other Powers of Europe might have taken the same course. Not many years ago serious difficulty was apprehended with France in connection with the Orsini affair, in respect to our receiving in our bosom those who had fled hither from other countries. Yet, no evil consequences had ever befallen us as a retribution—if such a term could be properly used in such a case—for the hospitality we had given to strangers. And when an attempt was made to modify, in some degree, that hospitality, the Bill that was introduced at first with general approbation was afterwards, upon due consideration, withdrawn. He remembered on that occasion hearing an eloquent speech made in "another" place" by a noble Lord, now a Member of that House (Earl Russell), in which he quoted against the Bill those fine lines of Waller—Whether this isle were by convulsion rentOf the rude ocean from the continent,Or so created, surely 'twas designedTo be a sacred refuge for mankind.Now, he apprehended that neither House of Parliament would be ready to part with that great distinction—the hospitality this country extended to all coming from every land who were in trouble or distress. But if we opened to them our hospitality should we say that they were to be incapable of becoming our fellow-subjects if they desired it? For we could not expect them always to obtain the consent of the countries from which they came. Could we tell them we would have nothing to do with them beyond affording them shelter for a time—that they could not remain and settle among us as citizens? What, under such a rule, would have become of all the Huguenot families who came over here on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and who had produced some of the ablest men in this country from that time—men some of whom might be mentioned as sitting in that House with honour? It was not likely that those refugees would have obtained leave from the Government of Louis XIV. to become naturalized in England. He trusted, therefore, that their Lordships 1614 would not shut the door against the possibility of foreigners being naturalized in this country unless they could procure the assent of the State from which they came. That subject had been well weighed by the Government, who had acted on the well-considered Report of the Commissioners. From that Report it would be found that the countries from which the greater number of foreigners proceeded who would be naturalized here were countries where the cessation of a subject's original status was not permitted. When the matter came to be considered, it would be a serious thing to deny such persons naturalization when they desired permanently to settle in this country. The proper course, he conceived, for the British Parliament to take was to advance as far as possible in the direction it thought was right, without wishing to force its views on other nations; to be ready to enter into treaty arrangements with other nations on the subject, and to trust to the effect of example, and such reasons as we were able to give for the views we adopted for the ultimate extinction of the evil of double nationality. But for the sake of that object we ought not to commit gross injustice to those who might desire to become our naturalized subjects.
§ LORD WESTBURY
said, he had the greatest disinclination to do anything like injustice to a foreign State; and we should give great occasion for animosity if we received citizens from other countries and converted them into our subjects against the will of their own Governments. That was more than mere personal refuge demanded, and it would create ill-feeling and possible hostility towards us on the part of other States. We might, for instance, accept and naturalize a rebel, and in that case a war might follow. What was naturalization? It was, as far as was practicable, to rob another country of its natural-born subjects. They could abstain from doing that; and, therefore, it was that he pointed out the evil of that Bill. At present, their naturalization was harmless, because they limited it to their own shores; but by that Bill they would at once raise a controversy between themselves and the State from which they took improperly its natural-born subject. He regretted very much that the matter had been brought for- 1615 ward in a piecemeal manner, and if the Report of the Commissioners had been followed the anomalies and the difficulties which he had mentioned would have been obviated.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, there was one point not adverted to by the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor), which seemed to create a difficulty in the adoption of the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord who had spoken last, and that was that certain Continental countries made expatriation dependent on naturalization. They made expatriation subject to the condition that the person who had gone to another country should be there naturalized. If the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord was adopted the effect would be to produce a dead-lock; we should be waiving for them, and they waiting for us; and the result would be that we should be unable to naturalize one of their subjects.
§ Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 6 (Certificate of naturalization).
§ LORD PENZANCE moved, after the word "alien," to insert "not being an alien enemy," his object being to prevent the operation of the clause in the case of the subject of a State with which we were at war. In fact, he would suspend the operation of the naturalization system during the continuance of the war.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, there was no great objection to the Amendment, though he thought it better to have the matter left to the discretion of the Secretary of State. A person might unfortunately be so situated as to come under the disability suggested by his noble and learned Friend, and yet be the warmest friend of this country.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ LORD WESTBURY
said, that the clause as it stood required that an alien should have resided in the United Kingdom, or have been in the service of the Crown for five years, before obtaining naturalization. He asked would it be wise to lay down an iron rule that there must be a period of five years?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
explained that the reason why five years was adopted was that the United States re- 1616 quired five years for naturalization, and he had been told that a period of ten years' expatriation from Prussia had been reduced to five. If we should make treaties with these States it would be well to have the same term of years. However, there was no objection if it were thought desirable to reduce the number of years.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, that the difficulty he found in the case was that it might occur from time to time that a Secretary of State might exercise the power vested in him under the clause as a matter of form, and the reduction of the period from five years to three might lead to that result.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, the drift of the clause was, not that the Secretary of State was to exercise a discretion in each particular instance, but that he might make an order which should declare that the term required should be not less than three, five, six years, or more, as the case might be. But the advantage of the Amendment was that it would make the clause more elastic, and in coming to terms with foreign countries we might reduce the time if we pleased.
Then the word "five" was struck out, and "three" inserted in lieu thereof throughout the clause.
§ Clause further amended, and agreed to.
§ Clause 7 (Certificate of re-admission to British nationality) agreed to.
§ Clause 8 (Power to cancel certificates of naturalization, and of re-admission to British nationality).
§ LORD WESTBURY
, who had given notice to move in page 5, line 20, after ("certificate has") leave out ("acted in a manner inconsistent with,") and insert ("violated,") said, that according to this clause any certificate of naturalization or re-admission to British nationality granted by the Secretary of State or the governor of any colony might be revoked, "on its appearing" to the Secretary of State or the governor of the colony that the persons who had obtained the certificate had resided out of Her Majesty's dominions for a period exceeding two years, or "had acted in a manner inconsistent with his allegiance as a British subject." These words were so wide and so loose that it was impossible to make any man's personal status to depend on them. Suppose the 1617 man attended a meeting where the conduct of the Government was discussed, or that he wrote an article in a newspaper condemning it, was his certificate to be cancelled because it might appear to a Secretary of State that he had acted in a manner inconsistent with his allegiance? He (Lord Westbury) knew nothing which would justify this course except violation of allegiance. Was it intended to say that a man had power to take away the personal status of another because he was of opinion that the other had acted in a manner inconsistent with his allegiance? That would be a most objectionable provision, and would give a kind of discretion which that House could never approve.
§ LORD PENZANCE
agreed that it would not be wise to confer upon an irresponsible Secretary of State the arbitrary power to rule, that any naturalized subject had forfeited his allegiance, and must therefore be deprived of his certificate.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he thought a somewhat strained interpretation had been put upon the words of the clause. He was of opinion that the English Government had a right to lay certain conditions upon those who came to this country to be naturalized. Foreigners had not been educated to English views as to what allegiance consisted of, and he therefore thought it right there should be some power of saving whether or no allegiance had been forfeited, vested in the person intrusted with the granting of the certificates of naturalization. He admitted that the phrase used in the clause was somewhat vague, because no specific act was mentioned as having to be committed before allegiance could be forfeited; but they had, as security that the power would not be used recklessly, the fact that the Secretary of State would be liable to have his acts questioned in Parliament, and, if wrong, set right.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
thought the power proposed to be given to the Secretary of State to be of a very absolute character. As the Bill proposed to place naturalized subjects on the same footing with British-born subjects, the same law should apply to both classes.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, he should like to know if it was seriously intended that all governors of colonies should have the same power of 1618 declaring allegiance forfeited that it was proposed to give to the Secretary of State at home.
thought the clause proposed to confide to the Secretary of State a very transcendental power—more than ought to be entrusted to any man. He held that the law was strong enough, and that a great deal of the grace of the Bill would be taken away if it was attempted to deal differently with naturalized than with British-born subjects.
§ LORD PENZANCE
said, the scope of this Bill was to give to naturalized persons a far higher status than had been before enjoyed by that class. The Commissioners recommended that the naturalization granted should be full and completed. Up to the present time, naturalized foreigners had not been allowed to sit in Parliament, to become Privy Councillors, or to hold certain high offices of State; but the present Bill proposed to confer upon foreigners all the rights of British subjects, not excluding those to which he had just referred. This being so, he thought it would be a very arbitrary mode of dealing that a Secretary of State should hold in his hand the power, unfettered even by right of appeal, to say that "it appears to him" an individual has forfeited his allegiance, and must therefore have his certificate withdrawn. The great object of the Bill being to throw the door open wide to foreigners, they should do so in no niggard spirit, but allow foreigners to come and reside in England, not merely as refugees, but, as far as it might be, as British subjects.
pointed out that the Prime Minister might be a naturalized foreigner, and the Secretary of State might have the power, if so disposed, to reduce so high an officer in the State to the position of an alien.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that after the expression of opinion by so many noble Lords on the subject of this clause, he would reconsider the subject, and would state the decision arrived at when the Report was brought up.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ The Report of the Amendments to be received on Tuesday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 31.)