§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, the Bill to which I ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading is a long one of fifty-one clauses and four schedules. Fortunately for me it is largely a codifying measure, as it embodies the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act of 1914, the amending Act of 1918, and also several of the Aliens Orders of 1920. This House has often expressed a preference for dealing with matters by legislation rather than by Orders in Council, and I hope that you will approve of my embodying in this Bill such of the Aliens Orders of 1920 as appear to deal more particularly with the status of aliens, as against restrictions on aliens, which are concerned more with the Bill passed into law last session—the Aliens Restriction Act of 1919.
347 When the noble Viscount, Lord Harcourt, introduced the Bill in the House of Commons in May of 1914 he stated that it was a Bill which was the result of discussions and Imperial Conferences extending over a period of thirteen years, and I may well be told that it is impossible to replace the Act of 1914 by a Bill such as this, which makes many drastic alterations in that Act. I would point out, that that argument is very largely nullified by the fact that already in 1918 it was found necessary to pass another Bill, altering the Act of 1914, and that the Act of 1914 was drawn up and passed through almost all its stages before the great majority in the Houses of Parliament had any idea that within a few months we should be plunged into a great Continental war. I ask your Lordships whether the war has not compelled us largely to change or modify our views, and whether the experiences of the last six years do not impel us to review the legislation passed in 1914 with regard to aliens. Is anybody prepared to say that five years' residence is sufficient to qualify a German to acquire the full rights of British citizenship?
At the General Election of 1918 the fourth point of the Prime Minister's programme was "Britain for the British, socially and industrially." Many of your Lordships, and amongst them some of the most prominent members of the House, made eloquent and forceful speeches on the subject. This Bill attempts to carry into effect the policy of the Prime Minister in that respect. May I remind the House of one or two facts of importance? Approximately 270,000 foreigners are resident in this country.' Taking a family at an average of five, that means that 54,000 houses are required for the accommodation of those foreigners. The housing shortage is well known, and it is a question for your Lordships to decide whether you prefer that 50,000 British families shall be homeless or whether these foreigners should be encouraged to return to the countries from which they came. It is for you to decide whether in the present financial position of the country you are prepared to find £13,500,000 to provide the subsidy required, at £250 per house, for the erection of houses for foreigners to live in.
The situation, my Lords, is even worse than that. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, speaking in March, told this House that in January and February alone 38,089 aliens 348 landed in this country, and that 35,662 embarked again for elsewhere; so that in those two months alone there came into this country to stay foreigners at the rate of 1,200 a month. Are your Lordships prepared to build the additional houses required to accommodate these foreigners? I have no hostility to foreigners as such—I have many friends amongst foreigners—but I prefer the interests of my fellow-countrymen to those of foreigners, and I have been forced to realise that I must choose, in regard to housing and other matters, between my fellow-countrymen and foreigne4. There are not enough houses for both, and at the moment not employment enough for both, and we have to decide which we prefer. So I venture to subscribe to the programme of the Prime Minister, "Britain for the British, socially and industrially," and that is what this Bill endeavours to effect.
I will now turn to the clauses of the Bill. In Clause 1 there is a definition of what is a natural-born British subject. The law at present is that any one horn within the King's Dominions, whatever his parentage, is a British subject, and also that any one whose father was a British subject at the time of that person's birth shall be a British subject wherever he be born. I suggest that the law in that respect is illogical, because it is founded on two separate data, that of place of birth and that of nationality. Consequently it must lead to many cases of dual nationality. For instance, if an Englishman has a child in China, under British law that child is a British subject. Similarly, if a Chinaman has a son born in London, that son is a British subject. But supposing China—and for all I know she has—has the same law in regard to nationality that we have, then if an Englishman has a son born in China that son is a Chinaman, yet under British law he is regarded as a British subject.
The absurdity of the situation cannot be brought home perhaps better than by reminding your Lordships of a story, which I dare say many of you have heard, of an incident that occurred at the last General Election. A certain candidate was standing for a Parliamentary constituency, and was accused by some of his audience of being an alien. He replied in broken English that he had been born in England, and therefore was a British subject. A voice from the back of the hall was then heard to say, "I suppose if a cat had kittens 349 in a fish-basket you would call those kittens bloaters." It is somewhat absurd that we should apply the same sort of thing to human beings. Therefore this first clause makes what is certainly a drastic alteration, to the effect, that the son of a British father—that is any one whose father at the time of his birth is a British subject—shall be considered a British subject wherever that child be born. The question of the place of birth will not enter into the matter. It seems to me absurd that the son of a Chinaman or of a Mexican, if that son be born in London, should ipso facto be considered a British subject. Therefore under this Bill I propose that that absurdity shall come to an end.
Clause 2 is largely taken from the Act of 1914. Under that Act the only requirement for a foreigner to obtain a certificate of naturalisation—which I must remind your Lordships gave him the full privileges of British citizenship—was that he should have had five years' residence within the King's Dominions—one within the United Kingdom and four within the King's Dominions—and be a person of good character, and have an adequate knowledge of the English language, and, further, that he should be prepared to reside within His Majesty's Dominions. This clause proposes that the qualification of residence shall be increased to twenty years—five in this country and fifteen elsewhere within the King's Dominions—and, further, that a substantial part of the education of that person shall have been obtained within His Majesty's Dominions. It also enacts that the certificate of naturalisation shall only be taken out when a male is twenty-two, or, in the case of a woman; between nineteen and twenty-two years of age. The object of this clause is practically this—that no alien shall be allowed to be granted the full privileges of British citizenship unless by upbringing, by education, and by surroundings he is British in outlook and temperament. The whole object of the Bill is that British citizenship shall be reserved for those who really are British, and not for those who merely take on a cloak of nationality without having either the outlook, or the principles, or any of the qualifications that we consider necessary and advisable in our fellow-countrymen.
Clause 8 is taken from the British Nationality (Status of Aliens) Act, 1918, and it strengthens it in one or two minor particulars, with which I think your 350 Lordships will agree. This clause empowers the Secretary of State to cancel certificates of naturalisation which have been obtained by false representation or fraud, and also to cancel certificates which have boon granted to people who at that time were at war with His Majesty or have traded with His Majesty's enemies. I propose that any one who is or was engaged in trading with the enemy, or is or was at war with His Majesty, should be liable to have his certificate of naturalisation cancelled. In subsection (4), where the Secretary of State thinks it necessary to hold an inquiry, that inquiry shall be held by a Divisional Court of the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, and not by a Committee. A new subsection—(7)—is added. The object of this is that when a certificate of naturalisation is revoked the Secretary of State may make an order requiring the person whose certificate has been revoked to leave the United Kingdom.
Coming now to an important clause, Clause 19, I may inform your Lordships that the commencement of that clause is taken from the Act of 1914; but subsection (2) is new. It requires that an alien shall not be allowed to reside in the United Kingdom more than six months in any year unless he obtains a certificate of denization, or a licence to reside within the meaning of this Act. The status of denization is a new one which is proposed under this Bill, and it is one about which I shall have something more to say presently. The terms under which a licence to reside are granted are laid down in Clause 32, which states that a licence to reside may be given for a period of 12 months, and cannot be extended for more than a total of 24 months, and the cost of obtaining this licence is £10. There is an important proviso in subsection (2) on line 15, page 10. Under the Act of 1914 an alien is not qualified to be the owner of any share or shares in a British ship, and I propose that he should also not be permitted to be a shareholder or debenture holder in any aircraft company, dock or harbour company, coal, copper or tin mine, or oil-producing company. Your Lordships will agree that it is essential that aliens should not be able to obtain the majority of the shares in any of these undertakings so essential to this country in time of war.
But since this clause was originally drafted the situation financially has cleared 351 in several respects, and it is a matter for consideration whether if this clause were passed it might not lead to retaliation, and whether retaliation would not he more harmful than the possible danger of aliens acquiring shares in companies of this description. I have put this clause in this Bill for your Lordships' consideration, and I am bound to say I am inclined to think that practically no nation is now in a position to obtain a strangle hold on British companies, with the possible exception of the United States. But citizens of the United States are known to be very disinclined to take shares in other than American companies, and therefore the danger hardly operates in their case. It is possible, as I have already said, that retaliation may be more serious to this country than facing the danger of foreigners holding shares in key industries in the United Kingdom.
I pass now to Clauses 21 to 27, which have been taken entirely from the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act which passed last year, and in which no alteration has been made. They have been taken from that. Act because they appear to deal very largely with the status of aliens, and the other clauses have not been incorporated in this Bill because they deal chiefly with enemy aliens and are of a transitory character. One alteration of some importance has been made in Clause 27, by which the Powers conferred under the Aliens Restriction Acts, 1914 and 1919, are not limited to a year that limitation being omitted.
Clause 28 is a new one setting up the status of denization to which I have already referred. It lays down that a certificate of denization shall be given to any alien who makes application for the purpose, providing he is of good character, that he is in good health and not suffering from infectious disease, and that, if the application is granted, he is prepared to reside in His Majesty's Dominions. A fee of £10 is payable by the alien before that certificate is issued, and after that certificate is issued every alien other than the wife or child of an alien will be required to pay a poll tax of £10 a year and an additional duty of Income tax at the rate of 10 per cent. more than he would pay if he were a free-born British subject. Your Lordships may consider that that poll tax and extra Income tax are an undue burden to levy on a foreigner, but I submit that 352 When this country is faced with the loss of £50 per year per house on every workman's house that is erected, it seems to be a very small sum to require of an alien that he should pay only £10 a Year towards the £50 required for the additional houses that have to be built.
Clause 30 enacts that certificates of naturalisation granted after January 1, 1911, shall, subject to certain provisos, be cancelled. The object of that Clause is to meet the case of certificates of naturalisation granted just before and at the commencement of the war, which in many cases, some of us think, were granted unwisely and had better be cancelled. If your Lordships would be prepared to give this Bill a Second Reading I should propose at any rate a further proviso which is that those who took part in the war should not have their certificate of naturalisation cancelled. Clause 37 strengthens the Aliens Order of 1920. I do not think I need go into these alterations except in one particular. In subsection (5) it is enacted that if an alien has been in the United Kingdom for less than 12 months since his last arrival and he is required by the Secretary of State to be deported the company which brought him to this country, whether a steamship or an aircraft company, shall be compelled to provide him with accommodation and maintenance until such time as he has left the United Kingdom. Clause 38 (2) enacts that the owner of a ship or aircraft shall be liable to repay the Secretary of State any debt due to the Crown incurred by an alien prior to his deportation, if that alien is required to be deported within twelve months of coming to this country. Those two subsections are founded on Canadian law, which is considerably more severe than that proposed in this Bill, because there it is laid down that any railway or other company shall be compelled to carry back any immigrant without payment to the port from which he came if, within two years of landing, he has become an inmate of a gaol, hospital, or other charitable institution. The cost of transporting an alien back from Canada to some port in Europe is very much larger than anything incurred by a steamship or aircraft company in this country.
Clause 41 amends the Oath of Allegiance. In the Second Schedule your Lordships will see that in addition to the oath, as now taken, swearing allegiance to His Majesty, 353 the alien is required also to renounce for ever all allegiance or fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, or sovereignty, and particularly the prince, potentate, or sovereignty of which that alien had been a citizen or subject. That is copied from the Oath of Allegiance which is required by aliens in the United States before they are allowed to become citizens of that country. I suggest that it would be well that in that respect we should copy the example of the United States.
Clause 45 imposes a tax of 5s. per week for every alien employee who is given work in this country, I suggest that, with many ex-Service men still unemployed, any employer who requires to give work to an alien should be compelled to pay for the privilege. It will not prevent aliens from being employed whose services are valuable to this country—those, for instance, who are teaching us how to make optical glasses, and so on. But, where other things are equal, obviously the tax of 5s. will give a preference to the British subject as against the alien. Clause 46 requires the Secretary of State to pay the cost of passage incurred by aliens who, as the result of the passing of this Bill, desire within four months of its becoming law to leave this country.
Clause 49 (2) makes a rather important addition to the Act of 1914. As it stands, the privileges of naturalisation granted by a British Dominion shall only be enjoyed within the limits of that Dominion. It is proposed under the Bill that certificates of naturalisation or denization shall not only have full effect within the Dominion in which they are granted, but also in any foreign country, but that they shall not have effect in other parts of the King's Dominion. The object of that alteration is that if a naturalised Australian, for instance, finds himself in a foreign country he shall have the right of appealing to the British Ambassador or the British Consul for all the privileges and protection granted to British subjects, but that if that Australian went to Canada or elsewhere that naturalisation given to him in Australia shall not take effect in the other Dominions. When the Act of 1914 was under discussion at the Imperial Conference of 1911 it became perfectly clear that no powers of naturalisation granted in one Dominion should be made applicable to the other. For instance, in New Zealand no qualification of residence is required; in South Africa and in Australia two years qualification of re- 354 sidence is required; in Canada three years, and in this country, at that time, five years. So apparently the only way in which naturalisation can be made effective is that it should be confined to the Dominion in which it is given and should also be applicable in foreign countries.
Some of your Lordships may think that this Bill is too drastic. I submit that that there is nothing unfair in it. The alien is left free to choose whether he prefers to live in this country under the conditions imposed by the Bill, or whether he prefers to return to his own country. There is nothing compelling an alien to go back unless he so desires, unless he breaks the law of this country or becomes undesirable for other reasons. Some noble Lords may say that this measure is un-Christian, and that we ought to treat foreigners no less well than we treat British subjects. I am inclined to think that some of those noble Lords who took a strong view in regard to the alteration of the law of divorce might possibly hold that view; but, whatever interpretation they gave to Holy Writ with regard to divorce, I suggest that Holy Writ in regard to the question of aliens is infinitely stronger than, and infinitely more in accord with, the views of the majority of your Lordships' House. May I draw their attention to this saying from Holy Writ?—Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, 01 strangers.And then, as you will remember, St. Peter is told to go and catch a fish, to take the money found in its mouth, and to pay the custom or tribute both for the Messiah and for himself. There is the example of paying tribute because they are strangers and not children. Again, when the Chief Captain asks St. Paul whether he is indeed a Roman, he goes on to say, "With a great sum obtained I this freedom "; and St. Paul with considerable pride replies, "But I was free born." Those are very much the standpoints on which this Bill is founded, and I think that they are neither against Holy Writ nor unjust.
I am aware that many of your Lordships will be chary of following me into the Division Lobby after your experiences of last autumn; but at any rate in this case the facts are all known to your Lordships and the Bill is in your hands. It is for you to decide whether you support the policy of "Britain for the British" 355 socially and industrially; whether you are prepared to allow foreigners to come here occupying houses which otherwise would be occupied by your fellow countrymen; whether you are prepared to allow foreigners to come here and to compete for employment while ex-Service men are still walking the streets; or whether you are prepared, so far as this Bill does so, to discourage foreigners in the manner proposed in the various clauses of this measure. I apologise to your Lordships for having occupied the time of the House so long, and I trust that you will be prepared to give this Bill its second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, many of the objects of the noble Earl in proposing this Bill are evidently meritorious. It might be discussed as to whether or not in the balance those objects would be advantageous; but my criticism is not addressed to many of his principal objects—with sonic of which at least I find myself in sympathy—but to the form in which those proposals are brought forward. The noble Earl has certainly shown great industry, but I am bound to say quite plainly that these proposals are put forward in a form, in circumstances, and with legal consequences which are so astounding and so wholly unworkable that I think no one who has the most elementary knowledge of the working of our aliens law could make excuses for the Bill, either in its present form or in any form in which it could be put by amendment.
So far as the Government are concerned I shall not ask your Lordships, if the noble Earl wishes to divide on the Bill, to go into the Lobby one way or the other; but I think it is my duty to warn the noble Earl and your Lordships quite plainly—for the reasons which I will presently illustrate—that if your Lordships should be swilling to undergo, in these circumstances, the labour of a Committee debate, it would be with the full knowledge that there is no prospect at all of any Parliamentary facilities, so far as the Government are concerned, being afforded in the House of Commons to a Bill which is framed as this Bill is framed, and which would produce the consequences which I will presently show your Lordships this Bill would produce.
356 The noble Earl has entitled his Bill, "An Act to repeal the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1914, and to consolidate the law relating to British Nationality and the Status of Aliens." This title has no very evident relation to the contents of the Bill which is under consideration. It is quite true that in Clause 51 it repeals the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1914, and also the similar Act of 1918; but it most assuredly does not consolidate the law relating to British nationality and the status of aliens. On the contrary, it undermines it by removing from the Statute Book the main foundation of British law relating to nationality—that is to say, the ancient Common Law principle that a person born in His Majesty's allegiance is a British subject. The noble Earl has criticised the ancient rule which exists in this country, in so many parts of the Empire, and in so many foreign countries. It is easy to attack it even by formidable arguments; but this is certainly not a change which I think any one in a position of responsibility would for a moment suppose could be made in such a Bill as this. It would involve immense revolution in the whole complicated network of arrangements which have been made as a result of repeated Imperial Conferences between ourselves and the self-governing Dominions of the Empire.
Another general criticism which must be made is that the Bill includes, as the noble Earl has told the House, selections and provisions from the Aliens Restriction Acts and Orders in Council, apparently dragging them in in the phrase "status of aliens"—a phrase which in our law has a perfectly clear technical meaning. It is sufficient, perhaps, that I should say that it is not this one. The provisions are of a wholly different character from the true provisions as to nationality and status which have hitherto been properly separated. Included in this Bill, and in this part of the Bill, they would lead to a degree of confusion which could hardly be exaggerated.
If this Bill became law there would be in operation as its result the following partly independent, partly overlapping, and partly contradictory codes of law dealing with this subject. In the first place, the Aliens Act of 1905; in the second place, the Aliens Restriction Act of 1914; thirdly, parts of the Aliens Restric- 357 tion (Amendment) Act of 1919; fourthly, this Bill itself; fifthly, such of the provisions of the Aliens Orders in Council of 1920 as have not been selected for incorporation in this Bill, but which are in some cases essential for practical purposes. As one who for four years had the responsibility of advising upon this highly complicated question at a time when the problems Which presented themselves were of wholly unexampled difficulty, I assure the noble Earl that such a consequence would be quite intolerable from the administrative point of view and would produce a degree of chaos of the gravest character. I much fear that no amendment of the Bill could bring it into a shape which would be an improvement upon the present state of affairs. It gives us, on the one hand, the Imperial and world-wide law of British nationality and the status of aliens contained in the Act of 1914, as amended in 1917, and, on the other hand, the domestic law as to restrictions on aliens in the United Kingdom contained in the Aliens Restriction Acts, 1914 and 1919, and the Orders in Council which have been made under those Acts. I will give a few illustrations in a moment. Not only would the Bill be extremely inconvenient in the United Kingdom, but an even more serious observation calls to be made. It would involve, in the first place, a breach of understanding with the self-governing Dominions, and, in the second place, the attempt to legislate for those Dominions within their own territories would most undoubtedly be very deeply resented by them and we should be wholly unable to give effect to them.
Let me illustrate both those propositions. In the first place, the law contained in the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1914—which the noble Earl must forgive me for saying is reproduced in a mangled form in Parts I and II of this Bill and in the scattered clauses of Part III of the Bill—is the result of deliberations which have been carried on over a long period of time at succeeding Imperial Conferences. It embodies the result of agreements which have been made. It gives the broad principles arrived at between the Mother Country and the self-governing Dominions, and most certainly implies a complete understanding that no fundamental alterations of such a code shall be made until after further consultation and agreement with the self-governing Dominions. For us, without any such con- 358 sultation and certainly without any agreement, to give a Second Reading to, and pass through its stages in this House, a Bill which would produce these consequences would be a very grave deviation from the practice which has so Fong been followed in this country.
As to the second proposition that I made in this matter, Part II of the Bill reproduces Part II of the Act of 1914 relating to naturalisation, with certain alterations including references to a power, conferred later in the Bill, in Clause 28, on the Home Secretary to grant certificates of denization. The effect of the reference is to hold out this new system of denization to the self-governing Dominions. Whatever be the value or the propriety—which I will examine later—of the proposed system as regards the United Kingdom, it is essentially a matter of domestic regulation on which the Mother Country, while entitled to make such regulations as she thinks proper on her own behalf, has not the slightest claim or warrant to attempt to introduce in the self-governing Dominions.
Such are the general observations that I make, and I may give a few further illustrations by which I think the matter would become even more plain. I ought, perhaps, to have pointed out that this controversy, which is so summarily solved by the proposals of this Bill, as to whether or not birth within the Empire or within these Islands should confer British nationality, is one which, as I think the noble Earl said, has long been the subject of discussion and in relation to which I certainly should have said that the balance of opinion was absolutely in favour of maintaining the present system. I need hardly point out to the noble Earl and others who are interested in this matter the enormous advantages, on balance, which in the Colonies have been derived from the application of the existing rule. The noble Earl may or may not know, but it is a fact, that the principle that a man born in this country is a British subject was worth to the British forces in the late war, according to a War Office computation, some sixty thousand or seventy thousand good fighting men and soldiers. It is therefore clear that Part I of the Bill could not properly be accepted by the British Parliament without further and very protracted Conferences with the self-governing Dominions, and in these circumstances I 359 should certainly not have thought, until such discussion has taken place, that it could be very usefully debated by your Lordships.
If Clause 1 were to be discussed in detail a number of very curious features would be disclosed, some of which I think must have escaped the attention of the noble Earl. I see, for instance, in Clause 1 (1) (b) that every person shall be deemed to be a natural-born British subject "whose father at the time of the birth of such person was a British subject, or was in the Military Service of the Crown." I imagine it can only be through inadvertence, but, unless I am mistaken, the effect would be to draw a distinction in favour of one who was in the Military Service which would not be extended to one in the Naval Service or the Air Service. So much for Part I.
Part II of the Bill introduces, with some important alterations, Part II of the Act of 1914. The greater part of it deals with the grant and revocation of certificates of naturalisation and makes alterations in the existing law as to naturalisation, relating in the first place to the residential qualification for the certificate, and secondly, to the power to revoke certificates granted. As the noble Earl quite truly said, at present residence for at least five years is necessary before an alien is qualified for naturalisation. Under the Bill a twenty years' residence is required, and in addition the applicant, if a male, has to certify that he is in his twenty-second year. If I understand the provision aright, it means that no male alien who comes here after the age of two years can ever be eligible for naturalisation. A concession is made as regards the female. She may be eligible if she is not less than nineteen and not more than twenty-two years of age. But the noble Earl has provided that she must have resided for twenty years in His Majesty's Dominions, and I must say that this concession, although it is a concession, is not perhaps very intoxicating.
If it is desired to make naturalisation impossible altogether—and I have held, and do hold, and have expressed strong opinions in this House on the subject—I say quite plainly that it would be much better and much more worthy of the dignity of Parliament to abolish it in a few lines rather than enact a number of clauses which are hedged about with almost completely destructive conditions. I certainly am not 360 prepared to agree with the noble Earl that it is a reasonable precaution to say that no male alien who came here after the age I of two years should ever be eligible for naturalisation. There are countries against whom most properly we nourish bitter resentment. How long it will last no one can tell. Other resentments in our history, which seemed as if they were equally deeply founded and likely to be as tenacious, have been removed by the mitigating influences of time; and while there have been aliens of this class there have been aliens to whom we have been deeply attached and in respect of whom we have lain under profound obligations; by their example and valour they contributed much to the decision in the last war. I should not, and I expect there are many of your Lordships who would not, be willing to say in the case of the French that no male alien who came here after the age of two years should ever be eligible for naturalisation.
Another most objectionable provision—I use the phrase in a technical sense—in my view is the provision in Clause 7 under which every grant or refusal by the Secretary of State of a certificate of naturalisation is to be subject to review by the High Court. It is a provision which overlaps and clashes with the provisions of Clause 8 in regard to the revocation of certificates, provisions which are taken from the Act of 1914, and it is further inconsistent in principle with the provisions of Clause 2 of the Bill which empowers the Secretary of State to grant or refuse a certificate in his discretion. That the exercise of this discretion should be reviewed by a Court of Law is a proposal as unprecedented in my experience as it would be inconvenient in practice. I cannot understand what is the object of giving such discretionary power to a Minister if it is a matter which has to be done all over again by a Court of Law. But the objection goes deeper than that. In the preoccupations of war it was necessary to divert the Judges of the High Court from their very proper functions of determining disputes in this country to other and wider purposes. I cannot pretend, greatly as I have attempted to limit the occasions on which such demands are put forward, to promise that it will altogether cease even now, but I certainly regard it as a most unfortunate extension of this practice to ask that the Judges of the High Court should undertake functions so novel and vague as those which the 361 noble Earl proposes. Part III of the Bill mingles in a manner which I find a little bewildering the greater part of Part III of the Act of 1914 regarding the naturalisation of aliens with various provisions as to the restriction on aliens taken from the Aliens Restrictions Amendment Act, 1919. This Part would have to be most carefully sorted out into separate provisions and entirely recast and redrafted if there was any real prospect of its becoming law.
For the present purpose it is sufficient to make this observation on the one operative section of this part of the Bill—that which deals with the restrictions on aliens. I have shown that it is extremely difficult for any alien ever to become naturalised. But supposing an unusually enterprising male or female got through the drag net, then for the rest of his or her life in this country the alien is to be under the, following complicated network of limitations—the noble Earl, I am sure, would be the first to say that the merit of his Bill must stand or fall by these proposals. In the first place, he cannot reside in the United Kingdom for more than six months in any year unless he obtains a certificate of denization or a licence from the Secretary of State to reside here. That is in Clause 19. In the second place, the licence to reside may be granted only for twelve months at a time. There is power to renew, but not for longer consecutive periods than twenty-four months. That is in Clause 32. If a licence is granted the alien must pay a poll tax of £10 per annum in the case of persons of full age and £5 per annum in the case of minors. In the third place the certificate of denization—which I must point out is a new thing altogether and likely to be very inconvenient and confused with "letters of denization," which are already known to the law and as to which the Royal Prerogative is preserved by Clause 31—can only be granted after similar notice and after consideration of objections. It can only be granted under the terms of Clause 28 if it is shown that the residence asked for is such residence as shall benefit His Majesty's subjects. That does seem to me to be a most difficult thing to show. The alien has not only to show and do all these other things but also to establish that his residence here shall benefit His Majesty's subjects. I feel that if I were making a tour abroad, and my travels took me into a foreign country and among strange surroundings, it might benefit 362 myself but it would be an almost impossible burden upon me to demonstrate that my going there would benefit them. I think the noble Earl on reflection will take the view that this is carrying the matter rather far.
I would also point out, what has probably escaped the noble Earl, that these provisions or many of them are in violation of British Treaties, commercial and otherwise, with foreign countries. I think he will find that the number of cases in which the provisions of this Bill could not be reconciled with our commercial undertakings is very considerable, and there cannot be the slightest doubt that such a change would be the cause of endless irritation to, and protest from, many reputable and desirable foreign visitors to this country. The noble Earl knows well enough that you cannot have extraordinary clauses and a very irritating code of restrictions against aliens without making it necessary to examine with very great care and rigour all kinds of foreigners who come to this country; and I hardly need point out to the House that the machinery necessary to administer these regulations would be very great and expensive. After all, in the past twenty years we have had some experience of Aliens Acts, and it is well known that the construction of the machinery for a Bill which goes so far as the Bill of the noble Earl would add another, and not one of the smallest, to those bureaucratic stalls of whose swollen dimensions we have heard so many complaints.
I need not, I think, say more. But I will add a further word about Part III of the Bill. This is the provision contained in Clause 30. It provides that—From and after the passing of this Act all persons to whom certificates of naturalisation were granted after the first day of January one thousand nine hundred and eleven shall cease to be British subjects, and shall be deemed to be persons to whom certificates of denisation have been granted under this Act.This, however, is subject to one generous remission of the provisions—namely, that those who have been blameless and valuable British subjects for ten years shall cease to be British subjects but shall not be obliged to pay the poll tax, but only obliged to pay the extra Income Tax imposed upon such aliens. I think that is a case which the side note of the noble Earl, not without humour, describes as "Rights of persons naturalised since 1910."
363 Now this denaturalisation provision, I must say plainly, is almost incredible upon its technical side. It ignores entirely the special provisions enacted by your Lordships so short a time ago as 1918, as regards the review of all certificates granted during the war to persons of enemy nationality, and the general provision as to the revocation of certificates for certain specified causes, and would have the utterly unjustifiable consequence of denaturalising, through no fault of their own, large numbers of innocent and perfectly good citizens, and also those who have earned British citizenship by eminent services rendered during the war. As the noble Earl knows, there are many such cases. They would have to remain aliens for the rest of their lives. I have given very great trouble to this Bill, because I thought it was my duty to examine it as carefully as I could in the time which was available to me, having regard to the evident care which the noble Earl had bestowed upon the matter, and, as I think he knows, I am by no means out of broad sympathy with many of the larger proposals contained in the Bill. I think, however, that on reflection, and on consideration of some of the objections which I have attempted to put forward, he will be convinced that there is very little prospect of legislation upon these lines and upon the framework of this Bill.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I want to say only a few words in reply to the noble and learned Lord. I desire to point out to him that this Bill at any rate does not increase the difficulties with regard to legislation affecting aliens, because it actually reduces the number of Acts and Orders remaining in force. It abolishes the Acts of 1914 and 1918, and puts only one Act in their place. There remain the Restrictions Acts of 1914 and 1919 and a large number of Orders issued this year. Therefore this Bill, whatever may be its defects, does simplify the law in regard to aliens. As regards this legislation affecting the Dominions, I think the noble and learned Lord must have forgotten Clause 11, by which it is distinctly laid down that this Act does not affect the Dominions, but that a Dominion can adopt it if it so desires.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I noticed that the noble Earl said that the Bill did not affect the Dominions, but my trouble was that it did.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I understand the noble and learned Lord's point. It was this—that the Dominions, when they came to consult in the Imperial Conference of 1911, were asked to have some form of citizenship applicable to the whole Empire, that this was found to be impossible, and that then Clause 2 of the Act of 1914 was drawn up, which all the Dominions were prepared to accept. Clause 2 of this Bill points out the requirements of an alien for naturalisation. I do not think that any Dominion is less likely to be ready to accept Clause 2 of this Bill than it was to accept Clause 2 of the Act of 1914. The requirements in this Bill are much stricter than those in the Act of 1914. I quite see that there are many points in this Bill which require discussion with the Dominions, but at any rate I hope I may achieve this, that His Majesty's Government will give further consideration to the subject in view of the experiences of the last six years, and will reopen the question; and I venture to hope they will not take, as they did before 1914, 13 years before they manage to pass an Act into law.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Certainly the suggestions and proposals of the noble Earl shall be very carefully considered.
§ Motion for Second Reading, by leave, withdrawn.