HL Deb 15 November 1945 vol 137 cc961-4

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I have to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are in a position to make a statement on the granting of naturalization.


My Lords, in considering this question His Majesty's Government have had it prominently in mind that among the people who at the present time desire to become British subjects there are many who not only have become assimilated to our ways of life and have the statutory qualifications in respect of residence, knowledge of the language and character, but have special claims to be admitted to British citizenship. Some have served in His Majesty's Forces and have earned their share of the gratitude which we all feel to the Fighting Services. Others have contributed in civilian capacities to the war effort, including many who have rendered valuable help as scientists and technicians. Others, again, are contributing to our national strength and prosperity in various fields, including those who in the fields of commerce and industry are providing employment and assisting trade, especially our export trade.

It is accordingly specially desirable to bring to an end the suspension which was imposed in 1940 on the investigation of applications for naturalization, to resume this work as quickly as possible, and to accelerate as far as may be practicable the granting of naturalization certificates in all proper cases. The flow of applications having been checked for five years, the volume which has now accumulated is so large that if those who have special claims to consideration are to be dealt with without undue delay, there must be a policy of giving priority to certain classes of applicants. Amongst the varied classes of applicants, those whom I have already mentioned stand out as deserving special attention. If an applicant not only has the qualities ordinarily expected of a good citizen but has also given good service in the Forces of the Crown, or has made a substantial contribution in some civilian capacity to the war effort, or is by his business or profession making a substantial contribution to the economic welfare of the nation, his application for naturalization has a special claim to attention.

The number of applicants who will be genuinely entitled on these grounds to priority is large, but the number is still larger of those persons who will think that they deserve priority and will make out an apparently good prima facie case in support of their claims. To prevent time and effort which ought at this stage to be devoted to the first class of application being spent on the investigation of applications which turn out after inquiry to belong to the second class will not be easy. To assist the Home Office to pick out readily those applications which are most likely to be found on investigation to be genuinely deserving of priority, it will be necessary to require applicants, or certain classes of applicants, to submit, in a convenient and effective form, evidence in support of their claims to priority. The machinery which will be required to give effect to this policy will be settled as quickly as possible and an announcement will be made as to the procedure for submitting claims to prior consideration. In the meantime, prospective applicants should not lodge their applications in the Home Office; premature applications and inquiries about the progress of applications already made will merely impede the official machine.

At the time when the suspension of naturalization was announced—November 20, 1940—there were already lodged in the Home Office about 6,500 applications. These applicants must have had in 1940 at least five years' previous residence in this country and, but for the war, their applications would have been disposed of long ago. There is, therefore, a strong case for giving early attention to these 6,500 applications. It has, however, been decided that the consideration of these applications shall not prevent work being started at an early date on other applications from those who have valid claims to prior attention on the grounds which I have mentioned.

It will, I am sure, be generally agreed that the high privilege of British citizenship should not be conferred rashly and without adequate investigations. Whatever steps, therefore, may be taken to accelerate the procedure for dealing with the great number of applications, including both those which have already been lodged and those which will flood into the Department as soon as the further announcement is made, this point will be borne in mind and consequently the work will have to be spread over a comparatively lengthy period. No pains, however, will be spared to make the machinery for dealing with this task as effective as possible in the light of the considerations just mentioned.