HL Deb 22 March 1949 vol 161 cc543-5

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, in asking the Question which stands on the Paper in my name, and to which I imagine the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor may be replying, may I be allowed to say how glad I am to see him back? I beg to ask the Question.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government:

  1. (1) What is the date on which a sovereign independent State of Eire, not under allegiance to the Crown and not forming part of the Commonwealth, is expected to come into existence?
  2. (2) What is the approximate number of citizens of Eire who, by giving notice in writing to the Home Secretary under Section 2 (1) of the British Nationality Act, 1948, have claimed to remain British subjects?
  3. (3) Is there any form provided for giving such notice, is its receipt 544 acknowledged or registered, and does the individual who gives it receive any or what certificate that he does remain a British subject?
  4. (4) Since the subsection provides that the notice can be given "at any time," can it, in the view of the Government, be given at any future date in the lifetime of the individual giving it? What is the status of such an individual in the interval?]


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for what he has said. I return in perfect health, and with a keen appreciation of the much-abused British climate! The answers to the Question are as follows. To the first question: I understand that the Government of Eire intend to bring the Republic of Ireland Act into operation on April 18. To the second: Approximately 2,800 claims have been received up to March 18. To the third: There is no prescribed form of words for the notice, but a draft letter giving notice in suitable terms has been prepared by the Home Office and is sent to claimants when necessary. All claims are registered and acknowledged. No certificate is given to the claimant, but he is advised to retain the acknowledgment as proof that he has given the necessary notice. To the fourth: The claim to remain a British subject can be made at any future date in the lifetime of the Eire citizen concerned. Until he does so—unless, of course, he is a British subject under one of the other provisions of the Act—he is regarded in this country as a citizen of Eire but not as an alien.


My Lords, while thanking the Lord Chancellor very much for those answers, may I ask him whether it is convenient for him to answer this supplementary question? My original Question related to Section 2 of the British Nationality Act. It may be that the noble and learned Viscount is able to give information also as to the extent to which use has been made of Section 6, which applies to applications, not to become a British subject but to be registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. If we could have that information, it would be useful. When the noble and learned Viscount was away, we were told, in answer to a previous Question, that legislation was being considered for implementing the purposes of these sections of the British Nationality Act. Is the noble and learned Viscount able to tell us whether such legislation will be introduced?


My Lords, in answer to the last question, legislation will be introduced—and introduced in the quite near future. I must not, of course, anticipate or guess at the contents of the legislation. With regard to the question about Section 6, I am sorry to say that I have not the information with me here. If I had, I would of course give it to the noble and learned Viscount. Perhaps I may ascertain it, and let him know privately what the answer is.

May I, before I conclude, say a word in regard to the noble and learned Viscount himself? I am very grateful indeed to him for what he has done to accelerate the conduct of the Business of the House while I have been away—though knowing him, as I have done for many years, I fully anticipated it.