HL Deb 01 May 1962 vol 239 cc993-1002

4.16 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Nationality, etc.]:

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "sixty-five" and insert "sixty-six". The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is to increase by one year the period of time during which a citizen of the Republic of South Africa can apply for, or notify his intention of applying for, citizenship of the United Kingdom. Your Lordships will have observed that, as it stands, the clause is essentially a compromise between giving South Africans unlimited time in which to choose British citizenship, if they so desire, and, alternatively, treating them as aliens in every respect from the moment this Bill becomes law. Either of these extreme courses would certainly be undesirable, and this compromise would obviously be right in principle.

I think we shall all agree that it would be unwise and impolitic to treat South Africa as if she were a member of the Commonwealth after she has become a foreign country, but also that it would be unfair to individual South Africans to treat them exactly like foreigners from the word go "—that is to say, from May 30, when it is expected that this Bill will become law. So the question before the House is simply how much time South Africans can reasonably be expected to require in order to exercise their right of choice. The Government are giving them until the end of 1965—that is to say, three years and seven months from the passing of the Bill. We should like to make the date-line the end of 1966, so as to give them one more year.

There is one very important reason for leaving the choice open for a little longer. In 1966 another General Election is due in South Africa. This will be the first General Election since she left the Commonwealth. Surely South Africans will be in a much better position to judge about the future of their country after the next General Election, when they know what their future will be. They will have to make up their minds about such questions as whether the policy of apartheid shall be more severe or more relaxed; whether the country has a greater possibility of political stability; whether her economic prospects are better or worse. All these questions, which are of vital importance to people living and working in South Africa, who may be in two minds about their future, could be resolved much more easily if they were able to form a more accurate judgment about what the future will hold for them in South Africa. That is why I hope your Lordships will accept this small extension of the period of time proposed by the Government. I beg to move the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 17, leave out (" sixty-five") and insert (" sixty-six ").—(The Earl of Listowel.)


Parliament being sovereign, no one could know whether this Amendment would be passed or not in one or the other House. Therefore, the Government must have brought in the date of 1965 in the knowledge that it might 'be altered. I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount who is to answer, not whether there is any arrangement with the South African Government that the period should be three years, seven months—because that would be out of order—but whether there was any reciprocal understanding that similar periods would be adopted in this country and in South Africa during which a citizen of either country could apply for citizenship in the other. Because if there were such an arrangement, and if it were part of a generally satisfactory settlement of affairs between the two countries, then perhaps that would be a matter of which we might take note. In the absence of any very strong reason why the period should be three years, seven months, I would support the Amendment.


There is a point which I should like the noble and learned Viscount to make clear to me. The noble Earl mentioned that people had a choice, but I understand that the moment this Bill becomes an Act people will automatically lose their nationality. They have a chance of recovering it, but as at the end of this month they will lose their nationality, and their franchise when it depends on nationality. I think that I am right in saying that it is not a matter of choice, but I should like to be sure. Other things being equal, and unless there is a strong reason against it, I also would support the extension of time.


On behalf of the Liberal Party, I too should like to support the Amendment. I think it is most important that at this juncture we give the South African people, as distinct from the South African Government, the knowledge that we in this country have by no means lost interest in them—indeed, that our interest in them is as strong as it has always been. whatever their race may be. So many people in South Africa are of British stock, and throughout the years have been accustomed to thinking of this country as home, that it is bound to come as a great shock to them when this Bill is passed, and they will certainly need a fair time in which to prepare themselves for the need to make an application under this clause. In view of our long connections with South Africa, the warm and friendly feelings that exist between ourselves and the South African people, who in many cases are our own flesh and blood, it behoves us to give them as much latitude as we can, if they wish to retain their British nationality. I support the Amendment.


Before the noble and learned Viscount replies, may I raise the question of minors? What happens when a parent has given notice of inten tion to apply for nationality and dies before the change can be implemented? What happens to the children then? Is there any sort of saving clause under which a minor, whose parent dies before the time expires, can make an application?

4.26 p.m.


I have listened with great interest to the arguments that have been advanced. In choosing December 31, 1965, as the terminal date for the transitional provisions for registering we felt that the period of three and a half years after the South African citizens cease to be British subjects, on May 31, 1962, would be sufficient to allow the persons concerned to decide whether or not they want to become citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

One can look at it from the point of view either of the individual or, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, did, of making a political forecast. I do not think that, from the point of view of the individual, the period is too short. I doubt whether the extension for a year would make it any easier for, or would benefit, those who have not made up their minds by the end of 1965. I think that, from the personal point of view, most people would have decided before that time whether they desire to be British subjects or South African subjects. The position that I have stated—namely, that the South African ceases to be a British subject on May 31, 1962 —is the point that I think my noble friend Lord Stonehaven had in mind.

I entirely agree with the first three propositions which the noble Earl made. There is no difference between us that compromise in this matter is right in principle. His second proposition was that it would be wrong to treat South African citizens as Commonwealth citizens, and the third was that it would be wrong to treat them as foreigners at once. I think that we are in entire agreement on these points. Nevertheless, one has to consider carefully one or two aspects of the matter before one extends this period. The noble Earl mentioned the question of another General Election in South Africa. Although it is a very delicate matter for a Minister to say anything that appears to predict the result of elections in another country, I very much doubt whether another year would give long enough for any appreciable account to be taken of a longterm change in the South African political situation occurring. I have used rather guarded language, but I think that the noble Earl will appreciate what I mean. I believe that he would agree with me that if we look far ahead into the long term, or even into the middle term, and accept that future developments in South Africa are a factor which it is legitimate to take into account, it would be very difficult to fix any time limit at all.

Then one must look at the matter from the point of view of our own nationality policy. Whatever the Government's attitude may be towards certain policies of the South African Government—and this is well known, and was emphasised by my noble friend Lord Home and myself on Second Reading—it would clearly run counter to this country's normal practice in its relations with foreign countries to write into our law special provisions to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by people who might at a later date find themselves dissatisfied with the country of their birth.

I should like to point out what the position is. Anyone whose father was born in this country or in a Colony is, and will remain, as far as our law is concerned, a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Again I cannot predict what action will be taken in South Africa. Indeed, South Africa is not the only country whose citizens include people whose grandfathers were born in this country. We believe that December 31, 1965, represents what is considered to be a reasonable compromise between the interests of the individuals concerned and the logical consequence of South Africa's departure from the Commonwealth, which is that it should be treated as a foreign country. We decided this after discussion and the fullest consideration we could give to that problem. We decided it on our own view. My noble friend Lord Fraser of Lansdale asked me whether we decided it on the securing of reciprocal arrangements. We did not. We decided that as what we thought was a reasonable answer to the compromise, which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, accepts.

Frankly, I still think it is a reasonable period, but other opinions have been given expression by your Lordships. I think the proper way to deal with that situation is to consider it before the next stage of the Bill. I should like to discuss it with all those with whom I have had so many discussions since this Bill became a necessity. I do not want to make any promise, but I think on a point like this, when one finds differences of opinion, one ought to be ready to look at it again. Although I have not disguised my own opinion at the moment, I promise that it will be considered, and I will let the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, know what decision we come to before the next stage of the Bill, so that he can consider putting down his Amendment again if we come to a decision against it. I think that is a fair way of dealing with the situation, and I hope that in these circumstances the noble Earl will not press his Amendment to-day.


I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for what he has said, and I am sure I speak for other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. One point which emerged was that this citizenship provision is not tied up with anything else by agreement with the South African Government, and that reply of the Lard Chancellor answered the question which was put by the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lansdale. That makes it perfectly clear that it is a matter for decision by the United Kingdom Government, and that their hands are unfettered. That is a point which I think it is extremely important for the House to know. I am entirely willing to leave this matter over to the next stage of the Bill, by which time the noble and learned Viscount will have had a chance to discuss it with his colleagues and will be able to inform us what the decision of the Government is. Naturally, I have not had a chance of discussing this with other noble Lords, but it is the normal procedure, and I have little doubt that it will satisfy them as well as me. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3:

Interpretation, etc.

3.—(1) In this Act "the Republic" means the Republic of South Africa; and references to the Republic, in relation to any time before the thirty-first day of May, nineteen hundred and sixty-one, include references to the Union of South Africa.

4.35 p.m.

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in subsection (1), after "Republic of South Africa" to insert: and, where South-west Africa is also concerned, the mandated territory of South-west Africa ".

The noble Earl said: The object of this Amendment is to make it clear in the definition clause of the Bill that the legal status of South-West Africa is different from the status of the rest of the Union of South Africa. I know that that is the view taken by Her Majesty's Government. All I am asking in this Amendment is that that view shall be expressed in words in the terms of the Bill. I think it is important that it should be made clear that those provisions of the Bill which affect South-West Africa as well as the rest of the Union apply to the mandated territory, and that this proper title and description should be included in the definition clause. Indeed, I think this Amendment would bring the definition clause into line with similar Amendments that have been accepted by the Government during the passage of this Bill through another place. For example, since paragraph 7 of the Third Schedule, which deals with the marking of goods produced by the Union, was amended in another place, South-West Africa is now referred to as the "mandated territory ".

A similar reference occurs in paragraph 10 of this Schedule, which deals with the employment of teachers. There again the words "mandated territory" have been introduced. When the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs— who was the Minister dealing with this matter in another place—was speaking in reply to criticisms that were made at that time, he made it clear that some of the legislation included in the Bill covers South-West Africa as well as the rest of the Union. Some refers only to South Africa without South-West Africa. but there is no expressed reference to this fact in the Bill as it now stands.

Noble Lords will notice the long list of Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council in the Fifth Schedule of the Bill which are repealed in whole or in part by this Bill, and, of course, some of this legislation affects both South-West Africa and the rest of the Union, and some affects the Union only. This is not mentioned either in the Fifth Schedule or, so far as I am aware, anywhere else in the Bill. The question of amending the definition clause so as to meet this point was raised in another place by Mr. Thorpe. Of course, I am not going to quote him, because that would not be in order here, but the Minister implied that that was something which would have to be looked at carefully. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, who is in the same Department, will no doubt recollect that clearly, and I have no doubt that his Department has honoured that undertaking and the matter has been looked at very carefully. I should therefore be obliged if, when the noble Viscount or the noble Earl replies, it could be said exactly what view the Government take as a result of considering this matter since the Bill left another place. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 2, after (" Africa ") insert the said words.—(The Earl of Listowel.)

4.40 p.m.


This is a matter in which I think there is no difference of view between the noble Earl and the Government. As the noble Earl has said, the question is whether the proposed alteration in the definition clause would make it more clear or less clear that we consider the status of the mandated territory of South-West Africa to be continued and that we still regard it as a mandated territory and not as having been incorporated into the Union of South Africa. I would submit to the noble Earl that it is more clear to mention the mandated territory of South-West Africa, as we have done, I think, at every point where the Bill could have any possible application to that territory.

The noble Earl has drawn your Lordships' attention to all such references in the Schedules. There are, I think, five altogether: first, on page 9, line 30, dealing with the Merchandise Marks Act; then there is the point about teachers at the bottom of page 10 and the top of the next page, which speaks of teachers employed in the Republic or in the mandated territory of South-West Africa; then in the Fifth Schedule, page 12, after line 20, dealing with the repeal of the Easter Act, there are the words "Union of South Africa" and the words "South-West Africa". Similarly, on page 13, line 30, in connection with the Films Act, the words "South-West Africa" are put in to distinguish it from the Union. Again, near the bottom of page 13, line 50 says: The whole Order, so far as it relates to the mandated territory of South West Africa."— again in reference to the Merchandise Marks Act.

I do not think there are any other passages in the Bill in which it is necessary to make this distinction between the Union and the mandated territory of South-West Africa. The Government have looked into this matter, and we think me could not make it more clear. We are afraid that if the definition clause were altered in the manner proposed it might make the Bill rather less clear in its intentions and provisions.

Far instance, may I ask your Lordships to look at references to citizenship of the Republic in Clause 1 and in the First Schedule, which refer to persons Who have South African citizenship whether they. originate from the Republic or from South-West Africa? As your Lordships know, people from South-West Africa may acquire Union citizenship (by virtue of their residence in South-West Africa, and persons from South-West Africa who are not South African citizens are not meant to be and ought not to be covered by provisions in this Clause or the Schedules of the Bill. I think that if we now insert in the definition clause the words proposed, under which it might be possible to read these references in Clause 1 and the First Schedule to the Republic as meaning also South-West Africa, difficulties and doubts as to our intentions might well arise.

That is only one example, which I hope is not too complicated, but this is a complicated matter. I feel that we make our intentions more clear by taking the course we have done—that is, referring to South-West Africa wherever the Bill can have any possible application to that territory—and not by putting new words into the definition clause which, I would submit, might not have the effect of making the Bill clear.


I did not say anything before the noble Earl rose, because my reading of this particular clause and the proposed Amendment is the same as his, and I just wanted to hear what his views were. For my part, I accept his reasons as being correct. It seems to me that while I personally, and I know my Party, have every sympathy with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—we appreciate his point of view on this matter—he might, by putting these words in here, in fact be doing the very reverse to that which he intends, and we might find that, certainly in South Africa, it would be regarded as recognition that the Republic does now include South-West Africa. That is the fear which I have on this matter, and I feel, in all the circumstances, that the Committee would he well advised to accept the advice of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, because I think it is the safer course to follow.


It was certainly not my intention in moving this Amendment to throw doubt on other parts of the Bill. I have listened with a great deal of conviction to both what the noble Earl has said and what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said about the implications of my Amendment, which I admit were not obvious to me at the time I put it down. In view of these implications, which are certainly undesirable, I wish to ask leave of the House to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

First Schedule: