HL Deb 01 May 1962 vol 239 cc1002-11

1. Subsection (1) of section six of the British Nationality Act, 1948, and subsection (2) of section three of the British Nationality Act, 1958, shall apply in relation to citizens of the Republic as they apply in relation to citizens of countries mentioned in subsection (3) of section one of the said Act of 1948; but no person shall by virtue of this paragraph be registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies under the said subsection (1) unless either—

  1. (a) he makes application under that subsection before the end of the year nineteen hundred and sixty-five; or
  2. (b) he gives notice under paragraph 2 below before the end of that year of his intention to make such an application, and makes the application within five years after giving that notice.

2. A notice of intention to make such an application shall be given to such person and in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations under section twenty-nine of the said Act of 1948; and such a notice may be given only by a citizen of the Republic who, at the time when the notice is given, is—

  1. (a) ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom or in any colony or protectorate; or

4.48 p.m.

THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (EARL BATHURST) moved, in paragraph 2 (a), after "protectorate" to insert: residence in which may qualify for registration under the said subsection (1)

The noble Earl said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Home, I beg to move the two Amendments which stand in his name. Both are technical and drafting Amendments, but owing to their complexity they need a little more explanation than is normal in such cases. The first Amendment makes it clear that notice of intention under paragraph 2 (a) of the First Schedule will not be valid unless the territory in which the person is ordinarily resident at the time of the notice is one in which he could in due course qualify for registration by the statutory period of ordinary residence; and that is five years or possibly a shorter period, as the registering authority may accept.

The second Amendment makes similar provision in the case of a person who wishes to be registered on the strength of his employment with a British firm. The Amendment makes clear that to give validity to the notice the firm must have been established in a territory such that if he had applied later for registration on the strength of employment with that firm he would, in fact, be qualified for registration. The doubt has arisen in this way. Under Section 1 of the British Nationality Act, 1958, residence in the Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland no longer qualifies a person for registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Nor does service with a firm based in those countries—that is in Northern Rhodesia or Nyasaland. This is because since 1958 there has been a separate citizenship of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and in consequence these two Protectorates ceased to be Protectorates for the purposes of the acquisition of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. People who live in those two countries can acquire citizenship of the Federation.

Accordingly, when the First Schedule to the present Bill was drafted, it was not intended that connection with the Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nayasaland should entitle a person to give notice of intention under paragraph 2 of this Schedule, because the notice-of-intention procedure is simply for the benefit of those persons who by the end of 1965 have not put in sufficient residence or service to qualify for registration but who would have qualified in due course if they had continued to be in such residence or service. It would be pointless, and indeed misleading, to permit a person to give this preliminary notice on the strength of a connection with a territory which would not qualify him in due course for registration. There is some doubt whether paragraph 7 of the First Schedule is sufficient to achieve the result which the Bill intended, and accordingly these specific technical and, I may add, complicated Amendments to paragraph 2, have been tabled in order to put the matter completely beyond doubt. I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 26, after (" protectorate ") insert the said words.—(Earl Bathurst.)


May I ask the noble Earl one question? What is the position of the High Commission Territories? Are any of them Protectorates in which residence does qualify for registration as a British citizen? Are the two Protectorates to which he referred, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the only ones in that part of Africa in which residence does not qualify?


Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are the only ones with regard to this particular part of the Bill, because they are members of the Federation. As I endeavoured to explain, a person who lives in either of those two Protectorates could obtain citizenship of the Federation. If he lives in one of the others, other rules will obviously apply.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the second Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 32, after (" any ") insert (" such ")—(Earl Bathurst.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

THE EARL OF LTSTOWEL moved to add to paragraph 2: (d) a person in whose case it seems to the Secretary of State fitting that he should be so registered by reason of his close connection with the United Kingdom and Colonies.

The noble Earl said: Since I tabled this Amendment the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has been good enough to write me a long letter explaining his reasons for opposing the Amendment. I naturally considered the letter very carefully, and I was convinced that the Amendment, which would make it rather easier to register for British citizenship, was unnecessary. So I shall ask the leave of the House to withdraw my Amendment. On the other hand, I have discussed the Amendment with my colleagues and they would like something to go on the Record. I should therefore prefer to move the Amendment formally, so that the Government can give a brief reply setting out their reasons for objecting to it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 33. at end insert the said subparagraph.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


I am happy to respond to the noble Earl's suggestion, and I thank him for his reply to my letter. Perhaps I may explain the point. The Amendment seeks to amend paragraph 2 of the First Schedule so as to widen the qualifications for giving notice of intention to apply for registration as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies under Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act, 1948, and Sec- tion 3(2) of the Act of 1958. Paragraph 2 of the First Schedule sets out the circumstances in which a person not yet qualified for registration by the end of 1965 may give notice of intention to apply for registration when qualified. Accordingly, the conditions in subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c) in paragraph 2 correspond to the various ways in which a person could eventually qualify for registration by length of residence or service. But it would be inappropriate (I think the noble Earl appreciates this point) to allow a person to give notice on the strength of circumstances which did not in due course qualify him for registration.

The point that was in the mind of the noble Earl, and is brought out in his Amendment, was the question of a close connection with this country or a Colony. This is not, and never has been, on its own, a sufficient qualification for registration. I think what the noble Earl had in mind was Section 3(2) of the Act of 1958, under which a close connection with the United Kingdom or with a Colony must be coupled with the other statutory qualifications prescribed under this section which are already paralleled by sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph 2 of the Schedule. There is therefore no discrepancy between the qualifications for registration contained in the relevant provisions of the British Nationality Acts and the right to give notice under paragraph 2, on the ground, in effect, of having started to qualify for the registration.

I am afraid (and I think the noble Earl appreciates my fear) that the Amendment, by adding a further ground for giving notice under paragraph 2, which is not matched by a ground for registration itself, would indeed be misleading, since a person who gave notice on the ground merely of possessing close connections with the United Kingdom or a Colony might mistakenly be under the impression that in due course he would be able to register on this ground, instead of taking steps before the end of 1965 to take up such residence or service as would enable him to give notice on one of the existing grounds specified in paragraph 2 and to apply for registration in due time. That is the position.

The only other point I should like to make clear (and again I think the noble Earl appreciates it) is that there can be no question of accepting the proposed Amendment and matching it by widening the qualifications for registration itself, since that would be to treat South African citizens more favourably than British subjects, which would be contrary to the basic principles on which the Bill is framed. I think that explains the situation. I know the complications of these Nationality Act provisions. I have tried to put the point as simply as possible, and I hope that the noble Earl, who, if I may say so with respect, has been most reasonable in dealing with this subject, feels that I have explained satisfactorily why I was unable to accept his Amendment.


I am very much indebted to the noble and learned Viscount for his clear explanation of an extremely complicated matter, and, as I said before, I have already found it completely satisfactory. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.0 p.m.

On Question, Whether the First Schedule shall be agreed to?


I venture to take this opportunity, because there seems be no other provided by the Bill, of raising a matter about which I think I am justified in feeling a little anxiety—namely, the position in the future of the British protected persons who go from the High Commission Territories to work in the Republic. We all know that there are many thousands who go to work every year from Basutoland and Bechuanaland, and to a lesser extent from Swaziland; the total runs into many tens of thousands. They work in the mines and other industries in the Union. They earn good wages which they transmit back to their homes, or return with them at the end of their contracts; and the sums of money which accrue to the Territories from these sources are quite considerable items in their budgets. In other words, the economies of the High Commission Territories depend to a large extent on this traffic, on the employment of these British protected persons in the Union, and on their earnings which are freely transmitted back to the Territories.

We are often told—and it is quite evident—that it is an arrangement that is to the benefit of both parties: the Territories need the employment and the wages, and the Union needs the labour to keep its industries going. Clearly it is to the advantage of both. But conditions may change; movement and opinions may change over the years; and, with South Africa an independent country no longer in the Commonwealth, I inquired whether by any chance the International Labour Organisation and its acts and conventions had anything that would hear on the subject. What is essential, if this mutually beneficial traffic is to go on, is freedom of movement of the individual, rights of individual freedom no less than those of the citizens of South Africa, and finally, the freedom to transmit their earnings back home.

It appears that there are no international conventions directly covering these points. Moreover, although South Africa is a member of the I.L.O., she has not ratified several of the conventions that already exist covering immigrant labour. Therefore, I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government can tell us whether they are satisfied that the future of these people is assured. Obviously, nothing of this sort can go into a Bill, but I would ask whether they think there is any means of writing in some sort of safeguard or parallel understanding at the time of the passage of this Bill which would do something to safeguard the future.


Before the noble Earl sits down, could he go a little further into what he has in mind? As regards labour going into the Union, it seems to me that if it does not want to go one cannot make it, and in future, should there be no work for that labour, one cannot expect the Union to accept it. I do not know quite what the noble Earl has in mind and, as this is a matter of great interest, perhaps he would go a little further into it.


What I had in mind was that, so far as finance goes, the financial conditions might necessitate exchange controls on the part of the Republic. It might be inconvenient for them to allow all that money to be transmitted abroad. As to individuals, obviously the jobs must be there and, if the jobs are there, the men will want to go and fill them. While they are there in the Union we know that they are subject to the apartheid laws; I think they have to go without their families in nearly all cases. But we also know that there are infringements of personal liberty in the Union, and no one knows what the future years may bring.

As my noble friend Lord Listowel said, future elections may cause the application of the apartheid system to be made more, or less, severe. It may be that opinion will harden in South Africa against immigrant labour. We know countries which have often taken action which damages their economic interest if it satisfies some other desire. We know that countries have asked for independence when it would have been to their material benefit to remain dependent. So the economic interest, which is undoubtedly there, is not necessarily always and for ever going to be a bar to action that would prejudice these people of whom I am thinking.


May I ask one question of the noble Earl? It seems to me that once more this is an exemplification of the desire to interfere with the internal affairs of what will be a foreign country, and I am completely mystified as to what the noble Earl really wants to do. How can he suggest that the British Government should dictate these terms? Surely it is open to South Africa, as an independent country, to manage her internal affairs as she wishes. If she does not wish to have certain immigrants she will not have them. If they wish to go there, the terms on which they can go will be known, and, if they do not like them, then, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has said, they need not go.


I do not think that the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, was in fact suggesting that we should interfere in the internal arrangements of South Africa. If I understand him aright, I do not think he meant to imply that it would be possible to insert in this Bill any statutory provisions dealing with the matters which he has raised. I quite agree with my noble friends Lord Milverton and Lord Derwent that it would not be practicable in an Act of Parliament to lay down conditions under which British protected persons from the Protectorates shall be treated when they go into the territory of the Union of South Africa. We agree with the noble Earl that it is a most important question to which we should give our attention.

Although it may not be strictly relevant to this Bill so far as the terms of the Bill are concerned, the opportunity for Africans from British protected territories to work in South Africa is a matter which we have discussed with the South African Government. We have been assured that the South African Government appreciate the problem and will consult with us about any arrangements which are in force, so far as their own labour requirements permit. Of course, the position as between South Africa and the whole range of matters concerning the protected territories depends on relations between us and the Union of South Africa, but, so far as the present situation is concerned, we are satisfied about the position and about the future in the light of the assurances which the South African Government have already given us on this matter.


I think the noble Earl was quite justified in bringing up this matter because it is a vital one for the High Commission Territories, for which we are responsible, and for which this House remains responsible, I am glad to say, under this Bill, and I hope it will be responsible for them for many years to come. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, that there is no way in which this desire can be carried out by legislation. It can be done only by constant negotiation and agreement with the Republic of South Africa.

The point upon which I really rose to speak was this. It is often forgotten that the Territories, particularly Swaziland and Bechuanaland, contribute a great deal to the economy of the Republic. It is by no means a one-way traffic. There is a good deal of republican money invested in the Territories, and quite a number of people from South Africa are working there. So the Government, in their bargaining, always have a pretty strong hand in this respect, and I hope that throughout the years friendly relations will be maintained between the High Commission Territories and the Republican Government.


That also implies that it is in the interests of the South African Union itself to continue these satisfactory arrangements.


I was very pleased by the noble Earl's reply. I must say that it seems to me remarkable that the South African Government has agreed, if I understand the noble Earl correctly, to consult Her Majesty's Government before making any important changes in existing arrangements in regard to immigrant labour. We expect a Commonwealth Government to consult us, but not a foreign Government. I think the South African Government is going a very long way in saying that it will consult us before deciding upon any important change in existing arrangements. I do not think we can expect any more than that. It seems to me very satisfactory that we have been able to get an agreement of this kind with the South African Government.


As my noble friend said, I never expected anything to be written into this Bill that would affect the question, but I am very glad to have the information from Her Majesty's Government. I think it bears out what several of us said in the course of the Second Reading debate: that this two-way traffic between the Territories and the Republic depends upon the maintenance of good relations, and we hope those relations will long be maintained.

On Question, First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule agreed to.

Third Schedule: