HL Deb 20 March 1968 vol 290 cc588-90

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the United Kingdom has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.]


Yes, my Lords. The United Kingdom ratified the Convention on March 29, 1966.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer, which he will recognise is exactly contrary to what my noble friend Lord Stonham told the House early in the morning of March 1 on the Committee stage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. May I, by way of supplementary, therefore, ask my noble friend to comment on the contention which I raised on that Committee stage; namely, that Section 1 of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, by depriving certain United Kingdom nationals of one of the most important rights of their nationality, the right to enter this country, is flatly contrary to the spirit certainly, and quite possibly to the letter, of that Convention?


My Lords, so far as the first part of the noble Lord's supplementary is concerned, yes, I do agree that this is in conflict with what my noble friend Lord Stonham said towards the end of our long debate on February 29. He has asked me to correct that statement. I think the House will agree that it is not often we have to correct a statement made by my noble friend. Perhaps there was some confusion about the case on that occasion. We have ratified the Convention, but the Convention is still not in force because it requires six ratifications to bring it into force, and so far no country other than the United Kingdom has ratified it.

With regard to the suggestion that in some way the Commonwealth Immigrants Act is in conflict with either the spirit or the letter of the Convention, I refute this. Article 8 of the Convention says that persons shall not be made stateless by depriving them of their nationality. The Act does not take away nationality and it makes no one stateless. Article 9 of the Convention provides that a contracting State may not deprive anyone of his nationality on racial, ethnic, religious or political grounds, and the Act does not take away anyone's nationality. The criterion it employs is a geographical one—a substantial connection with the United Kingdom. I must therefore, on behalf of the Government, refute any suggestion that ratification of the Convention is in any way in conflict with the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.


My Lords, whilst we recognise that in the early hours of the morning Lord Stonham made a mistake about this matter—and one does not want to press than point—is it not now the case that British citizens in Kenya have been denied the right to enter this country; that they are also denied the right to enter other countries, and that whatever their legal position may be, they are, in effect, stateless in the world? Despite the qualifications which my noble friend has mentioned, is it not a fact that the British Government have now isolated these people, to whom promises were held out, and made them, in effect, stateless in the world?


No, my Lords, I cannot agree with my noble friend about this matter. In any case, it would be unprofitable and stretching the procedure of your Lordships' House very widely to debate that issue again on this Question. But I would say, in answer to my noble friend, whose passionate interest I recognise and sympathise with, that the Asians in Kenya are not stateless, either de facto or de jure: they still possess citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies. It is of course the case that, as a result of the Act, some of them who wish to come here immediately or very soon will not be able to come here as soon as they would like; an orderly queue has been established. There is no question of depriving anyone of British citizenship or making these people stateless.


My Lords, on a point of information, if any of these Kenyans were expelled from Kenya or from any other country, would my noble friend tell me where they would be expelled to?


My Lords, in the first place I think it raises an hypothesis that someone is going to expel somebody. I find it difficult to believe that Kenya, for example, will expel people in this way. If this happens, I really can add nothing to the answer which was given by my noble friend Lord Stonham to my noble friend Lord Gifford in the debate on February 29; and I think: we are in danger of reopening that debate in your Lordships' House.