§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, I beg to move that the Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill be now read a second time. The essential purpose of this Bill, in the words of the Long Title, is:… To make provision in connection with the attainment by Papua New Guinea of independence within the Commonwealth and with the membership of the Commonwealth of Western Samoa and Nauru.Before describing the contents of the Bill, I should like to trace very briefly the histories of the three countries concerned and follow by saying a few words about the reasons for the Bill's introduction. Papua, formerly a British Colony, was ceded to Australia in 1906. But it was not until 1921 that the Territory of New Guinea also came under the administration of Australia under a League of Nations Mandate. After the Second World War New Guinea was administered as a United Nations Trust Territory. On 16th September 1975, by the authority of the Australian Parliament, the two territories were united to form the independent State of Papua New Guinea. This State became a member of the Commonwealth on the same date, under the sovereignty of Her Majesty The Queen. Western Samoa, which had been administered as a Trust Territory, achieved independence from New Zealand in 1962; but it did not become a full member of the Commonwealth until 1970. Nauru, also a former 1392 Trust Territory, was until its independence in 1968 administered by Australia. It became a "special" member of the Commonwealth later that year. Nauru's Commonwealth membership is "special" only in that it does not participate in full—as distinct from regional—meetings of Commonwealth Heads of Government.
My Lords, as I am sure you will know, when British Colonies achieve independence from the United Kingdom and become members of the Commonwealth, their Independence Acts include provisions making consequential modifications to United Kingdom legislation. However, in order to achieve the same result for Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru, which, as I have explained, were brought to independence by Australia and New Zealand, a separate Bill must be passed by this Parliament.
The proposed amendments to our legislation provided for in this Bill follow a well-established pattern. They flow automatically from the achievement of independence and membership of the Commonwealth of these countries. However, there is a particular problem which this Bill has been designed to resolve. That is the national status of the citizens of Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru under United Kingdom law.
Until these three countries are designated members of the Commonwealth for the purposes of our British Nationality Acts, they are deemed to be foreign countries and their citizens are, strictly speaking, aliens. The Bill therefore includes a clause which adds Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru to the list of Commonwealth countries in the British Nationality Acts, thus making their citizens Commonwealth citizens. It has not been possible, however, to backdate this provision to the date upon which each of these countries joined the Commonwealth. To do so would create confusion, since it would alter the status already enjoyed by a number of their citizens under our existing immigration laws. For example, leave of entry to the United Kingdom given under the Aliens Order, 1953, would no longer be valid for a person who became, retroactively, a Commonwealth citizen.
The Bill is also designed to resolve an anomaly which has arisen regarding the registration of births of children of United 1393 Kingdom citizens and deaths of such citizens which have occurred in Papua New Guinea since its independence. Since Papua New Guinea is until this Bill becomes law still technically a foreign country under the British Nationality Acts, these births and deaths may only be registered, under those Acts, in Consular registers. However, our mission in Papua New Guinea is a High Commission and not a Consulate, and accordingly has no Consular registers. This Bill, if enacted, will make Papua New Guinea a Commonwealth country under our law, and births and deaths occurring there may then be registered in the High Commission registers.
In order to deal with the births and deaths which took place there between independence and the enactment of this Bill, a provision is included enabling them to be registered retrospectively in the High Commission registers. We cannot extend this provision to Nauru or Western Samoa since we have no resident High Commission in either of those countries.
My Lords, the Bill now before the House contains, as I have said, modifications of United Kingdom legislation. It does not modify the laws of Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa or Nauru in any way, nor would it, given the independent status of these countries.
I now turn to individual clauses. Clause 1 adds Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru to the list of Commonwealth countries in the British Nationality Acts. It confers the status of British subject and Commonwealth Citizen on the people of these three countries. Clause 2 enables births and deaths which occurred in Papua New Guinea since her independence on 16th September, 1975 to be entered in the appropriate registers of the British High Commission in Port Moresby. Clause 3 and the schedule provide for a variety of modifications to certain United Kingdom enactments. All of these amendments are consequential upon the attainment of independence and entry into the Commonwealth of Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru. The changes are on the standard lines when a territory becomes independent and joins the Commonwealth. Clause 4 gives the short title of the Bill.
1394 My Lords, this is not a controversial measure, but it is long overdue. Happily, very few have been affected by its absence and those not seriously. The delay has been caused principally because the previous government were unable to give the Bill sufficient priority. Clearly this should now be given and that is why we have introduced it quickly.
The consequential modifications incorporated in the Bill place the three countries concerned on the same footing in our law as other members of the Commonwealth. It raises no new questions of principle and clearly should be delayed no further. Accordingly, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be read 2a.—(Lord Trefgarne.)
§ 4.30 p.m.
Lord GORON WY-ROBERTS
My Lords, I rise simply to say that of course we welcome the Bill and appreciate the manner in which the noble Lord has moved the Second Reading. As he has said, Papua New Guinea, was brought to independence by Australia, in whose trust and within whose administration it remained until September 1975. It then became an independent State, but, because it was brought to independence by another State, the normal procedure of Independence Acts by this country did not need to be followed. Nevertheless, certain consequential amendments in our own law are necessary. The noble Lord has described them, and they are of course principally adjustments dealing with the status of citizens of PNG (Papua New Guinea), Western Samoa, and Nauru. The Bill does that by adding those three countries to the list of Commonwealth countries in the British Nationality Acts, as we have heard, making the citizens of those countries Commonwealth citizens under United Kingdom law.
As regards the second point that I should like to raise, I should like to ask a question. The Bill also deals with the registration of births and deaths—certain categories—which are normally a consular function. However, our office in Port Moresby is a High Commission and, so far as I know, we have no consulate there. Therefore, the Bill provides for registration of births and deaths in certain 1395 categories to be done in the High Commission in Port Moresby. However, we have heard that we cannot extend this provision to Nauru or Western Samoa, in neither of which have we a High Commission. I imagine that we have something in those countries—even in the delectable mini-State of Nauru. My question is what alternative provision for dealing with these questions of registration do we have for Nauru and Western Samoa?
We have dealt with the Papua New Guinea position, but so far as I can see we have no provision at all to deal with the registration of these births and deaths—the births of children of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies in Western Samoa and Nauru and the deaths of such citizens—between the dates of independence which, in both cases I believe, precede that of Papua New Guinea, and the date of the enactment of this Bill. I am sure that we have administrative provision to meet the needs of those categories in those two countries. However, if it is a detail which the Minister is unable to give the House this afternoon we shall be well content if, in the normal alternative ways he makes available that information.
§ Lord TREFGARNE
My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Lord for his helpful and friendly reception to the Bill. As regards the point that he has made, I am advised that no similar provision is needed for Western Samoa or Nauru, as the United Kingdom, as he has said, has no resident High Commission in either country. Moreover, so far as I know, no births of children born to United Kingdom citizen fathers have occurred in either of those countries. Should such births occur the person concerned could presumably obtain local birth certificates for the purposes of documentation. The lack of a High Commission birth certificate will not affect their citizenship or eligibility for a passport. I hope that those comments help the noble Lord. If I can add anything further I shall certainly write to the noble Lord.
Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru are goods friends of the United Kingdom and highly-valued members of the Commonwealth. It is I believe right, therefore, that your Lordships should now ensure that these few remaining anomalies 1396 are removed without further delay, and that these three countries are placed, as they should be, on an equal footing in all matters regarding British law with other members of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.