§ 3.2 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Belstead).
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The Lord ABERDARE in the Chair.]
Lord Bethell moved Amendment No. 111:
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Right to registration by virtue of United Kingdom nationality for European Community purposes
§ . A person who is a United Kingdom national for European Community purposes by virtue of the operation of Article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome or who has a right of abode in a British Dependent Territory to which the provisions of Article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome apply shall be entitled, notwithstanding the provisions of Part II of this Act, on application, to be registered as a British citizen.").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move this amendment standing in the names of my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. The effect of the amendment, as I am sure most of your Lordships will appreciate, would be to give to the people of Gibraltar the right, if they so wished, to apply for British citizenship under the new Act and to have it granted as of right and not as a privilege. It is the belief of those of us who have put forward this amendment that this is a correct procedure in equity and in the law of Europe, as I shall endeavour to demonstrate in these few opening remarks.
§ I think it would be appropriate for me to say a few words about the history of the problem and the situation generated by it. The territory of Gibraltar became British nearly three hundred years ago, in the year 1704, and the Britishness of Gibraltar was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, since when there has been an unbroken British sovereignty on the Rock and its hinterland. Indeed Gibraltar has been British longer than it ever was Spanish and, while it is true that Spain has maintained a claim to Gibraltar ever since the treaty, it is also true that Spain has not possessed, by 241 legal rights, any treaty right to the Rock. Britain has remained in control of Gibraltar ever since and the people who came to live in that area are British today. They wish to remain British and they wish this amendment to be passed.
§ Many of your Lordships will have received letters from Gibraltar Ministers, from the Chief Minister, from the leaders of the political parties and from ordinary citizens of the colony. I believe it is safe to say that the representations made from Gibraltar have been more intense and are more unanimously felt than the feelings on this subject from other dependent territories. We have all received representations about this Bill over this territory and that territory and my noble friend the Minister will contradict me if I am wrong, but my clear impression is that it is Gibraltar where the feelings expressed and the representations made to his department have been the strongest and based in the broadest spectrum of political life.
§ This feeling was given clear arithmetical voice in 1967 when, during a referendum, 12,138 people in Gibraltar voted to retain their link with the United Kingdom and 44 voted to establish a link with Spain. Anyone who has visited the Rock will know the gut emotional feeling of Britishness which almost all the people there feel. In some ways one can be forgiven for feeling, when one goes to Gibraltar, that they feel themselves more British than some of us do. Their Britishness is proclaimed by the flags they fly, by the look of the institutions, the policemen, the shops, the language that they speak—either as their main language or their second language—and even the political slogans that they write on parts of the city.
§ There is a very real debt of mutual gratitude linking this country and Gibraltar. Several times during her history Gibraltar has been under siege and Britain has defended the Rock. Then in the early 1940s this island was under seige and it was during that period that the people of Gibraltar selflessly offered their territory for the use of the British armed forces and most of the people of Gibraltar had to be evacuated from their homes to this country, perhaps not even expecting that they would ever see their homes again. The view has been expressed in another place that had it not been for Gibraltar it would not have been possible for Britain to have launched the landings in North Africa that turned the course of the Second World War and that indeed without Gibraltar we might not have won the Second World War. So we have helped one another under siege, in bad times as well as good, and this feeling, emotional though it be, is none the less valid and is something which should be taken into account by your Lordships when you come to decide upon this matter later this afternoon.
§ In 1973, Gibraltar, being the only European British territory outside the common travel area, joined the EEC under Article 227, paragraph 4, of the Treaty of Rome. But it was then that we in this country came up against a certain embarrassment, because at the moment British nationality law is a very complex matter and of course that is the reason for the Bill which we are at present debating. I personally voted for the Bill on its Second Reading and will vote for it in its remaining stages, but the complexities have had a special effect on Gibraltarians. Those com- 242 plexities made it necessary for the United Kingdom Government to sign a special declaration which is annexed to the Treaty of Rome, defining what a United Kingdom national is. In the case of other member states, of course, this was not necessary because the nationality of the citizens of those member states, whether on the continent of Europe or outside it, is clear: a person from Martinique is a Frenchman; a person from Greenland is a Dane; a person from Heligoland, which has a separate customsrégime, is a German. There is no division between the citizens of other member states as to where their nationality lies.
§ The main objection to the Bill as it stands vis-á-vis Gibraltar is that unless this amendment is passed the anomaly of dividing British members of the European Community will be perpetuated, and it is the purpose of this amendment to do away with this anomaly. Unless this amendment is accepted by the Government and passed, we shall have a situation in which 17,000 citizens of the European Community have one type of citizenship of their member state and the other 260 million citizens of the European Community have another type of citizenship, full citizenship, of their member state. So this, I believe, is an anomaly which we should correct, and which I hope we will correct later on today.
§ I want to come very briefly to the matter of the sad events of yesterday and the announcement that their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain will not be coming to London next week. I want to mention it only in passing as I think it illustrates an important principle at which this amendment is aimed. I personally see this as a shame, a pity, to see a fine and courageous King of a great and friendly country being so badly advised. But the effect of it on Gibraltar is, of course, more of the same; it is very threatening, and it seems to them, in their minds, very menacing. It seems to them that again there are some advisers to the Spanish Government and to the Spanish King who believe that the claims of Spain to Gibraltar can he pursued by the old methods used under the Franco régime.
§ This is deeply depressing to those of us who hoped that with the collapse of the Franco régime and the restoration of democracy in Spain other methods, political methods, gentlemanly methods would be employed to build up a rapprochement between Gibraltar and her large neighbour. Indeed, I believe this is the only way by which the solution can be found. Of course, this increases the concern felt by Gibraltarians, because they think to themselves, "What is our future? What is going to happen to us? On the one hand, menacing voices are coming from Spain; on the other hand, we have no guarantee that we will be allowed to retain our British identity and British citizenship, or even the right to enter the United Kingdom". They say to themselves that they have no guarantee, and this worries them very much.
I know that the Home Secretary in another place said, in reply to a similar amendment to ours:
Speaking for the Government, we have made it clear that we do not foresee that Gibraltarians would normally"—
face any difficulty in entering the United Kingdom as they wish".
This—perhaps I should not call it an assurance—qualified statement also causes great concern among Gibraltarians, because it is precisely an abnormal situation which they fear, and should such an abnormal situation come to pass then, according to the assurance given by the Home Secretary—and, of course, Governments change and Home Secretaries change—it might be possible for the right to enter the United Kingdom to be denied to the people of Gibraltar.
§ It is true that under present regulations Gibraltarians have a right to move and work freely in the European Community. However, we read recently in our newspapers a blueprint put out by the party opposite indicating their intention to withdraw from the European Community, and of course Gibraltarians have read that blueprint as well. So they have no guarantee, either under British law or European law, that they will have anywhere to go; and of course the dark thought rises in their minds that they might at some point be coerced, pushed, blackmailed, into allowing themselves to be absorbed into Spain. Indeed, various sections of the Spanish press have made capital out of the present situation and the Bill as proposed. They have indicated that the Bill as it stands would leave the people of Gibraltar more or less without a country, without a full citizenship of any country. And of course they say, "We, the Spanish, are prepared to offer them our citizenship, because the British have denied it to them". This is something I believe your Lordships will probably put right later today.
§ We have been told in debate that this is an anomalous situation, singling out one dependent territory from the others. I know the arguments about Hong Kong will be deployed by my noble friend the Minister in a few minutes. I put it to your Lordships that other territories, Hong Kong and elsewhere, do not have the same preoccupation, the same historical background, the same position as Gibraltar has under the treaty within the European Community, with a clearly defined status, signed by the United Kingdom Government, as United Kingdom nationals for European Community purposes. It will be necessary eventually, when this Bill is passed, for the United Kingdom to clarify and to re-state its position on United Kingdom nationals for Community purposes. How much better it will be if this amendment were passed and the Government can state clearly to our Community partners that a United Kingdom national for EEC purposes is a British citizen, full stop, and not go on to several other paragraphs about this type of citizenship and that type of citizenship, which no other member state possesses.
§ I know there are many other noble Lords wishing to speak. I will sit down now and hope that we shall have a stimulating and helpful debate on this matter, which is of such deep concern to a small but loyal group of British subjects. I beg to move.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Lord Hughes
During the Second Reading of this Bill I incidated that I would support an all-party amendment on behalf of Gibraltar. My speech then was a short one, and I do not believe that in the circumstances even strong feelings or sincerity require me to make a long speech today. I said then that it 244 was an appropriate subject for all-party support, and I am very glad to be able to agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, has said, because what he has said is in the best non-party spirit, putting forward what I believe is really a non-party matter. Incidentally, it is probably the first time that I have ever found myself agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Bethell; but if he continues along this line, it may happen again.
Gibraltar has been British for a very long time and I do not think it is necessary, any more than the noble Lord did, to recapitulate the whole of its history during the centuries. But during the last four decades how they have behaved has been a continuation of the colony's past devotion to Britain. During the last war the bulk of the civilian population was evacuated. This they accepted loyally as part of the war effort. When the war was over they returned, and they returned as British as they had left. When the Spanish dictator found it politically necessary to divert attention from his domestic scene he declared economic war on Gibraltar. Did the Gibraltarians then weigh very carefully the advantages and disadvantages of acceding to the Spanish demands?—certainly they did not. But they acted as we ourselves had done in 1939 when we decided that no longer could we bow before the dictation of Germany. For the Gibraltarians the hardships of the Spanish frontier closure was something to be tackled and overcome, and overcome they certainly have been, not without cost to them. They cannot get their foodstuffs as cheaply as when they came in from Spain, but they have accepted all these consequences.
The Gibraltarians are peaceful, hardworking people and as such I have no doubt that they would welcome a return to normal relations with their Spanish neighbours. The closure, however, is not now for them the mortal blow which General Franco had hoped and expected it would be. Why then have they done all that they have done during the last 40 years? Why have they acted as they have acted during the last 14 years? The answer is simple, or at least it seems to me to be simple. They are British. They do not wish to be other than British, and they have demonstrated overwhelmingly that when a price had to be paid for being British they were willing to pay it. This is not a ploy of one political party in Gibraltar and I suggest sincerely that this Committee is a very appropriate place to show that it need not be a ploy of one political party in this country.
Along with my CPA colleagues on the delegation last October, I found that the subject that all four parties wished to discuss with us was not the closed frontier with Spain, but the then White Paper on British Nationality. We found ourselves in serious and long talks with members of those four political parties, three of them represented in the Assembly. They were people from what I think I could correctly describe as the moderate right to what I think I could equally correctly describe as the extreme left. We met representatives of the chamber of commerce and we met representatives of the trade union movement. In all there was unanimity in the view expressed that they did not wish to become what Spanish television propaganda dinned into them day in, day out, week in, week out, that what they were being offered from their British friends was second class citizenship. 245 They said, "Come into Spain; you will have exactly the same rights as all Spaniards".
The wish for full British citizenship is not dictated by any desire on the part of Gibraltarians to leave their home—the home they love. They do not wish to come here to live and work in Britain. After all, if they did wish to do that they could do it at present without let or hindrance as EEC nationals. Their wish is dictated, I believe, by something not so materialistic as that: not something you can put a cash value on, but something which they could share with all your Lordships—an indefinable inner pride at being British.
Apart from the seven years for which I was a Scottish Minister, my interventions in debates in this House have been almost always on Scottish affairs. It has perhaps not escaped your Lordships' notice that, from my accent, I am a Scot and from some of the debates which I have taken part in as regards Scottish affairs your Lordships will have gathered the impression that I am proud to be a Scot. But I am proud of the fact that on my passport I declare myself to be British. I do not say that I am Scottish on my passport and I do not say that I am Scottish when I am abroad although I do not conceal the fact that I am a Scot. However, I am proud to be British. I can understand fully why the people on the Rock say that they are Gibraltarians but, like me, and like all of us in this Committee, they are proud to be British.
Gibraltar is described in this Bill as a dependent territory. When there was a delegation here from Gibraltar the other week one of the members—the leader of the Opposition who at one time campaigned in an election for integration into Britain—said that he did not like the word "dependent" because he certainly did not feel that that was a proper description of their relationship with Britain. In this matter, however, I think that I can emphasise on their behalf that Gibraltarians are dependent; today they are dependent on your Lordships for the continued right to be what, at the last official count—the referendum to which the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, referred—all but 44 of them decided they wished to be British citizens, first class. I hope that this Committee will not let them down.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Lord Soames)
I wondered whether it might not be for the convenience of the Committee if I were to intervene at an early stage of this important debate so that I could give the Committee some indication of how the Government view the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Bethell to insert a new clause. The purpose of this amendment was well explained both by my noble friend and by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes: it is intended to give all the people of Gibraltar an immediate entitlement to British citizenship on application.
Her Majesty's Government yield to none in their admiration, respect and affection for Gibraltar and its people and had the case rested solely upon what was put forward by my noble friend Lord Bethell, and had the case been, indeed, what he did put forward, then I think that there would be a case for his amendment. However, it was not all totally correct and it left a 246 good deal out and it is to those aspects of the case that I think it would be a help to the Committee if I were to address myself.
First, I want to say, and most emphatically, that this nationality Bill does not in any way weaken the commitment of Her Majesty's Government, or of this country, to the people of Gibraltar. It does not affect Gibraltar's position as part of the European Community—it has nothing to do with it—or, in particular, the rights of Gibraltarians to free movement of labour within the Community. We shall certainly ensure that, when this Bill is passed, our definition of "national" for European Community purposes continues to include the people of Gibraltar as it does at present. Noble Lords need have no fear on that score. Nor is there any question of the immigration arrangements, under which Gibraltarians come here quite freely, being in any way affected by the Bill. The Government have given these assurances, but I am glad to have this opportunity to repeat them, for I think that they cannot be given too often.
However, we must consider the amendment against the central objectives of the Bill as a whole. I want here to address myself to the three factors involved: what is equitable; what is realistic; and also there are all our deep feelings for the peoples of Gibraltar. I think that all of those three aspects must be covered. I think that there is general agreement that today our present citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies is misleading and unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. Being, as it is, indeed, a remnant—a hangover—from colonial days, it is held today by many people, citizens of independent states, who do not have the right to enter either the United Kingdom or a dependent territory. What is more, it does not distinguish those who belong to the dependent territories and, therefore, have a particular and continuing relationship with the United Kingdom in the way that the people of Gibraltar do.
The previous Administration in their Green Paper canvassed the idea—because that is all that the Green Paper did—that all those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who did not become British citizens should be known as "British overseas citizens", be they then residing in independent nations or a still dependent territory—either. The present Government's view is that this did not adequately reflect our strong and still special ties with our dependencies. So in the White Paper which was published last year we said that we wished the status of the peoples of the dependent territories to be positively recognised as such, as being different from those citizens of what were colonies and what are now independent states. Therefore, we proposed—and have created in this Bill—a distinctive citizenship of the British dependent territories which is to be held by those, and only those, who have close personal ties with the dependent territories. This, surely, has the advantage of accurately reflecting their status, for it is what they are; they are people of those territories.
Thus, we now recognise that those who will hold citizenship of the British dependent territories have a special tie with us, one of quite a different character from that of citizens of former colonies which are now independent. When they come to this country to live—if that is what they choose to do—we think that 247 this close association, combined with a period of residence here, would justify, and does justify, conferring British citizenship on special terms—and by "special terms" I mean without any impediment whatever. So we have provided in Clause 4 of the Bill that citizens of the British dependent territories will, after five years' residence here, be entitled as of right to British citizenship, on application.
Thus, the Government have created a citizenship for those whose close personal connections lie with the British dependent territories and have provided that they shall enjoy access to British citizenship on special terms should they wish to come and live in this country. My noble friend Lord Bethell now proposes, in this amendment, that the people of Gibraltar—and Gibraltar alone—should be given extra and special privileges as regards acquiring British citizenship, and that they, alone, of all the people of the dependent territories, should be eligible for British citizenship without establishing any residential or other links with this country, beyond what all Gibraltarians and, indeed, all citizens of all dependent territories still have.
I must say to your Lordships that although the Government yield to none in their feelings towards Gibraltar, this immediate entitlement to British citizenship would most seriously undermine what is, in our view, the most important principle of all in this Bill; namely, that British citizenship should be held only by those whose most intimate connections are with the United Kingdom itself and the territory of the United Kingdom itself. Under this Bill the people of Gibraltar, who after all are living in Gibraltar, not in the United Kingdom, would acquire citizenship of the British dependent territories. However, they would continue to be able to come and go to and from this country as they wish, and if after a period of five years' residence they wish to assume British citizenship, they will have the absolute right to do so.
This seems to us to be the right and proper balance, taking account, as I say, of reality, of equity and of special relationship. The fact that they are Gibraltarians, normally living in Gibraltar, gives them citizenship of British dependent territories. But in view of their special relationship, if they wish to come here and live here for five years, then British citizenship is open to them.
It was argued—if I understood him aright—by my noble friend Lord Bethell that Gibraltar already enjoys a special status among the dependencies as it is the only one covered by Article 227 of the Treaty of Rome. This, I think he said, justifies according preferential treatment to the people of Gibraltar and those who have ties with her. But this does not follow in nationality matters. The inclusion of Gibraltar in the European Community stems from the provisions of the Treaty of Rome. The status of a territory under the Treaty of Rome does not affect the status of that territory in our nationality law or have anything to do with it.
The fact that people from Gibraltar are included in the definition of "national" for European Community purposes does not mean that they should have particular privileges in acquiring our citizenship. It means one thing and one thing only—that the people of Gibraltar should enjoy the benefits of membership of 248 the European Community in the same way as do the citizens of the United Kingdom. That is what it means. In no way will this be altered when this Bill is enacted.
Nor, I submit, will the other dependencies be prepared to accept this argument either. I really must stress this point firmly. The other dependencies, and in particular Hong Kong, do say and will say that if all Gibraltarians are automatically to have British citizenship enshrined in legislation, and the right of abode here merely on application, then they will want similar privileges. What we grant to one we shall—to put it no higher—certainly be under great pressure to concede to others. The other dependencies do not accept the primacy of Gibraltar in this respect. I question very much whether the Committee would think that we were wise to try to pick and choose between dependencies.
If there are to be special cases, then every dependent territory will make its special case. The Falkland Islands view their relationship with the Argentine as putting them in no less unique a position than that of Gibraltar in relation to Spain. Nor is Gibraltar the only dependent territory whose chances of becoming independent are, in practice, almost non-existent. The same can be said of at least five others: of St. Helena, the Falkland Islands, Pitcairn Islands, Montserrat and Hong Kong. Let there be no doubt that the dependent territories all feel very strongly on this issue, and in this Bill as it stands we are treating them all alike.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary told another place that he knew that Hong Kong felt strongly because they had told him so. I can assure noble Lords that the Government have received representations from other territories too. If your Lordships were to accept this amendment, we should open the way to vigorous pleas for similar treatment from other dependent territories.
However, such treatment for all dependent territories would lead to a situation which I am sure your Lordships would consider to be very serious indeed. For there would be a wholly new immigration commitment of very substantial proportions. I join with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in suggesting that this would be unacceptable. I should like to quote just a couple of sentences of what my right honourable friend said in another place:We would have a new British citizenship with immigration commitments for the future which, I am sure, nearly every hon. Member would regard as unacceptable. It is important that I say that to the House. That is why I do not believe that we should give way on the amendments".I must assure your Lordships that the Government fully appreciate the deep and sincere concern of people in Gibraltar about the British Nationality Bill. We have sought to meet this concern in the following ways, and we believe them to be effective. First, we made it clear from the start that the creation of citizenship of the British dependent territories would in no way alter the relationship between dependent territories and the United Kingdom, nor would it affect our obligations and commitments to the dependent territories and their citizens. These assurances apply to Gibraltar as much as to any other dependent territory.
Secondly, so far as Gibraltar itself is concerned, successive Governments have given repeated and specific 249 assurances to Gibraltarians that Gibraltarians are able to enter the United Kingdom freely and without impediment. The Labour Government gave such an assurance in 1968 and the Conservative Government confirmed it in the Immigration Act of 1971—and I gladly reaffirm it today. That undertaking is in no way affected or diminished by anything in this Bill, nor is it affected by any relationship we may or may not have with the European Community.
We all respect and admire the courage and tenacity of the people of Gibraltar. Their commitment to the United Kingdom is undoubted, and our commitment to them, that Gibraltar will not pass under the sovereignty of any other nation against the freely expressed wishes of her people has been said and said again. It was clearly demonstrated in the 1967 referendum and by the recent unanimous vote for British citizenship in the Gibraltar House of Assembly. We are committed to Gibraltar in many ways, but we must bear in mind all our responsibilities—not only those to Gibraltar but also those to the other dependent territories, and indeed to the people of this country, which badly needs a proper citizenship law and effective immigration control. Finally, let me repeat that the Bill as it stands reflects reality; namely, that the people of Gibraltar—most of whom actually live in Gibraltar—will have a citizenship of British dependent territories which reflects that fact. But should any of them wish to have British citizenship to the point that they wish to come and live here, which is what British citizenship is about, they may do so, whenever they wish—and after a period of five years, they would have an absolute right to British citizenship, which would again reflect reality. I submit that what we are suggesting to your Lordships in this Bill as it stands reflects the reality of the situation and is equitable both to the people of Gibraltar and to the other dependent territories as well as to this country. On those grounds, I would urge your Lordships to reject the amendment.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Viscount Thurso
In rising to confirm that we on these Benches support this amendment, I feel entitled to do so for a number of reasons—not least of them being the fact that I flew to Gibraltar to start my honeymoon. My support for this amendment also arises from the fact that I live in a part of the United Kingdom over which the Norwegian flag flew longer than flew the Scottish flag or has yet flown the Union Jack. I desire to share the privileges of United Kingdom citizenship and of being British, although I am proud to be Scottish and to belong to a part of Scotland which has a great Viking heritage. I share the sentiments which were expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, earlier, and like him, I do not intend to keep your Lordships long, because I do not consider that the issue we have to decide here is a very complicated one. The complication arises from the fact that the Government are regarding the British Nationality Bill as though it were an immigration Bill.
The point of the Bill now before us, as I understand it, is to confirm the grounds on which one can regard oneself as being British. It seems to me that the arguments which have been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for the people of Gibraltar are sound, 250 because, as one of the dependent territories, Gibraltar is different from all the others. There is a considerable difference—not the least of them being that Gibraltar is the only dependency to which the Government are going to grant the privilege of allowing free entry into this country; the only country to have that privilege of right of access. The "United Kingdom" is what we here in the United Kingdom choose it to be. The fact that the people of Sark, the Isle of Man, the Fair Isle or the Shetlands are part of the United Kingdom is because they choose to be part of the United Kingdom and, secondly, because we choose to have them. There is nothing umbilical about their connection with us; it is a voluntary connection and one that is made voluntarily by them and accepted voluntarily by us. We have the total right to decide what we wish for the Gibraltarians, who fought with us and for us, who have supported us over hundreds of years of our history, and who regard themselves as being British. We have a perfect right to accept them into the fold of British citizenship. That is what we on these Benches intend to vote for.
§ Lord Carver
I also urge your Lordships' Committee to support this amendment. My interest in it is not merely a long and close association with Gibraltar, through the armed forces and particularly with the Army, but also a personal one because my father was born in Gibraltar. His father lived there all his working life, died there and was buried there. He actually married a lady from Spain, who was mostly of Irish but also partly of Belgian extraction, whose ancestors had lived in Spain for more than one generation. My father worked in Egypt and in Switzerland and, had it not been for the outbreak of the First World War, I would probably have been born outside this country. Fortunately for me I was born in this country, but if the law proposed in this Bill, as unamended, had been the case when I was born, I fail to know what nationality I would have been!
There are three important aspects from the point of view of the Gibraltarians which one should bear in mind. First, in no circumstances should they find themselves liable to become Spanish citizens against their will. Secondly, nothing we do should make it more difficult for Her Majesty's Government to come to a sensible arrangement with Spain about the future status of Gibraltar. I regard that as being equally important. Thirdly, any Gibraltarian who wishes to come to this country and be a citizen of this country, whether temporarily of permanently, should be able to do so. It seems to me that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, is a very ingenious way of meeting all three of those principles. The noble Lord the Leader of the House posed the possibility that, if this amendment was passed, we should he opening the door to some uncontrollable immigration commitment. He talked about St. Helena, the Falkland Islands, the Pitcairn Islands and Montserrat as well as Hong Kong in his plea that Gibraltar should not be treated as a special case.
However, the fact remains that if all those except Hong Kong were granted the same status as Gibraltar, for instance, it could not conceivably be said to produce an immigration problem in this country. It is the problem of Hong Kong. Surely what is happening 251 is that it is the special case of Hong Kong which is determining the attitude of the Government in this Bill to Gibraltar and the other dependencies. I feel that there is every reason to treat Gibraltar as a special case. As has already been pointed out, it is treated as a special case already, and therefore I would strongly urge the Committee to support this amendment.
§ Baroness Trumpington
I find the term "second class citizenship" to be somewhat offensive and, as I see it, inaccurate. My instincts were to go along with this amendment but the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to second class citizenship has reinforced the other side of the argument as put forward by my noble friend Lord Soames on behalf of the Government. Once that term has been used in the context of Gibraltar, it will certainly be regarded as such by the other dependent territories.
I do not regard the provisions made in this Bill to be unreasonable since provision is made, and is clearly made, for those people who wish to be citizens of this country by actually living here, by actually having personal ties with this country, and by actually playing a day-to-day role in the life of this country. This is a most emotional issue and one's sympathies are naturally with what one might describe as "the few". It is such an emotional issue that even the heavens are weeping, but I hope that this amendment will not be pressed and will in due course be withdrawn.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Viscount Boyd of Merton
I rise to make, if possible, a short intervention in favour of the amendment. I listened with great care and interest to what my noble friend Lord Soames said in reply to my noble friend Lord Bethell and to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. The noble Lord, Lord Soames, and I once shared in another place the representation of the county of Bedford in Parliament. It therefore is rather difficult for me to take a view alien to that held by him.
He has made, as we could have expected, a reasonable and logical speech. Of course, it is a tidy way to deal with the nationality status of dependent territories to create what the Home Secretary called, "A coherent and logical system of citizenship for British dependencies". But often in life a tidy solution is not necessarily the wise one, and this can be especially true when dealing with a very small population living under siege conditions, for a blockade is a siege, and who have cherished for nearly three centuries their shared nationality status with the United Kingdom.
The Committee can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling in Gibraltar. Strong feelings are also felt here at home, as witnessed in another place where the vote in the Standing Committee on a similar clause was defeated by only the chairman's casting vote. On the Report stage—I was renowned in the other place for a loud voice; it is being put to the test now. I hope the heavenly forces are on my side. In another place 521 Members of the House took part in the vote, and the amendment in similar terms was only defeated by a majority of 25.
The Home Secretary argued that the Government decisions on the status of Gibraltarians had nothing 252 whatever to do with Spain or the Spanish attitude to Gibraltar. Of course, I believe fully anything and everything that the Home Secretary says, and I am not tempted to say seriously, "Tell that one to the marines", but it is certainly not an accepted view in Gibraltar itself. Gibraltarians on the Rock know that the defeat of the amendment in the House of Commons was interpreted immediately in the Spanish press within the wider political context of Spain's claim to Gibraltar.
Of course, I recognise that some difficulties will arise for the Government if this amendment is carried. But the status of Gibraltar can be said to be quite unique, and has been so described by successive Governments. Indeed, we have recognised this, as other noble Lords have pointed out, by their status as Community nationals by virtue of the Treaty of Rome. No other dependent territory has the same concession, and to include the people of Gibraltar in the category of British citizen would not be an act of deliberate discrimination but would arise, as the Prime Minister of Gibraltar himself said, as a natural consequence deriving from the particular circumstances in Gibraltar. I very much hope that this amendment will be pressed to a Division and will win the vote.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
If the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, wants evidence that this is a non-party matter he is shortly going to find it. I do not believe that I have disagreed even in a shade of opinion with my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton in our political lives in over 50 years, but this afternoon the position of the Gibraltarians—and this has been confirmed by what my noble friend the Leader of the House said this afternoon—it is that they have an absolute right of entry into this country.
That was confirmed I think first by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, in the socialist Government of the day. That still stands. Now, under Clause 4 of this Bill—and I shall be corrected if I am wrong—they have an absolute entitlement to citizenship and abode if they reside here for five years after entry. Therefore, this is a non-party matter. One side conceded the entry; another is now attempting to give them the right of citizenship with the right of abode.
If I were a Gibraltarian, I would rather have that assurance from the British Government—and it is inconceivable that any British Government would go back on those assurance—than the general cover provided by the Treaty of Rome. I would far rather have that, and feel much more reassured by it. Although we are debating it in the context of this Bill, this is not a new matter. At the time when Lord Thomson of Monifieth was negotiating, Gibraltar had stated a claim to be integrated economically, politically and socially into the United Kingdom. They have done that before, and they have done it since. It is, so to speak, a standing claim.
For a number of reasons no British Government in the past 25 years have been able to concede such a status, and some of them were stated by my noble friend the Leader of the House. It is not that any British Government, or indeed any Parliament in this country, have doubted the loyalty of the Gibraltarians to the Crown, or the service given in war, to which the 253 noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, referred. But it is that there are other territories, British dependent territories, in exactly parallel constitutional circumstances who would advance the same claim, and indeed have done so and are doing so.
Your Lordships are aware in relation to this Bill that Hong Kong, for example, is insistent that, whatever the conditions laid down by Parliament, there should be no exceptions for them. I think all of your Lordships know—we all know for certain—that we could not concede the status now asked for Gibraltar to the colony and dependent territory of Hong Kong. We could not do it. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that, although one may argue in sentiment for Gibraltar, or the Falkland islands—because the Falkland islands are a rather parallel case—or argue expediency because there is pressure on either of those two territories, that sentiment and expediency are an unsound ground on which to build an edifice of nationality and citizenship. Therefore, the test must he equity and justice as between territories of exactly the same constitutional status. If those be the criteria, I must conclude that exceptions must not be made in this case. In relation to Gibraltar, as I said earlier, should prefer to stand on the very special status, the very special relationship which has been woven between us in this matter and on the certainty of British citizenship that any Gibraltarian citizen needed. But I cannot vote for an amendment which has made exceptions in our protected territories.
Lord Campbell of Croy
I also should like to support my noble friend Lord Soames in urging the House not to accept this amendment. A very good case has been put for Gibraltar, and the whole House will accept the Britishness of Gibraltarians and their loyalty to the United Kingdom. But I am one of those who is concerned about another overseas dependent territory—namely, Hong Kong. I am worried about the effect there if some special exception were made for Gibraltar. For both Gibraltar and Hong Kong, the people concerned do not expect a right of abode in the United Kingdom automatically in the future. Neither can they expect to become independent. I will not pursue in detail the reasons where Hong Kong is concerned; it is a matter of the relations between this country and the Peking Government which are of immense importance in the balance of influence in the world—influence so far as the Soviet bloc and the Western Alliance are concerned. If Hong Kong could become independent, there is no doubt that it would have no difficulty in governing itself efficiently and well and in continuing as a leading industrial state in the world. But independence is not possible for Hong Kong and it is not possible for Gibraltar; in the case of Hong Kong for reasons of history and in the best interests of the United Kingdom and the Western Alliance. Only about half of the population of Hong Kong are now citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and would therefore under the Bill become citizens of the British Dependent Territories. In general, they do not seek a right of abode in this country, nor, I understand, do Gibraltarians seek an immediate and automatic right of abode in this country.
If the exception were made for Gibraltar, I believe that citizenship of the British Dependent Territories 254 would be regarded as second class. There is no need for that; it is different and it does not provide immediate and automatic right of abode, but there is no reason why it should be regarded as second class. If this exception were to be made, I believe it would undermine the status of citizenship as outlined now in Part II of the Bill. I would deplore such a development and therefore support the Government in opposing this amendment.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
There was one passage in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Home, which I did not quite follow. He said he thought Gibraltarians would rather have the guarantee they have now, and the special status granted to them now, than the cover provided through their membership of the European Community. But they are not being offered one instead of the other. It is not a question of them being offered a choice. No one doubts at all that they have the guarantees already given: that is not in dispute at all. The question is whether we ought to give this further consideration. There is no question of the present guarantee being in any way put in jeopardy or exchanged for what is now offered in the Bill. Therefore I did not feel there was weight in that argument.
There is only one special consideration that I want to advance. For many years the Gibraltarians have been under attack and criticism in that organ of the United Nations that deals with the problem of anti-colonialism. The Gibraltarians have been endeavouring to explain to the members of that committee that they positively want to be a British possession. This assertion has often been received with incredulity and sometimes with rudeness. They have resolutely persisted in that view, and with good reason both from their point of view and ours.
It is not going to be a very pleasant situation for them in that committee if their critics are going to say, "Well, you have told us how attached you are to the British and they to you. Where have they put you? In the second class carriage." It is all very well the noble Lord, Lord Soames, shaking his head: I am telling him what will happen in this particular theatre to which no consideration has as yet been given, and I do not think they should be subjected to that degree of obloquy.
As to their being a special case, it is already admitted that they are a special case. The Government say over and over again, "We cannot draw distinctions between one territory and another", and then in almost the same breath they say, "This amendment is not necessary because we already do treat them in a different way from other dependent territories".
They are asking in effect for the stamping and sealing of something a good deal of which they possess already, and rightly possess. In view of the special consideration we have already given to them, and rightly given to them, it is a triviality to refuse this particular concession. The Government have become enslaved to its own formulae by treating all dependent territories alike, and they have omitted the obvious fact that they have already accepted that Gibraltar cannot be treated in exactly the same way as all the others.
One noble Lord compared its position to that of 255 certain other British possessions. It takes no longer now to travel from London to Gibraltar than in the Middle Ages it took to travel from London to the Channel Islands. Our general approach to them puts them much more nearly in the same box factually and emotionally with those near-at-hand territories than with the more remote territories over the ocean. There is no practical reason for refusing this amendment. The Government are frightening themselves about possible reactions, and refusing the amendment will be treated and regarded by the Gibraltarians, by their critics abroad and, I am afraid, by the Spanish Government as an affront to the Gibraltarians which this House ought not to put upon them.
§ Lord George-Brown
May I say something very briefly, because I do not want to repeat the arguments already made? I should like to say with great respect how much I disagree with what has just been said by my predecessor and my successor at the Foreign Office in the 1960s.
I can very easily understand the sentiment which lies behind this amendment. All those of us who have had to deal with the Gibraltarian situation and negotiations over it at various times have been torn between the sentiment which arises when the Gibraltarians are considered and the practical problems that arise if you seek to settle it in the way in which this amendment would do. It is very difficult indeed to come down on the side of the practical problems when everything inside one urges one to come down on the side of sentiment, affection and so on.
However, I am bound to say I agree absolutely with what the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, said this afternoon and the same considerations swayed me and weighed with me when I held the office which he held in so distinguished a manner for such a long time. There is no way out of this. If he will forgive my saying so, it is useless for the noble Lord, Lord Carver, to say rather airily, "We all know Hong Kong is a special problem, so don't mix up the problem of Gibraltar with the special problem of Hong Kong". You cannot just wave it away like that. May I say, as somebody very involved in multicolour, multiracial associations, that I should be very unhappy if we were willing to take a different decision about the Gibraltarians and find it very easy to say, "Of course, Hong Kong is a separate case, so we won't consider them", if the considerations are the same—and they are very nearly the same.
On the acceptance of such an amendment as this, it would follow immediately that we should be pressed from elsewhere, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and those who take that view would then have to find the answer to the Hong Kong people. It is not a very comfortable answer to have to find, because there is only one answer, and it is the one we all denounce as the least acceptable answer. You cannot just wash it away like that. One will complicate the situation, so far as Gibraltar is concerned, even though the Gibraltarians do not like it when one puts this argument to them (they did not when I put it to them), but, nevertheless, the fact remains that some day a solution has to be found. Some of us have thought at various times that we were getting near to finding it, 256 and I still think it may well be found, but it would not be made easier by the passage of an amendment of this kind.
As for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, about that rather splendid body of people with whom we have all "hassled" from time to time—the United Nations committee concerning itself with colonial matters, whatever it calls itself, which was such a great "help" to me over the subject of Aden—I would make it quite clear that, even if we passed this amendment, that would not turn them on to the side of either the Gibraltarians or the British. They would turn the argument which Lord Stewart was using round the other way and say, "You see just how colonial you are. You have now been taken into the colonial oppressors' maw"; they would still go on denouncing us and they would still go on denouncing the Gibraltarian position.
Considering the whole matter, trying to weigh the good one would do for Gibraltar and the good one would do for British relations generally, the consequences one would be faced with from other territories and how one would answer them and so on, I feel bound to say—I thought I should declare it as there have been references to whether this is or is not a party issue, and I felt it would be unfair for somebody like myself to cast a vote virtually into the anonymity of the register without saying why one has cast one's vote in that way—with all my sentiment being so engaged with what has been said for the amendment, nevertheless for every kind of practical, sensible, realistic reason, I invite my colleagues in all parts of the Committee to reject the amendment here as it was rejected downstairs.
§ Lord Avebury
Can the noble Lord recall whether the French have the same difficulties in the Committee of 24 in respect of their Overseas Département such as St. Pierre and Miquelon as we do in the case of Gibraltar? If not, does he think it is because the French accord those territories full citizenship?
§ Lord George-Brown
I have always been rather puzzled that the French, who were much harsher colonialists than we ever were, have always been so willingly accepted by the United Nations committees in terms of their relations with their ex-colonial territories, whereas we are always accused of being the oppressors, when in fact we have a very much better record. I think the answer to the noble Lord's question goes a good deal deeper than that and has something to do with much wider relationships between France and its territoires outre-mer than the issue we are now discussing. I do not think it is very relevant.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
As my name appears to the amendment, I will try to deal with what appears to be the substantive argument that has been adduced against it both by my noble friend the Leader of the House, and, with his characteristic effectiveness, my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel. Their argument, as I understand it, which was summed up by Lord Home, is that there must be no exception, and my noble friend Lord Soames really argued the same point, if he will allow me to say so at somewhat greater length. That argument, with respect, is not tenable for the Government because exceptions are being made 257 at the moment. If the amendment fails and is defeated, very substantial exceptions will be made, for example in the treatment between Gibraltar and Hong Kong. I support that assertion by quoting from a letter I received dated 18th February from Mr. Timothy Raison, the Minister of State at the department concerned, in which he said:There is no question in present circumstances of the immigration practice being changed or the administrative concession for entry into the United Kingdom arising from the unique circumstances of Gibraltar"—I ask your Lordships to note that ministerial acceptance of the unique circumstances of Gibraltar—being withdrawn. They will still be able to enter the United Kingdom to seek and take up employment".As we know, that is not the position in respect of Hong Kong. Indeed, an argument which one of my noble friends who opposed the amendment adduced was that there would be a flow of immigrants from Hong Kong if this status of British citizenship were granted to them. If the position is now, as it clearly is, that there is a totally different treatment of Gibraltar and Hong Kong from the extremely important point of view of movement, immigration and coming to take up work, then, if that is the existing situation (which the Government have gone out of their way to say they intend to perpetuate) it clearly will not do, if I may say it with great respect to my noble friends, to say you cannot make any exceptions and that if you grant a particular concession to the Gibraltarians you will have the remaining dependencies pursuing you, because the exception on what is perhaps the most important aspect of all has been made and will continue.
One of my noble friends may object and ask, "What is all the fuss about? Have not the Gibraltarians got all they need?" The answer is no, for two reasons, one the fact that a ministerial assurance, however sincere, is not as good as an Act of Parliament, and Mr. Raison himself prefaced the undertaking I read with the words:There is no question in present circumstances".If the Gibraltarians have British citizenship, as this amendment would give them, there would be no question of that qualification about present circumstances.
Secondly, there is the question of feeling, the desire to be British subjects. It seems a little strange that in a world where for the last 35 years countries in the old British Empire have been falling over themselves in their eagerness to get away from us, here is a community which is anxious not only to be with us but to tighten the bonds of loyalty and citizenship which bind us. It would seem odd to a visitor from Mars that having gone through the whole process of decolonisation all over the world, we should reject the desire to continue with the same status as ourselves of this small community which, as several noble Lords have said far more eloquently than I could, has proved its loyalty to us both in peace and war.
Those of us who know Gibraltar, those of us who in recent weeks have been meeting the Chief Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Labour Party, know the passionate feeling which this matter gives rise to among the Gibraltarians. They 258 have that sort of feeling which can come up in a man's mind only when someone who has been a close friend and associate suddenly decides to distance himself from you, because that is what the Bill proposes to do. Today the Gibraltarians have the same citizenship as your Lordships. If the Bill goes through unamended, they will not. I am not using the prejorative word "second-class", but it will be different.
After all that has happened in recent years—the loyalty of the Gibraltarians in peace as in war, as the noble and gallant Lord opposite so well pointed out—at this stage to say that, in the interests of a very fragile and precarious argument about no discrimination, we are going deliberately to put these people in a different citizenship status than they have would be a very real blow to them, and would be regarded by them (I say this deliberately) as a display of ingratitude unworthy of a great nation.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
In my respectful submission, one of the difficulties that confronts us in considering this matter is that the concept of a generic citizenship of all the dependencies is meaningless and is bedevilling our discussions. In my view there should be separate citizenship of each dependency while asserting the British association of each one of them, and in Amendments Nos. 119ZA and 119A we have sought to achieve that by providing that,the expression 'a citizen of the British Dependent Territories' means a citizen of any one of the British Dependent Territories",and that,A passport issued after commencement to a citizen of the British Dependent Territories shall designate the holder as",for instance, a British Hong Kong citizen,inserting within the parentheses the name of the dependency of which the person is a citizen".That is what they are asking for in Hong Kong, and I should have thought that if we moved in that direction, a sense of the special privileges that might be obtained by the Gibraltarians if the amendment is passed would be considerably diminished, if not eliminated.
The concept of citizenship of the dependent territories is a somewhat meaningless one. It confers no rights, no special privileges—it is a mere umbrella; and until it is eliminated I do not think that we can really come to grips with the question of how we can provide the special status which I submit Gibraltarians do derive by virtue of their existing status as EEC nationals. My view on the matter is that, while I support the amendment, nevertheless in order to equalise, at any rate somewhat, if not completely, the position in the other dependencies, we should achieve the changes which we on this side of the Committee also recommend.
§ Lord Merrivale
Since I do not wish to repeat my observations on Second Reading regarding Gibraltar, I propose supporting the amendment and the principle of Gibraltarians in their desire to be registered as British citizens on application, by highlighting very briefly other matters which are of concern to them and which, in my humble opinion, increase the indispensability of not letting them down on this citizenship issue. As has been previously mentioned, it is for 259 them a very strong point of principle. I believe that this is highlighted by a small leaflet produced in Gibraltar, which reads:Gibraltarians are British to the backbone. Are in the EEC with Britain. Have withstood 14 years of siege in defence of a British Gibraltar. Cannot aspire to independence. Wish to continue their 300 year old heritage of standing rock solid with Britain and must not be betrayed".First of all, those Gibraltarians who have read the Official Report of 28th April of Standing Committee F have been rather shocked by what was said at col. 1390. It was a statement by Mr. Richard Luce, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in answer to a question regarding international law concerning the event of Spain occupying Gibraltar and Gibraltarians deciding to leave. It concerned the question of the binding obligation of Her Majesty's Government to take them in. The Minister said:I certainly do not wish to state (at this stage) that we have any special obligation of that nature".That caused considerable concern in Gibraltar among those who learnt of it.
Secondly—and I think it is relevant—there is further concern in Gibraltar as to what are, or could be, economic alternatives to the support and sustenance provided by dockyard work. I am sorry that I mention this today, but it was not referred to during the debate on Monday by either of the Government spokesmen, and I think it opportune now to mention the concern that is felt in Gibraltar. It stresses the importance of the possibility of their being granted British citizenship. I am advised that the dockyard work is responsible for 60 per cent. of the economy. One should heed this concern, because we have been told, in effect, that there has just been set up a consultative committee under the chairmanship of the Governor, General Sir William Jackson, and the committee will include representatives of the Government, the Opposition, commerce, the trade union movement, the banks, and, where appropriate, the services.
But, on the other hand, we have the Defence White Paper (Cmnd. 8288) and what it entails for Gibraltar. I shall quote very briefly from paragraph 40:…consideration will be given to alternative ways of fulfilling the Government's obligation to support the economy of Gibraltar if it is decided that the dockyard work there cannot be kept up indefinitely. This consideration will be undertaken in closest consultation with the Gibraltar Government".Regarding that statement, may I add that I have been advised by the Institution of Professional Civil Servants that during the course of their meeting with Mr. John Nott, the Secretary of State for Defence, he told them, in effect, that had consultations already taken place with the Gibraltar Government, that paragraph would have been much more strongly worded vis-á-vis Gibraltar. Furthermore, in a letter dated 26th June 1981 to their members, relating to paragraph 40 of the White Paper, the institution stated:The reference to Gibraltar is vague, but it is the intention to give up the dockyard subject to further discussions with the Gibraltar Government and Spain. The naval stores and depots will start to close in 1983".Also Rear-Admiral Mackenzie, when speaking to trade union representatives on 25th June last in Gibraltar, said:We expect there to be a significant reduction in the number of jobs we shall be able to offer".260 I am sorry to have introduced a different aspect to the discussions, but this is an extra concern for the people of Gibraltar. It was mentioned to me when a delegation was over here and I thought it only right that it should be raised today. Furthermore, there has been a fall-off in tourism, and I understand, too, that the number of cruise liners and so forth is definitely not on the increase.
I have, very sketchily, touched upon our economic obligations towards Gibraltar, and Gibraltarians' concern for the future, for I believe that they both reinforce our moral obligation, earned over the centuries by Gibraltarians, to grant to those who so wish the possibility of registration as British citizens, taking into account the added "fact of life" that they cannot aspire to independence.
§ 4.30 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
I intervene in the discussion on this amendment with more hesitation than usual but only because church members in the Colony of Gibraltar, and both the Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops in Gibraltar, have expressed their deep concern about the added distress which this matter has caused to the people of Gibraltar after their 12 years of enforced isolation from the mainland. It was unfortunate, to say the least, for it caused an unnecessary amount of concern in Gibraltar, that the news media there gave credence to a rumour that the bishops in your Lordships' House were not prepared to seek any redress for the people of Gibraltar during this present debate in your Lordships' Committee. The Bishop of Gibraltar received a number of agitated telephone calls, some of them during the night; and one of my lay correspondents even suggested that the Prime Minister had canvassed the bishops in your Lordships' House to vote against this amendment.
We on these Benches are used to being chided by one side for not speaking enough and by the other side for speaking too often. We are sometimes disappointed when some of your Lordships seem surprised at the unanimity of Anglican, Roman Catholic and Free Church opinion which we sometimes seek to reflect; and I would be less than honest if I did not add that we sometimes try hard not to be irritated when we are patronised by Ministers. But the one thing to which we are never subjected is deliberate lobbying, for we are recognised as truly independent Members of your Lordships' House—dare I say independent about bishops and cardinals as well?
So for the sake of our friends in Gibraltar I want to say that at no time has the Prime Minister or anyone else sought to influence our vote, and I am sure my colleagues on these Benches would want me publicly to exonerate the Government from any such suggestion. I hope that this will be read and understood by those in Gibraltar who have been misled. Having said that, I hope very much that at the eleventh hour the Government will be prepared to think again about the very special case that has been made out by so many Members of your Lordships' Committee about the Colony of Gibraltar.
§ Lord Wade
I hope the Government may think fit to change their mind with regard to this amendment. Obviously, this is not the time to go over the ground 261 that has been so well debated. In my opinion there are two aspects to this: one is psychological and the other is legal. There are few subjects more complex than constitutional law. I think it might be expedient from a legal point of view if this amendment did not exist and we had not to debate it; but I think this subject today is primarily one of the psychological approach to this problem. That is partly due to the very nature and structure of the Bill that is before us; but there it is, it is before us.
We should keep in mind the undertakings that have been given over the years, and I think everyone in this Committee is in sympathy with the undertakings that have been given to the people of Gibraltar. I think they are clear, and as a consequence I think this is a special case. I do not think we can get away from the fact that it is a special case. Gibraltar is geographically a link, a part of Europe. Its community regards itself as British, and is linked with us in that respect, just as the people living in the Shetlands regard themselves as British. Therefore, putting aside all the legal and technical arguments that may be forthcoming about this amendment, I believe that it would be psychologically unwise to reject it and I would be very happy if the Government could see their way to accepting it.
§ Viscount Eccles
We have seen from this debate how strong is the sympathy for the people of Gibraltar. I share that myself. Sir Winston Churchill, in the second volume of his History of the War, wrote:Spain is the key to all British enterprise in the Mediterranean".By that he meant that if the Straits of Gibraltar were closed the war would be harder and longer. Then we have that famous letter of 30th December 1940 from Hitler to Mussolini, in which Hitler tells his partner that General Franco has let them down and will not invite the German troops to cross the Pyrenees and capture Gibraltar, and in which he says they had made all preparations to start that assault in the early days of February 1941.
I was there at the time, and frequently stayed in Gibraltar with the Governor, Lord Gort. I can feel exactly what the Rock meant to us then; and if it was a fact that we were considering only Gibraltar, then, as my noble Leader said, we should probably accept this amendment. But we are not. We are bound to look at Schedule 6, at the other dependent territories; and we must, if we can, make out a reason why Gibraltar should be exceptional in that list. We should have to give British citizenship to the Falkland Islands—only a handful of them, bravely resisting the pressures from the Argentine. If to the Falkland Islands, then obviously to Gibraltar; and if to Gibraltar, why not to the others?
But, of course, the one that really matters is Hong Kong. As the noble and learned Lord has just told us, he has an amendment under which the only thing that really matters is: would he introduce a special citizenship, British—Hong Kong citizenship? But then he would have to attach to it conditions about immigration which are not attached to Gibraltar, because we are not really considering only nationality. Though this is the purpose of the Bill—to give us a good framework of nationality—alongside it is our policy on immigration.
262 That brings us up against our situation here. We have enormous unemployment—technological unemployment, which is not going to go away. We have the problem of the racial minorities that we have not yet properly integrated into British society, but which we intend to do. These are the first problems that we have to consider. If we are going to accept this amendment, it would be impossible, as I think my noble friend Lord Soames said, to do the same for Hong Kong. The reason is an immigration reason. Why do some noble Lords say, "But Hong Kong is quite different", though it is a dependent territory and might be taken over by China under the law? Is it because it is so far away—out of sight, out of mind? It takes less than 24 hours to come from Hong Kong to London in an aeroplane. Is it because so many of the citizens of Hong Kong are refugees from Communist China and have yellow faces? If that is the reason it is a very bad reason. How are we going to explain it if we accept this amendment and do not then extend it to the other dependent territories?
Our first duty in the circumstances in which we are —overcrowded, with enormous unemployment and difficult racial problems, and not nearly as efficient as we should be—is to get our own situation right in order that we may help other people in the third world. We cannot get our own situation right, we cannot be a peaceful, harmonious and strong country, unless we have a sound nationality and immigration policy as a framework within which to achieve that end. My heart is on the side of the mover of the amendment, but common sense and reason tells me to support the Government in the Lobby.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
Sometimes I am sure the Committee will feel that one is confronted with a problem which can be solved emotionally. The Committee on a matter of this kind would say, "If emotion alone rules us, we may come to a wrong decision". But if logic and justice happen to be on the side of emotion, the Committee is making a very good decision having regard to those three entities in making up its mind. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, opened his speech by saying that he had sympathy with the people of Gibraltar. The people of Gibraltar do not need our sympathy, and they did not sympathise with us in the days when they stood with us and in the days too when, not long ago—and I do not want to over-emotionalise, but these are facts—the barriers were put up and when the borders were closed. Then the people of Gibraltar looked to what they regarded as literally their mother country, and quite openly unfurled Union Jacks and quite openly sang the National Anthem. In this day and age one can laugh at that kind of reaction, one can call it jingoism; one can call it many things; but one has to admit that that showed that the people of Gibraltar regarded themselves as being in the family.
My noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones talked very wisely in terms of the dependent territories' nationality so-called in this Bill, and he referred to the wisdom of at least giving them some individuality. If one is talking in terms of a family, I wonder how many of us would like our children to refer to themselves as being dependants of their father, instead of members of the family and our sons and our daughters? 263 I am criticising the term of dependent territories' citizenship without any other label at all, and our amendments will deal with that hereafter. I am decrying the fact that the people of Gibraltar are being asked to be members generally of a dependent territory status.
That is the emotional side. To the emotional side must be added that we have done a pretty poor job, as I said on Second Reading, on public relationships when there is not one single party of which I am aware in the Gibraltarian democracy which does not decry the provisions that we are looking at and criticising in this amendment. The plea has been from the chief minister of Gibraltar, the leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Labour Party and the Church. All entities in Gibraltar have decried what we are being asked to pass today and what is being dealt with, I think effectively, by this amendment.
If I may move from emotion to logic and justice, it can be argued—and we have heard the argument—how can one do this when there are other dependent territories which also have been loyal and whose citizens regard this country too as their mother country? The amendment was specifically worded in the way that it was in order to show that there is not an identity between Hong Kong and Gibraltar. Hong Kong is not a member of the EEC, and the right of an EEC member—which has been repeated to the Committee —is precisely to do with what we are giving to the people of Gibraltar which we are not giving to any other dependent territory. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, pointed that out with his usual effectiveness. The people of Gibraltar are entitled through two sources to enter and work in this country. That is not the position of any one of the other dependent territories, because they do not come through the route of the EEC. It may be said, as another reason logically to go against this amendment that it upsets Spain. It may create difficulties. It may make the Spanish Government feel that what we are doing is pushing British nationality in order to pre-empt an issue which has to be negotiated—obviously one hopes amicably.
The amendment clearly lays down that it is not an automatic right of British nationality that is given. It is the right to apply to register a British national as a British subject. Therefore, it cannot possibly be argued that this in any way goes against the principle that we as a Government, when my party was in power, outlined very clearly, that it is to be the choice of the people of Gibraltar what they do with their future. This is in accordance with that proposal.
In those circumstances, one must bear in mind that the people of Gibraltar are looking to this House at this moment to put right what another place nearly put right and failed to do by a very, very, narrow majority—if I am not being too dramatic about it—to call this Gibraltar Day. We ought to remember that in the Division Lobbies. Without any doubt at all, they are the people above all who stood by us, and, in regard to this amendment, I hope that we shall stand by them.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has 264 let the cat out of the bag. He has pointed out that the movers of the amendment have chosen to base it upon action taken in the European Community as a way of getting round the difficulty regarding Hong Kong. That is the clear conclusion from his speech. To the extent that the amendment makes the qualification for the right of registration as a British citizen action taken by the EEC under Article 227(4), then I would say that that in itself could be a cause of serious misunderstanding. We should all acknowledge—because it is the case—that the European Community has no power to change the nationality laws of any of its member countries or the nationality law of any of the dependencies of its member countries. Nor has it power to insert any condition in those laws. Are we therefore right to be basing our own law upon a qualification which has been laid down by the EEC in relation to Gibraltar?
I should point out that the use of Article 227 is a somewhat limited one. I shall not weary the Committee with the detailed quotations; but, partly as a result of Article 227 and partly as a result of Article 28 of the Accession Treaty—I say this merely for example—Gibraltar is not part of the common agricultural policy and the Community rules with regard to VAT do not apply to Gibraltar—lucky people! I am not registered for VAT. Therefore to say that we should base this very important change in our own nationality law and the law that we are making for other British territories dependent upon that rather vague premise seems to me to be legislating in a rather strange way on our part. For that reason I would be opposed to the amendment, but of course showing—
§ Baroness Elles
What my noble friend Lord Eccles said I think should move the House, because it was our hearts that were deciding upon the outcome of this amendment—
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
I think that the noble Baroness may have thought my noble friend Lord Renton had sat down but he was in fact pursuing his speech. I believe that my noble friend Lady Elles wants to make a speech of her own, but perhaps we should first listen to the peroration of the noble Lord, Lord Renton.
§ Lord Renton
I had not finished. I thought that my noble friend was asking me to give way on a matter, and indeed I would gladly do so. But to spare your Lordships further discussion on this matter so far as I am concerned, may I simply say that it must be some reassurance to the people of Gibraltar that they are going to have a citizenship which is parallel with British citizenship but which is made different for the geographical, historical and realistic reasons that we have been given; that they are going to continue to have the right of immigration to this country under our law, the right to work and settle under European law; and the right to apply under Clause 4 of the Bill (regarding which the conditions in their case will not be onerous) for full British citizenship. Incidentally, as I understand it, that would mean they would then have to relinquish their proposed citizenship for 265 Gibraltar because I do not know that there is anything in the Bill which enables one to have both British citizenship and citizenship of a dependent territory. Being proud people of Gibraltar, I should have thought that most of them would prefer to remain so.
Having put my name to this amendment, I have two points I should like to put forward. One is to enable us to put this question of Hong Kong into proportion. We have been told that there are 5 million people in Hong Kong and 2.6 million who are at present citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies because they were either born in Hong Kong or acquired United Kingdom citizenship through naturalisation. But of those numbers very few have been able to come here owing to the Commonwealth Immigration Acts of 1962 and 1968 and the 1971 Immigration Act. It is stated that these three Acts have gradually eroded the right of Hong Kong citizens to come to the United Kingdom. At the present time I understand that the number coming from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom to work each year under the special quota system for dependent territories is restricted to 150, so we cannot say that we are dealing with vast numbers. Last year only 100 people entered the United Kingdom from Hong Kong with work permits, and they mainly work in the restaurant trade. Another 890 dependants—that is, children and some ageing parents—entered the United Kingdom under existing immigration provisions. The total number from Hong Kong coming to the United Kingdom who have a chance to settle here, therefore, is less than a thousand a year, so I do think that the figure has been greatly exaggerated. Also, they will have something that no other dependent territory will have; they will have a Life Peer sitting in this House. He will be able to put forward the opinions of Hong Kong and he will be able to see that they are fairly treated.
§ Lord Soames
May I intervene for one second? I am sure that the noble Baroness would like to get this right. It is, of course, correct that there are limitations on the people of Hong Kong immigrating into this country, but I hope that she will not forget that the whole purpose of this Bill is to alter British citizenship to those who are specifically and intimately connected with the United Kingdom, and only with the United Kingdom. If we were to give British citizenship to, say, the people of Hong Kong, that would be ruining the whole thing and going right back to where we are today, where a lot of people have citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies but have no right of entry into this country. That is one of the reasons why the present arrangements are so unacceptable.
I am sorry, but I think that my noble friend has mistaken what I said. I said they would have representation through a Life Peer in this House; so they will have some representation, and he can look after their welfare and I am sure he will do so. What would be the point of having a Life Peer appointed to this House if he were not going to take action to safeguard the interests of his people and to sefeguard the Immigration Acts as they are now? It 266 seems quite unreasonable if he is to come here and have nothing to say at all.
The other point I should like to make concerns Gibraltar and I should like to quote from what was said by Mr. Sam Benady QC, the Leader of the Bar in Gibraltar, who said in his address at the opening of the legal year in Gibraltar in 1980:We have had many verbal assurances that the Gibraltarians would be afforded special treatment if they wish to enter or reside in the United Kingdom. These are mere assurances, but in law they have no right. Great Britain has said time and time again that it will sustain and support us, but I as a loyal British subject say to Britain—from these ancient Benches of our Supreme Court—it is no use sustaining the body if you do not sustain the spirit".Today we are really asking that the spirit of the Gibraltarians shall be sustained, and I hope that at the end of this debate we shall see that it is.
§ Baroness Elles
First, I must apologise to my noble friend Lord Renton, because when I attempted to speak earlier I was not aware that he had not terminated his speech. I think we are all agreed on the political and strategic importance of Gibraltar, the loyalty of its citizens and their devotion to the United Kingdom and, above all, to the Crown. We are also aware of the loyalty and respect that we in this House have for those citizens of Gibraltar. But I think it has also been accepted by all sides of this Chamber and by another place that the purpose of this British Nationality Bill is to define for the first time in our history our nationality by our territory—that of the United Kingdom—and for the time being at any rate Gibraltar is not a part of the United Kingdom. From this, of course, many consequences flow from the terms of the Bill as it stands at present.
The second principle which I believe has been accepted by all Members of this Chamber and of another place is the other principle of this British Nationality Bill regarding British citizens whose children are born overseas. After the first generation, British nationality will not be granted to them, nor if they do not get British citizenship will they have the right of abode. I should like to point out the very special position in which Gibraltarians find themselves both under the terms of this Bill and under the guarantees given to them both by former Labour Ministers and by Ministers of the Crown in the present Government. I do not think there is any reason to believe that Ministers of future Governments will not maintain and support those guarantees.
The Gibraltarians are the only British citizens of dependent territories, or of any other, who for successive generations will have the right of abode in this country although they will not be born in the United Kingdom. My own prospective great-grandchild will not have the right of abode if it is born outside the United Kingdom, because my grandchild happens to be a British citizen by descent under the terms of this Bill. This is not sour grapes on my part, but I would point out, with regard to many thousands of British citizens whose children are born abroad, that none of them will have the privilege which is being accorded—and rightly so—to the people of Gibraltar under the guarantees of former Governments and of the present Government. Furthermore, they have a right which, again, is not accorded to future children of children who will be 267 British by descent. They have a right to come to this country and live here for five years and have British citizenship other than by descent, which means that they can have children who will, again, be British citizens, possibly by descent if they are born outside the United Kingdom, or British citizens fully if they are born in this country. But that is not accorded to children of present British citizens by descent, under the terms of this Bill.
In fairness, the many privileges which Gibraltarians are receiving under the terms of this Bill, under the terms of the Treaty of Rome and under the guarantees given by this Government should be pointed out, because I do not think it has been sufficiently realised how this Bill will operate against other British citizens who are not horn outside this country.
Finally, I wonder whether this amendment has really been considered seriously. Of course, it is a romantic idea and a wonderful idea that we should absorb Gibraltarians within the family and call them British citizens. But are they to be the only people in the world who will be entitled on application to be registered as British citizens, regardless of where they are born, regardless of how long they are in this country, and regardless of whether they have any connections at all with this country and whether they have ever been here? This is not a serious amendment before a legislative body and I beg to support the Government.
§ Lord Ferrier
I have listened to every word of this debate and I hesitate to intervene, except for one factor which has not been mentioned. There have been references to the sentimental, the political, the legal and the economic considerations which affect this issue, but nobody has mentioned the Rock itself. I rather hoped that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, would have mentioned it. I had a lifelong friendship with General Mason-McFarlane, who spent many years there during the war. But the reason why I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Bethell is that I feel that nothing should be done which in any way weakens the bonds which bind Gibraltar to our country.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Lord Hankey
May we have an intervention from the Cross-Benches at this time? I do not want to increase the length of the debate, but I have had a very long connection with this question, because I was sent by Mr. Bevin to Spain to make things better after the period when we had withdrawn ambassadors at the end of the war. I made it my business to go all over Spain to try to understand the Spaniards and, naturally, I went to Gibraltar and studied the problem in depth. I have retained close connections with Spain ever since, and I should like to say that I have great understanding of the Spanish point of view. But I do not think that the Spanish point of view can be taken into too much consideration in connection with the position of the Gibraltarians.
I say that because the Gibraltarians really have stood by us in very bad times indeed. I ask your Lordships not just to go back to thinking about the war, when many of them were evacuated to this country. You 268 must think of that tiny area—I think it is not much more than two square miles—which has been, more or less, in a state of siege for many years. They cannot go in and out, they cannot use their passports to go to Spain and they have stood by us through thick and thin. I do not think you can afford to disregard these issues, when people are so much on your side.
If I may be rather critical, I think we were extremely hardboiled with the Maltese. They were extremely good to us in the war and I do not think we were very generous to them after the war. I saw a lot of the negotiations in the Foreign Service, though I was never directly mixed up in them, but I was very sad that we did not do more for the Maltese. I was not surprised that, at the end, they got a Government which was extremely tough with the United Kingdom and, for that matter, with the whole of NATO.
Gibraltar is extremely important to the United Kingdom—and I am going to change the bowling a bit now. Only on Monday, we had a very important debate about defence, in which great attention was drawn to the Soviet pressure on this country, more particularly with submarines and missiles. I find it impossible to believe that, if the international situation got worse, we would really be talking about laying off the activity of the dockyard in Gibraltar. I believe it is extremely important that we should be able to operate in those waters, with reliable maintenance facilities. For us to disregard that at this time would be sheer folly.
We really want a loyal and fine population there, which is what we now have, but if we make them become what they consider to be second-class citizens it will be a very great mistake. We shall need in Gibraltar absolutely first-class facilities under British control, for controlling the movement of submarines through the Straits of Gibraltar. That is a strategic point of outstanding importance. I do not believe that, when the time comes, the Navy will want to relinquish that control in any way. They will need a loyal and enthusiastic population, which is what we now have, and I do not think we ought to risk it.
I always hesitate to disagree with the most distinguished chiefs that I have had, on both sides of the House, neither of whom is here at this moment, but I find it impossible to believe that we really have to give fewer facilities to Gibraltar on account of Hong Kong. This amendment is very cunningly conceived. Gibraltar is a part of Europe; Hong Kong is not. Gibraltar has a population of 19,000 or so; the population of Hong Kong is, I believe, 5 million. The two just are not on the same level. I find it impossible to believe that the extremely clever people that we have in the FCO and the Cabinet would not be able to draw a valid distinction on which we could stand. On all these grounds, I urge your Lordships to back this amendment. I shall certainly vote for it myself and I hope that the Government will think twice about it.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
Before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that he should have given credit to Spain in the last war for refusing passage to German troops to attack Gibraltar and to close the Mediterranean, which would have prolonged the war 269 for a long time. But I agree that, with the defence cuts, the docks will be short of work in a few years' time; and over half the population of Gibraltar is employed in the docks. We must look ahead and, if Spain eventually joins NATO, then I suppose that one day the docks in Gibraltar might be used for NATO purposes and the Spanish navy might use those docks, which would employ the people of Gibraltar. I just wanted to make that point. However, we must be fair and give credit to Spain for what she did in the war.
§ Lord Hankey
I am very glad of the intervention of my noble friend. I started by saying that I have great understanding of the Spanish position; and I really have. But we have to ask them to live with this problem in the interests of Europe as a whole, and of a civilisation of which they are most distinguished exponents.
§ Lord Geddes
It is as difficult to get an innings in your Lordships' House as it was in Leeds on Monday afternoon. Of all the arguments that have been put to your Lordships' Committee in favour of making Gibraltar an exception, I suggest that, with possibly one exception only—that of numbers, which was effectively dealt with by my noble friend Lady Vickers—every one of those arguments can be stood on its head.
The only real exception that has been brought forward has been Gibraltar's membership of the EEC and that, as has been said by many of your Lordships, is already dealt with within the Bill as it stands. With that exception, it seems—and many of your Lordships will be aware of my close affinity with Hong Kong—that it is grossly unjust to make an exception so far as Gibraltar is concerned, and not for the other dependent territories. With the greatest respect to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, I was frankly horrified at the implications of what he had to say, if I understood him correctly, that it was Hong Kong that was causing the other dependent territories not to get full British citizenship, and that only on full weight of numbers. There does not seem to be any justification for using the argument of numbers—which the noble Baroness has very ably pointed out is not a sequitur anyway—to justify an exception being made.
The only other point upon which I wish to detain the Committee is that which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, made. Perhaps, though, it is best to go into this point in detail on another occasion. If I heard the noble and learned Lord correctly, I think he said that it was the wish of the people of Hong Kong to be named as citizens of Hong Kong. I should like to leave with your Lordships' Committee the statement that this is not the advice which I have received and that it has very serious political overtones so far as Hong Kong is concerned. Perhaps we should raise this matter when an amendment is tabled at another time.
My only other point—I advisedly call him my noble friend Lord Kadoorie whom I was delighted to see receive a Life Peerage—is that I think my noble friend Lady Vickers went a little far when she said that he could speak for his people. As I understand it, every Member of your Lordships' Committee, or House, speaks personally and not directly for others.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
Before the noble Lord sits down, could I point out that what in fact I said was that the desirability for the passport to bear the designation "A British Hong-Kong citizen" is, I understand, precisely what our friends in Hong Kong want?
The Duke of Wellington
My family has been associated with the Iberian Peninsula, and the Rock is part of the Iberian Peninsula, for 120 years. I would suggest to your Lordships that this amendment should be considered also, as has already been mentioned, in an Iberian context. I was a member of Her Majesty's Embassy in the mid-1960s at a period when Anglo-Spanish relations were extremely bad over what has become known as "the Gibraltar Question" One noble Lord said—I forget who—that one day a solution will have to be found to that problem. I would suggest most strongly to your Lordships that if this amendment is accepted that solution will recede into the far distance and the problem may well become altogether insoluble. Therefore, I would urge most strongly that your Lordships should reject the amendment.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor
After so many strongly supported and powerfully argued speeches, it is rather difficult to pull the debate together. If I do not mention by name all my noble friends and all noble Lords opposite who have participated in the debate, I hope that they will excuse me and acquit me of any discourtesy whatever. I shall speak strictly to the amendment and will try to put the arguments more or less in my own way.
I hope that on reflection the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, will cease to accuse the Government of confusing nationality with immigration. Obviously nationality and immigration have repercussions on one another. Every country in the world would have to say the same. However, I should have thought that the one thing which stood out a mile from the speech of my noble friend Lord Soames and from the speeches in support of the Government from various quarters of the Committee, including that of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, on the Cross-Benches and my noble friend Lady Elles, is that we have precisely not done this. The Bill is about citizenship. There can be, of course, either in the long or the short run, implications for immigration, but they are quite different conceptions and we have kept them separate. The only person who, I think, blurred the distinction was my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter who definitely, I thought, committed the sin of which the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, accused us.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
—has been so characteristically kind as to mention me in despatches, may I point out to him that so far from blurring the citizenship and migration argument I was simply pointing out that the general statement being made by members of the Government, that no exceptions can be made in 271 out treatment of these dependencies, is in fact vitiated by the completely different treatment which they are giving to Gibraltar and to Hong Kong in this crucially important respect.
§ The Lord Chancellor
I perfectly understood my noble friend the first time he said it and it still seems to me that he blurred the distinction. His argument appears to be that because you deal with immigration with exceptions, you have got to deal with nationality with exceptions. That appears to me to be exactly the sin of which the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, was complaining.
If the noble and learned Lord directly opposite me will forgive me, I do not propose to pursue the particular line of thought which he very interestingly, if he will allow me to say so, put forward because it seemed to me to vitiate the whole case for the amendment. He was, if he will forgive my saying so, sufficiently intelligent to realise that the amendment wrecks the whole conception of the Bill, unless we remodel it on the lines which he was about to propose in another amendment, which of course he would like the Committee to do. But I would say respectfully to those who may at a subsequent stage differ from the noble and learned Lord that he, like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, to adopt Lord Renton's phrase, "let the cat out of the bag".
The point which we all understand about the amendment is that it is motivated by a sincere feeling of friendship and loyalty for the people of Gibraltar. That we all recognise. Although, unlike my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I cannot claim an ancestor actually present at the siege, if only because I do not know who at the date of the siege my ancestors were, I have no doubt at all that if this point were the true and only issue under debate the amendment would be carried nemine dissentiente. We would all of us, I think, express undying attachment to our friends on the Rock. We all remember their sojourn here in exile during the war. We are all aware of the hardships and annoyances they have sustained as a result of the restrictions placed upon them by the Franco régime and not, so I understand, yet lifted, contrary, at least to my belief, to the gentleman's agreement arrived at with the present régime. I believe we would all assent to the doctrine that there can be no question of the completion of the Spanish application to join the European Community until these questions are resolved honourably. This is a fact which I think the new Spanish democracy which, like my noble friend who moved the amendment, I wish so well would do well to ponder, quite independently of the result of this debate. I make no reference whatever to the events reported today in the newspapers. I would only say that bad manners usually constitute bad diplomacy.
So far, there can be no controversy whatever between us. However, my own suspicions with regard to the amendment begin to be aroused when I examine its actual terms. In relation to its avowed object its terms are, to say the least, somewhat surprising for, strange to relate, there is no reference at all in the amendment to Gibraltar. I was brought up to believe that one does not take advantage of inadvertent mistakes by one's opponents. That is the tradition of 272 my profession. But this was not an inadvertent mistake. That became obvious as the debate went on. It was not that they forgot to mention Gibraltar in the amendment. It was no oversight. The amendment was, and is, deliberate and therefore has become of the essence of the case which they are asking the Committee to accept.
They realise, of course, as did the noble and learned Lord opposite, that if an amendment had been introduced mentioning Gibraltar by name—and how easy it would have been to draft such a document—it could not have been justified on principle. It would have been wholly unjustifiable. There is no reason, if it was stated in bald and unambiguous terms, to justify an amendment in favour of Gibraltar so described. Therefore, they have had to invent a different principle in order to justify what they want to do, and the whole issue at stake in this debate is whether the new principle which the amendment contains is one which can be accepted as a principle.
It is stated to be an amendment in favour of two particular classes of persons, both described by reference to Article 227(4) of the EEC treaty, the nationals and the persons entitled to abode of a particular type of British dependency of a particular class. For reference, the article of the treaty provides that the treaty shall apply to the European territories for whose external relations a member state is responsible.
I will pause here to make two points in answer to two of the points raised by noble Lords who have supported the amendment. In the first place I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that he was, for once, in error when he suggested that the Gibraltarians can derive from the European treaty their right to enter this country. They cannot. They can derive their right to enter France, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, or Denmark by reference to Article 227(4); they cannot derive their right to enter this country, which depends in law upon the very assurances upon which so much cold water has been poured.
I pause, secondly, to say to my noble friend Lord Bethell that to try to build an edifice on Article 227(4) of the Treaty and then to talk about the reference in the Labour Party Manifesto to withdraw from the Community altogether, as if he was giving the citizens of Gibraltar something desirable or additional or permanent, was one of the most startling pieces of inconsistency I have heard in debate during the course of my experience in this House. I hope, of course, that it will never happen, whether because they change their minds or because they are defeated by the electorate. But, of course, if the Labour Party succeeded in pulling this country out of the EEC, they would pull this amendment out of the Bill altogether. The fact is that the insecurity—whatever it may be—which the manifesto of the Labour Party gives to our membership of the Community is precisely something which no Member on this side of the House, or of the Liberal Party, ought to seek to build into this Bill by reference to the very principle upon which the amendment is based.
The two classes of person I mentioned earlier are the nationals of Gibraltar and the persons entitled to abode of a particular type of British dependency of a particular class. Again may I pause to reassure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that if the 273 facts be as he has stated, his British citizenship would not be in doubt, whether this Bill passes through Parliament or not. He would have at least two titles to British citizenship; I think by birth under Clause 1 and by descent under Clause 2, on the facts which he has stated.
But it is true, of course, that the class, by reference to which the two classes of persons are designated, is a class of one member only, and that Gibraltar. But the matter is put forward by the amendment, not because of Gibraltar but by reason of Gibraltar being a member of a particular class of dependency, on two conditions; one, that we are responsible for its external relations and one, that it is a European dependency. That is the only ground of principle upon which the amendment is based and once that has been said it seems to me that the amendment has been made wholly indefensible in principle. There is and there can be no reason whatever by reason of Article 227(4) entitling Gibraltarians, either by virtue of their own "citizenship— and I use the word in inverted commas—or by reason of any right of abode which gives them right to any special treatment at all under this Bill. To some extent, as I shall show, they have special treatment from various sources: from the treaty itself, but subject to the qualification which I have thought right to make to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, from the assurances given, and by virtue of the constitution of Gibraltar itself.
By contrast the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have not the relevant rights under the treaty because they are not dependencies to which Article 227(4) refers, by their own choice; the Orkneys and the Shetlands, to which reference has also been made, have rights as part of the United Kingdom but there can be no question of Gibraltar asking for the same treatment either as the Channel Isles or the Isle of Man or the Orkneys and Shetlands, because in both cases the reference would be totally inappropriate. The cases are distinct, not merely in law but in actual practice.
What the amendment would in fact do is to give the Gibraltarians the best of both worlds although only "under the counter"—the "counter" being the reference to Article 227(4) of the treaty. But, with respect, they are not entitled to the best of both worlds. They are a dependency and therefore are not as such entitled to the benefit of Part I, and because they are dependent they are entitled to the benefit of the treaty, though their status is declared under Part II.
First, in order to establish the point I should like to establish the advantages enjoyed by Gibraltarians of both classes independently of this Bill, although in fact those advantages have been enumerated at one time or another in the debate. They are threefold; the first two are guaranteed by the British Government and the last, subject to the one qualification I have made, by the treaty. The first—and in some ways the most important—is that contained in the preamble to the 1969 constitution following the referendum of 1967 and the assurances given on behalf of the Labour Government at that date. The preamble states without qualification:Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes".274 That is where their right not to be deprived of their relationship with this country derives from. It does not derive and it cannot be made to derive from Article 227: it derives from the constitution and the assurances given thereunder.
I was a little disappointed in this connection to hear from behind me, and I think from one of the Cross-Benches, promises given by Her Majesty's Government—of whatever party—referred to as "mere assurances". They are not mere assurances. By whichever party the assurance is given, it is a solemn promise given by the people of this country through their freely elected representatives, and I was very sorry indeed to hear those promises denigrated or said to be qualified in any way. The amendment itself depends on something which is far more insubstantial than a mere assurance of Her Majesty's Government, if "a mere assurance" is the proper term, as I think it is not; it depends on Article 227 of the treaty, because, whatever may be true of the constitution and the assurances, without Article 227 of the Treaty the amendment would be nothing.
I come now to the Bill itself. The amendment would give the right of registration on application, but only on application. So, with respect to my noble friend Lord Bethell, his claim that it removes all the anomalies disappears at one breath, because a new category of citizenship is thereby created; namely, those who are Gibraltarians and have not applied. But the assurances give the right of settlement conveyed by the assurances, and thereafter, if they then choose to be associated with the territory of this country, the right of citizenship, which is exactly what we are told they want. That is something far more than is given to Hong Kong, far more than is given to Montserrat, far more than is given to the Falkland Islands or St. Helena. All these are subject to immigration control; Gibraltarians are not subject to immigration control, either in practice under the assurances or in any other way.
This is exactly the point, surely, at which the amendment is objectionable in principle. May I say here again in passing that I was very glad my noble friend the Duke of Wellington reminded us that if we do wish the restrictions to be removed harmoniously this amendment may not be the easiest or best way to do it. I can express no opinion about that; I am not qualified to do so. I was very glad that he did make the point, as he is qualified to do so. But Gibraltar is a dependency and the Bill is about citizenship. The Gibraltarians already enjoy the privileges I have indicated, and now we are being told we must give them the best of both worlds. The Bill does create three categories of British subjects, but I was very sorry indeed to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, give endorsement to the phrase "a second-class citizen".
§ Lord Hughes
If the noble Lord will allow me, I did not describe them as second-class citizens. What I said was that the people of Gibraltar were having it dinned into them every day by the Spanish television authorities, who said they were getting second-class citizenship. That is an entirely different thing from my so commenting.
§ The Lord Chancellor
I am very grateful to the noble Lord for the correction, and I am very glad to have it because he does thereby dissociate himself from some of the other things which have been said in the debate, because although there are in fact three categories of citizenship created by the Bill these are not first, second and third class, like the carriages of the London and South Western Railway Company when I was a boy. It does a real disservice to the United Kingdom, it does a real disservice to the Bill and it does a real disservice to the homogeneity and solidarity of the Commonwealth itself to be guilty of this error or to give the slightest countenance to it. There are no second-class citizens in this country in the sense that there are citizens with different rights.
This amendment would cause, as has been repeatedly said by those of my noble friends and others who have the very best reason to know that they are speaking the truth, the deepest resentment on the part of, let us say, the Falkland Islands, faced with the Argentine, Belize, for the moment a dependency but in future probably independent as an overseas territory, confronted with Guatemala, or Hong Kong, confronted with China. If the amendment were passed it would cause the deepest resentment. It is a discriminatory amendment. It discriminates not in favour of Gibraltar but against those other dependencies who have been given this category and who are similarly placed. It would cause the deepest resentment on the part of all those people to be stigmatised as second-class citizens simply in order to give an advantage to Gibraltar, when the proposers of the amendment do not even dare mention Gibraltar in what they have written.
This amendment is, therefore, I hope I have persuaded the Committee, objectionable in principle. One sympathises with the motivation behind it. One agrees without qualification to the encomiums which have been placed upon Gibraltar and her citizens as a result of history, as a result of association and as a result of continued loyalty and friendship. But it is objectionable in principle, and the more I have listened to this debate the more I have become convinced that this is so. I therefore invite the Committee to reject the amendment.
§ Lord Bethell
I am very grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken in this important debate. I think one result that will come of it, whatever happens in a few minutes time, will be that the people of Gibraltar will be flattered that so many big guns have been out and brought to bear on this question. Indeed, some of the artillery that has appeared could perhaps be compared with the very large guns that were trained upon them during the siege in which the ancestors of some noble Lords took part.
The speech of my noble and learned friend was characteristically vehement, and I would only take issue with him on one point, which I must say cut me a little bit to the quick, when he suggested that I did not dare to use the word "Gibraltar" in this amendment put down by my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. The purpose of this amendment has been made clear in public utterances, in another place, by many of the people who support it, and by myself, in our speeches and elsewhere. There 276 is no question of hiding behind a facade. On the contrary, the use of the words in question is simply to prove a principle. I know my noble and learned friend does not agree with me, but I believe it is a principle, and the principle is the Treaty of Rome, the constitution of Europe, the written constitution which we have signed, which was signed by the Government of which the noble and learned Lord was a member. I am sure that, since he was a member of that Government, the noble and learned Lord will remember that the preamble to that treaty pledges us to lay the foundations for an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe and to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe. The signature of Britain was put to those ideals.
I would suggest to my noble and learned friend and those who have spoken against this amendment that it is not a very good way of building a closer union of Europe, and removing barriers to separate off, to hive off, a few thousand people out of the 260 million people of our European Community into a separate category. I know that provision will be made for the Gibraltarians, if this amendment fails, in a new declaration which will be prepared no doubt and annexed to the treaty, and on which discussions are now in progress with our Community partners. But that is a clumsy way to proceed, I suggest.
We have heard a long, interesting and emotional debate. I make no apology for the emotion expressed in my own remarks or in those of others who have spoken. Of course, emotion has been used and, as has been rightly pointed out, it should not carry the day in the end. Proper, legal, constitutional arguments have also been deployed and perhaps I might try to encapsulate the difference between our argument and that of those who have spoken from the Government Benches. It seems to me to be that those who moved the amendment set rather more store by our adherence to the Treaty of Rome and the growing union of the peoples of Europe, than do certain other people.
It was accepted by those who wrote the Bill that certain territories which, indeed, have internal self-government should have populations who are entitled to British citizenship, such as the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey—British territories, admittedly within the common travel area traditionally which have internal self-government. The question being put to the Committee is: Should Gibraltar be taken into this family of common citizenship, common travel, or should it be kept on one side? I submit that the signature of the Treaty of Rome and the special mention of Gibraltar made in 1973 changes the issue completely. It changes the traditional attitude that this country had to Gibraltar. That is the argument. I believe that it has been put well and fairly, both for and against. The amendment is before us. This has been a well attended debate and one that will be followed, of course, with considerable interest in this country, but with deep concern in Gibraltar itself, I believe that the Committee must now pronounce its verdict upon the amendment.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 111) shall be agreed to?277
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 150; Not-Contents, 112.278
|Alport, L.||Kilmarnock L.|
|Amherst, E.||Kimberley, E.|
|Ardwick, L.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Auckland, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Aylestone, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Lee of Newton, L.|
|Banks, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Barnby, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Barrington, V.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Bethell, L. [Teller.]||Lockwood, B.|
|Birk, B.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Bishopston, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Blease, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Blyton, L.||McNair, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Mersey, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Monson, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Newall, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Byers, L.||Oram, L.|
|Carver, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Chelmsford, Bp.||Pargiter, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Peart, L.|
|Collison, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Raglan, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Darling of Hillsborough, L.||Reading, M.|
|David, B.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Rochester, Bp.|
|Dundee, E.||Rochester, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Rugby, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Seear, B.|
|Energlyn, L.||Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Erroll, E.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Simon, V.|
|Falkland, V.||Soper, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Spens, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Stamp, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Galpern, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Stone, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Glenkinglas, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Gosford, E.||Strauss, L.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Gray, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Grey of Naunton, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Hale, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Thurso, V.|
|Hampton, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hankey, L.||Tweeddale, M.|
|Hanworth, V.||Underhill, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Hayter, L.||Wade, L.|
|Hirshfield, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Walston, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Hughes, L. [Teller.]||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Whaddon, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||White, B.|
|Jacques, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|James of Rusholme, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Janner, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Lichfield, Bp.|
|Ampthill, L.||Long, V.|
|Avon, E.||Loudoun, C.|
|Bellwin, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||McAlpine of Moffat, L.|
|Blake, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Carrington, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Margadale, L.|
|Cawley, L.||Marley, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Mills, V.|
|Cockfield, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Morris, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Daventry, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Nathan, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Northchurch, B.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Orkney, E.|
|Dormer, L.||Pender, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Elles, B.||Portland, D.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Renton, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Richardson, L.|
|Gage, V.||Robbins, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Romney, E.|
|Garner, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Geddes, L.||Sharples, B.|
|George-Brown, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Glendevon, L.||Soames, L.|
|Gore-Booth, L.||Southwell, Bp.|
|Gormanston, V.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Gowrie, E.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Gridley, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Grimston of Westbury, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Hatherton, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Henley, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Inglewood, L.||Wellington, D.|
|Kemsley, V.||Westbury, L.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 10 [Citizens of UK and Colonies who are to become British citizens at commencement]:
§ 5.52 p.m.
Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 112:
Page 11, line 25, leave out ("subject to subsection (2)").
§ The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 112 is a paving amendment for an amendment later on to leave out subsection (2) of Clause 10. Subsection (2) of Clause 10 refers to certain people who acquired citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by virtue of the British Nationality (No. 2) Act 1964.279
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
I wonder whether the noble Lord would come nearer to a microphone because it is a little difficult to hear him.
§ Lord Avebury
I am very sorry if I was inaudible, but I was explaining that this, in fact, is a paving amendment for the later one which leaves out subsection (2). It deals with the position of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who acquired that status by virtue of the British Nationality (No. 2) Act 1964. That Act was passed in order to enable the United Kingdom to comply with the obligations which we undertook on ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which I believe was in the same year.
What the British Nationality (No. 2) Act did was to make children who were born stateless overseas to mothers who were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies entitled themselves to be registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. In addition, of course, that made them patrial within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971, so that they always have the right of abode in the United Kingdom and Colonies.
Therefore, at first sight you would have thought that they would have been covered by subsection (1) of Clause 10 because it says:(1) Subject to subsection (2), a person who immediately before commencement—(a) was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies … shall at commencement become a British citizen".But that then is said to be subject to subsection (2), which deprives certain of those people who had the status of citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies of the rights that they then possessed.
I must say, this is yet another example of the way in which persons with existing rights are being deprived of them, contrary to the assertions which were frequently made by Ministers in another place, that nothing which was to be found in this Bill in any way impaired the rights of the persons already held at the time.
What happens under this provision of subsection (2) is that the child does not become a British citizen unless his mother does at commencement. So he loses a right that he already possessed prior to the passing of the Act. We are talking about a very small number of people because, as I understand it, the number who did, in fact, register under the British Nationality (No. 2) Act 1964 was fewer than 1,000. That figure of 1,000 is the absolute maximum and, of course, that would have included these mothers who will become British citizens on commencement.
Therefore, the number of people who the Government seek to deprive of their rights to register as British citizens in subsection (2) must at the very most be a few hundred. This is really a very mean and petty provision, and one which I hope that your Lordships' Committee will see fit to reject. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
I rise to support this amendment. It deprives the child—and there are only a few hundred with whom we are concerned—of entitlement to register as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. The subsection would not have the effect of making these children all British citizens. Their status is to follow the status of the mother under this 280 Bill. For example, if a child was born before commencement in the Bahamas to a mother who becomes a dependent territory citizen under the Bill, the child in turn would become a citizen of the British dependent territories and lose the right of entry that he now has by virtue of the British Nationality (No. 2) Act 1964, which gave children born abroad to British mothers and born stateless an entitlement to register as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. This is uncharacteristically mean, if it is the case that the noble Lord on the other side—who is not a mean person—is to oppose the amendment.
§ Lord Belstead
I hope that the Committee will take the view, after I have explained the Government's position, that no meanness is either intended or inherent in subsection (2) of Clause 10, but rather that it is putting right a legacy of the (No. 2) Act 1964, which I think was unforeseen at the time.
The subsection which the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, would sweep away provides for a small exception to the general provision that people who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with the right of abode should become British citizens. It seems to the Government that this should not necessarily be the case for children who have been born to women who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and who would otherwise have been stateless when they were born. These are children who were entitled to be registered and are entitled to be registered under Section 1(1) of the British Nationality (No. 2) Act 1964, which was designed to prevent statelessness arising.
This registration may carry with it the right of abode under the 1971 Act, no matter where the child was born and no matter what the links of the child's mother with the United Kingdom. It happens in this way. If registration takes place at a High Commission, it, of course, confers the right of abode because registration at a High Commission in these circumstances is the equivalent of registration in the United Kingdom. If the application is made from a foreign country, then registration is, in fact, effected in the United Kingdom, even though the mother may have no ties with this country.
Finally, of course, there can be a case in which the mother could bring a child affected with her to this country and have it registered here during that visit. The child when registered would thus have the right of abode even where the mother has no ties with this country and holds her citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies through her links with an existing or former dependency. Here we are talking about children who, when they were born, had mothers who were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies but whose fathers were not citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies; indeed in many cases, their fathers were not known at all because they had simply disappeared from the scene. Because of the provision in the British Nationality (No. 2) Act 1964, these children were not only registered as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, like their mothers, but, unlike their mothers, they had conferred upon them the right of abode in this country. So one has the strange situation where a child has the right of abode 281 in this country, has only its mother to look to, and yet the mother does not have the right of abode.
That situation really does seem illogical and accordingly subsection (2) provides that when the Bill comes into force these children should acquire the same citizenship as their mothers and not British citizenship in all cases, as would otherwise happen. Thus a child registered in this way whose mother, through her ties with an existing dependency, becomes a citizen of the British dependent territories will become such a citizen himself. Similarly, a child whose mother becomes a British overseas citizen will become a British overseas citizen himself. But I should like to make the point that subsection (2) ensures that children registered in this way who themselves have settled here and been resident here for at least five years, and who therefore have the right of abode in their own right anyway, will of course become British citizens—as will those children whose mothers become British citizens.
If I may sum up, the only reason why subsection (2) is included in Clause 10 is that it seems to the Government wholly illogical that a child should not have the same citizenship as its mother when the father is no longer with the family and cannot for that reason transmit his citizenship. Of course, if the mother becomes a British citizen then so will the child. Otherwise, citizenship of the British dependent territories or British overseas citizenship will be conferred on the child together with the mother. If under the other rights contained in the Bill the child is entitled to British citizenship, then of course British citizenship will come to him or her.
I really do not consider that subsection (2) is a mean subsection. It merely shows that the Government believe that the citizenship of the child should be the same as that of the mother—particularly bearing in mind that we are talking about cases in which the father is simply not there. If the child looks to the mother, then surely the child should have the same citizenship as she does?
§ Lord Avebury
The noble Lord the Minister has not convinced me because he failed entirely to deal with the main point of my argument, which was that by incorporating this provision the Government are withdrawing from certain of our citizens a privilege which they have enjoyed ever since the implementation of the 1964 Act. As I have pointed out several times, this is contrary to the assertions made by Ministers in the other place—that nobody, but nobody, was going to be disadvantaged by any of the provisions in this Bill.
The noble Lord says that this situation is a legacy of the 1964 measure which was unforeseen at the time and that it is a small exception to the principle that citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with the right of abode should become British citizens. I do not accept that there should be some exceptions; and I do not accept that because we made a commitment in the 1964 Act which may turn out to be inconvenient, in such a minor way that I cannot understand why the Minister should resist this amendment, we should not proceed to include that category of citizenship in this Bill.
282 The Minister said that registration carries with it the right of abode. The point is that citizenship carried with it the right of abode under the Immigration Act 1971 and what the Minister is now seeking to do is to remove that right of abode. It is all very well for him to say that a child will assume the citizenship of its mother and that, for example, where the mother becomes a British overseas citizen the child will do so as well. In that case, as the Minister knows—and we shall come to this aspect a little later when we discuss British overseas citizenship—that child will have no right of abode anywhere on the globe. The noble Lord, the Minister has failed to convince me and I believe has failed to convince your Lordships' Committee. I propose to test the matter in a Division.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 112) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 86; Not-Contents, 125.283
|Amherst, E.||Lee of Newton, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Lichfield, Bp.|
|Avebury, L. [Teller.]||Listowel, E.|
|Aylestone, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Birk, B.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Bishopston, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Blease, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Blyton, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Bowden, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||McNair, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Mayhew, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Chelmsford, Bp.||Mishcon, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Collison, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Oram, L.|
|Crowther-Hunt, L.||Peart, L.|
|Darling of Hillsborough, L.||Phillips, B.|
|David, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Ross of Marnock L.|
|Foot, L.||Sefton of Garston L.|
|Galpern, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Simon, V.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Gosford, E.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Stone, L.|
|Hale, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Thurso, V.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Wade, L.|
|Jacques, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Janner, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||White, B.|
|Kennet, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Barnby, L.|
|Airey of Abingdon, B.||Bellwin, L.|
|Alport, L.||Belstead, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Bessborough, E.|
|Avon, E. [Teller.]||Boyd-Carpenter, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, E.|
|Cairns, E.||Long, V.|
|Caithness, E.||Loudoun, C.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Macleod of Borve, B.|
|Chelwood, L.||Marley, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Mills, V.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Monson, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Morris, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Mottistone, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Nathan, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Newall, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Eccles, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Elibank, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Elles, B.||Pender, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Portland, D.|
|Erroll, E.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Renton, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Rochdale, V.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Romney, E.|
|Gainford, L.||Rugby, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Garnder, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Geddes, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Glenkinglas, L.||Shannon, E.|
|Gormanston, V.||Sharples, B.|
|Gowrie, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Gray, L.||Soames, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Spens, L.|
|Grey of Naunton, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Maryle-bone, L.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Halsbury, E.||Swinfen, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Hatherton, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Henley, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Tranmire, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Trenchard, V.|
|Inglewood, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|James of Rusholme, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Kemsley, V.||Vickers, B.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Vivian, L.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Westbury, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Viscount Colville of Culross moved Amendment No. 114:
Page 11, leave out lines 29 and 30 and insert—
("(b) (i) had the right of abode in the United Kingdom under the Immigration Act 1971 as then in force; or
(ii) had been born in the United Kingdom before commencement.").
§ The noble Viscount said: This is another point which is markedly similar to a matter which has just been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and lost on that Division. I did not make a speech on Second Reading of this Bill because there were so many of your Lordships who wished to do so, and I certainly 284 shall not do it now. On the other hand, while I very much support the move of the Government under the Bill away from jus soli to something which I think is not quite jus sanguinis, the law of close connection or however it might be described, by the same token in making a major shift of that sort it seems to me that your Lordships ought to be particularly careful about the transitional provisions and about any safeguards that can be built into the legislation to deal with cases where, for one reason or another, the issue is a difficult one.
§ It is certainly in the spirit of looking after the transitional provisions that I have put down this amendment. I can only suppose that since neither the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, nor noble Members of the Labour Opposition have spotted the point there is the strong probability that I have got it wrong, but nevertheless I believe it to be a point of substance and I hope I may elaborate upon it. It concerns a comparatively small number of people—at least I would think it was a comparatively small number—most of whom are already in existence. They are children born in this country to persons who subsequently turn out, I think after the commencement of this Act, whenever that may be, to have failed to fulfil some provision of the immigration rules and turn out, contrary probably to what they think in some cases, to be illegal immigrants of one description or another.
§ I think I saw in a Written Answer in another place the other day that last year there were about 1,500 such people who were detected. It stands to reason that some such of the immigrants—and it does not matter where they come from—will have had children born in this country since they arrived and before the commencement of this Bill. The point goes to the status of that child. As the law is at the present moment, and will be until this Bill becomes law, that child born in this country will have the right of abode here simply by virtue of producing a birth certificate.
§ Whatever may or may not be the position about his parents, he would be entitled, possibly by himself, to stay in this country. Clause 10, as it is drafted, removes that right, because if it turns out that he has been born to people who are here in breach of the immigration rules then he will not fulfil the requirement to have the right of abode in this country any more than his parents will. Therefore, retrospectively he will have been deprived of a status which he had at birth and which he retained up until the day when this Bill became an Act in operation.
§ I am very concerned about changes in status brought about retrospectively, rather the same as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, speaking a few moments ago. I know that it means that when the case of the possible deportation of the child's parents comes to be looked at there could be difficulties after the Act comes into force, just as there are difficulties in a similar case now, because it will be difficult for the Ministers in the Home Office to decide to deport a complete family, the child of which is a citizen with a right of abode in this country. If this amendment is accepted that would be the same then as it is now, and it will mean that in some cases hard decisions would have to be taken.
§ If we are going to make a major transformation of our citizenship law from the age-old principle that was 285 discussed so much by the right reverend Prelates in front of me and by many others of your Lordships at the beginning of this Bill, and if we are going to take all the enormous amount of trouble that has been taken over questions of registration and such like that have been discussed under the previous amendments, which are after all, mainly concerned to see that the people who want to live in this country and have got close connections with it are allowed to do so, then I find it less than easily acceptable that a child born here to people who may in some cases have thought that they were genuinely allowed to be in this country, though for some technicality afterwards it turns out they may not be so entitled, shall be, some time after his birth, deprived of a right which he has hitherto always enjoyed. That is a change of status.
§ Ministers, my noble friends in this place and my honourable and right honourable friends in another place have sought to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has just reminded the Committee, that nobody will be the worse off as a result of this legislation. But I think the people I have just been referring to, small children, will be. I should like my noble friend or perhaps my noble and learned friend, if he would be so kind, to say what the situation would be and how it is—if I have my facts right—in the light of the various assurances that have been given, that nobody would be the worse off and how they can justify the change that I think will inevitably take place unless this amendment is incorporated in the Bill. I beg to move.
§ The Lord Advocate (Lord Mackay of Claslifern)
I think we would share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross if the basic assumption he was making was correct. But if I may take the words of his amendment, he is seeking to add to the clauseor(ii) had been born in the United Kingdom before commencement".My understanding is that that is already included under the first branch of the provision if we look at it in his amendment. In other words, children who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who were born in the United Kingdom before commencement have the right of abode in the United Kingdom under the Immigration Act 1971 as enforced at commencement. Accordingly, his amendment adds nothing to what is in the Bill already, because it does not matter that a child's parents are in this country in breach of some of the technicalities of the immigration law. If the child attains citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by birth in this country before commencement, then that child has a right of abode under Section 2(1)(a) of the Act of 1971 and therefore becomes a British citizen at commencement under our clause.
Of course, as my noble friend has so clearly pointed out, this is a transitional provision and we are dealing with children in existence at commencement. The provisions that obtain from commencement onwards are in Clause 1 and they may be different. But as far as the subject matter of this amendment is concerned, we believe it is already covered by what we have in the 286 Bill. I hope that in the light of that explanation my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Viscount Colville of Culross
I am very much obliged to my noble and learned friend. I shall of course look this up; he has given me the reference so that I may do that. Of course, if he is right that completely meets the point, and perhaps he would allow me to pursue the matter further with the necessary book.
It is not easy, I think, to work out the cross-relationship between this Bill and the Immigration Act 1971, and that is obviously where I have failed. But at any rate, as I understand my noble and learned friend's answer, he does not intend that there should be any retrospective change. If I find that that is the effect of the legislation as it stands, of course I shall not pursue the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Belstead
May I just ask the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, whether it is his understanding that this is Amendment No. 114 ZAB? If so, could the noble Lord tell us, so that we are absolutely certain, what the terms of the amendment are? I am only seeking clarification. My understanding was that this was Amendment No. 114ZB and that we came to Amendment No. 114ZAB at the next amendment. I should just like to be certain of that when I am listening to the noble Lord.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees
The next Amendment is No. 114ZA and the amendment after that is No. 114ZB starred, because it is new.
§ Lord Mishcon
May I, with the permission of the Committee, say what is on my Marshalled List and what I understand to be the position. I am about to move, however inadequately, Amendment No. 114ZB. Amendment No. 114ZA is now merely a number and has no amendment against it. The next amendment is No. 114ZB with a star against it, and I am endeavouring to move Amendment No. 114ZB.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 114ZAB:
Page 11, line 31, at end insert—
("( ) A person shall at commencement become a British citizen if—
§ The noble Lord said: I am absolutely sure that the Committee is positively clear as to the amendment I am about to move and what it should be called. But we are at this moment dealing with Clause 10, and Clause 10 as it stands is fundamental to the scheme of the Bill as a whole. The first assumption on which this measure has been designed is that there should be a new citizenship of the United Kingdom alone, separate from the citizenship in the remaining dependencies and clearly marked off from the rest of the Commonwealth. It is this clause which spells the end of the old citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies which was laid down in the 1948 Act.
§ We on these Benches have no objection to the establishment of a new British citizenship. What we do object to is the way the Government are dealing with all those people who are British nationals at present but who will not get the new citizenship. We object to this unnecessarily complicated structure, as we see it, of three different kinds of citizenship, two of which are going to be almost meaningless, existing alongside two left-over forms of British nationality from the past.
§ Five kinds of British nationality are defined in this Bill and four of them confer no right of abode anywhere on their holders. The law of nationality at the moment—and we have said this many times in the debates in this House on this Bill—is quite admittedly obscure and confused; in many respects it is also out of date. So far we agree wholeheartedly with the Government: we do need a new, clear, up-to-date law. But is this the best that we can produce within that definition? The Government have frequently complained that this Bill has been misunderstood. So it has been and so it still is, and no wonder. Anyone who has attended the debate so far in your Lordships' Committee must be aware of the difficulties in understanding it which we in this Committee ourselves have experienced.
§ I can see that the details of a measure of this kind are bound to be complicated, but surely there is no need at all for the basic plan of a new Bill to be complex or hard to follow. Our amendments to this clause, and to Clause 14 later when we come to the dependent territories, represent an attempt to simplify and make clear the new structure of British nationality.
§ Let us look for a moment at the important matter of just who is to get what status under the Bill at present. On the Government's own figures—they are given in the White Paper of July 1980 (Cmnd. 7997)—there are in the world 57 million patrial citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. All of those—except for a few hundred children who are still unfortunately, as a result of the last Division in the Committee, the subject of Clause 10(2)—will get the new British citizenship under subsection (1). Most of those 57 million are of course living in the United Kingdom. About 3 million out of the 57 million are living abroad. I wish to make it clear that that is not a figure which is given in the White Paper, but perhaps the Government will say if their own estimate is very different from the figure I have just given.
§ In evidence to the Select Committee for Home Affairs in another place earlier this year, Professor Clive Parry, who is recognised as the leading academic expert on British nationality, said that about 1 million 288 white South Africans would acquire British citizenship under this Bill, most of them people born in the United Kingdom or whose fathers were born here. In other words, one-quarter of the white population of South Africa will acquire British citizenship and the right of abode here. Let me make it perfectly clear that my noble friends and I have not the slightest objection to that happening.
§ But, then, there are of course many people living in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand who were born here or whose fathers were born here; there are British expatriates scattered round the world—in West Germany, Belgium, Malaysia, in the Gulf States and so on—and they will get British citizenship under Clause 10 with the right of abode here. Incidentally, all those people will have freedom of movement rights in the EEC. Again, my noble friends and I have no objection to that.
But now we come down with a bump, from the 57 million to the other White Paper figures of those who will not get British citizenship. About 3 million people in the dependencies will get citizenship of those territories. The great majority of those, as we heard in a debate on a previous amendment, are in Hong Kong, about 2½ million there and a mere ½ million in all the other dependencies put together. Now we come down sharply again; the number who are to get British overseas citizenship—that is their sole nationality—is a mere 200,000. I must emphasise again that that is the Government's own estimate in the White Paper. It is admitted there that the estimates are all rough ones, but other sources have suggested that that estimate of 200,000 is too high. But let us take that figure of 200,000 and compare it for a moment with the 57 million who will get British citizenship; and remember that out of that 57 million there are about 3 million British citizens living abroad. Why is it necessary to create a special status for the 200,000 instead of simply making them British citizens? The 200,000 are, in the words of the White Paper:
Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, mostly in Malaysia, India and Africa, who, deriving their status from former Dependencies, have no right of entry to the United Kingdom or to an existing Dependency".
What the White Paper does not say is that they are almost all people of Indian descent. The Select Committee obtained evidence in some detail of who the people were who would get British Overseas citizenship under the Bill. That evidence suggested that there are very small groups in some Commonwealth and some foreign countries of other origins who will get British overseas citizenship; an estimated 2,000 of Cypriot origin in Cyprus, for example, and about 1,000 of Maltese origin in Greece.
§ But most of this group, as I have said, will be of Indian ethnic origin and are living in East Africa, India and Malaysia; those in India are, almost all of them, persons originating from East Africa who went under pressure to India after they had lost their right of entry to the United Kingdom and to whom the British Government are committed to admit to this country at some time. Those in East Africa are also to be admitted at some time, and as we know, there is a voucher scheme for gradual admission which was introduced in 1968. It applies mainly to East Africa, but vouchers are issued also, at a much slower rate 289 and outside that quota, for those in India. Those in East Africa and India who are eligible to apply for vouchers to come here and to whom the Government have often reiterated their commitment to give them entry eventually, number at the very most 70,000 souls.
§ It is not easy to present the situation to the Committee in clear and simple terms, but perhaps it can be summarised like this: the new citizenship structure in the Bill is based on that of the Immigration Act 1971; it takes patrial citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies under that Act and makes them British citizens; and it takes non-patrial citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (people who are British but who have no right of entry to this country) and divides them between citizenship of the British dependent territories and British overseas citizens.
§ The effect of the Immigration Act 1971 is that most British patrials are white people, while virtually all British non-patrials are of non-European descent. The division—I want to be frank with the Committee about this—is not exact; some people of non-European descent (those born, registered or naturalised in the United Kingdom) are patrial and will become full British citizens under the Bill with just the same status as the white majority. But they represent a terribly small fraction, perhaps 3 per cent. or at most 4 per cent. of British citizens living in the United Kingdom. But the other two new categories of citizenship will consist overwhelmingly of non-Europeans. I think I can truthfully say that we are dealing with a figure of 98 per cent. While the Government may want to give their own estimate, it can surely not be very different so far as dependent territory citizens are concerned; they obviously will be of non-European descent. At least 98 per cent. of those who get British overseas citizenship, therefore, will be of non-European descent.
§ In this and our subsequent Amendment No. 114ZB starred, we are proposing that at the very least the Government should confer British citizenship now on all those people with British nationality who have either been admitted for permanent settlement already or whom the Government are committed to allow into this country under the voucher scheme.
§ These are not very radical amendments. All they would do would be to confer British citizenship on some thousands of people—thousands as compared with the total of 57 million who already get it under the Bill; and those thousands will either have settled here already, or they are people whom the Government have already promised to admit. If the amendments are not passed, the thousands of people in question would be left with a status that gives them no right of abode in any territory in the world, no right to transmit citizenship to a wife or children, nothing but a meaningless name, a handle with nothing attached to it, to the people concerned worthless, and to the world at large incomprehensible, and so far as I know, unmatched by any parallel example.
§ British overseas citizenship as established by the Bill will not be a true nationality at all. It is not attached to any territory. It confers no rights on the holder, except the right to apply for a passport. That is not at all the same as the right to obtain a passport; but even those who apply successfully will get passports 290 that admit them to the land of nowhere. For those who acquire British overseas citizenship and who are already dual citizens, having the citizenship of another state, this will simply mean that they effectively cease to be British for all practical purposes. It might not quite mean that because although they will have no rights under our law, they might still owe the obligations of allegiance in some circumstances. But if we leave out of consideration these dual citizens, we are left with 200,000 people who will receive—and I repeat it—British overseas citizenship and nothing else. One hundred and thirty thousand of these are in Malaysia, where they have a right of residence, but not of citizenship under Malaysian law. So we come back to the 70,000 originating from East Africa. Our amendment proposes that they should be given British citizenship.
§ It has been the habit, perhaps understandably, in debate in your Lordships' Chamber for the Minister—who always does it courteously—to refer to the Green Paper of a previous Government. I hope that the Minister carefully listened to the Leader of the House when in the previous momentous and possibly historic debate on Gibraltar he referred to the Green Paper and said, very fairly, that the Green Paper canvassed ideas; and I took a note of exactly what he said. Of course it did; it canvassed ideas. The Government of the day were not bound, and we are not bound, by any of the proposals set out in the Green Paper, and therefore I hope that quotations from the Green Paper will not discolour this debate.
§ Since 1977 there has been an awful lot of discussion of, and much information made available on, what form our nationality might take in future, and the view to which we are committed is that nobody should be left without the right to live somewhere as a result of the Bill. If I am required to concede it—and I readily do—we ought to put right the wrongs that have been done to those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who lost their right of abode in their country of nationality in 1968.
§ Lastly, it might be said, "Oh dear! This is going to create a great problem. We are going to admit 70,000 people"—covered by our amendment—"to British citizenship straight away. We are going to do it at a time of high unemployment and we cannot afford the immigration commitment that this would involve". There is not the slightest doubt that many out of the 70,000 will not want to avail themselves of this right. They are well established in their countries of residence and they have no wish to come to a country which at this moment is in the depths of an economic recession. They are known to be mostly professional business people. What they want is a feeling of some kind of fall-back security should things go wrong in their own countries of residence. By and large they are employers of labour, not themselves employees. Indeed, those who have come from East Africa have, for instance, stimulated employment in Leicester, where I believe what is the largest East African community in this country resides. I do not think that those objections are tenable to the amendment. I commend the amendment to the Committee, and I hope that the Government will have the breadth of view, the sense of justice, and, if I may say so to the Committee, the humanity to accept it. I beg to move.291
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
I wish very briefly, but none the less warmly, to support everything that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and first to endorse the epithets that he has applied to the new form of citizenship which confers no rights of residence on a person anywhere in the world. This British overseas citizenship is a pitiful sham and a fraud, and I am ashamed to see it appearing in legislation coming before the United Kingdom Parliament. I am particularly ashamed that it is the intention of the Government to apply this to people whose rights were already undermined by the infamous 1968 Act, which we vigorously opposed at the time. When in our paper of July 1977 we commented on the previous Government's Green Paper we said:We are opposed to the concept of dividing citizens into sheep and goats. The proposal seems to us just as objectionable as it was when it was first advanced in the 1962 Immigration Act and extended in the infamous 1968 Act".We on these Benches believe that there should be only one citizenship and that we should not consign the individuals who are affected by the amendment to the second-class British overseas citizenship as proposed.
I want to refer to something else that was said by the noble Lord the Leader of the House in his very able speech in defence of the Government's position on Gibraltar. He said—and I quite agree with him—that the people of this country badly need a proper citizenship. Surely the people we are concerned with badly need a proper citizenship as well. They have suffered tremendous ordeals in some cases from the events in East Africa, where successive laws have been passed limiting their rights to work in professions, to engage in trades, to play their full part in the life of the community to such an extent, as your Lordships will remember, that many thousands of them had to leave Uganda abruptly in the period of General Amin's rule, and many other thousands had previously left Kenya, partly in response to the 1968 Act, which created the feelings of insecurity about which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has spoken.
What happened was that very many of those people went to India, and I wish in particular to refer to the position of the alleged 39,000 people who are still resident there. The figure was given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Select Committee in another place, and I believe that it was no more accurate than some of the other figures that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred to the figure in Malaysia of 130,000 which was given to the Select Committee. That may be compared with the figure of 110,000 which was given in a parliamentary Answer in 1975. It is not at all clear to me how the number of our citizens in Malaysia could possibly have increased over this period bearing in mind that, as we have heard previously in this Bill, at the moment a person can transmit his citizenship only to the first generation born overseas in a Commonwealth country. Therefore, it is obvious that the number of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies in Malaysia must be diminishing, and cannot possibly have increased since 1975. So I say that all the figures given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Select Committee must be taken with a pinch of salt.
But if one accepts the figure of 39,000 citizens of the 292 United Kingdom and Colonies at present resident in India, first of all I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that they are certainly not all going to come here at once. I was in Bombay in early 1978, and I had the opportunity of meeting representatives of the community of United Kingdom and Colonies citizens there. Many of them were engaged in business, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, says. Another factor which would prevent them from exercising the rights which it is proposed should be conferred on them by this amendment is that if you have built up a substantial business in India you are not entitled to sell up and take capital abroad, because there is very strict exchange control. Therefore, the most successful of the businessmen in Bombay who are our citizens would not wish to exercise the rights at all; but what they want is the absolute certainty, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, says, of having a proper citizenship—and this is what the amendment is about.
I want to say only one further word about the position of our citizens in India, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will be aware of this problem. Because the number of quota vouchers allocated to people in India has been limited to 500 a year, the entry of our citizens into this country has been a steadily lengthening process, with the picture that in November 1977 people admitted for settlement had waited for three and a half years. The most recent figure I have, for persons who will be admitted in August, is that they will by then have waited for five years and eight months. Can this really be fair, when you have some members of the family resident in the United Kingdom and others, who are our citizens and have always been our citizens, waiting to come for these immense periods?
For example, I know a person whose elderly mother, who has been in bad health, wanted to join him in the United Kingdom. He is perfectly prepared to look after her; but the Minister said that her health was not bad enough for her to qualify to come here as an elderly dependant parent in sympathetic circumstances, and she had to wait her place in the queue. This old lady is well over 70; her son longs to be responsible for looking after her, as is the practice in the Indian communities; and I think it is utterly shameful that he should be prevented from doing so.
Another case is that of a mother and sister of a man who has been settled here from Goa for very many years. They have been waiting since November 1975, and I believe they are about to be interviewed in Bombay, so it will be five years and eight months before they could exercise that right. I really do think that it is impossible to explain to anyone overseas how we can treat our own citizens in this manner; and for us now to say that they are not going to be given the privilege of British citizenship is an additional blow to that community which it will be very hard for them to hear.
Very much more could be said in support of this amendment, but I think the arguments have been so well advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that I can only say that I fervently hope that your Lordships will accept this amendment.
§ Lord Gifford
In considering this amendment we have to review the history of our treatment of a group 293 of our citizens who over the past 13 years have been shamefully abused. We gave to them a commitment when the East African countries in which they lived became independent. Unlike other countries when they became independent, we gave to the peoples of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania an option that if they did not take up the citizenship of the country in which they lived they would be able to remain citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. As we all know, a great number of them, mainly of Indian extraction, availed themselves of that option and did not become citizens of their country of residence.
Then, in the 1968 Act we passed a measure which prevented them from gaining access to their country of citizenship. That measure was a breach of faith, because it went back on the clear commitments that we had in our independence laws given to them. It was a racialist measure, because it was based on a discrimination between citizens, as to whether they had a grandfather or a father born in this country. It was fought hard in your Lordships' House. In this debate I seem to be something of a veteran of the 1968 Bill, but I am glad that, for instance, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is in his place, because he is one of the 85 on the roll of honour of those who stood out against the Front Benches of the Conservative and Labour Parties of that time, along with other luminaries of the Conservative Party such as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, the noble Marquess, Lord Hertford, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I am glad that the Front Bench of the Labour Party has accepted that that measure was wrong, and that they would wish to undo the damage which it has caused; and I hope that that goes also for those on the other side of the Committee who took the same view as I did at that time.
But since 1968 these people have had to undergo great hardships to wait their turn in this long queue to be admitted to this country, and they have borne it with patience and with fortitude. They have, many of them, come here, and they have established themselves as hardworking, honourable citizens of this country.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
Would the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? Can he explain why they had to wait all this time in great hardship? Was it not because they were deprived of their livelihoods where they were, and that that is where the hardhip came from?
§ Lord Gifford
The countries in which they lived drew a distinction between those who were their citizens and those who were not, and imposed certain penalties on those who were not citizens. That was their right as sovereign states; and, just as it was their right, so it was our duty to protect our citizens by allowing them to come to this country. It was only in the case of those who were actually expelled by the Amin Government that we accepted any responsibility other than to impose a long queue, in which many are still waiting.
Now we come to this Bill, which as I said on Second Reading (and I repeat my phrase) adds to that injury that we have done the insult of British overseas citizenship. It not only proclaims that the people of these territories of Indian extraction are no longer our citizens, but even those who have been admitted to 294 settlement who have waited their turn, have come to the head of the queue and have arrived here—are still not to be allowed to be citizens until after a five-year period, at the end of which they are entitled to register. It is something of a scandal.
One understands what British overseas citizenship is meant to deal with. There may be—and we are not dealing with it on this amendment—certain other anomalies arising from people who would be British citizens and also Malaysian, or citizens of other countries; but for those who are the subject of this amendment, who have no other citizenship to turn to, let us undo the damage of 1968, let us recognise them as full citizens without discrimination, and let us admit them as soon as they are ready to come here.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
We have listened to a debate which has surprised me. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said quite clearly that he believed that there should be one citizenship. The noble Lord used the word "we". Whether it was the royal "we" or whether it was meaning both the noble Lord and the other noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench, all of whom have their names to this amendment, I do not know.
§ Lord Avebury
I am so sorry. I should have made it clear in that part of my speech that I was speaking for the Liberal Party.
§ Lord Belstead
I am grateful to the noble Lord for clarifying that. The noble Lord is consistent in being open-hearted, kindly and wanting to let as many people into this country as it is possible; but when the noble Lord says to the Committee that he believes that there should be one citizenship and one citizenship only, all can say is that the noble Lord is in a minority of one. No one—not even the previous Government in their Green Paper—has suggested anything quite like that. Yet, when I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, it sounded to me for a moment or two as though he was coming perilously close to the line which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, had taken.
The noble Lord, early in his remarks, ranged widely and I really did not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was suggesting that those who will be British overseas citizens under this Bill and would have been British overseas citizens under the Labour Party's Green Paper should also all become British citizens now. The noble Lord mentioned Professor Parry. My memory is that Professor Parry was the very distinguished witness who made it perfectly clear to the House of Commons Select Committee that there were 1.3 million Malaysians who, if they held British citizenship in Malaysia, would undoubteldy be encouraged by the Federation to divest themselves of any connections with Malaysia and would want immediately to have entry into this country.
I think I can be forgiven for being in some perplexity having listened to these extraordinary statements which have come from those who have put their names to what is a more limited amendment.
§ Lord Mishcon
I cannot allow myself to be misinterpreted, however innocently. I hope that I made 295 it perfectly clear in my remarks that I was saying that British overseas citizenship meant nothing. I also tried to deal with the question of figures involved in this amendment and I said that we were dealing with thousands as against the 50 million-odd with which the Minister was perfectly happy regarding their having full British citizenship.
§ Lord Belstead
I accept that, but if the noble Lord says that British overseas citizenship means nothing, then presumably the only alternative is to make it, in the view of the Opposition, mean something. In this particular amendment we now find—partially at any rate—what it is that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the Opposition believe that British citizenship should mean for two different sets of people.
First, there are those future British overseas citizens and protected persons in East Africa, or who have gone from East Africa to India, who are currently able to come to this country under the special voucher scheme. Secondly, there are those future British overseas citizens and British protected persons who are already admitted for settlement into this country. But the amendment goes even wider than that, for it would confer British citizenship on all future British overseas citizens or British protected persons who hold that status by virtue of their ties with the countries concerned regardless of their current place of residence or whether or not they hold another citizenship at all.
Perhaps I am beginning to reveal why I consider this to be an extremely important and very disturbing amendment. It would benefit some people not currently eligible for special vouchers who are settled in a third country and who even hold citizenship of that country. This would not seem either desirable or necessary.
Leaving aside that difficulty, may I deal in turn with the two major groups.
§ Lord Mishcon
I thank the noble Lord for the courtesy of allowing a short intervention. At the very beginning he very frankly told the Committee that he was confused in regard to Amendment ZB and ZB with a star. There is every reason why he should be. He may not know that the wording of these amendments is rather different in the present Marshalled List from that upon which I believe his brief is based. I think that he will find that he is now talking extremely eloquently and effectively but in regard to another amendment, which is ZB with a star.
§ Lord Belstead
I am replying to the noble Lord on the amendment which reads:A person shall at commencement become a British citizen if—Why Zimbabwe comes into this I am not sure, but that 296 is the amendment to which I am replying. Am I correct?
- (a) immediately before commencement he was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, who did not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom under the Immigration Act 1971 as then in force, or a British Protected Person and
- (b) he or his father was born, registered or naturalised as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, or born as a British Protected Person in any of the territory now included in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda or Zimbabwe".
§ Lord Mishcon
The reading of the Minister is absolutely perfect. It was that I was unable to relate his speech to his reading.
§ Lord Belstead
Let me now continue. Let me deal first with the 75,000 or so future British overseas citizens from Africa who have gone from there to India who hold no other citizenship and are currently eligible to come to this country under the voucher scheme and who fall within the terms of this amendment. To grant British citizenship to this group would enable them to enter this country immediately and to settle here at any time and it would be possible for all of them to come here at once. This would not be acceptable, particularly at the present time, to the country at large, and I do not think it would be in the interests of those concerned at the present time.
When we were on the Second Reading of this Bill, my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel said that he felt that he had some right to say something about United Kingdom passport holders because he had held office as Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary at the time when special arrangements were made for United Kingdom passport holders, for Ugandans, to come immediately to this country. On this side of the Committee we are not unsympathetic to those who find themselves in need to come to this country as United Kingdom passport holders. The effect that this would have on the 75,000 or so British citizens that I have mentioned would not be beneficial.
We said in the White Paper to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has referred, that we were committed to the continuance of the special voucher scheme, and of course we stand by that pledge. Over the past eight years some 59,000 voucher holders and their dependants have been admitted to this country under this scheme, and this does not include the roughly 25,000 Uganda Asians admitted in 1972. Moreover, those who came to this country under the voucher scheme and are settled here will, under Clause 4 of the Bill, be entitled to British citizenship after five years' residence here.
May I now turn to the other group of people who, I think I am right in saying, come under this particular amendment: those future British overseas citizens and British protected persons already admitted to this country. Now those who have been admitted to this country under the voucher scheme and have been ordinarily resident here for five years or more at commencement, will, as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with the right of abode, become British citizens. Those who have been here for a shorter period at commencement will be entitled to British citizenship on application once they have completed five years' residence. British protected persons will similarly be able to acquire British citizenship after five years' residence here. They will be considerably better off under the Bill, since at present their only avenue to citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies is by naturalisation, and I am surprised that has not been mentioned this afternoon.
297 I believe that these avenues to British citizenship really are preferable to those that are mentioned in the amendment. So what I am saying is that we on this side of the Chamber stand by our commitment to admit people under the special voucher scheme; but we do not believe that it would be in the interests of this country, or indeed in the interests of people generally in this country, to accept this amendment.
§ Lord Mishcon
I have the feeling that the Committee has an appetite for other things than a further speech of mine, and in those circumstances I feel it is for the Committee to come to a decision.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 114ZAB) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64; Not-Contents, 97.298
|Amherst, E.||Lockwood, B.|
|Ardwick, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Avebury, L. [Teller.]||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Banks, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Birk, B.||Mountevans, L.|
|Bishopston, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Blease, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Oram, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Peart, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Chitnis, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Collison, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Seear, B.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Simon, V.|
|Glenamara, L.||Southwell, Bp.|
|Gosford, E.||Stewart of Alvechurch B.|
|Hale, L.||Stewar of Fulham, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Stone, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Thurso, V.|
|Jacques, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||White, B.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Lichfield, Bp.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|Alport, L.||Craigton, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Davidson, V.|
|Avon, E. [Teller.]||de Clifford, L.|
|Barnby, L.||De La Warr, E.|
|Bellwin, L.||Denham, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Drumalbyn, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Elles, B.|
|Cairns, E.||Elliot of Harwood, B.|
|Caithness, E.||Elton, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Erroll, E.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Faithfull, B.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Falkland, V.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Ferrers, E.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Ferrier, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Monson, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Mottistone, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Gormanston, V.||Northurch, B.|
|Greenway, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Gridley, L.||Pender, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Portland, D.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Hatherton, L.||Renton, L.|
|Henley, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Romney, E.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Inglewood, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Kemsley, V.||Sharpies, B.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Strathclyde, L|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Swinfen, L.|
|Long, V.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Loudoun, C.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Lyell, L. [Teller.]||Trefgarne, L.|
|McFadzean, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Mackay of Clahfern, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Macleod of Borve, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Marley, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Marshall of Leeds, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Ward of Witley, V.|
|Mills, V.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
I think perhaps this might be a convenient time to adjourn the Committee stage. I would suggest that we might reassemble at twenty minutes past eight o'clock. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.