§ House again in Committee, on Clause 10.
§ Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 114ZB:
Page 11, line 31, at end insert—
("(1) A person who immediately before commencement—
§ The noble Lord said: The Minister said in his speech on the last amendment that the Government were sympathetic to the position of United Kingdom passport holders and British protected persons, yet he was unable to accept an amendment which would have enormously benefited them and given them citizenship which meant something instead of one which was absolutely meaningless. Although we were unable to persuade him on that amendment, I hope none the less that when he comes to look at this amendment he will carry his sympathy into practice.
§ We are suggesting here a far more limited step than we should have taken under the previous amendment. In fact, we are considering only those United Kingdom passport holders, British protected persons and British subjects without citizenship who, immediately before commencement, had been admitted for settlement in the United Kingdom. So we are not in any way adding to the immigration commitment, as we should have been in the last amendment, by conferring British citizenship on persons who would become British overseas citizens. We are simply giving it to people who are at present resident in the country and who have a permanent right to remain here under the existing law.
§ At the end of the remarks which he made in response to the previous amendment, the noble Lord rather anticipated the discussion, in the sense that he pointed to the benefits which British protected persons would have under the Bill which they do not at present enjoy. That is to say, within the period of live years after the Bill comes into force they would be permitted to register as British citizens. Nevertheless, there is a process which they will have to go through and a process which persons who are already citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies will have to go through in order to become British citizens after the Bill becomes law. We are saying that as those people have already demonstrated that they wish to have a close connection with the United Kingdom—if they did not they would not have come here—they should have our new citizenship as of right and that they should have it from the day that the Bill becomes law.
§ I emphasise that they would be entitled to register, anyway, and the presumption is that they would do so if they knew that this was necessary. We discussed this point yesterday. In 99.9 per cent. of the cases which we are concerned with they certainly have nowhere else to go. Apart from giving to these people the peace of mind to which I believe they are absolutely entitled, we should remove one brick in the huge 302 edifice of bureaucracy which the Government are proposing to create and which, as I said previously, has resulted already, even before the Bill has become law, in an enormous increase in the waiting period during which people have to remain in the queue for citizenship, Instead of adding this additional commitment of registration of British protected persons, United Kingdom passport holders and British subjects without citizenship to those who will have to go through the bureaucratic procedures, under this amendment we should allow them to become British citizens at commencement.
§ This is such a straightforward and common sense amendment that the Government can hardly refuse it. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Birk
I have my name down to this amendment and I should like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said in moving it. As he has pointed out, it is perfectly correct that the effect of the amendment would be to make British citizens of all those persons with British nationality on commencement day who have been admitted already for permanent settlement into the United Kingdom. Under the Bill as it stands, it will not be the case that they will be citizens.
If the Bill goes through unamended, there will at commencement be somewhere in the range of 20,000 people—perhaps a few more but certainly not many more—holding British passports and living in the United Kingdom without any restriction on their stay who will not be British citizens. Most of them will be British Asians admitted from East Asia under the voucher scheme who have lived here for less than five years on the day that the new law comes into force. At present, most of them are United Kingdom and Colonies citizens who will become British overseas citizens at commencement, even though they are legally and permanently resident here. Some of them will be British protected persons who will remain British protected persons even if they have already lived here for five or 10 years. There will be another category who will be British subjects without citizenship of any Commonwealth country. These are people mainly originating from the Indian sub-continent, some of Indian descent, some of entirely British ancestry who were born and whose fathers were born in India and who have not registered here.
I would emphasise the point that it is in everybody's interest to give British citizenship straight away to all these people. It would he much simpler; it would be easier for everybody involved to understand the position; it would provide a sense of security; it would also mean that it would be unnecessary, for all these 20,000-odd people (or for those who wanted. out of that number, to obtain British citizenship) to have to go through the process of registration, which they would have to do under the Bill as it now stands.
Again I ask the Minister—I have asked him on some of the other amendments—whether the Home Office wants up to something like 20,000 completely unnecessary extra applications for citizenship from people who are going to be given entitlement to registration, anyway? Why not make all the people concerned British citizens under the Bill and have done with it? One is not increasing the numbers. It is a limited 303 number. Those people are here already. As I am quite sure the Minister appreciates, it is rather different—although there was an understandable confusion about the numbers—from the amendment which we dealt with before the supper break. This is an enclosed, neat package of people who are here, anyhow, and it will save a great deal of trouble all round. They will know exactly where they are and the Home Office will save a great deal of time and, again I would stress, a great deal of expense.
§ Lord Belstead
The people who are covered by this amendment are of a group which is married. The largest element referred to in the amendment are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and British protected persons admitted on special vouchers and their dependents who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or British protected persons.
The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, asked me a direct question: Why is it necessary to provide the period of five years in the Bill and to end up with registration? May I say two things in reply. First, in case a different impression has been gained from this very short debate, the Government are not in some way adding on a period of time that those who come in under the voucher scheme have to wait until they can acquire British citizenship. Certainly the prospect of saving the Nationality Division of the Home Office the labour of processing applications for registration sounds most appealing, particularly when it is put to me in the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has put it.
However, we are speaking here, as I have said, after the same period of time as somebody coming under the voucher scheme has to wait. We are speaking here not of acquiring the right of abode under Section 2 of the 1971 Act, but of acquiring citizenship and really the two things are not the same. People like to know where they stand on citizenship matters. They do not want the issue to depend just on the passage of time, and I genuinely believe that if there were not a registration process there would be numerous requests to the Home Office by people in this group seeking confirmation that they really were now British citizens.
In addition to those people, there are others who would benefit from this amendment. There are people who have come here from the dependancies and are settled here under the provisions of the immigration rules. I know that their numbers are relatively small. In 1980, for instance, just over 700 people were admitted from Hong Kong for settlement as compared with nearly 2,700 special voucher holders and dependants and most of those were wives and children of men settled here. As it stands, the amendment would only cover people in these groups admitted for settlement and not those who were accepted for settlement after a stay in this country which had been subject to time limits. I think probably that is an omission which is accidental. I assume that it is, and I do not think it should divert us from discussing the merits of the amendment.
The major drawback of this, as we see it, is that the whole effect of the amendment would confer British citizenship on people who may have just arrived in this country and been admitted for settlement and cannot be said to have had time to develop any real link with 304 this country. Indeed, they may well plan to go abroad shortly after commencement and this is perhaps particularly true of special voucher holders and their dependants, who may well regard this country as a temporary halt on the way to a new life elsewhere.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said that one of the great merits of this amendment was that it would not add to the immigration commitment. If the noble Lord will forgive me, he is a little inclined to look at the face of the words of an amendment and, for some reason, not to trouble to look at the effect of the words. I put it to the noble Lord, that because people happen to be here at the appropriate time for a short period, and thereby acquire British citizenship and the right of abode in this country, they would, under the amendment, then be able to transmit (because of their citizenship and the right of abode) to their children, who could be born overseas and who would thus be able to come and go as they pleased into and out of this country, and again they would be able to transmit to their children abroad. Therefore, it is not the case that the effect of this amendment would not increase the immigration commitment of this country.
We consider that British citizenship should reflect a real tie with this country and that is why we have put Clause 4 into the Bill, which gives an absolute entitlement to registration to British citizenship to all those who will benefit from this aspect of these amendments—but after they have completed five years' residence in this country. It is the essentially random nature of this amendment which would very considerably extend the law as it stands at the present time, which concerns us and which I think runs contrary to trying to create a citizenship which creates a close tie with this country. It is on those grounds that I must resist this amendment.
§ Lord Gifford
I was astonished to hear the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, a moment ago say that the people who are being considered in this amendment do not have close links with this country. Are these not people who have, in the first place, opted for British citizenship many years ago? Secondly, they have waited for years in the queue to come here and endured enormous strains and hardships in order to settle in the country of their citizenship. Really, when one thinks of the people involved I ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to reconsider what he has said about a category of people of whom I should have thought over 99 per cent. have shown that they have close and surprisingly loyal links with this country, in view of the way they have been treated.
§ Lord Belstead
I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, is very much more expert in the immigration and nationality law than I am, and I am not saying that out of politeness because I have heard the noble Lord make speeches in the past from which I recognise the noble Lord's expertise in this matter. Therefore, the noble Lord will know very well indeed that there are circumstances under the law at the moment in which a person who claims to have acquired the right of abode is required to prove it. That is why at the moment a period of time is required from somebody before they can move on to citizenship, and that is why we are requiring precisely the same thing now. 305 This amendment would extend the law. The Government do not believe that is right, for the reasons that I have tried to outline.
§ Baroness Birk
Before the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, replies to the amendment standing in his name, the Minister said that there would be numerous requests from people asking whether they were British citizens. That does not seem to me to be a good reason for turning down an amendment which is going to help a lot of people. In any case, there will be a great many people under the Bill as it stands, who will request registration anyhow, so the Home Office will be inundated with requests in that way. Therefore, why not do it in a more equitable and just way as we have suggested? If the Minister says that he accepts the principle on which the amendment is based, but he thinks that it ranges too wide, will he undertake to look at it and, if the drafting is not quite as exact as it should be, will he perhaps let us consider a tighter version rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater?
§ Lord Belstead
To reject any appeal to me from the noble Baroness goes to my heart, but I hoped I had made it clear that because this amendment goes infinitely further than the law as it stands at the moment, and because we believe that the way in which we have re-interpreted the law as it stands at the moment in Clause 10 is fair and just, we would not agree to this amendment on principle.
§ Baroness Gardner of Parkes
I am really torn two ways in listening to the debate on this amendment, because I think the point that is being made, that everyone would automatically become a British citizen, as described, is an interesting one; but I want to raise rather the reverse point with the Minister and I should like him to consider this point in the context of the amendment. Of those who are quite legally settled here, there may be a number—I have people who come and speak to me about this—who do not particularly wish to become British citizens and in fact they are rather concerned as to what will happen to them if they do not elect within five years to become a British citizen. Therefore, I am asking the Minister to clarify this point, and to make it clear to people. I think the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, about the worries that people have at the present time is very real.
I have attended a great many meetings. In particular, I can quote the Ethnic Minorities Committee of the Greater London Council, where the GLC Police Committee chairman, who I believe is also vice-chairman of the Ethnic Minorities Committee, stated that this Bill would take away all sorts of rights from people who are settled here; not only might it not give them citizenship but it would take away so many rights of people who had every right to be in this country. In particular, he quoted that after this Bill became law, they would have no right to vote. I questioned that and pointed out that it bore no relationship to one's right to vote or indeed to one's right to stand for election. He then conceded that. He said that it was true, but the Government secretly had that in the back 306 of their minds and every person who was concerned about ethnic minorities in this country should immediately think of this as the next stage. I would again ask the Minister to clarify that there is no thought at this time of taking away people's right to vote.
I think the point made about whether or not one should automatically become a citizen or apply for registration is a very interesting one. I personally have a preference for the right to apply because I think in that way you know exactly where you stand. Immigrants to this country—and I speak as one—very often have doubts about their exact situation unless it is set out and recorded on paper. To become something automatically is rather less definite than to see that it is approved and agreed as a fact. For that reason I think it would be quite good to have the application for registration.
I think, too, that many people, like myself, really rather like to have their cake and eat it. We quite like to have all the best of this country without taking out citizenship. I think that is rather unfair on our part. I do genuinely believe that there are some people, such as have been referred to in earlier debates, mothers of families, where the language barrier would be great if they applied for naturalisation. Presumably those cases would not have to do a language test at the present time. I would like clarification of that. There are other people in this country who have been here a long time, and who perhaps have not got all that much longer to live, and they do not really want to change their status. But they want to be assured that if they are settled here they are entitled to remain settled here.
On an earlier amendment Lord Colville brought up the topic of deportation. This is such an emotive word and such a worry to people. I would again ask the Minister to make quite clear that there is nothing whatever in this Bill to do with that. We are talking about the technicalities of citizenship. I think this whole nationality Bill has been greatly exaggerated in terms of worry to people. I think when it is actually law people will realise that they have worried quite unnecessarily about many aspects of the Bill. It certainly is worrying. Every individual here today—we are all worried if we feel there is something threatening our future security. I would ask the Minister to reassure those people who are settled here, who perhaps may not qualify for British citizenship, and the others who would qualify but would not apply.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
My noble friend asks me on this amendment what is the position of people who are settled here and do not choose to take up citizenship. I would make it crystal clear that there is nothing in the Bill which would jeopardise the position of people who are settled in this country and do not choose to take up citizenship. And there is nothing in the Bill which would in any way detract from such rights of people who are settled here and have not taken up citizenship here.
There are, however, several avenues in the Bill through which people can take up citizenship. As I tried to make clear yesterday, we are trying to encourage them to take up citizenship. For instance, they can become citizens under Clause 1, or—and this is an 307 entirely new provision—as citizens of the British dependent territories or British overseas citizens. They can become by entitlement citizens registered under Clause 4. For some of the British overseas citizens that will be the first time they have ever had that entitlement. They can become citizens also through Clauses 6 and 7, which we debated yesterday. And of course for those who decide that they do not want to become registered, who perhaps leave it for a lone time and maybe the time runs out, or they simply do not want to, there is ultimately, if they change their mind, the avenue of naturalisation under Clause 5.
I would add one thing, if I may. When people do decide that they want through these various avenues to become British citizens, there is also nothing in this Bill which will take away from them the citizenship which they may already have. In this we are unlike many other countries which remove the citizenship from somebody if they become a citizen of that country. We do not. It was a conscious decision of the Government before the Bill was introduced into another place that we would stick with what is called dual nationality. I believe that was right and in the traditions of this country.
§ Lord Avebury
The Minister astonishes me when he says he is not going to take away the citizenship somebody already has. That is precisely what is going to happen unless this amendment is accepted. Persons who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and are resident here, and settled here for some years, will lose that status and will become British overseas citizens, extraordinary as it may seem, on the date of commencement of the Bill. These are people living here, resident in the country, who have made their lives here.
The noble Lord has said that they have gone through immense hardship and waited in the queue for as long as, at the moment, five years and eight months. The noble Lord says these people have not got a tie or connection with the country, and he says that at any moment they may suddenly fly off somewhere else and give birth to children who will then be citizens by descent. What sort of people are these? I do not know what circles the noble Lord moves in, if he has come across people who, having waited the five years and eight months in Bombay and then finally having been enabled to join their relatives in the United Kingdom, suddenly walk into the Canadian High Commission and by some miracle gain admission to that country, people who disappear after spending a few months in this country having acquired British citizenship. I cannot imagine what the noble Lord is thinking of. I have never heard of such a case.
§ Lord Belstead
If the noble Lord will look at Clause 4, to which the Committee has now agreed, the remarks he has made about people being made to be British overseas citizens when they have been here for many years of their lives are not in fact accurate.
§ Lord Avebury
I am talking about the people we are concerned with in this amendment, citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, British protected persons, who are actually resident here at the time of commencement. I am saying I want these people to 308 become British citizens. I cannot understand why the noble Lord is resisting this, why he is suggesting that any substantial fraction, more than one in 10,000 or 100,000, of these people who have waited in the queue for so long are going to remove themselves to some other country. How could they, anyway, the immigration restrictions being what they are in, say, the United States or Canada? People do not just walk into the embassy or high commission of those countries and gain admission after a few months.
What the noble Lord says is utterly misleading to the Committee; I must say that. I must quite frankly use that word. There are no such individuals as he imagines, who are going to arrive here after this long waiting period as United Kingdom and Commonwealth citizens and then, having acquired British citizenship, as they would do under this amendment, are going to fly off overseas and give birth to British citizens by descent. The picture is utterly bizarre and far removed from anything which happens. We are talking about people who have decided to make their lives in the United Kingdom and settle here.
The noble Lord says the amendment is probably defective in that we are only concerned with people admitted for settlement on arrival, and we do not speak here about those who have been allowed to settle on removal of time limit. Is he suggesting that if we had put down a totally different amendment, in which, instead of talking about people settled on arrival, we had merely said that anybody who had been admitted for settlement on removal of time limit should become a British citizen, he would have accepted it? By definition those people would have had to wait for some considerable period. The noble Lord encourages me, I take it, to put down such an amendment on Report and he is saying that the Government will then accept that, because we are not then talking about people who have only recently arrived.
Of course, we do not say in this amendment that the people we are addressing ourselves to are those who came here within a certain specified time. They will in many cases have been here for some years already. If they did come within the last few months then certainly they are intending to remain for the rest of their lives. I think the noble Lord's reply has been completely unsatisfactory, but I get the feeling that your Lordships would like to return to this subject at a later stage, when we are able to improve the drafting, and we can then incorporate, either in this amendment or a separate amendment, the people who have been admitted for settlement on removal of time limit. I hope that when we do return to it the Minister will take a more reasonable line.
§ Lord Belstead
I must not mislead the noble Lord. The amendment which is being moved is wholly unacceptable to the Government in whatever way it is drafted.
§ Lord Avebury
I shall not be deterred by what the noble Lord says from putting down two separate amendments when we come back to the matter on Report: one dealing with those who are admitted for settlement on arrival, and a separate one, encouraged by the Minister, to take care of those who are admitted for settlement on removal of time limit.
§ Lord Belstead
In order to help the noble Lord let me say that in that event both amendments will be unacceptable.
§ Lord Avebury
We shall have to argue about that at perhaps some length when we get to the Report stage. With that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness White)
The next Amendment is No. 114ZC.
Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 114ZC:
Page 11, line 32, leave out subsection (2).
§ The noble Lord said: On an earlier amendment the noble Lord seemed to think that there was something extraordinary in the fact that the Liberal Party had always favoured a single citizenship and that we viewed the creation of a British overseas citizenship, whether in the form which the Green Paper sets forward or in the shape which we now find in this Bill, as being objectionable in principle.
I do not know whether the noble Lord read the submissions on the previous Government's Green Paper. They are, in fact, referred to in their own White Paper (Cmnd. 7987) and so I assume that the papers must have been available to him. In paragraph 2 of Appendix A he will find the following sentence:
A few correspondents advocated a single British citizenship with the right of entry to the United Kingdom for everyone who is at present a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies".
§ I think that it would have been useful—and this is not the first time that I have had to say this—if the representations which had been made to the previous Government on the Green Paper, could have been published so that instead of seeing a report of the Government's analysis of those comments, people could have read them in the original for themselves. If the noble Lord had had the advantage of reading our document Who's Your Father? published in July 1977 in response to the Green Paper of April 1977, he would have found that we set out our views on a single British citizenship there perfectly clearly and there was no reason for the noble Lord to have been so astonished, as he appeared to be, when he gave the impression that he was learning about the Liberal Party's policies on this matter for the first time.
§ However, I must take this opportunity of correcting something which the noble Lord said about our policy which is extremely misleading. In referring to the position of Malaysia in particular he talked about the 1.3 million dual nationals who were alleged to be resident in that country according to the Parliamentary Answer given on the matter in 1975. In this amendment we are talking only about the persons who hold citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies only, and not that of any other state. So the 1.3 million dual nationals that the noble Lord tried to drag in on the previous occasion, were a complete red herring.
§ There are, in fact, persons in Malaysia who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies alone. There are said to be 130,000 of them. Quite frankly, I do not believe that figure as I have explained previously. The figure is an increase of 20,000 on that which was given in an answer to the Select Committee in 1975, and I have already explained the reasons why the 310 number of our citizens in Malaysia cannot be increasing, but must, in fact, be decreasing with the efflux of time.
§ Also there is the evidence of the number of persons who possess citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies both in Malaysia and Singapore who have, in fact, applied for passports to our High Commissions there. The number is utterly trivial—I think it is a few dozen in the course of a year in either Malaysia or Singapore. Incidentally, talking of Singapore, the latest figure of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies which was given to the Select Committee in another place, as was referred to just now, was "a few hundred" and that compares with a figure of 30,000 that was given to the Select Committee in 1975. I just mention that as another illustration of how one has to take all the Foreign and Commonwealth Office figures for citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with a pinch of salt.
§ However, primarily we are still talking about the alleged 39,000 people living in India and the alleged 36,000 people who live in the various countries of East Africa. I know what the noble Lord's answer to that will be because we heard it earlier. However, for the sake of completeness I want to get it on the record that we still maintain our objections to any kind of second class citizenship whatever, and we believe that all those who are at present citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and who are entitled to no other citizenship should not be deprived of their privileges by being cast into the dustbin of the second class citizenship created under the Bill. I beg to move. The noble Lord may not like my speech, but that is our policy.
§ Lord Belstead
On the contrary I liked the noble Lord's speech very much; it was an impassioned speech about British Overseas Citizens, but I thought the noble Lord was moving Amendment No. 114ZC, which is all about children who have the right of abode in this country when their mothers do not.
§ The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees
The amendment that I quite distinctly called the noble Lord to move was Amendment No. 1 I 4ZC.
§ The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees: That was not moved? In that case we are now considering the question of Amendment No. 114A and I must assume that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, moved:
Page 12, line 21, at end insert—
("(4) A person who immediately before commencement—
Provided that he does not then hold the nationality or citizenship of any other state."),
which is now the Question before the Committee.
§ Lord Belstead
I should like to reply to the noble Lord. I am afraid that the Government see grave difficulties in a provision of this kind. To confer British citizenship and hence the right of abode in this country on those concerned would, as I indicated previously, enable some 210,000 or more people, mainly in Malaysia, India and East Africa to enter this country freely and settle here at any time. I do not think that that would be either acceptable to the country or in the interests of those concerned.
§ On Question, amendment negatived.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 10 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord Geddes
I am not entirely certain that this is the right moment, by which I mean place, to raise what I think the lawyers might call "a nice point", but I can see no other logical section in which to do so. I have given notice of this question to my noble friend on the Front Bench. My question is simple to ask and, I hope, to answer. It concerns those presently enjoying British nationality through the 1705:Act for the Naturalisation of the Most Excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover and the issue of her body".Your Lordships will recall that the 1705 Act was repealed under the British Nationality Act, 1948. But under a celebrated case on which final adjudication was given by your Lordships' Appellate Committee in December 1956, it was ruled that all those who were British subjects before the passing of the 1948 Act should continue so to be. Schedule 9 to this Bill seeks to repeal the 1948 Act. As matters presently stand, it would appear that Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover—the successful respondent in the 1956 case—and others, are, provided that they were born before the commencement of the 1948 Act, entitled to British nationality, and a number have successfully so claimed.
Taking the present wording of Clause 10(1)(a) and (b), such a person is, or is entitled to be, a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, and also has the right of abode in the United Kingdom under Clause 2(1)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971, as then in force. If I am right so far, would the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, or conceivably the noble Lord the Minister, please confirm that, first, such a person who has successfully claimed British nationality under the 1705 Act shall at commencement of this Bill become a British citizen? Secondly, that this Bill, after commencement, will not deny the right of a person previously eligible, having been born before the passing of the 1948 Act, still to claim British nationality? Thirdly, would the noble and learned Lord, or conceivably the noble Lord the Minister, please advise the Committee of the status of children of such a British national?—that is, a person who has successfully 312 claimed, or has the right so to claim, British nationality by virtue of the 1705 Act, that person or parent havine been born before commencement of the 1948 Act.
It would apear that the children of such a British national would themselves be British, either by dint of Clause 1(1)(a), if they were born in the United Kingdom, or British by descent by dint of Clause 2(1)(a) if they were born outside the United Kingdom. I should be most grateful for the opinion of my noble friends on the Front Bench.
§ Lord Belstead
I owe my noble friend an apology because he warned me that he was raising a series of points which, of course, all stem from the position of the Electress Sophia, and I am afraid that I am not yet in a position to give my noble friend replies on the points that he has raised. If it is acceptable to my noble friend, I shall most certainly write to him. However, it is conceivable that I might even be able to let him know what the position will be before this evening is over.
As an interim, may I say this. They will not become British citizens unless they have the right of abode here, and when I say "they" I am of course referring to the descendants of the Electress Sophia. Many will not, because they do not have a parental or a grandparental connection with this country. These people would become British overseas citizens. Their children might be registered as British overseas citizens under Clause 26. That advice has been given to me very hurriedly and I must apologise to my noble friend because, as I say, he did warn me that this point would be raised and I am afraid that this is a sin of omission on my part. I should like to write to my noble friend in addition to what I have said from the Dispatch Box, and I shall undertake to do so, I hope, before we finish the Committee stage, if the Committee stage is finished next week.
§ Lord Geddes
I am most grateful to my noble friend and I shall certainly not pursue this matter at the expense of much more important amendments to be dealt with in your Lordships' Committee. I should like to point out that the wording of Section 2(1) of the Immigration Act 1971, as it presently stands, says:(1) A person is under this Act to have the right of abode in the United Kingdom if—(a) he is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who has that citizenship by his birth, adoption, naturalisation, or (except as mentioned below) registration in the United Kingdom or in any of the Islands".I think that at this stage we had better close this discussion. I am most grateful to my noble friend.
§ Clause 10 agreed to.
§ Clause 11 [Renunciation]:
§ [Amendments Nos. 115 and 116 not moved.]
§ Clause 11 agreed to.
§ Clause 12 [Resumption]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?313
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Lord Renton
I have some reason to doubt whether this clause is necessary at all. I think that we are entitled to some kind of explanation from the Government as to why we should have it. Of course, the numbers involved might be relevant, and even if there are small numbers, it might perhaps be worth having this opportunity for resumption of British citizenship. But bearing in mind the numerous opportunities that are given in the Bill to obtain British citizenship, I should have thought that it was possibly inviting people to blow hot and cold—to fail to make up their minds—if we also have a clause which enables them, having renounced citizenship, to resume it again.
Citizenship should surely be a matter of pride; something to be cherished; something not easily to be renounced. If we give this easy opportunity for resumption of citizenship, we are merely encouraging renunciation and in a sense devaluing the very status which we are trying to enhance.
§ Lord Belstead
I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this because if, for no other reason, I found when I was trying to study the Bill that I was not entirely sure of the difference between the clause which my noble friend is questioning—Clause 12—and Clause 9, to which the Committee has now agreed, both of which are to do with resumption.
Perhaps it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I simply give my understanding of the difference between these two clauses. One refers to those who have a right to resume before commencement, and Clause 12—which my noble friend is questioning—now deals with people who wish to resume citizenship after commencement. Having said that, Clause 12 reproduces, with modifications, the provisions on resumption which, of course, are in the existing law at the present time.
But there are two changes. The first of these is that people who have renounced their citizenship in order to acquire a foreign nationality will in future be able to resume on the same terms as those who have acquired a Commonwealth citizenship. Previously, if one renounced to acquire a foreign nationality one was left out in the cold, but now the Bill is saying that people who not only wish to renounce their citizenship but who perhaps feel they have to do so at some point during their life for family reasons, or for business reasons, or for some unlooked for reason, and who may genuinely want to resume that citizenship again, should be treated on all fours as to whether they renounced citizenship in order to take up a Commonwealth citizenship or the citizenship of a foreign country. If I may say so, this is one of the liberal aspects of the Bill which we hoped your Lordships would see as a step forward.
The other change is that Clause 12, unlike Section 1 of the 1964 Act, does not specify any qualifying connections to be held by those who wish to resume. That is because such a proviso is unnecessary given that British citizenship has been so framed as to confer the right of abode on those who have the requisite connections with the United Kingdom and islands. When my noble friend asks me in more general terms, is it right to have this clause in the Bill at all? the answer 314 is dealt with in general terms in the Government's White Paper, Cmnd. 7987, in paragraphs 91 and 92, where the general case is put for having Clause 12 in the Bill.
Clause 12 is really a restatement of the law as it is now. In some ways it strikes me that there is some parallel between the clause and the right to which I referred about ten minutes ago for dual nationality. If we do take the view in this country that people should be allowed to have both our citizenship and the citizenship of another country, we should also take the view that if people have to renounce their citizenship they should have the chance to resume it, and it is for this that Clause 12 provides.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
I do not find my noble friend's explanation wholly satisfying, and nor do I accept his argument that there is a relationship between renouncing British citizenship and the arrangements for holding dual nationality. To me, these seem to be quite different concepts. With respect, nor did my noble friend Lord Belstead deal with the argument made by my noble friend Lord Renton, that British citizenship is a thing to be prized, to be regarded as something of great value, and not lightly to be discarded. After all, we spent a good deal of this afternoon dealing with the position of some 26,000 people who desperately want British citizenship. So to say that just because resumption is in the present law we must facilitate its continuation by those who, for some reason, like to shed British citizenship is not, I think, a complete answer.
I must say that I am a little unhappy about this provision. It must be an encouragement to those who do wish to drop citizenship to know that it may be resumed, but does it not underrate the value of British citizenship? I notice that two of the right reverend Prelates are present and they, together with other Members of your Lordships' House, will recall that St. Paul attached great value to his Roman citizenship. I should like to think that our contemporaries attach great value to our own citizenship. At a time when the Government are priding themselves on this great reform of our laws on citizenship and nationality, it is not perhaps a slightly lame excuse just to say that this provision is in the existing law?
§ Lord Renton
I a m grateful to my noble friend Lord Belstead for his explanation, such as it was. I feel at least equal gratitude towards my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, because I share his doubts about the explanation which has been given. Perhaps he was not in a position to do so, but my noble friend Lord Belstead has not given any indication of the numbers involved in, for example, each of the last years for which figures are available of the people who, under the present law, have renounced citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies and then claimed to resume it. If we could have some information of that kind it would help us in reaching a decision—if not now, then at a later stage.
I believe that this matter is one to which we should return. It is right that we should follow our generous and liberal traditions which we, as a nation, have followed in so many ways to the benefit of the rest of the world, but not always to the benefit of the people 315 of our own country. Perhaps on this occasion generous liberality will cost us practically nothing, but it is rather a flagrant example of that liberality. I feel that I must give notice—if that is the right expression to use—that at Report stage I may put down an amendment to leave out Clause 12 altogether.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
I wonder whether my noble friend on the Front Bench would be able to tell us which countries do not allow dual nationality? I do not expect him to give a complete list, but the point is that there are many countries to which people from this country may go where there would be strong pressure on them to acquire the nationality of the country they have gone to if they want to make their career a success there. Those same countries may be countries which do not allow dual nationality to be held.
Circumstances can change completely. Health may go. The husband may want to come back. The husband may die and the wife may want to come back to this country. There are many cases like that where a person has been almost forced to take the nationality to start with, and then circumstances change and he, or she, finds that it would be much better to come back to this country. In that case I would be strongly in support of their being allowed to resume their original nationality if only on blood grounds, which I believe my noble friend thinks is a good idea.
Of course, nobody wants to encourage the almost flippant abandonment of nationality. There are people who go abroad and do not care very much about their nationality anyway, but I think they are a minority. However, where a person genuinely adheres to his original nationality and has in fact, as one finds often, reluctantly changed his nationality, surely it is right for him to be allowed to resume his original nationality. I do not say that one should do it more than once, and in fact the Bill does not allow one to do it more than once, but surely a person should be allowed to do it once.
§ Lord Belstead
I would only say that I think that my noble friends Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Renton have perhaps not given quite the weight that I would have given to the words of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, and I will not repeat them or try to better them at all. I would only add that, although my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter is assiduous in asking in cases where he believes it right that there should be proper discretion in the Bill, I should have thought that under Clause 12 these are cases that could arise in the sort of way that my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has outlined where some discretion would be both compassionate and right. I know that my noble friends will be looking again at this clause—and now that I have been warned, so will I.
§ Lord Tordoff
I wonder whether the noble Lord would confirm to his noble friend that, had this Bill gone through the Roman Senate in time, St. Paul would very likely not have been a Roman citizen.
§ Clause 12 agreed to.
§ Clause 13 [Meaning of British citizen "by descent"]:316
§ 9.18 p.m.
Lord Gifford moved Amendment No. 116A:
Page 13, line 21, leave out ("3(2) or").
§ The noble Lord said: Clause 13 deals with the question who should be citizens by descent, and therefore be citizens who would not be able to transmit their citizenship to their children unless special conditions were applied. Clause 13(1)(a) deals with the main categories of people who will, after commencement of the Bill, be citizens by descent, and there are three different categories. The first are the people who are children of United Kingdom citizens born abroad without there being any special circumstances about their birth, and they come under Clause 2(1)(a). The second are children who are born abroad of fathers who are citizens by descent and who benefit by the transitional entitlement contained in Clause 8. The third category are the people who come under Clause 3(2); that is to say, children who are born abroad to United Kingdom citizens by descent and who will have fulfilled the stringent requirements of proving, or their parents have proved, that they have a close connection with this country.
§ Everybody else under the Bill will be citizens in effect by birth—that is to say, citizens otherwise than by descent—and have the right to transmit their citizenship. That goes for the servants of the Crown under Clause 2(1)(b) and to various other people who can register for naturalisation as citizens. What this amendment seeks to say is that the close connection people, the children born to parents who are in relevant employment, are in the wrong category. They ought to be in the category of citizens otherwise than by descent.
§ If one looks at the three categories set out in Clause 13(1)(a) one sees there are two completely different groups. They are first of all those who are born abroad who have no special connection, whose parents and themselves may never come back to this country; they may have emigrated for good. One sees the intention of the Bill that they should not be able to further transmit their citizenship to their children. But the people who come under Clause 3(2) are by definition people who have satisfied the Secretary of State that they have a close connection with this country, that they are employed in relevant employment with a British company or some other similar employment, and not only that, but the employment must have a close connection with this country so that they are very much people who ought to be citizens in the full sense of the word.
§ On an earlier Committee day a number of criticisms were made of the scheme of the Bill, in Clauses 2 and 3, and a number of criticisms were made particularly in amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to the effect that we have not given sufficient consideration to the position of those who are working and raising families abroad but working for British companies. This amendment seeks to throw in a different way of approaching that problem, which I would suggest is a very neat and satisfactory way; that is to say, to narrow the gap and lessen the disadvantages which people working abroad will have by allowing their children, once registered, once having been put through the stringent tests, to be citizens in 317 the fullest sense of the word, citizens otherwise than by descent.
In connection with this, when it was being discussed earlier, the Minister said something which I found rather curious about citizens by descent, namely:
I agree that the citizenship under Clause 3 is of course different from the type of citizenship that we are now considering, but I do not necessarily accept that this is necessarily an inferior citizenship, although I accept that it is different".
The only difference between citizenship by descent and other kinds of citizenship is that the citizens by descent have the disadvantage of not being able to transmit their citizenship to their children. Of course, that is a disadvantage, and of course the resulting citizenship is an inferior citizenship by comparison with citizenship by birth or by naturalisation.
§ Another way of approaching this problem has been suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, and other noble Lords in a later amendment. They have suggested ingeniously, if I may say so, or perhaps rather cumbersomely, that these people whose children are registered under Clause 3(2) might have a chance to re-register them and therefore to upgrade their children's status under Clause 3(2)(b). I do not know whether that is something which commends itself to the Government. I would suggest that my amendment contains a very satisfactory solution to many of the problems which have been raised on Clause 3, and I hope that it will therefore be favourably considered by the Committee. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mackay of Clashfern
I should like first of all to make what I think is an important preliminary point. It has been mentioned already by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, in moving this amendment, although I think, with respect, perhaps not quite accurately. The only relevant difference between citizenship by descent and citizenship otherwise than by descent is in the transmission of citizenship to children born outside the United Kingdom. So far as children born inside the United Kingdom are concerned, there is no relevant difference whatsoever. Accordingly, it is only when one is considering the situation of children born outside the United Kingdom that this point arises.
I suggest there are certain factors which point to children registered under Clause 3(2) being British citizens by descent. First, they would not need to be registered under this provision at all but for the fact that neither of their parents was a citizen otherwise than by descent. If either of their parents, mother or father, was a citizen otherwise than by descent, they will automatically transmit to these children. We are, therefore, considering the case of a child born abroad of two British citizens who themselves were born abroad, or one such citizen married to a person who is not one of our citizens at all. Those would be typical cases.
The amendment would make such a child a citizen otherwise than by descent—that is, able to pass on citizenship automatically at birth to the third generation born abroad—in other words, be better off from this point of view than the parent on which his citizenship depends. That would surely be an odd result and would need considerable justification where a child had been born abroad to parents neither of whom had been 318 born here. Not only would that be an odd result in itself; it would also be anomalous in comparison with the child of a parent born in this country. Under Clause 13(1)(a) as it presently stands—and this amendment does not suggest any amendment to it—such a child would, as acquiring British citizenship under Clause 2(1)(a), be a British citizen by descent, unless a parent was in Crown service or in service closely associated with the Crown at the time of birth.
But it is not only British citizens by descent who go to work overseas; British citizens born here do so also. Surely it would be an indefensible result if someone born in the United Kingdom and working overseas had a child born to him who was a British citizen by descent under Clause 13(1)(a), because his child was covered by Clause 2(1)(a), whereas, working in the same firm perhaps, a British citizen by descent was able to register his child under Clause 3(2) as a citizen otherwise than by descent, because Clause 3(2) applies to the situation of a British citizen by descent as the parent.
It strikes us, therefore, that these provisions, and in particular the provision which is under attack by the amendment, are sensible and fit in properly to the scheme of the Bill. The general scheme is that citizenship should be passed on for one generation overseas, and the people to whom it is thus passed on will be citizens by descent. That should be enlarged to later generations provided there is a close connection, and what should be passed on to later generations surely should be the same thing as is passed on automatically to the first generation, namely, citizenship by descent. I hope that in the light of that explanation the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
§ Baroness Elles
My noble and learned friend has been discussing the question whether a descendent should be in a better position than a parent; that if you have a British citizen by descent, it would be unfair if he could then have a child who was a British citizen. I think that is roughly the argument. How, then, would you compare somebody who becomes a full British citizen by naturalisation neither of whose parents had anything to do with this country? Would my noble and learned friend say that was also unfair? I do not think we can talk about parallels of that kind and whether anybody improves the situation between themselves and their parents.
What we are talking about are individuals who are caught in a trap created by certain anomalies in this measure. If you become a British citizen by descent under Clause 3(2)—I do not want to speak about an amendment of mine which we shall come to later—it must be possible at some stage that children who are born abroad have the possibility of becoming full British citizens, just as today the Committee decided, under the amendment which was adopted with regard to people living in Gibraltar, that people who have nothing to do with this territory will be full British citizens for ever and ever. So it seems to me that the argument that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has put forward has some relevance to the way that the Bill is now drafted.
§ Lord Gifford
I am grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, and I very much look forward to 319 hearing her move her amendment and to the Government's reply to it. The whole point is that the people who are registered under Clause 3(2) are by definition the children of families who have demonstrated a close connection, which the ordinary citizens by descent are not. That is why, with respect to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, it is not absurd that one should be a citizen in the full sense and the other a citizen only by descent.
I am conscious that the whole scheme of Clauses 2 and 3 is up for review, and I do not intend to press this amendment this evening, but rather to come back to it when we see exactly how the categories under Clauses 2 and 3 have been finally defined, and whether, in the light of that, Clause 13 needs to be amended at that stage. So I now beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.31 p.m.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 117:
Page 14, line 25, leave out ("(i) or (ii)").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: The amendment is intended to cure what is virtually an anomaly in the Bill. It seeks to ensure that all those who, but for renouncing, would have become British citizens by descent and who subsequently are registered as British citizens under Clause 9, are then regarded for the pur-poses of the Bill as British citizens by descent. That seems to be the correct way to effect the reregistration; in other words, registration in respect of a renounced citizenship should not put a person in a better position than he was in before the renunciation. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Baroness Elles moved Amendment No. 117A:
Page 14, line 38, at end insert ("or in another member state of the European Community.").
§ The noble Baroness said: The amendment has been tabled to draw attention to the debate that we had on Clause 2 and the position of servants of the Crown who are employed abroad. The matter was raised concerning those British citizens who are working in the European Community institutions, and the effect of the amendment as worded would be that anyone who was serving in a European Community institution would be able to ensure the British citizenship of his child born abroad during the time of service in one of the institutions. Therefore there would have to be consequential amendments to Clause 2(1)(b) and (2), and a list of European Community institutions would have to be included in Clauses 2(3) and 13(3). I have sent a list to my noble friend the Minister, and I hope that he has a copy of it before him.
I put down the amendment not only because of the way that the debate went the other day, but also in the light of an extract from a letter that was read out by the noble Baroness, Lady White, who in view of her position in the Chamber this evening is regrettably not able to take part in the discussion. As reported at col. 1016 of the Official Report of 13th July, the noble Baroness referred to a letter written by the Minister, Mr. Raison, to a British citizen working in the European
Community, who was expressing concern about passing on citizenship to his children while he was in the service of the institutions. Mr. Raison said:
We do not think it right that employees of the European institutions, who, after all, have voluntarily taken up employment overseas with an international organisation, should benefit from such a provision".
§ Not for a moment do I think that there was any intention to mislead the person concerned. Nevertheless, I think it has slightly misled your Lordships, because the fact of the matter is that I personally know several British citizens who are working in the European Community institutions and who have been seconded from British Government departments. They have come from the MAFF, from the Foreign Office and from other Government departments.
§ I have had slightly varying versions from different individuals because they are not certain of their positions back home, but I have been given to understand that their posts are kept open for them in some form or another—naturally, not the exact jobs that they left three or four years previously, but perhaps that a place would be found for them—though, of course, during their employment by the European Commission, particularly, they are serving a European institution. They are not serving the British Government, but they have been seconded by the British Government to exert British influence so that the Community should benefit from British experience and, particularly, British administrative experience.
§ So the words used by the Minister are not strictly accurate, as I understand them, and I think that noble Lords should be aware that there are people working in the Community institutions who have served in the administration of this country—they have, for instance, served clerkships in another place—and who have gone to work in the European Parliament. I must say, in parenthesis, that perhaps they have not been able to do as much as they might to make it a more reasonable and orderly body, but they have undoubtedly been trying in the short time that that body has been in existence to bring to bear British experience and British influence.
§ So my recommendation is that these people who go from this country to work in the Community institutions should be put on a parallel basis to those who are serving the Crown overseas. By no means can it be said that they go voluntarily to these places, any more than one goes voluntarily into the home Civil Service and is then sent abroad. After all, anybody who goes into the Foreign Office must know from the very nature of the job that he or she undertakes to do that he or she will be sent abroad; and, after all, nobody is forced to join the Foreign Office.
§ Another point in connection with this is that perhaps people in this country do not realise the great interchange that there is among those who are working in the institutions of the Community and going back to their national member states. After all, your Lordships have only to turn your minds back a few days, to Warrington, to recall one of the leaders of the SDP who, until quite recently, had been employed in the European Commission for four years—Mr. Roy Jenkins. There is a typical example of somebody who, having served the Community, has come back to this country; and, of course, he is by no means the 321 only one. We have five members of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom delegation who have been in European Community institutions working in Brussels and who have now come back to this country, and nobody can say that they do not have a very close connection with this country considering that they have been elected, between them, by about three million British citizens to serve as British representatives in the European Parliament.
§ In the last month, eight members of the European Parliament have gone back to serve in the Governments of their various countries: three to the Irish Republic; four to the French Government; one, a Frenchman, to the Commission in Brussels; and one French Commissioner in Brussels has gone to take the role of Minister of External Affairs in the French Government. I could go on ad infinitum, but I do not want to bore your Lordships with a whole list of people. But all those seconded from the member states, including the British, have a very close connection with their administrations back home, let alone their ordinary homes in the villages and towns from which they come. They are members of a service in their own country as a member state who have then gone to serve for some time in the European Community institutions. I very much hope that the Government will realise that the words of Mr. Timothy Raison, although I am certain they were written in perfectly good faith. do not represent the reality.
§ Thirdly, this amendment is not quite on all fours with Amendment No. 71, which my noble friends and I have tabled, as have noble Lords opposite, because it sometimes happens that these members serving in the European Community institutions are sent outside the Community to serve the general interests of ourselves and the Community. There are delegations, for instance, in Washington and in the Far East; and, above all, there are delegations in what are known as the ACP countries. That, I am sure, is a term which is known to your Lordships—the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries who are members of the Lomé Convention. It is of vital importance that we have British representatives in these delegations because one of the areas in which Britain has done particularly badly has been in getting contracts under the European Development Fund. This is one way of increasing the possibilities of British businessmen, construction engineers and so on, doing very much better than we have been. We shall not do better if we do not have British members in these delegations. They are not being encouraged to go under the terms of this Bill.
§ It cannot be repeated too often to Members on the Government Front Bench that those working abroad attach greater importance to the nationality of themselves and their children than people sitting back home who take it as of right. It is something that the Government should recognise and accept. Those serving Britain, particularly in Europe, attach the greatest importance to retaining British nationality not only because of their own feeling of patriotism but also because in an atmosphere working with other countries all eager for their own interests, it becomes a "peaceful battle" for the benefits of one's own country.322
§ We are the only country which is not going to allow descent through our British citizens after the first generation. There is not a single country in a member state which does not have jus sanguinis in the fullest sense of the term. Every other member state whose citizens are working in these institutions, the French, the Dutch, the Germans, and so on, will be able to pass on citizenship to their children wherever they may be, whereas the British will not only not be able to pass it on but if the children are in Belgium or Denmark they will for some considerable number of years be stateless. I hope that my noble friend will take note of this point.
§ Since the Committee today has been willing to grant British citizenship—anyway so far as the Bill is concerned at its present stage—to over 25,000—the number seems to have increased this afternoon from 19,000—the number of people affected by this amendment will be considerably smaller. At the moment the total number of employees in the whole of the European Community institutions is somewhere around 18,000 of which 9 per cent. are British which equals a number of about 1,500 to 1,600. Naturally enough, I need hardly tell the Committee that not all of them will be having children every year. So the actual numbers of children affected by this amendment will be extremely small. It is difficult to hazard a guess, but it will not be more than 150 or something of that order. I very much hope that my noble friend will take this amendment on board and see what he can do with it. I beg to move.
§ Lord Ardwick
Briefly, I should like to support the noble Baroness. It seems incredible and ludicrous that any British citizen who serves an institution of the Community of which we are an integral part should suffer any disadvantage in passing on his citizenship. It is not going to happen to the nationals of any other country. The Government ought to think again about this matter.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
I warmly support what my noble friend said. She emphasised that the scope of the amendment is relatively small because this paragraph seems to relate only to persons born outside the United Kingdom before commencement. At an earlier stage, in Clause 2, we had raised the matter of a person born outside the United Kingdom after commencement. I hope that my noble friend will be able to look at both these amendments in parallel and together because it is going to be important for recruitment in the future and for the service of this country.
There are some appointments that are made not merely by the Commission but by agencies of the Commission abroad. They would also have to be covered particularly in the service of ACP countries. Therefore I hope that my noble friend will look at this very closely indeed, to ensure that people who are born in these two categories before and after the commencement do retain their full British citizenship.
§ Lord Renton
I wonder whether I may follow up what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has said, because I have found some difficulty in understanding this subsection, quite apart from what has been said 323 by my noble friend Lady Elles—with whom, incidentally, I agree with regard to people serving in the European Community. If we look at line 34 and the words "his father", I assume we have to understand by implication that the father concerned is a person who, before the coming into force of the Act, would have been a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. I should have thought it would be better if that were stated in the subsection; we could then understand it better. As it reads, as far as I can see, it might be a father born anywhere in the world. If that were so, of course, it would give rise to all kinds of implications. Subsection (2) purports to make an exception to parts of subsection (1), but in any event, and quite apart from the point made by my noble friend Lady Elles, I think this subsection needs further elucidation.
§ Lord Avebury
Does not the noble Lord, Lord Renton, think that if the person were a citizen of any country other than the United Kindgom he would not have been recruited to Crown service or to service of the kind designated in Clause 2(3)?
§ Lord Renton
That is a possibility. Other possibilities arise as well, and I should like to know which ones the Government have in mind—or perhaps all of them.
§ Lord Wilberforce
May I assure the noble Baroness that, speaking for this evening at any rate, she has 100 per cent. support from the Cross-Benches.
§ Lord Mackay of Clashfern
My noble friend Lady Elles has once again eloquently demonstrated both her knowledge of this matter and her very good support for something being done for the people of whom she has spoken. I think perhaps it is fair to say that this amendment might not carry with it all that she has been talking of, as my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has pointed out.
Regarding the point made by my noble friend Lord Renton, I think the structure of the subsection, as he very correctly said, has the effect of making 324 a qualification on subsection (1). Therefore you need not bother about subsection (2) if the person you are seeking to deal with is one who may fall under subsection (1) and is then taken out of subsection (1) if he additionally qualifies or answers the description given in subsection (2). Therefore, in a sense, for the purposes of subsection (2) it does not matter where his father was born, because in order to come under subsection (1) his father must have been a British citizen.
However, the main matter that my noble friend Lady Elles has raised is of course associated with the general question that we debated under Amendment No. 71. In answer to that amendment, I pointed out some of the difficulties the Government saw in arrangements for passing on citizenship which applied in the European Community but not elsewhere. I do not think I need repeat those arguments here. They are equally applicable to some of the things my noble friend Lady Elles was saying, though perhaps not to all of them. It might be sufficient if I repeated what I said at the end of my remarks on that occasion, that we appreciate the very real problems that these amendments seek to cover and that we will give very serious consideration to all that has been said to see to what extent we can meet these difficulties. I hope that in the light of this assurance my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
§ Baroness Elles
I am very grateful to noble Lords who have supported the principle of this amendment from the Benches opposite. I very warmly welcome the 100 per cent. support from the Cross-Benches, and I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate for his comments. He will, of course, appreciate that I recognised that the drafting was not perfect; that it would not, as it stands at the moment, cover those coming after the Bill has been passed. But I hope he has taken on board the principle on which I have been seeking to impress the Committee, that some action should be taken by the Government. On the understanding that my noble and learned friend will look at the purpose of this amendment, I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.325
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Elles moved Amendment No. 118:
Page 14, line 44, at end insert—
("( ) A British citizen by descent by virtue of section 13(1)(a) and (b) shall be entitled, on an application for his registration as a British citizen as such to be so registered if the Secretary of State is satisfied that
§ The noble Baroness said: This is an amendment which seeks, as the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, inferred on an earlier amendment, to upgrade those who have become British citizens by descent. Under Clause 3(2), a British citizen by descent has the opportunity to register a child born abroad, provided that the other conditions under Clause 3 are observed in relation to employment. As the Bill stands, a British citizen by descent working abroad will have the option of registering the child within 12 months, or, if he or she thinks that there is a possibility of returning to this country within the next three or four years, that child may not be registered at all, because, as I and other noble Lords have repeatedly said, it is the wish of most British parents that their children should be British and should be able to transmit British citizenship.
§ So there is a very great danger, as the Bill is now drafted, that somebody will not register a child under Clause 3(2) and it may, therefore, be stateless for some time. That child will then be brought, by hook or by crook, to the United Kingdom—I am not sure how this will happen—and be registered under Clause 3(6), after the residential period has been fulfilled, and the child will then become a full British citizen. So that the British parent by descent has these options from which he or she has to choose.
§ It seems to me a very unreasonable option to put before parents of children being born abroad, when these British citizens by descent are, even in the terms of the Bill, bound by close connection with the United Kingdom through the kind of employment which they are undertaking. So this amendment seeks to upgrade those children who would become British citizens by descent by registration under Clause 3(2), and by the consequential effect of Clause 13(1)(a), if their parents brought them back to this country and they stayed here for the necessary number of years.
§ I quite accept that the effect of the drafting may not be totally in accord with what the Government or I desire, or that they may require a slightly longer term of residence. But, surely, it cannot be right—if you have to have a child abroad registered so that it becomes a British citizen by descent, and you then come back to this country and have the child educated in this country and brought up as a British citizen—that children who are alien and spend the same amount of time in this country should have the right to become full British citizens after the requisite number of years as residents in this country, although they have previously had no connection at all with this country.
§ Similarly, under Clause 4 a citizen from a British dependent territory also has the right to come to this country and, after five years, to become a full British citizen. I must say that there is a very strong feeling, 326 certainly among those British citizens I have met abroad, particularly in the circumstances of the European Communities, that their children, who are British citizens by descent as from the date when the Bill comes into force, will be deprived of the right of transmission of nationality through their children. This is a piece of retroactive legislation which nobody would support with equanimity. It works very inequitably against those who have been serving overseas, who have very close connections with this country and who do not want to lose links with this country either on social, economic or political grounds—and certainly not on nationality grounds. Even if the Government do not like the wording of the amendment, I hope that they will accept the principle that those who have been born abroad and who are British citizens by descent shall have the right to upgrade their nationality, like anybody else who comes from any other part of the world who does not have the benefit or even being a British citizen by descent. I beg to move.
§ Lord Avebury
A very important question occurred to me as I listened to the speech of the noble Baroness in moving the amendment. She outlined the dilemma which might face parents serving overseas for some considerable period of years who have a child out there and who then have to make up their minds whether the child is to be a British citizen by descent, as it would be if it were registered overseas, or whether at some stage during the child's minority they will bring it back to the United Kingdom and wait the requisite number of years so that it can be registered as a full British citizen with the right to transmit that citizenship to the child's own descendants.
The point I want to put to the Minister is this: under the immigration rules as they stand at present, a child may be admitted to the United Kingdom to accompany a single parent only if that parent has the sole responsibility for the child's upbringing. This means that if, half-way through the child's minority, the parents were to decide that it was so important that the child should acquire full citizenship that, say, the mother was going to return to the United Kingdom—the child might be going there, in any case, for the purposes of education and the mother would accompany the child to look after it during the holidays—the child would not then be eligible for admission to the United Kingdom because it could not be claimed that the parent in question had the sole responsibility for that child's upbringing. Therefore, during its minority, unless both parents return to the United Kingdom, at the possible sacrifice of the career of the working parent overseas, the residence qualifications could never be fulfilled. May I ask the noble Lord whether the Government are prepared to entertain any modification of the immigration rules so as to make it possible for one parent, in the circumstances which I have outlined, to return to the United Kingdom with the child for the purpose of gaining first-class citizenship for that child?
§ Lord Drumalbyn
Further to what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said, may I ask my noble friend what exactly is the status of a child born to a parent 327 of British descent overseas with regard to coming back? It is not just a question of granting special immigration facilities—or it certainly ought not to be. I should have thought that that child, if application has been made for registration in the ordinary way, should from that time have the right of abode. This would get over the difficulty altogether. It seems absurd that the parents should have the right to come back with the child but that the parents have no right to send the child back to somebody whom they trust, even for term time. It certainly looks as though they have no right to do that. Children can go out again—and many children do under commercial contracts, service contracts and the rest—during the holidays to join their parents.
I have the feeling that this matter has not been fully thought out. My noble friend the Minister knows how enthusiastic I am that there should be something along the lines of the amendment which has been moved by my noble friend Lady Elles, and so far as they have had time during the course of the Bill I hope that my noble friend's department has already started to think about it. At any rate, I warmly support what the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has said and I hope that the Government will he able to make it even more generous.
§ Lord Mackay of Clashfern
The structure of the Bill as it stands means that a British citizen is either a British citizen by descent or a British citizen otherwise than by descent. In other words, these two classes make up the whole class of British citizens and the classes are mutually exclusive. As I have said before, the distinction is however relevant in one context only. A British citizen otherwise than by descent can transmit his citizenship to a child born overseas, whereas a British citizen by descent cannot. As I have already said, it is only children born overseas who are affected. A child born in this country to a British citizen would be a British citizen otherwise than by descent, whether his parent was a British citizen otherwise than by descent or a citizen by descent.
It follows that a British citizen by descent who comes to live permanently in the United Kingdom will be at no disadvantage at all as regards any children born to him in this country. Nor is there any other disadvantage which he would suffer in this country as a citizen by descent. If he took advantage, therefore, of a provision such as is suggested by the amendment, he would be given a certificate of registration which he would not in fact need, so far as this country is concerned. I think it very likely that that would happen in very many of the cases which would fall to be registered under a provision such as my noble friend has suggested. But an extra registration procedure would mean an extra administrative burden, which in turn would mean more staff or longer delays or possibly, if there was not sufficient staff, a little of both. I think that your Lordships should question whether this is really justified when so many applicants will derive no real benefit from their registration.
I accept, however, that for some applicants improvement of their status as proposed in this amendment would bring some advantage. There are the people 328 who, after their two-year stay here, would wish to go overseas again with the ability to pass on their citizenship to any children born to them abroad later, and I suppose it is those that my noble friend has in mind. In such cases the provision would not be in any real sense recognising any deeper commitment to this country on the part of the person registered. It would instead he something that really contemplated a person thinking of leaving again. In other words, it is not something that suggests a continuing link but rather suggests that it would only be of use where the person in question was proposing not to have a continuing link with this country.
Therefore, in our view, the result, if this amendment were passed, would be to extend down the generations British citizenship, although the real links with this country were extremely tenuous. I think your Lordships should note that it would be possible under the amendment for the transmission of citizenship otherwise than by descent to be acquired by a child during his minority after two years at school here, whereas his parents might well be living overseas all this time, his real future lying with them there. I suggest to your Lordships that it is highly questionable whether a link of this sort, which might not be lasting, should be sufficient to enable British citizenship, containing, as we know, the right of abode, to be passed on for a further generation. Our view, for the reasons I have given, is that a provision on the lines of this amendment is not necessary and certainly is not desirable.
With regard to the question put to me by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, the situation is that for these children the Bill intends that they should be registered under Clause 3(2) if their parent in question has the right kind of connection with the United Kingdom. Of course registration as a citizen under that clause will carry with it the right of entry and abode in the United Kingdom. So that the problem he had in mind would not arise if that course were taken. I appreciate that there might be some problem if someone wanted to keep his options open after that stage, in the manner suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury; but the ordinary procedure under the Bill would be for registration under Clause 3(2) as a British citizen by descent, which would carry with it right of abode in this country. In the light of that explanation I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Avebury
Could the noble Lord deal with the point I made as to how the parents would exercise their right to bring the child back into this country so that it fulfilled the residence requirement for full citizenship, bearing in mind the sole responsibility rule which we find in the present immigration rules? If the two parents are overseas at the time of the birth they may decide they do not want to follow the Clause 3(2) procedure—because, whether the noble Lord likes it or not, it confers in their minds an inferior brand of citizenship; they want while the child is still a minor to bring the child back into the United Kingdom, which they may in any case have intended to do for the purposes of education, and that education may proceed for long enough to fulfil the necessary residence qualification. But as long as one parent continues to 329 remain working overseas, I believe they would at present fall foul of the rule that a child may only be admitted for settlement if both parents are settled here in the United Kingdom, or if the one parent he is coming to join is solely responsible for his upbringing.
Bear in mind that this child is not a citizen of any country; by definition, if the parents have not exercised their rights under Clause 3(2) to register him, what we are talking about is admission of a stateless minor to accompany one of his parents in the United Kingdom. I am asking the noble Lord, will any modification to the immigration rules be entertained by the Government to permit that to happen where the parents do want to use this method of acquisition of full citizenship for their child?
§ Lord Mackay of Clashfern
I am not absolutely clear about what method the noble Lord is referring to for acquisition of citizenship, because if it is not Clause 3(2)—and I am assuming that from his example—it must be, I would think, Clause 3(6). The necessary condition for Clause 3(6) is that the parents accompany the child, assuming there are two parents, and that is the situation the noble Lord is contemplating. So the Clause 3(6) provision appears to me to fit reasonably well with the present immigration rules, and it cannot be too surprising if the noble Lord is thinking of some different arrangement from the one in the Bill and then finds that it does not fit with the present immigration rules, which I think is the dilemma he is putting to me. I am not sure that that is an entirely fair proposition, because the only method of acquisition that I can see that would apply in the circumstances is the Clause 3(6) procedure.
§ Baroness Elles
I was asked whether I was satisfied with the explanation given by my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate, he will understand if I say I was not. We have not been given very much guidance as to the choice parents would take between registering by entitlement under Clause 3(2) when the child is born abroad, and hopefully waiting and trying to smuggle this stateless child into the United Kingdom in order to be able to register after a suitable number of years under Clause 3(6) to become a full citizen. I think these options are undesirable without benefit of remedy, which this amendment would give the opportunity to the parents to do.
The noble Lord said that it might be administratively difficult and might entail one or two more civil servants to deal with this type of registration. First, I believe the number of cases would not be very many, and, secondly, if there are many, then we should have the civil servants. Civil servants are here to serve the public and British citizens, not the other way round. Thirdly, the fact of the matter is that under the Bill, as noble Lords know, on the day that the Bill comes into force there will be several hundreds, if not thousands, of young people who will be British citizens by descent. Many of my friends have said, "My child was horn in Rome", or, "My child was born in Japan", or, "My child was horn"—wherever it happened to be— "and he will not now be able to transmit British citizenship under this Bill. When my children come home, of course, I shall not want them to work in any 330 international firm or any firm which sends them abroad, because I do not want to risk them having children who will not be British, or having grandchildren who will not be British citizens".
We are not all sitting in the Home Office or wherever. We are a trading nation. Most of our people who are earning benefits for the prosperity of the citizens of this country are not in this country at all; they are outside this country earning money by exports and by helping employment in this country. We shall not continue to have employment in this country if a good many people are not prepared to sacrifice many days or years of their life outside it.
I would put it to my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate, who is, after all, a Scotsman: does he really imagine that although he is spending several years in the South, he does not have an intention to return to Scotland? I cannot believe that that would be so. Although he may be said to have no connection at the moment with that country, f cannot believe that any good Scotsman—and my own family have many Scotsmen in it—does not dream of returning to Scotland and spending the rest of his days there. This is equally true of British citizens who are abroad. They may spend 30 or 40 years of their working life abroad, but they have been educated in this country. Their roots are in this country. Their family and relations are in this country and they have every intention to return to this country, and often they have a second home which they come back to for their holidays or they send their children back.
I think that Ministers must be a little more aware of what is happening on the Continent in particular, and in British business. The prosperity of this country does not rest in this country; it rests outside it. Therefore, the least that could be done is to have a serious look at the type of amendment which is to protect those of our British citizens who are contributing to our prosperity and sacrificing a large section of their working life outside this country.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
It seems to me that both of my noble friends have rather a fixation about the possibility that a child who comes home for education here is almost certain, because of the fact that he was born abroad, to go abroad again. That seems to me to be quite extraordinary. It seems that the options should be kept open the whole time and that the methods adopted to judge whether or not the child should himself become a British citizen or even a British citizen by descent, must leave the option open to the latest possible moment. The idea that the choice should be made within three years, or whatever, is just absurd.
I cannot refrain at this stage from giving a slight personal reference. I was born abroad. I was one of seven children. My father spent all his working life abroad. My mother came home at equal intervals: she spent half her time at home and half her time with her children. Not one of the seven children went to work abroad afterwards. I ask the noble and learned Lord to bear that type of case in mind because it is upon that sort of case—and I may say that the next generation have gone abroad—that the future of this country is bound to depend.
I must say that one reason why my generation did 331 not go abroad was the difficulty created by my father's absence abroad all the time. That is a great handicap that has to be overcome, but at the same time it is all the more important to make it as easy as possible, not more difficult, for people from this country to spend their working life abroad.
§ Lord Mackay of Clashfern
On the point raised by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, far from having a fixation of the kind he describes, I am saying that people in that category will have no disadvantage at all. People who come back and stay on in this country will have no disadvantage at all because, as I have sought to point out, a British citizen by descent who then remains in this country and has children here will of course have children who will be British citizens otherwise than by descent. So far as my noble friend Lady Elles is concerned, I well appreciate the dream of Scotland that so many of her family have. I only hope that it will be fully realised.
§ Baroness Elles
I very much hope that my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate will look a little more closely at this amendment in the light of the comments that have been made during these past few minutes; that he will realise that nowadays we live in a very mobile society; that because of unemployment people are very willing to go to the Continent for a short period of time; and that people want to be able to take their families with them: they do not want to have to leave them at home in order to have children born in this country; they want to have them wherever they may be.
I very much hope that in view of this debate my noble and learned friend will be able to look at this amendment in a slightly more favourable light. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 14 [Acquisition by birth or adoption]:
§ [Amendment No. 119 not moved.]
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones moved Amendment No. 119ZA:
Page 15, line 4, at beginning insert—
("( ) In this Part of the Act the expression "a citizen of the British Dependent Territories" means a citizen of any one of the British Dependent Territories.
( ) A passport issued after commencement to a citizen of the British Dependent Territories shall designate the holder as a British (…) citizen, inserting within the parentheses the name of the dependency of which the person is a citizen.").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: We now come—at last, if I may say so—to Part II of the Bill. During the debate on the Gibraltar issue I ventured to express the opinion that a generic citizenship of the dependent territories was meaningless. The largest of them all, Hong Kong—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, is interested in this matter—has been particularly concerned at what it feels to be a distancing of the United Kingdom from association with Hong Kong. So long as Hong Kong and the United Kingdom enjoy a common citizenship with each other, as they 332 do now, even the fact that this common citizenship has been, in effect, split up by immigration law has not taken away altogether the feeling that the United Kingdom is committed to a connection with the people of Hong Kong, which is a feeling of great importance in view of the events which will occur by the end of the century.
However, there is a real worry now on the part of the Hong Kong Government that as a result of the Bill it will appear less British in the eyes of the world and the people with whom the people of Hong Kong have dealings. One effect of the amendment which I now move would be to meet that anxiety by emphasising the British connection in the name of the new citizenship status. As your Lordships will see:
In this part of the Act the expression "a citizen of the British Dependent Territories" means a citizen of any one of the British Dependent Territories".
So it is an attempt to identify a citizenship in each particular territory; and, secondly:
A passport issued after commencement to a citizen of the British Dependent Territories shall designate the holder as a British—
I have mentioned Hong Kong—
(Hong Kong) citizen, inserting within the parentheses the name of the dependency of which the person is a citizen".
We make this proposal in order to emphasise the word "British" in this connection. A Gibraltarian would be called a "British Gibraltar citizen", although after the success of the Gibraltar amendment today, that may no longer be necessary. Indeed, I should have amended my note in the light of that event. But a Burmudan citizen would be a "British Burmuda citizen". That description would be clearly enough differentiated from the British citizenship description that will apply to most of us in this country, to ensure that no confusion results. At the same time, we feel that the use of this formula will assert the reality of the British connection in a way that the generalised citizenship of all the dependencies does not do. Although we believe that the name is in itself important, we are suggesting in this amendment an improvement that will provide that a particular status is attached to each dependency in something more than name.
§ One of the drawbacks of generalised citizenship in the Bill is that it does not give holders of this category of citizenship rights in all dependencies. Clearly it does not do that. Furthermore, it does not give them clear rights in any one dependency. To achieve right of abode anywhere at all, holders will have to depend not on their citizenship but on the particular immigration ordinances of the relevant dependent territory.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
These ordinances vary enormously. Some citizens of the dependent territories will have no right of abode anywhere—not even in the territory where they were born. Clauses 15 to 24 make provision for the citizenship of the dependent territories being acquired in future, and to us these clauses appear to be almost incomprehensible. If we are not to have a truly common citizenship, which we shall not have in spite of the generality of this classification, let us at least be clear about the separate status of citizens in 333 the dependent territories and give them all something which relates clearly to a particular territory so that they may know where they stand.
Whether what I have suggested in regard to Hong Kong will be the formula most acceptable to Hong Kong, I do not know; but we put this forward as an important provision to ensure that the peoples of the dependencies are given a status which confers a clear right of abode in a particular territory, which the present language and plan and structure of the Bill does not, in our submission, provide. I beg to move.
§ Lord Geddes
It will not surprise the noble and learned Lord opposite, nor indeed my noble friends on the Front Bench, that I warmly support the principle lying behind the aims of this amendment, particularly as it refers to Hong Kong. I believe that the noble and learned Lord was right in concentrating on Hong Kong when making his remarks. As was said during a brief interjection in the debate on what one might call "the Gibraltar amendment", I too am not totally certain whether the wording suggested by the noble and learned Lord opposite in respect of Hong Kong is entirely correct, but the spirit behind the amendment is the point to emphasise.
There is very real concern—and I have felt this concern among my own many connections in Hong Kong—and a strong wish among the people there to remain being seen as British. The wording on the present Hong Kong British passport, as I demonstrated to your Lordships during the Second Reading, is:British citizen, subject of the United Kingdom and Colonies".If that wording is not permitted to continue as a result of the passing of this Bill, then some such wording—emphasising in particular the words "British" and "subject"—is of very real importance to the people in Hong Kong, for reasons that may appear to your Lordships to be inconsequential here, but which are of extreme consequence to the people of Hong Kong in their position, both geographical and political. The important point—it has been said many times before and I make no apologies for saying it again; my noble friends Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Boyd-Carpenter have said it—that Hong Kong is most anxious to hear (the noble Lord the Lord President referred to it earlier today) is repeated affirmation of the British responsibility towards the people of Hong Kong.
It is of great importance to them, and that is why I warmly support the principle behind this amendment. What happens now after the Gibraltar amendment vis-à-vis the other dependent territories I think best to leave for discussion other than this evening. But it is important for Hong Kong in particular—and I am sure that will apply to the other dependent territories—that they are seen not only in this country, not even in their own dependent territory, but by the third world to continue to have close associations with Britain and therefore be deemed to be British.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
This amendment falls into two parts, and I shall, if I may, deal with them separately. The first would provide a new definition of citizen of the British dependent territories. It would be interpreted 334 as meaning a citizen of any one of the dependent territories. This in turn would require a scheme of separate citizenships for each of the dependent territories, since the holder would only be a citizen of the British dependent territories if he or she were a citizen of one of them. We do not think that separate citizenships for each of the dependent territories is a practical option, since many of the territories are very small and they differ radically in structure and expectations. The existence of separate citizenships would not mean that every citizen of the British dependent territories would have the right of abode in one of the dependent territories unless each citizenship was defined by reference to the immigration ordinances of the territory concerned. This would lead to intolerable confusion, and would be fundamentally incompatible with the status of the dependent territories which after all are not sovereign states. So I am afraid that we see real difficulties in interpreting citizenship of the British dependent territories in the limited way proposed in the amendment.
The second part of the amendment would weaken the concept of a coherent and distinctive citizenship of the British dependent territories still further. It would mean that citizens of the British dependent territories would be described in their passports as British citizens with the name of the territory from which they derive their citizenship in parenthesis between the words "British" and "citizen". So a citizen of the British dependent territories from Hong Kong, for example, would be described as a British (Hong Kong) citizen. Now I appreciate that the peoples of the dependent territories are anxious, first, that their passports should make clear that the dependent territory from which they derive their status is British, and that the passport should also make clear the connection which they hold with this territory. This can, we believe, be done, under the Bill as it stands. The outside cover of a passport issued to a citizen of the British dependent territories in, say, Hong Kong would include the words "British passport" and a reference to Hong Kong, as at present. The description of citizenship held, on the first page inside, would refer to the holder as a citizen of the British dependent territories, and would indicate that he was from Hong Kong.
But, we believe that it would be wholly inappropriate and indeed misleading to describe citizens of the British dependent territories as British citizens in their passports. Part I of the Bill sets out very specific provisions for British citizenship and Part II does the same for citizenship of the British dependent territories. This amendment would confuse the two and would jeopardise one of the main aims of the Bill—to replace the present citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies with three citizenships which make clear how the holder derives his status. This amendment would be misleading in precisely the same way as the existing citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies is misleading. Describing a citizen of the British dependent territories as a British citizen, even with the name of the dependency inserted, would inevitably suggest that the holder had the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
Of course, elsewhere in the Bill the holder might be denied the right of abode in the United Kingdom. But the impression given by a phrase of this kind could be 335 very different. Accordingly, therefore, we see considerable difficulties in this part of the amendment too, which would, we believe, undermine one of the basic principles of the Bill, and risk nullifying much of our work. I am afraid therefore that this amendment taken as a whole raises very considerable difficulties and I hope that, in view of what I have said, the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues will see fit not to press their amendment.
§ Lord Avebury
If this amendment undermined one of the principles of the Bill, and that was all it did, would be warmly in favour of it. But the trouble is that it leaves another of the principles of the Bill unimpaired and that is the creation of two different classes of citizenship which is what we objected to in the Green Paper of April 1977. The reason why I could not support the creation of separate citizenships for each of the dependent territories is because in the Liberal response to the Green Paper we called for a unified citizenship with those who lived in all the dependent territories, except Hong Kong, which would have its own citizenship entitled to exactly the same quality of citizenship as people who live in the United Kingdom itself. That, of course, includes the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
So we believe that the right course of action is not to have a number of separate citizenships for the Falkland Islands and so on but to incorporate them all in the British citizenship provided for under this Bill, to grant them the right of abode. We believe, incidentally, that the people in the other dependent territories would be no more likely to exercise the rieht of entry into the United Kingdom, and no less likely for that matter, than the people of Gibraltar would be after the concession we made to them this afternoon.
§ Lord Mishcon
Earlier I told the Committee of a recollection that I have of a beloved figure in this House, the first Viscount Samuel who, when proposing a toast to the Civil Service, paid them a very warm tribute and then said that the one thing he would always remember them for is that they had a problem for every solution. Whoever prepared the brief for the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, belongs high up in that category.
I do not intend at this hour to debate the issue which is contained in the first part of this amendment. I say that because it is so important that I think we would do an injustice to the dependent territories if this matter were debated in Committee distinguished by its quality but not its quantity at this hour. I think that the best thing we can possibly do, in view of Lord Trefgarne's answer to the first part, is to leave this to the report stage, if the noble and learned Lord who moved this amendment happens to be of that mind when we have completed our speeches on this amendment.
But, on the second part, I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, with absolute amazement. I do not think he could have had his head, let alone his heart, in the speech that he made. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, I think, earlier on accused me on the Gibraltar debate of letting the cat out of the bag. The whole 336 of the case of the Government in regard to this Bill, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in his short speech said, was that really, although there were categories of British citizenship in this Bill, everybody had very considerable rights and they were admitted to British citizenship in one form or another, and indeed it was ridiculous even to say that British overseas citizens had no rights at all and that it was a mere name.
We are now dealing with citizens who belong to the British dependencies; I will not again at this hour go into the desirability of that name. We are talking about a passport and about the ability of those citizens of British dependencies coming within that category to show without any mystery when they travel abroad—the name "British dependent territories" might be known by now to members of your Lordships' Committee, but it is not equally familiar, and will not be for many years, to immigration officials of high intelligence throughout the world—their attachment and the fact that they belong in one way or other to the great British family.
With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who travels abroad regularly and, I am told, pilots himself with great skill, I am sure he has many a time shown his passport with great pride to immigration officials. As he will agree, usually they do not even look at the outside; they immediately turn to the first page to which he referred. Is it really beyond the power of the Government, within the principles they have tried to outline for the Bill, to agree to a formula on page one of that passport saying "British citizen" and then in brackets the dependency concerned? That would give no rights, it would not mislead the intelligent immigration official, and it would not mislead the holder of the passport. It would make him just that much nearer a member of the family and, as I said, able to go with dignity throughout the world with the passport he holds.
The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, is an expert on Hong Kong. I have had the opportunity, as he and other noble Lords, of meeting those who are fairly high up in the representation of Hong Kong in this country. I do not want to identify any nearer than that. I know of the concern that the people of Hong Kong have—and, I am sure, the people of other dependencies have—about this very small concession in regard to the wording of the passport in the way that was indicated by my noble and learned friend. I hope that at this hour some of us who feel very much about this matter will have at least influenced the Government Front Bench to have a little more breadth of view and understanding in the matter and that there will at least be an undertaking to look again at the second part of the amendment so that we do not have to argue this case again on Report, as we certainly will do if the Government do not make that concession.
§ Lord Geddes
I would go further than the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon; I would, certainly in the case of Hong Kong (and I speak personally, as each member of the Committee does) be loath to see any reference to the country itself on the inside page. On the outside cover, as Lord Mishcon rightly said and my noble friend Lord Trafgarne agreed, there is printed the name of the country concerned. Surely that is sufficient for the passport. What I was trying to put 337 in my earlier intervention was that there should just be the words, "British subject" or "British citizen" or whatever the phrase might be, on the inside. My noble friend will correct me if I misrepresent him, but I thought I heard him say that to do that would give the impression that the holder had the right of abode in the United Kingdom. But the present Hong Kong British passport states:British subject, citizen of United Kingdom and Colonies".The people of Hong Kong, effectively all of the 2.6 million people who are eligible, know very well that they do not have the right of abode in the United Kingdom; and they are not looking for it, either. They are looking for a clear-cut statement from the Bill that they are British and will remain so.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
After hearing the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, I wonder how much consultation there has been with the relevant dependent territories about this kind of matter; nil, I would imagine. I regard this as a very important matter, and I am deeply dismayed by the total indication of non-co-operation from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. But for the lateness of the hour, I would be tempted, out of sheer irritation, to test the mood of the Committee, but I am not so easily irritated. We have all had communications—well, I have certainly had a number of communications—especially from Hong Kong, confirming the anxieties expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes. One of my few claims to respectability is that my daughter once taught in the Diocesan Girls' College in Hong Kong, and so I have a very keen feeling about it. But, seriously speaking, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will at least say that he will look again at this matter, not only in regard to the passport aspect but also the first part of the amendment.
§ Lord Nathan
There is one point I should like to ask the Minister about, and it relates not to the privileges of the passport holders, but to the effect of the passport on the countries to which a visit is made. I certainly support the thoughts behind the amendment, but what worries me about a passport which states in effect that the holder belongs to the dependent territories is that it does not identify with any particular country. As I understand it, one of the basic concepts relating to how a passport works in a country being visited is that the receiving country—it matters not which; it might be France, Germany, or Belgium—is aware on the face of the passport that in certain circumstances the holder can be deported. Under the concepts of international law as generally accepted the country which issues the passport is bound to to accept the return of the holder. If the passport refers merely to British dependent territories, what will be the effect on the immigration authorities in France, Germany, Belgium, or wherever it might be? In those circumstances will there not be difficulty in regard to receiving visitors, for the reason that I have given?
§ Lord Trefgarne
I shall deal with some of the points raised in the last few moments. The main thrust of the amendment is to provide and to create a separate citizenship for each of the dependent territories, and the proposal in the second part of the amendment to 338 provide a passport for each of those citizenships of course flows from the first part of the proposal. Several noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, have attached particular importance to the second part of the amendment, but I should say that it flows essentially from the first part of the amendment, and therefore I shall address my remarks to that particular proposal.
As we have been told on various occasions during the passage of the Bill, the dependent territories vary very much indeed in size. Some contain only 1,000 or so inhabitants, and there are others, such as Hong Kong, for example—the biggest one, I think—where 2½ million or so people live. Is it really suggested that each and every one of those dependencies, from the very smallest to the largest, actually merits the creation of a separate citizenship? I suggest to your Lordships that that is not so, but that is the effect of the amendment that we are asked to consider, and I hope your Lordships will take note of that.
On the second passport point, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and other noble Lords referred to, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that, of course, is a different and separate matter, but as noble Lords already know (because I explained it in my opening remarks) the people of Hong Kong, for example, already have the name of their country shown on the passport, and I do not think that the different arrangements which are proposed in the amendment really would make that much difference.
But the important point is that it would be wrong to put in the passport something that would be misleading, and to suggest, with the form of words that has been incorporated in the amendment, that the person concerned was a British citizen would not be accurate and would not be a proper thing, I would say, to include in the passport, because they will not be British citizens. That is the fundamental objection to that part of the proposal contained in the amendment. For those reasons, I hope the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues will not see fit to press this amendment now.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
I am bound to say that that message would be a very depressing one to be heard in all the dependent territories. I hope it will not become too widely known. What is disturbing is that the noble Lord the Minister did not say whether there had been consultation with the Government of Hong Kong or the other territories.
§ Lord Trefgarne
I apologise for not covering that point. I can assure the noble and learned Lord that there have been very close consultations with the Government of Hong Kong, including, in particular, of course, the Governor himself.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
It seems to have been the dialogue of the deaf so far as the communications that I have had from Hong Kong are concerned; but I will ask leave to withdraw the amendment, with the undertaking and the threat (if that is the right word) that I will return to it again in some form or another at Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.339
Lord Elwyn-Jones had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 119A:
Leave out clause 14 and insert the following new clause:
§ ("Citizenship of dependent territories
§ 14. The Secretary of State before commencement of the Act, shall proclaim by orders subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament, schemes for the citizenship of each of the dependent territories specified in Schedule 6.").
§ The noble and learned Lord said: It is evident from what has transpired already that I have very little prospect of receiving the support of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, on this amendment, either. All I can say is that from such knowledge as I have of the reactions outside Government circles, few people have had a good word to say about the Government's plan in the Bill for the dependencies. It is almost universally disapproved, in the dependencies and elsewhere. I have heard no praise for the plan, but a great deal of criticism. But I think that as to this, again, the better course is for us to hold our gunfire until the Report stage, in view of the obvious indication from the Government Front Bench that we shall get nowhere tonight on this matter.
§ [Amendment No. 119A not moved.]
§ Clause 14 agreed to.
§ Clause 15 agreed to.
§ Clause 16 [Acquisition by registration: minors]:
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 120A:
Page 16, line 37, after ("or") insert ("the").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment is consequential on one moved earlier in our proceedings by my noble friend Lord Geddes—Amendment No. 46—which added a definite article to Clause 3(2)(c). The Government accepted that amendment, and it is clearly desirable that a corresponding amendment should be made to the equivalent provision in the scheme for citizenship of the British dependent territories. Otherwise, it might be thought that there was some significant difference between the two provisions because one had a definite article and the other did not. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 10.50 p.m.
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 121:
Page 17, line 2, at end insert ("(whether or not in a dependent territory)").
§ The noble Lord said: This is a minor change which corresponds to that your Lordships' Committee agreed to in Clause 3(3). Like that amendment, it is designed to make clear that the period of relevant employment, which is one of the requirements a citizen of the British dependent territories has to meet to secure citizenship under Clause 16(2) for his child born outside the dependent territories, can be undertaken in a dependent territory or elsewhere. The Bill as it stands in fact already achieves this, but it was put to us, in connection with the definition of relevant employment in Clause 3(3), that this was not entirely clear. The Committee agreed to amend Clause 3(3) to remove any uncertainty on this point and a corresponding amendment is now needed to Clause 16(3), so that the two schemes of citizenship are on the same footing in this respect. I beg to move.340
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 17 agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Clauses 18 to 23 agreed to.
§ Clause 24 [Meaning of citizen of the British dependent territories "by descent"]:
§ 10.52 p.m.
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 126:
Page 24, line 28, after ("(d)") insert ("subject to subsection (2),").
§ The noble Lord said: With the permission of the Committee, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 126, 127 and 128. These are minor amendments which are needed to ensure that Clause 24(1)(d) applies only to those for whom it is intended and to no one else. Clause 24(1)(d) is intended to ensure that women who become citizens of the British dependent territories on commencement become citizens by descent if their claim to citizenship rests solely on their marriage to a man who becomes a citizen of the British dependent territories by descent on commencement, or would have done so but for his death.
§ The first of these amendments ensures that no woman in this group becomes a citizen by descent if she was born outside the dependent territories before commencement and her father was at the time of her birth in Crown service under the Government of a dependent territory (or was in associated service which had been so designated), and had been recruited for such service in a dependent territory. This is in line with the arrangements we are making generally for the children of such officers, where those concerned were born before commencement, and is part of our policy that the children of such people should not be at any disadvantage in transmitting their citizenship because of their parent's occupation at the time of their birth. It is right that these principles should apply to this group.
§ The second of these amendments ensures that this paragraph covers only a woman who, on commencement, becomes a citizen of the British dependent territories under Clause 22(l)(c), solely because of her marriage to a man who becomes a citizen of the British dependent territories and is a citizen by descent. An example would be a woman born in a foreign country who has married a man who is descended from a father born in the dependent territories and has taken up her entitlement to her husband's citizenship under our present nationality law. Clause 24(1)(d) as at present drafted, however, covers not only a woman of this kind but also a woman who, while she becomes a citizen of the British dependent territories at commencement under Clause 22(1)(c) and her husband is a citizen by descent, also has a claim to citizenship under Clause 22(1)(a) because she was born in a dependent territory. Now this woman would not be a citizen by descent; she was born in a dependent territory and should be able to transmit her citizenship like anyone else who is a citizen by birth. So it is necessary to make this amendment to Clause 24(1)(d) to narrow its ambit only to those women whose claim to citizenship rests solely on their marriage, and to 341 exclude from it women who have a claim to citizenship in some other way.
§ But if it is vital that this provision does not go too wide, equally it is vital that it is not too narrow and fails to cover women who should be citizens by descent. That is why we have proposed the third amendment. This provides that a woman who becomes a citizen of the British dependent territories on commencement through marriage to a man who is such a citizen, will be a citizen by descent if her husband is a citizen by descent under paragraph (b) of this subsection—or would have been but for his death. At present, this provision only covers women in this situation if their husbands are citizens by descent under paragraph (c) of this subsection—or would have been but for their death. This would lead to indefensible anomalies, for we need to treat the wives of these two groups of citizens by descent on the same basis. I appreciate that these are not altogether easy to follow, but I assure your Lordships that they are essential if this provision is to work fairly and equitably, and reflect the general principles governing the transmission of citizenship under this Bill. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
I find it difficult to follow my noble friend, as he suggested, but I think I can take it that Amendment No. 127 does not challenge the virtue of the ladies to whom he was referring.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 127:
Page 24, line 30, leave out ("by virtue only") and insert ("only, and did so only by virtue").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 128:
Page 24, line 35, after ("paragraph") insert ("(b) or").
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 129:
Page 24, line 35, at end insert—
("(dd) subject to subsection (2), being a woman born outside the dependent territories before commencement, she is a citizen of the British Dependent Territories as a result of her registration as such a citizen under section 19 by virtue of being or having been married to a man who at commencement became such a citizen by descent or would have done so but for his having died or ceased to be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies as a result of a declaration of renunciation; or").
§ The noble Lord said: This is a minor amendment to the arrangements for citizenship of the British dependent territories by descent. It is needed to rectify an anomaly and brings the scheme of citizenship of the British dependent territories into line with that for British citizenship in this respect.
§ Those covered by the amendment are women married before commencement to men who become (or would have become) citizens of the British dependent territories by descent and who are themselves registered as such citizens after commencement under Clause 19 of the Bill. This clause enables a woman who has been married to a man who becomes (or would have become) a citizen of the British dependent territories 342 to acquire citizenship of the British dependent territories, if certain conditions are met. This amendment simply provides that such a woman will be a citizen of the British dependent territories by descent if her husband is a citizen by descent (or would have been). I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ 11 p.m.
Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 130:
Page 24, line 42, at end insert (", (c) or (d)").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment is the counterpart of Amendment No. 117 to Clause 13, which your Lordships agreed earlier. It amends Clause 24(1)(e) which is intended to ensure that citizens of British dependent territories are citizens by descent if they have renounced citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies before commencement; are registered after commencement as citizens of the British dependent territories under Clause 21; and if they would have become citizens of the British dependent territories by descent if they had not renounced. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 24, as amended, agreed to.
§ Lord Denham
We have made fairly satisfactory progress today, and although I have, I know, threatened your Lordships with a rather later sitting, I think that as we have got a certain way we might possibly leave matters here for the time being. I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.