HL Deb 23 July 1981 vol 423 cc356-7

3.28 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Belstead.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE LORD ABERDARE in the Chair.]

Clauses 25 and 26 agreed to.

Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 131A: After Clause 26, insert the following new clause:

"Acquisition by descent . A person shall be a British Overseas citizen if at the time of his birth his father or mother is such a citizen otherwise than by descent.".

The noble Lord said: This very simple amendment is concerned with a provision for the reduction of statelessness. In fact, I should like to say that the wording of it is not ideal. I should have added to the end of the amendment the words, "unless he acquires some other citizenship". What I am concerned with here are people whose parents are British overseas citizens and who are born in some overseas country where they do not acquire the citizenship of that country. The provisions for the reduction of statelessness, which are contained in Schedule 2, were designed to enable us to comply with the obligations that we assumed under the convention on the reduction of statelessness, but they are the very minimum necessary to enable us to comply with those obligations. Surely, if we are concerned not just with being able to ratify some international instrument but with the actual reduction of statelessness in the real world, we ought to look at the effect of this Bill and try wherever possible to minimise the causes of statelessness which we can readily foresee.

British overseas citizens are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who do not acquire the citizenship of any of the dependent territories, so, by definition, they are persons who are at the moment citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies living in some independent country. Generally, as we have discovered on an earlier amendment, that would be either in the former Colonies of East Africa—Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, a few in Malawi and Zambia, which was not mentioned earlier—or they will have emigrated from there to India as a result of the expulsion by General Amin and the difficulties created for non-citizens in the other countries of East Africa by changes in the law. There are also a few people in other African countries, such as Zaire and Mozambique, which, of course, do not belong to the Commonwealth.

The question is, what happens if any of those countries have the law of jus sanguinis and a child is born to a person who is a British overseas citizen in such a territory? The answer to that is that under the Bill he would be stateless, unless he was able to benefit from the provisions of Clause 6(2), which requires a person to be resident in the United Kingdom for a certain length of time before he may apply to be registered. It is very unlikely, as I see it, that this citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who becomes a British overseas citizen under the Bill and who is living, say, in Malawi, would be able to enter the United Kingdom with his stateless child for the purposes of giving that child the nationality of this country, because he does not qualify to enter the United Kingdom and the child does not qualify to enter the United Kingdom under any of the immigration rules. Unless the parent is one of the people to whom the quota voucher system applies, then he may be in major difficulties in transmitting any citizenship to that child. The child could be stateless for the whole of its life.

So I think it is desirable to have some such provision as this, which caters for those children of British overseas citizens who will be born in future in the countries which have jus sanguinis. Although, as I say, this is not the ideal wording, it will, I hope, enable the Minister to say that he accepts the principle and will extend the means for the reduction of statelessness which are already contained in the Bill. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade (Lord Trefgarne)

I understand it would now be convenient to take the Statement. I therefore beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.