§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Committee stage resumed on Amendment No. 131
§ Lord Gifford
Has not the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in moving Amendment No. 131A, drawn attention to a real gap in the scheme of citizenships which the Bill proposes? The British Overseas citizens are, as I understand it, to be some kind of temporary category of citizens who will either come here and become British citizens or will not come here and will become, or their children will become, local citizens in their own countries. Therefore, a very limited provision has been put into the Bill for transmission to their children. Is the difficulty not that, whereas that may be true of the majority, some British overseas citizens will not come here and will not be able to transmit to their children some local citizenship?
For instance, I believe the position in Malawi to be that, because of the citizenship laws of Malawi, it is not possible for someone of Asian extraction to become a citizen. However much one may deplore that as a basis for citizenship, and that there should be some African racial connection, that is how it is in Malawi. That means that the children of British overseas citizens will be left high and dry. They do not benefit from the provisions of Schedule 2, which we are about to debate, unless they are either born here or they come to reside here. There is a five-year transitional period under Clause 26 for children born in the next five years, but once that has expired what is to become of those children of British overseas citizens, be they many or he they few, who have no other citizenship to inherit?
§ The Lord Advocate (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
This amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has moved seeks to add, as he has explained, a new clause to enable those British overseas citizens who hold that citizenship otherwise than by descent to transmit their citizenship for a further generation. The amendment does not define what is meant by British overseas citizenship otherwise than by descent, and it is not entirely easy to do that. But, leaving that difficulty aside. I am afraid that the Government see grave difficulties in accepting the principle of this amendment. It would be contrary to the Government's aim in this Bill to allow British overseas citizenship—which is essential a residual status intended for those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who have no close ties either with the United Kingdom or an existing dependency—to be transmitted further. This could only perpetuate the existing situation whereby our citizenship—or in this case one of our citizenships—is held by those who have only tenuous ties with this country or with an existing dependency.
This view on the essential residual nature of British overseas citizenship was one shared by the Labour Government in their Green Paper. Although that paper envisaged a single category of citizenship to be held by those who had ties with both existing and former dependent territories (in that sense it included what we have in the Bill as a citizenship of British dependent territories along with overseas citizenship), I think it is clear that this category was eventually 367 intended to include only those concerted with an existing dependency.
Paragraph 71 of the Green Paper, for example, says:The arrangements for acquiring British overseas citizenship after a new citizenship scheme came into force—by birth, descent or voluntary act—might be so drawn that we would eventually reach a state of affairs in which British overseas citizenship would be derived solely from connection with the dependencies which still exist".That seems to me to put the matter very clearly. When one remembers the connection between their concept of British overseas citizenship and ours, this in effect means that the concept which we have used would come to an end fairly quickly. To say all this does not mean that the Government are unsympathetic to any problems which may arise from the non-transmissibility of British overseas citizenship. But I think that these problems should be seen in their proper perspective.
First, it must be remembered that many of those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who will become British overseas citizens cannot transmit their citizenship under current nationality law. They hold citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by connection with a former dependency. They are mainly resident in commonwealth countries. Now, as your Lordships will be aware, it is a considerable number of years since most of these countries lost the status of dependent territories and became independent. Many of those with whom we are concerned will therefore be citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies not by birth but by descent. This means that they will not currently be able to transmit their citizenship automatically to their children born in these countries. These people will thus not be worse off because their status will no longer be generally transmissible. Indeed, as I understand it, such people would also be unable to transmit their citizenship under the proposed new clause since they would, presumably, not be regarded as British overseas citizens otherwise than by descent.
Secondly, I think it is important to note in this context the third conclusion of the recent report on the numbers and legal status of future British overseas citizens by the Select Committee on Home Affairs in another place. That conclusion states—I am referring to 17.3—that the children of most future British overseas citizens can reasonably be expected to acquire local citizenship. This puts in perspective the problem with which this amendment is intended to deal. Now, I do not suggest that that shows that no cases of hardship will ever arise, but, if they do, there is already a discretionary power in Clause 26(1) of the Bill for the Home Secretary to register any minor as a British overseas citizen. We do not envisage that this power will be frequently used. But it is there to deal with any particular cases of hardship.
So far as statelessness is concerned—a problem which, as I said, I do not believe should arise very often—the provisions in Schedule 2 to which the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, referred in our view fully meet the United Kingdom's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the reduction of statelessness. The noble Lord referred to the provisions so far as they are relevant to this particular problem. I agree of course that they do not make provision of this kind for those children who remain abroad, but, in our view, 368 the responsibility for these children in the circumstances is a matter that one could reasonably expect to be properly dealt with under the law of the country of the child's birth and subsequent residence.
I know, and accept, that there are certain places—and the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Gifford, have referred to some of these—where the law of that place contains an element of principle which makes it difficult for them to confer citizenship on some of these, but we feel that these difficulties are difficulties which should not give rise to our making a fundamental change to the conception of the status of British overseas citizenship which we have set out.
Although, therefore, I appreciate the problem with which this amendment is intended to deal, I hope that I have shown your Lordships that we have, consistent with some kind of general principle, dealt with it as fairly as it is possible to do. I hope that, in the light of that, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, will feel able to withdraw this particular amendment.
§ Lord Avebury
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for the remarks he has made. I agree with him that, if the principle were accepted, the amendment would have to be accompanied by another amendment defining British overseas citizenship otherwise than by descent. It was only because I wanted to have a discussion on the principle first that I did not go to the extent of drafting a clause analogous to what is now Clause 13, which the noble and learned Lord said would certainly be necessary if we were going to pursue this matter.
The noble and learned Lord reminded us of the sentence in the Home Affairs Committee's report which made it clear that there would be very few children of future British overseas citizens who could not reasonably be expected to acquire local citizenship. I entirely agree with that. I think that certainly in all the countries where there is jus soli the child of a British overseas citizen would obviously acquire the citizenship of the country of his birth. But I did speak about the case of Malawi in particular, and I was not sure about the others. I should be grateful if the noble and learned Lord could give the Committee some information on this.
While a British overseas citizen who is eligible under the quota voucher system to come here from Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania is not in any great difficulty because he brings the child with him and it ultimately acquires British citizenship under, I think, Clause 6(2), the people who are holders of United Kingdom and Colonies passports and who are resident in those other countries I have mentioned do not come under the quota voucher system. I was rather surprised when I learned of this, but I did have some detailed correspondence with the Minister of State in the Home Office, Mr. Timothy Raison, about a family who lived in Mozambique. He said clearly at the end of this correspondence that nobody other than those who were resident in the countries I have mentioned, plus, I think, Malawi was in fact eligible.
Therefore, there may be the odd few British overseas citizens who are scattered around independent countries of Africa who are not in the Commonwealth, and in those countries there may not invariably be the right to citizenship for a child born in that country. But I 369 was very happy when the noble and learned Lord said that this was the kind of situation for which the residual power in Clause 26(1) was designed. The Secretary of State may confer British overseas citizenship on a minor at his discretion where the minor is born in an overseas country.
What I should like from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate is an assurance that this power of the Secretary of State will be used invariably in cases where the child is unable to gain any other citizenship. I think that that is a reasonable thing to ask. We are talking about a very small number by the Minister's own statement, and that was confirmed by the Select Committee. All I would seek is that the Secretary of State would give an undertaking to the noble and learned Lord that the power in Clause 26(1) should be used invariably to confer British overseas citizenship on any child who is born in a country such as I have mentioned, where the child does not acquire the citizenship of that country.
Probably the noble and learned Lord would need time to think about whether he is in a position to give me that assurance. I do not think it would necessarily be proper for me to demand it of him on the spot this afternoon, but I should be grateful if he would give the matter some consideration before we return to the matter at Report stage—that is, unless he does want to give me an assurance now. However, I did not think it was reasonable to ask for that, and so I shall if I may, come back to this point later on. In the meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 131B not moved.]
§ Clauses 27 to 33 agreed to.
§ Clause 34 [Circumstances in which British subjects are to lose that status]:
§ [Amendment No. 132 not moved.]
§ Clause 34 agreed to.
§ Clause 35 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Provisions for reducing statelessness]:
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Simon)
I have to point out to your Lordships' committee that if Amendment No. 133 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment Nos. 137A or 137B.
§ [Amendment No. 133 not moved.]
§ Lord Mishcon
May I point out to your Lordships' Committee that, not for the first time, there are amendments in the Marshalled List which have been put down by a particular group, and although that may be a very distinguished group in the membership of the Committee, on almost every occasion no representative of that group is here when the amendments are called. I only wish to record that fact, with a certain amount of regret.
§ 4.21 p.m.
Lord Gifford moved Amendment No. 137A:
Page 55, line 37 leave out ("citizen or subject of that description") and insert ("British citizen").
§ The noble Lord said: We come to the first in a series of amendments to Schedule 2 of the Bill. This is a very important schedule designed to deal with people who would otherwise be in the terrible limbo of having no country of nationality at all. It will be my submission that the provisions which the Government have made in Schedule 2 are gravely inadequate. They are inadequate, for reasons of principle. The reasons of principle affect in particular paragraphs 3 and 4 of the schedule, which are the most important paragraphs covering the majority of people who are likely to be stateless. I will reserve my general attack on principles until speaking to Amendment No. 137E, which deals with paragraph 3.
§ The second attack I wish to level is on the grounds of obscurity and complexity. This is where we can look at Amendment No. 137A and perhaps with it the next three amendments. Paragraph 1 deals with various British citizens—that is to say, not actual British citizens but British citizens in other categories who are born in the United Kingdom. One sees that the intention of this paragraph is that such people, if otherwise stateless, should have some kind of status to fall back on if their parent is a citizen of the British dependent territories, or is a British overseas citizen or a British subject under this Act. But when we look at what it is that is being provided for the children of these people it becomes rather obscure. It seems to be the intention that these children should take the citizenship or the status of their parents, even though that may be a very inadequate status in many cases. That is the provision made in paragraph 1 (1)(a).
Paragraph 1(1)(b) states:
if he is born legitimate and at the time of the birth each of his parents is a citizen or subject of a different description so mentioned he shall be a citizen or subject of the same description so mentioned as each of them is respectively at that time".
I have read that subparagraph again and again and I fail to understand it. It is a classic example of legislative gobbledegook. For that reason, if for no other, I would have asked for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, if he had been in his place, because of the absurd phraseology which has been employed. What appears to be intended is that the child of two parents described in sub-paragraph 2 should have some kind of dual status, but the way of achieving that is obscure, and whether it is something worth achieving is rather dubious. My amendment suggests that everyone whose parents fall within these categories and who is born in the United Kingdom should simply and without any compexity or difficulty become a British citizen. That would seem to be a much less complex, a much fairer and more humane solution to the difficulties which are envisaged in that sub-paragraph. I beg to move.
§ Lord Belstead
As the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has explained, this amendment would automatically confer British citizenship at birth on the child of a parent who was a citizen of the British dependent territories, a British overseas citizen or a British subject if he would otherwise be stateless. He would not as under the Bill as it stands, take his parents' citizenship or status.
We ought to be clear that we are referring to children whose parents will probably be in this country tem- 371 porarily, whether as visitors, students, to work, or simply en route to another place. We expect as a general rule that children born here to people who are only here temporarily should take the citizenship of their parents and not our citizenship. We envisage that this will be the usual pattern for children born here to parents who hold citizenship of a Commonwealth or foreign country. In most cases, the same will apply to children born to citizens of the British dependent territories. But there are limitations on the transmission of that citizenship and there are greater limitations, as we know from the previous debate this afternoon, on the transmission of British overseas citizenship and British subjects status—which, since they are residential statuses, are not intended to be generally transmittable.
We recognise that where a child born in the United Kingdom would otherwise be stateless an exception should be made and that in these circumstances a parent who is a citizen of a British dependent territory or who is a British overseas citizen or a British subject should be able to transmit his or her citizenship to a child born here. In this way we shall ensure that a child born here is at no disadvantage because he is not eligible to secure British citizenship at birth and because his parents hold statuses created under this Bill which, in the normal way, it was not planned that they would transmit. Having said that, I believe that one must assume that the child's parents will normally be here only temporarily; otherwise the statelessness would not arise. But if such people should make their home here, then there are other avenues in the Bill through which a child can acquire British citizenship. There is the avenue in Clause 1(3) where the parents become British citizens and the avenue in Clause 1(4) where the child is here for a period of 10 years and has the entitlement to British citizenship conferred on him or her. There is also the entitlement in Clause 4 whereby a citizen of the British dependent territories, a British overseas citizen or a British subject can come to this country and after five years will have absolute entitlement to citizenship.
Whether the child stays here or is taken overseas, he or she will still have privileged access to British citizenship for the rest of his or her life. The child will not have to go through the whole process of naturalisation. We believe that this approach is preferable to the line which the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, is taking in the amendment, which would be to confer British citizenship and the right of abode on a child born here whose parents clearly have no substantial ties with this country at the time of the birth and whose future may well be elsewhere. We shall certainly ensure that this child acquires his parents' status without any difficulty, thus fulfilling our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, but we do not think the child can really be said at the time of birth to have sufficient links with this country to justify the automatic conferment of a citizenship which, of course, carries with it the right of abode in this country; and that is what the effect of the amendment would be.
§ Lord Avebury
I wish to comment on the distinction which may emerge between British overseas citizens and citizens of the dependent territories, because the 372 Minister again spoke about people who were here in passage, as it were, from one part of the world to another. He may possibly be right in the case of citizens of British dependent territories, who may finish up back in the country of their citizenship, and then it could be appropriate that the child born here would have the same citizenship as the parents and be entitled to the right of abode in that British dependent territory where the parent will subsequently be settled.
However, I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that different considerations apply in the case of persons who were formerly citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies and who become British overseas citizens under the Bill and who may give birth to children in the United Kingdom, when of course they would not be settled; otherwise they would have been able to transmit their citizenship, as the noble Lord explained, under Clause 2. I am thinking in particular of the case of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who come to this country without having gone through the quota voucher scheme and who are therefore not entitled to be admitted for permanent residence but in respect of whom, as the Minister may be aware, there sometimes arises an argument about entitlement.
I have had brought to my notice recently two cases, in one of which such a person lost the right to remain in Kenya and has been asked by the Kenya authorities to leave. There is no reason why the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, should have been made aware of the case, but there is a case about which I am in correspondence with his honourable friend Mr. Timothy Raison where the British Government refused to admit this person because he did not have a quota voucher. He was sent back to Kenya, where he was fined as a person who was not in possession of a residence permit, and that man is the subject of discussions now as to whether he should be permanently admitted to the United Kingdom.
During the time when this argument is proceeding, the person is not settled here; even if he were granted temporary admission (as is the practice in cases where the Minister is reviewing representations made by a Member of Parliament or one of your Lordships) the process could be lengthy in cases where it is the opinion of the Home Office that the country of origin should not have taken the action it did. Presumably inquiries have to be made through the High Commission there as to exactly what the status of the person was, and if there should be a dispute between the authorities in that country and the Home Office here, it could take months, if not years, to resolve, and in the meantime it is quite possible that the person, having been granted temporary admission, may have a child in the United Kingdom.
If at the end of the day he is to be admitted in any case, it does not seem to make sense that he should be given one of the inferior statuses which are provided for in the Bill—that a person should be treated as a British overseas citizen when the only argument is whether the parents are admitted for settlement immediately, because they cannot be sent back to the country in which they were formerly living, or whether they must wait their time in the queue until after the lapse of six years or so and they qualify under the quota voucher system. It seems absolutely absurd that in those cases the provisions of the Bill require 373 that the Secretary of State treats such an infant as a British overseas citizen when, in the course of one or two years or whatever the period may be, the parents will come to reside in the United Kingdom or, as a result of the failure of the Home Office to persuade the authorities in the country of origin to accept them back, they may even be admitted for settlement at the end of consideration of the representations made on their behalf.
I therefore suggest to the Minister that, while the amendment may not be wholly acceptable, he should look again at particular cases of British overseas citizens and make their children, even if not those of the British dependent territories citizens, British citizens from their birth if they have no other state to which they can belong.
§ Lord Gifford
Before seeking leave to withdraw the amendment, which is what I intend to do, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to construe the words I read out, in paragraph 1(1)(b), which might save me the trouble of moving the next amendment, which seeks to delete them. That provision is strangely worded and I described it as gobbledegook. Can the Minister tell us what it means?
§ Lord Belstead
All it means—and I must try to put this with the greatest precision that I can—is that a child whose parents have two of the relevant statuses gets both unless one of them is British subject status, in which case he gets only one and does not get British subject status. That bit is set out in sub-paragraph (3).
§ Lord Gifford
I urge the Minister to look again to see if it is a happily worded phrase because after multiple reading I did not understand it to mean what the noble Lord said it meant. I shall seek leave to withdraw the amendment because, as the Minister explained, it would not achieve its purpose, namely, to provide that the children concerned attain at least some status for citizenship, even if, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, points out, it may be an inferior status and create serious problems.
§ Lord Avebury
Before the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, seeks leave to withdraw the amendment, may I ask whether he is of the opinion that the Minister does not intend to deal with the question of the distinction between parents who are citizens of British dependent territories and British overseas citizens?
§ Lord Avebury
Does the noble Lord agree that the Minister should be given an opportunity to reply to that point?
§ Lord Belstead
I apologise to the Committee; the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, was of course speaking to Amendments Nos. 137A and 137B along with Nos. 137C and 137D. My arguments on Nos. 137C and 137D were going to be the same—not of a supportive nature, I am afraid—as they were on I37A and 137B. In principle, the arguments are the same, except of course that all the references which I would have 374 given in talking about avenues into British citizenship would have been avenues into citizenship of the British dependent territories under Clause 14. I am not being deliberately unhelpful, but that is the answer I must give.
§ Lord Gifford
This is a very complex area. I had assumed that the scheme in sub-paragraph (2) was the same as the scheme in sub-paragraph (1) and that therefore the arguments for my amendments and the replies of the Government were much the same. However, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has raised points which I should like to study in more detail before leaving the whole topic raised in this part of the Bill. I shall read what has been said, and unless there is a particular reply which can be given to the points raised by Lord Avebury now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 137B, 137C and 137D not moved.]
§ 4.40 p.m.
Lord Gifford moved Amendment No. 137E:
Page 56, line 26, leave out from ("entitled") to the end of line 46 and insert ("to be registered as a British citizen (if born in the United Kingdom) or as a citizen of the British Dependent Territories (if born in a dependent territory) if the Secretary of State is satisfied that he is and always has been stateless").
§ The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with a quite different description of people who are born in the United Kingdom or in a dependent territory after the commencement of the Act and who will be stateless. The schedule that we are considering has the attractive title, "Provisions for reducing statelessness"; attractive that is, until we remember that all or nearly all of the statelessness which is to be reduced by this schedule is statelessness which has been created by the other provisions of the Bill.
§ What we have to remember is that the abolition of the old principle of jus soli creates for the first time in our history the prospect that children will be born in this country who will be stateless. I have no idea how many children that will be. It is no doubt a fact that the great majority of children who are born in this country who will not become British citizens under this Bill will have the citizenship of their parents to fall back on and will therefore not be stateless. But some there will be who will be stateless.
§ One can think of three particular examples: first of all, those born to women who are not married, because the great majority of countries has the same provisions that we have so far; that is, citizenship cannot be transmitted through the female line. So women here temporarily who are not married and who have a child will for the most part have a child who is stateless. Then there are children of foreign citizens who will be foreign citizens by descent in their own countries because nearly every country like ourselves has some provision for cutting off citizenship after a certain generation. Therefore, if children happen to be born here to people temporarily staying who are of that description, they will be stateless children.
§ Thirdly, there will be children born to refugees who have been deprived of their citizenship by the acts of the country of which they are citizens. Some of the 375 children thus born stateless might eventually be able to obtain British citizenship by one of the other avenues, such as the 10-year residence rule. But some will not. It does not matter, I suggest, how few they are; the principle should be that no person should be born in this country stateless because of the Bill that we are considering which abolishes the jus soli. Otherwise we will be party to the creation of a category of people—small though it might be—who will be without citizenship. We should not be responsible for that.
§ Schedule 2(3) does not achieve that objective because it hedges around the entitlement of someone born here stateless to be registered as a citizen with restrictions. There are two restrictions in particular which this amendment seeks to do away with. First of all, in paragraph 3(1)(b) there is a restriction as to age. Persons concerned, for reasons which I fail to understand, have to be more than 10 but less than 22. Now by what logic a 23-year-old stateless person cannot benefit from an entitlement which a 21-year-old stateless person can is something which I hope the noble Lord the Minister will answer.
§ Secondly, there is a residence qualification with which many people may comply but some will not. They may, for instance, have been deported along with their parents to another country. The noble Lords may say, "Out of sight, out of mind, if they have been deported they are no concern of ours". If our law has caused them to be stateless, it does not matter whether they are here or not. I suggest there should be a safety net by which, as it were, we should revert to the jus soli to this limited extent—that if the children born in this country will have no other citizenship they should have British citizenship.
§ I know it will be said by the Government that these provisions comply with our obligations under the United Nations convention on the reduction of statelessness. It is as if someone had been through the convention and put into this schedule the minimum which is necessary in order to comply with it. I suggest that that is not good enough. Our law up to now has been much better than the convention on statelessness, and it should remain much better. Just because the convention allows these restrictions to be imposed and therefore allows for some people to be permanently stateless and in this limbo, our law should not be so mean.
§ I do not know whether the people who will be left out of these provisions will be few or many. If they are few then we are not changing the scheme of things in any significant way by passing this amendment. If they are many, it will mean that our legislation is creating a large category of stateless children and therefore being the cause of unfairness and injustice because of the haphazard operation of different citizenships, ours and some other countries, which result in some people being stateless. We should have a safety net which is comprehensive and which does not allow this Bill to go from this House with some people in it being born in this country and having no citizenship at all. I beg to move.
§ Lord Avebury
I want very warmly to support what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford and to emphasise the difficulties that we are putting in the 376 way of one particular category of individuals which I have mentioned on a previous occasion; that is, persons who are applying for admission to this country as refugees and who are either in the process of having their application examined or who are here subject to conditions, as is the normal practice when a person is first granted asylum.
As I think I mentioned on a previous occasion when this matter came up, it can be an extremely lengthy process. I have a case under consideration by the Home Office at the moment of a refugee from Pakistan, a former army officer, who resigned his commission and came here because he felt he could no longer put his hand on his heart and say that the oath he had taken to the constitution was being upheld. His service in the armed forces was therefore a violation of the oath that he had taken. He left the country and he has been living here for the last two years. Indeed, three children from Pakistan have just joined him and it is quite possible that he might have other children; he is still a reasonably young man.
During the period of two years that he has been waiting he could have had children. For the first year after he is granted asylum by the Home Office—as I hope he shortly will be—he will be here subject to a time limit, and even after that the practice of the Home Office is to grant a four year extension so that the person would still not be settled within the meaning of this Bill and would therefore be unable to transmit United Kingdom citizenship to his children.
The Minister might argue that in most cases where we admit people as refugees, we hope that ultimately they will be able to return to their country of origin and at that time the children would acquire the citizenship which the refugees had temporarily relinquished. But if we look at the cases of refugees whom we have admitted over the past 30 or 40 years or so, we see that in many instances they have had to look to this country for permanent asylum. Look, for instance, at the number of people who left Eastern Europe immediately after the war. Think of the refugees whom we accepted from both Hungary and Czechoslovakia, who have made their whole lives in this country, and who, unless the Russian empire disintegrates, will never be able to return to their countries of origin. Think of the refugees who have entered this country from Latin America. Think of the people from Chile, for example, who fled after the overthrow of the Government of President Allende and who are very unlikely in the foreseeable future to be able to return there because President Pinochet has just managed to confirm his autocratic rule for another 10 years; so it is inconceivable that many of the Chileans who are living in this country would be able to return to their homeland in the foreseeable future.
I shall not go through all the countries from which this nation of ours has admitted refugees—that would be very tedious. But I think that I have said enough for the Committee to understand that this is not a temporary phenomenon. Unfortunately, there have been very large movements of people in the postwar period, contrary to what was expected in 1945, as a result of political repression and the difficulties that people faced following persecution by the régimes in the countries where they lived, and I expect that this will continue for as far ahead as we can see.
377 These people have made their lives here. They have gone out of their way to seek asylum in the United Kingdom, and one can hardly imagine a closer tie or connection than that. Of all the countries in the world, they have looked to the United Kingdom, which traditionally has been so hospitable to refugees, and we have taken them in, whether they have been Cambodians, Vietnamese, Poles, Chileans, Argentinians, El Salvadorians or Ethiopians. We have opened our doors to people whose lives were at risk and who have come here to live freely among us, and to contribute, as so many of them have, to the life of this country of ours.
Surely in those circumstances it is reasonable that these people should be able to have children who are United Kingdom citizens. Those children are going to remain here. They are never going back to the countries of origin, and to all intents and purposes they are as British as anyone else. They certainly do not have any rights to citizenship of their countries of origin, and so they otherwise would remain stateless for a very considerable period of time. So I think that in that particular case, if not in any other, it would be reasonable for the Minister to say that he would accept the principle of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Gifford.
I am not saying that I in any way disagree with the points that he has put to the Committee regarding, for instance, unmarried women. We have hardly discussed that question at all during the proceedings on the Bill, but the position of children born to unmarried women is unclear or unsatisfactory in a great many other parts of the Bill in addition to this particular schedule. I would certainly endorse the simplicity of the solution that the noble Lord has proposed; namely, that any child whatsoever born in the United Kingdom and not entitled to any other status whatsoever, should, in the last resort, be entitled to fall back on the British citizenship that we are creating under the Bill.
§ Lord Belstead
In arguing that a stateless child born here should have an unqualified entitlement to British citizenship on application without having to show any other connections with the United Kingdom, and equally that a stateless child born in a dependent territory would have unqualified entitlement to citizenship of the British dependent territories, both the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, have overlooked matters which are either explicit in the Bill, or are set out in other pieces of legislation. I believe that I can honestly say that the Government are sympathetic to the needs of stateless children, and these needs can be met under the Bill. The difference is that the Government are saying that we think it reasonable that the child concerned should have to show that he or she has certain ties with this country or with a dependent territory before being entitled to British citizenship or citizenship of the British dependent territories under the provision. That is why we have provided that applicants for citizenship in this way should be of a specified age and should have lived here, or in the dependent territories, for a period of five years. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, asked: Why the specified age? The reason is that the 378 United Nations Convention saw fit to set out an age, and we have set out in the Bill an age that is infinitely more generous, and I am very glad that it is. I think I am right in saying that our provisions for residence are more generous, too.
However, we do not think that citizenship should be accorded absolutely automatically to the stateless child born here or in a dependency if he leaves the United Kingdom or the dependent territory where he was born and never returns there. It simply does not seem to make sense. We consider that the child should look for citizenship to the country where his or her future lies, not where he or she happened to be born, if that kind of move is to be made. That approach is not only fully consistent with our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, but goes considerably further than the convention. Moreover, the convention expressly provides that where a stateless person cannot meet the age or residence requirements, then it is for his parents' country to grant the individual his citizenship, though certain conditions may be imposed by that country.
That brings me to the points—and they are important points—made by both the noble Lords, Lord Avebury, and Lord Gifford. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, referred to children in three categories: those born to unmarried mothers, those born to foreign citizens who are citizens by descent, and the children of refugees; and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, spoke in particular of refugees. Yes, it is possible that some children in those categories will be stateless, but as the noble Lord pointed out, that is due to the legislation of other countries. The point is that if the children return to those other countries, it is reasonable to look to those countries to remedy the situation.
So far as the children of refugees are concerned, of course they will have a right to British citizenship once their parents become settled. If I may say so, the refugees whom the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned I should have thought are all people who will have become settled in this country. Surely it is reasonable—to quote the noble Lord's own words—to wait until the parents become settled before this happens.
So I really do not think that there is so much between the position of the Government—which, as I have said, is infinitely more generous (I think I can use that word) than is the United Nations Convention, to which we subscribe—and the position of the two noble Lords who have spoken. We are including requirements as to age and residence which the amendment seeks to remove because we think that they are justified, and we think that they are justified on the same kind of grounds as United Nations thought they were justified. We are certainly prepared to accord our citizenship to a stateless child who has real links with this country. But we are saying that if the child goes abroad shortly after he or she is born, and then spends the rest of his or her life abroad, we think the child should look for citizenship where his or her life is then going to lie. I do not think that is unreasonable, and I would ask both noble Lords who have spoken to this amendment to look at the Government's case with some care before deciding that this is an amendment which they would wish to press.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Baroness Birk
I should like to say a few words about this general position of statelessness, which is really contained within the amendment which my noble friend Lord Gifford has moved. Both the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate and the Minister have laid great stress on the fact that we have carried out our obligations under the United Nations convention to a greater degree than many other countries. Indeed, as I think we are all aware, a great many other countries have not ratified it at all. But that we have been a refuge for people is something in which we in this country take great pride.
Certainly our record on statelessness compares favourably with that of others, and is miles above that of many other countries. That is perfectly true; but the thing that worries me—and I am not dealing now with some of the technical points that the Minister has made—is that this Bill, when it talks in the schedule about reducing statelessness, is in fact making an attempt to reduce but slightly the very much greater degree of statelessness that has been created by the Bill. This, I think, is a matter of grave concern, and I do not think that we should allow Ministers to rest their case on particular technicalities, as I would call them, when there is, I submit, a very great principle involved in this—not only a legal principle but a human principle as well.
The Minister has just said that where people are made stateless due to the legislation of other countries they should look to the other countries to deal with it. If this had been so in the past, many people from other countries—from Germany, from the Soviet Union and from other countries—would not be here; they would not be alive at all. They would not have been able to contribute to this country if we had said that it was the legislation of other countries which should in fact have dealt with them. I hope that this is going to be taken as something that is absolutely basic to the rights of citizens and the rights of people living in this country.
When the new immigration rules are introduced it will in practice be impossible for many of those who are covered by my noble friend's amendment to fulfil the conditions laid down in Schedule 2 for registration, because the operation of those laws will make it impossible for them to spend the required period of residence here. I hope I am right in saying that there is probably no one in this Committee with personal experience of what statelessness means, and very often it is, I think, extremely difficult for us to try to transfer ourselves into a situation in which we are fortunate enough not to be at the time. If I may take an analogy, if one is healthy one does not spend one's time imagining what it is like to be unhealthy; or one finds it difficult, although one sympathises, to put oneself in the position of somebody who is suffering from very grave ill-health. I think this is something which is true and which we have to accept.
To be without a nationality at all is to have no underlying sense of security in both one's practical and one's emotional life—and even, if you like, in one's spiritual life. I am sure we have all expressed tremendous horror when other countries have enacted laws which have deprived people of their nationality. Therefore, I find it not only wrong but incredibly sad 380 and extremely worrying that this Bill is doing this at all, despite the intentions as they have now been put forward and described very articulately by the Minister when he says that this is not the intention and that there are the other provisions in the Bill.
We know, of course, that under paragraph 3(1) there is the Secretary of State's discretion, but throughout this Bill we have argued that we do not find this good enough. We want to see the safeguards, and the confidence that will be passed on to people by the legislative safeguards, enshrined in the legislation itself. Even if the Government wish to restrict our nationality in future more closely than ever before, as it appears they do, it surely would be going far enough to withhold British citizenship from children who acquired other nationalities by birth or descent even if they had British parents or were born on British soil. But a restriction which is so harsh that it can make children stateless rather than allow them to take British citizenship does, I feel, go beyond reason as well as beyond compassion.
I would further add this in relation to the interchange that my noble friend Lord Gifford had with the Minister in trying to elucidate an extremely difficult subsection of a clause. If he, as a highly intelligent lawyer, found this practically incomprehensible—and I find it completely incomprehensible, I admit right away—how on earth are the people concerned with this going to know where they stand without having to go to a whole lot of very intelligent lawyers, which is also going to be very expensive for them? But that is a smaller point which is by the way; what I am concerned with is the principle of this. Also, I think the Minister did not answer the point that was made, and with which I am also concerned, in relation specifically to the position of the unmarried mother.
§ Baroness Elles
I wonder whether, before my noble friend replies, I may put one or two questions to him as to the implementation of the provisions of this schedule as it now stands. As my noble friend rightly says, to some extent, at any rate, the Bill contributes to reducing statelessness; but it is worth recalling to your Lordships what Article 1 of the convention actually says. The very first sentence says:A contracting State shall grant its nationality to a person born in its territory who would otherwise be stateless".Of course, it goes on to give various mitigating factors, as to how this reduction in statelessness can be achieved. Indeed, the provisions in this Bill do not go away from the other provisions which support this clause in the convention.
Nevertheless, if we are a country which has always believed in the reduction of statelessness—and we are one of the few countries in the world which have ratified the convention and enabled it to come into force—then surely this Bill has not been drafted in a very generous spirit. Because, of course, for the first time in this country there will be children being born who will be stateless. There is no doubt about that, and I think my noble friend has accepted that that will be the case. But what I should like to ask my noble friend is: can he, on the basis of the number of visiting foreigners during, say, the last five years, give any indication to the Committee how many people would be likely to be born stateless?
381 Nearly all countries, as noble Lords on the Front Bench keep telling us, now have jus sanguinis, so why should not we? If they really do have the law of jus sanguinis applying to the transmission of nationality, then I would imagine that in fact there would be very few cases which would apply to children being born in this country; they would in nearly all cases take the nationality of their parents—except, of course, in the case which has already been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, of children born illegitimate to those mothers who are not able, through the female line, to transmit nationality. We know that there are a few member states, sovereign states, which do not enable women to pass on their nationality directly.
So it is a very important matter of principle not only because of the question that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, pointed out, but we must remember that statelessness means that one removes the diplomatic protection of any soveriegn state to look after a person when abroad and this would therefore leave a child or person with no protection or any sovereign state to look after it. In a part of the world where there is a very sophisticated social security and economic system, what provisions would be made for a stateless child born in this country? Would any social security benefits be available? This is an important point. It is not strictly in the terms of the Bill; but when implementing a policy of this nature, the consequences beyond it have to be considered.
This will apply to children born outside this country within the European Economic Community. I am sorry to go on harking about this particular area of the world but it is one in which I have immediate and direct concern. The children born in the Community who are stateless will no doubt also be deprived of any social security benefits under Community regulations because the regulations are always drafted for the benefit of nationals of member states and their dependants who shall be of the nationality of a member state.
I do not expect a reply immediately but I should be grateful if the effect on the social security status of a child born stateless in this country could be considered.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lord Belstead
If I may say so, I am disturbed by the speech which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has made. I recognise her concern with Schedule 2. It is an important schedule and the noble Baroness has every right to express her interests and concern in how the schedule works. I do not think that the noble Baroness has the right to make such remarks—and I am paraphrasing her words—that apparently the Government have now decided that they will restrict the citizenship of this country more and more, with the implication that the Opposition Benches could not understand the reason why.
I know that the previous Government's Green Paper was a discussion document. If there was one thing which was certain in it it was an acceptance by the previous Government that something needed to be done about nationality, and the basis of any action which needed to be taken would be to identify those who had become citizens of this country with those people who had reasonably close ties with the United Kingdom. 382 This inevitably would mean, as night would follow day, that there would be a more precise, and therefore a more restrictive, definition of British citizenship. Unless the Opposition Front Bench are seriously saying to the Government that they have wholly changed their minds on the rights of British citizenship and on the desirability of redefining British citizenship, I do not think that these are the views which should be put forward in the middle of the Committee stage of this Bill.
§ Lord Mishcon
I am sorry that the noble Lord has introduced a general debate of this kind into a particular amendment. But, if we are going to have such a debate, let it be conducted with the fairness which the noble Lord usually employs. I reminded him yesterday that the Leader of the House was very careful to describe the green document to which he has referred as being, if I remember correctly, a document which enabled people to canvass certain opinions.
Of course those opinions were canvassed and they were not in any way dealt with in detail. What we are dealing with now is the outcome of a decision that has been made, which was canvassed in that document, of the abandonment of the jus soli. What has happened as a result of the abandonment of jus soli—and I shall not go over the argument again—is that as a direct result of that, certain children are going to be born stateless.
The Government—with compassion—have to look at that situation in exactly the same way as the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, said, looking at the provisions of the convention into which we have entered. The situation is that some of those children are going to be stateless. The Minister has not even dealt with the situation of those whom he says may go abroad and will have to go abroad presumably with children who have no state documents at all and are therefore stateless. Heaven only knows whether they will be able to get into the country into which they want to go and leave this country, if that is what they want to do.
The Minister has to deal with that and not make debating points against the Opposition. We are concerned, and other people in other parts of the Committee are concerned, with this section of people. Would he kindly deal with that point and get away from green papers and, as I said yesterday, discover the issues before the Committee?
§ Lord Rawlinson of Ewell
Before my noble friend replies to that very, very long intervention, may I say on behalf of myself that I think he is dealing with this matter with extreme fairness and great clarity. He has the full support of many of us on these Benches.
§ Lord Belstead
I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Rawlinson. He is looking—as I am—to see what the general view of the Opposition is to the Bill as we go along. It is fair to say in the middle of dealing with a particular amendment—which I accept from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has to be answered and looked at on its merits—that it is a fact that general remarks were made by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. The noble Baroness has every right to make any remarks that she wishes; but one of the general remarks was that apparently there was an increasingly restrictive 383 view of the Government so far as citizenship in this country was concerned.
The point I was trying to put across to the Committee was that it is based upon a principle that I thought was shared between both the previous Government and the present one. If that principle leads in practice to a Bill which the present Opposition would not have introduced, that I accept. If in practice it leads to the need for provisions in this schedule which the Oppositon are saying need to be looked at with the very greatest care, then I also accept my responsibility to reply to the detailed points which have been made.
There was a second reason, however, why I was also disturbed with the noble Baroness's speech. She referred to people who had come from the Soviet Union and Germany, with the implication—although she did not say it—that they were refugees. I was not sure about this. I should like to make it absolutely clear that my understanding is that the position of refugees is not changed in any way by this Bill. The attitude of the Government of this country is not changed towards refugees in the slightest iota. I replied to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the subject of refugees when I said—and I think that it is reasonable—that the only point one needs to look at in Schedule 2 is that children, to prevent them from being stateless if they are the children of refugees, should have their parents settled in this country for a period of time.
When the noble Lord—as he had every right to do—said that there are particularly compassionate cases of people who have come from the Soviet Union or Chile, I replied, "Yes, but those are the people who would have become settled here and they have no worry in this particular respect".
§ Baroness Birk
May I interrupt the noble Lord at this point to try to clear up this matter? I shall not go over what my noble friend said about the discussion paper, but I do not believe for one moment, even after all the discussion, that a Labour Government would have done away with the principle of jus soli from which so much of this matter stems.
It was perfectly fair to make the point, which I am sure the Minister agrees will happen under this Bill, that a number of people—and we are talking now about children—will be made stateless. This is what I am talking about. I shall stick my neck out here and say that I do not believe that a Labour Government would have introduced these provisions, or, if they had, that they would have been allowed to get away with it. I do not believe that.
The other point the Minister made concerned refugees. Of course, when people apply as refugees or want to come for political reasons, I do not think for one moment that this Government would not take them in—not at all—but directly you have this sort of restriction it is going to be much more difficult to define. You have to start to distinguish between refugees and stateless people. The whole thing will become much more difficult. That is why I made the general remark, because I honestly believe it is going to be far harder. One can read the Bill and see that. There will be people who will be stateless, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, asked some very pertinent questions about that. We are concerned about this subject, and it is not only on this side of the Committee, 384 because I would venture to say that many other noble Lords, even if they are not speaking on this amendment, probably also have reservations about it.
§ Lord Avebury
Before the noble Lord replies, would he be kind enough to clarify what he said before the noble Baroness spoke? Did he not say that the position of refugees was in no way impaired under this Bill and is what it always has been? Does not Schedule 2 prvoide that the child of a refugee may qualify for British citizenship only if the child is over 10 and under 22? Does that not then mean that questions arise as to this stateless child's entitlement to National Health Service treatment? It will have to be proved, when first entering school, that it is eligible for education, and so on. All sorts of difficulties will be put in the way of refugee parents to establish that the child is entitled to the benefits of our social security, health and educational system, difficulties which are not there at the moment. This will represent a serious impairment of the rights of a refugee coming to this country which they presently enjoy.
§ Lord Belstead
I do not accept that, and if the noble Lord has a particular case which refutes what I have said I hope that he will let me know. I promise him that I will look into it very quickly indeed. I might say to the noble Baroness that her general complaints which still exist about Schedule 2 wholly overlook the fact that I endeavoured to point our earlier: that there really is not a great deal between the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, and the Government. We have, in Schedule 2, age and residence requirements, and those requirements are more generous—the age requirements infinitely more generous—than those of the United Nations Convention. We believe they are sensible because there will be people who will come to this country who will have children who are stateless and who will want to go on elsewhere. Indeed, the children may not wish to have had British citizenship conferred on them because they may find they are in great difficulties from a dual nationality point of view if they go to another part of the world. I think, on those grounds, that the dividing line in this debate so far as Schedule 2 is concerned is comparatively narrow.
However, may I come to my noble friend Lady Elles. It is perfectly true that there are people such as unmarried mothers who will find that they have children who are born stateless here and who have to fulfil the requirements of Schedule 2: otherwise they cannot be accorded citizenship. But there we are getting very near to the argument that other countries also have to play their part in these matters, and I must say I find it is a strange argument—not the one that my noble friend put forward—which lies behind this general area, that because we are introducing sex equality into the nationality law of this country, in some way we should also be answerable for other countries which have refused to do the same.
My noble friend asked if any estimate could be made in this sphere of numbers of children who could be or who have been born stateless. I can only tell my noble friend that no estimate is made. The number should be small, for the reason that she herself gave—that most children would acquire the status of their parents. And may I just say this in conclusion: let 385 us not forget the parents—that is, the parents of stateless children—who will be able to make their way through the various avenues given in the Bill towards British citizenship. There are those who can become British citizens; there are those who in addition can have British citizenship conferred upon them by Clause 4; and of course there are those who, having come into this country on grounds of work or of marriage, will find that they remain here for the whole of their lives and will become British citizens. The one question I have not answered is the question of social security benefits, and I am afraid that on that particular point I must write to my noble friend.
§ Lord Gifford
We have had a very interesting debate, and I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lady Birk for reminding the Committee in her eloquent speech of the nature of the human problem this amendment is trying to meet—the awfulness of being without citizenship, without a nationality, without a country of protection. The people who are to be protected by this amendment, if passed, are by definition within that limbo that she tried to describe. I was also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for making two points very clearly. She first reminded us of the basic principle which lies behind the United Nations Convention on the reduction of statelessness: namely, that there should be no statelessness and that it should be the responsibility of the country of birth in the last resort to see that that happens.
In these conventions, conditions and reservations are permitted. Surely, in order to encourage countries to sign and ratify, something less than perfect is permitted in order to try to get agreement and some moving forward of international law. That does not mean to say that a country like Great Britain should apply those conditions. Even if it is true to say that the age limits permitted under the convention are 18 to 21 and the Government are allowing 10 to 21 as their age range, these are little variations compared to the basic issue of whether or not there should be some restriction on the schedule.
The second point made by the noble Baroness, implicitly by her question, was that the number of people who are actually going to be caught by the provisions of the Bill—that is to say, those who are going to be made stateless—is very, very small. We have already had a long debate on the jus soli requirement when many of us were trying to say that even jus soli would make little difference and very few children will be involved if the principle is retained. The numbers of people who would be stateless are the odd few who, by various tricks of circumstances or the interaction of various laws, would be caught out. I have tried to think of some examples. There are people who are transient, exercising, for instance, their right of movement within the EEC. There are people who wander from one country to another because that is the habit of life they enjoy, and who may never reside in one country long enough to establish the conditions of residence under Schedule 2 for their child before the child reaches the age of 22; and therefore that child would be caught out. There are other people who would be deported from this country because they were illegal, who would leave this country 386 and go to their country of origin and would not be accepted as citizens in the country of origin—they would be persecuted because they were not citizens of the country of origin.
It may be, as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said, that there is little between us in terms of numbers. But that is what is between us: whether this Bill should contain some gaps into which people will fall or whether the safety net of Schedule 2 should be absolute and should be a guarantee. Because of the seriousness of the predicament that stateless people will be put into, we say that there should be no gaps. If people go back to their country of origin and reside there they will become citizens of that country and therefore they will not be stateless. The Government will not have to take them in. The idea that we need to vote against this amendment, because just a few people who do not have much of a connection, other than birth, will be admitted to British citizenship, is showing a fear, a phobia, of allowing people to become British citizens, which I suggest is unworthy. It is much better that there should be a sure safety net.
What saddened me was that in the various interventions of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, there was not one single concession, not one single suggestion, that some of these restrictions, particularly the upper age limit, might be looked at again. Because there have been no concessions, because this Committee will, if the amendment is not passed, be responsible for some statelessness arising for people who are born within these shores, it is important that we should divide on this amendment, and I urge your Lordships to pass it.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 137E) shall be agreed to:
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 112.387
|Airedale, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Avebury, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Hooson, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||Janner, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Birk, B.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Bishopston, L.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Blease, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Lichfield, Bp.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Listowel, E.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.|
|Chitnis, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Collison, L.||Longford, E.|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Crowther-Hunt, L.||McGregor of Durris, L.|
|David, B.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Elystan-Morgan, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Ogmore, L.|
|Foot, L.||Oram, L.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Peart, L.|
|Galpern, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Gardiner, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|George-Brown, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Gosford, E.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Hale, L.||Reilly, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Ross of Marnock, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Seear, B.||Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]|
|Sefton of Garston, L.|
|Shinwell, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Southwell, Bp.||Whaddon, L.|
|Stewart of Alvechurch, B.||White, B.|
|Stewart of Fulham, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Stone, L.||Willis, L.|
|Strabolgi, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Strauss, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Taylor of Mansfield, L.||Young of Dartington, L.|
|Adeane, L.||Long, V.|
|Alport, L.||Luke, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Lyell, L.|
|Auckland, L.||McAlpine of Moffat, L.|
|Avon, E.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Beloff, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Margadale, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Marley, L.|
|Blake, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Cathcart, E.||Mottistone, L.|
|Chelwood, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Cockfield, L.||Newall L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Norfolk, D.|
|Colwyn, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Orkney, E.|
|Craigton, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Croft, L,||Penrhyn, L.|
|Cross, V.||Portland, D.|
|Davidson, V.||Rankeillour, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Reigate, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Rugby, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Elton, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Faithfull, B.||Shannon, E.|
|Falkland, V.||Sharples, B.|
|Ferrier, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Fortescue, E.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Soames, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Spens, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Geddes, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Glendevon, L.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Gormanston, V.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Gowrie, E.||Strathspey, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Terrington, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Hawke, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Henley, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hunt of Fawley, L.||Vickers B.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Vivian, L.|
|Kemsley, V.||Westbury, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ The Deputy Chairman of Committees (The Earl of Listowel)
Before I call Amendment No. 137F, I should point out to the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 137G, 137H, 137I or 137J.
§ The noble Lord said: Paragraph 4 of the second schedule deals with the children of British citizens born abroad who would be stateless by imposing a residence requirement of three years before the application is made. My amendment seeks to remove that residence requirement. There will be many people living abroad—perhaps doing work with British companies or working for the EEC—who will be British citizens by descent and who for one reason or another will miss out on the right to register their children as citizens under Clause 3(2) of the Bill.
§ This subsection is very restrictive. It requires not only a great number of conditions to be complied with; it also has a strict 12 months' time limit which some people are just not going to meet They may not know about the provisions. If that is so, the only other effective avenue into British citizenship is to come back and live here under Clause 3(6). Many of the children who are born to British citizens abroad will have another citizenship from the country of their birth. Equally, many of them will be stateless.
§ In this amendment I am concerned with those people who are stateless and who for one reason or another do not establish the residence requirement either under Clause 3(6) which deals with minors or under paragraph 4 of the second schedule, a very similar requirement, which is not limited to minors but can be complied with at any time. There will be quite a number of stateless people—rather more than in the last paragraph—growing up and attaining majority who will be the children of British parents and who, particularly if they are born in jus sanguinis countries, will not get a local citizenship.
§ I have tabled this amendment in order to ask whether it is really the Government's intention that such people, particularly when they grow to majority and cannot be registered under the discretionary provision for minors, are going to be allowed to be permanently stateless, unless they are able, subject to immigration rules which may stop them, to come back to Britain for a period of three years. It seems to me that once again we are likely to be creating a great number of new stateless people. Although the old law did not allow for transmission through the mother it allowed for transmission through the father and for registration at a consulate, irrespective of the degree of generation. Prior to this Bill there were comparatively few stateless children, but there will be more stateless people born to British citizens who cannot comply with the requirement which this amendment seeks to delete. I beg to move.
§ Baroness Elles
I wonder whether it would be convenient if I spoke now to my amendment because it covers the same point as that mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, in moving his amendment. Over and over again I have put questions to the Government about choice being given to British citizens by descent to register their children under Clause 3(2) or to come back to this country, spend three years here and register under Clause 3(6). If they do not register under Clause 3(2), either because they have failed to do so or because they do not come within the strict provisions of Clause 3—that they are employed by a British 389 company—they have to wait for some time. As the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said, the child has to be brought back to this country. One question which I have put from time to time to the Front Bench but to which I have not had an answer is, how does the child get back into this country as a stateless child? Does it have to be accompanied by its parents, or by only one parent, or by only the British parent? Can it be left here alone? Or must one or both of the parents remain here? Can it go back to its parents if it has been attending school in this country? What kind of travelling facilities will there be?
I should be grateful to my noble friend if at some stage I could have a reply—possibly not now but in writing. May I take this opportunity to thank my noble friend for his supreme courtesy to me over the many questions I have put to him throughout the debate on the Bill. In no way do I feel that he has been discourteous in not directing his thoughts to the points which have been put before him. It is a very difficult Bill to follow. The further we get into it, the more complex and complicated the Bill becomes.
This is an important point, for the reasons I gave earlier: because of the social security benefits, because of the national health benefits and because of the European Community legislation. As my noble friend will be aware, the freedom of movement provisions under the Community regulations are for workers and their dependants, and the dependants have to be nationals of the member states. This may mean that after the Bill becomes law a child will be stateless in some countries of the EEC, and that it will be brought home by British parents, will spend some time here and then may not be able to get back into one of the countries of the Community. The Government should look at this matter to make sure that these lines are cleared. There may well be administrative measures which could be adopted to ensure that because of the effects of the British Nationality Bill children born stateless in the member states will have a special document to allow them to travel from one member state to another.
I very much hope that my noble friend will take this matter on board and look at the situation now. If it is not satisfactory and does not allow for freedom of movement for children born of British parents by descent in a member state of the Community, I hope that the Government will ensure that this matter is raised in the necessary bodies of the Community so that these children can be protected. The effect of the provisions of the Bill—I may be wrong and I should be grateful if my noble friend could tell me that I am wrong—is that many people will find that they are British citizens by descent. There may well be children "on the way", so to speak, who will be born after the Bill comes into force. By the end of the year they will be born stateless, when it will be too late for parents to make arrangements for their children to be born in the United Kingdom in order to preserve their British nationality.
I hope my noble friend realises that we regard this as a very serious matter. It is a duty incumbent upon the Government if they are going to pass this kind of legislation, which I accept they may be doing for very good and fundamental reasons in relation to British 390 nationality and connections with this country, to ensure that they preserve the rights of those citizens who are British, who have fundamental links with this country, who will be returning to this country and who will not want their children to be born stateless, wherever that may be. If my noble friend cannot give me an answer now, I shall be very grateful if he will look at them very seriously and write to me later.
§ Lord Belstead
I should like first to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, who moved Amendment No. 137F. This amendment would mean that a stateless person whose father or mother held one of the statuses created under this Bill would be entitled to his parents' status, without having to meet any residence requirement. He would no longer have to show that he had been in the United Kingdom or the dependent territories for three years preceding his application and that he had not been absent for the periods laid down in the schedule.
I am really going back to the same point. We think that this modest residence requirement is justified because the applicant's ties with this country or an existing dependency through the parents are necessarily limited. It may be that one will find that the parents and indeed the child do not want, after the child is born, to remain in the particular country concerned. I will not go on with that argument because I have deployed it before. All I would add is that I do not think the residence requirement is onerous, and as I have said before it is not only in accordance with our obligations under the convention but I think that the age and the residence requirements are more generous than the convention requirements.
The noble Lord mentioned Clause 3, which of course we have passed some time ago. I mention that only for two reasons. First, because with respect to the noble Lord I do not think he was quite accurate about the restrictiveness, as he put it, of Clause 3. I should like to think that my honourable friend the Minister of State, in introducing Clause 3 into another place on Report, had succeeded in showing that Clause 3 had been infinitely widened and had not been made restrictive in another place. However, it has come under microscopic scrutiny in your Lordships' Committee and I know that my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate and I will look very carefully at what has been said about the clause. But, in making a remark or two about it, the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said that what he felt was also very restrictive was that there was an absolute requirement that registration must be made within 12 months of a child being born. Of course that is not so. There is the exception of the six years and I am sure the noble Lord will not mind if I make that point in passing.
Turning to the amendment to which my noble friend Lady Elles was speaking, which is Amendment No. 138, may I say that there may be parts of my noble friend's remarks that I am not succeeding in replying to and, in which case, I will most certainly write to her. So far as the amendment is concerned, this is an amendment which is directed towards paragraph 6 of Schedule 2, which provides that in the special circumstances of any particular case an applicant for citizenship by registration on grounds of statelessness may be regarded as having met the residence requirements for 391 citizenship though he had been absent both from the United Kingdom and a dependent territory for a longer period than is permitted. This amendment seeks to make clear that the discretion in this provision would be exercised whether the applicant had been absent, with or without father or mother. But there would be no need to make that point in the text since there is no question of the discretion in paragraph 6 hinging on whether the applicant was absent with both father and mother. All that the Home Secretary would need to take into account would be the absence of the applicant. Absences by his parents are simply not relevant to that particular matter.
I know that, in making that rather brief reply to my noble friend, I am not going nearly as far as or wide as my noble friend's remarks about the effects of Clause 3(6), which is the whole question of coming back to this country, probably from a European Community country because that is the context in which my noble friend has been pitching the majority of her remarks on this Bill. That is a point which I should like to reserve for correspondence. I assure my noble friend that either my noble and learned friend or I will be writing to her on that point.
§ Baroness Elles
Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps again I have misunderstood the Bill, but under Clause 3(6)—and I am afraid it is inevitable that we have to go back to it, since as I understand it Schedule 2 is really the safety net to the previous clauses of the Bill—of course it is only applicable to a minor, whereas paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 would apply to anybody of any age who was born outside the United Kingdom. Is that correct?
§ Lord Belstead
I am sorry. I am not looking at the text at the moment, but one of the entitlements to citizenship to which this provision relates, that in paragraph 4 of this schedule, may be exercised at any time during a person's lifetime and the parent of the applicant could well be dead by the time an application was made. The other entitlement admittedly has to be exercised before the applicant reaches the age of 22, but it does not depend in any way on the status of the applicant's parents, and their movements are therefore of no concern in this context.
§ Baroness Elles
In view of what my noble friend has said, I sincerely hope that it would not take the Home Office so long to deal with this clause that the person would be dead by the time the application came through. Would my noble friend confirm that it is not necessary for somebody under this schedule to have a father or mother who is a British citizen by descent. Is that also one of the differences between this paragraph 4 of this Schedule and Clause 3(6) where of course clearly one of the parents at least has to be a British citizen by descent. Is that one of the distinctions which exist between this paragraph and Clause 3(6)?
§ Lord Belstead
I think I shall have to look with a 392 little more care at what my noble friend is asking because she keeps on referring back to Clause 3(6), and I must admit that I am finding this a little difficult. May I write to my noble friend on that? I am sorry to fail my noble friend in trying to answer this question, but I had directed my own thoughts to Schedule 2, and I am finding that to direct my thoughts also to Clause 3 is a little beyond me at the moment.
§ Lord Gifford
I wonder whether I may add to the noble Lord's troubles and ask him whether he could give us some indication, even in general terms, of the Government's answer to an enormously important point that was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, which is relevant, I think, to the Committee's consideration of Schedule 2, and in particular this paragraph of it. Is it right that there will have to be—and there will be—new immigration rules to deal with the stateless children of British citizens abroad? One would imagine and one would hope that at any rate up to the age of majority the stateless children of British citizens would be able, without any impediment at all, to come back to this country in order, among other things, to establish residence requirements to enable them to be registered as citizens.
What is the position, though, of adults? If paragraph 4 of the schedule, which requires this residence requirement which is the subject of this amendment, is to be any use to a stateless person, the son or daughter of a British citizen abroad, it will be no use unless the stateless person can gain entry to the United Kingdom in order to establish the residence requirement. It might be, therefore—I wonder whether the noble Lord the Minister can give this his consideration—that the immigration rules would have to provide for permission to be granted to stateless children of British citizens abroad who wish to establish the residence requirement under paragraph 4. I wonder whether some answer could be given as to what sort of immigration rules are going to be necessary and when we are going to know them.
§ Lord Avebury
Following on what Lord Gifford has said, I wonder whether I could remind the noble Lord the Minister that at an earlier stage I put the question to him about the immigration rules and I did not have any reply then. I asked him to confirm my understanding that the minor child who is stateless, having been born outside the United Kingdom would be entitled to admission to the United Kingdom only if either both the parents are here and he comes as a dependent child, or one of the parents can demonstrate that he or she has the sole or main responsibility for that child's upbringing; because that is what the rules say at the moment. I had rather understood the reverse of what the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has suggested. I had understood that there was not going to be any change in the immigration rules, because nothing has been said about that; certainly in another place it was not mentioned in Committee or at Report stage.
In order to bring the child back to qualify for the entitlement to registration under Clause 3(6), it would be necessary either for both parents to come back and take up residence in the United Kingdom for the three years in question or for one parent somehow or other to have assumed total responsibility for the child's 393 upbringing. It is difficult to see how that could have occurred otherwise than by the death of the other parent. I think it important for the noble Lord to clarify exactly what are the Government's intentions, whether they are going to leave the immigration rules as they stand, and whether I have correctly told your Lordships how they would work in the case of the stateless child whose parents want him to come back here in order to qualify under Clause 3(6).
§ Baroness Elles
I apologise to my noble friend for intervening again on this point, but following on what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has just said, would my noble friend also direct his attention to those parents who will be wishing to send their children back to boarding schools in this country, or any other form of education? Will these children, stateless as they may be, be able to come in on their own, regardless of having a parent with them, or not?
§ Lord Belstead
I am not quite sure whether my noble friend's intervention would be supported from both sides of the House, but certainly I will take on board what my noble friend has said. So far as the case raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, is concerned, my advice is that while they are minors such children would probably qualify as children of their parents; but once they have become adults they would have to qualify under the immigration rules. The noble Lord, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, have asked what about the immigration rules and the Bill. We have made it clear consistently, while the Bill has been going through another place and I think I have said it during the Committee stage here, that we shall look at the immigration rules when the Bill has been passed into law and will then consider what amendments may be necessary. It is absolutely necessary for me to give that reply because the Bill is subject to the scrutiny of Parliament and therefore amendment in Parliament. Therefore, there is no other reply that I can possibly give.
§ Lord Gifford
My feeling at the end of this debate is that we are by no means at the end of our consideration of the children of British citizens born abroad who will be stateless unless they can establish an entitlement under one or other of the provisions of the Bill. I was particularly disappointed to hear that last reply, that we shall not know what, if any, new immigration rules there are going to be until the Bill has passed from this House. That seems to me to mean that the rules will be unchanged. In the light of all that has been said and the very helpful comments made on all sides of the Committee, I should like to consider carefully whether this provision as it stands in the Bill is good enough, or whether, as I tend to think, it is going to land a lot of families in a terrible mess, placing them between two stools, as it were, by allowing them citizenship only if they can get past the immigration hurdles, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, says, in a great many cases are not going to allow them to come here. Having said that this is something that must be reconsidered, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.394
§ 6.5 p.m.
Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 137G:
Page 57, line 12, after ("territory") insert ("or a member state of the European Community").
§ The noble Lord said: This is a particular case of the general one we have been looking at in paragraph 4, which is supposed to deal with children born outside the United Kingdom and dependent territories. This paragraph says that if the child is and always has been stateless, and if his father or mother was a British citizen and he was in the United Kingdom or one of the dependent territories for three years up to the date of application, he shall be entitled to be registered as a British citizen. As the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has said, what about the case of all the children who will be born outside the United Kingdom and dependent territories and will not be able to fulfil that residence qualification?
§ In this amendment I want to look at the particular case which has arisen before of the families in Europe. It has been pointed out to your Lordships that in every single one of the Community countries, other than I think the Republic of Ireland, the jus sanguinis applies. So if a child is born to two parents who are both British citizens by descent anywhere in the Community other than the Republic of Ireland that child will become stateless under the provisions of the Bill. The position we have been discussing is that of a family with two parents who are both working abroad. It may well be that for reasons of their professional career they are not able to satisfy the requirements of Clause 3(6), which requires them to come back to the United Kingdom for a period as long as three years to confer their citizenship on the child. They may be in a long-term employment with some Community institution, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has so eloquently pointed out when defending the position of these people who are contributing, as she has said, so much to the welfare of the United Kingdom in the work they do over there.
§ On a previous occasion, when we discussed a somewhat related amendment to Clause 2, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that the Government were prepared to look at the European point. While I do not believe it would get over the problem entirely—it is much wider than that, as Lord Gifford has explained—it is of particular significance to the people working in the Community institutions, and also people employed by British companies within the European Community and contributing enormously by so doing to the United Kingdom economy.
§ It seems to me that the reply given by the Minister on the last amendment is unsatisfactory, particularly when he says that he cannot deal with the question put to him about the immigration rules until we know where we finish up with the Bill. What the noble Lord is saying is that it is possible that your Lordships might amend the Bill, and therefore one cannot imagine what the changes in the rules would have to be until one sees what is the final form of the legislation. Well, considering that the Government have vehemently and totally implacably resisted all the sensible amendments that have been put forward so far, they must be perfectly well aware that the Bill will not be different in its final shape.395
§ I have no illusions about the amendment that I am putting forward now, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has said. I do not believe for one moment that the Government will accept this amendment or anything like it. Therefore, it would be quite easy for the Minister, from the work that has already been done within the Home Office, to say what kind of changes in the immigration rules are contemplated and, in particular, to answer the very pertinent questions which were put to him on the previous discussion which will affect these families in Europe.
§ Let me emphasise once again what we are talking about: a couple are working, for example, in Brussels and they are both British citizens by descent. They have a child and they continue to work in one of the institutions of the European Community, and they want to send the child back home for the purpose of education or for any other reason whatever—for example, the child might want to come and stay for a period of a couple of years with the grandparents. The noble Lord cannot even tell us whether this child will be entitled to be admitted to the United Kingdom, He says that no information can be given to your Lordships about possible changes in the immigration rules that may be in contemplation, until the Bill has been passed. As I pointed out, under the immigration rules as they stand at present, that child is not entitled to be admitted to the United Kingdom. The grandparents would not be able to look after the child for a period of two or three years while he or she was undergoing education or for any other purpose. Therefore, I think that this amendment, although far more limited than the ones which we have been discussing so far, would give a certain amount of reassurance to the parents of such children and parents who may give birth to such children after the Bill has been passed.
§ I very much hope that, notwithstanding my pessimism, the noble Lord will be able to give us some further explanations in the light of the assurances we had from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that I have mentioned, which will give at least some hope to these families that their position is being properly considered. I beg to move.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
I have very great sympathy with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, although I am bound to say that I am not quite certain that it is the right way to tackle the problem. It appears to me that the noble Lord is deeming, as it were, the European Community members to be part of Great Britain. That roughly is what the amendment amounts to for this purpose. I should have thought that we had discussed this matter fairly fully previously on at least two occasions and that the noble Lord could be content, with the addition of what he has just said and with the undertaking that was given, that the matter would be looked at thoroughly to see what is the best way of dealing with what I think we have demonstrated to the Government is a real problem. For my part I would hope that the noble Lord would do that.
I quite understand—and I fully sympathise with this view—that the people who are working in Europe at present, especially those who are British citizens by descent, are presented with a particular problem 396 because of means of appointment and so on. But we have raised those points already. I have the feeling that if those points were dealt with the noble Lord's point probably would not present a problem. However, that is the situation. The noble Lord has put it among the points to be considered, and it is a solution to a particular part of the problem. The problem goes very much wider and the further away one is from Great Britain the worse it becomes.
If one is in Indonesia or somewhere like that it is probably very much harder to get back for three years than it is from the Benelux countries. Therefore, I would, with great respect, suggest to the noble Lord that it is not worth pressing this particular matter too far at present, but he should, on the other hand, press the Government to look at the problem as a whole.
§ Lord Mackay of Clashfern
I am greatly obliged to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn because it is obvious that debates on this schedule go back very much to the question of the earlier substantive provisions for the passing on of British citizenship. So far as this particular proposal is concerned in our view it would not be appropriate to treat—as my noble friend said in effect—European Community territories as if they were part of the United Kingdom and its dependent territories for the purposes of this schedule.
A person applying for citizenship under paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 will have only very tenuous links with this country or a dependent territory. The reason I say that is that he must have failed to achieve linkage by the provisions that we have been referred to already. As my noble friend Lord Belstead said, we regard these provisions as reasonable although we have undertaken to consider carefully the points which have been raised in relation to them.
If, therefore, one is in a situation where the person in question has only very tenuous links with this country, it seems right that this schedule should apply only where he now has some ties with this country or with a dependent territory which should provide the basis for an entitlement to citizenship. We think that the residence qualifications which have been put into the schedule and which will accord with our international obligations are appropriate.
I am of course aware of the concern that has been expressed about the risk of children being born stateless in European Community countries—and in particular, perhaps, Belgium—as a result of the Bill. In fact the problem arises because the provisions of Belgian law are not so generous in this respect as the provisions that we are proposing in this Bill for people born here. The view that we take is that the provisions of this schedule are really intended only to deal with a situation where the child in question has such a tenuous connection with the United Kingdom, otherwise than by residence, that some form of residence qualification is the only reasonable basis for a connection.
We would have thought that, in the very rare instance where a child is born in a European Community country to a parent who is a British citizen and cannot acquire either the parents' citizenship or local citizenship, the circumstances are likely to be such, and the tie with the United Kingdom so remote, that it is reasonable to look to the state of birth for citizenship for such a child. All the member states of the European 397 Community with whom we are here concerned do have provisions which enable a stateless child born in their territory to acquire their citizenship after some time—the time, as your Lordships know, varies. So from that point of view children born in the European Community are more fortunate than those born possibly in other parts of the world.
Accordingly, I hope that, in the light of that explanation, and particularly what we have said about the earlier provisions and the principal provisions, the noble Lord will take the advice which my noble friend has tendered to him.
§ Lord Avebury
After 42 sittings of the Committee in another place, four days on Report, and six days in Committee in your Lordships' House, I should have thought that the Government might have been able to present the Committee with some kind of a solution for the European problem which has been outlined so many times during the proceedings on this Bill. However, I realise that we shall not make any further progress on this matter this afternoon. Therefore, with the hope that at some time on Report we shall get some positive news from the Government, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 137H, 137I and 137J not moved.]
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 137K:
Page 57, line 16, at end insert—
(d) that that person was born in a Commonwealth country where the rule of jus soli does not apply and that he was in that country at the beginning of the period of three years ending with the date of application and that (subject to paragraph 6) the number of days he was absent from that country and the United Kingdom in that period does not exceed 270.").
§ The noble Lord said: As your Lordships will have noticed, my handwriting is not particularly legible to the printers and so the words "jus soli" have been rather garbled in the amendment as printed in the Marshalled List. I hope it will become apparent to your Lordships what I intend here. This amendment is concerned with the position of a child born in a Commonwealth country where the rule of jus soli does not apply and where he remains in that country for a period of three years, which is provided for elsewhere in the schedule.
§ Lord Trefgarne
The noble Lord is rather difficult to hear. I wonder whether he could speak towards a microphone.
§ Lord Avebury
I am sorry. I will try to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has just said that in some ways it is easier for parents in Europe—with whom we were concerned just now—to take advantage of their proximity to Britain to come back here whenever a child is expected so that the child would then have citizenship by birth from the start instead of having to acquire it through one of the laborious processes which we have been examining. However, the noble Lord said that it was very much harder to 398 come back here from a place like Indonesia and, of course, the expenditure of the journey would be another barrier to parents, who were so distant from the United Kingdom, taking advantage of the Bill as regards giving birth to a child in the United Kingdom.
Therefore, in many of the Commonwealth countries, where they do not have jus soli, the parents will be faced with a dilemma. If the mother wants to return to the United Kingdom for the purpose of giving citizenship to the child, it will be very expensive. Of course, some of those at whom we are looking in the case of Commonwealth countries are not the reasonably well paid officials of the European Community or the directors of businesses engaged in exporting, with whom we were primarily concerned when we were looking at Europe. I am thinking particularly of the missionaries, who were discussed when we dealt with Clauses 2 and 3. It is, in fact, true that missionaries tend to pass down their vocation to their descendants, so it is quite likely that you could have two parents who were both citizens by descent serving, for example, in a country like Malawi where there is no jus soli, who would then be deprived of the possibility of passing on their citizenship to their child.
In this amendment I am suggesting that if they remain in that country, where the rule of jus soli does not apply, for a period of three years, at the end of that time they ought to be able to apply for their children to become British citizens, as parents can elsewhere in this schedule if they are resident in the United Kingdom or in one of its dependencies. I very much hope that this suggestion will commend itself to the Government. We are talking about a very small number of children, but children for whom I think your Lordships might have a particular regard. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mackay of Clashfern
Just as in the previous amendment, those whom this amendment would seek to benefit would have only extremely tenuous links with this country were it not for the residence requirement. In these circumstances we think it right that in order to establish some link with this country for the person to be entitled to its citizenship, a modest residence requirement should be imposed as really the only practicable link that could be demonstrated. It follows that in our view it would not be right to accede to this amendment, which has the effect of eliminating this only possible remaining link. In the light of this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw this amendment.
§ On Question, amendment negatived.
The Deputy Chairman of Committees
Before I call Amendment No. 137L, I should point out to the Committee that if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 138.
§ [Amendments Nos. 137L and 138 not moved.]
§ Schedule 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 36 [Commonwealth citizenship]:
Lord Avebury moved Amendment No. 138ZA:
Page 29, line 7, leave out ("or").
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment 399 is to clarify the definition of a "British protected person". A British protected person is, at the moment, not a Commonwealth citizen, as defined in Clause 36. Indeed, the status of a British protected person has always been rather indeterminate. He was not an alien, but within the meaning of the British Nationality Act 1948, neither was he a Commonwealth citizen, so he was somewhere in between the two.
§ The effect of this is not important as regards the British Nationality Bill, but it is important as far as the rights of British protected persons resident in this country apply. For instance, in the matter of entering the public service, British protected persons may sometimes qualify and sometimes not, depending on which department of state we are talking about. I understand that in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, can correct me if I am wrong—a British protected person is not acceptable as a recruit, whereas Commonwealth citizens invariably are. As regards recruitment in the police, I believe the stipulation is that the person has to be a British subject. Again, that does not include a British protected person.
§ But just as the Government have extended the right of registration to British protected persons within the five years after the passing of the Act—and it was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that he was surprised that no one had referred to this act of generosity on the part of the Government—so I hope that the Government will consider extending their generosity one little stage further and by incorporating British protected persons in the definition of "Commonwealth citizens", assimilate them to all the privileges which those people enjoy within the boundaries of our shores. I beg to move.
§ Lord Trefgarne
This amendment would seek to give British protected persons the status of Commonwealth citizens under the Bill. As the noble Lord has said, under our current nationality law British protected persons are neither Commonwealth citizens nor aliens, and the Bill maintains that position. They are not covered in this clause and the definition of "alien" in Clause 49(1) covers anyone who is not a Commonwealth citizen, nor a British protected person, nor a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. So British protected persons are like the Irish in enjoying a status peculiar to themselves.
We have carefully considered, following the debate in another place, whether there were any grounds for altering this arrangement. It is one thing to extend British protection to a person, as the term "British protected person" implies; but it is quite another to say that this protection should carry with it a further status, and in particular that it should carry with it access to civic rights and privileges in this country such as, for example, the right to vote. The status of "British protected person" is not the same as that of "Commonwealth citizen", and a distinction between the two is, in the Government's view, justifiable.
It is true that British protected persons, particularly from East Africa, have settled here and made their home here, but that in itself is not an argument for making them Commonwealth citizens under the Bill. Moreover—and perhaps I may stress this—the Bill as it 400 stands considerably improves in an important respect the situation of British protected persons settled here. At present, British protected persons who wish to acquire our citizenship have to apply for it by naturalisation, but under Clause 4 of the Bill they will be entitled to British citizenship after five years of residence here. As British citizens, they would have the status of Commonwealth citizens under this Bill and enjoy full privileges. So the Bill will enable British protected persons to secure our citizenship and the status of Commonwealth citizen much more easily than they can do at the present time. I hope that these points will satisfy the noble Lord and that he will not wish to press the amendment further.
§ Lord Avebury
I just fail to understand entirely why the noble Lord could not accept the amendment. He repeated what I had already said, which was that the Government had extended to British protected persons the concession of registration which was already held by Commonwealth citizens. He confirmed that British protected persons were neither Commonwealth citizens nor aliens, and this was an anomaly in the law which was to be continued under this Bill from the previous legislation including the 1948 Act. He did not advance a single argument as to why the British protected person should not be entitled to vote, to serve on juries, or to be eligible for public service.
He did not mention the numbers concerned, but they are absolutely minute compared with the number of Commonwealth citizens in this country on whom we have conferred these civic privileges. He failed to emphasise the fact that all these British protected persons hailed originally from countries which are members of the Commonwealth, and therefore, although they were not citizens of those countries, they were in no different position territorially from people who might have been their neighbours in the next street and who came at the same time as they did. But I realise there is nothing I can say this afternoon which is going to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, to change his mind. I will think about what he has said, such as it is, and return to the matter on Report. With that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 138ZB not moved.]
§ Clause 36 agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Countries whose citizens are Commonwealth citizens.]
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ The noble Lord said: I put this amendment down only last night because I had not noticed the apparent anomaly before. If your Lordships look at Schedule 3 on page 58 you will see that there are 43 countries mentioned there whose citizens are Commonwealth citizens under that schedule, and only one of those countries is called "Republic of". The amendment would seek to delete those words "Republic of" and just leave it as "Cyprus". I feel that if the words are left in it could be taken that there is discrimination 401 as between the Cypriots in the South and the Cypriots in the North. I just wonder why the words "Republic of" are put in there. There must be a large number of republics in that schedule—for example India or Sri Lanka. In fact, there are very few countries in the schedule which are not republics. I beg to move.
§ Lord Drumalbyn
I think I understand the point of the noble Lord, Lord Spens, which perhaps out of delicacy he has not make too explicit, but is there not a danger that by putting it in this way we may be giving recognition to the division in Cyprus and giving recognition, which I believe we do not do at the present time—which I must say I depricate—to the Turkish-speaking territory in Cyprus.
§ Lord Trefgarne
As my noble friend pointed out, there are indeed some dangers that would stem from the amendment if it were to be adopted, and I hope to persuade the noble Lord not to press it. As the noble Lord explained, this amendment seeks to alter the reference to Cyprus in Schedule 3 to the Bill which lists those countries whose citizens are Commonwealth citizens, and it would mean that the schedule would no longer refer to the Republic of Cyprus but merely to Cyprus. I fear that that would not be appropriate. "Republic of Cyprus" is the correct designation of that State as laid down in the 1960 treaties of which Her Majesty's Government is guarantor, and it is the Republic of Cyprus which is recognised as the legitimate government in the island. The reference to the "Republic of Cyprus" in Schedule 3 is therefore the correct one.
Concern has been expressed not only by the two noble Lords who have spoken but outside your Lordships' House about the position under the schedule of the Turkish federated State of Cyprus which since 1975 has occupied the northern part of the island controlled by the Turkish Army and which claims that the Republic of Cyprus has ceased to exist. I am aware that this is a matter of some considerable concern to the noble Lord, Lord Spens, but I do not think it would really be for a Nationality Bill to determine the Government's attitude towards the problems of Cyprus. That is best dealt with as a separate issue. I can assure your Lordships—and I think this is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Spens, would wish to be assured on—that no discrimination would in practice be made against Turkish Cypriots because of the reference to the Republic of Cyprus in this Bill. Turkish Cypriots are treated in every way as Commonwealth citizens and on the same basis as members of the Greek community.
Furthermore, to refer in Schedule 3 simply to "Cyprus" could cause confusion about the status under this Bill of people from the sovereign base areas. Those areas, though within the island of Cyprus, are sovereign British territory outside the Republic of Cyprus and are in the list of dependent territories in Schedule 6. I hope that these arguments will persuade the noble Lord Lord Spens, that his fears are ill founded.
I thank the Minister for that reply and I am certainly not going to press this amendment 402 tonight. I am going to take it away and look at it. But I am not at all sure that I accept what he says when the substantive clause, Clause 36(b), talks about "in any country mentioned in Schedule 3". Surely the country there is Cyprus and not the Republic of Cyprus. I think that is a point which has to be looked at. That substantive clause saysunder any enactment for the time being in force in any country mentioned in Schedule 3 is a citizen of that country,".If the Government are implying that the Republic of Cyprus is that part of Cyprus which is governed by the present Greek-Cypriot Government calling itself the Republic of Cyprus, that does not include the Turkish Federated State in the North. I am not suggesting that this Government would have any difficulty about interpretation, but in 10 or 15 years' time, if this unfortunate situation still exists, then there could be difficulties for the Turkish Cypriots. I should like the Minister to consider that point. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 37 agreed to.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead moved Amendment No. 138B:
Page 30, line 16, at end insert—
(c) he is a British Overseas Citizen who at the date of the passing of the British Nationality Act 1981 did not have a right of abode in any country similar to the right of abode in the United Kingdom under subsection (1) of section 1 of this Act").
§ The noble Lord said: I hope that the Government will accept this amendment. It is another attempt at providing a safety net. On this occasion it is by means of allowing a right of abode. The previous safety net we tried was to prevent citizens born in this country from being stateless. We were not very successful; I hope that we shall be on this one. I do not think there will be many concerned, because if you note the way the amendment is worded anybody who is settled in another Commonwealth country will in fact have the same rights as in Clause 1(1) of this Bill. Therefore, we are talking about the people who are British overseas citizens but are not settled in the countries in which they live. These are the people I am talking about.
§ The idea behind this amendment is that it should provide them with a safety net. There are people who are living in countries in which they do not have settlement, and as a consequence of this Bill not only they but even more importantly their children may be stateless, and we should in fact accept that we have a responsibility for those people, and they should have a right of abode in this country. This is the purpose behind this amendment. I allow that it may well emerge as wider than intended. If that is so, I will allow the Government to persuade me that I have gone too wide, and I shall try to limit it at the next stage. However, I think it is right in the way it is now, because all it suggests is that any British overseas citizen who does not have settlement anywhere else should have a right of abode in this country. That is all we are asking for; no more, but I hope no less. I beg to move.403
§ Lord Trefgarne
As the noble Lord explained, this amendment is designed to assist those British overseas citizens who do not have the right of abode either in the United Kingdom or any other country. It seeks to extend the right of abode in this country to those British overseas citizens who, when this Bill is passed, do not enjoy any right of abode which, like the right of abode under the Immigration Act 1971, gives them freedom to live in, and to come and go into and from that country without let or hindrance.
In practice, this would mean conferring the right of abode in this country on about 210,000 future British overseas citizens who are mostly in Malaysia, India and Africa. Let me say first of all that even if the principle of the amendment were accepted I do not think that it would be appropriate to amend the statement of the right of abode in Clause 38 in the way proposed by the noble Lord in his amendment. After all, one of the aims of this Bill is to clarify our citizenship law by bringing together citizenship and the right of abode which, although they ought to be related, have over the years parted company with each other. To confer the right of abode in this country not only on the holders of British citizenship but also on certain British overseas citizens would serve only to perpetuate the present confusion.
But I fear that, however, the aim of this amendment were achieved it would not be acceptable to the Government. To confer the right of abode on those British overseas citizens concerned would, as I mentioned just now, enable some 210,000 people to enter this country freely and settle here at any time. It would indeed be theoretically possible for them to all come here in a very short period of time. For reasons that are well understood by your Lordships I do not think that that would be in the interests of those concerned, but this does not mean that we are unsympathetic to the position of those British overseas citizens without any other citizenship.
We said in the White Paper that we were committed to the continuance of the special voucher scheme and we stand by that pledge. Under this scheme those British overseas citizens in East Africa, or who have gone from there to India—they are the people to whom we recognise special commitments—will be eligible for entry to the United Kingdom. Heads of households and their families will thus be able to enter the United Kingdom at a controlled rate, so that those concerned can be accepted into the community and have a reasonable chance of a decent livelihood here.
Over the last eight years some 59,000 voucher-holders and their dependants have been admitted to this country under this scheme, and this does not include the, approximately, 25,000 Uganda Asians admitted outside the scheme in 1972. Those who have been admitted to this country in this way and have been ordinarily resident here for five years or more at commencement will, as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies with the right of abode, become British citizens. Those who have been here for a shorter period at commencement, and those admitted under the voucher scheme after commencement, will be entitled to British citizenship on application once they have completed five years' residence. As British citizens they will have the right of abode.
404 We believe that these avenues to the right of abode are preferable to that proposed in the noble Lord's amendment. We shall stand by our commitments to admit certain British overseas citizens under the special voucher scheme, but we cannot accept that all in this group who have no right of abode anywhere should automatically acquire the right of abode in this country on commencement. We do not believe that this would be in the interests of this country, or indeed of the people concerned. I hope therefore that, in view of what I have said, the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
§ Lord Avebury
The Government keep saying that they are not unsympathetic to the plight of United Kingdom citizens overseas, and yet no reply was given yesterday when I pointed out that the waiting period for applicants for quota vouchers has been gradually extended so that from a period of three-and-a-half years in 1977 it has risen progressively, until now it takes five years eight months between the date of application of a person overseas and his interview by an entry certificate officer with a view to granting him permission to come here.
I could also have added that another feature of this system which the Government follow at the moment is that if a person is a minor and is included on his father's application, then if the father, as head of the household, dies in the five years eight months' waiting period—which is going to be much longer than that after this Bill is passed because it is continuing to increase all the time—then the minor child has to start again from scratch at the age of 18.
Therefore, it would be possible for a child to be aged 13 at the time when the father applies, the father dies just before the child's 18th birthday, and then the child would have to start all over again from the age of 18, applying in his own right and waiting another five years. It could be as much as 10 years between the application which was made on behalf of this minor by his parent and the ultimate granting of citizenship to the child after he applied in his own right. How the Government can possibly say that they are giving sympathetic consideration to the plight of United Kingdom passport holders overseas I cannot imagine. How they can possibly say that a reduction in the maximum level of vouchers from 5,000—a figure which was set a few years ago—to the present figure of 500 actual vouchers for those who are still waiting in India is standing by a commitment and being especially sympathetic to those persons, I just cannot understand. I hope that the noble Lord opposite will at least modify the language which he uses in replying to amendments such as that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, even if he is not prepared to accept them as they stand.
§ Baroness Birk
Before the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, replies to that point, may I just say that these were people to whom a commitment was given. Yesterday in a crowded House we gave citizenship rights to the people of Gibraltar. Many of the people who are waiting for citizenship rights fought for this country or their parents fought for this country during the war. They have always considered themselves as being British and it does seem not only unfair but also incongruous 405 that there should be no movement in this matter, even if the Government do not go the whole way. It seems that we come up against a blank wall every time anyone brings up this subject.
§ Lord Nathan
In our earlier debate on statelessness, much sympathy was shown by all sides of your Lordships' House, including the Government Front Bench, concerning the position of those who are stateless and it was said that everything which it was within the power of the Government to do should be done for the benefit of such people. The question that seems to arise from this amendment is, what is the distinction between statelessness and British overseas citizenship in the circumstances indicated in this amendment?
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, complained about a lack of Government sympathy in this matter despite the assurances which we have given to the contrary, but the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, is asking that we should overnight grant immediate right of abode to something in excess of 200,000 people who are at present being admitted on a regulated basis in accordance with commitments entered into long ago. These people are not being excluded or anything like that. Indeed 59.000 voucher-holders have already been admitted and an additional 25,000 Ugandan Asians were admitted outside that voucher scheme, making a total of 84,000 people. I do not consider that we can be accused of a lack of sympathy in this matter. We must have regard to all the considerations relating to the ability of this country to assimilate these people, and that directly relates of course to the circumstances in which those people would find themselves if they were all admitted in an unregulated way, which is what the noble Lord is proposing in his amendment. I do not believe that would be the right thing to do. It would be unfair to those people and it would be unfair to their colleagues and compatriots already here. I hope the noble Lord will not press his amendment.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
Before I make up my mind whether or not to press this amendment, I wonder whether the noble Lord the Minister can tell me how many of those 210,000 people are in line for the voucher scheme? It would help me in making up my mind to know how many people are left after that.
§ Lord Trefgarne
I do not have the precise figures before me. All those people are eligible to apply for vouchers, and I understand that the number who are in the pipeline at present is around 70,000; but I would like to have that figure confirmed and will then write to the noble Lord.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
But are the whole 210,000 entitled to apply for vouchers? I do not think that they are. After one has deducted the number of people who are entitled to apply for the voucher, how many people will be left from the original figure?
§ Lord Trefgarne
I will have to check further on this 406 aspect and write to the noble Lord, but my understanding is that the whole 210,000 are either eligible to apply for vouchers or are dependants of people who are entitled to apply for vouchers. Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to check the figures precisely and let him know the answer in correspondence.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
The point is that at the moment these people are citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. A passport saying that one is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies has some meaning. We are now going to create a new British overseas citizenship and that class of citizenship will only have the status that any foreign country chooses to give to it. At present, if one of these people turns up in France holding a United Kingdom and Colonies passport which he obtained in, say, Kenya, the French will respect it. There is no question about that. The only problem that person has at the moment is that he is not allowed to enter freely into this country. Apart from that his existing passport is of full value to him.
When that person becomes a British overseas citizen his new passport will not have the same value because it will only have the value that any country its holder is visiting attaches to it. Make no mistake about that. The passport will only have the value which the country its holder is visiting is willing to give to it. It is important that we should know how many people will be caught in this way, because if a lot of people are going to be caught in this way then we must try to do something about it. If as the noble Lord the Minister says all these people are entitled to apply for a voucher, my attitude would be different because it would mean that the responsibility would be with the people themselves to apply for a voucher and therefore to enter this country in an orderly way. In fact, I would be prepared to consider introducing an amendment saying that such people can be admitted in an orderly way through the use of an application voucher.
§ Lord Avebury
Perhaps I can help the noble Lord, because I have the figures here. The number of people in Africa and India who are eligible under the special voucher scheme is some 75,000. At present it is said that there are some 6,000 applicants, who with their families total 18,000 people, waiting in the queue. Those figures come from the House of Commons Select Committee, 26th Sitting, col. 977
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
But how many people are left after that? If all the people in the categories to which I am referring are capable of applying for vouchers, that is one thing—because I do not agree with the noble Lord the Minister that permitting entry to people who are in need and who are in difficulties in favour of those who are in the queue is so wrong. Those of us who have served in local government have followed that principle for years. We have waiting lists of people for housing, but people who become homeless are given priority over people on the waiting list because they are in greater need.
However, if there can be an orderly transfer I would favour that because it was never my intention that my amendment should mean that 210,000 people could 407 arrive here overnight. What I intended and what I hoped the Government would accept was the principle that we have a responsibility for all those people to whom we have given British overseas citizenship but who have no settled place of abode. If that is accepted, then how we deal with it, the machinery, is a different matter. We may have to deal with it by a slow process, but I submit that we must accept the principle, and it is the failure to accept it that is worrying me in the way the Government are dealing with my amendment.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
The passport point is not valid because the purposes for which the passport may be used, other than to establish the right of abode, will not change under the present proposals. As for the numbers, I understand that the 75,000 figure which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, quoted a moment ago refers to those United Kingdom passport holders in India and East Africa, who are in fact given priority under the special voucher scheme to which I referred earlier. The bulk of the remainder—in fact, I believe all the remainder—live in Malaysia at the present time, and there is no question of the great majority of them, as I understand it, having any wish to come to this country for residential purposes; I think they are by and large people of Indian origin. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, will accept that the main effect of his amendment would be to give to all of those 200,000-odd people to whom I referred immediate right of abode in the United Kingdom, and that is the difficulty which the Government see with the amendment.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
The Minister says that 140,000 of them are living in Malaysia, that they are of Indian descent and would not want to come here, so the noble Lord tripped himself up. The point I am trying to get the Government to take on board is that if by this legislation we are creating a group of citizens who as a consequence will have no settled home, no place of abode, then we should consider ourselves responsible for providing them with one, and in the final ayalysis they should be able to come here. That is the principle I want established. The wording of my amendment is not the point. What is at stake is the principle and the Minister has not so far satisfied me that he accepts the principle.
§ Lord Trefgarne
I am sorry that I have not satisfied the noble Lord and I am grateful for this opportunity to try to do so. As he rightly observed, there are two categories of people within the category he is describing in the amendment. One category are those in India and East Africa who are subject to the special voucher scheme to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred earlier, the bulk of the remainder living in Malaysia. I understand that those who live in Malaysia are entitled to, and many indeed have, Malaysian citizenship, so there is no question, as the noble Lord is saying, that they have nowhere to go, nowhere to live and nowhere to rest their heads. The fact is that we have made the arrangements, we think rightly, in accordance with the necessary circumstances.
§ Lord Avebury
May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, to answer a point about the Malaysians 408 which I have raised several times before and which is very mysterious? I should like to know how the evidence that was given to the Select Committee, that there are 130,000 citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies in Malaysia, can be reconciled with the figure of 110,000 which was given in a Parliamentary Answer of 1975, indicating that there had been an increase of 20,000 such persons in the intervening six years, when according to the Select Committee in paragraph 9 of their report:Their children born in Malaysia since Malaysian independence in 1957 would, in almost every case, have been able to acquire Malaysian citizenship".How does the Foreign and Commonwealth Office explain that suddenly 20,000 United Kingdom and Colonies citizens have materialised out of thin air in Malaysia?
§ Lord Rawlinson of Ewell
Would my noble friend Lord Trefgarne agree that the discussion we have had on this amendment shows, if ever it had to be shown, how vitally important it is to have this measure?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
I regard this Bill as one of such complexity that I have tended on the whole to leave it to the experts, but I feel I must comment briefly on the point now before the Committee. My noble friend Lord Pitt wishes to establish that the category of people with whom he is concerned in the amendment, to which I have added my name, have an ultimate right—a residual right, one might say, not an immediate right—so that it is recognised that they have a right over a period of time to acquire a residence in this country which they lack elsewhere in the world. That is what my noble friend is seeking to establish and I should like the Minister to address himself to that.
§ Lord Trefgarne
I cannot, I am afraid, off the cuff account for the discrepancy identified by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, a moment ago. It occurs to me that possibly it has something to do with people who were entitled to United Kingdom citizenship but who registered at a later date—
§ Lord Trefgarne
—but if that is not the case, I will ascertain the true reason and let the noble Lord know.
§ Lord Avebury
There is no question of these people registering, and the only evidence I know of that might be available to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is the number of people in Malaysia who have applied for United Kingdom passports, and those are numbered in hundreds.
§ Lord Trefgarne
That is what I meant—that they had not applied for their passports, and I apologise for not using the proper words. I must rest the main objection to the amendment on the point which in essence my noble and learned friend Lord Rawlinson drew attention to, which is that the effect of the amend- 409 ment would be to give an immediate right of abode in this country to something in excess of 200,000 people. As I have attempted to explain in answer to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt—I think this also covers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins—we are dealing with these people very sympathetically. Those in India and East Africa—the Indian ones I think to some extent originated in East Africa—are able to avail themselves of the special voucher arrangements to which I referred, while the others, mainly in Malaysia, enjoy the citizenship of that country also and are therefore, as I say, not precluded from anywhere to live.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
That is not the point. Either the Foreign Office has not really read my amendment or I have been putting the case very badly. The amendment refers to anybody who does not have a right of abode. The Minister said that most of these people in Malaysia are Malaysian citizens. Therefore, they do not come within the purview of my amendment because under Clause I(1) if they were living here they would be settled here, while I am referring in the amendment to people whodid not have a right of abode…similar to the right of abode in the United Kingdom under subsection (1) of section 1 of this Act".In other words, I know there should be only a limited number of people, and when I am quoted the figure of 210,000, I query it because the bulk of that 210,000 will either be in line for vouchers or will have a right of abode in the places where they are living. But there will be a few who are left—not many, I know—but it is necessary for us to take responsibility for them. This is my point. I do not think we should pursue it any further this evening and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I shall come back again on Report.
§ Lord Trefgarne
Just before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, I wonder whether he would allow me to say that a moment ago I fear I misled him slightly. I now understand that the 130,000 United Kingdom and Colonies citizens who live in Malaysia do not have Malaysian citizenship although they are allowed to live there at the present time. Therefore, of course, they would indeed be covered by the point made in the noble Lord's amendment and would, I assume, be able therefore to come to this country.
§ Lord Avebury
I feel the noble Lord is wrong, with respect, because if they have been in Malaysia all this time for very many years they must have the right of abode there and are not included in the noble Lord's amendment.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 138B) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 58; Not-Contents, 71.410
|Airedale, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Ardwick, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Avebury, L.||McGregor of Durris, L.|
|Bernstein, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.|
|Birk, B.||Mishcon, L.|
|Bishopston, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Blease, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.|
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Peart, L.|
|Briginshaw, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.[Teller.]|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]|
|Crowther-Hunt, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Ross of Marnock, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Seear, B.|
|Elystan-Morgan, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Ewart-Biggs, B.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Galpern, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|George-Brown, L.||Stone, L.|
|Gifford, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Gosford, E.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Hale, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Thurso, V.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Underhill, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Janner, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Jeger, B.||White, B.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|John-Mackie, L.||Young of Darlington, L.|
|Alport, L.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Ampthill, L.||Lane-Fox, B.|
|Atholl, D.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Auckland, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Blake, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Lyell, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Marley, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Colwyn, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Norfolk, D.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Croft, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Reigate, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Sandys, L. [Teller.]|
|Elles, R.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Soames, L.|
|Elton, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Stodart of Leaston, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Strabroke, E.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Teviot, L.|
|Gormanston, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Grey of Naunton, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Henley, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Vivian, L.|
|Kemsley, V.||Young, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ [Amendment No. 138A not moved.]
§ Clause 38 agreed to.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
Would this be a convenient moment to resume the House for other business, 411 which I gather will take fractionally over an hour? If so, I beg to move that the House be now resumed.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House resumed.