HL Deb 07 June 1982 vol 431 cc1-3
Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the time has not now come to reconsider the position whereby citizens of the Irish Republic, though not being members of the British Commonwealth, yet have greater privileges in the United Kingdom than Commonwealth citizens.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, citizens of the Republic of Ireland resident here have substantially the same rights and privileges as Commonwealth citizens so resident. These rights reflect the close geographical, historical and cultural relationship between our two countries, and we have no plans to change them.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask him whether he does not agree that— though of course we have great affection for the Irish individually; in fact, many of us have Irish blood— in view of the attitude of the present Irish Government in not backing up sanctions against Argentina, as have the Commonwealth and the majority of the EEC countries, apart from Italy, at some date in the near future we ought to review this special relationship with Ireland?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the Government do not think that matters of constitutional importance ought to be decided in response to short-term political developments. As to a review, I have to remind my noble friend of the very crowded parliamentary timetable before your Lordships, and I cannot encourage him to expect any early review.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, when giving consideration to the question of the privileges enjoyed by Commonwealth citizens in this country, will the noble Lord ponder deeply upon the action of mindless cruelty yesterday in deporting a 29-year-old Canadian mother to the United States and leaving her six-year old daughter, a British citizen, here?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I think that is another question.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, reverting to the original Question, can my noble friend comment on the apparent oddity of the fact that, whereas Irish citizens who come here go straight on to the electoral register, no comparable privilege is given to United Kingdom citizens who go to the Republic? Should it not be both or neither?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the two previous Irish Administrations both affirmed their intention to bring forward legislation to enable our citizens to vote at Dail elections, and we have no reason to believe that this has changed. Under those circumstances, I feel that my noble friend's question is answered.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, would the noble Lord the Minister not agree, on reflection, that the question asked by my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington is very relevant to this Question? If the lady in question had been a citizen of the Irish Republic, would she have been deported?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the noble Lord's question is so hypothetical that I cannot answer that, either. I regret that questions about the return to their native country of citizens of other countries do not bear on the privileges (if they are so determined) which accord to citizens of the Irish Republic.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, the mother, who is Canadian, is being deported, and the British-born child is left here motherless, with no one to look after her.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the Question I have been asked to answer in this House is a Question relating to the privileges of citizens of the Irish Republic, and not to anything else.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, does the Minister not think that it would be a good idea if we tried to avoid stirring up any fresh trouble between Britain and Ireland?

Lord Elton

My Lords, that is always a good objective.

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