§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Lord Grocott
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Amos, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.
Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.—(Lord Grocott.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.1320
§ COMMONS AMENDMENTS
§ [The page and line refer to Bill 40 as first printed for the Commons.]
§ COMMONS AMENDMENTS
§ 1 After Clause 5, insert the following new clause—
§ "The Ilois: citizenship
- (1) A person shall become a British citizen on the commencement of this section if—
- (a) he was born on or after 26 April 1969 and before 1 January 1983,
- (b) he was born to a woman who at the time was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by virtue of her birth in the British Indian Ocean Territory, and
- (c) immediately before the commencement of this section he was neither a British citizen nor a British overseas territories citizen.
- (2) A person who is a British citizen by virtue of subsection (1) is a British citizen by descent for the purposes of the British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61).
- (3) A person shall become a British overseas territories citizen on the commencement of this section if —
- (a) subsection (1)(a) and (b) apply in relation to him, and
- (b) immediately before the commencement of this section he was not a British overseas territories citizen.
- (4) A person who is a British overseas territories citizen by virtue of subsection (3) is such a citizen by descent for the purposes of the British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61)."
§ 2 Clause 7, page 3, line 12, after "Schedule I". "insert— "(aa) section (The Ilois: Citizenship)"
§ Lord Grocott
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. These amendments were tabled in another place. I speak in place of my noble friend Lady Amos who is en route to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia.
Noble Lords will be aware that the British Overseas Territories Bill passed unamended last year through all its stages in this House. Since then a government amendment was made in Committee in another place to bring within the scope of the Bill a specific group of people connected with the British Indian Ocean Territory who, without that amendment, would, through no fault of their own, have been excluded from the benefits of the legislation.
Under present nationality law first-generation children born outside an overseas territory to at least one parent with British Dependent Territories citizenship inherit that citizenship automatically. But before 1983, British nationality law prevented the inheritance of British nationality by children born outside the territories to a British Dependent Territories citizen mother.
The Government took the view that, in respect of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it was unfair to exclude from the citizenship provisions of this Bill a small number of first-generation children born to mothers who were British Dependent Territories citizens but whose fathers were not. These people had, if you like, been doubly disadvantaged not only by their parents' exclusion from the British Indian Ocean 1321 Territory with effect from 26th April 1969 but also by the fact that the correction to the earlier gender discrimination which was made in the British Nationality Act 1981, and took effect in 1983, was not retrospective. The Commons amendments which we are considering today would put right that unfairness.
Throughout the parliamentary process this Bill has been warmly and widely welcomed by all parties in both Houses. I believe that the government amendments agreed in another place further strengthen what is already a good Bill. I commend them to the House.
Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 1 and 2.—(Lord Grocott.)
§ Lord Redesdale
My Lords, I raised this issue at Second Reading. Unfortunately, I asked rather too many questions and the noble Baroness was unable to reply at that point. The issue, which we on these Benches warmly support, was not raised again until it arose in the Commons. It has been outstanding for some time. However, I have a couple of questions on the amendments. Now that citizenship has been granted to those who have been disadvantaged, how will that affect their present nationality? Will they have to give up the passports they hold currently or will they be given joint citizenship? On a point of clarification, why was the date of 1st January 1983 chosen as a cut-off point?
§ Baroness Rawlings
My Lords, we welcome the new clause as it closes an important loophole in the Bill and goes some way to rectify the sense of injustice felt by the islanders at their treatment by Britain in the 1960s. The arrangements made by the British and United States Governments saw the people of the Chagos Islands removed from their homes and conveyed to other Indian Ocean islands. It is faintly disappointing that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office forgot those worthy people. One hopes that there are no other parts of the world of overseas territories that have been mislaid.
I pay tribute to the honourable Member for Islington North for raising the issue at Second Reading and, with the honourable Member for Linlithgow, for bringing the matter to the attention of honourable Members in another place. I believe that many Members of your Lordships' House were also unaware of the islanders' plight. As we are now aware, the islanders feel dispossessed of what was their homeland and feel too that they have been shabbily treated by Britain.
The recent case in the High Court won them the right to return, but no date was set for it to be effective. The question remains whether it applies now or in 2016 when the lease expires. The judgment appears to contain no qualifications. The Bill would have excluded those born while the Ilois were in exile from their islands from qualifying for British citizenship. That would have been unfair and unreasonable. We welcome the resolution of this matter this afternoon. The amendments are welcomed. We on these Benches fully support them, as we have the Bill throughout its progress.
1322 Overall this is a very important, welcome and much supported Bill. It works towards a partnership, as the White Paper desired, and demonstrates our commitment to the citizens of the British Overseas Territories wherever they may be. Once again, I commend the work that has been done on the Bill and the Minister's courtesy while navigating its passage through the House and clarifying its clauses. We fully support the Bill and welcome this final stage.
§ Lord Grocott
My Lords, I am grateful indeed to both the noble Lord. Lord Redesdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, who have given warm support to the legislation throughout its passage. I am also grateful for the support they gave to the Commons amendments. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that the generosity of her comments is much appreciated in respect of my honourable friends the Members for Linlithgow and for Islington North who, as she rightly said, have pursued the issue, as I am sure it has been pursued by Members of this House before I arrived here.
The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked about the effect the legislation's coming into force would have on the citizenship of the people who are covered by the amendments. So far as UK law is concerned, those people can have British and Mauritian citizenship. The noble Lord asked specifically about the dates involved. The two crucial dates in relation to the group of people we are discussing are 1969, or more specifically, as I mentioned earlier, 26th April 1969, which was the date when the people of these territories lost the right to reside in the territories; and 1983, which was the date when the British Nationality Act came into force. Those are the precise reasons for those two dates. If any further clarification is needed, I am sure that it can be dealt with in correspondence. I note the warm support for the measure. At least, I take silence to he warm support. I commend the amendments to the House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.