HC Deb 25 October 1982 vol 29 cc281-2W
Mr. Wheeler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what changes he proposes to make in the immigration rules on the coming into force of the British Nationality Act 1981; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Whitelaw:

I am today publishing a White Paper setting out the Government's proposals for changes in the immigration rules. There will be a full opportunity for Parliament to debate the proposals before I lay a statement of changes in the rules later in the year. The new rules will apply to decisions taken on or after 1 January next year, when the British Nationality Act 1981 comes into force.

It is necessary to change to rules to take account of the new scheme of citizenship introduced by the 1981 Act. In particular, the present rules relating to husbands and fiances allow a man to come here for settlement if his wife or fiancee is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who was born here or one of whose parents was born here. The status of citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies will disappear on 1 January 1983. The new status of British citizen will for the first time define those people who have a close connection with this country.

I have concluded that in the light of this change it would be right for the future to make British citizenship the qualifying test, in place of the present test based on birth and citizenship. This means that a British citizen woman will be able to be joined by her husband or fiance, although the present requirements that the marriage is not primarily for immigration purposes and that the parties should have met will remain. The position of women who are settled but not citizens will not be changed.

The new rules also make provision for children born here on or after 1 January next year to parents neither of whom is a British citizen or settled here. Such children will not be British citizens. They will not need permission to remain here, but if they leave they will require permission to re-enter. Under the draft rules such children would be able to apply for permission to remain here if they wished to regularise their position and if they qualified would be given permission to remain for the same period as their parents. If they left they would normally be re-admitted for the same period as their parents and certain requirements would be waived, provided they were not away for more than two years and were coming with, or to join, a parent here.

Various other minor changes are set out in the White Paper, relating to businessmen, the self-employed, persons of independent means, European Community nationals, returning residents and others.

Since the Government took office, the numbers accepted for settlement have dropped. The numbers accepted in 1981 were the lowest since 1973. The figures have continued to decline in 1982. The Government remain committed to firm immigration control.

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