HC Deb 22 December 1997 vol 303 c564W
Ms Stuart

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ensure that persons whose applications for British citizenship are being refused are given the reasons for such decisions. [22439]

Mr. Straw

Yes. This Government believe in greater openness in public administration, as we showed last week when we published the White Paper on the Freedom of Information Bill. This openness is especially necessary where our decisions affect the rights of individuals. I have long been unhappy with the practice not to give reasons when refusing some applications for British citizenship, and relying upon section 44(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 as the authority for not doing so. Since taking office in May, I have considered this matter in considerable detail. I am required to give reasons in a wide range of immigration cases and I can see no persuasive argument why my decisions involving the refusal of British citizenship should not similarly be open to public scrutiny. I have therefore decided as a matter of principle that henceforth reasons should be given in such cases.

One immediate consequence of this decision concerns the appeal to the House or Lords from the Court of Appeal in the cases of R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Mohamed Abdel Moneim Fayed and ex parte Ali Fayed regarding the application of section 44(2). I have today instructed the Treasury Solicitor that these appeals should be withdrawn. The effect of this is that the judgment of the Court of Appeal quashing the decisions made in 1995 to refuse these two applications now stands.

It will now fall to me to decide the applications on Mohamed and Ali Fayed, on their merits, and I cannot comment upon them further at this stage. I should also make clear that, in reaching the decision on principle that reasons should be given in citizenship cases, I have not considered any of the original papers in the Fayeds' application.