British Overseas Territories Bill [H.L.]
Baroness Rawlings (Conservative)
In relation to this final amendment we would like some clarification. While the criteria that must be satisfied for the acquisition of British citizenship are clear, I do not doubt that some cases will arise where an individual's claim to British citizenship is far from straightforward. I believe that there should exist, from the commencement of this Act, a framework for settling such disputes. That framework should be common to all the British overseas territories. For that reason the Secretary of State should work in consultation with the territories to ensure that conditions are the same throughout. The final decision in relation to any dispute shall lie with the governor of the territory concerned.
As I have already said, it is desirable that the governor of a particular territory has the capacity to decide who is eligible to claim British overseas territory citizenship and subsequently British citizenship. I believe that this amendment satisfies the notion of partnership in every sense. If the framework for settling disputes is formulated by both the Secretary of State and the overseas territories, it seems fitting that the governor of the territory to which the application refers remains the arbiter in individual cases.
Many of the problems raised by this Bill are a direct result of the Government's omission of several areas covered by the White Paper. Important questions remain unanswered. The Government want to remove any traces of the notion of dependants, yet are unprepared to state explicitly what the granting of British citizenship will mean in practical terms for the people of the overseas territories. The redefinition of the UK's relationship with the overseas territories cannot be limited to a change of name and the granting of British citizenship to the British Overseas Territories' citizens. I look forward to hearing clarification of the implications of these important changes.
We support this Bill and I am grateful, as I said earlier, to the Minister for all her letters and helpful notes. However, I repeat that we are deeply concerned that in reality this Bill is just politically-correct rhetoric, the only change being in name, as the Minister said. We feel that these overseas territories are not the "independents" that we thought was implied by the change of name introduced under this Bill. I beg to move.