Clause 3. — (Power of Parliament of Dominion to legislate extra-territorially.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 24th November 1931.

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Photo of Mr John Gretton Mr John Gretton , Burton

I beg to move, in page 3, line 3, at the end, to add the words: Provided that nothing in this Act shall deprive any subject in any Dominion of British nationality. I had not intended to introduce this Amendment myself, but in the absence of my hon. Friends whose names are also attached to it, I ask the House to listen while I submit some reasons why this proviso should be inserted. It will be agreed on all hands that no one should, by inadvertence, be deprived of the status of British nationality through the operations of this Measure. British nationality is one of the bonds of the Empire, or, as this Statute proposes to call it, "The British Commonwealth." Something was said on this matter at the Conference which apparently has escaped the attention of those who drafted this Bill. No definite proposals were made dealing with the question of nationality, but the report of the Conference on the operation of Dominion legislation said: It is important to maintain the common status, though there may be reasons for variation in some cases. In the final conclusion it is said: The possession of a common status… in any part of the Commonwealth ought to carry with it the recognition of that status by the law of every other part of the Commonwealth. What else can that mean except British nationality? Clearly there has been some oversight in the drafting of the Bill, because if it passes in its present form that most important question will be left unprovided for, and there is ground for confusion and misunderstanding. We all value our British nationality, and it is especially valuable to those who are in the more distant parts of the world. If any subject born in a Dominion, whether it be New Zealand or whether it he the new Dominion of the Irish Free State, were to be deprived of British nationality, then the Government of every other Dominion would be precluded from taking action if that person were aggrieved by the subjects or the Government of any other Power. This bond of nationality is one of the most important of those which keeps the Empire together. We should provide against action which may arise either through inadvertence or by the deliberate intent of persons elsewhere. I am not a lawyer, but it appears to me as a. layman that it is only clear common sense that the omission to which attention has been drawn should be repaired by the proviso which I now move.