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 Edward Marjoribanks Mr Edward Marjoribanks , Eastbourne

I am very sorry if I misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman, because I should hate to do that, but there is eminent legal opinion which is not on his side. If the point is argued, I think it will be seen that there is a danger to British nationality. Up to the passing of this Measure everybody in the British Empire, excepting Great Britain, has been entitled to two kinds of nationality. Everybody born in His Majesty's British Dominions and Colonies was entitled to Imperial nationality. In 1914 that was put into statute form by the British Nationality Act of that year. In that Act it was provided that the following persons should be deemed to be natural-born British subjects: Any person horn within His Majesty's Dominions and allegiance. That is a matter of statute law, and by this Bill we shall enable any Dominion to repeal that statute law. Therefore, as a mere matter of repeal, that right may go. It is as clear as day that the British Nationality Act, so far as it applies to the Dominions, may be repealed by them. That, of course, is the very subject matter of this Bill—that such an Act may be repealed. When the right hon. Gentleman said that every Law Officer in the Dominions was satisfied that this Bill would not affect Imperial nationality he ought to have considered the provisions of the Act of 1914 which, like every other Imperial Act, will be subject to repeal. Apart from Imperial citizenship, which, as I said the other day, was the proudest boast which anybody of any race or any colour could make since the days of the Roman Empire, each Dominion of the Empire can give to its citizens Dominion nationality, a local nationality, but it is that, and that only, which will survive as the result of this Bill, so far as I can see. If this Amendment be not inserted it may he that this Bill will abolish Imperial citizenship altogether, and that no safeguard will survive. At any rate, it will make it possible for another Act to be passed which will deprive the citizens of a Dominion of their Imperial nationality.

An hon. Member sitting above the Gangway mentioned the case of Ireland. Suppose it should occur to the Government of the Free State to repeal the British Nationality Act and to abrogate the right of its citizens to Imperial British citizenship. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered what would happen then? He could not even help the Irish loyalists by diplomatic representations, because ipso facto they would cease to be subjects of the British Crown. All these questions are not easy to answer, and they cannot he dismissed by quoting authorities which are not given or by producing the opinion of Law Officers. These are matters which must be considered on their merits.